Monday, October 31, 2016

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

I have a confession to make. This is my first C.S. Lewis book. I cringe to write that, but it is true. I have had the best of intentions to read Lewis, but never got around to it. Countless of times I have read so many beautiful quotes from him. So many pastors who I admire have quoted Lewis in their sermons. The quotes being full of wisdom and intellect in their distinctly-Lewis way. I loved the Narnia movies (well the 1st one and 3rd one, not the 2nd one so much) and fell in love with Aslan and Mr. Tumnus. But unfortunately, I had never read an entire book by him.

With that being said, it was with great joy for me to get this audio book. I really do not like fantasy that much, but this particular book was fairly short and I thought it would be a good start where I could cut my teeth in regards to this genre. 

The book was okay. It had some good quotes here and there, but the story was just too fantastical for me. At the beginning of the book there is a warning that the story is not meant to be theologically accurate, and it wasn't at all. And I think that is where most of my problems were with the book. It's not like Narnia, where everything is a fantasy. Everyone is made up and certain characters allude to Jesus or to God. In "The Great Divorce", the ghosts are experiencing Hell and working to get to Heaven whilst being in Hell, and I just couldn't get past that as I read. I know the story is meant to help the reader understand sin and repentance and ultimately the joy of Heaven, but I just couldn't stop thinking about how death didn't seem so final in this book and that all were technically given a second chance after it. But I continued with the story despite my reluctance. 

Lewis did have some good imagery regarding ghosts who struggled with sins we tend to overlook like: manipulation, gossip and vanity. But I just wished they would not have been "dead already" dealing with these sins.

A quote I really liked from this book was:
 There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ 

I do believe I am a bad judge when it comes to the fantastical. I usually don't read it. I wanted to like this book, but I really didn't. I do want to say though that Lewis was still profoundly effective in explaining sin and the ugliness of it. His word imagery to analyze and clarify the problem with man and the love and joy of God was paramount. (SPOILER ALERT) And then it was somewhat compensating at the end when all of it was just a dream for the narrator of the book. Somewhat . . 

Recommendations:  I recommend this book to those who like metaphors and allusions. Also those who are more philosophical in their theology and who do not mind thinking "what if" on things dealing with the afterlife. 

To the Christian:
The book does well in further explaining what sin does to us and how repentance leads to joy. The recurring sin in our lives affects us and those we love more that we could ever imagine, and Lewis does a great job in portraying that with the different characters the narrator meets on his way to Heaven. 

You can buy the book here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

This book is about Henry VIII's last wife, Kateryn Parr. Again Mrs. Philippa Gregory does a superb job in telling us the story of yet another queen. Besides telling us about the life of Kateryn Parr as queen, Mrs. Gregory also reveals to us the tumultuous times of the first baby steps of the reformation in England. As a Christian, this book really helped give a great amount of insight of the Biblical battles happening during this time.  The Church in England had separated from Rome, and the Bible had been translated into English. 

It was refreshing to read about how much this queen contributed to learning and Biblical scholarship. She was an author in her own right and someone I really grew to love in this book. Her faith and the love she had for the Word of God gave me a renewed passion to study mine even more. A lot of people died to translate the Bible into English. Even she came close to losing her life over her love for the new faith. 

 Most of the history I knew on Kateryn Parr was after the death of King Henry, so for most of the book I kept waiting for King Henry to die and then read about the second part of her life. But I was very grateful that Mrs. Gregory focused mostly on Queen Kateryn during her reign because there is just so much about her that I didn't know. 

The book also mentions the martyr Anne Askew. I had read about her before, and I was pleased to see her interact with Queen Kateryn and her ladies. 

King Henry was a gluttonous monster and as always, Mrs. Gregory depicts and develops this character so well. I found myself hating him and then feeling sorry for him and then hating him again throughout the book. 

Recommendations: I recommend this book to anyone who loves the idea of women learning, especially learning about God's Word. Also to the person who appreciates the Reformation and all the sacrifices made by both men and women for their faith. If you have read Philippa Gregory books before, you will not be let down with this book. It is gripping and it is suspenseful. Even though I knew Kateryn survived, the book still leaves you fearing for her death and rooting for her as she courageously faces the bully, King Henry, over and over again. 

To the Christian: I have always loved the first of Henry's wives the most. But reading this book, I really have grown to love Kateryn. She is a fellow sister in the faith and was a true Reformer. In the book, she does struggle with adulterous thoughts, but that in itself is the beauty of her because there is an actual struggle. She doesn't let these thoughts overtake her though. She fights them with prayer. There is a love scene at the beginning of the book, but it is not long and it is not graphic. There are several love making flashbacks that she has, but they are not more than a sentence or so long. There is a somewhat long scene of King Henry abusing her that is graphic and quiet horrible. There is a recurring dream that Kateryn has that is pretty spooky and another dream describing the interrogation of Anne Askew that is also quite terrifying. 

You can buy the book here.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Carol Wallace's Ben Hur - Book Review

I recently joined Audible and the first fiction book I purchased was Carol Wallace's "Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ". Mrs. Wallace is related to the original author of "Ben Hur", Lew Wallace and being an author herself, modernized the book written by her great-great grandfather. I do not think Mrs. Wallace's intentions were to change the story, but to simply make it less burdensome to read for this generation. I cannot completely compare between the two books because I didn't finish the original written by Lew Wallace. His form of writing was meticulously descriptive of the Middle East and I found myself reading pages and pages of him trying to give the mind an idea of what this part of the world looked like. I understand why since he wrote this book during the time of the American Civil War and most of his audience could never imagine the panorama or culture Jesus lived in. But for me, it was a bit exhausting, so I found myself skimming a lot of the book since I know what a camel looks like, or I know what Arab nomads in the 1st century wore. Needless to say, I didn't get far in the book, but learned of the "new" book by Mrs. Wallace and decided to listen to it on my walks.

To make things clear, I absolutely love the "Ben Hur" starring Charlton Heston. The chariot scene in this movie will forever be a part of American movie culture. Saying this, I did go into Mrs.Wallace's book with my biases, but I can safely say that both movie (1959 version) and book are good. The movie is a classic but does exalt Judah Ben Hur in a way the book doesn't. In the book Judah's thirst for vengeance and war is insatiable. Messala is a scoundrel. The horrors of Rome and the pain suffered by Tirzah and her mother made me silently weep for them. What abhorrence! And then comes the contrast. Jesus. Judah expecting a Messiah to come and save his people from Rome doesn't realize that He has come to save them from something more. He has come to not just save them from death, but to also give them eternal life. What a beautiful story!

Mrs. Wallace is a wonderful author! Her word usage is superb and throughout the book there are appropriate times of lightheartedness that made me laugh out loud. The characters in her book are well developed and even if you've seen the movie (again I'm talking about the 1959 movie), she has added a climax I didn't expect. I actually gasped!

About the new movie that came out starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Huston, I really don't plan on seeing it. Frankly, after watching several trailers, I really don't think their acting is the greatest. And by "their" I mean the dialogues that happen between Judah and Messala throughout the trailer. Even Morgan Freeman seems a bit dampen. Also, the scene on the boat makes it appear that Judah was still chained to the boat, an imperative difference in both the book and the 1959 movie. I may be wrong regarding that part though. In other words, I just don't think I will be able to handle the poor acting and the director's artistic freedoms with this story.

I personally have heard mixed reviews on the movie though.

About Carol Wallace's book though, read it! There is fighting, violence and death. There are insinuations of sex and debauchery, but Mrs. Wallace leaves most to the imagination and isn't descriptive at all in these scenes. The scenes involving the lepers are fairly graphic, but necessary.

Recommendations: I believe older teenage boys would really enjoy this book as would any historical fiction lover. I bought this audio book for my father and he absolutely loved it!

To the Christian: The redemptive climax of the book is elating! Although, there are small glimpses of Jesus throughout the book, and the book focuses a lot more on Judah and those around him, Jesus is the hero in this book. He is the true champion that saves at the end of the day. I truly recommend it.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Calvary Road - Book Review

This is a book I am going to keep in my purse and just be constantly reading. It is a book on how we can have continual revival as Christians and by default, in the church. This book has really changed a lot of my perspectives on peace, loving others and confession. Never in my Christian life had I thought about living constantly in a Spirit-filled state. Never! As many, I thought there were low times and high times, and according to this book, that is not the case.

The book focuses on what revival is and how the church can experience revival. The books says that revival begins individually and slowly spreads (sometimes quickly) from you to other believers in your church.

There are no secret formulas, no to-do lists or 5 point lessons. It is all quiet and personal. Here is a quote:

You and I full of the Holy Spirit all the time, loving others and concerned for their salvation. No struggling, no tarrying. Just simply giving Him each sin to cleanse in His precious blood and accepting from His hand the free gift of His fullness, and the allowing Him to do the work through us. . .  There is nothing spectacular about this life, no emotional experiences to sigh after and wait for. It is just plain day to day living the life the Lord intended us to live. This is real holiness. 

The book emphasizes that when we love God we cannot help but to love others. And these loves cannot be separated. It says that the outcome of loving God comes the natural outflow of love towards those made in His image. Mr. Hession goes on to say: Our relationship with our fellows and our relationship with God are so linked that we cannot disturb one without disturbing the other. 

The awareness of our sin and the confession of it, is also something the book speaks a lot of in order to have revival. According to the book, "sin is the only thing that hinders the revival of His Church". What a convicting statement! This book forced me to take time to sit and have the Holy Spirit help me look into my heart and purge the sin in my life. I spent a whole prayer session just confessing my sin to God. There was just so much there. Tears came to my face as I thought of my dastardly deeds. And peace soon came upon me as I placed my trust again on the Cross. Living in a constant state of peace also is an attainable goal. And the lack of peace in our lives, Hession states, is a very good indicator of unconfessed sin in our lives. He says: ". . . the sign of the Spirit's presence and fullness will be peace. This is indeed to be the test of our walk all the way along. Le the peace of God rule [arbitrate] in your hearts" (Col. 3:15) . . . if our peace is broken, then it can only be because of sin.

Our church is seeking revival and this book was recommended by my pastor. It has changed my Christian life and I hope it changes yours. I recommend this book to all Believers. It is a very short book also and can be read in one sitting. My version of the book was only 114 pages. Be sure to have a pen or highlighter near by though because there are a lot of sections that are very insightful. My husband bought about 10 of these books and gave them out as gifts. If you would like to purchase this book, I found a pretty good deal here.