santa baby at the christmas party hop

I love Christmas. I do. Pretty much everything about it. I will never be a scrooge, though I have toned it down a bit from the years when I decorated every surface of the house, used an actual ladder to hang lights (yeah, never again), and waaaay overbought at the after Christmas 75-percent-off-this-must-have purple-spotted-reindeer sales. Zeal has met pragmatism, and it’s probably a good thing.

But the last couple years have seen me doing something I never did before. Sometimes, I turn off the car radio. I silence the Spotify. Put Pandora in the penalty box. (Adore alliterations.) Because much as I melt at the sound of Nat King Cole singing about chestnuts and fires, if I am expected to rock around one more Christmas tree, I might end up in a whimpering ball under said tree. There—I’ve admitted it. I cannot take the inanity of Christmas songs anymore. Just. Can’t.

And I really do love the music of Christmas. A good orchestral Sleigh Ride will never get old, and Judy Garland will always sound like audible hot chocolate on a cold night. It’s just that, the more I live in this world, the more I understand that everything cannot be solved by a walk in a winter wonderland. Good wishes won’t piece together a heart without peace. A whole lot of peoples’ troubles will not be out of sight today, tomorrow, or in the foreseeable future.

And Santa Baby should definitely consider hurrying down the chimneys of people who have no chimneys because they have no homes that aren’t made of cardboard or tin and bypassing spoiled brats expecting more of the same overvalued symbols of success that clearly are not making them happy. Just stating the obvious here.

I know that at Christmas we’re supposed to suspend our disbelief and embrace the magic, and I’m good with that, a lot of the time. I like magic. I like snowflakes and jingle bells and presents for pretty girls. (Please tell me you get that reference.)

But I can’t completely span that bridge anymore; I’ve seen too much.

Enough to know deeply that the world doesn’t really need a “great big bundle of joy with a big fat pack upon his back.”

And at the precise time when there is an offer of hope on the table so enormous it took a blazing star and a sky full of angels to herald it, we dare to dumb it down with offers of a sentimental feeling that are supposed to suffice.

They don’t.

They don’t, because Christmas should change everything, and we have not let it. We have exchanged words that have the power to sink deep into our souls and change our lives for words that give us a happy feeling. I can’t live with that tradeoff anymore, because I see too many people for whom it is not enough. Too many people who desperately need the real words of Christmas.

Words like

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.


O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave.

Not to mention

No more let sin and sorrow grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

I will still sing Winter Wonderland, and I will still jingle bells. But I want to live Joy to the World. I want to give joy to the world. I want to let those who need it know that the offer is still on the table, and the angels are still singing about it.

Now that it’s over, its time to see which lasts longer—the sentimental feeling, or the victory over the grave.

We need a little (real) Christmas. Now.

of orange mailboxes, heroes, and smelly stables

Child #3 was having a hard time helping me paint sets. It may have been her 103 degree fever, or the 95 degree July day. The champion ribbon at the County Fair was on the line. No true champion lets a little thing like feverish delirium keep her from her task. But I think it was more than that.
I set said child to an easy task—paint Bilbo Baggins’ mailbox. And by mailbox, I meant plastic orange expandable file folder I thought would do in a pinch. “Bilbo Baggins. Bag End, Bagshot Row, Hobbiton, The Shire.” It seemed simple.
No one has an address like that. He would never really get mail.”
Well, he does. Just grab a Sharpie and get it done.”
Why is the door round? No one can actually open a round door. It couldn’t even have hinges.”
It’s round because the book says it’s round. And green. Grab a paintbrush and get it done.”
I didn’t mention that she had a valid point there. How on earth were we going to hinge a round door? Thirteen dwarves and a wizard had to stumble through that thing without breaking its tenuous low-budget styrofoam. Drat Tolkien—a rectangle would definitely have presented fewer problems for community theater.
By the time we finished constructing Bag End, child #3 had questioned most fantastical aspects of Middle-earth with her practical, how-will-this-ever-work sensibility. I shudder to imagine how her Middle-earth would have gone down had she written the tale. “The Hobbit: Not Even Going There So I Don’t Have to Come Back Again.”
Child #3 prefers realistic fiction and realistic life, and there is nothing wrong in that. But sometimes, one has to stretch one’s mind far enough to encompass an orange mailbox and a green, round door. Sometimes, unless we’re willing to recognize other worlds, we don’t really grasp living in our own.
If you haven’t guessed, we were painting sets for The Hobbit, a story in which someone leaves his comfortable world and becomes an unlikely hero in someone else’s. And child #3 couldn’t enter the story because she couldn’t get past the aspects of it that didn’t fit her standard world. But not being able to enter another’s world makes heroic deeds impossible. Heroes are not made in the Shire. It’s a place created for comfort and sameness. It never comprehends the outside world. So no one who hasn’t left ever becomes a hero.

There are a lot of places we’d rather not go there or back again. We’d rather not know there are places where pre-teen girls are sold in back rooms. We’d prefer not to recognize there are entire nations where young women are executed for wanting an education, showing an ankle, or becoming a Christian. We wish to pretend the heroin addict we just passed does not have a mother terrified every time the phone rings or a sister who looks remarkably “normal” like us. These are other worlds. We’d much rather live in our own and believe orange mailboxes don’t happen, doors are never round, and dragons aren’t real.
But they are.
The Shire is wonderful, but nothing worthy of a great story ever happens there. Your comfortable surroundings are beautiful, but nothing of worth will happen there. That requires grasping a story that is far bigger and grander and unbelievable than the one you inhabit. It involves stretching yourself to see another person’s world and not just see it but understand it.
I didn’t start this out to be a Christmas post. But it really is, I guess. Because that is exactly what Jesus did when he came to this outlandish, unbelievable place to become one of us. He could have stayed comfortable. But the epic story of the redemption and rebirth of you, me, and all creation did not happen in comfort. It happened in a grimy, smelly stable with grimy, smelling, sinful people he had to reach way farther to comprehend than we will ever have to reach for anything.
Nothing worthy of a great story ever happens in your own little world.

Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World of Middle-earth–

new children’s title for Christmas

Green Leaf, The Potawatomi Boy
Lisa J Lickel, illustrated by Brenda Hendricks
About the Book:
Green Leaf’s cousins are all older
than he and don’t like to play fair. He longs for a friend his own age he can
play with, explore and fish with. When he meets a Luxembourger boy, Henri,
Green Leaf is sure they could become friends, but Henri’s words are strange to
Green Leaf. How can they play and explore together?
Green Leaf’s mother says, “Friends learn to speak one another’s words.” But
will Green Leaf learn to say his friend’s words well enough to save Henri when
he falls into danger?
Kindle – on special sale during December 1- 16, $.99
Also available in print from online retailers or from your
favorite bookseller. $5.95
Ten years in the making, The First Children of Farmington
series of early reader books has finally reached book sellers. I spent two
years researching and writing this series. Several years after I worked with
other community historians to collect and record our early pioneer history, I
realized that we had quite a diverse ethnicity to Farmington, Wisconsin.
Although these stories are based on real people and real events, they are
representative of issues and struggles and joys families face every day
The Potawatomi Boy is a character with a running thread
through all the books. When I first started out with the project I was taking
classes from the Christian Writers Guild. I set out to put together a series of
picture books and connected with a couple of different artists. I wrote the
text, but learned over several years that it’s harder to get the attention of a
publisher for children’s books than it is for adult books. I’d never considered
self-publishing, but through connections with my current illustrator and
publishing partner, Brenda Hendricks, and others at the John 316 Marketing
Network, learned a lot about not only self-publishing options, but how to
publish well. The second book in the series, The German Girl, is now available, as
well, about a curious young girl who becomes lost while searching for the
family cow, and the third book, The Saxon Boy, about a young boy who must learn
to accept a stepfather, may be out by Christmas. I was quite surprised and
pleased to have won a prestigious Jade Ring award for the Saxon Boy from the
Wisconsin Writers Association. The other three stories, The Yankee Boy, The
Irish Girl

and The French Girl, are planned for release in 2014.

