Saturday, December 28, 2019

Year in Review: Favorite Reads of 2019

Bibles Read in 2019

  1. ESV Story of Redemption Bible. Crossway. 2018. 1920 pages. [Source: Gift]
  2. My Creative Bible KJV (Pink Hardcover)Illustrated by Brad Miedema and Allison Sowers. 1611/2016. Christian Art Publishers. 1410 pages. [Source: Review copy provided by KJV]
  3. ESV Prayer Bible. 2019. Crossway Books. 1920 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Giant Print Handy Size Reprint NASB 1977 Edition. 2011. AMG Publishers. 2304 pages.
  5. The Holy Bible. King James Version. 1947/52. Spence Press. 1566 pages. [Source: Gift]
  6. CSB Reader's Bible. 2019. Holman. 1824 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. Reading God's Story: A Chronological Daily Bible (HCSB). Arranged by George H. Guthrie. 2011. Holman Bible Publishers. 1440 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. KJV Spurgeon Study Bible. Edited by Alistair Begg featuring notes by Charles Spurgeon. 2018. Holman Bible Publishers. 1840 pages. [Source: Bought]

Children's Books34
Christian Fiction25
Christian Nonfiction69

Favorite Children's Books

  1. Emblems of the Infinite King: Enter the Knowledge of the Living God. J. Ryan Lister and Anthony M. Benedetto. 2019. Crossway. 184 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler. John Hendrix. 2018. Harry N. Abrams. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The Big Picture Story Bible. David R. Helm. Illustrated by Gail Schoonmaker. 2004. Crossway Books. 451 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  4. The Lost Son Comes Home. Illustrated by Tim Ladwig. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Growing in Godliness: A Teen Girl's Guide to Maturing in Christ. Lindsey Carlson. 2019. Crossway Books. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6.  What Is Given From the Heart. Patricia C. McKissack. Illustrated by April Harrison. 2019 [January]. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. Rising Above Shepherdsville. Ann Schoenbohm. 2019. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. Because of Winn Dixie. Kate DiCamillo. 2000. Candlewick. 182 pages. [Source: Book I bought]
  9. God Cares When I'm Afraid. Stormie Omartian. 2020 [ February] Harvest House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Countdown (The Sixties Trilogy #1) Deborah Wiles. 2010. 394 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Revolution (The Sixties Trilogy #2) Deborah Wiles. 2014. 538 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. Life with Lily (The Adventures of Lily Lapp #1) Mary Ann Kissinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2012. Revell. 280 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  13. A New Home for Lily (Adventures of Lily Lapp #2) Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2013. Revell. 266 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  14. A Big Year for Lily (The Adventures of Lily Lapp #3) Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2013. Revell. 267 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  15. A Surprise for Lily (The Adventures of Lily Lapp #4) Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2013. Revell. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Fiction Favorites

  1. More Than Words Can Say. (Patchwork Family #2) Karen Witemeyer. 2019. Bethany House. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Westering Women. Sandra Dallas. 2020 [January 7] 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The Bridge to Belle Island. Julie Klassen. 2019. 448 pages. Bethany House. [Source: Review copy]
  4. With You Always. (Orphan Train #1) Jody Hedlund. 2017. Bethany House. 359 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. The Printed Letter Bookshop. Katherine Reay. 2019. Thomas Nelson. 324 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. The Crown and the Crucible. (The Russians #1) Michael R. Phillips and Judith Pella. 1991. Bethany House. 416 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. A Garden in Paris. Stephanie Grace Whitson. 2005. 285 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. When Silence Sings. Sarah Loudin Thomas. 2019. Bethany House. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Nonfiction Favorites (Some of these are re-reads)

