Monday, December 27, 2010

‘The Clouds Roll Away’ by Sibella Giorello – Book Review

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One of my favorite book genres is Christian suspense. The latest book I have read in that category is ‘The Clouds Roll Away’ by Sibella Giorello.

Here is the synopsis of this suspenseful book:

Raleigh Harmon’s life seems as impossible to solve as the high-profile case she’s pursuing. Closing her assignment with the FBI’s Seattle office, forensic geologist Raleigh Harmon returns to her hometown of Richmond, Virginia, expecting a warm welcome. Instead she finds herself investigating an ugly cross burning at a celebrity’s mansion and standing in the crosshairs of her boss at the Bureau. And the deeper Raleigh digs into the case, the murkier the water becomes…until she’s left wondering who the real victim might be.
To make matters worse, Raleigh’s personal life offers almost zero clarity. Her former confidant is suddenly remote while her former boyfriend keeps popping up wherever she goes. And then there’s her mother. Raleigh’s move home was supposed to improve Nadine’s fragile sanity, but instead seems to be making matters worse.
As the threads of the case begins crossing and double-crossing, Raleigh is forced to rely on her forensic skills, her faith, and the fervent hope that a breakthrough will come, bringing with it that singular moment when the clouds roll away and everything finally makes sense.

Here is the biography of this author:

Sibella Giorello grew up in Alaska and majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College. After riding a motorcycle across the country, she worked as a features writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her novel The Stones Cry Out won a Christy Award. She  lives in Washington State with her husband and sons.

Sibella is a wonderful writer. The book is written in the first person. Here is Raleigh describing her boss at the FBI, Victoria Phaup. It is a wonderful combination of a physical description and character study:

She was a stocky woman with short brown hair threaded with gray. She must have been pretty at one time, but twelve years of clawing her way through Bureau management had compressed her small features into a persistent expression of defensiveness, her eyes like fractured gray pebbles. Thin mouth locked, loaded for counterattack. And her office smelled like dry ice. (p. 15)

It seems as though most people that are members of the FBI grow cynical. In contrast, Raleigh is a devoted Christ follower. Here she is discussing her faith with Hale Lasker, a member of the Ku Klux Klan who is serving a sentence at Meckleburg prison:

         “Do you care what’s next?” I asked.
         “What?”
         “Heaven. It exists.”
         He almost laughed. A dry sound at the back of his throat.
“Eight years I been in here, eight years with nothing but questions. You’re not going to hear my answers.”
“But your group believes in God.”
“My group? The Kiwanis?”
“I thought those crosses were supposed to put the fear of God in a man’s soul.”
“It’s right there in the Bible, God doesn’t want the races mixing.”
“And you believe the Bible.”
“Course I believe it. Heard of Job? That’s me. Festering wounds and all.”
“With one difference.”
“Job was a Jew.”
“God said Job was blameless.” (pp. 31-32)

This book is set in Raleigh’s hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Although I have never visited Richmond, Sibella provides so much detail that I felt as though I had been there. Here is an example, as she and her mother, Nadine, and housemate, Wally, head to St. John’s Church for the first time since her father’s death four year before:

He glowered out the side window as we passed downtown’s old department stores. Thalhimers and Miller & Rhodes, closed years before, abandoned for free parking and food courts at the suburban malls. On either side pawnshops sprouted up and furniture stores rented sofas for 20 percent interest monthly. Steel bars covered the windows.
But this was my city. Richmond. Noble and sad. Heroic and fallen. Forever on the verge of turning around. So much potential it hurt.
I glanced over at my mom. “You’re not nervous?”
“Whatever for?” she chirped.
For the memories, I wanted to say. For the anticipatory ache I already felt ten blocks away. My father’s church, the church for generations of Harmons, all the way back to 1775, when Patrick Henry stood up and delivered his ultimatum on liberty and death. St. John’s was also where we had his funeral.
After that, I couldn’t go back. Neither could she. (p. 45)

In addition to her mother, Raleigh had a sister. Here is our introduction to Helen and her partner, Sebastian:

Helen lived in bohemian splendor on Oregon Hills with an abstract artist named Sebastian Woodlief. Spawned by prestigious British boarding schools, Sebastian considered himself a passionate supporter of the workingman, despite never having a job himself. My dad prayed Helen wouldn’t marry someone like this. Unfortunately, his prayer was answered. There weren’t married; they lived together. (p. 67)

I love how Sibella intersperses Raleigh’s faith and worldview throughout the novel. Here is another example of that:

…[N]ot for the first time, I wondered about people’s attitudes, whether half the world’s agony would evaporate if each person discovered the talent God gave them instead of squandering days painting by numbers laid out according to someone else’s preference. Parents. Peers. Pastors. We read books bursting with self-help, about roads less traveled and finding bliss and all these so-called secrets to life. But they all left out the most crucial factor. We fought an enemy, invisible yet definite, who diligently worked to block us from our intended purpose, keeping us from the one thing that brought joy, that connected us from each other and to our Creator. Condemned and resentful, miserable and uncertain, we filled our minds with chatter from talk show hosts, always hoping for the answer, when all the while one simple supernatural prescription awaited: “Come to me.” (p. 105)

And here is how Raleigh interprets the theory of evolution:

When chimney smoke joined the darkening sky, I settled into the carriage house’s claw-footed bathtub for bubbles and Scientific American. Soaking in the suds, I read a good story about DNA, marred only by the author’s assumption that our double helixes of nucleic acid were the product of chance.
Quite an assumption. It was like saying blueprints could write themselves.
And not just any blueprints. Our DNA contained three billion complex sequences – for each living creature. The statistical probability of this happening by random selection was laughable. It was like saying tornadoes can rip through junkyards and create jumbo jets. Never mind that the second law of thermodynamics proved that over millions of years we grew closer to entropy than order, the opposite of what evolution claimed.
Scientifically speaking, evolution was whacked.
But try telling that to the smart people – the people who believed fish scales turned into feathers and sludge somehow squeezed out higher life forms. Try explaining the degree of planning and order and creative genius necessary for just one hundred working sequences, let alone three million.
Try it. They’ll call you delusional. Go figure. (p. 115)

That is a brilliant section of the book!

Although I have not focused on the plot to a great extent in this review, suffice to say that the storyline is suspenseful and wonderfully well-written.

I really loved this book; I read it in one day – I could not put it down! This is the first book I have read by Sibella. She is my friend on Facebook, and I had a feeling that I would love her writing; I definitely do! This is the second in the series featuring the Raleigh Harmon character. The first book is ‘The Rivers Run Dry.’ I have not read that one; this book stands alone from that book. I really loved this book, so it makes me want to go back and get the back story on Raleigh. The third book in the series, ‘The Mountains Bow Down,’ will be releasing March 1, 2011. I look forward to reading the continuing adventures of this strong and intelligent Christ follower!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Thomas Nelson Publishers and provided by Thomas Nelson and the LitFuse Publicity Group for review purposes. I am happy to be participating in the blog tour with these others bloggers.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: 'Love' by Lauraine Snelling

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Welcome to the
12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.


~~~
Love
by
Lauraine Snelling



When asked to write a Christmas message, one of my first thoughts was Do I climb up on my soapbox regarding changing the words in Christmas songs, using only holiday, etc. I thought about it and decided no. After all, they’re only words and what difference does a word make---really make after all?


Then I kept on thinking. If they’re only words… But we as writers know the power of words, as do readers. When the wrong word is used, it jars, while the right word can be most powerful. Take one highly overused and under practiced word---Love. Four letters is all. We toss it around so glibly, saying love ya and luv and love. But think about the power in I love you. Three of the most precious words in our language when put together. Those of us who write romances or books with romance in them, understand the power when one of our characters tells another, I love you. As humans we can never hear that enough or too much.


Christmas is about love. The greatest love story ever told, that of God for us humans, and it never changes. Customs change, politics change, the years change but God’s love never, ever does. At Christmas we are invited to share that love, to give it away, to pass it around. To find wonder again and joy in simple acts of love. We make contact with people we might never see or talk with through the year. That says I love you. We buy and make gifts to give, we reach out to strangers in need, we try to make sure everyone has a special dinner and every child a present. By giving, we receive.


So, let’s use the power words, but more so, put feet on those words and pass the love around. Let’s look for and find the wonder, the joy and the peace, maybe in small bits and pieces and perhaps in an avalanche of blessings. Make your days brighter with the simple gift of a smile, a kind word, a touch, for every single one that you give away, will come back to you multiplied. As you give, so shall you receive. Merry Christmas my friends. May we all recognize our blessings----and let an attitude of gratitude permeate this holiday and every day. With love and joy on this day, Lauraine!
 ~~~


About Lauraine: Lauraine Snelling is the award-winning author of more than sixty books, with sales of over 2 million copies. She also writes for a wide range of magazines, and helps others reach their writing dreams by teaching at writer’s conferences across the country. Lauraine and her husband, Wayne, have two grown sons, and live in the Tehachapi Mountains with a cockatiel named Bidley, and a watchdog Basset named Chewy.


For more information please visit Lauraine's website: www.laurainesnelling.com.


~~~


A pearl necklace, pearl bracelet, and pearl earrings will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog on New Years Day!


12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info.

Friday, December 24, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: 'An Unforgettable Gift' by Karen O'Connor

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Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.
~~~

An Unforgettable Gift
by Karen O'Connor


On Christmas morning, 1912, in Paducah, Kentucky, fourteen-year-old Charlie Flowers and his three brothers and two sisters huddled in their beds, fully dressed, trying to keep warm as the wind howled outside their small frame house.
       
It was a desperate time for the family. Earlier that year the children's father had died. And their mother had not found work. The coal had run out and there was little money––none for gifts. Their scrawny tree with decorations made from scraps of colored paper had been given to them the night before by a local merchant.


"Can't sell this one," the man said with a nod of his head before handing it over to the eager children.
   
To pass the time, the siblings joked and shouted stories from their bedrooms across the hallway from one another. Then suddenly a racket from the alley at the rear of the house broke into their games.
       
"Charlie," his mother called, "would you see what's going on out there?"
      
Charlie pulled on his shoes, grabbed a thick overcoat from the hook by the door, and ran out back.


There stood a man in a wagon bent over a load of coal, shoveling it into the shed as fast as he could.
       
"Hey Mister, we didn't order any coal," Charlie shouted. "You're delivering it to the wrong house."
       
"Your name's Flowers, isn't it?" the man asked, still shoveling. 
       
Charlie nodded yes.
      
"Well then, there's no mistake.  I've been asked to deliver this to your family on Christmas morning." He looked the awe-struck boy square in the eye. "And I'm under strict orders not to tell who sent it," he teased.
       
Charlie ran into the house, his coattail flapping in the cold morning wind.  He could hardly wait to tell his mother and brothers and sisters. God had provided––just as he had on that first Christmas morning so long ago when He sent his only son to a needy world.
       
Charlie Flowers died in 1994 at age 96. And right up to the last year of his life, not a Christmas went by that he didn't tell the story of that sub-zero Christmas morning of his boyhood when two men gave his family an unforgettable gift.
       
It wasn't the coal that was remembered or cherished, Charlie often said––welcome as it was––but rather what two men brought to his desperate family. One, for his gift of recognizing their great need and taking the time to do something about it. And the other, for being willing to give up part of his own Christmas morning to deliver it.
       
That gift of so long ago has continued to warm the Flowers family from one generation to another, as Charlie's son––my husband, Charles––calls to mind these two unknown men each Christmas morning and whispers a prayer of thanks.


 ~~~


About Karen: Karen O'Connor is an award-winning author and writing mentor living in Watsonville, California with her husband, Charles Flowers. Karen’s latest book is 365 Reasons Why Gettin’ Old Ain’t So Bad (Harvest House 2010).


For more information, please visit Karen on the web at www.karenoconnor.com.


~~~


A pearl necklace, pearl bracelet, and pearl earrings will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog on New Years Day!


12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info.



Thursday, December 23, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: 'All I Want for Christmas… Is to Be Able to Have Christmas this Year' by Melissa Mashburn

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Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.
~~~

All I Want for Christmas…
Is to Be Able to Have Christmas this Year
by
Melissa Mashburn


This is a simple request, isn’t it? In the previous years, we had great big bountiful Christmases with our family. Gifts, goodies and general Christmas cheer but this year it was different. The year before has been chock full of disappointments, failing businesses and severe cutbacks for our family. 


Sitting with my husband one night we hammered out the bare minimum that we could spend that year for Christmas and even still the total was four hundred dollars. It does not sound like a whole lot compared to what we’ve spent on Christmas before, but this year it could have been four thousand dollars because we just did not have it.


We prayed, I cried, we prayed some more and decided that we would cut back anything else that we could that year so we could have Christmas for our kids. We did not know how we would make this happen, but we knew that we needed to step forward in faith that it would happen.


Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don't these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God. Galatians 3:5 the Message


Not even two days later, we hear a knock on our front door. We open the door to see some friends of ours from church. With tears in their eyes, they handed us an envelope and said that the felt they needed to give us this. We opened the envelope and inside there was four hundred dollars cash.


Shocked, stunned and with tears flowing down our face we just sat there in a state of crying and laughing at what God had done. We never shared with anyone that year what we needed, how bad it was, what was going on or what that number was for us to have Christmas for the kids, but God knew.


“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”  2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT


He took a willing servant, led them to our front door and changed Christmas for us that year. After many years of being in full time ministry we knew that God would provide, but when He shows up just at the right moment, you know that it was all a part of His plan to show how much He loves, provides and cares for His people.


Father God, thank you that after all the years of serving and loving you in ministry that you continue to teach, guide, love, shepherd and care for us.  You, Father, are abundantly gracious and kind, thank you for showing up for us at just the right moment every time, forgive us when we forget that.  In Jesus name, Amen.
 ~~~


About Melissa: Melissa is the founder of the blog Mel’s World Ministry, co-founder of the Praise and Coffee Nights Ministry with Sue Cramer, Kids Ministry Director at her church.  Just last year she launched a new weekly series called Godly Gals ~ Real Women, Real Life, Real Faith where we meet new women each week who are “Taking their everyday, ordinary lives and placing it as their offering to God.” Romans 12:1 the Message. You can find her on twitter and at her blog. She loves encouraging women to live with an authentic faith by being transparent, renewed and transformed. ~ Romans 12:2.
~~~


A pearl necklace, pearl bracelet, and pearl earrings will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog on New Years Day!


12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: 'What’s the Best Thing about Christmas?' by Maureen Lang

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Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.


~~~

What’s the best thing about Christmas?
by
Maureen Lang



The answer to that question will undoubtedly be different depending on the age and the faith of the person being asked. Most children will say it’s all about the gifts. Adults, even if they secretly still enjoy the gifts, will probably strive to sound more mature and say the holiday is all about friends and family. Still others might say it’s about tradition, or memories or the music or even the special food we connect to this time of year. The scrooges among us might say this season is just another marketing gimmick, or materialism gone awry. The faithful will say it’s all about Jesus, a reminder of why He shed the glory of Heaven to step into human skin and frailty.


I’m not here to defend or attack any answer to this question, but rather to ponder those possible answers.


Gifts: They touch us in personal ways, as tangible evidence of someone else’s thought and affection. Even if we don’t get exactly what we hoped, there’s something to be said about the thought behind a gift being the important part. Why wouldn’t gifts be an important and valid part of this holiday in which we celebrate God’s gift of salvation?


Holiday Gatherings: Parties might be a lot of work, forcing some out of their comfort zone, but at the core they’re all about human connection. Isn’t that what most people want?


Traditions and memories: They remind us of the past, of who we are, with the hope that even as we look forward to an unknown future we still hold some things worthy enough to repeat every year. We might find ourselves letting go of some traditions, or we might want to start some new ones.


The music: This is the only time of the year when even secular radio stations welcome songs about a baby born in Bethlehem. As a nation we may be getting stringent about separation of church as state, but the lines blur just a bit with old favorites that reflect this season.


Scrooges: The holiday season is probably a time to endure rather than enjoy, but even the scroogiest-scrooge might admit the lights of the season are pretty to behold. They’re free to look at, after all.


As for the food, the busyness, the expense and all the other things that make up this season: keep in mind that it’s all temporary. This, too, shall pass. Until next year, of course.


I’ll leave you with this thought: we are all made in God’s image, whether we believe that or not. Part of that image is the ability to give—and to receive. So here’s my thought for the day: stop a moment and dwell on all the gifts of the season. From the little mementos that say we haven’t forgotten someone or been forgotten by others, to the costliest gift of all: what God did for us in the form of Christ. As you enjoy the sounds, the sights, the scents and the tastes of this season, may your only trouble be in choosing just one thing among so many best things about Christmas.
 ~~~


About Maureen: Maureen Lang is the author of ten books; her most recent, from Tyndale House, are 'Look to the East' and 'Whisper on the Wind' from The Great War Series, which are full of romance, adventure and spiritual journeys. She lives in the Midwest with her husband, two sons and their lovable Labrador Retriever.


For more information please visit Maureen at her website, www.maureenlang.com.
~~~

A pearl necklace, pearl bracelet, and pearl earrings will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog on New Years Day!


12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: 'Good News!' by Deb Kalmbach

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Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.
~~~
Good News!
by
Deb Kalmbach



The first Christmas card of the season arrived in my mailbox way back in August. How could anyone be that organized? Then I noticed my friend, Nita, had sent me a card I had written to her more than 20 years ago!
  
Memories rushed back as I read the words penned in my familiar handwriting. It was Christmas, 1991, and my world had unraveled. I could almost pretend everything was all right at this most wonderful time of the year—but not that year.
  
My husband Randy’s drinking problem had escalated to the point where his job and career were on the line. He had already been through two alcohol treatment programs and managed to stay sober for short periods of time. Then he slipped back into old, familiar patterns. His ongoing relapses were a crushing disappointment for our family.
  
I had looked forward to Christmas Eve and our family traditions; making homemade lasagna, singing carols around the piano, attending the candlelight service at church, and then coming home to open one token Christmas Eve present.     
  
“Randy, are you ready to crank out the pasta?” I called to him over the Christmas music I was playing to lift my spirits.
  
I peered into the living room to see what was keeping him. My heart froze. Randy sat on the couch, trance-like, watching a basketball game while sipping a drink.
  
No, not on Christmas Eve, I screamed inwardly. I felt like I was suffocating. Usually Randy pulled himself together but it didn’t happen that night. He drank vodka all evening while I finished holiday preparations on autopilot. None of us felt like eating lasagna or celebrating.
  
Only a few days earlier, I had written these words on the Christmas card to my friend, Nita. I don’t know God’s plans, his timing or his ways in accomplishing his purposes, but I am learning to trust him. He is faithful!
  
I suspect Nita kept my card all those years because she saw a small seed of faith and it encouraged her heart. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be eight more Christmas seasons before Randy experienced the miraculous breakthrough of finding freedom from alcoholism.
  
As I read the card I had written so long ago, I felt awed by God’s faithfulness to us—even when our situation looked completely hopeless.
  
You may be facing great difficulty as the holidays approach. The last thing you feel like is celebrating. And that’s O.K. The Good News of Christmas isn’t about picture perfect holidays where our homes are decorated a la Martha Stewart and tables are laden with holiday delicacies. Your days may not be merry and bright. You may be grieving the loss of a loved one or the loss of a relationship through divorce or estrangement. Your world has unraveled.


That’s exactly why the message of Christmas is Good News. The Savior is born! The One who came to set you free, to give you peace and hope and help beyond anything you could ever imagine is as near as your next breath. Today you might not be able to see how God’s purposes are unfolding for your future, but you can be assured that He is working all things for good in your life. A twenty year-old Christmas card came on a summer day as an unexpected gift and gentle reminder of God’s presence—especially in the worst of times.


 ~~~


About Deb: Deb Kalmbach is the coauthor of Because I Said Forever: Embracing Hope in a Not-So- Perfect Marriage and the author of a book for children, Corey’s Dad Drinks Too Much. She has contributed to The New Women’s Devotional Bible, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, and other anthologies. She is a vibrant and engaging speaker who gives hope and practical solutions to those who struggle with difficult relationships. Deb and her husband, Randy, live in a tiny town in Eastern Washington. Visit Deb at: www.debkalmbach.com, or on Facebook and Twitter.


~~~


A pearl necklace, pearl bracelet, and pearl earrings will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog on New Years Day!




12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tyndale House Give the Word Bible Contest and Giveaway

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My good friends at Tyndale House are sponsoring a 'Give the Word Bible Contest and Giveaway.' You can find the link here. I encourage you to enter to win the New Living Translation Bible.


Here is a description of the contest:



Enter our Bible Contest to win NLT Study Bibles, a Grand Prize trip to Orlando, FL, $250 in resources and more! Plus your vote will help three ministries Give the Word of God to those who desperately need it by generating a donation to Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Dream Center or Oasis International.




I love this translation, and I know you will, too! And the idea of a trip to Orlando, Florida while sitting here in Michigan in December sounds pretty good, too!



12 Pearls of Christmas: Gift List' by Tricia Goyer

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Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.


~~~
Gift List
by
Tricia Goyer



I've been thinking lately how hard it must be for Oprah to Christmas shop. I mean if you were on her "gift list" wouldn't you expect something really, really good? The woman gives away cars and trips to Australia on her television show for goodness sake! It seems by the end of Christmas Day her friends and family would look at the pile of presents and think, "Is that it?" I mean if you knew there was billions of dollars she could spend on you, would you ever feel satisfied?


Sometimes I think we approach God the same way. We look around at our home, our family, our job, our free time and we still aren't satisfied. We wish our body looked better, our clothes were more in style, our husband was more considerate and our kids were more ... well, like the perfect little people we picture in our mind. Our careers don't excel as quickly as we think they should and people don't give us the attention we feel we deserve. We're tired and anxious and the to-do list seems to be tacked to our hearts for all the pain it causes.


Often, we look around and don't speak the words out loud, but think them just the same. "Is that it?" I mean, You're the God of the universe and You have all things in Your hands and under Your control. Couldn't you provide a little more money to help those bills disappear or make me a bit more content with the man I've chosen to spend my life with? And I thought Oprah had it tough.


Is there ever a time when God doesn't hear the murmurs? Again, not with our mouths but in our heart.


I've been guilty of this--of not being satisfied with the gifts I've been given. Yes, there will always be more to want, but today--at this moment--I'm satisfied. And I look to Him with a grateful heart and whisper, "Thank you, it is enough. More than enough."


 ~~~


About Tricia: Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-six books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife. For more information, please visit www.triciagoyer.com.


~~~


A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog on New Years Day!


12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: 'Hurting Near Christmas? 10 Tips to Hope Again' by Stacie Ruth Stoelting

Buzz this


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.


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Hurting Near Christmas? 10 Tips to Hope Again
by
Stacie Ruth Stoelting



Feel sad this Christmas? Hey, I know the feeling. In fact, many programs have interviewed me to share about it! Last year, I tried particularly hard to share stories and tips on how to cope with grief during the holidays: I wrote a feature for CBN.com, Coping with Grief at Christmas, visited and counseled grieving people, etc.


Then irony hit: Near Christmas, two people I loved died within two days (December 15-16, 2009).


Are you or a loved one hurting during the holidays? I relate. But let me encourage you: Jesus remains faithful! As real as my pain, He met my needs and comforted me with peace unexplainable. I’m serious. He’s real.


Before I continue with tips, let me share this: If you feel suicidal, contact an emergency counseling service like the New Life Call Center at 1-800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433).


10 Tips for Hurting Hearts to Hope and Cope at Christmastime


1.    Realize and internalize it: God still loves you and wants to hear from you. He wants you to know that there is a Way out of your pit of despair. The Way is Jesus.


2.    Sometimes, our suffering causes us to forget His. Understand He understands you. He suffered more than any of us when we bore the weight of every sin and pain on the cross! In fact, Is. 53:3 describes Jesus: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” Think of it: He took your punishment and pain on the cross. He was your capital punishment Substitute! And your Deliverer -your Rescuer- wants to hear from you. His heart hurts with yours. Will you pour your heart out to Him now? He’ll pour His love in where the fear previously resided. Let Jesus inside. Do you know Jesus on a personal, one-to-One basis?  Visit here to learn why Jesus was born to die and how to be born again. (Hey, Jesus said it: "You must be born again.")


3.    Rather than mere gifts, make a Christmas prayer list of other hurting people. Then pray for them and request prayer for yourself, too. Contact your church. Tap into ministries (including CBN.com) that offer extra prayer support. And feel free to join my prayer e-group at www.PrayingPals.org or on Facebook by clicking here.


4.    End the Christmas comparison game. Don't compare your Christmas to your neighbor's. Don't compare your Christmas to past celebrations.


5.    Center on the Savior! This year, trade a superficial Christmas for a real one. Deepen your appreciation for the true Christmas: the arrival of Jesus Christ to banish the effects of sin and death!


6.    Whatever your loss or pain, open up and let God be your Gain. Maybe your pain comes from another cause: a divorce, a devastating diagnosis, a job loss...the list extends. God offers to be your Counselor, your Father, your Healer, your Provider. Let Him answer your heart’s cry.


7.    Love on people. Even if you don’t “feel” like it, prayerfully do something for someone else who is hurting.


8.    Remember: Feelings change. God doesn't. Loved ones' deaths never kill His love for you. God's immeasurable, unconditional love still flows to you! When you know Jesus, you know eternal love and security. Nothing separates you from His love! “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, ESV).


9.    Realize the reality of the sudden reunion. Holidays exacerbate the feeling of long separation from our loved ones in Heaven. Does it feel like it will take forever for you to see your loved one in Heaven? Be encouraged: Jesus IS coming again and it will be a time you don't expect! So the fact that you feel like it won't happen soon is a good thing!  Once reunited, it will feel like no time transpired. All sadness will be entirely removed!


10.    When Jesus comes back to earth, it will be a celebration greater than any previous Christmas you've ever experienced!


For believers, losses hurt but never win. We will celebrate Jesus together -and it will be glorious "for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith" (I John 5:4, NIV). In that Day, all believers will be able to jubilantly say, “Merry Christmas to all and to all the true Light!”


Additional Help: Ready for some practical tips for coping with grief at Christmastime? Here’s one: Rearrange furniture to reduce absence reminders. To read this tip and others found in another of my CBN.com’s articles: “Coping with Grief at Christmas", visit www.CBN.com.


Going thru a rough time? Join Stacie Ruth’s prayer group at www.PrayingPals.org.


(Just a personal note from me (Andrea): I lost my mother on Christmas Eve 2004, so Christmas is not the same for me anymore. But I do know that the reunion will be sweet when it happens!)

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About Stacie: Stacie Ruth knows pain, but she also knows Jesus! After Stacie Ruth met Jesus, her life blossomed with true joy and purpose. Life’s blows hurt her, but Jesus heals and strengthens her. Now an author, actress, and recording artist, she laughs at the irony and praises God, who uses unlikely people...like herself. Discover why she's written a book at age 15, sung/spoken for the 43rd President, been pictured in major media (i.e. The New York Times, USA Today), and keynoted conferences since she was a teenager. To watch video clips, worship Jesus with music from her album, or get in touch with her ministry for women, visit www.brightlightministries.com.


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A pearl necklace, pearl bracelet, and pearl earrings will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog  on New Years Day!


12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info.




 
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