Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week in Review October 23 - 29

This week I read:

Luke in the Holman Christian Standard Bible
1 Timothy in the HCSB
2 Timothy in the HCSB
Titus in the HCSB
Philemon in the HCSB
Hebrews in the HCSB
James in the HCSB
1 Corinthians in the HCSB
2 Corinthians in the HCSB
2 Samuel in the American Standard Version, 1901
Genesis in The Names of God Bible (God's Word, modified translation)
Ruth in The Names of God Bible (God's Word, modified translation)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What's On Your Nightstand (October)

What's On Your Nightstand is hosted by 5 Minutes for Books. Here's what I'm currently reading:

Going Deep by Gordon MacDonald. This is the second "fictional" book set in a New England community that features the author and his wife as characters. The first "novel" was Who Stole My Church. Going Deep is annoying me more than the first book. I'm not sure if it's me or the book...reading is subjective after all. But it has a me, me, me, I love myself feel to it. A few too many conversations with people in the book praising him for being so absolutely wonderful.  It's not quite what I was expecting either--based on the description of the book. I thought it would be a book about how God calls each and every one of us to grow and abide in Him. Calls us to discipleship. Calls us to walk and walk and walk and walk in faith, in relationship. Instead it's ALL about training people for leadership positions in the church. It seems the focus is slightly off--grow deep in Christ so that you can be a leader instead of grow deep in Christ because that is what he's saved us for, that is what he wants for us--a deep, ongoing relationship.

10 Lies About God And How You May Already Be Deceived by Erwin Lutzer. I read and LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book about a decade ago. I just wish it was still in print. Here's the book description:
The clearer we see God, the clearer we shall see ourselves. With this conviction firmly in mind, Dr. Erwin Lutzer examines ten lies about our Maker that have crept into spiritual thought in postmodern times. And he notes that these deceits are prominent not only in non-Christian minds but in the professing church as well.
On the surface, each of these lies may appear at least partially true or even harmless. But, as Dr. Lutzer reveals, each harbors a distinct danger: It isn't biblical, so it puts our faith at risk. In Ten Lies About God he challenges the accuracy of these beliefs:
Lie 1: God is whatever we want him to be.
Lie 2: Many paths lead into God's presence.
Lie 3: God is more tolerant than He used to be.
Lie 4: God has personally never suffered.
Lie 5: God is obligated to save followers of other religions.
Lie 6: God takes no responsibility for natural disasters.
Lie 7: God does not know our decisions before we make them.
Lie 8: The Fall ruined God's plan.
Lie 9: We must choose between God's pleasures and our own.
Lie 10: God helps those who help themselves.
The goal of Dr. Lutzer's study is not only purity of spiritual belief, but an enhanced worship of God.
I am working to finish the New Testament in the Holman Christian Standard Bible. I lack Mark, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, and 2 Peter.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Sunday Salon: Week In Review October 16 - 22

This week I read

1 Samuel in the American Standard 1901
Luke in the Revised English Bible
Romans in the Revised English Bible
Hebrews in the Revised English Bible
Acts in the Revised English Bible

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Review: Love On the Line

Love on the Line. Deeanne Gist. 2011. Bethany House. 365 pages.

"Everybody off the train."

Love on the Line had me hooked from the start. Texas Ranger, Lucius Landrum, is trying his best to catch a gang of train robbers, a gang led by Frank Comer. His quest leads him on an undercover job. He'll be coming to the small Texas town as Luke Palmer, a troubleman for the phone company. He'll be putting up new lines for the company, repairing lines, trying to get new customers, etc. The town has a phone operator, Georgie Gail, who's VERY independent and a bit unsure about Luke--at least in the beginning.

Luke is trying to catch the bad guys, but he's undercover, so he has to go about it in a certain way. He has to become very friendly with all sorts of different people in the town. Including Miss Gail.

Miss Gail is trying to fight injustice in her own way. The milliner in town infuriates her by his use--his over-use--of bird parts on his hats and accessories. She thinks ANY use of a dead bird is over use. And she's appalled that fashion is so out of control that it is threatening the bird populations. She LOVES birds and wants to see a change. So she's out to organize the women and children in the community.

I enjoyed both characters very much. Loved how the story came together.

The novel is set at the turn of the century.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Wonderland Creek

Wonderland Creek. Lynn Austin. 2011. Bethany House. 400 pages.

If my life were a book, no one would read it. People would say it was too boring, too predictable. A story told a million times. But I was perfectly content with my life--that is, until the pages of my story were ripped out before I had a chance to live happily ever after.

Our heroine, Alice Grace Ripley, has spent most of her life in Illinois taking things for granted. Things like her job at the library, even though it's the middle of the Depression, Alice assumes that work at the library will continue on. After all, don't people need to read more than ever? And she completely takes her boyfriend, Gordon, for granted. Assuming that he will always be by her side--even though the two have little in common. She's not interested in his work--he's an undertaker, or at the very least he works in the funeral home business. And he's definitely not interested in her work, the number of books she's read that week, the characters in those books, plot elements and twists, etc. So when Gordon discovers her reading a book at a funeral, well, he makes the decision that their relationship would never work. Soon after this disappointment, she learns that the library will have to change its hours and let go of their newest hire; yes, that would be Alice.

Her parents--her father in particular--are big on lists. So Alice won't be allowed time at home to be depressed. So when her Aunt and Uncle mention a trip to a spa--a trip that will take them through Kentucky, well, she asks--almost begs--to join them. For there is a small town (a mountain town) in Kentucky in need of books. Alice has been having a book drive for them, and she's got five boxes of books. She'd love to deliver them herself.

What Alice couldn't predict was her welcome in that town. And how VERY different this rural life would be from everything she's ever known. The librarian, Leslie MacDougal (Mack), isn't all that thrilled with her when she arrives. Where will she stay? Where will she sleep? There isn't exactly a hotel or boarding room about?! And Alice is shocked to discover that the librarian is a man! Which definitely complicates things!

But soon SOMETHING happens that changes everything, it seems that God had a very clear purpose for Alice coming to stay just when she did...

Will her friends and family ever believe her story?!

Wonderland Creek is a great book. Alice is a librarian, a book lover. Though her life in Kentucky does not offer much opportunity to read. The book is a fascinating look at packhorse librarians. Librarians who deliver books to their patrons--by horse. And, of course, it's an interesting look at Appalachian life as well.

If you enjoy historical fiction--set in the 1930s--or mysteries, or romance, then you should try Wonderland Creek. I loved the setting. (It reminded me--in a good way, of course--of Christy.) I loved the characters. And the story.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Review: Who Stole My Church?

Who Stole My Church? Gordon MacDonald. 2007. Thomas Nelson. 250 pages.

I began our meeting with words I'd rehearsed several times during my drive through the rain to the church: "I feel as if I've failed you."

I honestly don't know what to think about this one. It is fiction. But if it's to be considered truly fiction, then it's didactic fiction. Fiction meant to teach, to illustrate, to amuse, to persuade. Because this "fiction" book is all about trying to persuade the reader to share the author's view point: that the church NEEDS to change--and change drastically--if it's to survive or thrive in the 21st Century. His points are many. The main point being is that the church has ALWAYS changed and adapted throughout the centuries. That the "traditions" of today--or even the traditions of yesterday--were new and controversial when first introduced. Another main point, perhaps it should be THE main point, is that the church does not belong to you and me. It doesn't belong to one generation over another. The church belongs to Jesus, the church is his bride. And he paid a price for his bride, and the church MATTERS to Christ. The church is not something that one individual can "own" or "possess" or "control" or "manipulate." Well, not if it's a healthy church. Not if it's a gospel-driven, Bible-preaching, church.

So essentially the author has made himself and his wife into characters in this fictional church, fictional community. He has created a dozen or so characters and put words in their mouths. He frames the novel into a dialogue between people with different--sometimes very different--points of view. His character then tries to reason and persuade this committee to see things his way.

I could see some of the author's points. But not necessarily every point. For example, he stresses over and over again how today's generation is not familiar with hymns and that singing hymns in church is a turn off. That these 'new' believers will go somewhere else. That if the church is to stay relevant, then it needs to set aside hymns and embrace the songs these 'young' people want to hear, want to sing, etc. The way he phrased it--and I'm not sure he quite intended it to be like this--was that today's generation just can't be bothered with hymns. That hymns weren't worth introducing to new believers, a new generation. It almost sounded like an excuse, today's generation doesn't want to work at learning them or today's generation can't appreciate them, doesn't want to even try to appreciate them. I'm not sure that's fair or true. But it sounded like he was making big assumptions. I *do* think there is value in knowing hymns, in singing hymns. I do think there is great value in some of the lyrics. The lyrics MEAN SOMETHING. And they can be a great foundation in the faith.

I just don't think you can "outgrow" songs like Amazing Grace, Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus, The Old Rugged Cross, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, etc.

I think the book has some value. But it also could be slightly annoying in places.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: Do I Know God?

Do I Know God? Finding Certainty in Life's Most Important Relationship. Tullian Tchividjian. 2007. 215 pages.

It was the week after Christmas, and the office was quiet.

The good news is that I remember really liking this one when I read it. The bad news? Well, I read it three weeks ago and I've forgotten everything I wanted to say about it. Almost everything that is.

I do remember that it is conversational and relevant. That it was a practical book that was easy to read. A book that was meant to be read--and understood--by everyone. Not just scholars. Not just theologians. It's a book that ADDRESSES important questions.

Because I read a library copy of this one, I didn't get a chance to mark this one up. So I don't have passages to share with you. (It isn't always convenient to carry around post-it-notes.) I do remember finding many passages that I wanted to remember to mention, to quote. I wouldn't say that there was one for every single chapter, but there were enough that I considered it a rich read.

I'd definitely recommend this one!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Review: Necessary Deception

A Necessary Deception. Laurie Alice Eakes. 2011. Revell. 346 pages.

Entree into the prison proved easy for Lady Lydia Gale. 

If A Necessary Deception is your first introduction to Regency romance, then I think you'll be pleased and satisfied with Laurie Alice Eakes' A Necessary Deception. If you're a big fan of the time period, if Georgette Heyer is your favorite and best author, I think you'll still enjoy it quite a bit because who doesn't want one more delightful story?

I am a BIG BIG BIG fan of Regency romance novels. And so I was very excited to get the opportunity to read and review this one.  Lady Lydia Gale, our heroine, is a widow who takes a big risk. She chooses to honor her husband's last request to help out his friend should he ever be in need. When this friend is imprisoned, she does what she can to see to his release. The problem? He's French. She's English. The two countries are at war.

There's a bit of mystery in this one. A bit of espionage and blackmail. A crazy family full of dysfunction.  And, of course, there's romance. 

I liked this one. I did. It was an enjoyable read for me. I wouldn't say I loved it. But it was such a nice, pleasant book for me. Just a good way to spend an afternoon. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Sunday Salon: Week(s) in Review: October 2-15

In the past two weeks, I've read

Ezekiel in the KJ21
1 Corinthians in the KJ21
2 Corinthians in the KJ21
Galatians in the KJ21
Ephesians in the KJ21
Philippians in the KJ21
Colossians in the KJ21
1 Thessalonians in the KJ21
2 Thessalonians in the KJ21
Leviticus in the ESV
Numbers in the ESV
Deuteronomy in the ESV

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Book Review: Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books

Lit: A Christian Guide to Reading Books. Tony Reinke. 2011. Crossway Books. 208 pages.

Lit! was almost a must-read for me. As a reader, as a book blogger, I felt it important that I read this one. A book about reading books, a book about reading books with a distinctively Christian perspective, it seemed like a must.

Before you get too excited, you should know that you may not be the target audience for this one. For better or worse, Lit! is written primarily for non-readers. Those people who pick up books--fiction or nonfiction--quite reluctantly. Lit! is like a not-so-gentle shove for non-readers. He is passionately trying to persuade non-readers that reading is important. He assumes that his readers will find reading unpleasant, undesirable, unnatural. He assumes that his readers are rebellious, that they will fight the reading process every time they pick up a book. He assumes that reading books regularly is not normal, that reading a book a week is almost unheard of.

The first four chapters focus on the Bible, explaining to readers that the Bible is THE BOOK. It is the eternal book. It is the ONE book that must be the most important to readers.
Scripture is perfect, sufficient, and eternal. All other books, to some degree, are imperfect, deficient, and temporary. That means that when we pick books from the bookstore shelves, we read those imperfect books in light of the perfect Book, the deficient books in light of the sufficient Book, and the temporary books in light of the eternal Book. (26)
Many authors are average (grass). Other authors are incredibly talented, fruitful, and colorful (flowers). But all authors (grass or flowers) are fragile. (27)
If we fail to make this distinction, if we fail to prioritize the eternal Word over temporary books, our reading will never be distinctly Christian. (28)
The first four chapters stress the importance of discernment and having a biblical worldview. If there is one thing he emphasizes it's the importance of KNOWING the Word of God, of being grounded in the faith, in the gospel. The Bible is the ONLY place to gain--or build--a biblical worldview.

Christian book reading is never a solitary experience, but an open invitation to commune with God. By opening a book we can stop talking and we begin listening. We can turn from the distractions of life. We can focus our minds. Sometimes we even lose all sense of time. Although it's difficult to protect, this reading environment can be the atmosphere that sustains the life of interaction with God. (37)
By reading Scripture under the illuminating grace of the Holy Spirit, we develop biblical convictions that make us competent to discern truth from lies, goodness from evil, and beauty from ugliness. Before we can be discerning, we must be informed by a direct study of Scripture. (53)
We read more safely when our understanding of Scripture is sharp. (60)

The fifth chapter, "The Giver's Voice" offers readers seven benefits of reading non-Christian books. The sixth chapter, "The God Who Slays Dragons" argues that reading imaginative fiction can be good for us.

The remaining (nine) chapters deal with reading practically.

"Read with Resolve" urges readers to prioritize their reading, to have goals, to have a purpose, to think seriously and deeply about every book that they choose to read.
For every one book that you choose to read, you must ignore ten thousand other books simply because you don't have the time (or money). (94)
"How to Read a Book" offers readers 20 tips and tricks for reading nonfiction books.

One of the tricks is knowing when to quit.
So how far into a book should a reader go before quitting? This is where the one hundred-pages-minus-your-age rule comes in handy. This rule states that readers should start with one hundred pages and subtract their age. If you are twenty years old, you should give a book eighty pages before quitting. If you're fifty years old, give it fifty pages. The more years, the more reading experience, the less time you need before you can close and shelve a book. And it means that, when you are one hundred, you are free to judge a book by its covers. (115)
"Literature Is Life" on the other hand is all about reading fiction. The author does perhaps stress reading classics a little too much. But. that's not a horrible thing. This chapter also goes where MANY blog posts have gone before. It discusses how 'realistic' Christian fiction should be. How far it should go--or not go--in its content.

"Too Busy To Read" discusses six ways to find time to read. This chapter is all about excuses.
We neglect books because our hearts reject the discipline required to read them. (131)
Our reading may not be disciplined, efficient, or fruitful until we read with purpose. Before you begin reading a book, determine why you are reading it. (133)
He does recommend that readers read more than one book at a time. (I always have more than one book going.) He suggests three.

"Driven to Distraction" argues that the Internet is bad for readers, that the more time we spend online the less time we spend reading books the traditional way. The Internet is "ruining" our attention spans and altering our expectations.
In order to feel deeply about spiritual truths we must think deeply. And to think deeply we must read deeply. And to read deeply we must read attentively, not hastily. If we discipline ourselves to read attentively and to think deeply about our reading, we will position our souls to delight. But our souls cannot delight in what our minds merely skim. (144)
"Marginalia" is a chapter about how readers should write in their books. He is very, very, very passionate about this.

"Reading Together" is a chapter about how you should not be reading by yourself. You should be trying to find others to read with. You should be reading with friends or family. How you should be mentoring others to read, showing them how to read, showing them how GREAT it is to read.

"Raising Readers" is directed to parents and pastors. He provides lists for both--but primarily for parents. How reading in the home is an absolute must.

"Happily Ever After" is a good conclusion to the book. He discusses the five marks of a healthy book reader. This chapter is VERY important, I think, for any Christian who LOVES to read.

What I liked about Lit! was that it was thought provoking. It challenges readers to THINK about what they've just read. Each chapter gives you SOMETHING to think about, to react to. For example, I rarely agreed with every little thing. Even if I agreed with his big picture, his main points, there were some sentences that I just wanted to argue with. For example, in chapter nine "Read with Resolve" he quotes another author who is discussing women and theology.
"Many women are intimidated by the thought of studying something that is 'theological' in nature. They are afraid of being bored, looking foolish, becoming unattractive to men, or becoming divisive." (96)
And she confronts women who would rather read only novels as a way to escape personal disappointments, and who read these books to "build fantasy castles filled with knights on white steeds who will come to rescue her from her mundane, stressful, empty, or disappointing life." (97)
I'm not sure if this general description is true or close to true, and I certainly can't speak for every woman. But seriously?! Women DON'T read theology books because they're worried about what MEN will think of them?! Or they're worried that if they read theology books--and actually think deep thoughts--that it will just lead to arguments?! If the generalized statement was that MEN AND WOMEN avoid theology because they find it intimidating or dry or boring, that would be one thing. Or even to just be completely honest and say that many people just don't want to read theology, they're just too lazy to try to read it. To say that MEN AND WOMEN struggle to read the bible, struggle to read Christian nonfiction, to read theology, that I could tolerate. But to single out women... I'm not sure that's exactly fair. And then the quote about how women [mainly] read romance to the exclusion of everything else, well, I felt insulted.

And I'm not sure I liked this one: "Before you begin reading a book, determine why you are reading it." That sounds like that would take all the joy out of it if you have to find a 'real' purpose clearly defined. PLEASURE and SATISFACTION are reason enough alone to pick up any book. And for nonfiction, "to learn" is sufficient.

But for the most part, I found Lit! a beneficial read. I thought he had some good ideas. Especially when it comes to prioritizing what you're reading. Urging readers to read more deliberately, to choose wisely. I thought it gave some practical advice.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thinking about 2012 Goals

I have been thinking and rethinking my yearly goals the past two or three weeks. And while I'm not ready to officially commit to these goals being MY goals for next year, these are the goals that I am--at the moment--considering.

Commit to reading the New Testament 12 times in 2012. I wouldn't necessarily be committing to read twelve different translations of the New Testament, though, of course, that would be one way to go with it. I'm thinking a balance of translations--new and old, familiar and unfamiliar--would be the way to go. I *know* that it's possible to read the New Testament in a month. I've done it in seven days. But I'm not sure I could keep on reading it once a month. That would be the challenge, I believe, not in accomplishing it the first or even second time. But could I stay committed all twelve months?

Commit to reading the Old Testament twice. (I've read the Old Testament four times this year--and the New Testament seven times.) If I spend all my time reading the New Testament, will I still find time to read the Old Testament twice? I don't know. I couldn't begin to predict...

Commit to reading 40 Christian Books A Year. I know, I know. It's not 100 books. But it is REALLY STRESSFUL trying to make that big a number. And weeks where I don't get two in, well, I start thinking about how I'm falling behind. And months with low totals, instead of feeling pleased with what I was able to read, I regret that I didn't get more read.

Commit to meditating on one hymn or worship song per week. Sometimes I'm surprised by how trivial my memory is. I find myself knowing all the words to completely irrelevant songs. Yet I don't know all the words (without looking) to my favorite hymns. Something is wrong with that picture. I remember my mom talking about how her grandmother would sing hymns all the time. And it made me realize that something is missing in my life. I am NOT committing to memorizing songs word by word, verse and chorus. Though I hope that repetition--reading morning and evening, all week long--might be beneficial.

Commit to listening to one ministry per month on the radio or OnePlace, etc. There would be NO MINIMUM requirements. Though, of course, if you didn't listen to at least ONE broadcast that month it would be a failure. But it wouldn't be requiring you to listen to five sermons a week for four or five weeks. My goal is to acquaint myself with different preachers and teachers, to see which ones work best for me. Each month would be a DIFFERENT ministry. Perhaps each month I would do one post on which ministry I chose and talk about the series/sermons I listened to?

I do still plan on listening to as many sermons as possible from Bethlehem Bible Church. But I don't think I'm going to make a separate goal for that.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday Salon: Week In Review (September 25-October 1)

This week I read...

Ezra in the KJ21
Nehemiah in the KJ21
Esther in the KJ21
Ezekiel 1-22 in the KJ21
Luke in the KJ21
Acts in the KJ21
Hebrews in the KJ21

The shortlists for the Inspys have been announced. If you only have time to read one of these, I'd recommend CITY OF TRANQUIL LIGHT by Bo Caldwell. It's just one of the best, best, best books ever!

Have you made time to watch this thirty-three minute documentary yet? It's such a great film--very powerful, very compelling. I do recommend that you give it a view!!!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible