Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More thoughts about romance novels...

I appreciated Mel's comment and I started writing a comment, but realized it was becoming a very long one! So, here is my comment as a post instead...

Question: What about Christian Romance novels? Janette Oke? Karen Kingsbury?

When I wrote my last post, I was speaking specifically about Christian romance novels. I actually avoid secular romance novels altogether. I look back on when I was a teen and some of the adult romances I read and my stomach plummets. I realize now that they really took my mind places it shouldn't have gone. Most secular romance novels now have graphic sex scenes. They did even when I was a teen. Someone once said that romance novels can become like pornography to women. I know that sounds extreme, but I was taken by surprise a few years ago when I read a book by an author who used to write Christian books and now publishes with a secular publisher. There was a very graphic sexual scene between two women in her book. I don't really want to explain more than that. The scene took me by surprise--I was expecting an inspirational book and then I read this scene. I cringed.

Christian romances have really expanded in the last few years. When I was growing up, I enjoyed Janette Oke's books and I think they are quite different than most Christian romantic fiction that I've read this past year. I would single out Francine Rivers, Angela Hunt, and Janette Oke as being much more realistic about how they've written romance into their books. Karen Kingsbury is an interesting author to me. I know everyone loves her books a lot! And I haven't been able to figure out yet why she isn't an author I usually choose to read. I'm still trying to articulate that one. I know it unsettled me when I opened up her last book and found an advertisement for a cruise with her as the guest speaker.

Honestly, a few years ago, I had heard people talk about how reading a lot of Christian romances wasn't a good idea--and the people I had overheard were talking about Janette Oke. But, Janette Oke's books aren't who I'm referring to when I mean that I have to guard myself about reading Christian romances.

Back in January, I read a Christian romance that used words like this example: one character felt "ravenous" for a man as she stood close to him. "ravenous"? It feels like Christian Romances have been getting closer and closer to secular romances in how they describe men and women physically. In that same book it referenced men and women staying overnight together and unmarried couples living together (with the other Christians in their lives believing this was okay). That book really made me start thinking about the words authors use to describe the attraction between men and women in their books. I began to feel that there are some words that get very close to the line between romance/love and lust.

Romance is a part of life and so it should be a part of the stories we read, but the other thing I've started to see in the Christian romances I've read is that it is love and romance which is what life is all about--not God. The love of a man or woman is portrayed as what can save the one who loves them. And recently, I have also read several books where one person is a Christian and the other is not. The Christian enters the relationship with the hopes of saving the other. That's a dangerous idea to plant in the minds of teens and adults. I know that when my daughters and son begin to date (many years from now) I will desire for them to date and marry a Christian man or woman (in my son's case). If you are a Christian, dating people who aren't Christians is dangerous and is a very slippery slope--God showed me that very clearly when I was in high school. I'm thankful that he showed me before I would have regretted. It only took a kiss to make me realize that this boy who said he was a Christian but wasn't and he was not someone I should date.

I hope all of this explains in more detail my feelings about Christian romances today. I think we have to be careful and wise about what we read and watch.

Romance Novels

I was talking with my mom this morning and my husband at different times about the benefits and harms of reading romance novels. Is it a good thing or not to read them?

I think this is like most things. Please know that this is just my opinion--one that I've thought a lot about. Anyways, for me, I've come to believe that it's okay to read a few, but if someone was to read them all the time it could be harmful. It is one of those things that may cause struggle for some, but not for all. It makes me think of the Word...

23"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive. I Cor. 10:23


5One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:5-8

For some, reading romance novels may give them a very unrealistic view of romance and love. I fall in this camp. I find that it is okay for me to read one once in a while, but not regularly. If my husband and I are in the midst of a disagreement, then it isn't wise for me to go watch a romantic movie. Instead of encouraging me, these books and movies can reinforce my wrong self-talk and the lies I may be telling myself. They encourage me to pursue my self, my desires, and what I think I need rather than my husband and my marriage.

I hope that explains my perspective about reading romance novels. =) I do continue to read and review romance novels periodically hoping to find a realistic one!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I thought I'd learned...

I thought I'd learned! I think I've taken on too many books again--at least they're all good ones. I just started In Harm's Way this morning by Irene Hannon and I'm already hooked. I really didn't wish I had a vet appointment and homeschooling today =) I'd love to just sit and read!

