September 25, 2016

'Ruth' by Elizabeth Gaskell

This is the first book I've read by Elizabeth Gaskell. You may have heard of her more popular books, 'North and South' and 'Wives and Daughters.' I've loved watching the adaptations of these stories in the movies, but had never gotten around to reading her. That has changed now, and as I really enjoyed 'Ruth,' I can't wait to read more of her novels.

This was not the easiest novel to read, the lengthy passages and conversations were sometimes hard to follow, but it had some wonderful moral truths to share.

Ruth is a young orphaned girl of 15 who lives with a seamstress who employees young girls. Ruth meets and falls in love with an older man, in his mid-twenties, who takes advantage of her innocent nature and ends up eventually leaving her pregnant.

A kindly pastor and his sister take her in and show her the grace of God.

The thing I loved about this novel the most, was that the author didn't downplay the sin of fornication. Ruth had to grapple with her sin and come to repentance. It was a beautiful thing to read, and then more beauty was shown through the grace the pastor and his sister bestow on her.

This is how God does things, He convicts us of our sin through the Holy Spirit, then promises to pour His grace upon us when we humbly come to Him in repentance.

"For the LORD takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the humble with salvation."  Psalm 149:4

"Surely He scorns the scornful,
But gives grace to the humble."  Proverbs 3:34

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matthew 9:13 

I think we have all sinned against God and then hid. But there is no need for that, for He keeps His promises and will forgive and show us His amazing grace. He desires to share His mercy with us, that's why He calls us to repentance.

We also see the growth in Ruth's walk with God. Her love and thankfulness towards Him, as well as her maturity in her faith.

Some will think this novel is old-fashioned, but I found it so refreshing, with its honesty about the sin and consequences of fornication, balanced with the love and grace that God freely gives us.

So Beautiful.

"For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance" Matthew 9:13

Buy it HERE on Amazon

September 18, 2016

A Few Christian Thoughts on a Few Memoirs

This past summer I read quite a few memoirs. I love reading the words of the person themselves sharing their lives. These four are all secular memoirs from people with a somewhat different worldview then me.

None-the-less I enjoyed them all.

The first was Drew Barrymore's memoir 'Wildflower.' (I love this cover, it says so much about Drew!) I listened to this one on audio from our library. It's read by Drew herself and I enjoyed listening to her tell her stories.

One of my favorite Drew Barrymore movies is 'Everafter.' There is just something about the Cinderella story that gets me every time. It reminds me to be kind and courageous, even when the world around me is not. It also makes me think about my Savior and how He has rescued me... Anyway back to the memoir. : )

Drew shares different parts of her life experiences in each chapter and in no particular order. Coming from a very dysfunctional family and living on her own since she was 14, you would think she was a messed up girl, but instead I found a woman who is open to learning, a great mother and maturing as she gets older.

There were a few chapters I could have done without reading, one in particular, she shares a 'spiritual experience,' that I cringed at. I pray she one day meets the One who made her, loves her unconditionally and came to die for her. He's far greater than any 'spiritual experience.'

Warning: This book contains several curse words.

The second was a book called, 'The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son On Life, Love, and Loss' by Anderson Cooper and his mother Gloria Vanderbilt. I listened to this on audio as well, and it was read by the authors. I really enjoyed the conversation style of the book being read by mother and son. 

I felt a real sadness in listening to them speak though. They have both been through some tragedies that have been extremely hard on them. First the death of Anderson's father when he was 10 and then the suicide of his brother when he was in his twenties. 

The reason they wrote this book was to get to know each other better and have nothing unsaid, as Gloria is 92 and nearing the end of her life. (I do have to say she looks amazing!) I found this encouraging and an important message: to take the time to really get to know your loved ones.

I really respected that they could discuss topics they did not agree on and yet still show love and respect for one another. I didn't agree on some of their worldviews either. 

Gloria believes positive thoughts have power to bring on positive things in life, but like Anderson, I don't agree. This way of thinking has not only infiltrated the world, but also the church. I believe bad things happen to all of us because we are sinful creatures in rebellion to a holy God. He came to save us from this, and uses the bad for good to those who love Him. 

God always wants our good, that's what love is. 

There's no positive energy or thoughts that have power. This is an illusion. This doesn't mean we don't try to look positively on things, just that our thoughts don't hold some kind of power over God's good will.

Warning: This book contains a few curse words, and some talk on sexuality.

Thirdly, I read Leah Remini's book, 'Troublemaker.' Leah grew up in the religion of Scientology and I felt burdened for her as she shared her story. So much undoing to be done. I am so proud of her though for standing up, speaking out and leaving, when it was not an easy thing to do.

Leah was 8 when her mother joined the 'church of Scientology.'  It's all she has known for most of her life. The dedication the 'church' requires is outrageous and so consuming. I just wanted to yell...there is freedom from this!!

The true God only requires you to respond to His call of repentance and grace, to be saved.

No working up levels of spirituality.

Just respond to His call to know Him and love Him. God is about relationship, and true salvation is free!

I could go on and on about the foolishness of this cult, the bondage, the robbery of money and soul, but I will get back to Leah...

I loved her heart. She is a brave woman and I am thankful she has the support of her family, who left the cult with her. She still struggles with what she was taught, and I sincerely pray for her that God will bring her complete healing.

Warning: Leah uses the 'F' word often, so be prepared for a lot of cursing if you decide to read this book.

Lastly, I read Dick Van Dyke's memoir, 'My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business.'

I Love Dick Van Dyke on his TV show 'The Dick Van Dyke' show and his part as Bert in 'Mary Poppins.'

He is a joy to watch as an entertainer and I respect that it was important to him to keep his entertainment clean.

He was born in 1925, (another 90+ year old who looks amazing for his age!), to a poor family and shares stories from his youth as well as how he got into show business. I really enjoyed reading these stories.

But I did feel an uneasiness reading some of his book and I will explain why.

Dick Van Dyke was raised in church and at one time he seriously wanted to become a minister. He never did, but was an elder in his church for many years. Then he had a fall out, and left the church. The fall out was in regards to racism and I wholly agree with why he had to leave, but to dismiss God and church all together, really disturbed me. He later went on to have an affair and leave his wife.

His beliefs confused me and sounded more liberal than Christian at times. I finished the book wondering if he had ever really met Jesus.

Overall I felt a sadness after reading this one.

Warning: This book contains a few mild curse words and the Lord's name in vain.

One thing I was reminded of as I read each of these memoirs was that people need Jesus. I know that sounds cliche, but its how I felt. All of these people are sweet, loving and caring, but there was an emptiness and sadness in their words. They need the Savior, the One that can and does love them unconditionally. Please pray for each of them.

September 12, 2016

The Prayers of Jane Austen

This little book was such a sweet surprise!

I downloaded it on my e-reader because it was on sale, and though it is very short, less than 80 pages, I found it lovely and encouraging. After finishing it, I had to order the physical book, and I now have it next to my illustrated version of Pride and Prejudice. : )

The author of this book, Terry Glaspey, writes here of Jane Austen's faith:

"That she was a distinctly gifted writer is widely known. What is not so commonly known is that Jane was also a woman who embraced the Christian faith wholeheartedly. Her faith was the foundation for her deep understanding of human frailty and folly and the power of true love. 

Although many biographers have downplayed the faith aspect of her life, the unprejudiced reader finds it absolutely clear that she was a Christian writer. As the daughter of an Anglican pastor, Jane lived a life surrounded by belief in Christ. Though her novels steer clear of any sort of preaching, a morality rooted in faith is found on every page."

These prayers of Jane Austen are heart-felted and beautifully written. I felt I could pray along side her, as her sentiments were of most Christians, prayers for help in our daily walk with the Lord.

Prayer can often times become, 'I need this, or can You do that' but these prayers were a great reminder of looking at the true nature of ourselves and our need for God's guidance, strength and grace in our lives.

Here's an example:

"Incline us, O God, to think humbly of ourselves,
to be severe only in the examination of our own conduct,
to consider our fellow-creatures with kindness, and to judge of all they say and do with that charity which we would desire from them ourselves."

I also loved all the gorgeous illustrations in this book. Every page had one along side a prayer. Here is a sample of what to expect as you turn the pages of this little gem:

This is definitely a book I will read over and over again. If you get a chance to read it yourself make sure to read the after notes of the author. I'll leave you with this bit from the ending:

"Among the collection of letters and various writings Jane left behind are the prayers presented here. She wrote them to use during evening worship with her family. Couched in a beautiful formality, reminiscent of the Book of Common Prayer, they give ample evidence of a woman whose heart and mind were touched by faith."

Buy it HERE on Amazon

September 5, 2016

What is Absolute Truth?

I recently read a friends Facebook post that asked, 'what do you believe to be an Absolute Truth - no swaying from it, no denying it, it's the same for all people.' Most answered in a joking manner, and it got me to thinking how many people today don't take truth seriously, or at the least, don't know how to answer.

I don't think it was a coincidence that at this time, I was reading a book called, "The Beauty of Intolerance' by Josh McDowell and his son Sean McDowell, that talked about this very thing.

The first few chapters were frustrating and sad to read because they shared how the culture is changing and how moral issues are no longer considered moral issues. It made me think of this verse:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20

But chapter three really stuck out for me and was so encouraging! Because as the authors say here:

"Moral truth isn't simply an abstract concept; it originates in a person who is the original and standard for morality."

They continued with this:

"Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life' (John 14:6). Moral truth ultimately finds its source in a 'who' not merely in a 'what.' In other words, moral claims are true if they correspond to the character of God - who is the objective source for morality. 

God is the source of all moral truth. 'He is the Rock,' Moses said, 'His work is perfect...a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He' (Deut. 32:4). 

It is God's nature and character that actually determines moral truth. 

He defines what is right and wrong, good and evil. But truth is not first and foremost something He decides; it is something He is."

Earlier in the chapter they say this:

"The concept of truth often seems abstract or philosophical to the present generation. But when we understand moral truth from the biblical narrative, it becomes innately concrete and relational."

I love this...the God of the Bible is our strong Rock and our faithful Father. Not a concept or idea.

A lot of this chapter is geared to young people because they are primarily the ones being indoctrinated with a perverted new moral code in our society today.

The authors say here:

"Our young people need to understand that the reason we have this concept that some things are morally right and others are wrong is not because a church propagates it or even that it is written in a book called the Bible. 

The moral authority of the Bible isn't found in its commands and rules. The authority of Scripture is derived directly from and founded in the very character and nature of God and represented in the flesh through Jesus Christ. All moral truth resides in and comes from God."

They then share these examples of reasons for truth:

The reason we think there are such concepts as 'fair' and 'unfair' is because our Maker is a just God and we have been made in His image. (Gen. 1:27)

The reason love is a virtue and hatred a vice is because the God of relationships who formed us is a God of love.

The reason honesty is right and deceit is wrong is because God is true.

The reason fidelity in marriage is honorable and infidelity is not is because God is faithful.

The reason chastity is moral and promiscuity is immoral is because God is pure."

They then continue with this:

"Everything that is moral, right, holy, good, and beautiful comes from the core nature of God. He doesn't choose to do holy and right things as if he is doing an experiment to see what that's like. He does holy and right things because that is who He is - His actions come out of His core nature. (Gen. 18:25)

We need to help our young people realize that God's Son, Jesus, is the embodiment of moral truth and that true freedom comes from embracing and living the truth of God."

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

"When they come to realize this, they will begin to understand that they cannot create their own brand of morality. Unchangeable morality already exists as a universal truth because it comes from a personal God."

They go on in this chapter to explain the history of western thought, through the Renaissance, to the Enlightenment, to the Industrial Revolution. And also touch Modernism and Postmodernism and how these ways of thinking have shaped our culture from belief in Scripture and God being absolute truth, to man becoming central and the worshiping of self.

This is just a short look at this book, through chapter three, and I highly recommend it! It was so interesting and helpful. It reminded me a little of Francis Schaeffer's book, 'How Should We Then Live' which was also very good!

Both these books will help in understanding the Truth and how it's been viewed and distorted throughout history, and yet the Truth hasn't changed. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

I'll leave you again, to ponder the words of Jesus:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.  John 14:6

Buy it HERE on Amazon