Sunday, 15 January 2017

First Lines

I have a lot on my mind, but nothing I'm ready to write about just yet. Instead, I'll give you the first lines of books I'm reading, recently finished reading, or plan to start reading next.

"In the 1700s in the New World, thirteen small British colonies hugged the Atlantic coast -- separate colonies, not one country."

"If you shall chance, Camillo, to visit Bohemia, on the like occasion whereon my services are now on foot, you shall see, as I have said, great difference betwixt our Bohemia and your Sicilia."

"The Jebel es Zubleh is a mountain fifty miles and more in length, and so narrow that its tracery on the map gives it a likeness to a caterpillar crawling from the south to the north."

"There was once a little princess whose father was a king over a great country full of mountains and valleys."

"Now consider the tortoise and the eagle."

"1. A point is that which has no part."

"Children, grace be with you. Amen."

"I didn't know how much I needed to read this book until after I'd written it."

"Some controversy is crucial for the sake of life-giving truth."

Friday, 6 January 2017

The First Week

We're just about a whole week into the new year. So far it seems to be okay. I've spent a lot of time thinking about things, and praying about things, and pondering who I want to be this year and what I want it to look like. Pastor James preached this sermon on New Year's Day, and it has me thinking about forgetting what is behind and focusing on what is ahead, and what I need to do in that regard. I've also been re-listening to this sermon from last summer, about the need for revival, and pondering that as well

Last year was rough in a lot of ways, and I didn't always respond well to the trials and pressures. This year I want things to be different. Things need to be different. I need to be different. As always, I have big ideas on how to make big changes, but we all know how that goes: really well for a few weeks, and then things slide back into old routines.

Instead, I'm praying a lot and waiting on God. I'm seeing the little things that need to be changed: forms of entertainment that I need to cut out because they distract me from what is important; ways of thinking that I need to stop when they sneak up on me; temptations that seem innocent but keep me focused on the world and not God.

To be clear: last year was not all bad. There were good things that happened, and God did a lot of work in my life. He made clear some sins that I was clinging to that needed to be confessed and repented of (both to Him and, sometimes, other people). He used the faithful preaching of His word by my pastors to move me closer to Him (sometimes by gently nudging, and sometimes by significantly less gentle means). I can see where He has been working in my life, pruning and shaping me, and smoothing out rough edges. It's been painful, but I can see the benefits, and I'm thankful for His work and the love that prompts Him to keep conforming me to His Son.

We'll see what this year brings. I want to know God better this year. It think it will require work, and it may be painful at times, but I also know that it is more than worth it to be more conformed to the likeness of Christ.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

My Nonfiction Choices

First, some numbers for you concerning my reading habits this year:
64 nonfiction
46 fiction
1 book of poetry
1 allegory (I'm never sure how to classify Pilgrim's Progress, as fiction or nonfiction. In the church library, we call it "Classic Christian Literature".)

Okay, here are my top picks (I didn't add notes to all of these titles because there ended up being a lot of them)....

  1. Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick
  2. Romans by R.C. Sproul (easy-to-read and in-depth commentary)
  3. Theological Fitness by Aimee Byrd (a not-pink-or-fluffy book written for women....she seems to grasp that women can think!)
  4. A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent
  5. Ordinary by Michael Horton (to balance the idea that if you're not doing big things for God, what you're doing isn't enough)
  6. Sanctification: The Christian’s Pursuit of God-Given Holiness by Michael Riccardi; 
  7. The Story of Everything by Jared C. Wilson
  8. The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
  9.  John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God by John Piper
  10. Good News for Weary Women by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick (I think I would recommend it for all Christian women, and for some men as well)
  11. Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ and Seeing Beauty and Saying it Beautifully (from "The Swans are Not Silent" series) by John Piper (each book has 3 short biographies linked by a common theme; I'm working my way through the series)
  12. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
  13. Spiritual Discipleship by J. Oswald Sanders
  14. Fair Sunshine by Jock Purves (about the lives and martyrdom of the Scottish Covenanters)
  15. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by Bruce A. Ware
  16. The Power of Prayer in Believer’s Life by Charles Spurgeon (so many good things!)
  17.  For the Glory by Duncan Hamilton (about Eric Liddell, a great man)
  18. The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges (one of my favourite authors; both deep and accessible)
  19.  Out of the Blues by Wayne Mack
  20. Parables by John MacArthur
  21. 30-Second Astronomy, editor Francois Fressin (I just ignored the evolutionary bias and enjoyed learning about space)
  22. The Totally Useless History of Science by Ian Crofton (it's just fun)
  23. What is the Mission of the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert
  24. The Hole in Our Holiness and What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung (I'm pretty sure I would read a grocery list if Kevin DeYoung wrote it!)
There were a lot of other books, of course, and most of them were good (and a couple were so-so), but these are my top picks, the ones I'd read again.

It's 2017 now, and I have a stack of books already picked out to start reading!

Saturday, 31 December 2016

My Fiction Choices of 2016

As best as I can tell, I read 112 books this year (plus a few that I didn't count as they were quick re-reads when I needed something familiar and easy; I don't often record those ones). Here are my top picks for fiction, in no particular order (remembering that these are books I read this year, not necessarily books that were published this year).

  1. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. It was interesting, and a frightening look at who we would be if all our evil was allowed to run free.
  2. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. One of my Sunday School girls recommended it as the best book ever. It isn't, but it's pretty good and I enjoyed it. It was a nice, quick read.
  3. Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson. I just like Dee Henderson. Her books are generally categorized as romance, but I find them to be so much more: mystery, intrigue, and real people with real issues leading real lives.
  4. Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo by Obert Skye. This one was recommended by my nephew. I enjoyed it, although it was a bit predictable (fantasy, an orphan, a world to save).
  5. Agatha Christie: Masterpieces in Miniature, The Sleeping Murder. Five Little Pigs, Sparkling Cyanide, Death in the Clouds, Murder at the Vicarage. What can I say: I'm an Agatha Christie fan. I like that her mysteries are not too obvious, but also possible to solve if you try hard enough.
  6. Terry Pratchett: The Wee Free Men, The Wee Free Men, A Blink of the Screen. I'm also a Terry Pratchett fan.
  7. My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve, translated by Tammi Reichel. I think it was the characters, how they played off one another, and how they changed that won me over. Also, the ending is not too stereotyped.
  8. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. A friend was shocked that I hadn't read this yet, so I read it. It was really good. Spoiler alert: it actually does end!
  9. Classic Tales and Fables for Children by Leo Tolstoy. Listen: if you need to read something by a Russian, Tolstoy's children's stuff is the way to go. Some of it is autobiographical, some of it is fiction, and all of it is interesting.
  10. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. This one looks and feels like it should be old, but it was published in 2005. It's just a nice book, and reminded me of The Golden Name Day or Caddie Woodlawn or Understood Betsy in that it doesn't try to be "literature" or preachy or moralize. It's just a fun book about a family one summer.
There were others, some good and some less good, but these are my favourites. Another day soon I'll give you my fiction list.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Book Challenge

True confession time: I did not finish the 2016 book challenge found here. I tried. I read all of the light reader, all of the avid reader, and almost all of the committed reader (I missed a book about money or finance). I also read 35/52 of the obsessed reader (and I still have 2 days to finish the one I'm currently reading). I also read 4/5 of the extra credit (missing a book about business).

I also read other books that I couldn't fit into any of the categories (or that fit categories I had already used). I made up my own categories:

1. A sequel to a book you read last year: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
2. A random book that you found at the library while trying to remember what you were looking for: Guinevere’s Truth and Other Tales by Jennifer Roberson
3. A book you started to keep small children occupied (and then finished on your own): Scout The Secret of the Swamp by Piet Prins
4. The last mystery written about Miss Marple: The Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
5. A book with a number in the title: Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
6. A book originally published with a different title: Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie (previously published as Remembered Death)
7. A book that you read one Saturday when you should have been doing other stuff: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
8. A book with the word “clouds” in the title: Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie
9. A book of short mysteries: Five-Minute Mysteries 3 by Ken Weber
10. A book about books: The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
11. A book about The Princess Bride: As You Wish by Cary Elwes
12. A book you read in an evening: Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
13. Another book by the above author: Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff
14. A book you recommended to your friend’s daughter: London Stories by Jim Eldridge
15. A book with a great title: Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock Prado
16. A book of Christmas stories:
                a. Journey into Christmas by Bess Streeter Aldrich
                b. Christmas in my Heart vol. 1 by Joe Wheeler
                c. Christmas in my Heart vol. 18 by Joe Wheeler

Over the next few days (or the next week or whenever I get it done), I'll give you my top fiction and nonfiction lists.
I do plan to try the 2017 Reading Challenge. It's a bit more flexible as there are more several "a book of your own choice" listings, as well as generic "a book about theology"listings. We'll see how it goes. I like the reading challenges because they help me plan and organize my reading (except for the part where I read 18 books that didn't fit anywhere), and they get me reading a greater variety of books, including some I wouldn't ordinarily read. Plus, I just like lists!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

What Christmas is All About

This is a busy time of year. There are concerts and parties and family time and stuff happening all over the place. It's easy to get so caught up in everything that's happening that we forget why it's all happening. Then people get grumpy and complain about all the consumerism and how much they don't like Christmas. On the other hand, there are the people who reject all the outside stuff of Christmas and insist that we can only think about the birth of Christ and not have any lights or presents or fun.

I love Christmas. I love the lights, and the presents (both giving and getting), and the food, and all the fun and laughter. And I love "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" and "God with us", and the promise of salvation. And I don't think you need to separate the two.

For those of us, though, who are finding things a bit too stressful, here's a reminder of what it's all really about:

Now, take an hour or so out of your day and go watch the whole thing while you sit by a lit-up Christmas tree and enjoy some Christmas baking and hot chocolate (or whatever says "Christmas" to you), or wrap some presents.

Enjoy Christmas. All of it.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Christmas Concert Stuff

Tomorrow is the Christmas concert at the church, so today was dress rehearsal day. Except that we weren't able to do an actual dress rehearsal; we just did a "this is the best we can do; forget about the costumes" rehearsal.

This year's concert has been a headache from the beginning, and yet I've been remarkably calm (although I've been accused of being stressed and upset, but that's just when I've been herding children into one spot and trying to figure out how to deal with problems; it seems that when I'm trying to do 3 things at once and I'm talking talking to 3 groups at once I seem stressed, even when I'm not).

Here's the issue: In October, I emailed the elder with the plans for the concert meeting, the practice times, and the dress rehearsal time. He told me that he would confirm with the other elders, and a few days later assured me that the times were all good.

What no one told me was....

  1. The day of the concert meeting, we were going to have coffee/juice/cookies to celebrate the church's 11th anniversary and the installation of the newest elder/pastor, and that this would happen during my meeting. 
  2. There would be a baptism the week of the first practice. They did give 30 minutes between the service and the baptism so that there would be time for practice, but since I also help back stage for the baptisms, it was a rather rushed and busy day.
  3. They were going to welcome all the new members with a fellowship meal the day of (and the time of) the second practice. I gave up then and cancelled the practice.
  4. The elder would forget to check that we could use the church for the dress rehearsal (we're not in our own building quite yet, so we rent another church for our services and other stuff), and we would show up to find that the other church was having choir practice on the stage, and that they had a funeral scheduled to start before we were going to finish.
So we had the "dress" rehearsal in the atrium, which worked, but didn't give us the right amount of room on our "stage", or the right amount of room for the wings so they know where to come on and off the stage, or the piano on the correct side. I know that last part doesn't seem like a big deal, but I had a hard time explaining to one adult how things would be for the actual concert. She was convinced that they children would be coming on stage on the side with the piano because they came on the side with the piano today. It was a very confusing conversation, and why would I confuse the children by having them come on the other side (also, the children weren't confused because most of them remembered how it was last year, and that hasn't changed).

We'll see how things go tomorrow. If everyone is on time (ha, that would happen), I'll have about 20 minutes to make sure the children know where to stand and the adults know where to send them on stage.