Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Question of the Week #13

Welcome to the thirteenth edition of the Question of the Week! Please consider sending me your ideas for future questions :)

Do you listen to Christian music? Why or why not? Do you only listen to Christian music? Do you have any favorite artists? A favorite album? A favorite song? Which artist(s) would you recommend to others? Why?

Yes. I have always listened to Christian music. But I rarely listen to Christian radio. I do listen to Christian music though. Mostly on my iTunes. I have gone through phases where I listened to one type or genre of music more than others. But I've always loved variety. I've never listened to only Christian music.

As a little person, I'd say I grew up on Michael W. Smith and Carman. (Also Petra and Michael Card. Rich Mullins. David Meece.)
As a not-so-little person, I listened to Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys, Jars of Clay, DC Talk, etc.
Right now, I'm more into Caedmon's Call, Andrew Peterson, Casting Crowns, Chris Tomlin, etc.

Favorite Artist? Now, that would probably be Andrew Peterson.
Favorite Album? Probably Jesus Record by Rich Mullins
Favorite Song? Just As I Am by Andrew Peterson

As for recommendations, it would be too hard to just pick a few to say that you "must" like this one. It irritates me when people assume that all Christian music sounds the same. It probably means they've been listening to Christian radio. There is great variety in the field of Christian music. Not every artist will appeal to every Christian. I do think for an artist to be labeled Christian their songs should be about God, about Jesus, about living the Christian life, about faith. And I think there are some albums in Christian stores that aren't all that Christian. But that's another story!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Salon (Week In Review March 22-28)

Happy Sunday everyone! How was your week? Is your weekend gloriously lazy?

Here's what I read this week:

Finished Leviticus ESV Study Bible
Began Numbers (1-7) ESV Study Bible
Psalms 51-70 1599 Geneva Bible
Revelation 3-9 Tyndale New Testament

Good news! Revelation is through in Sunday School!!! We begin Genesis next week!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Blog Improvement Project #6 (part two: summary)

First things first...the intentions...

I never got around to doing the last assignment for the Blog Improvement Project--which was to research social media-type resources and blog about what you learned. But I am up to doing this continuation-project: joining and participating!

I joined twitter for this project. My user name is operationbible. I added the "follow me" birdie in the sidebar. This is my second twitter account.

My other account is blbooks. (The blbooks account is for Becky's Book Reviews and Young Readers.) I've had it quite awhile now...

Do you know about TwitterTags? I didn't until this morning. I added tags to both twitter accounts. I added many tags to both accounts.

I've also decided to use Twitterfeed. A service that automatically tweets your latest blog posts.


Update: I haven't twittered much on operationbible. I've had thirty-five updates in two weeks. Which isn't awful. But isn't all that much either. I'd hoped to have double that.

I have twittered a lot with blbooks. I've probably updated a hundred or so times in the same two week period. I look at that as positive. Twitter is twitter is twitter. And it's hard to have two active accounts. To have conversations with both accounts. It's only natural that one dominates.

I've added both blbooks and operationbible to we follow.

I've also experimented around with various twitter applications. I've tried twhirl and tweetdeck. Both are good. I like tweetdeck a little bit more because it has columns so you can always see your @ replies and your direct messages. But Twhirl has the option of having two accounts open at a time. And having a pop-up box for each account is nice. Both have it where you can customize the colors.

I've also played around with Big Tweet. It was very simple. Probably as simple as it gets. And I use this one when I want to link to a page and don't want to hassle with multiple windows and trying to shrink urls.

Overall I'm pleased with this experiment. I needed the prompting to try new things. And I like twitter, I do. Which I was skeptical of at first. So I'm definitely glad to have participated in this assignment!

Other than twitter, Goodreads is a resource I use often. I update my library there several times a week at least.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Book Review: Fireflies in December

Valent, Jennifer Erin. 2008. Fireflies in December. Tyndale. 343 pages.

The summer I turned thirteen, I thought I'd killed a man.

This one had me at hello. It did. Jennifer Erin Valent has created an unforgettable narrator in the young--barely thirteen--Jessilyn Lassiter. I know unforgettable is a strong word. One not to be tossed around lightly. But I'm sincere when I say that her story is one that will stay with me. (The book, quite honestly, reminded me of To Kill A Mockingbird.)The writing was crisp enough, charming enough, that I think it has lasting power...at least in my opinion. The setting? A small Virginian town in 1932. Our heroine, Jessilyn, has a best friend, Gemma, who is black. When Gemma's parents are killed in an accidental fire--a lightning strike to their home--the Lassiters take Gemma into their home. While the community is supportive at first--thinking this will be a temporary situation, a day or two until other arrangements can be made, soon the town begins to turn on their own. Life for the Lassiters will never--can never--be quite the same again.

It's the story of a summer that changes lives. A summer that young Jessilyn will never forget. A summer that captures all the emotions--highs and lows--of being thirteen and just beginning to notice boys and think about l-o-v-e. That uncertainty about who you are and what you want and need.