The books include references, glossaries, and special
illustrations and a picture search. They are suitable for early to middle
grades, ages 7-9 or so.
and Noble
From December 1 through
December 16, the John 3:16 Marketing Network is hosting a Christmas Book Launch
and The Potawatomi Boy is a
featured book. As part of the event, the Network is offering a $200 Amazon gift
certificate to one lucky winner. For a chance to win, go to

and enter the Rafflecopter toward the bottom of the page.
About the Author:
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband
in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain.
Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her published novels
include mystery and romance, all with a twist of grace. She has penned dozens
of feature newspaper stories, short stories, magazine articles and radio
theater. She is the editor in chief of Creative

magazine. Lisa also is an avid book reviewer, a freelance editor,

a writing mentor, a hostess at Clash of the, and enjoys blogging at
theBarnDoor.netand She loves to encourage new
authors. Find more at

new YA choice in books

And the final excerpt from new December books–just in time for Christmas!
A word from Michelle Dennis Evans, author of Spiraling Out of Control, a book for the older YA audience.
Make sure you read right to the bottom for your chance to win a $200 Amazon voucher!
Temptation, depression, seduction, betrayal … Not what Stephanie was expecting at fifteen years of age. Uprooted from her happy, all-girl high school life with a dream filled future and thrown into an unfriendly co-ed school, Stephanie spirals into depression. 

When charismatic high school senior, Jason notices her, Stephanie jumps in feet first and willingly puts all her faith and trust in him, a boy she barely knows. 
Every choice she makes and turn she takes leads her towards a dangerous path.

Her best friend is never far away and ready to catch her … but will she push Tabbie too far away when she needs her most? 

This novel contains adult themes.
Recommended reading audiences 17+ 

Excerpt – Chapter 2 part d

Stephanie pulled at her fingernails. Her nerves forced shallow breaths. She could see the church from the car, shadowed in the morning sun by a large historic red brick building, with arched windows. Probably where a bunch of old nuns live.
She glanced back towards the primary school and saw her mother. She stared into her lap as a shiver raced through her skin. How far would I get if I made a run for it?
“Well, that was just lovely,” her mother said. “April’s new teacher, Mrs Day, was so welcoming.”
“Sure.” Stephanie sighed.
“Now it’s your turn.” Diane drove up the hill and around the corner. “Are you okay?”
“What do you reckon?” Stephanie clenched her teeth.
“I reckon you’ll settle in fine. It’s similar to the type of school I went to. You’ll make friends easily. Soon you’ll be having so much fun you won’t have time to think about Sydney.”
Stephanie glared at her mother. You’ve got to be joking.
“Right, here we are.” Her mother’s voice unnaturally bubbled. “Just enough time for me to sign those papers before you need to be in class. Come on, stop dawdling.”
Stephanie tightened her ponytail, trying to remember the way out in case she needed to leave quickly. She followed her mother along the walkway that led into the high school office. Pungent cleaning agents clung to the atmosphere while the receptionist completed the paperwork. She handed Stephanie her timetable and gave her the directions to her homeroom.
“Thank you.” Her mother took the map.
“Mum.” Stephanie snatched it back. “You can go. I have the details.”
“Okay then, have a good day.”
Stephanie rolled her eyes and set off to meet her new homeroom teacher. As she walked through a cool leafy area with tables and chairs, a sense of peace came over her. I could come here to eat lunch. The directions led her towards another building where she counted the stairs. Ten. The bell rang and students rushed everywhere. Stephanie side-stepped to avoid collision.
She gripped the straps of her school bag ’til her knuckles turned white, hoping to hide her trembling hands. By the time she found her homeroom, she was late.

Please pop over to the John 3:16 page and enter the Rafflecopter for your chance to win a $200 Amazon voucher

Michelle Dennis Evans writes picture books, chapter books, young adult contemporary novels and enjoys dabbling in free verse poetry. Her debut novel Spiralling Out of Control and poetry collection Life Inspired both reached #1 in subcategories on Amazon in their first week of release. Michelle is passionate about seeing people grow and move forward in their journey. She lives on the Gold Coast with her husband and four super active, super fun and super time consuming children. Find Michelle and all of her social media links at

thriller, anyone?

As part of our writing group December launch, I am presenting you with excerpts of a few books coming out this month. Here is an international thriller. Martin’s background intrigues me–sounds like someone who knows his subject. Thanks for checking it out! Do check out the other books on launch–including mine!

John 3:16 Marketing Network – Book Excerpt Tour

Brother Half Angel”
By Martin Roth
Brother Half Angel” is the first in a series of international thrillers by Martin Roth. These feature Brother Half Angel, the leader of a secret new church military order dedicated to helping Christians under attack around the world.
In this first book of the series he is dispatched urgently to China, where an underground seminary is under siege from fanatical sword-wielding members of a local cult who still pay homage to the bloodthirsty extremists who tried to expel all foreigners from China in the nineteenth century.
The following is a short excerpt from the book (continued from Scroll to the end to learn how to read more, and also to learn how you can buy the book for a special price and with the chance to win a $200 Amazon gift voucher.
Chapter 4
Fulang, China
Nights were awkward at the seminary.
Brother Yoon’s wife Lin cooked dinner each evening, and they ate together, seated around a table in the kitchen. It was usually a sparse affair, based on whatever vegetables she could source cheaply at the market each day on her way back from her work in one of the components factories. Sometimes she added some meat, usually tough and stringy, or some strange fish that no one seemed to have heard of.
Daniel knew that Jenny hated these meals, and he didn’t especially like them either, although fortunately both of them had been raised in Christian homes where you gave thanks for whatever was placed in front of you, and accepted it joyfully. Neither of them was a foodie.
Conversation at dinner was generally subdued. Uncle Ling and Lin did not speak English. Jenny did not speak Chinese. Someone was always translating.
It was after dinner that things often became more difficult. They were all stuck together in this house, the five of them, with nowhere to go. Fulang, a city of half a million people, offered little in the way of nightlife. A few coffee shops were open, along with some internet cafes and a couple of discos, and young people populated these. Daniel and Jenny had tried several of the restaurants, only to decide that they had eaten better Chinese food back home in North Carolina.
So after dinner they studied the Bible, and sometimes they would talk with Uncle Ling about his amazing past. Daniel was teaching Jenny Chinese, which occupied a lot of time. Sometimes Jenny taught English to Lin, although the latter displayed little interest in learning. “My mission field is China,” she would declare. “I was born here, and I will die here. I will never leave here. I don’t need English.”
On this evening Brother Yoon and Lin joined Daniel and Jenny in their bedroom for coffee. The former invariably came across as something of an odd couple. Brother Yoon was stocky, with a big, round, jovial face. He looked like the kind of guy who wore loud Hawaiian shirts and regaled you in bars with stories of his golfing and fishing exploits. By contrast, Lin was a slight, skinny lady with a long, sad face, no make-up and short black hair that was always parted in the middle.
Yet they were adoring of each other, devoted to God and passionate about their work together for the underground church.
Maybe it was just a simple robbery that went wrong,” said Daniel. “Why do you think it’s those guys at the temple? Those guys doing martial arts?” He was sitting on his bed. Yoon and his wife sat on the two chairs in the room. Jenny had been amazed to discover Starbucks instant coffee available cheaply at a store in town, and she had bought a large supply, along with an electric kettle for their room. She brewed four cups, added powdered milk and served them, then sat next to Daniel on the bed.
You know this town was once a center of the Boxer movement?” replied Yoon. “I’ll bet it was them. This wasn’t a robbery.”
You know, that’s one reason I was so excited when I got the call to come here. My great grandmother was a missionary in Taiyuan, not far from here. She was killed in the Boxer uprising. She sent a series of letters back home that became real family treasures. They inspired so many people. My grandfather, my father, and now me.”
The famous letters,” said Jenny. “I think when we were courting he spent most of his time talking about his great grandmother. It was like another woman in his life. I was getting jealous.”
I wonder if Christians were killed in this town, Fulang,” said Yoon.
There were a couple of hundred missionaries killed during the Boxer uprising,” said Daniel. “And tens of thousands of Chinese Christians. Plenty came from Shanxi province. Probably more than anywhere else. I heard that this place became known as the martyr province.”
Why Shanxi?” asked Jenny. “Why here?”
There was anti-Western and anti-Christian feeling all around China at the end of the nineteenth century, but it was worst up here in the north. And then it also depended on the attitude of the authorities. Some local government officers actually protected Christians. But the governor of Shanxi was quite ruthless, and he encouraged the Boxers.”
So what’s this about plum boxers?” asked Jenny.
A further excerpt from the book will be published on December 15 at
Brother Half Angel” is on sale at Amazon ( From December 1 to December 16 it is part of a special promotion. Go to learn how you can win a $200 Amazon gift coupon.

