Monday, October 20, 2014

The Current {a Family Christian Blogger review and giveaway}

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this DVD free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program, who also are supplying another for a giveaway. This post does contain affiliate links.  I was not required to write a positive review, and any affiliate relationship does not impact my opinions. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

So we sat down as a family and watched The Current.  Wow.

The basic story is that Jake is a Chicago teen who likes his friends, loves the Cubs, and has life figured out.  But then... his parents decide that there is just too much violence in their neighborhood, they buy a campground in Northern Minnesota, and move the family there.

Jake is far from pleased.

He makes friends with a boy from across the river, and that friendship changes his life.

Now, being fairly familiar with Northern Minnesota, there were a couple things that worried me about the basic premise of the film.  I really was not up for a movie that showed either this "city kid" or the local folks to be idiots.  You know the type of thing I mean, right?  This type of scenario usually means either:
  • Jake is going to be incapable of figuring out how to do anything, and the local people are going to have to teach him how to use an outdoor restroom, how to start a fire, how to empty an outdoor trash can, etc.
  • The local people are going to be incompetent country bumpkins, and Jake is going to teach them a thing or two about the real world.
Happily, neither scenario played out.  Jake was an obnoxious, self-centered teen at the start of the movie, but he certainly is capable of doing basic chores.

We loved this movie.  Everyone from the 8 and 10 year olds, to the teen boys (ages 13, 15, and 17), to Mom and Dad.  Very family friendly, with some very good messages.

One thing that my oldest really loved was how there was just a hint of boy-girl stuff going on, like a conversation about kissing a girl (on the lips!?!) between the two friends, a couple mentions of some girls being "hot," and some clear showing off to get the attention of those hot girls.  But nothing really comes of it.  There aren't any real kisses, and no implied relationships, even in the 15 years later scene.

One thing my husband and I appreciated was that unlike some other movies that take place near our homes, this one clearly involved people who live there and actually know the culture.  No exaggerated stereotypes, and casual mentions of "The Cities" (which is Minneapolis and St. Paul, for all my non-upper midwest readers).

I have a copy of this movie to give away, and I do highly recommend it.  Family Christian Stores provided me with this DVD and the one I'm giving away.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

NIV First-Century Study Bible {a BookLook Blogger review}

I have a couple of study Bibles in my possession, and I even use them with some degree of regularity.  But I love having other options available, and the NIV First-Century Study Bible sounded different from any other resource I have.

Kent Dobson put this together, and I think he did a fine job.

From the publisher:
Experience the Bible through the eyes of a first-century disciple by exploring the cultural, religious, and historical background of the Bible. This Bible allows you to understand God’s Word in its original cultural context, bringing Scripture to life by providing fresh understanding to familiar passages, beloved stories and all the Scripture in between. The NIV First-Century Study Bible invites you into the questions, stories, and interpretations—both ancient and modern—which introduce you to a world vastly different from your own. Let us read with an eye on the past and with our feet planted in our present questions and circumstances.

Join Kent Dobson as he unpacks the culture of Bible times, and illuminates Scripture passages while asking thoughtful questions along the way. Kent is the teaching pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, where he initially served as the worship director. He has been featured on Biblical programs for the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. Kent fell in love with Biblical studies in Israel and had the privilege of learning from both Jewish and Christian scholars. After his time in Israel, he returned to the States to teach high school religion and Bible before responding to God's call to the pastorate. Today, he keeps his connection to the Holy Land strong as he leads tours to Israel that combine study and prayer, inspired by the ancient discipline of spiritual pilgrimage.

My take:

There are a couple aspects of this that I really love.  One is the word studies scattered throughout.  Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek -- Dobson has studied all three, and I love that they are all included.  Judges 19:22 has a study on the word "wicked" -- the Hebrew word beliyyaal.  This "refers to the morally depraved and could also be translated 'destructive' or 'base.' Elsewhere the expression is associated with idolatry, drunkenness and rebellion..."  Ezra 4:13 does a study on "Taxes" -- specifically the Aramaic word mindah.  It tells that this word is probably derived from Akkadian, "describing a fixed annual tax paid to the king."  Luke 22:11 does a study on "Guest Room" or katalyma.  "This is the same Greek word Luke used when he said Mary and Joseph could find no 'guest room (2:7). This gives the book of Luke a kind of literary frame.  Jesus had finally found a 'guest room' where he could celebrate his final meal before his death."

Another aspect I really love is how Dobson continually brings up discussions by ancient commentaries (and some not-so-ancient ones too).  One thing shown in all of this is that the questions we ask about the Bible are not all that new.  The whole 'great conversation' aspect of classical literature applies at least as much to the Bible as it does to Homer.  I really appreciate that he is specifically including rabbinical and very early Church teachings.  Even when they are contradictory and raise more questions than they answer. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Family Toolbox {a review}

Over the past few days, I have had the privilege to work with some really amazing materials with my teens.  The Family Toolbox, put out by the National Center for Biblical Parenting, is a fabulous resource for kids ages 10-18 -- and their parents.

I was intrigued by this program, but a little concerned too.  So many times, this type of material seems to be filled with all kinds of feel-good mumbo jumbo, but not much that is remotely practical.

This resource is different.

The basic "lesson" goes something like this:
  • I read a little blurb about what we were about to watch, which introduces the characters and usually gave something for the kids to watch for.
  • We watch a 2-minute video clip of a family interacting (badly)
  • We chat about what we just saw, with the help of discussion questions that go through identifying the biggest problems, making suggestions about how things could be changed, and checking what the Bible has to say.
  • This discussion also includes two different "Life Success Principle" statements that I make the kids repeat to me, and then I make a point of using throughout the next days.
  • We talk about how this applies to us and our interactions.
There are a total of eight lessons, which means sixteen Life Success Principles.

The program includes additional work for the parents.  Each lesson has an introductory page that talks about the big issues being presented and gives a bit of an overview as to things for us to notice.  The DVD also includes a ten-minute talk for parents about the issues in each lesson, which is nice, and there is a worksheet for parents to go through as well.

This graphic really is the main point of the course, I think.  As a parent, what should I be doing to actually enable my kids to successfully change.  One lesson involves anger and yelling... you know, the kid only moves when mom starts to yell.  Yeah.  That was painful to watch.  Been there, done that.  Not today, fortunately.  But most weeks.

Even though this states that it is for ages 10-18, and I have four boys ages 10-17, I chose only to use this with the teens at this point.  My thought was that I'm more comfortable getting into some of the "what Mom did wrong" aspects of these videos with my teens, and the three of them are pretty close together in age (3.5 years from oldest teen to youngest teen) and the ten year old is just significantly younger.

I think there is a decent chance, however, that we will go back through the whole thing with everyone (including the 8 year old).  We (meaning not just me, but also the teens) are already finding ourselves correcting the little two using phrases from Family Toolbox.  Like "Be respectful even when it is hard."

I really think this is something that would benefit nearly every family.

Check out the Facebook party, happening in just a couple hours.  The graphic is confusing as far as time, but it will be at 8 pm Eastern.  Click it to join!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kim Collingsworth Majestic {a Family Christian Bloggers review and giveaway}

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this DVD free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program, who also are supplying another for a giveaway. This post does contain affiliate links.  I was not required to write a positive review, and any affiliate relationship does not impact my opinions. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

Majestic, dvd, Kim Collingsworth, christian music

I love watching live music, I love wholesome family music, and I love having the convenience of a DVD.  So the opportunity to review the  Kim Collingsworth: Majestic on DVD was something I jumped at.  Family Christian Stores provided me with this DVD and the one I'm giving away.

First things first.  I had never heard of Kim Collingsworth or her family.  I saw the cover though, with a beautiful grand piano and lots of different people singing, and I just wanted to try it out.

I'm listening to Swing Low, Sweet Chariot as I type this, and I have to say that the music is simply beautiful.  There is a fair amount of variety, and I thought about trying to explain the songs and the styles, but the easiest explanation is that there is some distinctly Christian music, some that isn't (Stars and Stripes Forever).  There is some instrumental (one piano, multiple pianos, violin and piano), and plenty that involves voices.  Most of that is adults, but the nieces singing Over the Rainbow is adorable.  And then there is some with the audience singing, and that is beautiful too.

I do have to say that my husband really did not like it.  He enjoyed the music part, but he has never been a huge fan of recorded live music in general.  So anytime Kim was interacting with the audience at all, he was griping.  He complained that he really had no desire to watch her talk, he wanted music.  After the first viewing of this DVD, I was convinced that over half of it was Kim talking, based on his negativity.

Of course, when I watched the DVD without him, I had a different opinion.  Yes, there are points where Kim talks awhile, like telling the story of her blind nephew (that's a few minutes long), but without him griping at me, it was obvious that the DVD is mostly music, and very pretty music at that.

I'm enjoying having it to watch/listen to when there isn't other stuff happening.  At least when my husband isn't around.

This is also available as a CD, which I think would be wonderful.

I have a DVD to give away.  Do you want to win one?

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Friday, October 10, 2014

The One Year Devotions for Active Boys {a Tyndale Blog Network review}

I have four sons, so I am always interested in age-appropriate materials with titles that include words like "active."  The opportunity to review The One Year Devotions for Active Boys by Jesse Florea and Karen Whiting sounded perfect.

It arrived, and I pulled it out, called my 10-year-old son, and started to dig in.  The book is dated, so the first dilemma I faced was whether to start at Jan. 1, or whether to jump to September.

I made the wrong choice.

The Jan. 1 entry has an activity that involves paper plates, balloons, and tape.  I didn't have plates or balloons, and the active boys of my household are forever losing tape.

I closed the book, determined to buy things and start fresh soon.

And then the book sat.

Two weeks later <sigh> I dug the book out again, without kids around, and started reading.  What I discovered was that most of the activities don't require anything stranger than a pencil, the lessons are memorable even without the activity, and I really can actually use this.

The other reason I should have just jumped in with the lesson for the actual date is that some of the materials are seasonally appropriate.  Towards the end of November, for instance, there are a few days that deal with thankfulness.

Today's lesson is an example.  October 10 is titled "Thanks Be To God."  The first thing that happens each day is a few paragraphs of "devotional" and this one is about Thanksgiving, and the fact that different countries celebrate at different times (2nd Monday in October in Canada is one example given).

After the devotional, there is some type of activity. For today, it is a fairly un-active one.  They are to match up holidays to the country where they happen.

Each day also has a brief prayer suggestion -- "Tell God you're going to be thankful to him forever and ever and ever."

Finally there is a scripture.

Some days are more active.  Like that January 1st one where they are to make UFOs out of paper plates, balloons, and tape.

My bottom line:

I'm setting this book aside now that we've played with it some, and I am going to work through it starting in January of 2015.  I really like the messages and the memorable activities.  I just need to be sure to look ahead so that I have what I need on hand.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Where Treetops Glisten {a LitFuse Book Tour review}

When I heard about this book -- Where Treetops Glisten -- I most definitely wanted to read it.  I've reviewed four of Sarah Sundin's books (In Perfect Time was the most recent), and I absolutely love how she writes World War II.  Sundin is one of my absolute favorite authors.  I recently read a WWII based novel by Cara Putnam that I really loved also.  And I've read a few novels by Tricia Goyer.  Although none of those actually took place during the Second World War, one (Remembering You) did have a lot to do with that time.

Plus I love Christmas music.

And I love music from the 40s.

So I had to read this.

This book covers the Christmas seasons of World War II.  The Prologue, Winter Wonderland, is quite short, featuring Grandma Louise Turner who is trying to make Christmas happen in spite of the horror of Pearl Harbor.  This introduces the family, and sets up the novellas to follow.  Each novella features one of the Turner siblings, but this is family, so in Pete's story (the middle novella) we do learn more about "what happens next" for Abigail, and we get glimpses of "what happened before" for Merry.  And Grandma shows up throughout the book.

White Christmas (Putnam) takes place from October to December of 1942, and is centered on Abigail.  Abigail's high school sweetheart had died at Pearl Harbor, and she is committed to not getting involved with anyone.  She is attending college and working in a candy shop... and then she encounters someone who is in need of help. 

I'll Be Home for Christmas (Sundin) takes place in December 1943.  This one is centered on Pete, who has been serving as a fighter pilot in Europe, but is home for a month before heading off to another assignment.  He's clearly dealing with some post-traumatic stress.  He runs into a little girl, returns her home to her mother, and the story develops from there.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Goyer) occurs in the Netherlands in December 1944.  Meredith is serving as a combat nurse very near the front lines.  She's trying to get over being dumped by her German boyfriend, who headed back to Europe when the US got involved in the war.  She can't believe she was dating a German spy, yet she still finds herself looking at every German soldier comes through for medical help.

The Epilogue, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, takes place on Christmas Day, 1945.  This wraps up all three of the novellas quite well.

I loved the book.  Since I have read other books by all three of the authors, I did sense a shift in the writing style as I moved from one novella to another.  It was incredibly obvious, though, that the three authors worked closely together throughout.  The characters do not change from one novella to the next.  No, that doesn't come out right.  Of course they change, they are growing, the war is continuing, they are a year older as each novella opens.  What I mean, though, is that there is no doubt that Abigail is still Abigail, even when written by Sundin or Goyer.

And Grandma Louise is absolutely wonderful throughout the book.

I loved this book, and it is going on my "to keep" shelf.

Go, check other LitFuse reviews of Where Treetops Glisten.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

NIV Once-A-Day Bible: Chronological Edition {a BookLook review}

I've been convicted lately that  I am not spending enough time reading the Bible.  Myself.

I spend time with the kids, we do various Bible "programs," I go through sections along with the sermons or sometimes midweek Bible studies.  But I'm not just reading.

I needed something that would work for me.  I debated a number of Bibles sitting in my house, I debated using my "church" Bible and working with one of a few hundred different reading plans I've seen, I debated some apps and online plans.

And then I was looking over some of the selections at BookLook, and was intrigued by the Once-A-Day chronological version... especially as I hovered over it in the process of choosing to review it, and saw the ebook option.

I don't tend to go for ebooks.  It is so much easier to review a book I can easily flip through.  But I started to think this through, and realized this could be perfect.  I use my reader as an alarm clock, so it is always by my bed at night.  I thought I could read my selection first thing in the morning, before getting up, and that would be ideal.

Okay, so what is this?  The publisher says:
The NIV Once-A-Day Bible: Chronological Edition organizes the New International Version Bible---the world’s most popular modern-English Bible---into 365 daily readings placed in chronological order. This softcover edition includes a daily Scripture reading followed by a short devotional thought written by the staff at the trusted ministry Walk Thru the Bible.
This NIV Bible is arranged chronologically, which I love for personal reading.  That involves some educated decisions about where something belongs, and different chronological Bibles place things in different places.  Seeing as mine is an ebook, it is hard to get a feel for where things are placed in this particular Bible.  You start off reading in early Genesis, then you read through Job, and then back to Genesis. 

This is split into daily readings that are numbered.  They aren't dated, so you don't have to start in January.  They aren't listed by day of the week either.  Just numbers.  So you can start on October 5, or March 16.  There is nothing in the Bible to make you feel limited to a January start.

Since they are numbered, you can also plan for skipping certain days.  Do you want to read Monday through Saturday?  Do it.  Skip Sunday, and pick up the next day on Monday.  Do you want to read aloud to your kids on weekdays?  Also very easy.  Read Day 1 through Day 5 the first week, and pick up Day 6 on Monday.

I love that.

It also means that when you "blow it" (as I always do), there is no guilt.  If you just completely missed reading the Bible for a day -- or a week -- it is okay.  You just pick it up and do the next day's reading, no guilt allowed.  No trying to figure out how to double up readings to get back "on track" or anything yucky like that.  I've had this Bible for 28 days, and I've done 25 readings.  I'll do another tonight.  I'm never that consistent, but it has been easy with this Bible.

The primary "special feature" in this Bible is that each day's reading also includes an approximately one-paragraph devotional at some point in the reading.  These are short, and I've found them to be interesting, thought-provoking, meaningful -- or some combination of the above.

I love this Bible. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”