Tuesday, December 26, 2017


 Much of the year was spent rereading old books, packing and getting rid of stuff – even books, because we downsized and moved. We gave away 189 books. I read 42 books this year and 52 in 2016. I read only 22 new books in 2017. Of the new books the four books below are among the best. The best book is first. In January I will post three reviews of the best books REREAD in 2017.

SEEKING ALLAH, FINDING JESUS: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity
By Nabeel Quresh

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is a brilliant, profound book that will inform and teach all of us many things. It surprised me how carefully children in Muslim families are taught the history and doctrines of their faith on a daily basis. Nabeel Quersh grew up in the United States, a rare Muslim at that time. His family was devout, loving and close. He excelled in school and was a devout and obedient child.

Quersh tells the story of his life from childhood to college and beyond. He was sheltered – not allowed to go to overnights or parties in high school and commuted in college until his senior year. His best friend through high school and college was a strong Christian. Their friendship is beautiful, real and fun and their discussions lead to Quersh thoroughly studying his faith and the Christian faith and digging into the historical proofs of each one. He shares his painful struggles about how hurt and ashamed his family will be if he becomes a Christian. His approach to each faith can inform us all.

The book includes additional information from experts that is helpful. I was spell bound while reading his story and highly recommend this book for all Christians and all seekers.

Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical
By Timothy Keller

Making Sense of God is an excellent exploration and comparison of the beliefs of the secular culture versus faith in God. Timothy Keller invites skeptics to read and follow his logic. Keller has thoroughly researched the in and outs of philosophy, history and religion as it applies to faith and he carefully explains the reasons we can make sense of God. He suggests that we can’t live without meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, hope and justice.

Part One of the book is titled Why Does Anyone Need Religion? Many skeptics believe religion will eventually go away. Keller cites many facts to show the opposite is true; religion is growing. Skeptics also believe religion is based on faith and secularism is based on evidence. Keller shows that both faith and secularism are based on faith as well as evidence.

Part Two, Religion is More than You Think It Is, covers eight meaty chapters. In Chapter Six, The Problem of Self, I particularly liked his comparison of an Anglo-Saxon warrior in Britain in AD 800 who examines his heart and sees two strong inner impulses or feelings. One is aggression which fits his culture so he says “That’s me.” The other impulse he sees in himself is same sex attraction. He suppresses that and says “That’s not me.” Keller compares this to a man today walking around New York who has the same two inward impulses. Sensing an impulse to aggression he says, “This is not me.” Sensing same sex desire he says “That’s me.” Keller shows that identity is not just an expression of inward desires and feelings. We use a set of beliefs and values to sort through and decide what we will incorporate into our identity. “Identity is determined not by our feelings and desires but rather by our beliefs about our varied, contradictory, changing feelings and desires.” Pg127

In Part Three, Christianity Makes Sense, Keller shows that Christianity offers A meaning that suffering cannot remove, a satisfaction not based on circumstances, a freedom that does not hurt but rather enhances love, an identity that does not crush you or exclude others, a moral compass that does not turn you into an oppressor, and a hope that can face anything, even death.” Pg 216 This section includes information on the historical evidence about Jesus, his life, death and resurrection. The qualities of Jesus and his claims are detailed beautifully. The Epilogue offers an illustration that vividly demonstrates how God makes sense. This is an outstanding book.

The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity
By Mark Clark

Through ten amazing chapters Mark Clark explains and explores the questions many people have about God. I have read a number of apologetic books and yet this book covered many aspects of belief and unbelief I had not read about before. Clark came up with new and clear ways to explain and convince doubters that God is real and powerful and Christ is the son of God. The chapter on Evil and Suffering is outstanding. The problem of Hell is another brilliant chapter. He even tackles the apparent Hypocrisy of believers and the Problem of Exclusivity. And he ends with the Problem of Jesus.

The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important That Happens in Between
By Gregory Koukl

The Story of Reality is an amazing book giving clear and profound answers to questions about our life on planet earth. Why are we here? Why is there evil? Koukl says “Christianity is a picture of reality.” Every worldview has four parts: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. He compares worldviews to puzzles and says that all the pieces have to fit together. Also, pieces from a different puzzle can’t be mixed in. They were made for a different picture. When the pieces are fitted together we can see the picture. He tells the story of the Bible through five words: God, Man, Jesus, Cross, Resurrection. His clear reasoning should help unbelievers and believers better understand the story and come to faith in Christ or deepen their faith. This is a very helpful book.

Blessings, Dottie

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


This is the eighth of a series of blog posts with my sister Betty Haynie about what we believe. Our thoughts are intentionally brief on subjects that could fill volumes.

By Betty Haynie 
The Christmas season is a special time of awe and wonder. Tune in to the miracle of life and the love of God. Enjoy Christmas events, specials on TV and inspiring worship. Be amazed by the greatest miracle of all, the incarnation - God as a new born babe. Jesus came as both the gift and the Giver - all wrapped up in one package.    

I’ve been thinking of what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph. Jesus’ coming had been foretold, not by physicians but by angels. If those angels were right - and how could they not be? - Here was a Messiah who had been the subject of poems, songs, dreams and prophecies for years. At least 800 years before Jesus was born a prophet named Isaiah predicted:

“Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Savior? Prince of Peace? Messiah? Perhaps Mary and Joseph stammered when they tried to speak those words. It must have been hard to believe that their baby was going to save the world; that He was the Messiah, God incarnate. Imagine looking at their sleeping infant and realizing that, not only was He their son, which astounds most of us when we see our newborns, but He was also the promised Messiah.

The Hebrew people had no idea their Messiah would come as a baby. They believed that the Messiah would be the ultimate military commander. He would arrive on horseback, with sword held high, crying out for vengeance and redemption in the name of the Lord and his favored nation.

Yet here was a baby - just a helpless, little baby. Joseph and Mary had to admit that He was a baby who seemed like any other newborn child, but if this was just an ordinary infant how could he be the Son of God? 
Scripture tells us that Jesus is the One, like no other ever born, for he was 100% human and 100% God - simultaneously. Nothing about his humanity could take away from his Godliness; nothing about his Godliness could take away from his humanity. Only because of this truth can he reconcile the Father in heaven with his children on earth. He is the Man of both worlds; He came as the bridge by which God comes to earth and people come to heaven.
So what about the certainty of the virgin birth? The Hebrew word for Virgin (alma) is translated from “ha alma” meaning “the virgin” not just any virgin. The Greek, however, three centuries before Christ was born, used the term “parthenos” which means clearly, specifically and scientifically “virgin.” This word is absolutely unambiguous!!

So first, we see that the Virgin Birth is the sign of Jesus divinity. He was not conceived like the rest of us. He came to the earth from outside, pure and clean, for He is in no way a product of this world.
Second, we see that His infancy is the sign of his humanity. He was carried in Mary’s womb and born like we all are. He is one of us. He arrived from heaven with perfection and Godliness, of which no man or woman is capable - yet he takes the full human journey. 

 He was man and He was God. He came as a child to confront and conquer every challenge and every temptation common to humanity. We trust Him with our lives because he is God. We love him with our hearts because we know that once He was a tiny baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, and because He TOOK OUR SINS AWAY.

Blessings, Betty
By Dottie Parish

Christmas is a happy, festive and joyful time. We celebrate Christmas with gifts, fancy meals, family gatherings and we enjoy marvelous, joyful worship. But in the busyness of the season do we miss the holy meaning of Christmas? Do we know what Christmas is really about?

It’s about the greatest miracle of all! The Incarnation of Jesus as a baby. As Betty said, Christ assumed human form in the person of Jesus and is completely God and completely man. The Son of God existed before the world was created. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through Him and apart from him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:1-3)

The divine Son of God existed with God and took on his human body in the womb of Mary. He was not the son of Joseph. He was the Son of God. Mary was a virgin and God impregnated her. Can you imagine this?

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Emmanuel, which means, God with us.“ (Matthew 1:23) In this scripture Matthew is quoting from Isaiah 7:14. Scholars for centuries didn’t know this could be taken literally. As Betty said they were expecting a different kind of Messiah. This is a promise greater than anyone expected. Mary is pregnant with the Son of God!

Angels run all through this holy story. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:31-35)

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:34-35) Have you ever seen an angel?  Can you imagine this happening to a teen-age girl? What an amazing revelation!

When Joseph learned Mary was pregnant he planned to quietly end their relationship. Then an angel appeared to him in a dream and said: “Do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. And you will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21) And Joseph listened and married Mary in spite of what the neighbors must have said.

Another angelic appearance came at the birth of Jesus. An angel appeared to the shepherds and said, “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior – Yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him. You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snuggly in strips of cloth!” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to all whom God favors.” (Luke 2:10-14)

How amazing that must have been for these shepherds to hear the angel’s message and then to see a vast number of angels praising God and announcing the Good News. Can you imagine the awe and wonder of this? Only Almighty God, Our Holy God could do this. Coming as a baby cost Jesus much. He gave up indescribable power and glory to become one of us.

There were witnesses to all these events and they have been studied and written about and pondered over for centuries. The star that guided the wise men from the East also attests to the divine nature of Jesus. He was both divine and human. He lived on earth, grew up and taught his disciples to love God and follow Him. And he died to save us. And he rose again! The Christmas “story” is the most amazing true story told and it is a TRUE story. It is His Story. Don’t miss this. Ask Jesus into your heart this Christmas.

“Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

Blessings, Dottie

Watch for the next Reasons to Believe post on WHY I BELIEVE IN HELL AND HEAVEN in mid January by Betty and Dottie

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Q. My husband and I both lost a parent this past year as well as several aunts and uncles. We’re still grieving these losses and our children and grandchildren are also very upset. We thought we would grieve for a week or two or even for six weeks and then go on with our lives. We are Christians and we know our family members are with God, but our sadness continues. Our whole family is dreading Christmas day. What can we do to get through Christmas this year?

A. Losses are keenly felt at Christmas. When a family suffers a number of losses in one year the pain is further exaggerated. The fact that loved ones are not there cannot be ignored. It's normal to feel sad under these circumstances. Your family cannot have a completely happy Christmas this year, no matter what you do.

Although you can't avoid your sadness there are some things you can do to help all of you make it through the holidays. 

1. Change your traditions. Ask yourself what you want to do to celebrate the holidays this year. Give yourself permission to eliminate old traditions and to create new ones. Tell your adult children what you’ve decided. They may object to doing things differently but stick to what will help you.

2. If your losses are very recent or are still very raw, a trip away can help ease you through the holidays this year. You might celebrate Christmas in a different climate, at a resort or at an out of town family member’s home. A change in location even in town will help you avoid painful memories.

3. Go shopping and do Christmas chores on your good days. Shopping from catalogs and on line is also an option.

4. Don't expect to avoid all your pain. On your bad days allow yourself to feel sad, to cry and to miss those you have lost. The loss of close family members is a major loss and grieving takes time.

5. Don't try to protect others from your sadness. If you allow yourself to feel sad and to express your sadness this will give permission to them to also share their feelings.

6. Talk about the family members you're missing. We don't need to protect other family members by avoiding mention of those who are gone. Rather than detracting from the Holiday spirit, talking about your missing family members can help you become closer to each other as well as helping all of you grieve your losses.
Say things like, "Mom would have loved seeing the way the tree looks this year."  Or, "Remember when Uncle Bob dressed up like Santa and fooled even you, Dad?"  Ask your children what their favorite memories are of their grandmother. This will help them grieve their loss. Sharing happy memories of the one lost can be fun although also sad. 
7. Give gifts or money to a charity in memory of loved ones. Children and grandchildren can help decorate graves at Christmas. A Christmas letter written to each person you’ve lost can also help family members grieve. 
8. Give everyone permission to have a happy Christmas day. Use humor to lighten things. Being happy or forgetting about lost loved ones some of the time won't mean you're being disloyal. 
“Blessed are those who morn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Blessings, Dottie

Thursday, December 7, 2017


Here's a book review of a book you may want to read or give to someone this Christmas.

Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ 
by Timothy Keller

Hidden Christmas was a gift to me last year and I read it in January. I read it again in July and again this month! It is a profound book. In my review after the first reading I wrote, “I received this as a Christmas gift and thought of waiting to read it next December. I’m glad I didn't wait as it inspired me and deepened my faith and knowledge.” 

In Hidden Christmas Keller explores difficult Christmas scriptures that are seldom quoted. Each chapter sheds new light on words spoken to Joseph, to Mary, to the shepherds, and to others. In the final chapter on the Doctrine of Christmas Keller shows us that salvation is by grace alone. And the world celebrates Christmas yet doesn’t really understand it. Below is my favorite quote from the book:

“A God who was only holy would not have come down to us in Jesus Christ. He would have simply demanded that we pull ourselves together, that we be moral and holy enough to merit a relationship with him. A deity that was an all accepting ‘God of love’ would not have needed to come to earth either. This God of the modern imagination would have just over looked sin and evil and embraced us. Neither the God of moralism nor the God of relativism would have bothered with Christmas.

The biblical God, however, is infinitely holy, so our sin could not be shrugged off. It had to be dealt with. He is also infinitely loving. He knows we could never climb up to him, so he has come down to us.” 47

Hidden Christmas is a small but powerful book that I will reread at Christmas in years ahead.

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned...For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end." Isaiah " 9:2, 6-7

Blessings, Dottie

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Q. My wife and I want to know how to create a strong family unit with our two children, ages three and five. We especially want to know how to make our celebration of the holidays a happy and meaningful time. Our families of origin were chaotic and holidays were often unhappy. What do you suggest?

A. Family rituals and family traditions are essential in creating a strong family unit. These provide a structure for family life that means security for children. Dr. Tony Campolo, a sociologist, says that “the higher the level of ritual, the higher the level of emotional stability in families.” 

The opposite is also true. Families with little or no ritual or tradition are destructive to the emotional health of children. These children lead fragmented, insecure lives. They have little direction; their family life has no form or structure. Rituals and traditions provide this. Rituals and traditions are also essential to children in developing and forming their faith.
There are numerous rituals and traditions which most families develop without realizing they’re doing so. Family bed time rituals are common and very important. If you haven’t begun these yet now is the time while your children are young. Each family works out their own rituals. It’s important to put children to bed in their own beds at the same time every night. Bedtime rituals often include a snack, brushing teeth, hugs and “Good night” to every member of the family, reading books and a bed time prayer. The ritual always follows the same format once it’s established.
The bedtime ritual calms children down after a busy day. The predictability is reassuring. Campolo says, “As fragmented as the day may have been, it’s all put back together at night with the ritual.”

Rituals also develop around meal times. Again, it helps a child’s sense of security as well as that of parents if meals are together and at the same times every day. A family prayer before each meal enhances the sense of unity in a family as well as encouraging a child’s faith in God. 

Holiday rituals and traditions are also important and can provide life long happy memories of family togetherness. Christmas rituals include decorating a Christmas tree, baking Christmas cookies, singing Christmas carols, hanging stockings, giving and receiving gifts, and a big turkey dinner with relatives. 
Each family develops their own unique form or “ritual” for carrying out these activities. If one person in the family bakes Christmas cookies alone, this is not a family ritual. A family ritual must include the children. Young children can help baking cookies and can help decorating the tree. Tasks may take longer but remember you’re building family stability.

Other family traditions can involve reading stories to your children about your faith and the meaning of each holiday. This can be done all year but the Christmas story is especially appealing to children. There are many Christmas books available at the library to help with this if your children need to see pictures in order to listen well.  The Christmas story straight from scripture can also be read. See Christmas script for families on this blog. See also Christmas Advent Wreath for families.
It’s traditional for many families to attend church events together at Christmas. This is a good time to become more involved in your church so you and your children will learn and experience the rituals and traditions of your faith together. In a world that seems chaotic the rituals of the church strengthen family life, comfort us and give life meaning. And most importantly, they teach us that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life!

“For unto you is born this day a Savior, Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:11

Blessings, Dottie