CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART® 24

BLOG #42, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART® 24
October 21, 2015

NEWS RELEASE

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Joe L. Wheeler, Ph.D. has a new book out: the 24th consecutive yearly collection of Christmas in My Heart® stories. This is his 91st book and 76th story anthology. It was released in mid-October by Pacific Press Publishing Association in Nampa, Idaho, and is part of what has become the longest-running Christmas story series in America.

Like its predecessors, this new collection stays true to what has helped it to survive for so many years: horizontal trade paper format, Currier and Ives covers, old-time woodcut type illustrations, spiritually compatible stories that deeply move the reader, and stories for all age groups.

If this will be your first Christmas in My Heart® book, you will quickly discover that there is no connection between books: each is a stand-alone. Nevertheless, once you immerse yourself in this book, in all likelihood you’ll want to pick up earlier collections. Untold thousands have them all—unthinkable to face another Christmas season without the newest collection!

In this particular collection, you will find the following:

● Catherine Parmenter’s poem, “Holy Night.”
● Wheeler’s Introduction: “Our Top Twenty Christmas Stories.”

Over several years now, completists (those who own the entire series) have been mailing in their candidates for inclusion in a definitive list of the Top 20 Christmas stories ever written. In this introduction, you’ll find the results. There are actually two lists: One voted for by our readers, and the second consisting of Wheeler’s personal favorite 20 stories.

● “A Wood Crowns the Waters,” by Eric Philbrook Kelly
● “Little Cherry’s Star,” by G. M. Farley
● “The Christmas Kink,” by Lucille Adams
● “Flight Before Christmas,” by John Scott Douglas
● “Denny’s Christmas Revelation,” by Faith Freeborn Turner
● “The Belated Christmas Train,” by William McGinnies
● “Joy to the World,” by Mary Russell
● “The Lighted Path,” by Temple Bailey
● “Let Nothing You Dismay,” by Goldie Down
● “The Lost Child,” retold by Mabel Lee Cooper
● “Celestial Roots,” by Thomas Vallance
● “A Story for Christmas,” by Jody Shields
● “The Baby Camel That Walked to Jesus,” by Walter A. Dyer
● “Choices,” by Isobel Stewart
● “The Dream Catcher,” by Joseph Leininger Wheeler

You may order the book from us. After many years at $13.99, the publisher has raised the price to $14.99. But you may get it from us at a discounted cost of $13.99, plus $4.90 shipping. Inscribing, when specifically requested, at no extra cost.

Mailing address: P.O. Box 1246, Conifer, CO 80433

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Love — What Is It?

BLOG #6, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
LOVE – WHAT IS IT?
February 11, 2015

Valentine’s Day is upon us once again–and merchandisers are hoping to milk it to death before it passes. Romance is in the air – everywhere. Is not that a good thing? Of course it is! I ought to know: of our 89 books and counting – 74 being story anthologies—, love predominates. It is a key reason the Christmas in My Heart® series will turn 24 this fall. Readers young and old turn first to the love stories, and re-read them most often. They tell me about it in their letters to me.

But love – at least in America – is not what it was when I was growing up. Because of our so-called “Hookup Society,” in which sex is instant, bypassing all the traditional preliminaries and totally divorced from commitment or even long-term friendship, disillusion and heartbreak is almost a given. Ergo the current epidemic of suicides among the young.

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Perhaps it is time for me to revisit one book that features my favorite love stories: Heart to Heart Stories of Love (Focus on the Family/Tyndale House, 2000). Specifically, the Introduction: “The Many Faces of Love.”

What is love anyhow? It is the magical ingredient that no scientist has ever been able to isolate, the yeast that can transform a friendship into love, marriage, and family.

One of my favorite definitions of love came from the pen of Washington Irving, one of America’s first great writers. His only love, Matilda Hoffman, died when Irving was twenty-six. He never married but authored one of the most romantic books ever written, The Alhambra. The book contains one of my favorite love stories, “The Pilgrim of Love” (a little bit too long for this collection). In it, a prince who has been shut up in a palace tower learns the language of the birds, and a little dove teaches him what love is:

“Love is the torment of one, the felicity of two, the strife and enmity of three, . . . the great mystery and principle of life, the intoxicating revel of youth, the sober delight of age. . . . Every created being has its mate; the most insignificant bird sings to its paramour; the very beetle woos its lady beetle in the dust; and yon butterflies which you see fluttering high above the tower and toying in the air, are happy in each other’s love.”

One of the loveliest summations of what love is was written by my cherished friend, Arthur Gordon, in his great book, Through Many Windows:

“Love . . . is a shining thing, like a golden fire or a silver mist. It comes very quietly, you can’t command it, but you can’t deny it, either. When it does come, you can’t quite see it or touch it, but you can feel it—inside of you and around you and the person you love. It changes you; it changes everything. Colors are brighter, music is sweeter, funny things are funnier. Ordinary speech won’t do—you grope for better ways to express how you feel. You read poetry. Maybe you even try to write it. . . . Oh, it’s so many little things. Waltzing in the dark, waiting for the phone to ring, opening the box of flowers. It’s holding hands in a movie; it’s humming a sad little tune; it’s walking in the rain; it’s riding in a convertible with the wind in your hair. It’s the quarreling and making up again. It’s that first drowsy thought in the morning and that last kiss at night.”

THE STAGES OF LOVE

God designed us to take joy in natural stages, including the natural stages of love.

His plan is simple but beautiful. First, we watch our parents: the love they show to us is the love we shall pass on. Second, we experience the love of God, which becomes the catalyst for our philosophy of love. Third, we love the innocent and pure love of childhood—friendship in its most disinterested form. Then there is the love of adolescence. If we preserve our virginity until marriage (God’s plan for us), this teen period will be a time for developing some of life’s stronger friendships. In this time of seasoning, of gradually developing values to live by, there is no place for sexual passion, which can do nothing at this stage but destroy, disillusion, and rob us of one of God’s greatest gifts: coming to the marriage bed as virgins. Adolescence is followed by young adulthood, time for us to be blinded with the rapture of first love; time for us to get to know each other as friends and soul mates; time for us to compare our pasts, presents, and futures, in order to see if we are truly compatible; time for us to see if our families would be compatible—for we do indeed marry families; time for us to discuss God and church and how big a role we would allocate to them. Then and only then are we ready to think seriously about marriage and family. God designed the process to crescendo as the marriage day nears, culminating in a wedding without guilt, stigma, or regrets.

Today’s media leaders seem determined to destroy all of this. They sell us a bill of goods. They tell us, as did the serpent in Eden, that God lies, that instant gratification will make us gods. They tell us that modesty, virginity, purity, and integrity are for fools. They tell us that minds and hearts and souls don’t matter at all; all that really matters is self-gratification, gusto. They tell us—over and over and over—that sex has nothing to do with friendship, love, respect, commitment, or being soul mates. Instead, they claim that sex is an acquired skill, like golf or hockey, and the more teachers we have in this respect, the better. They tell us that preliminaries are for the simple: five minutes after we meet, it’s time to disrobe and show the other “how good we are” in bed!

What the media doesn’t tell us is that virginity is an absolute: one can no more be partly a virgin than one can be partly pregnant. They don’t tell us that Eve’s first response after eating the apple was not godlike euphoria but a guilty realization that she was naked. They don’t tell us that, with the sexual act, all of the illusions, all of the progressive beauty of getting to know a soul, heart, and mind prior to getting to know the body—all of that is irretrievably lost. They don’t tell us that even the marriage ceremony itself is anticlimactic if we have already lived together.

Permit me to quote here from one of my books, Remote Controlled (Review and Herald Publishing, 1993):

Last year in my world literature class we read and discussed Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. I have asked many previous classes to read the book, but it had never before elicited the response of last year’s class: “Dr. Wheeler, what naive innocents Cosette and Marius are! . . . Sitting there on a park bench day after day, just talking and looking at each other!” And for the first time it really came home to me what the media has done to our conception of love—in this case, romantic love.

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There is no magic to love anymore. No hauntingly beautiful, gradual unfolding of the petals of love, leading up to the ultimate full flowering of marriage and a lifetime together. No, in today’s fiction and celluloid portrayals, there are no courtships. There are in today’s music and MTV, in today’s advertising, not even any preliminaries! Boy meets girl, man meets woman, and bam! If the chemistry is ripe—and it apparently almost always is—before the relationship is more than minutes old, before they so much as date awhile in order to see whether or not they even like each other, before they so much as hold hands, before they so much as experience the rapture of that first gentle kiss . . . before any of this, within minutes they are nude and in bed with each other! This is what my students were really responding to in . . . the courtship of Marius and Cosette.

The truth that seems to have been forgotten in our modern era is that sexual purity before marriage nurtures and preserves the magic of romantic love. . . .”

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Even though this book is today out of print, we still have new copies available. The price is $13.99, plus shipping of $4.50; $6.00 if you want priority mail). Specify if you wish the book to be personally or generically inscribed, and to whom. No extra cost.

Our mailing address: Sage & Holly Distributors, P.O. Box 1246, Conifer, CO 80433.

A Strangling Christmas Hug

BLOG #52, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
A STRANGLING CHRISTMAS HUG
December 24, 2014

Every Christmas, I read stories aloud to many different groups. When I put a collection together, rarely do I think much about which ones will be the read-aloud winners for the season. But once a new Christmas in My Heart® collection comes out, then I begin trying stories out on various audiences.

At a recent Christmas vespers, after I was through, completely out of the blue, a little girl of about eight rushed at me, gave me a strangling hug, then ran off—all without a word. Obviously, one of the stories I read so touched her heart that she just had to tell me about it – in her case, in a fierce hug rather than in words.

Every year now, for more than twenty years, Janet Parshall has interviewed me about the new Christmas book, on her syndicated Moody Radio show, “Janet Parshall’s America.” On the December 17, 2014 broadcast, she asked me this question: “You’ve pointed out that for every story that makes it into a collection, you routinely pass over 100 – 300 stories that do not. What makes the difference?”

I told her that though I have no formula for defining the difference between winners and losers, one thing I do know: the ones that make it in slam into me [much like the little girl in the second paragraph] and demand to be included. And they burrow into my subconscious and imbed themselves like velcro—impossible to get rid of them.

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And oftentimes, it is the simplest stories that win out over the more complex one. For instance, the one I read on the broadcast, “The Christmas Doll,” by Jeanne Bottrop, an old story written during the Great Depression of the 1930s, why did I include it, given that it is such a simple little story written by an author few people have ever heard of? I told her, I did it because children do not internalize abstractions; they internalize story. Children today are so buried in gifts from so many directions, from so many people, that they find it extremely difficult to empathize with those less fortunate than they. But if they hear a story like this one: of an eight-year-old girl, mother having died when the little girl was three, a father who rarely came to see her, so poor she had only one patched coat, forced to work as hard as adults, who considered a single orange to be a Christmas gift of such value that she’d make it last for weeks, or months. A girl loved by no one who yearned for a doll she could love with every atom of her starved little heart. Might not such a story make a real difference?

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I’ve also read another story, Bruce R. Coston’s “The Gift” (from Christmas in My Heart® 23) a number of times this season. It is a simple little story of a little girl who longed for a kitten, parents who weren’t at all interested in getting her one, a tender-hearted veterinarian [Dr. Coston], and a kitten brought to the vet so that he could put it to sleep. “It was flea ridden and suffered from an upper respiratory infection that left her eyes crusted and red and her nose running. Her ears were filled with mites and her intestines with worms, but she was playful and endearing. She didn’t need a painless death! She needed someone who would afford her a painless life–someone who really cared. Amy came to mind.”

That, in essence, is the simple story—yet, regardless of age, it has deeply moved audience after audience I’ve read it to this Christmas season.

* * * * *

Yes, just simple little stories. Yet compare them to the inanities filling the air-waves today. Which type of story is more likely to help instill positive character traits in listeners, cause them to be kinder, more empathetic?

These are the kinds of stories that are worth their weight in gold. Such stories are the real reason the series has defied the odds by still being alive 23 years after it was first launched.

Stories likely to elicit strangling hugs.

THE PERVERSITY OF CHRISTMAS TREES AND THEIR STANDS

BLOG #51, SERIES 5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
THE PERVERSITY OF CHRISTMAS TREES AND THEIR STANDS
DECEMBER 17, 2014

I suspect watching the Lucy and Desi Christmas special might have had something to do with it. You remember: Lucy’s determination to trim their Christmas tree so it will be perfectly symmetrical. The trimmer being their next-door sidekick: Mr. Mertz. As usual with Lucy, disaster was the result.

Just so, with us: Connie repeatedly urged me to hurry up and cut that perfect little fir tree north of our house. “Hurry, before it snows!” her very words. Like most husbands, I didn’t like being told what to do and when. The TV weather predictors had managed to be wrong so many times already this year, why should this time be different? “Maybe an inch or so in the foothills,” their prognosis.

So I waited. Then slipped and stumbled my way downhill through a foot of very cold and very wet snow. I had to dig down a foot just to get to the fir’s base. Then: a mighty cold job cutting it down and dragging it uphill to the house.

When Connie saw its snowy branches looking oh so Christmasy, she pronounced it a winner: perfectly symmetrical and just the right size.

Out to the garage I went to haul down from the rafters the big state-of-the-art/never-failed-us-yet Christmas tree stand.

Once inside with it, I lowered the tree into the stand. In order to preserve its symmetry I didn’t cut the big lower branches off. Eight stabilizers were screwed in to the tree to guarantee vertical perfection. It looked wonderful, but deep inside its firry heart, it harbored subversive thoughts.

Before we started decorating it, Connie called my attention to the fact that only the four upper stabilizers reached the tree; the four lower ones connected with nothing. I assured her that four would work just fine. Indeed, it appeared I was right. First we decorated it with long strings of colored lights. Finally, with a little rejiggling, it was perfect. Next, I put up scores of beautiful red ornaments. Then we tried out a bedraggled angel to crown the tree; it was quickly replaced by a shimmering red steeple-shaped ornament. We turned the room lights off and the tree lights on. Ah, perfection!

Shortly afterwards, we noticed that the tree was tilting in the wrong direction. I soon fixed it.

In no time at all, Connie called my attention to its tilting in a different direction. We fixed it. And the cycle continued again and again. And I was growing ever more irate.

Finally, I announced that, like it or not, the symmetry would have to be sacrificed. One after another after another, I cut enough low branches so there was a satisfactory thud as the tree hit bottom. All during the process, there was a light rain of ornaments letting go.

But now, we could finally fix the tree once and for all! All I had to do was screw in all eight stabilizers. Trouble was, Connie had filled the stand with water, and the rubber stabilizer connectors kept falling into the water, so I burrowed into the tree, Connie attempting to keep it erect while I fished the rubber connectors out. But now, some of the stabilizers didn’t get to the tree at all, as some were screwed out further than the others, leading to my inability to stabilize the tree. By now, more ornaments rained down—and broke. Including the piece de resistance at the top. And the long snaky electric lights did their utmost to strangle me. I got testy and testier, and howled like a man.

Finally, I left Connie holding the tree up and went out to the garage to corral an earlier vintage tree-stand. In the rafters, I finally found it. One small problem: part of it was missing. Then I remembered hearing, on the opposite side of the garage, something metallic fall behind high stacks of boxes filled with books. So I now had to move a big stack of boxes in order to retrieve the rest of the stand. Much time had passed by then.

So much so that Connie had all but given up on holding the tree upright. More ornaments had fallen.

So now we had to completely undecorate the tree, then lift it out of its original stand, stagger across the front room to the deck, carry the all-too-full water-filled original stand, trying not to spill much, then take it outside and dump the water off the deck.

Then, I lifted up the malevolent tree once again and lowered it into its much smaller stand. And the tree stood up straight and tall. It was quickly tightened in place.

And we got to start all over again.

True, the tree had lost some of its symmetry—-but somehow symmetry didn’t seem important any more. The important thing was: It stood up straight and tall! I concluded that symmetry was overrated anyhow.

Greed Attacks Thanksgiving

BLOG #47, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
GREED ATTACKS THANKSGIVING

November 19, 2014

In case you haven’t noticed, the forces of Greed and Secularism appear determined to obliterate all remnants of the spiritual dimensions of America’s holidays: they’ve been all too successful with Easter, and even more successful with Halloween. For several generations now they’ve been attacking Christmas from every possible direction.

Now, they appear determined to bulldoze Thanksgiving (morphing Thanksgiving into Black Thursday) off the calendar. Abraham Lincoln founded Thanksgiving as a profoundly spiritual day. It remained so for over a hundred years. But not so today.

If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly urge you to track down Drew Harwell’s Nov. 17 Washington Post article, “Thanksgiving Day Shopping: Retailers vs. Black Thursday.”

Harwell quotes Peter Foley of Bloomberg News: “Shoppers rush through the doors at a Macy’s store in New York on Thanksgiving. Not long ago, the practice of a store staying closed on the holiday was simply a given, but now a core of retailers is pushing back, vowing to stay closed.”

Harwell’s lead paragraph is in the same vein: “Not so long ago, the practice of a store staying closed on Thanksgiving was simply a given; one more holiday in which workers assumed they’d get some time off. Then, amid the corporate tug-of-war over Black Friday crowds, retailers began eying the juicy hours of Turkey Day as the best time to kick off their crucial holiday shopping seasons. The move drew both sales and backlash from shoppers, who worried the sacred day was being plowed beneath the tough work schedules of Black Friday creep.”

What far too few of us appear to realize is this: every time Christians cave in to secular forces determined to destroy all Christian institutions and holidays, they simultaneously erode the remaining few opportunities families have of maintaining ties with each other. Requiring workers to work on religious days and holidays results in the attendant dismantling of the family structure and Judeo-Christian values.

Result: this year, 45% of Americans plan to shop on Thanksgiving, up from 38% last Thanksgiving.

Walmart, the nation’s biggest private employer, plans to be open all day. J.C. Penney, Best Buy, and Toys R Us will munificently wait until 5:00 p.m.; Kohl’s, Macy’s Sears, and Target, tiptoe in an hour later.

But we all know what that means: their employees will be forced to leave the Thanksgiving dinner table early, or miss it entirely, in order to get to the store in time to get ready for the crowds. Some of the stores will stay open all night and marathon into Black Friday.

A big question well worth serious thought is this: Every time Christians or strong believers in family values and togetherness votes with their feet by shopping on Thanksgiving, they are betraying their own core values.

Not all is lost, however. Harwell notes that “The stores refusing to open on the holiday, however, may feel the moral capital they gain from looking like the good guys could mean more for their brand in the long run. A study last month by retail site RichRelevance found more than 60% of Americans said they disliked that stories opened on Thanksgiving, and only 12% said they liked the trend. The movement is gaining steam: A ‘Boycott Black Thursday’ Facebook page has more than 79,000 likes.

It is indeed time for each of us to stand up and be counted on this issue. Next time you shop in stores that remain closed on Thanksgiving, take the time to speak to the managers personally and thank them. Do more: in gratitude for their stand—patronize them. Among those who this year put families and those who work them first, valuing them more than profits, are the likes of American Girl, Barnes & Noble, Bed Bath & Beyond, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Burlington Coat Factory, Costco [Costco is renowned for putting its employees first], Crate and Barrel, Dillard’s, DSW, GameStop, Hobby Lobby, HomeGoods, Home Depot, Jo Ann Fabrics, Lowe’s, Mardel’s, Marshall’s, Nordstrom, Patagonia, Petco, Pier 1, Publix, and REI.

What a statement it would make to all these purveyors of greed if Americans would unitedly rise in support of the “Good Guys,” and put teeth in this act by boycotting the “Bad Guys!”

Well, might it be possible….if we all get angry at once and say, Enough is Enough!

CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART 23 NOW AVAILABLE

BLOG #38, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART® 23

September 17, 2014

N E W S R E L E A S E

Just out is this, our 89th book, and 74th story anthology!

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Hard to believe but, after 23 long years, Christmas in My Heart® is still alive! Clearly God’s plans for the series are not yet complete. As long-time readers of the series know, there is no resting on laurels where this series is concerned: for an entire year I winnow the stories down to a pure gold fifteen to nineteen stories; hundreds may be rejected for every one that makes it in. It normally takes me ten to fifteen prayerful winnowings before I feel the slate is perfect. I take special care in creating kind of a roller-coaster trajectory between laughter and tears, long and short, child and adult, love stories and stories with some other appeal. I make no apologies for the love stories since God created love, and love and Christmas are inextricably woven together. Indeed, I’ve come to the conclusion that, judging by our mail, the romance element is one key reason why the series is still alive today.

During the last two years, there has been a run on complete sets. Today, as more and more publishing houses fold their doors or are bought out by a bigger company, out-of-print books have swelled into epidemic figures. Not surprisingly, most of our now 89 books are today out-of-print. Consequently, if you or someone you love is a Christmasaholic—there are so many of us terminal cases out there!—, you might wish to take this occasion to take advantage of our Christmas sale 40% discount (close to our cost) for the complete set!  Scan_Pic0113

So let’s look at the line-up of what’s in the new collection. First of all, all 23 covers have timeless, Currier & Ives artwork on the covers, a veritable art gallery if you are lucky enough to own them all.

Secondly, most of the stories are illustrated with a timeless woodcut, most at least a hundred years old; thus contributing to the heirloom look. Since most of our stories don’t come with illustrations we can use, I usually pour through tens of thousands of pages in old magazines or books in search of those few unique ones that seem born to illustrate certain stories.

I also vary the time-frame story-wise: a story may date back to Bible times or hundreds of years ago; or it may have been set in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries. Or written during the last year or two. What matters is whether the story remains relevant today.

Nor does the name of a given author mean much to me. I believe I am one of the very few story anthologists who are convicted that the power of a given story alone ought to determine whether it makes it in the collection or not.

Now for the Gold list of the stories that did make it in:

•      Introduction: “Psst! I’m Giving Away All My Secrets” – Joseph Leininger Wheeler. In it, I pass along many of my anthologizing secrets so that when I pass off the stage of life, perhaps someone else will be ready to take my place.
•      “Two Christmas Mornings of the Great War” –Edward Hulse and Wilfred Ewart. I’ve been saving this powerful story until 2014, the 100th anniversary of an unbelievable Christmas Day truce in the World War I trenches of France. It had to be the lead story this Christmas.
•      “Santa for Certain” – Earl Reed Silvers. Earl Reed Silvers is one of the most beloved of all writers of stories for young people. This is his second inclusion in our series.
•      “The Gift” – Bruce R. Coston. A little girl who longed for a kitten, and parents who definitely did not.
•      “Father Carter and the Herd of Elelphants” – Pat Thornborough. Had to go clear to England to land this very special story.
•      “The Crinoline Lady of March Manor” – Irma Hegel. Whoever heard of falling in love with an old painting?
•      “Flight of the Second Section” – Edward S. Marshall. Just imagine flying an airliner that had an altitude ceiling at barely 8,000 feet—and in a Christmas storm at that!
•      “The Children Who Played with the Manger” – Iones Haynes Keene. Manger animals are to be looked at, not to be played with; well, doesn’t that make sense?
•      “The Return of Christmas” – Marlene Chase. The unadulterated nerve of her sister Lexi: trying to foist off on her a thirteen-year-old going on twenty-three girl at Christmas. This is Marlene Chase’s fourth inclusion.
•      “The Christmas Doll” – Jeanne Bottroff. A poor little girl who had not realized she was cold—read it and find out why.
•      “Christmas at Bethlehem” – Anna Brownell Dunaway. What could be worse than being marooned in a one-horse town in a rickety old hotel at Christmas? This is Dunaway’s second appearance.
•      “Sweet Singing in the Choir” – Deborah Siepmann. You’ll never again be able to listen to a boys’ choir the same after you read this poignant story from England.
•      “Twenty Acres for Christmas” – F. McKinnon Morton. What if you are sitting on valuable land you’ve long considered your own, but discover someone else owns it? But if you don’t say anything about it, it’s most unlikely anyone else will ever find out about it.
•      “The Monkey Manufacturing Company” – Harold D. Robinson. The boys were out of business—or were they?
•      “Personal Delivery” – Gail Courtney Rittgers. Marcia stopped Kent from reaching for his checkbook. Why?
•      “A Christmas Triumph” – Frances Lewis. Father never participated in Christmas. Said he couldn’t afford it.
•      “Because of Christmas” – Phyllis Naylor. What to do with leftovers at Christmas—find out!
•      “The Tides of Life” – Joseph Leininger Wheeler. She never wanted to see him again—not unless, a very unlikely “unless”. But she got on a cruise ship anyhow.

The hand-tasseled bookmark is worth $5.00 by itself!

ORDERING INFORMATION

Publisher: Pacific Press Publishing.

