Sunday, December 28, 2014

Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior (Book Review)

Hannah More might possibly be the most famous woman I'd never heard of.  She was a poet, a playwright, an ardent abolitionist and educational reformer and a contemporary of William Wilberforce, John Newton, David Garrick, and Dr. Johnson.  Her writing had a profound effect on British culture and influenced the "modern" thinking that produced the Victorian Era with all its reforms on manners and family life. 

Karen Swallow Prior's book is at once academic and approachable.  Each chapter highlights a different aspect of More's remarkable life. We learn about More's extraordinary talent at writing, about her successes in London society and her involvement with the Bluestocking Circle (a group of women writers and intellectuals).  Though Wilberforce is more well known for his tireless work toward abolition of slavery,  Prior contends that More's connections in London society and her wit and talents were just as influential.

Then there's More's involvement in the Clapham Sect, her championing of educational reform for women, her interest in animal welfare,  her contributions to the Sunday School movement, her work in missions. The list of her accomplishments is long and deep.  If she hadn't been maligned by one biographer and swept away in the post-Victorian backlash, her legacy could not have been buried.

This is simply one of the best books I read all year.  Prior's doctoral dissertation provided the research base, but her writing style propels the reader through the story. Each chapter turns up another aspect of More's life and Prior includes the unflattering aspects along with the good ones.  In doing so she presents More as wholly human, but with a fierce spirit that makes her one of my new heroes.

Note: Fierce Convictions is on Christianity Today's list of the best books of 2014. Well deserved.

I received a copy of this book from Book Look Bloggers in return for an honest review.

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist
Karen Swallow Prior
Nelson Books, 2014


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why Are We Here?

A few months ago we stopped attending our church's contemporary service because I questioned some of the content in our congregation's worship music.  There's been a slow drift over the past couple of years toward bringing in popular secular music as a worship response.

Sure it's fun, and you can dance to it, but are we neglecting the gospel?  When I've shared my concerns I get mostly blank stares or half-hearted attempts to justify.  People automatically assume that I don't like contemporary Christian music.  Not true.

I'm not trying to be a spoilsport. It's just that my mouth can't sing "Lean on Me" when my heart, soul, and mind want to sing "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."

Thus, it saddened me today to see the juxtaposition of Offeratory music between the contemporary and traditional services.  I wasn't at the contemporary service, but a sympathetic friend told me she thought of my decision this morning.  Since I wasn't there, I grabbed a bulletin from the 9:30 service and there it was.

In praise to our glorious Father in Heaven, our contemporary service offered "We are Here" by Alicia Keys (who sang it on the Today Show--so that makes it OK!)

We are here for all of us.
We are here for all of us.
That's why we are here, why we are here.


Good news indeed!

In contrast,  the traditional service responded to the Word of God with   "My Jesus, I Love Thee"

My Jesus I love thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.


What is our purpose?  What is our witness to the world?  Whose gospel do we preach?  What encouragement do we give to believers?  Go ahead and call me out of touch, a traditionalist, or whatever name you will.

I know why I'm here.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The One Year Devotions for Active Boys (book review)

I would really love to get my boys into a devotion book with me. I use the YouVersion app to read my daily devotion and my boys (and I)  love watching any of the What's in the Bible-themed devos (produced by Phil Vischer of Veggie Tales fame), but I have trouble getting them to listen to a written devotional.

The One Year Devotions for Active Boys is my best hope right now as they approach the preteen years.  This devotional is divided into days of the year and each page contains a theme for the day: expressed in a story, a skit, or a passage to read and think about.  This is followed by a puzzle or instructions for an activity, a brief prayer, and a Bible verse.

The passages lend themselves well to being read out loud as a family, the puzzles are fun (but not too challenging), and the activities definitely appeal to my active boys.  April 1 has some harmless pranks; May 6 includes a balloon sword fight. There are jokes and tongue twisters and weird facts about different things.

I like the writing style of the messages: conversational and not too heavy-handed, but with a solid Biblical foundation. The daily activities are fun to try as a family.  I just wish the Bible portion was labeled as that and not as coming from "Life's Guidebook".  I understand where the authors are coming from, just wish they would not shy away from the word Bible.

It's meant to be used as a family, perhaps after school or dinner or during some downtime (not before bed!).   Fun and thought provoking and not a video screen in sight.  Not for preschoolers.  Best for ages 9 and up.

I received this book from the Tyndale Blog Network in return for an honest review.

Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears (book review)

Brave Mom by Sherry Surratt
Fear, at the appropriate moment, is a good thing. However, sometimes we let our fears about our children dominate our lives and we can wind up spending much of our time worrying about things that are not likely to happen.

What mom doesn't battle fear at some point:
*  Can I handle being a mom?
*  Is my toddler always going to have behavior problems?
*  Will my child be safe?
*  Will my teenager go astray?
*  Will my adult child succeed?

Sherry Surratt, President and CEO of MOPS International, addresses these fears--and more--in her book Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears.

Surratt reveals the havoc that fear, anxiety, and perfectionism can play in our lives. She has us examine some common safety-related fears to see how reasonable and probable they are. She specifically addresses the fears that accompany the life stages of being a mom. Then she addresses how we can face and manage our fears and not only become brave moms, but raise brave children as well.

Surratt loads Brave Mom with anecdotes and advice that is based in faith and common sense. In the tradition of MOPS-related books, it's filled with practical, down-to-earth advice that most women can relate to.  My children are school-aged, but I remember having some of those early fears (that never came to fruition) and I eagerly read the section on teenagers, since that's the stage that's on the horizon.  I feel encouraged by her words and by the words of other women whose contributions Surratt included in this book.

Brief chapters, questions and answers, and end of chapter reflection/discussion questions make this ideal for a mom's group.  Highly recommended!

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers in return for an honest review.

Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears
Sherry Surratt
Zondervan, 2014


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book Review: Moses Leads the People (An I Can Read! book)

I just love the I Can Read! book series for beginning readers and I'm happy to find that they have a series of Bible stories from ZonderKidz. 

This book, Moses Leads the People, is based on the Adventure Bible and is rated at "Level 2: Reading with Help".  Level 2 books are meant for children who are beginning to be confident readers, but who still need a little help with unfamiliar words.  Books like Amelia Bedelia and Frog and Toad are Friends also fit in this category.

There are 28 pages of text with large print, 2-4 sentences on each page, and plenty of colorful pictures.  The editors try to be sensitive to difficult subject matter (death of the firstborn shown as mother sitting on an empty bed with face in hands) while staying true to Scripture. 

Because this is meant for children beginning to read longer sentences, they're probably in 1st or 2nd grade and have heard the story of Moses, the 10 plagues, and the Exodus before. However, adults might want to be on hand to answer any questions.

There are a few words kids will need help with: plagues, Pharoah,  Israelites, Egypt.  But there's plenty of repetition so that kids can practice their reading skills.

I love the fill-in-the-blank bookplate inside the front cover that says "Hooray, ________________ can read this book!" What a terrific confidence builder for a young reader. 

This is a  great starting point for kids learning how to read Scripture on their own.

Moses Leads the People  (Adventure Bible)
Zonderkidz/I Can Read! book
2014

I received a review copy of this book from Book Look Bloggers (Thomas Nelson) in return for an honest review.