Sunday, December 02, 2012

Book Review: Yours Is the Day, Lord, Yours is the Night

Is there room in the modern, evangelical Protestant life for a prayer book?  Shouldn't our prayers be spontaneous, free-flowing from the heart rather than read from the page?  Isn't that what we've been taught is the more authentic prayer?

In answer, let me ask you to consider this unique collection the next time you're looking for a way to enrich your prayer life.

Yours is the Day, Lord, Yours is the Night is a collection of prayers taken from Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox sources. You'll find prayers taken from the Book of Common Prayer, prayers authored by well-known figures from Christian history: Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Aquinas, St. Patrick of Ireland, and John Wesley. You'll find excerpts from poetry, verses of Psalms, and anonymous inscriptions found in European cathedrals.

These morning and evening prayers are not meant to replace your daily prayers, but rather to enhance and enrich them, much like a devotional book does not replace Bible study, but grounds it in daily living.

I love this book and it sits alongside my devotional book by the chair where I drink my morning coffee.  Like my daily devotion, sometimes these prayers say exactly what my heart is feeling, though I cannot put it in words myself.  Over the past few years I've been toying with the idea of getting a prayer book to help me develop a better daily practice of praying.  But nothing seemed to fit until I found this book.  Not only has it given me a springboard for my own prayers, it has connected me with believers throughout the ages who also long for a closeness with God and peace in the midst of life's troubles.

Highly recommended.

Yours is the Day, Lord, Yours is the Night (A Morning and Evening Prayer Book) edited by Jeanie and David Gushee, Thomas Nelson, 2012.

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in return for an honest review.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I (don't) Want Candy

Yikes! Halloween is just a few days away and it's time for my annual "what are we going to give out this year" dilemma.  I seem to remember (back in the old days--my old days at least) that we used to get 1 piece of candy at each house. If you received 2 pieces--that was a "good house" that we remembered to return to the next year.  We had to cover a lot of ground to fill up the plastic pumpkins (and later pillowcases) that we toted around our neighborhood.

Where I live now, folks can afford the hefty bag of fun size candies and they seem to be extravagantly generous. My kids have been known to return home to dump their stash after only completing half of our street.

I suspect the problem lies in the in the easy purchase of megasize bags of candy (thank you, Target) coupled with the fear that one will be stuck with all this candy on November 1st.  Hence the practice of handing out not 1 or 2, but 3 or 4 treats per tot.

My kids can't wait.

My problem is that, having thus dispensed with my chosen crate o'treats at my doorstep (and feeling pretty good about myself), my kids return home with approximately 3 times as much candy as I've just given out.

It's the devil's math!

After lifting and stowing the mountain of candy from last year's haul, I decided something had to be done.  I let my kids keep a portion and bought the rest off of them to donate to Treats for Troops at my church.  Cash for candy--how's that for a treat?

Each day I'd let my kids eat some, but all evening the remaining candy would whisper my name from the cupboard.  It became a battle of will and when it comes to Twizzlers, Tootsie Rolls, and anything with chocolate and coconut I cave like a sandcastle at high tide.

This year I waited until the final week to make my purchase. What could I buy that won't tempt me over the next few days? Was there something substantial that I could give out 1 at a time (and not seem cheap)? Something that I can put in my kids' lunchboxes in the event that I have leftovers? 

Halloween themed fruit snacks. Hooray!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Review: 40 Days to a Joy Filled Life

What a great title. Who wouldn’t want a joy-filled life?  And in 40 days?  Sign me up!

I’ve been carrying this book around with me to read in waiting rooms, car line, spare bits of time during the month of October.  The giant smiley face is an attention getter and I have had one conversation (at the veterinarian’s office) about this book and what it promises to do:  cause you to change your thinking and find more joy, even in the midst of difficulty.

This 40-day workbook is based on Tommy Newberry’s book The 4:8 Principle which draws inspiration from Philippians 4:8--”...whatever is true, whatever is noble....”  I actually wasn’t too crazy about the self-help tone of The 4:8 Principle, especially the somewhat New Age idea that if I put good thoughts out there, blessings will come.  That’s only mentioned once, but it soured me a bit on his message.  I also felt that Newberry didn’t do enough for people who cannot get away from negative people (coworkers, relatives).  Perhaps that’s another book?

However,  I loved the book 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life.  The message is the same (there’s even that New Age bit), but the tone is slightly different.  It felt less “do this to get blessed” and more “don’t miss out on the joy of Christian life.”   I learned that I have much work to do on capturing each thought and focusing on praiseworthy things in the midst of a painfully difficult year.

40 Days gives you one thing to think about each day and leads you from where you are to a closer relationship to God.  It’s not a devotional--there’s no daily Scripture verse-- but it draws from Scripture, and encourages Scripture memorization as a way of transforming your mind.  Each day has a reflection, an application, a prayer, and a reminder to write on a post-it or email/text yourself so that you carry the thought throughout the day.

Though I read this through rather quickly in order to write a review, I liked it well enough that now I’m going to read it again as a 40-day exercise.  Who couldn’t use a little more joy in her life?

40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life by Tommy Newberry, Tyndale House, 2012.
The 4:8 Principle by Tommy Newberry, Tyndale House, 2007.

As part of the Tyndale Blog Network I received a complimentary copy of 40 Days as well as a copy of The 4:8 Principle in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Book Review: Grace by Max Lucado

Do we really understand what grace is?  Max Lucado doesn’t claim to know everything about grace, but he does know that grace is something we should stop and consider.  Instead of settling for sentiments about grace, we should be asking if grace has made a difference in our lives. 

This book contains the classic Lucado formula: conversational style, touching real life stories, lessons from scripture, and thoughts to take away.  This is not an academic study of grace, but a book about grace found in everyday life examined from different angles.

Lucado introduces us to a God who embraces us and purchases our souls at a price. He writes of the rest God offers to the weary. He examines what it means to offer forgiveness to our enemies.  He shares a personal account of grace experienced after confession of sin. We meet people who experienced God’s provision, generosity, and adoption into a family.  Finally, Max offers assurance that we can trust God’s grace.

While this book is enlightening and enjoyable, it would be most useful to read it along with completing the Reader’s Guide questions in the back.  Lucado’s friendly style makes this book easy to put down and walk away from, but the questions bring the reader back to Max’s point: Have you been changed, shaped, strengthened, emboldened, and softened by grace?

Recommended for self study, but would make an excellent group study.

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in return for an honest review.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Book Review: The MoneySmart Family System

The latest book from “America’s Cheapest Family” provides parents with tips on teaching their children to be good money managers and, eventually, financially independent.   The book’s premise is that financial management can be taught at any age--it’s just less expensive to begin teaching children when they’re young and their wants are fairly small (the “$5 stage”). But even older children with bigger “wants” (the $50, $500 and $5,000 stages) can learn to budget their money and become more responsible. Sounds great.

Authors Steve and Annette Economides developed a MoneySmart kids system where kids earn money based on a system of points for completing different tasks throughout the day. This “payday” (don’t call it allowance) teaches responsibility and gives the kids funds to use for learning how to give, save, and spend wisely.

But this book is not just about money management.  Chapters address time management (morning and evening routines), chores, teaching children how to give and share, how to set savings goals, clothes, college, and what to do when adult children move back home.

I love this book.  It’s so packed full of advice and strategies that it’s difficult to truly capture all the content of this book in a review.  My kids are still in the $5 - $50 range, and this book has given me confidence--and a system--for teaching my kids about money just as I’ve taught them to take care of themselves in other ways.  I like the authors’ realistic and practical approach which is grounded in respect for kids’ abilities and parents’ boundaries. 

 Even if you don’t use every aspect of their system, this is a worthwhile read. Highly recommended.

The Money Smart Family System by Steve and Annette Economides
Thomas Nelson, 2012

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Review: Grieving God's Way

How I wish I had owned this book after my dad died.

Author Margaret Brownley stopped writing when her oldest son died after a lengthy illness.  Three years later she sat down to write Grieving God’s Way: The Path to Lasting Hope and Healing--and I’m so glad she did.  Each day of this 90-day devotional includes a Bible verse, a reflection on the day’s topic, a haiku by poet Diantha Ain, and a practical tip on recovery called “Healing Ways”. 

This is the sort of book that a writer can’t fake and Brownley doesn't offer generic platitudes or "feel good" thoughts. Brownley digs deep, drawing from her own personal experience and from that of other other authors, artists, doctors, therapists, and friends.  She make a distinction between “Man’s Way” of grieving (hurried, busy, numbing, alone) and “God’s Way” (healing, healthy, faith-filled, in community).  She addresses the different ways men and women grieve, children’s grief, journaling, waiting, remembering, prayer, and asking for help. 

I find that, though I’m not currently in a time of mourning, this book is useful for personal reflection.  Not only would it be a helpful guide for someone who is grieving, it would be useful for someone who has a grieving friend or family member.  I would recommend it for individual or small group use.  There’s even a website ( where you can find additional resources mentioned in the book or request a free copy of a related workbook. You can also purchase materials for a church or small group study.  The Grieving God’s Way website includes a printable poster of “Rules for Family Healing” that can be printed (Adobe Reader) from the Resources page.

Highly recommended.

I received a free copy of this book through Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze program in return for an honest review.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Book Review: Road to Valor

I just finished this book and it is one of the best books I've read this year.  Here's my review:

Road to Valor: a True Story of World War II Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation by Aili and Andres McConnon, Crown Publishers, 2012.

For casual fans of the Tour de France, Gino Bartali’s name is the answer to trivia questions: Who holds the record for longest time span between Tour victories?  Who is one of the oldest riders to win the Tour? What’s largely unknown is the story of Bartali’s life between those victories and what made him not just a champion, but a hero.

Road to Valor chronicles Bartali’s early life as a gifted cyclist and the son of an impoverished Tuscan family.  Bartali’s 1938 Tour de France win comes on the verge of WWII and his heroic victory and promising career are overshadowed by the rise of Fascism and Italy’s entry into the war on the side of Hitler.

During the war, Bartali, a devout Christian and Catholic activist, becomes involved in a network of smugglers who risk their lives and families to help Italian Jews obtain identity papers, food, and housing during the German occupation. 

After the war, Bartali resumes his cycling career.  Ridiculed for being too old and dismissed by all but his most ardent fans, Bartali summons the courage and strength to conquer the mountains again and emerges victorious in the 1948 Tour de France.

The McConnons have produced a well-researched, fascinating story of a classic hero. Bartali’s talent, faith, and independent streak inspired a nation and saved hundreds of lives.  I found myself unable to put this story down--both physically and mentally as I reflected on Bartali’s life, his choices, and how a simple man of conviction becomes a hero in the face of extreme adversity.

Highly recommended for fans of cycling, readers of WWII books, or anyone looking for an inspiring story.  This is a dramatic story that will have you cheering.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

What’s in Your Pocket?

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have...” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

Sharing your faith is the heart of evangelism.  The Pocket Testament League (PTL) believes so and they will equip you with free evangelism training and tools so you’ll always be prepared.

But wait....what is evangelism?  Do I knock on doors or hand out tracts on a street corner?  You can, but PTL’s vision is deeper than that: their goal is to equip believers for a lifestyle of evangelism.    PTL’s simple mission is three-fold:  Read, Carry, and Share the Word of God.

Read the Word of God
PTL wants people to develop a living relationship with Jesus Christ through daily Bible study and prayer.  PTL members receive a free daily devotional every weekday via email.  Members have access to the free 21-Day Challenge to learn more about Jesus Christ by reading and reflecting on the Gospel of John.  PTL’s online guide to Bible verses will strengthen your faith and help you share the Good News with others.

Carry the Word of God
PTL equips members with evangelism tools: pocket-sized copies of the Gospel of John, available in English, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, and Japanese.  These pocket testaments are available in different Bible translations and come in a variety of  attractive designs so you can take them anywhere and share them with everyone.  There’s even an illustrated Gospel for children.

Dedicate a pocket to the Lord and carry a Gospel there to give away each day.  Carry a Gospel in your purse, diaper bag, briefcase, backpack...(you get the idea).

PTL’s evangelism ministry is supported through donations for each Gospel copy ordered by members, but members in financial need may receive support from sponsors.  No one who wants to share God’s Word will be turned away.

Share the Word of God
PTL’s evangelism ministry puts free copies of Scripture into the hands of others, so that they can read it for themselves, perhaps for the first time. PTL members plant the seeds and the Holy Spirit helps them grow.

Members receive free evangelism training through a self-paced 7-part Evangelism Boot Camp that prepares you to share your faith. 

Visit PTL’s website to find over 100 creative ways to share the Gospel with others: on the go, on the job, even from home.

Community of Believers
The Pocket Testament League is not just an evangelical ministry, it’s a community that encourages each other and shares prayer requests and stories.  You’ll find a thriving PTL community on Facebook.  There’s even a mobile app.

Find out more or register online for a free membership (including free daily devotionals and evangelism tools) at the Pocket Testament League’s website.

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  (John 8:32 NIV)

FaithWriters: the Home for Christian Writers

(This is a promotional review for the Pocket Testament League.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Weathering the Storm

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed. 

We’re into Day 3 of Tropical Storm Debby and still stuck in our neighborhood due to high water. Day 1 (Sunday) was a rainy, restful break from a busy week.  Day 2 (Monday) was a disappointing day of cancelled plans--but with guarded hope that conditions would improve.

Day 3 is a day for taking stock:  how are our food supplies?  how are our neighbors doing?  will our patience run out? 

When I looked out the window this morning at the scudding clouds, wind-whipped trees, and whitecaps in the canal, it brought to mind the hymn I quoted above.  Debby’s center is far away and yet we feel it’s power, and that’s just a fraction of God’s power displayed in creation.

The weather forecast does not look promising. Debby’s stationary position in the Gulf of Mexico means that we’re due for SW winds for at least another day.  Those strong SW winds push water into Tampa Bay, which means higher than normal tides in our part of town. The water backs up the drains into the streets and, as the drains are full, rainwater collects on top.  So it might be Wednesday night or Thursday morning before we can safely drive anywhere. And that’s assuming that TS Debby moves ashore and the winds shift.

At least one more day with no trips to town, no Vacation Bible School, no morning paper delivery, no US Mail. But these are, at best, inconveniences that remind us of all that we take for granted. The waters will recede (eventually) and we’ll resume our regular schedule. We just need to be patient.

Mom sent me a quote today that was shared at a cancer survivor’s meeting, but it’s particularly appropriate as our current situation challenges our attitudes and patience. 

“It’s not about waiting for the storm to pass--its about learning to dance in the rain.”

Shalom, y’all.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Review: Busy Mom’s Guide to Family Nutrition

I feel a bit guilty at how long it took me to review this book, but that’s because I’m a busy mom.  So there we go.

Busy Mom’s Guide to Family Nutrition is a brief overview of nutritional topics:  controlling sugars, what vitamins are essential,  weight management, dieting, and helping children with weight problems.

What does this book have to offer that you can’t just get off the web?  Nutrition is a vast topic so there’s quite a bit to wade through and evaluate. Rather than being a complete guide to anything, this book briefly addresses topics that arise when trying to plan meals for families and when trying to evaluate what is/isn’t healthy or helpful for raising healthy children.  It provides the vocabulary and concepts that are useful for doing deeper research.

I have a basic knowledge of most of the bigger topics in this book (gained from pediatricians, nurses, and reading web and magazine articles).  However, I found the discussion on sugars and sugar substitutes useful and I refer back to it often as I navigate the changing nutritional labels on packaged foods (though I tend to avoid sugar substitutes more than the author advises).   I also found the history and comparison of different diet trends fascinating (Pritikin, Atkins, Raw Foods).  That chapter is useful for evaluating diet claims. 

Is this a useful book?  Yes.  Is this an essential book?  Hard to say since this book is poorly indexed and you have to dig through each chapter to look for answers.   It is, however, a good overview and would be useful as a starting point for discussing nutrition with your (or your child’s) doctor.

Recommended for families to read and teens to read themselves if they're interested in nutrition.

Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complementary copy of this book.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: Love Does by Bob Goff

The subtitle, “Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World,” pretty much sums up what Goff appears to be doing here.  He wants readers to stop spending so much time thinking or planning what we may or may not do and actually get to doing it.  He’s clear about that.  However, the mercurial nature of this book left me scratching my head at times as to why or for whom we should be “doing”.

Love Does is a collection of essays drawn from both Goff’s life and his philosophy of life.  Unfortunately, book publicity emphasizes the incredible things that Goff has done, making it seem like he’s campaigning to be Dos Equis beer's next “most interesting man in the world”. 

The essays begin with a touching story about Bob’s teenage encounter with friendship and his discovery that some Christians just don’t fit “the mold”. However, some of the essays delved dangerously into self-promotion:  see how much time I spend at Disneyland, see how I got into law school,  see how I play expensive practical jokes,  see how I got picked to be consul for Uganda, see how I can afford to take my kids on trips.  I thought I’d been lured into a riff on the prosperity gospel.  Live a carefree, laid-back life and God will reward you with goodies.

I almost put the book down. 

But I kept reading and discovered some wonderful, touching, inspiring essays where Goff tells stories about taking time to connect with people and about following Jesus’ example to serve others. The essays “Jeepology” (do you leak Jesus?), “Friends, Welcome Home”, “Jailbreak”, and “Two Bunk John” will stay with me.

Love Does is an uneven book: Goff scoffs at “religious people” but is just as rigid that his way of doing things is the only good way.  Some of the writing is magnificent, some just show-offy.  I desperately wished that Goff had spoken more about his work in Uganda (and earlier in the book) or given a tip of the hat to people who Do Love without so much whimsy (or money).  I think the book would have been stronger if there had been less emphasis on how interesting Goff's life is and more about people who are Doing Love to achieve justice or care for others--hence my 3-star review on Amazon.

All in all, this is a book worth reading, but read it all the way to the end.

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in return for an honest review.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Encouragement for Tired Moms

I've been really tired lately.  It could be the change in weather and increase in pollen.  It could be the stress of stretching our budget.  It could also be the fact that some days my kids will only answer me in riddles, rhymes, and funny noises.

Me:  Where are your shoes?
#1 Son:  Did you sing the blues?
#2 Son: Ka-boing!!

I have given birth to the Marx brothers.

Anyway,  in the middle of a notebook filled with 3-year-old committee meeting notes and scribbles for a writing project I found a page titled, "Encouragement for Tired Moms."  Based on the margin notes these were verses my Facebook friends sent me when I needed some encouragement a couple of years ago. 

They're still good today. In fact, they're timeless.  Here are the verses that really gave me a boost. I'll share them with you.

In the day of my trouble I will call on you, for you will answer me.  (Psalm 86:7 NIV)

I will lift up my eyes to the hills-- From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. (Psalm 121:1-3 NKJV)

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.  (Jer. 31:25 NIV) Thanks, Cat 

He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Isa. 40:29-31 NLT)

Pile your troubles on God's shoulders - he'll carry your load, he'll help you out. He'll never let good people topple into ruin. (Psalm 55:22 The Message)

Shalom, y'all.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Instead of Worrying, Pray

A few days ago I received a review copy of  a side-by-side Bible comparing the NIV, NKJV, NLT, and The Message. These happen to be the four translations* that I usually use to pull Scripture for the Jesus Boat Facebook page.   It's good to be a reviewer!

I've been thinking about my effort to really focus on the positive and on joy during this Lenten season.  So I was delighted to see that this week's daily scripture readings for Lent 2012 included Philippians 4:1-9 (Friday) and 4:10-20 (Saturday).  Having a comparative Bible has slowed down my reading, but enabled the Spirit to speak to me in fresh new ways.

I love this paraphrase of Philippians 4:4-7 from The Message:

"Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! 

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."

Shalom y'all!

*technically a paraphrase

Friday, February 24, 2012

Beautiful Weather

Chambers of Commerce all over Florida must be in high spirits this winter. We've had weeks of daytime temperatures in the upper 70's along the coast. We're loving it because we haven't had to run our heat but twice all winter (and our AC twice--mostly to pull out the humidity).

School was out today so we took a welcome trip over to Lakeland to visit my folks.  Since it's still too cold for the pool, we took a drive down to Lake Morton to visit the beautiful Lakeland Public Library then stopped for a picnic across from the Methodist Church.  The wind was blowing so hard that the seagulls hovered like kites over the lakeshore. The brisk wind didn't stop us from visiting Lakeland's famous swans.

While we were sitting in the children's section of the library I read the boys On Beyond Zebra, and I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. I'd forgotten what a great book that is.  I think it's time to give my troubles some trouble too.

I added a new "frugal joy" over at the Frugal Family Friend.  Yesterday's was "coffee"; today is "public libraries".

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bless This Mess

Credit: Vincelli Designs
I rarely see this phrase anymore, but it was big in the 1970’s. It seemed like every mom had a kitchen wall plaque reading “Bless This Mess”.  Were we an incredibly untidy generation of kids? Or did this sentiment address feelings about the mess our country was in: the last big recession? 

I’m feeling deep in the midst of a mess right now.  The current recession has hit my family hard and we’re looking at some tough choices this year.  Things are getting messy and I approached Ash Wednesday with a heart loaded down with worry.

But something else has been tickling the back of my mind.  Over at the Jesus Boat Blog we’ve been writing about the Psalms this month.  Our bloggers come from different backgrounds, but several of us are battling the economy.  The Psalms are teaching us that God is our stronghold in the midst of trouble.  The Psalmists lay out their troubles (and they are many) but never fail to give praise to God.  It’s an incredible act of defiance against trouble. 

I’m going to try here (and over at my Frugal Family Friend blog) to consciously look for and write about things to praise during the Lenten season.  I need to fix my eyes and thoughts on something other than the ever present bottom line.

To my surprise and delight, one of today’s daily readings was from Habakkuk.  I needed this today and that’s my first praise:  God speaks to us through his word.  He comes to us where we are, as we are, and lifts us up.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine;
even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength!
He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.
(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Books I Like

I have no memory of not being able to read.  According to my family I started in early and never quit.  We didn't have a tremendous number of books in the house, but my mom and I made frequent trips to the library, usually on Monday nights when Dad worked late and we went out for what we now call a "girls night out."

The best part of our library trips was the freedom to browse the children's section all by myself.  Now I'm a mom and I just realized that my mom was probably enjoying browsing the adult section all by herself.  But I digress...  The worst part was when I didn't check out enough books to make it until the next trip. Dang.

The last big book I read was Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  It took the better part of my first pregnancy and I frequently discussed the finer points of the book with my unborn son. Now I read all the time, but the books usually contain a fast talking pigeon or Jedi Knight.  I miss having the time to absorb an entire novel at a few sittings.  Most of my adult reading falls under the excuse of "book review."

Still there are Books I Like. There's no pattern here and it's by no means a complete list.  But these are books that resonated somehow.  I've either read them multiple times or think about them as the door to which a genre opened.  They're a mixed bunch: Pride and Prejudice,  Fahrenheit 451,  A Christmas Carol, Ender's Game, Time and Again, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, This Present Darkness...

On a shelf of our bookcase sits a collection of children's Books I Like:  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; Alice in Wonderland;  The Phantom Tollbooth.  They're "newer" books; my childhood copies are long worn away by repeated page turning, so these replaced them in college. Old friends--and I look forward to the day when my kids can meet them too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Review: Then Sings My Soul, Book 3

I’ve purchased copies of Robert J. Morgan’s books as gifts in the past, but I’ve never sat down and read one. Until now.  Morgan’s third volume in the series focuses on the history of Christian music and the development of western hymns.  He still includes the familiar stories behind the hymns, but this time he places them more directly into their historical context.

It’s fascinating to read about the historical struggle the church has had with music.  The early church sang “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” until music was taken from congregation and given to the clergy.  But Christians kept on singing outside of church and a thousand years later hymns began to find their way back into worship services.  There were the early “worship wars” between Psalm-only hymns and inspired poetry and a strained relationship between popular tunes and traditional forms.  Many of today’s beloved “traditional hymns” were not intended for Sunday morning services, but for camp meetings and revivals.  Morgan celebrates tradition, but reminds us that Christian music is always evolving.

One section worth reading are the “Six Hymn Stories I Love to Tell” where Morgan provides the longer version of the story behind “It is Well with My Soul” and the story of the sisters who wrote the most famous childrens’ hymn: “Jesus Loves Me.”  Morgan makes a good case for reviving the hymnal as a devotional book and for embracing interwoven worship where old and new songs meet.  I heartily agree.

I thoroughly enjoyed Morgan’s book and highly recommend it.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze program.