Book Release: Savior Like a Shepherd

Have you ever wondered what it was like for orphans born in the Wild West? Faith Blum has a new book that explores the life of three orphans born during that time. Today’s post will tell you a little about Faith and her book, Savior, Like a Shepherd. Make sure you read to the end to see the super fun giveaway she has going on, too!

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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.”

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Book Review: The King’s Shadow

King's Shadow, The

“You, Shadow!” the slave master shouted, as though Evyn were deaf as well as dumb. Laughter erupted behind him. “Shadow” was what they called dogs or horses. Evyn burned with shame. Uncle Morgan had even stolen his name.

Young Evyn is a Welsh serf in the 11th century. His life is turned upside down when his uncle betrays him and his father, leaving his father dead and Evyn a mute orphan. The uncle then sells Evyn into a life of slavery and pockets the money to repay a debt. Evyn becomes Shadow, a often mistreated and sometimes pitied slave boy. But his fortunes begin to change when he learns to read and write. He becomes a squire to Earl Harold and in time, the two become close friends. When Harold is crowned king, he makes Evyn his foster son. It’s a bond that will throw Evyn into the middle of two of the greatest battles of his time.

It’s funny how some books fade from your memory within a week of reading them, while some linger for years. The King’s Shadow is one that has lingered. I read it in 2008, yet I still remember feeling furious at Uncle Morgan and deeply sympathetic towards Evyn.

What’s your favorite time period to read about? Do you like any other books set in the 11th century?

Reposted from March 28, 2014

Book Review: Lydia

LydiaThis is my third Lois T. Henderson book, and I think it’s safe to say that she’s become one of my favorite Biblical fiction authors. (You can read my previous reviews of her books Ruth and Pricilla & Aquila.)

Our church has been studying Acts, and we reached the portion containing Lydia’s story just as I was finishing this book. It’s always neat to listen to teaching on a Biblical portion and compare it to an author’s imagined tale.

What gripped me most in this book was the scene where Lydia is converted to Christianity. It’s been a while since a salvation scene made me cry, but this one definitely did. The author managed to paint a word picture of the sheer beauty and joy of a soul opening to Christ.

Lydia was aware of no one and nothing but her own need for this gift which Paul promised. Eagerly, she pushed through the crowd until she reached the edge of the water. She dropped her stola and stood waiting in her simple tunic.

Like Henderson’s other stories, Lydia is not an action packed book. It is compelling in a quiet, every-day way.

What are some of your favorite, fictional conversion scenes? What type of scenes make you cry (or get your heart beating fast … whatever your reaction is)?

 

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.
FREE FOR KINDLE

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: The Confession of Saint Patrick

Confession of St. Patrick

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. —Hebrews 13:8

A few weeks before Saint Patrick’s Day, Grace Mally of Tomorrow’s Forefathers published a Saint Patrick Gospel Tract. The contents of the tract piqued my interest and made me want to learn more about the name behind our green-wearing, corned-beef-eating holiday. For example, did you know that Saint Patrick was actually an English slave in Ireland?

A quick Google search told me that a letter Patrick wrote–seemingly a defense of his faith and calling to missionary work–survives to this day. The seventeenth of March seemed an appropriate day for such reading, so yesterday I invested $0.99 and an hours time on the little book.

From his writings, Patrick’s beliefs seem to be a queer mixture of his own study of the Bible, personal experience, and the Catholic upbringing of his childhood. My favorite portion of the book was the first chapter where he explains his conversion and the foundation of his faith.

St. Patrick

This first chapter is riddled with scripture references and, if I hadn’t known who the author was, I might have imagined it was written by a 19th century Christian such as George Muller or even C.S. Lewis.

It struck me that, just as Christ is never changing, so is the Holy Spirit constant. The same Spirit that guides our faith today guided the understanding of the missionaries of the 19th century and the hearts of Christ followers in the fifth century. Reading these words penned only a few hundred years after Christ walked the earth reminded me that there is an undeniable stability to the Christian faith.

And [in slavery in Ireland] the Lord brought me to a sense of my unbelief, that I might, even at a late season, call my sins to remembrance, and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who regarded my low estate…

We live in a world that seems in a perpetual state of topsy-turvy. This was a good reminder that there is nothing new under the sun.

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. –Ecclesiastes 1:9

There’s no question that the world Patrick lived in was filled with unrest and trials, just as ours is. Conflict between England and Ireland caused him to be kidnapped from his homeland and sold into slavery. And yet God was in control then and remains in control now. While only God knows the heart of the man remembered as Saint Patrick, there is little question that the gospel has remained unchanged since the day he wrote his confession.

There is no other God nor ever was nor will be after him except God the Father, without beginning; From whom is all beginning; Who upholds all things as we have said. And his Son Jesus Christ whom together with the father we testify to have always existed. Who before the beginning of the world was spiritually present with the Father; Begotten in an unspeakable manner before all beginning; By whom were made all things visible and invisible; Who was made man, and having overcome death was received into heaven to the Father. And he hath given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God. In whom we believe, and we await his coming who ere long shall judge the quick and dead … Whom we confess and adore–one God in the Trinity of the sacred name.

I hope you all enjoyed your Saint Patrick’s day! Now it’s time to turn our focus to remembering Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

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.