Friday, May 29, 2015

More Recommended Librivox Recordings

Several of you left comments on an earlier post, recommending above average readers at Librivox. I'm already hooked on Adrian Praetzellis, and Mil Nicholson (photo). When I googled Nicholson, I discovered another treasure: Ruth Golding (an excellent reader herself) has compiled a list of the best British voices over at Librivox.

Andy Minter is an excellent reader who lists his recordings on his website. Mark Smith does a great job too.

I look forward to reviewing many of these.

Happy Summer listening!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

The full title of this book is: Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity. It is the story of how God moved Jen and her husband out of a thriving ministry to start doing church a whole new way. It's similar to Hugh Halter's Flesh, which I reviewed a few weeks ago in that it describes the adventure of living their faith "out of the (Christian) box".

Hatmaker writes about her life-altering prayer, "God, raise up in me a holy passion." I meant "God, give me happy feelings." I was not seriously asking for intervention that would require anything of me. Hardly. "Holy Passion" meant "pull me out of this funk with Your magic happiness wand." Was that too much to ask? Can't a girl get some cheery feelings about her wonderful, prosperous life? Evidently not. (p. 9)

She goes on to recount how the Lord moved them from a comfortable church position to a no-job, no-church, no salary scenario. Since we couldn't rely on our default responses - planning, organizing, mobilizing, controlling - we did the only thing left. We prayed like crazy people... Never have we stood with such open hands, clinging to nothing, ready for anything... When we had nothing left to protect, no position left to defend, no reputation left to guard, and no one else to please, we got our marching orders. (p. 139-141)

I get a kick out of the next part of their testimony since it was a call from a Free Methodist (the tiny denomination of which I'm a part) superintendent that changed their course. He and 60 prayer partners had raised the funds to start a church plant in Austin, Texas. Could the Hatmaker's see their way clear to partcipate? Yes, they could! Then began a roller coaster ride of faith as they reached out to people in whole new ways.

Hatmaker feels there is an overemphasis on Sunday morning church as the "front door." Sharing our lives with dear people to win them to Jesus is the substance of Christianity. A pastor cannot effectively show love to his entire congregation as he preaches from the pulpit. A random group of stangers standing in the church lobby cannot offer legitimate community to a sojourner who walks in the door. One decent sermon cannot influence a disoriented person in the same way your consistent presence in her life can. (p. 205)

She goes on to talk about the cost of pouring yourself out for others so that they might be drawn to Christ (what Oswald Chambers calls "being broken bread and poured out wine.") Unlike many evangelistic methods, this relationship building takes time. "In our community, people are hungry to have a meaningful spiritual discussion, they just don't want to have it with a Christian weirdo who doesn't even know their last name." (p. 236) Indeed.

This book will give you lots to think about. Of all Hatmaker's books, this is the one she most highly recommends.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What's On My Nightstand

I'm sitting in the University library in my favorite small town in Michigan, basically in book heaven. I just looked at my Amazon "books to investigate" list and ordered the following books via inter-library loan. (As these books come in I'll be reviewing the best ones. The bad ones will just get crossed off.)

The Scarlet and the Black - Gallagher (WWII)
Our Only May Amelia - Holm (children's lit)
How to be Idle by Hodgkinson (I read a few pages of this trivial book and decided there were much better titles on my TBR list.)
If You Want to Write by Ueland
The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders (about the trinity)
Becoming Orthodox by Gillquist
Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and The Rise of Raunch Culture by Levy (As raunchy as the title. Unfortunately she offers no real solutions.)

Already on my book pile: Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert and Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Lucado.

It's a cold, gray day. Perfect for curling up with one of these books! (I'm restraining myself from putting multiple exclamation points.) So happy to have access to so many books.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Benefit of Kindle Fire for Book Bloggers (and other Random Thoughts)

By the time this post goes live I'll be in the U.S. for our brief home assignment. I have pre-scheduled several posts because I don't know when I'll be back online.

First of all, I'm excited about living in a city in Michigan where I'll have access to many libraries. My Amazon wish list is really a list of 500+ suggestions for books and I'll be reading/exploring voraciously during our 8-month stay.

Secondly, for any of bloggers who use Kindle Fire, I want to share what I love about the color options for highlighting. I use the yellow for general highlighting, the pink for salient quotes (for the blog or for facebook), the blue for new vocabulary words and the brown for titles of books or points of history that require further investigation. Since research shows that our brains remember less of what we read on e-readers, I like to finish a book and then go back and re-read all my yellow highlights to fix the main ideas in my head.

Third, there has been some buzz on the internet on the book How Dante Can Save Your Life by Rod Dreher. Since I made it through Paradise Lost, I may just give this classic a try as well.

Fourth, my brother, Dr. Bill Ury is a wonderful thinker/teacher/preacher and has just had a book published on the important theme of forgiveness.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Paradise Lost for Dummies (like me!)

It's been two weeks since I finished Paradise Lost and I'm still speechless. It is a work of astonishing beauty and unforgettable imagery, which rightly deserves its place in the canon of the world's greatest literature.

But here I must make a confession: It took a tremendous amount of determination to finish it. And I only made it through with the help of several other resources. First, I found John Milton's Paradise Lost In Plain English which included a simple paraphrase along with the original text. I am pretty good at reading antiquated English, but even so I needed the "translation" about half the time.

As a child I was not fond of peas and was often sent to the basement to finish my meal. Reading Paradise Lost was a bit like sitting on those basement steps, struggling to get down each bite. But, lo and behold, I discovered an ally in Leland Ryken who encouraged me to keep going via his series, Christian Guides to the Classics

Ryken, an English professor at Wheaton College, has written a booklet outlining the major themes of Milton's masterpiece. He also supplies discussion questions and many insights into the book of which I was unaware, especially that PL mirrored all the great epic stories while at the same time turning them on their heads.

I could keep on gushing about the book, but luckily for you I have a bad cold and I'm leaving Brazil in less than a week (!) and don't have the time or energy to write more. I'll leave you with a few examples from the book.

After Adam and Eve sin, Christ says to his Father:

I go to judge on earth these thy transgressors, but thou knowst, whoever judged, the worst in me must light, when time shall be, for so I undertook before Thee; and not repenting, this obtain of right, that I may mitigate their doom on me derived. (Lanzara's paraphrase: I'll go judge the sinners. But you and I both know I'll be the one who gets the worst of the punishment. I promised it so they wouldn't have to die and I have no regrets.)

Examples of Milton's lovely prose:

Nor love thy life, nor hate; but what thou livst, live well. How long or short permit to Heav'n. XI-553

Satan mocks God's angels by saying they praise Him with "warbled hymns" and "forced hallelujahs." (II-243).

Contrast that to Milton's view of angels in heaven who "eat, drink, and in communion sweet quaff immortality and joy." V-637

This is another favorite book of mine for 2015.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

Batman has Albert. Wooster has Jeeves. And Wimsey has the amazing Mervyn Bunter as his butler sidekick.

Lord Peter Wimsey is a bored aristocrat who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder related to his experiences in WWI. One of the "cures" is to keep his mind busy by solving crimes. He especially enjoys beating the slow-witted inspector Sugg at his own game.

I loved this first in the Lord Peter Wimsey novels. Aside from some light profanities, it is chock-full of British witticisms and had me smiling from start to finish. A wealthy financier turns up missing on the same night that a naked stranger is found in Mr. Thipp's bathtub. They are not the same man, but Wimsey is determined to show that they are connected.

The two men who help are his manservant Bunter and Chief inspector Charles Parker. Both these men are endearing. Bunter is pure snob, but manages to pull it off beautifully. Parker is a more humble man who reads theology books for pleasure. He is the "slow and steady" foil to Wimsey's more flighty character.

Whose Body? pretends to be a light-hearted mystery, but asks important questions. The scientist in the story sees piety and concience as chemical/physical responses. "The knowledge of good and evil is an observed phenomenon, attendant upon a certain condition of the brain cells" (p. 91) Lord Peter and Inspector Parker have a long conversation about the the morality of detective work. Plus there are a lot of literary allusions. So it's a fun book if you like to think even when reading lighter fare.

Unlike the pricier books in the series Whose Body? is only 99 cents for Kindle.