Friday, November 5, 2010

What Good is God?

 Philip Yancey talks about his latest book What Good is God?

There was a day when we Christians would not countenance for an instant, questions about God's worth, reliability, character or presence.  We were just supposed to accept everything by faith, swallow our questions and wear a brave face. 

Yancey never presumes to have all the answers, but he does humbly and without railing invite us to journey with him as he explores the reasons for believing in and following God with all of our heart.

Ravi Zacharias, C. S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, and N. T. Wright are just a few of the brilliant, contemporary apologists who brilliantly and knowledgeably stand beside Philip Yancey in defending, explaining and validating our faith. 

Yancey tells us that he is more of an explorer than a defender.  But I have found that the stories he tells and the illustrations he uses do strengthen my conviction that our faith is defensible.
What good is God?  No good whatsoever, if he is a god made in our own image. Philip Yancey gives us a clear view of the One True God, full of grace and glory.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm Not Good Enough...

A dear friend discovered this book by "happenstance". She raved about it, quoted from it and recommended it. So I asked her to write about it for our blog. Thank you Jenelle!

I stepped into House of James with my grandmother one day and she spotted this book.  Since it is not only what I am struggling with but what my counsellor is teaching me, I thought I'd give it a try. It has made all the difference in my life.

It is a book by Sharon Jaynes that not only points out the negative messages women tell themselves but also helps you to fight them by finding the Bible's liberating truth.  One thing I loved when I first opened it is that it begins by recognizing who the enemy is and what he is capable of in our lives.  Sharon has a way of helping us to reject the deceiver and call upon our Savior for assistance in our time of need.

After finding out who the enemy is, Sharon helped me to really recognize my negative messages and inner self-talk.  I found it very helpful to be in tune with what I was telling myself.

The book is written by a Christian author and written in a Christan perspective.  She uses many references from the Bible and about the Bible. There is one quote in particular that I really liked.  "Rather than being thankful for what we do have, Satan points out what we don't have."  How true this is.  Eve had at her disposal every tree in the garden except one. Every tree. That is a smorgasbord of goodness.  But rather than being thankful, she bought the lie that the one thing she couldn't have was the one thing that would make her happy.

After recognizing what the lies are it is time to reject them and replace them with truths.  Not just any truth but the truth from the Bible. 

I guess the one thing I got the most out of this book is being self-aware and what to do with my thoughts when I hear them.  Sharon has had a lot of life experiences and she kindly shares them with us in her book so we can see the trials and hardships that others have gone through.  And she not only tells what she went through but how she got through it.  She has helped me to understand that what makes the critical difference is not circumstances, but our interpretation of the circumstances.
Sharon Jaynes uses many analogies in her book.  Personally I am a visual learner.  I need that mental picture to get a clear perspective of things.  Sharon succeeded in helping me to understand the value of our negative self-talk.

I've really struggled with depression this last year and I've had doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and counsellors all try to teach me the concept of negative messages.  It's like each person gave me a puzzle piece.  I may have had all the pieces but I didn't have the picture to know how to put it together.  Sharon gave me that picture.  Now my puzzle is complete and the picture is absolutely beautiful.

Thank you Sharon for making the biggest difference in my life.  This book has completely changed me!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Everyone Loves them

(and then read what staff member Esther has to say) 
First, a confession. I watch Veggie Tales. I’m too old to have claimed to grow up on them, but neither do I have the convenient excuse of having kids in tow when I browse that section of our store. For those with kids, indulge your funny bone, and for those without, rest assured that you’re in good company!
When I was asked to write about “It’s a Marvelous Life” I thought of my favorite Larry the cucumber quote “I laughed, I cried, it moved me, Bob”. Well (except for the crying) this show would suffice in filling that description.

This mix of spoofs of Polar Express, A Christmas Carol, and It’s a Wonderful Life got all smooshed together to produce what I think may be Veggie Tales most heartwarming “feel-good” show to date. Slightly different from their normal fare, it’ll still appeal to kids and non-kids alike.

It delves into the world of sports, choices, and an adult cast of Veggies.  It also deals sweetly with the topic of adoption. If nothing else, watch it to see Larry (now married to his high school sweetpea sweetheart) say “pshaw” and be a hoodie-wearing football dad!

Note: Despite the look of the cover, it’s not a Christmas focused show, except that it’s set on December 24th.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I Quit!

is the title of  a book that I am reading over my lunch breaks. The sub-title is: Stop Pretending Everything is Fine and Change Your Life. The content and conclusions that author Geri Scazzero draws are too important to wait for me to finish reading the whole book. 

I remember when I personally stopped pretending 14 years ago. It was a shock to everyone! But man did I meet and make a lot of friends through the process. 
The author says, "Jesus invited me into the Christian life to enjoy a rich banquet at his table. Instead, it often felt like I was a galley slave, laboring to serve everyone else at the feast rather than enjoying it myself.  In my relationship with Jesus, I'd gone from the great joy of feeling overwhelmed by his love to bitter resentment at feeling overwhelmed by his demands.  My identity had been swallowed up in putting others before myself.  I constantly thought of the needs of our four small daughters.  I worried about Pete's responsibilities. I filled in wherever needed to help our growing church.  These are all potentially good things, but my love had become a 'have to,' a 'should' rather than a gift freely given.   I mistakenly believed I didn't have a choice."
In the book, Geri gives us a gift called The Personal Freedom Toolkit.  It contains the essential truths that will enable us to take responsibility for our own lives.  Like the game of Backgammon; easy to learn but  a lifetime to master. Some of the tools include: The Fence of Separateness (practice boundaries), The Oxygen Mask of Self-Care, and the Yes/No Medallion. 

I really should have read this book when I first became a missionary in Borneo 33 years ago.  It would have saved us all some grief.

You can read I Quit  now and take the necessary steps to burn on, not out.


P.S Geri is also co-author of  Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, a book my missionary sister recommends.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Whetting your appetite

Yesterday we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving.  For the first time in years, I did not stress out. Turns out I should have. The fellowship was grand, the food was not.  I roasted 2 ducks (a last minute ill-advised impulse), opened a can of chicken gravy, poured boiling water onto instant potato flakes; did the same to instant stuffing and served a store bought apple pie.  My family graciously choked down a few morsels but it was not my finest festive moment. 

I'm quite sure that particular menu would not tempt any of you, but I am hoping that the following offering of books will.  They are all newcomers.  Our "new arrivals" shelf is right near the tills at the front and every time I pass it, I want to reach out and graze.  

Dancing with Max by Emily Colson. Yes, she is Chuck Colson's daughter and Max is her son.  Max is 19 years old and autistic.  Emily is a single mom who writes honestly and earnestly. Although Charles Colson writes the prologue as well as the epilogue, his name is not needed to give the book credence. Just start reading and you will continue. And you will find yourself swallowing hard as you read about Max.  The professionals had given up on him but his mom did not!

Near to the Heart of God by Robert J Morgan is comprised of meditations on 366 of our best-loved hymns.  Growing up in the '60s I didn't always appreciate hymns but now that I am older and wiser, I agree that "they clear our minds, soothe our nerves, verbalize our worship, summarize our faith, and sing our great Redeemer's praise".

Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury released today. Women aged 20-80 love Karen's books, but I also had a pastor tell me that he recommends some of her books to couples that he is counselling.  I met Karen Kingsbury years ago at a booksellers' convention and was so impressed with her testimony, her family and her persona that I knew I could sell her books without hesitation.

   This new title features, interestingly enough, an 18 year old autistic boy. He is befriended by popular cheerleader and star of the show Ella Reynolds with life-changing repercussions for both them AND their families.

Come on in and taste some of our other new books.  It is so much fun to browse. There are all sorts of nooks and crannies in our store where you will find treasure. From where I am sitting and writing this post I see "Seat Belt Suspense Fiction"; a whole section featuring Canadian authors; Bible studies by Beth Moore as well as 5 shelves of books written for and by men.

And don't worry, if you come in, I promise I won't cook for you, but I WILL try to match you up with a great book!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Big Red Tractor

Miss Denise reads a story
From Denise's desk:
Anyone who knows me, knows that I love a good children's book...I love to read them out loud, and I love the interaction that can follow. This past week I found a new story to add to my favourites!!

Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love and Forgotten God, has written a book for kids called The Big Red Tractor and the Little Village. This is an absolutely delightful tale that instantly grabbed me. It goes something like this: A small farming village loves their big tractor, unfortunately none of them really knows what the tractor can do, they love the size and the sound it makes but it is hard to use and heavy to push (obviously the villagers do not know how to use it properly). All the villagers just think that is the way it is until Farmer Dave uncovers a dusty old book in an attic and discovers the tractor was meant to do much more.

Although the village laughs and makes fun of Farmer Dave, he doesn't give up and soon the tractor is working the way it should thus making the farming easier and more efficient!! The villagers believe it is a miracle and are now able to feed ten times as many people with all the wonderful fruits and vegetables they grow now that the tractor runs the way it was made to run.

I love the page that says, " Did you know that you are like the big red tractor? God made you and knows just how you work best. He wrote a book full of truth that you can read to help you know how to live too." Such a great way to express how God, the Holy Spirit and the Bible work together.

What a fabulous way of helping the special little ones in your life learn about the Bible and how God knows all the great things you can do, with His help of course. Read it to someone you love soon!!!!! ~~Denise

Check out this cute book trailer:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Reasons

I told you that I was going to finish the list of top 10 reasons to visit our store this fall in my next post, but I actually have 11.

#11 We are in the middle of a 4 day sale which ends on Saturday Oct 2. There are some marvelous books on sale for electrifying prices.

Heaven by Randy Alcorn is only $8.99. We have sold hundreds of this book, ever since a 17 year old who worked on staff years ago told me that it was the best book he had ever read. And it's thick!

66 Love Letters by Dr. Larry Crabb is $9.99. Use it as a companion to your daily Scripture reading. The book is described as a conversation with God that invites you into His story.

Have a New Husband by Friday
& Have a New Kid by Friday $9.99 each.
Author Dr. Kevin Leman is a pretty funny guy. He says that you don't actually have to wait until Friday. You can probably have a new one by Wednesday. I'm pretty happy with the husband and kids that I have, but judging by the way these books are flying out of the store, quite a few of us wouldn't mind some changes!

e Away My Beloved by Frances Roberts is a very classy edition of a 30 year old devotional book. I think you should know that Amazon sells it for $10.19 but WE have it on sale for $3.99!!!

Now, back to the last 5 reasons to come and visit us this fall:

#6 Serendipity
Do you love to browse at bookstores? We believe books can be tools of the Holy Spirit. We know that books can change lives. Come and see what is on the shelf for you and for those you love.

#7 Selection
We offer the best selection of Christian books, music, Bibles and gifts around. Our books run wide and deep. Our music provides a positive alternative for youth and aids us in the praise and worship of our Lord. Our giftware and art become enduring messages in homes and offices. Our greeting cards celebrate and comfort. Our Christmas cards even refer to the birth of Christ. We love our products.

#8 We're a meeting place
We cut across denominational lines. We are diverse. We are common ground. People from different backgrounds, churches and theological leanings come together in our stores.

#9 We know what we're doing
We are specialty stores providing specialty products. On purpose. We read our books, listen to our music and buy our gifts for friends and family. We know we're not perfect. We make the occasional mistake! But our best days happen when just the right product for you, at just the right time, is on our shelves. If it isn't, we'll go the extra mile to find it.

#10 Community support
We support church and para-church ministries and fundraisers as much and as often as we can. We're pleased to sell tickets and to put up posters in support of local events. Say...have any of the online giants come to your event lately with people or product to provide a book table or donated to your silent auction? You are our community and together we hope to make a difference.

Thank you for being our customer!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Top 10 Reasons

to come and see us this Fall:

#1 Serving you is what matters most.
It is our privilege to serve you. Your experience in our store matters
personally to us. You are the centerpiece of the work we have been given and we truly hope we can provide something of value to you. We will always do our very best to find what you need! ("Reasons" taken from the current flyer and written by Margo Smith.)

#2 The Real Thing!
Do you love the touch and feel of a real book as much as we do? Do yo
u want them to live on? Online shopping is here to stay and e-books have their appeal but independent, local bookstores with real people selling real books can be part of the future too.

#3 We are Christians.
We don't sell Christian because it's hot. We sell Christian even when it'
s not. We focus on being Christian in everything we do. We would like to think that together we are playing a part in what God is doing in our community.

#4 Independent, local business matters.
Shopping locally provides local employment and contributes to the local economy. We are an independent, local business which sells a wide range of products at fair, competitive prices. We're also a business which encourages Christian devotion and culture in the workplace.

#5 Where we spend our money matters.
Simply by shopping at our store, you are saying you think Christian bookstores and the products we sell matter. We hope we offer a positive shopping alternative amongst a dizzyng array of options. You are the reason our mission continues. Thank you!

You can read the rest of the 10 reasons to come and see us this Fall in our next post. We look forward to seeing you soon!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mark Driscoll + Hipster Christianity

Cool + Christ = Hipster Faith is the feature article in the current issue of the magazine Christianity Today. Having 3 kids in the relevant generation, I found the article absorbing .Dozens of traditional Christian icons are repudiated by this new wave of Jesus followers. End-time hysteria, Adventures in Odyssey, the Ten Commandments in courtrooms and tract distribution are among the new pariahs. Passionate concern for social justice, organic meals, church liturgy and outings to microbreweries are the new normals. (To learn more about this phenomenon? movement? fad? wave? read Brett McCracken's Hipster Christianity).

Shock jock Mark Driscoll, described in the article as "the polarizing Howard Stern of neo-Calvinist Christianity" is in with this gang.
Matthew, a former staff member at the store, just graduated from Regent College in Vancouver. In his mid-20s, well-educated, thoughtful, he was a perfect choice for a review of Mark Driscoll's latest book, Doctrine - What Christians Should Believe. You can imagine my astonishment when I read his scathing post. Far from affirming, Mat blasts Driscoll's scholarship and conclusions. Here we go.

I was asked to read Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears and provide my reflections on its content. I have read some of Driscoll’s previous works, and was impressed with them. However, this was not the case with Doctrine. Both the publisher and the authors make bold claims about the book’s credentials. First, they claim scholarly pedigree. The suggestion is that this book is worthy of serious, even academic, study; rather than for merely devotional purposes. This is a goal worthy of commendation, since it is a necessary and important one.

Second, it
claims to be an accurate representation of what genuine and normative Christian beliefs must look like. I believe both these claims are false, and from reading it, I am convinced that this book lacks the credibility to make them.

makes claim of how the text should be used, yet does not follow this itself. It minimizes scholars because they have a different view on various issues, without naming them or presenting argumentation. It misrepresents translation theory, and naively minimizes the role and function of the Septuagint. Christian doctrine, it must be remembered, rests entirely on God’s revelation. The Bible is the surest record of this. If one misuses it everything collapses. Since Doctrine misuses the Bible, why should I trust anything they say?

Even though Doctrine makes many good points,
is filled with great truth, and portrays many elements Christians should believe, I cannot be certain these claims hold water because they are built on a faulty foundation. This book is not meaty, but Tofu; not universally Christian, but Driscollian Christian.

Doctrine, and the sermon series from which it evolved, is a
prerequisite for membership at Mars Hill Church. This will be the impact of the book. If you are not a fan of Driscoll, it is doubtful Doctrine will change your mind. If you are a fan, and agree theologically with him, Doctrine will go far to cement your worldview. For those who are indifferent to Driscoll, I see nothing in this book that lives up to its claims, or any reason to read this in order to understand Christian doctrine. If you read to challenge your mind, Doctrine will fail you. If you read to probe your heart, it will fail you as well. In a nut shell there are better books than this one to present Christian doctrine. For full review see....


Monday, September 20, 2010

We all need it

I have a tendency to gush when I'm excited about something so brace yourself. Every morning before we open the store, we take 5 minutes to read a little bit of the Bible or another book and pray. I love that part of the day because it gives us a chance to take a breath, share prayer requests, and prepare ourselves for what we hope will be a busy day.

When it is my turn to read, I often just randomly pull a book off of the shelf. My litmus test of excellence is that I can open it anywhere and find a piece of gold.
I am VERY happy to tell you about a new book that just came in a few days ago. The title is The One Year Book of Encouragement and although we have just read a couple of days worth of devotionals, I am a fan. The sub-title is: 365 Days of Inspiration and Wisdom for Your Spiritual Journey and there are contributions from dozens of my favourite authors: Amy Carmichael, Nancy Guthrie, Joni Eareckson Tada, Jill Briscoe, A.W. Tozer, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, J.I. Packer, just to mention a few.

Our reading this morning featured Philip Yancey. He reminded us to shoot "arrow prayers" throughout the day. These are short prayers sent heavenward during "the spaces". Instead of wasting the moments while we are lying awake, waiting for our computer to come to life or standing in line, we can maximize those lull times by bringing ourselves into God's presence.

Each day's reading includes thoughts from an author as well as a prayer and a verse. The prayer for today was, "Heavenly Father, I get all caught up in the pace of the day, and my mind is often far from you. Please help me to constantly connect with you."

I can guarantee you that this book will be under the Christmas tree of a few folks on my list this year. I can't think of one single person who doesn't value encouragement and this wonderful devotional is brimming with gold.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Chick-Lit (not)

In a previous post I mentioned that it leaves me cold - light romantic fiction for women that is. Now, some followers of this blog may look at the following review and wonder, but truly, this series by Neta Jackson is unusual and outstanding. Book One in the Yada Yada House of Hope novels is entitled Where Do I Go? The titles of the 4 books in the series are taken from the song :"I Go to the Rock" by Dottie Rambo.

Set in Chicago, we follow the life and times of Gabby. The fun-loving, impetuous, red-headed mother of two is about to follow her instincts once too often. When s
he brings a filthy street person home to their penthouse apartment, her husband is not pleased, but he completely loses it when Gabby invites her mother + dog to stay with them. Gabby, her mother, the dog AND her two sons end up at Manna House, a shelter for homeless women. We will get to know Gabby, her sons and many other memorable characters very well in the following two books (4th and last due next year).

I read another Yada Yada book years ago and had forgotten how powerful they are! The Yada Yadas are a group of women who pray together and do life together in downtown Chicago. The author herself lives in Chicago so the voice feels authentic.

The characters are real women with real challenges, growth spurts, weaknesses and joys. Before reading the first book in the series, I was terribly hesitant about opening my home to a stranger. It seemed scary and impossible. But when a young girl came to us needing a temporary home, we did it. And what a huge blessing it has turned out to be! Neta Jackson's character Jodi showed me what it can look like, and it gave me the needed courage.

It really is a marvelous set of books to have in your personal or church library. The four titl
es are, in order: Where Do I Go?, Who Do I Talk To?, Who Do I Lean On? and Who Is My Shelter? (coming March 2011)

I love to look up favourite authors on the internet and it is neat to find out a little bit more about these folks. Dave and Neta Jackson's website is:


Thursday, September 2, 2010

New on the Shelf!

This is a gr
eat fall for new books. Some have already arrived, and some are still on the way. I can't resist letting you know about what I am seeing on the New Arrivals Shelf.

The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead - Already half way through and enjoying it thoroughl
y. I always have a secret wish that his fantasies were actually based on fact... Oh ho! After reading the essay by Lawhead himself at the very end of this first in the series, maybe they are!

g to See by Mary Beth Chapman - A reader tells me that this one is a "pillow soaker". Just looking through the pictures in the center is enough to start me off.

The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo. When I first saw the title and the cover, I thought this was a novel. I wish it was, but unfortunately, this a true account of ministry and murder and forgiveness.

A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain and God's Sovereignty by Joni Eareckson Tada. Just released yesterday and I was already able to recommend it to a customer well acquainted with suffering. What thoughts do we think when we are daily reminded of our travailing world? We acknowledge the trustworthiness of our Creator and Saviour but still continue to live out life surrounded by imponderables. Joni has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. All I can say is that God has given her quite the platform.

Spiritual Rhythm by Canadian (B.C.!) author Mark Buchanan. Sub-titled "Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul". I like that.

Come on by the store, grab a cappuccino and peruse some of these newly arrived treasures.


Friday, August 27, 2010


A few month ago a customer asked me some questions about the fiction we sell.

Is there any criteria for the fiction you stock?

Are there certain authors that you trust?

Are some publishers better than others?

Are there any books you refuse to carry?

A few months ago, my boss, Lando Klassen, wrote an article entitled, "Christian Fiction, No Such Thing Anymore?" I quote:

I've been thinking about our fiction section at House of James. Like most Christian type stores we carry titles primarily from Nelson, Tyndale, Baker/Bethany, Zondervan and other “Christian” publishers and some from major general publishers.

For years many of our books had some kind of redeeming element or some kind of Christian theme woven throughout - yes sometimes it was forced and sometimes it seemed a bit cheesy I’ll admit. Now though, many of our books are better written but there seems to be virtually no redeeming value in them. For example, Liparulo’s Comes a Horseman, Ted Dekker’s Boneman’s Daughter and Steven James' Pawn. The thrill and chill factor is there.

I love a fast paced novel. I learned a lot about a serial killer’s style and a murderer who broke all the bones of his victims. Some of these books are incredibly awful, gory and graphic. In my store I have rarely censored anything in this department ( although once I put up a sign warning folks about the graphic language in Miriam Toews’ novel. It was over the top as compared to anything else we had ever carried - but a very good and important book nonetheless.)

However, lately I’ve been thinking we shouldn’t call it Christian fiction - just fiction, and forget entirely about who publishes it and its redeeming value – the only guiding principle is that it should be high quality writing and if there is profanity and graphic sex it should be somewhat reasonable.

