Monday, July 9, 2018

Novels for Summer Reading 2

The Book Thief 
By Markus Zusak   

The Book Thief, A New York Times bestseller, is an extraordinary novel about the holocaust from the point of view of Death (or the death angel, I prefer) narrator of the story. At the beginning a young girl, Liesel Meminger, is taken to a foster home outside of Munich. It’s 1939 and persecution of the Jews is ongoing. Zusak writes beautifully, hauntingly, and convincingly bringing the characters and this time in history to life. Each individual is real and unique. The relationship between Liesel and her step father is a true parenting love story. Similarly, Liesel’s friendship and companion in book thievery, Rudy, shows their childlike playfulness in spite of circumstances. The holocaust reality, though disturbing, helps us learn about that time. We must remember it and not let anyone deny it happened. There is humor; there is love and caring, all in the midst of tragedy. This is one of the best novels I’ve ever read.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
 By Rachel Joyce

This a beautiful and poignant story of an ordinary man caught in a life and a marriage of dullness, deadness and pain. Harold and his ever critical wife, Maureen, have been married forty-five years and Harold has recently retired. They barely speak to each other and have shut out the rest of the world. Then Harold receives a note from Queenie, a friend he hasn’t seen in twenty years. He learns she is in a hospice and dying from cancer. This launches Harold on an impromptu walk six hundred miles to see her, believing the promise of his coming will keep her alive.

His journey leads to delightful encounters with people along the way and with the beauties of nature. Harold reflects on his life as he walks and experiences new things. He begins to hope and trust in others and in himself. There are surprising twists and turns in the plot and it is beautifully written with profound wisdom about human nature and the difficulties of life. This is a memorable, touching story.

Blessings, Dottie


Monday, July 2, 2018

Novels for Summer Reading

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett



I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett in the car while on a trip and time flew by. It’s as beautifully written as To Kill a Mocking Bird and is similar in its southern setting and racial and class separation and intolerance. The setting is Jackson, Mississippi in the sixties. It's about black maids in white homes - from their viewpoint. There are many plot twists and turns and it was a NY Times best seller. Excellent book!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette
By Maria Semple

This novel revolves around Bernadette, her husband Elgie, and her fifteen year old daughter Bee. At the beginning the book seemed silly to me and I almost quit reading. I’m glad I didn’t. The story has many unexpected plot twists and turns that surprised and delighted me. I couldn’t put it down. I had to find out what happened next….and at the end. This is a very creative story with no moral purpose – just fun reading.





Life of Pi
By Yann Martel

Life of Pi is a New York Times best seller and a major motion picture. This book differs from every novel I’ve ever read. I decided to read it when I discovered that the pastor at my son’s church planned to do a message on it. Also, early in the book the claim is made that this story will make you believe in God. The story centers on a boy by the name of Piscine Molitor Patel – Pi for short - and is told from his viewpoint. His father owns a zoo to the delight of Pi and his brother, Ravi. The information and insight into zoo animals is stunning.

Due to political changes in India, Pi’s father sells the zoo and the family embarks on a cargo ship to Canada and a new life. The ship sinks and the only survivors are Pi and a few of their animals - together in a life boat drifting on the Pacific Ocean for about 190 pages! The story is riveting, clever, humorous, detailed, and intense.

There are spiritual themes - it could be thought of as a parable of life. Pi explains convincingly that animals in the wild are not happy because they’re free. (Are we?) Life is an adventure and brings both crisis and delight in unexpected ways. We’re adrift and hoping to be rescued. Whether redemptive or not Life of Pi is a great story. I will not see the movie as it would get my adrenalin going way too much.

Blessings, Dottie




Monday, June 25, 2018

Christian Novels for Summer Reading 3 - Murder Mysteries!

Here are three murder mysteries by Randy Alcorn. I’m a fan of his writing. The books are a series and should be read in the order listed.

Deadline

by Randy Alcorn

Deadline is a well written, intriguing 424 page Christian mystery revolving around three friends and a car accident. The book is full of detailed and engrossing conversations on the issues of our day especially political correctness and moral relativism. In addition it offers many intriguing insights into the newspaper business and police and detective affairs. As always, Randy Alcorn also gives us a view of heaven that is inspiring and even thrilling. I don’t usually read novels or mysteries but on this one I took notes of things I want to remember. It is well worth reading!

Dominion

by Randy Alcorn

Dominion is a well written, fast paced murder mystery revolving around a black newspaper columnist and a white detective. The book is full of detailed and engrossing thoughts and feelings blacks experience on a daily basis and gives information and perspective about the history of slavery and racism in the United States. The intense emotions of an angry black man are exposed throughout. In addition there are many intriguing insights into police, detectives, teenage gangs, and the roadblocks to solving crimes. As always, Randy Alcorn includes a thrilling view of heaven. I don’t usually read novels or mysteries but on this one I took notes. Dominion is a valuable book!

Deception

by Randy Alcorn

This is the third book in a series of murder mysteries by Randy Alcorn. The first two – Deadline and Dominion – were better than this one. At least I didn’t enjoy this one as much. Nevertheless, Alcorn has a very clever plot. Ollie Chandler, detective appears in all three books but is the main character in this one. A college philosophy professor is murdered and Chandler and his partner are the investigators. As the plot unfolds it looks as though one of his fellow detectives is the murderer. In addition Ollie is uncertain about his own whereabouts at the time of the murder. The book is written with some humor especially around Ollie’s love of food and his dog Mooch. Jake Woods and Clarence Abernathy join him throughout this tense and suspense filled journey. As always, Alcorn has some scenes of heaven, with those who have passed away watching the drama on earth and praying for their loved ones still on this earth. These scenes of heaven aren’t as lengthy as in the prior books and so intrude less on the story. However, the Christian message may be lost in the dark story of a number of murders and the capture of the murderer.

Blessings, Dottie





Monday, June 18, 2018

Christian Novels for Summer Reading 2


Christian Novels for Summer Reading 2  

The Book of Hours
By T. Davis Bunn

The Book of Hours is an interesting Christian novel both historical and a mystery. Set in a small town in England, the story revolves around Brian Blackstone, a young man who has inherited Castle Keep from his deceased wife. The estate is about to be foreclosed and sold to entrepreneurs who plan to demolish it. Brian and his new friends in the village discover a sequence of letters from his wife’s deceased Aunt. The letters, each with a puzzle to solve, reveal many secrets hidden at the estate. Through twists and turns of this they struggle to hang onto Castle Keep. A renewal of faith and recovery from grief by Brian is well described and inspiring and affects the entire village.


Lord Foulgrin’s Letters: How to Strike Back at the Tyrant by Deceiving and destroying His Human Vermin 
By Randy Alcorn

Lord Foulgrin, as a senior devil, writes letters to a student devil instructing him how to deceive and tempt humans and thus entice them into sin and away from God. This excellent book is as good as The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Alcorn has added alternate chapters about Fletcher and his family, who the student devil is assigned to, bringing the issues to real life.

Throughout the letters God is referred to as the Tyrant or the Enemy – the way a demon would think of him. This fact is a bit unnerving when reading the book. The advice given the student devil is ingenious, teaching him to be subtle and to know his subject. The book touches on many of the issues of our day including moral relativism, diversity, honestt, money and possessions, anger and more. We are told by Scripture that Satan prowls around like a lion seeking who he can devour. We are also told that our battle is against the principalities and powers in the heavenly realms. This book confronts us with our own sin temptations and adaptations to the world that keep us from our God-given purposes. There’s much to ponder in this excellent book.


The Ishbane Conspiracy
By Angela, Karina & Randy Alcorn

This novel is similar to Lord Foulgrins Letters (above) and the Screwtape Letters of C.S. Lewis in which we hear demons reflect on how to defeat or lead astray the main characters. Randy Alcorn and his two daughters present a fascinating work of fiction with great truth in it. The story focuses on four youthful characters and their families. We learn the trials and temptations that beset each of them. Some are dabbling in Ouija boards and the occult, others are depressed and thinking of suicide, all are unaware of each other’s problems and needs. Letters between two demons reveal the strategies they use to keep us from the Enemy (God). This is an excellent book for both young and old.


Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard Von Bingen
By Mary Sharratt

Illuminations portrays the life of Hildegard Von Bingen, a woman of note who grew up in the Middle Ages. The youngest of ten children, Hildegard’s mother gave her to the church as the family “tithe” at the age of eight. Her father and older brothers were fighting in the Crusades and she reported having visions which greatly distressed her mother. In the monastery she was sequestered in one room with a disturbed young nun. This powerless, imprisoned child nevertheless grew up to be a powerful leader, a writer of visions and a champion of her sisters. The story is beautifully written and riveting with many twists and turns. It sheds light on life in the Middle Ages as well as the life of young women dedicated to the Church. This is a very good read.

Blessings, Dottie




Monday, June 11, 2018

A CARING FATHER


 Q.  My father worked long hours to support the family. As a result he was never able to spend much time with his children. I’ve repeated his pattern - I focus most of my energies on my work. I thought my wife and children understood I was working for them. 

Recently my eight year old son talked back to me. This surprised and upset me. When we both calmed down he told me he dislikes my being away so much and he doesn’t believe I really care about him. I'm afraid the two younger kids may feel the same way. I have to work. What can I do to convince my kids I care?

A. Men are often torn between their work and their families. They are taught to assume the major responsibility for supporting their family financially and they are often not taught the importance of their role as a parent.

It’s good that you’re now aware that your children need to spend time with you and need to know you love them. You have learned this soon enough to do something about it. One of the great regrets men often have in their fifties is that they never got to know their children.

At a men’s conference, Patrick Morley, author of The Man in the Mirror, asked the men present whose pictures they carry in their wallets. The men proudly showed pictures of their children and their wife. He then noted that none of them carried a picture of their employer. Similarly, Lee Iacocca has said that no one on their death bed ever wishes they had spent more time at work. Morley suggests that men make a list of the top five ways they use their time. Then make a list of your most important relationships. Then compare them. He wonders if the ways we spend our time are related to the most important people in our life.

We all no doubt spend the largest block of time with our work and with our family. And this is as it should be. However, which is our first priority? We often make our work number one, even taking work home with us. We compartmentalize our families when we should compartmentalize our work. Think of ways you can reverse this. 
    
Patrick Morley says that a child’s greatest need is to have their father’s encouragement. Here are some things you that will encourage your children and help you connect with them. 
    
1. Spend time with them. Time means love to a child. Listen to them, play with them, have fun with them, take them places. 
    
2. Encourage them with words of love and appreciation often. Say “I love you.” Say, “I’m proud of you,” and be specific about what you are proud of. Give much more praise and affirmation than criticism or correction.
    
3.  Be affectionate. Give hugs, kisses, pats on the back. Hold them on your lap. Read to them as they sit close to you. 
    
4. Set loving limits but don’t set too many rules. Don’t pressure them with expectations they can’t meet. Don’t pressure them to perform. Too much structure discourages children. Give grace. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Remember they’re still learning. See things from the child’s point of view.
    
5. Pray with them and pray for them. A bed time ritual of saying prayers together can bond you together.
    
This Father’s day, as we honor our Dads let’s give them time, attention, affirmations and affection. Dads in our society often think they’re only valued as the economic support of the family. Let’s let them know how loved and important they are to us.

“May the Lord bless you more and more, both you and your children.” Psalm 115.14

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, June 4, 2018

Christian Novels for Summer Reading


Safely Home by Randy Alcorn

Safely Home is a profound and brilliant novel about the plight of Christians in the house churches in China. The story revolves around an American executive and his Chinese college roommate – twenty years after they have graduated from Harvard. Woven throughout are delightful Chinese proverbs, intense meaningful conversations between the two roommates, the truth of the Bible, and many trials and adventures. The book gives insights into various Chinese eras and subjects including Buddhism, the Dali Lama, Mao, the Boxer rebellion, and Tiananmen Square. The corruption of people in power and the blind collusion of big business are vividly shown. Safely Home beautifully depicts the humble acceptance of suffering for Christ. The ending gives a thrilling view of the doorway to heaven.


Seven Days in Utopia: Golf’s Sacred Journey
By David L. Cook, PhD

Seven Days in Utopia is a profound book that can enhance your golf game and also your life. A friend loaned the book to my husband who read and enjoyed it. The title and plot intrigued me. So I opened the book and read it all - though I am not a golfer, nor have ever played golf! There is great wisdom in this book. The story is about a professional golfer devastated by his disastrous play at a recent tournament. He meets an unusual rancher and owner of a small driving range and golf course in Utopia, Texas who offers to help him find his game if he will spend seven days there. This is a book to read and put into practice. An online study guide is available for individuals or groups. Golf groups take note.


Seeker of Hearts
By Stephen P. Smith

Seeker of Hearts by Steven P. Smith is a recounting of the life of Jesus in a modern day setting. And I do mean modern day. Think Jesus and the disciples wearing blue jeans, driving vans and using cell phones. The setting is an America-like land, currently occupied by foreign troops. Much of the dialog is straight from the NIV Bible following the gospel accounts accurately. This gives readers a fresh way of thinking about Jesus and his mission.

Seeker of Hearts is written in every day language and the scenes flow smoothly from one location or view point to another. Smith very adeptly describes, for example, the healing of the man born blind and the hullabaloo following it. He is inventive in scenes such as the raising of Lazarus from the dead - in a modern cemetery. Smith also fills in behind the scenes stories we've always wondered about, for example, dialog between Caiaphas, the chairman of City Council, and Judd (Judas).

The events from the Last Supper on are riveting. I couldn't put Seeker of Hearts down. It reminded me of Riven by Jerry Jenkins! I won't tell more or I'll spoil the surprises. This is a must read for Christians and seekers will also learn from it. The book can also be read aloud to children, with discussion to help them understand. Teen-agers also will find this book inspiring, even life-changing.


Blessings, Dottie



Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Psalm 119 Meditations and Prayers Relating to the Law of God

This is the fourteenth section of Psalm 119 – the longest chapter and the longest Psalm in the Bible. There are 8 different terms referring to Scripture used through out. These are: law, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgments, word and ordinances.

Nun. 

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.

Father, Your Word sheds bright light in my life,
And a light leading me on the path of your will for me.

106 I have sworn and I will confirm it,
That I will keep Your righteous ordinances.

I have surrendered all to you and confirm it here,
This means I will be true to your law and Word.

107 I am exceedingly afflicted;
Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.

Father, I am some times very upset;
When I turn to you, you revive me as your word promises.

108 O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord,
And teach me Your ordinances.

Father, Accept the praises and thanks offered to you,
Continue to teach me your Holy Word.

109 My life is continually in my hand,
Yet I do not forget Your law.

My life is controlled by my hand,
Yet I don’t forget you and your precious way.

110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts.

Father, the wicked world lays many snares for me,
Yet I stand strong in following your precepts.

111 I have inherited Your testimonies forever,
For they are the joy of my heart.

Father as a child of the king I have inherited your testimonies forever,
And they are they joy of my heart.

112 I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes
Forever, even to the end.

Father I bend my heart to do your will,
Forever and even to the end.

Blessings, Dottie