Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Salon: Week In Review (May 24 - May 31)

This week in the Tyndale New Testament

1 John
2 John
3 John
John 1-4

Next week: I hope to finish John!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Then there were four...

I am so EXCITED. I only have four books remaining in the Tyndale New Testament! The gospel of John and John's three letters (1, 2, 3 John!) Can I get them all read by Sunday? I don't know?! There's no need to rush the process after all. But it's exciting to finish up a project. Already I'm plotting out what I want to do next. Should I read the 1599 Geneva Bible? Should I go back to the ESV Study Bible? Should I go back to the KJV and finish up John? I kinda left myself hanging in the middle of a book in April.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Do you like sermons?

Do you like sermons? Short sermons? Long sermons? Meaty sermons? Story-oriented sermons? I was reading in Middlemarch (by George Eliot) and I came across this little quote. It made me smile. Because, like it or not, she's got a few things right. I think you can 'train' yourself to like listening to sermons. Maybe not each and every sermon you hear. You will, of course, have your favorite preachers and your-not-so-favorite preachers.

"Oh, my dear, when you have a clergyman in your family you must accommodate your tastes: I did that very early. When I married Humphrey I made up my mind to like sermons, and I set out by liking the end very much. That soon spread to the middle and the beginning, because I couldn't have the end without them."
I haven't always liked listening to sermons. I actually don't like sermons-in-church so much as sermons-in-the-convenience-of-my-own-home. At churh, I'm distracted. Distracted by my stomach. Of thinking that I'm hungry. Of thinking about what I want to eat. Of where I want to go. I'm counting down the minutes--in a way--to when I can get out of there. But in another situation when I'm full and content and ready to listen, to really listen, then I love listening to sermons.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Question of the Week #21

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

How about a question about questions this week. What kinds of questions--if any--do you want to see asked for this Question of the Week feature? Are there any kinds of questions you don't want asked? Is the lack of participation due to bad questions? Are my questions too shallow? too deep? too personal? too irrelevant? too repetitive? too mindless? too boring? If you want Question of the Week continue in the future, think of a few questions you'd like to see presented at a future date on Question of the Week. I'm asking you to take a few minutes of your time and give back. Be honest. I can take it. Really. If there is zero interest in this feature, then I'll stop this one. I might think of something to replace it. Another interactive type feature that is more open-ended than answering a specific question. So make that question two or three. Would you be more interested in stopping by weekly if it was not a question feature but more of a chatty free for all?
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 25, 2009

Boldly Go. Again.

So last night, I was watching Star Trek--the original series--the episode was The Trouble With Tribbles. And I was loving it, of course. I saw the new (or new-to-me advertisement) that was using the catch phrase "Boldly Go. Again." I thought it was snazzy; I must admit that I liked it. A lot. A couple of hours later, I was reading in my Tyndale New Testament. Reading Hebrews. And I came across this little phrase:

"Seeing then that we have a great high priest which is entered into heaven (I mean Jesus the son of God) let us hold our profession. For we have not an high priest, which cannot have compassion on our infirmities: but was in all points tempted, like as we are: but yet without sin. Let us therefore go boldly unto the seat of grace, that we may receive mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

This is the first paragraph of Hebrews 5. In the Tyndale New Testament. I was struck of course with the "go boldly" phrase of it. And that having caught my attention, I began to dwell on the verse as a whole. I mean who doesn't like thinking about the fact that we can go to Christ, go boldly not wimpering, for grace to sustain us, heal us, comfort us?

That would have been the end of it. But. Today, I was trying to find that verse in other translations. And I wasn't having any luck of it. Again and again, I wasn't finding it in any other translation. I had my doubts for a second or two, I admit. What was going on? Why was this verse so slippery to trace? If it was in the Bible, why wasn't it in all the Bibles?

Well. I tracked down the problem. Tyndale put that verse in chapter 5. And other translations didn't. They had it in chapter four. (Hebrews 4:16 to be exact.)

Here it is in the New Living Translation:

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Not all translations use 'boldly.' In fact, most of them choose confidence instead. But I must admit my partiality. I like boldly better. To me, it represents enthusiasm and passion. And confidence just doesn't represent that same fervor in my humble opinion. Yes, I think they probably mean the same thing. But still.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Salon (Week in Review (May 17-23)

I read in the Tyndale New Testament this week:

1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy

My goals this week: to read Hebrews and Romans.
My goals for next week (the week after this week) to read John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John. Then I'll be done with the Tyndale New Testament!!! Of course, I have no idea if it will take two weeks or three weeks or four weeks to get it all done. But hopefully, I'll get it done by July 1!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Question of The Week #20

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

Do songs ever make you cry? Do you have a song (or two) that makes you teary-eyed every time?

I have a long list of songs that make me emotional. Some you'd expect. Here are just a few...

John Michael Montgomery's The Little Girl

Collin Raye's Love Me

Steven Curtis Chapman's Going Home For Christmas

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 18, 2009

Book Review: Do You Want A Friend?

Piper, Noel. 2009. Do You Want A Friend? Illustrated by Gail Schroonmaker. Crossway.

It is what it is. No more, no less. A picture book for Christian parents to share with their children.

It's hard to wear several different hats. That is, to view the same book through different eyes.

On the one hand, I am a Christian.

On the other hand, I am a book reviewer. I have read a lot of picture books. I have certain standards and expectations. I know what I like and dislike. Some of these standards are strictly subjective, others are more objective in nature. When I was going to library school--training to be a librarian--there were several things that were frowned upon. A book being didactic was one of them. (Racism and sexism were a few of the other things frowned upon. I think we can all agree those are bad. But there's also a sect--in a way--of adults who frown upon all things cutesy-wootsie, syrupy sweet, and well, dinky.)

There's no doubt about it, Do You Want A Friend, is didactic. It's preachy and message-y. I'll approach this in two ways. On the one hand, the message that Jesus wants to be your friend and that he'll be the best friend you'll ever have is a good one. I'm not denying that. I am thrilled to see so many biblical promises used (and illustrated) throughout the book. I think the more Scripture you're exposed to as a child, the better. I think the fact that the illustrations show application of the Scripture is a good thing. I think it is important for kids to know that the Bible is for them. That they can cling to verses, to promises.

On the other hand, I thought it was a little too simplistic. The first spread shows a young boy and a moving van. He's just moved to a new place. He didn't know anyone and he was feeling lonely. "So he sat on the front steps and cried out, "Friends! Frie-e-e-ends!" He wanted a friend."

The very next page, he not only has one friend, he has A LOT of friends. His problem of loneliness, of being friendless, was so superficial, so fleeting that I'm at a loss of words. Yes, some kids have a way about them that they can make friends with anyone, anywhere, in just a minute or two. You know the expression, He (she) has never met a stranger. Well, some people are "blessed" in a way with that. But I would venture forth a guess that most people aren't like that. That it takes more than hollering out "Be my friend" to find a friend, to make a friend.

This reminds me of Ernie catching fish by yelling out "Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy." It's a nice fantasy that it could be that simple, that effortless. But it's not reality.

The truth is that it is not that easy to find friends. A good friend is hard to find. Some kids, sad but true, spend many of their growing-up years without ever finding friends. Some kids struggle with loneliness longer than five minutes. Of course, that would have been a sad book to read. The story of a child who can't find friends, who feels left out, who feels alone, who feels sad. But the reality of it is--in my humble opinion--that it is these kids who need this book more. Who need the message that Jesus is friend to the friendless. That Jesus loves them. Wants them. Values them. The fact that Jesus is not only Savior but friend? The fact that they can turn these feelings of displacement, of loneliness, of sadness to Him? That would have been a great message. A message that spoke loud and clear about why Jesus is the best thing ever.

Of course, the fact that this one kid has an easy time of making friends isn't a reason to not like the book. After all, it's not his fault that he's just so likable that every person young or old wants to be his friend.

Is the book didactic, yes, but for folks who believe the message, this doesn't translate into being a bad thing. Is the book slightly dinky, yes, but again if you believe the message and believe in the quality of the message over other things--then you'll be quick to forgive its shortcomings. (I wasn't crazy about the illustrations. But at least the author didn't try to rhyme. The text is straightforward, and I respect that.)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Calling All Participants: Name That Hymn!

Sherry of Semicolon fame is looking for YOU (yes, you!) to name your top ten hymns. She wants to compile a list of the top 100 hymns. And she's looking for responses. Lots and lots of responses! So go to her site, read the details, think about it a while and make up your mind, and then email her! Her email is included in the post about the project. This is one of the cases where the more really does make all the merrier.

So spread the word! This should be great fun!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Salon (Week in Review (May 10-16)

Finished Acts in Tyndale NT.
All from the Tyndale NT:
1 Peter
2 Peter

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Question of the Week #19

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

Do you like to read different translations of the Bible? Why or why not? Do you have one dependable and/or beloved translation that you use all the time? Or do you like to keep things fresh by adding different translations to your rotation?
I own many different translations. You've probably noticed that I'm not reading typical translations at the moment. Right now, I'm reading the Tyndale New Testament. And earlier in the year, I completed the Wycliffe New Testament. And the 1599 Geneva Bible is on my to-do list.

I love reading the Bible. I do. I love reading different translations of the Bible. Granted, I don't think you *have* to like different translations of the Bible in order to 'prove' your love or anything. I'm not a crazy, vindictive person. But I like the variety. I like the process of becoming familiar with a translation. Of getting to know it. Of becoming friends. But I need more than one friend. I like getting to know other translations. So one year, I might be all about the New King James. The next year I might be all over the New Living Translation. Typically though, I have two or three that I'm reading at a time. Whether it takes me a year or two or three.

This year my goal is to read in the ESV Study Bible, finish the Tyndale New Testament, and get started in the 1599 Geneva Bible.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

The Secret Holocaust Diaries

Bannister, Nonna. 2009. The Secret Holocaust Diaries. Tyndale. 336 pages.

I've read a lot of Holocaust narratives in my life. Over a hundred at least. So take that into consideration, please. Why do I read books about the Holocaust? Both fiction and nonfiction? Because each voice is important. Each story matters. Different perspectives to be had by all. Different nationalities. (Polish. Russian. Austrian. German. Danish. Hungarian. Sometimes Jewish. Sometimes not.) Different ages. An account written by a witness who was eight years old will vary in many ways from a witness who was eighteen.) Different concentration camps. Different horrors. A person who survived the Holocaust by hiding versus a person who survived being a prisoner in two or three concentration camps. A diary written by someone who died versus a diary written by a survivor. There is more than one story to be told. In that regard, The Secret Holocaust Diaries is a welcome book. Always room for one more.

That being said, I found The Secret Holocaust Diaries to be an uneven book. On the one hand, I found the pacing to be odd. It shuffled back and forth in time. Sometimes it would spend a lot of time (several chapters at least) on events that weren't directly relevant. That's not quite fair. I suppose I should say that there is a "before" and a "during." Before the war. Before the Nazi threat. Before life changed. And a during. The during takes many forms. But it would be--according to my whim--events that took place when war was a very real possibility and the Nazis were either on their way or already there. It includes the time when our narrator, Nonna, and her mother were taken by Nazis to be laborers. The book spends a good portion of time on the before. In somewhat of an uneven way. Which in a way is completely believable. The book is a memoir. It's only natural that some events stand out more than others when it came time for her to write her life story. But, as a reader, I didn't necessarily find all these 'before' stories to be equally captivating. There were places, I felt, that dragged a bit.

On the other hand, I realize that these before sections are important for creating balance and providing context. The portions dealing directly with the war, with the Nazis, with her time as a laborer/prisoner were captivating. I wasn't bored. I wasn't disinterested. I thought it was a powerful story. And in many ways a healing one. I think the author used her diary or journal as a way to take care of her soul. It was a necessary part of her survival, of her mental health. The fact that she clung to these narratives her whole life. That she kept them in a pillow case and kept them close to her for decades says something about how much a part of her they were. The author did keep this portion of her life a secret from her family and friends for literally decades. These times were her burden to carry. These secrets weighed her down. The writing and sharing of these with her husband and children had to be cleansing there towards the end. So I can appreciate that.

The power and emotion of this particular story will vary for the reader. I think it depends on how familiar you are with the Holocaust in general. The less you've read, the less you know, the more powerful it will be. That's not to discount it for other readers. I think each story should be told. Should be shared. Should matter in the end. But I have connected with other narratives more. I've felt the power, witnessed the horror through other eyes. And those other accounts are more memorable than this one, in my humble opinion.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Salon (Week IN Review May 3 - May 9)

Finished Luke in Tyndale New Testament.
Began Acts in Tyndale New Testament: Acts 1-21.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 8, 2009

Summer Vacation Reading Challenge 2009

Molly is hosting the Summer Vacation Reading Challenge.

May 22, 2009 through September 7, 2009

I'm committing to reading six books. (Three may be substituted. But three have to be from the original list.)

Fancypants by Cathy Marie Hake
Whirlwind by Cathy Marie Hake
Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist
Love's Pursuit by Siri Mitchell
Offworldby Robin Parrish
Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen

The Dowry of Miss Lydia Clark by Lawana Blackwell
The Gate of Heaven by Gilbert Morris
An Untamed Land by Lauraine Snelling

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: A Passion Denied

Lessman, Julie. 2009. A Passion Denied. (The Daughters of Boston #3). Revell. 466 pages.

Oh to be a calculating woman! Elizabeth O'Connor sighed.

A Passion Denied is an aptly named novel following the non-romance-romance of Elizabeth ("Beth" or "Lizzie") O'Connor and John Brady. If you've read the first two books, you'll remember John Brady as the soldier-friend of Collin, the man who would eventually (with plenty of twists and turns) become Lizzie's brother-in-law. John became a family friend. And it didn't take long for Lizzie to see him as a mentor, a best friend, though she was just a child (13) at the time and he a man of the world. (Not that he was a man of the world. By the time Lizzie met him, he was a man of God. A man who embodied everything a godly man should be. She's had him on a pedestal for years and years and years. But John was never always perfect. He's carrying some shame and guilt and fear. He wasn't perfect then, and he isn't perfect now.

Lizzie loves John. John loves Lizzie. The problem? He won't admit it. He won't act on it. He's stubborn and foolish and just downright silly. Not that Lizzie isn't these things either. She's silly and immature in a way. Unfortunately in my humble opinion, she decides that Charity is a good role model. That Charity's recommendations of how to hook a man and reel him in would be the right way to go about it. Hint: Her advice isn't all that biblical. Charity isn't a P31 woman by anyone's standards. Faith seems to have mellowed out to such an extreme that she's behind Charity's forward-flirty-push-him-to-the-limits-do-anything-and-everything-to-make-him-notice-you tactics. That and Charity's good-old use another man to make him jealous ploy.

The soap opera continues in A Passion Denied. This family saga is so much more than just an adventure in Lizzie's life. It focuses on the whole family: Marcy and Patrick, Collin and Faith, Charity and Mitch. In this latest adventure, John's past is catching up with him just in time to be part of a love triangle. Yes, John has a secret twin brother, Michael, a man who is his opposite in many, many ways. A man determined to use Beth to manipulate his brother. (And he's not the only competition either!)

So did I like it? Yes. Mostly. There were a few places where I wanted to scream at the characters--be it Patrick or John or Charity or Beth--that they were being stupid. That they were making a mistake. The book mirrored a soap opera in that effect too--I almost always have that response at the television as well. But despite all that--or maybe because of that--I had to keep turning the pages to see how it would all unfold.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Question of the Week #18

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

Spiritual insights. Realizations. These little insights "aha" moments can pop up anywhere and everywhere as you're living life. And they can often be found in unexpected places: Life. Music. Books. Movies. TV Shows. Family. Friends. What have you learned (realized) lately?

My answer (and the inspiration for this question): I was reading and reviewing a series of picture books for my Young Readers blog. One of them--Where's Tumpty--really struck me. The first half of this adorable little picture book features a glasses-wearing elephant named Tumpty. He is hiding from his friends.

had his eyes
Tightly closed.

"Hello, Tumpty,"
said Tilly.
"What are you

"I'm hiding," Tumpty said.
"You can't see me."
But Tilly could see Tumpty.

So Tumpty tried hiding
under a large cardboard box
with his eyes tightly closed.

The gag continues for a handful of pages. He eventually ends up trying to hide "upside down, behind a plant, under a large cardboard box, with his eyes tightly closed." But his friends can always still see him.

I think that we can be a lot like Tumpty when it comes to God. To having a relationship with God. I think we try to deceive ourselves and God sometimes. Perhaps without putting much thought into it. Without realizing it. I think we try to hide ourselves, our sins, our secrets. I think sometimes we like to pretend that if we can't see God, God can't see us.

Anyway, I know that wasn't the intent of the book. At all. It's a cute and adorable picture book about a silly elephant. But to me, it spoke a little spiritual truth.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 4, 2009

Book Review: Fixing Abraham

Tiegreen, Chris. 2009. Fixing Abraham: How Taming Our Bible Heroes Blinds Us To The Wild Ways of Our God. Tyndale. 190 pages.

Generally speaking, I liked it. I had my doubts. Doubts which I held onto for a few chapters. But as I continued to read, I felt myself relaxing. I would never say that I agree wholeheartedly with every single point the author makes in this one. Some of his points border on the I-can-somewhat-see-it-as-true-in-moderation-but-oh-someone-could-take-that-idea-and-run-away-with-it variety.

This one reminds me in a way of a Rich Mullins songs: "We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are." Of course, I'm changing that to we are not as smart as we think we are. We like to put God in a box. And we like to talk about what God is like and not like. What he does and doesn't do. What he will and won't do. I think it's not a misspeaking to say that we can miss the point and get it wrong.

Clarification: The Bible is the Bible is the Bible. There's no doubting or second guessing that. It is the Word of God. The Very Word of God. It is holy and sacred. You'll never find me bending and stretching to make the Bible be politically correct. We may not always like--as Christians--what it has to say. But some things are absolute. And the Bible is one of them. The absolutes of the Bible--the absolutes of God--won't change with the fashions and politics of the people. You can't make the truth be untrue. (Well, you can proclaim whatever you like, but it won't make it true. You'll be the liar.)

I feared that this book might be disrespectful of the Bible. But I was proven wrong. What Chris Tiegreen does is think intellectually and imaginatively about the Bible. I think most--but not all--readers seem to divorce the Bible from reality. (That sounds horrible, doesn't it?) What I mean by that very vague statement is that they seem to have two concepts of reality: Bible Times and Everything Else. It's easy to lump the Bible Stories together and separate them out from the time line. To forget that, you know, these were real people like you and me. Though their culture is often strange to us, our culture would be equally strange to them, I imagine. It's also easy since they lived so far ago, to view the story through a certain lens. We know what happens. We know the big story. We know the twists and turns. We know the ending.

What Tiegreen does is lift the stories (and characters) from the Bible and play around with the settings. He modernizes the situations to show just how wonderfully, perfectly strange God is. How "untame" this God really is. (To draw a reference from The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe.) I love, love, love his last two chapters "Hard Labor" (a modernization of Jeremiah) and "A Few Loose Rules" (a modernization of Ezekiel.) But many of his chapters are enjoyable and thought provoking. All are inviting the reader to think--dangerous I know--to be open. Being open doesn't mean changing your mind on everything you thought--everything you know--it doesn't mean changing the essentials. Well, not by my interpretation. What he is asking you to do--and what I recommend--is to be open to the idea that you don't know everything (and that you're not always right) and that you can learn something new each and every time you open the Bible. You can read the Bible cover to cover dozens and dozens of times but each new reading should be fresh and insightful. You will never reach the point where you know it all.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday Salon: Week In Review (April 26 - May 2)

This week:

Finished up Mark in the Tyndale New Testament (9-16).
Read James in the Tyndale NT
Started Luke in the Tyndale NT (Luke 1-7)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible