Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Voices of the Faithful 2 by Kim P. Davis and Beth Moore

Although Voices of the Faithful Book 2 by Kim P. Davis and Beth Moore, is the "sequel" to Voices of the Faithful Beth Moore- it is perfectly suitable as a stand alone book.  For those who enjoyed the original book, this second book in the series provides more of the same, short inspirational anecdotes of individual missionaries and their experiences.  As with the original book, each day has its own dedicated passage, and each month is dedicated to a central theme. Though this is a devotional book, its casual style makes for quick reading.  Each day's passage opens up with a biblical verse, and closes with a prayer to re-enforce the theme of the passage.

The passages are brief, and get right to the point for those readers pressed for time, and are in need of quick inspriation. These stories are not neccessarily deeply spiritual, nor do they delve too deeply into scripture, and therefore can be appreciated by the secular audience and younger readers.  I suppose for anonymity, the missionaries whose stories are featured- are identified only by a first name (alias?) and a location. While the lack of full name, vague details and the consistent writing style through out the book, may lead the reader  to question the  authenticity of each of the stories, the book is still motivational, nonetheless.The stories open the reader into a new world beyond that of our comfortable society- a glimpse of what it is like to live the faith and spread the gosepl message in other lands.  Each passage has a particular faith building moral or lesson, analagous to Aesop's tales.   As a blogger for booksneeze, I recieved this book from Thomas Nelson publishers for the purpose of writing this review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chasing Elephants by Brent Crowe

Chasing Elephants: Wrestling With the Gray Areas of Life by Brent Crowe is presented as a common sense instruction manual covering the basic moral questions that so many people raise. This book bases its common sense answers to timely, yet controversal moral issues such as entertainment, traditions, social drinking, the internet and homosexuality, based on biblical interpretation.  If anyone  takes time to read and understand the bible's message, specifically the new testament letters, the reader will understand that morals are not relative, but absolute.  Furthermore our Christian conscious, led by the Holy Spirit of God, will convict us if we are not acting in accordance with God's standards.  By no means can we merit salvation, neverthless this is not an excuse to do away with out pursuit to follow the spirit in doing what is right.  While we are free from punishment under the law, we are not permitted to continue to sin when we know its wrong- hence this book.  Another consideration, especially for newer believers in the faith- is that their faith and knowledge may be weaker than a more established believer in the faith- and if our faith is stronger we should take care not to offend or become an obsticle to the weaker faith of our Christian brothers and sisters, as described by Romans.

There is one difficult thing that I have trouble reconciling in  Brent's Crow's book.  It is ironic that in a book discussing the gray areas of life he should include the following statement on page 153: "I'm a Mother Teresa fan.  I can't help it.  It doesn't matter if all of our beliefs match up in just the same way or whether or not we interpret certain Scripture the same. That's irrelevant..."  Then, if in his own words, it's "irrelevant" and "It doesn't matter if all our beliefs match up" then what is the point in even following Crowe's book if we simply chalk it up to Crow's personal way of interpreting scripture?  If  this is the case, then by what authority can Crowe claim that he is properly interpreting controversial gray areas of scripture such as homosexuality, special days, idols, and entertainment?  Mother Teresa was a devout and sincere Catholic, who accomplished many works for the good of humankind, no doubt. Religious as well as secular people agree.  But she also believed in Roman Catholic doctrines such as transubstantiation, infant baptism, and the intecession of Mary, as well as praying to Mary- who is considered to be "Queen of Heaven" and Mother of God", and "without sin".  Many of these doctrines are not biblical whatsoever.  And countless numbers of Roman Catholics, deluded into the worship of idols and statues and imperfect human beings, are estranging themselves from the will and Grace of God.  We are called to worship not only in Spirit but also in truth as well.  Therefore, Crowe's statement left me feeling  somewhat confised as if this book, was contradicting itself.  Pehaps this is an attempt at the ecumenical movement, to minimize differences in order to draw others into faith.  Nevertheless we are never to comprimise the gospel message as Paul warns us in his letters.  The ancient as well as modern church was plagued with false teachers who twisted truth or watered down the Gospel to gain the acceptance of its hearers.  In Revelation, the ancient- as well as modern church- is severely warned about being lukewarm and watering down the message of the bible so as to make it more palatable.
In the end, I must say I liked most of what this book had to say, but that single statement/ admission by the author was a bit of a spoiler.  I believe it served to undermine the credibility of Crowe's work. This is the second book by Nav Press that I have read which overtly perpetuated non biblical, Roman Catholic doctrine- which suprises me as Nav Press purports itself to be a bible based publisher.  As a blogger for Nav Press publishers I recieved a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review. 

Passport to the World by Craig Froman

The full color- illustrated children's book Passport to the World: Your A to Z Guided Language Tour by Craig Froman, published by Master Books, makes a great resource for any young social studies student.  The 64 page book includes a pull out "passport" that the reader can fill with the stickers included on the back page- one for each of the world languages covered in the text.  The book introduces children to a number of labguages, countries and cultures from the continents across the world.  The tour opens with a map  of the "language journey".  Illustrations and photographs compliment the facts presented for each of the countries/ languages featured.  A brief historical, biblical explanation is offerered for the origin of the diverse language families we see present in the world today.  This explanation is taken from the Genesis 11:1-9 account of the bible.  For those secular skeptics, that do not believ the bible is a valid souce of historical documentation, this explanation may not be acceptable. But for those who hold the bible as a valuable resource of information, this bit of information presents an important  key to the missing piece of the puzzle.  Nevertheless, this does not detract from the historical accuracy of the material presented in the book, but rather offers an explanation for the world's diversity. As a blogger for New Leaf publishers I recieved a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review.

Newton's Revised History of Ancient Kingdoms

Editors Larry and Marion Pierce, present a modern translation of Newton's Revised History of Ancient Kingdoms, A Complete Chronology, published by Master Book publishers.  This "history" book, written by Sir Isaac Newton, during his lifetime, is translated in English, for today's reader. Yes- it is true, Newton was not just a scientist, but also a skilled writer. Written in outline format, chronologially, this compendium covers the history of ancient empires, including Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia and Greeks.  Not intended as a stand alone history book, this work is more suitable as a supplimental work for the serious history student or for research purposes. Newton's work, in of itself may be considered an important artifact or piece of history.  It is insightful, to look in to the mind of an ancient historian and contrast it to the perspectives and style of a contemporary history book by modern day editors, on ancient history.  Half the text is an appendix and notes/ citations.  There is an Appendix listing individual kings of the ancient empires, as well as a glossary.  The "exhaustive index of every proper noun in the body of the work" takes up an entire third of the book itself-  50 full pages of the total 205 page book. This book is not exactly for casual reading, but it is intended for study purposes.  There are a couple of diagrams included in the text, but otherwise, the illustration is sparse.  As a blogger for New Leaf publishers, I recieved this book for the purposes of review.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible NKJV

As a blogger for Thomas Nelson publishers, I had the opportunity to review The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible NKJV (New King James Version). This bible's theme is based on the notable Christian author, Max Lucado's works.  Specifically, as far as translation, the NKJV is an update of the traditional KJV, but without the antique phrases such as "thy, thou or art". It is accurate and trustworthy in contrast to being a paraphrase such as the New Living Bible or the Message. As far as a choice of translation for this themed bible the NKJV is trusted and reliable, but I believe it would be even better to have this as a series with more translation  choices available. The two tone graphics, and the font size make this bible easily readable. The articles within the biblical text are clearly seperated so as to be distinct from the actual bible text.  They are very applicable to everyday ciircumstances- bringing the bible to life! Lesson sidebars are dispersed throughout as well as notable quotes from Max Lucado's other works.  Each bible book has an introduction with key themes highlighted.
For those unfamiliar with bibles in general some background would be useful.  As far as bible translations, there is a spectrum of the ease of reading of a particular translation ranging from beginner/ easy reading levels such as the message and more complex/ literal such as the King James version, and revised standard version. For example, the popular NIV- New International Version, is somewhere in the middle with regard to ease of reading level and undertsanding. The NKJV - New King James Version, in particular, is a bit more literal and is written in somewhat of a higher reading level. Nevertheless, this NKJV is an easy to understand version as well. For those new to the bible entirely, The Message and Living bible as well as NIV versions are easy to read and understand, and are very good options for those who seek to understand the meaning of the bible.

Difficult to read versions such as the Old King James - though very well written, do a disservice to the modern or new bible reader. The antique language is difficult for many in this day to understand on their own and makes it prohibitive for many to understand the truths of the bible. Having known many readers of the KJV, who do not even understand the meaning of what they read- indicates that this is not the best translation for those who really seek to know God's word. What is the point of a bible after all if you can not even undertsand it? For those new to the bible or for those who have a difficult to read translation such as the King James Version, who wish to read the bible and actually understand it, I would suggest one of the bible versions with more modern/ contemporary language. While the NKJV is relatively easy to read, it may present a challange to the literacy level of many modern adults.

Overall, this bible, merits a good rating as it is a good trust worthy translation with many additional informational helps. Even if you are not a Max Lucado fan or have never heard of him or his books, you are sure to appreciate this bible.  The additional articles suppliment the bible text and do not detract from it. I recieved a copy of this bible for the purpose of review.  The only thing that would make it better is if it were available in other modern translations as well.

If God is Good by Randy Alcorn

The 512 page book, If God is Good by Randy Alcorn, published by Multnomah publishers, is among the most complete and exaustive Christian commentaries covering the most basic philosophical issues and questions about faith, suffering, evil and life in general.  Countless numbers of people have questioned God's motives or God's goodness in the face of pain, suffereing and injustice.  It is within our human natures to be appalled by the suffering prevelant in the world we live in.  We can not escape pain, sickness, injustice and suffering within our own lives and the world around us- it is a fact of life.   In fact, many seemingly good and otherwise reasonable people, when faced with the seemingly complex questions about the purpose and reason of suffering may often come to the conclusion that God does not exist- hence the all too common epidemic of athiesm and agnosticism.  When faced with challanges and pain in life, so many people fall away or abandon their faith.

Randy Alcorn addresses the most basic questions concerning the reasons and purpose behind pain and suffering, based on scriptural explanations.  It is somewhat analagous to a defence of the bible, and it provides indepth explanation of the reasons and purpose behind pain and suffering.  This book does not in any way minimise or dismiss pain and suffering, but it offers the comforting biblical explanations for its purpose.  This book is way too extensive to be considered a self help book.  In fact it is reminiscent of a textbook- with the extensive information provided and additional content.  There are some anecdotes and real life stories of pain and suffering, which are used as examples through out the book but the author does not rely on his own personal anectdotes, which so many lukewarm writers seem to do these days just for filler purposes.

 This compendium is divided into 11 indepth sections, each of which delve progressively deeper into the issues and theology of the purpose of evil and suffering.  The first section provides a good background into the philosophical issues of suffering and evil and each section which follows, progessively covers verious touchpoints building on the previous chapters. Sections are further divided into chapters, and each chapter is subdivided in easily digested passages. This book is very complete and does not leave out any details whatsoever.  Not only for the inquisitive and curious skeptic, philosophy student or secular reader in general, this faith building book is sure to provide comfort for anyone going through a difficult time, or anyone who has some unanswered questions about their faith and God's purpose.  Next to the bible, this book should be standard reading for anyone interested in seeking out the meaning and purpose to life. This book would be great for apologetics as well.  This is not simply a casual book to be read once, but it is also a book that can be used as a reference by which to defend one's faith and belief as well. As a blogger for Water Brook Multnomah publishers I recieved this book for the purposes of writing a review.

The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers

The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers is a fantasy novel about a symapthetic orphan boy who makes his living performing in traveling side shows with a profiteer, named Floyd.  As the only family he has ever known, Grady feels obligated to perform for Floyd in an unhealthy co-dependant relationship, bound by Floyd's greed for money, and Grady's desire for acceptance and companionship. Even though Grady seems to be dependent on his benefactor, Floyd, for his daily needs,  it is apparent that throughout the novel, that Floyd, is dependent upon Grady's common sense, wisdom, ingenuity and hard working ethic for survivial.  The so called parent-child role is reversed in the sense that Grady is ultimately responsible for their livelihood and survival.  Nevertheless, Floyd wields the emotional control and power over the younger boy who is emotionally captive to Flord. The irony is that despite the fact the Grady is considered to be an uncouth, uncivilized and uneducated boy, he apparently has more empathy, more sincerity and more common sense wisdom than any of the other so- civilized, honest and educated  village characters he crosses paths with.  Despite his harsh, unkept and grotesque appearance, Grady is a young man who hides in his heart, sincerity, hope and selfless- empathy for his fellow man. In the end, he "lose(s) one life and gets a new one, to get the meanest betrayal and sweetest loyalty all in one day? I was the one" pge 302 he discovers who he really is, "A last name. I got a last name." Page 302  and untimately finds the family he has truly wished for all his life.
With authentic details, of an era long past- complete with small villages, mining towns, markets, and side shows, duplicating even the details of the local dialect, the reader is transported back in time, in this fantasy that stands up to  classic story tellers.  As a blogger for Water Brook press, I recieved this book for the purpose of writing a review.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Power of Words!

The bible provides much wisdom and good common sense advise when it comes to gossip, lying and the power of words. Of all places, I found these verses posted on fb. At least someone out there is using fb as a tool for God's purposes.  I have used the modern CEV translation here.  The CEV is a good paraphrase, which translates the bible into normal everyday english.  The Message is a more casual paraphrase of the bible.
If you obey the Lord you will always know the right thing to say. But no one will trust you if you tell lies.
Pr 10:32  CEV version

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor(Ex 20:16 NKJV).
Do not tell lies about others CEV Exodus 20:16 ----This is actually one of the ten commandments, given by God himself to Moses in the old testament

A gossip tells everything, but a true friend will keep a secret.  Proverbs 11:13 CEV

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Eph 4:29 NIV).

Stop all your dirty talk.  Say the right thing at the right time and help others by what you say.  Ephesians 4:29 CEV

A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards (Pr 29:11) KJV.
Don't be a fool and quickly lose your temper- be sensible and patient Proverbs 29:11 CEV

Gossip occurs everywhere- at work, home, school, the internet- even in volunteer/ humanitarian groups and churches- but just because its so prevelant in society  does not make it a good thing. This social  plague  invades every area and sphere of life.  In fact, gossip is even a multi-million dollar industry- perpetuated by modern media- television talk shows, entertainment news and commentaries, reality TV shows, news papers, and magazines are dedicated to gossip; filling  the endless pits of its consumers who pay their valuable time and money to the gossip industry.

It is obvious what kind of life developes out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetative, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all consuming- yet-never satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence toi love and be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community.  Galations 19-21 The Message translations

The Discipline of Grace By Jerry Bridges

The Discipline of Grace: God's Rose and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness By Jerry Bridges, is the third book in a trilogy of indepth studies into the ideas of Grace and Holiness according to the bible.  Although The Discipline of Grace compliments as well as  builds upon the ideas presented in Jerry Bridges's two earlier books, this book is also suitable as a stand alone study as well.  As with his other works, this  volume is an indepth study into what the bible actually defines as Grace in contrast to popular misconceptions of what modern society erroneously believes grace to mean.  Based on actual biblical references in contrast to the distacting personal stories and anecdotes found in so many biblical commentaries today, this book will provide the reader with an objective and solid foundation of what the bible really says.  Even though we can not merit salvation and grace is a free gift from God, that is not a reason, nevertheless for freedom to do whatever we wish.  We can not earn grace with good works, yet, as believers under the grace of God, we must make the conscious choice to put to death our former life of sin.  We do have liberty under grace, but this liberty must not be misused to freely and willingly sin.  Hence, we are under a discipline to seek out God's will and to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in pursuing a life of Hiliness- defined not by our merits or works, but by our cooperation with Grace and the workings of the Holy Spirit.  As a blogger for Navpress publishers I recieved a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Voices of the Faithful by Beth Moore

The visually appealing, modern devotional book, Voices of the Faithful, by Beth Moore, published by Thomas Nelson publishers,  contains one devotion for each day of the year- a total of 365 passages.  Each particular devotional is an indepth study into one of twelve themes of God's character.  This unique book is divided into 12 months, each month is  dedicated to a particular theme, such as: prayer, God's Character, God's grace, persecution and even a timely theme of Christmas around the world, for the month of December.  This original devotional is distinct from traditional devotionals in that it is presented for the modern reader and written by missionaries themselves- who personally endured the trials and expreiences they have written about.  This is not simply a devotional of theology, but of direct first hand personal experience- hence the title, Voices of the Faithful. With its styled pages, each devotional is written by a Christian missionary in the face of trials and challanges.  There is a second book in this series also available from Thoma Nelson. This book is sure to motivate and inspire the reader.  As a blogger for, I am writing this review and the opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dream Journal

I always thought it would be interesting to keep a dream journal- in fact it is my belief that the events of dreams, would often make interesting surreal short stories.  Therefore, the preceding entries, are attempts to record the events of my dreams- somewhat of a dream journal.  Disclaimer- these stories are obvious works of fiction.  Dreams in of themselves are usually arbitrary and have no deeper meaning.  They are simply the result of disjointed thoughts and ideas which surface during sleep.

Another Old Dream

The following is based on a dream I once had......... Any resemblence to reality is a coincidence, as this is simply a story based on fictitious events.

I kept a secret under my bed. It was a burden so great, yet a responsibility that I could not escape. Oh how I wished it would be discovered and lifted from me. I wished an intruder would ransack my bedroom or that some prying inquisitive eyes would call the authorities with a search warrant. I could barely keep from revealing the secret. Yet, at the same time, my lips remained sealed and I did my best to conceal my dark secret. I played in my mind in-depth scenarios of subtle ways that I could reveal the secret or to facilitate its discovery.

My days and nights were filled with anxiety. How I wished there was someone, anyone to confide in. But, I felt isolated and alone. While I was away at school or work, was the only time I felt a degree of freedom and peace. Though exhausted, I’d hastily jump out of bed, quickly going through the minimal formalities associated with proper hygiene and rush off to work and school. As the end of the day approached, a feeling of sick dread and anxiety grew. As I watched the clock tick, my skin would become moist and clammy in anticipation of what awaited me at home. Nervously, I’d glance at my watch; my throat tightened and my stomach felt as though it contained a lump of heavy lead. As I walked to my car, the keys would rattle and jingle in my shaking hand. My legs felt weak, as though they would buckle underneath my weight. I’d slip into my car, and with my heart quickly pounding, I’d make my way home. Unable to concentrate on the road, I’d somehow, find myself safely home, not even remembering the trip as if driven by auto-pilot.

During the daytime I was usually withdrawn and anxious. I did not watch tv. I did not listen to music. I engaged in solitary activities: reading, writing, drawing and playing with dolls. I would clean and organize my room and my books and my dolls and my various collections. I had many collections: rocks, stickers, stamps, petrified/ shellacked hermit crabs….. All these things were my expressive outlet- especially writing. I could spend hours, and even an entire night simply writing- filling entire notebooks within a few short hours! This was the age before computers- so I would write and write and write until my fingers were red and callused and sore. I had to finish, I could not leave a piece of work unfinished! Oh, how I lived my life in my room. I lived out my dreams- reenacting a perfect world, and fulfilling my wishes for revenge and my dreams. I created a miniature replica of a town, filled with homes and schools, stores and people. All those little tiny people represented real people. After school from the time I was eight throughout high school, I lived out my life of normalcy and dreams through the fictitious town I created as well as its inhabitants. I found peace by playing within that town. Anything that happened in real life, I would reenact in my small miniature town. No detail was too insignificant to include in my little town replica. In fact, it had its own transportation system, school system, a library and even a newspaper! The newspaper was available both in miniature format as well as larger traditional format- to this day I still have some copies. I enjoyed books and lived my life’s adventures from reading literature and novels. I also enjoyed philosophy, psychology and science as well. Much of my knowledge and experience came from books. I lived life experiences through reading, and made them come to life through my writings, my fantasies and the re-enactment through my dolls. To me this was life!

I looked in the mirror, and could not reconcile the image of the middle aged face staring back at me. Why did I appear so old? It couldn’t be me that I was staring out at, perhaps from lack of sleep my eyes were deceiving me. I was in a constant state of exhaustion. I read books to pass the lonely anxious hours away. I drank coffee and soda all day long to stay awake. I lived a life of quiet solitude, I was always a bit antisocial and distant- mostly keeping to myself. I did not have too many friends, and rarely entertained guests. I was mostly alone with my thoughts, except when I could escape through reading.

I especially dreaded the nighttime when it was time to retire, and loathed the mere site of my bedroom. I would stay up half the night awaiting the early hours of the morning when I was assured that everyone was asleep. At that time I would quickly sneak down the staircase, with my pillow tightly clenched in my right hand, and my blanket, clenched in the other, down to the sofa. Just before daybreak, before anyone would awake, after an hour or two of a pitiful, restless sleep, I would sneak quietly back up the stairs, back into the dreaded bedroom, and slip under the covers of my death tainted bed. I kept an ominous oppressive secret that I could neither share nor reveal, no matter how I prayed that it would be exposed or discovered. Under my bed, beneath the rusted, creaky, metal bed frame of my bed, I kept my grand-father, encased in an oversized shoebox of a coffin. Nestled safely from prying eyes I kept the secret burden of the decaying body of my grand- father. The putrefying stained carpet beneath the weakened, wet corrugated oblong box was safely concealed by the dingy, dusty ruffled bed skirt. The oppressive odor of decay was masked by a mixture of moth balls, bath salts and fresh potpourri. Don’t ask me the details or reasons, of how this came to be, because I don’t know how I came to be in possession of my grandpa. All I know was that I somehow bore the grave responsibility of keeping his remains. Why he was not buried in the consecrated ground of a cemetery, I do not know. My grandpa passed away unexpectedly when I was young, and as an adult, he was still with me. He was there under my bed after all these years. Not once did I look inside the container that encased his lifeless body – which after all these years was encased by layers and layers of sheets, bedding and towels- in an attempt to cover the stench and the fluids of decay. At one time having him with me brought me comfort and security, but now, I simply felt a strong sense of revulsion and an urge to break free and to simply get away- even if it meant running away. Oh how I had loved him in life, and deeply missed him. His unexpected death was as if it were a dream- it was unreal. I remember each and every minute detail of his last day as if it were yesterday. After his death, time seemed to have stopped. My mom as well as sisters, forever remained young as did I. I did not grieve and I did not mourn. I was strong and I simply moved on, barely acknowledging that anything had changed, pretending it didn’t happen yet knowing deep inside he was gone and I’d never see him again. His photos were hung on my wall. His button down dress shirts and his jacket still retained his comforting scent as I had remembered from my youth. His hat was collecting dust where it remained on the hook on the door, and his boots rested on the mat near the door just as they would have remained during his life. His wallet, his keychain, eyeglasses and pens and other personal effects- were safely contained in a small jewelry box on my dresser. I could not part with my grand father nor any of his things, yet at the same time, I felt a mixture of repulsion and trepidation.

I woke up one morning, it was a bright sunny day. I had no plans for the day. That same old tired reflection stared back at me as I half heartedly rubbed a dry toothbrush against my teeth. When I was finished, I let the toothbrush fall from my limp hand into the sink. In slow motion I picked the shirt and pants that had been carelessly dropped on the bathroom floor the previous evening and dressed myself. I was exhausted and did not care about anything. Yet suddenly without any warning or reason, I felt a determination that I had never felt before. As if animated by an unknown force, I quickly went back into my bedroom, taking all of my grand father’s things from the bedroom and hastily piling them in an empty laundry basket. I had an idea that I would carefully package each of the items and mail them to my aunts and sisters or perhaps place them in the attic. Next, I was drawn to my bed, and before I could talk myself out of it, I instinctively reached underneath my bed, and with a firm grip, began tugging as the layers of soiled, stiff and crusted bedding, throwing them carelessly into a pile at the side of my bed. There seemed to be a never ending supply of dusty, worn sheets, blankets, comforters and linens. I bent down bringing my face eye level to the space underneath my bed, in eager dread of what I’d find. With the rough carpet fibers scratching my cheek and ear, giving myself a bad case of rub burn, reaching my outstretched arms, as far as I could reach, under the dusty cavern beneath my bed, I found the remaining cocoon of bedding which I tugged out from underneath with the tips of my fingers. There was no stench of decay, and no stains of body fluids to be found, only years worth of dust that had settled underneath the bed. I sneezed as a puff of grey dust filled the air - as I stared at the dusty linen cocoon that I had unearthed from under my bed frame. I watched the dust particles dance in the sunbeams of light which shone through my bedroom window. With shaking hands, my anxiety mounted as I unraveled the layers of dusty, yellowed sheets, one layer at a time. Finally I reached the last layer of bedding, and after having unrolled it there was nothing at all contained within the bedding. I was puzzled as I confronted the fact that there was nothing at all inside the sheets and no indication that anything, other than just plain sheets had been under my bed after all these years. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. The nightmare as far as I was concerned was over, there was nothing there and I was satisfied to leave it at that. I had no desire to pursue the issue any further, nor to question what I had imagined had been there. I could finally move on in peace. The only thing remaining of my grand father were the happy and peaceful memories.

Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic

Many curious people have probably viewed the popular You Tube videos online or watched a Discovery health documentary about Nick Vujicic, known as the man born without arms and legs.  Yet there is much more to Nick than his severe disability.  What many probably do not know about Nick, is that he is perhaps among the most  inspirational motivational speakers there is.  Gifted with inisght and empathy, his trials with his disability have been turned around and used as a gift to motivate and help others. He explains on page one that he found happiness when he learned that despite his imperfections and disability, that he is perfect in God's eyes and that he is part of God's creation "designed according to His plan".  He percieves himself as enabled instead of disabled, counting himself blessed admist a world where many experience all kinds of pain and suffering.   His book new 238 page, Life Without Limits, published by Doubleday publishers,  harnesses Nick's gift of empowerment to motivate the reader no matter what challanges he may face in life. He does not spend time feeling sorry for himself.  Quite the contrary, he actually counts himself as blessed and emmpowered, feeling thankful for his life.  In his book, Nick speaks to the reader personally, as if addressing the reader one to one: "I can't know exactly what your burden is, nor do I pretend that I've ever been through a similar crisis....You may not be able to see a bright light at the end of your own dark tunnel right now, but know that my parents could not have envisioned what a wonderful life I would have one day." page 14.  He acknowledges the validity of those who suffer and does not minimize the pain others may be going through- knowing that there are those who suffer from a host of many issues: personal, physical, emotional and financial. There is no life that is insignificant, when Nick claims that God uses his impediments for God's glory and that God intentionally led him to help another familiy whose little boy was also born without arms and legs. This book is sure to give the reader an inspirational boost no matter what his or her circumstances may be.  Included in this book is an insert of color photographs and a chapter of additional resources.  It is ironic that a man without arms and legs, is perhaps among the most dignified, well adjusted individuals, with the god given gift of empathy and inspiration.  As a blogger for Water Book publishers I recieved a copy of this book for the purposes of review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

The Unusual Yard Sale

It was an ordinary dreary day that started out with the usual routine: getting ready for work on a cloudy Saturday. I received a call, enroute to the office, that my shift had to be cancelled. The minimal explanation that was offered (my partner had called out sick) was insufficient to my satisfaction. No details were provided as to the specific illness and its start nor its duration- all of which helped to feed into my skepticism as to whether the individual was actually ill. No matter how I persuaded, evet to volunteer my services, they insisted they had no use for me that day, and dejectedly, there was nothing more that I could do but turn around and go home. Reluctantly, I changed course, did a u-turn and headed in the direction of home.

As I was driving home, on that overcast cold winter morning, I noticed the old, run down church next to the cemetery that I pass every day on the way to work. That small, scenic, picturesque cobblestone church, with its pointed steeple topped by a simple white cross, and the small cemetery, by its side- a garden of decaying and cracked grey stones, intertwined with weeds and vines- stood in stark contrast to the rest of the surroundings of main street. The old church seemed as if it were plucked out of a previous long gone era and dropped right into the midst of old, run down, 21st century down town architecture. The only thing that separated the church from the nearby liquor stores, Chinese take-out, diners, convenience stores and used car lots, was an antique, four foot, black iron spiked fence that encircled the church and the graveyard. I always slowed down to look at cemeteries. No matter how many times I drove by this old church, it never failed to intrigue me, and as my usual custom, that morning was no exception so I slowed down.

This time I saw some activity going on- reminiscent of a small carnival or flea market, perhaps. My curiosity got the better of me and I actually stopped and pulled into the empty parking lot next to the church to take a better look at what was going on. Perhaps I can find some good books, I thought to myself. I was always interested in books, in particular, I enjoyed literature classics and old textbooks- which were usually plentiful at garage sales and flea markets. I saw people hoisting cumbersome, heavy, oblong boxes through the narrow doorway of the church. I wondered what was in those curious looking boxes and my greed for some books drew me closer. Slowly, I opened my car door, slid out of the driver’s seat, and shut the door behind me.

As I stood outside my car, I could see there was actually a small line of people waiting to enter the church through its narrow doors. There were perhaps two or three to an oblong box. Perhaps this was a church fundraiser, and these strange folk were setting up early for a flea market. I always thought that the vendors at flea markets were weird and uncouth individuals considering the eclectic assortment of used junk they would frequently try to pawn off. For what other opinion could I form of someone who would try and sell half used containers of deodorant, along side unopened McDonald’s happy meal toys, leather belts and old VHS tapes. Either their motives were unethical, or they truly were deluded into believing that there was value in their junk. In most cases the trash would be a more appropriate place to unload their overpriced junk. Perhaps these vendors had come with the high hopes of unloading their garages and attics in an attempt to raise money for some sort of noble endeavor or humanitarian cause. Not everyone had boxes, nevertheless, some were trudging through the narrow doorway with what appeared to be long narrow laundry bags or sleeping bags filled with something- perhaps clothing. Others had hoisted large overflowing dusty cardboard boxes of various goods and trinkets. It was like a gypsy caravan. Finally I made my way to the front door of the church. With all the activity, no one noticed my presence, thankfully I could observe in peace and anonymity.

It was if my eyes were deceiving me, I saw something which made me question as if this were real or that perhaps it was a dream! The oblong boxes were coffins, and the coffins were open. The coffins were not the traditional coffins that you see in a modern funeral service- those would have been too heavy to lift with two people anyway. These “coffins”- for I could not find a better expression to describe these ghastly containers- were constructed of relatively light weight materials: wood, tin and cardboard. They looked like oversized shoe boxes without lids. These makeshift coffins were easily be carried by two pall bearers, with one at either end. The overstuffed sleeping bags and laundry bags were actually the dead, encased in blankets and grungy bedding- some of which were in various stages of decay! Some of the elderly, grey haired woman, perhaps because they lacked the vigor and strength of their youth, simply dragged their bodies into the church. I was repulsed yet drawn at the same time. I stood transfixed in the doorway, unable to move- unable to enter the church threshold, yet unable to leave. I felt compelled to stay yet overcome with a sickly fear that I felt growing inside of being so close to the dead.

Inside the small one-roomed church was a bustle of activity. The surreal atmosphere was a cross between the somber dark gloominess of a funeral home with the fast paced zeal of a flea market and I am sure that there were a small number of health code as well as fire code violations to boot. At least there was one consolation- they weren’t serving any food- that would be too gross. There were guests of all ages crammed into the room- like a typical crowd at a flea market or carnival, I suppose. Along the walls and corners, the vendors were setting up their creepy wares. Specifically, the containers holding the corpses were being propped upright, leaning against the wall for support in strategic locations within the empty church. Apparently all the pews and chairs had been removed from the interior to accommodate this event and the crowds it would draw in. A few plastic fold-up tables were set up- filled with various old books, jewelry, photographs and other trinkets, near each of the displayed propped up bodies. Apparently, the items were set up and displayed with their respective owners that had owned them in life. I wondered if this made the items more valuable. In one corner, I looked with revulsion and shock as I saw two elderly women, casually applying blush and lipstick to the cheeks and lips of a deceased woman propped upright in a wooden box against the wall. Apparently they were cosmetizing the corpse.

Strangely I recognized some people in the crowd from years ago, yet did not acknowledge their presence. Nor did anyone acknowledge mine. They were complete strangers, yet familiar at the same time. Perhaps it was only my imagination, but this room was filled with many faces that were vaguely familiar from my past. Though decades had passed since I had last seen them, miraculously they had not aged whatsoever- still retaining their youth.

But then a strange blind, old man from across the crowded room caught my eye. He seemed familiar yet I did not know who he was. His eyes, appeared to be sealed shut as if the wrinkled, deflated eye lids, were devoid of the usual round orbs. He did not open his eyes, yet he seemed to be able to navigate around the room with ease- and with no need of a walking stick. He knew I was there staring at him from across the room and he casually walked closer. Once we exchanged greeting formalities, he gestured for me to come closer, and I was strangely compelled to obey. As if he were reading my mind he stood directly in front of me positioned his face only inches from my own and I stared straight into his eyes, literally. I could see an opening- as narrow as the width of a thin sheet of paper, between his eyelids. I looked directly into the void as if peering through a keyhole, and saw an unexplainable site. It was as if I had a panoramic 360 degree view inside his skull. I saw what seemed to be an empty expanse of vast darkness. Above, near the top I saw a set of eyes and below I saw a set of two eyes. Four fully formed orbs- fully functioning eyeballs, concealed and recessed deep within the darkness of skull, concealed from view. I could not comprehend what I was seeing. There were two normal eyes on top and two beneath- round white orbs, albeit a bit bloodshot, blue in color with black pupils- normal and functioning in every way, providing the man with perfect 20/20 vision. This was how he could see- so even though he appeared to be blind, he concealed an ingenious method of vision. He turned to the side and I saw above his ear, a gaping hole. The edges had been stitched long ago, and reflected many years of healing and scar tissue. There was no redness and no blood present whatsoever. There was no bandaging applied to cover the wound either- it was just there out in the open. Yet within the two inch ragged hole, the emptiness within his skull was entirely visible. Essentially his head, or to be more accurate, its - head  and face was simply an outer shell, and there were none of the usual organs visible within. Medically, the man’s condition was incompatible with life, and in I fact did not know how he was alive.

The next thing I remember is a stern, small voice coming in through the doorway, “Mommy I need my clothes for school!”, called Rose as she swung open the door and stood at the foot of the bed. I woke up instantly.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Then Sings My Soul By Robert Morgan

Then Sings My Soul By Robert Morgan, published by Thomas Nelson publishers is a compendium of traditional hymns as well as the stories behind the hymns. It is like a cross between a hymnal and history book. Each song in this book is analagous to a devotional prayer with a commentary that follows. The music as well as the words are provided for the hymns. For those unfamiliar with the world of hymns, this book provides everything you needed to know, from the lyrics, to the historical background behind the songs. The target audience of this book would include those interested in Christian history and those who like to sing hymnals or play hymnals on the piano.  This book would especially make a great gift for anyone involved in a music ministry or music worship team of a church. As a blogger for I recieved this book for the purpose of writing a review and the opinions expressed in this review are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review.