Binding: Trade Paper

Pages: 128

Price: $13.99

Shipping: $4.50

Personally inscribed by Joe Wheeler, if requested, at no extra cost. You may secure your copies from us, so give us a call, or email, or letter, and we’ll fill your orders for you.

Mail your request to: Joe Wheeler, P.O. Box 1246, Conifer, CO 80433.

Or Phone us at: 303-838-2333.

Or send an email to: mountainauthor@gmail.com.

COMPLETE SET OF 23 BOOKS

Available this Christmas at only $170 (a 40% discount), plus shipping. Inscribed too, if specifically requested.

THE SECRETS OF THE CREEPING DESERT AND OTHER MYSTERIES FOR BOYS

BLOG #32, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
THE SECRETS OF THE CREEPING DESERT
AND OTHER MYSTERIES FOR BOYS
August 6, 2014

N E W S R E L E A S E

Just out is this, our 87th book. It was born three and a half years ago and contracted for three years ago. Due to unexpected developments, the manuscript was given a three-year-nap. Result: we have a surfeit of books carrying my name out this year; such a thing is not likely to ever happen again. Here’s how it happened.

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The date was Friday, December 3, 2010. Each first Friday of December, for many years now, I spend with my extended family at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. That particular Friday, for the fifteenth Christmas in a row, for morning worship, I shared with them a story included in the latest Christmas in My Heart® collection. The rest of the day, I spent signing books in the Focus on the Family bookstore. As is true with most epiphanies, I never saw this one coming!

As I inscribed the last couple of books, my long-time cherished friend, Editorial Director Larry Weeden, walked in to debrief on my day. As God would have it, then bookstore manager Bill Flandermeyer joined us for the same reason.

After we’d reviewed the events of the day, one of us posed this question (completely out of the blue–no antecedent for it): “When people come into this bookstore, is there anything that many of them are searching for that we don’t have–and they sadly leave without?”

It was a rhetorical question, not one we expected a definite answer to. Instead, without even stopping to think about it, Flandermeyer shot back: “Yes! Books for boys!” He went on to note that buyers young and old (grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, friends, children and teens), found all too few books for boys on the shelves. Then I was put on the hot spot: “What do you have for boys? Can you step in and fill the need?” I had to admit that though almost all of our books would appeal to boys, nothing I had was geared just for boys.

We had also discussed the subject of books that would appeal just to girls. We could all think of available options for them. But the problem was even bigger than that: today, we have a national crisis on our hands that has profound implications for America’s tomorrows. Boys are bailing out of education at an ever earlier age, veering instead into escapist virtual reality–be it video games, texting, alcohol, tobacco, pornography (their options are legion) rather than eagerly preparing themselves for productive adult careers. Since their parents don’t read much themselves, and there are all too few books, magazines, and newspapers in homes today, there are few incentives for their children to read either.

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After I returned home, I couldn’t get the discussion out of my head. Was God directing me to become more pro-active rather than re-active? What could I do personally to help turn the tide? I’ve learned over the years that when God sets you up for action, you don’t have to wait long for His follow-through. In only weeks Dan Balow (the new publisher for Mission Books/eChristian) was in our home, with Greg Johnson (our long-time agent); the agenda had to do with possible book projects I felt strongly about. Fresh in my mind was the discussion at Focus on the Family. I brought it up. The result was a contract for six books, two of which came out right away: Showdown (sports stories for boys) and Bluegrass Girl (horse stories for girls). But not long after, Balow left the company, and we wondered if the other four books would ever see actual publication. Serendipitously, recently Todd Hoyt, the president of the company, reinserted the four titles in the pipeline: Only God Can Make a Dad and A Mother’s Face is Her Child’s First Heaven came out some months ago; and now, finally, here comes our second book just for boys.

In that 2010 discussion, specific emphasis had been placed on my consideration of mystery stories for boys. After all, almost every boy is fascinated by books and stories that incorporate mysteries in the narrative.

So, finally, here they are, the result of an exhaustive search for the most powerful value-based mystery stories I could find. I specifically sought out stories that were compatible with Judeo-Christian values, that didn’t veer into darkness–as all too many youth-oriented mystery stories do today. I searched for stories that were not merely good-reads but would also result in the reader’s positive inner-growth. In the process, I discovered that mystery stories for boys tend to be longer than those written just for girls. Possibly because boys revel in taking things apart to find out how they work. They want to know both how and why. In detail.

By the way, the third-grade boys at Jefferson County Elementary School in Conifer, Colorado helped to choose this cover illustration. More about how that happened in next week’s blog.

So here are the stories:

■ “Jimmy the Sleuth,” by Frank Farrington
■ “Black on Blue,” by Ralph Henry Barbour
■ “The Prisoner,” by Jeannette C. Nolan
■ “Mystery of the Missing,” by Ruth Herrick Myers
■ “Black Canyon Mystery,” by John Scott Douglas
■ “Jack’s Electric Signal,” by F. Lovell Combs
■ “Pluck and ‘Thousand Acres’,” by A. May Holaday
■ “The Egg Mystery,” by Earl Reed Silvers
■ “The Gassoway Goats,” by Ruth and Robert Osborne
■ “Scoop,” by E. Mark Phillips
■ “Four Men In Boats,” by Russell Gordon Carter
■ “The Secrets of the Creeping Desert,” by Richard N. Donelson

For this collection, I drew from the finest mystery stories for boys published during the twentieth century. I was already familiar with many of the authors, for their works were prolifically published by the leading magazines of the time–authors such as Ralph Henry Barbour, Ruth Herrick Myers, John Scott Douglas, A. May Holaday, Earl Reed Silvers, and Russell Gordon Carter.

Next week, I’ll tell you about The Talleyman Ghost and Other Mystery Stories for Girls.

You may secure copies from us; let us know if you wish any of the books to be individually inscribed. They ought to appeal to boys of all ages; they certainly appealed to me. Great stories are enjoyed by the old as well as the young. Get a head start on your Christmas stocking list by gifting a copy of this book to each son, grandson, nephew, godson, or friend.

ORDERING INFORMATION

Binding: Trade Paper
Pages: 174
Price: $14.98
Shipping: $4.50

Personally signed or inscribed by Joe Wheeler, if requested, at no extra cost.

Mail your request to Dr. Joe Wheeler, P.O. Box 1246, Conifer, CO 80433.
Or Phone to 303-838-2333.
Or send an email to: mountainauthor@gmail.com.

 

Christmas 2013

BLOG #52, SERIES #4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
CHRISTMAS 2013
December 25, 2013

Have you noticed how rarely anyone wishes you a “Merry Christmas” any more? This muddling of language has been happening for years now. No longer do people say “Good morning!” to us. Or “Have a great weekend! ” Instead , we are greeted with the inane “Have a good one!” Whatever that means. It matters not the occasion, no matter how significant, “Have a good one!” is becoming the new norm.

Only, at Christmas, we instead hear “Happy Holidays!” wherever we go. Since so many people wish to appear to be politically correct, they avoid specifics at all costs. Since “Christmas” appears to be a word burdened with spiritual associations, best not to mention it at all. Yet without Christmas there would be no “X number of shopping days until _____!” “Until what?” They’d be hard-put to tell you. Certainly not “until Thanksgiving,” or “until New Year’s Day.” No, they’re stuck with “Christmas” because of its well known tie-in to gift-buying which drives the economy every fall-into-winter.

But the little Lord Jesus in a manger does little to stampede the American people into shopping malls; it takes Santa Claus to do that. “Santa Claus,” who, as St. Nicholas, once was a deeply spiritual figure. Sadly, in American culture today, that rarely is the case any more.

IS THERE ANYTHING WE CAN DO?

I do believe there is: the next time someone unleashes another “Happy Holidays” on us, what if each of us greeted the perpetrator with a joyful smile and an enthusiastic, “And a very Merry Christmas to you!” If thousands of us did this, over time don’t you think we’d spike a lot of “Happy Holidays” cannons? Don’t you think it would at least be worth a try?

But that shouldn’t be all. What if we took the lead in organizing, supporting, and attending spiritual programs, films, concerts, events, etc.” What if we gave each other spiritually based Christmas books rather than those totally divorced from what the season ought to stand for? If not overtly dealing with spiritual matters, don’t you think that, at the least, the books we choose to give away, share, and read should be compatible with Judeo-Christian values?

All too often, we do our own version of a Pilate act: wringing our hands and complaining of how powerless we are to do anything about bad things. What if—instead—, we individually and collectively stood up for good things?

How about starting this Christmas season? After all, the Twelve Days of Christmas are just beginning. Christmas won’t be over until January 7.

Henry Van Dyke’s “The Other Wise Man”

BLOG #49, SERIES 4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #25
HENRY VAN DYKE’S THE OTHER WISE MAN
December 4, 2013

It is December once again – time for another Christmas selection. For some time now I have been convicted that, for the third Christmas in our series, I ought to choose Henry Van Dyke’s greatest book. Of all Christmas books ever written, only Dickens’ Christmas Carol is the equal to The Other Wise Man. But it has something Dickens’ great book lacks: an unforgettable spiritual dimension that moves the reader deeply. It is one well worth re-reading every Christmas of one’s life.

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One can count on the fingers of one hand the great Christmas stories. The Other Wise Man is one of them.

It was born on the eve of the social-gospel movement in America; born of the realization that the Jesus of the Gospels did not spend much time talking about what we call “doctrines,” but He was very concerned with how we treat one another. His entire earthly ministry could be summed up in two words: “loving service.”

Stories that change the world–how do they come to be? Half a century earlier, Charles Dickens had created the genre of Christmas story with his timeless A Christmas Carol. Nothing of comparable power had been written since.

For the 40-year-old scholar-cleric Henry Van Dyke, 1892 had been a dark and tragic year, during which his beloved father had died. The world saw merely the facade: Van Dyke at his peak–a graduate of Princeton, Princeton Theological School, and the University of Berlin; pastor of the New York’s prestigious Brick Presbyterian Church; author of such scholarly work as The Poetry of Tennyson. Yet inside, he was anything but confident.

The year had been full of sickness and sorrow. Every day brought trouble. Every night was tormented with pain. They are very long–those nights when one lies awake, and hears the laboring heart pumping wearily at its task, and watches for the morning, not knowing whether it will ever dawn . . .

And the heaviest burden?

You must face the thought that your work in the world may be almost ended, but you know that it is not nearly finished. You have not solved the problems that perplexed you. You have not reached the goal that you aimed at. You have not accomplished the great task that you set for yourself. You are still on the way; and perhaps your journey must end now–nowhere–in the dark.

Well, it was in one of these long, lonely nights that this story came to me. I have studied and loved the curious tales of the Three Wise Men of the East as they are told in the GOLDEN LEGEND of Jacobus de Voragine and other medieval books. But of the Fourth Wise Man I had never heard until that night. Then I saw him distinctly, moving through the shadows in a little circle of light. His countenance was so clear as the memory of my father’s face as I saw it for the last time a few months before. The narrative of his journeyings and trials and disappointments ran without a break. Even certain sentences came to me complete and unforgettable, clear-cut like a cameo. All that I had to do was to follow Artaban, step by step, as the tale went on, from the beginning to the end of his pilgrimage.

Responding to the oft-asked question: why he made the Fourth Wise Man tell a lie, to save the life of a little child, he countered,

Is a lie ever justifiable? Perhaps not. But may it not sometimes seem inevitable? And if it were a sin, might a man not confess it, and be pardoned for it more easily than for the greater sin of spiritual selfishness, or indifference, or the betrayal of innocent blood? That is what I saw Artaban do. That is what I heard him say. All through his life he was trying to do the best that he could. It was not perfect. But there are some kinds of failure that are better than success.

It is probable that more research went into this than any other Christmas story ever written. All his previous research, it appears in retrospect, had been setting the stage for this work. And now, it was not enough merely to tell the story he felt a Higher Power wished him to chronicle: it must have historical authenticity as well. So he scoured the great libraries of the world seeking information about every aspect of ancient life and travel. Not until he was satisfied that he knew his ground as well as an attorney presenting his first case before the Supreme Court did he finally begin writing.

What Van Dyke created was a story so simply and beautifully told that the reader is unaware that this re-creation of the world our Lord knew is undergirded by prodigious research. It is an awesome tour de force.

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On Christmas Day, 1892, he spread out his manuscript on his pulpit, looked out at the vast hushed and expectant audience, and wondered how the Fourth Wise Man’s story would be received. He needn’t have worried: the little story spread like wildfire. Three years later, Harpers, the most prestigious publishing house in the world, launched it out across all the seas of the world, both in English and in many translations.

* * *

There are many editions out there on the world-wide web, but I recommend that you seek out one of the splendid editions with color art work. One of the most beautiful is the Harper Brothers 25th anniversary Memorial Edition of 1920, as well as the 30th in 1925. Believe me, you will treasure it forever. Try to secure a dust-jacketed edition.

Lloyd C. Douglas’s Home for Christmas

BLOG #48, SERIES #3
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #15
LLOYD C. DOUGLAS’S HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
November 28, 2012

Book-length Christmas stories have fascinated me almost as much as individual Christmas stories. But there has been one crucial difference between the two genres: Although thousands of writers have written individual Christmas stories, very few have tackled longer Christmas stories—and far fewer yet are still remembered today.

One of them that is still remembered—but is barely hanging on—is Lloyd C. Douglas’s Home for Christmas (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1937). The author has long been one of my all-time favorite inspirational writers. Dr. Douglas (1877 – 1951) burst into the publishing world late in life, for he’d been a pastor, chiefly in university centers, for more than a quarter century, and was more than 50 years of age, when he wrote his first novel, The Magnificent Obsession in 1932. Defying all odds, that first book became a blockbuster, both in print and in film, exceeded only by The Robe in 1943. Douglas’s novels tended to be fictionalized homilies that expounded the gospel that men and women could live good and successful lives through altruism and amity based on New Testament principles. Douglas, a Congregational clergyman, was spiritual heir to a long tradition of ministers who used fiction to popularize spiritual truths for the masses—such as Charles Sheldon, Henry Van Dyke, Harold Bell Wright, and others.

* * * * *

Our readers are really going to have to seriously search in order to unearth copies of this title as it is today one of Douglas’s scarcest titles, but it will be well worth your time to do so.

Following is the introductory blurb on the First Edition dust jacket:

The Claytons spent all their childhood in a little farmhouse. Now there were Gertrude in New York, Claire in Louisville, Nan in Detroit, Fred in California, and Jim in Chicago—all prosperous American citizens. Nan had kept the old homestead just as it was when the Claytons were young, and it was her idea that they should all go back there for Christmas to live for a few days as they had done in their childhood, remembering the hardships and pleasures of those far-off years.

Nan’s project sounded a little alarming to her older brothers and sisters settled in their comfortable ways, but every one of the Claytons was a good sport. All the in-laws were banished, and the five gathered by themselves in the little farmhouse. What happened there is told in a novelette full of humor and tenderness and intertwined with a delightful love story.

Happy hunting first of all, then, on some cold winter night, settle down by the fireplace for an unforgettable Christmas read.