Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Observation

This past Christmas, I got a three movie dvd set--something that made me quite happy: the Tammy movies. Tammy and the Bachelor. Tammy Tell Me True. Tammy and the Doctor. What I noticed watching this time round--as a grown up--was how Bible-literate Tammy was. She's always quoting this or that or the other. And she talks about the Bible...and something living and breathing...something vital...something essential. The references to the Bible--quoting snippets here and there, and the clear references to Bible stories--are something I didn't necessarily catch onto as a kid. Maybe I took them for granted. Maybe I shared Tammy's innocence and naivety. But compared to so very many movies out there--and TV too for that matter--I found Tammy to be so refreshing.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Further thoughts on Word of Promise Next Generation

Today, I finished listening to the Word of Promise Next Generation Audio New Testament. I started the project on December 5, 2008 and completed it on December 30, 2008. My initial review is here.

What I liked best: I loved Hebrews--the narration was superb. (The narrator was Sean Astin.) Matthew was also a favorite because the non-Jesus parts were narrated by Astin.

What I liked least: The book introductions by Jenna Lucado. There was something about her voice that was grating--like nails on a chalkboard.

What mostly worked: I was pleased with most of the actors. I was disappointed with Paul some of the time. I realize that it is difficult to read Paul's writings without stuttering and stumbling and sounding like you don't know when to pause, trying to find a way to make it sound natural, etc. I do the same thing each and every time I read one of Paul's letters aloud to my Sunday School class. But I'm not a professional reader and never claimed to be. So I expected better. I think he probably did the very best he could do under the circumstances. But some passages--some books--were more awkward than others. I was surprisingly pleased with most of Cody's work as Jesus. He didn't get it right all the time. But most of the time--at least 75% of the time, he got the job done.

The more familiar I was with a book--Romans, Ephesians, John--the less pleased I was with the audio. I am relatively sure this is because of the translation. I'm just not a fan of the International Children's Bible (New Century Version). Also because these three books are so beloved, so familiar, there were higher expectations going into it.

What didn't work:

Some of the 'dramatic' sound effects didn't work for me. Chiefly any and every time when the powers-that-be decided that megaphones (or something made to sound like that) were the way to go. Usually these represented other-worldly-beings either angelic or demonic. Why they decided that angels (and/or demons) would talk louder (and echo, echo, echo) when communicating with humans is beyond me. This is especially evident in the book of Revelation.

Also, while I realize that this is an audio book meant for children...I found some of the voices to sound too young for their parts. Not all of them. Not even most of them. Just two or three sounded like they were ten or twelve when they were 'playing' characters meant to be in their thirties or older. It was just distracting.

How to choose...part bibles???

There are SO VERY MANY study bibles out there. I'm sure it can seem overwhelming when you're in the process of trying to decide which (if any) that you need.

First, I acknowledge that study notes aren't infallible, and aren't the inspired work of the Holy Spirit. I know that they're written by humans. They can be good--great even. But they're not to be taken as the absolute, undeniable truth either. You may find things you disagree with in individual notes--you may be disagreeing because it's unbiblical, or you may be disagreeing because you simply don't like what is being said. There is an important difference! Study notes should always be read with an open-but-discerning mind. Tested against the Bible itself. Tested to see if the notes are logically connected with the text of the Bible itself. (Does the Bible say what they really said it meant?)

That being said, there are some GREAT study bibles out there. And they can offer so much to the reader--insights into the background, culture, society, history, language of the Bible (Old or New Testament times). They can provide maps, charts, illustrations, lists, dictionaries, concordances, cross references, etc. Some study bibles are light on notes, some moderate, some heavy. There are different levels of intensity offered to readers.

You *really* need to browse through any study bible before you buy it. What one person loves--finds useful, finds essential--might not be right you. There are still so many little elements to finding the right Bible: one column or two? cross references? red letter or black letter? (that is the words of Christ in red or just in black like the rest of the Bible), paragraph format? verse format? page thickness, layout of margins, size of font, the darkness/lightness of font, paperback, hardback, imitation leather, bonded leather, genuine leather, genuine calf leather, thumb-indexed, etc.* You won't know it--that this is the one--until you see it, you feel it.

My suggestion--go to your local Christian bookstore--or if that's not an option, your local bookstore (or local used bookstore) and browse to see what is available. Opening it up, browsing through sections--seeing what the book introductions, outlines, charts, maps, notes, etc. are like--is the only way to know if it's what you actually want. If you've got a favorite passage or two, you might want to open to that and read the notes that go with it. Get a feel for how the notes are presented, arranged, their depth, their content.

Be patient. Better to take your time and be satisfied than to buy too quickly and end up frustrated and unhappy and wishing you'd bought something else instead. I think you'll find each one has pros and cons. It's finding what works best for you. The ONLY question that matters--when it comes down to it--is this: Will you use it? Or will it just sit on the shelf? It doesn't matter what Bibles I think are best--or which ones have the most 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon--it matters if it is you-friendly.

Here are a few of my favorites

MacArthur Study Bible -- available in New King James Version and New American Standard Bible. The volume of notes for each book/chapter is amazing--astounding even. Very detailed, very exhaustive. Written by John MacArthur. He is a Baptist. There are a few notes that emphasize immersion over sprinkling and believer's baptism over christening/infant baptism. But except for those, I think these notes are notes that almost all Christians (Protestants at least. I'm not a Catholic so I can't *guarantee* that the notes will suit Catholic believers. There could be some issues there, I can't say one way or another) can benefit from regardless of denomination. Definitely the study bible with the most depth and substance. But the length of the notes (even though they're high quality) might be intimidating to some.

Nelson Study Bible-- available in New King James. This one is now being marketed and sold as the NKJV Study Bible (Second Edition). With each edition/reprinting/redesign (since its initial one...the word Nelson's has become smaller and smaller until it's disappeared altogether) but it started out life as Nelson's Study Bible. I own THREE copies of this one. Four if you count the one I used to have but gave away. I first had it in paperback--gave it away when I bought it in leather; second I found a used leather copy for under $5 and couldn't resist; then I succombed again to the personal-size-leather edition. Which goes to show you that I'm either really crazy OR that this one is really good. What I love about this one? The notes are thorough--almost but not quite as many as MacArthur--but this one has the added bonus of highlighting and defining various greek (and I believe hebrew words too) words and giving just that much more substance to what is being presented.

ESV Study Bible -- available in ESV. This is one of the newest study bibles released. (And I think one of the most user-friendly I've seen.) I've just had mine around three or four days. So I haven't explored all its features yet--but it seems to be good. I like the fact that buying any of the editions of the ESV Study Bible will give you access to the online edition of the ESV Study Bible--including features available only online.

The NKJV Chronological Study Bible--while not as thorough (heavy) as the MacArthur or the Nelson--it offers a unique look at the Bible. It is presented in chronological order. Extra emphasis is given to placing the Bible within its context--history, society, culture, religion, law, language, literature, etc. It's definitely got something unique to offer readers that the others on this list do not.

There are other study bibles out there--NIV Study Bible (Zondervan) Life Application (so many options it's unbelievable), Quest, Open Bible, Ryrie, Spirit Filled, Scofield, etc. But I personally never found them to fit my needs and expectations. But if they work for you, then great. I won't criticize your choices! I'm not dismissing them as unworthy, they're just not for me.

*Do these details really matter? You might be surprised! People who will not buy a bible because it's one column and they like two columns (or vice versa); Or people who won't buy a bible because it's red letter and they only like black letter; Or people who won't buy a bible because the pages are too thin and you can see the text bleed through from the other side. So yes these crazy details come into play.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bible Plans

Do you follow a plan when it comes to reading the Bible? Do you want to? Do you need to? It's not necessary by any means. But some find it beneficial. Here are some places to go if you want to set up a plan for your reading.

Here are a few resources I've found:

Here are a few offered by the ESV publishers

Read Through the Bible in a Year

Eight feeds are available. Extended descriptions of each feed... To see the text, we suggest that you use an "RSS Aggregator" program (list of aggregators).

All the ESV Bible reading plans are now available as free podcasts. You don’t need to do anything special if you’re already subscribed: the MP3s will show up automatically for you.
To subscribe in iTunes, here’s what to do:

1. Go to the ESV Reading Plans page.
2. Right-click (Ctrl-click on a Mac) the “RSS” link of the feed you want.
3. Choose “Copy Link Location” or “Copy Shortcut.”
4. Start iTunes.
5. Choose Advanced > Subscribe to Podcast
6. Paste the URL from step three into the box.
7. Click OK.

The audio is by David Cochran Heath and is available for purchase and for streaming at the ESV Online Study Bible.
Here are some guides offered by the ministry Back to the Bible.

Zondervan offers a variety of plans--at least a dozen or more--on three different levels: beginners, intermediate, and advanced. (For example: 180 Day Guided Tour to the Bible, etc.)

Heartlight reading plans...
Into Thy Word reading plans...


While you can choose to receive this plan's readings by email, you can also choose to print this plan. (And/or download it as a pdf file) What is unique about this site is that it offers different categories (or foodgroups if you've read Kroll's book) of Bible reading for each day:

Sunday = Epistles
Monday = The Law
Tuesday = History
Wednesday = Psalms
Thursday = Poetry
Friday = Prophecy
Saturday = Gospels

Musing Mondays: To Recommend?

How often do you recommend books to others, and who do you recommend them to? Do you only recommend books to your “reading friends” or to anyone you think might find the book interesting? What does it take for a book to make it to your ‘recommendation’ list?

I recommend books all the time. Primarily, I like recommending through my blog(s). But I also am always recommending books to my family, friends, and Sunday School class. I know some people read more than others, but I like talking up books to anyone and everyone. I'm always taking books to 'show-case' to my Sunday School class. Think Reading Rainbow. And whenever I see my friends, I always love to talk about what I've read recently...and to hear what they've read recently!

As to what it takes to get to my recommendation list...I need to feel it is written in an enjoyable and interesting way. If it bores me to tears--if I have no patience at all for it--then I know there aren't many people in my life that would pick it up and persevere through it. But I'd probably still 'recommend' it through my blog in that I'll review it and try to point out some of the good qualities as well as mentioning why it didn't quite work for me.

So Many Bibles...How to choose...???

Bluestalking had a great question in the comments of the sign-up post, and I thought I'd take her question and expand it to a post.

Translations--my best advice for people--anyone and everyone--is to take your time when choosing your translation. There are so many choices out there, so many that really anyone can find the one that is right for them and their needs at that time. But if you get in a rush, you might end up frustrated and disappointed with your choice.

Here are some of the more popular, more readily available Bible translations:

NIV = New International Version
TNIV = Today's New International Version
NIrV = New International Reader's Version
KJV = King James Version
NKJV = New King James Version
NASB = New American Standard Bible
HCSB = Holman Christian Standard Bible
NRSV = New Revised Standard Version
RSV = Revised Standard Version
ESV = English Standard Version
NCV = New Century Version (sometimes called ICB = International Children's Bible)
The Message
The Living Bible
TEV or GNT = Today's English Version OR Good News Translation; same translation but two different names
NLT = New Living Translation
CEV = Contemporary English Version
AMP = Amplified

Most Christian stores will have multiple versions available of these Bible translations. (Granted not all are equally popular or plentiful.)

Almost all of these translations are also available for reading and/or searching online. So you can experiment at home (if you have a computer) as well as experimenting at the store if you're looking to buy a Bible.

My suggestion is to try reading in several different places--you might try a Psalm or two (or a chapter of Proverbs), a chapter (or two) from one of the gospels, and at least a chapter (or two) of one of the New Testament epistles (letters) (Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 John, etc.) The Bible has 66 books--they fall into many different types of books--history, law, prophecy, poetry, etc. And so they all 'read' differently.


John 14
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
1"(A)Do not let your heart be troubled; [a]believe in God, believe also in Me.

2"In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for (B)I go to prepare a place for you.

3"If I go and prepare a place for you, (C)I will come again and receive you to Myself, that (D)where I am, there you may be also.

4"And you know the way where I am going."

5(E)Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?"

6Jesus said to him, "I am (F)the way, and (G)the truth, and (H)the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.


John 14

Jesus Comforts His Disciples
1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God[a]; trust also in me.
In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
4 You know the way to the place where I am going."
Jesus the Way to the Father
5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" 6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
The Message

John 14

The Road
1-4 "Don't let this throw you. You trust God, don't you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I'm on my way to get your room ready, I'll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I'm taking."

5 Thomas said, "Master, we have no idea where you're going. How do you expect us to know the road?"

6-7 Jesus said, "I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me.


John 14
I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life
1(A) "Let not your hearts be troubled.(B) Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. 2In(C) my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that(D) I go to prepare a place for you?[b] 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you(E) to myself, that(F) where I am you may be also. 4And you know the way to where I am going."[c] 5(G) Thomas said to him, "Lord,(H) we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6Jesus said to him, "I am(I) the way, and(J) the truth, and(K) the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.


John 14

The Way, the Truth, and the Life
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions;[a] if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.[b] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.


John 14

Jesus, the Way to the Father
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.[a] If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?[b] 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.


John 14

The Way to the Father
1 "Your heart must not be troubled. (A) Believe [a] in God; (B) believe also in Me. 2 In My Father's house are many dwelling places; [b] if not, I would have told you. I am going away (C) to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back (D) and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. (E) 4 You know the way where I am going." (F) [c]

5 "Lord," Thomas (G) said, "we don't know where You're going. How can we know the way?"

6 Jesus told him, "I am (H) the way, (I) the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

The good news? Translation choices always come down to personal preference. It doesn't really matter if one person likes the NKJV better and another person likes the NASB better. They're both Bibles. And in any passage, the heart of the message is retained--we're talking about small differences of word choice. How much does it really and truly matter if one reads "mansions" or "dwelling places" or "many rooms"??

If you go to a Christian store, don't be afraid to ask for help. Often if you ask, they'll let you remove a Bible from its plastic--if there isn't a copy already open and ready to browse through/read. You can 'try' different ones and see what they're like inside. Something that I don't think you can duplicate on Amazon quite so easily.

One of the things that could be a factor in your decision making are different editions of the Bible--study Bibles.

I'll talk more about study bibles in my next post.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Salon: Why Operation Actually/Goals For The Week

This will be my first week participating in The Sunday Salon here at Operation Actually Read Bible. And I thought I'd take a few minutes to explain the name and mission of the blog. If you're anything like me--and if you're a believer--you might have more intentions for reading the bible than actual follow-through. I talk about how I need to read this or that...or do this or that...or whatever. But when it comes down to it, I make one excuse after another to put it off another day and another day and another day. Hence the start of OPERATION ACTUALLY read Bible. Not just talk about it...not just make plans to do it...but to actually do it, to act on my 'good' intentions, to commit to living a more disciplined life. (If you're not a believer, I'm sure you can still could just as easily be Operation Actually.... Lose Weight/Exercise More/Change Lifestyle/Clean House More/Yell Less/Be More Patient...whatever. We all have areas in our lives where we need more discipline.

When I started my blog, I didn't think of it as a challenge...but as the weeks went on...I came to see it as something that would be/could be a perpetual challenge that others could join in on. This isn't your typical challenge-blog, however. I didn't start the blog with the challenge in mind. I started the blog as my project, my baby. It just happened to grow into a challenge that others became interested in. If you'd like to join, visit this post and leave a comment.

My goals for Operation Actually? To be both a bookish blog and a non-bookish blog. On the one hand it's a place for keeping track of my own Bible reading and my reading in Christian fiction and Christian nonfiction. But on the other hand, it's a place for me to journal, to be myself, to share my thoughts, ideas, etc. with others. I'd like to post every day. But if that isn't possible--isn't realistic--then I'm hoping for at least three or four posts a week. I'd like it to be consistent enough that I can build a readership here.

This week's goals. I'd love to finish up the Word of Promise Next Generation Audio Bible. I've got 5 books left--four of which are short. 1, 2, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. Of course, with it still being a holiday-week (New Year's Eve/New Years) it might not all get done this week. My sister is still on vacation--she's a first grade teacher--and I love spending time with her when I can. But I'm aiming to finish that up in the next week.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Chronological Study Bible (NKJV)

Epoch 1
Epoch 2
Epoch 3
Epoch 4
Epoch 5
Epoch 6
Epoch 7
Epoch 8
Epoch 9

You may find this helpful...

You might find this little chart helpful in keeping track of your Bible reading. I haven't tried it myself yet, so I don't know just how helpful it might be. But I'm probably going to give it a try.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Final Word

The Final Word by Michael Card

You and me we use so very many clumsy words.
The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard.
When the Father's wisdom wanted to communicate His love,
He spoke it in one final perfect Word.

He spoke the incarnation, and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

And so the Father's fondest thought took on flesh and bone.
He spoke the living luminous word, at once His will was done.
And so the transformation that in man had been unheard,
Took place in God the Father as he spoke that final Word.

And so the Light became alive and manna became Man.
Eternity stepped into time so we could understand

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Revised Standard Version

Genesis 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

Exodus 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Leviticus 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

Deuteronomy 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34

Joshua 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Judges 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Ruth 1 2 3 4

1 Samuel 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

2 Samuel 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

1 Kings 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

2 Kings 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

1 Chronicles 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

2 Chronicles 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

Ezra 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Nehemiah 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Esther 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Job 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42

Psalms 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150

Proverbs 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Ecclesiastes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Song Of Solomon 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Isaiah 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66

Jeremiah 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52

Lamentations 1 2 3 4 5

Ezekiel 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48

Daniel 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Hosea 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Joel 1 2 3

Amos 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Obadiah 1

Jonah 1 2 3 4

Micah 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Nahum 1 2 3

Habakkuk 1 2 3

Zephaniah 1 2 3

Haggai 1 2

Zechariah 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Malachi 1 2 3 4

Matthew 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Mark 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Luke 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

John 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Acts 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Romans 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

1 Corinthians 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

2 Corinthians 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Galatians 1 2 3 4 5 6

Ephesians 1 2 3 4 5 6

Philippians 1 2 3 4

Colossians 1 2 3 4

1 Thessalonians 1 2 3 4 5

2 Thessalonians 1 2 3

1 Timothy 1 2 3 4 5 6

2 Timothy 1 2 3 4

Titus 1 2 3

Philemon 1

Hebrews 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

James 1 2 3 4 5

1 Peter 1 2 3 4 5

2 Peter 1 2 3

1 John 1 2 3 4 5

2 John 1

3 John 1

Jude 1

Revelation 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

The Book of John

Though John doesn't contain the 'nativity' story found in Matthew and Luke, it has always felt the most Christmas-y to me. John chapter one means so much more to me than the other more traditional Christmas readings. I suppose because it contains the heart of the gospel, the heart of the Christmas story.
The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
That is what Christmas is about. What you may or may not realize is that there are several resources available free for you to download. The publishers of the ESV Bible, for example, offer two mp3 downloads of the book of John. One is narrated by David Cochran Heath. The second is narrated by Max McLean. Both are COMPLETELY FREE! (Click only if you want to begin the 'zip' downloading). I've also found free mp3s of the gospel of John in KJV. And World English Bible. (These two links will take you to the place where you can listen online or download.) There may be others as well.

Give yourself a special holiday treat and listen to John!


Immanuel by Michael Card

A sign shall be given
A virgin will conceive
A human baby bearing
Undiminished deity
The glory of the nations
A light for all to see
That hope for all who will embrace
His warm reality

Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us

For all those who live in the shadow of death
A glorious light has dawned
For all those who stumble in the darkness
Behold your light has come

Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us

So what will be your answer?
Will you hear the call?
Of Him who did not spare His son
But gave him for us all
On earth there is no power
There is no depth or height
That could ever separate us
From the love of God in Christ

Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us

Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What's On Your Nightstand? (December)

I just finished Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.
Wycliffe New Testament (I'm reading Luke!)
Word of Promise Next Generation (I'm listening to John! I just have John, 1, 2, 3 John, Jude and Revelation to go)
Jonathan Edwards for Armchair Theologians by James P. Byrd(I'm reading this one very very slowly it seems!)
Daily Readings From the Life of Christ by John MacArthur (a devotional that I hope to start this January)
Night by Elie Wiesel (I'm thinking about reading this one for the Jewish challenge)
In My Hands by Irene Gut Opdyke (I'm in the process of reading this one for the Jewish challenge)

Book Review: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas is edited by Nancy Guthrie and published by Crossway. It is a book that I just loved. It is a collection of essays--consider them sermons or devotions--about the advent season. The authors? Some of my favorites new and old. Together in a timely collection we have Martin Luther, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, Saint Augustine, etc. side by side with John Piper, J. Ligon Duncan III, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, etc. (Those are just a few of the authors included in this gem of a book!)

Each entry is short--two to four pages in length--which make them perfect reading for this busy season when every minute seems spoken for. Each entry is Scripture-focused which makes for a great reminder each and every day to keep our hearts and minds on Christ during this Christmas season.

Highly recommended.

Monday, December 22, 2008

ESV Bible (Audio OT & NT) Progress

1 Samuel
2 Samuel
1 Kings
2 Kings
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles
Song of Solomon
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John

Book Review: Give A Goat

Schrock, Jan West. Give A Goat. Illustrated by Aileen Darragh. Published by Tilbury House.

You may be wondering...'How can reading a picture book in one country make a difference to a family in need living thousands of miles away? And what does a goat have to do with it anyway?' Let me introduce you to this gem of a picture book--Give A Goat. It is the story of how you and me--regardless of age--can make a difference in the world.

In a way, Give A Goat is a story about a story. When fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Rowell read aloud a book, Beatrice's Goat, she inspired her class to do something. The story was about the Heifer International organization. They give animals--goats, ducks, water buffalo, etc. to individuals in need. These animals are the gift that keep on giving. They provide for the family long-term. And are the first step to creating better lives. She didn't read it aloud with the mindset--I must teach my class how to be compassionate--it was rainy; they were restless. But the results were the same. Inspired to act, they began researching and planning. They wanted to give a goat. They wanted to make a difference.

The book shows their story--how reading inspired and prompted them to act--it gives a behind-the-scenes look at compassion and generosity. Something you don't find in every picture book. I also like the details--how this took planning and teamwork. It shows them following through on a project. It's easy to be 'inspired' but more difficult to stay inspired when it comes down to commiting yourself to something.

I enjoyed this one and I think you will too. Heifer International has a gift catalog you can browse. Consider giving yourself or your loved one a feel-good-gift of giving to someone else. Goats are $120. But flocks of chicks, ducks, and geese are only $20. (There are many other animals as well.)
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Reading Challenge

My Two Blessings is hosting the Winter Reading Challenge. December 21, 2008 - March 20, 2009.

I'd like to read four to six books. Here are my list of potential reads:

The Centurion's Wife by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke
No Woman So Fair by Gilbert Morris
Heart of a Lion by Gilbert Morris
The Courtship of The Vicar's Daughter by Lawana Blackwell
The Dowry of Miss Lydia Clark by Lawana Blackwell
Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen
The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen
A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman
A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman
An Untamed Land by Lauraine Snelling
A New Day Rising by Lauraine Snelling
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin

These are just the books I'm considering. I could change my mind completely.

1. In the Company of Secrets by Judith Miller
2. Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
3. Whispers Along the Rail by Judith Miller
4. An Uncertain Dream by Judith Miller
5. The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran
6. The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter by Lawana Blackwell
7. Gingham Mountain by Mary Connealy
8. The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter
9. The Desires of Her Heart by Lyn Cote
10. Heart of a Lion by Gilbert Morris

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New Author Challenge

Jackie of Literary Escapism is hosting the New Author 2009 challenge. I'm joining in and I hope to read twelve new-to-me Christian authors for 2009. In the past, I've stuck to authors I'm familiar with--Lynn Austin, Janette Oke, Lauraine Snelling, DeeAnne Gist, etc. I'm hoping to find a lot of new favorites in the new year. If you read in this genre, I'd LOVE to hear your recommendations.

1. Judith Miller, In the Company of Secrets
2. Michelle Moran, Nefertiti
3.Gingham Mountain by Mary Connealy
4. The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter
5. The Desires of Her Heart by Lyn Cote
6. Heart of a Lion by Gilbert Morris
7. Just Another Girl by Melody Carlson
8. The Passion of Mary Margaret by Lisa Samson
9. Journey to the Well by Diana Wallis Taylor
10. Michal by Jill Eileen Smith
11. Fireflies In December by Jennifer Erin Valent
12. Before The Season Ends by Linore Rose Burkard

I'm open to reading more than twelve. But I'd *hate* to set a goal of 50 and then be disappointed when I can't reach it.

Book Review: The House Without A Christmas Tree

Rock, Gail. The House Without A Christmas Tree.

This short little book--88 pages--would make a great holiday read aloud. The book is set in the mid-to-late forties. Our narrator, Adelaide or "Addie," is a young girl--maybe ten--who is being raised by her father and her grandmother. The story opens the week before Christmas. Addie and her best friend, Carla Mae, are chatting away about school, about their classmates, and about Christmas. There are several main keys to the plot--buying "secret santa" gifts for classmates, class parties, etc.--but the heart of this one is the uncomfortable relationship between father and daughter. Here is a girl who loves life living with a man who isolates himself, who has built a wall around his heart since his wife died. This is the story of how a father's heart was melted, and how a relationship was rebuilt. Back to the title, back to the plot, Addie's one desire is to have a Christmas tree. She feels she's the only kid in town without one. And it's not because they're "poor." Although the family isn't rich by any means. No, it is because her father is stubborn, is mean, is closed off to the idea of celebrating really celebrating the holiday again. But don't think that the father is presented as a villain through and through. Without a doubt, he's just a broken-hearted man who doesn't know how to live life without his wife, who doesn't know how to love his daughter, who doesn't know how to move forward.

I hadn't read this one in years--probably since I was in elementary school--but I am so glad I read it this year. Addie, her grandmother, her father, her best friend, and let's not forget that Billy Wild, her secret santa who gives her a heart locket! All the characters are just so memorable. This one just feels right.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

100+ Reading Challenge

J. Kaye is hosting the 100+ Reading Challenge in 2009.

This will be a super-stretch for me. Last year I probably read twenty Christian books. (Now, the challenge isn't for Christian books only. It is for anything and everything. But my own restriction is to have the challenge be for this blog only, and this blog only reviews Christian stuff. So there you have it.) So to aim for 100 is a true challenge. But I want to do it. I need to do it. So let's see how it goes.

1. In the Company of Secrets by Judith Miller
2. Jonathan Edwards for Armchair Theologians by James P. Byrd
3. Whispers Along the Rail by Judith Miller
4. Never Say Diet by Chantel Hobbs
5. An Uncertain Dream by Judith Miller
6. Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
7. On Church Leadership by Mark Driscoll
8. The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran
9. The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter by Lawana Blackwell
10. Red Letters edited by Timothy Beals
11. Gingham Mountain by Mary Connealy
12. John Calvin And His Passion for the Majesty of God by John Piper
13. The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter
14. The Desires of Her Heart by Lyn Cote
15. Christianity in Crisis 21rst Century by Hank Hanegraaff
16. Heart of a Lion by Gilbert Morris
17. Just Another Girl by Melody Carlson
18. Wycliffe New Testament
19. Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross edited by Nancy Guthrie
20. The Passion of Mary Margaret by Lisa Samson
21. The Classic Bible Storybook by Kenneth N. Taylor
22. Journey to the Well by Diana Wallis Taylor
23. Michal by Jill Eileen Smith
24. Fireflies In December by Jennifer Erin Valent
25. A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman
26. A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman
27. No Woman So Fair by Gilbert Morris
28. Before the Season Ends by Linore Rose Burkard
29. Fixing Abraham by Chris Tiegreen
30. A Passion Denied by Julie Lessman
31. The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister
32. The House in Grosvenor Square by Linore Rose Burkard
33. Tyndale's New Testament (1534)
34. A Bride in the Bargain by DeeAnne Gist
35. The Disappearance of God by R. Albert Mohler Jr.
36. Eyes Wide Open by Jud Wilhite
37. Love's Pursuit by Siri Mitchell
38.Offworld by Robin Parrish
39.The Enclave by Karen Hancock
40. Montana Rose by Mary Connealy
41. The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz
42. Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen
43. June Bug by Chris Fabry
44. North Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson
45. Whirlwind by Cathy Marie Hake
46. Fearless by Max Lucado
47. Mortimer's First Garden by Karma Wilson
48. Who Made the World by Kathleen Long Bostrom
49. What is the Bible by Kathleen Long Bostrom
50. My Story Bible: 66 Favorite Stories by Jan Godfrey
51. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
52. Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin
53. A Measure of Mercy by Lauraine Snelling
54. Touched by a Vampire: Discovering the Hidden Messages in the Twilight Saga by Beth Felker Jones.
55. The Swiss Courier. Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey. 2009. Revell. 324 pages.
56. Thirsty. Tracey Bateman.
57. A Constant Heart by Siri Mitchell
58. God Gave Us Christmas. Lisa Tawn Bergren
59. God Gave Us Love. Lisa Tawn Bergren.
60. Treasured: Knowing God by the Things He Keeps by Leigh McLeroy
61. What is God Like by Beverly Lewis. 2008.
62. Thank You, God! Illustrated by Sophie Allsopp.
63. Questions from Little Hearts by Kathleen Long Bostrom.
64. Baby Bible: Stories About Jesus. Currie, Robin.
65. Toddler Bible by Bethan James and Yorgus Sgouros.
66. All God's Critters by Bill Staines
67. He's Got The Whole World In His Hands. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson.
68. Old MacNoah Had An Ark by Sally Lloyd-Jones.
69. Bedtime Prayers edited by Jennifer Frantz.
70. Everyday Prayers edited by Jennifer Frantz
71. God Found Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren.
72. Mortimer's First Garden. Karma Wilson.
73. Heart of a Shepherd. Rosanne Parry
74. The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. Peterson

The rules:
The 100+ Reading Challenge will be hosted here this year. Here are the guidelines:

1) You can join anytime as long as you don’t start reading your books prior to 2009.

2) This challenge is for 2009 only. The last day to have all your books read is December 31, 2009.

3) You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.

6) All books count: children’s, YA, adults, fiction, non-fiction, how-tos, etc.

7) Feel free to post in the comment section or on Yahoo Groups your monthly progress as well as your favorite books that month.

Faith 'n Fiction Saturdays: Best of the Year

Amy's question this week asks, "...what are your favorite Christian fiction books that you read this year? You can compile your list anyway you like, by genre, ranking, or a favorite book of each month. Be as creative as you like the only requirements are that you read the books this year and that they are Christian fiction."

I read so few Christian fiction books this year. (Bad, bad, Becky) I read under ten titles in fact. I did read some Christian nonfiction though. So I'm not completely hopeless.

My favorites?

If I had to pick just one...I'd choose Until We Reach Home. This one was one of the best books I've ever read. IT's by Lynn Austin. And I highly recommend it.

Getting honorable mentions, I'll highlight Deep In the Heart of Trouble by DeeAnne Gist and Courting Emma by Sharlene MacLaren. Both books were great--definitely enjoyable.

Getting honorable honorable mentions, I'll highlight One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling. Also Keeping Holiday by Starr Meade was fun.

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Book Review: One Perfect Day

Snelling, Lauraine. 2008. One Perfect Day.

Two families. One will receive a Christmas miracle; the other will experience a Christmas tragedy. Nora Peterson has two seniors getting ready to graduate from high school--twins, one boy, one girl. Jenna Montgomery has a daughter, Heather, who is dying and needs a heart transplant. (She's just twenty and has been sick most of her life.) One child will live, one will die. Both families want this Christmas to be perfect. Nora because she somewhat naively believes this will her family's last Christmas together since they will be off for college the next year. Jenna because she knows that unless a transplant comes through this will be--no question about it--the very last Christmas with her daughter. Each day Heather struggles just to breathe.

One Perfect Day chronicles the lives of two families--though the two never meet--as they celebrate and mourn. It's a story of hope and despair, love and loss, and redemption.

I don't know about other readers--so I could be alone here--but I never felt a connection with the Peterson family. Nora and Gordon. Christi and Charlie. It didn't matter if it was before, during or after...I just never felt this family was real or genuine. I felt Nora to be a bit plastic, a bit going through the motions, even before the tragedy strikes. Gordon, again, felt disconnected from his family. Like he wasn't really present in his home, in his relationships. I generally felt that the family was broken on the inside before they became broken on the outside.

The Montgomery family, on the other hand, was vital from the very beginning. I felt that Jenna and Heather and Uncle Randy were alive, authentic, genuine, sincere. Their family, their story resonated. I cared for them from the start.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, December 19, 2008

TBR 2009 Lite Challenge

The TBR Lite challenge asks participants to read six books in twelve months.

Becky's list of six

1. An Untamed Land by Lauraine Snelling
2. A New Day Rising by Lauraine Snelling
3. A Land to Call Home by Lauraine Snelling
4. The Reaper's Song by Lauraine Snelling
5. Tender Mercies by Lauraine Snelling
6. Blessing In Disguise by Lauraine Snelling

Becky's list of six alternates

1. No Woman So Fair by Gilbert Morris
2. Heart of a Lion by Gilbert Morris
3. The Gate of Heaven by Gilbert Morris
4. Till Shiloh Comes by Gilbert Morris
5. The Way of the Wilderness by Gilbert Morris
6. Daughters of Deliverance

Book Review: Tonight You Are My Baby

Norris, Jeannine Q. Tonight You Are My Baby: Mary's Christmas Gift. Illustrated by Tim Ladwig.

I enjoyed this one. It is a beautifully illustrated picture book of the Nativity story--the birth of Jesus. It is the story of the Savior's birth through Mary's eyes--her thoughts, her prayers, her hopes. The narrative is told largely through rhyme. (Perhaps not the most poetic and rhythmic verse ever penned, but not horrible by any means.) I enjoyed the main refrain, "Tomorrow you will be King, but tonight you are my baby..."

I liked this one a good deal. I especially loved the illustrations--they're beautiful. They complement the text well. And together they make for a charming read perfect for this time of year.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Movies

Sing we now of Bing...

For me there are really only TWO essential movies of the season. Holiday Inn. White Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I watch more than just the two. I love more than just those two. But there is just something oh-so-magical about Bing Crosby. He ba-ba-bings into my heart I suppose. Who knows?

I don't love everything about Holiday Inn. I could have done without the Abraham Lincoln number in blackface. I could have done without the big-dance-number for the fourth of July with firecrackers. But almost everything else is oh-so-magical. Especially the ending.

I also adore White Christmas. I don't know how I could ever choose between the two. The singing. The dancing. The falling in love. Again, just oh-so-magical.

This was written for My Friend Amy.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Book Review: Engaging Father Christmas

Gunn, Robin Jones. 2008. Engaging Father Christmas.

Engaging Father Christmas is the sequel to Finding Father Christmas. Both are holiday novellas set in England. I've not read the first one; however, my mother has read it and adored it. Can the second one stand alone? Yes and no. I think it could stand alone. I read it without having read the first one in the series. And I was able to get enjoyment from the reading of it. But there were just a few teeny tiny things that I got confused about. Questions that would have been answered--I suppose technically questions that would never have been asked--if I'd read the first book.

Engaging Father Christmas is a romance. Miranda Carson is in love (with Ian) and visiting her family (and his family) for the Christmas season. Their relationship is strong, and she knows that he is going to's just a matter of when and how. Miranda's life hasn't been easy--she never knew who her father was, her mother was an actress. This holiday season could be a lonely one for her--both her parents being dead-but she has sought refuge with her father's family. (In Finding Father Christmas, she set out to discover just WHO her father was. She learned who he was--a married man, a rather famous man too--but she discovered it too late to have met him. He was already dead. She did find her father's wife and her half-brother and his family.)

The novella was cute enough I suppose. And I imagine I would have enjoyed it more if I'd read the first book before reading this one.

Also, I think it comes down to a matter of taste. My mom just loves, loves, loves to read holiday novellas--little short books with pretty covers. In fact, she'll read them in July. She was SO excited that I was getting a chance to review this one. So for the right person in your live--this one will be a great addition.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cookie Mix

Listening to Christmas music is one of my favorite things. It is part of almost every other Christmas-related activity--wrapping presents, opening presents, making cookies and other 'goodies' or feast items, not to mention all the play music gets in car trips--back and forth all month long. But today I'm going to share some music and a recipe.

Let's play word association. Andy Williams = sugar cookies. I love my mom's sugar cookies. Love them. I'd eat them year round. But mom's diabetic. So the cookies only come once a year. But when they come, they are accompanied by Andy William Christmas CDs.

While mom's tradition is to listen to Andy Williams, I have traditions of my own as well. While I like Andy Williams, he's not "my favorite and best" soundtrack for making cookies. Therefore I present MY cookie playlist. The music will make you just as warm and cozy and happy as the cookies. :)
Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies (1966)

3 1/2 c. sifted all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. soft butter or margarine
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
3 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. (Hint, mom leaves out the salt.) Beat butter or margarine, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in bowl until light and fluffy. add sifted dry ingredients gradually; blend thoroughly. Pinch off small piece of dough; roll between palms of hands into balls about 1 inch in diameter; place about 2 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheets. Butter bottom of water tumbler; dip in sugar; press balls of dough down carefully until they are about 1/8 inch thick. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden. Transfer to wire racks; cool. Makes about 4 dozen.

(We always use cookie cutters so we ignore half the instructions. (This is probably why we never get the promised 4 dozen cookies.) The dough will need to be refrigerated or "chilled" at least an hour before you can roll it out. The recipe is from a book without a cover. It's a recipe book that's been well-loved and has a few sticky pages. So I don't know offhand which book it is.)

Becky's Cookie Mix

Medley: Happy Holidays/The Holiday Season by Andy Williams
The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole
Here Comes Santa Claus by Bing Crosby
Home for the Holidays by Perry Como
White Christmas by Bing Crosby
Cool Yule by Louis Armstrong
I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm by Dean Martin
Mistletoe and Holly by Frank Sinatra
Jingle Bells by Bing Crosby
Silver Bells by Dean Martin
Santa Claus is Coming To Town by Frank Sinatra
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! by Dean Martin
It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams
Deck the Halls by Nat King Cole
Winter Wonderland by Louis Armstrong
It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas by Bing Crosby
The Christmas Waltz by Frank Sinatra
Baby, It's Cold Outside by Dean Martin
Christmas Time All Over the World Sammy Davis Jr.
The Merry Christmas Polka by Jim Reeves
Caroling, Caroling by Nat King Cole
O Christmas Tree by Vince Guaraldi
Christmas Time Is Here by Vince Guaraldi
Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Vince Guaraldi
Welcome Christmas (reprise) The Whos is Whoville
One More Sleep Til Christmas by The Muppets
Believe by Josh Groban
The Magic of Christmas Day by Celine Dion
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Christmas Music Part One Albums

I probably have over fifty Christmas albums; some I've had for years--make that decades--others are newish. In trying to be 'fair' and give albums equal opportunity to put me in the mood, I've come to some realizations. Christmas albums aren't created equal. And some really aren't all that essential.

Most Essential of the Essentials--the best of the best

Christmas With The Rat Pack (Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr.) (21 songs)
Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson (12 songs)
Charlie Brown Christmas (11 songs)
The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole (14 songs)
White Christmas by Bing Crosby (11 songs)
Christmas by Michael W. Smith (10 songs)
Christmastime by Michael W. Smith (12 songs)
The Music of Christmas by Steven Curtis Chapman (12 songs)


We Need A Little Christmas by Andy Williams (12 songs)
Andy Williams Christmas Album by Andy Williams (12 songs)
Merry Christmas by The Beach Boys (9 songs)
Home for Christmas by Amy Grant (11 songs)
Winter Wonder by FFH (12 songs)
The First Noel by Steve Green (10 songs)


It's Christmas Time by City on A Hill (11 songs)
It's A Wonderful Christmas by Michael W. Smith (11 songs)
All I Really Want for Christmas by Steven Curtis Chapman (14 songs)
These Are The Special Times by Celine Dion (15 songs)
Muppet Christmas Carol Soundtrack (18 songs)
The Incredible Singing Christmas Tree by Veggie Tales (16 songs)
Christmas Offerings by Third Day (13 songs)
Peace on Earth by Casting Crowns (10 songs)

Favorite Instrumental/Classical Albums

The Messiah by Handel (42 songs)
Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky (17 songs)
The Living Room Sessions: Christmas by Chris Rice (13 songs)
Faith by Kenny G (10 songs)
Miracle by Kenny G (11 songs)
Wishes by Kenny G (10 songs)
Old Time Country Christmas (12 songs)
New England Christmas (12 songs)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Peas in a Pod

My mom and I have always been a lot alike. Down to our obsessions. (Though there are plenty of differences as well.) This makes gift-buying easy for me, difficult for others at times. My sister can't fathom why mom would want this or that, but I do. Chances are I want this or that too. (We both think clothes make bad gifts.)

For example, mom and I love Bibles. We don't just own a Bible or two. We don't even own just a dozen or two. We own at least ninety or a hundred. Lest you think we are just gathering a hundred New King James or a hundred New International Versions...let me say that we do aim to have a variety of translations--we both agree that the ESV is our favorite and our best--and an assortment of study bibles and devotional bibles. Mom takes this to the next level, she tries to collect older translations--those not in wide use today, those that have been out of print for a good many years. If it was up to her, she'd have a copy of every translation ever published into English ever, ever. I may not share her goals to own every Bible ever published...but there a few that have won me over.

There are three Bible translations I'm excited about reading. The Wycliffe New Testament, first published in the fourteenth century and being the first Bible translated into English. The Tyndale New Testament, published in the 1530s I believe. The Geneva Study Bible, published in many editions in the last part of the sixteenth century, but the edition I have is the 1599 edition. It was this Bible that was the Bible of the Puritans. It was this Bible that came to America with its first settlers--at least the Puritan ones. I love the language. I love the sense of history.

I'll be tracking my progress on these three translations here alongside more modern-day translations--the ESV, NASB, NKJV, etc.
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Book Review: Room for A Little One

Waddell, Martin. 2008. Room for A Little One. Illustrated by Jason Cockcroft.

A nativity board book told from the animals point of view. It's told by Martin Waddell, an author that I usually adore. And this one isn't an exception. I enjoyed it. A lot. With great illustrations, simple and straight forward text, the message of Jesus' birth is a memorable one.

It was a cold winter's night.
Kind Ox lay in his stable,
close to the side of the inn.

Old Dog came by.
He stopped and looked into the stable.
"I need somewhere to rest," said Old Dog.
"Come inside," Kind Ox said.
"There's always room for a little one here."

"There's always room for a little one here," is the refrain of the text and its theme as well.

Definitely recommended. It's now available in board book. (It was first published as a picture book.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Book Review: The Shepherds' Prayer

Barry, Richard M. The Shepherds' Prayer.

Some people have last minute shopping. A time where they are frantically shopping and everything is in a frenzy. I don't. I never have. Instead, I almost always have last minute reading. I read several last-minute books this year that I'm going to try to review today. One of them is The Shepherds' Prayer. This one is biblical fiction. The prologue depicts one woman's hurried escape from the Slaughter of the Innocents. The Roman soldiers who came to Bethlehem to slaughter all boys under the age of two. But the heart and soul of this book is about what happens thirty years later.

Anam is a young man--if you consider thirty or thirty-one to be "young" which I do--adopted by another family. His father--the man he calls his father--found him on the side of the road. His mother was dead as was the horse she rode on. Anam which means "no name" is what he is called since he was already eight days old, already circumcised. Anam is on a quest to find out about his parents--to find out who he is and where he came from. So Anam sets out on a journey to Bethlehem in search of answers.

Most strangers are wary of answering Anam's questions. Especially when they find out that he was a babe that escaped the Slaughter of the Innocents. Any time he mentions the name of Jesus--the only clue he's got to go on--then people give him the cold shoulder. No one wants to help him. No one wants to even be civil. But he does piece together who might be able to help him. The shepherds who first proclaimed the arrival of this Messiah, this Christ child, this future king of the Jews.

So Anam's quest turns to that of a man seeking the shepherds. As you can imagine, his search is successful. The shepherds are eager to share their stories, share their thoughts and hopes about that glorious night. And they are overjoyed to find this man. They see his lambskin blanket that is inscribed and recognize it instantly, they knew his father. But more importantly perhaps to Anam, they know his name. His name is Stephen.

On his way back home, he comes across Jesus. A Jesus who has just begun his ministry. Just begun to heal the sick and proclaim his message. Jesus is depicted in this tale as seeking out the shepherds, seeking the ones who first worshipped him.

Overall, it is a nice, enjoyable story. Although some parts of the story are centered around the birth, I would say this is a story you can enjoy all year long. It's more about living and worshipping and witnessing...what you do with the child in the manger...after Christmas day.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Book Review: Boo Humbug

Gutteridge, Rene. 2007. Boo Humbug.

This one is a gem of a book. It is funny and fun, and a book I recommend all around. It is set in a small town in Indiana, and it is one in a series of books. But this was my first exposure to the town and the people and I did just fine so I'm going to assume that others would do the same. There are multiple narrators, multiple story lines, etc. I won't go into too much detail here, it's best to read for yourself, but trust me it is funny and it just works wonderfully.

I don't laugh out loud often. And I rarely *torture* people by reading aloud passages from books, but in the case of Boo Humbug...I did both.