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Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Reformation Day!

Happy 497th Anniversary of the day that Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, sparking the start of the Protestant Reformation!


You can learn more about Reformation Day here, here and/or here.

Out of love and concern for truth, here is the complete list of Martin Luther's 95 Theses.

"Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others."

Here are some previous posts of mine pointing out resources for you to use with your children to learn more about Martin Luther and the Reformation:




If the name Martin Luther isn't familiar to you, I imagine that this famous song (written by him) is (sung by one of my favorite singers.):




May we not forget where we came from so that we won't forget where we're going.





Thursday, October 30, 2014

How I Know God Answers Prayer :: RtK Book Club CONCLUSION

Time to wrap up this past month's book club selection, How I Know, God Answers Prayer, the Personal Testimony, of One Life-Time.


Please leave links to your own blog posts sharing your thoughts and opinions on this read.

Here are my thoughts.

Here are Barbara's thoughts. Barbara also shared an additional testimony of Rosalind Goforth that is interesting to read.

Now we're curious to hear your thoughts! Please share in the comment section below.

Reading to Know - Book Club

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Christine's Christmas Countdown (Giveaway)

Did you avert your eyes because this is a Christmas title popping up in October?

I always struggle over whether to feature Christmas items before December actually hits. I mean, yes, I am already listening to Christmas music (and enjoying it, thank you very much!) but there are some people who legitimately think we are rushing the season a bit. If you are one of those, I'm hoping you'll forgive me since a giveaway is included.

Confession: I do have several Christmas titles for review which must be featured before December 1st so be aware that those are coming. This particular title - Christine's Christmas Countdown - is a title that ought to be featured well in advance of the holidays. Why? Because, as the subtitle suggests, this little booklet is "the ultimate Christmas planning guide for busy mums." (Did you catch that? The title uses the word "mum" which also made me think of England which is one of the reasons why I accepted this for review. Because, yes, I am just about that pathetic. Why does everything sound so much more thrilling if it comes from England? Hmm? Why is that?)

I've poked through a few "planning guides" for the holiday seasons but I have to say that Christine's Christmas Countdown takes the cake. This booklet is just a little thicker than a pamphlet and is filled with "fill-in-the-blank" style pages so that you can keep track of what you need to do/where you need to go/what you need to organize and when. It is quite thorough. If you like making lists to stay organized, this book will definitely prove most handy for you as it mentions just about every single aspect of the holidays that you could possibly be thinking to plan for. I should note that I am not a list-maker but that my husband is and I'm working on becoming one for a more organized life. (In other words, with four children I'm finding it harder to "just wing it!")

Christine opens her book with a title page containing one word: September. It is, according to Christine, the month in which you should start organizing your thoughts for a happy, fun Christmas. (Personally, I appreciated the validation.)

In the second or third week she suggests you start making lists to prepare for the upcoming festivities thinking about four specific things:


  1. Any renovations, decorations, repairs, or alterations required in your home? Start thinking about this and contact the necessary workmen to make sure you don't have house projects making a gigantic mess of things. (I always think about house projects in the fall and spring. I don't know why but I think this is a good suggestion for her to make to me.)
  2. Are you going to grow your own hyacinth bulbs? Do this now. (I will never do this.)
  3. Do you want to lose weight for Christmas? Start now. (I always want to do this.)
  4. Are you worried about your facial expression (from weight-loss or something)? Start working on facial exercises now. (Truth to be told, I think this is a hilarious thing to point out and I got a good chuckle from it. But as I told you, Christine has thought of everything!!!)


Time marches on as we all know, and all too soon October is here and gone. The planning guide urges you to keep working on weight loss and tending to hyacintch bulbs while also beginning to make gift lists. Other things to think about: outfits for the holiday season (do you have the clothes and accessories on hand that you want to wear to holiday events?) and make hair appointments. (I thought the hair appointment idea was a good one because I always forget to do this until the day I want to get my hair cut. Due to her suggestion, I called and made an appointment for the first part of December.)

Other tips and suggestions scattered throughout this book include things like:


  1. Clean out your pantry, throwing away items which have expired. This allows you to make room for Christmas goodies. (Also it gives you a clean pantry. I don't know about you but I LOVE an organized and clean pantry!)
  2. Tend to the yard in the front of your house so that it looks attractive and well-kept during the Christmas season.
  3. Create a space to hide Christmas presents (and remember where that space is).


Truly, there are only a few pages of tips but they are things that are useful to be reminded of (in my humble estimation). Then, we mentioned, there are pages for you to fill in. She gives you space to keep track of the events you are planning to attend (school/church/business, etc.) with space to write out which outfit you are planning to wear so you can have things clean and pressed in time for the event. There are pages for you to write down appointments (doctor/hair, etc) for yourself and your children. She also includes pages for grocery lists and, of course, presents to buy.

In the section for November she reminds you of specialty items you might wish to buy (i.e., balloons, wrapping paper, etc.) as well as a very handy reminder to schedule babysitters for any adult only events during the Christmas holidays. (I scheduled a babysitter for one event already and also bought scotch tape. GO ME!) This is, again, followed with pages for you to fill in reminding you who you need to send cards and letters to, items that still need to be purchased, etc.

As I mentioned above, I've seen holiday planning books before but this is the most thorough I've come across. I like that it's short and simple. There is not much to read (but what there is is handy to think about) and a lot of space to write in so as to help you keep track of things that are completed and those that still need your attention. Furthermore, Christine's Christmas Countdown is available at a reasonable price making it even more appealing.

I have happy news and that is that Mrs. Christine Harrington has offered to give away one copy of her book to one of you! If you would like to win this handy guide to help you enter into the holiday season perhaps a bit more organized and less frazzled, simply leave a comment below. This contest is open to U.S. Residents and will be open through Monday, November 3rd. (Hopefully we can get this title to you quickly so that you can make good use of it this season!)

Here is my early wish that you have a fun and well-organized holiday season which you enjoy thoroughly!

Many thanks to Mrs. Harrington who sent a copy my direction in order to facilitate this review. I received no additional compensation and my opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Quest, by Aaron Becker

The kids love it when books come in the mail for them. They are quite used to the idea of books randomly arriving on our doorstep, but there's a special excitement when I tell them that they can open the package to see what is inside.

We've received a few children's picture books in the mail recently which the kids have been enjoying. Here are a couple of them:


Quest, by Aaron Becker is a notable book this year. I keep seeing it on store bookshelves and was curious. I was delighted when we were given an opportunity by Candlewick Press to look through it.

We don't normally go the wordless picture book route so I wasn't entirely sure what the kids would think. I handed it to them one at a time and asked them each what they thought. Each child flipped through the book, and one or two of them confused because there weren't any words! The pictures are interesting through as they show a young boy and girl taking cover under a bridge in the rain. They are surprised when an older fella (magician? wizard?) enters the scene and appears to be sending them on a quest. Of course, you can make up your own story as you turn the pages. Purple and red are the color themes running throughout this book, which both stand out amidst the darker backdrops of oceans, mountains, and castles.

Really, I'm not sure what to make of this book because I'm not much of a pictures-without-words sort of reader. But, as I say, each of the kids sat down with it and said that they liked it. Bookworm2 (age 5) was the only one who worked his way slowly through the pages. After each child had a chance to look at it, I put it up on a shelf (where I'd be sure to see it and remember to review it) but I found it spread open on the floor once. That's a good sign. Someone else was also curious.

Thanks again to Candlewick Press who sent a copy of the above title my direction in order to facilitate this review. I received no additional compensation for this post and all opinions are my own.

In keeping with the quest/adventure theme we also had the chance to read Can I Come Too?, by Brian Patten. This book is adorable and I loved it.


Within these pages we are told the story of a very small mouse who wants to go on an adventure to find the world's largest creature. She sets off to discover what the largest creature is and along the way she makes friends who also want to join her on her explorations. By the end of the story, all of the animals have found the world's largest creature and they all agree that it was the good company of their fellow (smaller) creatures which made the journey worthwhile.

The part of this story which I particularly love is the end wherein the mouse curls up to go to sleep and thinks to herself, "I might be tiny, but I've had a very big adventure." Our family likes to go on adventures and we would love to take our kids on any number of them as they grow up. We get mixed reactions when we talk about traveling with our young children. I understand the people who hesitate and wonder whether or not it's a good idea to take kids to different places. It is true that our kids might not remember specific details of trips but, as one friend of mine put it, they will understand that they went on an adventure with their family and every trip builds and solidifies our own family's culture and I do think that is important. Remembering the details are just the bonus points. Even small kids love big adventures and that is an idea which is encouraged and promoted in Can I Come Too?.

(It also should be noted that the illustrations by Nicola Bayley are adorably cute.)

I can only highly recommend this title.

Many thanks to Peachtree Publishers for sending this title in order to facilitate this review. I received no additional compensation for this post and, as always, all opinions are 100% my own.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Snippets

Just a few shorter thoughts (hurrah!) on a couple of titles which I started but found myself unable to finish.

I included The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century, by Ian Mortimer on my fall reading plan (as well as multiple nightstand posts). It was with some degree of excitement that I finally picked it up and started read. Unfortunately I found myself, well, bored out of my mind. Firstly, I found Mortimer's writing style dull and bland, being more punctuated by facts and figures (not necessarily a bad thing!) than a descriptive trek through the middle ages. Furthermore, whenever Mortimer did feel inclined to be wordy and descriptive, he couldn't seem to do so without sticking his oar in and telling you of his own personal opinions about the habits and practices of days gone by. Mortimer himself seems to make no attempt whatsoever to remain objective which is distracting to the reader at best, and annoying at worst. (In my case, I found it annoying.)

Now, I at least like to think that I'm smart enough a reader to figure out that times and customs have changed since the middle ages so I find it rather insulting that Mortimer thinks that he needs to educate my entire view point of the period. I would rather have him just left this book to general statements of facts (with the figures) than to opine on the way women were viewed in that society or the belief systems present in that age. Most of the time that I was holding this book I felt compelled to either a.) fall asleep and/or b.) pitch it across the room. Reading this was becoming more of a losing battle the further along I got.

I felt guilty not completing this read because I bought it at Barnes & Noble on a date night. But I just couldn't do it. I've set this one aside.

*****

A few books have come my way recently for review purposes that I've thought held some potential. Amore: An American Father's Roman Holiday was one such book. It is written by Roger Friedland who is a Professor of Religious Studies and Sociology at the University of California in Santa Barbara and at New York University. He studies sex, love and God. Whether or not He had a good grasp on any of those subjects was a question mark in my mind but the premise caught my attention.

In this book, Friendland sets out to take note of the erosion in the sexual culture of America (i.e., we offer it early, often, without rules or taste and separate it from any notions of commitment). Through his own studies on the topic of sex and love in this country, he decided that he would like to take his daughters to Rome to live during their middle school years in order to give them exposure to a culture which he feels to be more honest and vitally alive than that which his girls have had plenty of opportunity to witness in America.

I was three chapters into this read and very interested as Friedland made his arguments for how politics and sex have combined to our misfortune. He made the connection that the Muslim jihadists don't hate American politics but American sex which resulted in the attacks on 9/11. Friedman himself is disturbed by how callously we ourselves treat the idea of sex, which ought to be a sacred (and private) act of love between two people who have committed their lives together. (Ok, ok, I went further than he in saying that it belongs to two people who have committed to share the rest of their lives together. He would leave it at "love one another.") Basically the argument that he lays out in this book is that Rome's citizens love beauty in all things and do not separate love and sex and we should take some notes on their culture and learn to do the same.

After chapter three, Friedland took a turn away from comparing the two cultures (fascinating) to describing his own sex life and the sex lives of his college students (not fascinating, but somewhat horrifying). I can't unread those descriptions and I don't feel that they were significant points necessary to make his argument appear valid. The book does profess to be part memoir and by that, I guess, it means that he was interested in documenting the way he approached sex for himself with all of the nitty, gritty details included. The result, in my opinion, is tasteless. I read on for two additional chapters, hoping to get to the part where his daughters appear on the scene in Rome and begin noticing the differences between American teenagers and Roman ones but it would seem that all's the same in this modern age, pretty much. (If it's different, I didn't make it far enough into the book to figure out how.) More details about the sex lives of teenagers emerged and, with that, I was pretty much done.

If he had kept to discussing the differences in American and Italian cultures and made his (very interesting and noteworthy) political and religious arguments, then I would have likely read to the end. But I feel the book went from practical and thoughtful to bewilderingly tasteless. I didn't want to ingest any more.

After I read the book I looked up Amazon reviewers' thoughts. One reviewer wrote that "by the end of the book, I had extremely negative feelings about Rome, Santa Barbara, teenagers, college kids, Roger Friedland and his family." Unfortunately I was left with pretty much the same taste in my mouth. So, hastily, I've moved on to other books.

I accepted a copy of Amore: An American Father's Roman Holiday from Harper Perennial for the purposes of facilitating this review. I received no additional compensation for this post and all opinions are my own.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pumpkin Cornbread Recipe (w/ recipe book giveaway!)


Remember this cookbook which I reviewed last week? I've been using it almost exclusively just these past few days and have made some headway on trying out the recipes. We have enjoyed everything we've tried so far which includes:


  • Harvest Pumpkin Soup
  • Pumpkin Cornbread
  • Spaghetti with Peppers, Onions & (Italian-style) Sausage (pumpkin & tomato based sauce)
  • Pumpkin Walnut Biscuits
  • Roasting our own pumpkin. (I had help with this. I watched and learned this time 'round. I'm less intimidated now than I was before.)


We had some out-of-town company this past weekend and I had made up the pumpkin spaghetti sauce ahead of time for trying out with them. Everyone to a person loved it! And the pumpkin cornbread really is amazing.

And that brings me to the point of this post. One of you asked for the recipe and so I checked with the publisher (Storey) who gave me permission to post it. (This stuff was so good that we ate the entire pan in one sitting. It could pass for yummy cake almost!) Without further ado, here are the instructions as provided in the book:

*****

PUMPKIN CORNBREAD

Ingredients:
 1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup ground cornmeal
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup nonfat milk
3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon honey mixed with 1 tablespoon melted butter (optional, to brush on baked loaf)

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5" loaf pan with oil.
2. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, until thoroughly mixed.
3. Whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, butter, and milk in a smaller bowl. Quickly mix this into the flour mixture until just combined. Gently stir in the walnuts.
4. Pour the batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and slightly separated from the edge of the pan, and a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and brush with the glaze, if using. Cool completely before slicing with a serrated knife.

*****

Notes: I usually use stevia instead of sugar and decrease the amount of sweetener, despite the fact that that is an insult to my Texas roots. I did not do so this time though, which is why it could pass for cake!

Also, I think cornbread served as a loaf of bread it somewhat odd so I put it into a 9 x 12 Pyrex dish and cooked it for roughly 35 minutes instead.

Now, besides giving away a recipe to everyone, Storey has also offered to give away one copy of Pumpkin, A Super Food to one of you! Simply leave a comment (including a valid e-mail address) to be entered into the drawing. This contest is open to U.S. Residents only and will be open through Friday, October 31st.

Enjoy!

Again, many thanks to Storey who sent me a copy of the recipe book in order to facilitate a review. I received no further compensation for these posts and all opinions are my own (i.e., I really do like the recipes!). 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How I Know God Answers Prayer, by Rosalind Goforth

This month's book club reading for the Reading to Know Classics Book Club is How I Know, God Answers Prayer. Author and missionary Rosalind Goforth introduces the book with the following statement:


"The pages of this little book deal almost wholly with just one phase of prayer - petition. The record is almost entirely a personal testimony of what petition to my Heavenly Father has meant in meeting the every day crises of my life."

I think that the fact that this book is a personal testimony and not scriptural instruction on prayer is an important clarification to make right from the get-go. If you are expecting a book that teaches more about what the Bible says concerning prayer then you will most definitely want to look elsewhere. If you like hearing personal testimonies, then this might just be the book for you.

I do have to say that my church background made this something of a difficult book to read and enjoy, personally speaking. As her personal experiences influences her thoughts and words, so mine also have a marked effect on me. This is not something that anyone can avoid but, rather, expected.  I appreciate that Goforth wants to share her stories but at the same time I can't wholly appreciate the manner in which she communicates her story. I'll try to explain why below.

First I should tell you that I struggle with missionary stories. Why is that, you ask? Aren't missionary stories beneficial to hear? Yes, I think so. However, I've seldom been exposed to missionary stories without an attempt being made to guilt me into becoming a missionary myself. Yes, yes, I am familiar with the verse which says we are to go out into all of the world and make disciples of all nations. I fully concur (because it would be stupid of me not to) but I don't think that missionary work can only take place 10,000 miles from your original home. Nor do I think that this issue of sharing one's faith needs to be such a cerebral argument. If you live your life fully alive to Christ right where you are, people will notice. It is inevitable. (Unfortunately, this is inevitable.) You are constantly living out a testimony before your household and your immediate neighborhood.

When people sit down with me (personally or as with an audience) and start trying to argue me into "going forth into all the world" I usually want to stand up and scream. (Just offering proof of my incredibly inspiring attitude, folks.) Living for Christ isn't rocket science. Thank goodness. What it is is obedience. For some most of us obedience means walking with Christ as you serve your own family a meal. It means that when you borrow a neighbor's tool and accidentally break it, you go above and beyond in offering to pay and replace it (no grumbling involved!). It's in taking a meal to the shut-in or spending an hour with a needy friend who longs for an ear to listen to their struggles. You are always witnessing to someone. (And if that doesn't already fill you with terror then I'm not sure what will.)

This all to say, I don't seek out missionary stories as a general rule because I know I am not called to go overseas for Christ. Now that I have you all wondering whether or not Goforth makes any such pleas, let me say that she did not. I just have to take the time to tell you that I have a hard time with missionary stories before I embark on telling you my opinions on this one, specifically. (I do have nice things to say about this book, by the way, but you might have to wait a second for them.)

I do have one additional issue with missionary stories and that is that sometimes missionary stories are so fantastical that they depress ye olde average Christian. Amazing things seem to happen to missionaries that never seem to happen to me. Now, this is not a problem. I do not mind this or begrudge them their experiences. However, I tense up when a see/hear of a Christian reading a missionary story and taking it upon themselves to revolutionize their own prayer life and "common existence" in order to prove that they are also the Lord's and are doing the Lord's work. In a way, I almost urge caution in reading missionary stories. You may or may not be called to a foreign mission field but if you aren't, you shouldn't feel bad about this. Live fully for the Lord right where you are. That might just be God's good plan for you.

The stories which Goforth relates to testify to the fact that God answers prayers are sometimes fantastical and oftentimes general notes of met needs. Obviously, God can do as he likes and if He wants to answer certain prayers in jaw dropping fashion He is welcome to do so and you won't find me trying to stop him. Yet at the same time, I'm still cautious about spending too much time focused on fantastical experiences. Why? Please let me explain.

To give you a little background on my own personal experiences and how they effect my reading of this book you should know that for first several years of our marriage we attended a charismatic church. We made many friends there and we liked the people very much but we did find the theology very watered down to the point where it was almost useless. (Flashing Red Note: I'm not saying that all charismatic churches are filled with watered down theology because I don't believe that to be the case. I can only tell you that it was true for the church we attended. Also I can't really apologize for saying so because all evidence which has come forth from said church testifies to weak theology.) This was a church full of people who were frequently swayed by the energetic winds of others. If someone came in and said, "I have raised the dead to life" (which, by the way, this happened) others in the church thought that they were capable of doing the same thing, to the pain and angst of others. And this could be a really long tangent so let's try to move along and allow me to simply say, I hesitate to read fantastical tales because I have seen the influence such stories have on other people who hope that they will experience fantastical things too. (After all, it's admittedly much more exciting to raise a dead person to life than to clean your bathroom in order to bless your dinner guests.)

Anyway, the point of all of the above is to say: I was on edge from the get-go with this book, wondering what sort of evidence Goforth was going to present to suggest a good prayer life. I was quickly met with reason for concern when I read the following passage. Goforth was talking about how she had a toothache that she didn't much like and so she thought to make a bargain with the Lord. She writes:

"Lord Jesus, if you will take away this toothache right now, now, I will be your little girl for three years."
Before the prayer was well uttered the pain was entirely gone. I believed that Jesus had taken it away; and the result was that for years, when tempted to be naughty, I was afraid to do what I knew was wrong lest, if I broke my side of what I felt to be a compact, the toothache would return. This little incident had a real influence over my early life, gave me a constant sense of the reality of a divine presence, and so helped to prepare me for the public confession of Christ as my Saviour a few years later, at the age of eleven."
Now, I am not discounting the fact that the Lord took away her toothache at all. But I would quickly point out to believers that God sometimes chooses to heal us and sometimes doesn't. Either which way, He doesn't require that we make deals with Him to bring healing about the thing we want, and we ought not to try and bargain. Jesus completed the bargaining process when He died on the cross in order to forgive us all of our sins and conquer sin and its effects - once and for all. There is no need to wheel and deal with God. I'm afraid that people reading this part of Goforth's testimony will think that bartering life experiences with God is a good and holy thing to do. She has the wrong idea here about who God is and who she is which I find regrettable.

It is here that I'll confess that when I was little, I made a bargain with God. I failed to keep up my end of the deal. (I know. You are surprised.) My failure made me feel guilty for years, literally. I prayed God would save my soul no less than 100 times, I am certain, based on my failures alone. If I had vocalized my fears of damnation, I am quite certain my parents would have set me to rights. However, when we bargain with God we seldom let onto others about it, so they don't understand the deep depression we fall into when our humanity shows up weak. Christians, remember the cross! With it, God bought you. You will never fall out of His hands. You are safely His forever, even if you find yourself with a persistent toothache. Your health and current life situations do not change your standing in Christ. Quit thinking it has anything to do with you. It has everything to do with Him. That should be a freeing thought and not a guilty one. It allows you to obey with joy and gladness, instead of guilt based on a ridiculous obsolete bargain. (Note: I am not saying that we do not have sins in our lives that require that we confess and deal with them; obedience is required whether the "thorn" is removed or remains. What I am saying is that if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you need not fear that you have the ability to fall out of His care and most certainly your aches and pains should not be things with which you attempt to barter.)

In having shared this excerpt, it would be remiss of me not to offer her counter-balance, which she offers near the end of the book. Mrs. Goforth relates the story of praying for a very sick boy who was near death. She gathered people together to pray for him and wrote this of the experience:

"I told them plainly that I could not say that it was indeed the Lord's will to heal the boy; all that was clear to me was that we must obey as far as we had light, and leave the rest in God's hands for life or death."

I agree with her follow-up remarks. We must obey God and pray to Him but also leave the results in His hands, knowing that whatever He has ordained is right. Our job is simply to believe in Him. This does not mean sorrow will never cross our paths. On the contrary, sorrow will become friends with us at some point or another. But again, this does not change our standing in Christ. To say it a little differently: Trust and obey. There is no other way.

An additional point of interest to me,  as relates to Goforth's theology, was in her telling the story of a man in China by the name of Mr. Wang. Mr. Wang was a proud and overbearing sort until he confessed his position as a sinner and Christ's position as Savior. The manner which God used to bring about repentance is one that is rather foreign to us in these modern times: God used a dream. Goforth writes that it was not uncommon for people's consciences to be awakened to the truth through dreams.

"This man, later on, became Mr. Goforth's most valued evangelist. For many years his splendid gifts were used to the glory of his Master in the work among the scholar class in the Changtefu district. He has long since passed to his reward, dying as he had lived, trusting only in the merit of Jesus Christ for salvation."
Here is where I differ from the more conservative among us. Many say that God no longer communicates with people in dreams. I actually don't agree with that. I believe that God's power and abilities are not limited by what I think He can do or not do at any point in history. I think it would be prideful and misguided to places limits on His powers, saying that He no longer speaks in dreams and visions in these modern times. (Also, I would say that He could raise the dead today if He wanted to. It would surely be miraculous and could totally happen. But we don't see it happening these days. That's neither here nor there for me. My main point is that if He wants to, He can.) I fully believe that God has spoken to me in dreams. During the time period in which we were attending the aforementioned Charismatic church, I dreamed a few dreams that were deeply encouraging and spiritually uplifting to me. No, they did not foretell the future. They were not visions of things unseen. Rather, they simply encouraged and blessed me, giving me courage to face challenges that were then in my life. I have also been convicted in dreams before. In summary of this point, I do not discount God's ability to use dreams and I find stories about God using dreams in this modern age rather fascinating.

The next incident she listed I found amusing. I have to find it amusing and I can't find it anything but. I'll explain why in a moment (if it's not obvious):

"One evening my husband returned from an evening meeting, which I had not attended, and told me of a woman who had come to him in great distress. She had been an earnest Christian worker, but love for light, trashy fiction had so grown upon her as to work havoc in her Christian life. She had come to Keswick three years in succession, hoping to get victory, but had failed.
My whole soul went out to the poor woman; I longed to help her."

Three evenings later Mrs. Goforth did happen to meet this woman, but did not immediately recognize her.

". . . I noticed [this woman] was in great distress, her tears spilling fast. I laid my hand on hers, and she grasped it convulsively. At the close of the meeting I said, "Can I help you?"
"Oh, no," she replied, "there is no hope for me; it is those cursed novels that have been my ruin."

. . .

Scarcely able to speak for emotion, I told her, and also of my prayer. For the next few moments we could only weep together. Then the Lord used me to lead the poor crushed and broken soul back to Himself. As we parted, a few days later, her face was beaming with the joy of the Lord."

I snicker again. It would be helpful if Mrs. Goforth had provided some examples of what kind of "light, trashy" fiction this poor, dear woman was reading. Was it Dickens?  Austen? We can have no idea.

It is true that some Christians believe that you ought not to read anything but the Bible. There are others who put strict limits on what types of fiction that they will allow themselves to read. I disagree with the former sorts completely, but have sympathy for the later. You do need to choose your reading materials wisely and well because what you read will have great influence over your thought processes and therefore your life! But do read. And I hope you will read without feeling massive guilt for having enjoyed the read.

Now that I've spent the majority of this post blasting the book, let me share two things which stood out to me as being very encouraging.

One is this:

"It is true that 'There is nothing too great for God's power'; and it is just as true that 'There is nothing too small for His love!'"

True! This is a good reminder. So often we're tempted to think that we can't approach God with things we deem Him to find insignificant. I believe He wants us to communicate our cares and concerns in every situation with Him. If we are honest about our feelings of frustration when waiting in a line to fill up our cars with gas, He can work with that just as well as if we are mourning the death of a loved one.  Honest emotions presented to the Lord over any matter are good and useful. In the hands of the Redeemer, absolutely not one little moment is wasted. Not a single one.

The biggest encouragement for me in this book came out of mixed statements that were made by both Mr. and Mrs. Goforth. Mrs. Goforth occasionally feared for her children's health and safety and wanted to keep them out of harm's way, even if that meant she would refrain from doing missionary work herself for a time. Mr. Goforth would (kindly, I think) argue that if she did not obey the Lord in her calling, then he "feared for the children" (meaning if they did not obey the Lord, he fully expected harm would come to their offspring).

Rosalind gives an example of a time when she wanted to keep the children healthy and safe and refrained from travels. "As a result" several of her children came down ill and one ultimately died. Mr. Goforth encouraged her with this (which was also encouraging to me, albeit under drastically different circumstances):

Mr. Goforth said:

"The safest place . . . is the path of duty."

This is good for me to hear for I am inclined towards worry. The flu. Ebola. ISIS. Badly canned green beans. Thieves that break in at night and steal. Death. Bridges collapsing while my car is driving over them. You name it and I've probably worried about it.

The past few days I've been reflecting on the idea that the safest place is in the path of duty. To rephrase that, the safest place is in being obedient to God and that includes "simply" obeying His commands not to worry because it doesn't actually add any additional years of life to my person or any cubits to my stature (in the right direction, I mean). "Ironically," the times in which I have been obedient to what He was asking of me - even though I personally deemed the situations  "unsafe" - turned out to truly be the safest thing. Much reward comes from obedience. Much regret follows disobedience. Allow me to also quickly say though that I do not believe that God is sitting around with an intent to harm me or my kids if I do not obey. Certainly there are always consequences for both action and inaction and plenty of scriptural passages which indicate that you will be most blessed when you choose obedience. However, I do not believe that I will be thrown from His hand if I choose disobedience. I'm back to where I started up above - my job isn't to sit around bartering with God. These are required of me as I set about pursuing His will for my life: belief, trust, and obedience.

And so I will conclude my very long thought processes on this book. I have been sitting on this post for a good week, editing and re-editing, trying to close up loop holes and address silent arguments. This post reflects my best effort to communicate my beliefs, knowing that there are still likely gaps which are not obvious to me. I welcome comments and discussion, so long as it is polite in tone.

To answer the question of whether or not I am glad I read this book well, yes, I am always glad to have finished a book. I especially like short ones which prompt so much internal debate, which this one did. Perhaps I cannot say that I loved it at face value, but I do appreciate the issues it brought up for me to grapple with.

Reading to Know - Book Club
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