Warning Signs

A Buy One Get One Sale of Katy Lee’s Books!
In Katy Lee’s latest romantic-suspense story, WARNING SIGNS, her heroine, Miriam Hunter, is deaf. Owen, her hero, has some misconceptions of people with hearing impairments, but can Miriam change his way of thinking before she goes to jail? Or worse, gets killed?  WARNING SIGNS is the first story in Katy’s inspirational series that takes place on a fishing island in Maine.  Stop by the Island of Stepping Stones, where the lobster traps are always full and romance awaits even the hardest of hearts. 
RT Book Reviews gave WARNING SIGNS 4 ½ Stars, making it a keeper.   “Miriam is a strong character who is not held back by what others may perceive as a weakness. Acceptance is a key theme as Lee dispels some misconceptions regarding people with hearing impairments.” ~RT Magazine
Back Cover Blurb:
When a drug-smuggling ring rocks a small coastal town, the DEA sends Agent Owen Matthews to shut it down. A single father with a deaf son, Owen senses that the town’s number one suspect—the high school’s new principal—doesn’t fit the profile. Miriam Hunter hoped to shrug off the stigma of her hearing impairment when she returned to Stepping Stones, Maine. But her recurring nightmares dredge up old memories that could prove her innocence—and uncover the truth behind a decades-old murder. Yet Owen’s help may not be enough when someone decides to keep Miriam silenced—permanently.
As an Inspirational Romantic Suspense author, Katy Lee writes higher-purpose stories in high-speed worlds. Through her writing, ministries, and teaching, she dedicates her life to sharing tales of love, from the “greatest love story ever told” to those sweet romantic stories of falling in love. Katy and her husband are born New Englanders and love to travel with their three adventuresome homeschooled children.  You can connect with Katy anytime at her website, There you will find links to Facebook and Twitter.  Please look her up!
To purchase the WARNING SIGNS Kindle version, you can go to:
B.O.G.O. Sale: If you purchase WARNING SIGNS between 12/1/13 -12/16/13 from any retailer, contact Katy at her website for directions to claim your FREE ecopy of REAL VIRTUE. If you would like to see the details on REAL VIRTUE, go here: But remember to contact Katy directly at her website to claim your ecopy!
Bonus Giveaway: For a chance to win a $200 Amazon gift card, between December 1 and December 16, 2013, enter the John 3:16 Marketing Network Rafflecopter drawing at: You get a free entry just for stopping by!

another author to watch

Hi all,

Here is a friend of mine with her debut novel. If you enjoy suspense, check out the excerpt below from her new book, The Redemption of Caralynn Hayman.

About the book:
How far would YOU go to avenge a daughter’s cruel death? Cara is considered rebellious and inappropriate to befriend. Dayne is the apple of Elder Simmons’ eye—until he takes a stand against their teachings. Can his prayers and love reach Cara and show her the way to redemption? Will Cara realize God’s love and forgiveness before she goes too far?
The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman is a novel of hope shining through the darkness with strong elements of suspense and romance. This novel was a semifinalist in the Genesis contest and is receiving raving reviews! Release date was October 21, 2013 from the Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. The link for the book which is on SALE NOW is:

That night Cara tucked Leila’s left foot under the cover and stared down at her daughters. If only the faith she’d once had still lived inside her. A faith her girls innocently believed. Sighing, she knelt, but her eyes fixed on the sliver of a moon peeking into her girls’ room. She couldn’t afford to relax. Not yet. They weren’t out of the woods and might never be. The upcoming meeting with Elder Simmons on Tuesday would be here long before she wished it. Plenty of men still needed to pay for their sins.
Cara clasped her hands as cold hatred seeped into every pore of her body, stiffened her joints, froze her emotions. Her nature struggled against the paralyzing emotion.
Fought for the innocence she’d once assumed as real life.
Fought and lost.
Her palms ached where her fingernails dug into her flesh, creating bloody gashes across her hand, but she relished the pain. How could she live with herself if her scheme succeeded? Could she live with herself if it didn’t?
If only they would forget about her and her girls. Let her be the outcast to raise her daughters in peace.
I need more time. The kitty-cat clock on Leila’s nightstand ticked away—too fast. Could she stop the time? Three weeks had passed since her husband’s death.
But with Jodie’s news about Sissy the other day, it could mean only one thing. If Elder Simmons wanted the age of the girls to be broken in lowered, he’d do it. What if he decided to drop it even further? Leila was ten.
I’m taking a terrible risk in staying.
She’d have to sneak out, and the daunting task loomed before her,a specter in flowing dark clothes. Driving in plain sight wouldn’t do the trick. Packing necessities, sorting what would be taken, what left behind, and Lacy—could she handle the trip?
Run! The command was almost overpowering.
The desire for revenge reared its head. Someone had to pay for Lori’s death. Someone needed to open the men’s eyes so her friends’ lives could be made better. She’d have to guard Leila more diligently. Not let her spend any nights away from home and not let her go anywhere without keeping an eye on her. Leila wouldn’t like it, but Cara would talk to her.
She let her head drop to her hands and whispered, “I don’t believe in you, God, but if by chance you are there, will you look down on these two children and protect them?”
She waited, but no sense of relief soothed her spirit. No lightness of heart. No assurance he’d grant her any favors.
The sound of a car’s wheels crunching the gravel on her driveway interrupted her thoughts. Cara jumped to her feet and stumbled into one of their chairs. With a cry, she shoved it aside and hurried to the door. Who on earth could it be?
Dayne had a hand raised to knock again, his brow puckered, worry dulling his eyes. “Will you go with me?”
Cara gripped the door edge. “What’s wrong?”
Richard Melton’s in the hospital.”
Richard?” she choked out and lifted a hand to her throat. “What happened?”
He almost died this evening.”
What had she done? Too much of the larkspur would kill. She’d only wanted to scare him.
Hadn’t she?

About Carole:

Brown not only has her debut novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, available for purchase now, but a companion book called West Virginia Scrapbook: From the Life of Caralynne Hayman, filled with tidbits of information about West Virginia, quotes, recipes from West Virginia and from Caralynne’s life, pictures and discussion questions for the novel. On November 18, the first book in her mystery series, Hog Insane, released. It’s a fun, lighthearted novel introducing the characters, Denton and Alex Davies.

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?
Connect with her here:
From December 1 through December 16, the John 3:16 Marketing Network is hosting a Christmas Book Launch and The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman is a featured book. 
As part of the event, the Network is offering a $200 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky winner. For a chance to win, go to: and enter the Raffle copter (toward the bottom of the page. Be sure and pick up your Kindle version of The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman for $.99 at

The Donkey and the King–Looking for Good

John 3:16 Marketing Network Excerpt Tour of
The Donkey and the King”
Excerpt Five

A donkey longs for an easier life with no heavy burdens and no one to tell him what to do. He runs away and becomes lost, but “good” finds him in the most unlikely of places.
Travel to the Bible lands and meet Baruch, a stubborn donkey, and other lovable animals: Lowly, the pig; Much-Afraid, a small, lame dog; Worldly Crow, who isn’t as bright as he thinks he is; and a sheep, Little, sent on a special mission by the King. The ending of the story will delight young readers as they discover “good” exists in the world if they look and listen for it.
When I was young, I hated doing chores. I suppose I was this donkey, rebellious and self-determined, but desperate for a friend—the one friend who would never leave me (or you).
Here is a short excerpt from “The Donkey and the King.” This is the third stop on the tour. I hope you will visit all the blogs and participate in the John 3:16 Marketing Network Book Launch and win the grand prize. See details below.

The moon cast dark shadows all around Baruch. Hungry lions
R-O-A-R-E-D in the distance.
The Donkey found a cold, dark cave to sleep in, but there was no soft hay for his bed.
I miss my friends,” he said, as he plopped down on the hard ground.
On every page is the hidden word “good.” Can you find it in the drawings above? If not, you can look below and see where the word is hidden.
The unique quality about Kindle-enhanced books is that the drawings and font size can be enlarged for young readers. And for parents who can’t find the word, a QR code (a free AP is available for smart phones) and link is provided to facilitate the search. Some pages are more challenging than others (for older readers).
If you enjoyed looking for the mouse in “Goodnight Moon” when you were young, your child will delight in looking for “good” in “The Donkey and the King.” The moral: There is good in the world if you look and listen for the King’s voice.


The Donkey and the King”(A Story of Redemption)
99 cents December 1 through December 16
24 reviews, 4.8 stars
Ages 2-6
From December 1 through December 16, the John 3:16 Marketing Network is hosting a Christmas Book Launch and “The Donkey and the King” is a featured book.
As part of the event, the Network is offering a $200 Amazon gift e-card to one lucky winner. For a chance to win, go to and enter the Rafflecopter (toward the bottom of the page). And be sure and pick up your Kindle version of “The Donkey and the King” for 99 cents at

be offensive

The guy across my kitchen table appeared completely serious.

We don’t celebrate Christmas because Jesus couldn’t have been born on December 25th. There was no snow on the ground in the gospel stories. Plus, God never actually told us to celebrate it.”

OK. Maybe I was only 14, and he was, I don’t know, 19? And kind of cute. But I knew enough to think to myself, “And how often does it ever snow in Israel?” It’s not precisely tundra, you know. (The answer, fyi, is approximately every four years. I checked.) Thus began my disillusionment with the intellectual integrity of the Jehovah’s Witness faith I was exploring. Cute teacher or not, I didn’t explore much longer. I truly did want to know what God was all about, and I sensed that anyone who made this statement, and several other illogical ones, didn’t have the corner on the truth market.

But one thing he said that day was true. God didn’t ever command his people to celebrate Christ’s birth. He commanded Passover, and the Last Supper, and a few random festivals here and there. But Christmas? A brief narrative in the beginning of three gospels. Not exactly a mandate.

In fact, free history lesson, no one in the early church did. Later, the Puritans outlawed it because of its frivolity. In an ironic twist of history, Christians actually waged the first “War on Christmas,” banning both “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” alike.

Not until we all got poetically visited by St. Nick in the 1820’s did Christmas become a runaway hit, and then, there is no mention of a Christ child in the Night before Christmas poem.

So why the history lesson? Because we are all hearing a lot about putting Christ back into Christmas. What history tells us is that, in America at least, he was never really there. A non-holiday pf the 1700’s turned into a commercial holiday of the 1800’s turned into a rampant month of stress in the 1900’s. Jesus has always been a bit of an add on.

I suspect he doesn’t even mind, given his joy in disrupting things from the outside and looking for people who want to be different than the world around them. Jesus was never mainstream. (Does that make him the first hipster? I can imagine the memes now . . .)

I think what we really want is to put Christ in Christmas in the first place. That looks a lot different than putting him back in it. Putting him back in tends to look militant and argumentative and easily offended. It has to, because it begins from the assumption that we are fighting an intentional slight. 

Putting him in? What would that look like? What would it mean to begin from the assumption of offense–the dispensing of grace to a needy world, rather than defense? 

What would it look like–

  • If instead of telling the store clerk we want to hear “Merry Christmas” we tell her “You must be tired. I’m going to pray for you today.”

  • If instead of spending the national average of around $800 per person on Christmas things we probably don’t need, we spend half of that and give the other half to people who have no Christmas?

  • If instead of worrying over making the perfect family Christmas dinner we invite someone who needs family?

  • If instead of going Black Friday shopping we go help a neighbor hang lights or rake leaves? And really spend time together?

  • If before we invite someone to a church program we invite them to our home to share our lives?

  • If people didn’t need to see plastic Jesus on the city hall lawn because they saw real Jesus in us? Every day. In Every. Little. Thing.

What I want to suggest is that when we demand Christ be put back into Christmas, our concept of that is so small. We want to hear “Merry Christmas” at the store counter. We want a plastic Jesus on the courthouse lawn. We want “O Holy Night” being given equal time on the muzak. Then, we want to go about business as usual, able to hum a “real” Christmas song while we’re doing what everyone else is doing to celebrate.

We’re content with and even complicit in Jesus in remaining a cultural add-on. Because the truth is, he’s so often an add on in our own lives, we don’t see the crucial difference. The difference between mounting an offensive of grace and a defense of, essentially, me.  

We ask for so little, when we should be seeking so much. 

The Begats would make a great rap

Fun fact for your day: Genealogical records in the Bible are known as “The Begats.” Someone somewhere called them that because of all the begatting that went on in those verses, and the name stuck even though no one but people who read only King James even knows what it means. 
The Begats are not scintillating reading. They will not make the NYT bestseller list. They are somewhere after the sacrifice laws and before the precise measurements of the Temple in desirable passage of Scripture to sit down with and meditate upon.
Most people do not find genealogical records fascinating stuff.
Nevertheless, I’m starting Christmas with one of them, and it’s awe-inspiring material.
Matthew 1.2-16 (Skipping a few, as you can see)
Abraham was the father of Isaac.
Isaac was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar).
Perez was the father of Hezron.
Hezron was the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.
Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).
Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).

OK—so we’re not going to read all of them. You can later, if you choose. For now, fast forward to v.16–
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.

Good for you—you got through that. And you may or may not have said somewhere around verse 4, “And all those other unpronounceable men in Bible times were fathers of whatever, etc. etc. etc.” I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

But there is something important in those verses that is so missable (yeah, I just made up that word) we often . . . miss it. It is four names. Four normal, unremarkable, parenthetical names. Tamar. Rahab. Ruth. Bathsheba. The women in Jesus’ genealogy who, without Matthew’s inclusion, might not have been remembered. And that would be tragic.

See, one thing you have to know is, including them is not normal. No one else did it. No one did it, ever. The women just were not important. Which means Matthew had to choose to include them. And—he chose which ones to include. He did not mention every single mother in each verse. (Thank goodness, really, say all those kids everywhere who have had to memorize the book of Matthew for any reason.) But why these four?

Not anyone’s first pick for a blue-blood bloodline. The first one dressed up as a hooker and seduced her father-in-law. I could not make that stuff up. The second didn’t have to dress up—she already was a real prostitute, so why pretend? The third, though quite a nice young woman, was a foreigner, a widow, and poor. Three serious strikes for her time and place. The fourth? The jury never tells whether or not her adultery was forced or consensual, and back then? It didn’t matter. Guilt was guilt. (Hmmm. Seems we still have a bit of that in American society . . . but that’s definitely another post.)

Why, why, why, Matthew? Why these women? The most disreputable, unwanted, white trash of the Bible? Why not the nice obedient housewives all the others certainly were? It’s like Matthew just pulled up the “People of Walmart” video off Youtube and said, “THIS is Jesus’ family.” Why?

Why indeed. Because if we miss this point that comes first, everything else in Matthew’s gospel of good news means nothing. No reason to read further. And the point is this: Jesus came through women such as these because he came for women such as these. And men. The Walmart video? That IS his family. And we forget that in our efforts to be presentable, perfect, and proper.

Christmas came because of women who were not presentable in any sense. Matthew desperately wants us to remember that fact while we trim our perfect trees and present our well-crafted programs. While we are putting up our Precious Moments nativities and believing our badge of having it all together earns us our spot. Matthew has a message:

Christmas is originally and primarily for those who need it most.

Christmas is not for those who clean up, or measure up, or cover up.
Christmas is for those who just show up. No matter what their past or present.

They show up at the stable, messes and all. They get the joy of belonging to a bloodline that is less than stellar, because their lives have been less. And they find beautiful acceptance at the altar of the manger.

How are you coming to that altar this year?