Speaking with one of my staff the other day , she said John Grisham’s latest, The Associate, had one of the clearest presentations of the Gospel she’d seen in current popular fiction. Nothing like that is in any of the thrillers I've read from our store in the last 2 years or so.

Fiction readers! What do you think? What do you expect and want to see at the House of James in this area? Any good suggestions of quality fiction we should carry that is not currently sold in our store? Do you wonder why we do carry some books?

My boss and I diverge in our opinions about "Christian-type" fiction. I personally don't think we should carry fiction that details how a killer's mind works. Why should we be submerged in the darkness and cesspool of his soul? I love a good mystery or action thriller (James Scott Bell's books are excellent), but not for the gore, guts or grit - more for the plot, characterization and resolution. I dislike Christian "soap operas" but love the meandering Mitford series. I'm troubled by books that focus on brutality and evil but sappy "chick lit" infuriates me.

I'd love to hear your opinions, especially if they are strong!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Signs of LIfe

I apologize for the over-long hiatus to this blog. I do have two excuses - I was on holidays and then I filled in for our receiver who took some time off. I had forgotten what a full-time job that was! Customers often tell us how peaceful and beautiful our store is, but that is only because they don't usually step foot in the receiving room where there is non-stop hustle, bustle and dust (le).

It does my heart good to be back on the floor, talking and writing about good books. I read several while I was down on the damp Oregon coast huddled next to our roaring camp fire or wrapped in a blanket in our van. This was not the Oregon I have known and loved. This was a foggy, gray, drizzly soup. Never mind. Onward to the books!

Good news from the book world! Lisa Samson has just written a new book, Resurrection in May. Once again she tackles unpopular subjects: genocide, post-traumatic stress disorder, agoraphobia, (after that holiday I'm seriously considering succumbing), and acute depression.

No pat answers, no fairytale ending, a few loose ends, marvelous characterization - Lisa Samson is a consummate storyteller with a gentle, grace-filled view of humankind. As far as I'm concerned, she can't write fast enough.

The story centers around May, a party girl who is celebrating her graduation from college in 1993 with the mother of all hangovers. Claudius, an elderly farmer, finds her throwing up on a local bridge the morning after. In May's words, she "dates too much, drinks too much, smokes too much, just graduated with a 4.0, loves animals and little kids". One of my favourite parts is Claudius' description of her dress. "The girl was packaged in a watermelon-colored dress that had clearly been cut from the vine before it had been allowed to grow all of its skirt."

Both May and her unlikely rescuer have unexpected depths which give the reader great pleasure to explore. May, for all of her outward sophistication, does have a heart of compassion. In an attempt to make a difference in her world, she volunteers for several months in Rwanda working with a Tutsi priest in his impoverished village. She lives (barely) through the horrors that follow but the inward and outward scars will remain forever.

Claudius provides a home for May on his farm upon her return in hopes of healing. He (one of the central characters for goodness' sake!) dies shortly after she comes to stay. This killing off of one of the main protaganists halfway through the book is a literary device seldom used in fiction and shocked me profoundly. Don't remove one of the people that I want to emulate!

Speaking of role models, most of Samson's novels do feature followers of Jesus who live out their faith in such a way that we want to follow them. She explores the reality of Christians living together in community, of putting their faith into action, of believers reaching out to the lost. I want to be that kind of a Christian and the author weaves in very practical descriptions of what that looks like.

Another attractive feature (at least to me!) of this book is the emphasis on good, homegrown food! At several points throughout the book we can almost taste the steaming chicken soup, or the buttery biscuits or the fragrant apple dumplings.

Gardening and flowers also play a significant part in the ongoing story of May. But just as in life, neither plants or hearts blossom and become healthy overnight. May's healing takes years. The reader gets to know her so well that we cheer when she succeeds and groan when she falls.

Read and be glad that Christendom has been blessed with an author like Lisa Samson. Long may she live and write.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Staycations & Vacations

Summer is such a great time for catching up on the stack of books beside your bed. I read an article on CNN the other day referring to "staycations". For those of us staying close to home this summer, there is nothing like a lounge chair on the back porch, a long drink of ice cold root beer and all those novels you have been meaning to read on the TV tray beside you.

I'm going to be taking my book bag with me on a road trip down the Oregon coast in the next few weeks. My husband describes my ideal camping experience as: campfire, books, chai tea, books, s'mores, books, red licorice, books, long tramps along the shore, books, steamed clams and mussels, books....well, I'm sure you can see where my interests lie! I tell friends that summer holidays for me are like cleaning out the lint filter in the dryer. Can't wait!

Rick's latest fiction favourite is coming with me.

Title: Danger Close

Author: William G. Boykin

I read William "Jerry" Boykin's autobiography
Never Surrender a while ago, and was very impressed. He is a Christian, and one of the elite soldiers that founded Delta Force in the U. S. Military.

His career reads like a play book for the major military involvements that the United States has been mixed up in the last 30 years. He has led a life of discipline, commitment and faith under a wide variety of circumstances. When I saw that he had written a novel about the war on terror, I suspected that he would know what he was writing about.

I was right. This book bleeds authenticity. Although the storyline is straight-forward, the realities that he is describing are extremely disturbing. There really is "danger close"! Although I have read better written novels, I have never read one where I felt as close to the ragged edge of what the militant Muslims are really capable of doing in our open society. It is a very worthwhile read!


Monday, July 19, 2010

The Stuff of Nightmares

One of the many reasons that I love working at the House of James is that I have the privilege of working with colleagues of varying ages. The 18-30 year olds keep me on my toes (which is very good exercise) and the more mature staff teach me life skills! The following post is by Jordan, one of the "toes types".

Ted Dekker has gone and done it again. Boneman's Daughters is another great piece of thrilling literature that catches the reader from the start and doesn't let go until the end. A warning about this book, and his next one titled The Bride Collector, must be stated before I continue to tell you about the story. This is not a book for the squeamish, faint-hearted or easily disturbed. Dekker has always paid high attention to details and this book stays true to form, so much so that at some points you may feel as though you can actually see and hear what is happening. Remember however, this is just a work of fiction and none of it is based on actual events.

OVERVIEW: (As written on the book itself)
"Would you kill an innocent man to save your daughter? They call him BoneMan, a serial killer who's abducted six young women. He's the perfect father looking for the perfect daughter, and when his victims fail to meet his lofty expectations, he kills them by breaking their bones and leaving them to die. Intelligence officer Ryan Evans, on the other hand, has lost all hope of ever being the perfect father. His daughter and wife have written him out of their lives. Everything changes when BoneMan takes Ryan's estranged daughter, Bethany, as his seventh victim. Ryan goes after BoneMan on his own. But the FBI sees it differently. New evidence points to the suspicion that Ryan is BoneMan. Now the hunter is the hunted, and in the end, only one father will stand."

Dekker has always been my top pick when it comes to reading books, especially during the summer months. I decided to pick this book up after reading his latest book entitled The Bride Collector.
(Which I also recommend reading for lovers of thrilling and intriguing books.) As of late I had been finding it hard to actually sit down and work my way through a book, but as soon as I picked this one up, I did not want to put it down.

The reason I think this book caught my attention was that it had a very fast pace to the story line which remained throughout every page. Ted Dekker also did a very thorough job on his character development which helps connect the reader to the literature itself. I could try to sum up this book in a brief blog posting but that just would not do the book itself justice. Every reader has varying opinions on books so the best way to make a call about the quality of the book is to get a copy and go through it yourself instead of listening to somebody else try to sum up and describe this masterpiece thriller.

Overall, Boneman's Daughters is an amazing book if you are looking for just a good read instead of a book that will change your life.
-- Jordan

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Fellow Pilgrim

I love Philip Yancey, a self-proclaimed “fellow pilgrim”. Oh all right, all you literalists, I love his books. I think he is one of today's finest authors. He is smart, philosophically wise, well-read, an ardent follower of Jesus, an avid student of the Bible, and, he is able to articulate the unspoken questions of my heart. He says that he writes to resolve things that are bothering him. Evidently an awful lot of us are bothered by the same things he is! Four of his books have sold over 1,000,000 copies each.

I read Disappointment with God during a black time of personal upheaval many years ago, and Rumors of Another World (now titled A Skeptic's Guide to Faith) during a more recent crisis. My husband especially appreciates What's So Amazing about Grace?

Grace Notes, published in 2009, is a compilation of Yancey's best writings, culled from his books as well as from his writings for the magazine Christianity Today.

I bought a copy for myself as well as for my missionary sister in Nigeria so that we both are literally on the same page any day of the year. When she says that she is feeling “Tolstoylian”, I know exactly what she is talking about. (You won't unless you read the excerpt for that day.)

Come along with me as we follow Mr. Yancey through a grace-filled year, and you too will find that you are in love. -Becky

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fruitcake and Ice Cream

Always leery of bandwagons, I hate jumping on just because everybody else is. But when a large church in the Fraser Valley ordered 10 of the bestselling Heart of Passion DVD series by Louie Giglio, curiosity soon overcame my initial reluctance. Besides, the titles of the individual episodes intrigued me. “Fruitcake and Ice Cream”? “Indescribable”?

One of my hats here at the store is the oversight of the “general entertainment, family-type” dvds. I detest mediocrity and shoddy workmanship and am always on the lookout for dvds of quality that I can recommend whole- heartedly and without reservation. The Heart of Passion not only meets but exceeds my high standards. It is a marvelous portrayal and testimony of our magnificent God.

My husband, a most manly man, weeps each time he watches any one of the 5 episodes included on the 4 disks. We have viewed them again and again by ourselves, with friends, and with our care goups. Louie Giglio, the narrator, is an enormously gifted and creative communicator.

After watching the disk entitled “Indescribable”, we reneged on our plan to go see Avatar later that week. Reason? We simply could not bear to overlay the glorious images of the constellations imprinted on our consciousness with body paint and giant pterodactyl horses, however imaginative.

What do the Hubble telescope and the journal of a college-aged party girl have in common? They both give us a glimpse of Majesty's “tender solicitude” towards His creation. After viewing any or all of this series (can be purchased individually or as a set), in the words of Paul Baloche, you will declare, “Glorious! My eyes have seen the glory of the Lord.” -Becky

Friday, July 9, 2010

Life, In Spite of Me

Adelle reviewed this book
by Kristen Anderson at a recent staff meeting and all of us were immediately drawn in to the story. Read her thoughts for yourself to find out why.

"I rarely read biographies. This book drew me in. The sheer joy on Kristen's face on the cover caused me to pause every time I walked by the shelf (which was often on the way to the back room)
. Finally picking the book up... I then could not put it down. Written with fiction author Tricia Goyer (one of my favs) this is a powerful easy reading account.

Having a fairly normal uneventful childhood, Kristen's life changes in her teens as 3 friends and her grandmother pass away within a 2 year span. To top it off, she was raped by someone she considered a friend. From there she spirals into depression and partying.

After being grounded 'until further notice' one New Year's Eve, she ends up at the nearby train yard contemplating her self worth. Without even really realizing it, she ends up on the tracks after hearing a whistle blow. Her head tucked inside one rail, her legs hanging over the other... she turns her face away, clenches her fists and waits for peace to come.

God had other plans.... Not only does she survive being run over by the train going 50 miles an hour, but is conscious through it all. Her story is an amazing journey of healing (physical, emotional and spiritual) and a deep, deep desire to know God.

This story is an excellent resource that will help you understand the emotional struggles of self worth and thoughts that might lead to suicide. Kristen also includes encouraging notes to the reader that she wishes people had said to her.

For myself, this story challenged me to draw closer to God in all areas of life; my children, work and health. May you be especially blessed as you either read this book, or pass it on to someone else." -Adelle

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tools for Talking

One of the best things about working at the House of James is that we do not sell egg-beaters. I love working in a retail environment that provides and promotes products that have life-changing potential. “Change your mind, change your life” is one of my mantras.

Since becoming a retailer 14 years ago, I have attended many self-improvement seminars. Resources and tools have been made available for me to become a savvier manager, a more understanding colleague, an increasingly productive employee, a friendlier salesperson. Easily muddled by visual and sensory overload, I learned long ago that I will not be able to grasp and assimilate 100% of the data deluging me. Best to come away with just one nugget gleaned, one paramount truth, one new practice.

This coping mechanism stood me in good stead as I worked my way through the book Crucial Conversations late last year.
The four authors themselves suggest that you read, practice, read, practice. The sub-title is “Tools for talking when stakes are high”. A quote at the very beginning of the book reminds us why we all need to do better at relating to one another. “The void created by the failure to communicate is soon filled with poison, drivel and misrepresentation.”

A goldmine of advice, you'll want to read with a highlighter. Allow the insights to percolate. I cannot imagine anyone not benefitting from implementing the principles explained. I use what I learned from this book almost every day. When I find myself in a discussion where stakes are high, emotions are volatile and the other person is starting to look like a terrorist, it helps me SO MUCH to mentally stand back and ask “Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person act like this?”

Although not new, (it was written in 2002), it is such a valuable book that I bought a copy for both my husband and myself. -Becky

Friday, July 2, 2010

Son of Hamas

Denise is the book purchaser for the House of James and when she recommends a book, it is well worth paying attention. She told me that the following was this year's favorite read..

Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef

"It seems as though each day we receive news from the Middle bombs, death, fighting over a tiny strip of land, poverty, war...the list is long. Often I have found myself wondering why these people cannot come to some kind of agreement and stop fighting, their children are growing up in war zones for crying out loud. We argue about the politics and we send peacekeeping troops but few of us have been able to penetrate this world we do not understand.

It is a well known fact that I love biographies. They offer insight to places I may never get to go otherwise. Sometimes they are filled with encouragement, sometimes they offer us a different perspective. Son of Hamas has helped me gain insight and understanding to a world I have not understood.

The story of Mosab Hassan Yousef is easily one of the best I have ever read! An amazing story of a young boy who grew up understanding conflict and violence, a boy who was closely tied to the deadly terrorist group Hamas, a boy who is really no different than any of us. As I read, I began to understand some of the conflict that Yousef endured while growing up. The violence he endured in his every day life was horrific and yet once he got home his family was a loving and close knit unit. I was touched by the fact that never once did he have a bad thing to say about his parents, he obviously loves and respects them very much.

I could not concisely tell of what happens in his life but he weaves a story that is difficult to put down. As the son of one of the 7 original Hamas leaders, he was groomed to one day take over. Eventually he had to make the agonizing choice of "betraying" his family by being involved with both Israeli and Palestinian governments in order to protect his family. His life is filled with strife and difficult decisions as he struggles with the outcomes of his political activities. It is a shocking tale of a man who rejected his violent destiny and found the love of Jesus that would change his life. In this amazing book you will learn about the world's most dangerous terrorist group, the role Yousef played, the choices he made and how he wants to bring peace to the Middle East with the mandate of "love your enemies". This book has changed how I view the conflicts and the way I pray for the nation of Israel and Palestine." -Denise

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sacred Dance of Grief & Joy

When staff member Linda first told me about this book, I couldn't help noticing how passionate she was. I believe you will understand why after you read both her review as well as the book itself. And don't forget to click on the youtube link at the end of her post.

"After watching an interview with Angie and Todd Smith (Todd is the lead singer of the group Selah), I knew that I needed to read the book I Will Carry You. I needed to be able to understand such grace and faith in the face of such a tragedy.

With beautiful honesty, Angie tells their story, of being 18 weeks pregnant, of learning that their beautiful baby girl had conditions leaving her "incompatible with life", and of being strongly advised to terminate the pregnancy. Together they decided to carry baby Audrey as long as God chose to give her life. They spent the next 3 months loving a little girl not expected to draw a breath.

Audrey Caroline defied the odds, and lived over two hours, weighing 3 pounds, 2 ounces. She spent her two hours being loved and cuddled by many family members and friends. She was loved, and her life made the world a better place.

Angie takes us along on the journey, sharing her incredible faith, but also the very human hurts and struggles they faced. She clearly shares the different stages of grief, but also teaches us how to comfort someone who is hurting - the right things to say, and the things you really shouldn't.
This is a beautiful, poignant read. An inspiration and a challenge to all of us.
Check out the link, and get to know Baby Audrey....." -Linda

Monday, June 28, 2010

Why We Love the Church

Central Heights Church has the dubious distinction of being the church where the floor collapsed during a Starfield concert almost 2 and 1/2 years ago. It happens to also be the place that I have called my "home church" for the past 34 years. Yesterday was a banner day for us as we celebrated together in the repaired Worship Center for the first time since April 2008.

I was not an official "greeter", but I chose to stand at one of the entrances and welcome folks. We have not all been together in one place at one time for so many months that I felt a great longing to re-connect with fellow worshippers and to celebrate with as many people as possible. Handshakes and hugs marked our mutual sense of thanksgiving and joy.

Very appropriately, Why We Love the Church by Kevin Deyoung and Ted Kluck has been my current non-fiction favourite for the past few weeks. These are the same two guys that wrote Why We're Not Emergent a couple of years ago. On the back of the book, Josh Harris says, "If you've written off the church, I dare you to read this book." It is a refreshing and well researched answer to the multitude of church bashing books these days. Easy to read. even the footnotes are fascinating. I know that I love Christ's Body, His Bride, but sometimes I can't articulate why. These authors have no difficulties doing so! They have obviously thought long and hard about why the organized institution of "church" is valid, necessary, credible and deserving of loyalty. They site historical and Biblical sources as well as contemporary theologians like John Stott to support their stance that church is NOT just two guys on the golf course or at Starbucks discussing spiritual matters. Their aim is to present a biblical, realistic and Christ-centered doctrine of the church. Let me quote just a bit to give you a taste.

"It's more than a little ironic that the same folks who want the church to ditch the phoney, plastic persona and become a haven for broken, imperfect sinners are ready to leave the church when she is broken, imperfect and sinful." The authors also remind us, that contrary to popular belief, the early church was not always a perfect, power-filled, beautific utopia. Every sin and fault-line evident in present day churches were already in the churches that Paul addressed: sexual immorality, hyprocrisy, gossip, factions, heresy and money issues.

Deyoung and Kluck are not naive or in denial. They encourage us to face and deal with our faults head-on but they also remind us not to cower under undeserved criticism.

I join J. I. Packer in wanting to cheer after I read every word of this excellent and timely treatise on church - mine, yours, ours.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Grandmothers Rock

I began to realize that grandparents were a breed apart when my mother wouldn't use the present I bought her. “My grandkids are smarter than your grandkids!” read the cute bumper sticker I thought she would affix with alacrity onto the rear bumper of her van. Apparently this was just asking for trouble on California's freeways. “People shoot for less than that!”

Now that I am a grandmother, I understand. Even my theology has shifted. That whole sin nature business was a big question mark until the 2nd birthday. I would explain behavioral glitches as environmental, not organic.

But one thing was a given from day one. These children would LOVE TO READ. Other loving relations bought cute furry crib dwellers, flashy rattles or cozy sleepers. This grammy prepared for the imminent arrival by laying in a selection of reading material. As the tummy extended, the stack in my bedroom grew taller. Bible stories, animal alphabets, glossy paged tales, pop-ups, fold-outs, 3 dimensionals and chewables. I could hardly wait until I could prop up that miniscule bit of my flesh and blood in my lap and introduce him or her to books.

One of the first that we explored together was recommended by Kim who purchases our children's collection here at House of James. God Loves Me More Than That by Dandi Daley Mackall captivated me immediately. Not too big, not too small, not too thick, not too many words per page, enchantingly illustrated by a genius named David Hohn, it quickly became an oft-requested favourite.

Energetic vocabulary enhances the text. Words like “space shuttle” and “sneeze” and “semi-truck” are incorporated so naturally that the reader and the listener are caught up in the cadence before they realize that they are experiencing lyrical poetry. God's love is described and expressed so convincingly that one wants to leap into those welcoming arms. A far cry from the Halloween tract that literally scared me out of hell 53 years ago (and vice versa, albeit short lived).

Leadership maven John Maxwell once said, “Why pay your kids to take out the garbage? Do you want them to become garbage collectors? Pay them to read!”

It's never too early or too late to start reading to your little ones. Lock the computer, turn off the dvd, sit down on the couch and let them clamber onto your lap.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Fiction - Rick's Picks

At lunch today, a colleague and I discussed what we were reading. Rick waxed so eloquent about two new fiction books he had just finished that I immediately asked him to send me reviews for today's post. His comments certainly piqued my interest.

Title: The Galilean Secret
Author: Evan Drake Howard

"This is a book that combines historical fiction with
Biblical history, mixed with a contemporary suspense and romance thriller. That may sound confusing, but it's a fairly straight forward plot, so a serious reader will have no problem keeping everything straight. It also carries a specific theological viewpoint that I found fascinating. It is paced evenly enough so that you are not bogged down in historical detail, nor reeling from the shifts between the first and twenty-first century. I expected to find some aspects of the story that were suspect from a biblical perspective, but Howard steers away from this and gives us the history from a very solid, evangelical perspective. The "secret" is not something that really exists, but if it did, it would only reinforce the power of the New Testament. Over-all - a great read!"

Title: Back on Murder
Author: J. Mark Bertrand

"This is a murder mystery novel that is several notches above the average for characterization and plot-line. The main character is a deeply wounded police detective who solves, in his path to redemption, a whole series of inter-related murders. It has a gritty, but very human "feel", accented with an understated humor and a wonderful way of helping you to really live inside the head of the detective. It is not awash with blood and gore, but it does portray a very brutal series of crimes. It was an absorbing book!"

Courageously Soft by Charaia Rush

  Courageously Soft: Daring to Keep a Tender Heart in a Tough World …. as I picked up Charaia Rush’s beautiful new book, the subtitle caug...