Thursday, December 22, 2016

DVD REVIEW: The Christmas Dress by Covenant Communicatiobs


ABOUT THE DVD

It’s Christmas Eve, and Leland Jeppson’s hope is gone. Struggling to get by in their rustic homestead, he had at least wanted to give his family a special Christmas. But with a blizzard blowing in and the train bearing their gifts nowhere in sight, it seems Christmas is just one more thing they’ll have to do without. But as dusk falls, the Jeppsons’ packages unexpectedly arrive at the post office in the not-so-nearby town. Half-blind Postman George Schow is hesitant to brave the storm, but his son, Sidney, will stop at nothing to bring Christmas to the Jeppsons—and ask their daughter, Ellen, to the New Year’s Eve dance. Now it’s up to father and son to battle fierce elements in an attempt to deliver a Christmas miracle. Don’t miss this heartwarming reminder that while God helps those who help themselves, sometimes He does so through others.

REVIEW

Short and sweet is how I would describe this brief story about a Christmas miracle.  The Jeppson family waits anxiously for the arrival of some packages sent by Mary Jeppson's sister in Idaho, but as of midnight Christmas Eve the packages had not yet arrived.  The parents are sad that their children's hopes of Santa coming are going to be disappointed.  Ellen, the oldest child, is well aware that without these packages, there will be no Christmas.  When her mother reminds her to have faith and hope, she sneaks off to the bedroom to look at the mended dress she'll have to wear to the upcoming New Year's dance, and sheds some tears.  Unknown to the Jeppson family, their packages have arrived but George Schow thinks their delivery can wait until after the snow storm has passed.  But Sidney, Schow's son knows that the Jeppson's will have no Christmas without these packages and urges his father to deliver them immediately.  But as the storm worsens, it's going to take every ounce of faith, hope, and prayer, these two families can muster to make this Christmas miracle happen. This short video is a reminder that God helps those who are willing to help each other, and that the real meaning of Christmas is in the joy of service.  This is a movie that would make for a great addition to Christmas Eve programs or activities.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

TALK ON CD REVIEW: Ask of God by John Bytheway


ABOUT THE CD

In this high-tech era, we are overflowing with information—and sadly, some misinformation. More information means more questions! In this engaging presentation based on James 1:5-6, John Bytheway evaluates three types of questions: "Gotcha," "Google," and "Golden." Golden questions are the most important in life, involving gospel truths and our place in the plan of salvation. "The problem," Brother Bytheway states, "is when we expect Google-speed answers to Golden Questions." Using scriptural stories, quotations from Church leaders, and a good dose of humor, Brother Bytheway encourages listeners to "Ask in Faith." As they do, they'll learn to find their own answers to difficult questions—and the first step in this vital process is to "Ask of God."

REVIEW

I knew going in that I would probably enjoy this talk quite a bit.  I've listened to talks and presentations given by John Bytheway before and thoroughly enjoyed them.  And I did indeed really enjoy listening to this approximately hour long talk about seeking answers from God.  I loved the way that Bytheway divided his talk into a discussion of three types of questions: gotcha questions, Google questions, and golden questions.  "Gotcha" questions are those designed to manipulate others into giving you what you want.  Several scriptural examples of individuals doing this to the Savior and his prophets.  People who use these sorts of questions don't really want a legitimate answer, and in fact may already know the answer.  Google questions are information questions that the Google browser can provide answers to, but it's just information, no wisdom is provided to help use the information gathered.  Golden questions are the sorts of questions that people really, sincerely desire an answer to and can be answered through the gospel and God himself.  But as Bytheway points out, society has trained people to want answers to "Golden" questions, in the same amount of time as Google provides answers, and many times, the answers don't come that way.  Using stories, quotes, and scripture references, Brother Bytheway explains the importance of prayer and how it is for our good to use it the way the Lord designed it to work.  He also points out the important of having faith in God, and being willing to 'wrestle' to find the answers we seek, especially when they don't come right away.  This is an inspiring talk that is aimed at youth, but that has great advice and reminders for anyone who cares to listen.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

DVD SPOTLIGHT/REVIEW/GIVEAWAY: The Last Descent


ABOUT THE MOVIE

The details of the passing of John Jones in Nutty Putty Cave have been well documented, but his story did not end there. Witness the power of love, family, and the Plan of Salvation in this critically acclaimed film that shows that family bonds extend beyond this life.

ABOUT THE PRODUCER

 EXCEL ENTERTAINMENT is the preeminent independent film distribution company in Utah, and though largely known for its Mormon-themed films (God’s Army, The Work & the Glory series, 17 Miracles, Pride & Prejudice, etc.), Excel has also had success releasing films with non-Mormon themes and stories (Forever Strong, Saints & Soldiers, etc.). Although the technology and means by which audiences consume films is changing rapidly, the demand for highly creative storytelling that motivates us to live up to the light that each of us has been given is as high as ever. We feel a deep obligation to not only bring stories of hope to the world, but to promote films with high standards of craftsmanship reflective of a belief in a divine and benevolent creator.

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REVIEW

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

BLOG TOUR: Christmas Greetings from the Presidents

5155656 keyart
from deseretbook.com

ABOUT THE BOOK

In the early days of Calvin Coolidge's presidency, a new White House tradition was born with the decorating of a "National Community Christmas Tree" in 1923. Since 1927, the annual lighting of the tree has also been accompanied by a presidential message. Those addresses, many of which are collected here, have provided an intriguing snapshot into the soul of two enduring institutions: The Christmas holiday and the American nation.

From the initial, decidedly brief messages that "Silent Cal" Coolidge presented at the end of the 1920s to those given by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the midst of World War II as well as Ronald Reagan's message expressing solidarity with the people of Poland, which charted the beginning of the end of the Cold Car, the Presidents of the United States have marked the time through these inspiring messages of hope and goodwill.

This collection of Christmas messages consists of at least one address from each president since Calvin Coolidge. Reading them, we can trace the history of the United States from the Roaring Twenties through the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the brief eras of Camelot and Watergate, the oil crisis and the fall of Communism, eras of economic book and recession, and the aftereffects of terrorism. Through all of these historic events, the lasting message of Christmas shines bright: We look to Christmas to remind us of what we can be—what is possible when we unite in hope, faith, and forgiveness.

REVIEW

This beautifully designed gift book celebrates the messages of love and peace that have been shared by presidents of the United States, past and present.  Each chapter highlights the words imparted by the president in addition to a brief description of what was going on in the world at the time.  Historical photographs and brief side-notes help delineate the events that lead to the delivery of these messages.  The words shared are an important reminder of what our country stands for and what has lead us to where we are today.  The inspirational messages remind readers that peace and good will are important in leading America into the future.  While the men who spoke these messages were far from perfect and whose decisions continue to have an impact on the roads the United States travels, these words suggest the ideals that we should continue to strive for.

Monday, December 5, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Winter Sky by Chris Stewart


ABOUT THE BOOK

In a bombed-out Polish village during World War II a young resistance fighter finds that he is suddenly alone and trapped between two opposing armies. He is one of Poland's "Devil's Rebels" fighting desperately to save his homeland, but an injury has erased his memory and his only possession is a torn photograph of a couple he assumes are his parents. The woman appears to be holding the hand of a young child whose image has been ripped off. Could the child be him?

Caught in the crosshairs of the retreating German army and the advancing Russian forces, the village holds nothing but destruction and despair until a mysterious young woman offers a small glimmer of hope that may represent his last chance - news of a refuge train departing from a nearby town headed for American installations at the border. But complications arise when the resistance fighter is betrayed by his own countryman and hunted by German SS Officers who are determined to kill him before they retreat.

Desperately searching for a home and family he can't remember he is persuaded to rescue two children who are doomed to die without his help.

As time runs out the former rebel is faced with an impossible choice. Standing at the crossroads of saving himself or risking his life for strangers, what would motivate a young man at the brink of salvation to make one more sacrifice?

REVIEW

Chris Stewart has written a compelling story about a little known time and place.  Many World War II stories focus on the fighting, or the different fronts of the war, Russia, France, Italy, etc.  I have never read a story before that takes a look at the Polish fighters who resisted the Germans after their country had already been overrun.  In a surprisingly few pages (less than 200), Stewart takes the reader into a country teetering on the edge of disaster.  After so many years of war, no town is left untouched, people struggle to find enough to eat or even a place to sleep.  The Germans are on the cusp of leaving, but the Russians offer no hope to the suffering people.  And appearing in the midst of all this is a young resistance fighter, who finds himself in a town that is supposedly his with no memory of who he is and only a few flashbacks of where he has come from.  His only clue to his identity is an old photograph he carries in his pocket.  As he moves through town hoping for something to remind him of who he is, he finds himself in an old church where he meets a beautiful young lady named Melina, who gives him something to fight for.  But Colonel Muller, the local German commander hates the rebels with a passion and refuses to leave until this young man has been captured and killed, no matter how dangerously close it puts him and his men to the Russians.  With only one hope left, the young man sets off with two young children to find a refugee train heading towards the American lines.  But with the difficult winter conditions and a freezing river ahead, and the Germans behind, their chances of survival aren't good at all.  I was amazed at how much of story the Stewart manages to create in this relatively short book.  In addition to the young man, we meet Zarek, a man whose willing to betray his own people, so his family can survive; we meet Antoni, a young former rebel, whose missing a leg, whose willing to sacrifice himself to save a town, and we meet Melina, a young woman who is not exactly what she seems.  This is a book that tugs at the heartstrings.  It wasn't easy reading about all the suffering that war brings, often to the innocent.  Yet it's also a story of finding hope and courage, and a reason to keep fighting even where there appears to be none.  I can highly recommend this book for those who enjoy those kinds of stories that stay with one long after you put it down.

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