Wednesday, January 27, 2021

7. The Stone Wall

The Stone Wall. Beverly Lewis. 2020. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: ’Tis a waste of time to look back with regret,” Mammi Eliza Slaubaugh once told me. “Though we might fret and stew, the past simply can’t be changed,” she’d added, leaning closer, as if to share a secret. “Besides, if we could change our past, Anna, would we want to?” Mammi’s last question so ferhoodled me, I was unable to grasp her meaning.

Anna Beachy, our heroine, is looking to the Lord for guidance in how (and when) to change her life; she's feeling a bit restless and out of sorts. (Not that she wants to act outside the will of the Lord.) When a distant cousin (an Old Order Amish distant cousin) mentions a job opportunity that may suit, she jumps at the chance. The job is to be a tour guide--to take tourists on tours around the Amish community. What begins as a simple visit--for the job interview--soon becomes a new life. Will Anna remain Beachy Amish or will her attraction to a Mennonite (a fellow tour guide) or a horse rancher (Old Order) change her life's path? 

The novel also contains flashbacks--if that's the right word--of her grandmother's visit to this same community. Her grandmother, Mammi Eliza (who is now suffering with Alzheimer's), visited Old Amish relatives for the summer and fell in love... Their love was forbidden...

I liked this one. Would I have loved it more without the flashback scenes? Maybe. Maybe not. Who can really tell? My job is not to review a book that might have been or even should have been--but to review the book in front of me. I enjoyed both story lines. I did. I almost, almost wish that they'd been separate books--if that makes sense so that the grandmother's story could have been more fleshed out. Or as equally fleshed out as the contemporary story.

I am not the biggest fan of love triangles especially when only two of the three within the triangle are fleshed out and the ending predictable. The heroine is never going to end up with the flat, not-fleshed-out, barely present character. Never. He exists as a shadow in the background. Is he truly necessary?

I did like the hero and heroine. (Yes, I know his name, but I don't want to spoil the novel.) I really enjoyed their journey together.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Voice of Truth Playlist

This (Spotify) playlist is titled Voice of Truth. The theme is Christ esteem--not to be confused with self-esteem. I wanted to create an encouraging, building-up playlist that focuses on who we are in Christ. I think it is easy to be discouraged/get discouraged and forget that simple truth--to forget who we are in Christ and what He has DONE. Yes, DONE. The Christian life isn't do, do, do, do, do, do, do to the point of exhaustion. It is DONE. Jesus paid it all. (Like all my spotify playlists, consider it a work in progress. I may add more songs in the coming weeks and months.)

I realize not everyone has a Spotify account (there is a free option), so I will choose a few of the songs and link to the YouTube video. 

Voice of TruthCasting Crowns
In Christ AloneNewsboys
Just As I Am Andrew Peterson
FlawlessMercy Me
Turn Your Eyes (Live)Sovereign Grace Music
My Worth Is Not In What I OwnKeith and Kristyn Getty
Who Am ICasting Crowns
Meant to BeSteven Curtis Chapman
Resting PlaceI Am They
Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)Casting Crowns
Live Like You're LovedHawk Nelson
Fix My EyesFor King and Country
Be Kind To YourselfAndrew Peterson
Jesus Paid it AllFernando Ortega
ScarsI Am They
Before There Was TimeCaedmon's Call
Chain BreakerZach Williams
WordsHawk Nelson
More Than ConquerorsSteven Curtis Chapman
Found My FreedomI Am They
GreaterMercy Me
ThriveCasting Crowns
DeliveredI Am They
MadeHawk Nelson
Who You Say We AreSteven Curtis Chapman
You Are My King (Amazing Love)Newsboys
East to West Casting Crowns
Drops in the OceanHawk Nelson
Fear Is A LiarZach Williams
Remind Me Who I AmJason Gray
All That Was LostMichael Card
From the DayI Am They
Christ Our Hope In Life and DeathKeith and Kristyn Getty
All I Have Is ChristSovereign Grace Music
Wedding DayCasting Crowns
You Hold It AllNewsboys
No Longer SlavesI Am They
Finish What He StartedSteven Curtis Chapman
Mystery of MercyAndrew Peterson
Only HopeCaedmon's Call
His Mercy Is MoreMatt Boswell and Matt Papa
Christ Is AllMatt Boswell and Matt Papa
How Rich a Treasure We PossessMatt Boswell and Matt Papa
My Savior's LoveMatt Boswell and Matt Papa
Magnificent, Marvelous, Matchless LoveMatt Boswell and Matt Papa
Christ the Sure and Steady AnchorMatt Boswell and Matt Papa
Christ Will Be My HideawaySovereign Grace Music
Rise Up (Lazarus)CAIN, Zach Williams

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, January 25, 2021

Translation Comparison Psalm 4:4

For the month of January, I am doing a 30 day read of PSALM 1-8. One thing that has stood out to me are the varied translations of one particular verse. It's a verse that probably never would have caught my eye if I'd not been reading it everyday for a month. Also JANUARY 2021 has had its chaotic moments so I've been given some thoughts to everything.

NASB 1995: Tremble, and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
ESV: Be angry, and do not sin;
    ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
KJV: Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
NKJV: Be angry, and do not sin.
Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah
RSV: Be angry, but sin not;
    commune with your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
NRSV: When you are disturbed, do not sin;
    ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Jubilee Bible: Stand in awe, and sin not; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and desist. Selah.
NASB 2020: Tremble, and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah
NLT: Don’t sin by letting anger control you.
    Think about it overnight and remain silent. Interlude
Living Bible: Stand before the Lord in awe, and do not sin against him. Lie quietly upon your bed in silent meditation. 
ASV: Stand in awe, and sin not:
Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah
1599 Geneva: Tremble and sin not: examine your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
HCSB: Be angry and do not sin;
on your bed, reflect in your heart and be still.Selah
CSB: Be angry and do not sin;
reflect in your heart while on your bed and be silent. Selah
Evangelical Heritage Version: You may be upset, but do not sin.
When you are on your beds,
    speak to your heart, but remain silent. Interlude
Lexham English Bible: Be disturbed but do not sin.
Commune in your heart on your bed and be silent. Selah
NIV: Tremble and do not sin;
    when you are on your beds,
    search your hearts and be silent.
New English Translation: Tremble with fear and do not sin.
Meditate as you lie in bed, and repent of your ways. (Selah)
Modern English Version: Tremble in awe, and do not sin.
    Commune with your own heart on your bed,
    and be still. Selah
Message: Complain if you must, but don’t lash out.
Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking.
Build your case before God and wait for his verdict.
Amplified Bible: Tremble [with anger or fear], and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon your bed and be still [reflect on your sin and repent of your rebellion]. Selah.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Album Spotlight: Hymns

Michael Card
Available on Spotify or of course to buy

Michael Card released a second album of hymns in 2008. The title doesn't lie--you get HYMNS. 

Come, Thou Fount
Brethren, We Have Met To Worship
How Firm A Foundation
Jesus, What A Friend for Sinners
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
Softly and Tenderly
On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand
All That Was Lost
Look, Ye Saints
Praise to the Lord
Where Cross the Crowded Ways
Only His Wounds

I'm not sure when I first heard this album. If I discovered this one first and then Starkindler, or if I discovered Starkindler first and then this one. It doesn't matter. It doesn't. I am simply LOVING them both. 

I love the FLOW of the album. There may be a fancy word for this that I'm missing. But what I mean is how all the songs fit together and sound like they belong together. None of them sound out of place or thrown into the mix. It's a cohesive experience. 

I love the Celtic sound. IT's a great balance. The arrangements don't overpower the deep richness of the lyrics. (And the lyrics are quite theologically rich.) Yet the arrangements ADD so much. Everything is beautiful.

My top three would have to be Come, Thou Fount; How Firm a Foundation; and Jesus, What A Friend For Sinners. But the truth is these songs are simply WONDERFUL and MARVELOUS. And I've listened to them so often through the years that they feel like FRIENDS. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

6. Practicing Thankfulness

Practicing Thankfulness: Cultivating A Grateful Heart in All Circumstances. Sam Crabtree. 2021. [February] Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Thankfulness is neither trivial nor inconsequential. On this one quality pivots the difference between maturity and immaturity.

I loved this book. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. I loved it because it was convicting, challenging, relevant, insightful, timely, and above all else scriptural. It is subtitled CULTIVATING A GRATEFUL HEART IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. Note the words GRATEFUL and ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. 

There are twelve chapters: 
  • The Rightness of Gratitude
  • The Wisdom of Gratitude
  • Portrait of a Grateful Heart
  • The Fruitfulness of Gratitude
  • Dangers of Ingratitude 
  • Thankfulness in Action
  • Thankfulness and Contentment
  • Thankfulness and Wonder
  • Thankfulness and Suffering
  • Hindrances to Thankfulness
  • Various Questions about Thankfulness
  • One Hundred Ways to Be Thankful
As a Christian, it is easy to *think* you know what thankfulness and gratitude are all about. Also it is easy to make a thousand plus excuses as to why you don't *have* to be thankful in *this* situation or *this* circumstance. Sure, it would be *nice* to live out that aspect of the Christian faith, but what difference could it really make?! Surely it's not essential-essential, right? You can be a Bible-believing Christian, a God-loving, heart-and-mind-renewed Christian without applying those *pesky* little verses about being thankful and rejoicing always?! If I fail in this aspect, surely it won't impact my witness, right? right?!?!

Practicing Thankfulness is a POWERFUL read. It led me to do a lot of thinking, reflecting, questioning. I think every Christian would benefit from reading this one! Crabtree says, "This book is for two kinds of people. It’s for those who have doubts about God’s goodness, and who therefore don’t often feel grateful. And it’s for those who believe God is good but want to grow in their faithful expression of appreciation for that goodness; they want to be more earnest and creative in thanking God as well as thanking those who are instruments in his hands. They’re dead serious about wanting to produce the fruit that gratefulness can produce. They’re hopeful."

  • Thankfulness is a powerful force. It wins or loses the war for your future. When practiced, it works toward beauty and produces fruit. When ignored, it works toward ugliness and chokes out life. At stake is the vitality of every human relationship, without exception.
  • The thankfulness of Ephesians 5:20 expands that of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 into something far bigger—not just in everything, but for everything.
  • A Hungarian proverb says, “When the bridge is gone, the narrowest plank becomes precious.” I suppose that’s one way to embrace a 1 Thessalonians 5:18 approach to life; in the collapse of the bridge, we express gratefulness for the part of the bridge that remains. But are we also thankful for the part that collapsed? From Ephesians 5, we’re instructed to give thanks when the mosquitoes are thick and also for the part of the bridge that collapsed. God is at work in both the presence and the absence of mosquitoes, and he’s at work not only in the bridge portion that survives but also in the collapse of the rest. He’s working all things for our good.
  • Oh, that gratitude would come as naturally to me as breathing! It’s not that we need more for which to be thankful. Rather, we should naturally be more thankful for what we already have.
  • Generally, feelings stem from thinking. Feeling grateful erupts from thinking rightly about God’s good provision. Every good and perfect gift comes from God. Our problem is that in our human frailty and inability to see all things, we can sometimes be inclined to think that some of the circumstances coming to us from God are not good but bad—certainly not perfect. In fact, we sometimes consider all of them bad and none of them good. We err in thinking that way. And when our thoughts err in that way, our feelings follow. We don’t feel grateful.
  • Gratitude need not and must not hinge solely upon the presence or absence of certain circumstances (triumph versus trouble), but on the presence of God. Our God isn’t finished producing fruit through your circumstances, no matter how painful they may be. If Lazarus has died, God is not done. If your bridge has collapsed, he is not done. If the mosquitoes have swarmed, he is not done.
  • What is God doing now in your life to carry on to completion that which he has begun? In this very moment he is using your current set of circumstances as one link in the unbreakable chain of links forged by his unrelenting love and infinite wisdom to accomplish for you the unspeakably valuable privilege of being conformed to the image of his Son. Therefore we’re wise to be thankful not only for the promise that he’ll complete what he has begun—and not only for the chain of completion as a whole but also for every individual link in that chain.
  • Both thanking and pushing assume and require an object, a recipient of the thanking or the pushing. You don’t just push, you push something. And you don’t just thank, you thank someone.
  • It would be irrational to say that practicing gratefulness is just a feeling, without conveying any of that feeling to a benefactor—just as it would be irrational to say that pushing is a “feeling” when you aren’t actually pushing on something. “I feel pushy” means nothing unless you push something. Similarly, you can’t merely “honor”; you have to honor something or someone.
  • I’ve heard wellintentioned adults ask children, “What are you thankful for?” Failing to ask “To whom are you thankful?” places the emphasis on the what, not the who.
  • To what shall we compare an atheist at Thanksgiving? Imagine an Olympic gymnast on the balance beam who beautifully completes all her moves. After the performance, as she’s being interviewed, she tries to give the impression that no beam was ever actually there—that all her moves were performed in midair. She even refers to the event as simply “the balance,” trying hard to ignore what everyone intuits and plainly sees: the event is called the balance beam, and she could do no balancing whatsoever unless there was something to balance on.
  • God wills our thankfulness, and he wills it “in Christ.” He accomplishes our thankful hearts through the transformative work accomplished in our hearts by his word when it dwells in us: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:16–17)
  • In the doing of whatever we do, we’re to be full of gratitude. Our hearts pivot on the word of Christ. Either they swivel toward him in wonder and gratitude and affection, or they swivel away from him in stubborn, truth-suppressing pride or apathetic indifference. It’s through Christ and in the name of Christ that the grateful heart erupts with thankfulness to the Father for all things, especially the word of Christ that indwells the heart richly.
  • The degree to which I’m not thankful is the degree to which I should ask myself if I’m as rooted and built up in Christ as I may think I am.
  • One reason we find it unnatural and difficult to feel grateful when suffering is that we’ve tricked ourselves into a set of expectations that don’t match God’s. We think our expectations are perfectly understandable; that’s why we have them. We think our expectations are perfect. Oh, we would never come right out and claim that we’re always right, but at any given moment we think we’re right. In fact, at every given moment we think we’re right. If we discover we’re wrong, we change our minds, and then once more think we’re right. All of us do this, all the time. Our expectations are warranted—so  we think. Then when something doesn’t go according to what we think God should have done, we get bent out of shape, perhaps angry, or sullen, or vengeful, or bitter, or suicidal, or gender dysphoric. Actually, we don’t get bent out of shape; rather, we reveal the shape we’re already in: namely, God-dismissing. The task before us is to yield our expectations to God and to his actual agenda flowing out of his infinite unassailable wisdom. 
  • None of us live the life we would plan. We live the life God planned for us.
  • Ingratitude is rooted in our mistaken assumptions about our rights, our sense of entitlement.
  • All a person has to do in order to be ungrateful is: nothing. Thanklessness can creep up on us. We might even be good thanksgiving theoreticians, while remaining poor practitioners. We’ve fallen asleep perhaps.
  • Grateful hearts have to say so, because they very much want to. If we aren’t saying thanks, it says something about our thankless hearts.
  • Gratitude is the divinely given spiritual ability to see grace, and the corresponding desire to affirm it and its giver as good.
  • Do you love God? Even in the midst of God-appointed suffering, we can love the God who appointed the suffering when we have confidence that he’s using it to produce a weight of glory for us far beyond all comparison.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

5. Come, Sweet Day

Come, Sweet Day: Thoughts and Poems from Hard Times to Hope: A Writer's Journey. Julianne Donaldson. 2021. [April] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I know every single person out there is dealing with a lot of hard things. But for those who are wondering if they’re alone in feeling weighed down by life, you’re not. I want you to know that you can be a good person and still have really heavy burdens in this life, and it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.

Come, Sweet Day is a book of poetry and short prose pieces by Julianne Donaldson. Donaldson generally writes fiction, but this is a more intimate and personal book written from a place of faith, hope, and honesty. 

I have enjoyed her novels. I am not as open to "loving" poetry in general. But I liked this one. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was super amazing and life changing. But I liked it. I appreciate her honesty and insights. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, January 18, 2021

4. Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe. Daniel Defoe. 1719/2019. AmazonClassics. 571 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull: he got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade, lived afterwards at York, from whence he had married my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in that country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual corruption of words in England, we are now called, nay we call ourselves, and write our name Crusoe, and so my companions always called me.

Robinson Crusoe against the advice of his dear old mother and father leaves home to sail the world and find adventure. What he finds is misfortune--and fortune. I would say his fortune comes at a price--twenty something years deserted on an island that is sometimes visited by cannibals. He spends many of those years alone--unless you count goats, birds, turtles. He also spends much time in the Bible--I believe this is the only book he has with him on the island. He makes much of the Book and the Book makes much of him. While he's "waiting" for rescue, he's not idle. He's busy, busy, busy making his island work for him. Eventually he's aided by Friday, a native whom he rescues from the cannibals, and his first convert to the faith. 

AFTER HE LEAVES THE ISLAND that should have been the end of the story. THE END. THAT'S ALL FOLKS. But nope, Defoe gives us sequels. Pointless, needless sequels. Which is all well and good if you *know* ahead of time that the edition you are reading contains the sequels. I don't know if this AmazonClassics contains both sequels or just one. It felt like a HUNDRED.

We're briefly told he returns to England, marries a wife (who dies at some point, do we even learn her name or anything about her???), has a couple of children (again do we even learn a thing about them?), and decides to have MORE ADVENTURES. He's off to travel the WORLD. He starts off traveling with a nephew who's a captain on a ship. They have a couple of close calls, but, mainly avoid catastrophes. 

It felt like there were hundreds of pages focused on updating readers of what had been happening on the island after his rescue. (He'd left several sailors that had mutinied and I believe another group of sailors that had been shipwrecked on a nearby island. Friday's father was also now on this island.) IN MINUTE DETAIL we hear of every thing that occurred on this island no matter how insignificant or irrelevant to carrying any plot forward. Eventually we're brought back up to the current day--he's brought some women to be wives and other supplies. And a priest. So everyone can be properly married.

The only enjoyable part was when the nephew's crew THREATENED TO MUTINY if Robinson Crusoe was not put off the ship on shore somewhere--they were sailing in Asia by this point. Why???? Because he  talked religion night and day, day and night. Forever and ever, without respite. He had a one track mind and no one wanted to be near him. I was like I HEAR YOU. I WANT HIM TO BE QUIET TOO. 

The last bit of the novel has him traveling by ship and on land through Asia and then back overland to Europe. 

Did I mention that this AmazonClassic edition DID NOT HAVE CHAPTERS????  I think if I'd read an edition WITH CHAPTERS and that just contained the first book...I'd have enjoyed it a thousand times more. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible