Abigail: There is a God

On October 26, 1967 Martin Luther King, Jr. stood before a group of students in Philadelphia and gave a speech that became known as “The Street Sweeper Speech.” He encouraged the young people to tackle their life’s work with gusto.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. —What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?

In Lois T. Henderson’s novel Abigail, the young heroine takes MLK’s message a step further. Faced with an inescapable betrothal to drunken Nabal, Abigail resolves to be a good wife but not with the goal of earning respect for herself. Instead she tells herself,

“I will be a good wife that all the earth will know there is a God in Israel.”

abigail-1

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5 Novels for Easter

The two most joyful proclamations in the Bible are “Unto us a child is born” and “He is risen!” This are words that cause the Christian heart to thrill. Yet, to our shame, sometimes even these pronouncements of joy loose their luster. Over the years, many stories have renewed my sense of wonder over various aspects of of the Good News. If you want to look at the Easter story with fresh eyes this year, here are some reading suggestions.

5 novels for easter

Titus Comrade of the CrossTitus: Comrade of the Cross
Good Friday
When I grabbed this book off a shelf in our basement, I didn’t give the title much thought. About halfway through the book, I began to feel a sinking sense of dread about the term comrade of the cross. Florence M. Kingsley wrote this book just before the 19th century turned to the 20th. According to Goodreads, it was written in response to a publisher’s challenge to “write a manuscript that would set a child’s heart on fire for Jesus Christ.” This book will bring you to Golgotha through the eyes of the believing thief.

RivenRiven
Good Friday
If you read the story synopsis for this book, you won’t understand why I put it on this list. It’s a contemporary novel about a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, and a chaplain who has seen better days. Riven is also one of the longest books I’ve ever read, so it would take quite a time commitment to finish in one week. However, I can promise you will see Good Friday with new eyes after reading this. It’s one of the most unique, powerful stories I’ve ever read. It’s also the only book I continued crying over long after turning the last page.
Note: Not recommended for readers under 16.

Vinegar Boy

Vinegar Boy
Good Friday & Easter
This is a good read if you prefer something a little less intense than Riven or Titus: Comrade of the Cross. Vinegar boy would make a great family read-a-loud. The story follows the life of an orphan boy who wants nothing more than to be healed from a birthmark (a port wine stain) that leads people to believe he’s cursed. If he was healed, he would be adopted and have the opportunity to lead a normal life. The Rabbi from Nazareth seems his only hope–a hope dashed when he finds himself beneath the cross of Jesus’, wetting Christ’s lips with sponge of vinegar.

Ben-HurBen-Hur
Good Friday & Easter
I freely admit that I have yet to read this book front to back–the one time I digested the whole story in literary form was when I listened to it from Focus on the Family Radio Theater. However, this classic tale is the first to come to mind when considering Easter stories. This novel is a great representation of a life healed by tragedy of the crucifixion and the triumph of the resurrection. If you don’t have time for the book or audio drama, there’s always the more frequently consumed movie.
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Easter Surprise, TheThe Easter Surprise
Easter
The resurrection story for the smaller members of the family. The Arch Books Bible stories are among the first books I ever read on my own. We had a good stock of them both at home and in our church’s nursery. There is a whole collection of Arch Books for this time of year, including: The Week That Led to Easter, The Day Jesus Died, The Story of the Empty Tomb, The Resurrection, He’s Risen! He’s Alive!, and The Easter Stranger.

Acts of FaithActs of Faith Trilogy
After Easter
Enter the world of the early church. Authors Janette Oke and Davis Bunn teamed up to write these stories of faith, persecution, and determination. Book two, The Hidden Flame, was my personal favorite as it gave me a deeper appreciation for the faithfulness and sacrifice of Stephen.
Note: Recommend that younger teens check with their parents before reading this trilogy.

What are your favorite Easter stories? Which novels have helped you gain a renewed appreciation of Bible events?

Book Review: Ruth

Ruth

“Belief is something that can happen in a minute,” Ruth said slowly, groping for the words. “In the way that the sun can come through the clouds suddenly after a storm. But faith — that’s something different. More like the almond blossoms I guess … They grow so slowly from bud to blossom that you’re hardly aware of it.”

Though married to and in love with Hebrew Mahlon, Ruth has never embraced the Jewish religion as her own. She also wastes little devotion on worship of Chemosh, the god of her own people. When death steals Mahlon and smothers the last hope of an heir for the house of Elimelech, the three widows of the household are left to struggle for survival. Naomi longs to return to her homeland. In her own quiet way, Ruth promises that if Naomi’s God provides a miracle and opens a way for them to travel to Bethlehem, she will go with Naomi and know that the God of Israel is the true God.

Though very simple and old-fashioned, I believe you (like me) will find this book hard to put down after the first 50 pages. I have read the story of Ruth more times than I can count. Despite knowing the entire plot and how the tale would end, watching Ruth’s faith grow and experiencing love blossom between her and Boaz kept me reading as if I’d never heard the story before.

Published in the 1980s, author Lois T. Henderson depicts a much less romanticized version of Bible times than more recent books. I have found the unique angle of her stories refreshing! That said, where the Bible shows the budding and development of love and marriage, Henderson does not shy from weaving those threads into prominent view in her tales.

I highly recommend this book for lovers of Bible fiction, classics, and non-mainstream books.

Book Review: Priscilla & Aquila

Priscilla and AquilaSometimes it’s fun to branch out and read something very different from your normal reading habits. Priscilla & Aquila certainly fit that description for me.

I stumbled across author Lois T. Henderson while skimming through various Biblical fiction novels on Amazon. She wrote a series of books based on the lives of various women in the Bible. Since the books were inexpensive (I think I paid $0.47 + shipping), I decided to give her a try. I picked Priscilla & Aquila because they’re my favorite couple in the Bible.

This book begins when 15 year old Priscilla learns that her family has decided it’s time for her to marry (she’s been of age for three years, after all). They even have a man in mind. Aquila has talked his father into approaching Marcus Justinius to request his granddaughter’s hand in marriage. Smitten by Priscilla’s unique appearance, Aquila doesn’t know of his chosen bride’s equally unique education. As they enter life together, both must wrestle with their position and responsibilities as man and wife. Things become even more complicated when Aquila becomes a follower of Jesus Christ and wishes Priscilla to be baptized with him. Life as followers of The Way is not easy. Driven from their familiar lives by conflict among the Jehovites, they must learn to follow the Lord, fulfill their Biblical roles, and be sensitive to the leading the the Holy Spirit now dwelling within them.

One of things that sets this book apart is Lois T. Henderson’s strict adherence to the culture of the times. Most novels set in Bible times only superficially acknowledge the gender roles and expectations of the time. This is not true of Priscilla & Aquila. The author does not shy away from extreme submission demanded of wives during this time period. Poor Priscilla, who loves to read and study Greek and the Torah, struggles to avoid all such things while pregnant out of a belief that “thinking too much” will hurt the child growing within her!

Priscilla and Aquila are both lovely, real characters. The author did not allow either of them to be cardboard, “perfect” people. They fear and grow angry, envy and weep. They also love fiercely and dedicate unflinching determination to doing what is right. The ease of relating to Priscilla’s hopes, fears, and deep inward desires is what drew me into the first 100 pages of this book.

Priscilla & Aquila is especially suited for readers who enjoy Bible fiction and classics. While not old enough to be a classic, Lois T. Henderson writes using a story telling style that will be best appreciated by those who enjoy old books.

P.S. Priscilla & Aquila are a married couple in a culture that emphasized a wife’s “comfort” to her husband. The author does not shy away from alluding to this aspect of marriage. It’s done very tastefully, but for this reason, I wouldn’t recommend this book for young readers.

Book Review: The Sufficiency of Scripture

Sufficiency of Scripture, The

Many Christians acknowledge that the Scriptures are inerrant–that is, that God’s Word is infallible–but few truly demonstrate recognition of the sufficiency of God’s Word in every area of their lives.

It’s no secret that the church is struggling and so are the families in it. We struggle with apathy and division. Programs and plans designed to excite teenagers about the church or create better leaders hit the market all the time, but all too often, the best and most effective answer book is left behind. The Sufficiency of Scripture is based on the “fundamental doctrine” that God’s Word is sufficient to guide and instruct our personal lives, our homes and our church. And guess what? It is! Joseph Stevens takes a detailed look at each of these aspects and uses the Scripture to outline what our lives, homes and churches should look like.

This book was given to me by a visiting speaker at our midweek Bible study. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but something made him reach into his backpack and challenge me to read this book. Dad asked to read it first and liked it so much we ended up reading it as a family during family devotions. After reading it as a family, it got tucked back onto the bookshelf for a while. Recently, I have found that it is a great go-to book when questions come up about how a church should be structured or what a Godly family looks like. I highly recommend this book.

Author: Joseph Stephen
Audience: Adults (Written for adults, but also appropriate for younger audiences)
Genre: Christian Non-Fiction
Pages: 185
Publisher: Pleasant Word

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Jesus Died For Me


Jesus died for me
Up on Calvary,
Jesus died for me
Won’t you come and see.

Do you see him there?
Bruised beyond despair,
Thorn crown on his brow,
Whose face is that now?

They did spear his side,
Blood that we may hide,
From the wrath of God,
And His mighty rod.

Spikes did pierce his flesh,
Though He was sinless,
Twas love he gave us,
Dying on the cross.

Jesus died for you,
On the cross it’s true.
Jesus died for you,
Can’t you see the view.

Don’t be fooled by sin,
Just look up at him,
And wait not to long,
Come sing a new song (of Him)

(Copyright 1990 by Kenneth J. Good)

Chosen

Ye are a chosen people,
Walk by faith and not by sight;
Ye are an holy nation,
Go forth with a shining light.

A chosen generation,
Your hearts on high He raises;
Ye, God’s peculiar people,
To show forth all His praises.

He who called you from darkness,
Into His marvelous light;
He who deserves all worship,
The way of the truth and life.

Based on 1 Peter 2:9

(Copyright by Leah E. Good 2012)

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His Creation

When nothing was
There God didst dwell,
At dawn of time
His voice to swell.

Eternal God
In ages past,
Made earth at first
And man at last.

With labor done
His work surveyed,
Said, “It is good,”
And rested.

Based on Genesis 1

(Copyright 2012 by Leah E. Good)

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