Tuesday, June 25, 2013

24/6 (Book Review)

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."

It's the only commandment that beings with the word remember - almost as if God knew we would forget.

Well, guess what?

We did. 

 So says Dr. Matthew Sleeth on his book 24/6: A prescription for a healthier, happier life. And he's right.

I knew I agreed with the premise of his book before I picked it up. I've actually been trying to more actively keep the Sabbath - to set aside one whole day a week and rest (some weeks that is Saturday, some weeks that is Sunday, but I try to make one of those days happen a week). Total break. No doing housework or anything like that. Even hobby stuff is taboo if its going to be tiring.

When God created the world, he "created [everything] out of nothing, but on the morning of the seventh day, God makes nothing out of something. Rest is brought into being." (pg 23)

I'd never thought of that.

Who spoke the light into shining and the earth into spinning and the creeping, crawling things into crawling? God! How? That's not the point. Imagine an infinite God creating for six infinitely glorious days, and then on the seventh day he rests. We don't know the details. ...

The point is that something very important about the character of God is revealed on the seventh day: God stops.

Stopping is a problem for humans. We get a comfortable house, and then we want a bigger one. We get enough to eat and then we want more.

God doesn't need to rest after creating the universe because he's tired. He rests because he is holy, and everything that God does is holy. God rests. God is holy. Therefore, rest is holy. It's simple math.

Rest shows us who God is. He has restraint. Restraint is refraining from doing everything that one has the power to do. We must never mistake God's restraint for weakness. The opposite is true. God shows restraint; therefore, restraint is holy. (pg 32-33)

Resting. Restraint from work. Holy. It's true, but I'd never thought of that before.

When I began to take one day off every week, I was not a follower of Christ. Yet I found a spiritual benefit. I wanted to share the wonderful aspects of the day with the people I worked with in the hospital. I found that we were  great about listening to one another's tales of woe, over-work, purchases, action-packed vacations, and failing marriages, but we didn't have the language to talk about quiet, relaxation, love, and rest. The church often shies away from these topics as well. (pg 165)

You know, it's true - when was the last time we asked someone else what they did to relax that weekend? But look - even there "what did you DO to relax" - we're wired to constantly think in the active state. What about were you able to relax? Are we comfortable even thinking about just resting?

Many people describe a feeling of dread and anxiety when they think about spending time in quiet or alone. ... they experience boredom. ...

I believe the negative emotions and feelings we experience when we come to a stop are a barometer of our comfort with God. Are we truly bored by being alone with God in the midst of his glorious creation? Perhaps it is not God, the times, or the world that are boring. Maybe it is us. (pg 167)
Maybe never resting makes us boring - makes us unable to appreciate the interesting world we live in. We are made to be intimate with God, and the Sabbath helps to facilitate that. God set the example for us to rest and told us to follow that example. I believe this is something we should try and reclaim. Not to be legalistic about it as the Pharisees were, but to get back to what God said about the Sabbath, and not what man thinks...or is currently popular.

I don't agree with everything Dr. Sleeth says in his book, but I think the heart of the book is spot on, and he does make some excellent points.

I also really enjoyed his stories from his time in the OR and ER (don't worry, they're not gross). I found them very relatable and kept relating them back to stories my sister tells (she's an OR nurse). If you don't know that kindof background, though, his stories stand illustratively on their own. 

I think this is a book that many need to read. If people take it heart, it could honestly revolutionize our culture.

I read this book as a part of the Tyndale Summer Reading Program (which I explain in detail along with the  TyndaleRewards.com program here, if you are interested in signing up for Tyndale Rewards, you can do so here.) This post does contain my affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive compensation for referring business. Thank you for your support! All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review: The Judge by Randy Singer

The Judge is a difficult book for me to review because it was pleasant, but it wasn't a stand-out novel, or, on the other hand, something atrocious I would never recommend.

I was not bored while reading the book (very important!) and it certainly wasn't a drudgery to keep reading. Singer kept me actively engaged in the story, and I read it without taking many breaks. Even though I read it more or less straight through, I wasn't left anxiously wondering what happened next - as I usually am with books of this nature.

Honestly, though, that could be me being in pregnancy brain fog where I just don't engage anymore than necessary because I don't have the brain power right now.

I enjoyed the integration of fiction mystery with some defense of Christianity. It was a little weird for me though with all of the modern pop culture references ... can you tell I usually stick to reading the classics and don't frequently venture into modern fiction?

I thought the book was tastefully written, and I don't have any qualms about recommending this book for others to read. I didn't get wrapped up in trying to decipher the codes in the book (as I would have at an earlier time in my life), but that certainly didn't detract from the book. I think it awesome that if people want to try and figure out the codes in the book they have that option because Singer wrote the book The Cross Examination of Jesus Christ which contains the codes in The Judge. One word of warning though - this book was previously published as The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney, so don't think that this is a brand-new Singer book.

I read this book as a part of the Tyndale Summer Reading Program (which I explain in detail along with the  TyndaleRewards.com program here, if you are interested in signing up for Tyndale Rewards, you can do so here.) This post may contain affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive compensation for referring business. All opinions are my own. Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Dopple Ganger Chronicles

The Dopple Ganger Chronicles is (currently) a three book series following the troublemaking Dopple twins and their friend Erik on happenstance adventures.

I chose these books to read as a part of the Tyndale Summer Reading Program because I was intrigued by the style of the books. These books are intended to help the reluctant reader learn to enjoy reading.

Some pages look like what you'd expect in a normal book, but those pages are not the norm. Here is a sample of what is more typical in this series:

Well, I thought it was a great idea - part graphic novel, part regular novel...but how was the content?

Book 1: The First Escape

I was less than impressed with this book. While I loved the concept of the book layout (as sampled above), I did not like the fact that the Dopples were troublemakers who bullied their fellow orphans, and the only punishment they ever received was extreme, unjust, and from cruel headmistress.

Shouldn't we be teaching children how they ought to behave instead of giving them examples of bad behavior never handled appropriately? Where were the Christian values (after all, Tyndale is a Christian publishing company)?

It was also a strange book with a seance and creepy talking puppets. Thankfully, the hoax of it all is explained in the book, but it is not something I would want my young child to read. There is the unexplained very strange Madame Raphael (for whom more explanation is given in later books, but some things are just odd).

Also, the "mystery" wasn't what I expected. The book tells a story, but there's not much wondering whodunnit, or whosegonnadoit. Given the mixed style of the narrative, the book is much thinner than it appears (meaning the 200 some pages goes by fast). Overall, this is my least favorite of the DG Chronicles thus far.

Book 2: The Secret of Indigo Moon

My concerns about the twin's character, lack of showing what a family ought to be, and unfit punishment all remain for this second installment of the Dopple Ganger Chronicles.

There is more of a mystery feel to this book, but the storyline is not complicated. NOTE: I do not expect a complex story line for these books, I recognize they are aimed at reluctant readers. They are, however, marketed for youth/young adult, and I feel the story line level is more suited to children in elementary school. Of course, older children could also enjoy these books - especially if they are not used to reading in the first place.

Madame Raphael continues to raise questions (it's stated in this book that she is probably an angel) - and while she talks of The Companion, the kids don't know The Companion, and pray to her in times of trouble. Even though Madame Raphael tells them to pray to The Companion, I think children are more likely to follow the characters lead, which is to pray to the angel (concerning).

Book 3: The Great Mogul Diamond

This book is my favorite thus far in the Chronicles. 1. Because most of my concerns from the previous two books are not present 2. Because we actually start learning more about The Companion and 3. There are ethical/moral questions raised that I think are good for  youth to think about (like - is stealing ok to save someones life?)

Because of what G.P. Taylor did in this book, I'm reserving judgement for the series. I understand that he's probably trying to reach a broader-than-Christian audience and so slowly introducing Christian ideas into the series is likely to be more effective than jumping in midstream. If future books show continued character development and if they accurately incorporate Christian theology then I think this has the potential to be groundbreaking - and not just in terms of the illustronovella, which already is innovative and groundbreaking.

So I have mixed feelings about the Chronicles. My initial reaction to the first two books is tempered by the improved third book. One thing I would recommend for certain: read them in order. Otherwise, you're very likely to be lost.

I read all three books as a part of the Tyndale Summer Reading Program (which I explain in detail along with the  TyndaleRewards.com program here, if you are interested in signing up for Tyndale Rewards, you can do so here.) This post may contain affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive compensation for referring business. All opinions are my own. Thank you for your support!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer Reading Program (Earn Free Books!)

I'm excited to participate in the Summer Reading Program that Tyndale Publishers is doing this summer! The program runs from June to August. Basically, you read books from their list, post a review (on your blog, on Amazon, ChristianBooks, etc) log the link to your review on their website, and after you do that with 5 books, you earn 1 book for free!

They don't provide free copies of the books you'll read to you, but you can find a lot of them through your library. Of course, if you wanted to, you could always buy the book (personally, I'm sticking with the free route *grin*).

I don't really branch out much in what I read (even though I read a lot) so this is good incentive for me to broaden my horizons a little bit. The really sweet part of the deal if that you can also sign up for Tyndale's Reward program where you take surveys, post reviews, etc to ... you guessed it - earn points that can be redeemed for free Bibles and certain books! Woop!

If you sign up through my referral link, they'll even start you out with 25 points, just for signing up. Books available to redeem change over time, and right now they range from 35 points to 200 points necessary for redemption.

If you participate in the Summer Reading Program, you can link those same reviews to your Tyndale Rewards account ... same amount of work, twice the reward. Sign me up, please!

Full disclosure: The link to the TyndaleRewards.com in the above post is my referral link. You receive 25 points for signing up through it, and I receive 10 points for referring you. My opinions are my own.