Books: If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis

July 8, 2014

Last summer I read a biography of C. S. Lewis as part of the Tyndale Summer Reading program. When I saw that this summer’s list includes another book by Alister McGrath, If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C. S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life, I was immediately intrigued and added it to my list of books to read.

The biography had certainly been interesting, but long and sometimes overly detailed. McGrath says in the preface to this new book that a lot of people want to learn from C. S. Lewis, more than to learn about him. That was definitely how I felt after slogging through the biography, and since McGrath had indicated in that book that he was planning to also write a book about the ideas of C. S. Lewis, I looked forward to reading it. I don’t know if this book is what he was talking about, but the idea of imagined lunches with Lewis seemed very attractive.

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Books: Captive in Iran

July 4, 2014

I vaguely remember having heard about Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh when they were in the news so much a few years ago. When I first saw a headline (on the internet) about two single women arrested for distributing Bibles in Iran, I first assumed they were missionaries from another country, perhaps from the U.S.

Then I learned that they were Iranian themselves, and that the charges against them were also about apostasy. It is not illegal in Iran to be a Christian, but it is a capital offense to convert from Islam to Christianity. I suppose I may have wondered how they came to faith in Christ. But I really don’t think I paid a lot of attention to their story at that time.

When I recently reviewed Tyndale Summer Reading Program book list for this year, I decided that Captive in Iran: A Remarkable True Story of Hope and Triumph amid the Horror of Tehran’s Brutal Evin Prison would be one of the first books I would read. I spend much of last week reading it, and I am still trying to sort out my reactions to it.

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Books: Sparrow Migrations

June 19, 2014

The premise of Sparrow Migrations intrigued me – “a 12-year-old boy with autism, witnesses the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ from a sightseeing ferry and becomes obsessed with the birds that caused the plane crash.” Other characters are on the ferry or the plane that landed in the Hudson, and while they seem to have nothing else in common with each other, their lives intersect over the course of the novel.

In an author Q&A, Cari Noga explains that she wanted to write about “ordinary people transformed by an extraordinary event –and by each other.” Furthermore, she wanted to make it a “braided narrative” – “multiple story lines that intertwine.” So once she had an initial idea for the novel, she had to find some other characters and conflicts to form the other strands of the braid.

I was not at all surprised to learn that the idea for the story started with Robby, the boy with autism. He is the most fully-developed character. The parts of the story dealing with him and his parents, and their struggles in parenting someone with autism, draw the reader into the characters’ minds and emotions in all their complexity as they deal with a variety of situations. Since the author and her husband have a boy with autism, it is hardly surprising that she can portray their experiences so well.

The other characters, in contrast, were add-ons created for the sake of the “braided narrative,” and their conflicts are those that the author thought would be interesting to deal with. Noga presumably does not have the same personal experiences to draw on with a couple dealing with infertility or a pastor’s wife dealing with homosexuality, and these characters do not come across with the same depth. Read the rest of this entry »


Books: Lit!

May 24, 2014

I read this because it is recommended by Carolyn Weber, whose books Surprised by Oxford and Holy Is the Day I appreciated so much, as a help in finding the right books to read to serve our purposes in reading. I had hoped for specific suggestions of good literature to read, but while Reinke mentions some titles in Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books, for the most part it provides general principles rather than specific examples.

I suppose my biggest disappointment with Reinke’s book is that it is clearly intended for nonreaders. At least that’s what C. J. Mahaney says in his Foreword, and the book as a whole seemed to bear out that statement. But I can always learn something new, and given Weber’s recommendation I thought I would.

The one section of the book I found the most interesting is the one that compares words with images. Reinke claims that “most of us have only known a world dominated by images: glossy magazines, wide billboards, corporate icons, realistic video games, 3D movies, and high-definition TVs.” In such a world, reading books which communicate with words rather than images may seem to require more effort than many people want to put forth.

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Mustard seeds

May 10, 2014

Among my kitchen spices I have a small container of mustard seeds. I’m fairly certain I bought it by accident, intending to buy mustard powder and not paying enough attention to the label. I’ve never used any recipe, as far as I can remember, that called for mustard seeds, although logically there must be some since the seeds are sold in the spice aisle rather than the garden center. (Maybe they’re in the garden center too; I’ve never looked.)

The one time I have used that container of mustard seeds was when I was doing the children’s sermon at church and the passage was one of those that referenced mustard seeds. I don’t remember which one – it could have been the parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13, Mark 4, or Luke 13). Or it might have been Matthew 17 or Luke 17, where Jesus speaks of having faith like a grain of mustard seed.

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First day of the week

April 20, 2014

This morning in (adult) Sunday School, someone asked me to clarify the sequence of events from the evening of the Last Supper to the resurrection. I know that not everyone agrees with the traditional view that Jesus was betrayed on Thursday evening and rose early Sunday morning. But disputes over the timeline were not pertinent to the lesson (and I’m not the teacher, though as pastor’s wife I am frequently asked questions not covered in the quarterly), so I explained briefly that what I set forth was the traditional view.

I remember from Bible school that some people think Jesus died on a Wednesday, in order to have him in the tomb for “three days and three nights.” From what I have read, however, I am inclined toward the traditional view that he died on a Friday. (Not that I think it is an essential matter. Why he died is far more important.) What I did not realize until I did some web surfing today, however, is that not everyone agrees that he rose from the dead on Sunday.

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If St. Paul had used Powerpoint…

February 8, 2014

I’ve seen Scripture passages “translated” into a format familiar to users of modern technology, such as
God texts the Ten Commandments.” But this is the first time I’ve seen anyone tackle an entire book of the Bible.

I’m not sure whether this is poking fun more at people who inflict their tacky Powerpoint presentations on others, or at those who prefer Scripture packaged in convenient, sound-bite-sized portions. But this “Terrible Powerpoint” version of 1 Corinthians is humorous.


Books: The Story of the Christian Year

January 6, 2014

The Wee Kirk conference we attended in October had a book swap. I took a book which I had not found particularly interesting, and came home with The Story of the Christian Year by George Gibson. I enjoy reading history, particularly when it relates to something else I have a strong interest in (in this case, the Christian church), and the origins of the church year is a topic I had read very little about.

I grew up familiar with at least some seasons of the church year. Lighting Advent candles was the natural lead-in to Christmas, and our Advent calendars always started with the first Sunday of Advent, not with December 1 as I see so many of them today. Lent I considered something for grownups to be concerned with, not children, but I knew when it was and that it ended with Holy Week, which included Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and then of course Easter.

When I began to attend a fundamentalist church as a teenager, I was surprised to find that people there not only did not celebrate these days and seasons, they did not even know what some of them were. Those who did know about them considered them unbiblical, remnants of the Roman Catholic church that mainline Protestant churches had retained because of their own low regard for Scriptural truth.

For the years that I considered myself a fundamentalist, I adopted that attitude myself. After all, the church I had grown up in had never preached the Gospel clearly. It wasn’t until I went to a fundamentalist church that I learned that I needed to admit that I was a sinner, that Jesus had died for my sins, and that I trusted him for salvation. The church I had grown up in was seen as “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:5 KJV), focusing on the outward forms rather than the truth.

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Reading Augustine

January 2, 2014

Considering my post yesterday about reading the classics, it seemed quite serendipitous today to discover this invitation to read Augustine’s City of God, a little bit each day, over the course of this year. It’s one of those classics I’ve thought from time to time (as I happen upon mentions of it in something else I’m reading) that would be good to read, but that seemed too difficult to tackle on my own. But now I won’t be on my own. At the point when I joined the Facebook group, it was up to 841 members.

Collin Garbarino, who is organizing this, says that “City of God has everything—history, theology, philosophy, science.” That definitely sounds like my kind of book. And I don’t even have to track down the copy that I’m sure we have somewhere, since it is available online in various formats. Reading on a computer screen isn’t my favorite way to go, but it has the advantage of being something I can do from different computers, as long as I have the link (which is one reason I included it here).

Garbarino has designated January 6 as the starting day, but I plan to get started now – no doubt there will be days when I have trouble finding time to read even three or four short chapters.


Books: Confident Faith

November 23, 2013

After reading five books in Tyndale’s Summer Reading program, I was entitled to receive one book free from the same reading list. I had some trouble coming up with five books I was interested in reading, though I did end up finding all five worth reading. I had borrowed them from the library, however, and had no interest in acquiring my own copy.

I finally settled on Mark Mittelberg’s Confident Faith: Building a Firm Foundation for Your Beliefs. The reviews I read at amazon.com were very positive, and Lee Strobel (whose books The Case for Faith and The Case for Christ I had previously read and found helpful) calls it an “invaluable guide” which he wishes he had had when he was looking for the truth about the Christian faith.

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