Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Hidden Hand of God

Ready for a little fun?

Put on your smile and your thinking cap for a review of The Hidden Hand by E.D.E.N Southworth.
This book was originally published in two volumes, Capitola the Madcap and Capitola's Peril. Originally written in 1859, Lamplighter Publishers has picked it up, and turned it into a beautiful edition, which I have the great happiness to possess.

The Hidden Hand

But instead of drooling over the cover, I'll tell you what you really want to know: the story inside.

"Sar, de Reverend Mr. Parson Goodwin say how he must see you yourse'f, personable, alone!"
"See me, you villain! Didn't you tell him I had retired?"
"Yes Marse, I tell him how you were gone to bed and asleep more'n an hour ago, and he ordered me to come wake you up, and say how it were a matter o' life and death!"
"Life and death? What have I to do with life and death? I won't stir!"

Poor "Old Hurricane" is dragged out of his comfortable bed in the middle of a thunderstorm to hear the dying confession of an old woman. The woman is a midwife, and she tells him of a mysterious birth she witnessed about twelve or thirteen years before. Blindfolded and brought to a rich house, she helped a poor imprisoned young woman give birth to twins. With a man pacing back and forth outside the door, and demanding the child at intervals, the mother implored the woman to give the man the dead boy, and to hide the live girl herself. After the adventures of several years, the dying woman finds this impossible to carry out, and begs Old Hurricane to take up where she left off.
He picks up the child, daughter of the missing woman and a murdered father, and finds on his hands a stubborn little woman of great resourcefulness, courage, and disrespect. Used to losing his temper upon the slightest occasion, he learns that his thirteen-year-old ward can uncannily turn him to repentance and wrap him around her little finger. Unfortunately, he can't wrap her around his. As he desperately tries to restrain her from falling into the hands of her evil uncle or the local highway thief, Black Donald, his new experiences threaten to bring back the darkest portions of his past: a forsaken wife living as a destitute widow, a son and rightful heir to his estate, and a nephew, the son of an estranged sister.
Marah, Old Hurricane's wife, lives in a little cottage with her son Traverse, a sweet and saintly boy that falls in love with the local doctor's daughter. Traverse and Clara become engaged a short time before the doctor's death, but upon the reading of his will, they find that Doctor Day gave his daughter into the charge of his dead wife's relative, the wicked Colonel Le Noir. Desperate for her safety and struggling to establish a practice for himself, Traverse falls into the depths of despair.
As the two separate plots threaten to come together around the curmudgeonly Old Hurricane, he endeavors to bring Capitola's wicked relative, Colonel Le Noir to justice, while avoiding repentance himself. But with Capitola on his hands, his job gets more and more difficult. This free-spirited young lady loves solitary rides and visits to the beautiful Clara Day at her uncle's estate.
Unknown to either of them, Colonel Le Noir discovers that his niece, the rightful heir to his dead brother's estate, is still alive. He partners with Black Donald to do away with her.

My Thoughts
If you love traditional plots and conclusions a bit cliche, (which I do upon occasion) then you'll have no problem enjoying Capitola's adventures. In spite of the common themes of damsels in distress, wicked guardians, and rightful heirs, Capitola will give you some rather shocking surprises--such as challenging Colonel Le Noir's son, Craven, to a duel, or switching places with Clara Day, who's about to be forced to the altar.
Altogether, you might have to work a little to find the 'moral' of the story. Most stories of the time express their morals so clearly that you don't really have to think much about what it is. But in this one, while it's not impossible to find, you have to dig a little deeper and think a little harder. Both types are good, and both are necessary. However, I don't find it offensive when some Christian authors purposely make it a little harder so that readers are forced to dig a little.
Capitola herself is not a model of good behavior. Far from it. But those around her, including the God-fearing Marah and chivalrous Herbert Grayson, help restrain this wild beauty and show her how situations can be rightly handled. E.D.E.N Southworth, doesn't hold a 'revival meeting' at the end, making everybody perfect, but I think she's trying to show the needs of her characters. Old Hurricane has lived so long in guilt and anger that only his estranged wife's innocence and mercy can slowly soften his rough edges. Capitola had to protect herself in the streets for a good few years, so only Herbert Grayson's appealing, but patient bravery can teach her what true courage really looks like. And when you know who the characters really are, you know that their development will go greatly beyond "THE END".
I'd do a bit of critiquing on Old Hurricane. His choice of words, and that of Black Donald's gang, is a bit salty. I'm not fond of gauzy disguises for language, but for the most part, I think Southworth tries to water it down a bit.   He often throws missiles at his negro manservant, Wool, and constantly gives notice to his housekeeper. His servants live in fear and trembling, between Hurricane's rage and Cap's stubbornness, which just shows another reason why he really needs Marah.
On the plus side, you'll see many scripture quotations and the fear of the Lord worked right into the text, especially with the Marah/Traverse crowd, but even in Cap upon occasion. Prayer for deliverance and trust in the Lord are common themes here, as well as a reliance upon God's hand in the face of injustice.

 I first found the story in my local library system, and I am now the happy owner. If you would like to purchase this book, to which I give five stars, then please go to Amazon or Lamplighter Publishing. Or, if you happen to go to homeschool conventions, many of them have independent Lamplighter distributers that would probably carry The Hidden Hand

Through gothic twists, evil villains, and headstrong heroes, The Hidden Hand will hold you in its vise-like grip until its stunning conclusion.

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, February 24, 2012


How to have healthy, sane, and biblical relationships with your brothers in Christ. (As sisters in Christ.)

I don't know about you, but that concept is pretty scary to me. Or perhaps I should say, 'was'. Until I read the following book:

Product image

You may have noticed the link on my sidebar, and I really hope that if you haven't clicked on it yet, you will today. I'd like to tell you why.

Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin are best known for their revolutionary book So Much More: how visionary daughters find fulfillment under their father's roof and developing a relationship with their father. Many lives have been changed by their teaching on this area, and I found the book extremely encouraging in my walk as a stay-at-home daughter.

Personally, that book was encouraging to me. This book reformed my thinking.


The plain question is, how do we as ladies relate to guys even when we're not in a courtship setting? Do we duck behind the trashcan? Study our fingernails? Avert our eyes whenever we pass them? Hide behind someone taller? Or do we giggle and flirt and joke and tease and do our dead-level best to attract their attention.
The fact is that God designed men and women to complete each other. God didn't design us to work separately from men, and someday the majority of us will be blessed with a husband. That's what makes us feel awkward around them: because we're constantly focused on "If he isn't the one, I don't want to give a piece of my heart to him." And, to best avoid giving away our hearts, we decide to pretend they don't exist.

It's so unkind.

Think about it: our 'pure and holy avoidance' often comes across as "I really don't like you." "I think you have a disease." "You're sure not good enough for me." "I think boys are really beneath my notice."
And then, if we get convicted about this attitude without a proper understanding of how we should interact with them, then we often go to the other extreme: "I love all boys." "I just can't live without you." "Boys make me feel so fulfilled." "You are my one and only."

Personally, I don't want to give either of those impressions.

So, how do we interact with boys?

Defining Who We Are...and Who They Are

1. Us
-We ladies are sinners. Our sinfulness is what makes casual relationships with young men extremely complicated, because we don't want to acknowledge clear boundaries of right and wrong. ("Are you saying that dreaming about marrying -insert name- was idolatry? Oh, please. It was just a little...indiscreet.)
-We are saved. That is, as long as we have recognized our sin and cried out to Jesus Christ for his righteousness. This gives us hope that as Christian young ladies, we can interact with Christian young men in an edifying way that builds each other up in Christ rather than in foolishness and sin. We can recognize that we are both part of the kingdom of God, and on the same side.
-God designed us to help men. It's an innate need that young ladies have to be completed, secure, and restored to the side of the man God picked out for them. Even the staunchest feminist is completing some man and his ideas (Karl Marx, etc.) We are not designed to have a mission of our own, we're designed to complete a man's mission-to help him. He needs our help, because God designed it to be that way. God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. And however right this concept may be, in some cases it takes a big laying-down of self-will.

2. Them
-They are sinners. Though I'm just guessing here, I could make the hypothesis that they face many of the problems we do...including trying to interact with young ladies in an appropriate manner.
-They are saved. Insert the second paragraph in the above point under "Us". 
-God designed them to be dominion-takers. As hard as it is to accept in a culture of Disneyized Prince Charmings, men are not designed to complete us. Together, we are complete, yes, but they're primary purpose is to take dominion. They have the mission. We complete the mission.

Obviously, you aren't designed to complete every man you come across. But it is okay if you spur on another on towards good deeds.

Encouraging One Another? How in the World?

As the Botkin sisters say, it might mean talking after church with him about the Art of War. So here are a few principles:
1. Avoid one-on-one
If you're constantly hanging out with one guy in a one-on-one setting, it exposes you to temptation--even if your conversation is completely profitable and Christlike. Choose interactions in mixed groups for added protection, where you're talking with several different young ladies and young men at the same time. One-on-one, should be used very rarely and for very short periods of time.
2. Avoid age-exclusiveness
If the only men you talk to are of marriageable age...you know what I mean. It's okay to respectfully talk to dads and grandfathers as well as the youth group.
3. Act the same way around everybody
You probably don't flirt with your girlfriends. You probably wouldn't around your grandmother either. Treat both men and women with a respectful, mature, and Christlike love.
4. Talk about meaningful subjects
Marianne had trouble talking about anything besides Shakespeare and Byron. You might talk a lot about the weather...or your new shoes...or the I mean, um, the really great book I kind of picked up at the library yesterday.

Is this really profitable?

How about kingdom talk? What if young people discussed how to take dominion of media, warfare, politics, and family? What if we discussed basic theology-not in a debating way, but as a source of mutual edification? Ever told Dylan and Sophia what you're memorizing? Or specific ways you've been building up your family? How about a great book you've read recently, and why you thought it was great?

5. Don't be self-conscious
Half the trouble I have is how I'm coming across. Or focusing so much on what I'm thinking. The fact is, if we truly put others before ourselves (including our brothers in Christ) then our self-consciousness disappears in a heartbeat.
6. Look to build him up, in a sisterly way
Don't be his emotional need-meeter ladies. Not even 'for prayer'. It traps us so fast and entangles our hearts, sometimes irrevocably. By this, I'm not saying don't pray for him, but don't be his one-on-one mentor and accountability partner.
7. Treat him like your brother.
And please, ladies, treat your brother well. If you wouldn't hold hands with your brother, should you really be holding hands with Justin? If you don't tell your brother about a particular struggle, should you really be sharing that with a 'brother' in Christ? Obviously, there are some things we share with our brothers that we wouldn't share outside the family. But using discretion and common sense, generally you can share much of the same conversation topics. And wouldn't it be great if you stood beside your brother in these groups, and you could interact with others together? Or even your sister for that matter. Having a family member beside you guards you in a way that you never could by yourself.
A Brief Overview
It's (Not That) Complicated covers many of the same points that I addressed above, in much more detail. It also covers confiding in our parents, matchmaking, practical interaction tips, and contentment.

But the one shining principle that I desperately needed, they gave me in full force:

What guarding our hearts really means.
In today's emotional purity movement, somehow I picked up the impression that my heart was in a cellophane wrapper--and if ever I didn't toe the line emotionally, bit by bit that wrapper would be torn away. I wouldn't be completely pure for my future husband.

It's (Not That) Complicated showed me that our hearts are already completely depraved. There is no possible way I could remain pure for my husband, because I was sinful at birth--and he who offends the law in one point offends the whole law. Only by looking to Jesus for the righteousness that I cannot even protect on my own, can I present my husband someday with a picture of the bride of Christ--cleansed by the blood of the lamb.

For more on that topic, and the others listed, I must refer you to It's (Not That) Complicated. :)

A Word About Anna Sofia and Elizabeth
I must say that theologically, these ladies exhibit the same quality that they put forth in So Much More. However, I do see a difference between 15 and 17 and 23 and 25. I think in this book, they opened up a special part of their hearts and pulled aside the curtain just a little. I felt that I knew them as friends when I finished. They showed their real, everyday side, selectively of course and their personal little testimonies and bits of humor made their teaching So Much More powerful--to me.

 To read the first chapter and table of contents, go to Vision Forum. Please order this book. We so desperately need the encouragement and application that Anna Sofia and Elizabeth set forth.

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tall Tales: Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling? (Part Three)

Let's sum up what we've discussed so far in this final article in my Valentine's series.

And that, I think, is the root matter of these love stories we are so confused over. To sum up completely, love and marriage are real-life things, and good to read about. The thing we want to avoid, however, is immersing ourselves in certain types of love. As singles, we want to focus on stories where couples love each other in actions and in truth, and leave the emotional pick-me-ups for later. 

Myth #4 The Story Made Me Do It
There is one last point on this issue that only you can figure out: namely, if you fantasize over Mr. Darcy.

To be honest, it disturbs me when Mr. Darcy is blamed as the romantic paragon of virtue that is turning girls' heads around the globe. Austen never intended that, Darcy certainly isn't a romantic paragon, and neither should be stigmatized for setting romantic fancies ablaze.

It's the girl who's allowing her head to be turned.

Whew. Now that's over, and we can move on.

If you pick up a book, as  we have discussed, where the couple loves each other in actions and in truth, fantasizing over this couple can turn it into an emotional pick-me-up just as lethal as...well, I won't name any. :)

O LEAVE novels,  ye Mauchline belles,
Ye’re safer at your spinning-wheel;
Such witching books are baited hooks
For rakish rooks, like Rob Mossgiel;
Your fine Tom Jones and Grandisons,
They make your youthful fancies reel;
They heat your brains, and fire your veins,
And then you’re prey for Rob Mossgiel.
-Robert Burns

We can heat our brains and fire our veins just as well as the novel in our hands.  And if we trace this problem back to its root, it really comes down to whether or not we are content with what we have. Whether we read all these love stories for edification, or for 'hang in there! someday, this will be me." If we're not content now, single, then we won't be content married. If we aren't content with the thought of a 'human' husband, then we'll never be content with an 'archangel'.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am in to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11-13

And the books we read will not change our attitude of contentment or discontentment. Choosing not to do something (like reading about Mr. Darcy) won't help you to do something. (Like develop a contented spirit.) 
To explain this more clearly, take the couples we talked about in the last post: Phillip and Elnora, and Brian and Cecilia.
I used Phillip and Elnora to present the concept of loving 'in actions and in truth'. If I read the book, then that's the attitude I'll be reading about. But, if I have the wrong attitude in reading about the right relationship, do you think the right will overcome the wrong? I don't think so. Most likely, if I read about godly love with a discontented attitude, I won't even be able to see that godly love is there. I'll twist their story into a wrong desire because of my blindness.
Likewise with Brian and Cecilia. If I have the right attitude reading about the wrong relationship, do you think my right attitude will be changed because of the unbridled passion? I don't think so. Most likely, if I read about the wrong kind of love with the right attitude, I would be able to see that it is wrong, and have the sense enough to lay it aside.

In one sentence, your attitude affects your interpretation of the story.

Myth #5: Overcoming Temptation
So as we've looked at above, you'll know, if you have the correct reading mindset, whether the love story in your hands is reaffirming you or tempting you. If you don't have the right mindset, you probably won't be able to tell either way.

But for argument's sake, let's just assume that you do.

If you recognize that the book in your hands is reaffirming, well and good. Keep it. But if you recognize that it is giving you wrong desires, then you face a choice. Whether you will face temptation, or flee from it. As young ladies still maturing in our Christian walk, we are called to be innocent about what is evil, and wise about what is good. (Romans 16:19-20) We are called to be holy, which includes our reading choices: set apart. (1 Peter 2:9) We are also called to take the way out of temptation that God provides for us. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

With food for the mind, especially in the matter of books, we deliberately choose what we are going to allow--it's not a situation where we are helpless to flee, and must refute.

Choose to flee temptation. Fighting in this case is flirting.

Myth #6 Removing without Replacing
I've had to remove a book or two based on the criteria I've written above. You might choose to do so as well, after reading these articles. But let me leave you with one final encouragement.
Read, if you will, the following verses from Luke 11:24-26:

  “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’  When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

This parable illustrates an important principle of Christianity. If you remove something from your life, you must find something to replace it with, or you will fall back into the exact same pit you tried to climb out of in the first place. If you choose to remove a few pick-me-ups from your shelf, then you need to find something to fill that empty spot--a genre to replace the missing one, if you will. Otherwise, those desire novels will find their way right back on-and you will add more of them than you did before.

On Friday, I will conclude my series on Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling? with a very special book review.

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tall Tales: Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling? (Part Two)

I thought I would start this post with the back of a book, but after Googling "Top Ten Christian Romance Novels" it was just too...risky. I think I'll start with a little theory first. After reading my last post, did you think that I was endorsing that shelf of romance novels? I hope not. I never meant to give that impression. But I am trying to explain the difference between a godly marriage and an emotional pick-me-up. Want a fast and sure way to tell the difference? Read on, and you'll find two definitions that will never leave you guessing.

Myth # 3: If It Says 'Love', That Must Be What It Is
So, what is love after all? Is it a fancy, or a feeling...or a Ferrars? Let's compare a couple of answers.

"Some people say that it's a fancy, others say it's a feeling, and some say it's neither. But really love is both, a feeling and a fancy. The meaning of "fancy" is a mental image or an illusion. And that is exactly what love is, an image in the head that you make yourself so you can match it to something that would make you feel loved. Since love is a fancy you make it a feeling for yourself. It is all in your head."

That was from WikiAnswers, and I don't know about you, but I almost started talking to the computer screen on that one.

How about this definition of love from Noah Webster:

LOVE, n.
1. An affection of the mind excited by beauty and worth of any kind, or by the qualities of an object
which communicate pleasure, sensual or intellectual. It is opposed to hatred. Love between the sexes, is a compound affection, consisting of esteem, benevolence, and animal desire. Love is excited by pleasing qualities of any kind, as by kindness, benevolence, charity, and by the qualities which render social intercourse agreeable. In the latter case, love is ardent friendship, or a strong attachment springing from good will and esteem, and the pleasure derived from the company, civilities and kindness of others.

Much better. But let's tweak it just a little more.

How about this definition of love:

 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
-1 John 3: 16,18 (emphasis mine)

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
-1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Obviously, the Bible talks about another kind of love, specifically marital love. But the definitions you'll find above, I think, are the ones that are good to be reading about as a contented single. If you find a story with a man and a woman that love 'in actions and in truth' and that demonstrate the qualities of love found in 1 Corinthans 13, then that is real life. That is everyday commitment to loving one another. That's a story that, if you say "I want to be like those characters" that will build you up in your faith. Those are good stories to read.

But unfortunately, much of the literature we see in Christian circles today promotes an entirely different kind of love. And with the last bit of my post, I'd like to talk about that.

Contrast, if you will, two love stories:

A Girl of the Limberlost, by Gene Stratton-Porter
When Phillip Comstock shows up in the pages of this book, it's already half-way over. Elnora's main fight isn't to find a husband, but to educate herself and re-establish her relationship with her mother. When Phillip first sees Elnora, he likes her for what he sees in her character. She's a beautiful young woman, yes, but they don't spend time holding hands on the porch. She puts on her old dress to hunt moths to sell, and after they form an acquaintance, she allows Phillip to help her. As you read their story, the pages aren't screaming ELIGIBLE YOUNG MAN meets ELIGIBLE YOUNG WOMAN. No, they spend their time working together in the muck, along with the companionship of her mother. I might add that her mother is keeping an eye on them, but she isn't portrayed as a spoilsport chaperone. She's their good friend, and Elnora's protector.
Is there emotion involved? Of course there is! Phillip grows to love Elnora, and Elnora grows to love Phillip. Life isn't always easy, conversations aren't always natural. And when Elnora refuses Phillip's proposal, she loves him in action and in truth, by giving him a chance to get his bearings. With the full knowledge and help of her mother, I might add.

Now take the next book:

The Book of Hours, by T. Davis Bunn
Brian Blackstone shows up at his English country estate already sick in mind and body. And who does he meet when he first comes in to town? A hot-headed, young, pretty, and eligible female doctor. They pretty much hate each other at first sight--or at least she does. He probably would too, if he cared at all. But when Cecilia Lyons finds out that he's not selling his estate for money, but losing it because of inheritance taxes, she doesn't hate him so much after all...and throughout the rest of the story, they team up to fight for his late wife's estate. But you know where it has to go. She's a doctor, so she helps him treat his physical illness. She's a woman, so naturally, she helps him through his emotional grief. And throughout the second half of the book, Bunn weaves emotionally on-edge scenes where he-wants-to-kiss-her, she-wants-to-hold-his-hand.

Now read the following definition. Which does it match up with?
1. An emotion or excitement of the mind, directed to the attainment or possession of an object from which pleasure, sensual, intellectual or spiritual, is expected; a passion excited by the love of an object, or uneasiness at the want of it, and directed to its attainment or possession. Desire is a wish to possess some gratification or source of happiness which is supposed to be obtainable. A wish may exist for something that is or is not obtainable. Desire, when directed solely to sensual enjoyment, differs little from appetite. In other languages, desire is expressed by longing or reaching toward, and when it is ardent or intense, it approaches to longing, but the word in English usually expresses less than longing.

Before I continue, let me clarify just one thing. By using the above examples, I'm not trying to put down The Book of Hours. I like some of Bunn's works, and I dislike others. But I'm not trying to point to a specific title here. I'm simply drawing a parallel between two stories. In the first story, Elnora and Phillip show their love in actions--in helping one another in real-life situations, and not fulfilling each other's emotional needs. And in the second, Brian and Cecilia do both. The actions they do are good, but the fact is, Cecilia is filling the role of Brian's wife emotionally, when she's not married to him.

And that, I think, is the root matter of these love stories we are so confused over. To sum up completely, love and marriage are real-life things, and good to read about. The thing we want to avoid, however, is immersing ourselves in certain types of love. As singles, we want to focus on stories where couples love each other in actions and in truth, and leave the emotional pick-me-ups for later.  And that is for you to judge amongst your stories: which one is which.

On that thought, I will close. Wishing you a very fruitful day of reading...

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tall Tales: Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling? (Part One)

Happy Valentine's Day to you all!
Welcome to a new series in Tall Tales. Whenever you see these words beginning a blog post, they mean that we'll be discussing something that I think is misunderstood or improperly understood. It's only fitting, don't you think, that I talk about romance today? :)
The grand question, especially among home school girls, is whether or not to read romance novels. But I'd like to twist that question just a little, and ask what you're all really wondering. Should we be reading tales of love at all, in our position as singles dedicated to contentment? I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I'd like to offer some of the counsel I've received myself from various resources, and in this post, I'd like to talk about the difference between 'romance' and 'marriage'.

Myth #1: The definition of romance:
 I really prefer Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary for proper, 'politically incorrect' definitions of words. You can find him online here, and I strongly recommend that you purchase a copy of your own. He defines words from a biblical perspective, often quoting Scripture in his definitions. But that's a little side advertisement for my original purpose, which is to post his definition of 'romance' for you all to read:

ROMANCE, n. romans', ro'mans.

1. A fabulous relation or story of adventures and incidents, designed for the entertainment of readers; a tale of extraordinary adventures, fictitious and often extravagant, usually a tale of love or war, subjects interesting the sensibilities of the heart, or the passions of wonder and curiosity. Romance differs from the novel, as it treats of great actions and extraordinary adventures; that is, according to the Welch signification, it vaults or soars beyond the limits of fact and real life, and often of probability.
The first romances were a monstrous assemblage of histories, in which truth and fiction were blended without probability; a composition of amorous adventures and the extravagant ideas of chivalry.
2. A fiction.

True, in the definition above you'll find 'a tale of love' mentioned, but in today's modern literary classifications, that's all a romance is. Word definitions change, granted, but I would like to point out that if Journey of the Heart  is classified as a romance novel, then so should also Journey to the Center of the Earth as 'soaring beyond the limits of fact and real life, and often of probability'.
Clearly, the debate among Christian young ladies has nothing to do with Journey to the Center of the Earth; simply tales of love, specifically the love of a man for a maiden. And I would like to submit to you that 'romance' and 'love' are the wrong words to use. (More on this in part 2)

Myth #2: 'Marriage' means 'Romance novel'
When Phillip proposes to Elnora, does that constitute a 'tale of love' that should be strictly avoided?

The poor fellow needs a helpmeet, ladies. And to get one, he does have to pop the question eventually.

In Genesis 2, God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. And when he saw that Adam was lacking a companion, he didn't give him Tonto or Watson or Hastings. He gave him Eve. A woman.
 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
 But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”

 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
-Genesis 2:18-24

When I look through my stack of books, I find very few in which one main character does not get married to another. Is that wrong?

I would submit that it's real.

Especially in the realm of stories, in Dickens, Buchan, Alcott, Haggard, and Finley; in Stratton-Porter and Verne-when a marriage or engagement takes place, it is not for the fulfillment of emotional passions, but the filling of a void-the finding of a 'helper suitable'. Love is part of that, a special emotion that God designed between a man and a woman.

And I would submit that if your passion is to become a wife, a mother, a parent, that you should be reading stories in which marriage takes place. (Including the proposal and the diamond ring.) Fellow bibliophiles, whether you read fiction or non-fiction, the stories you pick should include a healthy dose of reality. Courtship, engagement, marriage, and a healthy Biblical love are reality in the Christian life. If you try to surgically remove them from your reading material, then you're removing something that God designed as 'good' from your mental development. 

He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord
-Proverbs 18:22

Don't worry; this is only part one. I'm not finished yet. :) Stick around over the next couple of posts where I'll be talking about the difference between worthwhile love stories and worthless passion novels, fantasizing while reading, and a whole new way to look at this concept. At the end of this series on "Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling?" I'll be posting a very special book review. Until then,

Lady Bibliophile

Comments? Insights? I love hearing from you all in the comment box below or at my email address. Stop by any time. You're always welcome. :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

What is Your Life?

Life Purpose Planning

So far I've talked about books that are stories, or biographies, or Christian apologetics. But today I am going to break the trend and talk about a book that is only partially written. It's a real book, but it can only be filled individually, by you.
Books are so much more than stories. They can be written as cookbooks, workbooks, schoolbooks, and so forth. Today's book review is on a little workbook called Life Purpose Planning, put out by an innovative family that wants to encourage young people to think beyond the 'what' and consider the 'why' of their future direction. It's intended for students around the highschool/college age, but I think you'll find that it is applicable--and necessary--for everyone.

Their Words:
Great questions need great answers. Imagine driving somewhere without knowing your directions, or worse yet, your destination! The results are confusion and wasted time. Sadly, this plight accurately describes thousands of people today who become busy with the details of life and forget what God wants to do in and through them. This little workbook is designed to help identify God's purpose for you and clearly answer the second great question of life: Why am I here?

What Is Your Purpose?
By purpose, I'm not referring to whether you want to be a brain surgeon, a car mechanic, or a stay-at-home wife and mom. This quote by Oswald Chambers sums up the idea of life purpose perfectly.

"It is easier to serve God without a vision, easier to work for God without a call, because then you are not bothered by what God requires; common sense is your guide, veneered over with Christian sentiment. You will be more prosperous and successful, more leisure-hearted, if you never realize the call of God. But if once you receive a commission from Jesus Christ, the memory of what God wants will always come like a goad; you will no longer be able to work for Him on the common-sense basis." -Oswald Chambers
So in other words, this book doesn't ask "What is your vocation?" but "What is your commission?"
God has created you uniquely. He gives you talents and gifts and an individual perspective to fulfill a need in the world that only you can fill. The body of Christ and the world at large have many different needs, and God designed you with a passion to fill one of those needs. For example:
-Brother Andrew saw a need for Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. This was (and still is) his life purpose.
-Isaac Watts saw a need for high-quality music in the worship service. God gave him the talent and the passion to write many hymns that we still sing today.
-Martha Finley saw a need for good literature for young ladies to set a Christ-like example. God gave her the talent to write the Elsie Dinsmore series.
-Ken Kennedy felt called to do missionary work, but he knew that teaching was not his passion. God gave him the talent to do mechanical and building projects in Haiti and other places. He runs Only a Servant Ministries.
-George MacDonald had the passion and call to preach. When he was removed from teaching in the Church of England, he used his talent for writing stories to teach a nation-wide congregation.
-Sarah Mally saw a need for young ladies to make wise choices entering their teen years. She used her talents for Bible study, writing, and speaking, to develop the Bright Lights discipleship curriculum.
-Doug Phillips saw a need to give vision and family resources to Christian families. Using his talents for writing, speaking, and gathering a talented team of families around him, he developed Vision Forum ministries, which provides books, toys, and movies, tours abroad, and conferences around the country.

You don't have to be a pastor or a missionary to feel called by God; far from it. God wants some to be authors, some to be teachers, some to be mechanics, and some to be IT techs.

Who are you supposed to be?

This workbook has five projects:

Project One: Explore who God is calling you to be.
"Being" is God's internal working in your life: your character.
Project Two: Explore God's working in your past.
Look at recurring interests and hobbies, past activities that you liked or disliked (and why!) and the people group you feel burdened with a message for.
Project Three: Write a Life Purpose Statement
Summarize God's working in your past and your message to others in your delightful method of service to those He is calling you to minister to.
Project Four: Develop a Life Strategy
Consider your life purpose, the life roles you will fill, and what your priorities should be.
Project Five: Build a plan of action
Outline a flexible schedule that will help equip you to pursue your life purpose.

A busy life does not equal a purposeful life. Whatever vocation or activities you choose to pursue, it needs to have eternal impact. This book will help you understand your gift, your potential, and the need you can fill.

"If we work upon marble, it will perish; if we work upon brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will crumble to dust; but if we work upon immortal souls, if we imbue them with principle, with the just fear of God, and love of fellow man, we engrave on those tablets something which will brighten all eternity." -Daniel Webster

Start your Life Purpose Planning journey here. If you have questions or would like to see examples, send me an email using the link on the sidebar.

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Birthday Wishes

200 years ago, on February 7, 1812, Charles Dickens opened his eyes onto the world.

As we spend birthdays in our home with relaxation and enjoyment, I'll do the same here. Below is a picture gallery from Dickens' works, along with a few brief quotes:

Mr. McCawber
Every happiness and prosperity! If, in the progress of revolving years, I could persuade myself that my blighted destiny had been a warning to you, I should feel that I had not occupied another man's place altogether in vain. - (David Copperfield, Chapter 12)
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. (Mr. McCawber-David Copperfield)

File:Miss Dorrit and Little Dorrit by Phiz.jpg
Amy and Fanny Dorrit
What [Little Dorrit's] pitiful look saw, at that early time, in her father, in her sister, in her brother, in the jail; how much, or how little of the wretched truth it pleased God to make visible to her; lies hidden with many mysteries. It is enough that she was inspired to be something which was not what the rest were, and to be that something, different and laborious, for the sake of the rest. (Little Dorrit-referring to Amy Dorrit)

Thomas Gradgrind with his children Louisa and Tom
"NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!" (Hard Times)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Pip and Magwitch
"Be ever grateful, boy, to them that brought you up by hand." (Uncle Pumblechook-Great Expectations)

Traddles and I, in conversation with the Misses Spenlow

David Copperfield, Traddles, and the Misses Spenlow
"Accidents will occur in the best-regulated families."
(David Copperfield)

"She dotes on poetry, sir. She adores it; I may say that her whole soul and mind are wound up, and entwined with it. She has produced some delightful pieces, herself, sir. You may have met with her `Ode to an Expiring Frog,' sir." (Pickwick Papers)

"Battledore and shuttlecock's a wery good game, vhen you ain't the shuttlecock and two lawyers the battledores, in which case it gets too excitin' to be pleasant." (Pickwick Papers)

File:Seth Pecksniff 85.jpg
"If ever Mr. Pecksniff wore an apostolic look, he wore it on this memorable day. If ever his unruffled smile proclaimed the words, "I am a messenger of peace!" that was its mission now. If ever man combined within himself all the mild qualities of the lamb with a considerable touch of the dove, and not a dash of the crocodile, or the least possible suggestion of the very mildest seasoning of the serpent, that man was he." (Martin Chuzzlewit, Chapter 4)

He turned a whimsical face and a very merry pair of blue
eyes on Mr. Pinch.
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. http://www.victorianweb.org/art/illustration/barnard/mc8.html
 Mark Tapley and Tom Pinch
"I'm always thinking that with my good health and spirits it would be more creditable in me to be jolly where there's things a going on to make one dismal. It may be a mistake of mine, you see, but nothing short of trying how it acts, will set it right." (Mark Tapley, Martin Chuzzlewit) 
I could say so much more, following the worthy example of the man who was paid by the word. But I think in this case, I'll leave it as it stands. In celebration of Dickens' birthday, do you have any favorite quotes or characters that you would like to share? I would love to see them!

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, February 3, 2012

Liberté, égalité, fraternité! (Part Three)

Last post was technically part two of my Liberté, égalité, fraternité! series.

Due to all the things I have to blog about, I'm combining Sir Percy Leads the Band and I Will Repay into one post, as promised. The previous criticisms I included in Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite! (Part One) and A Humble Wayside Flower apply to these books as well, but I give you links rather than repeating what I've already mentioned.

Second chronologically in the Scarlet Pimpernel series, this story takes place completely in France, and though Marguerite is mentioned once or twice, she is not an actor in this drama.

The Scarlet Pimpernel and his followers intervene when Baron de Batz sets up a maniacal scheme to free King Louis XVI before his execution. In the confusion following the monarch's demise, they spirit away the Abbe Edgeworth that de Batz involved in his rescue plans. This Abbe rode with the King in the parade to the guillotine and would surely be targeted by the people after their celebration over the king's dead body.
They take him to Choisy, where he finds temporary refuge with a peasant family, whose oldest daughter Blanche is in love with the local Doctuer Simon Pradel. The only problem, is, the doctor is indifferent to her charms, and prefers spending time with Madmoiselle Cecile up at the Chateau de Rodiere. The aristos at the chateau also shelter the Abbe for a night, before he starts on his journey to the coast and to freedom.
While this little rescue is definitely part of the story, the Scarlet Pimpernel really shines in the dangerous days that follow. The aristos at the chateau are in danger, with the local populace contemplating a raid on their home, and the Committe of Public Safety on their trail for sheltering the Abbe. And Simon Pradel, too, might just as well be gotten out of the way, in the Committee's opinion: he's a bit too popular with the people.

Enter: Complications.

One of Sir Percy's lieutenants decides to rebel and betray his chief, partnering with Blanche to get rid of the hated Simon Pradel. Chauvelin comes in to town, and sets the aristos' imminent arrest as bait for the hated English 'spy'. Simon Pradel is planning revenge against the son at the chateau for an insult, and the local Choisy population is getting uncontrollable.
The debonair hero lays his plan, instructs his men, and sets out to prove his mettle. His whole success hinges on his ability to learn the Marseillaise on the catgut in, at most, a couple of evenings.
The title of the book has two meanings in the story: can you find them?

My Thoughts:
This is the only book I recall in which Orczy crosses the lines and has the Scarlet Pimpernel rescue aristocracy and a 'friend of the people' in the same plot. Dr. Pradel certainly leans more towards the new government policies, and in this case the League looks past the politics and sees the true worth of the man.
If anything, this book represents the fineness of the Scarlet Pimpernel's character when one of his league members betrays him. When he sees St. John Devinne's hidden rebellion against his authority, he doesn't storm and use force to quell his League to obey him. He simply trusts them. And I think, that if you simply trust those around you to do the right thing, then in the end, only those who do the right thing will gather around you. He gently warns Devinne once, then twice; then he lets him go his own way, and picks up the pieces afterwards. And when the dishonored follower returns broken-hearted and penitent, he doesn't degrade him, but simply forgives. It was the grand kind of forgiveness, that doesn't force the wrongdoer to grovel and then grants pardon as a favor, but simply forgives and forgets. I was refreshed by that.

And on now to I Will Repay:
I Will Repay

Juliette de Marny faces the dead body of her older brother beside the living body of her mad father, as he requests her to swear an oath of vengeance. Wandering between the border of childhood and womanhood, she shrinks from seeking out and destroying the man who killed her brother. But she is a good Roman Catholic, and pressured by the grief of her father, she swears vengeance to her God.
Ten years pass, her father is dead, and the Revolution is raging in the streets. She tried in vain to petition the Archbishop to free her from her oath, and when he did not, she resigns herself to carry out the will of God. She provokes a mob in front of the house of Citizen-Deputy Paul Deroulede and solicits his protection. Being a pure-hearted and chivalrous man, he agrees. For weeks she stays under his hospitality, and he worships her as his 'madonna'. Only his friend, the Scarlet Pimpernel, warns him against the worship of a human 'angel'. And against her will, Juliette sees how noble he is, hears his side of the duel against her brother, and begins to love him in return. But her oath will not let her rest. She drops an accusation against the Citizen Deputy in the notorious box, and the day after her nefarious deed, the gendarmes show up to search the door. She has good reason for her denunciation too, as she overheard Deroulede and Sir Percy discussing his plans to free Marie Antoinette-a charge of treason.
But as she hears the knock on the door, the answer from God she looked for so long came to her in a flash of thought.

"Vengeance is mine. I will repay!"

And in her despair, she sets about under the soldiers' noses to save the man she loves with her own life. A captivating story on the futility of human revenge.

My Thoughts:
Again, I would have to criticize Orczy for her use of the word "Fate" as I discussed in my previous post.
Also, Juliette is put on trial on an accusation of being Paul Deroulede's mistress; a false accusation, but a terrible indignity to be accused of. I would add as in the last post, that the themes are appropriately handled.
And, as formerly, if you prefer to avoid stories about the grande passion, then you won't want to pick up I Will Repay.
For those of you who liked the Count of Monte Cristo, this is a great read to illustrate the same themes of the futility of vengeance. It's a faster read, and a bit less draining. (I'm not promising a happy ending, but...well...)
I give I Will Repay a good 4 and 1/2 stars. The only character missing was Marguerite, but since I know she's coming later on in the series, I wait with patience!
This is Sir Percy at his best. :)

And, for now, the last look at the French Revolution and its leaders:

The Actors of the Play (Part Two):

The Robespierre Brothers:
Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre is the more famous of the two brothers, known as 'the sea-green incorruptible'. He was a great scholar, and obtained a scholarship at the Lycee Louis-le-Grand in Paris, where he studied until the age of twenty-three. During this time he received his training as a lawyer, and adopted many of the teachings of Rousseau. At seventeen years of age, Robespierre was chosen to deliver a speech to welcome King Louis XVI shortly after the monarch's coronation. The king and queen stayed in their carriage due to the rain, and left immediately after the ceremony. After his schooling, Robespierre was admitted to the Arras bar, but resigned, as he felt uncomfortable ruling the death penalty, a punishment he did not agree with. Throughout his career he tried to abolish this sentence, making his exception in the case of Louis XVI:

"As for myself, I abhor the death penalty administered by your laws, and for Louis I have neither love, nor hate; I hate only his crimes. I have demanded the abolition of the death penalty at you Constituent Assembly, and am not to blame if the first principles of reason appeared to you moral and political heresies...You ask an exception to the death penalty for he alone who could legitimize it? Yes, the death penalty is in general a crime, unjustifiable by the indestructible principles of nature, except in cases protecting the safety of individuals or the society altogether...But for a king dethroned in the bosom of a revolution, which is as yet cemented only by laws; a king whose name attracts the scourge of war upon a troubled nation; neither prison, nor exile can render his existence inconsequential to public happiness; this cruel exception to the ordinary laws avowed by justice can only be imputed to the nature of his crimes. With regret I pronounce this fatal truth: Louis must die so that the nation might live."

And yet, in spite of Robespierre's hesitancy in sentencing with the death penalty, he later considered the Reign of Terror necessary and virtuous. In May and June, 1794, the great leader began to defend himself against charges of tyranny before the Convention. The night of the 27th of June, troops under General Coffinhal marched against the Convention, and surrounded the leaders. Robespierre attempted suicide and shattered his lower jaw. As he waited for his execution on the following day, he was held in the same chamber where Marie Antionette had been kept before her execution. He was executed on July 28, 1794 and buried in a common grave.
Augustin Bon Joseph de Robespierre: was the younger brother of Maximiliam. He was a prosecutor-syndic of Arras, and was elected to the National Convention in 1792. He helped Napoleon Bonaparte advance his career, after Napoleon's support of the Jacobins. Augustin demanded to be arrested with his brother in the famous attack, but later took refuge in the Hotel de Ville, were he attempted to escape by jumping out of a window. He broke both his legs, and was guillotined the next day.
Philippe-François-Joseph Le Bas was the son of a notary, and special companion to Saint-Just. He was elected to the National Convention in 1792, and had no scruples in voting for the death of his sovereign. In 1793 he and Saint-Just reorganised the French army after some reverses, and arrested General Richardot and General O'Moran for inability. He was faithful to Robespierre on the night of the arrest, and demanded that he share the fate of his colleague, Saint-Just. He committed  suicide. Before his death, he married Elisabeth Duplay, daughter of Robespierre's landlord, and his son Phillipe later became president of the Institut de France.

Louis Antoine Léon de Saint-Just was known for a wild youth, who yet managed to graduate and stay out of trouble. Presumably broken-hearted after the marriage of a childhood sweetheart, he stole some of his mother's silver and a pair of pistols and departed for Paris. His mother had him arrested and sent to a reformatory where he stayed for six months. While there he wrote a poem that was published anonymously in 1789 called Organt, whose scandalous contents later became banned.  A young man with nothing to do, he quickly threw himself into revolutionary activities in 1789 and then followed a long career of ardent work for the National Convention. He was the one leader to remain unmoved and contemptuous of his arrest. He was executed with Robespierre the following day.

If anything, in looking at the lives of the leaders of the Revolution, it is easy to see that the horrific death rates and godless celebrations were engineered, not by a mindless mob, but by lawyers, writers, doctors, and other highly intelligent men. That's a scary thought. But the same God who gave man intelligence, which was so badly misused, gave him redemption, and thus hope.
And I think that when one looks at the heart-rending days of the Revolution, the stories of the Scarlet Pimpernel are so beloved because they portray one man bringing hope to a hopeless time.

Thus ends my series Liberté, égalité, fraternité! to mark the death of Louis XVI. But don't worry. Sometime in the near future, the Scarlet Pimpernel will return. :)

Lady Bibliophile
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