Friday, May 30, 2014

Summer Reading Plans

Our son just arrived from the U.S., bringing me a handful of new books:

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers (a devotional classic that I often give as a gift)
Radical Hospitality by Homan and Pratt
Mrs. Mike by Freedman
Doctor Thorne by Trollope (Although this is free for Kindle, I'm collecting this particular series in hardback.)
The One Year Chronological Bible NIV (I was happy to get this "free" via PaperBackSwap.)
A Cup of Tey - cozy mysteries by the wonderful Josephine Tey
On the Shoulders of Hobbits by Louis Markos

As the school year ends, I look forward to long, lazy afternoons on the couch with a good book. For starters I'll be dipping into these books - especially the Josephine Tey mysteries. I'm also due for a re-read of several Goudge titles.

Two other lists of interest: Al Mohler's summer reading includes non-fiction that sounds as enthralling as most novels. Edie at LifeinGrace has a list of 25 books everyone should read. (The list is at the end of the post.)

What are some titles/authors you hope to read this summer?

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Organized Heart by Staci Eastin

Like everybody else I know, I'm too busy. Every once in a while I reach a point of suffocation and have to step back and reassess all that I'm doing. I not only take on too much because I'm a people pleaser, but also because I'm a missionary and subconsciously think the more that I do the more our supporters will be impressed. Periodically the Lord has to pull me aside and remind me of HIS priorities for my life.

Staci Eastin's The Organized Heart was just what I needed for re-evaluating my responsibilities. I don't know who gave her a camera into my life, but she nailed me on almost every page of her little book.

Eastin's book is refreshingly different from other books on getting organized. Instead of chore charts and pep talks she gets to the heart of the matter by addressing our motivations for doing (or not doing) what we believe is important. She highlights four areas where women struggle: leisure, busyness, perfectionism, and possessions. And she has the nerve to call them what they are: IDOLS. Obviously, busyness is my biggest problem, but Eastin showed me that I also struggle with perfectionism and procrastination.

Fear of letting people down reveals that we are more concerned with what people think of us rather than what God thinks of us. Living to please others, and over-busying ourselves in the process, is idolatry. (p. 42)

Personal pride can be a factor as well. She writes about a job she unwisely accepted, I had told many people about this great opportunity. Even the hard work and difficult subject sounded glamorous. But if I quit, I would have to admit my failure, and maybe the people who hired me would be angry. There was nothing obviously wrong with accepting this project, but a thousand little things in my heart revealed I had said Yes for all the wrong reasons. (p. 41)

Even though I felt convicted on almost every page, Eastin's book is clarifying rather than condemning. She reflects on stumbling blocks that women face and urges us to re-evaluate why we keep failing in these areas. She writes, It is my prayer that this little book will assist you in this struggle by helping you identify unhealthy motivations in your life, and urging you along on the path to holiness. (p. 91) When I finished the book I felt relieved and refreshed and ready to plan a schedule that was more pleasing to the Lord.

Interestingly, have no problem with physical stuff. I love to declutter. But I had never thought of my schedule as "clutter." Tsh at The Art of Simple wrote a neat post about this. Just as decluttering your house leaves you free to enjoy it (rather than be a slave to it), decluttering your schedule restores your joy in doing what the Lord has specifically called you to do. Wise words. Both Tsh and Staci helped me to take steps toward realigning my priorities. Thanks ladies!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Homer's Odyssey for Young Readers

          Great literature often has references to Greek and Roman mythology which make me wish I had a better grasp of those ancient stories. Nathaniel Hawthorne´s versions (A Wonder Book for Girls & Boys and Tanglewood Tales) have been favorites because of their beautiful language, but it has been years since I read them and the details were getting fuzzy again. Then I noticed that I had two re-tellings of The Odyssey in my Kindle archives: one by Rev. Alfred Church (1900) and one by Charles Lamb (1808). I decided to read them simultaneously since the Church version was sometimes dry and Lamb´s book was anything but. Although Lamb's is the older of the two, he uses much more accessible language and focuses on Ulysses' adventures (and less on the activities of the gods).

          Both versions were written for younger readers, though not for small children. The language of both is formal, antiquated English so it may not appeal to kids today, but those raised on the King James Bible should have little difficulty understanding most of it.

          Reverend Alfred John Church (1829-1912), was an English classical scholar who called The Odyssey one of the most loved hero tales of all time. Church's version is a more complete rendering of Homer's epic poem. But because he included more stories, he was sometimes forced to skim over details.

          Lamb, on the other hand, skips the first third of Homer's poem and gets right to Ulysses' adventures. He offers more description and more action. When describing the Cyclops, he writes, "He replied nothing, but gripping two of the nearest [men], as if they had been no more than children, he dashed their brains out against the earth, and, shocking to relate, tore in pieces their limbs, and devoured them yet warm and trembling, making a lion´s meal of them.... He, when he had made an end of his wicked supper, drained a draught of goat´s milk down his prodigious throat, and lay down and slept among the goats. (p. 7)

          I liked Lamb for daring to make moral judgments, calling the greedy sailors "covetous wretches" and the Cyclops a "cannibal." When Ulysses' men eat oxen reserved for the gods, Lamb describes the feast a "rash and sacrilegious banquet." He gives more details than Church does about Ulysses' descent into hell and of the horrible punishments being suffered there. And he emphasizes Ulysses' choosing to be faithful to his wife in spite of the repeated advances of Calypso.

          Church uses the Greek names for the gods, and Lamb uses the Roman names (Neptune for Poseidon, Jove for Zeus, etc.) No wonder it is hard to keep these stories straight!

          Although these versions are somewhat simplified, they are not completely "sanitized" for kids. There are some gory bits, some scary monsters and several women out to seduce Ulysses. Nothing rated "R", though.

          The stories and the rich language were a delight. I had a strong predilection for Lamb´s version, but ended up really liking Church´s too. Both were free for Kindle. Church has done The Iliad for Boys and Girls and The Aeneid for Boys and Girls as well!)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Tottensea Landing by Dale C. Willard

Dale C. Willard's The Linnet's Tale was one of my favorite books in 2013 so I was anxious to get my hands on the sequel. Although I bought Tottensea Landing  soon after finishing LT, it took me many months to get around to reading it. And that was a problem.

A year later I couldn't remember the characters and the author doesn't bother to reintroduce them. It would have been good for him to explain who was who - not necessarily in great detail, but with an occasional clue.

Willard is a wonderful writer, however, and the book has moments of real charm. At the end of the first book, the mice are forced to leave their homes because of a cat. Now they are building a new life for themselves at Tottensea Landing. Some new characters are introduced, including the endearing Flooke sisters who come from "the wrong side of the tracks" and are trying to build a new life for themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed Chapter 21 with its vivid story told in a rainstorm. I also delighted in the descriptions of the Harvesters Fair, the rescue of the missing mice, and the courtship between Willy and Molly.

A very pleasant read.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Shakespeare and Arthur Rackham

Since I'm trying to read more Shakespeare this year, I was thrilled to find a beautifully illustrated version of A Midsummer Night's Dream (Illustrated by Arthur Rackham) FOR FREE on Kindle. Rackham (1867-1939) was famous for his lavish illustrations of children's books and he ranks as one of my favorites (next to Michael Hague and Jessie Wilcox Smith.)

If you have a Kindle fire this would be a lovely addition to your book library. And it might even get you to read Shakespeare! Hurry and get your copy since I don't know if it's always free or if I just stumbled on a temporary deal.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Spurgeon Gems by Charles Spurgeon

Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) was a British Baptist pastor, often called the "Prince of Preachers." In this free Kindle volume, Chapel Library Resources offers a variety of quotations gleaned from his printed sermons. The book is divided into sections such as "salvation," "suffering," "the Bible," etc. The style of the book makes it easy to read in snatches and still find encouragement.

Some of my favorite quotes:

If you get condemnation out of the gospel, you put the condemnation into it yourselves! It is not the gospel, but your rejection of it that will condemn you.

Christ and His gospel will always be spoken against. If you know a gospel which is approved by the age and patronized by the learned, that gospel is a lie!

Faith is weakness clinging to strength.

These are days when we need men of principle, men who can put their foot down and keep it down, men who cannot be turned aside. They call this firmness, 'bigotry.' It is, however, only another name for Christian manliness!

There is a gladness among devils when we cease to pray!