  1. The Cross: God's Way of Salvation. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 1986. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. A Book of Comfort for Those In Sickness. Philip Bennett Power. 1876/2018. Banner of Truth. 97 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Dark Clouds Deep Mercy: Discovering The Grace of Lament. Mark Vroegop. 2019. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World. John F. MacArthur Jr. 1993/2001. Crossway. 266 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5.  Final Word: Why We Need the Bible. John MacArthur. 2019. [June] Reformation Trust Publishing. 136 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. A Small Book for the Anxious Heart: Meditations on Fear, Worry, and Trust. Edward T. Welch. 2019. New Growth Press. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. The Joy of Fearing God. Jerry Bridges. 1998/2004. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. God is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. John Piper. 2005. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]
  9. Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me. Kevin DeYoung. 2014. Crossway. 138 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. J.I. Packer. 1961/1991. IVP. 126 pages. [Source: Bought]
  11.  Saving the Reformation: The Pastoral Theology of the Canons of Dort. W. Robert Godfrey. 2019. Reformation Trust. 265 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  12. Mere Calvinism. Jim S. Orrick. 2019. P&R Publishing. 224 pages.
  13. The Whole Armor of God: How Christ's Victory Strengthens Us for Spiritual Warfare. Iain M. Duguid. 2019. Crossway. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  14. Cries From the Cross: A Journey Into the Heart of Jesus. Erwin Lutzer. 2002. Moody. 170 pages. [Source: Bought]
  15. Praying the Bible. Donald S. Whitney. 2015. Crossway. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  16.  Tozer on Worship and Entertainment. A.W. Tozer. 1997/2006. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  17. Christ's Call to Reform the Church. John F. MacArthur. 2018. Moody Publishers. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  18. Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation. Joel R. Beeke & William Boekestein. 2013. Reformation Heritage. 108 pages. [Source: Bought]
  19. Taking Back the Good Book: How America Forgot the Bible and Why It Matters To You. Woodrow Kroll. 2007. Crossway Books. 222 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  20. My Heart Cries Out: Gospel Meditations for Everyday Life. Paul David Tripp. 2019. Crossway. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  21. Stop Calling Me Beautiful: Finding Soul-Deep Strength in a Skin-Deep World. Phylicia Masonheimer. 2020. [February] Harvest House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, December 27, 2019

Week in Review: December 17-26

This will be my last bible reading update for 2019...everything finished after the 26th will count towards 2020. I finished the Spurgeon Study Bible on the 26th...and that was my big end of year task.

KJV Spurgeon Study Bible

  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • John
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Hebrews
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

NASB 1973

  • 1 Samuel 23-31

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Bible Review: KJV Spurgeon Study Bible

KJV Spurgeon Study Bible. Edited by Alistair Begg featuring notes by Charles Spurgeon. 2018. Holman Bible Publishers. 1840 pages. [Source: Bought]

I absolutely LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the CSB Spurgeon Study Bible which I received as a birthday gift in November 2017. Most people probably would have skipped purchasing the KJV Spurgeon Study Bible--after all, it's the exact same notes--but I'm not most people. I love, love, love the KJV.

I will say this. The CSB Spurgeon Study Bible has MUCH bigger font than the KJV Spurgeon Study Bible. You would think that since it's the exact same publisher that they would choose the same size font for both versions. But NO that is not the case.

I believe this one is verse, verse, verse and not paragraph format. (The CSB is definitely paragraph.) Perhaps this is why the font size was smaller?

As I said, I loved the CSB Spurgeon Bible so much that I just HAD to gift myself the KJV for Christmas in 2018.

This time instead of typing up my favorite quotes and sharing them on Facebook and ultimately this blog, I wrote out my favorite quotes by hand in a little spiral notebook. There are some true gems in this one. I love and adore Spurgeon.

This is my third time to read the KJV in 2019. And this was my eighth bible to complete in 2019.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Book Review: Anthem

Anthem. (Sixties Trilogy #3) Deborah Wiles. 480 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It’s been so long since I’ve felt something.

Premise/plot: Set in June 1969, Anthem is the final book in the Sixties trilogy by Deborah Wiles. Each book has a different setting and a different narrator. But there are connections for the observant reader.

Molly and Norman are the two main narrators in Anthem. They are cousins soon to be embarking on a long road trip across America. The mission? To track down Molly’s brother, Barry, last known residence, San Francisco, California. Their starting destination is Charleston, South Carolina. Barry has received notice that he’s to report for his physical. Can an official draft notice be far behind? Barry ran away from home cutting nearly all ties with his least his immediate family. Is there a happy outcome possible?

Molly is fourteen, this road trip provides quite an amazing and literal coming of age journey.

My thoughts: Did I find this to be a satisfying conclusion to the series as a whole? Yes! I don’t want to spoil any details about this particular book but readers get a small glimpse of how the Chapman family is doing. Molly and Norman meet Mr. Chapman, Jo Ellen, and Drew!!! Franny is mentioned as being in high school. Readers also get a chance to reconnect with Ray, a young black man whom we met in the second book.

Can each book stand alone? I definitely think so. Each one is set in a different city, state, even year. The connections with previous titles are brief, in passing.

Anthem begins each chapter with a song title and a few details about the song’s recording. I like this idea! If I had more energy, I would look up these songs on YouTube and possibly create a playlist.

Anthem like previous books is a documentary novel. It includes tons of photographs, a few quotes, but no biographical sketches. The first book is a coming of age novel focusing on the Cold War. The second book is a coming of age novel focusing on the civil rights movement. The third book is a coming of age novel focusing on the Vietnam War.

The theme or one of the themes at least seems to be the importance of actually listening to one another. Molly struggles with discerning what is right and wrong or perhaps who is right and who is wrong. The two sides are hostile—extremely so. The other side isn’t just wrong, they’re evil, representing everything that is wrong with the world. Sound familiar?!

Molly meets and talks with dozens of people on her journey—each one offers a perspective of the times, the war. Molly has a lot to think about, but ultimately she cannot choose for her brother.

While the other two books in the series have a strong spiritual faith element, God seems, emphasis on seems, to be absent in this one. I will admit that it isn’t easy to find God in the pages of this one. Molly and Norman seem to draw most of their hope from the music they listen to. Songs are challenging, encouraging, inspiring, and in some cases distracting them—and to some degree an entire generation.

I think if you search long and hard one could pull together discussion questions with a spiritual slant or focus. The Bible, for example, has a good deal to say about how children treat parents, parents treat children, about how we treat one another, and even how we live under the authority of government. The ethical questions brought up in Anthem can fuel discussion.

I do think the book is relevant still. For people still hotly disagree about how to respond, how to react, how to act with people, with institutions, with policies, with politics, with agendas that they disagree with. People still demonize those they disagree with. Civility seems to have once again gone with the wind.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Bible Review: Reading God's Story

Reading God's Story: A Chronological Daily Bible. Arranged by George H. Guthrie. 2011. Holman Bible Publishers. 1440 pages. [Source: Bought]

I read this Bible for the Growing 4 Life Bible Reading Challenge. I started off the project in the King James Bible, text only. A few months into the challenge I decided to switch bibles and translations. I went with this one that has prearranged readings that matched the group’s reading. The translation is the HCSB. I started over in Genesis and spent about two weeks getting caught back up with the group. Once I was back on schedule, I stayed on schedule. Actually that’s only slightly true. I found it worked better for me to read a whole week at a time. (This was not my only bible reading project. It was always a secondary project.)

I like the idea of reading the Bible chronologically. Especially the Old Testament. It makes sense to approach the OT in this way. The New Testament, however, I much prefer to read traditionally.

The print version has super teeny tiny font. I would never praise the font size. Publishers should do better and be more considerate. Unless a Bible has the word compact on it, the font size should not be so tiny!

This one also had a binding that didn’t lay flat. The binding was very tight.

I do like the translation. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Book Review: Lost December

Lost December. Richard Paul Evans. 2011. 346 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My seventh grade English teacher, Mr. Adams, used to say, “No matter how thin the pancake, there are still two sides.” Two sides to every story. People mistake that little chestnut for wisdom—as if all real evil in this world can be explained away if we’ll but listen to the other side of the story. Tell that to your local serial killer. I believe that adage amounts to nothing more than moral laziness—a motto for people who carry moral compasses without needles. Make no mistake, all evil has its side of the story.

Premise/plot: Lost December is a modern adaptation of the parable of the prodigal son. Luke Crisp is the only son of a wealthy businessman, Carl Crisp. The family business is Crisp Copy Centers with hundreds of locations across the United States. Luke goes away to an Ivy League school to get his MBA. He falls in with a bad crowd, falls deep. These are his people, his tribe. Sean, the leader of the Wheaton Seven, convinces him that his father is just trying to mold him and shape him into a carbon copy of himself. There is no freedom or independence to be had so long as he just follows in his dad’s footsteps and does what is expected of him. Wouldn’t it be great fun to do whatever you want, whenever you want—no rules, no restrictions, nobody bossing you around, no responsibilities?! Luke takes his trust fund and his best friends on the vacation of a lifetime. But hard consequences follow...

My thoughts: Lost December is all about redemption and grace, a celebration of unconditional love. The father’s love for his son is unconditional and extravagant.

This was a compelling read and a quick one.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, December 23, 2019

Book Review: The Printed Letter Bookshop

The Printed Letter Bookshop. Katherine Reay. 2019. Thomas Nelson. 324 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: People parted around us in the courtyard. No one stopped to say anything—why would they? No one had ever seen us before.

Premise/plot: Madeline Cullen has inherited her aunt’s bookshop, but what is a lawyer to do with it?! Madeline didn’t just inherit part of her aunt’s estate, but all of it—her house, her store, her debts and mortgages. When she leaves her job she decides to temporarily at least run the bookshop. It is in bad shape. It hasn’t made a profit in several years. In the process she gets to know the two ladies who work at the Printed Letter Bookshop, Janet and Claire. These women have something to learn from one another and their growing reliance on each other and God may just see them through this often chaotic season of change.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one! It would make a great film!!! I loved the focus on friendship, on forgiveness, on grace. I also loved that Aunt Maddie left each woman a personalized list of book recommendations. How did she know exactly what each would need to learn?!

The book set over the course of one winter and spring is charming and just about right.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, December 20, 2019

Book Review: Bridge to Belle Island

The Bridge to Belle Island. Julie Klassen. 2019. 448 pages. Bethany House. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Benjamin Booker sat in the Old Bailey, pulse pounding. His most important case to date had finally been called to trial—his chance to prove himself to the firm’s partners. The courtroom was the usual raucous scene: noisy spectators and newsmen in the gallery, milling witnesses awaiting their turn, and wigged barristers goading one another like boxers in the ring.

The Bridge to Belle Island is a wonderful read! I will share my biases up front. I usually love Julie Klassen's novels. I have yet to be disappointed with her work. I also love, love, love, love, love the Regency genre. Whether it's historical romance or historical mystery set during the Regency--I have a tendency to get swept up, up, and away and just fall head over heels with a story.

Benjamin Booker is the HERO of this one. He is a law clerk for a law firm in London. When one of the founding partners in the firm (Mr. Norris) is found dead--MURDERED in his home--Benjamin Booker sets about to help solve the crime. His brother, Reuben, is in law enforcement--and is officially on the case. Booker is encouraged by Mr. Hardy, another partner, to play amateur detective. His sleuthing takes him to Belle Island to the home of Isabelle Wilder. Mr. Norris is--was--the trustee of Isabelle Wilder and her niece, Rose Lawrence. Both (young) ladies had reason to dislike Mr. Norris and his control over their lives/property. The murder occurred on the night of Miss Rose's engagement party...

Can Benjamin solve the murder? Is Isabelle Wilder innocent or guilty? Is she protecting someone else?

I loved this one. I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. I love mysteries. I wasn't necessarily expecting Klassen to give me a great mystery--I think of her more as a romance novelist. But I ended up LOVING every moment it. I loved that the main character was a guy. Again, something that I don't necessarily expect from a regency romance. It was a suspenseful read.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Book Review: The Lost Son Comes Home

The Lost Son Comes Home. Illustrated by Tim Ladwig. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Jesus told them this parable...There was a man who had two sons.

Premise/plot: The Lost Son Comes Home is a picture book adaptation of one of Jesus’ most well known parables that of the Prodigal Son. This picture book uses the (actual) text of Scripture (in the New International Version, 2011) as found in Luke 15. It is illustrated by Tim Ladwig.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved this one. In bible story book collections, readers often find more text than illustration. One story might have one or two pages of illustrations. It was a wonderful treat to read this one. The story is familiar, yet with so many illustrations it felt new.

This story is a great one to share with little ones. In my opinion, you are never too young or too old to learn from this parable, to have it speak to you of God’s grace, mercy, and love. It reminded me that one of my very first favorite songs was Benny Hester’s When God Ran.

Illustrations: 5/5
Total: 10/10

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Once Upon a Dickens Christmas

Once Upon A Dickens Christmas: 3 Charming Christmas Tales Set in Victorian England. Michelle Griep. 2019. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This book features three holiday-themed novellas with a strong romantic element. The three novellas are, "12 Days at Bleakly Manor," "A Tale of Two Hearts," and "The Old Lace Shop." Each one is also available to purchase separately.

First sentence of 12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Christmas or not, there was nothing merry about the twisted alleys of Holywell. Clara Chapman forced one foot in front of the other, sidestepping pools of. . .well, a lady ought not think on such things, not on the morn of Christmas Eve—or any other morn, for that matter.

Clara Chapman has had a hard time of it since she was jilted at the altar, and her family's fortune stolen. Destitute and living on the charity of an elderly aunt, she's getting by--barely. One holiday season she's offered a unique second chance. Travel to Bleakly Manor to spend the twelve days of Christmas with a mystery host and mystery guests for  five hundred dollars.

Clara isn't the only guest in need of a second chance. Each guest has had a second chance extended to him/her. Though each chance looks differently. For one prisoner, Benjamin Lane, that second chance is freedom. There's a catch once they arrive, however, only one guest will have his/her second chance granted. And there are some guests who will do just about anything to get what they want.

This one definitely has a dark, mystery vibe to it as well as a romantic one....for Benjamin Lane is the one who "jilted" Miss Clara...

First sentence of A Tale of Two Hearts: In the tiny back courtyard of the Golden Egg Inn, Mina Scott lowered her copy of David Copperfield to her lap and lifted her face to the October sun. Closing her eyes, she savored the warmth and the first line to a new adventure, as was her wont whenever Miss Whymsy stopped by and lent her a book. Though she no longer stared at the page, the shapes of the words lingered, blazed in stark contrast to the brilliance against her lids. What a curious thought, to be one’s own hero—for the only hero she wanted was William Barlow.

A Tale of Two Hearts reminded me of Georgette Heyer, which is a great compliment, in my opinion. I really loved this one! William Barlow has a dilemma. He needs a wife to help "prove" to his uncle that he's changed his lifestyle, settled down, and left his gambling ways behind him--far, far behind him. There's almost a deadline. Uncle Barlow will be choosing his heir soon--and it's between him and his cousin (who is married.) Can William Barlow find a woman willing to pose as his wife for an afternoon tea?! Perhaps. Mina Scott is the innkeeper's daughter. These two have grown friendly--though not inappropriately so--over the last year. She may be just the one to impress his uncle...

Will these two fall in love for real over the holiday season?!

First sentence of The Old Lace Shop: I have long abhorred black. It is a great abyss, sucking in the colours of the rainbow and wringing the life from them. The moniker of death. This year I will celebrate Christmas with holly and laughter and a large stuffed goose instead of dark looks and criticism. Too many years have I spent shut away in a stagnant town house without a morsel of cheer. No more. Today I’m free, finally and completely my own person, leastwise once I sign all the paperwork.

If A Tale of Two Hearts reminded me of Georgette Heyer, Old Lace Shop reminded me of Elizabeth Gaskell. Ivy is a widow who is looking for a new beginning. She's happy--more than happy--to sell all of her husband's businesses and holdings. But there is one--an old lace shop in a Northern manufacturing town--that she wants to keep for herself. She's the majority shareholder holding 51 percent. Who should turn out to be her business partner but an old love, a Mr. Edmund Archer. Can these two learn to work together and make a success of it?

Is this one my favorite in the collection?!?! Perhaps.

I enjoyed all three stories or novellas. I did. I don't think it was really necessary to try to force a connection between each story and the actual Charles Dickens. Instead of being cute, charming, felt a bit forced.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Tea-Ology Reading Challenge (2020, my post)

Tea-ology Reading Challenge (formerly Share-a-Tea)
Host: Operation Actually Read Bible (formerly Becky's Book Reviews) (sign up here)
Duration: Perpetual but starting anew each January
# of books: Readers Decide

What I read in January
What I watched in January
What I listened to in January
My favorite tea(s):

What I read in February
What I watched in February
What I listened to in February
My favorite tea(s):

What I read in March
What I watched in March
What I listened to in March
My favorite tea(s):

What I read in April
What I watched in April
What I listened to in April
My favorite tea(s):

What I read in May
What I watched in May
What I listened to in May
My favorite tea(s):

What I read in June
What I watched in June
What I listened to in June
My favorite tea(s):

What I read in July
What I watched in July
What I listened to in July
My favorite tea(s):

What I read in August
What I watched in August
What I listened to in August
My favorite tea(s):

What I read in September
What I watched in September
What I listened to in September
My favorite tea(s):

What I read in October
What I watched in October
What I listened to in October
My favorite tea(s):

What I read in November
What I watched in November
What I listened to in November
My favorite tea(s):

What I read in December
What I watched in December
What I listened to in December
My favorite tea(s):

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Exactly As You Are

Exactly As You Are. The Life and Faith of Mister Rogers. Shea Tuttle. 2019. 211 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Weekday afternoons when I was a child often found me curled up on the brown, plaid couch in our basement family room, draped in a homely, single-yarn brown afghan, my fingers poking through its open knit.

Premise/plot: Exactly As You Are is a spiritualized biography of Fred Rogers, aka Mister Rogers. After a few chapters about his early life, college years, and first job experiences, the book settles down into exploring Mister Rogers and his neighborhood. From here the book becomes almost topical and each topic is a spiritual one. That is what sets this one apart. I have read several biographies of Fred Rogers. Largely each one has the same exact quotes and uses the same sources. Tuttle seeks a spiritual meaning, moral, lesson, observation in each and every aspect of his life, his relationships, his career.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved some chapters. I did. Other chapters were more speculative and seemed agenda-driven. My favorite section was the middle one, “Broadcasting Grace.” My least favorite section was the last one that speculated about Mr. Rogers’ sexuality, his views on sexuality and gender identity, his view on heaven.

I would not change one thing about the television show. I would not make it more “Christian” or more specifically Christian. I would not add explicit theological teachings that would be more appropriate coming from the pulpit than a puppet. Can you imagine what it would be like to see Daniel Tiger asking Lady A if she thinks Lady Elaine is going to go to hell because she's so mean?! That would NOT be good. No, I would not change anything about the show.

But I also would not draw conclusions about the complexity or lack thereof of his belief system based on the scripts of the show or his interviews with the media. Neither outlet would be a good one for presenting a systematic theology.

The book is one person’s understanding of Rogers’ faith.

That being said, I found a few things troubling about his theology. Perhaps the things that make him a great neighbor make him a less ideal evangelist. As the book presents it, Mr. Rogers did not believe in the doctrine of sin. Mr. Rogers believed in man’s innate goodness. He believed in a God that loves us exactly, precisely as we are—whether we are in Christ or out of or apart from Christ. When dying friends allegedly asked Fred if they would go to heaven, he’d say yes, of course, God loves you exactly as you are. Now assuming the person is in Christ, that’s a fine answer, but supposing he or she isn’t that’s a terrible answer and a missed opportunity. One example has Fred saying something like, just think of all the people you’ve made happy with your music. Of course you’ll go to heaven. That logic is absurd!

If Tuttle’s assessment and speculation is correct, then Rogers seems to have some faulty foundations to his theology. Perhaps Tuttle is right. But maybe not. Maybe Fred was just uncomfortable broadcasting the necessity and exclusivity of Christ.

Imagine that one foot is the doctrine that humanity was created in the image of God and that God saw his creation as good, very good. The other foot is the doctrine of sin, the original sin, the fall of mankind, and man’s being enslaved to sin, dead in sin, unable to please God, unable to stand in front of a holy God. You need to stand on both feet if you want to stand. One supports human dignity, human rights, the value of life, a reason for treating others with respect, kindness, and love. The other shows the absolute and total necessity for the gospel, for preaching Christ and only Christ, for the urgency of evangelism. Apart from Christ, we stand forever condemned, separated, enslaved, hell-bound. In Christ we stand forever forgiven, accepted, loved, set free. The Bible clearly teaches both. We are created in God’s image. Even after the fall, human life is valuable, of worth, has meaning. But Genesis 3 happened. We are not sinless, innocent, perfect, sweet and lovable. Sin is real and rotten. It rots us from the inside out, spreads like a cancer, is fatal. There is only one cure, one hope, one Savior. There is eternal life in no other. To stand clothed in Christ’s righteousness is our only hope for judgement day. In Christ is security. To cling to our independence, our own righteousness, our own worth is destruction. One sin condemns. Let alone the totality of all our sin. But God is a great God, a loving and forgiving God. No matter how dark, how many, how monstrous our sins he forgives and forgives completely and forever those who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior. To be in Christ is to have life.

To stand on one foot and just one foot is foolish. The bad news of sin leads to the amazing, miraculous news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To exclude the doctrine of sin from our thinking, teaching, preaching, is short-sighted “love.” Truth must not ever be divorced from love, genuine love. But the genuine purity of our love cannot be divorced from truth or it loses its purity and genuineness. We must love wholeheartedly, but cling to truth as well. It is not loving to keep the truth to ourselves. If hell is real, if God does in fact hate sin, we should care and care deeply enough to share the gospel, to live out the gospel.

Tea-Ology Reading Challenge

Tea-ology Reading Challenge (formerly Share-a-Tea)
Host: Operation Actually Read Bible (formerly Becky's Book Reviews) (sign up here)
Duration: Perpetual but starting anew each January
# of books: Readers Decide

This challenge is all about celebrating SLOWING DOWN and SAVORING the moments. This challenge is about QUALITY and not quantity. This is an anti-rush reading challenge. Enjoy where you are in a book, and, engage fully in it. Live in the book.

Love drinking tea? Love reading books? Love reading a book while drinking tea? Have I got a reading challenge for you!

Who can join? Anyone who enjoys reading. You don't need to have a blog. You don't need to have a twitter account. Are coffee drinkers welcome? Well. You can still join in, I suppose. But you might be outnumbered by tea drinkers.

Which books count?

  • The Bible (any translation)
  • Devotionals
  • Sermons
  • Christian Biography/Autobiography
  • Christian Living
  • Christian Nonfiction
  • Christian Theology
  • Christian Bible Studies
  • Letters, Journals, Diaries, etc.

Does anything else count?

  • Watching or listening to sermons; just be sure to make note of what you're watching and perhaps jot down a note or two to remind you what it was about.
  • Listening to audio bibles (again just keep track of what you're listening to)
  • Listening to audio books (again just keep track...)
  • Listening to praise/worship albums (again just keep track...)

1) When you sign up in a comment below, share one favorite tea and one favorite book. And if you've got one handy: a favorite quote.
2) If you write a post on your blog announcing the challenge (and making a place to keep track of what you've read), consider sharing a bit about yourself--your reading and drinking habits. You might consider a longer list of recommendations!
3) If you're on twitter, tweet me as often as you like @operationbible Tweet about favorite teas, favorite books, favorite authors, favorite quotes, what you're currently reading, what you've just finished reading, etc.

I will be sharing my progress throughout the year. I haven't decided if it will be every week, every other week, every month. If you have a preference, let me know when you sign up. You are more than welcome to share your progress in the comments of my progress posts.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Weeks in Review: November 11-December 16

Did I read Revelation? Yes. MEV. ASV. ESV. NASB 1995. NKJV. ESV.

Am I keeping up with the Daily Chronological Bible Reading Plan for the Growing 4 Life reading group? Yes.

What did I read in the Old Testament?


  • 1 Kings 8-22
  • 2 Kings
  • Psalms
  • Isaiah

NASB 1973

  • 1 Samuel 12-22

KJV Spurgeon Study Bible

  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Ruth
  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Job
  • Psalms
  • Song of Solomon
  • Ezekiel
  • Daniel
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi


  • 1 Samuel

What did I read in the New Testament?


  • John
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Revelation

KJV Spurgeon Study Bible

  • Matthew
  • Mark
  • Luke
  • Acts
  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter


  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Jude


  • Ephesians

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, December 16, 2019

Book Review: Revolution

Revolution (The Sixties Trilogy #2) Deborah Wiles. 2014. 538 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The first thing we do, me and Gillette, is make sure everybody is asleep.

Premise/plot: Revolution is the second book in the 60s trilogy by Deborah Wiles. It is set in Greenwood, Mississippi in the summer of 1964. Sunny, our heroine, is still enthralled with another invasion—a British one—when rumors of another invasion spread through town. These invaders don’t harmonize but they do seek to spread peace and harmony. Their mission is to help black residents register to vote, to end segregation, to take a stand for equal rights. Sunny is coming of age at an interesting time in America’s history. She finds herself drawn to one of the freedom righters, Jo Ellen (a character first introduced in Countdown as Franny’s older sister). But the book isn’t all about racial tensions and strife. Her family has plenty of strife and tension. Her mother abandoned her as a baby, her father has recently remarried, she now has a stepmother and step siblings. And a new baby is on the way.

My thoughts: I love, love, love this one. I love the integral role faith plays in this one. It isn’t a preachy, flashy kind of religion. No, it’s more like the Christian Faith is the skeleton beneath fully fleshed characters.

I loved Sunny as a narrator. I loved getting to know her family and friends. I loved her obsession with the Beatles. That was a pleasant surprise. I myself love the Beatles (though Paul was never ever my favorite Beatle.)

Like Countdown it’s a documentary novel. It blends pure fiction with photographs, song lyrics, quotes from primary sources, and biographical sketches of real people from the era.

Sometimes you just need a book near you and you can’t explain why. (108)

What can I say to a girl who really believes Paul McCartney is going to show up on her doorstep? What’s wrong with me that I don’t believe it, too? (119)

Believe me, there are only so many times you can sing “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart” before you have no joy at all, anywhere. None. Zero. (155)

Every choice matters. Every person is vital, and valuable, and worthy of respect. (361)

”You are one of the bravest people I know.” “I am?” “You are.” “But I’m afraid all the time.” “It’s okay to be afraid,” Annabelle assures me. “I’m afraid too.” “You are?” “Yes. I am. But I know something about being afraid that helps me.” “What is it?” “I know that you don’t have to be afraid by yourself. You don’t have to be alone with what scares you.”(429)

Each of us is small, all by ourselves, but we are big, when we stick together. (495)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible