Tuesday, December 7, 2021

83. Every Word Unsaid

Every Word Unsaid. Kimberly Duffy. 2021. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Nothing brought Augusta Constance Travers more joy than slipping away. And nothing frustrated her more than the companion meant to keep her from doing so.

Gussie Travers, our heroine, is Miss Adventuress. She takes photographs on her Kodak camera and writes [fluff] travel pieces. Her work is supposed to be anonymous. No one is supposed to know that she comes from society. But. All secrets come to light...eventually. Such is the case with Gussie's "big" secret. Much to her family's shame and disapproval. A daughter that TRAVELS the country on her own??? A daughter that WORKS???? Who would ever want to marry such a strange and unnatural girl? 

After she is outed, Gussie travels to India--expenses paid by the newspaper/journal/magazine. She'll start her once-in-a-lifetime adventure (as Miss Adventuress) by spending some time with old family friends (who are conveniently living in India, don't you know). But to her utter SHOCK AND DISMAY they aren't exactly thrilled (jumping up and down at her arrival) because they are in the midst of a pandemic--bubonic plague. No worries for Miss Adventuress. Surely bubonic plague isn't dangerous or even all that contagious! She'll do just fine going wherever she wants and doing whatever she wants. No worries. She is free; she is independent. She is going to take photographs of everything and everybody! Hooray for full-time adventures!

She soon finds herself in love with the place and the people. Will she ever want to leave India? What if she wants more from life than adventure? What if she wants something completely different that she has always shunned before? 

I have a love/hate relationship with this book. On the one hand, it kept me reading. I loved the hero--a doctor. And it's a friend-to-lovers romance. Also possibly marrying your best friend's brother??? Regardless of which it truly is, it has some satisfying moments. On the other hand, there were plenty of moments when I truly did want to shout at the characters. There were moments where you doubted the characters had any intelligence at all. (These moments were few, thankfully!) 

Before reading this one, I had no idea of the 1897 Bombay Plague and the resulting Epidemic Disease Act of 1897. To be fair, I didn't learn much history from the novel. But it did make me curious enough to do an internet search to find out if the bubonic plague was a plot device--so the historical characters could voice strong opinions on pandemics and politics--or historical fact. I read this article

There were definitely things that I enjoyed/liked about this one. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

82. Blue Skies Tomorrow

Blue Skies Tomorrow. Sarah Sundin. 2011. Revell. 434 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Helen Carlisle strolled up G street, careful to keep a pained expression. Some days the performance of grief was easier than others, but it was always necessary for her son's sake. 

Blue Skies Tomorrow is the third book in the Wings of Glory trilogy by Sarah Sundin. The series focuses on the Novak brothers--Walter, Jack, and now Ray. Ray Novak is a flight instructor who--at the start of the novel--hasn't seen combat. Helen Carlisle, our heroine, is a war widow with a heavy burden and daunting task. 

I decided to reread all three books in 2021. I'm posting my original review below, with additional comments in red. 

I really LOVED Sarah Sundin's A Memory Between Us, the love story between Jack Novak and Ruth Doherty. I LOVED Blue Skies Tomorrow just as much. This third novel in the Wings of Glory series focuses on Ray Novak, another pastor-pilot in the family. He has been able to spend most of the war flying out of combat as an instructor, but, times are changing and he's given a choice, an opportunity, to risk more for his country. And soon Ray has joined his brother Jack in England flying dangerous missions. But. Before Ray leaves, he has the opportunity to fall deeply in love with "grieving" widow Helen Carlisle. 

Helen has become used to hiding the truth. When the novel opens, Helen is hiding the fact that she was secretly relieved when her husband died. She hides behind her work, her charity work, her good causes, etc. She hides behind her roles. The truth is, there are very few people in Helen's life she feels comfortable being completely honest and open with. But that begins to change when Helen begins to fall in love with Ray. She tells him the truth, and he believes her. But the truth-telling, well, it's a little too late or so it appears. For it gets a bit ugly and tense BEFORE his departure, and, well, correspondence helps mend a friendship, but there is so much left unsaid by both. [Blue Skies Tomorrow needs trigger warnings. It does. I almost felt like I was reading a different book this time around. The book is HEAVY and deals with serious topics: spousal abuse, child abuse, gaslighting and manipulation, and dare I say blackmail? Helen's biggest fear is that her son--now a toddler--will grow up to be physically abusive. She seems to think it is in his genes--that he cannot escape this destiny. She sees his fits as a toddler as proof of that. Granted, I'm not saying that fits should be dismissed and not dealt with. (I'm really not). But just because you have a toddler that hits, slaps, or bites in anger at age 2 doesn't mean he's going to behave the exact same way at 22. This book doesn't focus solely on nature versus nurture.] 

[Also what seems to have slipped my mind completely in my first review, was the book's treatment of the Port Chicago Disaster. I'm linking to the wikipedia article. I have since read a nonfiction book on the subject, and am more familiar with it. But the book in addition to all the heaviness of physical and mental abuse deals with racial injustice. It isn't just background, but plays an integral role in the story.]

This one is told in alternating voices, and it is intense--very, very, very, very intense in some places. It is  incredibly compelling. If you enjoyed Memory Between Us, then you HAVE to read this one too. Readers will continue to learn about Jack and Ruth! (Also Allie and Walter).

This one has plenty of romance and plenty of drama!!!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

81. Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou My Vision: A Liturgy for Daily Worship. Jonathan Gibson. 2021. [November/December] 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It may come as a surprise, but there is no explicit command in Scripture to have a time of worship each day, either as an individual or as a family. And yet it is a habit that every Christian believer or Christian family is encouraged to practice. The name of the habit may vary depending on one's Christian tradition or background--"devotion," "quiet time," or "personal or family worship"--but the basic elements of Bible reading and prayer are usually present. 

What you see is what you get. This is a LITURGY for DAILY WORSHIP. Thirty-one days of liturgical worship that can be repeated to infinity (and beyond). 

The structure of the liturgy for daily worship is:

CALL TO WORSHIP (thirty-one Scripture readings, these are taken from both Old and New Testaments)
ADORATION (thirty-one prayers--all focused on praise and adoration--taken from church history; I believe the doxology is included under this heading as well)
READING OF THE LAW (seven readings taken from Scripture--from both Old and New Testaments--regarding the law)
CONFESSION OF SIN (thirty-one prayers--all focused on confessing sin--taken from church history)
ASSURANCE OF PARDON (thirty-one Scripture readings--focusing on assurance of forgiveness of sins--taken from both the Old and New Testaments)
CREED (alternates three creeds, but one of the three creeds is divided into three; Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed)
PRAISE (Gloria Patri, two versions alternating weekly)
CATECHISM (refers you to an appendix where you'll read from the Heidelberg Catechism or the Westminster Shorter Catechism. These are undated; you are encouraged to read one question a day.)
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION (seven prayers from church history, repeated weekly)
SCRIPTURE READING (refers you to an appendix where they share the M'Cheyne reading plan. Here's where it gets confusing, the plan clearly has you reading FOUR chapters a day, but the book has you just reading one chapter a day????)
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION (thirty-one prayers from church history; you are also encouraged to pray on your own for personal, church, world needs)

The book has five appendices: musical tunes for the Doxology and Gloria Patri, the two catechisms, the M'Cheyne reading plan, and the collects from the Book of Common Prayer, and author index. 

The book pulls in sources from all over--including the Book of Common Prayer. The structure is different from that of the Book of Common Prayer, and yet there are similarities to a certain degree. It does offer more variety in some ways. 

I think you could definitely improvise with this as well. You wouldn't have to read just one chapter from a daily reading plan that clearly and obviously has four readings. You wouldn't have to follow this reading plan at all.

I do wish that one of the sections was focused on the PSALMS and taking you through the Psalms each month. That's one of my favorite, favorite, favorite things about doing the Daily Offices from the Book of Common Prayer.

There are some things I'd definitely consider 'borrowing' and working into my daily devotions. 

I am considering giving this one a proper go. NOT replacing my Daily Offices, but maybe adding in another devotional time for a trial run to see how I like the layout and mechanics of it. I am so in love with the structure of the Daily Office that I don't see me abandoning that now. If, for example, I fall in love with daily time in the catechisms, I could always add that into the Daily Office. I will edit this review with further impressions--or maybe just do a new post???? We'll see.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, December 5, 2021

The Second Sunday of Advent

The Collect. (Traditional)
BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. 

The Collect (2019)

Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and the comfort of your holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Sunday of Advent.

The Collect. (Traditional)

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Collect (2019)
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This Collect is to be repeated every day, with the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas-Eve.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, December 2, 2021

80. Praying The Bible

Praying the Bible. Donald S. Whitney. 2015. Crossway. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Since prayer is talking with God, why don’t people pray more?

Donald S. Whitney argues that Christians struggle with praying because prayer is boring. Why is prayer boring? Because Christians tend to pray for the same old things in the same old way--in other words, their prayers use the same words, same patterns, day after day, week after week, etc. He writes, "Prayers without variety eventually become words without meaning."

Christians tend to treat prayer not as a two-way conversation but as a one-way conversation.

Of course, another reason people struggle--and Whitney acknowledges as well--is distraction.

He has a solution for both 'problems'. That solution is praying the Bible. In this little book, he teaches readers how to pray through the Psalms and passages of the New Testament. Though any passage can be prayed--Genesis through Revelation. His goal is to get you started and the easiest--the best--place to start is the book of Psalms.

To pray the Bible, you simply go through the passage line by line, talking to God about whatever comes to mind as you read the text. See how easy that is? Anyone can do that. Just speak to the Lord about everything that occurs to you as you slowly read his Word. What does the text of Scripture tell us to pray about? Everything, right?  Every person, every object, every issue, every circumstance, every fear, every situation—everything in the universe is something we may bring before God. So every thought that enters your mind as you are reading a passage of Scripture—even if that thought has nothing to do with the text before you at the moment—is something you may bring to God...
If you are praying through a psalm, you simply read that psalm line by line, talking to God about whatever thoughts are prompted by the inspired words you read. If your mind wanders from the subject of the text, take those wandering thoughts Godward, then return to the text. If you come to a verse you don’t understand, just skip it and go to the next verse. If you don’t understand that one, move on. If you do understand it but nothing comes to mind to pray about, go to the next verse. If sinful thoughts enter in, pray about them and go on.
You may read twenty or thirty verses in that psalm, and yet on a given day have only five or six things come to mind. No problem. Nothing says you have to pray over every verse. Nothing says you have to finish the psalm...
Talk to God about the words you read in the Bible, and you’ll never again pray the same old things about the same old things. 

He makes distinctions between reading the Bible, praying the Bible, and studying the Bible. The methods you use for praying the Bible are not necessarily sound methods for teaching or preaching through the Bible.  

Correctly handling the Word of God does not permit making the text say what we want. To understand the Bible accurately—which is essential for right belief and living, for truthful sharing with others, and for authoritative teaching and preaching—we must do whatever is necessary to discover (or “exegete”) the single, God-inspired meaning of every verse before us. The text of the Bible means what God inspired it to mean, not “what it means to me.”
Bible reading is secondary in this process [of praying the Bible]. Our focus is on God through prayer; our glance is at the Bible. And we turn Godward and pray about every matter that occurs to us as we read. Do you see the distinction?
I have enough confidence in the Word and the Spirit of God to believe that if people will pray in this way, in the long run their prayers will be far more biblical than if they just make up their own prayers.
Without the Scripture to shape our prayers, we are far more likely to pray in unbiblical ways than if we pray the thoughts that occur to us as we read the Scripture.
The book is practical. He has a plan in mind for you to put this into practice.

With the Psalms of the Day you take thirty seconds or so to quickly scan five specific psalms and pick the one that best leads you to prayer on that occasion. While reading five psalms a day is a great practice that many enjoy, that’s not what I’m advocating here. What I’m suggesting is that you take half a minute to quickly scan five psalms and pick one of those five to pray through. Here’s how it works. The first psalm is the one that corresponds with the day of the month. 

Day of the MonthPsalms to Skim
11, 31, 61, 91, 121
22, 32, 62, 92, 122
33, 33, 63, 93, 123
44, 34, 64, 94, 124
55, 35, 65, 95, 125
66, 36, 66, 96, 126
77, 37, 67, 97, 127
88, 38, 68, 98, 128
99, 39, 69, 99, 129
1010, 40, 70, 100, 130
1111, 41, 71, 101, 131
1212, 42, 72, 102, 132, 
1313, 43, 73, 103, 133
1414, 44, 74, 104, 134
1515, 45, 75, 105, 135
1616, 46, 76, 106, 136
1717, 47, 77, 107, 137
1818, 48, 78, 108, 138
1919, 49, 79, 109, 139
2020, 50, 80, 110, 140
2121, 51, 81, 111, 141
2222, 52, 82, 112, 142,
2323, 53, 83, 113, 143
2424, 54, 84, 114, 144
2525, 55, 85, 115, 145
2626, 56, 86, 116, 146
2727, 57, 87, 117, 147
2828, 58, 88, 118, 148
2929, 59, 89, 119, 149
3030, 60, 90, 120, 150
31Psalm 119

And if you will take thirty seconds to review five psalms every day, it is uncanny how one of them will express something that is looking for expression in your heart.
I love how Whitney guides you through this method. I love how he encourages you to try it. I definitely got a Green Eggs With Ham vibe! His passionate pleas to actually pray were compelling and persuasive.

I also love how he quotes some great theologians throughout the book--men, for the most part, who have learned that praying the Bible is transformative in their lives.

ETA: This is my THIRD time to read Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney. I read it in 2015, 2019, and 2021. It is short, concise, practical, helpful, and down to earth. It was interesting to read it in light of my recent experiences with the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer, but I don't think the two have to be in opposition with one another. While, yes, you could go through the motions and be mindless in the liturgy--that is not the case with everyone. You can use liturgy and have a heart-soul-mind engagement. Plus the Book of Common Prayer is so saturated with Scripture. It is definitely recommended/encouraged that you read through the book of Psalms monthly with the daily office. So I think these two could be compatible. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

79. Christina's Carol

Christina's Carol. Adapted from Christina Rossetti. Illustrated by Tomie dePaola. 2021. [September] 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: 
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago

"In the Bleak Midwinter" has become one of my favorite Christmas songs. I don't think I appreciated it when I was younger, it is a carol that has grown on me with more life experience. Christina Rosetti wrote In the Bleak Midwinter" (as a poem) in 1872.  

Apparently Tomie dePaola was working on the illustrations for this one before he died. His illustrations for the whole book were incomplete/unfinished. The book 'borrows' from his previous Christmas books depicting the nativity. (I for one could not spot the difference between old and new, but it looks like some reviewers can?)

The poem takes creative license with the details of Christ's birth certainly. But the theology grows in depth and substance with further verses. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

2022 Growing 4 Life Bible Reading Challenge

Growing 4 Life Bible Reading Challenge (facebook group) (sign up post)
2022 Jan - December
Goal: to read through selected passages 30 days in a row

FEBRUARY–Daniel (1-4)
MARCH– Daniel (5-8)
APRIL–Daniel (9-12)
JUNE– Life of Joseph (Genesis 37; 39-44)
JULY– Life of Joseph (Genesis 45-50; Acts 7:9-18)
AUGUST– Galatians (1-3)
SEPTEMBER– Galatians (4-6)
DECEMBER– Philemon

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible