Friday, September 4, 2015

What I Read This Summer: Fiction

For the month of September we are talking about our favorite summer reads here at the blog. I will freely admit: I am a voracious reader of fiction. I find great enjoyment and value in a good story well told, no matter the genre. However, as I devour one novel after another, I often find I have a problem: I cannot remember what books I’ve read and if I do remember then I have trouble recalling which ones I liked. Sad but true. This is why I keep a Goodreads account. There I can tally both books read and my rated response.

Checking my Goodreads list of books read this past summer revealed a season of slightly disappointing reads. There were several two stars, and this doesn’t include the books I started but didn’t finish and the book I disliked so very much that I didn’t even list it.

My only five star read of the summer was To Kill a Mockingbird. Which makes sense. Isn’t it a five star for us all? I mean, surely I don’t have to tell you to read it, am I right? But then again if you haven’t, then do. Now. Today. It’s a five star and then some. Trust me.

My love for To Kill a Mockingbird aside, here are a few notable fiction reads from my summer reading. I liked them all even if none achieved five star status…

Wolf Hall. Probably my favorite non-TKAM read of the summer. My only quibble, and at times it was a big one, was so many characters with the same names! Of course, in an historical novel I suppose the author hasn’t much freedom in naming her characters. Some have faulted the novel for its exclusive use of “he” in reference to Cromwell. So long as I could keep in mind that the story is told from Cromwell’s point of view, though in third person (“he” instead of “I”) I didn’t struggle there as much as I did with the similar names. Regardless it was a fascinating book about a fascinating character in a fascinating period of history.

We Were Liars. Trust me, the less you know about this one, the better. I knew nothing at all and I could not put it down. If you read it and want to discuss, feel free to email me and we can talk about it, the ending in particular.

A Fall of Marigolds. The stories of two women a century apart, September 1911 and September 2011, are weaved together in this historical novel. Seeing the events of 9/11 unfold in a novel was both interesting and different. A friend of mine told me she thought I would like this one and she was right. I did. How much do I love friends who know me so well to send me book recommendations?

Still Life. I’ve read the first two books in Penny’s Inspector Gamache series and I’m hooked. I love love love a good murder mystery and while these have started a little slowly they have not disappointed. I am looking forward to reading more in the series.

What about you? Do you enjoy a good story well told? Do you have any recommendations from your summer reading? Let us know in the comments! Your fellow fiction fans want to know!

Note: this post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What I read on my summer vacation

Did you read any good books over the summer? I did. Did you read any good articles? I read a few. That is the theme for September: good reading of any kind. We will be sharing what we found good reading this summer, and we invite you to share what you read. Whether it was a good work of fiction while you lounged on the beach, a biography while you camped by a lazy river, or just took your laptop onto your front porch in the evening, we would like to hear from you, too. We're always looking for good things to read.

We hope you'll join us.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The resurrection of the body and the life everlasting

I sometimes imagine what life was like in the Garden of Eden. There was perfect harmony with God and between all of creation. There was no illness or death, which is hard to fathom. Yet this was the reality of the state of innocence before the Fall. But that reality is no more. Once sin entered the picture, a new reality took hold. What was once whole and healthy is now broken and dying. Even if you never had a single sick day in your life, the rate of decay is going to eventually outpace the rate of cell growth. Surgery may be able to nip this and tuck that. Medical research may provide new treatments, but there is no fountain of youth. There is no elixir of life.

The sad prognosis of this present reality has been on my mind quite a bit lately because I have a family member with Alzheimer's. The disease is still in its early stage, and I'm very thankful for the quality of life and function my loved one still has. But I know what the expected progression will be barring divine intervention or a sudden medical breakthrough. I grieve because I see a person with a razor-sharp mind having memories whittled away bit by bit. I grieve because dementia impacts family and friends as they suffer alongside the patient. I grieve because I am witnessing the effects of the Fall in action, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.

Where do we look for hope knowing there is no cure? What comfort is there to give knowing the outcome? As I was discussing this with family, I was reminded of and comforted by these words from the Apostle's Creed:

"I believe in... the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting."

If the scope of our hope is for this life alone, we are to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:19) But in Christ, we have a sure expectation of something far better - the resurrection of our bodies and the life to come. The Fall may have brought in one reality, but Christ has brought in a new and better reality. This is what we are waiting for, and this is the ultimate reality for my loved one even if a cure for Alzheimer's is never found.

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep,but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 15:51-57
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Rev. 5:4-5

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Encouraging Parents of Prodigals

everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me.”  Ezekiel 18:4
What could be more grievous to Christian parents than to have their adult child reject the Gospel?   Some children go through a season of rebellion and return to the Lord,  but when a grown child makes a cogent decision to forsake the essential truths of Christianity it is heart wrenching.   I’d like to share some things parents commonly experience when this happens  and try to offer a little encouragement for those going through this.   

Any parent who has  faithfully raised  their children  in the Lord will experience a range of emotions when their child abandons the faith.    Self-examination prompts them to consider,   “Had we done a better job of this, or had not allowed that,  would things have turned out  differently?”
Hindsight usually turns up some things the parents  might have changed  yet we know that  David was a man after God’s own heart and Absalom rebelled anyway.    And what about Isaac’s beloved Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of stew and married two Hittite women in violation of God’s commands (Gen. 24:3)?   Romans 9 gives us the reason for that whole situation.    
Because training in Biblical parenting is often focused on  being a “successful” parent,  there’s usually not much preparation  for the possibility that a child might grow up and reject the faith.  Unfortunately, not many books give attention  to the sovereignty of God in our children’s salvation.
Consequently, when  children fall away the parents can  feel like failures and  may sense judgement from other Christians.   Unbelieving friends and family who don’t understand the spiritual dynamics involved  may  be critical because  of  the parents refusal  to condone their child’s beliefs or practices.    

In short, these are parents who are grieving for their child’s soul and also for the loss of the sweet relationship they once enjoyed,  but may find little encouragement from others.     

When our kids were young,  there was a popular teaching going around  that the sins of the parents, grandparents, or even great grandparents  are somehow spiritually transmitted to their children  and  this alleged  generational bondage needed  to be broken.    As a 29 year old mom this freaked me out until I learned that it was a  misinterpretation of Numbers 14:18.    There's  a wonderful passage  in the eighteenth chapter of  Ezekiel  that debunks this  notion and offers great  hope to everyone,  especially parents. 
“ The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: “‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.”  (vs. 1-4)   
The passage goes on to illustrate how every person will  be judged individually regardless of their heritage,  but that any person can be fully forgiven no matter  how awful  their sin  is if they repent and turn to the Lord. 

But did you  notice verse 4?      The Lord said  “every one belongs to me.  The parent as well as the child.”   Yes, even the rebellious and unbelieving belong to the Lord to do with as He chooses.    I find this very comforting.   Parents can find rest knowing that  God is sovereign over their child’s destiny  regardless.    Can we say it often enough?   Salvation belongs to the LORD”  (Ps. 3:8).   If it had been up to me I would have never chosen Christ, and that also applies to my children.   It is God alone who saves whomever He chooses, whenever He chooses, and we know that He is  a good and merciful God.   

So then, if  it is God who determines  our destiny and not ourselves,   what role can a concerned parent have in this?   Pray! Pray! Pray!     If this  describes your current situation,  leave your beloved child at the throne of grace because that is the only place of hope for any of us.   The fact that God continues to prompt  you to pray for your child should be an  encouragement!
“Abhor it as a great sin to faint under this affliction, that is, either to be disabled for thy duty or to sink thy comforts.  It is a sign that thou didst place too much  of thy happiness in thy children, if their wickedness make thee faint under this calamity.  I shall only plead with thee, as Joab did with David when he made that bitter lamentation for his son Absalom, “Thou has declared this day, that thou regardes neither princes, nor servants” (2 Sam. 19:6).  So I say to thee, thou hereby declares that thou regardest not God and Christ, if thy soul faint under the burden of a disobedient child.
This is an affliction that ordinarily befalls God’s dearest children.  Ye must not think of this as if ye were the first godly parents of ungodly children, or as if herein some strange thing happened unto you.”  1 – Edward Lawrence
1. Parents' Groans Over Their Ungodly Children  by Edward Lawrence

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Different Sort of Post

Today's post is a bit unsual. When my fellow theologians and I write a post here, we typically link to it from our individual blogs. I'm reversing that today. The post I've written at my own blog belongs there because it's quite personal. I'm linking to it here because I think it may speak to some of our readers here. I imagine I'm not the only one who needs to stop making bricks.

So join me today at One Quiet Life, won't you?