Saturday, July 17, 2021

39. The Lady In Residence

The Lady in Residence. Allison Pittman. 2021. 239 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The tour ended where it began--in the courtyard of the Alamo, the fortress bathed in white light, flags snapping in the nigh sky. 

Premise/plot: Dini Blackstone is a tour guide--among other things (like a magician)--obsessed with one particular (local) ghost story. Hedda Krause, the "lady in residence," wrote a memoir before her death chronicling her haunting experiences at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. She was haunted by the ghost of Sallie White--and subsequently robbed of all her valuables. Her robbery case was investigated by Irvin Carmichael. Dini has read the memoir hundreds of times. When Quin Carmichael--a descendent of Irvin Carmichael--comes to town with some of his family's things--a notebook, a box, a photograph, etc. The two set off to reinvestigate this cold case. Was Hedda Krause truly haunted by Sallie White (a maid murdered by her husband at the threshold of the hotel)? Or was she the victim of a dark prank? Was the end-game to rob her all along? 

Will Dini and Quin find they have more in common than a ghost story?

My thoughts: Is The Lady in Residence a dual time line novel? Maybe. I can see it being argued both ways. Technically, the past story line is just the reader reading a memoir that the two main characters are reading (or rereading as the case may be). Readers aren't really privy to anything not recorded in her published memoir. This is more a book inside a book. I'll add if my memory is accurate. There might be a couple of pages towards the end of the story where readers do get a more proper flashback of sorts. But I can't recall if this is still part of the memoir OR if it's not. This is part of the whole big reveal section of the book.

Is it a romance? Yes. Somewhat. Dini definitely has her romance. Hedda had hers. But not every romance ends in a happily ever after. Romance isn't the primary focus of the novel. The focus is on this ghost story, on this unsolved mysterious robbery case in the past. The driving of the novel is trying to determine how truthful Hedda Krause was. 

The Lady in Residence doesn't quite fit in with your traditional Christian romance. Nor does it fit in with your typical secular adult romance. It is published by a Christian publishing company. The intimacy of couples are a bit too detailed, too described, definitely hinting at MORE than your typical Christian read. Yet by secular standards it wouldn't be considered smutty or steamy. It's just a bit awkward not fitting in fully with either camp. 

The character of Hedda Krause was intriguing. So much was left UNSAID. And I did question what was said. She's a mysterious character and I can see why Dini found her memoir so compelling. Reading between the lines, I think Hedda's past definitely had some darker #metoo vibes. I think her life was HARD. 

If there was one thing I didn't quite like about this one was the resolution. 



I can see why for plot reasons Quin had to be descended from the original detective (so we could get the good loot to explore), but I didn't see why Dini had to discover her own ancestral roots to the case. It seemed a bit too much. This novel relied 99% on coincidence. And that just felt unnecessary. You can solve a mystery without having to be related to one of the suspects. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

38. 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) About Christianity

10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (And Answer) About Christianity. Rebecca McLaughlin. 2021. [March] 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a poet. But my first book wasn’t a gathering of poems. It was a gathering of ideas from some of the world’s brainiest people.

Rebecca McLaughlin presents ten questions--and her answers to those ten questions--in a book written to appeal to young adults (teens). The ten questions are as follows:
  • How Can I Live My Best Life Now?
  • Isn't Christianity Against Diversity?
  • Can Jesus Be True for You But Not True for Me?
  • Can't We Just Be Good Without God?
  • How Can You Believe the Bible is True?
  • Hasn't Science Disproved Christianity?
  • Why Can't We Just Agree That Love is Love?
  • Who Cares If You're a Boy or a Girl?
  • Does God Care When We Hurt?
  • How Can You Believe in Heaven and Hell?
In her answers she touches on dozens of hot topics. There's not many--if any--hot topics she doesn't touch on. 

For better or worse, McLaughlin's narrative is saturated--yes, drenched--in references from almost everything but the Bible. Okay. That's not really fair. I think if you look at the proportion of Harry Potter references to Scripture references, Harry Potter would win. If you look at the proportion of Disney references (Moana, Frozen, Aladdin, etc) to Scripture references, Disney would win. To be fair, it isn't that the book is void of Scripture references, it's just that she's way more likely to refer back to Harry Potter, a movie, a television show (The Good Place, for example), a song than the Bible itself. If she's not referring to something in pop culture, she's sure to have an experience to share from her own life or the life of a friend. 

I'm left with a couple of questions. Is the lack of actual Bible purposeful? Did she decide, HEY, I want to reach a wide audience of teens and the best way to engage and interact with teenagers is by talking their pop culture language. If I speak mostly in terms of Harry Potter and Frozen, am I going to reach more people? IN other words, I don't want to share Scriptures with them, talk doctrine, creeds, or theology. I want to keep them interested after all. Or was this an oversight on her part? Is she more familiar with pop culture--her natural heart language--than the Bible? Is she merely writing what she knows? When she's thinking deep spiritual thoughts, is she actually relating more with Disney characters and Harry Potter than to the Word of God? Is she making sense of theological concepts like love, sacrifice, hope, etc. by connecting them to Disney and Harry Potter? 

It isn't even so much that I disagree with her conclusions--at the end of the day--to most of these questions. It's just some things felt a tiny bit off. More like a clock running two or three minutes fast or late. It isn't off enough to make you late for work. 

The one question that felt perhaps more weird to me than the others was the first one: How Can I Live My Best Life Now? Because this isn't necessarily a question the Bible prompts us to ask. I think historically the church would have looked askance at this question. What is this "best life now" of which you speak? Christianity is NOT about helping anyone live their best It isn't about mental benefits NOW or physical benefits NOW or emotional benefits NOW. And, yes, the author very much stays in the here and now of answering this question. Citing statistics. People who attend church once a week are fill-in-the-blank more likely to fill-in-the-blank. She might as well be talking about the benefits of flossing your teeth or drinking water. If someone is actually questioning whether or not the Christian life is for them...or not...looking at statistics of church attendance is far off the mark. 

Not any of the questions in this book really deal with the gospel or salvation. No "How Can I Be Made Right with God?" No "If I Were To Die Tonight Can I Be Sure I Would Go To Heaven?" No "Why Did Jesus Have To Die?" 

These ten questions may be common questions. And maybe these ten questions are for the author her most personal questions. On her journey to the faith, these questions may have been the absolute top ten questions she had, the top ten questions she searched out and explored. 

I am not the target audience, obviously. And I'm not a great judge to if this would appeal to actual teens or actual tweens. I've read other reviews that pointed out the book's references would make more sense for the younger crowd (9-12) than the older crowd. But the chapters on sex and gender--particularly the attention to same sex attraction, transgender, non-binary, etc.--seems more appropriate for the older crowd. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, July 1, 2021

37. The Wish Book Christmas

The Wish Book Christmas. Lynn Austin. 2021. [September] 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Bobby Barrett stepped off the kindergarten school bus and his foot sank into a pile of fresh snow. Some of the snow fell inside his galoshes and soaked into his socks, making him shiver. He couldn’t remember there being this much snow back home in England, where he was born.

Premise/plot: The Wish Book Christmas is the sequel to Lynn Austin's If I Were You. The year is 1951, the season, Christmas. Eve Dawson and Audrey Barrett are living together with their two sons Bobby (Barrett) and Harry (Dawson). Both women are working hard while prioritizing family. When the boys get their hands on a Sears Wish Book catalog, well, their domestic peace is temporarily threatened. These two boys get a case of the GIMMEs. They want EVERYTHING. Well, not everything. Not baby toys. Not girl toys. But every other toy is GIMME, GIMME, GIMME. Can these two mamas figure out how to show their boys the true meaning of Christmas? 

In addition to being a cozy historical read, it is also a romance. 

My thoughts: I enjoyed If I Were You. I did. But even before I knew this book was a sequel to a book I've already read and enjoyed, I wanted it. THAT COVER SAYS READ ME, READ ME, READ ME. It has to be one of the best covers I've ever seen. I also remember my own Wish Book years. There is a JOY in having a Sears Wish Book in hand and writing that letter to Santa. (For the record, I never wanted everything--nor expected everything.) 

As for the book itself, well, it has a definite cozy, nostalgic vibe. It isn't as intense and suspenseful as the first book. There really isn't any conflict. It's just a comfy-cozy, holiday-themed, light-and-fluffy romance. Definitely has some predictable (but always welcome) themes of what the Christmas season really means. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

June Reflections

June 2021 Bible Reading
  • In June I read Matthew 13-16 thirty times
  • In June I read Psalm 73-89 thirty times
  • In June I continued using the ESV Bible app to read the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan
  • In June I finished the NRSV using the Bible in 90 Days plan
  • In June I began reading the NASB 2020 (Large Print Thinline) for the (greatly modified) Horner plan
  • In June I began reading the BSB (Berean Study Bible). 

Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

33. Chasing Shadows. Lynn Austin. 2021. [June] 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]
34. The Heart's Charge (Hanger's Horsemen #2). Karen Witemeyer. 2021. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
35. Where the Light Fell. Philip Yancey. 2021. [October] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
36. Glory in the Margins. Nikki Grimes. 2021. [September] 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

5. Simple Faith Bible (NRSV)Edited by Jimmy Carter. God. 1989/2020. Zondervan. 1568 pages. [Source: Gift from friend] 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, June 24, 2021

36. Glory in the Margins

Glory in the Margins. Nikki Grimes. 2021. [September] 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: When was the last time you heard the words poem and pulpit in the same sentence?

Nikki Grimes newest poetry book is a collection of one hundred poems inspired by the Word. She writes, "As a person of faith with a reverence for the Holy Word of God, I also understand that God welcomes, and even invites, the honest questions of his children, and so I come to the Word with an open heart, bringing my questions with me. As I climb into the skins of the men and women I encounter in Scripture, I try to look at the world through their eyes, asking the hard questions of God that they must have asked, seeking the same solace, wisdom, inspiration, and guidance they must have sought..."

The poems are arranged by month--thirteen months in all. January through another January. There are a handful of poems per month. Enough to cover all the Sundays within a given month for sure. 

I would say most poems are tied directly to a Scripture. (Not all poems do. That doesn't mean the ones without are less biblical, less inspired by the Word of God, they are just more general.) 

The poems often encourage readers to slow down and process--perhaps meditate is the better word for the religious context. Scriptures can be rushed through--passing in and right back out again. But reading these poems can help you slow down, unpack, really tune in. It isn't so much that the poems are absolutely necessary for this practice of reading the Bible. But it's a practice, a discipline, that perhaps many don't make time for in their busy lives. 

The poems point readers straight to Scripture. The poems aren't trying to take the place of Scripture. 

I read through the book in one sitting. I would probably advise readers to savor the book more slowly. Definitely make time to look up the Scriptures. The book definitely has a devotional vibe.

I have a handful of favorites from this collection. I will not share any poem in its entirety. Just a brief stanza or possibly two from each that I called FAVORITE. 

From The Bright Side of Repentance:

Webster has got it wrong this time,
Repentance is not
feeling regret
although we may.
Repentance is action. It's that dirty
little six letter word
we have all heard
and wish we hadn't:

From One Cookie Leads To Another

Intense hunger
is a scream in the belly
piercing you from the inside out
demanding attention
the sorry state
forty days of fasting
will leave you in.
It is good to remember that hunger
carries no shame
but how we fill ourselves
may well be up for review.
If we knew 
God was watching 
how often would our hands
disappear inside those
cookie jars labeled
Do Not Touch?

From Safe Deposit

Stress is a word
life teaches us to spell.
We are all well-acquainted
with worry
that wicked worm
that eats us
from the inside out.

From Worth

We owe him skin and bone
heart and breath
for deleting eternal death
from our stories.
Our talents, our tithes
our bodies
as living sacrifices--
is anything too much
to surrender?
Ask Judas
whose cold coins failed to satisfy
his soul.

From Petition

To intercede is to plead with God
on behalf of another
slipping on another's skin
standing beneath the canopy
of another's sin
and asking the inventor of mercy
to forgive us both.
To go before him
we must first agree.
Then it is on us to recall
the very nature of this Holy Father,
his splendor, his might,
his glorious grace
proven through the ages.
Only then are we prepared
to pray for another
groaning with as much passion
as we would summon for ourselves.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

35. Where the Light Fell

Where the Light Fell. Philip Yancey. 2021. [October] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Not until college do I discover the secret of my father’s death. My girlfriend, who will later become my wife, is making her first visit to my home city of Atlanta, in early 1968. The two of us stop by my grandparents’ house with my mother, have a snack, and retire to the living room.

Where The Light Fell is Philip Yancey's memoir. After reading it, it clarifies why his books are almost always touching on two subjects: PAIN and GRACE. For the record, I don't think I've read any of his solo books. Yes, I know he's been around forever and ever--five decades. (His books include: What's So Amazing About Grace?, The Jesus I Never Knew, Where Is God When It Hurts?, Disappointment with God, Soul Survivor, Prayer: Does It Make a Difference?, What Good is God?, The Bible Jesus Read, etc.)

What should you know? 

It is a memoir. That sounds obvious. Yet, in skimming the reviews of it so far, I've stumbled across some comments like all this guy talks about is his life. Yes, it's a memoir. He's going to talk about his life. 

Yancey is a Christian. But. His faith didn't come easy. He may have been raised in a Christian home, but that complicated matters whether than eased them. That's not me making assumptions. That is his reflection. The book doesn't sugarcoat his long, difficult, uncomfortable, uneasy journey from Christian-in-name-only to actual-Christian. He knew how to put on a show, put on a Christian face, talk Christian-ese, pass as a believer, etc. But he felt it was fake, knew it to be fake. This book spends a great deal of time in his squirming struggles to come to terms with who he is and who God is.

Yancey is human. Again obvious, I know. But his memoir is in many ways ABOUT dysfunctional families. As Tolstoy says, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." The book is about the strained relationships certainly. Readers learn a lot about his mother and his brother.
I'll also add this one shines a light on issues like MENTAL HEALTH and RACISM. 

Some might accuse Yancey of being "woke" or going "woke." But if he is, he made that journey decades ago. He was raised racist--and some of that racism was explicitly taught in his Independent Fundamental Baptist church. But also most of his schooling occurred BEFORE integration. He was coming of age during the Civil Rights Movement. And there was tension and conflict. He had to wrestle with ideas and beliefs. He determined for himself that it was wrong, wrong, super-wrong. And that he had to break away from what he'd been taught. 

He was raised in an extreme. He grew up Independent Fundamental Baptist. And again he had to wrestle with himself--with ideas, beliefs, etc--to determine what he actually believed. Sometimes that meant departing from the super-strict sometimes arbitrary nature of the IFB. He did attend a Bible college. Rejecting the toxic elements of his past did not--for him--mean tossing God too. But it was a process of separating out what does the Bible actually say AND what do they say the Bible says. 

This one might need a couple of trigger warnings. Especially in regards to verbal, mental, emotional, spiritual abuse. It is a heavy read in some places. And it clearly shows the long-term dangers of childhood trauma. Another additional trigger warning about suicidal thoughts and attempts. 

It is blurring the lines--a bit--when it comes to comfort zones. At least for me. This book really GOES all the way when it comes to his troubled brother. These are real-life issues. I don't doubt it for a minute. But it's a LOT to take in. And I'm not sure I need to know all the sexual transgressions of his brother in the free love years. 

  • My father isn’t even a memory, only a scar.
  • Certainly, no one could accuse our mother of “unspiritual” behavior. Unlike some women in our church, she has never worn a pair of slacks, nor does she wear nail polish or makeup, not even lipstick. She never fails to have lengthy personal devotions every morning, and she teaches the Bible for a living. What chance do two adolescent kids stand against such an authority? Mother claims she hasn’t sinned in twelve years—longer than I’ve been alive. She follows a branch of the holiness tradition that suggests Christians can reach a higher spiritual plane, a state of moral perfection. The pastor of her Philadelphia church uses a glove to illustrate the point. “The Holy Spirit lives inside you like my fingers in this glove,” he says. “It’s not you living now; it’s the Spirit of God in you.”
  • Our three-person family isn’t working anymore. I have no way to put into words the changes going on, but something is tearing me inside. I want to run up to someone I recognize in church and say: “Please, please can you help us. I need someone to know what’s happening at home.” Then I remember my mother’s reputation and realize that no one will believe me. She’s a saint, the holiest woman in Atlanta.
  • The church has clearly lied to me about race. And about what else? Jesus? The Bible?
  • Slowly it sinks in that nothing that Marshall or I do will please Mother, that our lives are a stabbing reminder of her own failed dreams and especially the dream—the vow—she had for us. It dawns on me, that’s why she’s so insistent about the Bible college. She can feel us slipping away.
  • Perhaps, the thought crosses my mind, I am resisting not God but people who speak for God. I’ve already learned to distrust my childhood churches’ views on race and politics. What else should I reject? A much harder question: What should I keep?
  • Lenin once said that he refused to listen to Beethoven because the music made him want to pat children on the head. There are no small children on the college campus, but now I understand what he means.
  • Those who appear the least lovable usually need the most love.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, June 21, 2021

34. The Heart's Charge

The Heart's Charge (Hanger's Horsemen #2). Karen Witemeyer. 2021. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: When Mark Wallace left Gringolet two days ago to deliver a prize gelding to a wealthy rancher west of Llano, he never dreamed he’d be called upon to deliver a baby too. Or that the mother of said baby would be waving a pistol back and forth between him and Jonah as if trying to decide which fellow to shoot first.

This book had me at hello. I'm not just saying that to say that. I mean this book had me HOOKED from the first page. Readers first met Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks in the first book of the series, At Love's Command. 

In this one, Mark and Jonah are out on their own as they come across a woman in labor. A suicidal woman in labor. A woman determined to join her husband on the other side without any care or thought about the baby. Fortunately Mark and Jonah are there to intervene. They take the newborn to Harmony House, a home for foundlings. 

SURPRISE, SURPRISE. As Mark is delivering the newborn baby to Harmony House, he sees an old love, a lost love. Katherine Palmer is the last person he thought he'd see...and the first person he'd love to reconnect with. She was always his one that got away. She's made a new life for herself, devoted herself to a wonderful cause or mission. And she's working side by side with another woman, Eliza Southerland, to do it. The home takes in unwanted children of all ages and gives them a good, loving home and some education. 

Eliza Southerland doesn't know what to think of Jonah Brooks...but she can't help thinking about him! 

These two decide to stick around a little bit first to help fix Harmony House up a bit--it's a bit of a fixer-upper. But soon they are on a case of their own....and it involves KIDNAPPED CHILDREN. 

It will take a lot of WORK--much team work--to save lives and see justice done. Will these couples find reasons to stay together after all is said and done???

I loved this one. I did. I absolutely LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. I loved that we essentially have FOUR narrators. I loved getting to know Mark, Jonah, Eliza, and Kate better. I loved how well we got to know each character. I loved seeing these relationships develop. It didn't feel insta-love either. The journeys these couples takes was just swoon-worthy.

At times I can be harsh when it comes to life-and-death danger in romance novels, but, in this case I think it was seamless. It didn't feel overly dramatic and forced. Perhaps the villain(s) weren't as well-developed as the main characters, but, I don't know that I would have wanted to spend more time with them. It almost would have ruined the suspense if more groundwork had been laid for the reveal. Part of the suspense is NOT KNOWING who is behind the kidnappings. (Okay, all of the suspense). 

One thing that I especially loved, loved, loved about this one--something that makes it stand out--are the children. I loved getting to know the children. Especially Abner. But also others like Rawley, Wart, and Al. The children are an integral part of this one. Abner's scenes were show-stealers in my opinion. And one of the scenes with Abner just made my heart grow three sizes. 

This is a wonderful novel. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, June 13, 2021

5. NRSV Simple Faith Bible

Simple Faith Bible (NRSV) Edited by Jimmy Carter. God. 1989/2020. Zondervan. 1568 pages. [Source: Gift from friend]

First sentence: In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

Though the NRSV has been around since 1989, I am only now getting around to reading it cover to cover. 

This one does have some devotional-like side-bars. I did not read any of them. I treated this bible like a text-only Bible. So if you're looking for details about the quality of Jimmy Carter's contribution, well, you'll have to look elsewhere. The truth is that I almost exclusively read text-only Bibles and just don't seek out any extras most of the time.

This Bible is BLACK LETTER. I love that. That was definitely a plus for me.

The font-size is 9.5. I found it a comfortable size to read. It wasn't a strain on the eyes. Perhaps Zondervan's Comfort Print had a little something to do with how easy it was on the eyes? I've not read another NRSV to compare it to. 

My method for reading through the Simple Faith Bible was the Bible in 90 Days reading plan. I really do love this plan overall. I love knowing EXACTLY what to read and how much to read to stay on track.

I wouldn't say the NRSV is my new favorite translation. Some books I liked more than others. 

Psalm 1:3 NRSV

They are like trees
    planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
    and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

Psalm 1:3 NASB 95

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

33. Chasing Shadows

Chasing Shadows. Lynn Austin. 2021. [June] 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Every sound in the coal-black night seemed magnified as Lena lay awake in bed, waiting. She heard the quiet rustlings of the shadow people as they crept through the darkness downstairs in her farmhouse.

Chasing Shadows is historical fiction set in the Netherlands during the Second World War. It features multiple narrators whose stories alternate throughout. Lena de Vries is a wife and mother (and daughter). Ans de Vries is a young woman who CANNOT wait to leave the rural farm life far, far, far behind. She's off to the 'big' city. But will it hold all the thrills that she feels she's been missing out?

Both narrators are tested by the experiences of the war--not only the initial Nazi invasion but the continued occupation of their country. Each faces a choice--as all residents did--do I comply with the Nazis? Do I play it safe and just wait and hope that it will all work itself out OR do I risk it all to follow my conscience? Does doing nothing mean that you support the Nazis and what they are doing? Can you oppose the Nazis AND sit idle? 

There IS a third narrator--a Jewish one--that also enters into the story, a young woman named Miriam. 

Chasing Shadows is an engaging, character-driven historical novel with substance. It is beautiful and haunting. There are a few scenes that stand out as being truly wonderful. I do think it would make a good film.

“Jesus said the most important commandments are to love the Lord your God and love your neighbor. And so, whenever we face a dilemma, we can ask, What is the best way to show our love for God and for our neighbor?”

Then, unbidden, the words Ans had been made to memorize in catechism class swirled softly through her mind: “I am not my own, but I belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. . . .”

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thirteen Years of Operation Actually Read Bible

Today my baby, my blog baby, is turning thirteen! My first post was called THE MISSION.

My goal--obvious as it may be--is to actually read the Bible. You might think that I've not read it. But that wouldn't be the case. I've read it a dozen or so times over the past twenty years. However, I've not been in the habit of reading it lately. For the past three or four years, my reading of the Bible has been pitiful to nil. I know--rationally speaking--that I NEED to read the Bible...that I NEED to study and read and pray. But it's not a part of my daily routine. Hence why I'm challenging myself to ACTUALLY read the Bible instead of just talking about how I need to start one day soon.

Each year I celebrate by sharing my favorite posts from the past year. 

Here are my favorite posts from June 9, 2020 to June 8, 2021.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 31, 2021

May Reflections

May 2021 Bible Reading
  • In May I read Matthew 9-12 thirty times
  • In May I read Psalm 42-72 thirty times. (If I *ever* do this again, I will never break it up like this again)
  • In May I continued using the ESV Bible app to read the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan.
  • In May I finished the NIV Reader's Bible mainly using the revised Horner reading plan (greatly modified)
  • In May I used the Bible in 90 Days plan to read the NRSV. I have read Genesis through Ezekiel. (I started this plan in April.)
  • I have continued to do a little here and there reading in several other Bibles including the KJV, the NASB Schuyler, and the LSB.
  • I made a second revision (or is it the third??) of the Horner system. I have ten mostly new categories. (The only thing I really kept the same were the bookmarks for Psalms AND the books of the law (Genesis - Deuteronomy). I am starting the Horner system again for the NASB 2020 BIBLE. I am using the Large Print Thinline edition of the NASB 2020.
  • In May the Facebook group, Psalms: Life From God's Heart, began reading Psalms. (3 a week). I am a moderator. 

Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

29. Board books: Bible Stories for Little Hearts. Sandra Magsamen. 2019. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
30.Come Back To Me (Waters of Time #1) Jody Hedlund. 2021. [July] 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
31. Go and Do Likewise: The Parables and Wisdom of Jesus. John Hendrix. 2021. [February] 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
32. Providence. John Piper. 2021. 752 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

4. NIV Reader's Bible (2011 Translation). God. 2017. 1984 pages. [Source: Won a Contest]

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 28, 2021

Days of the Week Bible Reading Plan

My idea for this reading plan is from several years ago. I made the bookmarks, but had them in a non-current Bible. So I've never really given this plan a proper go. (I may try for my next Bible project). This plan is perfect for those who like FREEDOM in what they read and how much they read per day. It offers some structure, but its not rigid. I've also built in some "catch-up" or "wild card" days.

For the Old Testament I offer two different options

Plan A

Monday: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Tuesday: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
Wednesday: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs
Thursday: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel
Friday: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Plan B

Monday: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Tuesday: Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel
Wednesday: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi
Thursday: The book of Psalms
Friday: Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles

For Saturday and Sunday I suggest that *if* you choose to read the Old Testament on the weekend, that you might use this time to catch up. Perhaps you're just a couple chapters away from finishing a book of the Bible. Or perhaps you're really excited to get back to a particular section of Scripture--read from any of your bookmarks--as much or as little as you want. Don't feel pressured to read a little from all five. Just read where the Spirit leads you.

For the New Testament, my system is a little different:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Revelation 

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter 

For Sunday, feel free to where ANYWHERE you want in the New Testament. Or perhaps you want to go deeper in a section of Scripture that you've read earlier in the week. 

Essentially, every day (or near every day) you'll be reading in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. 

You could type up bookmarks. OR you could do like I do and just jot them down on (shopping) list paper. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

4. NIV Reader's Bible

NIV Reader's Bible (2011 Translation). God. 2017. 1984 pages. [Source: Won a Contest]

First sentence:  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

This was not my first time to read through the "new" NIV (2011) translation. I have read the A.W. Tozer devotional Bible before. 

What I enjoyed about this particular Bible was that it was a Reader's Bible. It has no verse numbers. (It does have chapter numbers.) I also enjoyed the size of the font and that it was single column. Overall, I thought the layout worked great. (It does lay flat!)

It is black letter, not red letter, which is definitely important to me when I'm considering Bibles.

I do recommend that everyone read through the Bible at least once in a reader's Bible. I don't think everyone has to read the NIV translation. Many translations these days have been published in this format. And reading the Bible in an app, you can usually (though not always) make adjustments in the preferences so that you can *make* any translation into a Reader's Bible. 

I did use a modified Professor Horner plan to read this one through. I will say I stuck to it except for the past two days when I essentially read all the books I hadn't already read once. (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Revelation). 

So my modified Horner had these ten groupings:

  1. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
  2. Joshua Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Esther
  3. Psalms
  4. Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
  5. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, REVELATION
  6. Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi
  7. Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, John
  8. Romans and Hebrews
  9. 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians
  10. 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, 3 John, and Jude
I think I will change my Horner bookmarks again when I start over next time. It does get a bit uneven. I think this is mainly my fault. Mainly. I tend to read in chunks that make sense--in terms of narrative--instead of a strict one chapter per group. 

In my Horner accounting, I marked all the NIV in red. The NASB 95 is marked in black. My next color will be blue--I'll be reading the NASB 2020. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Third Impressions of Professor Horner

In January, I wrote my first impressions of this popular (semi-popular?) Bible reading plan. In March, I revised the plan to better suit my needs. As I'm finishing up the NIV using the revised Horner plan, I'm realizing I want another revision. No, I need another revision. 

I'm thinking of breaking the Old Testament down into five groups:

1) The Law -- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
2) The Prophets: Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel
3) The Twelve Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi
4) The book of Psalms
5) The writings: Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles

Yes, this list is inspired by the order of the Torah...with the exception that I separated out Psalms from The Writings. 

Which leaves me to group the New Testament into five groups as well. The New Testament is trickier than the old in terms of easy grouping.

6) Matthew, Hebrews, James, Jude
7) Mark, Romans, 1 and 2 Peter
8) Luke, Acts, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians
9) Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon
10) John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 24, 2021

32. Providence

Providence. John Piper. 2021. 752 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: God has revealed the goal and nature and extent of his providence. He has not been silent. He has shown us these things in the Bible. This is one of the reasons that the apostle Paul says, “All Scripture is . . . profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16). The profit lies not mainly in the validation of a theological viewpoint but in the revelation of a great God, the exaltation of his invincible grace, and the liberation of his undeserving people. God has revealed his purposeful sovereignty over good and evil in order to humble human pride, intensify human worship, shatter human hopelessness, and put ballast in the battered boat of human faith, steel in the spine of human courage, gladness in the groans of affliction, and love in the heart that sees no way forward.

It is finished! It took me over a month--perhaps closer to two--to finish this one. Was it worth it? Yes. Do I see this as a book worthy of a reread? Yes. I think it is a substantive, weighty book where a reader would benefit from a second read. Or perhaps as an alternative as a resource to go back to again and again. 

I will not try to provide an in-depth review of each part, each section, each chapter. 

Part 1: A Definition and a Difficulty
1. What is Divine Providence
2. Is Divine Self-Exaltation Good News?
Part 2: The Ultimate Goal of Providence
Section 1: The Ultimate Goal of Providence before Creation and in Creation
3. Before Creation
4. The Act of Creation
Section 2: The Ultimate Goal of Providence in the History of Israel
5. Overview from Abraham to the Age to Come
6. The Exodus Unfolds
7. Remembering the Exodus
8. The Law, the Wilderness, and the Conquest of Canaan
9. The Time of the Judges and the Days of the Monarchy
10. The Protection, Destruction, and Restoration of Jerusalem
Section 3: The Ultimate Goal of Providence in the Design and Enactment of the New Covenant
11. The Designs of the New Covenant
12. Christ's Foundational Act in Establishing the New Covenant
13. The Entrance of Sin into Creation and the Glory of the Gospel
14. The Glory o fChrist in the Glorification of His People
Part 3: The Nature and Extent of Providence
Section 1: Setting the Stage
15. Knowing the Providence of the God Who Is
Section 2: Providence Over Nature
16. The Loss and Recovery of a Theater of Wonders
17. Earth, Water, Wind, Plants, and Animals
Section 3: Providence over Satan and Demons
18. Satan and Demons
19. The Ongoing Existence of Satan
Section 4: Providence over Kings and Nations
20. Israel's Divine King is King of the Nations
21. Human Kingship and the King of Kings
22. To Know and Rejoice That the Most High Rules
Section 5: Providence Over Life and Death
23. A Bath of Truth and the Gift of Birth
24. The Lord Has Taken Away; Blessed Be the Name of the Lord
25. We Are Immortal till Our Work is Done
Section 6: Providence Over Sin
26. Natural Human Willing and Acting
27. Things We Know and Things We Do Not Need to Know
28. Joseph: God's Good Meaning in a Sinful Act
29. Israel Hated, Pharaoh Hardened, God Exalted, Helpless Saved
30. Broken Families
31. Deception and Dullness of Heart
32. Though He Cause Grief, He Will Have Compassion
33. A Wickedness God Especially Abhorred
Section 7: Providence Over Conversion
34. Our Condition Before Conversion
35. Three Biblical Pictures of How God Brings People to Faith
36. Saving Faith as the Gift of Providence
37. Driven Back to the Precious Roots of Election
Section 8: Providence Over Christian Living
38. Forgiveness, Justification, and Obedience
39. God's Command-and-Warning Strategy
40. Those Whom He Called, He Also Glorified
41. Blood-Bought Zeal for Good Works
42. Working In Us That Which Is Pleasing In His Sight
43. Killing Sin and Creating Love--By Faith
Section 9: The Final Achievement of Providence
44. The Triumph of Missions and the Coming of Christ
45. New Bodies, New World, Never-Ending Gladness in God 

If you take the time to thoughtfully read the table of contents you see that Piper's book covers just about anything and everything. 

Is it accessible or reader friendly? This will vary reader by reader, of course, but I think if taken one to three chapters at a time, it IS more accessible than not. I do want to point out that it isn't equally accessible cover to cover. There are chapters--or paragraphs within chapters--that are quite complex and where Piper's approach is more technical/scholarly. The good news is that if you keep reading, keep on keeping on, that you will get back to parts you are able to understand/comprehend/appreciate. And sometimes he even provides summary of the harder bits by the end of the chapter or section. Don't give up.

The book covers just about everything--it's very broad in its subject. I think it's only natural that some readers will "love" some chapters and sections more than others. While all chapters are relevant when seen in the grand scheme of seeing God's Providence, not all chapters are equally relevant in showing how God's providence relates back to the reader. The last third of the book is, in my opinion, the best. 

  • I am going to use the word providence to refer to a biblical reality. The reality is not found in any single Bible word. It emerges from the way God has revealed himself through many texts and many stories in the Bible. They are like threads woven together into a beautiful tapestry greater than any one thread. We are using a word that is not in the Bible for the sake of this larger truth of the Bible.
  • The focus of this book is on God’s sovereignty considered not simply as powerful but as purposeful. Historically, the term providence has been used as shorthand for this more specific focus.
  • God does not simply see as a passive bystander. As God, he is never merely an observer. He is not a passive observer of the world—and not a passive predictor of the future. Wherever God is looking, God is acting. In other words, there is a profound theological reason why God’s providence does not merely mean his seeing, but rather his seeing to. When God sees something, he sees to it.
  • Providence says, Whatever God ordains must be; but the wisdom of God never ordains anything without a purpose. Everything in this world is working for some one great end. 
  • It is cheap grace, not genuine grace, that thinks life in Christ is without remorse for past sin and for remaining corruption.
  • The fear of the Lord is not the opposite of joy in the Lord; it is the depth and seriousness of it.
  • Jesus is both the ground of our salvation, and the glory we were saved to see and savor and share. He was the price that was paid for our deliverance, and the prize we were destined to enjoy. He redeemed us from hell, and he rewarded us with himself.
  • Though death is real, (1) Christ has defeated it by his death and resurrection, so that (2) those who treasure him need not fear what kills the body, because (3) in that moment we will be with Christ, seeing his glory, savoring his love, feeling at home, until the day of his appearing, when (4) he will raise our bodies from the dead, and (5) give us a body like his glorious body, and (6) renew all creation as our eternal habitation, and (7) bring us to fullness of joy and pleasures forever in the radiance of his glorious presence. That is bracing reality.
  • What if I look you in the eye and ask, “Are you a Christian? Do you have saving faith in Jesus?” And what if you say, “Yes, I do,” and I then ask, “How did that happen? How did you cease to be a person who preferred other things to God and become a person who treasures Christ?” Will you be able to give me a true, biblical answer? This is not theoretical. This is urgent. For most people, the answer presses for an answer with more urgency than the question of election. It feels like something great hangs in the balance. And it does.
  • I am not asking about what you can remember about the circumstances—young or old, recent or distant. Those facts may be precious in memory or long forgotten. The genuineness of our conversion does not depend on its being remembered. If it did, people with dementia would be in a desperate spiritual plight. Salvation is not by works—including the work of memory.
  • Far more important than the human circumstances God used to bring you to faith is how God himself was involved at the moment when you passed from death to life (Eph. 2:5). And we learn that from Scripture, not from memory. In fact, many people must unlearn aspects of what they think happened, when they finally see in Scripture what truly happened in their conversion.
  • Experience does not teach us the depth of our difficulty. Only God can do that. And he does it by his word and Spirit.
  • The point is that any sin—because it is sin (a preference for something over God)—will destroy us if we cordon it off from opposition, give it amnesty, and keep it as our beloved rebellion against God.
  • I often ask people, How do you know you will wake up a Christian tomorrow morning? The bottom-line answer is that God will cause you to wake up a Christian, or you won’t. God will be faithful. God will keep you. Everything hangs on the faithfulness of God to his promise: “Those whom he called . . . he also glorified.”
  • Holiness is the opposite of sin. Therefore, treasuring God above all things is the essence of holiness.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 21, 2021

Berean Playlist #12 Come Forth

See my blog post: On Being Berean, Part 2 for context on this series. Today's song is Come Forth by CAIN. Listen to it on YouTube. The lyrics can be found as well

I have very mixed feelings on this song. I do. I honestly don't know if this song is intended to be a wake up call for believers who are a bit lazy and sluggish. (Like some of the churches we see in Revelation, not to mention some of Jesus' rebukes to his disciples). OR if the song is intended as an invitational to nonbelievers, to seekers. If the song writers intended it to be a wake up call to those who are WITHIN the church, those that have genuinely trusted and believed in Christ, then perhaps I have less of an issue with the song??? Perhaps. But if the song writers intended it to be a song of invitation (think of the way Just As I Am is used for altar calls) to the unbelieving world, I have some major theological issues with the song. 

The song opens with a vivid description of Jesus.

He is a grave robber, 
He’s a wave walker 
There ain’t nothing that He can’t do 
He’s a storm stopper, 
He’s a death mocker

The song then shifts focus to how Jesus has work for us to do in his power. And for the most part this is where the song stays focused: the power that can be obtained by us when we respond to God's calling in our lives. 

There is another verse about Jesus, by the way:

Oh with a cross they killed Him 
But the Spirit filled Him 
The gates of hell flung open wide 
Now That same spirit lives within us 
Step into the power of Christ

I don't particularly have issues with these verses about Jesus. I don't. Not really.

I may not have issues with the other lyrics--but it all depends on the intended purpose and audience. There's a big, big, big difference in interpreting the meaning of the lyrics. Are unbelievers in mind here????? Are believers in mind????? Or perhaps that "carnal" Christian???? Who knows for sure.

Dead man open your eyes 
The Lord ain’t finished with you 
Wake up You sleeper 
Watch what He can do 
Dead man open your eyes 
Jesus is calling you 

and later

Dead man open your eyes 
The Lord ain’t finished with you 
Wake up You sleeper 
Watch what He can do 
Dead man open your eyes 
Jesus is calling you 
I hear Him 
I hear Him 
I hear Him calling 
Step into the power of Christ 

The Bible has something to say about those without Christ. Unbelievers. Lost. Blind. Deaf. Dead. There's really no (self) recovery for the dead. (And not much hope for the blind or deaf). Those that are spiritually dead (and the Bible clearly teaches this) cannot open their own eyes, cannot come forth (in their own strength or power), cannot respond (not even a little), cannot step into the power of Christ (they are dead, dead, super dead). I love Ezekiel 37 and of course Ephesians 2. 

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10

The Bible does mention several wake-up calls to believers--to the visible church of believers. Perhaps they are using "dead man" to mean sleeping believer. It's possible. But just hearing the line Dead man open your eyes over and over again just bothers me somehow. Because it's just not possible---literally or spiritually. I do think it's as simple as those couple of lines. 

To be fair their song Rise Up (Lazarus) is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite, favorite songs. For whatever reasons the lyrics in that song doesn't set off any alarm bells. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 17, 2021

Verse comparison, Psalm 68:19

This month I am reading Psalm 42-72 thirty days in a row. It's a LOT. But one thing I have noticed are how many variants there are in translating Psalm 68:19. There are two main camps--those who translate it as God loading us with benefits day by day...and those who translate it either as God bearing US up day by day OR God bearing our burdens day by day. I don't know which I find more comforting. 

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. KJV
Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits,
The God of our salvation! NKJV
Blessed be the Lord, who daily beareth our burden,
Even the God who is our salvation. ASV
Blessed be the Lord!
Day after day he bears our burdens;
God is our salvation. CSB
Blessed be the Lord!
Day after day he bears our burdens;
God is our salvation. ESV
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation. NASB 77
Praised be the Lord, even the God of our salvation, which ladeth us daily with benefits. 1599 GEN
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden,
The God who is our salvation.  NASB95
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden,
The God who is our salvation. NASB2020
Blessed be the Lord. Daily he loads us with benefits,
the God of our salvation. Lexham English Bible
Blessed be the Lord.
Day by day he bears our burdens.
He is the God who saves us. Evangelical Heritage Version
What a glorious Lord! He who daily bears our burdens also gives us our salvation. Living Bible
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits,
    even the God who is our salvation. MEV
The Lord deserves praise.
Day after day he carries our burden,
the God who delivers us. New English Translation
The Lord deserves praise.
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
    who daily bears our burdens. NIV 2011
Praise the Lord; praise God our savior!
    For each day he carries us in his arms.  New Living Translation
Blessed be the Lord,
    who daily bears us up;
    God is our salvation. NRSV
Blessed be the Lord,
    who daily bears us up;
    God is our salvation. RSV

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 16, 2021

31. Go and Do Likewise

Go and Do Likewise: The Parables and Wisdom of Jesus. John Hendrix. 2021. [February] 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Jesus's sandals were always dusty. Jesus didn't call any one place home. But he was not alone. Alongside Jesus were his students, the twelve disciples.

In 2016, John Hendrix gave us Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus. I definitely enjoyed it. I wasn't expecting a follow up book, but was pleasantly surprised to see that he has a new book out called Go and Do Likewise: The Parable and Wisdom of Jesus. 

The 'wisdom' shared here mainly comes from the Sermon on the Mount. (I would say with a few bits perhaps from the gospel of John.) The parables come mainly (though not exclusively) from the gospel of Luke. Expect The Good Samaritan, the Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son, etc. 

What is shared, in my opinion, for better or worse, focuses on ethics: how to be a good, decent, kind human being. 

Hendrix definitely puts his own spin on the stories. What do I mean by spin? Adding his own interpretation and commentary. This isn't all that unusual for bible story books. I think every author is 'guilty' of it to a certain degree or another. But adding details--opinions, observations, making conclusions--to the text that simply aren't in the original (in any translation) can be theologically tricky. I think he adds what he adds for storytelling purposes. He wants to tell an engaging story to a young audience. He's not out to quote the Bible verse by verse by verse. 

The story of the Good Samaritan can be found in Luke 10:30-37. 

The original verse: And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

That's it. That's all the Bible says about the priest in the parable. Hendrix, however, spins a different tale:
But a priest of God, the ones you see in the temple, was also traveling this lonely road. As he looked upon the dying man, the priest feared for his own life--or perhaps didn't want to get his fine clothes dirty--and passed by him on the other side of the road without stopping to help.

The original verse: Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 

Again, Hendrix spins a tale with motives: A short time later, a Levite, a person who also worked in the temple, came along the road. He, too, saw the wounded man, and blaming the man for his own carelessness, left him in a puddle of dirt and blood. 

Hendrix definitely spins the Beatitudes as well. The Beatitudes can be read in Matthew 5:3-12.

Original: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Hendrix: Blessed are those who feel like an empty jar. God will fill that emptiness with abundance.
Original: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Hendrix: Blessed are those who cry, for the Lord sees every tear. Each one, He will wipe away.
Original: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Hendrix: Blessed are those full of mercy, for they, too, will be shown grace.
Original: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Hendrix: Blessed are those who work for peace. They understand what it means to be God's child.

He definitely doesn't include every single Beatitude. He leaves some off--not a criticism, just an observation. (He leaves off gentle, hunger and thirst, pure in heart, the persecuted). 

The narrative style is unique as are the visuals. The layout very much stresses the visual arts. The text is almost secondary in importance. This makes it slightly difficult to read in places. It also shifts it, in my opinion, to a slightly older audience. (As opposed to a beginning reader.)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

30. Come Back To Me

Come Back To Me (Waters of Time #1) Jody Hedlund. 2021. [July] 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: “Your father is in a coma.” “What did you say?” Marian Creighton fumbled with her phone and almost dropped it. “I don’t think I heard you correctly.” “I’m sorry, Marian.” Harrison Burlington’s English accent on the other end was as loud and clear as if he’d been sitting at Jasper’s desk opposite from hers. “Unfortunately, you did hear me all too correctly. I’m afraid your father is in a coma.”

Premise/plot: Marian Creighton, our heroine, is determined to save both her father (who is in a coma) and her sister (who is dying of a genetic disease). Her father (before his coma) was mad determined as well. He has been obsessed with finding the tree of life. Yes, you read that correctly. The tree of life. Perhaps not the actual-actual tree, that might be a bit much, but any seeds that may remain from the tree of life. His theory is that those seeds were carried to England (at one point) and have blessed several springs with healing powers (just read your history). He is looking for that holy water. And it is up to his daughter (now that he is in a coma) to finish his research...before his competitors steal it (because of course they have an agenda).

Marian spent years--if not decades--of her life distancing herself from her father's obsession. But now that he is in a coma and she's found a few cryptic notes, she's convinced that the only way to save her family is to carry out her father's research--even if that comes at great risk to herself. (Then again, experimenting on one's self and taking big risks with the hope of great reward might be part of the whole mad scientist thing?)

Here is where I recommend readers suspend all disbelief. And I do mean all--all while you're reading (book in hand), all while you're thinking about what you've read, all while you're thinking about thinking about what you've just read. 

So now that you're willing to believe everything without asking any questions (not even one), this novel features time travel via drinking holy water. The solution to many of her problems may be found in the past--the year 1381 to be exact.

Will she find what she's looking for? Or perhaps will she found what she has never bothered looking for?

My thoughts: I definitely found this one compelling. Even when I found it over the top ridiculous I found it compelling. 

I loved the past setting of Come Back To Me. True I thought she was very UNprepared and very naive as she oriented herself to the past. (Honestly, who wouldn't be to a certain degree.) It seems to me she could have spent a little more time researching and planning before she drank herself to the past. (That's a very odd sentence). Still, it was the past that made this one an exciting read. 

This one may pretend to be many things--a mystery, a thriller, science fiction--but at its heart, at its core it is essentially a romance (and a STEAMY, STEAMY, STEAMY romance at that).

Let's talk steam. On the one hand, ALL THE STEAM happens in a marital relationship. On the other hand, even though it isn't in any way improper for the characters to be in a steamy, sensual, oh-so-intimate relationship, that might not be the case for the book's readers. 

For some readers who have had struggles in the past or are currently struggling with smutty-smut romance addiction, the steam in this one may not make this one a good choice. If reading this one makes you tempted to pick up that addiction again. (Be it romance novels or movies).

I would say also that Christian fiction tends to be labeled "safe" and "clean" and "appropriate" for readers of most ages (think 8+). I know I was certainly reading Janette Oke when I was in elementary school. This one would not be one you'd want young(er) readers to read. I think older teens it might not be a bad choice--especially if they read widely from secular publications--this is probably oh-so-tame/lame in comparison to the heavy stuff. But it might not be the absolute best choice either. 

If you are "triggered" (and I don't know that this is the best word choice) easily, this might be a gateway back into a sin you're trying to recover from.

But every reader is different. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible