Where Have I Been?

Yes, it’s been a little quiet here.  There’s been a couple of reasons for that.  First of all, I’m a judge for the INSPY awards this year and I’ve been having a wonderful spring reading 5 books that I’m not allowed to talk about online.  I’m passionate about good Christian fiction, so the cone of silence has been tough for me.  The INSPY award winners should be announced today, so keep an eye on their webpage!

In the meantime, while I can’t say anything about the books yet, I figure I can tell you that all of the books on the General Fiction shortlist are worth your time:

– A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner

– The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert

– Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke

– Water from my Heart by Charles Martin

– The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay

So, between reading award contenders and having early pregnancy kick my behind in terms of energy, I’ve been a bit quiet lately. Not for long, though!

I’ve read a few other good books that I’ll be talking about on here soon, so stay tuned and let’s all keep reading.  If you’ve made any good book finds this spring, let me know in the comments. My reading pile could always use feeding.🙂

 

 

Making Theology More Accessible: Review of Visual Theology

visualtheologyBook InformationVisual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God

Authors – Tim Challies, Josh Byers

Publication Information – Zondervan (April 2016, $17.99 print)

Reading Challenge Book? Yes – This is a book published in 2016.

I have been looking forward to this book for a long time. I’m a visual learner, and even though I have had plenty of exposure to sound teaching and reformed theology, I often feel like I have trouble organizing what I know. And like many Christians, I really want to deepen my understanding and grow closer to God.

In many ways, I found this book a helpful tool for doing that. I think that new Christians and those looking for an intro to theology would be the readers who would get the most out of this book, but it’s not a bad refresher on the basics for others as well.

The opening chapters on the gospel, Christian identity and relationships talk about how we as believers are called to grow closer to Christ. The book then shifts to discussion of understanding the work of Christ, becoming more Christ-like, and finally, practical chapters on what living for Christ looks like in areas such as vocation or stewardship.

Everything is explained in fairly basic terms, and while the language can be a tad dry at times, it’s quite clear and for that reason, I found the book helpful and informative. It’s the sort of book where I’d read a chapter and stop to digest it for a while rather than just plowing straight through.

Some of the graphics in the book are quite excellent in terms of aiding readers to reach a deeper understanding of their faith. For instance, there is one which shows all the many things that having an identity in Christ means in the lives of believers. And then there’s the flowchart that walks readers through the process of dying to a particular sin. That was phenomenal for me. Not only do we walk through a series of questions about our sin and how we want to end it, but the authors point out common pitfalls we face during that continuing period of sanctification as well as biblical means by which to combat them. It’s good stuff.

The main weakness of the book for me was its unevenness. For example, we have that wonderful graphic on dying to sin and that graphic comes as part of a generally strong chapter that discusses putting off our old sinful identities. However, that strong section of the book is preceded by a chapter on doctrine, one of the weakest and most unhelpful chapters in the book. I understand that Visual Theology is meant to be only an introduction to studying theology, but telling readers that they should really, really study doctrine but that the authors aren’t going to go into such complicated stuff in this intro book really doesn’t do much for me as a reader.

In addition, while I did enjoy the visual aids that are included with this book, I do wish there had been more of them. Even so, if you are in search of a gentle introduction to theology, this is one to try. I can also see it being useful for homeschooling with adolescent-age children to get them started on a serious study of theology. Rating: 4 stars

Just Passing Through

road Sometimes I feel like it’s a long road I’m on.

Some days the road is smooth and level, and I can see so clearly in all directions. My steps are firm and I know my way. It’s as if I’m being led in just the right way.

Other days the road is bumpy, or it’s dark and I can’t see my way. I’ve never been so lost in my life. Getting lost makes the fear build in the pit of one’s stomach. The dread grows to terror and it’s hard to make one foot keep moving in front of the other. Sometimes you even just have to have faith that the road is still there under your feet. I don’t know what keeps me going, but someone leads my way or maybe even carries me through the worst.

And then there are the uphill days. I can see the light at the top of the steep hill, and that light pulls me forward. It’s a hard climb, but I can see the goal in sight and that will keep me going. Sometimes the difficulty of the terrain becomes all consuming.

It’s so easy to think that it is all just me and the road. Walking this road is all there is.

And then I remember. There really is a purpose, and there really is a Destination. On this earth, we’re just passing through.

The Children’s Bookshelf: A 2 Year Old’s Top 10 “Reads”

Time is flying!! I can’t believe my little man is 2 years old already(and we’re expecting a new baby in October so there’s even more excitement here!)  He’s reached a stage where his love of words and books is really starting to show, and I find it quite exciting. He loves to be read to, and he’s also rediscovering old favorites and pulling them out for rereads.  We’ve been having a lot of bookish fun here at my house.

So, what does my son love to read these days?  Well, it’s a combination of new discoveries and books read to him as an infant that he has rediscovered and pulled from the book basket for constant rereads.  Here are the top ten:

goodnightmoonGoodnight Moon is the first book I ever read aloud to my little guy. I remember that I started reading it to him a day or two after we got home from the hospital. At that age, reading aloud is less for content and more just to show little ones that reading and love and comfort all go together. This book is a great intro to the world of words and it’s one of those enduring small children’s classics that many of us know and love. I’ve seen a number of bedtime books and this is still one of the sweetest and dearest. I routinely give this one as a baby shower gift! Continue reading

Making Our Own – Review of The Made-From-Scratch Life

madefromscratch Book informationThe Made-From-Scratch Life

Author – Melissa K. Norris

Publisher – Harvest House (February 2016, $12.99 digital, $12.99 print

First things first – unlike the author, I am definitely not a homesteader. While many of my relatives live out in the country, I was raised in town. I live in a more rural area now and love it, but still, I’m only on a couple acres. So I came into this book with some homemaking skills learned from family and from kind mentors, but you wouldn’t want me running your farm.

So, does this book speak to people like me? You bet it does. First of all, I really liked Norris’ style. This is not just a dry book of recipes and information; the author has put a lot of herself and her own experiences into her writing and that makes for a book that is not only informative but full of heart.

The book is divided into user-friendly categories, so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. Some of it (such as the information on raising livestock) didn’t apply so much to me, but a beginning farmer or someone newly married into a farm family would likely find it helpful. I already make some of my own cleaners and I cook just about all of our meals from scratch, but Norris includes some helpful facts and plenty of great recipes to increase my repertoire. Continue reading

When Nothing Comes Easy

frustration I had to laugh when I saw this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt. For the past couple of weeks, nothing has really felt easy.

You know those kind of weeks, right? The ones where we feel pulled in way too many directions and just can’t seem to find our center? That’s exactly how I’ve been feeling lately. I work from home part-time and I’ve had some tricky matters to deal with there, I’m up against a deadline on a volunteer committee I serve on, I have a two-year-old who is going through a difficult phase and really needs his mommy.

And oh yes, I’m also pregnant and exhausted. Soooo exhausted. I remember being tired with my first little one, but not this bone crushingly fatigued.

So, how have I been living life? Well, it feels like I’ve been plodding through jello – or maybe a vat of molasses – the entire way. And I’ll admit that part of me feels a little entitled. With so many things making life more difficult, it’s easy to slip into feeling like I deserve to have something go my way.

And yet, as I fall into that thinking, I also read Scripture and see so many examples of God’s faithfulness. Things don’t always come easily for his people. In fact, we’re promised trials in this life. So what do we have? We have God with us. We do not walk alone.

This week, I have been reading in Psalms and I was especially struck as I came across the words, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”(Psalms 119:71-72) This runs so opposite to much of what we’re taught to think by the culture. And yet, God’s word holds true. I don’t often (read that, pretty much never) have the primary impulse to be thankful for trials in my life but in looking back, I can see that God has taught me through these trials. Most importantly, I can also see how God has been there with me, just as He promises us He will be.

So how does this change my thinking? Well, I know life isn’t always easy. But I also know we’re not alone.

A Blast From the Past – Love Comes Softly

lovecomessoftly Book InformationLove Comes Softly

Author – Janette Oke

Publication Information – Bethany House (1979, $13.99 paperback, $8.72 digital)

Several posts back, I mentioned that I had been gifted with several boxes packed to the brim with Christian books read and loved by my grandmother and her sisters.  It’s a treasure trove of Christian reading that’s mostly from the 1980s/90s.

I wasn’t quite sure where to start with the stash of vintage books. And honestly, I’m still not sure how the ratio of long-lost treasures to cringeworthy reads will shake out.

I decided to start with a book that I read and reread as a young teen. It’s been a while since I last revisited Love Comes Softly and I wasn’t sure if it would stand up to my happy adolescent memories.

The good news?  It certainly does.  To someone who reads a lot of current inspirational fiction, this novel might seem a touch old-fashioned. However, I find it old-fashioned in a good, nostalgic way.  Oke has a way of carrying catchphrases and motifs through her story that make not just the story itself but the memory of how the book makes one feel linger in the mind. Continue reading

A Charming Family Story – Review of The Penderwicks

penderwicks Book InformationThe Penderwicks

Author – Jeanne Birdsall

Publication Information – Dell Yearling (2005, $7.99 paperback, $7.99 digital)

Reading Challenge Book? Yes. This is a children’s book.

Growing up, I loved family stories. The various sibling groups in Noel Streatfeild’s Shoe books, the All-of-a-Kind-Family stories, Little House books, you name it.  I think I always wished I had more siblings, and so I enjoyed living vicariously through the adventures of families in fiction.

The Penderwicks is a wonderful addition to these sorts of books. In something of a nod to Little Women, Birdsall writes of four sisters – Rosalind, Jane, Skye and Elizabeth (Batty). We learn in the book that their mother died of cancer soon after four-year-old Batty’s birth and as the story opens, their professor father has taken them to stay for the summer in a cottage on the grounds of a New England estate called Arundel. Continue reading

Favorite Homemaking References

homecomforts A few weeks ago, I posted my review of The Lifegiving Home. As I touched on in the review, this wonderful book does have tips on how to implement the Clarksons’ ideas, but at its core, this book is really about the heart issues and goals of homemaking rather than a practical how-to manual. If you’re looking for encouragements and inspiration, this book is a great place to start.

However, after writing this review, I found myself thinking about the practical homemaking helps I’ve encountered over the years. For cleaning, I use the Flylady method and I’ve found a few other helpful sites out there as well.  However, many of my favorite home guides are books and I find myself returning to them again and again.  Here are some that I’ve liked:

  1. Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping HouseWeighing in at nearly 900 pages, this colossal guide isn’t the sort of book that I’d sit down to read cover to cover, but it’s a wonderful resource to have on hand for answering all of those home-based questions. I’ve consulted it for figuring out how to remove just about every kind of stain known to man, for example. There’s helpful information in here not just on cleaning, but on many facets of home maintenance in general.  Whether you own or rent, this one is a true must-have.

Continue reading

He is Alive!

easterlily I hold a very specific picture of Easter services in my mind. So many memories of being seated with my family, light streaming into our church, and the congregation rising to sing one of the most joyous hymns of the faith:

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

One can feel the excitement and wonder building in the congregation. Hands raise here and there, heads thrown back as if to see what lies above.

Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!

Even before the pastor begins to preach, even before the first passage of Scripture is read to the waiting worshippers, we celebrate one of the great miracles of our faith.

Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

I love Christmas for its promise, but I love Easter for its radiant joy. Christ is indeed alive, and on Resurrection Sunday, it feels as though the very stones will cry out from the vastness of the wonder and celebration. Christ has resurrected from the dead, we who were dead in our sins can live!

Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!

Triumphant indeed. Christ has conquered sin and death. We are alive. We are alive in Him. Now let us go forth and celebrate!
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