Saturday, January 31, 2009

Is that you, Jesus?

Sitting in my living room one day, I noticed that the sky was doing something weird. It was a cloudy sunset. The last traces of light peeked through the clouds, giving the snow in my back yard a pink tint in a matter of minutes. It was so strange because it was so sudden.

As I watched the world turn pink, I asked "Is that you, Jesus?" I do that often when I see strange things happening in the sky. It could have been Him. We don't know when He's going to return. All we know is that He will crack the sky and everyone will see Him.

I try to imagine what that's going to be like, if I live to see it. My heart wonders about how it will feel to have my savior that close. Will I sense that the Lover of my soul is near? Will His return be a gradual thing, His cracking the sky being a gradual event? Or will it be like the pink sunset over my back yard, happening in seconds? Will we be standing around, doing what we always do and have to ask "Is that you, Jesus?" and He replies "Yes."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tea & Read: The Chronological Study Bible

Title: The Chronological Study Bible
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers
Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy
The Thomas Nelson Chorological Study Bible is a great resource for the serious Bible student and new believers looking for a historical context of the scripture. The combination of the historical layout and the study notes sets this Bible head and shoulders over its rival, Reese’s Chronological Bible. This book has quickly become my favorite resource for historical background of the Bible.

The study notations of this Bible are phenomenal. There are pages and pages of information on the major time divisions of the bible. I also enjoy the way it is broken down into Epochs. They give a clear snapshot of Biblical times and other insightful information about science, technology, trade, economics and more. Significant events are shown in outline form and maps give a sense of the scale of these events.

The Bible is beautifully printed in color and hard cover bound, making it sturdy and easy to read. The study notes are colored-coded, so finding the background information of a passage is effortless. Even with all the wonderful features in this Bible, it is not overwhelming, as some recourses can be. The information and its placement on the page are logically and well-thought out.

I wish I had this book when I was completing my Master’s Degree in Theology.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tea & Read: Isolation

Title: Isolation
Author: Travis Thrasher
Rating: Two Cups of Tea

I've been on a long stint of reading romance novels. So I decided it was time to break up the monotony and read another genre. I picked up this book a few weeks ago but was still in a romance mood. I finished it today and now I regret not finishing it sooner.

The story is about a family of missionaries who return to the US very different people. They move to a house in North Carolina for some relaxation, but they get more than they bargain. Strange things start to happen and in the end, their stay at the house because a test of their faith.

This book was so good that I'm not sure why I haven't read any of Mr. Thrasher's books before (I'll be looking for them from here on out.) Thrasher shows great insight into how family dynamics work and they way fear grips us. But he also shows the battle for our souls and the overcoming power of Jesus.

The story was a little slow in pacing, but other than that, this is a wonderful way to break the romance trend.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tea & Read: Stand-In Groom

Title: Stand-In Groom
Author: Kaye Dacus
Rating: Two Cups of Tea

I seem to be on a wedding theme lately. This is the second book I've read in a month about someone getting married (see Tea & Read: The Convenient Groom). This book helped me discover something about myself. I love southern charm. I don't know when I fell in love with it, but this book proved that I may be a secret southern belle.

This book throws you into a very unique worlds where two people from very different cultures fall in love. Most books go with the normal "good girl, bad boy" pairing, but Kaye uses something far more unique, British man and Southern girl.

The story is great and pulls you along. The only reason I didn't give it the highest rating is not really the author's fault. There is this phenomenon in Christian fiction that characters have to have a major crisis of faith. It normally requires pointless scenes of someone praying or reading a scripture that relates to their problem. And God always manages to put a scripture in their mind to help them (which isn't always my experience. Sometimes it seems like God ignores me because I already know the answer). Unfortunately, it comes across forced and a little unbelievable. I find myself wishing the plot would move past all these Jesus moments and get back to the story. Yes, I'm strange but it's how I feel.

I personally think that this is the fault of Christian publishing industry, who require the main character to have a major faith struggle. Not only that, the majority of Christian fiction readers are Christian and I feel that issues of faith don't have to be pounded in because we already know them. I know I should forgive and trust God. I would love to see more stories without the whole "someone gets a spiritual revelation in the last 30 pages" thing. It would be great to see faith more seamlessly integrated into the story. But I'm biased. When I read, I want a good story. I don't need a fiction book to strengthen my faith. I have the bible for that.

So if you don't have a pet-peeve about novels where someone has to overcome a crisis of faith, then this is a great book. It's sweet, engaging and a great hormonal read (you know, when your hormones are acting crazy and you crave chocolate.) Stand-in Groom is a great investment for your Christian fiction shelf.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tea & Read: The Convenient Groom

Title: The Convenient Groom
Author: Denise Hunter
Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy

This book was excellent! It's been a long time since I've read a book in twenty-four hours and this one was worth it. The premise of the story is great. Kate is left at the altar by her fiance and Lucas offers to step in and save her. Lucas and Kate remind me so much of my husband and I. They are exact opposites, proving that opposites attract.

But the highlight of the book is no one has a crisis of faith! Since I most of read is Christian fiction, I've grown weary of plot lines where someone prays, God sends them a scripture and all their problems are fixed. Sometimes all I want is a good, clean story. And Denise Hunter provides, without all the hokey Christianize. Yay!

This book is a great hormonal read and one to keep on your shelf to read again and again. I look forward to reading the rest of Denise Hunter's books. Her books are now on my "buy straight from Borders without reservations" list.

New Feature: Tea & Read

I am starting a new feature on my blog. It's called Tea & Read Book Reviews. The idea of the name came from a conversation that I had with one of my fellow avid readers. It's been cold here in the Northwest and I told my friend that I would love to make a cup of tea and curl up with the book I was reading. She was at work and replied "I wish I could tea and read." Thus the name was born.

For my reviews, I have developed a rating system.

Spend the Day Sleepy-This book was so good that I stayed up all night reading it and now I'm sleepy. This is the highest rating.

Two Cups of Tea-A great book to curl up with.

One Cup of Tea-An Average book that is good if I only have time for one cup of tea

Glad I Got it From the Library-a less than average book that I would have been upset if I'd purchased.

Wall Target Practice-When a book ends and I feel like it left me hanging, I throw it against the wall. This is the lowest rating.