Christian, quotable literary quotes

Quotable Literary Quote: Joseph Alleine

Joseph Alleine was a Puritan pastor who lived from 1634 to 1668.

One of his most noted works is the book, A Sure Guide to Heaven. In it he had this to say about our temptation to trust in our own goodness:

When men trust in their own righteousness they do indeed reject Christ’s. Beloved, you had need be watchful on every hand, for not only your sins—but your duties may undo you. ~ ~ A Sure Guide to Heaven by Joseph Alleine

Just something I have been reminded of in recent days. His book, though weighty, challenging, and full of hard things, is worth a re-read.

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autobiographies, books for women, Christian, writing

One Beautiful Dream

One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both by [Fulwiler, Jennifer]

One Beautiful Dream: The rollicking tale of family chaos, personal passions, and saying yes to them both, by Jennifer Fulwiler. Published May 2018. 240 pages.

As I got into this book then did a bit of digging, I realized that its author, Jennifer Fulwiler, is something of a Catholic Internet celebrity and as such, hardly as anonymous to the Catholic faithful as she was to me. I only heard of her because a paleo food blogger I happen to follow on Instagram heartily endorsed the book.

One Beautiful Dream is best characterized as a memoir chronicling Fulwiler’s journey as a mother of six very closely spaced children alongside the pursuit of her dream to make it as a writer. A dream which I hasten to interject, was heartily encouraged by her husband, who repeatedly implored her not to give it up. I instantly liked this woman. She has a wicked sense of humor and a way of expressing it that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

I’ve said on numerous occasions that I am a slow reader. Nevertheless, I finished this book in two days. This was partly because the conversational tone makes it easy to read, and partly because rather than do my usual routine of bouncing between books when I have free time, I kept picking this one up, continuing to read it until the end. I found myself invested in seeing how Jennifer’s story would end even as I was turning the pages of its culmination.

There’s another, deeper reason that this book resonated with me, and it was that I appreciated this woman’s gut wrenching wrestling match between pursuing her passion and trying to be a good wife and mother, a juggling act she admittedly bungled more often than not. She often wavered, wondering whether it was fair to her kids or right for a mother to devote large amounts of time and energy to such endeavors.

That was, until she realized with the help of a wise priest’s counsel, that her insistence on compartmentalizing the segments of her life rather than cultivating an integrated life of wholeness was the root of her problem. Her life was chaotic (well, even more chaotic than a life with six kids under 10 is prone to be) because she failed to connect everything together. More than that, she needed to trust God that His will would be done in her life on His timetable.

After nearly a decade blogging in and alongside the Christian/biblical womanhood Internet community before finally realizing the folly of formulaic living, this book was for me, a breath of fresh air. Not because I agree with everything Jennifer Fulwiler believes, does and says –I am a raging Protestant after all- but because she hits at the heart of the matter: She did what she did with the full encouragement and enthusiastic coaching of her husband, the cheer-leading of her children and support of her extended family which meant she did exactly what she was supposed to do, regardless of whether it offends the sensibilities of the “this is the way to be the perfect Christian wife” crowd.

Did I mention that she has a wonderful sense of humor? Well she does, and one of my favorite laugh out loud passages is on page 125, because it is one of the best representations of her story telling prowess. It’s the story of what happened when she was given the opportunity to get a break and attend a ladies’ retreat offered by her church. She got more than she bargained for:

In my rush to get away, I had not looked into the details of this weekend before I signed up. And that, it now occurred to me, was a grave error.

In my defense, I had no idea that Catholics even did retreats like this. I had many Evangelical friends (again, “friends” meaning “people I talked to on my computer from the shadowy recesses of my home”) who described events at their churches as riotously fun gatherings where people sung and waved their hands and used the word fellowship as a verb. I had counted on my Catholic brethren to put together an emotionless, entirely cerebral retreat, and now it seems that they had failed me completely. p.125

When all is said and done, this is a good book because the author shared her story in a funny, relatable, truthful way. She didn’t pretend to be perfect or have it all figured out, but she learned and grew in grace along the way. Which is the best any of us can really hope for this side of Heaven.

4 out of 5 stars.

No content advisory necessary.

book clubs, books for women, Christian, nonfiction

Unglued

Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, by Lisa TerKeurst. Originally published in 2012. Paperback, 208 pages.

I actually read this book for the first time three years ago as a part of a book study with several other homeschool mothers. Included in the discussions was Lysa TerKeurst’s teaching videos to accompany blocks of chapters. The book was infinitely more insightful than the videos, and several of the women reading it agreed that the videos were pretty useless. Skip those if you run across them.

I’m reviewing the book because I stumbled upon it on the bookshelf while deciding which books to purge and make space for new books. Memories of my initial reaction to the book were positive. However, since I am notoriously on the lookout for the areas in my life which merit tweaking, leading to inevitable evolutions of thoughts on one thing or  another, I skimmed it again to see if I’d view it the same way after a second pass through.

Short answer: I still think it’s a pretty good book. It’s the only book by Lysa TerKeurst that I have ever read, and despite the recent controversies surrounding her life and ministry, I have to say that on the main, it’s a helpful book for women who need a little help redirecting their thoughts and reactions in a positive direction.

There was a lot of things in the book that I’d worked out on my own through prayer, in relationshipss and a bit of honest introspection, as should be the case with any earnest, God-fearing women, especially those raising families. However, since we have all at some point experienced the incredulity and truama of encounters with women that mirror high school escapades, Lysa TerKeurst’s book is not beyond being useful. There are some good reminders in it, even for me.

For example, there was this much needed bit of counsel in our culture where women have been taught that our feelings are no less than the be all, end all of everything that matters in our lives:

“Feelings are indicators, not dictators. They can indicate where your heart is in the moment, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to dictate your behavior and boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings and perfectly capable of that little gift . . . called self-control.”

Or this bit, which I’m not sure I’m interpreting quite the way she meant since I didn’t re-read the book in its entirety:

“Sip the shame so you won’t have to guzzle the regret.”

Using “perfect” as my subjective understanding of all things relational and theological, it’s not a perfect book. The error would be in expecting any person to perfectly mirror my thoughts and beliefs on an issue. In my opinion, what this book does right outweighs what it does wrong, so I deem overall as a positive book.

With chapters on everything from being cognizant of our reactions and what they mean to the awful tendency to project our thoughts, feelings and insecurities onto others without any real supporting evidence, Lysa TerKeurst did a decent job with this one.

 

3.5 out of 5 stars.

I’ve changing the rating system going forward because I think using 5 stars as the highest benchmark with 1 star as the lowest is a better gauge than letter grades.

 

 

 

 

 

Christian, Els' Rabbit Trails, films

Like Arrows: Movie by Family Life, with thoughts on Christian filmmaking.

This is more of a public service announcement than a movie review. Like Arrows: The Art of Parenting is a production of Family Life Ministries, and is available as a limited run film in select cities through tomorrow night. If anyone is interested in supporting the effort, you can check online to see if it is playing near you.

We saw the film last night with several friends. I don’t want to offer a full review of the film, and here’s why. I have recently developed an understanding that there is a distinct difference to be found between religious themed  films produced by film makers and movies produced by vocational preachers which are more accurately described as sermons presented in cinematic format.

For example, The Passion of the Christ was produced by an accomplished filmmaker with a passion for and commitment to the historical integrity of his film’s subject matter. The result was a film that both religious and nonreligious people appreciated. It was great film making, no matter what your particular belief system, because it was made by a great filmmaker. As such, it was also an effective witnessing tool.

Contrast The Passion of the Christ with a movie such as Courageous, which was produced by a pastors turned film makers, the Kendrick brothers. The result of their efforts was a film which catered to the beliefs and convictions of your average Sunday morning churchgoer. Effectively,  it was a sermon transformed into a narrative on film; encouragement for Christian fathers “fighting the good fight”. That isn’t to say I agree with every perspective offered, but I respect their overall intent.

Once this distinction between the two types of films was fully absorbed, it changed the way I approached such movies. Last night’s excursion was for us, more than a trip to a Christian movie. It was friends, fellowship, a night out, and a chance to receive some parenting encouragement as the focus of this movie is Christian parenting. The title of the movie is drawn from the Scripture verse found in Psalm 127: Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.

So to reiterate, this is more of a public service for my Christian readers interested in knowing about Christian film releases. The trailer is below, and any burning questions about my specific thoughts on the film I’ll answer in the comments.

 

 

 

Christian, family, nonfiction

The Birth Order Book

birthorder book

The Birth Order Book, Kindle edition, by Dr. Kevin Leman. Original print version published in 1984 with 300 pages.

This book has been on my “to read” list for several years, but I never quite got around to reading it until very recently. One of the reasons I hadn’t been in a rush to read it is because every synopsis I’d ever read had me thoroughly convinced that it was an oversimplification based on squirrely evidence which didn’t take into account all the variables. When I began reading it, I was almost convinced that my initial take was correct.

At the very beginning, for instance, was a quiz indicating various fictional people and their tendencies, and the reader is offered the chance to guess their birth order. The answers were at the end of the book. Right away, doubts about the reliability of Dr. Leman’s exposition arosse.

At 46, and as the youngest of a group who range in age from 62 downward, I’ve always been the opposite of typical youngest child perceptions. Our firstborn didn’t fit into the quiz although she and our last born possess more of the typical birth order characteristics than either my husband or I do. My husband’s birth order -solidly middle with no large age gaps between the five siblings- is the least well matched. He has very strong characteristics typically associated with first borns.

As I continued reading however, Dr. Leman’s valiant effort towards accounting for variables witin the typical paradigms slowly began to soften my initial skepticism about his book. In fact, just as I was about to give up on the book, the first example in the second chapter on birth order variables sucked me in. I was -figuratively, of course- the guy who walked up to Dr. Leman and said, roughly paraphrased:

“I’m the baby of my family. I’m the most responsible. I’m the only one who reads [in Elspeth’s specific case that means anything besides the Bible]. How do you explain that?”

Well, since I wanted to know the good doctor’s explanation, I kept reading, and I am very glad that I did. Dr. Leman offered enough explanation for atypical situations such as my own family’s. The death of a parent of a young family and a subsequent blending of family certainly does, to quote Dr. Leman, cause “certain birth orders to get stepped on.”

Once I let go of my initial incredulity and gave Dr. Leman an open minded hearing, I found that many of his conclusions were solid and had merit. As much as is possible to categorize such things, since there are always variables not easily accounted for, he does an admirable job.

This book presents thoughtful, engaging propositions and examples of how various family dynamics can manifest as it relates to birth order. It’s a good book, and an enjoyable read.

Grade: B

 

 

autobiographies, Christian, homeschool, Uncategorized

The Hiding Place

hiding place cover

The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom. Originally published in 1971. 241 pages.

This review, like the one before it, is of a book one of our kids was assigned as a part of a literature and writing course. I was already very familiar with Corrie ten Boom’s -and her family’s- story. So familiar in fact, that it had escaped me all these years that I had never actually read her story. Her memoir, recounting the story has inspired countless Christians since she originally penned it with the help of authors John and Elizabeth Sherrill, who learned of her while writing about another Dutch Christian, Andrew van der Bijl.

Here is the Cliff’s notes version, for those who may not have heard the story. During WWII Corrie ten Boom, along with her entire family and at great personal risk and cost, opened their homes up as a hiding place for the Jews who were being rounded up after the German invasion of Holland in 1940. As a result of their efforts, they themselves were rounded up, imprisoned, suffered many hardships and suffering. Corrie’s father, and later her sister, both died in German prisons before Europe was liberated and the war ended.

The real story here, for those who’ve read the book (or seen the movie), is the depth of the Christian faith and resolute foundation of God’s word on which the ten Boom family was built long before the war began. It was this faith that permeated the entire story, moved the ten Boom family to compassion rather than hatred of their invaders, and catapulted Corrie and her story into the history books.

Our daughter has decided that Corrie ten Boom is an inspiration and someone whose faith she would do well to emulate. I wholeheartedly agree with her sentiments. However despite the fame and accolades that were poured onto Corrie as a result of her survival and story being retold, there is plenty of faith, love and hope to be found not only in Corrie’s story, but in that of her brother, father, extended family, and most of all her sister Betsie with whom Corrie served most of years of hard labor in the German prison.

It would be nearly impossible for me to do this memoir the justice it deserves in the contest of a 50 word book review, and to add anything more would be to risk politicizing or trivializing a moving and compelling book; one from which the love of Christ, far more important than the details of the occupation, drips from every page. I highly recommend this book, and although I wish I had read it sooner, I’m happy to have read it late than never at all.

 

 

 

Grade: A

 

Christian, Christian fiction, nonfiction, tales from the local library

The Bible Tells Me So

bible tells me so book

The Bible Tells Me So: Why defending Scripture has made us unable to read it, by Peter Enns. Originally published in 2014. 288 pasges.

Peter Enns is wrong about a great, great many things (is that a spoiler?). However, I do believe he gets two things right. The first is this:

“The Bible isn’t a cookbook—deviate from the recipe and the soufflé falls flat. It’s not an owner’s manual—with detailed and complicated step-by-step instructions for using your brand-new all-in-one photocopier/FAX machine/scanner/microwave/DVR/home security system. It’s not a legal contract—make sure you read the fine print and follow every word or get ready to be cast into the dungeon. It’s not a manual of assembly—leave out a few bolts and the entire jungle gym collapses on your three-year-old.”

When the Bible is relegated to a book of rules on miutiaea, a how to manual which requires those believers who do not live in the land of Bible bookstores and hundreds of English language printed versions of the Bible, to somehow know the nuances to be found in the Greek or Hebrew translations of this word or that, that’s enough to make anyone decide not to read it. After all, if it takes a degree in theology, Hebrew and Greek to grasp it, how can we ever get a proper understanding?

The other thing he gets right is this:

The Bible is not, never has been, and never will be the center of the Christian faith.  Even though the Bible (at least in some form) has been ever present since the beginning of Christianity, it’s not the central focus of the Christian faith. That position belongs to God, specifically, what God has done in and through Jesus.

To which I add a hearty ‘Amen!” In fact, if what is sandwiched between those two quotes -the former near the beginning of his book, the latter near the end of it- wasn’t so filled with heresy and complete rejection of almost every tradional and accepted tenet of Scriptural teaaching, it would be easy to think that Mr. Enns holds a sound and reasoned view of the Bible.

As it is however, he spends nearly 270 pages of ink to tell his readers that the Bible is a book of myths about God written by a tribal people who, like all the peoples of their day, needed to view God as a violent, warrior-king. In essence, Enns believes the Bible is peripherally inspred by God who tolerated the misinterpretation and truth stretching by His people because there really was no other way for them to record history except through their own twisted lenses.

Additionally, that when you couple the realities of these misguided people with the real, verifiable history revealed through more recent archaeological and paleontological research, you should thank your lucky starts that these people got it wrong. That the God whom we worship was not a genocidal, psychologically ambiguous, blood thirsty war-like God.

That, despite the alarming nature of it coming from a Christian pastor, wasn’t for me the most disturbing feature of The Bible Tells Me So. After all, I’d read and heard all of that in one version or another before. Nothing to see there (for the believer grounded in his or her faith).

The most disturbing part to me was the so-called glaring inconsistencies Enns seemed to find between the four gospels. That was something I had never been exposed to, even from the most liberal of emergent church writers. I thought it was understood among the faithful, even the misguided faithful, that the gospels, like any other testimony of several witnesses, was simply written from different perspectives, with different aims, and potentially different audiences in mind. Not so, says Enns! The gospels are unreliable and historically disprovable.

I could go on and on, but the main takeaway I got from this one was dismay that I got suckered in by the tag line- “How defending the Bible has made it unale for us to read it”- without reading the back to see who had endorsed the “brilliance” of this book. The second thing was that I found myself unable to look away, akin to the way people often describe train wrecks. I suppose I could give myself a few kudos for sticking it out to the bitter end.

My conclusion on this one is to skip it. It is actually just one more piece of evidence supporting Jesus’ admonition about wheat and tares. The ambiguity of the term “Christian” and the ambiguity of what Christiansare supposed to believe was never more obvious to me than when reading this book. Enns is after all, a fairly well regarded theologian, and I use THAT term loosely as well.

Because he is an engaging, humorous storyteller and talented at turning a phrase, I’ll give him a point for that.

Grade: D