Hiccup Me Elmo and Barbie may look good in a package, but take them out, bend them a few times and, well, they are just another toy. (By the way I'm not kidding about the hiccup Elmo. This year's version laughs to the tune of "She's a Maniac" and can hiccup at the whim of its young owner, all for the retail price of $39.99.)
Does your spouse have too many red ties or pink slippers? Did your best friend give up on coffee, rendering a Starbucks card useless (although it can still be used to scrape ice off the windshield)?
Thoughtful gifts abound in the burgeoning Christian retail market. The following are just a few suggestions from my e-box. Once you are through with this, all that's left to do is wrap.
Compact NIV Bible
Looking for a stocking stuffer for military families? The International Bible Society has an amazing offer. It has a compact NIV Bible, about the size of your hand, designed for military families. The special-edition "Finding Hope Beyond the Battle" includes 13 additional color pages of stories from 12 wives and one husband left at home. The stories show the pain, sorrow, anger, and other fiery emotions spouses felt and how God faithfully demonstrated His control in each situation. These include difficult goodbyes, fears of loss, loneliness at holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays, waiting for phone calls, childbirth and life-threatening diseases, and crying alone at night.
While the Bible may be an amazing gift for military spouses, so is the price. The Bible is $3.99 and cases of 24 may be ordered for $78, which discounts the Bibles to $3.25 each. For more information, visit www.ibs.org/bibles/militaryfamily.
A family-friendly movie
"The Ultimate Gift," a family-friendly movie that paired America's favorite young actress Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine") and one of the nation's best-loved actors, James Garner ("Maverick"). The film won the coveted Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival- and received the Dove Family Approved seal from The Dove Foundation.
"If you want to take your family to see a movie that will teach them about life lessons and the importance of character, this is the film to see," Garner said of the film's message. Suggested price is $27.98; various Web sites offer it for less. Visit www.theultimategift.com.
Dan Haseltine, lead vocalist and primary lyricist for the acclaimed, multi-Grammy winning band Jars of Clay, entered into the children's book publishing market Sept. 15 with "The One, The Only Magnificent Me."
"I wanted to write a book that reminded children that they are amazing and wonderful, and it has everything to do with them being alive, and having a heart and a mind and a soul," Haseltine said. "All children need to know that they are magnificentwith or without feathers."
Published by Mackinac Island Press, the book, at $14.95, is described as colorful and rhythmic. For more information, visit www.mackinacislandpress.com.
A Christmas novel
Author and publisher Richard Barry weaves the entire Christmas story into historical context in his book "The Shepherds' Prayer: A Christmas Novel." Although released last year, the message is timeless as it takes a fictional look at what happened to the shepherds after Christ's birth.
The book is available as a hardcover book and as a three-CD audiobook. The audio version of the book is narrated by the "golden voice" of John McDonough, an accomplished actor, singer and narrator who has appeared on Broadway, in television and in movies. The book and the CD retail for $12.95 each, plus shipping. Bulk discounts available. Visit www.shepherdsprayer.com.
History's Heroes DVD series
For parents seeking educational and historic gifts, "Patrick Henry: Quest for Freedom," may just fit the bill. The DVD is the inaugural offering of a new animated History's Heroes series. The series is designed for young learners and uses 3-D animation to share biographies of prominent men and women in American heritage.
In this video Boomer, a comical but charming eagle, introduces young patriots to Patrick Henry, one of the American Revolution's most influential advocates, best known for his "Give me liberty or give me death" speech. This engaging program takes viewers back to Henry's childhood, where he preferred to while away the hours fishing and fiddling. A chance encounter with a young Thomas Jefferson inspires him to pursue a career (self-taught) in law.
Each History's Heroes DVD is $19.95 and includes a 35-minute video program, along with several bonus features: English and Spanish subtitles, a behind-the-scenes look at how the program was made, and access to the History's Heroes Web site for profiles of other heroes and heroines, homework help, and much more. Educational editions are also available.
The second video, "Paul Revere: Midnight Ride," was just released. Visit www.historysheroes.com.
Down memory lane
Nostalgia fans will love a trip down memory lane, thanks to a new project by Uptone Pictures feature film and PureFlix Entertainment. "Christmas Memories" is the ambitious brainchild of producer-director Michael Davis, who collected, then compiled a variety of home movies showcasing Christmas traditions. The film, transferred to DVD, is an assortment of vintage 8mm and 16mm home movies uniquely woven together to tell humorous and heartwarming stories that just might remind you of your favorite Christmas memory. Davis slowly began to collect vintage film at estate sales, and before long, found himself with hundreds of hours of raw footageactual home movies, long forgotten and abandoned. With the help of scriptwriter Denise Patton, the pair created new stories to match the old reels. Recording artists Jill Parr and Bryan Duncan share narrating duties.
The DVD released Nov. 20.
"The coolest thing that I have seen over and over as we have screened the film to various focus groups is that people pull from the film things that are unique to them, while someone sitting next to them in the same viewing picks something completely different from the same exact footage," Davis said in a news release. Retails for $9.95. Visit www.christmasmemories-themovie.com.
The Jerusalem compass
For those with a heart for the birthplace of Christianity, check out the all-brass Jerusalem of Gold Compass, a unique conversation piece. Unlike traditional compasses that point north, this one always points in the direction of Jerusalem.
The piece is about the size of a makeup compact and is heavy enough to serve as a paperweight. The compass was developed in Jerusalem over many years, and is patented in the United States.
The compass operates without batteries, so it is always accurate.
The lid is deeply embossed in the center with a Jewish Star of David and the word Jerusalem in Hebrew and English. The outer edges are encircled with a delicate floral design of pomegranates found on many ancient carvings in Jerusalem around the First Temple Period.
It includes a non-magnetic matching gold-finished chain attached to the compass.
It retails for $39.67. Visit www.jerusalemcompass.com
Dancin' and praisin'
Time to get the family off of the couch? Digital Praise, an interactive computer dance game, is back after a complete redesign. "Dance Praise 2-the ReMix" features more than 50 new songs, new steps, new graphics and new features that are sure to get people out of their comfy chairs and uncomfortable pews and into the fun of praise dancing.
The program is compatible with both Windows and Macs. Once the program is on the computer, the player uses a dance mat to follow the onscreen steps. Additional themed extension videos add to the playlist. The game can accommodate up to four mats for plenty of family fun and exercise. The game, which comes with one pad, retails for $49.95, with additional pads costing $34.95.
"'Dance Praise 2-the ReMix' is the result of input from players, parents and youth leaders around the country. We're excited that the new features let families of all ages play together and compete at their own level," Tom Bean, president and CEO of Digital Praise Inc., said in a news release. "Our users tell us that Dance Praise brings them closer together."
The remix version offers four levels of custom-made stepswith 200 possible dances in all. Players can also choose random, computer-generated steps for each song to create an infinite variety of dances.
Hand-held audio NIV Bible
The Original GoBible, a hand-held audio Bible that debuted earlier this year with the King James Version, has now added the New International Version. The Bible is narrated by Max McLean.
The latest version is the result of a partnership with the Fellowship for the Performing Arts and GoBible.
The device weighs about as much as the AAA battery that powers it, and is preloaded with the entire audio version of the Bible. The GoBible also allows users to scan through various books, chapters and verses of the Old and New Testaments by using the interactive menu on its LCD screen. The technology used for the player is the first to allow the user to search for, begin play and bookmark any individual verse in the entire Bible.
"We're thrilled at the possibilities of reaching new and expanding markets with this new technology," said McLean, who is president of the Fellowship of Performing Arts.
McLean's recordings of the Bible have been nominated for Best Inspirational Audio by the Audio Publisher's Association on two separate occasions and he is also known for his theatrical presentations of "Mark's Gospel," "Genesis," and C. S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters."
Retails for $99.95. Visit www.gobible.com.
'The Case for Christ' DVD
The best-selling book, "The Case for Christ," by apologist Lee Strobel is now available in a DVD documentary (La Mirada Films/Carmel Entertainment/Lionsgate). The book was written by Strobel, a former investigative reporter with the Chicago Tribune after his atheism inspired him to set out to debunk Christianity after his wife's conversion to the faith. After several years of collecting evidence to discredit Christianity, Strobel himself embraced the teachings of Jesus and converted to the faith. He is now considered one of the most prominent apologists in the United States.
The DVD is described as a blockbuster investigative report that includes interviews with top scholars. It explores a variety of topics including eyewitness testimony, non-biblical substantiation and rebuttals.
Strobel also details his personal struggle in the investigation and his ultimate conversion from atheist to believer. The result is a solid package for Christians wishing to strengthen their own arguments for Christianity.
It retails for $19.98. Visit www.strobelfilms.com.
Christian hits: VeggieTales style
Looking for a twist for Veggies? Count on Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. "VeggieTales: Christian Hit Music," a new CD from Big Idea, features special guests Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman, Audio Adrenaline and the Newsboys, singing 15 of today's most-loved Christian hits.
The tracks include dc Talk's "In The Light," Mercy Me's "I Can Only Imagine" and Relient K's "Sadie Hawkins Dance." In addition to Bob and Larry, the all-Veggie choir that accompanies the special guests includes Junior Asparagus, Pa Grape and Mr. Lunt
"It's an honor to present some of Christian music's most-loved and influential songs to young families everywhere," Terry Pefanis, chief operating officer for Big Idea, said in a news release "Working with Amy, Steven, Audio Adrenaline and newsboys made the project extra special."It retails for $13.99. Visit www.bigidea.com.