Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reformation Day

Calvinists: Christians whose theology suggests that they might not bother to book their hotel rooms in advance when planning a holiday, because they are absolutely convinced that someone else will have done it for them and if they haven't, there's no use trying. -Bacon Sandwiches and Salvation

Permit me one jest at the expense of the Reformation. It was written by a British author and speaker, Adrian Plass, and since he's British I think everyone will forgive him. I hope. Don't get me wrong--I love a good Calvinist (as well as a good anti-Calvinist) and I have the highest respect for his Institutes and his life.

But I also love to laugh.

I'll make up for it on Friday.

I was going to do "Names to Know" today, but I fear I lack the time. So I will include the five solas, and then go on to the movie reviews.

Five Solas of the Reformation

Sola Scriptura--Scripture Alone

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16-17

Solo Christo--Christ Alone

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
--Colossians 1:15-18

Solo Gratia--Grace Alone

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. --Ephesians 2:8-9

Sola Fide--Faith Alone

Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”--Galatians 3:11

Soli Deo Gloria--Glory to God Alone
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
--Romans 11:33-36
Movie Reviews
The 1984 film John Wycliffe: The Morning Star portrays his life and instrumental part in translating our Bible to English. Young children may be disturbed by the first and last scenes, which are the digging up of his bones, and various clips of dead bodies during revolts against the church. However, it's not graphic in its nature. The drama of John Wycliffe walking to his trial and enlightening the heartbreaking ignorance of the people he meets provide an evening of entertainment and education.
This movie is available on Blue Behemoth for $9.95, or you can rent it on Amazon for $1.99
The 1953 Martin Luther film is a great introduction to Reformation Day. Starring Niall MacGinnis as Martin Luther (yes, he's an Irishman, but he does a good job. You may recognize him as Mr. Shuan on the 1960s Kidnapped) This classic black-and-white film does a fairly good job as far as historical accuracy, with a few minor discrepancies. From the time of Luther's entering the cloister as a monk, to his trip to Rome, to the nailing of the 95 theses, the Louis de Rochemont Corporation captures the story with humor and excellency. A great family film, though young children may be disturbed by the introductory narration accompanied by sketches of purgatory and demons.
Martin Luther was released in theaters worldwide, and nominated for an Academy Award. It's available on BlueBehemoth for the modest price of $8.95, or you can rent it on Amazon for $1.99
Enjoy celebrating this pivotal history in the Church of Christ!
Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reformation Heroes

I might as well start off this Reformation week by informing you all that I am not of the Christian Reformed denomination, which is normally attributed to this period in history. Nor am I a Baptist. Nor am I a Catholic. (But you knew that) Nor am I a Pentecostal. Nor am I a Calvinist. Nor am I an anti-Calvinist.

This week we are celebrating a special time in the history of the Christian church. While many denominations existed before the Reformation, the Roman Catholic church was the primary instrument of the spreading of the Christian religion. Of course there were exceptions--for a while we had the Celtic church, and I shall never cease to mourn their merging withe the Church of Rome. We had the Coptic church, and various other sects and creeds. We even had a few cults. (Which will always exist.) But we did not have what are now referred to as denominations. That came as a result of the Reformation.
It is interesting to note that the Church throughout history goes through certain periods of dryness which require a "refresh" button to be pushed. Often a painful time of cleansing and soul-searching, these seasons of study cause men and woman to emerge better grounded in the Word of God, and with a fresh view of His Kingdom. I think we're in need of such another painful cleansing now, I shall not be surprised to see it come.
While this series will be by no means exhaustive (we're not going through a step-by-step evaluation of Calvin's Institutes, alas.) I hope at least to offer my fellow bibliophiles an introduction into the rich history and the interesting controversy surrounding the Reformation.

Much better, in my opinion, to celebrate new life in the church, rather than death and demons. And that's my anti-Halloween rant for today.

While posts this week will be of varying length (Wednesday's will not be long) today I am pleased to offer you a very special book review. It's a nonfiction book, but so engaging and informative that I think even young children will enjoy it, and it's written by Dr. Joel Beeke.

Two years ago we had the great pleasure to hear Dr. Beeke speak on Reformation Day about the "Five Solas of the Reformation". I was amazed--here is a great yet humble scholar, who does not rely on volume or motion to get his points across, but who keeps your attention through the intense passion his quiet voice radiates. This is a man in love with his Lord, and grounded in his faith.

I remember walking into the church, and true to form, eyeing the book table the first thing I did. The one that grabbed my eye was a beautiful coffee table biography of great reformers. The whole table was full of books fully appropriate for Reformation Day, and unfortunately we couldn't bring them all home.

But we did buy one. And we did get it signed by Dr. Beeke. And it was the beautiful coffee table biography of great reformers.

The Review
Joel Beeke and Diana Kleyn collaborated to write this book. It's written as a way to introduce children to the great Reformers, but it's far from a children's book. Full of black and white drawings, authentic portraits, and thoughtful text, I guarantee you will learn much about this time in history. This book is a safe introduction for  people who are leery of Reformed theology, as it mostly portrays the men themselves, and gently explains their line of thinking. Even if you strongly disagree with Luther and Calvin, you will still enjoy reading about them in this setting. In fact, whether or not I ascribe to all of their thinking, it reminds me that they were great soldiers for the cause of Christ, and helped me to win the freedom  to weigh their words, to agree or disagree as I see fit. Without such men as Luther and Calvin, Zwingli and Knox, we wouldn't be able to choose denominations and churches. It would be one church, one theology, and woe to the man or woman who's conscience moved them to look at Scripture for themselves. We would be persecuted not only by the state, but also by the Church.

Reformation Heroes contains biographies of 44 men and women of the Reformation, as well as sections on The Protest at Speyer, The Heidelberg Catechism, the Tragedy of St. Bartholomew's Day, The Counter Reformation, and the Influence of the Reformation. It also includes study questions (no answers) and an extensive bibliography.

The most interesting thing about this book is the fact that Beeke and Kleyn portray men as they are--with their faults and failings, infighting, and triumphs. They also do an excellent job portraying good men within the Roman Catholic church.

Reformation Heroes portrays the lives of the Reformers with poignancy, drama, and even humor on occasion. Take, for instance, Martin Luther. Known as "the bulldog of the Reformation" his uncompromising and bold stance contained very little tact, and rubbed more that a few feathers the wrong way. Whom did God send to assist him but the gentle Phillip Melanchthon, who smoothed over many an argument and misunderstanding.

To quote the book:
If Melanchthon had been like Luther, they would have spoiled many things by haste and harshness, and if Luther had been like Melanchthon, neither of them would have had the boldness and strength to do what had to be done. Melanchthon was like the oil on the wheels of the Reformation that made everything turn more smoothly.
In fact, they were such opposites that when Melanchthon fell ill he was not at all loathe to die. Luther was distraught, and after earnest prayer, threatened to excommunicate him if he did not eat something. Needless to say, Melanchthon  recovered.

I enjoyed this book, not only because of the men I learned about, but especially the women. Charlotte, the Nun of Jouarre, was my personal favorite, but there are others: Queen Marguerite of Navarre, Queen Jeanne d'Albret of Navarre, etc. These women show that a God calls young ladies to a biblical and complementarian influence on the spiritual and political state of their times.

I highly recommend Reformation Heroes to enlighten and enrich your understanding of this great time in history.

My Thoughts
A couple of questions arise in studying the Reformation--perhaps more than a couple. The issue of Calvinism we will address later, but today I would like to talk about denominations. When studying the Reformation, one must ask about the division that these men caused. After all, even the Reformers were divided: Luther wouldn't speak to Zwingli because they held differing views on communion. Isn't it better to have a united church of Christ, where we are one people and one denomination, rather than many different denominations?

I would say no.

Throughout my life, we have visited and attended many different types of churches: nondenominational, Baptist, Presbyterian, Christian Reformed, etc. I can say from these experiences that I have learned the importance of being able to worship with any believer, regardless of their theology. Because wherever two or three are gathered in the name of Christ, there he is in the midst of them, regardless of whether they have "Reformed" or "Baptist" on their church sign. The Reformation, as far as denominations go, was absolutely necessary. It grants us the freedom to worship God according to our understanding of His Word. If we still only had the Catholic church, then we would be subject to the rules of men. As it is now, we are free to follow the rules of God, and God alone.

However, the reformation does have some warnings we should be aware of. The first one is a result of time, not necessarily the result of the Reformers. They came out of the cloisters of the Catholic church. Grace was a free gift, one not to be taken advantage of. Today, we take advantage of it. The reformers paid a price for grace, but we have not, so it behooves us to be aware that we must be careful not to abuse it. A good read on this topic would be Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship.

The second warning comes from the lives of the Reformers. Unfortunately in their quest for truth they sometimes trampled each other in the process. For instance, when Luther and Zwingli met to discuss their differences on the Lord's Supper, they agreed on fourteen points. But when they could not reach an agreement on the fifteenth, Luther refused to shake Zwingli's hand in peace. It is wrong when we are so wrapped up in our theology that it excludes our fellowship with people who are not of the same mind. It is not wrong to have differences, but it is wrong to allow them to break fellowship.

As a student of God's providence in history, I treasure every good resource I can find that explains the world from a biblical perspective. Reformation Heroes is one of these resources. Read it, and be amazed at Jesus' work in his Church throughout the ages.

Further Resources:

To listen to Joel Beekes' sermons, go to:

His page on SermonAudio

From the 2011 Desiring God conference put on by John Piper:

Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor (good for anyone!)
Leading Family Worship (I highly recommend this one.)

And tomorrow, we'll have a couple of movie reviews, as well as some basic information about the Reformation. :)

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, October 26, 2012

Raiders From the Sea

Welcome, friends and fellow bibliophiles, to today's book review. It is my pleasure to introduce you to a very special friend of mine. You may remember her as a shameless Blogger hacker, but I assure you she has reformed her ways, (ahem!) and in proof of that fact I invited her to review a favorite series of hers. As we mentioned in Tuesday's post, 12 is a hard age to be a bibliophile. So I thought it would tie up this series very nicely to have Junior Bibliophile make one more recommendation to add to the list.

I have to admit, I read these books too. :)

*Junior Bibliophile appears*

Fair Maidens...Young Raiders....Heartbreak.

Epicness. :D

Welcome to the second post of Junior Bibliophile! Today we are reviewing The Viking Quest series.  I highly suggest you read these wonderful books. Continue on to learn why!

The Review

Living in Ireland, Bree had always wanted to travel, to see what lay beyond the Irish Sea. On her thirteenth birthday she is suddenly thrown into a whirlwind of adventure when she rescues a strange boy from drowning in the river. After he disappears, the family contacts one of the monks at the monastery in case of Vikings. Just to be safe the village prepares for the worst. The next day Viking raiders swoop down on the country side capturing Bree and her brother Devin. As the Viking ship sails farther away from home Bree discovers to her shock that the fourteen-year-old boy she rescued is the leader of this Viking ship. Bree tells him in no uncertain terms that he owes her something since she saved his life. But instead of taking her home, Mikkel promises to protect her if she obeys him. Bree has no intention of doing so and is continually looking for an escape. An unexpected twist takes her brother from her, but they have a motto to remember between them, 'Courage to win.' Bree is alone as the ship gets closer to Norway, Mikkel's home. As the voyage goes on she shows that she will not serve the young, arrogant ruler. Meanwhile Devin is traveling back to Ireland with a companion, all the while trying to figure out how he can set Bree free. Getting to Dublin he meets a shoemaker who kindly makes him some shoes. And then Devin finds out that Mikkel has a well-kept secret. Not only has he stolen gems and a Bible from the monastery in Ireland, he has also stolen valuable coins from his father's best friend. (Trouble brewing)
Bree finally arrives in Norway and meets Mikkel's family. Unlike Mikkel, his father is wise and just and the chieftain of the village. She has to bite her tongue to keep from telling Mikkel that her father is also a chieftain. If she tells him he will most likely raise the ransom or never let her return to Ireland. But she is determined she will never be a slave. Mikkel's brother, Cort, is older than he is; the two are always fighting and she can see the family's strained relationship. Although she is at odds with Mikkel, she becomes friends with the rest of the family. Mikkel refers to her as a slave, but she knows in her heart that she is a daughter of the King.
Finally Devin arrives with in Norway with ransom. Due to Mikkel he ends up in prison. Bree can't escape because she has made a promise to Mikkel that she won't. I'll let you read the book to find out why. :D

Ever since he got back to Norway, Mikkel has been working on another ship for another voyage. When he finishes the ship he starts on a voyage to Greenland. Mikkel thinks Bree's God will keep her safe and he takes her as a good luck charm. Bree goes with him on the promise that she will be set free when they return. As they journey toward Greenland, they start on a epic adventure that takes them through foggy mists and into ice-burg filled seas.
Will Bree ever make it back to Ireland? What will happen to Devin? And will Mikkel follow the one true God?

Junior Bibliophile's thoughts

Although these books don't have a lot of description, they have excellent plotting. I loved Bree and Devin's motto, 'Courage to win'. Also, this isn't your average story where the kids go off without their parents. Throughout the book the children remember their parents’ teaching. Even though they are apart, they still have a very close relationship with each other. Mikkel was my favorite character from the very beginning of the series. But, Lady B strongly disagrees and says Devin is the best. We'll leave it up to you to decide who is better. ;) I would rate the books a five star series. As a little warning: each book ends on a cliff-hanger. I would highly suggest that if you don't own these that you get them by twos at the library. And of course I do highly suggest that you read these books.

That's all for now----

*Junior Bibliophile disappears*

Be sure to come back next time for a special week-long celebration of Reformation Day. We'll start on Tuesday and continue each day through Friday. If you know someone who enjoys learning about the Reformers, I would be thrilled if you passed the word along!


Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Hardest Age to be a Bibliophile

I've been thinking about what to write this week. Next week, of course, is the big Reformation Week celebration, so I didn't want to start in on the advertising series until after that was over.

I decided to dub this week "Juvenile Reads". Now by juvenile, I'm not talking about little children. I'm talking about 10-12 year olds who have a budding thirst for adventure stories, and are torn between the children's section and the adult's at the library. I've been there. It's a hard age, because while we're ready for more than the kid-running-away stories, we're not quite to the point of harrowing love affairs and difficult moral decisions. By the age of 9 I was reading Jane Austen and Robert Louis Stevenson. By age 12 I was reading John Buchan and Agatha Christie. And come to think of it, I was twelve when I first picked up "A Study in Scarlet" and started a long infatuation with everything Sherlock Holmes. I was also twelve when I started listening to BBC radio dramas of the same, which probably wasn't the wisest decision ever. One day I would be reading Little House in Brookfield, and the next I would be reading Prester John (I think I really was 12 or 13 when I picked that, wow.)

12 is a difficult age to be a bibliophile. Granted, it's somewhat easier than it used to be. I didn't have the Crown and Covenant books and Pearl Maiden and the Chosen Daughters series. The problem that age 12 faces is that they simply have much more time to read, and less to read than any other age bracket. Some of them are honestly not ready for Jane Eyre, and would be scarred for life after attempting Prester John. Treasure Island is fine for many kids, but the murders and skeletons and spooky Old Pew may put others off. It's an age for girls when emotions can be at an all time high, and they themselves don't know what's going to bother them and what isn't. And it's an age for boys when the moral introspection often found in adult novels just isn't interesting.

The more I think about what I tackled at age twelve, the more grateful I am that God protected me in ways I never knew. Some of it was safe--George MacDonald is fairly discreet. But some of it was not--like when I kept trying to order a Les Miserables dramatization from the library and it never came in. Honestly, with that one I tried time after time, and it never came in--or I never got a chance to pick it up--or I chickened out at the last minute and sent it back. Then when I heard the Focus on the Family drama at age 15, I'm very glad that I didn't listen to it sooner. It was a good drama, but it wouldn't have been appropriate for me at a younger age. The Scarlet Pimpernel, James Herriot's animal series (Unedited. Yeah.) and believe it or not, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

So today, I'm going to list some books that I think are great for 12-year-old bibliophiles. Note that just because a book is recommended doesn't mean I necessarily recommend all of the author's books to be read at age 12. Also, just because I place it on the "great for 12" list doesn't mean it should be called a children's book. Also, some children are more sensitive than others. I made this list for an all-around adventurous twelve-year-old who doesn't mind a little blood but isn't yet ready for the gory details. Works marked with a star need to be edited for language.

Top 31 Children's Reads---Fiction (made in no particular order)

1. Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson*
2.Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens*
3. Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, by L.M. Montgomery (any books after this contain some questionable theology that would need to be discussed with them if they read the whole series.)
4. Jane of Lantern Hill, by L.M. Montgomery
5. The Martha Years series, by Melissa Wiley (Laura Ingalls Wilder's great-grandmother from Scotland)
6. The Charlotte Years series, by Melissa Wiley (Laura Ingalls Wilder's grandmother)
7. The Caroline Years series, by Maria D. Wilkes (Laura's mother, and my personal favorite.)
8. The Cricket on the Hearth, by George Selden
9. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne* (for the dedicated 12-year-old bibliophile)
10. Crown and Covenant trilogy, by Douglas Bond (lots of gory beheadings. May not be suited to all 12-year-olds)

11. Carol Watson Rankin's books, specifically the Dandelion Cottage series
12. Pearl Maiden, by H. Rider Haggard
13. The Elsie Dinsmore series, by Martha Finley
14. Baby Island, by Carol Ryrie Brink
15. Moody family series, by Sarah Maxwell
16. The Chosen Daughters series (various authors)
17. Pollyanna, by Eleanor Porter
18.  The American Adventure series (various authors, Barbour press)
19. The Works of Jane Austen*
20. The Black Stallion series, by Walter Farley* (excluding The Island Stallion Races and up until The Black Stallion Challenged, published in 1964. I do not recommend any of the series written after 1964, and strongly urge you not to  try reading them.)
From The Wind in the Willows
21. Misty of Chincoteague and other books by Marguerite Henry
22. The Scarlet Pimpernel series, by Baroness Orczy*  
23. The Kathleen MacKenzie books, by Tracy Leininger Craven
24. Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink
25. A Father's Promise, by Donna Lynn Hess
26. The Hidden Hand, by E.D.E.N. Southworth* (Lamplighter)
27. To Have and to Hold, by Mary Johnston (Vision Forum edition)
28. The Kingdom Series and The Knights of Arrethtrae, by Chuck Black
29. Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss (the Puffin Classics edition is the best.)
30. Works of Patricia M. St. John
31. The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Graham (be sure to get an edition with the E.H. Shephard illustrations. It won't be the same without it. The above illustration is not one of Shepherd's, unfortunately.)

So there you have my 31 recommendations for 10-12 year-olds. There are many more I could list, but I'll draw the line there for now. I would be happy to recommend more to any twelve year old who has gets through all these (there are over 100). ;)  I would love to see your recommendations  as well! And be sure to join us on Friday, when Junior B. has a very special guest post. :)

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, October 19, 2012

Glory, Duty, and the Gold Dome

To be honest, this book is a tough nut to crack. But I'll do my best.

The Plot

14-year-old Thomas Richards (homeschooled) acts as his father's representative aide in the Georgia State House of Representatives. A great responsibility for anyone that age, but his prosaic, no-nonsense approach and meticulous attention to detail help him greatly. This year is election year, and his father is stepping up his political ambitions by running for Congress. Thomas will do anything to see him win.
But when a young woman is found in a coma after driving through a red light, their world shifts dramatically. Her husband wants nothing more than to pull the plug on the machine keeping her alive. Her parents are distraught. Surely this man who got their daughter pregnant out-of-wedlock and then turned her out into the street has no right to make a decision on quality of life.
Thomas's father, John Richards, takes the case on determined to save the life of Angela Bauer and the child she carries inside her. As the trial escalates into a evolutionary debate on when a child becomes a human, both father and son receive threats to pull out. The Supreme Court rules against the Bauers. Angela has twenty days before the feeding tube is removed.
With John's run for Congress at stake, he continues speaking out against this unjust action, and calling the Governor of Georgia to intervene. Thomas finds that their threat of betrayal lies within their own party. When he sees his father throwing away the Congressional campaign and taking action outside of the law, Thomas finds a way to help that collapses both the campaign and the Bauer case into the dust.

My Thoughts
To fit the style of this particular book, I am going to write this section in the format of alternating pros and cons.
Pro: Good father/son relationship on the part of John and Thomas Richards. I think Darnell portrayed a natural enjoyment of working together, and a realistic picture of how parents have issues they want to improve on as well as children.
Con: Darnell writes from both Thomas' and John's perspectives, and since he chooses to write in first person, it was very difficult to tell when one was switching to the other. This, I admit, detracted from my enjoyment of the book, as I had to start several sections with no idea of who the speaker was. I think this could have been easily remedied by making headers "John" and "Thomas" or something similar to let the reader know when the perspective switched.
Pro: Thomas is a well-written example of a homeschooled student, who loves history, enjoys having a purposeful existence, and interacts appropriately with adults. This is the product of good homeschooling, and Darnell painted the picture quite accurately.
Pro/Con: This particular point falls into both categories. Some readers may find John and Thomas' conversations to be a little stilted when they're talking through moral issues.  For the most part I didn't have a problem on that score. Though our family doesn't talk the way the Richards do, I think if we were used to it we would find it natural. Darnell makes John put the emphasis on honoring God, not on his children giving him anything. And I think children sense when adults want the respect for themselves "in the name of God" rather than putting the emphasis on God alone. Children are often very resistant to the former, but respond willingly to the latter method of learning to honor their parents.
Pro: Darnell describes the workings of Georgia's State Representatives in a way that engages his readers. You can tell he loves politics, and has an extensive knowledge of law and government. I enjoyed seeing that passion played out in the book.
Con: Darnell advises this book for 15 and up, I think--at least for teen readers. I agree with him; the Bauers plot would disturb most 8-11 year olds, and some of the statements are a little more mature, though not graphic in nature. However, his writing style is a little younger than the average homeschooled 15-year-old. It didn't challenge me enough--and I wanted more. I think he could have stepped it up a bit, to reach the audience he was trying to capture. I would rate it for  13-16, due to medical information, but writing style-wise I would say 12-14.
Pro: In the fight for the Bauers, he really captured it from every angle: the reporters asking for interviews, the parents in the hospital room, the court arguments, the family discussions around the dinner table. This was a realistic representation of what families fighting for a cause undergo.
Con: I didn't connect with any of the characters. Throughout the book, you never see personalities demonstrated. And in a story, no matter what issue you're trying to get across, it is imperative that the author makes his characters engaging. They need to be real flesh-and-blood people to the reader, because that puts flesh on the problem you want to reform.
Con: Vision Forum needs to get a line-by-line editor before sending a book to print. This is one of several I've noticed in which the quality could have improved if they had spent a little more time checking for grammatical errors.
Pro: I liked John Richard's wife. She supports her husband, and sometimes thinks up things on her own to help his cause. She portrays a good picture of a helpmeet. We don't have our brains removed on our wedding day. We're to use them to further our husband's work.
Con: I never liked books in which one of the villains has  a made-up name. "Loo-loo Larry" just doesn't grab me. That offered more groan moments than suspense.
Pro/Con: Darnell surprised me with the identity of one of his villains. I let go of one little clue, and missed it completely. I have to hand it to him for pulling off something that Dickens generally can't. And that's saying much.

Final Opinion: While Glory, Duty, and the Gold Dome was well-written and a good, clean moral tale, I think Darnell overshot his mark. I would have enjoyed two non-fiction books on law and medical ethics much more. However, I applaud him for his desire to provide God-honoring fiction to teens. I think we need to see more of that, and I would like to see him continue with this series. While I didn't connect with this particular book, I support his mission and would do much to help him further it.

In fact, I think he should consider turning this into a movie instead. That would probably triple the story's power, and widen it's impact as well.

Quality of Life
Pros and cons aside, the issue Darnell tackles is one that should lie near and dear to the hearts of all people. Quality of life stems from evolutionary concepts, and leads to euthanasia and abortion. One particular bit of conversation he wrote well:

"Thomas," I said quietly in the dark of the car, "tell me about when a person dies."
Thomas responded quickly, "A person doesn't die until her soul leaves her body, Papa," he said. "That's what James 2:26 says."

This particular exchange struck a chord with me, because I remember very clearly the tragedy of Terry Shiavo. I remember watching the news reports, counting down the days, seeing brave young men arrested for trying to break in and free her. I remember the grief and tragedy of an unconstitutional court order, made in favor of a a husband who no longer loved or cherished her. And I remember praying that if she did not know the Lord Jesus, that somehow God would give her more time and lead her to him. We prayed for her every night when we gathered for family devotions. The grief was great while hearing the announcement that she had died after fourteen days without nutrition or hydration.

Terry Shiavo

I hope that America never forgets. Shame on us, for allowing such a crime to go unpunished.

For that story alone, I recommend that you read Glory, Duty, and the Gold Dome. It may not be the snappiest book I've ever read, but that's beside the point. The point is, we are a forgetful people, and we need to remember that we are not helpless victims of an all-powerful court. Nathaniel Darnell is stepping up to give us that reminder. We need to know our rights and our laws, because tragedies like Terry Schiavo's continue on today, ones that never reach the newspapers. People are dying who should be living.

All in the name of evolution--which runs deeper to a denial of our call to obey an Almighty God.

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Black Arrow

By special request of one of my blog readers, we have a book review today.

An exciting book review.

Robert Louis Stevenson is well-known for Treasure Island (Perhaps. *cough*) and second to that, Kidnapped, but such treasures as St. Ives and The Black Arrow have collapsed in literature's dusty past. A great pity. So today, we're going to look at The Black Arrow, an entrancing tale set in England's Wars of the Roses.

Preface [original spelling preserved]:

"I had four blak arrows under my belt,
Four for the greefs that I have felt,
Four for the nomber of ill menne
That have opressid me now and then.
One is gone; one is wele sped;
Old Apulyaird is ded.
One is for Maister Bennet Hatch
That burned Grimstone, walls and thatch.
One for Sir Oliver Oates,
That cut Sir Harry Shelton's throat.
Sir Daniel, ye shull have the fourt;
We shall think it fair sport.
Ye shull each have your own part,
A blak arrow in each blak heart.
Get ye to your knees for to pray:
Ye are ded theeves, by yea and nay!
                                                              Jon Amend-All
                                                                     of the Green Wood,
                                                                     And his jolly fellaweship.

The Plot
On a certain afternoon, in the late springtime, the bell upon Tunstall Moat House was heard ringing at an unaccustomed hour.

Dick Shelton, ward of Sir Daniel, is staunchly loyal to his master and old King Henry VI, known as the side of Lancashire in the War of the Roses. On an errand to collect men to join his master's army, he witnesses the mysterious murder of one old Appleyard, the best bowman that could have helped his master. The arrow that does the deed is black-shafted, and when he joins up with other messengers at the church later that day, he finds pinned on the church door a poem, threatening three of Sir Daniel's closest associates, as well as the knight himself, with a well-deserved death. Dick, orphaned after the unresolved murder of Sir Harry Shelton, gets his slow wits to working--perhaps his friends are not as trustworthy as they at first seem.
After taking the poem back to Sir Daniel, Dick is eager to take part in the upcoming battle of Risingham, but Sir Daniel refuses, and sends him back with another message to his men quartered at Tunstall Moat House. Just before he leaves, a great search is sent up for a new ward of Sir Daniel's, whom Dick has never met, suddenly turned up missing. On his errand, Dick meets this strange ward, whom he at first takes to be a lad of twelve, and is surprised to learn that he has sixteen years to his credit. Like the thick-headed, but lovable hero that he is, Dick takes him at his word. According to this John Matcham, Sir Daniel stole him away from his rightful kin on the side of York. They go on swimmingly together, avoiding a large group of jolly outlaws that Dick discovers is responsible for the black arrows. Then riderless horses cross their paths, and they both know that the battle of Risngham has gone sore against Sir Daniel.

Matcham is well on his way back to his kin when Sir Daniel, a fugitive from the battle disguised as a leper, finds them both, and they all go on together to Tunstall Moat House. This is the place where Dick's father died so many years before. When Dick lets fall an inkling that he is still looking for his father's murderer, Sir Daniel orders several trusted men to be on the lookout to discover who he suspects. Dick sees no more of Matcham, but he does hear of the presence of one strange "Joanna", and when a young woman comes to his room one night to warn him of his impending death, he recognizes his puny friend from the greenwood.
Betrayed by his master, he and Matcham set out along a hidden passage to flee the moat house. Pursued by Sir Daniel's men, they have no choice but to jump into the moat and flee across. But Joanna cannot stand heights, and her stalling gives the men enough time to catch up to them. Knowing that they will harm him and not Joanna, Dick jumps the moat, catching an arrow in the shoulder just as he reaches the farther shore. After a long night spent at the foot of a tree, Dick loses his senses on the highroad of the Tunstall hamlet and is promptly taken by the men of The Black Arrow to their chief.
What befalls him, as well as the Lady Joanna, amidst the perils of the Wars of the Roses, I leave my readers to discover.

My Thoughts
Stevenson's excellent characterization hardly merit his own evaluation of the book as "tushery". In the case of this book he rated it far too low. You will be enthralled by the adventure, the history, and the plot twists and turns. His conclusion, I think, will give you a good surprise. :) Don't peek.
Dick illustrates chivalrous manhood (in most cases), while gentle romance combined with bloody battles makes for a classic combination. Aside from a few laughable lapses in judgement, and a poor case of situational ethics, I consider him a laudable hero.
I don't recall any language, but would be on the lookout for it, as I've never read a Stevenson without it. (Note that I don't consider exclamations of a Roman Catholic nature to be problematic--"Holy Mary", etc.)
The Black Arrow is not for young children. Such incidents as murders, hangings, and battles, as well as the necessity to judge the moral rightness of certain character's actions, causes me to rate this teen and up.
Stevenson presents a fair look at a country in times of war. Men band together on a common side, though they do not always have common morals or common missions. Loyal men and treacherous, principled and unprincipled alike, create a cast of characters that you will wish to revisit time and time again.

While this concludes today's book review, I would like to announce an upcoming event on the blog:

An Invitation

I look forward to seeing you all here, and if you would like to copy this poster and link it back to this blog to help me spread the word, you are more than welcome to do so! :) Book reviews, movie reviews, and an exploration of the Michael Servetus controversy, all coming up later this month.

On Friday, I think we'll have another book review. It won't be Elsie Dinsmore, but I do have a poll in the top right corner to collect your opinions for a review on this disputed heroine. I have made it open for multiple votes, to allow several people to vote on the same device, but I would be obliged if you kept it to one per person. Thank-you! :)

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, October 12, 2012

How to Deal With Dirty Words (Part Four)

Welcome, friends and fellow bibliophiles, to the final aspects of "How to Deal With Dirty Words". I am thrilled to have you here today. :) We have a lot to cover, so let's get to it. After some thought, I included the names of books and authors in various points, but please be aware that I am not necessarily condemning those books, nor do I fault those who read them. God may have called me to abstain from something, while not calling you to the same abstinence. Be confident in the guidelines He has given you. But it makes it easier, when illustrating my points, to have concrete examples to point to.

1. Swearing by the gods.
One of my blog readers brought up an interesting point. Is it or is it not okay to have a pagan culture swear by their gods? After all, that's a fair portrayal of historical attitudes, especially with the Roman cultures.
Jesus himself said that we are not to swear by anything:

"But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."
--Matthew 5:34-37

Therefore, I can't say I'm fond of Christian characters who use the various pagan gods for light exclamations. But in the case of unbelieving characters, I do see room for this tactic. For one thing, they don't adhere to the Christian system of morality. While this is not an excuse for their sin (God applies his standards of morality to everyone, whether they believe in Him or not) their unbelieving heart has not yet been softened to see their need for the one, true God. Take Pearl Maiden for example, in which Marcus often swears by the Roman gods. I don't find that to be offensive. But if he swore by the true God, then yes, I would find that to be a problem. Granted, the author should clearly portray these characters to be without Christ if they're going to use this tactic, but I think it can be fairly and correctly done. I'm not hard and fast on this point, but that's where I am right now. :)

2. Profanity Used in British Wit.
I often encounter problems with whether or not to laugh when a swear word is being used in conjunction with a witty remark. You won't find this in American works, but it abounds, unfortunately, in British literature. Please excuse my picking on Lord Peter Wimsey again, but honestly, sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or cry over him. How can I laugh at his wit when he uses the Lord's name in a light and carnal manner, or when he's making light of God's judgement the next breath? Coming from a person who loves British wit, it's very difficult for me to deal with this. Do I laugh and ignore the profanity? Or do I refuse to laugh to show my disapproval? Either way, a choice has to be made.

3. Swearing in Fantasy.
This is another problem with the upcoming rise of Christian fantasy in today's literary market. Everybody wants to write a fantasy novel, and the current counsel on Christian and non-Christian sites alike is to make up your own swear words. Back to that thought in a moment.
In fantasy/allegory books where the world has its god-figure as an allegorical representation of God Himself, I don't appreciate it when I see the characters swearing by their god figure. That's simply an allegorical representation of using God's name in vain. I understand that it's not the same--after all, fantasy gods are never on the same level as our real God, even if they portray Him. But if Eru and Aslan are intended to be the fantasy equivalent of the God of the Bible, then have the characterstreat that figure with the same honor that we should treat our real God in real life.
Back to making up swear words for fantasy. God calls us, as Christians, to take captive evil to the obedience of Christ. That doesn't mean making up more evil to do so. Fantasy worlds have a moral code as well as the real world, and just as we need to be careful about how we represent evil in historical fiction, so we need to be careful in writing fantasy. If you wouldn't put real swear words in your character's mouths, then don't put fantasy swear words either. It's the same thing.

4. Swearing as a Portrayal of Wickedness
Some might say that swearing is a fair portrayal of sin. After all, let's face it: people do swear. In saying that I think they're unnecessary, I'm not denying that profanity exists. Nor am I saying that none of your characters should swear. But I do believe that it should be told and not shown. I would also argue that Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Gene Stratton-Porter, and L.M. Montgomery, when they use it, are not using it as a portrayal of wickedness. Freckles uses the name of the Lord in vain just as many times (and come to think of it, maybe more) than his arch-enemy, Black Jack. Dickens is honest in that his dirty characters have dirty speech, but he doesn't seem to think it unrefined for his aristocratic lords and ladies to use the Lord's name in vain. Devout church-goer Miss Cornelia isn't considering that she's setting a poor example of reverence when her conversation is speckled with the light use of His name. After I lost count of the number of times she did, I gave up on the audio recording and bought the book to white it out.

This is wrong.

When we don't call these instances out, when we don't show that we're holding the name of the Lord in highest reverence, when we don't express our displeasure at authors who have no trouble using His name blasphemously, then we're sending a double message as Christian bibliophiles, however unwittingly. We're setting an example in everything we do to a world without Christ. And if this is how we treat authors who make light of Him, then what message are we sending? It is uncomfortable for me to speak this openly, but I see the dangers of enjoying classic literature without calling out one of its biggest problems. People are going to look up what you read, and judge your Christianity by it. If they see that we never speak of this problem, and gloss over it willingly, then they might very well be skeptical when we say that we love our holy God. No one looks at a man who abuses his wife with his words and says "Wow, he must really love her!" And it's the same way when we condone the use of profanites that displease God. If you don't speak out against it, that's the same as endorsing it.

 The Ultimate Reason
Here's why I use white-out so much: because I started using the words I so despised in my own mind. Some of you out there are like me. Some of you have the same struggle. Three years ago I would never have admitted this to any living being, let alone in a blog post. It was a long and painful journey to learn how to take my thoughts captive, one that I am still on to this day. And because I know that no temptation has seized me except which is common to man, I know that I'm not the only one who has to deal with this. There are other young ladies out there struggling with the exact same thing. And that is why I came out so boldly on this series. Minds are scarred because authors did not restrain themselves in their use of these words, and people are struggling to deal with the fact that they can never gain their innocence back. Once you have the knowledge, it's very likely there to stay.
I learned that God's grace covered everything. Some days I could only go minute by minute, trusting that he would give me the grace to keep my thoughts pure. There was a time when I didn't read a lot, because my mind had to heal first.
When it did heal, I started on a mission:
 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
--2 Corinthians 10:3-5

It was a painful start to a lifelong journey, but a pain seasoned with grace at the same time. It is because of this struggle that you are reading My Lady Bibliophile right now. I saw what I went through as a result of this topic, and I wanted to write reviews that would save others some of the disappointments I faced, to warn them of some of the things I wish I would have known, and to teach them how to deal with some of the things that I have had to deal with.

This is why I use white-out. And this is why I encourage everyone I know to do the same. Some would argue that books with language should not be read at all, but when I look at Scripture, I see a command to take everything captive--a command of dominion, rather than of hiding. A command to wage war, rather than to retreat in peace.

I trust that I shall wage war not after the flesh, but after the Spirit of the living God.

I Have a Dream
I have a dream that one day I can hand my children my favorite authors unpolluted with profanity. I have a dream that one by one, I shall white out every book in my library, so that they can read them. I have a dream, not to hide evil from them, but to show them how to cast down imaginations and wage war upon evil. I have a dream that someday, somehow, I can see my favorite authors ranged on my shelves without any white-out in them, because they will be published with nothing to hide. I have a dream that this blessing will not extend simply to my children, but to their children after them, and not simply to my family, but to the body of Christ around the world. I have a dream that rank on rank of believers will join together not to increase of their knowledge of evil, but to increase the dominion of good in the literary world. I have a dream that every lover of books will be equipped to take their shelves captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ.

That shall be the goal of this corner of the web, as long as it endures.

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to Deal With Dirty Words (Part Three)

[Side Note: I have fought the good fight. I have lost the race. Blogger WILL NOT let me make my font the same as it has always been. I offer my sincere apologies, and hope it will not prove too distracting.]
If profanity is neutral, then why would one fifteen-year-old young man receive 60,000 critical emails (including death threats), unsolicited pornographic magazine subscriptions, and a $2,000 pizza scam for speaking out against it? I covered his story in a school report I wrote back in 2011, and the further information I uncovered regarding the issues of profanity was eye-opening to say the least.
In today's article we have an answer to the questions we posed last Tuesday, as well as a more in-depth look at the types and physical and mental effects of profanity. This is our third installment of "How to Deal With Dirty Words" and the series concludes on Friday.
1. Are Some Swear Words Worse that Others?
While I don't have a specific verse or statistic to back me up, I would argue that yes, there are different "tiers" of swear words. The lowest is crude slang, which includes terms that can be used in a correct and edifying manner. The second includes words that are definitely seen as curse words in our society, but which are neutral gender and make light of God's judgement. The third is mild use of the Lord's Name in vain (believe it or not, while all are wrong, there are some less descriptive than others) and words derogatory towards women or crude in the extreme. And the forth is blasphemy towards God's name in the extreme, which I will not go into further detail on.
The first level I will sometimes use white-out on, and sometimes not. I take it in a case by case basis, and if I find the general intention of the usage is not bad, then sometimes I'll leave it in. The second and third levels I always white out, as I can see no edification whatsoever from reading them, and the fourth level causes me to close and trash the book completely. (One example of the fourth would be Kathryn Stockett's The Help, or Fahrenheit 451, neither of which have I read, but I have heard about from others.) Some parts of level three make me extremely uncomfortable, and are likely to cause me to seriously question the book, whether or not I choose to make an end of it.
2. Words that Used to be Good and Now Aren't
Read the King James Bible alone, and you'll find plenty. While I would never include such words myself in my own writing, if I am reading a book written at a time when the word's meaning was good, or placed in a setting where it would have been perfectly acceptable (for instance, an author writing in the 1600s or a character living in the 1600s) I am not as bothered by it, though I would certainly omit it when reading aloud because of its modern meaning.
3. Words that Are Both Good and Bad
Hell is a real judgement, and a real location, and never to be used lightly in the mouth of man. Therefore, when used as God intended it, it is a perfectly fine word--one that carries a weight of meaning. But in the reality that many will be facing an eternity there without accepting Christ as their savior, it should never be used in a light manner. Also, the damnation of God is a very serious thing, and can be used in a proper and God-honoring way. But because the souls of human beings are in the balance, it should never be used carelessly, for that would be carelessly tossing aside the judgement that these souls will undergo.
4. How to Keep From Swearing By Mistake
Simply know the definition of the word you're going to use. Look it up in the dictionary before you use it. Most of us have been caught using words whose connotation we had no idea of, especially period drama fans who know a word based on it's 1800s connotation rather than 2012. Words and their meaning change, so even though it's fun to use those long, fancy words, be especially careful in your use of adjectives that have meanings you do not know. And if you do use one by accident, then don't beat yourself up over it. You didn't know, and chances are you'll never repeat it once you do. Spoken from personal experience.
(Tip: Never use a search engine to find out if a word is legitimate. Use a dictionary, and you'll be kept a lot safer from finding out more information than you need to know.)
How the Brain Processes Swear Words
In this section, I'm going to quote from the last report I wrote in high school, back in July of 2011:
Now that we know how to define profanity and why we should be careful of our words, let’s look at how the brain processes swear words. In our brains, the cerebral cortex, in the left hemisphere, processes our language (language meaning “the words we speak” not “swear words”.) Scientists recognize this as a ‘higher’ function. The brain processes emotions and instincts deep inside itself, and the right hemisphere takes care of the emotional parts of language. Scientists classify emotions and instinct as ‘lower’ brain functions. Researches have been conducted showing that the brain processes swearing in the emotion and instinct regions, and instead of processing the words as units of sound that must be combined, it stores swear words as whole units. The left hemisphere isn’t even involved. “Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have shown that the higher and lower parts of the brain can struggle with each other when a person swears [ref]. A New York Times article [1] cites several other studies that involve how a healthy brain processes swearing. For example, the brains of people who pride themselves on being educated respond to slang and "illiterate" phrases the same way they do to swear words. In addition, in studies in which people must identify the color a word is written in (instead of the word itself), swear words distract the participants from color recognition. You can also remember swear words about four times better than other words [ref].”[2] So using swear words comes directly from the emotion portion of the brain. The Bible classifies those who operate by instinct as godless men that deny the Lord Jesus and exploit his grace. “Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals — these are the very things that destroy them (Jude 10, emphasis mine).”
So let’s sum up. Our English language contains words that we instinctively recognize as swear words. God’s Word contains standards for our speech, and the words we should and should not say. He wants us to avoid coarse and corrupt speech. Our brains process swear words in the emotion/instinct portion of the brain, not the language processing unit. Thus, if we give free rein to our instincts, we act as animals and godless men. I think many agree with me at this point that speaking swear words is wrong, so allow me to take you one more step. Reading them is not only unnecessary, but highly questionable.

 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23, emphasis mine). And lest we excuse the issue by saying that this refers to the heart, not the mind, the Hebrew meaning for the word ‘heart’ in this verse means “the heart; also used (figuratively) very widely for the feelings, the will and even the intellect; likewise for the centre of anything.” As the final clincher, see this verse: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:20, emphasis mine). And the Greek for ‘heart’ in this verse means: “the heart, i.e. (figuratively) the thoughts or feelings (mind); also (by analogy) the middle.” The Bible tells us here to guard our intellect, our brain. Remember where swear words come from? The emotion or feeling section of the brain. So, if we read in books these words that we’re supposed to guard our minds from, then we are not properly guarding our intellect and emotions. Now, before you throw away anything, come with me just a little farther. I am not saying that you must never, ever read a book with a swear word in it. If you try to avoid all profanity, you will be subjecting yourself to a great many headaches and heartaches. We live in a fallen world, and if we try to throw out every book that has something wrong in it, then we’re going about the issue the wrong way. Aside from the Bible, all other books are written by finite, human authors. They cannot possibly produce a story that is free from error.

But just because a book contains error does not mean that we need to overlook it. That's all until Friday, when I make my final case on "How to Deal With Dirty Words".
Lady Bibliophile

[1] Wilson, Tracy V. (n.d.) How Swearing Works. Retrieved July 18, 2011, from
[2] Wilson, Tracy V. (n.d.) How Swearing Works. Retrieved July 18, 2011, from

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