This is a powerful novel about life, love, friendship, grief, sorrow, hate, and cruelty. It's a novel about growing up. Read it because it is an amazing coming of age story (bildungsroman). Or read it because it is a fascinating examination of racism. Or read it because of the Southern flavor--a writing style that just melts in your mouth like a buttered biscuit. Just read it.

"You can't go tryin' to figure other people, baby. People have all sorts of reasons why they are what they are. Some people are scared because life's been so hard on 'em."
"But they're still wrong."
"Don't give us the right to be hateful to 'em. They're wrong--that I can say, but I can't say I know all that goes on in their hears, can I? So best I can do is pray for 'em. Leave'em to God."
I was tired, and I laid my head back, looked out at the star-dotted sky, and sighed. "Sometimes I don't know what God expects us to do."
Daddy didn't say anything for a minute or so, and then he reached up and caught a firefly as it glowed beside him. "See this light?" he asked me when the firefly lit up his hand.
"That light is bright enough to light up a little speck of the night sky so a man can see it a ways away. That's what God expects us to do. We're to be lights in the dark, cold days that are this world. Like fireflies in December."
Then Daddy opened his hand, and we both sat and watched the insect crawl around for a moment before taking off into the dimness.
"Ain't much lightin' one of them can do, Daddy," I said.
"Not by himself. But give him some company, and you'd get a good piece of light."
"Don't look to me like we got much company in the town."
He leaned over and patted my knee softly. "It's got to start somewhere, Jessilyn. It's got to start somewhere." (63-64)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Question of the Week #12

Welcome to the twelfth edition of the Question of the Week! Please consider sending me your ideas for future questions :)

Do you ever find yourself conflicted when reading books--does your faith ever stand in the way of you 'enjoying' other books--secular books? Do you try to read only Christian books? Do you read 'secular' books regularly? Have you ever enjoyed a book but hesitated to share it with your Christian friends? Do you think you should judge a book critically looking through the lens of faith...or do you think that fiction is fiction and that it's just a story? When does entertainment become dangerous?
This question was in part inspired by a recent review I read of Coraline. (The movie which they rated as "very offensive.") I haven't seen the movie, but I have read the book. And while I didn't love, love, love the book. (Just enjoyed it.) I certainly didn't bring a thousand and one spiritual implications to it. Didn't see it as an attack of Christianity by any means. But I wasn't looking for places to be offended. The other thing that inspired me was the release of Twilight, the movie. (Compare it to that site's review of Twilight, which they rated positively. My question? Does lack of sex between Bella and Edward really make this one Christian-friendly? Yes, it's good that the two don't have sex. But it isn't from Bella's lack of desire. She'd have Edward in an instant. Especially in later books she is begging for it all the time. It is his old-fashioned values and his restraint that keep the two from having sex before marriage. Bella's no role model--or at least she shouldn't be for young girls.)

I think one's faith will always effect your reading of a book in (at least) a small way. You can't divorce yourself from your faith completely. But it doesn't have to be the only way you see the world. In other words, I don't look for ways to be offended. I don't bring to my reading the attitude that I need to scrutinize and examine every single word (and punctuation mark) for hidden-and-not-so-hidden attacks, affronts, and slams to the Christian faith. If you go into it with the idea that every single book you read is dangerous and offensive, then you'll find lots of dangers and offenses.

I think it is easy for some people--as hard as it is for me to grasp--to assume that if you read about it or see it on tv, you'll want to do it. If a fictional character has a beer at a party, you'll want to go out and do the same. If a fictional character has sex, you'll want to go out and have sex too. If a fictional teenage heroine gets pregnant and has a baby, you'll want to go out--on purpose--and have one too. I don't think it works like that.

That being said, some things DO offend me. Some things I do feel uncomfortable with. There are books that I categorize as not-for-me because they clash so much with my faith and worldview. There are books that I would say are better left unread by Christians and their families. But I would never go out of my way to act as an alarmist either. There is no one way for a Christian to react to a book. There isn't an absolute "the christian's reaction" to this or that book or movie. You see a large spectrum of reviews, reactions, responses to every thing. And just because one Christian is offended doesn't mean that every Christian will be.

Reading is subjective. I can HONESTLY SAY that there are books and movies which I wish to this day that I hadn't read or watched. Because I wish I could purify my mind.

But I think the more strongly you're grounded in the faith--in the word of God; in your relationship with Jesus--the better you'll be. "Dangerous" ideas can't shake your faith if it's strong and grounded.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

What's On Your Nightstand (March)

Eon Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman. I'm on page 159. This is surely a page-turner! I don't imagine it will be by my nightstand much longer!

Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci. I'm on page 175. This one is exciting, but a bit too intense. I'm reading it a chapter or two at a time instead of rushing through it.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I'm on page 268. I listened to this one on audio in January. But haven't found the time to read it-read it yet. Other books keep taking priority.

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. I'm on page 147. The long chapters are dragging me down. But this one is surprisingly funny.

The Heights by Brian James. I'm on page 56. This one is a modern retelling of Wuthering Heights. Any wonder I'm finding the characters unsympathetic?!

For Bible reading, I'm in the ESV Study Bible--I'm in Leviticus. And the 1599 Geneva Bible, I'm in Psalms.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book Review: Michal

Smith, Jill Eileen. 2009. Michal. Revell.

Michal ducked as a shard of pottery soared past her head.

I've been looking forward to this one for years. Okay, maybe just one year. But still. I was so excited to get a chance to read this one. Here we have the story of David...from Michal's perspective. Michal has never been presented as a sympathetic character in the biblical narrative. She is one of those that falls more into the 'didn't-quite-get-it' camps. But when you think about it--really think about it. Michal's actions are understandable, all-too-human. Maybe it wasn't easy being married to the guy who had a heart after God's own. Yes, David was a good guy, a good king. But a good husband? It would be hard to prove one way or the other.

What did I like about this one? The novel is from Michal's perspective. And it's a human one. Michal doesn't have the benefit of knowing what we know. Of knowing just how big David was in God's plans. Of knowing that God had a sovereign hand in David's would-be kingdom. The decades where King Saul sought his life. His battle for the throne. His reign. With this novel, perhaps for the first time, I can imagine being in her shoes. Of being in that rock-and-a-hard-place torn between her emotionally unstable royal father and her all-too-absent husband. The two--Michal and David--wed. But within a year (or possibly two) of their marriage, King Saul goes mental. David's on the run for his life. Here. There. Everywhere. In and out of Israel. Always staying a step or two ahead of his father-in-law. Where is Michal? Did he take his wife with him? No. She's back at home. Under her father's control. Saul is so angry, so vindictive, that he annuls his daughter's marriage. Gives her to another man. Now imagine living with him for close to two decades. This second husband. Then imagine the shock of having your father and brother killed. The instability of not knowing who will be king when all is said and done. Would you root for your brother or for your ex-husband? How would you feel after all this time has gone by? Where would your loyalty be? The husband you've been with the longest? Or your probable first love? When King David comes to power, Michal is commanded back into David's life. No longer the only wife. Now she is one of a handful. Still the 'first' wife perhaps. But she's also the daughter of Saul. And that can be dangerous being his kin at this time. Conflicted. Michal is bound to have felt conflicted. Shuffled and passed around...always under the control of someone...either her father, the king, or one of her husbands. No wonder Michal seems to have an attitude problem in scripture.

Recommended for those that like Christian fiction or biblical fiction.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday Salon: Week In Review (March 15-21)

Here is what I read this week:

Finished Job (31-42) ESV Study Bible
Began Leviticus (1-5) ESV Study Bible
Psalms 41-50 1599 Geneva Bible

I didn't get any read in the Tyndale Bible. I'm just not that into Revelation. And reading it just so you get it through with early isn't the *best* motivation. To clarify a teeny bit, I am in Revelation for Sunday School. We've completed the first eighteen chapters. So only a few more weeks--of class time--to go!

I *guess* you could say I need to have an attitude adjustment :)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday: Christian Bookstores

Amy asks us this week...
Today's Question
While books and bookstores in general are suffering, Christian bookstores are suffering even more in this economy. Do you have a Christian bookstore that you shop at? Why don't you tell us about your local Christian bookstore and the benefits that if offers. If you don't shop at a Christian bookstore, then please tell us where you get your books, music, and other Christian gift items.
My favorite Christian bookstore is Mardel. I just *love* Mardel, I do. There was a time--not so long ago really, three years ago maybe?--when there wasn't a Mardel in town. We (as a family) were very sad. We loved Mardel. So we drove to the nearest one--which was about forty minutes away. We'd go once a month or so. More in summer probably. Now, we have our own Mardel. And it is a wonderfully happy little place. They typically have the best prices on just about everything you could ever want. (CBD (Christian Book Distributors or Christianbook.com) lost us as customers!) They offer plenty of stuff--a true version of stuff mart minus the food and drinks--bibles, christian fiction and nonfiction, children's books, children's toys, christian t-shirts and sweat shirts, cds, dvds, school supplies, office supplies, church supplies, and anything and everything teachers would need for their classrooms. I'm sure I'm leaving off something, but I think you get the idea :)

Why do I love them? Bargains, bargains, more bargains! Bargain books. Bargain bibles. It's the stuff dreams are made on. I can't begin to tell you about the number of super-bargain bibles I've picked up. Leather bibles that I picked up for anywhere from 50% to 90% off. Yes, walking away with a leather bible for under seven or eight bucks is just awesome. I've gotten hardback bibles for under four. I think my all-time lowest was $1.19 for a new bible.

Several times a year they offer a 25% off every book in the store (including bibles and kids books) day. (This includes those books on clearance or in the bargain, super-bargain category.) And I think likewise they have at least one maybe two every CD in the store $9.99 day.

I remember one day Mom found dozens and dozens of books that were 90% off $4.99. And it was the 25% off day. So we got about twenty-five books for about 38 cents apiece.

Of course, not every book or bible is that cheap. But it still feels good knowing that you can walk into a store and find almost anything you want at a good price. Most of my bibles--with the exception of one or two which I've found cheaper on Amazon--have come from Mardel. My ESV Study Bible. My Wycliffe New Testament. My Tyndale New Testament. All came from Mardel.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Reading Thing 2009

Host: Callapidder days
Link to Challenge Sign Up
Link to Reviews Post
Challenge Dates: March 20, 2009 through June 20th

A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman
A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman
A Passion Denied by Julie Lessman
The Dowry of Miss Lydia Clark by Lawana Blackwell
The Jewel of Gresham Green by Lawana Blackwell
The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister
Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent
Fixing Abraham by Chris Tiegreen
No Woman So Fair by Gilbert Morris
The Gate of Heaven by Gilbert Morris
Till Shiloh Comes by Gilbert Morris
Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen
The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen
An Untamed Land by Lauraine Snelling
A New Day Rising by Lauraine Snelling
A Land to Call Home by Lauraine Snelling
Fancypants by Cathy Marie Hake
Whirlwind by Cathy Marie Hake
The Circle of Friends: Lori (Book 1) by L. Diane Wolfe
Becoming God's True Woman edited by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Through His Eyes: God's Perspective On Women in the bible by Jerram Barrs
Tyndale New Testament

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ignite Your Faith Challenge Completed

1. Jonathan Edwards for Armchair Theologians. by James Byrd
2. On Church Leadership by Mark Driscoll
3.Red Letters edited by Timothy Beals
4. John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God by John Piper
5.Christianity in Crisis by Hank Hanegraaff
6. Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross edited by Nancy Guthrie

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Question of the Week #11

Welcome to the tenth edition of "Question of the Week"...please answer in the comments OR write a blog post of your own and leave me a link to your answers! Feel free to borrow the graphic as well.

Have you ever watched Veggie Tales? If yes, do you have a favorite episode? a favorite character? a favorite song? Do you think it's good biblical fun? Or do you think its just silly and more a waste of time?
I just love the Veggie Tales. I do. I don't remember when I first "discovered" them. It was probably five or six years ago. I've got DVDs and CDs. Junior is my favorite character--though I love the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything--the pirates are Larry, Mr. Lunt, and Pa Grape. As for a favorite episode...I have a top five:

An Easter Carol
Rack, Shack and Benny
A Snoodle's Tale
Dave and the Giant Pickle
King George and the Ducky

An Easter Carol is the one I'd highly recommend. Its the one with the strongest message. And Snoodle's Tale gets to me too. All of the videos are fun--in my opinion.

My favorite silly song? I just *love* The Monkey song--which is written by Andrew Peterson, by the way...

Here's a timely clip for St. Patrick's Day.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 16, 2009

Updates for Operation Actually Challenge

If you'd like to update the group on how you're doing in the Operation Actually Read Bible challenge, feel free to do so in the comments. I love hearing from people--but it is completely optional. Don't feel pressure to talk amongst yourselves. But I love getting comments too :)

As for me, so far this year I've read Genesis and Exodus and most of Job in the ESV Study Bible. I've got seven more of Job to do. I am not quite sure where I'm heading next. Do I go back and brave Leviticus? Do I treat myself with a New Testament book? Continue on in the Wisdom books?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Winter Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

1. In the Company of Secrets by Judith Miller
2. Whispers Along the Rail by Judith Miller
3. An Uncertain Dream by Judith Miller
4. Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
5. The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran
6. The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter by Lawana Blackwell
7. Gingham Mountain by Mary Connealy
8. The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter
9. The Desires of Her Heart by Lyn Cote
10. Heart of a Lion by Gilbert Morris
11. Just Another Girl by Melody Carlson
12. Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross edited by Nancy Guthrie

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Blog Improvement Project #6 (part one: intentions)

I never got around to doing the last assignment for the Blog Improvement Project--which was to research social media-type resources and blog about what you learned. But I am up to doing this continuation-project: joining and participating!

I joined twitter for this project. My user name is operationbible. I added the "follow me" birdie in the sidebar. This is my second twitter account.

My other account is blbooks. (The blbooks account is for Becky's Book Reviews and Young Readers.) I've had it quite awhile now...

Do you know about TwitterTags? I didn't until this morning. I added tags to both twitter accounts. I added many tags to both accounts.

I've also decided to use Twitterfeed. A service that automatically tweets your latest blog posts.

Other than twitter, Goodreads is a resource I use often. I update my library there several times a week at least.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Album of the week: Jesus Record (Demos)

The album I'm highlighting this week is one of my favorites. All-time forever-and-ever favorites. It's the Jesus Record by Rich Mullins. For those unfamiliar with Rich Mullins, he was a singer/songwriter. His gift was tremendous. His legacy, large. This is a two-CD set. The first CD, the Jesus Demos, features Rich Mullins working on his last project. These songs were recorded--on a cassette player--just one week before his death. He recorded these demos at an abandoned church. The Jesus project had an ambitious goal: "Every song would be specifically about Jesus, and for the most part, straight from scripture." The second CD takes these songs and gives the project a polished studio feel. I'll be discussing that CD in a separate post. Hopefully, I'll get that together later this week. If not, I'll post next week.

The song listing:

Hard to Get
All The Way To Kingdom Come
My Deliverer
Surely God Is With Us
You Did Not Have A Home
Heaven In His Eyes
Nothing Is Beyond You
That Where I Am, There You...

My favorite song? Without a doubt...that would be "That Where I Am, There You..." Granted, I loved John 14 long long before Rich Mullins was inspired to write this one...but still. My favorite scripture put to song by one of the most incredible songwriters? Bound to be my favorite!

In my Father's house there are many, many rooms
In my Father's house there are many, many rooms
And I'm going up there now to prepare a place for you
That where I am, there you may also be

If I go prepare a place for you, I will come back again
If I go prepare a place for you, I will come back again
And you know I am the Way, the Truth, the Life, keep my command
That where I am, there you may also be

That where I am, there you may also be
Up where the truth, the truth will set you free
In the world you will have trouble, but I leave you my peace
That where I am, there you may also be

Remember you did not choose me, no I have chosen you
Remember you did not choose me, no I have chosen you
The world will show you hatred, the Spirit show you truth
That where I am, there you may also be

And I've come down from the Father, it's time for me to go back up
Oh, I've come down from the Father, it's time for me to go back up
One command I leave you: Love as I have loved
That where I am, there you may also be

That where I am, there you may also be
Up where the truth, the truth will set you free
In the world you will have trouble, but I leave you my peace
That where I am, there you may also be

That where I am, there you may also be
Up where the truth, the truth will set you free
In the world you will have trouble, but I'm leaving you my peace
That where I am, there you may also be
My second favorite? Probably "Surely God Is With Us."

Well, who's that man who thinks He's a prophet?
Well, I wonder if He's got something up His sleeve
Where's He from? Who is His daddy?
There's rumors He even thinks Himself a king
Of a kingdom of paupers
Simpletons and rogues
The whores all seem to love Him
And the drunks propose a toast

And they say, "Surely God is with us.
Well, surely God is with us."
They say, "Surely God is with us today!"

Who's that man who says He's a preacher?
Well, He must be, He's disturbing all our peace
Where's He get off, and what is He hiding
And every word He says those fools believe
Who could move a mountain
Who would love their enemy
Who could rejoice in pain
And turn the other cheek

And still say, "Surely God is with us,
Well, surely God is with us,"
Who'll say, "Surely God is with us today, today!"

They say, "Surely God is with us
Well, surely God is with us"
They say, "Surely God is with us"

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Heaven belongs to them
Blessed are those who make peace
They are God's children
I Am the Bread of Life, and the Way"
You hear that Man, believe what He says!

Tell me, who's that Man, they made Him a prisoner
They tortured Him and nailed Him to a tree
Well if He's so bad, who did He threaten?
Did He deserve to die between two thieves?
See the scars and touch His wounds
He's risen flesh and bone
Now the sinners have become the saints
And the lost have all come home

And they say, "Surely God is with us (Surely God is with us)
Well, surely God is with us,"
They say, "Surely God is with us today!" (Today!)

They say, "Surely God is with us
Well, surely God is with us"
They say, "Surely God is with us today"
All of these songs have blessed me. And then some. I just love this album. The rawness. The passion. The simplicity. The beauty and grace of it all.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 15, 2009

You can now follow me on twitter...

I decided to open another twitter account for this blog--for my thoughts on Bible reading. Short and spontaneous, I hope it is. Things that aren't worthy necessarily to blog about...but make for semi-relevant (I hope) tidbits into my life.

If you're a twitterer, let me know. I don't have many to follow for this account.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday Salon: Week In Review: March 8 - March 14

It's been a tough week for me. I'm not complaining. It's not that I've stopped reading my Bible. It's that I have the oh-no-it's-time-to-read-the-Bible blues. I didn't have that while in Genesis. I began coming down with it in the latter part of Exodus. I began the week by choosing to read Job. True, I knew going into it that Job--while far from boring--has its down moments. Could it be that while I'm stuck in my own semi-depression, I don't want to read about someone elses? Maybe. Or maybe I just have a case of when-oh-when-will-winter-end blues. Or probably closer to the mark the dreadful, I've-got-too-many-books-by-the-bed-and-it's-making-me-nervous blues.

Regardless, here is what I read this week.

Finished Exodus in the ESV Study Bible. (37-40)
Began Job. Read 1-30; ESV Study Bible
Psalms 35-40 1599 Geneva Study Bible
Revelation 1-2 Tyndale New Testament

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 13, 2009

Book Review: Journey to the Well

Taylor, Diana Wallis. 2009. Journey to the Well.

Ever been curious about the woman at the well. The Samaritan woman that Jesus spoke to that so shocked his disciples. For those that are clueless--and that's an okay place to be--the story is found in John 4. This novel is inspired by that passage of Scripture. What do we really know about her? Jesus told her that she had had five husbands and the man she was living with then was not her husband. Around these bare facts, Diana Wallis Taylor has woven a richly detailed back story.

When we first meet our heroine, Marah, she is an orphan--a young girl on the verge of becoming a woman. Just thirteen. She's a girl just beginning to think about life, about love, about marriage. But life doesn't always go as planned. Especially when you're an orphan. Especially when you're living in a culture that is all about arranged marriages. Though she hopes Jesse, a young shepherd boy, will one day be her husband. Her kinswoman, Reba, has a different husband in mind for her, the sandal maker, Zibeon, who is rumored to have quite the temper. She returns home from Jacob's well to discover that she is betrothed to a much older man, a man who gives her the creeps. But there is no choice in the matter. Marry him she must. And so it begins...

The book is well written and compelling. Marah's story is tragic in turn (after turn after turn) but it's redemptive as well. I became absorbed in the culture, in the back drop of this one. It was a very enjoyable read.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Book Review: Classic Bible Storybook

Taylor, Kenneth N. 2009. Classic Bible Storybook: More Than 120 Bible Stories From Kenneth N. Taylor. Tyndale Publishing. 270 pages.

This bible story collection features the stories of Kenneth N. Taylor and the art of Richard and Frances Hook. Both are "classic" in the sense that they're familiar and beloved by multiple generations. Taylor's stories have been appearing in books since 1979. I remember gleefully reading "The Book for Children" when I was in elementary school; it was released in 1985. (That book which appears to have last been printed in 2000, is out of print now--at least according to Amazon.) To get back on task, the Classic Bible Storybook contains 121 stories based on the Bible. 68 of these come from the Old Testament. 53 of these come from the New Testament. (In case that sounds disproportionate, remember that the New Testament has many letters in it; these epistles don't lend themselves easily to stories.) Each story is short--written with brief attention spans in mind--and sweet. Parents can easily see where each story comes from--the book, chapter, and verse references. After each story, there are a handful of questions. Illustrations are sprinkled throughout.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Question of the Week #10

Welcome to the tenth edition of "Question of the Week"...please answer in the comments OR write a blog post of your own and leave me a link to your answers! Feel free to borrow the graphic as well.

Let's talk firsts. Do you remember your first bible? How old were you? When did you begin reading the Bible? Do you remember liking it? loving it? finding it too frustrating? too boring? too intimidating? Have your feelings changed through the years?

My answer:

I had several Bible-storybooks growing up--including a Jesus comic book, a series of Arch books, etc--but my first actual Bible...I received when I was about eight. I had just turned eight--I guess it was about a month after my birthday. It was a Living Bible. The Children's Living Bible. The first book of the Bible that I ever read was the Gospel of John.

I remember loving it. I carried it with me everywhere--church, school, the doctor's office (I went there a lot.) There was this aliveness about it all. How much I loved it. Reading some of the Old Testament in addition to the New Testament. There were still plenty of books that intimidated me--Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Job, Ezra, etc.) But the ones that intimidated me most were probably the OT prophecy books. But I just loved the history books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. Loved the stories of David. And Elijah and Elisha. I found some books boring--Leviticus, anyone?--but I found some books to be just exciting.

It took a while, but through the years I expanded and grew. I would venture forth into unknown territory like Leviticus and Jeremiah. By the time I was graduating from high school, I was ready to go there. I discovered all that the Old Testament had to offer. But that was ten years later...after my first adventures in the Word. So if you're not ready to go there, if you're still intimidated by some of these books, there's no shame in that. So yes, my feelings about the Bible deepened and changed throughout the years. I came to appreciate it more in many ways, but I still wish for some of the fervor of my younger days when everything was so new, so fresh, so wonderful, so amazing to me.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Salon (Week in Review March 1 - March 7)

What I read this week:

Exodus 17-36 ESV Study Bible
Matthew 10-28 Tyndale New Testament
Psalms 30-35 1599 Geneva Bible

My goals for next week:

Finish Exodus.
Pick a new book to read in the ESV Study Bible.
(Hint: I don't think it will be Leviticus.)
Start Revelation in the Tyndale New Testament
(Note to self: I don't want to save Revelation to the end like last time!)
Keep reading in Psalms.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Book Review: The Truth War

The Truth War: Fighting For Certainty in an Age of Deception by John MacArthur, 2007.

I, for one, am always excited to see a new John MacArthur book come out. He is a nice blend between thorough and knowledgeable AND readable. Yes, his books have footnotes, but they're written to be understood and comprehended. (Unlike some books where the only words you understand are "is" and "the." ) But I suppose you can say MacArthur's books are deep as well. They are always about important, relevant topics.

What is The Truth War about? In some ways it is about the "Emerging Church Movement." But in other ways it is just a generalized book about the ongoing fight for truth in a postmodern world. This world is full of compromises. The evangelical church shouldn't be full of compromises, but sometimes it is. Some churches have lost the point. Some have lost the gospel. And some Christians may not be aware of this fact. In their fight to be one with the world, to appear seeker-friendly, some churches have compromised to the point where they are unrecognizable as a true church of God. The Truth War is about recognizing false teachers and preachers from true ones. About discerning the true (and biblical) gospel message from the nicely-repackaged version for today's postmodern generation. So there is discussion about what the gospel is and about what truth is. And there is a discussion of the prophecies about false teachers found within Scriptures. This is a topic that both the gospels and epistles discuss often at great length. The book is about the need for discernment. The need to fight for the truth. The book of Jude is discussed a great deal within the book.

The idea that the Christian message should be kept pliable and ambiguous seems especially attractive to young people who are in tune with the culture and in love with the spirit of the age and can't stand to have authoritative biblical truth applied with precision as a corrective to worldly lifestyles, unholy minds, and ungodly behavior. And the poison of this perspective is being increasingly injected into the evangelical church body.
But that is not authentic Christianity. Not knowing what you believe (especially on a matter as essential to Christianity as the gospel) is by definition a kind of unbelief. Refusing to acknowledge and defend the revealed truth of God is a particularly stubborn and pernicious kind of unbelief. Advocating ambiguity, exalting uncertainty, or otherwise deliberately clouding the truth is a sinful way of nurturing unbelief. (xi)

Does anyone really imagine that many of the entertainment-hungry churchgoers who pack today's megachurches would be willing to give their lives for the truth? As a matter of fact, many of them are unwilling to take a bold stand for the truth even among other Christians in an environment where there is no serious threat against them and the worst effect of such a stand might be that someone's feelings get hurt. . . .The idea of actually fighting for doctrinal truth is the furthest thing from most churchgoers' thoughts. Contempory Christians are determined to get the world to like them--and of course in the process they also want to have as much fun as possible. They are so obsessed with making the church seem 'cool' to unbelievers that they can't be bothered with questions about whether another person's doctrine is sound or not. . . .Christians have bought into the notion that almost nothing is more 'uncool' in the world's eyes than when someone shows a sincere concern about the danger of heresy. After all, the world simply doesn't take spiritual truth that seriously, so they cannot fathom why anyone would. But Christians, of all people, ought to be most willing to live and die for the truth. Remember, we know the truth, and the truth has set us free. We should not be ashamed to say so boldly. (xiv, xv)

Truth is never determined by looking at God's Word and asking "What does this mean to me?" Whenever I hear someone talk like that, I'm inclined to ask, "What did the Bible mean before you existed? What does God mean by what He says?" Those are the proper questions to be asking. Truth and meaning are not determined by our intuition, experience, or desire. The true meaning of Scripture--or anything else for that matter--has already been determined and fixed by the mind of God. The task of an interpreter is to discern that meaning. And proper interpretation must precede application. The meaning of God's Word is neither as obscure nor as difficult to grasp as people today often pretend. Admittedly, some things in the Bible are hard to understand, but its central, essential truth is plain enough that no one need be confused by it. (xx, xxi)

Truth itself does not change just because our point of view does. As we mature in our ability to perceive truth, truth itself remains fixed. Our duty is to conform all our thoughts to the truth; we are not entitled to redefine 'truth' to fit our own personal viewpoints, preferences, or desires. We must not ignore or discard selected truths just because we might find them hard to receive or difficult to fathom. (xxi)

Chapter titles include: Can Truth Survive in a Postmodern Society?; Spiritual Warfare: Duty, Danger, and Guaranteed Triumph; Constrained into Conflict: Why We Must Fight for the Faith; Creeping Apostasy: How False Teachers Sneak In; Heresy's Subtlety: Why We Must Remain Vigilant; The Evil of False Teaching: How Error Turns Grace Into Licentiousness; The Assault on Divine Authority: Christ's Lordship Denied; How To Survive In An Age of Apostasy: Learning From the Lessons of History; and a bonus chapter, Why Discernment is Out of Fashion.

The book is great. Highly recommend it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 6, 2009

Book Review: The Passion of Mary-Margaret

Samson, Lisa. 2009. The Passion of Mary-Margaret. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 313 pages.

"My sisters, if I began this tale at the end, you would know my heart is full of love even though nothing went as planned. I could tell you God's ways are not ours, but you probably know that already. And I could tell you that his mercy takes shape in forms we cannot begin to imagine, but unless you walked in my shoes for the past seventy years, you could not feel the mercy I have been given."

I'll be honest, I was skeptical about this book right from the start. While it hooked me--intrigued me enough to keep reading--I wasn't sure I was liking what I was reading. It had this other-ness to it. This off-putting (to me) flavor where I wasn't quite sure what to think of it, what to make of it. It is a roughly told story that is all-a-scramble. Within a chapter, the narrator might have touched upon four different years with little or no transition. She might be seven, fifteen, forty-two, and seventy-three all in the same chapter. Which, as a reader, I just found confusing. But the story, while its framework may have left me desiring something more straightforward, was without a doubt compelling the majority of the time. The story of Mary-Margaret from birth to death was an interesting one, a compelling one. Raised by her grandmother, she knows that her mother was raped and died giving birth to her. She's known from childhood that she wants to be a religious--a sister. She grew up believing that Jesus was her husband. That she was his bride. Her faith in Jesus is one thing that's undeniable. How she goes about it, well, that's up to you to decide. (You see, Mary-Margaret sees Jesus, hears Jesus, talks to Jesus, has tea with Jesus.) But despite all that otherness about it, part of me liked The Passion of Mary-Margaret. Mary-Margaret was told by Jesus to marry Jude, a drug addict, a prostitute (sleeping with men and women, whoever will pay), a diseased man. A man she more-than-liked as a kid, but a man whom she doesn't trust or respect much since he's taken a different path as an adult. But Jesus tells her he has a plan. She needs to marry this man one way or another. And so she goes about wooing a man who's seen and done it all. What is God's plan in all this? Mary-Margaret finds out one day at a time. What I loved about this one--probably the thing that surprised me most--was how this woman stepped out in faith and chose to see a man as God sees him. Not as all the mistakes he has made, not all the ugliness of his sins, not all the brutality and rawness of his attitude and character. But as a man whom God had chosen to redeem. She saw him through Jesus' eyes. And through Jesus' eyes, he was beautiful. Not that God was done with him, not that God was content to let him stay addicted to drugs, walking the streets, selling his body and soul for a cheap or not-so-cheap fix. But Jesus saw what the man would be. And that is something. So for that alone, I recommend this book. This book looks at hard issues in life--drugs, sex, sexual abuse and molestation, shame, pain, suffering--and it does so as honestly as it can be done.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Book Review: Jesus, Keep me Near the Cross

Guthrie, Nancy, editor. 2009. Jesus, Keep Me Near The Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter. Crossway. 152 pages.

I loved this book! Similar in concept to Nancy Guthrie's Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, the book is a series of short essays (sermons, writings, whatever you want to call them) reflecting on Christ's passion--particularly the cross and the resurrection. What I loved about this collection--and the previous collection--is that it includes a variety of authors both historic and contemporary: Martin Luther, John Piper, Alistair Begg, Charles Spurgeon, John MacArthur, John Owen, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, James Montgomery Boice, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer. In short, most of my favorites past and present. I love that the book is accessible. The chapters are short--three to six pages. I love that the book has substance. It isn't a fluffy book. It's a book with depth and meat to it. But it's not overwhelming either. It's just right for reading one or two chapters a day.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Question of the Week #9

Welcome to the ninth edition of "Question of the Week"...please answer in the comments OR write a blog post of your own and leave me a link to your answers! Feel free to borrow the graphic as well.

Where do you go for comfort? When you're feeling sad? anxious? depressed? out-of-sorts? Where do you turn when life has got you down? When you're feeling lost and "disturbled" to borrow a term from good-old-Wycliffe? Do you turn to God? Do you turn to your family? your friends? To food? To chocolate? To exercise? To a book? A song? A movie? Your favorite teddy? These days do come to all of us, and it has always been interesting to me to see how different people cope...coping is an important skill after all! If and only if you feel comfortable sharing, answer a few of these questions...I don't want to make anyone feel too exposed or vulnerable. But this is big, really big, and sharing ideas and thoughts could be helpful, you know...

My answer: I wish I could say I always turn to God in times like these. But I can't, so I won't. I think I am learning more week by week, month by month to lean on Him, to trust in Him. I'm not perfect by any means, but I am trying so hard to learn healthy coping habits--not self-destructive ones. A year ago, I might have said chocolate and cookies and mac 'n cheese. (Not that it's still not tempting...but...)

In the past, I've turned to food and drink (my favorite drug of choice, caffeine and sugar: Dr. Pepper; Coke), I've turned to my mom, of course, I feel she's one of the only people that have ever-always understood me. I've turned to music--pumping up my favorite song and/or favorite album. Losing myself in the melody. Drowning out my thoughts altogether. The second half of the White Album used to always worked for me...somewhere between "Everybody's Got Something to Hide" and " Cry, Baby, Cry" my angst gets dispersed. I've resorted to books too. Escaping in a good book, a comfortable book. (I think there was something cathartic about Gone With The Wind that relieved my stress during finals time.) Speaking of which, sometimes nothing feels better than having a good old ugly cry.

Now, I try to turn to different things. Depending on the time of day, and the mood swing. I turn to my mom still--there's no replacing that support! But I also turn to God. I turn to the Bible. I spend time reading. I spend time searching. I spend time praying. But what can help quicker than anything, I've learned, is listening to worship-filled music. For me, listening to a cd (or two) of hymns can do wonders. I can listen to them over and over. And even if I don't start out feeling it, if I'm not in a place to join in, it happens. Before I know it, I'm in a place where I'm praising. I've taken the focus off of me, off of my feelings of doubt and anxiety....and put the focus on God. Praising God lifts you out of "the depths of despair" (to borrow from good-old-Anne-Shirley).

I'll try to review some of my favorite albums this week. And I'll try to post snippets of my favorite hymns.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday Salon: Week in Review (February 22-February 28)

What I read this week:

Exodus 6-16, ESV Study Bible
Acts 20-28 Wycliffe Bible
James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2, 3 John, Jude, Revelation Wycliffe Bible
Psalms 20-30 1599 Geneva Bible
Matthew 1-9 Tyndale New Testament

I FINISHED the Wycliffe New Testament!!! I'm thrilled to have it completed. And I'm happily beginning all over again in the Tyndale New Testament.

My goals for the next week:

Keep reading in Exodus.
Keep reading in Matthew.
Keep reading in Psalms.

I don't know which books if any I'll finish up next week. Though Matthew might be possible. I know Exodus can get a bit boggy further down the road. But maybe it can happen to. My goal with the Psalms is to read ten to twenty a week in small portions. There's no need to rush through them all just to say you did.

I need to pick two books to read this week....

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible