Friday, November 27, 2015

Let Me Be a Woman, by Elisabeth Elliot

I've thought about Elisabeth Elliot's books over the years, especially regarding her husband's death among the Auca Indians. This year, with her passing and memorial service, I've thought about them even more. She was one of those good authors I heard recommended and never got around to picking up.

Joy C's warm praises and sweet gift of Let Me Be a Woman made it possible. I have treasured, savored, loved, and pondered over this book for the last few weeks, drinking in the tender advice this mother poured out to her daughter before her upcoming marriage. It felt like a peek into an intimate and loving conversation that I can benefit from too.

The Book (from back cover)

Who are you?

Many Christian women rarely, if ever, ask themselves that question. But knowing who you are as a woman--and as a Christian--can make a real difference in how you see yourself and others.

Elisabeth Elliot can help you find answers that make a difference. She suggests that the place to start is by asking not "Who am I?" but "Whose am I?" In Let Me Be a Woman, she writes candidly about what it means to be a Christian woman, and she unabashedly tackles tough issues, including:

The Single Life
Masculinity vs. Femininity
The Right Kind of Pride
What Makes a Marriage Work

Whether you are young or not so young, single, engaged, married, or widowed, you will better understand how you fit into God's plan, and you will come away with a wonderful sense of peace about who you really are as a Christian woman.

My Thoughts
I think this is a book I'll be going through again with the highlighter and pen to underline many favorite passages. It's a book that is so foundational to the struggles of womanhood that it's worth reading periodically over and over again, just to re-tune yourself and root out some lies you've fallen into believing.

There were many lessons I appreciated about this book. One huge one was the lesson of discipline and faithfulness in what God calls me to do: in every season of life and spirituality, to obey the journey process. I was struck by her example of the Israelites. Moses chronicles every place the Lord guided them to along their journey, but not every stopping point had something spectacular happen at it. Some of them were merely steps of obedience toward the end goal. I also appreciated her illustration of the sailing ship--free to go wherever it wants on the water, but only because someone has followed the rules of good craftsmanship in putting it together. Women find freedom in obeying the structure and design God created them with.

I loved the chapters about husbands: that they are men, sinners, individual people, heads of the family. Such good, simple truths that I embrace wholeheartedly in my mind, but have no doubt that I will need much grace to practice, because I deal with a fallen nature. The chapter about individual personhood especially struck me: that for a husband, there are certain deep places of the soul that he can offers only to God, and a wife should not be over-possessive and try to force him to confide those to her. I think that principle holds true with not just husbands, but friends, siblings, children, and fellow believers as well.

Marriage seems such a wonderful mystery--so intimate and loving, funny, self-denying, like a beautiful partnership when both partners follow the guidelines God has given them. I am only twenty-one, but I am old enough to experience a yearning and even occasional loneliness for that kind of partnership. Her book makes me look forward to it, while at the same time, reminding me of some common pitfalls and broken mindsets inherent to my fallen womanhood that I can work on addressing now while I wait.

Much of this book is about marriage. But Elisabeth also talks about the gift and fruitfulness of singleness as well--and through and in each chapter is a love and submission to the Heavenly Father that all women in all walks of life can drink in and benefit from. This book is written in a loving, practical, often humorous style of conversation--making you feel as if you were sitting beside her on the sand in front of her cottage while she writes these chapters.

I feel mentored by a kind older woman and enfolded in the love of God after having read it. I heartily recommend Let Me Be a Woman.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Post-Travel Break

Friends, we just got back yesterday evening from a huge 2600 mile road trip. I think I'm going to take some much needed rest and refreshment today. But stay tuned on the blog, because we have exciting reviews coming up of Elisabeth Elliot's Let Me Be A Woman, and Patrick Carr's The Shock of Night, with many more to come!

If you've left a blog comment in this last week, I'm so sorry I couldn't get to it sooner due to travelling, but I have replied to them now. See you Friday! :)


Friday, November 20, 2015

You Never Stop Being a Parent, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jim Newheiser

My mom bought me a parenting book for my birthday.

She's a kindred spirit like that.

It might seem odd on the surface, but we talk about everything from YouTube to the Bible, and when she saw me reading this book at the bookstore, she knew that it would lead to a lot of good discussions. Parenting adult children is a perennial topic in our home, and this book has proven to be some of the wisest advice I've ever read on the subject.

It's one of those books that's so good, I think every home should have a copy.

The Book (Back Cover Copy)
You may have always expected your job as a parent to be done once your children reached adulthood . . . but you're quickly finding out that you never stop being a parent! Jim Newheiser and Elyse Fitzpatrick ground you in the guidance of God's Word, reminding you that your relationship with your adult children can only be as deep and meaningful as your relationship with him.

My Thoughts 
When your children are little, difficult questions are posted on Instagram and Facebook, and you are free to commiserate over them with friends. But as your children grow, the questions and anecdotes trickle away to an occasional heavy hint and an even more telling silence. It's a painful thing to grow into adulthood. I talk with a lot of college age students, and common throughout them all is the ache of tense relationships with nobody to explain how this is supposed to work. Christian families are no exception. Homeschool families are no exception. To be honest, our family is no exception.

It's part of the growing process that every family has to go through. Just like no one is exempt from the difficulties of teething and adolescence, so no family is exempt from the bigger difficulties of the 18-30 age range, when kids are wrestling through theology choices, lifestyle, career, and how to manage a family/friend balance. Not to mention issues of dating/courtship relationships. While Christians have lots of self-help books about toddlers, and even teenagers, there's not much I've heard of regarding full-fledged adults living with their parents. Those books that I saw often contained an air of "let this person be their own individual" that had some grains of truth, but didn't back it up with the deep, biblical theology I was comfortable with.

Enter a random day at a random bookstore, walking by a random shelf--which really wasn't random at all. I pulled out You Never Stop Being a Parent, and found in this book, so many of the things our family had learned by trial and error. I pulled it out and excitedly read bits to my mom. "I can't believe this! We've seen this happen! I need this book!"

The key lessons this book answer big questions: Kids should work hard and be adults. Don't give them free lodging if it would enable a lazy or wicked lifestyle. Don't be afraid to set moral boundaries, but be careful not to micromanage things not required by the Bible that would exasperate them. Parents should not dictate or micromanage. Kids have to walk before the Lord, commit their own failings and successes, and receive punishment or blessing accordingly. This book also deals with kids who are not walking a Christian lifestyle, kids who constantly get into debt or come to their parents for more money, and what to do if your adult child embraces a gay lifestyle or cohabits unmarried. It deals with releasing your kids to the joy of marriage relationships. And it deals with what your kids should expect from you when they live at home, as far as gracious, godly communication and expectations.

Elyse Fitpatrick and Jim Newheiser write this book for parents. But I would recommend this book to any adult child seeking to navigate these years with grace and biblical living. This book is a good counselor, and can give the reassurance and sane perspective that many people struggle to maintain in the middle of these conflicts.

We went through the common ups and downs of dealing with social media, how to use free time after graduation, getting jobs, going to college, and sleep schedules. But through it all, my parents have graciously allowed us the freedom to walk before God as individuals, while still offering wise advice. Because of they allowed us to grow into that adulthood, they have our hearts and our trust in a way that they never could have gained otherwise. They have trained us, and now they trust God to continue to mature us. I can say truly that we've moved from parent/child relationship to brothers and sisters in Christ. I am so, so grateful to them. One of the fruits of that, is that my mom and I were able to take a trip together this fall, and it felt just like taking a trip with a dearly beloved girlfriend.

You Never Stop Being A Parent has some wise and much needed advice for navigating these difficult years. I can say from walking the road of personal experience that this advice rings true.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Most Important Book for Any Bibliophile (Reprise)

This is a post I first wrote in November, 2012. Today I just finished reading through the entire Bible for the fourteenth or fifteenth time (I lose count)--so I'd like to celebrate by posting it again! :) 

It really all started with positive peer pressure.

My brother took up reading the Bible, and very soon I joined him. Had he asked me, I really wouldn't have approved; it seriously cut into his time to give attention to me. But as he went through with it, I decided to make the best of it and tag along. I've been tagging along ever since. And as I now look back on over a decade of doing it, I am amazed at all the Scripture I know, simply from reading it every day. Reading it year after year every day builds layers of knowledge that I never knew I had.

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. ~Psalm 119:11

We talk a lot on this blog about Scriptural and practical principles: what makes a book good, how to put a book down, what to do about love and romance. All these things are good, but if they don't come from Scripture, then we're never going to remember them, and the rules will be quite burdensome. Plus, in this culture we have a desperate need for practical knowledge of the Bible. Read it, and you will know instinctively whether the books you pick up are good or not. It will sharpen your conscience, give foundation to your faith, and equip you with a defense for your worldview. What are you going to say when someone asks you how God could exist before time? Or how will you respond when people encourage you to do something evil, because there's no other option? Such questions will come, along with many others, and God's Word contains the answers to all of them. 

Common Questions and Comments about Bible Reading

1. It's Too Hard.
Trust me, the Bible is much easier to read then Robinson Crusoe, even though it's about three times as long. Hard, yes, because it convicts sin, but no matter which version you read you won't find the syntax difficult, especially people who read classics. The Count of Monte Cristo is harder than the Bible. And with all the poetry, history, parables, and exposition, God always teaches the same truths through many different formats. It is important to read the whole Bible, but if you don't understand one portion right away, you're sure to grasp another. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew; the New Testament was written in common Greek; God wrote it for the common man to understand. More than how easy or hard it is, it's a command. We are commanded to know our Lord, and to do that, we must know His Word, hard or not.  But be assured, even if it's tough at first, it gets much easier with time. 

2. Do I have to Read the Whole Bible in a Year?
No, certainly not. It's more important that you're in God's Word every day than that you finish it in a certain amount of time. God doesn't set rules in His Word for how fast it should take us to read it. Some people in our family read it once a year, others are moving on to 90 day reading plans. It's like a muscle that takes exercise to build up strength. 

3. How Do I Read the Bible?
Some people are unsure of reading the Bible in a whole year because they think it would take too long. But often this is because of the difference between Bible reading and Bible study. The purpose of reading the Bible in a year is actually different then studying portions of the Bible every day. When you have four chapters to do, it's probably best not to stop every couple of verses. That would only lead to frustration because it's taking so long. So assess your style--would you prefer to study a little every day, or just read and have the knowledge accumulate over time? Either way is perfectly right and acceptable, so pick which you're most comfortable with.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. ~Psalm 119:105


1. Change it up
I used the same Bible chart for ten years. Psalms on Sunday, OT history on Monday, Law on Tuesday, etc. While I enjoyed this, I was ready for something new at the end of that time. I chose a chart that went straight through from Genesis to Revelation, and tried it out several years ago, and I was very pleased with it. For the next couple of years I went through the same chart again, because I wanted to familiarize myself with it a little more. But if you're starting to stagnate in a groove, then try shaking it up a little; sometimes reading the Bible in a different order than you have been helps you to approach it with fresh perspective. Otherwise the verses begin to go in one ear and out the other. 

2. Make Your Reading Consistent
I get up at 6:45 every morning, and every day I start reading my Bible somewhere between 7:00 and 7:15. While this may not work for everyone, the point is to be consistent. Train yourself so that you don't even debate "Should I read my Bible today?" but rather it's an automatic routine like brushing your teeth or getting dressed. This will eliminate a lot of guilt both for missed days and for a lack of enthusiasm. And don't beat yourself up if you're honestly trying to be consistent and miss a day. Recite a passage of Scripture if you're on the go; that's a great way to still be in God's Word. Also, don't quit because you're having a tough day. That's like saying "I'll become a Christian when my heart's right". God's Word is the safest place to be in the rough times, and it's very dangerous to walk away until "things are better". That's trying to right yourself in your own power, not in God's.

3. Pick a Translation That Works for You
There are several excellent translations of Scripture: KJV, NKJV, ESV, and the 1984 NIV, as well as others. Do check to make sure it's a solid translation, but then look at one that works well for you. And remember that all the labels, though valuable, are man-made. Sometimes I use more than one translation for different passages, to get the best meaning from both. 

The Ultimate Point

Why do we read the Bible? 

To know our God. 

Jesus Christ is the Word become flesh. We know him by knowing his Word. No one can take it away from us, and it shall endure forevermore. That's the ultimate reason, but there's another one more related for books.

Some of you probably think that I have an elaborate evaluation system that I labor through for each book, painstakingly checking against Scripture as to whether or not it is good and worth reading. Actually, I don't. All the points in these blog articles are instinctively ingrained when one reads Scripture every day. You'll carry principles of evaluation with you even if you can't put words to them, because the Word of God is a guard and a guide. 

Our goal is to be soldiers of Christ taking captive every book, with our tactics so ingrained that we know them in our sleep. That only comes from reading God's Word every day--the most important book for any bibliophile.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Flame-Coloured Taffeta, by Rosemary Sutcliff

A couple of weeks ago I worked as a chairperson for one of our voting precincts. One of the moms, while corralling the cutest little toddler, asked me "which Victorian novel I had brought with me this time." Upon some reflection I told her I hadn't brought any, but then, lo and behold, a recollection occurred to me, and I pulled out Rosemary Sutcliff's Flame-Coloured Taffeta and presented it for inspection.

She smiled. "I always look for it every year," she said, and then went off to vote. I had no idea it was a thing; I see from now on I have a reputation to keep up.

I didn't expect to read it either, because I had my daily NaNo goal to write. But later in the afternoon I was running dry of inspiration and wanted a break, so I opened it up. It hit all my especially warm and fuzzy spots: secret Jacobites on the run, sweet friendships, and an exciting late-night escape attempt. It's a deceptively slim little volume, with a deceptively colorful cover that would make you pass it by on first glance. But don't let its size fool you. It's another one of Sutcliff's masterpieces.

The Book
Damaris and Peter are used to keeping secrets. They have a secret hiding spot called Joyous Gard (or as Peter calls it, Tumbledown) where they keep hurt animals so they can recuperate. The grownups around them keeps secrets too. They live in the Selsey peninsula of England, in the area of Manhood, where every so often, a team of smugglers comes through with silk and brandy to take inland. Nobody ever tries to catch them.

One night Damaris hears shots, and the next morning she finds something much graver than a hurt animal to take care of. A smuggler lies bleeding in the woods, shot in the knee. Damaris and Peter take him, with the help of Genty the Wise Woman, to Joyous Gard to hide him. While he heals, a strong bond of friendship forms between them. But eventually Damaris has to face the biggest conflict of her young life: How can they find a way to help Tom Wildgoose escape from England? And what should she do if he turns out to be a spy threatening the English king?

My Thoughts 
It's charming, full of subtle beauty in its descriptive narrative, and the simple, yet passionate viewpoint of a child.
The first silver-gilt wash of morning was just beginning to lighten the sky behind the granary roof while the cart shelter beneath it was still a cave of darkness, and the dunghill cock who always roosted on the shafts of the haywain was crowing as though it was only because of him that the day was coming at all. The first babble of lambs was coming over the wall from the barn fold, and Sukie, who always grew very loving when she was going to have kittens, came wreathing and purring round Damaris's ankles. 
Believe it or not, Sukie's actions were some of my favorite bits. We had a kitty for many years, and the way she described a cat's actions--like the leg sticking straight up like a flagstaff while Sukie licked herself--brought back many warm memories.

Rosemary tells a simple, straightforward story, and adds a beauty and strength by teasing out accompanying details that make it as sharply vivid as one of the stars Damaris likes to count at night. There is really only one plot--how to heal and help the spy--with all the elements that bring the characters alive--Peter helping with the lambing, Shadow Mason's haunting refrain of "Spanish Ladies" and Lady the fox vixen--all tying in to help. I loved Lady fox with the hurt paw. But my favorite scene was when Damaris looked out the bedroom window and wished on seven stars for a flame-coloured taffeta petticoat. It's not that I believe in good luck charms, but there was a haunting, simple beauty in both the stars and the wish that gripped my heart.

Two things make this story one I would hesitate to give a younger child to read for themselves. First is the perennial problem of children having adventures while keeping secrets from adults. The example of bravery is slightly countered by an example of deceit that just isn't a good role model. The second is one rather disturbing episode with Ginty the Wise Woman, where she sends Damaris with a charm to threaten one of Tom Wildgoose's enemies. It's easily skipped, but all in all, this is a book I would prefer to read aloud to children, or give it to them after they've reached some level of adult discernment to judge between right and wrong actions.

In spite of these flaws, I deeply love Damaris and Peter and Tom Wildgoose, in the same way I love Portia and Julian from Elizabeth Enright's Gone-Away Lake, a book with similar flaws. They are real and brave, and if anything, they give children the imagination "I could be brave too" for the cause of taking care of someone else. Tom is a kind and gentle hero, a young man who is able to stop in the middle of grave danger and take the time to value two children he owes so much to.

I found this at my grandma's house while I randomly walked by a shelf of books. I'm so glad I did. It's one of those tales that stays with you and warms you whenever you think about it.

I'm going to have a lot of hard choices for narrowing down favorite book of the year. ;)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Storming, by K.M. Weiland

This is so exciting.

So exciting.

K.M. Weiland is releasing a new novel, Storming, to add to the wonderful collection of books she's already gifted us with. I love her nonfiction books on writing, and her fiction book Dreamlander was one of the most powerful persuasions to enjoy the fantasy genre that I have ever encountered. I think I didn't know if people could write like that anymore, until I met Katie. So when she asked me to review Storming, I squeed at my keyboard and said of course!

The Book 

Sometimes Even Pilots Have to Wing It

In the high-flying, heady world of 1920s aviation, brash pilot Robert “Hitch” Hitchcock’s life does a barrel roll when a young woman in an old-fashioned ball gown falls from the clouds smack in front of his biplane. As fearless as she is peculiar, Jael immediately proves she’s game for just about anything, including wing-walking in his struggling airshow. In return for her help, she demands a ride back home . . . to the sky.

Hitch thinks she’s nuts—until he steers his plane into the midst of a bizarre storm and nearly crashes into a strange airship like none he’s ever run afoul of, an airship with the power to control the weather. Caught between a corrupt sheriff and dangerous new enemies from above, Hitch must take his last chance to gain forgiveness from his estranged family, deliver Jael safely home before she flies off with his freewheeling heart, and save his Nebraska hometown from storm-wielding sky pirates.

Cocky, funny, and full of heart, Storming is a jaunty historical/dieselpunk mash-up that combines rip-roaring adventure and small-town charm with the thrill of futuristic possibilities.

My Thoughts 
The night I got Storming, I promised myself I would be good and get things done before I opened it. Well, I wasn't good, and the opening scene of a nighttime plane ride and a woman falling out of the sky sucked me right in to the adventure. Storming delivers the same Weiland trademark of vivid characters and masterful plotting that I've come to love and anticipate. It's a different flavor from Dreamlander--historical dieselpunk rather than fantasy--and as I've never read dieselpunk before, it took a while to grow acquainted with the flavor. While Dreamlander is a book where most of the story takes place in a rich new world, Storming is a book where an ordinary world full of biscuits and overalls has to grapple with the extraordinary invading. In some ways, I liked that just as much and even better.

Hitch's hometown Nebraska world was heartwarming. From the Berringer brothers feuding over tomatoes, to the rowdy air of an early 1900s airshow, to a little boy's starved longing for a dog and a plane ride, I loved the setting. Those gossipy, loyal towns with hurts to deal with and heart to meet them with always make me smile. Everyone from motherly Nan to stalwart Griff to that snake of a Sheriff Campbell are characters you love to love or love to hate as the story dictates. And I loved the little red Jenny plane, as good as a human character in her own right, almost as much as Hitch did.

Weiland narrates mostly inside Hitch's head and the little boy Walter's. She gave the narrative such excellent flavor, with Hitch's similes. Sure as gravy, burn like the devil's bacon. It feels like they come off completely naturally, though I'm sure in reality they took a lot of work to craft. She's good at making the narrative match the personality and education of the character, so that you know exactly who's picking up the point of view just by the way she writes.

And Jael herself. Fantastic example of a strong woman who doesn't need to be a brash woman to do pretty amazing things. She's a wing walker, and a pretty bold, brave lass with an endearing broken English way of talking. But she doesn't need to put down others to find her own strength. She's all about joining everybody's strengths together to get the job done. She really deserves to be in a top heroine's list.

The kissing scene is hilarious. I love the first storm ride with Hitch and Jael. The scene where Hitch takes Walter up in the plane. Earl trying desperately to get the Jenny running again after every escapade. Taos the dog. It's just one of those stories that's plain fun to sit down with. Rich, meaningful, well-crafted, heartwarming. I can't remember the last book where I enjoyed myself so thoroughly in the reading process.

And what a humdinger of a climax. I had no idea. No idea. The story up to that point had been a fun adventure, and any crisis points were more relaxing enjoyable than traumatizing. But she turned up the heat and saved the fireworks for the final show. Anything I could have imagined as far as the resolution of the theme and the final climax was wonderfully surpassed. I sat spellbound to my computer screen while I finished up the final chapters. My only worry--I knew that Weiland wasn't afraid to make tough choices, and I couldn't bear that this world I had come to know and love would be ripped apart by sorrow. But I also knew that whatever Weiland chose to do, would be deeply fitting and fully satisfying.

The only thing that threw me off at first was confusion over what the airship's purpose was. If I could have known the purpose a little sooner (I won't say, no spoilers) then it would have helped me mesh it with the Nebraska world a little better. But that was really all, and it got explained throughout the story. I also struggled a little with what the airship looked like, but that was simply because I wasn't familiar with plane terminology, so it was my knowledge rather than the book's writing.

The lessons of home, responsibility, adventure, and family were beautifully, beautifully done. Go read the book. That's all I can say. There's so much to love I could just keep listing it all, but it's much better for you to experience the heart-stirring, breath-taking moments for yourselves. Storming releases December 4th. Mark your calendar, scavenge about in your wallet to save for this new release, and don't forget to join the fun for giveaways and all sorts of book release party stuff at K.M. Weiland's website. Thanks to Katie for a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

P.S. I wish a replica of Jael's pendant was for sale. Because I would totally buy one to go along with the book. And how about a necklace with a Jenny pendant? Seems to me, we need some custom jewelry for this one. ;)

Friday, November 6, 2015

7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness, by Eric Metaxas

So the stories of these great women show us that men and women are not interchangeable. There are things men can and should do that women cannot, and there are things that women can and should do that men cannot. So comparing men and women is something like comparing apples and oranges, except apples and oranges are actually far more like each other than are men and women. Apples and oranges can exist without each other, but men and women cannot. Men and women were deliberately designed to be different. Indeed we are specifically created as complements to each other, as different halves of a whole, and that whole reflects the glory of God.
Eric Metaxas. Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness (Kindle Locations 157-161). Thomas Nelson.
Every time I settle into one of Eric Metaxas' introductions to his books, it feels like opening a door to a new and exciting place. His words ring true, bringing a clear, forceful realignment to the emotionally-charged arguments about the role of men and women in Christian society. I would give this book a high rating just for the introduction alone, in which he explains how these women are great not because they equal men, but because they used the skills and influence God gave them, in partnership with men, to fulfil an entirely different God-given role.

7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness offers a look into some exciting well-known and lesser-known giants of the Christian faith. Every one of them can clarify and expand our understanding of women's roles today. Each woman has a different key focus, sure to deepen your ambition on what it means to be a follower of God. Metaxas keeps it subtle and lets you draw conclusions for yourself., but as I thought over each section, I could easily catch the main points, and I felt a deep excitement for being a woman as I read.

Book Description (from Thomas Nelson)
In his eagerly anticipated follow-up to the enormously successful Seven Men, New York Times best-selling author Eric Metaxas gives us seven captivating portraits of some of history's greatest women, each of whom changed the course of history by following God's call upon their lives-as women.
Each of the world-changing figures who stride across these pages-Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa, and Rosa Parks-is an exemplary model of true womanhood. Teenaged Joan of Arc followed God's call and liberated her country, dying a heroic martyr's death. Susanna Wesley had nineteen children and gave the world its most significant evangelist and its greatest hymn-writer, her sons John and Charles. Corrie ten Boom, arrested for hiding Dutch Jews from the Nazis, survived the horrors of a concentration camp to astonish the world by forgiving her tormentors. And Rosa Parks' deep sense of justice and unshakable dignity and faith helped launch the twentieth-century's greatest social movement.
Writing in his trademark conversational and engaging style, Eric Metaxas reveals how the other extraordinary women in this book achieved their greatness, inspiring readers to lives shaped by the truth of the gospel.

My Thoughts
This book gave me so many varied reactions of excitement, inspiration, confusion, indifference, that I'm going to run through each woman individually and briefly discuss them. Overall, I came away from this book having been given a feast of things to dwell on and wrestle with. I received another intellectually stimulating offering from Metaxas' careful scholarly work. And I caught a deeper vision on how I can live my life for Christ.

Joan of Arc
Most people are distressed by Joan of Arc hearing voices in her head and then having every prediction of those voices come true. I must confess, the most distressing fact to me was that the slight mentions of Earl of Warwick weren't as positive as I would have wished them to be. I know, rather a small point to quibble with. Overall, I thought a woman like her would have benefited from more time and in-depth consideration, but I appreciated the fact that Metaxas portrayed her as a girl who found great strength in an extraordinary time simply through her unswerving commitment to obedience. Strength is not found in bucking trends and breaking molds and believing in ourselves. It's found in obeying God's direction for our lives, and viewing obedience as our only option, even in the face of fear or impossibilities. 

Susanna Wesley
This brave, dedicated mama was my second-favorite of all the women in this book. I could deeply relate to the philosophy of discipline and love with which she raised her children. She took great pains to give them a thinking education, writing her own curriculum when she couldn't find books to suit her. She raised them in the fear of God and prayer. And all of them grew up loving her and walking in her faith. Ironically, it was through the constant abdication and harsh control of their father that the children went through great heartache. But even Samuel Wesley, really pitiful husband that he was, respected his wife and told his children to honor her for her example. I want to be a mother like her someday, though I certainly hope for a much better family situation.

Hannah More
Hannah More was my favorite. While I think of Susanna Wesley in regards to my future, Hannah More very much speaks to my present. She was a single women who used her gift of writing to stir hearts toward social reform, exalt Christ, and encourage many friends through correspondence. She was a productive women who valued the arts and also valued connections with Christians and non-Christians alike who could help her reform society. She worked with Wilberforce and many others for the abolition of the slave trade and enjoyed friendships with men like Samuel Johnson and Horace Walpole in her pursuit of the arts. Her example of forming partnerships with people of a wide variety of beliefs was challenging and helpful. I hope to study her life further and gain some more insights from it.

Saint Maria of Paris
I'll admit, I really wrestled with this one. I didn't fully accept Metaxas' comparison that she was a Bonhoeffer counterpart in the Orthodox church, using that to explain away her unconventional habits of smoking and drinking as a nun. Her life was fraught with relational fracture, divorcing twice, having a child out of wedlock, and losing children to death. God used her greatly to minister to the poor, and not every one of his instruments has to fit into a nice neat mold of respectability. But I still wrestle with the way her sins were handled--the acceptance, almost glossing over, of those very glaring errors. Perhaps his skill as a biographer is presenting the truth without commentary. I can certainly value that. But I need more time and mental pondering to fully appreciate this choice, especially as it seemed similar to Mother Theresa in reaching out to the poor.

Corrie Ten Boom
All in all, this was the one that left me most disappointed. Perhaps because I'm so familiar with Corrie, but it felt like a rushed inclusion of disjointed, over-familiar anecdotes. The miracle with the Bible, the bottle of vitamins--there was very little new or necessary here, and the writing style felt dull and not quite as tight and professional as the others. It's almost as if this one got the last rush before the deadline, or it was so familiar it wasn't given as much care and attention as the others. That may be my own feeling coming away from it, and perhaps on a second read some of those impressions would be done away with. But I did find fascinating one particular sentence where Metaxas said "But the work for which God had spent fifty years preparing Corrie was about to begin." I never considered how long God may use a season of preparation before he sets someone to doing the actual work. That stopped me mid-sentence to consider further.

Rosa Parks
This quiet little woman stood up for civil rights on a bus, sparking a huge movement for the equal treatment of black Americans. Her story inspired me for its challenge of justice and courage.
But the Bible had a social mandate in its message too, one that taught Rosa that “people should stand up for rights, just as the children of Israel stood up to the Pharaoh.” It was not enough to pray and say that one trusted God. Sometimes trusting God meant taking action too.
Eric Metaxas. Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness (Kindle Locations 2613-2616). Thomas Nelson.
She knew it wasn't just enough to preach a message, or to quietly take oppression. She could have stood up and moved to another seat; in the end a bus seat is a small thing. But if she had, thousands of blacks would have been mistreated for years and years longer. Obeying God through that moment of fear when the bus driver asked her to move brought a harvest of good fruit. But it wasn't easy to come by. It took over a year of perseverance, sacrifice, suffering, and standing for right on the part of the black people before any kind of social reform was seen in the courts. Sometimes being a Christian means standing up to oppression, but it always involves suffering for a time.

Mother Teresa
Reaching out to the untouchables. That's something that many of us in the Church are afraid to do. In India, Mother Teresa reached out to the untouchables of leprosy, unwanted children, diseases--saying everyone needed to be loved as they were dying. When she came to the West, she was concerned by the 'untouchables' of a different kind. Here, she observed people shunned and abandoned for their spiritual struggles: drugs, alcohol, abortion. There are still untouchables in Western society today. Her story makes me yearn that the Church would understand and mobilize in reaching out to the people who we so often refuse to offer the truth and love of Christ.

This book is a deeply inspiring look at the role of visionary women in the church throughout the centuries. It is beautiful for its honest portrait of mixed beliefs, different lives, and different callings to live out the Bible. I heartily enjoyed it. Some of the issues I had with research and writing were explained in the acknowledgements, where Metaxas mentions he didn't do all the research or rough-drafting of the book. While that didn't affect the overall quality, there were places I could tell this was the case. For that reason I wouldn't give it a complete five-start rating, but it's definitely a must-have addition to the Metaxas shelf in your personal library.

*I received a free copy of this ebook from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.*

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Announcing The SEA Scribblers 2015 Short Story Contest!

A couple of very dear blogger friends and I have a surprise for you all! :D

Some of you are doing NaNo, but need a little something extra to keep you sane. Some of you writers couldn't join NaNo, because writing didn't work out schedule-wise. Some of you are in Bible Bee, and don't write during the month of November, but you wish you could join the fun.

Well, we'd like to offer a much more manageable writing treat that goes to the end of November and the first bit of December. It's open to everyone who loves stories whether you're doing NaNo or not.

The Challenge 
Choose one or all of the prompt photos on our blogs to incorporate into a short story, along with a winter or Christmas theme. Write a short story of 3,000 words or less, and send it in to seascribblerscontest[AT]gmail[DOT]com by December 12th, following the rules below.

That means you have over a month to get your creative thinking cap on!

The Prizes
1. First place winner will receive a paperback copy of The Art of War for Writers, by James Scott Bell and a digital copy of The Rakshasa's Bride, by Suzannah Rowntree.
2. Second place winner will receive a digital anthology of short stories by Annie, Emily, and Schuyler, as well as a bookmark.
3. Third place winner will receive a $10 giftcard to The Book Depository.

The Rules
1. All entries must be submitted to seascribblerscontest[at]gmail[dot]com by December 12, 2015, midnight EST. Files should be .doc files.
2. Entries should be no more than 3,000 words. There is no minimum word requirement. Entries must use one of the photo prompts provided, and contain a Christmas or winter theme.
3. Email subject line should read "Entry for 2015 SEA Scribblers Short Story Contest" and should not contain your story title.
4. Entries should be in Times New Roman, size 12 font.
5. Entries will be judged for creative use of the photo prompt, style, and grammar.
6. No language or explicit sex, please.
7. Judges for the contest are Annie Hawthorne, Emily Hayse, and Schuyler McConkey.
8. Winners will be notified by email and announced online on Saturday, December 19th.
9. The final entry will be posted on the judges' blogs. All stories remain the property of their owners, but may be used for promotional purposes in connection with the contest.
10. The Art of War for Writers will be shipped to contestants outside the US from The Book Depository. However, the bookmark will only be shipped to US entries, and if a person outside the US wins second place, a digital prize will be substituted.

The Prompt
Here's my photo prompt for you all:

For two more prompts (remember, you can use one or all, but be sure to incorporate a holiday or winter theme) go to The Herosinger and The Curious Wren.

We look forward to your entries, and can't wait to see what exciting things you come up with! :)

I'll be back tomorrow for another book review!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

2015 Blogger Awards Next Round

Hey folks! I'm back with the second round of the 2015 Blogger Awards cover division! You all nominated 40 covers for me to look through, and let me tell you, it was a hard choice narrowing it down to three finalists. Based on the number of nominations, the first two were clear choices:

The third was much harder. But after long consideration, and agonizing over the many excellent entries, I present to you:

Be sure to check out the other finalists at the blogs linked below:
Best Title, hosted by Hannah
Best Short Fiction, hosted by Ghosty
Best Character, hosted by Annie
Best Book, hosted by Sarah
Best Author, hosted by Allison 
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