Showing posts with label Christianity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christianity. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Review of the Best Two Books on Prayer I've Ever Read

Review of the Best Two Books on Prayer I've Ever Read
Scan of my two books. Image created on PicMonkey


I'll Never Get Rid of These Two Books on Prayer

I bought these books back when they were published in the early 1970s. I began working at Logos Bookstore in Westwood in 1972, and as long as I worked there I could borrow and read anything on their shelves any time I wanted to.

We had three cases of books on Christian devotional and prayer life. I must have read half of what was in those cases during my nine years at Logos. Of all those books I read, these are the two books I bought about prayer. They are the keepers.

Hallesby Makes It Simple


I recently started rereading Hallesby's book. It's taken me two weeks to get through the first chapter -- 34 small pages. Why? Because every sentence is packed with important thoughts to ponder.  The chapter attempts to define what prayer actually is. Hallesby says, "Prayer is the breath of the soul, the organ by which we receive Christ into our parched and withered hearts."

Photo © B. Radisavljevic. Quote added.


If you're as old as I am, approaching my eighties, and have been a Christian for as long as I've been, since I was twelve, you've probably had a lot of teaching about prayer. You've heard why you should pray, how you should pray, when you should pray, and with what attitude. You've probably heard what topics you should pray about and in what order. You've probably heard you need to pray in faith with no doubting in order for God to answer your prayer.

If you're a bit like me, you've sometimes started to pray and gotten intimidated by all you've heard. Sometimes I get so tripped up by all those details and how-tos I can hardly pray at all. I feel quite helpless as I mentally check the details off my mental list. After all, I want to make sure I'm praying in a way that God will hear and answer.

Hallesby addresses my condition in his first chapter. He says helplessness is our best prayer,  and that the call of the helpless heart to the heart of God is more effective than any words we can utter. He compares our helpless condition before God to that of the helpless child dependent on his mother's care. A tiny infant cannot tell you what he wants and needs. He just cries. And a mother's heart is always tuned to hear those cries and help.

The prayer of an infant is his cry to his loving parent.
Created on Get Stencil from public domain image it provided. I added the quote.

I'm still rereading the  rest of the book but it does address some of the difficulties people encounter in prayer, prayer as work, what it means to wrestle in prayer, misuses of prayer, forms of prayer, and more. The book is practical and very readable. I believe this is the first book anyone wanting to develop a serious prayer life should read on the subject. Find reasonably priced used copies at Biblio, a site for independent booksellers. This link to one copy will also lead you to the others.  You can find a newer expanded edition for Kindle on Amazon.


The Hidden Life of Prayer by D.M. M'ntyre (or McIntrye)


If you want to go beyond what you've learned from Hallesby, it may be time to pick up The Hidden Life of Prayer. The author ministered in England and Scotland for over fifty years before entering Heaven in 1938. He led a life of prayer and in his book he often quoted other prayer warriors. These quotes are often in the footnotes, which I'm often prone to skip. But in this book you mustn't skip them or you will miss a lot of the treasure.

What some people today may find difficult about the book is the language the ideas are dressed in. The style and vocabulary may intimidate some of today's readers, especially if they are young. Academics may be more comfortable with it. But those who are willing to make the effort will find it rewarding.


It's full of quotes from historic Christian figures who accomplished much in their service for Christ. One quote I found on page 26 was from a book, Waiting on God, by Dr. A.B. Davidson. I'd like to share it will you.

Quote on what it means to wait on God in prayer
Image created on Get Stencil App with public domain photo it supplied. I added the text.


"To wait is not merely to remain impassive. It is to expect -- to look for with patience, and also with submission. It is to long for, but not impatiently; to look for, but not to fret at the delay; to watch for, but not restlessly; to feel that if He does not come we will acquiesce, and yet to refuse to let the mind acquiesce in the feeling that He will not come."
Contrast M'intyre's definition of prayer below with the one I shared near the beginning of this post from Hallesby:

"Prayer is said to be the gathering up of all the faculties in an ardour of reverence, and love, and praise. As one clear strain may succeed in reducing to harmony a number of mutually-discordant voices, so the regnant impulses of the spiritual nature unite the heart to fear the name of the Lord."  [sic]
 To find treasure, we often have to dig deep. We have to be willing to exercise our minds. This is not a book one skims like a blog post. But if you are at the right stage of your prayer life and your desire to have it mature even more is great, this may be the next book on prayer you should read. Its 94 pages are packed with spiritual nutrients. Like the Hallesby book, it is easily found used at a price anyone can afford. Find it  at Biblio or at Amazon.




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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Come to the Quiet by Denise George: A Book Review

Are You Tired Today and Longing for Rest?


I know I am. Although I now live only with my husband and neither of us works outside the home, I still find it hard to find the rest I need. It's especially hard to find quiet rest. It seems there is always some kind of noise in the background. Maybe it's a neighbor using a leaf blower or my husband watching television or a motorcycle driving by. Since I've moved to the city it's never been quiet. That's why I have to use white noise to block unwanted sounds and get to sleep.



Even though I work at home as a blogger, it seems I never have time to relax. There's always something to read or write, photos to take or edit, other blogs to visit and comment on, and social promotion to do. That's on top of the normal chores involved in keeping us fed and in clean clothes, doing necessary housework, and paying bills. Interruptions come in the form of phone calls, husband, workmen, and knocks on the door. There are errands to run, doctor appointments, and emergencies to deal with. I have to plan carefully to spend time with friends.

Many reading this have even more on their plates than I have -- a full time job outside the home, children to care for, getting children where they need to go in their own busy lives, etc., etc., etc. It never stops, and probably neither do you until you drop physically and emotionally exhausted into bed at night.

The Right Book at the Right Time


Solitude and quiet have always been important to me. Up until we moved into our house in a small city I always had a place to get away to de stress . Since we now live in a one story house and have a television which can be heard from almost every room, it's been much harder to have my solitude. And I've been feeling the tension build. Sunday I had almost the entire day to myself and I spent most of it reading this book: Come to the Quiet by Denise George. I found it sitting on a shelf of samples publishers had sent me years ago. For me it was certainly the right book at the right time.



My husband was gone almost all day. I took advantage of the solitude to rest my body and my spirit. This book was like a drink of ice cold water on one of those triple digit summer days we've had this summer. It confirmed my need to escape to solitude more often.

When my mind and body can't rest my spirit suffers, too. Rest for body, soul, and spirit are essential for physical and mental health. George's book explains how we can find the quiet and rest we must have even though it seems like there is no time or place for it. We were created for quiet. To be healthy we must leave room for quiet rest in our lives.



Finding Rest in the Midst of Stress

George points out that we often bring unnecessary stress on ourselves. Maybe a mother doesn't really need to work outside the home. George helps a woman who has a choice evaluate the value of her job to herself and her family. Denise George also recognizes that some women must work -- especially those who already have the stress of parenting alone. She suggests ways even single working moms can find quiet rest in the midst of their stress.

She also helps us work through our priorities. Misplaced priorities are a major source of our stress and overwork. Some stresses are easy to get rid of by changing habits we might not have even thought of as stressful. She points out some of those stresses that have easy fixes. She explains ways we can tune out external noise we can't control and have a more peaceful life.

I think many of us are so used to some stressors we don't even realize they are there, but George shows us some practical ways to escape them. There are changes we can make and places we can go to rest our stressed minds. George's suggestions will help anyone, no matter what causes the stress or how economically well off one is.

Christian Answers to Stress

Christian women's lives can be as stressful as any other lives, but our faith and relationship with Christ mean they don't have to be. It's very easy to buy into the world's mindset and get our sense of worth from what we do instead of who we are in Christ. This book shows us how to let Christ transform our minds. It also offers suggestions for resting our bodies and spirits.

Stress eventually affects our bodies enough to make us sick. Researchers have determined how much stress we can take before this happens. The book contains a stress test that gives points for various life events and pressures and you can see how close you are coming to the 300 points that can make you sick. As the points add up, quiet, self-care, and solitude become more important than ever in keeping you well. There are plenty of suggestions in this book for lessening the stress both you and your children have in your lives.

George invites us to come to Jesus when we are physically and emotionally overburdened and find rest for our spirits and minds. She shows us how to do that. She leads us to the quiet place of healing and shows us how to guard our hearts against the hate, prejudice, bitterness, and selfishness which stress us and  hurt others. Jesus can replace those things with agape love in our hearts.

Jesus invites you to come and rest with him. He wants to lift your burden of stress and lead you to his quiet place of refreshment for your body, mind and spirit. Come to the Quiet will give you the details on how to rest in Him.









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Friday, November 24, 2017

Bibles Make Great Gifts - 5 Different Types Reviewed

Bibles Make Great Gifts - 5 Different Types Reviewed

The Best Christmas Gifts

What better gift could you give for Christmas than the very book that explains the reason for Christmas.   

I personally own 5 different bibles.  All but one was a gift given to me by someone I love and is a treasured keepsake.  Each one serves a different purpose, but I own them all for the same reason:  to know my creator better.   

When purchasing a Bible as a gift, you must first determine how the Bible will be used by the recipient.  I have a family Bible, a display Bible for immediate reference, a pocket Bible to carry in my purse, a Study Bible and a Bible that has been my companion for 30 years.   

The Family Bible

We own 2 family Bibles.  One is a family bible where births, deaths and marriages are listed. This bible will be passed down to the next generation to add to the records.  Family Bibles are often used in genealogical research.  After all, who would knowingly write a lie in the Holy Bible. 



The Family Bible in our Den

There is another large bible that lays open in our den.  Sometimes it is open to my favorite passage, Psalms 139.  Sometimes it is opened to a particular scripture to comfort, reassure, or remind us of what we have to be thankful for.  It is always there, waiting for whichever family member passes by and needs to search the scriptures. 

This Bible was selected because of the beautiful artwork by Thomas Kinkade.  The images are an inspiration and are lovely illustrations to accompany the Written Word. 




 Holy Bible: KJV Pocket Edition: BrownCheck Price

The Pocket Bible

I have a small pocket bible that is over 30 years old that I carry in my purse or pocket.  There have been times in my life when just being able to lay my hand on the leather cover in my purse, has given me the strength I needed for that moment.  At other times I have had it with me to read when I had to wait for someone or when I was on my lunch break.

I haven't worked outside of our home since shortly after our oldest child was born.  When I was employed, I worked in an office setting and a few of my co-workers were not Christians.  Where they might have taken exception to me bringing a large Bible to work, no one ever complained about my small, leather pocket Bible.  



Ryrie Study Bible

I also have a Ryrie Study Bible which I use just for that purpose, in-depth study. 

I found this particular study Bible to be essential when I taught Sunday School years ago.  The cross referencing and commentaries help with preparation to teach, understanding the Word, and certainly with personal study. 



My Companion ~ Study Bible

Last, but by no means least, I have the bible I read regularly.  It is the one that has accompanied me for decades to church, Sunday school, bible studies and at night, it rests in my night stand.  It really is over 30 years old.  The leather is worn, but the Word is still remarkably refreshing. 





Bibles and Gifts

As you can see, I believe there are several types of Bibles that serve different purposes, so when you are selecting a gift, choose the one that best suits the needs of the recipient. 

For those who don't need a new Bible, I recommend a Bible cover, or perhaps the Bible on cd.

 Embassy Black Solid Genuine Leather Bible CoverCheck Price

Bible Cover

Because our Bibles are carried from place to place, read often, and expected to endure a lot of handling, I highly recommend a Bible cover to protect your Bible.  I purchased a Bible cover for my companion several years ago to help protect the leather cover and I am really glad that I did, especially when it rains and I am trying to get to the car. 

There are many styles of Bible covers available to purchase.  This just happens to be the style I prefer.  The extra zipper pocket provides a place for my small wallet and car keys so I need not carry a purse to church.  There is also room for additional notes and the church bulletin.  I personally keep a small note pad and pen for making notes. 

Bible on CD's

Years ago I was thrilled to get the Bible on cassettes.  It was so awesome to be able to listen to the Bible being read when I was in my car or traveling. 
 




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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Two Movie Reviews "Just Let Go" and "Amish Grace"

Just Let GoJust Let Go

Just Let Go (Based on a True Story)


During the Lenten Season, I try to look for movies, books, music and other kinds of media, that makes me think! As a practicing Christian that is part of what the Lenten Season is for me.

It is a time to reflect and recognize my shortcomings and ask for the grace to become a stronger person in faith. To that end, I watched this movie, "Just Let Go" with the hopes that it would inspire me.

Just Let Go, features Henry Ian Cusick and Brenda Vaccaro in a couple of the leading roles. You will recognize both of these actors if you were a fan of 70's and 80's TV.
Based on a true story, It asks the tough questions. Can you forgive? Not an easy matter when your family has been decimated by a drunk driver.

The movie takes you to places that no one wants to visit.

When we hear the news reports of a drunk driver taking out a family and then walking away from the accident unscathed, we are appalled and angry!  How can this happen?  Why wasn't the drunk driver the one killed?  Our sense of justice is immediately put to the test.  I'm sure more than one would fail because we just can't see the Justice in that situation.  The bigger question is, if it happened to us, "Could we Forgive"?

As Christians that is what we are called to do, forgiveness is a large part of our core beliefs. But, if that were our family, could we forgive?

This movie tries to show what happens when we do take that time to work through our grief and let the anger and need for retribution go. Is it easy? Never in a million years would it be easy, but for our own sense of sanity, it might be necessary.  So ask yourself again, Can you Forgive?


Amish Grace (Based on a True Story)

Amish Grace by 20th Century Fox by Gregg ChampionAmish Grace by 20th Century Fox by Gregg Champion
In the same vein, "Amish Grace" is also a movie about forgiving those who have wronged us by their actions.

Not quite the same scenario as Just let Go, but with the same results. Many families were totally broken apart by one person's actions. How do you come to terms with those actions and the consequences of those actions?

The Amish, whose faith revolves around the "Our Father Prayer" has a strong connection with forgiveness.  They live the words of the prayer, especially,  "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us!"

They reached out to the widow of the shooter, recognizing that she also had her life turned upside down by the actions of her husband.

They did not turn their backs on her because of her relationship with the man who shot their innocent children. They forgave him and opened their hearts to the women left behind and her family. Could we do the same?

These are tough questions for Christians all through the year, but especially at the Lenten times when we are called to witness and proclaim our faith by our lives. We need to take the time to look at these hard questions!  It's a good barometer for our faith lives to see where we need to do more work.


My Conclusions


Of these two movies, I preferred Amish Grace as the whole story and the reactions were much more real to me than that portrayed in Just Let Go.

That may be due in part because of my own feelings.  I would be much more outraged and seeking some form of retribution. Just Let Go, seems to get to the point of forgiveness far too quickly.  My reactions would have been far more gut wrenching.  (My husband seems to think that's because I'm an extrovert!)
But that is my opinion. I'm hoping you will watch both movies and let me know how you feel.

The Bottom Line and the One that is the Hardest to Live is that:


Forgiveness is the Key to Happiness in this life. Both of these movies make you aware of that fact.
Is it easy to do? Not a chance, but then so many things that are worthwhile to do are not easy either!




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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Every Bush is Burning by Brandon Clements, A Review

Christians Aren't Perfect


Of course, you already knew that. Every Bush Is Burning shines a harsh light on today's Christian churches in AmericaI don’t know what I was expecting when I started reading this Christian novel, but not what it turned out to be.  The book is hard to define. It’s fiction, but it’s also somewhat of a sermon and an indictment of American Christianity. It brings to mind the bumper sticker “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”



















Meet Jack


The book begins and ends with Jack Bennett, a newspaper columnist, writing a letter on his laptop in a coffee shop, supposedly to another regular, whom he’s seen there often and never spoken to. He admits to being very self-centered as he is always wondering how people perceive him. We learn the following about him: He is married with twin three-year-old boys. He lives in South Carolina. He is also having  an affair with a coworker named Jordan. His dad deserted the family when he was very young.  His Uncle Richard often watched Jack and his sister Sara as their mother worked. He molested Sara, and maybe Jack, as well.

He assumes most people are not honest with themselves and live in “zombieland,” as he himself used to and still does part of the time. He decries the fact that most relationships he sees are just surface. People numb themselves with substance abuse, and television when they feel hopeless and don’t want to think about their lives.

He hates advertising for its lies and false promises.  First it works on making people feel depressed because of what they don’t have. Then it promises that whatever product it is selling will make people feel better and help fill their emptiness. He points out that although we live in one of the world’s richest countries and we have luxuries, comfort, and every possible kind of entertainment people are still “exceedingly bored.”

Jack Bennett writes “We’ve all become experts at diverting our dissatisfaction into entertainment and a thousand other places, but it’s inescapable. We’re like kids at Christmas, unwrapping gift after gift only to find coal inside the box.... then we look around with darting eyes for the next present…” hoping it will be different than those we’ve already opened. One present Jack opened was Jordan, with whom he had the affair.

