Monday, October 29, 2007

The Railway Children

I have been reading so many good books lately. I could write several reviews (and maybe I will), but for now, I'll focus on lesser-known (though not unknown) choices.

I have been hunting down E. Nesbit's The Railway Children for over a month now, and finally was able to get it in at our bookstore. The Puffin Classic version is a paltry $3.99, so it was worth the purchase, rather than just checking it out of the library (however, I am unafraid of plunking down much more for hardbacks I've never read, so I may not be the average children's book buyer). Not far into the book, I began to count off people who I knew would love this book (Oh! It's like Penderwicks! Emily would love it -- so would Kelley. That reminds me of The Saturdays -- Anna would love it. I bet Karen would want to read this to her kids. I wonder if Sarah knows this is an Usborne book. . . and on and on). So I knew a post needed to be written.

After you read this (and I have no doubt most of you will), you'll feel as though every good modern children's book you read must in some small way be modeled after this one -- because of the memorable characters. I see slices of Narnian children (C.S. Lewis was inspired by Nesbit's stories), a bit of All-of-a-Kind Family, and the youngest sister is so much like Jane and Batty from The Penderwicks as well as Rose from Saffy's Angel that you will laugh out loud! But my favorite character (Nesbit's too, she says) is the eldest sister, Roberta, or Bobbie. She has a few faults, but mostly is terribly good and brave and wonderful. In one scene, when she stays in the railroad tunnel alone with a boy whose leg is broken while the others have gone for help, she talks to herself to pluck up her courage. When the children are awarded for saving a train from crashing, Bobbie almost cannot stand to have so much made of her because she is so horrified by what nearly happened to the train. She is sensitive to how her mother feels as she is all alone (father has been taken away suddenly -- it's a big mystery), and without saying anything that would worry her, she helps the others cheer mother up. Of course it is Bobbie in the end that discovers what has happened to Father, and because of her kindness to the needy, she is instrumental in bringing Father home. Bobbie humbles herself and apologizes first to her terribly boyish brother, and keeps Phyllis from retaliating by showing her how a girl is not frightened of being thought of as "goody-goody". Bobbie is very much like Mother, who is constantly praised as wonderful and one-of-a-kind, who writes clever stories to sell while they are living without Father and surprises the children with funny poetry to celebrate exciting or brighten dull occasions.

One of my favorite scenes is near the end when Peter talks to Mother about how he wishes there were another boy in the house (because he misses Father, no doubt). I'll share that snippet here to whet your appetite.

"I say" said Peter musingly "wouldn't it be jolly if we all were in a book and you were writing it? Then you could make all sorts of jolly things happen, and make Jim's legs get well at once and be all right tomorrow, and Father come home soon and --"

"Do you miss your Father very much?" Mother asked, rather coldly, Peter thought.

"Awfully." said Peter at once.

"You see," Peter went on slowly "it's not only him being Father, but now he's away there's no other man in the house but me. Wouldn't you like to be writing that book with us all in it, Mother, and make Daddy come home soon?"

Peter's mother put her arm around him suddenly and hugged him in silence for a minute. Then she said:

"Don't you think it's rather nice to think that we're in a book that God's writing? If I were writing a book, I might make mistakes. But God knows how to make the story end just right -- in the way that's best for us."

Grab a cup of tea -- happy reading!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

On Storytelling

My former college English teacher wrote this great post about the importance of storytelling, even for adults. I was so glad to find this post, and realize that I'm not somehow sinking into postmodern thought by advocating teaching children by using narratives and fictitious stories.

He points out (and I agree) "I
believe we love stories because we were hard-wired by God that way. He put a love for stories within us because He Himself is the Great Storyteller, the Master Author who wrote the ultimate Story, the Creator who designed us in such a way that we cannot help but be captivated and changed by the greatest Story ever told."

Have you looked at your Bible recently as a great literary work? Theological narratives divinely inspired by the Great Storyteller, poetry that reaches to the very depths and heights of mankind's emotional experience, great characters, outstanding plot, all pointing to One Character -- the Hero of all time!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The greed of being, doing, having

This morning before I rushed out the door to work, I sat down to check my e-mail, and feeling rather muddled (probably due to not quite sleeping off my cold medicine) and messy, I chose to read my daily e-devotional by Elisabeth Elliot. I don't actually read it every day. But today I felt inclined to start my morning with a few straighter thoughts than I was thinking.

In God's providence, she was writing on thankfulness, and what keeps us from being thankful: greed. I often think of greed as being money-hungry or a gluttonous eater, but EE cut straight to my heart by addressing other forms of greed: being, doing and

I realized I was unable to be thankful for the blessed opportunities and friends and activities in my life because I was wading through the mire of the greed of doing. I cannot be happy with one activity because I am thinking about the other things I wish I could also do. Like Robert Frost, I am considering "the road not taken" and unable to enjoy the road I'm traveling. I have heaped unto myself too many good actions and now I lack the power to do them all. I have my hands in too many fishbowls, trying to catch the colorful fish in each one all at once. I had to humble myself and cancel one event and resist the temptation to add others when I got a phone call and another invitation tonight.

But my sin in doing does not parallel my sin of greedy being. I am up to my neck in it -- I feel as though I am fairly choking in it. Here is what EE said on the subject (italics mine):
No new temptation ever comes to any of us.  Satan needs no new tricks.
old ones have worked well ever since the Garden of Eden,
although sometimes under different guises.
When there is a deep restlessness for which we find no
explanation, it may be due to the greed of being--
what our loving Father never meant us to be.
Peace lies in the trusting acceptance of His design, His gifts,
His appointment of place, position,
It was thus that the Son of Man came to earth--embracing all that
the Father willed Him to be, usurping nothing--no work,
not even a word--that the Father had not given Him.
I have known that restlessness. It rises up in me all day at work. It drives me to be everything, everywhere, for everybody. I cannot hardly think of life other than to think what I am within that circumstance. I just want to be that girl -- whatever girl that is. It is like chasing the wind.

I am so thankful for this little message to me. What a mercy it is when God shows us our sin and teaches us more of Himself through it. Though I cannot say I am healed completely
of these sins, I have seen a bit of an awakening. All day I was able to live with the freedom to not be everything at work, just to do my jobs and let others just go and do. I am realizing that I'm not MarthaStewartRachelRayElisabethElliotMaryPoppinsCarolynMahaney, but I'm just Gretchen -- an asthmatic girl with a messy house who needs to just rest and do the lot assigned to her. Maybe that sounds boring to you, but incredible peace comes, like my dear EE says, when I accept His design, His gifts, His appointment of place, position and capacity.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Reformation Party

It is one week and counting to the 6th annual Reformation Party at our church, Clifton Baptist. This is my first year to participate, however, and I am enjoying it immensely and learning a lot as well. I love this idea of celebrating the Reformation for several reasons, but chief among them is that having such an event on October 31st (which is the day in 1517 that Luther nailed up his 95 theses, for those of you who are not history buffs) is far better than a church celebrating "Harvest" or Halloween. Of course I love harvest and I even love Halloween (the candy and costume parts, not so much the horror-movieness), but Reformation Day is an actual historical event that we can learn from and celebrate what God did for His church.

How do you have a Reformation party? Here's what we're doing at Clifton.

First, choose a Reformer to focus on. In the past, they've done Luther and Calvin, and this year we're doing Martin Bucer, who is a lesser-known reformer. The night of the event, everyone dresses up in costumes such as monks, medieval maidens, knights, etc., and booths are set up with different activities that pertain to the main reformer. Bucer was a traveler, for instance, so we have a map room where the kids find certain locations on a map. He also helped Calvin find his wife, so there is a ring toss where you try to toss a ring around the doll wearing the wedding dress. Fun, right? And educational! At each of the booths, the kids can earn a stamp on their "passport", which you are trying to complete. In addition to that, we have a jail, where persons who are spreading "heresy" can be thrown, a "jousting" match using pillows, the Reformation University where children show projects they have created at home as well as tons of CANDY! One of the best parts, I'm told, is when everyone sings the "Reformation Polka". I cracked up laughing when my friend Annie (the Reformation Super-fan) sent them to me. Here they are:

(Sung to the tune of "Supercalfragilisticexpialidocious")

(This song is very much tongue in cheek, my dear catholic friends.)

When I was just ein junger Mann I studied canon law;
While Erfurt was a challenge, it was just to please my Pa.

Then came the storm, the lightning struck, I called upon Saint Anne,
I shaved my head, I took my vows, an Augustinian! Oh...


They loved my tracts, adored my wit, all were exempleror;
The Pope, however, hauled me up before the Emperor.
"Are these your books? Do you recant?" King Charles did demand,
"I will not change my Diet, Sir, God help me here I stand!" Oh...


Duke Frederick took the Wise approach, responding to my words,
By knighting "George" as hostage in the Kingdom of the Birds.
Use Brother Martin's model if the languages you seek,
Stay locked inside a castle with your Hebrew and your Greek! Oh...

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation -
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

I'll try to post some pictures after the event is over! Let me know if you've done an event like this . . .

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thanks, Gary and Lennis!

Josh's mom and dad so generously offered to buy us a new couch! We picked out this one, a sort of leather "club" style couch. Josh is a huge fan of the sturdyness and smoothness, two qualities that every couch ought to possess, but that our former couch rather lacked. Here is how we got our old couch:

It was the winter of 2002, during that first year we were married. I had picked up mono somewhere, and was rather out of commission all the time. I mostly slept all day on the little love seat we had in the living room. After a couple weeks, my sister Anna and friend Misty came to visit us, to fill the freezer with food and clean our house. I felt well enough to go out to eat, but on the way home, I was drooping like a sunflower with a heavy head. I vaguely recall Josh pulling over and everyone getting out to look at the furniture heaped by the side of the road (do they do that where you live? In Wisconsin, you just put ALL your stuff by the road if you don't want it). The next thing I remember is driving home with a huge chair in our trunk. After that, I was out like a light, sleeping in my coat on the love seat. I awoke several hours later to find Misty, Anna and Josh making an absolute racket in the kitchen vacuuming off the LARGEST couch I'd ever seen. "We went back!" they showed me gleefully "and there was this great couch that matched the chair!" That sucker was the size of a 57 Chevy. It was brown and scratchy (sort of the texture of velcro -- the rough side) and falling apart just a bit, but we all loved it. It was the greatest garbage ever. It has fallen into a state of disrepair -- the dear couch is probably going on 80 years old -- and we were loath to force our guests to sit on it. In fact, Josh would try to make a game plan when we had people over "Go for the couch, so that they can't sit on it!" he'd hiss. That is no longer a problem!

Come on over and sit a spell, and celebrate with us how the Lord has provided! Jehovah Jireh!

Friday, October 19, 2007

One Year Later

It's deja vu all over again -- here we are at the Mohler's house last year.

Boy, things sure do seem more familiar now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How to Read a Book Together

My sister Emily and I have been reading Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot together. We started a couple weeks ago, and it has been going well -- so well, in fact, that I just started reading 2 more books with friends: The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace with my sister-in-law Kari and Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp with my friend Christen in Brazil. How do you read a book with someone long distance? I think we've worked out a pretty good plan, so I thought I'd share it here, in case it might be helpful to you. I got some insight from a guy at church who works with NANC counseling and frequently reads books of this nature with guys he counsels. I thought it was insightful, and even though it is not a counseling relationship, it is a "growing together" relationship, so I thought it applied. Here's what I modified our book sharing to be:

1. Determine how much of the book you want to read together each week. I have found that one person sort of has to take on the role of the "assigner". I'm bossy, so that has been me. :)

2. Depending on how long the chapters are, choose a selection or quote from each chapter to share with each other. It can just be something that really stood out, or convicted you, or just a wonderful word that was well written and utterly quotable. If the book has long chapters, you can choose more things. Passion and Purity is perfect for this, because the chapters are very short, so we just choose one quote per chapter.

3. Each person forms a question based on the content of the chapter you read. It can be an application question, an opinion (such as "Is this Biblical? Do you agree with this?") or a sort of "fleshing out" question. So far, it has been quite easy to draw a question from each chapter. There really doesn't have to be any more specific guidelines than that.

4. Each person replies to the other's question. Discussion may naturally follow or not.

This has all been done on line, through e-mail and the like. I imagine it would be even easier over the phone, but my times talking to Christen (or Emily or Kari, for that matter!) are few and far between, so messages will have to suffice. Kari and I are doing something different, because Excellent Wife has a little companion study book that we are doing together and holding each other accountable.

I hope this is helpful to you. Maybe you will be inspired to find a friend with whom to read!

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Purpose for the Visual Arts and the Believer

This image, The Crucifixion, by Matthis Grunewald was presented in detail to our class tonight. Dr. Halla, our professor, seemed to almost get choked up as he described for us the iconography in this altarpiece from the abbey church at Isenheim. This gorgeous work which measures 9 by 16 feet was commissioned by the church at this monastery, which seems like no big deal until you realize that this place was one of the places of hospice for the masses of terrible sick people of the early 16th century. This was where the people dying of the plague or St. Anthony's fire came to die, having no hope of recovery. It is historically understood that the caretakers at Isenheim would take the patients through to look at the altarpiece when they first arrived -- before any other medical treatment would be prescribed. Often, it was the last lovely thing you might see before you died!

There is much that can be said about the other figures in the painting -- John, Mary, Mary Magdalene, the Lamb of God and John the Baptist, in that order -- but the amazing part of the work is the centrality of Christ on the cross. From the perspective of the patients that would have been standing on the floor before the work, this is the only figure that makes sense (for instance, the perspective on Mary is looking down at her). Here they see Christ dead. Behind him, darkness has come over the land (Matthew 27:45), and his head hangs low. Look closely at his arms, which have come out of their sockets -- from the weight of the sin of the world. See how the cross is bowed? "He was bruised for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities".

I'll quote Dr. Halla to explain the significance of why Christ's body looks the way it does: "It has been argued, rather convincingly, that the discoloration and other wounds correspond to the various symptoms of the diseases represented in the convent -- in other words, it is an image of Christ infected with the plague, with St. Anthony's Fire, etc." So Grunewald created this painting for the lowliest of persons to see right before they died that they might know that Christ knows your pain and suffering, he understands your agony, and he bore the weight of your sin in his death!

I LOVE this altarpiece! I felt truly challenged by what it showed, and how artwork can truly minister to the unloveliest of the unlovable. What would this look like in our era, say, with AIDS? Could there be something similar done? I feel as though I am a changed person because I have seen The Crucifixion, and the vision it casts for the role of the visual arts when it comes to ministering to others.

Finally, I leave you with one of the inside panels of the altarpiece, which shows Christ gloriously resurrected. What a contrast! Christ here shows complete victory over sin and death -- don't you just want to sing Hallelujah?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Have you been reading this?

I don't know how many of you are fellow GirlTalk readers, but these past 2 weeks, the writers have been interviewing David Kotter (who attends our church!) and Dr. Jeffrey Trimark about their upcoming book Eat and Be Content. I am so excited about this book! It's the first thing I've seen quite like it, that really probes the heart of why we eat what we eat and the idolatry and foolishness that often motivates our choices. What thrills me is that this book is not about a diet and not just for women! These men have truly sought to write from a Christ-centered, God-honoring perspective. I encourage you to check out the entire interview, but if you don't have time, please read these two.

You will be blessed by the heart of these men!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Girls of Character: Teaching Biblical Femininity to the Next Generation through Literature

“What should I give my daughter to read?” This was the question that prompted me to create the following bibliography. Christian mothers of young girls find themselves in a difficult spot. Many “girly” books encourage frivolity by telling silly, shallow princess stories; while others seek to empower girls to "be all they can be" -- which usually includes throwing off traditional gender roles. How do we counter a culture in which the "Bratz" dolls tell our girls what they need to look like, and Disney Princess tells them that true love is their dream? For parents who want to encourage Christian character and instill a Christian worldview in their daughters, the task of finding appropriate, well-written books for them to read may be daunting. But be encouraged! There is a treasure trove of excellent literature out there just waiting to be discovered!

My purpose here is to do some of the discovering for you. This list is far from exhaustive. Certainly you know of other books that you believe every girl should read. I do too. I also think girls should read plenty of good “boy books”! But my purpose here is to suggest books that portray females of all ages who have character, godliness or learn lessons from their mistakes. I have tried to carefully consider the heroines in these books -- what portrait do they paint of admirable femininity? I have grouped my recommendations into three categories -- stories, which are lesser known or older books that should not fade into the night unread; classics and series, books that are more visible in a modern library or bookstore; and biography, true stories of godly women that will inspire. Apart from the biographies, I have not included non-fiction recommendations, because books on spiritual growth and Christian theology seem to be better-known to most of us and more easily-recognizable. I also think that stories can teach, in some ways, better than the direct instruction of non-fiction. Stories engage the affections and demonstrate what the virtues look like in real life. Did not Christ use parables?

As a final word, I want to acknowledge that not every parent will favor the same exact books. Clearly, some books on this list will be okay for some families, and not for others. This resource is meant to be a starting position to inspire you to discover more and more. I want to encourage you to plunge into sharing the adventure of reading with your daughter! Read with her, read to her, talk about the books, ask her questions, stimulate her thinking and motivate her to think critically. How rewarding it will be! Happy reading!

Stories, Tales and Fiction -- to engage her imagination

All-of-a-Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor -- this precious Jewish family of 5 girls will be a hit with girls of all ages. Set at the turn of the 20th century up to World War I, these sweet stories are packed with details about that time in history as well as Jewish traditions, customs and holidays. You will want to read the whole series and watch Ella, Hennie, Sarah, Charlotte and Gertie grow up! (ages 7 and up)

The Little Girl and the Big Bear by Paul Galdone -- fantastic read aloud about a little girl who is clever and brave and outsmarts the huge bear that kidnapped her to return safely home to her family. It is one of my favorite books of all time, but sadly out of print. Look for it used or at the library. (Picture book -- ages 3 and up)

Adara by Beatrice Gormley -- the Biblical story of the little girl who was the slave of Naaman’s wife, who told Naaman to seek out Elisha to be healed from leprosy (ages 8 and up)

Five Children and It, Railway Children by E. Nesbit -- Excellent fantasy literature by a Victorian-era writer who influenced C.S. Lewis (ages 10 and up)

Melisande by E. Nesbit -- a beautiful story of a princess whose character is as big as she is! Written at the turn of the 20th century in the spirit of the old fairy tales. Out of Print, but find it at the library. (Picture book -- ages 3 and up)

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald -- funny short stories about children whose flaws are treated by a clever lady who has medicine fit for every crime. Good for further instruction on sinfulness. (Short chapter book with some pictures -- ages 5 and up)

The Princess and the Kiss by Jennie Bishop -- a well told tale of a princess who guards her prized first kiss and deems the poor man she chooses to be worthy of her love because he has the same treasure himself. There is a companion book, Life Lessons from the Princess and the Kiss, that has activities and applications a mom and daughter(s) (or dad and daughter!) could do together after reading the book. (Ages 8-12)

“The Girls of Many Lands” series, especially Neela, Saba, Camille and Minuk -- this series from American Girl is designed for older readers, and features girls from around the world during exciting times in history. Though not Christian, these stories are well-written, exciting tales that feature courageous girls in different cultures (clearly a mature reader would understand, for instance, that Minuk -- an Eskimo girl -- believes in false gods). Girls of other cultures are portrayed in distinctly feminine roles, but still get in on the adventure of the stories. (10 and up)

Brave Irene by William Steig -- Irene is steadfast and brave when she gets lost in a snowstorm trying to help her mother by delivering a dress to the duchess. She actually contemplates giving up and just laying down and staying in the snow, even though she knows she will die, but remembers her mother is counting on her and her love for her mother compels her to do what is right. She obviously enjoys success in the end, but the story is a good picture of perseverance even when things seem impossible. (Picture Book -- ages 4 and up)

The Saturdays, The Four-Story Mistake, Then There Were Five, Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright -- this quartet of stories about four siblings who live in New York City and then the countryside are splashed with color, humor, and genius. I just love the relationship between the siblings -- realistic, but they truly love each other and are the best of friends. Enright captures exactly how it felt to be a child. These were exactly the kind of books I loved as a child. (ages 8 and up)

Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright. This is a Newberry Award-winners by the same author. Cousins discover a little town that froze in time when the lake dried up, and befriend two wonderful people who stayed on in the town. Elderly Minnehaha and her brother Pindar are full of funny stories and wisdom for the kids, who eventually convince their parents to buy a huge house and move into the old town. (ages 8 and up)

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo -- a timeless story of a prideful toy rabbit who is lost by his loving owner and finds himself passed around from owner to owner. The real journey, however, is inside, as Edward Tulane learns what love is, and wakes up to his own selfishness. The happy ending seals this book’s future as a classic. Not a Christian book, but paints a clear picture of redemption. (ages 7 and up)

The True Princess by Angela Ewell Hunt -- a Christian story of a princess whose relationship with the king teaches her that true beauty is inside. Good for combating silly princess stories. (Picture book -- ages 4 and up)

Seeker’s Great Adventure by Dian Layton -- a great early-reader allegory in the spirit of Pilgrim’s Progress. Children in the kingdom discover how wonderful it is to have a relationship with the King (these books are primarily beneficial for showing how great King Jesus is!). The whole series is great -- simple, but quite original. Other titles include Rescued from the Dragon, The Secret of the Blue Pouch, In Search of Wanderer, The Dreamer, Armor of Light. (ages 5 and up)

Classics and Series -- well known books

Hundred Dresses by Elenor Estes -- every little girl must read this book and discuss the story with her mother. Poor Wanda is made fun of day after day by the other girls in school because she says she has a hundred dresses at home in her closet, all lined up. Maddie -- a girl who goes along with the mocking because she wants to be popular but always feels bad about it -- serves as the conscience of the story. The surprise ending gives cause for personal reflection over issues of showing favoritism, speaking hurtfully to one’s peers, and judging others as well as speaking up and taking a stand against wrongdoing. (ages 6-12)

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee -- for mature readers. Though Scout is a tomboy in every sense of the word (and there is certainly nothing wrong with that!), her father Atticus Finch can serve as an example of a truly admirable man for a female reader. Their delightful neighbor, Miss Maudie, is a wonderful woman of character who helps Scout and Jem understand how truly great their father is.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner Chandler

American Girl Series -- especially Addy, Felicity, Kirsten, Josefina and Samantha. Some families shy away from this series because they are not Christian and do not want to spend money on the dolls, but the books are such excellent stories, and the girls in this series do live out traditional gender roles. These books are designed to keep little girls from growing up too fast. (ages 7-10)

Betsy-Tacy, et al by Maude Hart Lovelace

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen Taylor (retelling of John Bunyan’s classic). Includes the story of Christiana. (read-aloud to ages 7 and up, read for self ages 10 and up)

Biographies and autobiographies --true stories to inspire

Nothing Can Separate Us -- the Story of Nan Harper (Beautiful Girlhood series -- As the Titanic sank, Pastor John Harper of Scotland cried out for lost souls, led dying men to Christ, and ultimately sacrificed his life for others. On board with him was his daughter Nan. This is a love story about a father and a daughter, and how one girl grew up to pass on her father's legacy of heroism and Christian faith to future generations. Other historical figures featured in this series include Dolly Madison, Sacagawea, Priscilla Mullins, and Barbara Leninger (ages 7-10)

Are All the Watches Safe by Catherine MacKenzie -- this early reader introduces girls to a real life heroine, Corrie Ten Boom. Written on an early reader level, with lots of pictures, this would make a good read aloud for younger children (ages 5 and up)

Can Brown Eyes be Made Blue? By Catherine MacKenzie -- childhood story of Amy Carmichael for younger children (ages 5 and up)

Trailblazers Series by Catherine MacKenzie -- biographies of Christian women such as Mary Slessor, Joni Erickson-Tada, Corrie Ten Boom, Gladys Aylward and many others (Christian Focus) (3rd-6th grade)

Heroes of the Faith Series -- an inexpensive series of small biographies of famous Christians. Both egalitarians and complementarians are featured in this series, such as Amy Charmichael, Mary Slessor, Fanny Crosby, and Florence Nightingale and Edith Schaeffer. (4th-8th grade)

Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman by Gladys Aylward -- nice little autobiography that tells this missionary’s story of living in dependence of the Lord’s leading. The simple writing and short chapters make it perfect for introducing a younger girl to reading autobiographies. (Ages 11 and up).

A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot -- a sharp teen reader could really benefit from digging deep into the life of a hero in this top-notch biography from a great writer. Reading this book could also open up her world to reading more books by Amy Carmichael (a young poetess could really enjoy some of her beautiful poetry) and Elisabeth Elliot. (Middle teenage)

Mimosa, A True Story by Amy Carmichael -- this little book contains an amazing story of redemption and perseverance. As a little girl, Mimosa spends one day learning of Christ, and that small amount of knowledge sustains her throughout a life of hardship. In the face of great persecution, she refuses to worship Hindu idols, and clings to Christ, whose name she cannot even remember. Because of Mimosa’s intense hardship, I recommend this book for a mature middle-school aged girls or older.

The Hiding Place, In My Father’s House, Tramp for the Lord by Corrie Ten Boom -- Many have been changed and challenged by Corrie Ten Boom’s stories. Great for mothers and daughters to read together! (middle school and up)

Through Gates of Splendor, These Strange Ashes, the Savage My Kinsman by Elisabeth Elliot -- these books weave together the story of the author’s life as a missionary among the Colorado, Quechua and Auca Indian tribes of Ecuador. Excellently written and thick with application, these books tell the story of a woman who lived her life utterly dedicated to God’s will. Perfectly appropriate for a high school girl to read. Older teens would also benefit from reading Passion and Purity, the story of the author’s God-centered romance with Jim Ellliot.

With Daring Faith -- A Biography of Amy Carmichael by Rebecca H. Davis (6th grade and up)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Trivia -- Final Segment

We've got a dead heat, here -- good thing I have lots of books to give away. Anna and Morning Rose are tied at 3 each. I struggled coming up with a final question that is fair to both of them (like obviously not something from my childhood that only Anna would know). So Josh suggested this final question, and our tiebreaker. You could probably find the answer if you clicked around enough on past posts, or looked online.

Segment 4 -- Church

8. What New Testament scholar is the preaching pastor at the church where Gretchen is a member?

***Edit: We have a winner! Morning Rose, if you would so kindly drop me an e-mail with your address, I will send you: Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically by John MacArthur, The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy by Vern Poythress and Wayne Grudem, Build-a-Bible Personal size in King James Version (didn't you say that was your preference?) with a blue Bible cover and note pad (it's like a little set), and Mission Compromised by Oliver North (don't know if you like fiction, but I figured in a family of boys, it couldn't hurt!). I also have tossed in a couple of things for your boys (not books, just for fun). Total value? $138.27!! Keep in mind, I did not buy these things, they are a perk of working at a bookstore. Our runner up, Anna, is getting a consolation prize of a leather-bound NLT Bible (I use that for everyday reading), The Journals of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot and Does This Dress Make Me Look Fat? by Stephen James (not sure about that last one -- it might be dumb, it might be good for a laugh).

Thank you all for participating in The Gretchen Trivia Sweepstakes Challenge. I'd show you all what the prizes are but my camera is broken!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

On Being a Vegetarian -- and Trivia Segment 3

The second semester of my Sophomore year in college, I looked around the MBBC dining hall and saw no healthy meat that I wanted to eat. For a while I had disliked lunchmeat, red meat, pork, and most poultry, leaving me to eat unhealthy things such as pepperoni and bacon (can you see how they are less "meaty"?). So I decided, "I don't really like this stuff anyway! I'm giving it up for the rest of the semester". By the time I came home and sat down to a steak grilled by my dad, I had lost the taste for meat -- I simply could not handle the texture. I also read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair that summer, but I was already confirmed by then. That began me on a quest to actually care about my food and not just always stick whatever tastes good into my mouth. The next fall a vegetarian lady at my little college church lent me a cookbook that explained how to build a perfect protein even if you aren't eating meat. I found I enjoyed learning about food, health and cooking. I confess that the spiritual aspect has come much later. I don't eat meat not because I believe it is wrong (I believe in mankind having dominion over the animals), but because it is just a part of a balanced lifestyle I try to maintain to bring glory to God. So that is my pilgrimage as a vegetarian. It is true, as Anna pointed out, that initially I was a terribly unhealthy vegetarian to begin with, but I mended that within a few months, and now my tastes for meals center largely around how many vegetables are in one dish. I truly don't feel right if I go too long in my day without eating some veggies and fruit.

Morning Rose and Misty are now on the board with one point each. I'm awarding Morning Rose for her sleuthing on the Lent question (plus she was the closest in the first place, and answered first), and Misty on the most detailed reason for my vegetarianism. The scoreboard stands as follows: Anna(3), Morning Rose(1) and Misty(1).

Segment 3 -- Awards

6. Fill in the blank: Gretchen graduated from college _______________

7. What award was bestowed on Gretchen in 2005 that led her to proclaim "Now I feel as though I'm a person who actually wins things!"

Friday, October 05, 2007

Trivia Segment 2

At this point, we have a clear front-runner in The Gretchen Trivia Sweepstakes Challenge. Anna is 3-0, being the first to answer as well as answering all 3 questions correctly. But with 5 questions remaining, it's any woman's (or man's) game. The next segment is decidedly harder, and more open to interpretation, to give it your best shot. I may be able to award a runner-up or two as well!

Segment 2 -- Eating and Appetites

4. Name 3 things Gretchen has given up for Lent.

5. Why did Gretchen become a vegetarian?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Gretchen Trivia Sweepstakes

Mark tagged me to tell 8 random things about myself, but today I had a bit of a windfall in new books, I decided to make it a game. Here's how it'll go. I will post (in segments) 8 trivia questions about myself, and the person who gets the most questions right and first (weighted equally) will win an assortment of books, shipped free of charge to your home (I'll base my selection on the interest of the winner). Or if you live here, I'll just hand them to you.

Segment 1 -- favorites:

1. Who is my favorite author?

2. Who is my favorite fine art artist?

3. What is my favorite color?

Let the games begin!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Prayer Walking

I just had the most wonderful morning. After I went to the grocery, and returned home with a big cup of Starbucks, I felt inclined to sit outside and read my Bible underneath the starry sky and a brilliantly shining moon. This personal time with the Lord was so precious and sweet, as He convicted me of a glaring sin I had unknowingly been clinging to, and brought me sweet repentance and instruction through His Word. I did not want it to end. The crisp early morning was bidding me to stay out and further enjoy quiet time on the quiet campus, and I had the idea to go on a prayer walk around the Seminary lawn. This idea of prayer walking had been planted in my mind by Terry Rogstad, a godly woman at my church, who mentioned how she loved to go for walks and speak to the Lord.

Perhaps this is something everyone does, but it was new to me! How delightful to praise, pray, speak out loud, or whisper very softly requests that tumbled to the forefront of my mind as I was stimulated by the exercise. Scriptures came, and I prayed those for dear ones I loved, and at the very end (there is a big clock on top of one of the buildings that chimes the half hours so I could watch my time) I saw the gorgeous sunrise, orange and pink and peach, filling the sky with a sorbet of colorful clouds.

Here is a scripture (paraphrased) that I prayed for my sisters (Anna, Emily, if you are reading this, I pray this for you):

Ephesians 3:16&19
I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources
he will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.
May you experience the love of Christ,
though it is too great to understand fully understand,
then you will be made complete with all fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Monday, October 01, 2007

About Commentaries

I'm thinking now about what I want to do for my devotions next year. This year I've been reading through the Bible using a little One-Year Bible, and I have really loved it. I'm considering just starting right over with that, but I'm wondering if it might be a good idea to take a break, and choose to study something (like one book) more in-depth.

Which brings me to commentaries. I am thinking that if I decided to read through, say the book of John, I may want a commentary or two to aid my reading, and help me dig deeper. Which raises the question, which commentaries should I use? I started really thinking over this today while I was receiving MacArthur Commentaries at work (they're on sale all month for 40% off and we got a truckload!). I have not consistently read a commentary with my Bible reading in years -- probably since high school, when I was sort of struggling to understand the meaning of quite a lot of the Bible. Here are the ones I am considering right now:

Johnny Mac, of course

Crossway Classic Commentary

Reformed Expository Commentary

Baker Exegetical Commentary

New American Commentary

I wondered if any of you regularly use commentaries as companions in your personal devotions? Do you have any insight for me?