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Partnering with Audra Jennings to bring you a review of Homespun.

I’ve really liked some Amish fiction over the years, probably ever since college when I toured the Indiana Amish country during a friend’s wedding.  Simplicity and faith and order and quiet.  Those were pretty intriguing to a 20 year old.

Homespun is a book filled with hospitality, family, friendship, community, faith, and a host of other topics.  All written by women who are in the Amish or Mennonite communities.  These are not fiction, which I love.

I really felt like I was sitting down with many of these authors and having coffee or swinging on a porch swing in the Autumn air.  Just chatting, hearing their hearts – and much of their heart is the same things that find their root in my heart.

If you love memoir type books or biographical essays – I think you’ll really enjoy this book.


Between Heaven and the Real World : a review

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When I started listening to CCM music in the mid-nineties, it was 4Him, Jars of Clay, Point of Grace, and Steven Curtis Chapman.  I worked at a local Christian bookstore, got to attend many Christian concerts that swept through our town.

I was in our church youth group’s choir and we went on choir tour every summer.  It got me into ministry and shaped my heart for ministry, and we got to wear white hats as we “saddled up our horses” for the Great Adventure tour starring SCC music.

So, to say I was excited when Steven Curtis released his biography I was ready to get my hands on it.  Thankfully I borrowed it, devoured it in a few days and cried my way through it.

I loved how he shared about the good and the bad in his life and marriage and ministry – not just the glamorous life of an artist, but more in-depth.  I wanted to underline most of the book because it is so grounded in the character of God and the truth of the Word.

When we walk through hard times, we can either fall away, fall into a depression, or we can pour out and cry out to the God who made us.  That is what SCC does in this book.

And here is my one warning, you don’t have to read this book.  A few months ago I tried to pick up Mary Beth’s book.  I couldn’t read it.  It was bringing up my fear and anxiety in my heart and my husband, out of care for my soul, asked me to return it to the library unread.  I might be able to read it in a few years, but it wasn’t wise for my heart at this time.  And my best friend encouraged me, if needed, to put the book down and come back to it later.  I couldn’t read this book aloud to my husband because I would weep through most of it.  He finally got to a point and said “no more SCC”.  But, I relished it and finished it, more grounded in the goodness and holiness of God and his perfect and sometimes broken plan for our lives.

My favorite genre of book is memoir or biography.  I love how people can articulate their story.  So often, in our church culture, we get shamed or rejected when sharing the brokenness of our stories.  God accepts our brokenness.  He welcomes us.



September Reads

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September Reads

I think reading is one of the best ways to better yourself.  If you are reading the Bible – it is about learning the gospel of God to know God better.  If you are reading a cookbook, then you want to make your cooking better.  If you are reading a comic book, you want to laugh better.  Get it?

Before I get to the list of mine for this month, I want to encourage you to go read this post by Doug Wilson about how to read more.  It will be of benefit to you.  I know lots of seminary profs who are friends that read several books a week.  I don’t read that fast.  I would love to get through 2-3 a month.

So here are some I’m reading this month (mostly finishing up, because I’ve started all of these – and only have a few pages left in some, but I want to complete!!)

French Women Don’t Get Fat: I am so far loving this book.  I read it at night and it gets my mind reset to keep on my healthy journey.

A Woman’s Wisdom: This is a great book and helpful to women.  Lydia Brownback writes clearly to help women in any stage of life know how to apply the Proverbs to their lives.  This will be extremely helpful to me this month, especially in my parenting journey.

Peter Pan: I love any movie about Peter Pan – and I want to get to know more about Barrie in the future.  My mister and I are currently watching Hook which he has never seen, which I personally think is one of the late Robin Williams’ best roles.

Fierce Convictions: This is a biography that is about God, the gospel, justice, and women.  It is great – and I only have a little bit left to finish it.

What are you reading this month?


Book Review: Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor (D.A. Carson)

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The lives of people teach us how to live today.  This is one of the reasons I think everyone should read history and biographies.

As I was searching through our church’s library one day I came across this book, written by D. A. Carson, about his father.  I love Carson’s writings as does my husband so I knew that reading it would be a blessing to both of us.  And indeed it was.  Carson’s writing style is spot on as it always is and this one is a little less dense as compared to some of this theology books.  It is as personal, reflective, and subjective as it possibly could be being that he was writing about his father.

Here are three things I learned about how to live life by this ordinary pastor named Tom Carson who lived in the country to our north:

1.  He rarely if ever complained.  He didn’t complain about others, he didn’t complain about ministry, he didn’t complain about anything.  What a great testimony to the children and his wife.  he lived Scriptures that talk of no grumbling, do everything without complaining, let your speech be always edifying, etc.  He would pray these “complaints” in his journals to his Father whom he knew and loved.  There he could leave them and knew that God would provide an answer in His timing.  I need to learn to do this.  I need to model this in my own life – even as I was journaling this yesterday.

2.  He struggled with failure.  If you have read Monday’s blog post you might notice a theme here and know why this aspect of this ordinary pastor’s life meant much to me.  He strived in ministry his whole life and there were periods of his life when he saw little fruit.  That would drain him, as he continued to strive for perfectionism.  He would note later in his life about how he had failed his wife in her healthy years and wanted to make up for it.  This was by no means a rejection of the gospel, because he clung to the truth that Jesus would be his entryway into heaven – He had done it all for him on the cross.  It seems as though many famous and not so famous pastors and other ministry leaders struggle with failure and depression.  I don’t know if anyone but the Lord ever knows of a man’s real struggle.  But, how this encouraged me, was to daily encourage my husband, do not be one of the many that may at some point wear on him or beat him down. He needs to hear encouagement from me and find me telling him (and telling myself) to hope in the gospel of Jesus.

3.  I saw the faithfulness of a marriage.  I have never cried so much in reading a book.  The last two chapters I could barely read because there were too many tears.  Carson told of his mom’s failing health of Alzheimer’s disease and how his dad was faithfully by her side.  How he would give up ministry and stay home to bathe, feed, dress, his wife of more than fifty years.  The book recounts his journal articles of hopelessness and failure in the many ways he was serving her (due to his own perfectionism) and how he so missed her when she was gone.  Then Don tells of his own Dad’s passing, how he died about 3 years after his wife, was sick, and unfortunately died alone in a hospital room.  Even though the children had been there and were just going home to rest, they couldn’t get back to the hospital in time.  I think that was the saddest part of the book – to die alone – but Jesus was with him and his children loved him.  He was a great man to them.  And they got a healthy view of what a godly marriage should be.  This of course means more to me now after I am married then it would have before.  I can’t imagine living life without my husband, even though I’ve only known the man a little over a year of my life.  How I survived the previous 33.5 without him I don’t know. God is certainly gracious to me.  And I know that God has only loaned him to me for a while, and that when He takes him (or me) if that happens before Jesus’ return: then, just as HE IS ENOUGH now, God will prove Himself to be all that I need then, too.

I think back to the celebrity pastor panel at T4G this year…and this is how Don Carson ends his book of his Dad’s life:

“Tom Carson never rose very far in denominational structures, but hundreds of people in the Outaouais and beyond testify how much he loved them.  He never wrote a book, but he loved the Book.  He was never wealthy or powerful, but he kept growing as a Christian: yesterday’s grace was never enough.  He was not a farsighted visionary, but he looked forward to eternity.  His journals have many, many entries bathed in tears of contrition, but his children and grandchildren remember his laughter.  Only rarely did he break through his pattern of reserve and speak deeply and intimately with his children, but he modeled Christian virtues to them.  He much preferred to avoid controversy than to stire things up, but his own commitments to historic confessionalism were unyielding, and in ethics he was a man of principle.  His own ecclesiastical circles were rather small and narrow, but his reading was correspondingly large and expansive.  He was not very good at putting people down, except on his prayer list. 

When he died, there were no crowds outside the hospital, no editorial comments in the papers, no announcements on television, no mentiona in Parliamnent, not attention paid by the nation.  In his hospital room there was no one by his bedside.  There was only the quiet hiss of oxygen, vainly venting because he had stopped breathing and would never need it again. 

But on the other side all the trumpets sounded.  Dad won entrance to the only throne room that matters, not because he was a good man or a great man – he was, after all, a most ordinary pastor – but because he was a forgiven man.  And he heard the voice of Him whom he longed to hear saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.'” (pg 147-148)

This is a good read for anyone who loves biographies, a pastor or ministry worker, a pastor’s wife, or an ordinary Christian who needs to be encouraged by a life of faithfulness and how God rewards His own.

Thank you Dr. Carson for sharing your memoirs of your Dad with readers like me.  They were necessary.


Book Review: Warfield on the Christian Life

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This book combines two of my loves in literature: biography and theology

Zaspel completed a short summary of Warfield’s life that didn’t drag you down into the ins and outs, but gave you a clear and concise, personal look into the professor and writer’s life.  He gave you enough to feel like you weren’t a stranger and could understand some of what shaped this thinker’s life.

The other part of the book is like a theology book that is thinner and more applicable.  He highlights some of Warfield’s main thoughts and gives you reason and application into the Christian life.  Topics range from the incarnation to the authority of the Bible. 

My favorite quote:

“Ultimately his was a first for the gospel.  Consistently at the center of Warfield’s attention was the glorious message of the divine rescue for sinners.  If the attack was on the person of Christ, his concern was not academic only but soteriological – that we would be left without a Savior and without a gospel.  If the attack was concerning the integrity of the Scriptures, his concern was not one of party spirit.  It was that in the end we would be left without witness to Christ and, indeed, with a Christ who is himself mistaken as to the nature and authority of the book that was written about Him.  If the attack was an Arminian one, his concern was that the gospel would be so watered down as to devalue Christ and render him much less than the mighty Savior He is.” – pg 31

Book Review: Piper's Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ

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One of my favorite types of books are biographies.  John Piper does an excellent job in the Swans Are Not Silent series of combining autobiographical writings, biography, and application.  The 5th book in the series, Filling up the Afflictions of Christ, is no different.He he highlights William Tyndale, John Paton, and Adoniram Judson.  Judson was the one I was most familiar with because I did missions and college ministry at the Summit.  You can’t be at the Summit for any amount of time and not know of Adoniram Judson.  Tyndale and Paton were familiar – but didn’t know their story as much.

Here are some of the key things that I underlined:

I remember Bruce Ashford saying something like this in the first chapel message he preached (as a professor) at SEBTS: “What is lacking in the afflictions of Christ is not that they are deficient in worth, as though they could not sufficiently cover the sins of all who believe.  What is lacking is that the infinitie value of Christ’s afflictions is not known and trusted in the world.” (22)

(Tyndale)  “The key to spiritual achievement is to work hard, and to know and believe and be happy that God’s sovereign grace is the decisive cause of all the good that comes…  That is they both believed in hard work to say things clearly and creatively and compellingly when they spoke for Christ.”  (36-7).  I need to remember this in my writing projects. 

Most memorable John Paton quote: “I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms; and in the great day my resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our Risen Redeemer.” (58)

“Often since have I thought that the Lord stripped me thus bare of all these interests, that I might with undistracted mind devote my entire energy to the special work soon to be carved out for me, and of which at this moment neither I nor anyone had ever dreamed.”  (75)  May I live my life with this FOCUS.

How I need this: “(Paton’s Mother to her children) “Oh my children, love your Heavenly Father, tell Him in faith and prayer all your needs, and He will supply your wants so far as it shall be for your good and His glory.” This is what Paton trusted God for in claiming the promises: God would supply all his needs insofar as this would be for Paton’s good and for God’s glory.” (77)

When life is painful (Judson): “As with all events under God’s merficul providence, this painful circumstance had some remarkable positive effects.” (95)

Honestly, when I question, I always say this – because it is my firm foundation – the truth and character of God – whether I agree or understand it or not.  “Adoniram had been sustained with hope and with a spirit deeply submissive to the providence of God.” (99)