The Gospel Comes with a House Key – Book Review

Rosaria Butterfield has become one of my most favorite authors.  Her writing style, her vulnerability and her sincerity in her books creates a paradox in me of wanting to greedily gobble up her books and slowly relish them at the same time. Her latest book is no exception. She challenges the Christian to reach out to the hurting and lonely and be a beacon of refuge and hope to a dying world.

The book is mainly about the lost practice of Christian hospitality and how vital it is in this post-Christian society, because it is in homes where believers and unbelievers can let down guards and shatter assumptions and be together. She reminds the reader that “God’s people were strangers once” and that we should not be “told on the Lord’s Day that we are part of the family of God, but then limp along throughout the rest of the long week like an orphan begging bread”.

She challenged me to ask the very serious question: When was the last time a stranger was in my home? Thankfully, due to her previous books, I can admit it was last week, but it really has to be an effort on my part. I can not expect strangers to come visit me, or to initiate conversations with me, I have to seek them out; just as Christ sought me. How quickly I forget that I once was lost, that I once was a stranger, that I once was an enemy and outside the fold. Rosaria’s book is a gentle but firm reminder of our mandate to practice “radically ordinary hospitality” and see “strangers become neighbors and neighbors become family of God.”

In her book she shares her life with us. Her ordinary life. She shares the beautiful stories of doing life together with Christians, and also the very ugly details of the pain that sin causes. Just like any family, there is dirty laundry to be handled, BUT we, as Christians, have something strictly biological families lack, and that is the ultimate purifier and cleaner, Christ Himself and the sweet smelling aroma of grace.

Rosaria practices what she teaches and like always she brings new perspective and vitality to my faith. She is also a foster parent that truthfully exposes the insecurities and blessings of foster care. And as a foster parent myself, her compassionate words of wisdom were a balm to my aching soul. Foster care and radical hospitality are difficult, but Rosaria is able to beautifully orchestrate the Gospel around these practices making these hardships worthwhile and brave.

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I strongly recommend this book to all Christians. This book will change your life if you haven’t read any of Rosaria’s books already.  It will challenge us to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus. It will encourage us to see the equal dignity and humanity bestowed on fellow Image bearers. It will saturate you with the Gospel and the eternal hope we have as a family in Christ. I also recommend it if you are a foster parent, or know of any foster parents that may need encouragement, this book would be a good gift.

You can order the book here.

Here is a short video of her.       https://youtu.be/8XXHXWrh-Rg

Words in quotations come directly from “The Gospel Come with a House Key”

 

 

Every Dead Thing – Book Review

Every Dead Thing is a book written by John Conolly. It is the first book in a series that introduces us to Detective Charlie Parker. The book tells us of the gruesome death of Mr. Parker’s wife and daughter and includes a parallel story about a child murderer and that investigation. There is a spooky undertone to the book also. It delves into dreams and spiritism and left me several times making sure I had a night light on. The ending of the book was written very well and was very intense. Like, Mr. Charlie Parker, the ending was somber and downcast.

I found the book to be a bit frustrating because Mr. Conolly introduces so many people very quickly and then brings them back again later. I had to go back several times to remember who was who and who did what. There was a lot going on throughout the whole book and several times I had to stop reading and re-read a paragraph or two. This was disheartening sometimes because the book is almost 500 pages long and going back to read every so often makes the book seem even longer.

There is a lot of violence and foul language in this book. There is also a lot of carnage and the body count is high. Parker’s assistants are a gay couple who aren’t  flamboyant at all and a psycho analyst who delves into the cesspool of human depravity. Thankfully,  there is only one – very short – love scene between Parker and the psycho analyst.

I did like the ending of the book and because of its palpable scene and demented twist in the end, I am considering continuing the series, but Mr. Conolly does tend to write tomes when it comes to the Charlie Parker books. I do not think I am ready to start another long book just yet. Maybe this summer, I will try out the second book.

I recommend this book to the adult who likes detective books and murder mysteries. I do not recommend this book to teens due to its violence and graphic murder scenes.

You can buy this book here.

 

10 Days in a Mad House – Book Review

Ten Days in a Mad House is a non-fiction book I read that checked off  “a book over 100 years old” in my reading challenge list.  The book was written in 1887 by a young journalist named Nellie Bly and is about her disguising herself as a “mad person” to expose the maltreatment and abuses happening in insane asylums. Through her wit she is able to get herself easily committed to Blackwell Island Insane Asylum and tells of her experience as she lived among the “mad”.

I found the book to be amazing and Ms. Bly’s courage is admirable. Putting herself in such a situation, in an age where communication was extremely limited, I was awestruck by her will to expose the inhumanity in these places. She ran the high risk of being drugged and losing her wits herself or even worse, but she courageously continued her façade even when a fellow journalist came by to check on her. She was starved and suffered bitter cold. She was humiliated and endured watching the agony of others. Because of this book she got the attention of many and began an investigation into the treatment of mental patients who had no voice. Through her and others, she brought about awareness to the poor conditions of these poor people.

Blackwell Island Insane Asylum was funded by the state and was run by the government. Because of Ms. Bly’s exposure the state did decide to increase the asylum’s budget by $1,000,000, but most things don’t get better by throwing money at it. Blackwell Island closed in 1901.

This book is a very short read, about 90 pages. Ms. Bly is an excellent journalist and I would recommend this book to anyone who likes non-fiction books. I also recommend it to anyone who likes period pieces or is a classical feminists. I would allow my tweens and teens to read it.

 

Speaking Truth in Love – Book Review

The title of the book perfectly sums up what this book is about. In a day-in-age where truth is relative, there is a strong need for such a direct book. This book was required reading for a course I am taking, but it can also be beneficial to all Christians, since we are constantly around our fellow brothers and sisters and should be involved in their lives.

The book gives a lot of examples on how to ask questions, and it also gives a lot of practical advice on what to say. I found it surprising just how much it emphasizes on first and foremost being honest with myself, before I expect anyone else to be honest with me.

There are corroborating verses with everything he says and I was grateful for the challenges Mr. David Powlison presented to the reader. He really lays it on thick on not being a hypocritical counselor. All the advice I give to those I talk to, should also be advise I give to myself. We all have the same sinful nature and fleshly tendencies.

I recommend this book if you plan on discipling other Christians or if you are a pastor or plan to become one.

You can buy this book here.

Ben Franklin Biography – Book Review

Every year, Tim Challies puts out a reading challenge. Every year, I also set a goal for myself for how many books I would like to read. This year I would like to read 40 books, and I use Mr. Challies reading challenge as a guide to expand my reading preferences. One of those genres in the challenge is to read a biography. So I chose to read the biography on Benjamin Franklin by Maria M. Higgins.

The book was to the point and didn’t drag. I read it in a couple of days and learned quiet a bit about Mr. Franklin. It was a very easy read and didn’t spend too much time with opinions and aggrandizing Mr. Franklin.

Some things I learned from the book:

Electricity has been around a lot longer than I first thought.

Mr. Franklin was the first to write about daylight savings

He never married, but had a common law wife. He really wasn’t too nice to her.

He invented the glass harmonica.

He was the first in America to print and use political cartoons to get across political views.

He had an insatiable curiosity, that was admirable.

 

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about this interesting man who lived a very fascinating life. I love his motto: “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing. ” He certainly lived up to it.

Dark Places – Book Review

This book is about a little girl (Libby Day) who survives her family being slaughtered  by her brother. After 25 years she finds herself without money, without friends and still battling the demons of her past. In order to get some much needed money, she teams up with a group of lay true crime enthusiasts called the Kill Club. The people from this group are eerily obsessed with what happened to Libby, her family and specifically to her brother – Ben Day.  Ben was found guilty based on the testimony given by Libby and is now going to spend the rest of his life behind bars. Because Libby is the only other survivor, the Kill Club decides she can find out more about what happened 25 years ago and hopefully get Ben out of prison. Libby is sure that Ben is her family’s killer but soon vacillates back and forth as she investigates.

This book is dark. The author – Gillian Flynn – does a wonderful job developing some of the most worthless characters I have ever read about. I hated most of them, including Libby, but that’s not really a bad thing. The characters in this book were flawed and broken. The depravity of humanity and the emotional and financial struggles of life was very real in this book.

Saying this, the book does contain a lot of profanity. There are sex scenes and they are short, tenderless and thankfully not violent. This book delves into the cesspool of humanity. And the dignity given to them by God, is practically snuffed out by their degradation.

As a Christian, I forget that there are people like this. I try hard to get out into the world and be a light in dark places, but admittedly I am surrounded mostly be people like me. Although, I don’t grimace when people who aren’t saved cuss or act like unbelievers. It’s the “saved” Christians that make me cringe when they unrepentantly act like the world. – Don’t worry, I also cringe at myself. I don’t often read these kinds of books because my mind sometimes feels assaulted, but the whole time I was reading about Libby’s struggles I just wanted her to know the true freedom found in Christ. I wanted that for all of these unfortunate characters. They were very real and very hopeless.

This book is for adults only. All the cussing aside, the book is very well written and the unfolding of the mystery of who killed the Day family is thrilling. When I got to the end of the book and the true crime was revealed, it was perfect! Mrs. Flynn had given the reader a hint and I failed to see it and put it together. It was excellent! I recommend this book to the person who likes dark thrillers.

 

 

Lost Gods – Book Review

It was the cover of this book that intrigued me. The creature looked like some kind of a sphinx Queen. I wanted to know more about her and when I opened the book I was pleased to see that Brom (the author and artist) had included more paintings of these lost gods he was writing about. They were incredible creatures. All of them were impressive.

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The book is about a young man (Chet) who is viciously killed and ends up in Purgatory. He is given a mission to save the ones he loves from a similar feat and the epic journey begins and is incredible. Brom “paints” another world for us to venture in. It is a cruel world, a dark world. In it’s own way it is magnificent. Unlike Dante, Chet is not just a spectator, he endures the pains of Purgatory and a hero rises from the torment. The deeper I got into the book, the better the story became. Plenty of times the story was frightening especially towards the end. My heart raced as I cheered on for Chet to triumph. Brom is not only a great artist, he is also a great story teller.

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In Brom’s Purgatory you see that there are all kinds of gods in this realm. I didn’t research any of them to see if they truly were ancient gods, long forgotten, but nevertheless their personalities were very well developed.

Brom tastefully includes all religions in his Purgatory and I found the Christian undertones he incorporated to be very entertaining.

The ending of the book was the most frightful and left me mourning that I had finished the book. What an incredible ending!

The book does have some frightful scenes and there are a lot of big cuss words – remember these guys didn’t make it to Heaven – they’re not exactly saints. Chet is marked for Hell (which is an ongoing fear because frankly I don’t want anyone to go there), but miraculously avoids it due to the mission he was given. Not all the souls have this mark, Chet was a special kind of scoundrel on Earth I suppose.

As a Christian, this book really brought to my mind the reality of Hell. Yes, this book is a total fantasy. I don’t even believe in Purgatory, but the hopelessness Chet feels and those around him, was just overwhelming sometimes for me. None of those souls wanted to be there, none of those souls could change their fate. Many sobbed as they realized where they were. The rich, the poor, the abused and the privileged all were in the same circumstance. As Chet said, “Earth is paradise”. Compared to the horrors and the darkness of the place, Earth is a paradise we take for granted. As I said before, I don’t believe in purgatory, but I do believe in Hell. And Brom captures very well the utter shock of the unexpected souls. What a horrible place to be at and not be able to go back to change things. Even Chet regretted not listening to his religious aunt who annoyed him so much on Earth.

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I completely recommend this book to any one who likes to read non-fiction. Even a boring soul like me who tends to stick with fiction really enjoyed it! Because of the cuss words I would let only my older teens read this book. There is only one scene that sticks out that is sexually explicit, but it is about five sentences and is about a man remembering his abuse in prison.

In the end, I was grateful for my salvation.

The Reformation – Book Review

The actual title of the book is: The Reformation – How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World. The book is only 159 pages long and it includes pictures. It is a very easy and somewhat fun book to read – if fun and church history is your kind of thing. It covers a lot of the basics and some of the branching off in denominations that happened after the Reformation. The book is a little silly at times, but it didn’t take away from the overall mood of the book which was mostly informative. I learned some things about the Mennonites, the Amish, and what really is an Anabaptist.

Something I really enjoyed about the book was that it had a section about the women of the Reformation. I had heard of Queen Jane of England, but I did know of the others who were mentioned in the book. What learners! What passion!  So, I wrote the names down and would like to do some research on all of them. Although, I was a little disappointed that the book didn’t include Anne Askew, the only woman in England tortured and then burned at the stake for her faith; but it does say there were others.

Recommendation: I recommend this book to those who are not familiar with the Reformation and would like a brief history of what was happening during this time in church history. Also, anyone wanting some brief history on the different denominations that stemmed out this movement. I would let any of my children read this. The younger ones would probably be a little bored though. 🙂

To the Christian: Sometimes we forget that we have over 2000 years of church history that we can learn from. There truly isn’t anything new under the sun. Even making kids exercise to promote good health was once a church issue!  It is comforting to know that we are not alone in our journey to Heaven, and that there are others whose shoulders we can stand on because of their fervor and love for truth, knowledge of God and the freedom of salvation.

Gosnell – Book Review

Gosnell – The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer is a book written by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer. Ann and Phelim are journalists and the book is very well written. The book is about Kermit Gosnell, an abortion doctor who was charged and found guilty of serial murder.  .

I got this book on audio and I was pleasantly surprised that Ms. McElhinney is the reader. It made the book more personal and she does an excellent job. At certain points in the book I was outraged and she mirrored my outrage as she read along. At other moments, I was heartbroken, and I could hear her voice almost crack as she tried not to cry. Towards the end, I was disgusted and she reflected what I was feeling as she read. I really appreciated that about the audio, and I highly recommend getting the book in audio format. Several times as I listened I would stop what I was doing and just concentrated on her voice because I actually felt numb. I couldn’t even move.

I am not unfamiliar with abortion. I volunteer at a crisis pregnancy clinic and am helping to open up another one in my county. I have seen the pictures. I have seen videos and read about the “procedures” done to babies in the womb. I have listened and spoken to women still haunted by memories and regrets. I saw all the videos posted by David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt with the Center of Medical Progress revealing the gruesome truth of Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the harvesting and selling of dead baby organs and tissue. So, I went into the book semi-prepared to hear about the horrors of abortion, but I wasn’t prepared to to be completely outraged at the resounding silence of the media. I wasn’t prepared for the bigotry against the poor, minorities and immigrants by elitist medical interns and staff. I wasn’t prepared for the selective incompetence of the government’s health departments. I wasn’t prepared for the lack of zealotry from feminists at the unequivocal mistreatment of vulnerable women – minority women to boot. And I wasn’t prepared for the creepy hubris of Kermit Gosnell.

As I finished the book I concluded that unless they could be exploited to fulfill an agenda, no one cared about them – the women seeking abortions and the babies that died. I can’t think of words to describe the hypocrisy of the media, of the health department, of the nurses, and of all these civil right leaders who supposedly care about minorities and women. Where were they!? Where was I?

This book will stir your very soul, but it didn’t leave me in despair, something awakened in me. After the numbness wore off, the book motivated me to be informed about issues that matter to me. In an age of information, we must be careful what we read and see, but we must also be careful to seek out several sources when shaping our opinions. Ms. McElhinney does this. She actually reads from court transcripts, she quotes eye witnesses and gives her first hand account of her meeting with Gosnell. She makes it clear that this isn’t a right or left issue. It’s not even a pro-life or pro-choice issue. Live babies were murdered and the world looked away because no one wants to violate a woman’s right to choose. I am not pro-choice at all, but if a woman is going to have an abortion, it should be safe, clean and provide her with ALL the information available to  her. That is the only way she can truly make any choice! How can anyone not agree with this? Two adult women of color died because of Gosnell’s malpractice and many more were treated in horrendous conditions by untrained staff. Some were minors and taken there against their will. And not one civil rights activist said a word! On the contrary, no one spoke out because they thought that is how abortion clinics must look in poor neighborhoods. What an outrage! They too looked away because no one truly cares about minorities unless it’s profitable to their agenda and/or pockets.

Recommendation: I recommend this book to everyone. It is not a pro-life or pro-choice book. It pro human dignity book.

To the Christian: We believe all humans are made in the image of God. All. Whether white, black, immigrant, poor or rich etc – all, carry with them the imprint of being created by a loving God. People, all people, should be treated with a dignity that is given to them by their Creator.This book is secular, but needs to be read by all Christians. Tim Challies has a great blog about this. With a warning that this book will outrage them, and open their eyes to a very cruel world, I would allow my teenage children to read this. They, most of all, need to know that the main stream media is out for their minds and is hoping to shape their opinions. The book is gory, it is frightening, and it is very heartbreaking, but so is the Holocaust and we don’t hesitate to teach this to our older children. This book sheds light at the depravity of man, but we cannot look away. We cannot hope that by ignoring what happens in these neighborhoods or in these clinics, that somehow they will go away. This happens every day, and we are commanded to go and be a light – no matter how small the light may be – in these dark recesses of human abasement.

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. ~ John 12:46 

We cannot hide from this. We cannot ignore. Every night at 10:10 pm I pray for the children that undergo abortion, the mothers who abort them, the doctors who kill, and those who give their time and money to minister to those broken by these atrocities. Why do I pray at 10:10 pm? Because John 10:10 says – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” There’s nothing magical about the number, it’s just an alarm I set at that time to stop what I am doing and pray which pushes  me to not look away and do something. 

There are spoilers in this post.

I received the Chronicles of Narnia series for Christmas but before I started reading, I looked up on where to start the series because book #1 according to the book set I received was “The Magician’s Nephew”. This book was published in 1955 while the “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was published in 1950 and it was #2 in the box set. After doing some research, I agreed with one commentator who said to read the series in the order they were published, not in Narnia chronological order. This made sense to me. For more information on where to start in the series, I found this site very helpful.

So my daughter and I, depending if we get ready for bed on time, read about a chapter a night. And we both loved it. She saw the movie before hand though, but that didn’t seem to deter her in wanting to read the book. She actually asked why they didn’t follow the book in the movie if that is what was written. I told her that I didn’t think the movie did that bad of a job compared to others in straying from the book, but either way I was excited that she was able to see the differences and preferred the story told in the book.

The book is for children, but I enjoyed it also. As an older Christian the death of Aslan and the “great exchange” made for the life of the traitorous Edmund reminded me of the exchange of Jesus’ righteousness for my traitorous life. There is a depth to this book that unfortunately my daughter missed, only because of her age and she yet has felt the pangs of her sin. But to me that is okay. She loves Aslan, and was happy when he didn’t stay dead. But I had to fight back the urge to emphasize that Aslan is likw Jesus in this book. Although I believe that is the intention of Mr. Lewis, I also believe there is a delicate balance between spiritual symbolisms in fiction that we must take into account.  Saying Aslan is like Jesus is very different to saying the lamb in the book of Revelation is Jesus. C.S. Lewis was not inspired by the Holy Spirit the same way John was in Revelation or any writer of the Scriptures. And I didn’t want my daughter to confuse that. As for now, she is just enjoying a really adventurous story, if she draws the parallel later on, good for her.

Colorful fiction has a way of pointing out truths differently than black and white non-fiction and because fiction has a tendency to stir feelings and emotions we must be careful that those feelings and emotions are based on truths. Remember the heart is deceitful. So while I will not get my theology from a C.S. Lewis children’s book, I will enjoy the emotions caused by the death and resurrection of Aslan on a different level than my daughter because of the truth I know, and pray she will know soon also.

Recommendations: I recommend this book to older children. The witch is mean though and beats on Edmund and turns cute, furry animals into stone. To any one who enjoys books on magical lands and children’s adventures. This is definitely a great book to read out loud to your family.

To the Christian: I really enjoyed this book, but I really didn’t like that Mr. Lewis used mythological creatures as characters in his book. I found it took away from the “Christian” feel of the story.

 

The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe – Book Review