Posted in book review, theology

Book Review: Mary Rowlandson’s captivity

By Elizabeth Prata

Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson
Mary White Rowlandson

It’s a riveting account of a Puritan woman’s travail through an Indian massacre and three months’ captivity, and eventual ransomed release. (1675-6). It was the time of King Philips War and the colony had gotten very bloody very quickly.

Mary is articulate in her afflictions and fervent in her reliance on God through the ordeal. Contains many scriptures and references to God. If a reader is not a Christian they will likely not enjoy the account as much or at all. I enjoyed  seeing how Mary relied on certain scriptures as she saw her family killed, her children ripped from her, and as she endured hunger, thirst, physical hardship, and the devastating emotional loss of her child dying in her arms and her other children taken to different Indian villages, fate unknown.

In one scene that remains vivid in my mind, she looked to the left and only saw hundreds of Indians, and looked to the right and only saw hundreds of Indians, and became aware of the fact that she was the only Christian for miles and miles.

Some say the antiquated English the narrative is written in makes it hard to read. I didn’t, I found it less difficult than Shakespeare and enjoyed it at every part.

I first heard of this book (short narrative at 55 pages) when author Nathanial Philbrick referred to it in his book Mayflower, which I also enjoyed.

Free on Kindle.

Represents one of the first publications of a woman in the New World (Anne Bradstreet’s poetry was first).

mary illustration.jpg

Posted in book review, theology

Book Review Shots: Updates on books read and to-read

By Elizabeth Prata

Time for a reading update!

I am on summer break from my job in an elementary school. I’m a teacher’s aide, now called “para-professional.” I enjoy summer break enormously and one of the ways I try to ‘redem the time’ is to catch up on some quality reading.

I set aside a bunch of books to read, and a schedule to read them in. Here’s the list of books and my short reviews of each.

  • Bible
  • Biblical Doctrine, John MacArthur et al
  • Competing Spectacles, Tony Reinke
  • Her Husband’s Crown, Sara Leone
  • Idols of a Mother’s Heart, Christina Fox
  • In a Different Key: Story of Autism, John Donovan
  • Internet Inferno, John Michael Beasley
  • It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis
  • Life of David, RC Sproul (lectures)
  • Lit!, Tony Reinke
  • Margaret Paton Letters from South Seas, Margaret Paton
  • Phantom Rickshaw & Other Eerie Stories, Rudyard Kipling
  • Selina Countess of Huntingdon, Faith Cook
  • The Believer’s Joy, Robert M’Cheyne
  • Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennet, Ed
  • Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

I have added a few books to my original list:

Empty Nest, What’s Next by Michele Howe
Mayflower by Nathanial Philbrick
Life of Moses by James Boice

I decided to read Internet Inferno again even though I finished it, it’s THAT GOOD.
Books I’ve finished:

I mentioned that Beasley’s Internet Inferno is good. He applies the warnings and commands of James about the tongue to our practices and behavior online. Very clear writing and excellent application of the verses. Highly recommended.

The Phantom ‘Rickshaw & other Eerie Tales, is a collection of short stories by Rudyard Kipling, first published in 1888. I always try to include a literary classic in my summer list, and this book was it. I’d found it in a vintage store for $1 and was delighted to try a Kipling. #TrueConfession: I’ve never read The Jungle Book or any other Kipling.

Kipling is no doubt a literary giant and a master storyteller. He is so good in fact, that this eerie set of stories made me highly uncomfortable and creeped me out. I stopped reading the book at the story about the living dead, it was vivid and put pictures in my mind I didn’t want to carry with me. However, the stories are well-done so if you’re less sensitive than me I recommend the book. It’s little known so you might have difficulty finding it.

It Can’t Happen Here is a Sinclair Lewis political novel written in 1935. It’s about just how easily a representative democracy (ours) can become a dictatorship. Last summer I’d read Lewis’ Elmer Gantry, (1927) which turned out to be the best book I ever read on religious hypocrisy. Talk about chilling, Kipling has nothing on creeping you out. Lewis definitively captured the emptiness and evil of a Christ-less convert turned celebrity pastor. The book was long and a bit of a slog, but I kept with it and I was glad I did. The book still haunts me.

It Can’t Happen Here is also a slog, but try as I might I couldn’t get through it. Lewis’ language is terrific, his turns of phrase and word pictures are unmatched. It’s just that there is so much of it. The story slows down and suffers because it seems Lewis was more entranced with his artful turns of phrase than just telling a good story. Gantry was a masterpiece, Happen Here, sadly, isn’t. I took it off my ‘currently reading shelf.’ Maybe next year.

FMI on 4 Lewis books that are better than It Can’t Happen Here

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (2018) was a ‘can’t put down book’. It’s everything a well-written, gripping, emotional novel should be. I raced through it. When I wasn’t reading it, I wished I was. Recommended.

I reviewed Her Husband’s Crown earlier this summer. It was just a 42 page book, a small pamphlet really. It’s a practical bundle of advice aimed at pastors’ wives but applicable to any women who is a member of a church. Recommended.

My Bible reading right now is through Proverbs, which, being wisdom books, coincide nicely with Lit!, Competing Spectacles, and Internet Inferno.

Ladies, don’t feel bad about reading books, even novels. Sometimes I get a twinge, thinking that if I have this time shouldn’t I devote it totally to the Lord, and read only the Bible and theological books. Are novels, or even historical fiction, taking away time I could better redeem? Tony Reinke in Lit! answers that. And because I agree with him, lol, I’ll post his bullet points here.

  • Fictional literature can help us explore abstract human experiences
  • Fictional literature can deepen our appreciation for concrete human experience
  • Fictional literature expands our range of experiences
  • Fictional literature provides beauty and creativity to be enjoyed

In Owens’ Crawdads book I thoroughly enjoyed her atmospheric descriptions of the Low Country, the marshes, estuary, and ocean of South Carolina, and the lushness of her language. The scenery reminded me of a fond memory I have of anchoring our sailboat in the Georgia marshes and hearing the rushes shake as the tide turned, and the owls hooting under the moonlight.

As for the remaining books on my list that I’ve begun already, I am enjoying them to greater and lesser degrees. I grade them all from a B to A+. More to come as I progress through each book.

Happy Summer Reading!

summer reading

Posted in book review, theology

Practical, helpful questions for the sermon hearer; plus Book Review

By Elizabeth Prata

crown
I love to listen to sermons, especially my own pastor’s sermons. They are rich and deep with a lot to think about. He exposits verse by verse or chapter by chapter through a book of the Bible, and along the way he challenges us with his points. Just the way I like it.

I’m such a dunce though. I long to apply the words to my life so as to partner with the Spirit in my progressive sanctification. But I often don’t know the questions to ask myself in order to kick-start the process for that day. I found a helpful aid in the book I just finished reading, “Her Husband’s Crown,” a short exhortation of 9 points and a conclusion by Sara Leone.

Below are some good questions a woman can ask herself after hearing a sermon. Though the author’s intended audience is pastors’ wives, these questions are good for any woman to ask of herself after hearing her pastor’s sermon, or any sermon. I hope they help you as they helped me.

We remember the exhortation to “…receive with meekness the implanted word.” (James 1:21).

What has the word of God taught me today? Has it pointed to a sin I must confess? What promise has it encouraged me to claim? Is there a godly example for me to follow, a Christian grace to develop in my life? How should I apply the lessons of the sermon to my daily living? In other words, our goal should not be to critique our husbands’ sermons but to benefit spiritually from them.

Her Husband’s Crown, p 20 Sara Leone

BOOK REVIEW:

summer reading

As I finish the books I’ve set aside for this summer’s reading, I’ll review them.

Her Husband’s Crown by Sara Leone is for sale at Amazon for only $3. It’s 42 short and sweet pages that I found practical and helpful. Sara is a pastor’s wife. The blurb says “Although written primarily for pastors wives, this booklet will encourage Christian wives in general and will stimulate prayer for and support of pastors and their wives everywhere.

I say it’s a helpful book for any Christian woman who is a member of her church, married, unmarried, pastor’s wife or not.

What I liked about it is that the advice inside is practical, no-nonsense and nothing you haven’t really heard before. But it’s bundled in such a way that the advice and points are brought to mind again in a good way. There are blessedly few anecdotes of a personal nature, just only enough to be lightly sprinkled throughout and helpful to her chapter’s point. There is a lot of scripture. Just the way I like it.

For example, Chapter 3’s point, “Be a sympathetic and confidential listener to your husband,” based on Romans 12:15, is a wonderful treatment on the importance of pastor’s wives to be, well, sympathetic to your husband’s cares and concerns but also keep them confidential. This can be applied to any situation where a person confides in you. In other words, it’s easy to apply her points if you are a pastor’s wife and easy to adapt her points if you are not. And her points are good.

Another example, chapter 2, Fulfill your responsibilities as a mother before seeking other ministries in the church. Here, Mrs. Leone speaks to a common misperception, that the pastor’s wife is ‘First Lady’ of the church and in that role must fill the gap or lead the way for many of the ministries going on. Not so.

If you’re not a pastor’s wife then the advice is still good to be reminded of that a mother’s primary role is mother, not ministry leader. I mentioned that her advice isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, so of course we know that if you’re a mom then motherhood is a primary essential. But I also said that her advice is needed. Why? When we see many Christian mothers podcasting, running all over the US in their book tours, being guests on podcasts, writing books, maintaining a strong social media presence, and raising 7 children or 4 children and the like, it makes many true stay-at-home Christian mothers wonder if they, too can “do it all” like these other, more famous women who seem to have successful myriad ministries yet claim also to be focused on raising their children. So, Leone’s advice is needed.

The author does not come across as bossy but gentle. She is sharing these 9 points from a long life of experience but also as reminders from scripture. Reading this book is like sipping a cup of tea with a friend in the shade under a dappled dogwood tree.

Recommended.

Posted in book review, theology

Book Review Shots: Disciplines of a Godly Woman; Can I have Joy in my Life?; Amy Carmichael; The Machine Stops

By Elizabeth Prata

Crime novel writer James Patterson issues books in a series called “BookShots.” These are novellas, short books he writes in beteeen the longer ones. I like the idea.

I’ve been participating in Tim Challies’ annual Christian Reading Challenge. I’m keeping up pretty well, and enjoying the structure it provides so I do not lapse into total couch potato with brain of mush.

Here are a few of my Book ReviewShots, short reviews of the books I’ve recently read.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Disciplines of a Godly Woman, by Barbara Hughes

I do not recommend this book.

I like the topic, and there were a few good nuggets in it, but overall it was simply a rehash of normal things any women has already heard, if she has been saved for any length of time. Few new insights.

Issues I had with the book were:

–LOTS of anecdotes. The book would be half as long if Mrs Hughes cut the personal anecdotes and stories that supposedly cemented her point and just stuck to the Bible. Anecdotes the author thinks makes her case, don’t always connect with every reader, but the Bible unfailingly does.

–Some misused scripture, or relying on a traditional view of famous verses rather than teaching their real meaning. (Mt 18:20, Jeremiah 29:11)

–Quoting doubtful characters, i.e. William Barclay, a confirmed universalist who denied the Trinity; Watchman Nee, a mystic whose views on sanctification, the Holy Spirit, hermeneutics, baptism, the church and sin contain significant error; Christy the missionary written about by Catherine Marshall, who was a social justice warrior missionary who gravitated to Quakerism; Win Arn, church growth guru who partnered with C Peter Wagner, demon delivery guru for one of his books, and more. Her Resources page also contains iffy books.

In the book was the following statement- “Apostle Andrew became the patron saint of three diverse countries.” As if that helps his stature! But it lessens the author’s though, for promoting Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic “tradition”. There is no such thing as a “patron saint” of a nation. Statements like these should never be included in a book aimed at evangelical women.

I found this book hard to get through and problematic to pass on.

Better books are:

Praying the Bible by Don Whitney
The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges
The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies
Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible, and What He Wants to Do with You by John F. MacArthur
Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, wife of Charles H. Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr.
The Pursuit of God, by A. W. Tozer

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Amy Carmichael: Beauty for Ashes, by Iain Murray

A short book and an easy read. Murray seems a bit glowing over Amy, but then again, what Amy did was amazing. He didn’t gloss over some of her known issues, however, such as her subjective approach to interpreting the Bible, or her (often misunderstood, according to Murray) imperiousness. Thus, I believe this to be a fair assessment of her life. It isn’t deep, since the book is short, but it’s a good introduction to a remarkable woman’s life lived for Christ. It contains a lengthy bibliography if one wants further info on Amy’s life and work in India.

See also:

A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot
The Little Woman by Gladys Aylward
Lady Jane Grey: Nine Day Queen of England by Faith Cook

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Can I Have Joy In My Life? (Crucial Questions #12) by R.C. Sproul

A short, extremely helpful book on the topic, from RC Sproul. (50 pages). I bought it at the Ligonier $5 Friday sale for $1.88. It’s worth much more than that. Great to keep and re-read at various times, or to give away. Recommended.

I also purchased but have not read others in the series:

Can I Lose My Salvation? (Crucial Questions #22) by R.C. Sproul
Are People Basically Good? (Crucial Questions #25) by R.C. Sproul

Crucial Questions is a good series. Many books covering oft-asked questions. Since the book length is pamphlet sized and they are inexpensive, it makes a perfect giveaway to any brother or sister struggling with any of the questions the book covers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster

Written in 1909 as a short story (only 47 pages for this edition of the paperback) it is a masterful dystopian novella with an eerie bull’s eye to today’s tendency toward individual isolationism and over-reliance on technology. Who knew that the author of A Passage To India, Maurice, Howard’s End, A Room With a View and other familiar novels, had such a prescient eye for the future and could create a totally dystopian, subterranean world. “The Machine Stops” was named one of the greatest science fiction novellas published before 1965 by the Science Fiction Writers of America. This book influenced future authors such as Isaac Asimov and filmmaker George Lucas.

Recommended.

See also:

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
The Running Man by Stephen King

Posted in book review, theology

Book Review: “You Who?: Why You Matter & How To Deal With It” by Rachel Jankovic

By Elizabeth Prata

“Feelings are a bunch of monkeys. Our feelings are not bulletins from the Holy of Holies.”

And just like that, Rachel Jankovic’s new book “You Who?: Why You Matter & How To Deal With It” is off and running. Oh and by the way, she first mentions sin on page TWO. Take that, every other feelings-laden, soft-sell, ‘messy lives’ snowflake books.

Because, Rachel’s new book isn’t for the easily melted. Then again, it is. It’s for every woman who claims Christ. It’s a straight shot across the bow to all the carefully contrived me-oriented schemas, constructs, and operating theories women in Christendom have been presented with, (I’m talking to you, Lifeway & Ladies Ministry) and a good deal more. But I get ahead of myself.

Here is the official blurb of this upcoming book*, slated for publication on January 15. Canon Press is the publisher and you can also buy from Amazon.

If “Who am I?” is the question you’re asking, Rachel Jankovic doesn’t want you to “find yourself” or “follow your heart.”

Those lies are nothing to the confidence, freedom, and clarity of course that come with knowing what is actually essential about you. And the answer to that question is at once less and more than what you are hoping for.

Christians love the idea that self-expression is the essence of a beautiful person, but that’s a lie, too. With trademark humor and no nonsense practicality, Rachel Jankovic explains the fake story of the Self, starting with the inventions of a supremely ugly man named Sartre (rhymes with “blart”). And we–men and women, young and old–have bought his lie of the Best Self, with terrible results.

Thankfully, that’s not the end of our story, You Who: Why You Matter and How to Deal with It takes the identity question into the nitty gritty details of everyday life. Here’s the first clue: Stop looking inside, and start planting flags of everyday faithfulness. In Christianity, the self is always a tool and never a destination.

When do we start being us? The existentialist will say we become who we are when we start knitting together our actions that create the story of our identity. Our identity is all about ‘our story.’ The Christian woman should say, as Jankovic explains, that “our valuations are built in a completely different foundation. Who you believe does the creating makes all the difference. Which creator do we honor?”

In asking the question ‘Who am I?’ we are really asking the question ‘Who is my God?’ Knowing, understanding, and living the answer to that question correctly gives the Christian woman relief and joy. Jankovic expertly outlines how to achieve that relief, and it’s not in what we do, but knowing who we are.

Rachel’s contention is that we have no practical idea of what makes us who we are, because we have absorbed too much of the world and its philosophies. As we grow up we adopt titles of identities that have either been thrust on us or that we take on ourselves. “Carefree grrrrl”, or “The Fashionista” or “The Nerd” might satisfy for the moment, but they are a lie. Why? Because they are only temporary. We outgrow the youthful grrrl and become a mom, or an employee, or a boss. But God never changes. When we find our identity in Him, we rest satisfied because we know and are known, unchangeable, no matter the temporary worldly title our family or the world might put on us.

Rachel punctures every misnomer, every misapplication, every fad (like the Christian fad telling us women “You’re a princess”) attempting to be the terminus identity. Defining ourselves by man-made categories simply gets between us and Christ.

Here is an example of her explosive language drilling down to the main point of our Christian identity as women:

Jesus Christ did not come into the world and die so that you might live. That is only the partial truth, the truth that skips all the action. Jesus Christ came to this earth, struggled, suffered, and died so that you might die.

I have to say, as a matter of personal preference and bias, I don’t enjoy podcasts, from men or women. I don’t enjoy interviews and very few Q&A’s. I’m not a fan of banter, filler, giggling, or circuitous points. I participated in Rachel’s DVD seminars, which is comprised of hours of her talking and us listening/watching via a flat screen. The Valley Girl accent that so many millennials have these days, the rabbit trail points, and verbal tics are very distracting. Like?…like?…like… you know what I mean, like?

I am of the opinion that if one wants to have a speaking career, one should speak clearly and concisely. This skill is directly taught to pastors in Homiletics classes. But it seems that anyone with an internet connection who decides to launch a podcast (as Rachel has) or embarks on a speaking career does so without a minimum benchmark most people learn in high school speech classes. There IS such a thing as adhering to a minimum standard of craftsmanship. I’ll expand on this point in another blog essay but for now let me admit that when I was handed Rachel’s book, though obviously highly intelligent, based on her speaking persona I wasn’t expecting much.

I’m thrilled to say that not only were my expectations on her writing craftsmanship exceeded, but I’m actually blown away by the book’s brilliance.

Pros:

I appreciated Rachel’s continual turning to Jesus as the answer. She urges total submission and makes a clear point about just what that answer is (and it’s more than being a “Princess”). There is not a hint of eisegesis, narcissism, or me-centered, self-esteem, pop psychology so often present in the glut of books flooding the Christian publishing market today.

Sin was stated as sin, not ‘brokenness’ or ‘messiness’ or ‘mistakes’. Rachel never whitewashes who we are as sinners but continually points to Christ. She offers practical, optimistic responses that slay the philosophies we have been pummeled with in the Christian publishing industry for the last 20-odd years. Rachel is skilled at mounting up responses and excuses to women use to rebut her points but then blowing them all away like the milkweed they are. When the title says ‘how to deal with it’, it means it.

Rachel spends a good deal of the book focusing on giving God glory. What glory is and how to express it. And that expression is never more glorious and God-honoring than when we obey. We are never more our true selves than when we obey God’s word.

Rachel shows restraint in using personal anecdotes and momisms. As any good preacher knows, illustrations are a double edged sword. Once you start making an illustration on which to revolve your sermon, you’ve lost any demographic that doesn’t identify with it. Rachel uses few, but they are sprinkled in to the chapters at just the right moments.

Now, don’t run away when I say this, but Rachel begins with an examination of various philosophies, such as nihilism, cognitive psychology, and in a lengthy treatment, existentialism. I’ve always had a hard time wrapping my mind around these philosophies, but Rachel does a brilliant job of making a practical analysis of how they compare to Christianity, specifically, Christian identity. Yet for all its weighty themes, it is a highly readable book. I read it in just a few days.

You Who? Why You Matter & How To Deal With It” is an important addition to the  Christian woman’s bookshelf, and one I believe is a “must read.”

——————————

*Oganizers of the Jankovic DVD seminars were offered a pre-publication advanced reader copy of this book, with a request if so accepting, to also write a review of the book. No expectation was given as to the type of review nor its content. This review was completed without influence of any kind.

Posted in book review, theology

Book Review- Heaven and Hell: Jonathan Edwards on the Afterlife by John Gerstner

By Elizabeth Prata
Heaven and Hell: Jonathan Edwards on the AfterlifeHeaven and Hell: Jonathan Edwards on the Afterlife by John H. Gerstner
Dr. Gerstner was an enthusiastic student of the famous Jonathan Edwards. He spent a good deal of his professional life studying Edwards and his theology. In this book, he examines the teaching of Edwards on the subjects of heaven and hell.

A short work, at times felt more like Cliff’s Notes, but it is such a weighty subject, particularly the way Edwards deals with it, that I don’t know if my heart and soul could stand the pain of reading about hell any more deeply that was already presented.

I didn’t agree with all Edwards had to say on the subject (i.e. earth being the location of hell after the conflagration, or that devils torment us in hell) but alternately, Edwards did raise interesting points. Like this one: are men punished for sins IN the state of punishment as well as in the state of trial?

One comes to appreciate Edwards’ attention to the doctrine. His pleas, constant and earnest as they were, to avoid hell ran consistently with the Bible’s frequency on the subject (3-to-1 in favor of threats and warnings vs comforts and lovelies). Here is one excerpt from an unpublished sermon where Edwards remarks on his own frequency of hell’s mention-

And indeed when I went about preparing this discourse it was with considerable discouragement. I thought it was now some time since I had offered any discourse of this nature. But so many had been offered with so little apparent effect that I thought with myself I know not what to say further.

But however because I must warn you from God whether you will hear or whether you will forbear I have warned you again. It has now been told once more, whether you will yield to the power of God’s Word, to the force of the awful warnings and threatenings which the Word of God sets before you [or not]. If you will not hear now you may possibly solemnly lay these things to heart when you come to die. And if you continue in your stupidity to the last, being given up of God to a dreadful degree of hardness that is beyond the alarm of approaching death, which is the case with some, yet as soon as ever you are dead you will be fully sensible of all.

Edwards’ motivation for the frequency of hell’s mention stems from a vivid understanding of God’s character, his wrath and His grace. His sermons are clear on the wondrous character of God and his unchangeableness in dealing with sin. Edwards fervently wanted his hearers to spend eternity in grace, not wrath. Some were converted, some were not. Some even stayed on the fence, Edwards says that “they were neither awakened, nor at ease.”

Gerstner uses copious amounts of quotes from Edwards’ sermons and writings, and many footnotes for further study.

Edwards once remarked that the only way for men to have ease on earth is to delete the doctrine of hell, and so it is the same to this day. Recommended.

Posted in book review, theology

More reviews on ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’

By Elizabeth Prata

The week that was. I’d reviewed a popular book called “Girl, Wash Your Face last week. It is an extremely popular book, sold as a How/To and published by an allegedly Christian writer, Rachel Hollis.

Speak to doctrinal or biblical living expectations, and the hits are low. Speak against a hugely popular “Christian celebrity” and the hits are high. But that is OK, because if any woman learns something that crosses the line for her, biblically, and avoids yet another Christian-ish celebrity author, than I’m happy. Essay views for the day before and after I’d reviewed Girl, Wash Your Face:

Rachel Hollis’s writing is great and her stories are affecting, but that’s often the issue. Engaging and skillful writers who connect with an audience over a slim veneer of Christianity are rife these days, to the detriment of women who need and want depth of scripture for life’s issues.

Sadly, many of Hollis’s ideas are not based on a strong Christian foundation. Thus, her book and its advice fails to rely on the atoning work of Jesus on the cross for our sins, and instead promotes a secular worldview of self-sufficiency. It’s about raising our self-esteem, which I am good and plenty sick of reading about from supposed Christian authors. The book is mainly grrrrrl power self-bootstraps advice, so I gave the book a thumbs-down.

Hollis’s theology should give you all you need to know about whether to take her advice in Girl:

 

Tim Challies reviewed the book, saying it is not only not good, but is antithetical to the Bible. Read more here.

Sheologians writer Summer White Jaeger published a review of the book. One thing I like to do when I write, or speak, or come to believe something based on my faith is to check it against the word, of course. But I also like to check against what other Christians are saying. I don’t exist in a vacuum, and I always need to ensure that my narrow center line of life & doctrine is still on the center line, not varying to the left or right.

I was pleased to see that Jaeger’s concerns in part 1 of the review were similar to mine. She noted that Hollis is giving out life advice to the general Christian female world from her vantage point of all of 35 years old. She noticed Hollis doesn’t mention much about sin. And so on. Read part 1 here and Jaeger’s part 2 is here. Final thoughts here.

Also: Katie at Uncomfortable Grace (on Facebook) wrote a short review, also, here

Alisa Childers writes What Rachel Hollis Gets Right…and Wrong.Alisa’s review here, reminds us, against Hollis’s advice to chase money and fulfill ambition, that,

Jesus never called us to chase after power, money, and fame (and He actually had quite a bit to say about those things). He called us to lay our pursuit of all that stuff down and follow Him. He said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

The Theology Gals reviewed Girl, Wash Your Face and spoke of Hollis’s faith in general from a discernment aspect, here.

Michelle Lesley reviewed it here in a larger essay that recommends or doesn’t recommend various teachers.

Rebekah Womble at Wise in His Eyes reviewed Hollis’s book. She held it to the light of scripture and found it lacking, as did the other reviewers. I love how the different women raise different issues, though, but all of them compared the book  to scripture and find it fails the test. I liked Womble’s review quite a bit.Womble wrote:

I want to start by acknowledging that Rachel does have some good things to say in the book. In particular, she shares poignant episodes from her life that brought me to empathize with the trials she has endured, and I could appreciate her speaking out of her own personal experiences.

But unfortunately, much of Girl, Wash Your Face is fraught with contradictory statements. Since most of what Rachel writes are her own ideas and opinions—not originating in the Bible as the objective standard of truth—this is to be expected. As fallen human beings, each one of us is prone to accept as true only what we want to believe.

Here are some examples of the book’s antithetical creeds:

I wrote 2 companion pieces to my book review of Girl, Wash Your Face, about the problem of and solution to Christian Celebrity Moms like Hollis, here-

Many Christian Celebrity Moms are Distorting Biblical Motherhood; Part 1

Many Christian Celebrity Moms are Distorting Biblical Motherhood; Part 2

Posted in book review, theology

Girl, Wash Your Face (Book Review)

By Elizabeth Prata

1. HOW (CHRISTIAN-ISH) PEOPLE GET FAMOUS

It’s no longer just movies or television that launches the latest It Girl celebrity. It’s social media. A person who starts a blog, web page, Instagram, Twitter or myriad other social media platforms, if they hit the right note, the right moment, and persevere with quantity (and hopefully quality content) they can gather thousands if not millions of “followers”. From there, Publishers take note. Someone who already has a built-in audience is more attractive to them as a potential client than someone who is not.

Rachel Hollis is a Los Angeles event planner turned entrepreneur turned podcaster turned TV guest commentator, social media darling, and author. Almost ten years ago she started her blog, The Chic Site. Her honest voice and her winsome (and savvy) ability to connect through writing and speaking about lifestyle, has launched Hollis to front place on bestseller lists, top entrepreneur lists, and most any other list you can list.

Though Hollis has written several novels in the Romance genre, her latest book has hit the bestseller lists like a tsunami. It’s a How-To/Advice book called Girl, Wash Your Face. Seventeen weeks ago, it vaulted to the top of the Advice/How-To NY Times bestseller list and has stayed there. Published 6 months ago as of this writing, the self-help advice book has over 4,000 reviews, 96% of them 4 or 5-star. It’s currently #4 on Apple’s iBooks list.

2. ABOUT CHRISTIAN PUBLISHING

Thomas Nelson Publishing published Girl, Wash Your Face. Thomas Nelson writes of the book,

With wry wit and hard-earned wisdom, popular online personality and founder of TheChicSite.com Rachel Hollis helps readers break free from the lies keeping them from the joy-filled and exuberant life they are meant to have.

So, according to Hollis, I’m supposed to be having a joy filled life of exuberance but the world has lied to me and I’m not living that life but Hollis is going to help me achieve it with her advice. Rachel Hollis is 35 years old.

Publisher’s Weekly says,

Hollis implores readers to stop worrying about external pressures to always do more and, instead, to find fulfillment by getting in touch with their own desires and feelings.

Wasn’t getting in touch with her desires what got Eve (and Adam and all of humanity) into trouble with God? (Genesis 3:6).

Longer ‘About the Book’ from Thomas Nelson:

As the founder of the lifestyle website TheChicSite.com and CEO of her own media company, Rachel Hollis developed an immense online community by sharing tips for better living while fearlessly revealing the messiness of her own life. Now, in this challenging and inspiring new book, Rachel exposes the twenty lies and misconceptions that too often hold us back from living joyfully and productively, lies we’ve told ourselves so often we don’t even hear them anymore.
With painful honesty and fearless humor, Rachel unpacks and examines the falsehoods that once left her feeling overwhelmed and unworthy, and reveals the specific practical strategies that helped her move past them. In the process, she encourages, entertains, and even kicks a little butt, all to convince you to do whatever it takes to get real and become the joyous, confident woman you were meant to be.
With unflinching faith and rock-hard tenacity, Girl, Wash Your Face shows you how to live with passion and hustle–and how to give yourself grace without giving up.

Do you see the problem? As the book blurb describes, as we women grew up, the world lied to us. We believed it. So now we cannot live productively or joyfully unless we give ourselves grace, use our own strength and tenacity to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and be who we were meant to be.

All without a solid mention of Jesus in the book.

What is Thomas Nelson’s Christian mission?

Thomas Nelson is committed to one central mission: inspiring the world by meeting the needs of people with content that promotes biblical principles and honors Jesus Christ.

3. MY THOUGHTS ON THE BOOK

I read the introduction, Table of Contents, chapter 1, 2, and 3, the end notes/acknowledgements, and the study guide.

Mrs Hollis is definitely a skilled writer. For those of you who are moms, especially millennial moms, this book may well appeal to you. Hollis structures her book by titling each chapter with one of the “lies” women “have been told”, spends the chapter discussing that “lie’s” impact on her upbringing and life, and concludes with ‘helpful tips’ on what helped her overcome the “lie”. I’m placing the word “lie” in scare quotes for a reason that will be discussed in the Conclusion. Here are the chapter titles.

Introduction: Hey Girl, Hey!
1. The Lie: Something Else Will Make Me Happy
2. The Lie: I’ll Start Tomorrow
3. The Lie: I’m Not Good Enough
4. The Lie: I’m Better Than You
5. The Lie: Loving Him Is Enough for Me
6. The Lie: No Is the Final Answer
7. The Lie: I’m Bad at Sex
8. The Lie: I Don’t Know How to Be a Mom
9. The Lie: I’m Not a Good Mom
10. The Lie: I Should Be Further Along by Now
11. The Lie: Other People’s Kids Are So Much Cleaner/
Better Organized/More Polite
12. The Lie: I Need to Make Myself Smaller
13. The Lie: I’m Going to Marry Matt Damon
14. The Lie: I’m a Terrible Writer
15. The Lie: I Will Never Get Past This
16. The Lie: I Can’t Tell the Truth
17. The Lie: I Am Defined by My Weight
18. The Lie: I Need a Drink
19. The Lie: There’s Only One Right Way to Be
20. The Lie: I Need a Hero

I hesitated to include these chapter headings that represent ‘the lies’ we as women have been told, (or that we believe on our own impetus) because they speak to the common experience of many women. It’s not that to which I object. It’s the fact that she fails to identify the “lies” as a secular worldview with all that entails, and her solutions are self-sufficient and not Jesus-oriented.

The section on her brother’s suicide brought tears to my eyes. Rachel is transparent, holding nothing back about her own foibles and mishaps. She is real. She’s engaging, and that is always the trouble with popular female speakers and authors. Sometimes, being empathetic and nurturing, we women focus on how winsomely the story is told and how it made us feel rather than comparing it to the Bible to see if it is so.

Regarding the spiritual aspects of the material I’d read, I did not see much mention of Jesus as our only aid. Nor His grace as the strength we need. His word wasn’t appealed to as the source of wisdom and truth. Of the practical life’s how-to aspects, I read a lot of self-effort, self-care, and self-truth. For example:

The truth? You, and only you, are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are. That’s the takeaway. (Girl, Wash Your Face, p. xi, preface)

I wish she had written that the takeaway for the book was that Jesus is our Lord and Master and that I am ultimately and solely responsible for my sin and my response to it. Or that I am responsible for obeying Jesus and it is obedience to Him that brings joy. But, she didn’t say either of those things nor anything close to it in the parts I read.

As a little girl (a preacher’s daughter, no less) the fruits of the spirit were drilled in early. For those of you who aren’t familiar, one of the apostles (Jesus’ BFF’s) listed out these nine attributes that Christians should have. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22. But the thing is, these are attributes we should all have regardless of where you grew up or what you believe in. And so I wanted to make fruit of the spirit bracelets and I thought that we could all wear them as a reminder of the attribute we most need to work on in our own lives. Source: The Chic Site

I’ve personally never heard a Christian writer refer to the Apostles, on whom the foundation of the Church is laid (Ephesians 2:20) as “Jesus’ BFFs”.

That aside, it is error to say that love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are attributes we should all have regardless of what one believes in. We all do not have those attributes. People who are unsaved mimic those attributes. It is only a mimic because the genuine article comes from Jesus. If one is unsaved the goodness one displays does not please God because it is born of the flesh, not borne of the imputed righteousness God sees when He looks at us and our works. (John 15:5). The two are night and day.

Judging each other actually makes us feel safer in our own choices. Faith is one of the most abused instances of this. We decide that our religion is right; therefore, every other religion must be wrong. Within the same religion, or heck, even within the same church, people judge each other for not being the right kind of Christian, Catholic, Mormon, or Jedi. I don’t know the central tenet of your faith, but the central tenet of mine is “love thy neighbor”. Not “love thy neighbor if they look and act land think like you.” Not love thy neighbor so long as they wear the right clothes and say the right things. Just love them. (Girl Wash Your Face, p. 40)

This paragraph teaches blasphemy and idolatry. One cannot call one’s self a Christian and accept the false religions as part of the pantheon. Worse is to dismiss the differences. The central tenet of Christianity is faith in Jesus and repentance of sins. It is-

that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

Sadly we women are told repeatedly that judge not and love thy neighbor IS the faith. This is simply more claptrap from Hollis.

In sum, the book is about lies women have been told by society, media, family, or the devil and author Hollis dispels those lies by assuring women they are strong and courageous and beautiful and warrior and made for more, and all that.

via GIPHY

CONCLUSION

Takeaways from this essay:

1. Just because someone calls themselves Christian and is really, really famous right now, doesn’t mean they have an orthodox Christian message to share. As a matter of fact, the warning in Luke 6:26 indicates just the opposite.

2. While there are many good Christian Publishing Companies (Westminster Books, Banner of Truth, etc), Christian Book Publishers for the most part…aren’t. Just because a company calls itself “Acme Christian Publishing Company,” doesn’t mean they are selling you edifying books. Discernment is important. Usually, the more popular a book or author is, or the more the secular world knows about him or her, it means the opposite. See #1.

3. The “lies” Hollis claims to be busting is simply the secular world view. That’s normal, the whole world is in the sway of the evil one (1 John 5:19). The world lies to us. Always. That Hollis is giving you engaging self-help tips on how to deconstruct those lies and push on toward higher/better/more clear living, absent the Bible’s instruction, is just more lies. She is sending you from one end of a secular world view, to another. You will come full circle.

Picture it this way. Being inside her world is like being in a balloon. She is sending you all around inside it, from one end to another. But it’s always the same view because you’re always inside that balloon. ONLY the Bible is the sword that pierces soul from spirit. (Hebrews 4:12). It punctures that false world view and exposes your eyes and mind to the truth, which is outside the balloon (flesh).

Look at Hollis’ Twitter bio. What’s missing? And what’s there?

Nothing about being a mother. Nothing about Jesus. The ‘Ms.” speaks volumes.

When you wash your face and look in the mirror, do you see a sinning but forgiven, meek, humble woman with a Christ-like countenance of Jesus reflecting back? Or do you see a strong, empowered, warrior princess grrrl, living a life of self-sufficient ‘passion and hustle?’ If you see the latter, you’re being lied to.

Girl, Wash Your Face: Not recommended.

 

Posted in book review, Uncategorized

Book Review: Above All Things

My summer began at Memorial Day. My summer break from school ended a month ago, when I returned to work on July 31. I’d been making the most of the time off, after spiritual duties and pleasures, to engage in some of my favorite past-times: reading and movie watching. Here is a review of one of the books I read this summer, Above All Things.

I reviewed Randy Alcorn’s Deadline previously

Amazon’s Above All Things synopsis:

Expecting their first baby, Judd and Evette McGlin are thrilled at the prospect of becoming parents. But their marriage faces the ultimate test when Judd learns he already has a child: a six-year-old bi-racial daughter, born amid secrets and lies. Now, Evette must decide if she can accept the child—and forgive Judd. She thought she was open-minded—until hidden prejudices threaten the future of an innocent little girl, Evette’s marriage, and the very notion of the woman she’s believed herself to be. Above all things, this child needs acceptance and love. Needs Evette to discover what being a mother truly means. Needs Judd to face his past. And needs them both to discover what it truly means to be a family.

above all things
Review:

I’ve never read any of Deborah Raney’s books. I bought Above All Things for the Kindle because it was free. I haven’t had the best of luck with the freebie notices that BookBub sends me. When a Kindle book is free there’s usually a reason. But sometimes a good one is stuck in there so I keep trying. This was one of the good ones.

BookBub “is a free daily email that notifies you about deep discounts on acclaimed ebooks. You choose the types you’d like to get notified about — with categories ranging from mysteries to cookbooks — and we send great deals in those genres to your inbox.” BookBub is like Honey or Camel Camel Camel but strictly for books.

My favorite genres tend toward the more manly fast paced thrillers, detective, or legal genres than the Christian ChickLit, which Above All Things definitely is.

I enjoyed how the author set the foundation at first and introduced her Christian characters by showing, not telling. I enjoyed how she brought us through their issue, the unknown daughter Judd had 6 years ago and the other issues of pre-marital sex, betrayal, and blended family that come with it. Included in their issues to work through was also the biracial aspect. The characters were well-drawn, including the daughter, grandmother and in-laws. Raney’s depiction of the change of heart and Christian growth were realistic. I especially enjoyed the scene where the couple is counseled by their pastor.

All in all, I was tremendously surprised when I looked up the length for the print version and saw it was 308 pages. It felt shorter.

Raney has been a Christy Award finalist and her first book, A Vow To Cherish earned a Silver Angel from Excellence in Media and was made into a movie of the same name. The print version of Above All Things was self-published. The writing wasn’t nuanced or tremendously complex. It is a good, free book. All in all, a good vacation read.

Posted in book review, Uncategorized

Book review: Randy Alcorn’s Deadline

My summer began at Memorial Day and for most people the summer still has 5 weeks to go until Labor Day, the traditional ending of the travel and stay-cation season. My summer break from school ends on Monday, when I return to work on July 31. I’ve been making the most of the time off, after spiritual duties and pleasures, to engage in some of my favorite past-times: reading and movie watching. Here is a review of one of the books I’ve read this summer.

deadlineRandy Alcorn’s Deadline

First published in 1994 and re-released in 2009, I’d bought this book on sale for my Kindle.

Alcorn has written The Treasure Principle, a small book of his that I have and We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon’s Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven which I have read. Alcorn is most well-known for his book Heaven, which explores in detail descriptions of heaven gleaned from all over the Bible, along with quotes and commentary from famous preachers and authors. Coming in at 560 print pages, Heaven is a hefty book, one which I’ve also read. Deadline was the first piece of Alcorn’s fiction I’ve read.

Deadline starts well with a fast-paced scenes setting the foundation of three men’s life-long friendship, all of whom figure prominently in the book, though reporter Jake Woods is the central character. The other two characters are Doc (Gregory) and Finney. As we learn of each man’s background, Alcorn also does well describing the scenes where Woods served in Viet Nam, getting inside the head of a soldier and a man. All three characters have been friends since grade school, and now all of them are near 50, established in their careers, married (or in Jake’s case, divorced) and have children. Along the way Finney has become a born-again Christian, while Doc (Gregory) has evolved into an atheist. Jake is on the fence. Alcorn does well showing the difficulty in maintaining friendships with people who do not share Christ as a unifying thread.

Early in the book, there is an car accident with the three men in the car. The rest of the book is consumed with unraveling the mystery surrounding the car accident, which Jake learns was no accident.

Finney and Doc eventually die. The rest of the book shows scenes in heaven where Finney is, and one short scene where Doc is shown in his place of torment. Meanwhile on earth, Jake and his police friend Ollie Chandler work to solve the car accident mystery that killed his two friends.

Review:

On a Kindle you don’t know how many pages you’ve read, only percents. I’d noticed that the first 1/8 of the book moved fast, the opening scenes among the men, jungle in Viet Nam, and the accident itself were very interesting and gripping. And then it bogged down. I read and slogged and read and noticed that I was only 17% through. I looked up the page length online and the print version is 448 pages.

Using Jake’s interview and columnist skills as a pulpit, Alcorn exposits and expounds and preaches endlessly. As Jake the reporter gathers information for his column and interviews Planned Parenthood abortionists or NOW women, his interviews go on for pages and pages, exposition that exists only to preach at the choir and do not push the story forward, are laden throughout the book. These lengthy scenes explore journalistic bias against conservatives, abortion, AIDS (it was 1994), homosexuality, and teen sex.

The book could have been cut by 200 pages and been fine. I noticed that Publisher’s Weekly gave the book a good review in its original version but mentioned that Alcorn “is long-winded”. I agreed with Amazon readers’ few one and two-star reviews all mentioning the same thing- long winded preachy narrative bogs the book down.

  • “The book is more about “preaching” than it is about a story. I wholeheartedly agree with his stances, but way too much of it for my literary taste.”
  • “Can you say…Get to the point…”
  • “I found this book to be boring and “preachy”. The author goes on and on about abortion, teen sex, and the consequences of each. I am a Christian and I don’t need a 300+ page book to tell me of all the arguments against abortion and pre-marital sex. This is like preaching to the choir, if I wanted to read on the subject I would buy a NONFICTION book on those subjects.”

Since this was his first fiction book I thought maybe a good editor would help Alcorn with his next book in the trilogy, Dominion. Nope, Dominion is longer, coming in at 626 pages. The third book in his series, Deception, is 490. Really, no one needs to write a fiction book at 600 pages except maybe Stephen King.

I really enjoy a good Christian yarn but haven’t read a good one since (and don’t flog me for this) Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness. Alcorn can write well, as mentioned, the scenes in Nam and of the accident were great. The scenes at the end where the killers are hunting Jake are excellent, and several the scenes in heaven were breathtaking. But man, Alcorn needs a really good editor.

Not recommended.