Do Church Billboards Tell the Truth?


One morning Jack is driving to work and sees a billboard for a well-known church with an ad in big letters ‘CHRISTIANTITY IS THE BEST THING FOR OUR BROKEN WORLD.’ He was frustrated by this because he felt this church was more a political social club for upper middle class white people.  He then wrote a column blasting the Christian religion as practiced in America. He mentioned the hypocrisy, scandals, lack of compassion for the poor and homeless, a judgmental attitude, and more. He concluded that although he had nothing against Christ, he sure didn’t like Christians, who were nothing like the Christ they supposedly followed. In the next chapter he tells some stories from his childhood that help the reader see why he is so sure his assessment of the church is correct. I won’t go into detail on those here.

On the next Sunday he passes another church, a smaller one, where he normally sees signs he thinks are hilarious. He was hoping to see another funny one and he wasn’t disappointed. He saw ‘What if Jack is Right About us?’ He couldn’t help pulling in to the parking lot. That’s when he first saw Yeshua, a homeless man knocking on the church door. Yeshua tells Jack an usher had escorted him back outside after he had been inside. The congregation was singing “I have decided to follow Jesus.”

Jack and Yeshua


At first I thought this would be like those stories you hear about people picking up hitchhikers who turn out to be a unique blessing, say something that makes you realize they know more than they could know naturally, and then just disappear. Jack offers to take the man out for a meal, they talk, and he introduces himself as Yeshua.

At breakfast, they discuss Jack’s column, which Yeshua has read. It’s evident that although Yeshua admits Jack was right about the particular church he wrote about, he still had a lot to learn. They agree to meet for breakfast every Sunday. At the end of their meal, as Yeshua is leaving, he tells Jack there is just one more thing he’d like Jack to do for him during the coming week: repent of cheating on his wife and beg her for forgiveness. Yeshua says if Jack doesn’t do that, he will expose the affair.

Jack is stunned. How does Yeshua know about his wife Chloe and the fact that he’s cheating on her? He had considered himself so careful and discreet.  He tries to figure out who could have revealed his secret. He later finds that Yeshua knows a lot more than that about him and his family secrets.

Who is Yeshua Really?


The rest of the book deals with Jack’s attempt to make things right with Chloe, who is  badly hurt and has no desire to forgive him or save the marriage. He also wants to help his sister Sara through her depression and substance abuse, and to find himself and meaning for his own life. Yeshua is able to nudge him in a number of right directions, including having him  take Sara to a Christian recovery group that is like a family. Yeshua becomes a big part of his and even Sara’s life.

Because of certain inconsistencies I saw in Yeshua’s character, I was pretty sure he wasn't a Jesus figure, even though he didn’t say he wasn’t Jesus. It wasn’t evident who he really was, though,  until it was revealed at the end.  I have to admit I didn’t see it coming. The book kept me interested because I wanted to see what happened to all the characters and find out the real story of who Yeshua was. One thing he did was preach a lot to Jack. Some people might find that off-putting.

What Was the Author's Purpose?


I would say one purpose of this book is to be a wake-up call to those who are leading empty and unsatisfying lives because they have not yet found their significance and worth in the knowledge of how much God loves them.  Since I am already a believer, I’m not sure how this would have hit me had I not been. The author is hoping to show his readers that what they see in certain versions of the Gospel being preached in many churches and in the media is a false  Gospel, not based on the Bible at all, and designed to appease the flesh rather than feed the spirit.

Another purpose of the book is probably to show those who frequent churches that their worship may not really be worship that God is pleased with at all. Clements definitely attacks self-righteousness and spiritual pride, as well as the attitude that we can be good enough to win God’s favor, that we can “buy” the water of eternal life with our good works, instead of coming to God with empty hands and a repentant spirit, knowing our true condition.

This book is available in paperback or as a digital book for your Kindle.


A More Positive View of Christians


To see a contrasting and more positive view of Christians in a series for young adults, read my review of  In Between, the first book, in the series. It's the story of a sixteen-year-old foster child whose mother had just gone to prison. She had been in a group home for six months and raised herself before that, and you can taste her fear as she drives with her social worker to meet her foster parents. I couldn't put the book own and had to buy all the books in the series within a week after I read the first one.


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