Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Denethor, Steward of Gondor // Saul, King of Israel

via Pixabay
Halfway into January, we are starting back to Bible study with Saul's descent to destruction. It feels vivid this time. Like a movie or a gripping story. We have followed Saul through madness, war, and his daughter's celebrity marriage to his main enemy. His sin has led him so far from God that he can no longer hear him. As Philistine armies close in and defeat stares him in the face, his panic mounts. I am pricked by Saul's temptation in this moment. When you have a big problem and God feels silent, you start wanting a solution. Now.

And then you are faced with temptation to create your own.

The silence continues. Desperate to hear something, anything, Saul slips away to a medium and asks for Samuel. "I had to do it," Saul probably thought. "I had no other option but to sin."

And yet, Saul is making the same wrong choice he's made before. Earlier in 1st Samuel, he's backed up against the Philistines again. Desperate for Samuel, with no sign of him coming, Saul caves to the pressure and offers the burnt offering. Samuel shows up just after and takes the kingdom from him. The lie, "I have to create my own solutions. I can't trust God," followed Saul to the end and drained the life-blood from him. He never repented, never surrendered, never turned back from his rebellion against God.

Now, a second time after his deep sin of mistrust, Saul walks away uncomforted. He's a startling reminder of self-reliance gone dreadfully, dreadfully wrong. In a tragic conclusion, this pagan-hearted warrior king fights his last battle. After his armies are overrun and his own body is torn by his enemies, he falls on his sword and perishes.

In the pages of a well-loved story, another ruler has fought off the enemies in his land again and again. As the power of Moria spreads over Middle Earth, Gondor's steward Denethor rallies his people against them. Minas Tirith stands between naive people groups and hordes of evil. But Denethor sees signs of Sauron's power growing. Minas Tirith no longer looks as impregnable as it used to. He has his own Philistine horde to contend with. And when a hobbit and a wizard show up on his doorstep with news of impending battle, Denethor, like Saul, has already embraced destructive decisions.

Like Saul, he is willing to sacrifice the son in the face of a rash decision:
"But I will not yield the River and the Pelennor unfought--not if there is a captain here who still has the courage to do his lord's will." (Tolkien, pg. 825) 
And Saul said, “Come here, all you leaders of the people, and know and see how this sin has arisen today. For as the Lord lives who saves Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.” But there was not a man among all the people who answered him (1 Sam 14:38-39, ESV).
Like Saul, Denethor's consult with evil leads down to his destruction: 
Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.”
So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night (1 Sam 28:7-8a, ESV). 
 Then coming to the doorway [Denethor] drew aside the covering, and lo! he had between his hands a palantir. And as he held it up, it seemed to those that looked on that the globe began to glow with an inner flame, so that the lean face of the Lord was lit as with a red fire, and it seemed cut out of hard stone, sharp with black shadows, noble, proud, and terrible. (Tolkien, pg. 864) 
Like Saul, Denethor meets his end: 

His servant refuses to kill him:
Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.” But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly (1 Sam 31:4a, ESV).

Then Denethor spoke in a low voice...."Bring us wood quick to burn, and lay it all about us, and beneath; and pour oil upon it. And when I bid you thrust in a torch"
[...] At the door [Pippin] turned to one of the servants who had remained on guard there. "Your master is not himself," he said. "Go slow! Bring no fire to this place while Faramir lives! Do nothing until Gandalf comes!" (Tolkien, pg. 836).
And Denethor ultimately takes his own life:
Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. Thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together (1 Sam 31:4b-6, ESV)

Swiftly [Denethor] snatched a torch from the hand of one and sprang back into the house. Before Gandalf could hinder him he thrust the brand amid the fuel, and at once it crackled and roared into flame. (Tolkien, pg. 865)
But like Saul, Denethor has a son. And his son is gentle-hearted and faithful and glorious. Both sons spend their lives courageously helping their father fight their enemies. And both sons want nothing for themselves but to do the right thing.

Like Jonathan, Faramir disobeys orders in order to do good: 

And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul's son, delighted much in David. And Jonathan told David, “Saul my father seeks to kill you. Therefore be on your guard in the morning. Stay in a secret place and hide yourself (1 Sam 19:1-2).
"Here, alas! I must do you a discourtesy," said Faramir. "I hope you will pardon it to one who has so far made his orders give way to courtesy as not to slay you or to bind you." (Tolkien, pg. 680)
"As for you, Frodo, in so far as lies in me under higher authority, I declare you free in the realm of Gondor to the furthest of its ancient bounds." (Tolkien, pg. 697)
Jonathan frees a future king. Faramir frees a little hobbit, carrying the fate of Middle Earth on a chain around his neck. And while neither of them enjoys the pleasure of their fathers, their hearts are strong and true. They hold a great allegiance to their earthly kingdoms. But they also hold a higher allegiance to a greater good.

Sis and I were riding home from Bible study when I said "Jonathan's like Faramir." We both fangirled. This time studying through the last four chapters of 1st Samuel, I felt to my soul how real the people and the battles, the sin and the struggles, God's justice and his mercy were. Biblical history came alive. Saul's descent to destruction both warned and taught me, and I love the Middle Earth correlations.

1st Samuel inspires hope and grief. Jonathan and Faramir are beloved heroes who win our allegiance, and Denethor and Saul win both warning and pity from us. But as we say goodbye to three of them, there are still two figures left to be compared in this breathtaking, grand scale of warfare on earth and warfare in the soul. Because as Saul King of Israel and Denethor, Steward of Gondor, fall to their own sinful hearts, and Jonathan and Faramir fight bravely against their Philistine foes, greater men wait miles away for the coming future.

One will be King Aragorn, ruler of a golden age in Middle Earth. And one will be King David, ruler after God's own heart in Israel. Aragorn will be the heir of Isildur. And David will be the forebear of the coming Messiah: the ultimate King with healing in his hands. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Winter TBR

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For a winter reading post one ought to have a snowy, cozy sort of picture that invites you to stay inside for fictional adventures. What better comfort than snuggling under a warm comforter with a book?

Problem is, we're not too snowy around here this year.

I feel like my midwest badge of honor has been snatched from me. 

But this picture is so pretty and cozy, we'll pretend it's snowy anyway and dive right in. I love writing these TBR lists. Even though I don't get to them all, or sometimes get to them in a different season than I planned, I love being able to collect books I'm excited about or want to learn from and just create the ideal list.

The Midwife, by Jennifer Worth
I just finished season 3 of Call the Midwife (after which I will probably skip to season 7 because there's a main plotline in 4-6 I prefer not to see.) Season 3 made me cry. Like, really cry. Be warned. Stock tissues and chocolates. Do not watch after a long workday, unless you want a headache the following morning.

After watching and loving the varied characters--the joys and sorrows and graces and victories--I would love to read the original memoirs the show is based off of, written by Jennifer Worth. (Just fyi, I saw in reviews on Goodreads that chapter 2 has a scene that should probably be skipped.)

The Iliad
I've wanted to read this one ever since Aimee Meester talked about it. It just sounds rather fun and ancient poemy and battles and that sort of thing. Plus, it's a classic. Plus it's mythology, which I'd like to study more through a biblical worldview lens.

100 Days to Brave, by Annie F. Downs
My friend Kate told me about Annie's online gathering of people reading this book together and asked if I'd like to join. I did want to, and Kate was so kind to send my mom and I books so we could get in on the fun. :) Every day has an encouraging bite-size Scripture verse, devotional, and question about bravery that I am very much loving so far.

I'm behind. Which just means I'm brave. *cheeky grin* 

The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis's fiction brought wonder and delight to 2018. I know his thoughts on friendship, love, charity, and affection will bring me closer to God's heart in 2019. I enjoyed reading some of this at lunch one day and feeling scholarly. ;)

On Reading Well, by Karen Swallow Prior
I think my mother's going to beat me to this (which you are most welcome to, mama). It looks to be full of thoughtful, inspiring bookish goodness, and just the sort of thing which is intellectually stimulating. On how to read well, obviously.

Middlemarch, by George Elliot
Starting off 2019, and not feeling in the mood for the next LOTR book (don't throw tomatoes) I decided to go with what sounded good instead. Middlemarch is the essence of period drama comfort reading. Will Ladislaw is the dearest fellow, and I love Mary, and I'd like to shake Reverend Casaubon. This book though long is an entertaining read if you love Dickens or Jane Austen. All the characters make me love, mourn, cheer for, and dislike them in due turn, and it makes me so happy to curl up and read at the end of a workday.

Not in the Heart, by Chris Fabry
Chris Fabry is the most wonderful, terrible writer I have encountered in contemporary Christian fiction. (I mean that as a high compliment. You'll understand if you read him.) His characters are real and varied. His stories are never cookie cutter. His characters' search for God is real. His angst is level 10. Not in the Heart deals with a man whose son needs a heart transplant, and as soon as I read the description I knew I really needed to know the end.

How to Write a Mystery (by various)
I really want to finish Schuylock this year, but I am realizing I don't know how to plot a mystery. I'm hoping this book will help me so I can make my story as glorious and heart-stirring as the nebulous idea of it in my mind's eye.

Queen of Scots, by J.A. Guy
I quickly realized another book of Mary Queen of Scots I had gotten from the library was way over my head and I needed to know some basic facts about her life before I got into the nitty-gritty. This book looks to contain much more of the introductory knowledge I need.

The Lost Girl of Astor Street, by Stephanie Morrill
Stephanie Morrill's 1920s mystery is my jam. I've read it twice and picked it up to flip through favorite sections at other times. But I feel in the need of just a touch more fiction on my list, because I've been wading through some heavy nonfiction and decision-making lately, and sometimes my brain just needs a rest. (Also, I can't wait for her new book, Within These Lines, releasing in March.)

Is it snowy where you are right now? What books are challenging/delighting you this month? 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Reading Time of Year {audiobooks + magazines}

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This Christmas season was definitely a bit of an anomaly. With a trip at the beginning of December, and one of us sick with pneumonia, we didn't get our tree up until late and we were by no means ready for the holiday ahead of time.

The anomaly continued into Christmas day. Instead of listening to Christmas music while we traveled to see family, we turned on The Afters and Andrew Peterson. Somehow, it just worked. While the songs themselves weren't Christmassy, the memories and the joy they inspired captured the essence of the day.

With that kind of odd rhythm, it's no surprise that the reading, too, continued some new things that I had begun opening up to earlier this fall. Throughout the years I've loved reading, there are two things I've never really warmed to: audiobooks or magazines. Magazines I have always wanted to love but never been able to get into. And prior to this year, listening to audiobooks on my own was decidedly not my cup of tea. Give me a radio drama, give me a music CD, but no thank you audiobook.

Several months ago, as I was in the library parking lot listening to a soundtrack for the millionth time, I had a sudden craving for something substantial. Rosaria Butterfield's The Gospel Comes With a House Key had been on my list for some time, and an audiobook through Hoopla offered a free way to access it. Once I heard Rosaria's comfortable narration style, I was hooked.

In December, I finished the last two hours. As I listened to her stories and thoughts on hospitality, it gave me a hunger to open my home to more fellowship as I head into more firmly settled adult years. To have a deep warmth and heart for community, for Christian witness through conversations around the dinner table, for reaching out to the churched and the unchurched and showing them the love of Jesus in a home and meal setting. It is a gift and a passion that matches some giftings that I want to grow in. There truly is no inspiration and vision-casting like this book, and if you want to check it out, the audiobook is a real treat.

As soon as I finished that one, I thought, why not start another? Audiobooks on drives and during chores were really a nice cup of tea after all. I checked out a Hoopla copy of Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. Boundaries has long eluded me, mostly because whenever I started, I spent time reading ahead instead of where I was supposed to. It was also challenging to start because a book like that automatically brings to the surface some hard emotions, and it's good to be wise about when you tackle those subjects.

christmastime, schuyler. perfect time. holly jolly and all that. 

It was a funny time of year to begin it, right in the middle of the holidays. But we had some cleaning to do for a couple of days, so while I washed dishes, deep-cleaned a freezer, wrapped gifts, or drove an errand, Boundaries kept me company. The audiobook is working out a lot better. I'm almost halfway through (since I can't read ahead) and while it has raised painful emotions, I've also found a practical way to apply the principles.

Even with all the audiobook listening, there was still time to savor books. One of them is under wraps for now. (Stay tuned for a fun upcoming review!) But the best soul-exhale of literature to pick up around Christmastime was definitely Issue 18 of the Bella Grace magazine.

I've tried to read magazines. World Magazine has come the closest to being something I actually read, though I read their articles online rather than their magazine. I've tried other magazines and struggled. I want to enjoy them, but I always pick a book instead and keep putting them off.  But Bella Grace may just have opened a new door

Bella Grace celebrates the beauty of life. Every two-page spread of a gorgeous picture, every quote, every photograph illustrating their articles, invites you to slow down, linger, and live more gently. We live in a harsh, loud, and fast world. Bella Grace ushers in reminders of the opposite values. This lengthy, almost book-sized women's magazine stands for beauty, peace, and grace. I loved reading articles before I went to bed this month--how to live well through the snowy winter season, giving meaningful holiday gifts, writing letters, and little ways to make chores fun. I don't do those sorts of things well. Bella Grace does. Each article encourages you to have eyes for beauty and to nurture your soul, your mind, and your heart.

And who doesn't need more of that?

Do you have a favorite magazine? What do you think of audiobooks? I'd love your thoughts! Tell me about your Christmas holiday season this year. <3

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

In Which My Lady Bibliophile Turns Seven

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Today it's seven years since I hit that publish on My Lady Bibliophile's first post. I was working downstairs on an old desktop.

It ran Windows Vista as an operating system, guys.

life has changed 

I've been out of high school seven years, too.

i mean, on the scale of big events that has to count somewhere

Shortly after high school, I wrote a five-year plan. It's kind of funny to look back on. I have not taken the courses, written the books, or done the things I planned. But the plans that I didn't see were some of the sweetest. I didn't have friends that I was to meet written on that plan, or BSF, or traveling to Texas. I didn't have sis's Bible Bee, or teaching, or a house help job. Nor, on the flip side, did I have anxiety or relational struggles or continued church loneliness. In the grace of the journey, God's unknown richness has been much better than my bullet points.

It's been a good seven years.

Looking Back: 2018

This year, I wrote 60 posts, which is about 2/3 of the content I normally write. Part of that was due to a new job this fall that required first priority. Part of that was due to sickness. But in spite of those circumstances, I feel like this year more than any other I found the kind of posts I love to write. Over the past seven years, I've written a mix of book reviews and articles. But my favorite posts this year started to be the ones where I could incorporate a chronicling of life happenings along with the books. Little details like trips or describing a visit where I got a book loan. They felt more nostalgic; more journalistic; a celebration of life along with the reading. Straight book reviews weren't getting as many page views. And while it isn't all about page views, it is about wise investment. I realized that the articles I loved to write were also loved in return--so why not shift to them instead? The books aren't going away, but I have found a new way to incorporate them with a rich, joyful description of the life happening around them.

This year was also the multi-week comment debacle where a glitch prevented me from receiving comment emails and I didn't think any were coming in. When a friend asked me and I checked on blogger, I realized there were thirty comments waiting. I cried. You were listening and loving even though I didn't know it.

On a reading note, one thing that worked this year which wasn't even really a big thing was to keep a small paper on my desk with a few books I wanted to read in 2018. It came to 21 books, and every once in a while I would dig the list out of a pile of papers and review. Because of that, I tackled things like a biography of Lord Melbourne, a biography of Queen Victoria, one of Nabeel Qureshi's books, and the Chronicles of Narnia. I didn't get to everything on the list, but it was fun to have some intentional goals to try to hit.

they made me feel so educated 

Looking Ahead: 2019

The beautiful thing about January is the fresh horizons stretching ahead. Anything is possible. Anything could happen. Everything seems interesting, and the ideas to grow and improve oneself are myriad. My brain is running like a freight train just trying to soak it all in and plan it all out. I'm talking people's ears off.

run while you can

Like last year, I'm starting a wee list of key books I'd like to tackle. So far it's tiny, but the books include Karen Swallow Prior's On Reading Well and reading a history book about the Romanovs. There are also a whole slew of authors I'd love to pre-order, which is the coolest thing ever, because there are so many living authors that I didn't know when I started this blog. (Nadine Brandes, Stephanie Morrill, Amanda Barratt, and more!)

I'd also like to try something this year that is not my idea, but rather the brilliant manifestation of brain glitter from Annie Hawthorne over at The Curious Wren. She thought it would be fun to read a favorite book and annotate it with thoughts, what's happening around you, etc. It would make a wonderful gift or even just a fun memory to have on your shelf. I'm thinking I'd like to try for three annotated books this year, which is probably ambitious, but possible. I'd like to get a couple of books I deeply love with some decent margins and at least give it a try.

But best of all, like I was talking about earlier, I think I've found the kind of posts My Lady Bibliophile is meant to offer in a big, varied internet world. Alexis De Weese, speaking at a writer's conference, described social media platform for authors as setting a table and inviting people to come for a conversation. My Lady Bibliophile started off as a blog to teach, but now, I would like it to be a friend. An iron sharpening iron friend that combines deep thinking with articles that are personable and real. I love the little, wonderful things in life just as intensely as I love books, and I want to share that love in each bookish article written here. The articles published over the last few weeks and even months contained this heartfelt celebration of life and literature, and I hope they've been mentally tasty.

Going into 2019, there are chairs for you at this table. There is good food and laughter here, there are deep conversations into the wee hours, and a literary delight in the beauty, knowledge, and soul-satisfaction that good books bring. There is a chance not only to read but also to pay attention to the life seasons happening around us while we turn the pages. I hope you feel warm and welcome here. I hope you feel well-fed and refreshed. Thank you for every time you pop in and share the table here. It is a gift I sometimes take for granted to be able to talk about books with you all. But I hope this year that as I share with you, you also feel a warm invitation to share with me what you are reading and what is happening in your life, whether it's on topic with the post or not. Please, always feel free. That is the sharing of books, a creative "fellowship of bohemians" as Allen Arnold calls it in his wonderful book, The Story of With. And that is the kind of community I would love to share with you all in 2019.

There are so many plans going into a new year. Tonight, as I sat on the floor of my office nook trying to find some space to ask God what he wanted me to say, Mary's heart from Luke 1 came to mind. "I am your handmaiden. Let it be to me as you have said." And though her words referred to the Messiah and meant something much greater and deeper than a book blog, they were my words tonight too. We are heading into a new year, and God alone knows what is in it. We'll see together what of all this comes to pass. But I hope along the way to hold his hand and delight his heart in the writing here.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Best of 2018

M'kay, so before reading this post, how about making yourself a big cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows? Find a comfy recliner. Wrap yourself up in a cozy fleece blanket. Grab a pair of headphones.

Perfect. Now you can browse to your heart's content.

Today is one of those last, delightfully cozy days before we say goodbye. This time of year can be incredibly comforting in the slow, lazy pace of post-holiday vacation. It can also be a little emotionally heavy for some as they face the weight of processing a year gone and a year to come.

But today we lift up our cup of hope for the new year. For we hold the hand of the God of hope, the Father who does not forsake his people. We are not alone.

This is a post I always enjoy creating on My Lady Bibliophile. It's the end of year wrap-up, but it gives me an excuse to pull up a plethora of old blog posts, browse through them, and remember what topics we journeyed through this last year. I've pulled out some favorite articles (they truly are close to my heart) and top book and movie reviews of the last year. I hope you enjoy going back through them. They truly are food for the soul. Also, don't miss the top picks for fiction, nonfiction, and author of the year down below!

I'd love to know what your favorite books and movies were of 2018. Also, did you have a favorite article about books or writing (here or elsewhere)? I'd love to read it! Pop a link in the comments. Let's celebrate the year together!

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Best Of: Articles

The Olympics Come to Avonlea
Love Which Expands
Halfway Into Memory
Life in Tears
Frost on the Moon 
Using a Gay Character for a Good Conversation
Of Love and October 
The Joy and Fear of New
Dear 23: My Cup of Thanksgiving

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Best Of: Book/Movie Reviews

My Heart Belongs In Niagara Falls, New York
Revenge of the Sith 
The Silver Chair: Minky Blankets and Discipline and Joy
The Greatest Showman
Crowning Heaven/The Electrical Menagerie 
Sofi Snow series
I Have Learned {summer mini reviews}
The Last Battle: Of Aslan and Remembrance
Why I Spent $100 on Books This Quarter 

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Best Of: Music 

One Thing --Tenth Avenue North {breaking my heart to make it new}
I Confess --Tenth Avenue North  {see above}
I'll Find You --Lecrae/Torri Kelly {sung at CityFest 2018 to stop suicide}
The Greatest Showman Soundtrack  {you were the best writing music ever. the flame to my fuel. the grin on my face}
*mild language in The Other Side
Burn the Ships album --For King and Country {thank you for being there. this whole year was captured in your music. i love your brave honesty}
Beauty and the Beast Soundtrack  {you kept me company on so many happy drives and writing sessions}
Canaan Bound --Andrew Peterson {the water of life set to music}
Soldier --Fleurie {jaeryn graham, if ever there was a song}
Is He Worthy? --Andrew Peterson {a song to turn to whenever i need to worship}
King of My Heart --Kutless {sung at the church i love}
King of Love --I AM THEY {our rejoicing anthem after Bible Bee 2018, hours before catching a GI bug}

Nonfiction of the Year

This is one of the watershed books (I read two this year) that have given me a vision for how to use my adult life well. If this can shape the next decades of my life, I would be glad.

Fiction of the Year

It came down to a fight between The Silver Chair and Boys of Blur, by N.D. Wilson, so they both technically deserve first place. But The Silver Chair won because it was such a joyous journey of re-discovery full of beauty. And Aslan's theme of discipline and affirmation in Jill's journey (see the review linked in the Book Reviews above) brought joy to my heart. 

Author of the Year 

This year I discovered Kate DiCamillo for the first time, thanks to Annie Hawthorne. I read my first book of hers in January and read two more in October. Kate's ability to write for children with depth, authenticity, whimsy, and sympathy make her books not just good reads, but soul food. Her stories deeply understand and care for her audience. They teach love, forgiveness, and healing. Her deep love for children makes her books timeless for all audiences, and she's a delight to follow on Facebook. I am enchanted and heart-warmed by the light of her literary fire. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Finding a New Bible

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I turn on Canaan Bound, by Andrew Peterson. It is a drink that fills a thirst. Devotions were not plentiful the last of October, added to an overall feeling of yuck from a nasty cold. But I am finding my feet and opening my Bible again.

It's simple. I'm neither doubling up nor even getting all my BSF questions done. Open, read two chapters, read the bits of commentary on the side, and close again. But simple, when you have had nothing for a while, is good.

It has been a couple of weeks since I wrote the last two paragraphs, and again devotions have not been plentiful.

In the middle of struggling to blog and struggling to write, I am still struggling to open my Bible in the mornings. This fall has been a weird blank of teaching and travel and cough medicine. (I'm finally off of the latter.) Tuesday morning I cleaned my room and stacked up empty BSF lessons waiting to be returned to. Three nights ago I lay in bed and thought about what the blog had become and wondered if it would ever go back to regularity again. I had just found my brand--the way I wanted to write--when time itself was snatched away from me. It seems odd to finally find clarity and then have no way to exercise it.

I have no answers to this question. But in the midst of a strange fall season, I have found a new Bible to love.

Every month I get a list of review books available for request. I never really look at Bibles, but this time I glanced at the NKJV Ancient-Modern Bible from Thomas Nelson. I loved it as soon as I read the descriptions. Instead of study notes, the Ancient-Modern Bible contains commentary in the margins by respected men of God ranging from ancient times to modern day. I opened my Bible just now, and the pages contained commentary from C.S. Lewis, John Calvin, Chrysostom, and Charles Spurgeon. There are so many more besides these four. I've never seen study notes like these before, and I love it.

This Bible traveled with me to Texas earlier this month for my sister's Bible Bee competition. I opened it to Psalm 116 after the end of brutal prayer vigils and a health fight over the course of her stay. (Nothing serious, but potentially devastating for the competition.) A friend introduced me to this psalm years ago. Now, it seemed the perfect passage to return thanks for fears averted and prayers answered. And that wasn't the only time this Bible kept me company. One morning as I was pulling out a BSF lesson on Psalm 139, Eugene Peterson's quote excerpt in the margins shaped my prayers for the day. It became a more honest prayer about the state of my heart than I might have prayed otherwise.

This Bible contains many features I know I'm going to enjoy over time. Thomas Nelson includes maps in the back, an index of church creeds, and a selection of Christian paintings through the ages. The inclusion of Makoto Fujimura's painting on one of the pages was another strong seller as I requested this Bible for review. I wish the paintings were full-page, but I will still enjoy looking through them properly in future and getting to know more artists. Also, each introduction to the books of the Bible has a handy key facts section on the top of the page for author, date, audience, purpose, and themes of the book. I really like having the key facts so accessible. They don't require wading through paragraphs of longer introductions to find.

I've reached for this Bible the most throughout this fall. I'm glad to finally have a New King James Bible (it's very readable) and love the commentary it includes. If you're looking for a Bible in this version or a Bible that will introduce you to some church history, Thomas Nelson's Ancient-Modern Bible is a fantastic one to choose. You can find it on Amazon here.

I received this Bible from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

of baymax and kdramas // autumn stories

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We need a Baymax today.

Baymax, for the uninitiated like myself, is a rubbery, marshmallowy robot who acts as a personal healthcare assistant. I first encountered Baymax in Big Hero 6 last month, when I visited a beautifully creaky house in Minnesota. We curled up on the couch in the dark. An empty plate holding the crumbs of pizza rolls rested next to the laptop. And I cried. Only Baymax could infuse warmth into an automated voice as he tends to a little boy wrestling with grief.

After a lingering cold that has never quite left since the end of October, I am ready for a marshmallowy, personal health care assistant to assess not only the physical lack but also the dreariness of stolen energy and creativity. There are only so many Facebook articles and YouTube videos one can stand while resting, and taking several weeks off blogging leaves a slightly panicked feeling in its wake.

Even though blogging has not been plentiful, stories have continued finding their way to my heart and laptop screen. Later that night in Minnesota, I snuggled up on the couch and pulled up
While You Were Sleeping on Viki. (Content advisory for language and intense injury scenes). While You Were Sleeping is a kdrama, acted in Korean with English subtitles, and it captured my heart from the beginning. Not only did it have three best friends, which I love (Han Woo-Tak has the cutest happy smile I've ever seen in my life, and I don't mean that in a crush way) but it also has a couple who are a powerful force for tackling life's problems together. Nam Hong-Joo starts the series waking up in the mornings with frightening dreams about what's going to happen in her future. When young prosecutor Jeong Jae-Chan has a dream of his own and rescues her from impending tragedy, they realize they've been given a terrible gift--advance warning--and have to work together to prevent these tragedies from occurring. Through the conflicts that follow--antagonists, time limits, and their own inner conflicts--the story develops in a rich, dramatic, and sweet way. It's intense, digging into the small choices that can change major events, but also taking time to be funny at the characters' expense in work or social settings.

All good things though, even kdramas, come to an end. Since then, we are grateful for friends who give us chili and our grandma who drops off chicken noodle soup and medicine. Homework grading goes on, but at night when I tuck in under my puffy gray comforter, I reach for Ian Doescher's The Force Doth Awaken--Star Wars Episode VII told in Shakespeare style. Katherine Forster (you should go check out her site) told me about it originally, and it's brilliant fun. Han Solo's Crispin's Day Speech, Poe Dameron's cheeky lines, and Chewie's tragic lament over his master's death bring the tale to life in stage play form. You can find out how Doescher worked off of Shakespeare's original texts in the free reading guide. But if you don't know much Shakespeare, like me, you can still enjoy it anyway.

Yesterday, weary of feeling stale and cooped up, I escaped to our tiny library to pick up a couple more books. I can't recommend them yet, because I haven't read them. But I am part of a book club and they're reading The Scorpio Races this month, so I slipped the maroon-covered hardcover off the Teen Fiction shelves. I already appreciate Maggie Stiefvater's descriptions of sibling life, though The Scorpio Races bears warning notes of not being an easy tale. (FYI, I've heard there's some language in this one as well.) 

Books help amidst the scraped-raw feeling of partly-functional life. Our favorite bookstore had a one day sale, and I felt well enough to go out to it and keep germs contained. My magic touch for finagling deals didn't extend to two beautiful series I wanted to take home. But I did pick up a copy of Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift--her Christmas devotional centered around the Jesse tree. I first wanted this book two years ago, when a friend and I sat in the parking lot of a Biggby's coffee at 10:00pm and she showed me some of the questions inside. In the midst of recovering devotions after travel and sickness, I thought it might be worth trying this Christmas season.

A couple of months from now, I hope, we will look back at this and probably shudder, and also sigh with relief that it is over. In the meantime, life settles down to taking medicine as needed and turning pages, listening to "Never Give Up" by King and Country, and discovering new stories.
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