Horror and the Bible: A Commentary

In our deeply divided country, Mike Duran is one of the few who can challenge our culture without being inflammatory or divisive. In reading his latest book, Christian Horror: On the Compatibility of a Biblical Worldview and the Horror Genre, the book goes beyond surface arguments and shows us how the church should embrace the horror genre.

The book delves into various horrific details of Bible stories, art history, and how some don’t believe a devil exists. The book also presents a compelling argument how Christians have white washed everything. “Thus, Christian art became an alternative to ‘worldly’ fare, often defined as much by what it didn’t have, as what it did,” the book says on page 53. My favorite story shared in the book was about Christopher Hitchen’s brother, Peter, who became a believer when he viewed Roger Van Der Weyden’s painting, Last Judgement.

The horrific images portrayed in the painting caused, “Peter to see himself, ‘among the damned.'” Peter Hitchens became a believer because a painter didn’t hold back about heaven or hell.  The book is a think-outside-the-box kind of thought process that inspires a Christian like myself to not put such narrow boundaries on how to reach the unreached, the unloved, and the unchurched. The book makes a strong case how horror should be an accepted genre among Christians.

 

Finding Love in a Book Shop

How to Find Love in a Book Shop by Veronica Henry is an interesting menagerie of stories written in third person from various points of view. The main story threaded throughout is from the point of view of Emelia, the daughter of a deceased bookstore owner, who loved his daughter, the books, and the town of Peasebrook.

Emilia’s mom died during her birth leaving Julius to raise her on his own. He wasn’t a savvy businessman as Emilia would discover following her father’s death. He gave away as much as he made in books that the debt left behind hung on Emilia’s heart like a millstone. The tension in the story comes from Ian Mendelip who sends his employee to seduce Emilia to sell the bookstore because the property would allow expansion. The charm of Emilia and the bookstore work its magic on Jackson. The books cause him to re-think his life.

How to Find Love in a Book Shop is You Got Mail meets Sleepless in Seattle. Love writes its own stories as the town of Peasebrook faces the past and the future, embraces change, and mends relationships. You can’t help, but smile in the end.

*Book given by publisher to review.

Finding Out What Really Matters

A book review of, We Stood Upon Stars by Roger W. Thompson

We Stood Upon Stars by Roger W. Thompson attracted me because of its cover of a VW van and a star-covered night sky. The advertisement of 32 maps was a bonus. I had never heard of the author, but an outdoor-themed devotional was attractive to this backpacker.

The book is a memoir of collected memories separated into quick chapters with a hand-drawn map of the areas the book describes in that particular chapter. It is a book that expresses worship in God, adventures in dating, marriage and fatherhood with humor, deep conviction, and a beautiful narrative. Threaded throughout the book are references of his grandfather and their motorcycle adventures. The book is a meditation of relaxation in the middle of a busy day, to get lost in the book’s narrative and dream of adventures yet to come.

Loss is especially poignant in the book. My eyes suspiciously watered a few times in which I blinked and tried to push down the knot in my throat. Some chapters hit too close to home like the loss of their dog and when the author said goodbye to his grandfather. The only drawback to the book was the lack of Scripture references. If there were any, I didn’t catch them. The maps are wonderful for decoration, travel tips, and reminiscing; or perhaps pieces of art that one could blow up into a print and frame.

My husband read the book first. He sped through the pages like a child eating his first cake. “Easy reading,” He mentioned to me. When I reached parts of the book that made me laugh, he would turn to look at me and ask me what part I was reading. The book was memorable to him. While not marketed to men (that I saw anyway), the book is ideal for men’s groups or young men. The wisdom in its pages are timeless. Whole families are difficult to find and young men need good mentors. Any young man might enjoy this book purely for the inspiration to get up from the couch and go somewhere.

*book given by the publisher to review.

 

Book Review: To The Farthest Shore

 

To The Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden brings out some notable themes: Forgiveness, betrayal, and complicated relationships not so easily solved by a few glib words.

Jenny sees Ryan and rehashes in her mind the hurt of his abrupt break up letter. Trust is broken, but she still loves him. She is compelled in spite of her reluctance to seek out answers to his long absence and his sudden loss of interest in her. What she discovers is a little Japanese girl and bitterness suppresses every ounce of compassion when she learns that he not only went to serve overseas, but found a wife and had a daughter. It’s not just a present hurt that keeps her from seeing clearly, but a secret from her past she can’t forgive.

Jenny is a complicated woman—A nurse during World War II who prides herself on running a tight ship as a nurse helping wounded warriors. She struggles with a distrust that goes back to her childhood, built on a foundation of guilt. What’s interesting are the secrets Ryan keeps as he attempts to restore the relationship.

People, in order to protect others, tend to hide pertinent information. We do the worst harm avoiding the uncomfortable to keep others from distress. Ryan’s attempt to avoid reality nearly gets him killed and sends Jenny away again. Jenny’s resentment towards Ryan’s small daughter causes the reader to get momentarily angry at Jenny. To The Farthest Shores is yet another example by Elizabeth Camden how one can write realistic characters in fiction to deviate from the predictable cookie cutter personalities found in some fiction.

*Book given by publisher to review

3 Ways to Suck It Up When Things Go Wrong

I’m reading, “No More Faking Fine,” by Esther Fleece. In one chapter, she talks about being told to, “suck it up,” during a fragile and difficult time in her life. I have experienced a similar wording. To me, those words represented their backs turning toward me and their feet walking away when I most needed friends. Situations do occur when you have no choice, but to suck it up.

A situation may require you to not be you. You may be in a situation where faking fine is the only option. Without an outlet, faking fine will kill you.

Here are three ways to fake fine that has worked with me:

  1. Connect with friends:  Find a couple of friends you can talk to, hang out with, or do Bible Studies with so you can unload, laugh, and have someone on your side. Faking fine leaves you in isolation, blaming yourself, and binge eating. When you connect, choose healthy places to eat that won’t tempt you to dig into high calorie foods to bring you comfort. Stay away from online or real life shopping situations if you are tempted to do retail therapy. Have friends hold you accountable for your actions.
  2. Get into exercise and the outdoors. Self-discipline will grow you spiritually through regular exercise. Walking through the woods or in the desert will bring you peace. Use those moments to talk to God about how you are not fine. Read some Bible verses and pray. I run and it helps to shake off frustration, diverting my emotions to my feet.
  3. Find a creative outlet. A friend paints. It brings her peace and helps her cope. Painting, writing, building, etc., are wonderful therapeutic options. Watch movies that make you cry. Read books that challenge your static thinking. Do something creative that challenges your abilities.

If you are faking fine in your marriage, seek out a marriage counselor. You should not be faking fine with your spouse. He or she should be the one person you are you with, and able to shake off the day at the front door, like mud from your boots. Home should always be a place of love; a retreat away from the world where faking fine is sometimes the norm.

Upcoming Book Discussion: Fish Tank Startups

TRC Magazine is having a book discussion on Kevin Cullis’, “Fish Tank Startups.” I met Kevin at the 2016 Hackathon at WorldVenture. His heart is to help empower someone with biblical business principles to start their own business. Besides Arizona’s S.C.O.R.E., I don’t know many who have a ministry to help people get out of the rut and start a business to help make ends meet.

I’ll be doing the book discussion. Kevin may be present in the chat area. Join us on Friday, February 3 at 4 PM MST here.

New Book Review: No More Faking Fine

“The beautiful nature of lament is that it has a beginning and an end. No one is meant to live forever in grief and sorrow, yet without it, our life loses all meaning and our sense of immeasurable joy that is intended for our journey. Without lament, there is no joy.” Pg. 15, No More Faking Fine by Esther Fleece.

The book arrived in the mail. I am always interested in books that help an individual develop intimacy with God. This appealed to me because, in my own lament, so many chose to shuffle into their generational comfort instead of being a true friend. Phrases like, “I don’t want to hear it,” followed by absolute disdain for the pain I was feeling pushed me into isolation.

In healthy community, we are meant to share the burden together, not silence the hurt, cram it down into the dark secret spots of your heart, and suffer indefinitely because it makes someone else feel uncomfortable. Church, in my mind, has always been a symbol of community, of family. It hasn’t always been that way for me though.

I will write up an interview of this book in the next few weeks. Because it was mailed late to me, I get a few weeks past the January 31 deadline to write it up.

If you need to talk, you can message me on social media or by email. I always respond. 

Book Discussion: “Craving Connection”

Join me here at 6 PM MST. We will discuss this book and end in prayer time.

You don’t have to have read the book prior to joining the book discussion. As someone with WorldVenture, it is exciting to find books that play a part in what I do with them. I haven’t finished the book yet, but chose to share my thoughts on it based on the first impression and chapter. Will you join me? I know there are many of you who crave connection, but have a hard time connecting, especially in church.

 

Writing For Business Vs. Writing as Mission

Writers work hard to keep their author contracts, sell books, and build their online platform to compete with each other. The difference between a writer who is writing for business and a writer who is writing as mission is vast.

The writer living on support is writing for a different purpose. They are using their writing to bring the Gospel to the farthest reaches of the world. Some writers who are missionaries are using their craft to share stories about the mission field. A writer writing for business is going to go after stories bigger publications will publish. Most stories from the field bigger publications will ignore.

  • An unknown name won’t bring more readers.
  • The story may not interest a large portion of their readers.
  • They may not know how to sensitively write the story so as not to undermine what is happening in that area of the world.

The writer living on support doesn’t have to follow a marketing plan, but they still have to do some marketing. The writer on support shares that in common with the writer doing business. So, the next time you meet a writer living on support to share the Gospel and what is happening in the field, consider supporting them. Don’t feel competitive or put off because you are a writer, too; instead understand how their field is different than your field.

Do you have any objections to a writer living on support versus writing as business?

Book Review: Shaken #TimTebow

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Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms by Tim Tebow is a book for a seeker, and can be a great book for a seeker not into football.

Yes, (gasp), I am not into football, and it is frustrating to me not to be able to delete the NFL app off of my phone. I had heard about Tim Tebow even as a non-football person. He trended on social media all the way from John 3:16 to taking a knee and causing people to either love or hate him. So I agreed to review this book to see if Tim Tebow was more than just social media hype and was blown away.

Here are some highlights:

  • His parents were missionaries.
  • John 3:16 written in blacking on Tim Tebow during a play caused 90 million searches on Google to find out about John 3:16.
  • His book focused on the kids in his organization and how their faith impacted him.
  • Scripture is peppered throughout.
  • He always brings it back to God.
  • It’s a pep talk with delightful pockets of deep thought.

He’s a very positive person. It was difficult for me to comprehend though what it is like to go through losing a job in the NFL when most of us are struggling paycheck to paycheck and don’t have anything to fall back on if we lost our jobs. His perspective on the press and how difficult it was for him to deal with the negative and the sometimes confining aspect of being a public figure made me appreciate him more. We need more positive role models in the NFL. The way he uses his resources and time to reinvest in the people in our communities is refreshing. Tebow reminded me that something as well-known as John 3:16 in the Christian world is not as well-known in the secular world.

Shaken tells the story of Tim Tebow’s faith, his work, and his story on a level that is easy to digest and non-judgmental. The struggle to make the team and run his career is real. Tebow talked about having a Circle of Trust which inspired me, as a mentor on social media, to also have one. My group was re-named to remind me of the responsibility entrusted to me. Every person should consider a “Circle of Trust.” We all aspire to greater things, but without someone who has permission to speak truth in our lives, we will fail because of temptation. Busyness would keep us from digging into the Bible to refresh ourselves and keep the foundation of our faith strong without an accountability partner.

So, for someone new to the faith or inquiring, Shaken is a great read.

*Early copy of this book given by the publisher to review*