Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August Favorites

George Whitefield: God's Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century. Arnold A. Dallimore. 2010. Crossway Publishers. 224 pages.
The Devil in Pew Number Seven: A True Story. Rebecca Nichols Alonzo with Bob DeMoss. 2010. Tyndale. 288 pages.
Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope. Mary Beth Chapman. With Ellen Vaughn. 2010. Revell. 288 pages.
The Vigilante's Bride. Yvonne Harris. 2010. Bethany House. 304 pages.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review: Choosing to SEE

Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope. Mary Beth Chapman. With Ellen Vaughn. 2010. Revell. 288 pages.

The sky was a bright, springtime blue that day. We were planning a wedding and a graduation. We were happy. It was May 21, 2008. It didn't look like winter--yet.

This memoir by Mary Beth Chapman--wife of Steven Curtis Chapman--is more than just an accounting of what happened "the day the world went wrong." Yes, the book is about Maria--the (adopted) daughter she loved and lost. Yes, this book is about the grieving process--the healing process. But Mary Beth is sharing her life, her story. Some chapters of her life are not ones she'd have written for herself. Even before the tragic accident that changed her family forever. But God has written the story of her life. The book is about her personal journey to SEE God working for good in her life. To see God's blessing, his grace, mercy, and love.

Who is Mary Beth Chapman? She grew up a perfectionist rededicating her life to God every summer. Grace being an unfamiliar word to her. She strived to stay in a good, working relationship with God. But something was missing. She wasn't perfect. She was never good enough. She never felt good enough. But. In college, things changed. She met God, learned about grace and forgiveness, and met the man she'd soon marry. A musician. Steven Curtis Chapman. Of course, he wasn't THE Steven Curtis Chapman yet. And the couple was definitely "living on love." The book is about being a wife, being a mother, being a woman of faith. An imperfect wife, mother, woman. She spends time talking about her struggles with depression, her struggles as a parent and a wife.

The book is also about her experiences with adoption. She and Steven had three biological children. But. After many years, after many discussions, they decided to adopt internationally. At the beginning, she was unsure about wanting to adopt even one child. But. God showed her--showed the family--that he had a different plan in mind. The couple would eventually adopt three children--all girls--from China. One of these was Maria.

For those that may not be familiar with the tragedy, Maria--just five--was run over in the driveway of the family home. Her older brother was driving. And that was the day the world went wrong. Steven Curtis Chapman turned to music--though not immediately--to heal. His Beauty Will Rise album is amazing. And Mary Beth turned to blogging, to writing. Reader see how the Chapman family can "do hard" and keep the faith, keep the hope.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Salon: Week In Review August 22 - 28

This week I finished Ezekiel in the ESV Thinline! I read Matthew 1-9 in the Common English Bible New Testament.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, August 27, 2010

Book Review: The Vigilante's Bride

The Vigilante's Bride. Yvonne Harris. 2010. Bethany House. 304 pages.

"Marry him? I most certainly will not. Why, I've never laid eyes on the man!"

Luke Sullivan didn't exactly know what the consequences would be when he decided to rob the stagecoach. He's not exactly a criminal. Just a hero with a momentary weakness--he'd just learned some surprising news about his past, his father, something that attributes blame to the rancher, Bartholomew Axel. Sullivan feels that Axel owes him a bit of money, and, that is his justification.

But what Sullivan didn't know was that the stagecoach was carrying a beautiful young woman to her would-be-husband. She's been purchased by a rancher. Three guesses as to who...yes, Sullivan's enemy, Bartholomew Axel. Sullivan can't in good conscience leave this woman to her fate. She has to be made to see the truth. That Axel is old, ugly, cruel, mean, and a bully. He's not fit to be any woman's husband. Since Emily McCarthy has never met him, and isn't exactly thrilled with the arrangement to begin with, it's not that big a struggle. Not that she's happy to be 'kidnapped.' But she doesn't consider it a crime for long. Especially after meeting Axel a few days later! No, Emily soon thinks that Luke may be the hero of her dreams.

Will Emily find her place in Montana? Will Luke Sullivan find a wife?

I liked this one. It is historical romance--Montana 1880s--with plenty of adventure and drama. I don't think it's the best Christian romance I've read this year. But I've certainly read worse.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Week in Review August 15-21

This week I read Ezekiel 16-34 in the ESV Thinline Bible.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Salon: Week In Review August 8 - 14

This week I read

Ezekiel 1 - 15 in the ESV Thinline Bible

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Review: The Devil in Pew Number Seven

The Devil in Pew Number Seven: A True Story. Rebecca Nichols Alonzo with Bob DeMoss. 2010. Tyndale. 288 pages.

I ran.
My bare feet pounding the pavement were burning from the sun-baked asphalt. Each contact between flesh and blacktop provoked bursts of pain as if I were stepping on broken glass. The deserted country road, stretching into the horizon, felt as if it were conspiring against me. No matter how hard I pushed myself, the safe place I was desperate to reach eluded me.
Still, I ran.

The Devil in Pew Number Seven is such a compelling read. It's a true crime memoir by Rebecca N. Alonzo. She's the daughter of a small-town pastor. And her story is quite amazing, and in many ways a bit surprising. Each chapter features a black-and-white photo. Just one more reminder to readers that this story--this haunting story--is all too real. Yes, this book goes dark, ugly places. But. It's a story of hope, love, survival, faith, and forgiveness.

The book is told within a framework. The opening chapter places you at the climax. A child running for her life. A child running for help. A child trying her best to be brave for her mom, for her dad, for her younger brother, Daniel, who was just a toddler. A child running after witnessing the unthinkable...

But. The book then goes back to the beginning. With the story of her parents. How they met and married. How they struggled with infertility. How her father came to be a pastor in this small community. How they came to welcome two children into their home. How their family was tortured--tormented--by a few disgruntled individuals within that community. How their family was loved and supported by others. It's a story of faith, of hope, of love.

The author argues that forgiveness is the language of heaven, and that God's forgiveness is mankind's greatest need.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review: George Whitefield

George Whitefield: God's Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century. Arnold A. Dallimore. 2010. Crossway Publishers. 224 pages.

George Whitefield was born in 1714 in The Bell Inn at Gloucester.

I really enjoyed reading Arnold A Dallimore's biography of George Whitefield, one of the founding fathers of Methodism. He was an evangelist--an open air evangelist--in England, Scotland, America, and Ireland. He spent decades of his life traveling and preaching whenever--wherever--he could. With amazing results. (Numbers that might shock you a bit.) Of course, such results are not because Whitefield was the most amazing preacher ever. No, they were because our God is an Amazing God. Whitefield is one of the 'stars' of the revival. He is one of the men God chose to do the work. Readers will learn about George Whitefield, but they'll also learn about Whitefield's contemporaries on both sides of the Atlantic: John and Charles Wesley, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, etc.
The book is about religion--the politics of religion at times--but it is also about revival. God moving people's hearts and minds. It was amazing to read about the men, women--all classes of men and women--who were called during this time.

Whitefield was a believer of the Doctrines of Grace (aka Calvinism). John Wesley, who wanted to be THE STAR of the movement was not a Calvinist. To put it mildly. Personality conflicts kept these two from working closely together. Though Whitefield, ever the gentleman, kept it very civil. I loved how Whitefield was able to maintain a close friendship with Charles through the years. I learned a few things about Charles Wesley too. It seems I've been unfairly pairing him with his brother and dismissing him.

I would definitely recommend this biography to anyone wanting to learn more about this revival.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Review: Masquerade

Masquerade by Nancy Moser. 2010. Bethany House. 368 pages.

"I've told you, Father, I won't marry him."

Charlotte Gleason has led a privileged life. True, her father has kept a mistress for years and years, and he's now being named in a divorce case. Being "outed" as an adulterer. And so her family name may not mean what it used to. But Charlotte Gleason, for better or worse, has had it fairly easy. She's had her own lady's maid since she was twelve. Dora Connors, her maid, could tell you Charlotte is a bit spoiled, a bit naive.

Her parents have arranged a marriage for their daughter. To "protect" her from the instabilities--financial and social--of the family situation. Her intended is the son of a wealthy New York business man. Almost every one has heard of the Tremaines. Conrad Tremaine (and his family) may be nouveau riche. But. It might be the best match she could hope for under the circumstances.

But Charlotte is unwilling to give him a try. No. She'll pretend to follow orders. She'll go to New York to meet him. But. She's concocting a grand deception. Her plan? To have Dora, her maid, take her place. Dora will become Charlotte Gleason. Dora, if all goes well, will vanish forever. She'll marry Conrad and have the life Charlotte would have had--could have had. She'll even write Charlotte's parents pretending to be the "real" Charlotte. What Dora thinks--what Dora wants--doesn't matter. Charlotte will then have the freedom to have AN ADVENTURE. She has this grand idea of what it will be like to be free. She'll call herself Lottie Hathaway, and life in America, in New York, will be oh-so-perfect. True, she won't have as much money. But with the money she has with her, and with the money she'll make from selling her jewelry, she hopes it will be enough to get started. But her plans are flawed at best.

Masquerade follows both Dora and Charlotte in their new American lives. Though once the switch occurs, it really is goodbye to Dora. Dora becomes Charlotte in the third person narration. And Charlotte Gleason--the real Charlotte--becomes Lottie.

In many ways, Lottie makes a great damsel in distress. She may be "surviving" in New York--after a series of mishaps--but she is surviving because other men and women have taken mercy on her. It's not by her own wit by any means! Dora has more common sense, but, apparently not enough to tell Lottie the truth: this plan is foolish and will lead to no good.

I did not enjoy Lottie. At all. While Masquerade wasn't a great read for me, you might enjoy it better than I did.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Week In Review August 1 - 7

This week I finished Jeremiah in the ESV Thinline Bible.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Book Review: The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. Tim Challies. 2007. Crossway Publishers. 208 pages.

It must be terrifying to be the son of a king and to be heir to a throne.

Discernment is important to me. I think it should be important to every believer. This book is a good introduction to the subject. It helps define it and tries to illustrate why it is so very important to the faith. Why every believer, every church should practice it. And it is something to be practiced.

One of the things the book stresses is that it takes time in the Word. That and prayer. Both are essential if you want to stay grounded.

We live in an age where too many who profess to be Christians rarely consider their spiritual maturity--an age when many consider spiritual immaturity a mark of authenticity, and when people associate doubt with humility and assurance with pride. (23)

An absolute lack of discernment and a lack of concern for discernment is sure proof of spiritual death. (27)

To lack discernment is to sin against God. (27)

To fail to discern is to walk in darkness (27)

The first enemy we must overcome in our discipline of discernment is ourselves. (40)

But Christianity is not a faith that can be taken a la carte. It is not a faith that allows its adherents to pick and choose which elements they would like to accept and which they would prefer to reject. (49)

Because God is truth, knowing God and knowing truth are inseparable. (54)

Discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God's Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong. (61)

Only when we have separated truth from error are we able to rightly worship God. (65)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Week in Review July 25-31

This week I read

Jeremiah 21-32 in the ESV Thinline Bible

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible