Dec 15

Once a month I review a book – usually fiction, sometimes non-fiction. Grab your favorite hot beverage (mine’s a mocha), and let’s talk reading!

It’s a non-fiction month. Fair warning: this one challenges us to dust off our thinking caps. Get ready for Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World by Darrell Bock, Josh Chatraw, and Andreas J. Kostenberger. But the thinkiness is worth it.

Truth Matters

Rating: 4-1/2 mochas out of 5

You might like this if you like: Christian non-fiction in general, writers like Josh McDowell or other defenders of the faith.

What it’s about: Nationwide, Christian teenagers by the droves are leaving church and their Christian faith after graduating high school. One common thread: their lack of a solid understanding of the reasons for their faith. They leave the relative security of their church youth groups and come under attack in the “real” world by those bent on derailing Christianity. They face questions like, “How can you prove God is real? What about the Bible’s inconsistencies? How can you believe that Jesus was anything more than a good teacher?”

The authors of Truth Matters want to turn the tide. This book aims to arm Christian high schoolers with foundations for faith in order to withstand verbal attacks in college and elsewhere. Thoroughly they discuss answers to the questions above and more. But the kicker is that all Christians–high school and older–can benefit from this project.

What I liked: Truth Matters doesn’t pull punches. It’s a slim-ish volume that gets down to business. It pinpoints the “greatest hits” of the world’s attacks against Christianity. In that sense it proves highly valuable. It fills a need. Our church’s youth group went through the book this summer, and many hungered to add to their understanding of the topics addressed.

Like I said before, this isn’t just for teens facing post-high school life. Too many “veteran” Christians need a deeper understanding to answer those who ask the hard questions, including the questions we ask ourselves deep down.

I wasn’t crazy about: Despite its target audience, at times the complex concepts can seem challenging even for adults. But that’s okay, too. Sometimes as Christians we’re too used to baby food. We need to be challenged.

The bottom line: Truth Matters, hands down, is worthwhile. I daresay most of us could use at least a refresher in how to converse rationally about our faith with a non-Christian.

What about you? When do you find it most challenging to answer Christianity’s critics (who could also, secretly, be seekers)? Have you found other favorite resources along these lines?

Dec 8

We’re nearing the end of the year, and talk about introspection abounds…with good reason. What will you take with you from the last twelve months?

 

photo by Tom Praison

photo by Tom Praison

A familiar part of the Christmas story caught my attention recently. After the shepherds’ unexpected, worshipful visit to her newborn son, Jesus, Luke 2:19 (NIV) says, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Can you imagine the range of emotions and thoughts Mary experienced that night? And not just that night, but the last nine-plus months? She began that time as a young teenager betrothed to a good man, a bright future ahead. She then sparked scandal among family and friends by becoming pregnant before marriage. Who would believe she’d remained innocent? Only divine intervention talked Joseph down from ledge of divorce. No doubt her days after returning from cousin Elizabeth’s home were filled with whispers behind her back and disapproving stares. And no doubt those harrowing months shaped her into an even more compassionate person.

But then He came. Her baby, Jesus, the son of God. There was so much to take in, so much to process. Surely it required the decades ahead for her to come close to realizing the significance.

So for the time being, that first night, she she simply gathered all of the sights, sounds, thoughts, and feelings she grasped and tucked them away in her heart for safekeeping.  And her memory wasn’t just a storage space. It offered her a place to to think about and mull what all of it meant.

She recognized the significance and meaning just enough to hang onto it. The good, the bad of those months would not be wasted.

But what about us? What about you?  Think about this last year, the good and the bad. Which things do your heart beckon you to gather into its treasure chest?

No one wants to hang on to the bad things. At least not on purpose. But which of those taught priceless lessons that demand to be treasured, pondered? If God used it for our good, it will not be wasted. Bank on that.

But what about the negative experiences that earn no place in your treasure chest? If we’re anything like each other, sometimes the bad things of life masquerade as legitimate stowaways in our heart. It could be major events or even the smaller, pesky annoyances that abound in our everyday fallen world. Do they really deserve to be carried into the next year (or even the next day), or can we jettison them into the sea of forgetfulness? Let’s do ourselves a favor and ponder that.

Ah, but the good things… Let’s not neglect to seize them and, with a loving touch, place them in our hearts for safekeeping. God astounds me with His blessings, but do I take time to recognize and think about them? If we take anything from the life of Mary, her example is timeless and precious.  Surely she held tightly to these memories during the tumultuous years that unfolded.

Treasure and ponder. It just may help get us through the unknowns of our future.

 

Dec 1

Christmas songs. Which are your favorites?  You’re not alone if the classic “White Christmas” made your list. Most of us could sing it in our sugarplum-induced sleep. But with all its familiarity, do you know everything about this tune? Here are a few tidbits that may be new to you.

Holiday Inn

Best seller. The Bing Crosby version of the song rests unrivaled as the most popular of all time. In fact, his recording remains the best-selling single in history. Crosby debuted “White Christmas” on Christmas Day, 1941.

Composer. The songwriting master Irving Berlin penned the song. Most people know that, but consider the irony: Irving Berlin was a Jewish person who composed one of the best-loved Christmas tunes.

Tragedy. While not proven, some believe that tragedy birthed Berlin’s inspiration to write “White Christmas.” His infant son, Irving Jr., died on Christmas Day, 1928. It is speculated that the melancholy song paid tribute to his child.

Screen Origin. Ask almost anyone which movie first claimed the song, and they’ll give you a funny look. “‘White Christmas’, of course,” they’ll reply.

Nope. While that film is a king among holiday movies, “White Christmas” appeared first in one of my favorite Christmas movies, “Holiday Inn,” (see photo above) starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Surprisingly, another song from the movie, “Be Careful, It’s My Heart,” garnered more attention than “White Christmas.”

There you have it. I wish you a Merry (and a white) Christmas season, dear readers!

Your turn: Care to share your favorite Christmas carols or songs?

What to know more? I highly recommend Ace Collins’ books exploring the background of Christmas songs and carols:

Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas

More Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas

 

Nov 24

It’s a Grab Bag Monday! Get ready for anything on the fourth Monday of each month.

With Thanksgiving this week and my sassy mood right now, I’m snagging a favorite activity from this blog’s past: the haiku.

photo: Jeff Stevens

photo: Jeff Stevens

What’s that? You don’t automatically think of five/seven/five syllables of poetry when Thanksgiving rolls around? Well, me either. Except right now. Let’s roll.

My turkey’s wishbone…

“What do you wish for, wishbone?”

“Vegetarians.”

and…

Sleepy, droopy eyes

Turkey exacts revenge from

the grave: Tryptophan.

What about you? Care to add your Thanksgiving haiku? (And yes, I’m aware that rhymes).

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

 

 

Nov 21

I’m thankful and excited. Author Kristena Tunstall allowed me to take over her blog today.  You can find it here: Guest Post

Happy weekend!

 

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