My Challenges (timed)


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My Challenges (perpetual)

100 SHOTS OF SHORT
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CHECKIN’ OFF THE CHEKHOV
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THE COMPLETE BOOKER
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MARTEL-HARPER CHALLENGE
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MODERN LIBRARY'S 100 BEST NOVELS

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NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS
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THE PULITZER PROJECT
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TAMMY'S BEYOND BOOKS CHALLENGE

New York Times Book Review: 6/40
New Yorker: 0/36
New York Review of Books: 0/20
Vogue: 1/16
Email: 841/1373

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When the Good News Gets Even Better by Neb Hayden

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


When the Good News Gets Even Better: Rediscovering the Gospels through First-Century Jewish Eyes

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Neb Hayden is director of International Student Development at The King’s College in New York City. A former quarterback for “Bear Bryant” at Alabama, Neb has been involved his adult life with the fellowship in Washington, D.C., which works behind the scenes to nurture and encourage the leadership in over 180 nations. The group also works behind the scenes of the National Prayer Breakfast. Neb speaks and teaches extensively at seminars, conferences, and retreats. He and his wife, Susan, live in New York City and are the parents of three grown sons and two daughters-in-law.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434767000
ISBN-13: 978-1434767004

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Preface

How is it possible to make the good news of the gospel better? How can truth be enhanced? How can Jesus Christ be improved upon? Impossible! Then, why the title, When the Good News, Gets Even Better? The gospel gets even better only when it’s more clearly understood.

When I was a kid growing up in North Carolina I fantasized about being a “fly on the wall or some kind of invisible presence that could magically be transported back in time and be there the great moments in history. I wanted to be at the Alamo with Jim, Davy, Sam and the boys. I wondered what it would be like to have been on the Mayflower or to be with the first settlers at Jamestown. I wanted to experience the thoughts and emotions of these people. I wanted to know how it felt to walk in their shoes.

In the mid 1980’s my wife, Susan and I were invited to go on a two-week study seminar to Israel. Dr. Jim Martin taught us as we move from site to site from Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness through the resurrection of Jesus. When we gathered together our first day, Jim said, “I am going to teach you to think like an ancient Jew. You will never truly understand the scriptures as long as you think like a Gentile.” That thought haunted me for several years and two more trips to Israel with Jim.

Meanwhile, my close friend, Bob Warren, a former professional basketball player and outstanding Bible teacher in Kentucky had a similar experience in Israel with a Messianic Jew named Arnold Fruchtenbaum. Bob had been studying the gospels from a Hebrew perspective and he said that the impact it was having on his understanding was astounding. This challenged me to began reading everything I could find concerning Jewish history and culture. I was hooked, and began to live out my childhood fantasy. Through First Century Hebrew eyes and ears, I began to gain a perspective that I had never seen before. I began to see what a Jew would have seen and hear what a Jew would have heard as he witnessed the works of and heard the words of Jesus. I had studies and taught the Gospels my whole life and yet, a new perspective began to wash over me in a fresh, unvarnished way. Gradually I developed a study course that I called The Hidden Gospels. I was eventually encouraged to write this study book that could be approached by an individual or small group.

I wrote When the Good News Get Even Better from the following perspectives:

~ By Studying Through First Century Jewish Eyes: The Bible is a Jewish book, written to Jews about a Jewish Messiah who came to redeem the Jews first, then the Gentiles (Rom 1:16). If you were a Jew living in the Middle East in first century, how would you have heard what Jesus said? How would you have seen the things He did? What kind of culture would you have lived in? How would your childhood training have affected what you saw and heard? The Good news gets even better when we read the gospels as they were communicated and in the way they were meant to be seen.

~ By Studying the Gospel Accounts Autobiographically: By stepping in the sandals of the people in these biographical accounts. They are relational documents; encounters with people who are basically just like you and me. Become the Samaritan woman who had lost hope as Jesus speaks with her. Be the rich, lonely, alienated little tax collector named Zachaeus when Jesus asks to go home to dinner with him. Feel the apprehension of the woman with the hemorrhage as she pushed through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. We can feel what these people felt and understand them if we understand the circumstances of their Hebrew lives. Then what Jesus says and does comes alive to us.

~ By Seeing Jesus’ Life and Teaching Through the Window of Grace: Most of us were taught a law-based perspective and therefore read the scriptures like a rulebook of impossible demands that we cannot meet. Should, ought to, and must have been a constant companion of most believers. Try harder, do more, and re-dedicate have kept us spiritually fatigued and guilt-ridden. Jesus offers intimacy that transforms duty into desire and obligation into opportunity. Seeing the gospels through the eyes of grace changes everything.

~ Studying Each Gospel Event as it Actually Happened (Chronologically): I used A.T. Robertson’s A Harmony of the Gospels as a guideline. To see the events as they occurred brings a new flavor and excitement to the greatest story ever told.

Studying the gospels in this manner is the most life-changing thing I have ever done. Whether you do this study in a small group or individually, I guarantee that you will never again read the gospels the same as before. They are the foundation of our faith because our faith is built on a Person. He was a Jew, living in a Jewish world, and communicating with Jewish people. This study offers you the opportunity to walk the dusty roads with Him, to be there as a participant rather than simply an observer. These biographies of Jesus are your stories too. Every move Jesus made and every word He spoke has direct implications for your life in the twenty-first century.

My hope is that this study will not simply be new information to ponder, but that as re-discover the gospels through Hebrew eyes, you will come to more deeply know, and enjoy the One who wrote The

Gospels. This is when The Good News Gets Even Better.

Getting the Most Out of This Study

Aerial view: We will obviously not be able to deal with every event in the Gospels, but the connection between the events as the happens is critical to understand. We will take an aerial view or brief summary of the passage before moving on.

Through Hebrew Eyes: Understanding Jewish culture and history is critical for a fuller appreciation of the emotions, issues at stake, and reactions of people in the gospels. When you see the Star of David we will try to help you think as a Jew would have thought in the at day based on his background, teaching, history, and culture.

Insight into the Passage: The light bulb indicates my brief commentary on the passage. These are insights I have gleaned over in over 34 years of ministry. They have made a deep impact in my own life and have been the result of my own studies as well as the contribution of many wonderful people along the way.

Snapshot: Context is very important in studying the scriptures. When you see the camera icon, I will give a brief picture of the current atmosphere, the circumstances and issues leading to the passage or event we are about to study. This will help you gain a feel for the atmosphere in which everything is taking place.

Crossroads: This may be a statement or question concerning direction: So what? Where do we go from here? What difference can this make for me right now?

Part I. Beginnings

God’s unique and abiding love for the Hebrew people is unparalleled in human history. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is called the “bride of God.” These nomadic wanderers suffered greatly at the hands of their enemies, and for most of their existence have live under the continual dominance of other nations. Freedom and autonomy is the brass ring they have longed to grasp. They, like each of us have loved God, and yet have disobeyed Him, often trusting in their own abilities rather than in His faithfulness and sovereignty. God’s beloved bide sought other lovers, yet He continues, even to this day, to pursue them with His unfailing love.

But, God had been strangely silent during the four hundred years from the end of the writing of the Old Testament until the beginning of the New Testament. The flow of communication to His people through the Prophets during this period came to a halt, but the Hebrew people continued to anxiously await the coming of “the Prophet” spoken of by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18-19) and more specifically by Isaiah, the Psalmist, Daniel and others.

As we begin this fascinating adventure in the gospels, Rome has been in control of Israel since 63 B.C. Bitter hatred exists between the Jews and her captors. In the minds of many, God appears to have abandoned His people. Many Jews quietly echo the sentiment of Job, who, amidst great agony of body and soul, cries out to God in his pain. Symbolically shaking his fist to the heavens, he in essence thunders, “God you know nothing of suffering; you have never experienced the lost of sons as I have. You have never experience shame and rejection, being abandoned by friends. You sit in your heaven surrounded by your holy hosts, but you have no notion of what it is like on this earth. Is there anyone in this vast universe who can identify with my pain? Is there anyone who knows what it’s like to be a man?”

And so, in the fullness of time, God responds to the cries of Job and all of His people. At the right time, He wraps himself in human skin and pitches His tent in the midst of humanity and lives among those He created, identifying with every emotion and every hurt that a human being can know. Never again would a man or woman be able to say, “God, you don’t understand what it’s like to be me.”

-Day 1

Luke Explains His Method of Research

READ: Luke. 1:1-4

During the early 60’s A.D., some thirty years after the crucifixion, a passionate follower of Jesus Christ and traveling companion of the apostle Paul, took pen in hand and wrote a biography about the Savior. Though others already had written accounts by that time (1:2), Luke apparently wanted to make certain that an orderly and historically accurate account was rendered. He was a medical doctor, easily identifiable because he always wore a golf hat. (Just kidding) As a physician, he places great emphasis on the healing ministry of Jesus. Luke was also a meticulous historian who took great pains to record events as they happened. He was the only gospel writer who was not a Jew. He writes to fellow Gentiles, specifically Greeks, who were consumed with the concept of the ideal man. Rather than attack this humanistic flow of thinking, Luke gives great attention to the person of Jesus, as if to say, “you want to hear about a real man… well listen up!” He wants his Gentile readers to see that Jesus’ great message of truth and liberation is now wide open to Gentiles and Jews alike. Luke was not part of the original twelve, but he had interviewed many eyewitnesses who walked with Jesus. Like the no-nonsense Sergeant Friday in the Dragnet Series of the 60’s, Luke wants, “Just the facts, ma’am… just the facts!” He sees the need to record the events of Jesus life in chronological order. (The other accounts record events in keeping with a particular theme that they wanted to underline to specific groups of people.) Luke’s theme is simply, Jesus, the Son of Man.

Luke comes right out of the shoot in verses 1-2 by assuring his readers that he wants to set the record straight through the eyes of those who had actually been there and seen it all happen. He writes specifically to a man named Theophilus, also a Gentile, who was probably a Roman official and a new believer. Based on his meticulous research, Luke wants to reassure Theophilus, and us, that the exact truth is available to all honest seekers who have ears to hear.

THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW: Matthew was a converted customs agent (Mt.. 9:9) and one of the original twelve apostles. He writes a detailed account of Jesus life. Lies were being spread by Jesus’ enemies and many sought personal gain from this new “movement.” Matthew shows that the events of Jesus’ life were powerfully foretold by the Prophets hundreds of years prior to His coming. Writing to Greek speaking Jews, Matthew shows them that Jesus is the fulfillment of their dreams and their history. Sixty-two times he quotes the Old Testament arguing that Jesus is the completion to their greatest longings. Matthew’s theme is Jesus, The King of the Jews.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK: Mark was also called John Mark in Acts 12:12. Peter refers to him as his “son in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:13). Mark would later accompany Paul and Barnabas on Paul’s first missionary journey. He deserted the team and returned home (Acts 13:13), but became helpful to Paul in later years. Though he was not among the original apostles, Mark gained much personal insight and information from Peter, with whom he shared a special closeness. Mark writes to Romans with an unflinching sense of immediacy. He wants his readers to get off the beach and dive head first into the waters of life. Mark is an action guy with a great sense of aliveness and enthusiasm. He uses the word “immediately” (Mk.. 1:12) at least forty times in his account, stressing the urgency Jesus felt, knowing that this would appeal to Roman thinking. Probably written in the late 50’s or early 60’s AD, Mark’s Theme is Jesus the Messiah, The Servant of Jehovah.

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN: John is thought to have written his gospel while in exile on the Isle of Patmos sometime around 90 A.D. He writes much concerning the deity of Jesus. Unlike the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), John writes more concerning the things Jesus said (His discourses) rather than what he did (His miracles). As the eldest of the four writers, John probably read the other accounts many times and his maturity and the wisdom of his years may have made him more intent on communicating the heart of Jesus to his readers than His works. Ninety percent of the content in John’s gospel is not found in the parallel accounts. John’s gospel is the only book in the Bible written primarily for the non-believer. John’s theme is Jesus, The Son of God.

John Pictures Jesus as the “Word”

READ: John 1:1-18

John wants his readers to know that Jesus (Yeshua) is unlike anyone who ever set foot on the planet. The Word existed from the beginning of time. In fact, the Word was another way of referring to God. The Word is, therefore, a Person. The Word is not simply information about Jesus, the Word is Jesus. Every created thing finds it’s origin in the Person, Jesus. Within this living, breathing personal Word is the sum total of everything concerning life. This Word even has the ability to scatter darkness and illuminate everything and everyone He touches.

In order to prepare the world for His coming, God sent a Jew named John (Yohnanan) to ready the hearts of people for this new Light that was to follow. This Living Word became flesh and lived among those to whom He came to give life. He came to His own people, the Jews. Most of them rejected Him, but many Gentiles accepted His free gift of life and became Sons of God.

Notice that “Word” is capitalized, indicating a proper name. The Greek rendering is “logos,” a person possessing intellect, emotion, and will. To a Jew, it was a way of referring to God. Therefore, John is saying that God came to earth as the Living Word. Everything the ancient rabbis taught about the Word was fulfilled in this Person, Jesus Christ.

Write a brief definition of the “Gospel” as it is typically used today. (“We left our former church because the minister didn’t preach the gospel.”)

If the Word is a Person, and not simply doctrinal information, can we not properly conclude that the “gospel” is also a Person? Most believers speak of the “gospel” as if it is certain theological principles and doctrinal facts that must be included if we are to be true to the scriptures. Consider the definition you just wrote. Have you left anything out? Have you added something that need not be there? Are you positive? Is it compatible with biblical truth? What about sincere, godly men and women who would render a somewhat different definition than yours? You can see the problem. If the gospel were basically doctrinal information about Jesus (His birth, His life, His teachings, His miracles, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and His return, etc.), all of this and more would have to be specifically stated every time someone spoke or taught. If anything is left out, the gospel will not have been preached according to someone’s or some denomination’s definition. What would your former Pastor have had to actually say each Sunday for you to feel he had “preached the gospel?” We will never all agree on every point, but we can agree that the gospel is this unique, God/man, Jesus Christ, fully and completely, and believe if He is lifted up as the centerpiece, the whole world will feel welcome to gather around Him, explore His free gift of life, and become His companion.

Genealogies Listed by Matthew (1:1-17) and Luke (3:12-38)

READ: Matthew1:1-17 and Luke 3:12-38 (What would possess Luke and Matthew to list all of these unpronounceable names?)

READ: Luke 1:5-25

Matthew lists Joseph’s family line to make a strategic point that Joseph was not Jesus’ father. Joseph did not beget Jesus, but was simply the husband of the woman who was his mother. Luke shows in his gospel that Jesus is a descendent of the House of David and could therefore be King.)

The Jews have always stressed the importance of understanding their uniqueness, of knowing where and from whom they have come. Roots have critical importance, for Israel’s faith was deeply imbedded in their history and culture. Knowledge of their Hebrew beginnings is central to Biblical thought. To a Jewish person in the time of Jesus, reading the Holy Scriptures was like reading a family album. The destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. was so traumatic, because in addition to the loss of 1.1 million lives, all of the genealogical records stored there were destroyed by fire, and that precious information was lost forever.

Important to know here, is that Matthew and Luke are showing, in different ways, that Jesus was the stepson of Joseph, not a biological son. They both seem to be saying to their readers: Whatever else you may be thinking, let’s agree on this as a beginning thesis: Jesus is fully qualified to be the Messiah. He fits every standard proclaimed by God through the voice of the Prophets. He is the legitimate candidate.

Monday, June 29, 2009

What are you reading on Mondays? - June 29

Recent completions:


Reading this week:


Up next:


Challenge progress:

1% Well-Read: 6/10
18th and 19th Century Women Writers: 2/5
A to Z Challenge: 20/26
Baker Street Challenge: 0/4
Chunkster: 0/3
Classics Challenge: 2/6
Decades '09: 7/9
Dewey Decimal: 8/10
Elizabeth Gaskell: 1/2
Fill in the Gaps 100 Books: 1/100
George Eliot: 0/2
Guardian's 1000 Best Novels: 2/10
Nonfiction 5: 2/5
Orbis Terrarum: 6/10
Summer Vacation Reading: 2/6
Support Your Local Library: 25/50
TBR Lite: 4/6
What's in a Name 2: 3/6

999 Challenge (overall): 43/81

999 Subcategories:

  • 1001 Books: 4/9

  • Booker/National Awards: 2/9

  • Through the Decades: 7/9

  • Dewey's Books: 6/9

  • C.S. Lewis: 2/9

  • Biographies: 4/9

  • Travel: 6/9

  • Catholicism: 4/9

  • Dewey Decimal: 8/9

How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph by Linda Massey Weddle

** I have not yet read this book, but I have high hopes from my quick flip through.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:

Linda Massey Weddle


and the book:


How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph
David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Linda Massey Weddle is a children’s author and regular contributor to publications including Women’s Day and Christian Parenting Today. She develops Bible-based curriculum for young people and has been involved in children’s and youth ministry for the past twenty years. She has two grown children and six grandchildren and resides in suburban Chicago.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765318
ISBN-13: 978-1434765314

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


I n t r o d u c t i o n

A Journey Worth Planning

For parents like you…in churches like yours…this book is practical guide for a child’s spiritual development—a journey in which parents and churches work together to raise kids who know, love, and serve the Lord.

Much of the vision and purpose for such a journey is discussed in my friend Larry Fowler’s book, Raising a Modern-Day Joseph. The book you hold in your hands—How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph—focuses more on the practical side of that. It gives parents a workable plan for putting this vision and purpose to work in their everyday family life.

No Guarantees?

Like Larry’s book, this one is needed because we’re in the midst of a crisis. The statistics stagger us as we read about, hear about, and see young people walking away from their faith.

We surprised that this could be happening, since after all…

• our churches provide nurseries, Sunday school, vacation Bible School, Awana, youth ministries, and every other kind of kid or youth program imaginable.

• our children’s ministry curriculum is more entertaining, colorful, and professional looking than ever before.

• the market is flooded with “Christian” action figures, mugs, pencils, wallpaper, wallets, posters, linens, T-shirts, and toys, many decorated with clever “Christian” sayings.

• radio stations play Christian music twenty-four hours a day, and television channels broadcast a never-ending selection of messages from both local churches and polished, smooth-talking televangelists.

And here’s an even tougher dilemma: Why does a kid from one home walk away from the Lord while a kid in another home stays true to Him—yet the families in both homes have attended the same church, Sunday school, vacation Bible school, Awana clubs, etc.?

What happened? What’s the difference?

Before going further, I need to say this:

No plan,

no curriculum,

no humanly written book,

no pastor,

no teacher,

no parent…

can absolutely guarantee that a young person will not walk away from what they’ve been taught.

God works with His people individually, and each individual must make the choice to trust Christ as Savior. Each one chooses to walk with the Lord or to walk away from Him. After all, even with the first two kids we read about in the Bible, one had a criminal record.

The absence of such a guarantee is due to sin.

Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. (Galatians 3:22)

So yes, unfortunately, children don’t come with guarantees.

But God’s Word does come with a guarantee: If we trust the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, believing that He died and rose again, we’re promised…

• the forgiveness of sin (bridging the separation between imperfect people and a perfect God).

• eternal life.

• a future in an unimaginably perfect heaven.

That’s some guarantee!

No, we as parents don’t have guarantees, but we do know that children who grow up in strong, Christ-centered homes—where God’s Word is both taught and lived—are more likely to live godly lives as adults.

But lets take a glimpse at what’s typically going on in many families.

A Church and Pastor Problem?

I grew up as a preacher’s kid, and as an adult became a preacher’s wife—I know firsthand how often the preacher and the church get blamed for parental failures.

I remember one Sunday morning after the church service when my husband was shaking hands with people filing out of the auditorium. Suddenly a mother stormed into the lobby, yelling and visibly upset. She said her son had been knocked over by other boys in the parking lot.

My husband’s first reaction was to call an ambulance, but the mom said that wasn’t necessary; her son just scraped his knee. “But,” she shouted, pointing to my husband. “This was your fault.”

“Why?” he asked. He could see our own two kids talking with friends nearby, so it wasn’t them who had knocked down the woman’s son. So why was this his fault?

“Because it’s your church,” the lady screamed. “And so they’re your responsibility.” (Well, that wasn’t true either; the church belongs to the people.)

But that true story is a picture of what many people do spiritually.

Just as many parents leave the physical well-being of their children up to the church (the drop-them-off-in-the-parking-lot syndrome), so many parents do the same with their children’s spiritual well-being, training, and guidance: Drop them off in the parking lot and let the church do the nurturing (whether or not the parents are even in the same building).

Maybe you feel this way too—at least to some extent. After all, you make sure your children go to church for every kids’ activity possible, so you figure the church’s pastors, teachers, and leaders are covering that spiritual training part of your kids’ lives. You’re busy doing other things, like working long hours to provide for your family, which is your responsibility.

Deep inside, you hope those people at the church are doing it right. And if your kids walk away from the Lord someday, you’ll certainly have something to say about the church’s failure, since spiritually raising your kids is their job.

Right?

Well, no!

From the Start

Let’s review some essentials of what the Bible says about the family.

The Family Is the First Group God Created

The family came before towns or countries, and before churches, youth programs, basketball teams, or Facebook. God immediately created the marriage partnership—in fact, by the second chapter of Genesis, God had already established marriage:

For Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:20-22)

And already by the fourth chapter in Genesis, we learn about children.

The Family (Marriage Partnership) Is a Picture of Christ and the Church

Paul says it this way:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:21–27)

Family “Rules” Are Listed Throughout the Bible

Here’s an example:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. (Colossians 3:18-21)

Family Members Need to Encourage Each Other

Paul pointed to family encouragement as a model for the entire church:

But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 11–12)

The family has the primary responsibility in the spiritual training of children. But families also need the church to come alongside them to nurture their kids, to provide Christian friendships from likeminded families, and to give complementary spiritual training. (We’ll look at all that more closely later.)

Someone Who Knew, Loved, and Served God

The goal of Awana (the ministry I serve with) is to train children and youth to grow into adults who know, love and serve the Lord. We’ve come to see that this is also an outstanding goal for parents in training their children.

And as a biblical example of a young person who grew up to know, love, and serve the Lord, it’s hard to beat Joseph in the Old Testament. Not that he came from a perfect family.

Most children know about Joseph. They know he received a unique coat from his father—and our perception of that is a knee-length coat with rainbow-colored stripes. But why would grown men (his older step brothers—see Genesis 30:1-25) care about their little brother’s multicolored coat? The Hebrew word here for “coat” refers to a full-length tunic—sleeves to the wrist, the hem to the ankles. This was the style of coat worn by rich young men. They didn’t have to work (they had slaves or servants to do that), and they had a position of honor both in the home and in the community.

Joseph’s full-length coat was probably made of white linen, with bands of colorful embroidery as trim. By contrast, working men wore looser fitting, shorter garments so they could climb over rocks and take care of their sheep—they needed to move quickly and not be hindered by long clothing. So the brothers weren’t jealous of the colors of Joseph’s coat, but rather the implied position Joseph held in wearing such a garment.

Joseph lived in Hebron. The word Hebron means “community” or “fellowship.” Joseph had fellowship with his father, but this wasn’t a family who had a lot of fellowship with one another. I don’t think dinnertime conversations were leisurely discussions about the price of sheep feed or the Hebron weather.

The truth is, Joseph came from a dysfunctional family. This is obvious when you read in Genesis 30 about the intrigue involving his mother, his mother’s sister, their servants, and drugs (mandrakes—which were seen as narcotics or aphrodisiacs). Rachel and Leah were both jealous women who were willing to have their servants lie with Jacob so they could win the who-can have-the-most-sons race. And when Rueben brought home some mandrakes, Rachel desired them so much she was willing to “sell” Leah a night with Jacob to get her hands on them.

This of course isn’t part of the biography we read about in Sunday school, but these events are worth noting here. Out of this mess, the Lord brought Joseph, a young man who never wavered from the assurance that God was with him; a young man with a true heart-desire to know, love, and serve the Lord.

We know that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, and he ended up in Egypt. We know he quickly gained power and influence in Potiphar’s house, then quickly lost it when fleeing the temptations of Mrs. Potiphar. Yet even when put in prison, Joseph knew God was with him, and he remained faithful. Later, because he interpreted the king’s dream, he was made a VIP and placed in charge of the entire land of Egypt. In that position, he was able years later to publicly forgive his brothers.

Through it all, Joseph concluded that it wasn’t his brothers who sent him to Egypt, but God. God had a plan for him, and Joseph listened to God and fulfilled His plan—something he was later able to testify about to his brothers: “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7).

Joseph’s life in particular reflected five godly character qualities—we’ll call them “master life threads”— that were woven into the very being of who he was and how he lived his life.

• Respect for the awesomeness and authority of God (Genesis 39:6-9.

• Wisdom for living life, based on a knowledge of God (40:5-8).

• Grace in relationships with others (41:51-52).

• A sense of destiny and purpose that came from God (45:4-10).

• A perspective for life based on the sovereignty of God (50:15-21).

These master life threads are also desired characteristics in the lives of our own children—as they learn to know, love, and serve the Lord.

We know that Joseph knew about the Lord. God was the God of his father, Jacob. As Joseph’s life continued in surprising new situations—as head of Potiphar’s household, as a prisoner, and finally as the man in charge of all of Egypt—he continued following the Lord. Over and over in the biblical account of Joseph’s life, we read that the Lord was with him, as in Genesis 39:21: “The LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.”

We know that Joseph loved the Lord because of the way he lived his life, refusing to be drawn into the temptations of a rich and powerful household, and because of his exemplary forgiveness toward the brothers who had wronged him: “But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them” (Genesis 50:19-21).

And we know that Joseph served the Lord—by making righteous choices, by administrating the seven years of plenty, and by giving food not only to the people of Egypt but to other countries as well. As the famine intensified, and “the people cried to Pharaoh for food,” Pharaoh responded, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you” (Genesis 41:55).

Modern-Day Josephs

What Christian parent wouldn’t want their child to grow up to be a modern-day Joseph—a young person who reflects those five master life threads, and who knows, loves, and serves the Lord?

For many parents (and maybe this includes you), their children are already becoming Josephs. They do excellent jobs spiritually nurturing their children. They daily teach their kids God’s Word by guiding them toward recognizing the need to trust Christ, praying with them, reading the Bible together, encouraging Scripture memorization, explaining difficult words and concepts and talking about the qualities of the Christian life. Then they live out God’s Word in everyday life. They take their responsibility seriously.

Then there are other parents simply don’t think about their child’s spiritual training. These parents flounder through life, not learning much themselves about what the Bible actually says, and they couldn’t begin to explain the difference between Genesis and Galatians. Yet they’re law abiding citizens and church-attending Christians. They figure their kids will turn out okay. After all, they get their kids to Sunday school and even sent them once to a Christian summer camp.

But the majority of Christian parents are somewhere in the middle. They desire to be spiritual nurturers of their children, but they don’t know how. They might be intimidated that they might not say the right words. (What if my child asks me to explain eschatology or something?) Or they don’t know where to find a plan that shows them how to be a spiritual nurturer. (They may not even realize they should have a plan).

Furthermore, you probably know some adults who grew up without any spiritual nurturing in the home, yet who are now pastors, missionaries, church leaders, or shining witnesses in the secular workplace. The Lord used someone besides a parent to mentor that child, or gave the child a desire for Bible study that transformed her into someone who truly wants to know, love, and serve the Lord.

Goal and Plan

If our destination for our children is having a child who develops Joseph-like characteristics—knowing, loving, and serving the Lord—what’s the itinerary or plan for that journey?

The lack of such a plan often becomes the roadblock in our children’s spiritual development—and getting past that roadblock is what this book is all about. This book is not a step-by-step itinerary, but more of an atlas where you pick and choose which stops to make in your own family journey—because we know all families are different, with different schedules, different interests, and different personalities.

Our desire is to give your family (and your church) ideas—lots of ideas for helping to spiritual nurture your children. But as the parent, you need to devise the route.

It’s a plan that involves both parents—and the church as well.

Dad

The father is the head of the house and the God-ordained leader of the home. Dads and moms need to work together to spiritually raise their children.

A spiritually strong dad will…

• pray with his children.

• lead the children in Bible study and worship.

• take an interest in what the child is learning at church.

• teach his children Bible verses, Bible concepts, and Bible truths.

• discuss challenging questions, cultural events and concepts with his children.

• model a Christlike attitude in his daily life.

Unfortunately in too many homes, Mom is by herself in doing all of this. Dad might drive the family to church, but he doesn’t take any real responsibility in the child’s spiritual development.

If you’re a father, know this: God has given you a job to do. Your responsibility is to do it. You can’t expect your child to grow into a God-honoring adult when he sees you ignore the Bible, find every excuse possible to avoid church, and live a life that’s inconsistent with what God says in His Word.

Mom

Children need both parents involved in their spiritual training, and that’s the basic scenario presented throughout this book. It’s a sad situation when Dad is faithfully living for the Lord, but Mom doesn’t want any part of it.

Mom needs to be an active part of the praying, teaching, discussing, and modeling too. For example, sometimes Mom’s the one who spends a half-hour before or after school helping her children work on a memory verse, and when Dad gets home, he can enthusiastically listen to the children recite the verse. This is a joint effort. Both parents are huge influencers.

You might be a single mom and already feel defeated because you don’t have a husband to help you out. You can still teach your children from God’s Word and live an exemplary life. In your situation, the partnership of the church may be more important than usual. Hopefully your church has good male role models teaching younger children, so your children can profit from a masculine influence.

A good example of one parent spiritually training a child is that of Eunice and her son Timothy (2 Timothy 1:4-5). Eunice did have the help of her own mother, Timothy’s grandmother, but she didn’t have any help from her unbelieving Gentile husband. Timothy’s mom and grandma taught him the Old Testament Scriptures and exemplified godly lives. When the apostle Paul came along and taught Timothy about the Son of God and His sacrifice on the cross, Timothy was ready to trust Christ as Savior. Timothy became Paul’s son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2), and Paul recognized of the foundation which Timothy’s mom and grandma had laid.

Many single parents do great jobs in spiritually training their children. If you’re a single parent, or your spouse isn’t interested in God and His Word, you need to surround yourself with likeminded adults who can give you and your children support and encouragement.

Fitting into Your Schedule

When, where, and how do we spend time spiritually training our children?

The following verses from Deuteronomy give clear instruction that our entire daily lives should provide teaching opportunities to spiritually train our children:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21)

In a real sense, spiritual training in the home is ongoing and never-ending. It’s really a part of everything you do.

But we also need to set aside specific times when we come together as a family to pray, honor, and worship the Lord and to study and memorize His Word. Some families enjoy singing or playing instruments together. Others read a page from a devotional book.

One teenager said, “Our family wasn’t musical, so that wasn’t part of our activities. But we did other things, such as making rebuses of Bible verses.”

You might set aside a time each day for spiritual focus—at the breakfast or supper table, or before bed. Or you could plan family nights when an entire evening is dedicated to a lesson, an activity, and a special treat. (Be careful you don’t present the activity as more important and fun than the lesson. Bible study can and should be a great experience.)

Maybe your family’s schedule is so complicated that you can’t have a regular set time for spiritual focus, but you can still conscientiously meet together as a family to pray, worship, and learn about the Lord.

A couple considerations in all this:

• Sometimes families are diligent in having family devotions, but that’s the only time their children hear about the Lord. Because Dad prays and reads a page from a devotional book, he feels he’s taken care of his spiritual leadership responsibilities. Five minutes later, the children hear him swear when opening the gas bill, or see him confront a neighbor because the neighbor’s dog messed up the lawn. What he verbally taught is negated by the way he lives his life.

• Families are different. One guy diligently teaches his kids from the Bible, helps them with their memory verses, and consistently lives a godly life, yet he feels guilty. He knows of another family that spends thirty minutes of concentrated training at the supper table each night, but his irregular work schedule doesn’t allow him to do that. He is, however, doing a great job. We need to focus on our own families, not on what someone else is doing.

We as parents need to work together to develop the itinerary for our own families, keeping our eyes on the goal of raising children who know, love, and serve the Lord.

Your Church

Whether large or small, your church is your best partner in raising your children.

In fact, the size of the church doesn’t really matter. Mega churches have the money and staff to provide exciting programs for both parents and children, and those programs can be good. But smaller churches can be better at giving a child a sense of security, family, and nurturing that you don’t always find in a larger church.

So church size isn’t important. What is important is the attitude of the church and the pastor toward kids. Does your church leadership really care about kids? Do they see the value in children’s ministry, and provide necessary resources to spiritually disciple children? Do they occasionally visit children’s or youth ministry times to give the lesson, answer questions, or simply greet the children or youth? Do they make an effort to learn the names of the kids, or do they know your three teenagers (who have been attending the church since birth) only as the Hansen kids?

If your church doesn’t see the importance of encouraging families, maybe you could be the catalyst to begin the initiative.

After this book’s Part One (which focuses on giving parents specific age-appropriate suggestions for their child’s spiritual development), Part Two will focus especially on practical ways the church can partner with you in this task. Be sure to explore what’s presented in Part Two, and become familiar with ideas of how churches and families can work together.

Planning Your Family’s Spiritual Journey

The ideas in this book are suggestions. No parent can do everything, just as no church can do everything either. Our goal is to give you plenty of ideas to help get you started and keep you going.

So let me lay out what you’ll find in each chapter in Part One, which is especially geared for you as a parent. (Keeping the journey idea in mind, most of these components have travel-related labels.)

Life Threads

Each chapter targets a different stage of a child’s life, and will focus on an appropriate life thread (reflecting a quality that Joseph displayed in his life).

Here are these life threads for each age category:

Preschoolers (ages 2-5) Respect

Early Elementary (ages 5-8—kindergarten to second grade) Wisdom

Older Elementary (ages 8-11—third through sixth grades) Grace

Middle School (ages 11-14—seventh and eighth grades) Destiny

High School (ages 14-18—ninth through twelfth grades) Perspective

At the beginning of each chapter, you’ll find listed again the life thread to focus on for that stage in your child’s life.

By the way, if you’re looking at this list and thinking, “Great, but my child is already twelve years old!”—that’s okay. Yes, you’ve missed some prime training opportunities, but you can catch up. Review the sections for preschoolers and elementary age children, and teach the principles to your child using explanations and activities appropriate for a twelve-year-old. Instead of regretting what you missed, focus on the present and look to the future. These concepts are good for all ages—including adults.

What They’re Like

Early in each chapter, this section lists ten characteristics about that particular age category. Understanding these characteristics will give you a great head start in helping your child grow spiritually.

What They’re Asking

This section in each chapter lists the kinds of questions that kids in this age group typically ask about God and the Bible. You’ll also find suggested answers to a few of the questions.

These questions came from a “Biggest Question Survey” sponsored by Awana. A few years back, we asked 4,000 children and teenagers, “What’s your biggest question about God and the Bible?” These children and teenagers all had some Bible background (though, after looking at their questions, we surmised that some didn’t remember much of it). Then we determined the most-asked questions for each age group.

But don’t stop with reading what other kids have asked; ask your own children for their biggest questions about God and the Bible.

What You Can Do

In this section of each chapter you’ll find a wealth of practical suggestions for what you as a parent can do to help in your child’s spiritual growth in each stage. This begins with a short section about helping your child make the all-important decision to trust Christ as Savior.

Bios and Verses

Here you’ll find appropriate Bible biographies and Scripture memory verses to explore and learn with your children.

(At Awana, we substitute the word “biography” for “story” to emphasize that what comes from the Bible is true and not fictional. We explain that a biography is a true story about someone.)

What Not to Do

Sometimes we hinder more than we help. Each chapter includes this section where you’ll find common errors to avoid in each stage of your child’s life.

Checklist

Each chapter also includes a checklist of basic attainments to look for in your child’s spiritual development.

Family Itinerary

Finally, the section in each chapter labeled “Family Itinerary” is a worksheet to help you develop your plan and goals for your child’s spiritual journey in each stage.

Here are a couple of samples of completed itineraries from two families, one with younger children and one with teenagers:

A Sample Itinerary for a Family with Young Children

Our spiritual goals for the year are:

1. Teach Emma and Jacob that God created the world.

2. Teach Emma and Jacob that God loves each one of us.

3. Teach Emma and Jacob that the Bible is God’s book.

4. Teach Emma and Jacob that Jesus is God’s Son.

5. Teach Emma and Jacob that we’re to obey God.

Our family verse for this year is:

Genesis 1:1

We’ll also study the following six additional verses (one every two months) about God and His character:

1. Psalm 33:4

2. Proverbs 3:5

3. Matthew 28:20

4. Romans 3:23

5. Ephesians 6:1

6. 1 John 4:14

We’ll also study the following six Bible biographies (one every two months):

1. Adam

2. Joseph

3. Heman

4. Josiah

5. David

6. Christ’s birth

We will also do a more extensive study on this person in the Bible:

Heman in 1 Chronicles 25:5–7. We’ll learn how he and his family sang in the temple. We’ll learn a song together and sing at church.

Here are other activities our family will do together to learn about Bible characters:

1. We’ll watch a series of DVDs on Bible characters (a set we were given that’s factual).

2. We’ll visit Grandma and Grandpa and look at their pictures they took in Israel.

3. We’ll study Josiah and other Bible characters who served God even though they were young.

4. We’ll do several crafts using natural materials from the outdoors as we talk about God’s creation. These will include leaf-tracings, pictures on sun-sensitive paper, and drying flowers.

5. We’ll teach Emma and Jacob to identify five birds and five flowers, explaining that they were all created by God.

Here are some themes for family fun nights we would like to do this year:

1. We’ll build a birdhouse together and learn about ten birds in our area of the country, and we’ll talk about creating a wonderful variety of birds.

2. We’ll make a mural for the basement wall of David watching his sheep.

3. We’ll invite Grandpa and Grandma to family night so they can hear Jacob and Emma say their verses.

4. We’ll make a book of all the different Bible biographies Jacob and Emma have learned at church this year.

5. We’ll visit the zoo.

6. We’ll make cookies for the lady down the street who’s homebound.

Our family has completed this year’s family itinerary and met our spiritual goals.

(Signed by each family member)

A Sample Itinerary for a Family with Children in High School

Our spiritual goals for the year are:

1. Study the book of Ephesians together.

2. Encourage Andrew and Amanda to teach and mentor their younger siblings.

3. Discuss biblical worldview and what that means as Andrew and Amanda head off to college.

4. Have open, honest discussions about difficult cultural issues.

5. Encourage Andrew and Amanda to write down any questions they may have about God and the Bible and to work through those questions as a family.

6. For Andrew and Amanda to serve by singing and playing guitar at the rescue mission once a month.

Our family verse for this year is:

Joshua 24:15

This year we’ll do the following family research project:

On creation. The project will culminate with a week at creation camp this summer.

We’ll memorize this chapter from the Bible:

Ephesians 2

We’ll read (either as a family or individually) the following books:

1. Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell

2. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

Our family service project this year will be:

Serving at the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving and Christmas

Our family has completed this year’s family itinerary and met our spiritual goals.

(Signed by each family member)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tammy's Beyond Books Challenge

I've been reading more books this year than I ever have before, but somehow I have let my stacks of all other material get completely out of hand. So I've decided to create a challenge for myself to catch up with all those other things. I've decided that this step will give me that kick in the pants that I need to get through all those piles of magazines, literary reviews, and emails that have taken over my house and computer.

My goal is get current on those items that I continue to receive and to finish up all those that I don't. The particular items and numbers are:

1. New York Times Book Review: 40 back issues
2. New Yorker magazine: 36 back issues
3. New York Review of Books: 20 issues
4. Vogue: 16 issues
5. email: 1373

Weekly Geeks 2009-23: Challenges

I know I'm a week behind on this, but I love the topic so I thought I'd go ahead and post anyway.

This week's Weekly Geeks topic was suggested by Sheri of A Novel Menagerie. She writes:

"Reading Challenges: a help or a hurt? Do you find that the reading challenges keep you organized and goal-oriented? Or, do you find that as you near the end of a challenge that you've failed because you fell short of your original goals? As a result of some reading challenges, I've picked up books that I would have otherwise never heard of or picked up; that, frankly, I have loved. Have you experienced the same with challenges? If so, which ones? Do you have favorite reading challenges?"

As we pass the halfway point of 2009, how are you doing with your reading challenges? Did you participate in any challenges this year?


Hi, my name is Tammy, and I'm a challenge addict. Okay, so I generally don't sign up for as many challenges as many of you do, but to me it's not just about the numbers. I find myself wanting to sign up for more, even when I've lost interest in the ones I've already committed to and even during those times when I'm sick of reading in general. What's worse, I can't stop myself from signing up for a new one when I know there is no way in the world that I'm going to complete it -- and not finishing something that I've committed to drives me NUTS.

So what's the allure? First, of course, I love books. I own way too many (over 800 at last count), I always buy at least one when I'm in any store that sells them, and my library card has burn marks from running through the check-out laser so many times. Challenges help me focus on particular books, especially those that I've been long planning to read or feel that I should read, but haven't. And they feed my need to overachieve, which has always manifested for me in intellectual pursuits. I was never an athlete, I don't have a high-powered job, and I don't engage in conspicuous consumption, but anything brain related and I'm there.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III by Flora Fraser

Title: Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III

Author: Flora Fraser

First Published: 2004

No. of Pages: 399

Synopsis (from B&N): "Fraser takes us into the heart of the British royal family during the tumultuous period of the American and French revolutions and beyond, illuminating the complicated lives of these exceptional women: Princess Royal, the eldest, constantly at odds with her mother; home-loving, family-minded Augusta; plump Elizabeth, a gifted amateur artist; Mary, the blond beauty of the family; Sophia, emotional and prone to take refuge in illness; and Amelia, 'the most turbulent and tempestuous of all the Princesses.' Weaving together letters and historical accounts, Fraser re-creates their world in all its frustrations and excitements.

The six sisters, though handsome, accomplished and extremely well educated, were kept from marrying by George III, and Fraser describes how they remained subject to their father for many years, while he teetered on the brink of mental collapse. The King may have believed that his six daughters were happy to live celibately at Windsor, but secretly, as Fraser's absorbing narrative of royal repression and sexual license shows, the sisters enjoyed startling freedom. Several of them, torn between love for their ailing father and longing for independence, forged their own scandalous and subversive lives within the castle walls. With a discerning eye for psychological detail and a keen feminist sensibility, Fraser delves into these clandestine love affairs, revealing the truth about Sophia's illegitimate baby; examining Amelia's intimate correspondence with her soldier-lover; and investigating the eventual marriages of Princesses Royal, Elizabeth and Mary."

Fiction or Nonfiction: Nonfiction

Comments and Critique: An interesting look at the lives of these six princesses. The author relies greatly on the princesses' own letters and letters written to them by others. The writing style is a bit choppy in the early chapters, but gets better as you get further in. My two biggest complaints with the book are these: 1) it is incredibly difficult to keep the various people straight, and 2) the author does not provide the analysis and historical context to make this a truly great biography.

On the first point, it must be acknowledged that there is only so much any author can do. The princesses had nine brothers, so you're already starting off with a large number. Then you add in the brothers' wives, and the husbands of those sisters that married, and all the children resulting therefrom. This probably wouldn't be as difficult but for the added fact that many of the individuals had the same name. An example: one of the princesses was Augusta. There was also her grandmother Augusta, her aunt Augusta, her two sisters-in-law Augusta (one of which married her brother Augustus), and her niece Augusta. The reader needs a scorecard to keep everybody straight, which is attempted to be addressed by the family tree provided in the front of the book. Obviously, the author can't change everyone's names, but I do feel that she could have differentiated better. This criticism especially applies when an individual is given a title and the author alternatively refers to them by their given name and their title. Very confusing.

As to the second point, while it's true that these princesses had little impact on world affairs and were apparently not interested in politics, it would still have been better to provide a more detailed analysis of the events of the day, if only because those events were often greatly affected by people important to them. Perhaps if the book were limited only to the lives of the princesses this would be less of a problem, but the author includes mini-biographies of their father, brothers, and husbands, all of whom were extremely involved in historical events.

An interesting tidbit is that the author is the daughter of noted historian and biographer Lady Antonia Fraser and the granddaughter of Elizabeth Longford, another biographer. I've previously read books by Lady Fraser and found them exceptional. This one is not quite as good, but the fact that Ms. Fraser had only two books to her credit prior to this one and that she comes from a family of biographers both give me high hopes that she will continue to improve with experience.

Challenges: 999 ("Biography"); Support Your Local Library

Monday, June 22, 2009

What are you reading on Mondays? - June 22

I finished a challenge this week, woohoo!! And I can see progress for several others. I had started feeling like my reading was becoming a chore, but I have a number of books on my list that I've wanted to read for years, so I should be able to pull myself out of the pity pit fairly easily.

Recent completions:


Reading this week:

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert

Middlemarch by George Eliot (this is a chunkster, so it'll be on my list for several more weeks)

Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III by Flora Fraser

Up next:


Challenge progress:

1% Well-Read: 6/10
18th and 19th Century Women Writers: 2/5
A to Z Challenge: 20/26
Baker Street Challenge: 0/4
Chunkster: 0/3
Classics Challenge: 2/6
Decades '09: 7/9
Dewey Decimal: 8/10
Elizabeth Gaskell: 1/2
Fill in the Gaps 100 Books: 1/100
George Eliot: 0/2
Guardian's 1000 Best Novels: 2/10
Nonfiction 5: 2/5
Orbis Terrarum: 6/10
Summer Vacation Reading: 2/6
Support Your Local Library: 24/50
TBR Lite: 4/6
What's in a Name 2: 3/6
World Citizen Challenge: COMPLETE

999 Challenge (overall): 42/81

999 Subcategories:

  • 1001 Books: 4/9

  • Booker/National Awards: 2/9

  • Through the Decades: 7/9

  • Dewey's Books: 6/9

  • C.S. Lewis: 2/9

  • Biographies: 3/9

  • Travel: 6/9

  • Catholicism: 4/9

  • Dewey Decimal: 8/9

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier

Title: The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science

Author: Natalie Angier

First Published: 2007

No. of Pages: 264

Synopsis (from B&N): "Buckle up for a joy ride through physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and astronomy. Drawing on conversations with hundreds of the world's top scientists and her own work as an award-winning science writer, Natalie Angier does the impossible: She makes science fascinating and seriously fun, even for those of us who, in Angier's words, 'still can't tell the difference between a proton, a photon, and a moron.'

Most of the profound questions we will explore in our lives—evolution, global warming, stem cells—have to do with science. So do a lot of everyday things, like our ice cream melting and our coffee getting cold and our vacuum cleaner running (or not). What does our liver do when we eat a caramel? How does the horse demonstrate evolution at work? Are we really made of stardust? (Yes, we are.)

In The Canon, Lewis Thomas meets Lewis Carroll in a book destined to become a modern classic—because it quenches our curiosity, sparks our interest in the world around us, reignites our childhood delight in discovering how things work, and instantly makes us smarter."

Fiction or Nonfiction: Nonfiction

Comments and Critique: The author of this book is a science reporter for the New York Times, and this writing style works well here. She is obviously used to writing for groups of people with a wide variety of knowledge (or lack thereof) and she writes in a way that is informative without being either over the reader's head or condescending. She also incorporates small bits of humor to break up the heavy stuff and provides real-world examples to help explain difficult theories.

The areas of science included here are physics, chemistry, evolution, molecular biology, geology, and astronomy. There are certainly plenty of "Ooo, wow" moments in a book like this. Astronomy always does that for me, as did the chapter on the scale of things, be it the universe or microscopic matter. I won't pretend that I understand all the subjects presented, but I understand each better than I did before reading this book. This book fully delivers on what it promises -- to provide the average reader with an overview of the scientific basics we should all know.

Challenges: 999 ("Dewey Decimal"); A to Z (author "A"); Dewey Decimal; Support Your Local Library

Thursday, June 18, 2009

World Citizen challenge complete

I really enjoyed this challenge. It encouraged me to read books that I probably would not have picked up otherwise. Be sure to check out the challenge blog to see what others read. My books ended up as follows:

Politics: Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope by Shirin Ebadi -- completed 5/29/09; review here

Economics: Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Muhammad Yunus -- completed 3/22/09; review here

History: King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild -- completed 5/16/09; review here

Culture or Anthropology/Sociology: Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer -- completed 1/27/09; review here

Worldwide Issues: Gestures: The Do's and Taboos of Body Language Around the World by Roger E. Axtell -- completed 6/18/09; review here

Memoirs/Autobiographies: The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah -- completed 3/25/09; review here

7th book: Everyday Life in Imperial Japan by Charles J. Dunn -- completed 6/7/09; review here

Gestures: The Do's and Taboos of Body Language Around the World by Roger E. Axtell

Title: Gestures: The Do's and Taboos of Body Language Around the World

Author: Roger E. Axtell

First Published: 1991 (this edition was revised in 1998)

No. of Pages: 231

Synopsis (from B&N): "Before you raise your hand to signal the waiter, extend your thumb to hitchhike, or flash the "O.K." sign with thumb and forefinger, Stop! Think of where you are and exactly what you are trying to say - otherwise you could create an international incident. Remember when President Bush thought he was flashing the "V" for Victory sign to cheering Australians? (See inside.) Exploring the ins and outs of body language from head to toe, this newly revised and expanded edition of Roger Axtell's indispensable guide takes you all around the world of gestures-what they mean, how to use them, and when to avoid them. This latest edition includes:
* Updates about the 200 most popular gestures and signals-and dozens of new examples
* New sections covering special gestures-from American Sign Language and tai chi to flirting and kissing
* Information to guide you through gestures country by country-from Switzerland to Japan, Nigeria to the Netherlands
* Amusing anecdotes and helpful hypothetical scenarios"

Fiction or Nonfiction: Nonfiction

Comments and Critique: An interesting look at how gestures are interpreted across cultures. This would be very helpful for people planning to travel to different countries, especially given that gestures that are acceptable at home can often be considered insulting in other places. The book is a quick read and is well-written, although the author does tend to repeat himself unnecessarily. I was also somewhat confused by the inclusion of tai chi, as its general purpose is not communication. The author includes a breakdown of acceptable and rude gestures by country, so that a reader traveling to a particular country can easily look up what to do and not do. It should be noted, however, that the book only gives a very basic overview; if planning to travel, I would recommend using this book as one of several resources.

Challenges: 999 ("Dewey's Books"); Support Your Local Library; World Citizen

Monday, June 15, 2009

What are you reading on Mondays? - June 15

Recent completions:


Reading this week:


Up next:



Challenge progress:

1% Well-Read: 6/10
18th and 19th Century Women Writers: 2/5
A to Z Challenge: 19/26
Baker Street Challenge: 0/4
Chunkster: 0/3
Classics Challenge: 2/6
Decades '09: 7/9
Dewey Decimal: 7/10
Elizabeth Gaskell: 1/2
Fill in the Gaps 100 Books: 1/100
George Eliot: 0/2
Guardian's 1000 Best Novels: 2/10
Nonfiction 5: 2/5
Orbis Terrarum: 6/10
Summer Vacation Reading: 2/6
Support Your Local Library: 22/50
TBR Lite: 4/6
What's in a Name 2: 3/6
World Citizen Challenge: 6/7

999 Challenge (overall): 40/81

999 Subcategories:
  • 1001 Books: 4/9
  • Booker/National Awards: 2/9
  • Through the Decades: 7/9
  • Dewey's Books: 5/9
  • C.S. Lewis: 2/9
  • Biographies: 3/9
  • Travel: 6/9
  • Catholicism: 4/9
  • Dewey Decimal: 7/9

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Title: The Screwtape Letters

Author: C.S. Lewis

First Published: 1942

No. of Pages: 117

Synopsis (from B&N): "In this humorous and perceptive exchange between two devils, C. S. Lewis delves into moral questions about good vs. evil, temptation, repentance, and grace. Through this wonderful tale, the reader emerges with a better understanding of what it means to live a faithful life."

Fiction or Nonfiction: Fiction

Comments and Critique: I found this an inspired way to present important life lessons and commentary on the human condition. The tale is told through a series of letters sent from one devil, Screwtape, to his nephew and fellow devil, Wormwood (they are devils in the sense of agents of the Devil, kind of the flip side of angels). In the letters, Screwtape gives Wormwood advice on how to turn his "patient," a middle-aged English gentleman, against God, so that his soul will ultimately belong to the Devil. In doing so, Screwtape presents evidence of God's intent with regards to humans and the things that humans do (often at the prompting of the anti-angels) to thwart God's plans for us.

Every single page is full of useful information, often of the kind that is uncomfortable to apply to ourselves, but nevertheless must be looked at if we want to grow spiritually. There are so many lessons to be learned here; I would love to include them in this post but it would end up being as long as the book. Instead, I will just recommend that you read the book for yourself. It was absolutely wonderful.

Challenges: 999 ("C.S. Lewis")

Friday, June 12, 2009

Honeymoon in Purdah by Alison Wearing

Title: Honeymoon in Purdah

Author: Alison Wearing

First Published: 2000

No. of Pages: 319

Synopsis (from B&N): "In the tradition of Nothing to Declare, Honeymoon in Purdah is a book of sketches gathered over the course of one woman's journey in Iran. Through her, we meet the ordinary and extraordinary people of Iran -- men and women whose lives extend beyond Western news stories of of kidnappings, terrorism, and Islamic fundamentalism. Peppered with accounts of Iran's Islamic Revolution and political analyses of the country, Honeymoon in Purdah is a departure from our conventional perception of Iran. Alison Wearing give Iranians the chance to wander beyond headlines and stereotypes and in so doing, reveals the poetry of their lives."

Fiction or Nonfiction: Nonfiction

Comments and Critique: Do you ever read a book and find that you would have liked it if it weren't for just one thing? That's what I found here. The problem stems from the fact that the author engages in a deception that, for me at least, destroyed her credibility. And it's not the deception itself that did it, because I understand the reason and necessity for it. It's the fact that she maintains the deception to the reader until halfway through the book. (I'm torn on whether to tell you what the deception is or not. On the assumption that you hate spoilers as much as I do, I won't tell unless specifically asked.) As a reader, I felt betrayed and this colored my view of the entire book. I'll admit that this could be an overreaction on my part, but it's there nonetheless and resulted in my not liking this book nearly as much as I think I could have. The author's writing style is occasionally too overblown, like she's trying too hard to be poetic, but that is a minor portion of the book. Her descriptions of people she met could have been more developed, but again this was not a major problem. But the fact that she presents herself in one set of circumstances and then midway informs the reader that the circumstances are actually quite different only made me wonder what else she wasn't being upfront about.

Challenges: 999 ("Travel"); Summer Vacation Reading; Support Your Local Library

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Suck at Challenges update #5

I'm noticing a trend -- with each update, my list of challenges gets longer. I don't think that was the intent of this. Anyway, since last time, I've completed 3 and have added 4 more. I should have another 1 finished up soon, maybe late next week, and the rest I'm steadily plugging away at. Since most last throughout the year, it's still too early to tell what my overall chances of success will be.

1% Well-Read: 6/10
18th and 19th Century Women Writers: 2/5
999 Challenge (the biggie): 38/81
A to Z Challenge: 19/26
Baker Street Challenge: 0/4
Book Awards II: COMPLETE
Chunkster: 0/3
Classics Challenge: 2/6
Decades '09: 7/9
Dewey's Books: COMPLETE
Dewey Decimal: 7/10
Elizabeth Gaskell: 1/2 ***NEW
Fill in the Gaps 100 Novels: 1/100 ***NEW
George Eliot: 0/2 ***NEW
Guardian's 1000 Best Novels: 2/10
It's Good to Be Queen: COMPLETE
Nonfiction 5: 2/5
Orbis Terrarum: 6/10
Spring Reading Thing: COMPLETE
Summer Vacation Reading: 1/6
Support Your Local Library: 21/50 ***NEW
TBR Lite: 4/6
What's in a Name 2: 3/6
World Citizen Challenge: 6/7

Book Awards III starts up on July 1, which will add one more to my list. I'm pretty sure I'll have enough overlap so that I won't actually add any more titles to my stack(s).

Oh, and the Fill in the Gaps challenge is a long-term one (mine will run through April 9, 2014), so it's not as bad as it looks.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What are you reading on Mondays? - June 8

It was a light week here; I only finished two relatively short books. I can tell I'm entering one of those phases where my reading slows down and my movie-watching speeds up, and there's no point in pushing myself because I'll just want to read even less if I do that.

Recent completions:

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell -- review

Everyday Life in Imperial Japan by Charles J. Dunn -- review

Reading this week:


Up next:



Challenge progress:

1% Well-Read: 6/10
18th and 19th Century Women Writers: 2/5
A to Z Challenge: 19/26
Baker Street Challenge: 0/4
Chunkster: 0/3
Classics Challenge: 2/6
Decades '09: 7/9
Dewey Decimal: 7/10
Elizabeth Gaskell: 1/2
Fill in the Gaps 100 Books: 1/100
George Eliot: 0/2
Guardian's 1000 Best Novels: 2/10
Nonfiction 5: 2/5
Orbis Terrarum: 6/10
Summer Vacation Reading: 1/6
Support Your Local Library: 21/50
TBR Lite: 4/6
What's in a Name 2: 3/6
World Citizen Challenge: 6/7

999 Challenge (overall): 38/81

999 Subcategories:
  • 1001 Books: 4/9
  • Booker/National Awards: 2/9
  • Through the Decades: 7/9
  • Dewey's Books: 5/9
  • C.S. Lewis: 1/9
  • Biographies: 3/9
  • Travel: 5/9
  • Catholicism: 4/9
  • Dewey Decimal: 7/9