From the Shelf: Theology

KnowingGod

This book had sat on my shelf for several years and I don’t know if it was the cover or its popularity that kept me from picking it up. It seemed so broadly titled and so well know, I suppose I thought it must over shoot the mark.

However, it doesn’t. Far from a laundry list of attributes with a few Scriptures, this is one of the most pastoral and poetic theological books I’ve ever finished.

Packer is overflowing with Gospel good news and his passion for who God is, spills over into this piece. He offers an aspect of God’s character in each chapter and finishes with a final discussion of Romans 8, tying it all together.

This book is studded with hymn quotes and every chapter spins practical. This is who God is, we read, and this is why it matters in your life. 

My favourite chapters were on the wisdom of God (and man) and the section on adoption. These beautiful expositions added depth and practicality to doctrines I was long familiar with.

While reading, I have frequently found myself sharing things from Knowing God with friends. It is humbling, clarifying and God glorifying – I can’t recommend it enough!

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From the Shelf: Young Adult

alabama moon

Alabama Moon is a boy who has never been in a car or slept on a bed. Raised by his father in the deep forests of central Alabama, he’s taught to see the government as his worst and only enemy. But when his father dies, Alabama Moon must face his worst enemy yet – loneliness.

The following adventures lead him through a boy’s home, the clutches of an entitled police officer, and into the arms of the story’s moral. Friendship.

This book is cute and spends a lot of time detailing how to stalk a deer as well as how to butcher and eat a rat snake. What ended up surprising me was the innocence of it. Maybe it’s been too long since I’ve read a young adult novel, but when one is reviewed as ‘coming of age’ I don’t expect the main character to be 10 years old.

People came ‘of age’ a lot older back in my day. (Haha.)

It was a kindly story however and I enjoyed the descriptions of Southern terrain and quirky folk. Not to mention, justice was served with at least one person getting their happy ending.

And in a world like the one we live in…a simple, hatchet chopping hero with one happily ever after…well, that’s a breath of fresh air.

 

 

Have You Not Known?

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The word majesty, when applied to God, is always a declaration of his greatness and an invitation to worship.

-J. I. Packer

Invitation where His majesty is declared. In early morning bird song. A heated pool.

When supper bubbles and someone is there to keep the light on.

To worship at the baby bassinet or the side of a hospital bed.

This life is never outside the care and concern of His greatness and we shelter in His majestic care.

Art thou afraid his power shall fail

when comes thine evil day?

And can an all creating arm

grow weary or decay?

 

 

Supreme in wisdom as in power 

The Rock of Ages stands,

Though him though canst not see, nor trace

The working of His hands.

 

Mere human pow’r shall fast decay 

And youthful vigor cease,

But they who wait upon the Lord

in strength shall still increase.

 

They with unwearied feet shall tread

the path of life divine,

with growing ardor onward move,

with growing brightness shine.

-Isaac Watts

 

 

From the Shelf: A Deceased Author

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When I chose this title I expected the demure memoir of wartime service, perhaps written by an old lady in pink and white, smelling of peppermints. A few pages in, I realized that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Vera Brittain was a teenager when The Great War broke out, interrupting her first year at Oxford, a budding romance and idealism born of her Victorian upbringing. She soon left university and began nursing, a career that took her to London, Malta and eventually frontline duty in France.

This memoir details war time tragedy (her fiancé and brother were both killed in action) and more broadly, her growth from girl to self-possessed, independent woman. Her descriptions of wartime exhaustion are vivid and sobering. She doesn’t mince words to spare feelings, especially when it comes to her criticism of the powers that be – either God or government.

Brittain’s voice is tough and opinionated. With nothing good to say about her upbringing, she comes back again and again to how innocent and vulnerable her generation were to a ‘patriotic’ war, where heroic glory seemed a fair trade for sacrificed youth. Her story is undergirded with a tireless appeal for feminism, career, productivity, progress and peace – heartbreaking to think about in context of WWII, already on the horizon as she wrote.

She is not the women I imagined publishing a book in 1933 and this is not a simple little memoir. I read the last page feeling as if I’d known a whole and flawed person, however, something that doubtlessly took courage and care to write. For that, if nothing else, Vera Brittain has my respect.

From the Shelf: A Novel

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A novel indeed! This book is Tess of the d’Urbervilles on Canadian soil. The slow grinding, frustrating, pain in the butt (but you can’t stop reading) – novel a la mode. The story line that you can’t quite recall, but boy do you remember the gorgeous, haunting atmosphere!

Published in 1925, it’s the story of a Swedish immigrant Niels, on the fertile prairies. Frustrated in his love of choice, he innocently and rashly chooses the local “fancy lady” instead. As his farm prospers and grows, his personal life deteriorates at an alarming speed.

What strikes me the most when I think back on this book is the deep silence that it’s wrapped in. Niels himself is a man of few words, hopelessly confused by the waters of personal relationships. His first love stands aloof like the original ice maiden. His defunct marriage becomes literally, a quiet contest. And over it all is the wild, rolling, empty sloughs of the Canadian west.

I mentioned before that it’s the atmosphere, not the plot that recommends this book. I know that seems like a literary risk to take, and I suppose it is. It’s one worth reading however and I’m glad I did.

 

 

From the Shelf: A Biography

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When I was young, I thought biographies were the lowest of book life forms. I was also convinced that anyone saying otherwise, could only be pretending.

Knowing what I know now, however, I think that it was only the kind of biographies I encountered as a child. They were facts, birth and death, with only a hat tip to the legacy of each individual.

Martin Luther is different. It brings new perspective and historical context to the worn out facts of the Reformer’s life. Metaxas explains the importance of certain decisions Luther made, the why’s behind each battle chosen, and even offers greater understanding into subjects we might scratch our head about – “why did Luther care so much about this?”

This biography also does an excellent job of humanizing Luther. Far from a dry historical figure, we can glimpse into his lively private life and family affairs. In fact, one of my favourite quotes comes from Luther’s reflections on the death of his daughter. He writes:

“The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I love her very much…in the last thousand years God has given to no bishop such great gifts as God has given me (for one should boast of God’s gifts). I am angry with myself that I am unable to rejoice from my heart and be thankful to God, though I do at times sing a little song and give thanks. Whether we live or die, we belong to God.”

My only gripe is that Metaxas seemed too reluctant to criticize Martin Luther. This was especially surprising in chapters on the later years, when Luther could well be critiqued for certain statements, regardless of the time and place. If Luther is real enough to empathize with, than he is real enough to have flaws!

All this aside, Martin Luther is the type of biography that is turning me into a lover of the genre these days.

My Mom and Dad would be proud of me.

From the Shelf: Over 100 Years Old

the prince

Confession first. I read this book because it conveniently fit with my class curriculum this year. Students and I will be discussing it in a few weeks and I always like to re-read the material in preparation.

Otherwise I wouldn’t have looked at The Prince, twice. In so many ways, it is the stereotype for everyone’s negative feelings about the classics. Obscure, difficult to slog through, out of touch and complicated. Its positive attribute is the short length.

My brother-in-law was visiting while I courageously journeyed through this book to the library deadline. He loves The Prince so I picked his brain, and I do think from reading it I learned one important lesson.

Historical context will save any classic from becoming mind mush. Having just finished Metaxas’ biography on Martin Luther I had a much better understanding of the tumultuous time Nicholas Machiavelli lived. There was papal struggle, humanism, reformation and politics, politics, politics.

In fact, when you take a step back and see all the turmo

il that churn around the pages – it’s not so very boring after all.

I have to read The Scarlet Letter in a month or two. I could wait and review it in this same category if I was worried about word count on here. But I suspect my take away from it would be much the same.

Read the old books, because in understanding the big picture, they’re worth it.