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.

Book Review: Hope Springs Eternal

240923_Sch_PrairieRiver_0.tifThese books were first recommended to me in 2007 or 2008. At that time I loved the series because it was historical fiction and about an orphan. It always bothered me that the library didn’t own the final book in the series.

This Christmas, I finally got book four. Reading the story seven years after first coming to love the series, I found myself still enjoying the story. These books are deep for short, middle-grade stories. Nessa wrestles with tough issues — like how to treat some very unkind neighbors in a Christian manner — and doesn’t get pat, tied-up-in-a-bow answers. She makes mistakes, learns from them, gets back up, and tries again.

Mrs. Lockett is one of my favorite characters. She’s one of those motherly, always-has-the-right-thing-to-say kind of people. She leads by example and knows how to soothe Nessa’s fears without numbing her conscience.

This book–and the series as a whole–is completely child safe. The books are also well written and deep enough for older readers to enjoy them too.

Book Review and Giveaway: Whispers in the Wind

Whispers in the WindRemember I mentioned that we hit 200 followers while I was away? Well, I figured the best way to celebrate would be with some giveaways. It’s been a while since we’ve had any of those. If any of you have ideas for how to add to the fun, shout them out. Rules (almost) the same as always. You can enter by leaving a comment expressing why you follow and (hopefully) like Leah’s Bookshelf. Regrettably, the book can only be shipped within the continental United States due to the cost of shipping. This time around you can earn extra entries by tweeting about the giveaway or sharing on Facebook. Let’s let everyone know we’re celebrating! Just send me the link to your tweet or share, and I’ll give you an extra entry.

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Whispers in the Wind is the third book in the Orphan Train Trilogy. All of the books work as stand alones, and this one is my favorite, so I didn’t think offering you the last book would be a problem.

“He said Captain J. D. Slatter had come to him about the funeral for your family, and wanted to let you know that your parents and Diane and Ronnie will be buried at eleven o’clock Friday morning at the 116th Street Cemetery. A minister has been engaged by the coroner to preside over the burial…”

Dane Weston’s biggest dream is to become a doctor. It’s a big goal for the son of working class parents, but Dane’s family supports him. His dreams are dashed and his heart broken when his parents and younger siblings are murdered at the hands of a teenage gang. With no way to support himself, Dane must leave his books behind and learn to fend for himself on the streets of New York City. He becomes both student and protector of the younger children on the streets, but Dane’s tragedies are not yet over.

Several years ago, I read through every Orphan Train story I could get my hands on. I read this trilogy, The Orphans’ Journey by Arleta Richardson, and Orphan Train Adventures by Joan Lowery Nixon. Dane was one of my favorite characters. He’s got that noble personality that makes people likable and respected both in and out of fiction.

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway by leaving a comment! The giveaway ends July 23rd and results will be announced soon after.

Book Review: Stumptown Kid

Stumptown KidCharlie desperately wants to make the baseball team, but he can’t seem to focus when bullies taunt him. His lack of focus costs him his chance at the team. After the tryouts, he’s surprised when a black man offers some baseball advice that helps right away. The man introduces himself as Luther and says he’s looking for work. Charlie claims Luther as a new friend and, with the help of his mom, finds Luther a job. He also quickly decides he likes Luther much more than his mother’s boyfriend, Vern. Vern’s racist attitude doesn’t win him any brownie points with Charlie either. But Charlie doesn’t realize how much trouble can be found by trying to straddle the line between black and white. Sometimes it’s a matter of life and death.

I read this several years ago and enjoyed it again recently when my family and I listed to it on a road trip. The ending is…well, dramatic. Maybe even a tad too dramatic but not enough to complain about and plenty to keep you on the edge of your seat. Charlie’s innocence and loyalty make his friendship with Luther that much better. Luther is also an easy character to like. You’ll feel his pain right along with him. This book focuses more on the historical fiction side than the sports side, but it has plenty of baseball to make it count for this month’s theme.

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 (wow, is that really six years ago?), yet I still remember feeling furious at Uncle Morgan and deeply sympathetic towards Evyn. And it fits pretty well into the “hodge podge” theme this month because I’ve read very few books about this time period.

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

Author Interview and Giveaway Winner

Rachel Heffington At long last, I’m here to present an interview with Rachel Heffington, author of Fly Away Home. I’ll also be announcing the giveaway winner. So fasten your seat belt and we’ll be off!

What gave you the idea for Fly Away Home?
The idea came from a piece of flash fiction I wrote (“How About Coffee?”) that wouldn’t get out of my head. I wondered about the characters, their lives, their motives. All that wondering finally made its way into a defined plot that wouldn’t leave me alone till I’d explored all its nuances. 🙂

Are any of the characters real historical figures?
None of the main characters (though it’s a well-known fact that Gregory Peck IS Wade Barnett in looks), but historical pop-culture figures are mentioned, and in one particular chapter of the book, you get to rub elbows with the Nelson family of The Ozzie and Harriet Show as well as actress Priscilla Lane and her husband.

What is the most interesting fact or story you uncovered while research for Fly Away Home?
Probably the existence of The Stork Club. I hadn’t realized that there really was such a centralized, well-documented site of celebrity relationships. Every famous person in the 40’s and 50’s visited the Stork Club; researching for the scenes there was so much fun…I was even able to view a video tour of the “Golden Room” from the 1950’s that had been part of a TV spot. Quite fascinating!

What are some of the challenges and rewards of self-publishing?
The challenges are the fact that you are a newbie and you are on your own. I am so blessed to have a lively group of fellow indie authors who have helped make the debut of Fly Away Home a rousing success, but the marketing and publicity side of things is entirely up to you as the author. And that is after you have already gone through the mess of design/formatting/editing. The rewards, though, are that you get to direct your career; I don’t have to write historical romance that is exactly like everyone else’s historical romance because it sells; I have the privilege to write in whatever genre I like. Also, on a terribly shallow level, I get higher royalty percentages than I would as a traditionally published author.

What message would you like readers to take away from this book?
The measure of success is not defined by your salary, your career, or how high you’ve gotten on the corporate ladder. God has a definite plan for your life and it might not look exactly the way the world tells you it ought to look; but it will be fabulous.

Do you have any final comments?
I am so thankful for the opportunity to visit here on Leah’s blog and I hope I may get to know you all better. If you would like to learn more about Fly Away Home, come visit my blog; we have such jolly times!

Thanks so much, Rachel! I’m sure everyone enjoyed the interview. And now, the winner of the Fly Away Home giveaway is…

The Aspiring Illustrator

Congratulations! I’ll be sending you an email to get your mailing address so you can get your copy of Fly Away Home. Hope you enjoy it! For those of you who didn’t win this time, but still want to read the book, the kindle version of Fly Away Home is currently on sale for $2.99 on Amazon. It’s a good price, and supporting a homeschooled author is always a special addition to a purchase. 😉 Enjoy!