Thursday, 28 September 2017

Hope for the Prodigal ... A Partial Review

*Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255*

Hope for the Prodigal: Bringing the Lost, Wandering, and Rebellious Home by Jim Putman with Bill Putman... Sounds like a promising title right? (In addition, as an aside, the wonderful use of the Oxford comma pleases the grammar geek in me.) I wanted to like this book. I really did! I wanted to enjoy it, learn from it, and grow from it. I had high hopes for this book! But I just. could. not. get. into. it!! I think the biggest reason for my struggle with this book was the author's flawed presupposition - believing that a person can lose his/her salvation and then has the opportunity to become resaved. This he speaks of already in the introduction and throughout chapter 1 (at least as far in the chapter as I could get), this theme is the foundation for all his arguments. I was just not able to get past this and see the good that may be apparent in his writing.

There was the odd point that I greatly appreciated. He speaks of how essential it is for parents to model their faith to their children. That, if parents truly believe their faith is important to them, they need to show this importance in their own lives and how they address issues in their children's' lives. Do you skip church to attend that sporting event? Or is church important enough that you are willing to miss the sport and perhaps forego advancement in that sport for the sake of Christ? Do we place the church, our faith, our time with God as the most important in our day to day lives?

So, I suppose this book has the potential to be a good book. I suppose someone might enjoy it very much. However, I, personally, could not enjoy it.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Work ... as those who love him (Five Minute Friday)

These were my thoughts this morning. I thought they fit alright with the Five Minute Friday word for this week: work.

Work ... as "those who love him"

So, this school year, while I homeschool my girls, I’ve decided to work on memorizing the Fighter Verses (collection of verses put together by Desiring God). The very first verse is Deuteronomy 7:9.

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.”

Last night, as I was lying in bed, I was reciting it to myself and feeling rather proud of how well I had already learned it. I was convinced I had the whole verse memorized! This morning, I opened my Fighter Verse binder and looked at it and realized I forgot one key part of the verse. See, I think we, as humans, err on the legalist side of things. “If we just work harder, if we just obey, if we just follow the rules, then God will love us.” Can you guess which part I had forgotten?? Yup: “those who love him”!!

What is obedience without love? It is nothing! It is what the older brother did (in the parable of the Prodigal Son), proving that he was, in fact, the one that was truly lost! But isn’t that our tendency? In our minds, it is easier, probably because it’s more tangible, to measure God’s love for us by how well we work for him, how well we obey him. And yet we deceive ourselves because we cannot even come close to perfect obedience and, without love, all our work is defiled and imperfect and doesn’t meet His standards! “Be holy, as I am holy!” is, in some translations “Be perfect, as I am perfect!” (Leviticus 20:26/1 Peter 1:16) But we can’t attain this level of holiness or perfection. Only Christ can! And, thank God, He did this for us! But then there’s love. No, we can’t love perfectly either (though we think that if we do lots of loving things it means we love a lot … another deception we tell ourselves.) But if we love God, truly love Him, then obedience flows out of that – not out of duty (because we have to) but out of love (because we want to). Then obedience is no longer really work but it is a pleasure! Yes, there are verses in Scripture about work “work out your salvation…”, “work heartily, as for the Lord…” but I believe that this idea of work is really about delight and the outflowing of love for our Lord, not about duty, which is our tendency.

Work, yes, but don’t forget to first love! You can work & obey, without love (but it is empty work, empty, meaningless obedience) but you cannot truly love without obedience. Otherwise it is empty, meaningless love – simply words to look good but not how you truly feel.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Way of Hope - A Book Review

The way of hope claims to be about "sexual identity, same-sex marriage, and the church" (subtitle). And it is. But it also isn't. It's more. It's about surviving abuse. It's about letting go of perfectionism and performing and embracing grace (though the author seems to focus more on us giving ourselves grace than God's grace). It's about facing your monsters - sins and addictions - and experiencing God defeating them.

We might not all be struggling with sexual identity, but we are all struggling with our own personal monsters and, for that reason, I would recommend this book to everyone who desires help through that struggle.

The Way of Hope opened my eyes to how the words I say and things I do can so deeply affect my daughters! It opened my eyes to how I treat others both in the church and in the world around me! It made me acknowledge the existence of personal monsters I'd rather pretend didn't exist and face monsters I already know too well!

Melissa Fisher takes us on a journey through her life - childhood through to now, through experiences of intense pain to embracing the same-sex lifestyle to encountering God and freedom from that lifestyle. It truly is a story of hope!

I would have liked to see more dealing with how the church needs to/can address this issue of sexual identity and same-sex marriage. It was very clear that we can't condemn the person, nor can we condone the lifestyle. She clearly acknowledges that it is sin. But it wasn't clear how we can do this as a church - how we can love but not condone (and make it clear we're not condoning sin). More can be written on this.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it, I recommend with caution. THere is much good in here, much about God's love, much about hope and salvation from sin (through Christ). BUT the last few chapters reveal a works righteousness type of theology that concerns me. There is a LOT written about the work we need to put in to find this freedom, hope, etc. but nothing about God's grace. This is where I believe the book can begin to be discouraging for people on a similar journey.

That being said, Ms. Fisher does an excellent job of guiding her readers to The Way of Hope! This book will be on my list of books to re-read and books to lend out!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Monday, 31 July 2017

The Road to Paradise - A Review

~"You walked up that mountain a strong man and returned a Christian!"~ (p. 254)

This novel tells a story of two people in search for peace. It is set in Mt. Ranier National Park in the mid-1920s. We encounter two main characters, Margie (Margaret) and Ford, who struggle to find peace and faith, each in their own way, while fighting to protect God's great creation in this national park. As their lives intertwine, we meet a sinister Philip, a motherly Mrs. Brown, and a few other supporting characters, all of whom help them, knowingly or not, on their journey.

From the start, I knew this was primarily a Christian romance - definitely not my favourite genre. And yet, I found myself captivated, drawn to the story. Karen skillfully weaved in a story of struggling against people with dark purposes, struggling to reclaim a faith that was lost, struggling to find one's true identity, into a story of a realistic romance! Often, when I was away from the book, I found myself wondering what Ford and Margie were up to!

I have never been to Mt. Ranier but the author's descriptions painted such a perfect picture, I felt I was right there with the characters, like I could smell the mountain, feel the cool breezes, see and touch the same plants, walk the same trails! I also loved how little details of the characters' pasts weaved themselves so naturally into the story!

I thought I wouldn't enjoy the romance aspect of the novel but it really worked! It wasn't over-the-top and the romance was just a natural part of life, like any other struggle in the lives of the characters! This raises Ms. Barnett far above all other Christian romance authors I have read!

Yes, this is one of those Christian romances BUT the historical details, information about nature, and the sense of humour the author brings, mixed with alluring hints of hurt, danger, and darkness, make it a thoroughly enjoyable read!

I received this book, in ebook format, from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Find more information about the other and her books:

Friday, 16 June 2017

Five Minute Friday: Maybe Tomorrow {Worth}

I'm back at it with Five Minute Friday. Today's word is worth and, amazingly, I'm writing on Friday! Yay me! Today's writing is a piece of fiction. The beginnings of a story ... or a novel ... I don't know yet. :) It's called Maybe Tomorrow.

She steps away from the mirror. Shouts, more than images, seem to reflect back. She closes her eyes, covers her ears, trying to block the sounds. “You’re worthless! Absolutely worthless! She’s prettier than you! She’s smarter than you! She’s more outgoing than you!” They’re right. Her sisters are all those things. Oh, they’ve never actually said those things to her. But she knows they think them. Her parents. She was the last. They wanted a boy. They got another girl. Worthless. What good is another girl? But at least the first three amounted to something! One has her beauty – that got her far. Modelling, acting, famous. The next got the smarts. Billions of things you can do with that! She chose law. Most successful lawyer in the province! Maybe even in all of Western Canada! She’s made a name for herself. And then there’s the third – super outgoing. That’s her greatest quality. She’s on TV – a journalist. Yeah, they all got a decent amount of brains, looks, character. She’s nothing. Never got good grades, yet somehow, miraculously, made it to college. What for? She’ll never amount to anything.

 “Follow your dreams,” the teachers said back in high school. What are her dreams? She doesn’t even no anymore. Are worthless people allowed to have dreams? Away from the mirror, away from that awful sight of her pale face and stringy brown hair, her mind strays to her grade school days. There was a day she thought she’d like to be something. Before she turned so ugly, before everyone realized how worthless she was. She wanted to be an author. You don’t need to talk to people to write. Your characters can be your friends! There’s plenty of recluse authors right? Adds to the mystery or something. Maybe… Maybe tomorrow … Maybe tomorrow she’ll talk to someone about changing up her classes. Maybe tomorrow she’ll switch to some English, Literature and Creative Writing classes. Maybe tomorrow she’ll start to have some worth.

I need to stop writing sad stories ... it gets me down! Or, I just need to pursue this one further and find a happy ending for this girl ... whatever her name is. She hasn't told me yet. ;)

Image by Me

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Expectations for the Future

I want to write. Not primarily so people will read it (though that would be totally awesome) but, mostly, because it feels good to write.  I’ve let my writing slip to the wayside and that really sucks. I feel silenced. I feel like I don’t know how to find my voice back. And it’s my fault. Hmm. Well, I got an email that said Five Minute Friday moved. I LOVE FMF! So, naturally, I went to the new site and signed up. I joined the Facebook page and was eager to get going again! Because, really, there can’t be any “I don’t have time” excuse when it’s just a five-minute writing assignment! I saw the first word since my joining the new page: future. I delayed writing. The Monday after that word came out, my second oldest (4.5-year-old) got really sick. I was too exhausted to think, let alone write. She was puking, not drinking, not eating. Fever kept spiking – it’s highest was 41 Celsius (about 106 Fahrenheit).  It was frightening and we ended up at the Children’s Hospital. Got her sorted out, got her on some meds and she started improving – Praise God! The next Friday came. We were supposed to have a field trip with a homeschool group and considered not going since she was only just on the mend. She really wanted to go so we went. It was an exhausting day for her! But she was improving. The word that morning was expect. I told myself, “I’ll get to it on the weekend.” But my bad habit of not writing took control and I didn’t get to it right away. Then Saturday evening came and my 6-month-old baby had a febrile seizure. It came out of nowhere. He whole body was shaking hugely and her skin turned purple almost immediately. She was breathing funny, she was crying funny. We called 911. The seizure lasted at least 10 minutes (my husband thinks closer to 15). We were back in emergency at Children’s! I have never been so terrified in my life! Thankfully the doctor’s were able to determine why she had a fever (UTI) and gave us meds for her. It was still intense and stressful – she didn’t want her meds, often puked afterwards, still not drinking 100%, still fevering. But slowly she’s been improving. Today starts the 3rd day of no fever. And tomorrow brings a new FMF word. Today I want to write.

All this week, those two words have been running through my head: future, expect. I’m not limiting myself to 5 minutes this time. J The two words, I find, a very related. What do we expect for our future? For our children’s future? I will admit, I think more of our children’s future than my own. Especially considering the current government of my country. But when they are sick, my thoughts about their future and my expectations change. I’ve always expected that they will live long lives, that they will live God glorifying lives, that they will be happy and successful. But none of these is guaranteed! Not even that they will love God (though we pray they will and we guide them in the faith)! What is the only guarantee of the future? That God is faithful! The thing is, we don’t always know what that looks like. So do my expectations for my children change? I expect them to live long lives but the fact is, God could have taken two of my children to Himself this past week. So I have changed my expectations for today and tomorrow and all the tomorrows to come. I expect (and trust) that God will care for us, that He will guide us and will keep us close to Him – however that looks.