Archive for the ‘Reviews’ category

The Secret of the Rose – Michael Phillips

August 20, 2012

What’s not to like?

A beautiful German family, a pair of American diplomats, and a mansion with hidden passages combine for good in the face of the chaos erupting in Europe that has since been called WWII.  But the lasting impressions I have from reading Michael Phillips’ “Secret of the Rose” series are as much spiritual as anything else.

Baron von Dortman and his family are kindred spirits, while I wish that their Frülingsgarten was more than an imagined picture in my mind’s eye.  Yet I know that the Baron himself would tell me that the mysteries of life grow in my own backyard as well, so all I’m really missing are the abundant roses.  Ahh, roses!  I’ve plenty enough German blood in my veins to appreciate roses the way Sabina von Dortman does, and I sympathized with her when the Baron says that the Secret of the Rose is something she’ll have to find out for herself.

The most striking passages of these four books, however, are not about the Dortmans, their friends, their home, or even their roses, but about God.  I found myself raising an amen many times as the Baron shared his vision of our mutual Heavenly Father.  Of course, as a friend to Deitrich Bonhoeffer, albeit fictional, I would expect the Baron to hold rather uncommon ideas.   Prepare to be challenged, encouraged, and blessed by your encounters with this saint.

Don’t let the size of these books intimidate you into putting off reading them, either.  Each volume is thick, but Phillips writes in a easy style, and while the spiritual content may require you to slow down and digest, the books are worth the effort.  A final warning: once you start reading these books, you won’t be able to stop.  The story is left only half told unless you read all four books, and each builds on the themes of the last.

So, what is the Secret of the Rose?

Ahh, that’s something you’ll have to discover for yourself!

Yes, it was indeed

March 29, 2012

Monumental.

And yes, I would recommend seeing it.

I went to the opening night live event this past Tuesday.  Kirk Cameron’s quest for the formula that made our nation great was intriguing and thought provoking.  I encourage you, if this is in theaters near you, go see it, take your friends and family, tell your church, and be ready to be challenged.

I’ll admit, I already knew better than to think that the pilgrims were these religious guys in funny black suits with tall hats.  I was homeschooled, so I’d heard the real story behind the pilgrims’ journey to the new world.  What I hadn’t connected to it was the catalyst – an English Bible in English hands.

And I had never heard of the monument.

Of course, I know exactly why this monument is not highly recognized in a society that likes to make monuments to different events and people (note all the monuments in our nation’s capital, and all the work being put into Ground Zero).  Faith has become an unacceptable answer to the world’s problems, so this monument, which stands as a legacy from the only system which works, has been largely ignored.

And I’m very afraid that many who watch this movie will completely miss the point.  I’m not even quite positive that everyone involved in Tuesday’s production got the point.  I’m convinced that many in the audience I formed a part of didn’t completely get it, as evidenced by the discussion which started at the end when the live feed experienced technical difficulties in CA.  The point is, change doesn’t start with curriculum, it doesn’t start with homeschooling or a better education system, and it doesn’t start with better lawmakers.  You can’t fix the nation’s problems by staring at a monument, nor can you change a society if a society doesn’t want to be changed.

What we need is revival.  We need citizens who have Bibles in their hands; Bibles that have been read.  Bibles that have been studied.  We need citizens who are willing to follow this guidebook.  Only then will our nation be able to move forward by going back.  Until we see widespread revival in individual hearts across the nation, we will not see a revival of our nation as a whole.

Am I surprised that this is the key to a healthy nation?  Frankly, no.  My parents have taught me this since I was small.  I knew these principles long ago.  I’ve been living them as fast and as far as I can.  My family is a “liberty family,” for we have laid the right foundation in faith and built upon it morality, justice, and education.  This is the message of the Bible, which is why it worked for the Pilgrims, and why it can work again for America, if people will only choose to go back to the bedrock on which we were founded.

I can’t say that I’m overly optimistic about Americans as a whole embracing this idea.  I’m very afraid that our Post-Modern society is going to try to put the kibosh on the whole movement.  I’m not sure but what we will encounter opposition very much like the Puritans and Separatists did before they became Pilgrims.  But that does not mean that we should adopt a defeatist attitude.  Remember, the Pilgrims weren’t daunted by the many obstacles they faced.

Whether or not the “Monumental movement” turns our country around, we need to be doing our personal best to build our own lives on faith, and seeking to share this vision with others around us.  Revival begins in the hearts of a few, and only God knows where it will end.  Is the nation ready for a revival?  I’ve heard more than one preacher recently talk about the harbingers of revival, and how they are seeing them increasing.  Ready or not, I think the nation is shortly going to see an awakening.

The question is, what part will you play?  Are you going to be sitting on the sidelines?  Or will you be found among the infantry, living out your faith in your everyday life?  Will you be dragging your feet, or will you be lending a hand to help others along?  Are you going to bury your head in the sand and ignore the whole issue, hoping it will blow over?  Or are you going to take a stand for your faith and boldly follow the Lord’s leading, be it to stay behind or to sail treacherous waters to a new land?

Are you ready for revival?

Divided

August 15, 2011

I’d seen references to this movie before, but it wasn’t until a friend in my family’s Bible Study recommended it that my parents and I watched it.  Divided is a powerful film showing Philip Leclerc and his journey through the controversy over youth ministry.  I recommend that if you haven’t seen it yet, you watch it before reading the rest of this post.  Some of the things I say will probably come better after you’ve had a chance to hear the arguments Philip puts forth.

Okay, so you’ve seen the movie now?  Good.  Hopefully you’ve been challenged in your beliefs about the church.  I was, and as I’ll explain, I come from a family-focused family myself.  I knew some of the reasons why I never participated in a youth group and left Sunday School at an early age, but my family has been in integrated churches so long that I’d never really gone through all these arguments and weighed out where I stood.  I was just riding on my parents’ coattails.

I went to Sunday School for several years, but when I was about seven or so, I “graduated” to the adult class where my father was teaching.  As my younger siblings grew older, they did the same thing.  Even when my dad was no longer teaching the class.  Our church at the time was big on programs, and by the time I was about to turn thirteen and be old enough for youth group, my family was experiencing some pressure because we were not participating in those programs.  It wasn’t enough that we were one of only two or three homeschooling families in a large fellowship, my siblings and I did not go to Sunday School, Children’s Church, VBS, or anything, and it had become known that there was no intention of my going to youth group.  We weren’t supporting the church’s ministries to its children and youth, and at that point, my parents made the decision to move to a new fellowship where we could support the church policies.

After a year and a half in a church that we eventually realized was too radical, too extreme in their focus on homeschooling as the way, the truth, the lifestyle and all others can go elsewhere, we finally came to rest in a small country church.  This family oriented church had two, family integrated services.  A “Family” School where parents and children learned alongside each other, and a regular service with a sermon.  We were there six years, the better part of my girlhood.  For about five out of those six years, my father taught Family School.  He has the gift of teaching, and we all loved to participate.  Dad has a way of putting the cookies on the bottom shelf, so to speak, of explaining doctrines in ways that even young people can grasp and take hold of.  That didn’t hurt the older generations one bit, either.

But then we began attending a new church, a larger church where there was a Sunday school program, youth group, and AWANAs ministry.  The change in fellowships this time was spurred by the need for sound scriptural preaching from the pulpit, and we found that in the new place, but we’ve been walking a thin line on the program issue.  My youngest brothers participated in the AWANAs clubs for two years, but neither they nor Mom and Dad want them in it again this year.  They each did well, earning the top awards both years, but they weren’t enjoying it as much as they could wish.  Most of the other kids cited the game time as their favorite — my brothers were more enamored of the counsel time.

And if it’s counsel time they want, they can get that at home.  Which they do.  My father leads a home Bible Study on Sunday nights.  He reads aloud to them (and my other siblings and I when we were younger) most nights, and often the book has been a biography of some hero of our faith or a history of the church.  Both my parents talk to us all the time about spiritual issues as well as all kinds of current events and how those two interact.  Because we’re homeschoolers, we get to bring up all kinds of things at any time of the day and be assured that Mom or Dad will help us search out the answers to our questions.  No disrespect to my fellow believers at church, but I’d much rather talk about these things with my parents than with just about any of the youth leaders in my current fellowship or in previous churches.  While these leaders may be great Christians, great leaders, whatever, when I have questions, I turn to my parents first and foremost.

So you see, I have a background of family focus.  And yet, I was challenged by Divided.  I think it’s because I’ve been taking my views for granted.  The film made me think about why I don’t believe in Sunday School as the end all to beat all, why I was glad that Mom and Dad chose not to let me go to youth group, why these programs are not working and whether they are just second best, or flat-out wrong.  I’m not going to say that everyone who has participated in them, led them, or supported them is bad.  Far from it.  Still, I think that this system, like the world’s dating game (as shown by Josh Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye and this article at Latitude 821), is flawed, and in some senses, yes, flat-out wrong.  We need to stop trying to make over the world’s systems for the church.

We need something better for our kids.

Even as a thirteen year old, I didn’t really want to hang out with kids who were more interested in each other than in Jesus.  I liked being around my siblings and parents a whole lot better.  Now, I’m glad that my parents, who led youth group themselves for a couple of years while I was a toddler, were wise enough to keep me with them.  I’m also glad that their training had primed me to follow their lead without a fuss.  I’m not saying that I wasn’t disappointed at first, because my idea of what youth group was and what it signified was skewed, but after talking about it with Mom, I quickly saw that youth group wasn’t all I’d pictured it, and I didn’t really want to go.

I’ve been blessed in my family, I know.  I have an amazing set of parents who are leaders and teachers themselves, but that’s not because they started out that way.  To all the parents out there who are thinking “but I don’t have the training,” neither did my parents.  They didn’t grow up with parents who were bastions of the faith (Mom is still the only one of her family to come to Christ, though Dad’s family are nearly all Christians).  They didn’t go to seminary; they studied the scriptures themselves.  They surrounded themselves with good teachers.  They took the step of faith, and once they got walking, well, I can see where it has gotten them, and I’m eager to follow the same path.

So can you.

Now I challenge you, whether you’re a parent or a child, married or unmarried, in church leadership or participating in the program, young or old, what is the basic building block of society?  Family.  Where should we feel safest to be ourselves and ask the questions that trouble us?  In our Families.  Who are the people who care most about us and have the most invested in helping us grow?  Our Families.  Why is the picture of our Father God so beautiful?  Because it’s one of Family.  Where is the best place to teach children the things of the faith?  Again, the Family.  I don’t say this just because I’m a homeschooler who was blessed to be taught at home by my parents.  God set this pattern in our hearts, and I think many would wish for it if they weren’t indoctrinated into believing that state or church education is the end all to beat all.  Some people wish for it anyway.

I have friends from both sides of this issue.  People whose opinions I respect.  But when it comes to what I believe, I have taken my stand with the Word, and with my Family.  And in case you want to know, my family is united — not divided.

The Seventh World

August 1, 2011

Perhaps you have noticed a link in my blogroll to Rachel Starr Thompson’s blog.  Perhaps not.  If you’ve visited her site, you know that she’s a homeschool grad like me, and that she writes books.  I received the first two books in her Seventh World Trilogy for Christmas, and I couldn’t put them down.  I couldn’t wait until the third book came out, and ordered as quickly as I could.  I didn’t read those books.  I devoured them.  Then I started to draft a review to post here on the blog.

And it sat there.

Yes, I had other things to write about.  Yes, I had other things to do with my time (school, volunteering, work, family, church activities – not in order of importance!).  But yes, I should’ve had this review finished a long time ago.  My apologies to Rachel and to all those who have been waiting so long.

So, are you ready to be transported to the Seventh World?

What would you do if an old friend from your past suddenly reappeared on your doorstep, dying, and needed help to complete a dangerous mission?  In Worlds Unseen, Maggie boldly takes on that challenge despite her foster mother’s misgivings.  Aided by a young man who hears voices from across the Seventh World, she must somehow get to Pravik with the ancient scroll for Professor Huss.  Standing in her way are the legions of High Police, but they are not the most frightening beings on her track.  Maggie is challenged to the core as she finds her role in the midst of an uprising led by the gifted Ploughman.

Burning Light picks up where Worlds Unseen leaves off, following Nicholas Fisher as he seeks the River Daughter.  Will he be in time to save his beloved Gypsies from the Emperor?  Meanwhile the healer called Miracle battles the Order of the Spider, and the citizens of Pravik fight to stay alive underground.  The trilogy concludes in Coming Day, in which the Gifted must finally come together to defeat the Blackness in the name of the King, who is returning.

I love fantasy, and Rachel has woven bits and pieces of our own world into this lovely trilogy.  The place names are often half recognizable, and many of the character names are familiar, although just enough of each are completely Seventh Worldly.

The concept of gifts is also one which fascinates me.  While few people have ever been gifted as those in Rachel’s books, I do believe that God gives us extraordinary gifts sometimes.  Most of the examples I could name are prophets or apostles, but I don’t believe that just because we don’t see many miraculous things today, that He has stopped gifting us altogether.  Perhaps most of us just don’t have the faith to use the gifts, and God prefers not to give gifts where they won’t be used and useful.

Do I have a favorite?  Book, no.  I love them all, although I probably enjoyed Coming Day the most.  Character, we-ell, that’s probably Rehtse, although she only figures largely in the last book.  Of course, Maggie probably strikes the deepest chord with me (pun intended), being a singer, but Rehtse strides forward in faith though she is not gifted, which speaks to me on another level.  And of course, I love the little boy called Stray, (also from Coming Day) but that’s a given!

I recommend these books very highly to teens and young adults.

If you want to get a feel for Rachel’s work before ordering, I definitely recommend checking out Taerith, which is completely online and also good.  I read this before buying the trilogy, and loved it.  The only warning I will give is that it is riveting.  I had other work to do when I started it, thinking I would just check out the first chapter or two, but I couldn’t keep from clicking to the next chapter!  Then I got the Seventh World books and loved them more!

“I Kissed Dating Goodbye” — A Woman’s Question

July 24, 2011

I recently read “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” for the first time.  Yeah, I know, you would have expected that I’d read it long ago.  Probably I would have except that I read “Best Friends For Life” as part of my last year of highschool, and Mom and I figured it covered pretty much the same ground.  While there’s a point where you need to be ready, there’s also a point where dwelling on one subject too much or too long can be unhealthy for your relationships.  So I didn’t read Josh Harris’s book then.  But I’ve read it now.

I’d recommend it, mostly because it comes from the perspective of a 21-year-old who’s right in the thick of waiting for romance himself, but who is able to articulate the reasons why he stands where he does.  Of course, knowing that Josh has gone on to marry, have three children, and pastor a church gives the book greater credence — he’s not just talking a talk, he has also walked the walk.

In the book is a poem that I especially loved, and I wanted to share it with you.  It’s by Lena Lathrop and you can find it on Josh’s website here.

A Woman’s Question

Do you know you have asked for the costliest thing
Ever made by the hand above–
A woman’s heart, and a woman’s life
And a woman’s wonderful love?

Do you know you have asked for this priceless thing
As a child might ask for a toy,
Demanding what others have died to win,
With the reckless dash of a boy?

You have written my lesson of duty out,
Man-like you have questioned me;
Now stand at the bar of my woman’s soul
Until I shall question thee.

You require your mutton shall always be hot,
Your socks and your shirt be whole;
I require your heart to be true as God’s stars,
And as pure as heaven your soul.

You require a cook for your mutton and beef;
I require a far better thing.
A seamstress you’re wanting for socks and shirts;
I look for a man and a king.

A king for the beautiful realm called home,
And a man that the maker, God,
Shall look upon as he did the first
And say, “It is very good.”

I am fair and young, but the rose will fade
From my soft, young cheek one day,
Will you love me then ‘mid the falling leaves,
As you did ‘mid the bloom of May?

Is your heart an ocean so strong and deep,
I may launch my all on its tide?
A loving woman finds heaven or hell
On the day she is made a bride.

I require all things that are grand and true,
All things that a man should be;
If you give all this, I would stake my life
To be all you demand of me.

If you cannot do this — a laundress and cook
You can hire, with little to pay,
But a woman’s heart and a woman’s life
Are not to be won that way.

Facing the Giants

February 14, 2011

I finally watched Facing the Giants the other night.  Now, those of you who saw this a long time ago are thinking, “what took you so long?”  Well, the long and the short of it is, I kept forgetting to request it from the library when we didn’t have anything more pressing on our list of things to watch!

Now that I’ve seen it, I can’t believe it took me this long either.

If you’re following my blog, you’ll know that I just watched Fireproof as well, and this previous work from the Kendrick brothers is equally as good, in my humble opinion.  I understand they have another one called Flywheel, but I’ve yet to hunt that one up.  And they’re working on a new movie called Courageous, which I’m keeping an eye on.

Facing the Giants follows a highschool football coach and his team, both of which are struggling.  When both turn to faith instead of leaning on their own efforts, great things begin happening, in their school, on their team, and in their lives.  With God, they face giants, both on the field and off.  I know why I haven’t watched this before.  I’ve been working out what faith looks like in every area of my life lately, and this movie was very appropriate, to say the least.

Fireproof

January 21, 2011

I won’t say this was the best movie I’ve ever seen (although I can’t just put my finger on which one that is right now), but I’ll give this one five stars!

I watched Fireproof for the first time last night, and I was impressed.  Although it deals with a tough concept for me since I don’t have much personal experience with divorce, I thought the overall movie was great.  I thought the screenwriting was good and the acting well done.  The only character who comes off a little bit flat is Caleb’s father, although if you understand that he hides plenty of emotion behind a front of quietness, he becomes more real.  He just gets overshadowed by the emotion in the other characters, especially in Caleb and his friend Michael.   Personally, I really liked Michael; almost as much as Caleb!

The stories from the actors, which I found today, are inspiring, so I would recommend checking them out in addition to seeing the movie.


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