Christian, nonfiction, books for women, book clubs

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

Christian, Culture, nonfiction, Uncategorized

The Benedict Option

benedict option

The Benedict Option, by Rod Dreher, originally published in 2017.

I decided to read this book after about six months of regularly reading Mr. Dreher’s commentary over at his blog on The American Conservative. As such, I approached this entire discussion and exploration of his ideas from a novice perspective. I was unaware that he had been promoting his idea for quite a while or that its interpretations had undergone various iterations over the past few years.

I am actually quite partial to the virtues of seeing a thing through new eyes. It was after all, my husband’s novice, unchurched, untainted conversion to the Christian faith which invigorated my own and showed -embarassingly so- how little I knew the Bible that I thought I knew so much about.

In the time since I have begun reading Mr. Dreher, I have come to learn that people whose opinions I hold in some regard find the sum total Mr. Dreher’s  commentary and prescription problematic. However, I am going to review this book the way I originally approached it; as a novice to Mr. Dreher’s ideas and solely on the merits of what he offered within its pages.

I begin this review with the same caveat I offered to my Protestant friend before she began it. Namely that Dreher is “big O” Orthodox, and it is important for Protestants to  appreciate this distinciton as they begin his book. There are points and assertions Dreher makes which spring from this base and which no doubt would turn off many a Potestant who is unprepared for some of his points.

Overall, however, I think Dreher’s book and his idea is worth a look. I suspect many Christians are probably already living loose versions of his idea in their own lives if they aren’t trapped in an ideologically driven quarantine from other believers.

In sum, Dreher -in his book at least- porposes that Christians build intentional and separate communities from the larger culutre as the national and cultural trajectory grows increasingly hostile to Christian values and the faith. It is probably best for the reader to do his or her own homework. However, even with a few quibbles here and there, I agree with the general tone and proposal Dreher puts forth. After all the BIble does implore us to come out and be separate, calling us a peculiar people.

A quote:

Relearning the lost art of community is something Christians should do in obedience to the Apostle Paul, who counseled the faithful to do their parts to grow the Body of Christ “for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15). But there are also practical reasons for doing so. Building communities of believers will be necessary as the number of Christians becomes thinner on the ground.

In the book I did not gather that Dreher was advocating total isolation from the larger culture, which was a good thing. On technological advances:

Benedict Option families and communities who remain apathetic toward technology inadvertently undermine nearly everything they are trying to achieve. Technology itself is a kind of liturgy that teaches us to frame our experiences in the world in certain ways and that, if we aren’t careful, profoundly distorts our relationship to God, to other people, and to the material world – and even our self-understanding.

When we abstain from practices that disorder our loves, and in that time of fasting redouble our contemplation of God and the good things of Creation, we re-center our minds on the inner stability we need to create a coherent, meaningful self. The Internet is a scattering phenomenon, one that encourages surrender to passionate impulses. If we fail to push back against the Internet as hard as it pushes against us, we cannot help but lose our footing. And if we lose our footing, we ultimately lose the straight path through life.

I liked the book. I think Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together is infinitely better (hello? It’s Bonhoeffer!),  but because he deals at length with the changes in the sexual culture and the inducement of technology into every phase of life, I think this book is well worth the time it takes to give it a read.

Grade: B

RELATED: Review of Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

books for women, Christian, marriage and relationships, Uncategorized

Created to Be His Helpmeet, pt. 2

created to be

In the first part of this review I indicated that I would review this in two parts because it was structured as 2 books. I wish it were 2 books, or better, that Mrs. Pearl would have ended at the close of part one. While I gave part one a ‘B-‘, part two deserves a solid ‘D’.

As I finished part one, I was satisfied because American women, including the Christians, have mostly discarded Biblical marriage by reinterpreting  commands that are clearly and repeatedly indicated in Scripture. That increasingly bothers me and was the reason I was willing to overlook some of the problems in part one. It tilted much more in favor of Biblical marriage than most Christian women would admit.

One thing I hate even more than the state of American womanhood however, is the misandry that is now common in our culture, the media, and many churches. Underneath all of Mrs. Pearl’s wisdom concerning loving our husbands was a strong undercurrent of misandry; painting of men as one-dimensional beings, only interested in sex or unable to handle being challenged.

My antennae first went up during part one when she described the angel Lucifer as a “male being” in an attempt to explain some facets of masculine behavior. I’m not sure why in retrospect, but I let that gross error go, giving her the benefit of the doubt. I can see now that it was a taste of things to come. Is she comparing men to devils? Since we know unequivocally that God our Father, and Jesus, His Son, our Messiah, are masculine, where then does that leave us?

I can think of literally one thing in part two I agreed with. On page 217 was the story of a Vicky, whose husband didn’t lift a finger to fix anything around the house. While his own home fell apart, he was quick to rise and ride to the rescue of elderly women in the neighborhood who needed things around their homes fixed.  Mrs. Pearl is right that a woman are perfectly capable of taking care of yard work, painting a room, or fixing a leaky faucet.

I hate the trend becoming prevalent Christians as we attempt to distance ourselves from an androgynous culture: that jobs around the house  requiring any sweat or strength are inherently “men’s work” or that the sphere of the wife is limited to the work that requires little sweat equity: cooking, sewing, cleaning, and caring for the children. A good wife does what needs to be done if she can do it. There is no logical reason why the grass in our yard should remain overgrown until my husband is available on the weekends to cut it when I am at home everyday, presumably to manage the home. Unfortunately,  there wasn’t anything more to embrace in part 2.

Mrs. Pearl’s asserted repeatedly that mothers could, by virtue of perfectly watchful eyes, keep all harm from befalling their children. She offered a scenario in which a young child might be molested if his or her mother turned her back for even a couple of minutes. And yes, she said a couple of minutes. I understand the point she was attempting to make, but I thought that her line of reasoning went too far, and furthermore, was wrought with inconsistency. No one can keep their eyes on their children every minute of every day. Are mothers allowed to sleep?

That inconsistency showed again when she advised, rightly, that women whose husbands insist that they get a job do so. Does the wife in this position still bear guilt if harm befalls her child while in submission to her husband?

Another blatant inconsistency was the beginning of the chapter titled, “‘To Obey or Not To Obey?”  The chapter began with the story of a woman who went to “extreme” measures to get the attention of her husband, who was addicted to pornography. Given the rest of the exceptions to unquestioned obedience outlined throughout the rest of the section, the reader is left to assume that the Pearls agree with the actions of this wronged wife. However earlier in the book, there is the story of a woman whose husband frequented strip clubs and visited prostitutes. That wife is hailed as a hero for honoring her husband with love and sex even as he committed acts that were as bad, worse in fact, than the husband who was addicted to pornography.

Of all the objections I had to part two, however, none was so striking as Mrs. Pearl’s exploration of the Titus 2 command for wives “to love their husbands.” It was the only time throughout the book where I felt the need to double-check my understanding of a word by grabbing our great big Strong’s concordance. She limited her very long explanation of the command to love our men strictly to the bedroom, going so far as calling lovemaking a husband’s “most consuming passion”, putting it on the level of food as a desperate biological.

Whenever I hear sex held on par with food, it makes me shudder. This is the reasoning used by those forces who would encourage sexual activity by children at younger and younger ages. I certainly appreciate the importance of the physical relationship between a husband and wife in a marriage, and I’m no prude who believes in rationing intimacy based on my moods or whims.

Still, the word Paul used to describe what it means to love our husbands meant ‘to show affection, to be fond of, to admire’. It is the Greek word philos, often used to describe loving friendships. Mrs. Pearl implied that the only thing that matters is the sex. This is diminishing of men, implying that they don’t care whether or not their wives like them, so long as they get sex.

I was disappointed with part two of this book because part one held such promise. I cannot recommend this book in good conscience.

Part 2 Grade: D