Bibles, books, music provide gifts in keeping with the season

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WASHINGTON — American shoppers plan to spend slightly more on Christmas gifts this year, according to an October survey by the National Retail Federation.

Its poll of more than 8,700 people also showed that fewer people indicated that discounts would be a determining factor in their purchases, Reuters reported. While electronics and technology are certain to drive sales, Christians seeking to find gifts in keeping with the spiritual focus of the holiday have many exciting choices.

For those looking for the ultimate gift that keeps on giving—possibly for eternity— Fixed Point Foundation has just released a six-DVD set on Christian apologetics that is designed to empower Christians to defend their faith.

In addition to Christian defenders John Lennox, Dinesh D'Souza and Alistair McGrath, the set includes the viewpoints of "New Atheists" Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

The featured DVDs include "The God Delusion Debate," "Has Science Buried God?" "Is God Great?" "God On Trial "Can Atheism Save Europe" and "Science and the God Question." 

The gift doesn't stop when the wrapping and ribbons are on the floor, but continues online with free downloadable study guides.

"Remaining comfortably insulated from the people and ideas that shape our world is not what we are about," said Larry Taunton, executive director of Fixed Point Foundation. "On the contrary, we have engaged some of the most vitriolic opponents of the Christian faith. It is our opinion that much of the cultural discussion on these issues is less than helpful, consisting as it so often does of shouting heads and sound bites. What we're seeking is a rational, civil exchange of ideas."

Each DVD normally retails for $12.98, but the "All Six Bundle" is on special for $69.99.

For more information go to www.fixed-point.org and go to the shop link and click on specials.


C.S. Lewis Bible
Fans of such spiritual classics as "Mere Christianity," "The Screwtape Letters," "The Great Divorce," "The Problem of Pain," "Miracles" and "A Grief Observed" are sure to appreciate the new C.S. Lewis Bible, which features the writings of the noted author.

In addition to the full text of the New Revised Standard version, the Bible contains writings highlighting the spiritual journey from the beloved Lewis. In all, the Bible includes more than 600 selections from C. S. Lewis for contemplation and devotional reading, introductory essays on Lewis' view of Scripture, and indexes to guide readers to each reading from Lewis.

"The C.S. Lewis Bible offers a unique way for readers to reflect upon important biblical passages," Mark Tauber, senior vice president of Harper One, publisher of the C.S. Lewis Bible, said.

"By pairing Lewis' writing with Scripture, this Bible offers readers the opportunity to gain fresh insight into Lewis's writings, his own spiritual journey, and to the Scriptures themselves."

The hardback edition retails for $34.99, while a leather version is available for $59.99.


The Almighty Bible
The folks at Apple of the Eye and My Legacy Press have created a new Bible for teens in hopes of eradicating biblical illiteracy among Christian youth.

The Almighty Bible was designed with an eye toward research showing that just 32 percent of U.S. Protestant teens read the Bible at least once weekly, according to the National Study of Youth and Religion. At the same time, the "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year Olds" study shows youth are spending an average of 7:38 hours a day using entertainment media.

 "Talking to God may be losing out to Facebook," said Barna President David Kinnaman.

Hoping to counter the trend, the publishers of The Almighty Bible used a graphic novel approach using multi-media such as applications for smart phones and e-tablets to create a book series that "enters the war for our teens' and tweens' attention."

"It communicates God's stories in the most innovative, creative and stimulating way I have ever seen," said Charles Kim, a youth minister who heads the giving program established by The Almighty Bible. "(It) is better than any past or current teen resource that I have seen…. We are committed to doing God's works by spreading His words in the most creative and progressive ways possible and teens and people are responding."

The first two books in the series—Genesis and Exodus—sport a biblically accurate concise storylines that are complimented by dramatic illustrations that bring the story and characters to life. The next three titles to be released will be Judges, Joshua and the Gospel According to John.

Each book retails for $13.99.

For more information, visit www.thealmightybible.com.


'What's in the Bible?'
Bible literacy is not just limited to teens, either. Phil Visher, creator of the 60-million-selling DVD VeggieTales, has created  "What's in the Bible?," which is billed as the perfect stocking stuffer. According to its publishers, "What's in the Bible?" introduces young viewers to a host of comic characters who employ humor, song ... even stick puppets to clearly and accurately communicate the truths of the Bible.

"It answers questions we're never too young or old to ask. 'Who wrote this book?' 'Can we trust it?' And most important, 'What difference does it make?'" Vischer said.

The first four of an eventual 13-part series are now available in stores and online. Kids stay entertained long enough to learn about the people and stories in the Bible from Genesis to Ruth thanks to a whole new cast of zany characters, including Buck Denver, the "Man of News!," who emcees the intrepid explorers Clive and Ian, the Sunday School Lady, and even a pirate singing in a hot-air balloon.

The DVD's retail for $14.99 or $59.95 for a bundle of the first four DVD's. Check for sales at www.whatsinihebible.com.


Books
Offerings for books range from graphic novels, to children's books, to inspirational volumes. Some interesting titles for this year include:


Eye Witness graphic series
Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Head Press Publishing is releasing a limited edition slipcase collection of its award-winning Eye Witness graphic novel series.  

The series, created and illustrated by Robert Luedke of Head Press Publishing, has received numerous awards for the books.

"The storyline combines elements of Indiana Jones, a gripping New Testament story, time travel, espionage and dramatic scenes that rank among the best in American comic artistry," read a review by journalist David Crumm.

The Eye Witness series includes, in order of publication, "A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth," "Acts of the Spirit," "Rise of the Apostle" and "Unknown God."

Available online and through book and comic stores nationwide, there will be a limited edition of 200 sets signed and numbered by Luedke and only be available at his personal appearances and through the Head Press website.

For more information, visit www.headpress.info.


'Little Star'
Bestselling author Anthony DeStefano, who said he wrote his best book at age 15, as a student in a creative writing class taught by Pulitzer Prize winner Frank McCourt, is finally releasing it 30 years later.

A beautifully illustrated children's book, "Little Star" retells the Nativity story from the perspective of the star of Bethlehem—the smallest star in the heavens and, until then, all but unnoticed in the night sky—who burns himself out to keep the newborn baby Jesus warm in his cold stable.

"I peaked at 15," said DeStefano, author of the adult bestsellers "A Travel Guide to Heaven" and "Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To." "I honestly think this is the best thing I've ever done."

Earlier this year DeStefano published the children's book "This Little Prayer of Mine." Both children's books were illustrated by Mark Elliott. 

Published by WaterBrook Press, the book retails for $12.99.


'The Christmas Journey'
The Nativity story gets a different perspective in "The Christmas Journey," a new St. Martin's Press release from bestselling writer Donna VanLiere.

Depicting the landscape from Nazareth to Bethlehem as well as detailing the lowly stable itself, VanLiere also brings to life conversations that might have taken place between the carpenter and his young bride. It offers insight into the foods Mary packed for the grueling trip, exposes the honesty of Joseph's fears, and conveys both the intense pain and unspeakable glory of Jesus' entrance into the world. 

"Somehow through the years, we have sanitized the cave where Jesus was born and filled it with fluffy lambs and a radiant glow," VanLiere said. "We give little thought to the physical trip of getting to Bethlehem, let alone the emotions behind it. I wrote "The Christmas Journey" nearly 20 years ago for a church Christmas banquet as a reminder of what took place. I've been reading it ever since."

The book, illustrated by Michael Storrings, retails for $12.99. For more information, visit www.donnavanliere.com.


Music and movies that embrace the season of Christmas
Two highly anticipated Christmas albums have been released by the finalists of NBC's popular America's Got Talent and its sister competition, England's Got Talent.

O Holy Night, a CD and DVD combo, features Jackie Evancho, the 10-year-old soprano prodigy whose performances on the American talent show, won the hearts of millions. In addition to the title song, the album features "Silent Night" plus the beautiful opera classics "Pie Jesu" (Blessed Lord Jesus) and "Panis Angelicus" (Heavenly Bread), both of which Jackie performed on America's Got Talent.

The DVD features Jackie's performances from America's Got Talent including the audition tape that landed Jackie her spot on AGT.

The album retails for $8.98.


'The Gift'
Britain's overnight sensation, Susan Boyle, who blew away international audiences with her surprising appearance on that country's reality show— generating more than 500 million YouTube hits—has released The Gift, featuring "Do You Hear What I Hear?," "The First Noel," "O Holy Night," "Away In a Manger," "Make Me a Channel For Your Peace," and "O Come All Ye Faithful," Boyle puts her stamp on some unforgettable pop classics including Lou Reed's "Perfect Day," Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," and Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over."

It retails for $11.98.


'December Peace'
Friends whose tastes include instrumental music would most certainly appreciate December Peace, an offering by Stanton Lanier that gives twice. Through the "Get Music—Give Hope" initiative, for every album sold another copy of the album is donated to a cancer center. 

Produced by Grammy Award-winner Will Ackerman, December Peace was named Best Holiday Album in the 2009 ZMR Music Awards, a leading resource for instrumental music genres.  

The project features a range of traditional selections, including "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," and "Silent Night," as well as Lanier's original compositions "Thanksgiving," "Shepherds and Stars," and "Silence," among others.

December Peace retails for $15. For more information, visit www.stantonlanier.com.


'The Essential Christmas Collection'
Fans of holiday compilation albums will enjoy The Essential Christmas Collection, a two-CD set that features 10 popular songs as well as two original songs from Brandon Heath and Michael W. Smith.

The inspirational lineup includes Third Day, "Angels We Have Heard On High;" Tenth Avenue North, "Go Tell It on The Mountain;" Brandon Heath, "The Night Before Christmas;" Casting Crowns, "Joy to the World;" Kerrie Roberts, "O Holy Night;" Michael W. Smith, "All Is Well;" Jars of Clay, "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear;" Revive, "The First Noel;" Matt Maher, "Silent Night (Emmanuel);" Anthem Lights, "Do You Hear What I Hear?" Building 429, "What Child Is This?" and Rebecca St. James, "O Little Town of Bethlehem.

The album retails for $13.99


'Amish Grace'
The gift of grace is poignantly presented in the Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment movie, "Amish Grace," which first premiered on Lifetime TV. Based on the true story and the book, "Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy," by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt and David L. Weaver-Zercher, the movie chronicles the community of Nickel Mines, Penn., which was forever changed when a gunman killed five girls in a schoolhouse shooting before taking his own life in October 2006.

The story is told through the eyes of a grieving mother, Ida Graber (Kimberly Williams-Paisley; Father of the Bride films, "According to Jim"), and other devastated families, and showcases the Amish community's astonishing reaction of compassion to the horrific events that shook their town and tested their faith.  

"Amish Grace" has a suggested retail price of $26.98.


'A Christmas Snow'
"A Christmas Snow," which won Best Feature Film in the drama category at the XP Media International Film Festival, is an inspiring film by Tracy J. Trost that presents viewers with a heartwarming tale of faith, family and forgiveness.  

Starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Muse Watson, Anthony Tyler Quinn and Cameron ten Napel, the film centers on a Kathleen, who confronts Christmas, always an unwelcome reminder of her father's abandonment almost 30 years ago. Although she has tried to forget her past, it has not forgotten her, and in the days leading up to Christmas an unforgiving blizzard traps her in her own home with two unlikely roommates who bring her face to face with the hurts of her past. Will she be able to let go and grab hold of a life changing forgiveness or will she continue to be haunted by the pain of the past?

"A Christmas Snow" retails for $14.99.


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