November News

I like Emily Freeman’s idea of highlighting things we’ve discovered during the month, so these are some of mine for November.

Song: I’ve always loved “Joseph’s Song” by Michael Card, but haven’t found a similar one from Mary’s point-of-view that grabbed me emotionally … until this year. On a Christmas radio-station, I heard Francesca Battistelli’s “You’re Here”, and the words are lovely. If I took part in a musical nativity, I’d love to sing that.

Books: I’ve been getting into Song of Solomon lately – a book in the Bible about King Solomon’s marriage to a peasant woman, which makes me think of the church – the bride of King Jesus. Two books about the song have really helped my understanding of it. I heard about Dee Brestin’s “He Calls you Beautiful” in a Bible Gateway Email and knew straightaway I wanted to read it. It looks at the bride and takes her love in stages: The euphoric first-love; the wedding; the honeymoon … It’s excellent and well worth the money. In the book, Dee talks about James Hudson-Taylor – a man I had heard of at church, who founded a missionary organisation in China in the 1800s. She said Hudson-Taylor had only written one book – and yes, it’s a book on the Song of Solomon. “Intimacy with Jesus” is only short, with six sections and a study guide at the back, but it’s very good. I’ve read a section per day.

Podcast: This month one of my favourite authors, Annie Downs, interviewed Mark Lee – the guitarist from Third Day. You might remember I reviewed his book here awhile back. From reading the book I was impressed with his personality, and he came across just as well talking to Annie. This could also come under ‘Books’ because they discussed several. I’ve never read anything by Madeleine L’Engle, but their conversation made me want to read some of her memoirs, particularly the Genesis Trilogy, where she intersperses her own life-experiences with stories from the book of Genesis.

Films: You get Internet radio-stations now that play Christmas music all year round. I wish there was a TV-channel that did the same with Christmas movies, because I love them. I know; they’re very predictable. As someone said on Facebook, you get a love twist, some sort of misunderstanding and a happy ending, but they make me smile. My favourite of the modern films is still “The Twelve Trees of Christmas”, which from the title doesn’t sound at all like the kind of film I would enjoy, but it’s amazing. “Christmas in the City” is another sweet one I like to watch.

Quote: In my previous post, I mentioned a friend’s dad. Sadly, he had another setback with his health and is no longer on this earth. Jeff’s special and will be very much-missed. I’m glad for him that he’s with Jesus. I don’t understand why he had to go so soon, but a tweet from Lysa TerKeurst this last week has stuck with me. It said this: “We don’t have to have all the answers; we just have to stay connected to the One who does.”

As Advent and Christmas approach, let’s keep making that connection with Jesus, whose birth we’re remembering; who came into the world to show us what love looked like, and to give us hope of a future with Him.

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More from James Stuart Bell: “Life-Changing Miracles” Book-Review

I’m grateful to Bethany House for giving me a review copy of this book – another offering from James Stuart Bell. His compilations of stories are always encouraging. I particularly liked this one because it isn’t a constant stream of health-problems and God coming in at the eleventh hour to heal people. Instead there are a great variety of modern-day miracles, from God directing a lifeguard to Him supernaturally stopping the rain.

“Life-Changing Miracles” is a book full of different people and their experiences with God. On the whole, I’d recommend it.

A Story of Two Cultures: “All Saints” Book-Review

When people have asked me: “What’s the book about?” I’ve said: “It’s about a struggling church who helped refugees from Burma”, except now that I’ve read it, I realise I got it completely upside-down. Imagine your church is on the point of closing, you’ve prayed for pews to be full and that you might have an impact in the community, and suddenly a group of refugees double the size of your congregation come looking for a church to call home. This is a story of two cultures coming together. There are some of the issues you might expect, and some adjustments that surprised me. So many times, God’s hand in the situation is obvious – His keen interest in everything, down to the smallest detail.

I think you’ll appreciate “All Saints” if you care about social justice and communities working together. You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy it. In fact, a man who’d made no commitment to Christ read a news-article about them and was so impressed, he turned their story into a film while this book was being written. I wish it was in cinemas here in the UK. It sounds like it would be very inspiring.

Reviewing “Hurt Road”, by the Guitarist from Third Day

Apparently Third Day have 13 albums. I’ve really only heard a few of their songs, but I love the lead singer’s voice and that’s why I signed up to review “Hurt Road” by their guitarist, Mark Lee. In the book, he talks about the Behind the Music series he would watch, to see the stories behind various rock bands, and that’s what this book is – the story behind Mark Lee and how he got to where he is now.

“Hurt Road” is the best book I’ve read in months. It really gripped me. The chapters are short and it’s very personal. I loved the parts about his family, his faith, and the founding of Third Day. I feel very privileged to have already read it because I just looked on Amazon, and it’s not released here in the UK until September 5th.

Books It’s Taking me Ages to Finish

Since about May or June, my Goodreads total has been stuck at 22 books, because there are some I’m in the middle of that just won’t go away!

“Meeting God at Every Turn”

I liked the sound of this and it’s not available on Kindle, so when I found I could borrow it in Braille, I was excited. A famous Christian author (Catherine Marshall) writing about lessons she learnt in life, including the loss of her husband and how she coped – I looked forward to it, but such a disappointment. Really heavy-going. You’d expect it to be a bit old-fashioned with her being a wife in the 1930s, but when she wrote each chapter, she should have imagined having somebody with her who could only stay five minutes!

“She Reads Truth”

Every chapter I’ve read of this has been good, but I’ve only read three so far. It’s not the sort of book where you wonder what’s coming next, and perhaps they could have made it that way. As it’s the stories of two women, starting when they were small and ordering the chapters chronologically might have helped.

“No Compromise”

I’m rereading the life-story of songwriter Keith Green along-with my American friends, but the chapters are lengthy. Voiceover on my phone reads my Kindle books at a fair speed, and I still have to set aside over an hour to get through a whole one. It’s a good book though, and there are things about it I don’t remember from first time around.

“Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional”

I really like this and would recommend it to any Christian, however long they’ve followed Jesus. The names are in English and Hebrew, with the author taking three days to focus on each one – how it relates to God, ourselves, and others. I wanted to do a name per day, so I’d get through it in four months as opposed to a year, but that really hasn’t worked. I try to follow the Deeper Waters Bible-reading plan too and it’s hard to keep up with both, so this has been put to one side.

* * *

I really hoped to finish these before moving on to anything else, but on Sunday I started yet another book. Any advice on how I can plough through them all?

“Never Give Up” Book-Review

If you’re considering this book because you’re looking for motivation to persevere with something, I’m sure it’ll help with that, but it’s really a book on how to navigate the whole of life – short chapters with themes such as perseverance, avoiding procrastination, and building on truth. With a title like “Never Give Up”, you might wonder whether it’ll make you feel condemned over past failures. I don’t think it does. On the contrary, it encourages you to move on from your past in order to embrace your future. I especially liked the chapters where the author gave examples from his own life. He says his style is to write short chunks with humour added in. He does this very well; some of his illustrations made me laugh out-loud.

I was looking forward to this book by John Mason because I reviewed (and enjoyed) his previous one – “Proverbs Prayers”. This is similar, in that it would be beneficial to have in your Kindle library to refer back to. I think my mum would like this book because she loves quotations, and this is packed full of them. A couple of my favourites? “Even a broken clock is right twice a day”, and: “Too much analysis always equals paralysis”.

If you Love the Bible Like Me

I signed up to review “The Most Misused Stories in the Bible” for Bethany House because I love the Bible. I didn’t know what standpoint the author would come from – whether I’d be passionately agreeing or wanting to argue with him. As it turned out, I particularly liked the part at the beginning where he writes that we’re all students of the Bible, and we may want to argue certain of his points. It takes humility to say that.

On the whole, I thought the book was very good. He helps you to think deeply about the stories and what they teach, and there are some great principles on interpreting the Bible in his conclusion. The author says he’s the type of person who likes a debate; well, the chapter I’d want to debate most with him would be chapter 11, but he seems a very genuine man who wouldn’t mind that.

I’d recommend this book if you love the Bible, too. I’d quite like to read another of his, “Love That Rescues”, but sadly it’s not available on Kindle.

Ideas for Easter Reading

As Easter approaches, I wanted to point you in the direction of a couple of good books I read last month.

The first is Liz Curtis Higgs’ “The Women of Easter”. Before reading this, I thought Martha’s sister and Mary Magdalene were probably the same person. I didn’t realise there was a place called Magdala, and that’s why Mary was called Magdalene – because of where she was from. You might learn other things from this too, but what I liked most about it was its freshness. Some parts would bring a laugh and others had me shedding tears. If you’ve been a Christian a number of years, think how many times you must have heard the Easter story, yet Liz tells it as it is – a living reality. That’s special.

Another recommendation would be Michael Card’s “A Fragile Stone”. This isn’t 100% Easter. It’s actually about Peter from his first meeting with Jesus onwards, but chapters 9-11 cover those last hours before Jesus’ crucifixion. I had never thought so deeply about how that night must have impacted Peter. Michael did a fantastic job with this book and if I knew of any others he’d written about Biblical characters, I would want to read them.

Are there any Lent/Easter books or Email devotionals you’ve enjoyed?

Best Read in Small Doses: “Gifts from Heaven” Book-Review

I might have called this “God’s Answers to Prayer”, rather than “Gifts from Heaven”. I chose it because last year, I reviewed “Jesus Talked to me Today” (also by James Stuart Bell) and really enjoyed it. This is the same format, with numerous short stories of how God intervenes in people’s lives. I found the second half more inspiring than the first; “A Precise Prayer for Healing” and “Race to the Bottom” really stood out, but a good proportion of these stories were health-related and It can be demoralising to read so many accounts of health-problems.

I looked forward to my complementary copy from Bethany House, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend reading this from cover to cover. Probably his previous offering had more appeal because it was about children.

“Bible Trivia, Jokes, and Fun Facts for Kids” Book-Review

I might have called this “The Bible Joke and Quiz Book”. In places it’s not clear whether the author’s in joke or fact mode, and I’m not sure what age-group it’s aimed at. For instance, the most memorable joke – Why did Moses have a hard time as a baby? He was in de-nial – wouldn’t be easily understood by a 5-year-old. There are certain words the author explains, such as ‘Lame’, but then he’ll use ‘Prophet’ or ‘Apostle’ with no explanation. The reference to NFL teams is also a mystery to anyone living outside of the US.

On the positive side, it’s a very good concept to have questions parents can ask their children. I’m reviewing the eBook, and I don’t think it works in this format. It would work well as a hard copy so that someone could cover up the answers.

Considering the book as a whole, there were parts I liked, particularly the section on Jesus’ disciples, but there were also some discrepancies, E.G. Troy Schmidt says King Nebuchadnezzar saw an angel in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; however, many Christians believe this 4th figure was not an angel, but Jesus. Schmidt also claims Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the Bible with 150 verses; it actually has 176.

Bethany House were kind enough to give me a complementary copy in exchange for my honest review. While I wouldn’t recommend this book in its entirety, it may hold some useful ideas for parents; they might just want to have a Bible handy to check the facts.