Monday, May 9, 2011

The Hidden Flame by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke - A Review

In first-century Judea, the followers of the Way have burgeoned into a vibrant, growing community that cannot be ignored. Jerusalem is in turmoil as its religious leaders on one side, and their Roman rulers on the other, conspire to stamp out the fledgling Church. And Abigail, who thought she had finally found home and safety, is caught between the opposing forces.

Two suitors desire the lovely Abigail's hand in marriage. Ezra, a successful Hebrew merchant and widower with important connections among the Sanhedrin, is looking for a mother for his children. The Roman soldier Linux is fascinated by her winsome charm and possibly could offer the sanctuary--maybe even the love--for which she yearns. But her heart has been captured by neither of these. Will her faith and courage survive a heartbreak beyond comprehension as the followers face a gathering storm of persecution they never could have foreseen?

A glimmer of hope beckons Abigail forward.

This is the second book in this series but the authors did a good job of catching the reader up on the events that were missed in the series debut.  It is always interesting to me to read historical fiction set in Biblical times.  I knew Stephen was going to die when he was introduced but hearing two author's interpretation on his life and the lives of the followers of The Way was intriguing and interesting. 

I enjoyed this book very much and am looking forward to going back to read the series debut The Centurion's Wife and will anticipate future books in this series.

***I was provided a copy of this book by Bethany House publishers.  All opinions expressed are my own.

In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson

When it came time to review my next book for BookSneeze I was not overly excited about In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson.  I initially was anticipatory but while I was waiting for my book to arrive I read other reviews and realized this book was about praying "the office" or "fixed hour prayer" I got a bit unsettled.  I'm not Catholic, I don't know anything about liturgy but I don't think I like it.

I've been intriguied by fixed hour prayer since I started reading Ann Voskamp and I've made feeble attempts when I've fasted.  I grew up in an Anabaptist church and am very unfamiliar with formal liturgy, although Benson assures me that every church service has its own liturgy. 

To be fair I must disclose that I shudder at rote prayers, the call-and-response prayers that I grew up with leave a vile taste in my mouth and a self-righteous annoyance washes over me when someone reads a prayer, particularly one that they themselves did not write. 

But in case you hadn't noticed by the heavy quoting I did last month (and most likely copyright-law breaking in the sheer volume of selections), this book has really made me think and changed my outlook on this topic.

Let me put it to you this way.  It has been a very long time since I have put sticky notes in a book that I read.  I have never used an entire pad of sticky notes and had to go back and rip them into tiny pieces in order to have enough markers to go throughout the entire book.

Benson advocates that you do not do anything important: a job change, vacation, house purchase, nor anything unimportant: a trip to the grocery store, dinner out, a workout without setting an appointment time, having some sembleance of order, and carrying through.  Why, then, do we approach the very most important thing of our day - approaching the Creator of the universe with our desires and needs, as haphazardly as we do?

The Jews had fixed hours of prayer, our Lord and Savior had fixed hours of prayer "As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice." Psalm 55:16-17

"At some point, all of this high-minded discussion about our life of prayer has to work its way into the dailyness of our lives.  It has to be stuck in and around and up next to the meetings and the schedules and the packing and the leaving and the coming home of our lives.

At some point, we have to move from talking about prayer to saying our prayers.  If the marvelous that is possible in our lives of prayer is to have a chance to appear, it will because we have done the mundane."

So, how do you begin to say the office?  "You begin the same way you begin to do anything else that matters in your life.  Ask some questions; take some notes; do some research.  Get pracical here; make a list."

This book has opened a wide, gaping hole in my prayer life and spiritual life in general.  You would likely be aghast or chuckle at the titles of the books sliding across the library check-out counter towards me.  I'm being stretched and I'm questioning. 

***Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com, book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Friday, May 6, 2011

Not a Sparrow Falls - Book Review

I've had this book in my stack for quite a while now and it never called to me.  I don't typically pick up contemporary fiction unless it comes with a strong suggestion from a trusted friend.  However, I wanted to dwindle my stack so I decided to shove this one to the top.

I. am. so. glad. I. did.

Full of twists and turns, unexpected connections and every emotion you can think of, Nichols weaves loveable characters you can't bear to hate and hateful characters you can't help but love into this story. 

From the book jacket:
Mary Bridget Washburn is tired of running, tired of being haunted by the empty shell her life has become. How in the world did the little girl she once was become a woman on the wrong side of the law? Determined to make a new start, she escapes to the quaint city of Alexandria, Virginia, where she takes on her mother's identity and finds sanctuary in the shadow of a decades-old church. But a little girl's plea proves to be her undoing, and the reverend...well, someone's got to open his eyes before disaster comes calling. Can Mary Bridget and her tainted past stay hidden long enough for her to bring hope to a family falling apart?
My favorite line? "You can't out-sin the cross."  Reminds me of Beth Moore's closing sentiments in Believing God (my paraphrase), He's the God who raises people from the dead!  If you have something more pressing than needing a dead person to be raised to life, you're out of luck but if it's anything less than that - HE CAN DO IT!  This book just echos that sentiment over and over.

Those who have been forgiven much, love much!

*I was provided a free copy of this book by BethanyHouse Publishers without further compensation.  All opinions are mine.