I'm almost done with the Silent Seduction of Self (it's taken me 3 months to read). =) I think it is going to be near the top of my very favorite book list. It has been so convicting and encouraging. I'm also reading Unashamed of the Gospel by MacArthur and Intimacy Ignited by Dillow and Pintus.

I don't know why, but I do read several books at one time. I've been picking up and setting down Unashamed of the Gospel for 3 months. It isn't one of those books I've been able to read right through.

Next on my list will be How do You Tuck in a Superhero?, Doctrine by Mark Driscoll, a princess story by Lois Lowery, Prayer Saturated Kids, and Practical Theology for Women.

Maybe my list isn't as long as I thought it was...
In any case, soon I'll be posting reviews about these books =) or maybe I mean "soon" in a relative sense =)

What are you reading?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

An Unusual Book

Disclaimer: When I read an average or bad book, I don't usually feel inadequate in writing a review about them. But, when I read a very good book like the one I'm reviewing here, I am very humbled by my own attempts to convey what a good book it is.

Reading so many books this past year and a half has often taken from me my joy of reading. (I've read some bad books.) But, there are so many other times when reading the books that I have the opportunity to review engage my mind and heart.

A few weeks ago, I received a book by accident--I hadn't requested it (at least I don't think I did). But, I took its arrival to mean that that I was meant to read it--that it was one of those books God has brought into my life for some reason that I didn't know.

I usually don't choose to read science fiction or fantasy novels. I have a few favorites that I've enjoyed over the years and they have typically fallen in the category of dystopia fiction: The Giver and the other books in the series, Ender's Game, and Brave New World. Outside of those few, I've stayed away from anything that would come close to "speculative fiction" , a cross between science fiction and fantasy. Each of these books I loved drew me in. I wanted to know what happened next. There were twists and turns that I didn't expect. Surprises. Joys and sorrows.

This week I read a new book that drew me in. I wanted to know what happened, how the story unfolded, and get to know the characters. The prologue was a story in and of itself. You could tell from the first page that the author is a good writer. He didn't mince words, but he wasn't flowery either.

The book I read is the first book by Bryan Litfin. The Sword is his first fiction book and is the first book in the Chiveis trilogy. The prologue begins with our world as we know it today but a few years from now. A virus sweeps the world and it goes back into a modern, or rather, future dark age. And so the story begins...

We meet Teofil and Anastasia at the beginning of the story as their paths cross in the forest. There is an attraction between the two from the beginning and it made me wonder how this thread of romance was going to be woven into the story. Would it be a romantic adventure or would the author simply weave romance into the lives of the characters--as it is in real life? The author chose the latter, as my husband pointed out to me. There is romance in life--to deny that or not include it in the story wouldn't be portraying the human heart as it is.

But, at the heart of this story is the adventure of seeking God. What would it be like if everyone forgot about God and worshipped idols and false Gods? Litfin poses that question and writes about what he imagines the world could be like.

I've been thinking about who I would recommend this book to? Teenagers? Adults? Men? Women? What genre does this book fit into?

I would recommend this book to adults--both men and women. But, it's not a book for teenagers. There is an element of just a few scenes as it relates conveying the heart of man and what love and lust are that are more mature than I think is appropriate for young teenagers. Litfin is a professor at Moody Bible Institute so you don't need to be afraid of what he's written, but I just wouldn't let my daughter read it if she was a teenager.

This book describes itself as speculative fiction. It seems like a cross between fantasy and science fiction to me. What drew me in and made this book so enjoyable for me was not knowing what was going to happen. That makes it difficult to review this book, because I don't want to give anything away. I want you to get to enjoy it for yourself!

I think I've covered the bases--so if you get a chance to read this book--please do! It's being released at the end of April.

Please note that I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book for review.

Monday, March 22, 2010

so thankful he's home...

Yesterday, I got to pick up my husband after his long trip. I am so thankful he's home. It's interesting, but it feels like this trip has given me more of a taste than his other trips of what a long deployment would really be like. I had so many crises come up that I had to tackle on my own during this time.

It was strange easing back into things and attaching myself emotionally again. I hadn't realized how much I had detached myself emotionally. I had to. --I had to cope with everything going on here. I saw in that moment why deployments can spur on so many divorces. My husband and I were at peace with our relationship and each other when he came home. Whenever we've had conflicts during our phone calls, we've talked it through and not let things be. I worked hard not to resent him not being here to help me through all the stuff I had to tackle these past 2 1/2 months (between the blizzards, sickness, family issues, water in the basement, etc.), but remind myself that he loves us and that he takes care of providing for our family by working hard. It was my job to take care of things at home. By working hard, I mean that I prayed and worked on my self-talk with the Lord.

But, I thought that if a spouse left and either one really detached him/herself while gone, they could easily begin to focus on their discontent in their marriage rather than on resolving any conflicts that come up. Each one has to be independent to a large degree. They simply have to--they're too far apart to help the other. And if there was discontent present, it would be harder to come back together--there wouldn't be as much desire to reunite fully. They could hold part of themselves back when they foot out the door and one in.

I'm thankful that God worked in our marriage during this time and now we have to get used to being back together again. There's an adjustment. So far, it's been easy =) But, I'm sure we'll have things to work through and many things for me to let go of. God's made me very aware this time of how much I need my husband--not for the physical help (though it's very helpful), but rather for what his presence does for me and our children. I went to bed at 9 p.m. last night--I haven't done that since December. But, now I'm up early enough to work out =) It was good to talk about so many things with him yesterday and feel understood.

Would you please pray for the families and servicemen who are deployed right now? I can't imagine how much harder it would have been if my husband was gone for 9 or 12 months. 2 1/2 felt like a very long time. Thank you for your prayers while he's been gone for us. =) It's made me think a lot about the sacrifice that our service members and their families make when they leave their families to serve our country.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Taking Care of Ourselves

Tonight I picked up Intimacy Ignited by Dillow and Pintus. The wives wrote the book with input from their husbands. (They wrote a book called Intimate Issues which I highly recommend. It is a book with questions women struggle with about sex and their answers and explanations are very wise.)

But, back to what I was reading tonight =) It was funny to say outloud that I chose this book to review and that I would be reviewing it after I read it. It is a book that walks through Song of Solomon and what it says about sex and God's design for relations between man and wife. They take a literal view of the book rather than an allegorical one (which would mean the book is talking about Christ and the church). I'm not sure what I think about that. I've never felt strongly one way or the other. Even so, it is a good book. The first chapter was very dry =s , but after that the tone changed and it got a lot better. The chapter I just finished is what I want to write really quickly about...

When I was growing up, my dad always reminded me to watch my weight. I heard many comments as well from my grandmother. I still remember her feelings about my weight one summer I was home from college and how she expressed her disapproval to me. Not good memories. Then suddenly when I was graduating from college, my dad asked me when I was going to gain some weight? I looked at him increduously and asked when was I ever okay?

The reason I wanted to share all this was because today a group of homeschool moms that has kindly included me as their friend were chatting about eating and weight. And then I read this chapter in Intimacy Ignited tonight. The chapter was about being attractive for our husbands and taking care of ourselves.

I've had it impressed upon my heart several times that this is important--my downfall is that I get tired and I need to workout regularly! =) I do try to take care of myself and dress in a way that is flattering and that I feel good in. It's funny because I know that show What NOT to Wear would probably get rid of everything in my closet--they hate active clothes and lambast them. But, I'm a mom of 3 little kids! My husband likes the way I dress and that I don't wear any make up. I'm thankful for this. And this may surprise you when I admit this, but when I had my children, I did pray and ask God to help me lose the weight quickly. I wanted to be attractive again to my husband.

I'm thankful for how Ms. Dillow and Ms. Pintus talked about how important it is that wives feel good about how they look--it affects how we relate to our spouses both from our perspective and theirs. It helps us because we feel more confident about how we look and more comfortable being physical with our husbands. But, it helps our husbands be strong in the struggles that men face with lust and temptation. Today in the mail, we got a letter asking for prayer for Navigators' ministry to men and women struggling with pornography. It decimates lives and marriages.

They didn't mention plastic surgery as a requirement like a book I read in January (it was by Julie Barnhill and I don't recommend it). But, they did give a great tip in one of the chapters before this one--that kissing strengthens the muscles in your lips and it will help your face more than any plastic surgery ever could! Isn't that great news?!

The most interesting thing about this chapter was that it was actually written more towards the men than the women--how they can encourage and love their wives well and help them feel good about themselves. I've written above about how what they shared struck me as a wife.

Ah, the lateness of the hour is upon me...I am not writing very coherantly so I must proceed to bed! =) I hope this entry all makes sense. I'll read it again in the morning! =)

Cooking...Here I come!

It's amazing to realize that my husband has now been gone almost 11 weeks. He will return in 2 days!

So, for me, that means back to cooking a lot...
But also back to eating good food =)

It means cleaning regularly...
But it means having a cleaner house =)

It means going to bed at 10 p.m....
But it also means that I'll be getting the sleep I really need =)

It means getting up at 5 am...
But that means I'll have enough time in the am for my quiet times and working out =)

It means that my husband will be back and I won't be alone with 3 kids and a dog anymore! Yay!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Good Parenting quote...

"Will we do it perfectly? No, we won't. I've never met parents who didn't wish they had done at least a few things differently. But the Lord knows you and each of your children intimately. He planned your particular family from the foundation of the world. He gave you the particular children you have for His purposes, and He doesn't make mistakes." from Homeschooling at the Speed of Life by Marilyn Rockett, p. 80

I thought this was a really good quote to share. I've been reminded of this often--and I believe it to be true. We will make mistakes. I will mistakes. I already have today. But, I apologized to my children and will try and do better =)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Prayers about crises

On Thursday night at small group, I asked for prayer that no more crises would come up between then and when my husband gets home in a week. The next day a family issue arose.

Tonight at church, again I asked the same request--that no more crises would come up for the next 7 days. Minutes later, Eli went poop. Monster poop! It went on his pants and his shirt--but worse than that, I had no spare clothes because he's almost 2 and I haven't carried spare clothes with me for a long time.

Maybe God's trying to tell me something--maybe I should be praying for strength and a calm spirit and wisdom to cope with whatever comes up =)


Last night I had a horrible dream, but the crux of it was that I was rejected and at the end I stood up to the person and said no, that's not okay and stood up for myself. Then, this morning a friend emailed a quote in reply to a quote I'd sent her that basically said (in my words)-- Don't hold onto something that you can't have in the first place. It was interesting to put the two together.

I think there have been times when I try to hold onto something or hold onto a relationship that isn't desired by the other party--essentially, I was trying to hold onto something that I couldn't have to begin with.

When we hear that message that we are unloveable from others, we try to continually fight that lie by proving to ourselves that we won't lose other relationships. I say we, though I really mean me. I don't know if you're in that same boat with me. But, I've done this. And that's what the dream was about last night. A few years before I met my husband, I had a boyfriend who told me he'd tried and tried to love me but just couldn't make himself. Ewww! Yuck! Talk about horrible things someone can tell you. Sadly, that wasn't the first time someone had told me they didn't want to be around me. It had happened before in high school and junior high (we all know how cruel junior high girls can be!). But, it happened after college too with friends and because of it I am often surprised when people genuinely want to be my friend and be around me.

There have been many times when I wondered why God allow me to go through all of that--to lose my grandma, my dad, friends, a boyfriend--all out of rejection. Yet, amidst the pain, there's been joy. I lost my dad and grandma because I loved the Lord--I married the man that God had for me and in the process had to give up their approval of me. My experiences with friends taught me to remember people who aren't included and to love people well. My experience with that boyfriend, well, it helps me appreciate my husband every time I'm reminded of that guy. Dating him helped me see why my husband is such a wonderful guy. Without the lows, we wouldn't truly feel and realize how wonderful the highs are.

So, now, I'm experiencing rejection in another way by someone I've loved all my life. Does the other person realize the impact of the choices they're making? No, I don't think so. Do I know yet what God is going to do with this? No. But, there was a quote that I read last week that I really liked in The Silent Seduction of Self...

"We're not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be." C.S. Lewis
from The Silent Seduction of Self by Shelly Beach, p. 61

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Good Quote...

Tonight I have been reading Homeschooling at the Speed of Life by Marilyn Rockett. I am enjoying it. What I really wanted to share was a quote from her book that hit me tonight...

"Being a wife and mother, keeping a God-honoring home, and homeschooling your children will teach you to trust solely in the Lord more than any book or seminar. When you commit to persevere, He will honor that commitment and lift you up to fulfill your mission." p. 36

Right before that, Ms. Rockett includes this quote from Keep a Quiet heart by Elisabeth Elliot:
"God is not all we would ask for (if we were honest), but it is precisely when we do not have what we would ask for, and only then, that we can clearly perceive His all-sufficiency. It is when the sea is moonless and the Lord has become my light."

I know that I am not very good at truly trusting the Lord. I get frazzled by all I need to get done and the weight of all of these things--they are weighty because I'm not taking them to the Lord. Right now, there is a smell in my basement--I have no idea why. I've checked the whole floor. I even pulled back the computer desk and pulled up a large section of carpet--and there was no moisture underneath (thank goodness!). There is simply so much humidity in my basement and I think that the smell from when the water was in the carpet (before it got fixed a week and a half ago) has just stayed. Ugh! I have been overwhelmed today and burdened. Emotionally I've been drained as well because of some family issues. How quickly I want to give up! These quotes reminded me tonight of what I really need to remember.

My house is not in the state that I would ask for nor are some things in my family what I would hope for. But, I am beginning to see--and have the opportunity to see and walk with the Lord through all of this.

And now, I'm off to sleep! The clocks are already turned ahead. =)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Solid, Encouraging Devotional

As I finished this book this morning, I thought about what I wanted to write in this review. I realized that I had begun reading this book looking for a Bible Study rather than a Devotional (since I had just finished two of her Bible studies). So, my expectations weren't met. But, they shouldn't have been. I realized this morning that devotionals are different--they are intended to share a few thoughts with you, maybe a verse or two, and a matter for prayer. That is exactly what Cynthia Heald does in this study. Often devotionals have a theme and the theme of this study is to draw a woman closer to the Lord. I loved what she shared and appreciated her honesty and openness about things she's struggled with and which God has taught her through. One of the things that I appreciate most about Ms. Heald is that she points people to the Lord, not to herself or others. Her heart is not to get mired down in the tragedy or struggles, but to acknowledge them, understand what it feels like to be in them, and then look to the Lord for wisdom and truth. I will say that I know I would have gotten a lot more out of this devotional if I had spent more time with the Lord in prayer at the end of each devotional. That is my weakness right now (with 3 little kids, homeschooling, and a puppy) that I'm not very good at sitting quietly with the Lord. But, I feel Him prompting me more and more in how I can pursue that... I think the next study for me to do is Ms. Heald's Becoming a woman of Simplicity Bible study...

If you enjoy devotionals, this is a wonderful one that is easy to read! I hope you will enjoy it! I think this devotional would be wonderful for any Christian woman--whether you've been walking with the Lord for many years or have just recently come to know Him.

I did realize in reading this book, that I'm not a big devotional reader. I prefer Bible Studies and books--like the one I'm reading now which I love! But, I know many people, like my mother in law love devotionals. I'm not quite sure why I don't gravitate to them as much or why I prefer other books...

Please note that I did receive a complimentary copy of this book from Navpress for review.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

You'll laugh at me...

I know you'll laugh at me, but I think that today is the first day my kids have played in the mud. And yes, I actually mean first time ever. Pretty crazy, huh? We went over to a new friend's house and her kids are quite used to playing in the mud and making mud pies. They had a wonderful tree house that had a very fast slide (Eli went up and down until he almost toppled and then he refrained from wanting to do it again. He didn't topple off, he just bobbled a bit going down.) Anyways, it made me smile to see them so comfortable with mud and getting dirty and me comfortable with letting them get dirty =) I'm glad they had such fun! Maybe I should make a mud puddle at our house for them!

Sometimes I just need the good example of friends to help me be comfortable with not being in control and being neat =)

Monday, March 8, 2010

More Thoughts on Reading

Last night and the night before, I spent time reading a book that grieved my heart. At first, all I could think was "I don't like this book." But, then a friend reminded me of the book Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt. I went to my bookshelf and picked up Honey for a Woman's Heart. I turned first to Ms. Hunt's discussion fiction and then of autobiographies and memoirs. Both sections gave me much to think about.

The book I read is called Never Tell Our Business to Strangers by Jennifer Mascia. It is her memoir of her life. She is 3 years younger than me. The first half is the story of her life with her parents. The second is the story of her years discovering who her parents really were and her father's connections to the mob. Ms. Mascia's writing is good, though the conversations she relates are very long.

The world she lived in is very foreign to me, though we both grew up in Southern California at the same time. But, does her book tell a story of real life? Yes, though it's heartbreaking to read for many reasons, it does.

What grieved me most about the story was that the author grated on my nerves as she wailed about her life and treated her parents horribly--just as they treated her horribly. Neither respected the other though they claimed love for one another. And when she grew up, her choices didn't change.

The best way I can describe this book is that it portrays the depravity of man and life without faith in God. I was listening to Ravi Zacharias yesterday in the car after church and he told a good story--one that made an impression on me. It was the story of a man and a janitor, I believe, who asked to paint a picture of him. The man wanted to spend time with the other so he agreed. After a few sessions, the man's wife came in and saw the painting. She screamed. The man got up and went to see the picture being painted of him. He was horrified--it didn't look at all like him. The painter replied that he wanted him to see what he would be like if he doubted God and walked away from his faith. He wanted him to see life without God.

For me, reading this book reminded of what life is like without God--and I wouldn't want to live that way.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Blanket Recommendations

The last book I reviewed got a mixed review from me. I said I like it--and I do. I like it because I think there's a lot of really good stuff in it. Is it the first book I would recommend? No. Definitely not. If that is the kind of book you like and Sheila Walsh is an author you have enjoyed in the past, you will probably really like it. I like her style of writing because it is easy to read. But, if I were to recommend a book about trusting God, I would first point someone to Trusting God by Jerry Bridges because I think it explains what it means to trust God better--both theologically and practically. It is deeper though and a lot more to chew on. I think Fearless by Max Lucado had a very similar message and I would also recommend it over Sheila Walsh's book. It was more scriptural and didn't read into the Word.

In reading so many books recently, I have come to realize that people are encouraged by different books and that people have different reading levels--which can affect what kinds of books they choose to read. My mom just told me this morning that her small group and her church (of 6,000 people) are going to begin reading Rick Warren's book The Purpose Driven Life again. Is that a book I would recommend? No. It was the publicity for that book that predisposed my view of it actually way back when it was first published. I am also very skittish about books that develop cult-like followings. (Like the Prayer of Jabez).

But, my mom enjoyed the book then and is looking forward to reading it again. It has encouraged her in her walk with the Lord. I know that it has. I think there is a fine line between giving negative reviews about books (sharing concerns about the content of particular books) and causing division/making comments that are not edifying to the body of Christ. Such comments could be discouraging and feel like attacks. When we feel attacked, we also feel defensive which leads to discord.

Yet, isn't it still important that I say when I think a book is unbiblical or isn't scriptural? Yes. Is it important to point out that a book is more Christian psychology than Bible Study? Definitely yes. It is easy for us to be decieved. With Sheila Walsh's books, the wisdom that I found and agreed with was simple. It wasn't unbiblical. Did I agree with her way of going about making those points? Not really. It wasn't what I would wish for--but I agreed with her conclusions and the thoughts she wanted to encourage women with. Does that justify her means? No. But, that was why my review encourages anyone who reads the book to take those stories back to the Bible and make sure that they know what the Bible says and what it doesn't so that they don't let man's interpretation and extrapolation get confused with what God really put in His Word.

I know this probably seems like a circular argument within my own head =) And to some degree it is a back and forth argument I have with myself. But, in the end, I always take sides with the side that desires for books to be Biblical and for them to point me towards God and not man. =)

Thanks for listening to this argument I'm having in my own head!

Puzzling through this Book

I am reading a book right now that I am very puzzled about. It is a good, easy book to read that has been written in very conversational writing. But, my issue that I'm struggling with is one that I struggle with often lately.

Is it okay to read into the scriptures? Is this wise? What does it do for the reader and do the reader?

The book I've been reading right now is Sheila Walsh's latest book about trusting God, titled Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God. Obviously, it's very different than Jerry Bridge's book. I expected it to be. To me, Sheila Walsh's books can be compared to Max Lucado's books--except that they are specifically for women. Walsh looks at trust from a much simpler perspective and doesn't define what trusting God means. She assumes that--like most authors I've read--that trusting God is defined by what it looks like.

I wanted to read this book because the publicity said that she talks about her struggles with depression and her life after being hospitalized for clinical depression. She does talk about this part of her life at the beginning of the book. Then she transitions to talking about a different Bible character for most of her chapters. Gideon, Joseph, and Tabitha are among the people she talks about. Amidst the stories, she has some wise things she shares. Here's one quote that a teacher said to her during Bible college that I especially liked:

"God is more interested in what He is doing in you than through you." p.137

Another quote I liked:

"Every person is given a different gift and calling, but there is a calling that we corporately share as believers: to love without limit because that is how we are loved by God." p. 110

But, then I come to the issue that I am struggling to sort out about this book. She puts herself and asks the reader to put herself in the shoes of the Bible characters often. She expounds on the stories in the Bible. I am so used to seeing this in books and Bible studies. I had stayed away from books that did this for awhile because they made me feel cynical and distrustful of the book.
I suppose it all comes down to this--I Don't Want To Know How They Felt! (I'm not mad at all in saying this, just passionate) I assume way too much in my life. I read into things and I battle those assumptions that are most often false! Even at this moment, I am battling inside trying not to assume things because someone hasn't emailed me back. And it is so hard for me. My mind wants to go down that path, but I know it's not wise. The point of the Scriptures is to point towards God and not towards Man--to "rightly see the God of Scripture" as Starr Meade says in Mighty Acts of God (p. 14)

Maybe for some people it isn't an issue to read into the Bible stories. They are able to let such inferences go and realize that what is inferred isn't in the scripture while not details confused. I think though that it isn't wise for me and it bothers me because it feels like we as the body of Christ too easily get caught up in the people rather than focusing on God. We like reading narratives like novels because they are enjoyable and easy to read. My daughters love to read the story of Esther over and over--though I think it's because they love Esther. I do too. I read that book in the Bible many times when I was a little girl. It doesn't make it wrong. And maybe that's the answer.

Maybe it's okay to read narratives or listen to sermons or read books that ask you to infer details into the Bible's stories once in a while to make a particular point. But, then we should go back to the scriptures and remember what is in God's Word and what isn't so that we don't get confused.

I am certain that Sheila Walsh prayed deeply as she wrote her book and this is the book she wrote from her heart. Her thoughts and what she shares are good and wise. I can feel that as I've read this book. I'm still not comfortable with how much she infers about the Bible stories, but there are strengths and really good things about this book. It would be very easy to read for someone who has recently come to know the Lord. There is also both a discussion guide and a Bible Study in the back of the book. That is a blessing because it would save a Bible study group money--they wouldn't have to buy a separate book to do a Bible Study of this group. I led a Bible Study which talked through Let Go and I came up with my own questions. It would be a lot easier to use this book and the questions at the back. I did read through them, though I didn't answer them and I thought they were good.

Is Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God by Sheila Walsh worth reading? Yes, if it's the kind of book you like. If you enjoy Max Lucado or other books by Sheila Walsh, I would recommend it. I would also recommend going back to the Bible and reading the story in the Word of each character that she writes about in her book so that you will know what is and what isn't in the scripture. Sheila Walsh is probably a feeler (from the Myer's Briggs test) like most women and she does a good job of writing to women with love and a deep desire for them to be encouraged in their walk with the Lord.

Please note that I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book for review.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wonderful Children's Bible Storybook

I grew up Quaker--yes, Quaker! As a liberal Quaker, actually. I never heard about reformed theology, covenant theology, predestination and the likes. The first I heard of all of this was when we lived in Georgia and began attending a PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) church. We felt the Lord challenging us to know what we believed and why. My husband and I sought the Lord in His Word and sorted through what we thought and felt convicted of. We joined that church and have held to reformed theology since.

I've had many people ask me what that means. I usually answer that it means that I am saved by God's grace alone--not by anything that I did of myself. It was God's working in my heart that brought me to salvation--not my own efforts (free will).

"For by GRACE you have been saved through FAITH; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as result of WORKS, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for GOOD WORKS, which God PREPARED BEFOREHAND so that we would WALK IN THEM." (Ephesians 2:8-10}

Even as I struggled to articulate and understand predestination, I have not even begun to try and explain it to my kids--honestly, because I've felt they are too young to understand. But, they are growing older and we have begun transitioning to older Bible storybooks and devotionals. Sometimes I get concerned, but God has been so gracious to provide me the right books at the right times.

And this is the case today!!

I have mentioned to several friends that a new Bible Storybook (Mighty Acts of God by Starr Meade) was being published from a reformed theology perspective. I have been so (!) curious about what this would look like--how would it be different? I've read so many Bible Storybooks (probably only 15, I suppose) that they seem to blend together a little for me.

BUT, this book is different. It is something that I was looking for and didn't even know it. This Bible storybook isn't one that you will be able to hand your children and let them read on your own. It is perfect for family devotions and discussions. The passages are a little longer and there aren't a lot of pictures. At first, I wasn't sure what I would think of that. I was going to comment that I wished there were more pictures. But, I don't. Autumn really wanted to read it this afternoon so I let her. What I found when I came back in the room was that she was flipping through all of the pictures rather than reading the words. She wanted to know the stories about the people. I don't think she fully realizes that the Bible is a story about God, not about people and their achievements. The age range on the back is 4-10. The author wrote it for Elementary Age students. I would recommend it for 6-10 year olds. My 4 year old is a little too young. She did still follow the story, but I think she'll understand a lot more in a year or 2.

The writing is good and very easy to understand. At first, I thought it was a little dry, but then I started reading it out loud--it is perfect for reading out loud to children. It isn't dry at all. If you read with a little inflection, it brings the passages to life and makes them personal to your children.

So, what does it mean that this book is written from a reformed perspective? Well, Starr Meade explains that God made a covenant with His people and what the word "covenant" means when she tells the story of Abraham and Sarah. But, she simplifies this by explaining it on a level that children understand. [Side note: even as I was writing this review, I began to review what "covenant theology" is. And I get confused! I have too many things in my brain! But, I agree wholeheartedly with what Starr Meade writes about the covenants that God has made to His people.] Often she identifies the promises that God has made--like the promise He made to Noah. She also explains predestination in the context of salvation. I thought she did a wonderful job! Predestination is a difficult thing to both understand and explain, but Starr Meade explained things just as I have come to understand them. She didn't say more than we know from scripture. The author doesn't read into the Bible and she's careful about what she infers throughout the book.

Do I recommend this story Bible? YES! It is one of the rare books that I will give 5 stars to without any hesitation. If you do believe in reformed theology, this would be a wonderful Bible storybook for devotions with your family!

Please note that I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by Crossway for review--but I would have purchased it on my own if I had known about it!

PS I looked around for where you can preview it. On Crossway's website, you can read the first two chapters. If you scroll down and look under More Information. This will give you a good idea of how it's written and its format. =)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

New Book

I'm excited. Francine Rivers is my favorite fiction author and a new book by her is being released in 2 weeks. It's called Her Mother's Hope. I haven't enjoyed her Bible stories as much and I didn't read any of the ones she wrote about men in the Bible. But, I have enjoyed her fictional books so much.

Honestly, I've been a bit burnt out on reading lately so I haven't had the heart to pick up any books. I am still excited to read a few books, but I think I chose too many non-fiction books at one time! Lesson learned =)


It's been a doozy of a week. But, what I want to write about today feels a little off the beaten path. I've had three children and one who is with the Lord (3 full-term pregnancies and 1 miscarriage). After the birth of each of my children, my post partum depression was a little more. The first two times I didn't recognize it as that, but now I would say that I did struggle. The third time I struggled even more. I never took medication, but I wish I had the third time around. After I weaned Eli, I noticed a huge improvement in my moods.

But, now, one full week a month (9 days really), I have noticed that I become very weepy. Most times it's only a day or even a few days that I feel really weepy. But, this past week, I was weepy the whole week. I think it was because I was under so much stress. The week started off stressful and only progressed upward from there with my basement.

Monday morning when my time of the month was over, I noticed a huge (!) improvement and the tears subsided. I am thankful for this. But, it made me aware that I need to pursue how to even out my moods.

Sugar/Caffeine abstinence has been one suggestion from my OB as well as taking a B complex vitamin. Another suggestion was to take a low dose birth control pill. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'd rather not. My PC doctor suggested prozac two weeks of the month. I don't want to do that. There's other side effects of pursuing that route. So, I'm investigating and trying to find some solutions to this.

This is one of those situations where I never had PMS before I had children and I really didn't believe it was real. God, like the good Father that He is, has allowed me to see now how real it is. I am now in the shoes that I didn't understand before.

If anyone has any suggestions or things that they have found that have helped them as they've walked through this, I'd love it if you'd share your thoughts with me as a comment.