Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bargains from CBD's Fall Sale

Tim Challies let his readers know about CBD's big sale going on through October 24.  If you like to do your Christmas shopping early (and away from the malls), this is a great opportunity. I'm not getting a penny for the items I'm recommending. I just like to share a good bargain when I see one.

There are lots of Xmas CDs, family friendly DVDs (including Veggie Tales), toys (some Bible-themed, but not all) and books.

Our favorite Christmas movie, The Nativity Story, is only $5.99

An outstanding biography/poetry book, Footprints of a Pilgrim, is is on sale for $2.99. This hardcover by Ruth Bell Graham would make a lovely gift.

C.S. Lewis' space trilogy is selling for $8.99. (one volume)

I bought two books for my husband: The Sky is Not Falling by Charles Colsen ($1.99) and a Cal Thomas title: What Works (99 cents!)

Follow the link and click on "closeouts" for the best deals.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Gold by Moonlight by Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael (1867-1951), missionary to India, lived with severe pain most of her life. Gold by Moonlight was written to encourage fellow sufferers to persevere in the faith. The title is taken from a quote by Reverend Samuel Rutherford and means that with God's help gold can be found even in the dark. Carmichael shows how illness can bring a clearer understanding of God's love and mercy. She walks a very fine line between gentleness (allowing for the fact that pain often brings irrational thinking) and no-nonsense advice (discouraging all self-pity.)

At times the language in the book is difficult and the prose is dense. Sources (most unnamed) are as varied John Buchan novels, Pilgrim's Progress, Victorian poets, and missionary biographies of a hundred years ago. Because of the antiquated language this book needs to be read slowly. Because of it's unflinching call to Christian maturity, it also needs to be read prayerfully.

A major theme in the book is submission to God's will, but this is no wimpy resignation. God does not ask for the dull, weak, sleepy acquiescence of indolence. He asks for something vivid and strong. He asks us to cooperate with Him, actively willing what He wills, our only aim His glory. (p. 40)

 I have many favorite quotes but I'll try to limit myself to just a few:

God forgive us for the strange coldness of so much of our love. The calculating love of Christians is the shame of the Church and the astonishment of angels. (p. 139)

Before the peace which passeth understanding can be ours, there must be a renunciation of faithless anxiety. (p. 81)

And my very favorite: We live a double life. Forces of distress may assail us (as they continually assailed our Lord), and we are called to labor from the rising of the morning till the stars appear, and yet all the time in the inner life of the spirit we are marvelously quickened, and raised up and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (p. 218)

A very worthwhile book for patient readers, especially those who are feeling side-lined by difficult circumstances.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Humility by Andrew Murray

I first read Humility thirty years ago and I still remember being in awe of its revolutionary and uncomfortable truths. It's author, Andrew Murray (1828-1917), was a well-known writer and pastor from South Africa whose many books emphasize the deeper Christian life.

According to Murray, humility is the attribute that most Christians need but that most don't want. It's the "forgotten" virtue that enables us to be most like Christ. True humility involves dying to self and letting Christ live in you. A common misconception of "death to self" is that it annuls one's personality, but just the opposite is true. Murray says that the "death-life" enables us to be our true (as we were meant to be) selves because as we become less, we actually become more as Christ dwells in us in His fullness. Throughout the book he makes references to the idea that the main attribute of Satan was pride and the main attribute of Christ was humility. 

The life God gives is not all at once, but moment by moment, through the unceasing operation of His mighty power. Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is the first duty of the creature, and the root of every good quality. Likewise, pride, is the root of every sin and evil. It was when the Serpent breathed the poison of his pride - the desire to be as God - in the hearts of Adam and Eve, that they fell from their high position into all the wretchedness in which mankind is now sunk.

Another misconception about humility is that it makes us door mats. But as I think of the people I know who are truly surrendered to Christ, there is nothing "door-matty" about them. They have an inner strength and purpose that enables them be "careless" about what others think of them.

When we see that humility is something infinitely deeper than regret [over past sins], and accept it as our participation in the life of Jesus, we will begin to learn that it is our true goodness. We will understand that being servants of all is the highest fulfillment of our destiny as men created in the image of God.

Don't look at pride only as an unbecoming temper, nor at humility only as a decent virtue. The one is death, and the other is life.

This is a book to be read slowly, to savor and to pray over. It is not your average Christian self-help book because of it's emphasis on Christ presence and power in our lives rather than living  the Christian life by our own efforts. It's interesting that when I read this book a second time, I noticed this theme in Scripture everywhere. I'm glad Murray opened my eyes to it.

The version of Humility that I've linked to above was free at the time of this post. Previous Murray titles that I've reviewed are The Two Covenants, The Blood of Christ, and A Life of Obedience.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Books I Read in September

I have been trying to give Christian fiction a go this year. I've read 21 titles and only one author, Jamie Langston Turner, succeeded in impressing me. Most were okay but a couple were so dreadful that I've decided to give up the effort to find diamonds among the coals. It's just too much work for too little pay off.

Here's what I read this month:

1) Insight by Deborah Raney (better than most CF)
2) Sixteen Brides (mediocre CF, What can I say? The cover snookered me in.)
3) Paper Roses (horrific CF)
4) Arsene Lupin & Herlock Sholmes by Leblanc (nice little mysteries, free for Kindle)
5) Rules of Murder by Deering (clean mystery/romance, a little too heavy on the romance for me, but very well written, free for Kindle at the moment)
6) Lifted Veil by George Eliot (bleak sci-fi short story, free for Kindle)
7) Crispen's Point  by Reardon (ugh! I'm tired of CF heroines who swoop into town and fix everything)
8) The Age of Innocence by Wharton (definitely not Christian, but more satisfying because of good language and having to wrestle with important ideas WITHOUT simple solutions.)

The only title I reviewed on the blog was Age of Innocence. The others I reviewed at Goodreads.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

I knew from earlier experience (Ethan Frome) that Edith Wharton could be heavy and gloomy, so I braced myself for The Age of Innocence.

Sure enough, Wharton paints a vivid tale of the empty lives of upper crust New Yorkers in the 1880s. The story is written so well that it won the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1921 - the first time that prize was accorded to a woman.

Young Newland Archer is a rich, semi-employed lawyer (he doesn't really need to work, but he goes through the motions) who is in love with beautiful socialite May Welland. They are unquestioningly following all the conventions for their crowd when suddenly May's "bohemian" cousin, Ellen Olenska arrives from Europe.

Madame Olenska is fleeing an abusive husband and seeking divorce. Newland is persuaded by the family to talk her out of it since they want to avoid scandal and unpleasantness at all costs. As his relationship develops with Ellen he reconsiders all of his former values.

Wharton convinces the reader that throwing caution and convention to the winds is the surest road to happiness, but will our protagonist be brave enough to do it? As a believer in the sanctity of marriage vows, I was in constant agony throughout the book that he would leave his "dull"  wife and flee with the exciting cousin. Thankfully, Wharton does not give us a fluffy Hollywood ending. And, frankly, I was stunned by the clear-sightedness of the women in the story who had a firmer grip on reality than Archer, who thought his love for Ellen was the only "real thing."

I couldn't help but compare this book to Tuck Everlasting, a story in which a young girl chooses a prosaic life over one of adventure and it is seen as the more noble act. In Age of Innocence, the domestic life is seen as the cowardly choice.

This book is masterfully written, deeply disturbing, and surprising in its insights.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Year With G.K. Chesterton: 365 Days of Wit, Wisdom and Wonder

I've written before that Chesterton is good in small doses. His genius is so far beyond me that I'm happy when I understand a tenth of what he is saying. So, a daily "bite-sized" devotional book is a clever, manageable way to become acquainted with his way of thinking. Each reading includes a verse, two short paragraphs from his writings (strangely, the source of the first one is never given) and a "this-day-in-history" entry showing what G.K. was doing on that particular day (lecturing, releasing a book, traveling, etc.)

A Year with G.K. Chesterton is not a typical devotional in the sense that it gives daily inspiration from Scripture. Because of his strong Catholic beliefs, his essays presuppose the existence of God. But many readings are critiques of writers such as Dickens, Milton and Bunyan.

So why read it? Frankly, because a daily dose of sparkling lucidity braces you to face the ever increasing foolishness of our culture and our world. Somehow the air I was breathing felt clearer after a page of  G.K. His fierce optimism and childlike wonder were a daily uplift. As was his beautiful language.

On the trinity: God himself is a society. It is indeed a fathomless mystery of theology. Suffice it to say here that this triple enigma is as comforting as wine and as open as an English fireside. This thing that bewilders the intellect utterly quiets the heart.

On how fairy tales reflect the gospel: In the fairy tale an incomprehensible happiness rests upon an incomprehensible condition. A box is opened, and all evils fly out. A word is forgotten, and cities perish. A lamp is lit, and love flies away. A flower is plucked, and human lives are forfeited. An apple is eaten, and the hope of God is gone.

A lovely book. If you adjust your expectations to this as a "devotional" (as something mentally rather than spiritually invigorating), it would make a great addition to your daily quiet time.

One of Chesterton's critic's described him well: His wordy rockets soar desperately into the dark, pause, break into a cascade of stars, and, there, to our astonished gaze, lie momentarily revealed the peaceful landscape of simple truth.

Friday, September 16, 2016

An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture by Andrew M. Davis

Who knew that this 30 page booklet would cause a quiet revolution in my life? For years I've been wanting to memorize poems and larger chunks of scripture, but the busyness of life kept me from taking steps to actually do so. Some books I read on memorization (featuring mnemonics where each word is an outlandish mind picture) didn't appeal to me because that system robbed the literary pieces of their beauty.

Enter Andrew M. Davis. In his book An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture, he gives tips for perseverance rather than mind tricks. With his system you choose a passage and decide how many days it will take to memorize it. (I chose Psalm 103 and scheduled in five minutes a day for 30 days.) You begin the first day reciting the first verse 20 times. The second day you recite it ten times and then add the next verse. So simple!

I have to admit I hit a wall with by verse 16 (of 22) so I spent an extra week on those initial verses before going on to the final ones. I'm still a bit shaky with the last six verses but I'm in phase two of the passage, which is to say the whole thing out loud for the next 20 days. I'm confident I will have it well in hand by the end of the month.

Like a good meal, a good workout, or a good book, Bible memorization leaves you feeling fortified, energized and satisfied. I knew it would be work, but I didn't realize how rewarding it would be. 

By the way, I've tried memorization before by placing a poem on my Kindle cover or in my purse to look at in off moments, but making the piece to be memorized a part of my daily devotions has made all the difference in going from haphazardness to consistency.

Worth every penny of the 99 cents I paid for it.

For my own personal records I'm listing my projects:
Aug & Sept 2016 - Psalm 103
Oct 2016 - God's Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins