Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When the Good News Gets Even Better by Neb Hayden and a bit of chatter

When the Good News Gets Even Better: Rediscovering the Gospels Through First-Century Jewish Eyes by Neb Hayden
Copyright 2009
David C. Cook - Bible Study
302 pages

I took When the Good News Gets Even Better, a 12-week Bible Study book (which hasn't made it into my sidebar, but I'll work on updating my sidebar, soon) along to Memphis on our weekend trip and then I opened it up and said, "Oh, darn, I didn't even think to bring a Bible along."

Bless those sweet Gideons who stick Bibles in the drawers of every room in every hotel. I have just begun this Bible study and I tend to be very, very bad about doing Bible studies independently, but I absolutely love this one, so far. The chapters are a manageable length, which I love. I've been through some intense Bible studies and for home use appreciate a book that isn't so overwhelming that I'm likely to abandon it without the motivation of a discussion group.

The author's objective is to give readers an accurate historical viewpoint by focusing on the events of Jesus' life (as described in the four "gospels": Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) through the eyes of the Jews who lived during that time -- the idea being, I suppose, that we tend to filter the information through our modern perspective and, in so doing, don't get a clear understanding of the time and place.

There are additional notes along the sides of the main text and those are among the best I've seen for filling in blanks and adding meaning to a study. Often, sidebar notes simply repeat relevant information that is within the text and you can generally ignore them because they're not in any way informative or illuminating. Not so in When the Good News Gets Even Better. They add dimension (and some opinion); they're thought-provoking additions rather than wasted repetition.

I'm not finished with this Bible study, but I'm already going to recommend it to Christians in search of a Bible study that can be used either by groups or individuals. Read the sneak peek in the post below for a glimpse into the book, but be aware that the free chapter doesn't give you a full view of the layout and lacks the symbols that define perspective (although, I must admit, I don't find the symbols all that necessary, as the author's writing is good enough that even without being told you're getting an "aerial view" or looking "through Hebrew eyes", the point is made).

In other news:

It took quite a while to cool off our house, which unfortunately breathes just a bit too much, but it's nice and cool in the House of Bookfool, now. Since we had already reserved another night in a local hotel and I have seldom gone anywhere by myself, I lobbied for a night alone and had a great time doing essentially nothing but read, sip drinks to rehydrate and play on the computer a bit. I finished reading A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand then checked my calendar and discovered I actually should have read the other Hilderbrand first, since I've got a tour date in July. Ah, well. It was fun and I'm happy. I'm also excessively curious what a second Hilderbrand will be like -- whether scandal is par for the course.

Our weekend in Memphis, which was rather a last-minute jaunt, threw me off a bit. And, then the non-functioning A/C made me entirely useless for a day (I twittered all day -- that was all I could handle), so I've fallen behind on my reviews a bit. I may have to do a little double posting, but I'll try not to let my blog posts become overwhelming. I've still got The Corinthian and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane to review and I need to get Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer read and reviewed sometime this week. Shimmer by Eric Barnes is also on the agenda. I'm absolutely loving the books I'm reading, these days.

I was going to share a zoo photo, but I keep getting an error message when I try to load our photos from the Memphis Zoo, so I guess I'll do that later. It was hot at the zoo, but we had a fantastic time.

Happy Reading!!

When the Good News Gets Even Better by Neb Hayden (sneak peek)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

When the Good News Gets Even Better: Rediscovering the Gospels through First-Century Jewish Eyes

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


Neb Hayden is director of International Student Development at The King’s College in New York City. A former quarterback for “Bear Bryant” at Alabama, Neb has been involved his adult life with the fellowship in Washington, D.C., which works behind the scenes to nurture and encourage the leadership in over 180 nations. The group also works behind the scenes of the National Prayer Breakfast. Neb speaks and teaches extensively at seminars, conferences, and retreats. He and his wife, Susan, live in New York City and are the parents of three grown sons and two daughters-in-law.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434767000
ISBN-13: 978-1434767004



How is it possible to make the good news of the gospel better? How can truth be enhanced? How can Jesus Christ be improved upon? Impossible! Then, why the title, When the Good News, Gets Even Better? The gospel gets even better only when it’s more clearly understood.

When I was a kid growing up in North Carolina I fantasized about being a “fly on the wall or some kind of invisible presence that could magically be transported back in time and be there the great moments in history. I wanted to be at the Alamo with Jim, Davy, Sam and the boys. I wondered what it would be like to have been on the Mayflower or to be with the first settlers at Jamestown. I wanted to experience the thoughts and emotions of these people. I wanted to know how it felt to walk in their shoes.

In the mid 1980’s my wife, Susan and I were invited to go on a two-week study seminar to Israel. Dr. Jim Martin taught us as we move from site to site from Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness through the resurrection of Jesus. When we gathered together our first day, Jim said, “I am going to teach you to think like an ancient Jew. You will never truly understand the scriptures as long as you think like a Gentile.” That thought haunted me for several years and two more trips to Israel with Jim.

Meanwhile, my close friend, Bob Warren, a former professional basketball player and outstanding Bible teacher in Kentucky had a similar experience in Israel with a Messianic Jew named Arnold Fruchtenbaum. Bob had been studying the gospels from a Hebrew perspective and he said that the impact it was having on his understanding was astounding. This challenged me to began reading everything I could find concerning Jewish history and culture. I was hooked, and began to live out my childhood fantasy. Through First Century Hebrew eyes and ears, I began to gain a perspective that I had never seen before. I began to see what a Jew would have seen and hear what a Jew would have heard as he witnessed the works of and heard the words of Jesus. I had studies and taught the Gospels my whole life and yet, a new perspective began to wash over me in a fresh, unvarnished way. Gradually I developed a study course that I called The Hidden Gospels. I was eventually encouraged to write this study book that could be approached by an individual or small group.

I wrote When the Good News Get Even Better from the following perspectives:

~ By Studying Through First Century Jewish Eyes: The Bible is a Jewish book, written to Jews about a Jewish Messsiah who came to redeem the Jews first, then the Gentiles (Rom 1:16). If you were a Jew living in the Middle East in first century, how would you have heard what Jesus said? How would you have seen the things He did? What kind of culture would you have lived in? How would your childhood training have affected what you saw and heard? The Good news gets even better when we read the gospels as they were communicated and in the way they were meant to be seen.

~ By Studying the Gospel Accounts Autobiographically: By stepping in the sandals of the people in these biographical accounts. They are relational documents; encounters with people who are basically just like you and me. Become the Samaritan woman who had lost hope as Jesus speaks with her. Be the rich, lonely, alienated little tax collector named Zachaeus when Jesus asks to go home to dinner with him. Feel the apprehension of the woman with the hemorrhage as she pushed through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. We can feel what these people felt and understand them if we understand the circumstances of their Hebrew lives. Then what Jesus says and does comes alive to us.

~ By Seeing Jesus’ Life and Teaching Through the Window of Grace: Most of us were taught a law-based perspective and therefore read the scriptures like a rulebook of impossible demands that we cannot meet. Should, ought to, and must have been a constant companion of most believers. Try harder, do more, and re-dedicate have kept us spiritually fatigued and guilt-ridden. Jesus offers intimacy that transforms duty into desire and obligation into opportunity. Seeing the gospels through the eyes of grace changes everything.

~ Studying Each Gospel Event as it Actually Happened (Chronologically): I used A.T. Robertson’s A Harmony of the Gospels as a guideline. To see the events as they occurred brings a new flavor and excitement to the greatest story ever told.

Studying the gospels in this manner is the most life-changing thing I have ever done. Whether you do this study in a small group or individually, I guarantee that you will never again read the gospels the same as before. They are the foundation of our faith because our faith is built on a Person. He was a Jew, living in a Jewish world, and communicating with Jewish people. This study offers you the opportunity to walk the dusty roads with Him, to be there as a participant rather than simply an observer. These biographies of Jesus are your stories too. Every move Jesus made and every word He spoke has direct implications for your life in the twenty-first century.

My hope is that this study will not simply be new information to ponder, but that as re-discover the gospels through Hebrew eyes, you will come to more deeply know, and enjoy the One who wrote The

Gospels. This is when The Good News Gets Even Better.

Getting the Most Out of This Study

Aerial view: We will obviously not be able to deal with every event in the Gospels, but the connection between the events as the happens is critical to understand. We will take an aerial view or brief summary of the passage before moving on.

Through Hebrew Eyes: Understanding Jewish culture and history is critical for a fuller appreciation of the emotions, issues at stake, and reactions of people in the gospels. When you see the Star of David we will try to help you think as a Jew would have thought in the at day based on his background, teaching, history, and culture.

Insight into the Passage: The light bulb indicates my brief commentary on the passage. These are insights I have gleaned over in over 34 years of ministry. They have made a deep impact in my own life and have been the result of my own studies as well as the contribution of many wonderful people along the way.

Snapshot: Context is very important in studying the scriptures. When you see the camera icon, I will give a brief picture of the current atmosphere, the circumstances and issues leading to the passage or event we are about to study. This will help you gain a feel for the atmosphere in which everything is taking place.

Crossroads: This may be a statement or question concerning direction: So what? Where do we go from here? What difference can this make for me right now?

Part I. Beginnings

God’s unique and abiding love for the Hebrew people is unparalleled in human history. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is called the “bride of God.” These nomadic wanderers suffered greatly at the hands of their enemies, and for most of their existence have live under the continual dominance of other nations. Freedom and autonomy is the brass ring they have longed to grasp. They, like each of us have loved God, and yet have disobeyed Him, often trusting in their own abilities rather than in His faithfulness and sovereignty. God’s beloved bide sought other lovers, yet He continues, even to this day, to pursue them with His unfailing love.

But, God had been strangely silent during the four hundred years from the end of the writing of the Old Testament until the beginning of the New Testament. The flow of communication to His people through the Prophets during this period came to a halt, but the Hebrew people continued to anxiously await the coming of “the Prophet” spoken of by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18-19) and more specifically by Isaiah, the Psalmist, Daniel and others.

As we begin this fascinating adventure in the gospels, Rome has been in control of Israel since 63 B.C. Bitter hatred exists between the Jews and her captors. In the minds of many, God appears to have abandoned His people. Many Jews quietly echo the sentiment of Job, who, amidst great agony of body and soul, cries out to God in his pain. Symbolically shaking his fist to the heavens, he in essence thunders, “God you know nothing of suffering; you have never experienced the lost of sons as I have. You have never experience shame and rejection, being abandoned by friends. You sit in your heaven surrounded by your holy hosts, but you have no notion of what it is like on this earth. Is there anyone in this vast universe who can identify with my pain? Is there anyone who knows what it’s like to be a man?”

And so, in the fullness of time, God responds to the cries of Job and all of His people. At the right time, He wraps himself in human skin and pitches His tent in the midst of humanity and lives among those He created, identifying with every emotion and every hurt that a human being can know. Never again would a man or woman be able to say, “God, you don’t understand what it’s like to be me.”

-Day 1

Luke Explains His Method of Research

READ: Luke. 1:1-4

During the early 60’s A.D., some thirty years after the crucifixion, a passionate follower of Jesus Christ and traveling companion of the apostle Paul, took pen in hand and wrote a biography about the Savior. Though others already had written accounts by that time (1:2), Luke apparently wanted to make certain that an orderly and historically accurate account was rendered. He was a medical doctor, easily identifiable because he always wore a golf hat. (Just kidding) As a physician, he places great emphasis on the healing ministry of Jesus. Luke was also a meticulous historian who took great pains to record events as they happened. He was the only gospel writer who was not a Jew. He writes to fellow Gentiles, specifically Greeks, who were consumed with the concept of the ideal man. Rather than attack this humanistic flow of thinking, Luke gives great attention to the person of Jesus, as if to say, “you want to hear about a real man… well listen up!” He wants his Gentile readers to see that Jesus’ great message of truth and liberation is now wide open to Gentiles and Jews alike. Luke was not part of the original twelve, but he had interviewed many eyewitnesses who walked with Jesus. Like the no-nonsense Sergeant Friday in the Dragnet Series of the 60’s, Luke wants, “Just the facts, ma’am… just the facts!” He sees the need to record the events of Jesus life in chronological order. (The other accounts record events in keeping with a particular theme that they wanted to underline to specific groups of people.) Luke’s theme is simply, Jesus, the Son of Man.

Luke comes right out of the shoot in verses 1-2 by assuring his readers that he wants to set the record straight through the eyes of those who had actually been there and seen it all happen. He writes specifically to a man named Theophilus, also a Gentile, who was probably a Roman official and a new believer. Based on his meticulous research, Luke wants to reassure Theophilus, and us, that the exact truth is available to all honest seekers who have ears to hear.

THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW: Matthew was a converted customs agent (Mt.. 9:9) and one of the original twelve apostles. He writes a detailed account of Jesus life. Lies were being spread by Jesus’ enemies and many sought personal gain from this new “movement.” Matthew shows that the events of Jesus’ life were powerfully foretold by the Prophets hundreds of years prior to His coming. Writing to Greek speaking Jews, Matthew shows them that Jesus is the fulfillment of their dreams and their history. Sixty-two times he quotes the Old Testament arguing that Jesus is the completion to their greatest longings. Matthew’s theme is Jesus, The King of the Jews.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK: Mark was also called John Mark in Acts 12:12. Peter refers to him as his “son in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:13). Mark would later accompany Paul and Barnabas on Paul’s first missionary journey. He deserted the team and retuned home (Acts 13:13), but became helpful to Paul in later years. Though he was not among the original apostles, Mark gained much personal insight and information from Peter, with whom he shared a special closeness. Mark writes to Romans with an unflinching sense of immediacy. He wants his readers to get off the beach and dive head first into the waters of life. Mark is an action guy with a great sense of aliveness and enthusiasm. He uses the word “immediately” (Mk.. 1:12) at least forty times in his account, stressing the urgency Jesus felt, knowing that this would appeal to Roman thinking. Probably written in the late 50’s or early 60’s AD, Mark’s Theme is Jesus the Messiah, The Servant of Jehovah.

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN: John is thought to have written his gospel while in exile on the Isle of Patmos sometime around 90 A.D. He writes much concerning the deity of Jesus. Unlike the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), John writes more concerning the things Jesus said (His discourses) rather than what he did (His miracles). As the eldest of the four writers, John probably read the other accounts many times and his maturity and the wisdom of his years may have made him more intent on communicating the heart of Jesus to his readers than His works. Ninety percent of the content in John’s gospel is not found in the parallel accounts. John’s gospel is the only book in the Bible written primarily for the non-believer. John’s theme is Jesus, The Son of God.

John Pictures Jesus as the “Word”

READ: John 1:1-18

John wants his readers to know that Jesus (Yeshua) is unlike anyone who ever set foot on the planet. The Word existed from the beginning of time. In fact, the Word was another way of referring to God. The Word is, therefore, a Person. The Word is not simply information about Jesus, the Word is Jesus. Every created thing finds it’s origin in the Person, Jesus. Within this living, breathing personal Word is the sum total of everything concerning life. This Word even has the ability to scatter darkness and illuminate everything and everyone He touches.

In order to prepare the world for His coming, God sent a Jew named John (Yohnanan) to ready the hearts of people for this new Light that was to follow. This Living Word became flesh and lived among those to whom He came to give life. He came to His own people, the Jews. Most of them rejected Him, but many Gentiles accepted His free gift of life and became Sons of God.

Notice that “Word” is capitalized, indicating a proper name. The Greek rendering is “logos,” a person possessing intellect, emotion, and will. To a Jew, it was a way of referring to God. Therefore, John is saying that God came to earth as the Living Word. Everything the ancient rabbis taught about the Word was fulfilled in this Person, Jesus Christ.

Write a brief definition of the “Gospel” as it is typically used today. (“We left our former church because the minister didn’t preach the gospel.”)

If the Word is a Person, and not simply doctrinal information, can we not properly conclude that the “gospel” is also a Person? Most believers speak of the “gospel” as if it is certain theological principles and doctrinal facts that must be included if we are to be true to the scriptures. Consider the definition you just wrote. Have you left anything out? Have you added something that need not be there? Are you positive? Is it compatible with biblical truth? What about sincere, godly men and women who would render a somewhat different definition than yours? You can see the problem. If the gospel were basically doctrinal information about Jesus (His birth, His life, His teachings, His miracles, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and His return, etc.), all of this and more would have to be specifically stated every time someone spoke or taught. If anything is left out, the gospel will not have been preached according to someone’s or some denomination’s definition. What would your former Pastor have had to actually say each Sunday for you to feel he had “preached the gospel?” We will never all agree on every point, but we can agree that the gospel is this unique, God/man, Jesus Christ, fully and completely, and believe if He is lifted up as the centerpiece, the whole world will feel welcome to gather around Him, explore His free gift of life, and become His companion.

Genealogies Listed by Matthew (1:1-17) and Luke (3:12-38)

READ: Matthew1:1-17 and Luke 3:12-38 (What would possess Luke and Matthew to list all of these unpronounceable names?)

READ: Luke 1:5-25

Matthew lists Joseph’s family line to make a strategic point that Joseph was not Jesus’ father. Joseph did not beget Jesus, but was simply the husband of the woman who was his mother. Luke shows in his gospel that Jesus is a descendent of the House of David and could therefore be King.)

The Jews have always stressed the importance of understanding their uniqueness, of knowing where and from whom they have come. Roots have critical importance, for Israel’s faith was deeply imbedded in their history and culture. Knowledge of their Hebrew beginnings is central to Biblical thought. To a Jewish person in the time of Jesus, reading the Holy Scriptures was like reading a family album. The destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. was so traumatic, because in addition to the loss of 1.1 million lives, all of the genealogical records stored there were destroyed by fire, and that precious information was lost forever.

Important to know here, is that Matthew and Luke are showing, in different ways, that Jesus was the stepson of Joseph, not a biological son. They both seem to be saying to their readers: Whatever else you may be thinking, let’s agree on this as a beginning thesis: Jesus is fully qualified to be the Messiah. He fits every standard proclaimed by God through the voice of the Prophets. He is the legitimate candidate.

Monday, June 29, 2009

And, we thought it was hot outside . . .

Update: Our air is back on!!!! Wahoo!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, it's worth that many exclamation points. :)

Hi all!

We just arrived home from a weekend in Memphis, yesterday, only to discover that our air conditioner is out. It was 94 degrees in the house when we arrived (thank goodness we've got a little cloud cover, today) and Vicksburg is basically windless, so opening the windows doesn't seem to help much. I may fall a bit farther behind on reviews than I am already. I had two that I planned to write this weekend, but no time to write and very little time to read. And, it's nearly impossible to concentrate in a 94-degree house, let me tell ya. I did finish Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (magical fun in the world of the fair folk). I'm also 3/4 of the way through A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand (a soap opera of adultery in Nantucket). I don't anticipate accomplishing a great deal till the air is running. Heat and I do not get along.

Another book I have started but not finished . . . How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph (sneak peek in the post below). I'm enjoying Joseph, etc. very much, as well as a couple of other books that I can't remember off the top of my head (it's too hot to get up and look, whine, fuss). I'll try to update as soon as humanly possible. But, right now I have to go spring the cat from the vet's office. Hope everyone had a marvelous weekend.

Bookfool in need of a cool drink

How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph by Linda Massey Weddle (sneak peek)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


Linda Massey Weddle is a children’s author and regular contributor to publications including Women’s Day and Christian Parenting Today. She develops Bible-based curriculum for young people and has been involved in children’s and youth ministry for the past twenty years. She has two grown children and six grandchildren and resides in suburban Chicago.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765318
ISBN-13: 978-1434765314


I n t r o d u c t i o n

A Journey Worth Planning

For parents like you…in churches like yours…this book is practical guide for a child’s spiritual

development—a journey in which parents and churches work together to raise kids who know, love, and serve the Lord.

Much of the vision and purpose for such a journey is discussed in my friend Larry Fowler’s book, Raising a Modern-Day Joseph. The book you hold in your hands—How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph—focuses more on the practical side of that. It gives parents a workable plan for putting this vision and purpose to work in their everyday family life.

No Guarantees?

Like Larry’s book, this one is needed because we’re in the midst of a crisis. The statistics stagger us as we read about, hear about, and see young people walking away from their faith.

We surprised that this could be happening, since after all…

• our churches provide nurseries, Sunday school, vacation Bible School, Awana, youth ministries, and every other kind of kid or youth program imaginable.

• our children’s ministry curriculum is more entertaining, colorful, and professional looking than ever before.

• the market is flooded with “Christian” action figures, mugs, pencils, wallpaper, wallets, posters, linens, T-shirts, and toys, many decorated with clever “Christian” sayings.

• radio stations play Christian music twenty-four hours a day, and television channels broadcast a never-ending selection of messages from both local churches and polished, smooth-talking televangelists.

And here’s an even tougher dilemma: Why does a kid from one home walk away from the Lord while a kid in another home stays true to Him—yet the families in both homes have attended the same church, Sunday school, vacation Bible school, Awana clubs, etc.?

What happened? What’s the difference?

Before going further, I need to say this:

No plan,

no curriculum,

no humanly written book,

no pastor,

no teacher,

no parent…

can absolutely guarantee that a young person will not walk away from what they’ve been taught.

God works with His people individually, and each individual must make the choice to trust Christ as Savior. Each one chooses to walk with the Lord or to walk away from Him. After all, even with the first two kids we read about in the Bible, one had a criminal record.

The absence of such a guarantee is due to sin.

Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised,

being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

(Galatians 3:22)

So yes, unfortunately, children don’t come with guarantees.

But God’s Word does come with a guarantee: If we trust the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior,

believing that He died and rose again, we’re promised…

• the forgiveness of sin (bridging the separation between imperfect people and a perfect


• eternal life.

• a future in an unimaginably perfect heaven.

That’s some guarantee!

No, we as parents don’t have guarantees, but we do know that children who grow up in strong, Christ-centered homes—where God’s Word is both taught and lived—are more likely to live godly lives as adults.

But lets take a glimpse at what’s typically going on in many families.

A Church and Pastor Problem?

I grew up as a preacher’s kid, and as an adult became a preacher’s wife—I know firsthand how often the preacher and the church get blamed for parental failures.

I remember one Sunday morning after the church service when my husband was shaking hands with people filing out of the auditorium. Suddenly a mother stormed into the lobby, yelling and visibly upset. She said her son had been knocked over by other boys in the parking lot.

My husband’s first reaction was to call an ambulance, but the mom said that wasn’t necessary; her son just scraped his knee. “But,” she shouted, pointing to my husband. “This was your fault.”

“Why?” he asked. He could see our own two kids talking with friends nearby, so it wasn’t them who had knocked down the woman’s son. So why was this his fault?

“Because it’s your church,” the lady screamed. “And so they’re your responsibility.” (Well, that wasn’t true either; the church belongs to the people.)

But that true story is a picture of what many people do spiritually.

Just as many parents leave the physical well-being of their children up to the church (the drop-them-off-in-the-parking-lot syndrome), so many parents do the same with their children’s spiritual well-being, training, and guidance: Drop them off in the parking lot and let the church do the nurturing (whether or not the parents are even in the same building).

Maybe you feel this way too—at least to some extent. After all, you make sure your children go to church for every kids’ activity possible, so you figure the church’s pastors, teachers, and leaders are covering that spiritual training part of your kids’ lives. You’re busy doing other things, like working long hours to provide for your family, which is your responsibility.

Deep inside, you hope those people at the church are doing it right. And if your kids walk

away from the Lord someday, you’ll certainly have something to say about the church’s failure,

since spiritually raising your kids is their job.


Well, no!

From the Start

Let’s review some essentials of what the Bible says about the family.

The Family Is the First Group God Created

The family came before towns or countries, and before churches, youth programs, basketball

teams, or Facebook. God immediately created the marriage partnership—in fact, by the second

chapter of Genesis, God had already established marriage:

For Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:20-22)

And already by the fourth chapter in Genesis, we learn about children.

The Family (Marriage Partnership) Is a Picture of Christ and the Church

Paul says it this way:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:21–27)

Family “Rules” Are Listed Throughout the Bible

Here’s an example:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. (Colossians 3:18-21)

Family Members Need to Encourage Each Other

Paul pointed to family encouragement as a model for the entire church:

But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 11–12)

The family has the primary responsibility in the spiritual training of children. But families also

need the church to come alongside them to nurture their kids, to provide Christian friendships

from likeminded families, and to give complementary spiritual training. (We’ll look at all that

more closely later.)

Someone Who Knew, Loved, and Served God

The goal of Awana (the ministry I serve with) is to train children and youth to grow into adults who know, love and serve the Lord. We’ve come to see that this is also an outstanding goal for parents in training their children.

And as a biblical example of a young person who grew up to know, love, and serve the Lord, it’s hard to beat Joseph in the Old Testament. Not that he came from a perfect family.

Most children know about Joseph. They know he received a unique coat from his father—and our perception of that is a knee-length coat with rainbow-colored stripes. But why would grown men (his older step brothers—see Genesis 30:1-25) care about their little brother’s multicolored coat? The Hebrew word here for “coat” refers to a full-length tunic—sleeves to the wrist, the hem to the ankles. This was the style of coat worn by rich young men. They didn’t have to work (they had slaves or servants to do that), and they had a position of honor both in the home and in the community.

Joseph’s full-length coat was probably made of white linen, with bands of colorful embroidery as trim. By contrast, working men wore looser fitting, shorter garments so they could climb over rocks and take care of their sheep—they needed to move quickly and not be hindered by long clothing. So the brothers weren’t jealous of the colors of Joseph’s coat, but rather the implied position Joseph held in wearing such a garment.

Joseph lived in Hebron. The word Hebron means “community” or “fellowship.” Joseph had fellowship with his father, but this wasn’t a family who had a lot of fellowship with one another. I don’t think dinnertime conversations were leisurely discussions about the price of sheep feed or the Hebron weather.

The truth is, Joseph came from a dysfunctional family. This is obvious when you read in Genesis 30 about the intrigue involving his mother, his mother’s sister, their servants, and drugs (mandrakes—which were seen as narcotics or aphrodisiacs). Rachel and Leah were both jealous women who were willing to have their servants lie with Jacob so they could win the who-can have-the-most-sons race. And when Rueben brought home some mandrakes, Rachel desired them so much she was willing to “sell” Leah a night with Jacob to get her hands on them.

This of course isn’t part of the biography we read about in Sunday school, but these events are worth noting here. Out of this mess, the Lord brought Joseph, a young man who never wavered from the assurance that God was with him; a young man with a true heart-desire to know, love, and serve the Lord.

We know that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, and he ended up in Egypt. We know he quickly gained power and influence in Potiphar’s house, then quickly lost it when fleeing the temptations of Mrs. Potiphar. Yet even when put in prison, Joseph knew God was with him, and he remained faithful. Later, because he interpreted the king’s dream, he was made a VIP and placed in charge of the entire land of Egypt. In that position, he was able years later to publicly forgive his brothers.

Through it all, Joseph concluded that it wasn’t his brothers who sent him to Egypt, but God. God had a plan for him, and Joseph listened to God and fulfilled His plan—something he was later able to testify about to his brothers: “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7).

Joseph’s life in particular reflected five godly character qualities—we’ll call them “master life threads”— that were woven into the very being of who he was and how he lived his life.

• Respect for the awesomeness and authority of God (Genesis 39:6-9.

• Wisdom for living life, based on a knowledge of God (40:5-8).

• Grace in relationships with others (41:51-52).

• A sense of destiny and purpose that came from God (45:4-10).

• A perspective for life based on the sovereignty of God (50:15-21).

These master life threads are also desired characteristics in the lives of our own children—as they learn to know, love, and serve the Lord.

We know that Joseph knew about the Lord. God was the God of his father, Jacob. As Joseph’s life continued in surprising new situations—as head of Potiphar’s household, as a prisoner, and finally as the man in charge of all of Egypt—he continued following the Lord. Over and over in the biblical account of Joseph’s life, we read that the Lord was with him, as in Genesis 39:21: “The LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.”

We know that Joseph loved the Lord because of the way he lived his life, refusing to be drawn into the temptations of a rich and powerful household, and because of his exemplary forgiveness toward the brothers who had wronged him: “But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them” (Genesis 50:19-21).

And we know that Joseph served the Lord—by making righteous choices, by administrating the seven years of plenty, and by giving food not only to the people of Egypt but to other countries as well. As the famine intensified, and “the people cried to Pharaoh for food,” Pharaoh responded, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you” (Genesis 41:55).

Modern-Day Josephs

What Christian parent wouldn’t want their child to grow up to be a modern-day Joseph—a young person who reflects those five master life threads, and who knows, loves, and serves the Lord?

For many parents (and maybe this includes you), their children are already becoming Josephs. They do excellent jobs spiritually nurturing their children. They daily teach their kids God’s Word by guiding them toward recognizing the need to trust Christ, praying with them, reading the Bible together, encouraging Scripture memorization, explaining difficult words and concepts and talking about the qualities of the Christian life. Then they live out God’s Word in everyday life. They take their responsibility seriously.

Then there are other parents simply don’t think about their child’s spiritual training. These parents flounder through life, not learning much themselves about what the Bible actually says, and they couldn’t begin to explain the difference between Genesis and Galatians. Yet they’re law abiding citizens and church-attending Christians. They figure their kids will turn out okay. After all, they get their kids to Sunday school and even sent them once to a Christian summer camp.

But the majority of Christian parents are somewhere in the middle. They desire to be spiritual nurturers of their children, but they don’t know how. They might be intimidated that they might not say the right words. (What if my child asks me to explain eschatology or something?) Or they don’t know where to find a plan that shows them how to be a spiritual nurturer. (They may not even realize they should have a plan).

Furthermore, you probably know some adults who grew up without any spiritual nurturing in the home, yet who are now pastors, missionaries, church leaders, or shining witnesses in the secular workplace. The Lord used someone besides a parent to mentor that child, or gave the child a desire for Bible study that transformed her into someone who truly wants to know, love, and serve the Lord.

Goal and Plan

If our destination for our children is having a child who develops Joseph-like characteristics—knowing, loving, and serving the Lord—what’s the itinerary or plan for that journey?

The lack of such a plan often becomes the roadblock in our children’s spiritual development—and getting past that roadblock is what this book is all about. This book is not a step-by-step itinerary, but more of an atlas where you pick and choose which stops to make in your own family journey—because we know all families are different, with different schedules, different interests, and different personalities.

Our desire is to give your family (and your church) ideas—lots of ideas for helping to spiritual nurture your children. But as the parent, you need to devise the route.

It’s a plan that involves both parents—and the church as well.


The father is the head of the house and the God-ordained leader of the home. Dads and moms need to work together to spiritually raise their children.

A spiritually strong dad will…

• pray with his children.

• lead the children in Bible study and worship.

• take an interest in what the child is learning at church.

• teach his children Bible verses, Bible concepts, and Bible truths.

• discuss challenging questions, cultural events and concepts with his children.

• model a Christlike attitude in his daily life.

Unfortunately in too many homes, Mom is by herself in doing all of this. Dad might drive the family to church, but he doesn’t take any real responsibility in the child’s spiritual development.

If you’re a father, know this: God has given you a job to do. Your responsibility is to do it. You can’t expect your child to grow into a God-honoring adult when he sees you ignore the Bible, find every excuse possible to avoid church, and live a life that’s inconsistent with what God says in His Word.


Children need both parents involved in their spiritual training, and that’s the basic scenario presented throughout this book. It’s a sad situation when Dad is faithfully living for the Lord, but Mom doesn’t want any part of it.

Mom needs to be an active part of the praying, teaching, discussing, and modeling too. For example, sometimes Mom’s the one who spends a half-hour before or after school helping her children work on a memory verse, and when Dad gets home, he can enthusiastically listen to the children recite the verse. This is a joint effort. Both parents are huge influencers.

You might be a single mom and already feel defeated because you don’t have a husband to help you out. You can still teach your children from God’s Word and live an exemplary life. In your situation, the partnership of the church may be more important than usual. Hopefully your church has good male role models teaching younger children, so your children can profit from a masculine influence.

A good example of one parent spiritually training a child is that of Eunice and her son Timothy (2 Timothy 1:4-5). Eunice did have the help of her own mother, Timothy’s grandmother, but she didn’t have any help from her unbelieving Gentile husband. Timothy’s mom and grandma taught him the Old Testament Scriptures and exemplified godly lives. When the apostle Paul came along and taught Timothy about the Son of God and His sacrifice on the cross, Timothy was ready to trust Christ as Savior. Timothy became Paul’s son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2), and Paul recognized of the foundation which Timothy’s mom and grandma had laid.

Many single parents do great jobs in spiritually training their children. If you’re a single parent, or your spouse isn’t interested in God and His Word, you need to surround yourself with likeminded adults who can give you and your children support and encouragement.

Fitting into Your Schedule

When, where, and how do we spend time spiritually training our children?

The following verses from Deuteronomy give clear instruction that our entire daily lives should provide teaching opportunities to spiritually train our children:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21)

In a real sense, spiritual training in the home is ongoing and never-ending. It’s really a part of everything you do.

But we also need to set aside specific times when we come together as a family to pray, honor, and worship the Lord and to study and memorize His Word. Some families enjoy singing or playing instruments together. Others read a page from a devotional book.

One teenager said, “Our family wasn’t musical, so that wasn’t part of our activities. But we did other things, such as making rebuses of Bible verses.”

You might set aside a time each day for spiritual focus—at the breakfast or supper table, or before bed. Or you could plan family nights when an entire evening is dedicated to a lesson, an activity, and a special treat. (Be careful you don’t present the activity as more important and fun than the lesson. Bible study can and should be a great experience.)

Maybe your family’s schedule is so complicated that you can’t have a regular set time for spiritual focus, but you can still conscientiously meet together as a family to pray, worship, and learn about the Lord.

A couple considerations in all this:

• Sometimes families are diligent in having family devotions, but that’s the only time their children hear about the Lord. Because Dad prays and reads a page from a devotional book, he feels he’s taken care of his spiritual leadership responsibilities. Five minutes later, the children hear him swear when opening the gas bill, or see him confront a neighbor because the neighbor’s dog messed up the lawn. What he verbally taught is negated by the way he lives his life.

• Families are different. One guy diligently teaches his kids from the Bible, helps them with their memory verses, and consistently lives a godly life, yet he feels guilty. He knows of another family that spends thirty minutes of concentrated training at the supper table each night, but his irregular work schedule doesn’t allow him to do that. He is, however, doing a great job. We need to focus on our own families, not on what someone else is doing.

We as parents need to work together to develop the itinerary for our own families, keeping

our eyes on the goal of raising children who know, love, and serve the Lord.

Your Church

Whether large or small, your church is your best partner in raising your children.

In fact, the size of the church doesn’t really matter. Mega churches have the money and staff to provide exciting programs for both parents and children, and those programs can be good. But smaller churches can be better at giving a child a sense of security, family, and nurturing that you don’t always find in a larger church.

So church size isn’t important. What is important is the attitude of the church and the pastor toward kids. Does your church leadership really care about kids? Do they see the value in children’s ministry, and provide necessary resources to spiritually disciple children? Do they occasionally visit children’s or youth ministry times to give the lesson, answer questions, or simply greet the children or youth? Do they make an effort to learn the names of the kids, or do they know your three teenagers (who have been attending the church since birth) only as the Hansen kids?

If your church doesn’t see the importance of encouraging families, maybe you could be the catalyst to begin the initiative.

After this book’s Part One (which focuses on giving parents specific age-appropriate suggestions for their child’s spiritual development), Part Two will focus especially on practical ways the church can partner with you in this task. Be sure to explore what’s presented in Part Two, and become familiar with ideas of how churches and families can work together.

Planning Your Family’s Spiritual Journey

The ideas in this book are suggestions. No parent can do everything, just as no church can do everything either. Our goal is to give you plenty of ideas to help get you started and keep you going.

So let me lay out what you’ll find in each chapter in Part One, which is especially geared for you as a parent. (Keeping the journey idea in mind, most of these components have travel-related labels.)

Life Threads

Each chapter targets a different stage of a child’s life, and will focus on an appropriate life thread

(reflecting a quality that Joseph displayed in his life).

Here are these life threads for each age category:

Preschoolers (ages 2-5) Respect

Early Elementary (ages 5-8—kindergarten to second grade) Wisdom

Older Elementary (ages 8-11—third through sixth grades) Grace

Middle School (ages 11-14—seventh and eighth grades) Destiny

High School (ages 14-18—ninth through twelfth grades) Perspective

At the beginning of each chapter, you’ll find listed again the life thread to focus on for that stage in your child’s life.

By the way, if you’re looking at this list and thinking, “Great, but my child is already twelve years old!”—that’s okay. Yes, you’ve missed some prime training opportunities, but you can catch up. Review the sections for preschoolers and elementary age children, and teach the principles to your child using explanations and activities appropriate for a twelve-year-old. Instead of regretting what you missed, focus on the present and look to the future. These concepts are good for all ages—including adults.

What They’re Like

Early in each chapter, this section lists ten characteristics about that particular age category. Understanding these characteristics will give you a great head start in helping your child grow spiritually.

What They’re Asking

This section in each chapter lists the kinds of questions that kids in this age group typically ask about God and the Bible. You’ll also find suggested answers to a few of the questions.

These questions came from a “Biggest Question Survey” sponsored by Awana. A few years back, we asked 4,000 children and teenagers, “What’s your biggest question about God and the Bible?” These children and teenagers all had some Bible background (though, after looking at their questions, we surmised that some didn’t remember much of it). Then we determined the most-asked questions for each age group.

But don’t stop with reading what other kids have asked; ask your own children for their biggest questions about God and the Bible.

What You Can Do

In this section of each chapter you’ll find a wealth of practical suggestions for what you as a parent can do to help in your child’s spiritual growth in each stage. This begins with a short section about helping your child make the all-important decision to trust Christ as Savior.

Bios and Verses

Here you’ll find appropriate Bible biographies and Scripture memory verses to explore and learn with your children.

(At Awana, we substitute the word “biography” for “story” to emphasize that what comes from the Bible is true and not fictional. We explain that a biography is a true story about someone.)

What Not to Do

Sometimes we hinder more than we help. Each chapter includes this section where you’ll find common errors to avoid in each stage of your child’s life.


Each chapter also includes a checklist of basic attainments to look for in your child’s spiritual development.

Family Itinerary

Finally, the section in each chapter labeled “Family Itinerary” is a worksheet to help you develop your plan and goals for your child’s spiritual journey in each stage.

Here are a couple of samples of completed itineraries from two families, one with younger children and one with teenagers:

A Sample Itinerary for a Family with Young Children

Our spiritual goals for the year are:

1. Teach Emma and Jacob that God created the world.

2. Teach Emma and Jacob that God loves each one of us.

3. Teach Emma and Jacob that the Bible is God’s book.

4. Teach Emma and Jacob that Jesus is God’s Son.

5. Teach Emma and Jacob that we’re to obey God.

Our family verse for this year is:

Genesis 1:1

We’ll also study the following six additional verses (one every two months) about God and His character:

1. Psalm 33:4

2. Proverbs 3:5

3. Matthew 28:20

4. Romans 3:23

5. Ephesians 6:1

6. 1 John 4:14

We’ll also study the following six Bible biographies (one every two months):

1. Adam

2. Joseph

3. Heman

4. Josiah

5. David

6. Christ’s birth

We will also do a more extensive study on this person in the Bible:

Heman in 1 Chronicles 25:5–7. We’ll learn how he and his family sang in the temple. We’ll learn a song together and sing at church.

Here are other activities our family will do together to learn about Bible characters:

1. We’ll watch a series of DVDs on Bible characters (a set we were given that’s factual).

2. We’ll visit Grandma and Grandpa and look at their pictures they took in Israel.

3. We’ll study Josiah and other Bible characters who served God even though they were young.

4. We’ll do several crafts using natural materials from the outdoors as we talk about God’s creation. These will include leaf-tracings, pictures on sun-sensitive paper, and drying flowers.

5. We’ll teach Emma and Jacob to identify five birds and five flowers, explaining that

they were all created by God.

Here are some themes for family fun nights we would like to do this year:

1. We’ll build a birdhouse together and learn about ten birds in our area of the country, and we’ll talk about creating a wonderful variety of birds.

2. We’ll make a mural for the basement wall of David watching his sheep.

3. We’ll invite Grandpa and Grandma to family night so they can hear Jacob and Emma say their verses.

4. We’ll make a book of all the different Bible biographies Jacob and Emma have learned at church this year.

5. We’ll visit the zoo.

6. We’ll make cookies for the lady down the street who’s homebound.

Our family has completed this year’s family itinerary and met our spiritual goals.

(Signed by each family member)

A Sample Itinerary for a Family with Children in High School

Our spiritual goals for the year are:

1. Study the book of Ephesians together.

2. Encourage Andrew and Amanda to teach and mentor their younger siblings.

3. Discuss biblical worldview and what that means as Andrew and Amanda head off to college.

4. Have open, honest discussions about difficult cultural issues.

5. Encourage Andrew and Amanda to write down any questions they may have about God and the Bible and to work through those questions as a family.

6. For Andrew and Amanda to serve by singing and playing guitar at the rescue mission once a month.

Our family verse for this year is:

Joshua 24:15

This year we’ll do the following family research project:

On creation. The project will culminate with a week at creation camp this summer.

We’ll memorize this chapter from the Bible:

Ephesians 2

We’ll read (either as a family or individually) the following books:

1. Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell

2. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

Our family service project this year will be:

Serving at the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving and Christmas

Our family has completed this year’s family itinerary and met our spiritual goals.

(Signed by each family member)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Winners of that baby book . . . too tired to type the title

Oh, what a day. My kiddo is not so young as the child at left and he dragged me to Transformers 2, probably the most exhausting movie I've seen in a long time. So, I'm a bit late, but the winners are . . .

Jake Lsewhere

Congratulations! And, please be patient with me. It might take me a couple of days to contact you because I have a busy weekend ahead. I may be offline for a few days.

Here's what you guys would have named the baby (with a few of the cute comments made by participants:

Noah - See how nicely NOAH goes with "Noah! NO SIR! That is ICKY."

Theopolis Leroy

Maynard...there was some old commericial on TV and the kid wasn't sure if he wanted to eat the product in question and the dad said: "Good stuff, Maynard."

His name is Carter Hagan- and he will be a football player - strong with no emergencies.

I think the child looks like a little girl named Lexie.

I like Cathy as a name for the kid. Sort of upbeat and not fussy!

It's definitely a boy...I'll call him Little Lord Fauntleroy

I think the baby is a boy and I am naming him Biblio Babalasariuas

Mikey. As in "Hey Mikey! He likes it!" from the old cereal commercials.

That's definitely a little boy named Ernest.

Oh, that baby is definitely a Rupert.

Laurence is what he should be named.

It looks like a boy to me...Clarence Hofflemyer of the Rhode Island Hofflemyers. His family is very wealthy and are horrified to find him regularly chewing on furniture, etc. when the nanny is chatting on the phone instead of watching him...

I think it's a girl. And since she reminds me of my niece who can't keep her mouth off anything...I'm calling her Rachael.

Kid looks like a Dory to me.

I'm going to go with a boy named Norman.

It looks like a boy and I would go with the name.....sticky!

I think the kid's a girl, and I would name her Stella. She looks like she'll be a star one day with a cute face like that!

I'm particularly fond of Theopolis Leroy and Clarence Hofflemyer. I have no idea why.

Thanks to all who participated! That was fun. :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove - DNF

Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove
Copyright 2009
David C. Cook - Fiction/Christian

Bad timing. Bad, horrible timing. I thought I would enjoy this book because it's got a paranormal aspect and I probably will enjoy it, at another point in time. The protagonist of Talking to the Dead, Kate, has just lost her husband as the book opens. She's gone outside to get away from the crowd of people who are in her home. The funeral has just ended. I assume the people in her house are the relatives and friends who are closest to her. Her mother is guarding the door. Kate is grieving deeply; eventually, the ghost of her husband will start speaking to her.

I haven't lost a husband, but anyone who has lost someone close knows the kind of pain the fictional Kate is experiencing as the book opens. May and June are absolutely horrid because I've lost both of my parents and every year people who have lost parents have to deal with the advertising blitz for Mother's Day and Father's Day. This year marked my second Mother's Day without a mother; the 19th year since my Father's death. I usually do a good job of ignoring "death anniversaries" but I don't cope with the annual Mom/Dad holiday onslaught particularly well. Because Kate's grief is palpable and I am sensitive, I chose to close the book.

There is nothing wrong with the writing and I still am intrigued by the plot. I just didn't think I can handle walking through Kate's grief with her, at this moment. I recommend reading the sneak peek chapter in the post below, if you're interested.

Talking to the Dead (Sneak Peek)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Talking to the Dead

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


Bonnie Grove started writing when her parents bought a typewriter, and she hasn’t stopped since. Trained in Christian Counseling (Emmanuel Bible College, Kitchener, ON), and secular psychology (University of Alberta), she developed and wrote social programs for families at risk while landing articles and stories in anthologies. She is the author of Working Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You; Talking to the Dead is her first novel. Grove and her pastor husband, Steve, have two children; they live in Saskatchewan.

Author website: www.davidccook.com – www.bonniegrove.com

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434766411
ISBN-13: 978-1434766410


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Kevin was dead and the people in my house wouldn’t go home. They mingled after the funeral, eating sandwiches, drinking tea, and speaking in muffled tones. I didn’t feel grateful for their presence. I felt exactly nothing.

Funerals exist so we can close doors we’d rather leave open. But where did we get the idea that the best approach to facing death is to eat Bundt cake? I refused to pick at dainties and sip hot drinks. Instead, I wandered into the back yard.

I knew if I turned my head I’d see my mother’s back as she guarded the patio doors. Mom would let no one pass. As a recent widow herself, she knew my need to stare into my loss alone.

I sat on the porch swing and closed my eyes, letting the June sun warm my bare arms. Instead of closing the door on my pain, I wanted it to swing from its hinges so the searing winds of grief could scorch my face and body. Maybe I hoped to die from exposure.

Kevin had been dead three hours before I had arrived at the hospital. A long time for my husband to be dead without me knowing. He was so altered, so permanently changed without my being aware.

I had stood in the emergency room, surrounded by faded blue cotton curtains, looking at the naked remains of my husband while nurses talked in hushed tones around me. A sheet covered Kevin from his hips to his knees. Tubes, which had either carried something into or away from his body, hung disconnected and useless from his arms. The twisted remains of what I assumed to be some sort of breathing mask lay on the floor. “What happened?” I said in a whisper so faint I knew no one could hear. Maybe I never said it at all. A short doctor with a pronounced lisp and quiet manner told me Kevin’s heart killed him. He used difficult phrases; medical terms I didn’t know, couldn’t understand. He called it an episode and said it was massive. When he said the word massive, spit flew from his mouth, landing on my jacket’s lapel. We had both stared at it.

When my mother and sister, Heather, arrived at the hospital, they gazed speechlessly at Kevin for a time, and then took me home. Heather had whispered with the doctor, their heads close together, before taking a firm hold on my arm and walking me out to her car. We drove in silence to my house. The three of us sat around my kitchen table looking at each other.

Several times my mother opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Our words had turned to cotton, thick and dry. We couldn’t work them out of our throats. I had no words for my abandonment. Like everything I knew to be true had slipped out the back door when I wasn’t looking.

“What happened?” I said again. This time I knew I had said it out loud. My voice echoed back to me off the kitchen table.

“Remember how John Ritter died? His heart, remember?” This from Heather, my younger, smarter sister. Kevin had died a celebrity’s death.

From the moment I had received the call from the hospital until now, I had allowed other people to make all of my bereavement decisions. My mother and mother-in-law chose the casket and placed the obituary in the paper. Kevin’s boss at the bank, Donna Walsh, arranged for the funeral parlor and even called the pastor from the church that Kevin had attended until he was sixteen to come and speak. Heather silently held my hand through it all. I didn’t feel grateful for their help.

I sat on the porch swing, and my right foot rocked on the grass, pushing and pulling the swing. My head hurt. I tipped it back and rested it on the cold, inflexible metal that made up the frame for the swing. It dug into my skull. I invited the pain. I sat with it; supped with it.

I opened my eyes and looked up into the early June sky. The clouds were an unmade bed. Layers of white moved rumpled and languid past the azure heavens. Their shapes morphed and faded before my eyes. A Pegasus with the face of a dog; a veiled woman fleeing; a villain; an elf. The shapes were strange and unreliable, like dreams. A monster, a baby—I wanted to reach up to touch its soft, wrinkled face. I was too tired. Everything was gone, lost, emptied out.

I had arrived home from the hospital empty handed. No Kevin. No car—we left it in the hospital parking lot for my sister to pick up later. “No condition to drive,” my mother had said. She meant me.

Empty handed. The thought, incomplete and vague, crept closer to consciousness. There should have been something. I should have brought his things home with me. Where were his clothes? His wallet? Watch? Somehow, they’d fled the scene.

“How far could they have gotten?” I said to myself. Without realizing it, I had stood and walked to the patio doors. “Mom?” I said as I walked into the house.

She turned quickly, but said nothing. My mother didn’t just understand what was happening to me. She knew. She knew it like the ticking of a clock, the wind through the windows, like everything a person gets used to in life. It had only been eight months since Dad died. She knew there was little to be said. Little that should be said. Once, after Dad’s funeral, she looked at Heather and me and said, “Don’t talk. Everyone has said enough words to last for eternity.”

I noticed how tall and straight she stood in her black dress and sensible shoes. How long must the dead be buried before you can stand straight again? “What happened to Kevin’s stuff?” Mom glanced around as if checking to see if a guest had made off with the silverware.

I swallowed hard and clarified. “At the hospital. He was naked.” A picture of him lying motionless, breathless on the white sheets filled my mind. “They never gave me his things. His, whatever, belongings. Effects.”

“I don’t know, Kate,” she said. Like it didn’t matter. Like I should stop thinking about it. I moved past her, careful not to touch her, and went in search of my sister.

Heather sat on my secondhand couch in my living room, a two seater with the pattern of autumn leaves. She held an empty cup and a napkin; dark crumbs tumbling off onto the carpet. Her long brown hair, usually left down, was pulled up into a bun. She looked pretty and sad. She saw me coming, her brown eyes widening in recognition. Recognition that she should do something. Meet my needs, help me, make time stand still. She quickly ended the conversation she was having with Kevin’s boss, and met me in the middle of the living room.

“Hey,” she said, touching my arm. I took a small step back, avoiding her warm fingers.

“Where would his stuff go?” I blurted out. Heather’s eyebrows snapped together in confusion. “Kevin’s things,” I said. “They never gave me his things. I want to go and get them. Will you come?”

Heather stood very still for a moment, straight backed like she was made of wood, then relaxed. “You mean at the hospital. Right, Kate? Kevin’s things at the hospital?” Tears welled in my eyes. “There was nothing. You were there. When we left, they never gave e anything of his.” I realized I was trembling.

Heather bit her lower lip, and looked into my eyes. “Let me do that for you. I’ll call the hospital—” I stood on my tiptoes and opened my mouth. “I’ll go,” she corrected before I could say anything. “I’ll go and ask around. I’ll get his stuff and bring it here.”

“I need his things.”

Heather cupped my elbow with her hand. “You need to lie down. Let me get you upstairs, and as soon as you’re settled, I’ll go to the hospital and find out what happened to Kevin’s clothes, okay?”

Fatigue filled the small spaces between my bones. “Okay.” She led me upstairs. I crawled under the covers as Heather closed the door, blocking the sounds of the people below.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
Copyright 2006
Other Press - Fiction/Dystopian
(Originally published in Sweden)
268 pages

That night I dreamed of Jock. We were on the beach. It was autumn and windy. The clouds were sailing across the sky like fluffy ships. Between them the sun stretched out its golden arms to us, glowing, dazzling, warming, suddenly disappearing behind a racing cloud ship, popping out again and just managing to lay its warm hands on my head before disappearing once more. The sea was roaring and hissing. We were running along the beach. I stopped. The wind nipped at my cheeks with ice-cold teeth, tugged at my hair. Jock was capering and dancing around me, barking and looking up at me with those brown eyes. He was happy, playful.

The Unit is a dystopian, possibly futuristic novel (but not far in the future, near as I can tell -- it has a contemporary feel) about a woman named Dorrit who has turned 50 years old and become "dispensable". I assume the novel takes place in author Ninni Holmqvist's home country, Sweden. Wherever Dorrit lives, though, the country enacted laws, years back, which led to classification of citizens as either "needed" or "dispensable". Dorrit has never married, never had a child. Her family is not dependent upon her and her job is not considered significant. She's had an affair with a married man, but he was not interested in leaving his family to save her from becoming dispensable.

Dorrit's birthday marks the end of her life in the outside world. She has given her beloved dog, Jock, to a loving new family and packed her few necessary items. Her house will be sold by the government.
Dorrit is taken to the Second Reserve Bank Unit, a locked, domed environment where she can use the exercise facilities, take classes, paint, shop, enjoy the beautiful winter garden and eat for free. Everything is provided, including health care. What she cannot do is leave. She can't even step outside the dome and will never again see the sky or feel the change of seasons. Her job, like that of the others, is to take part in human experiments and donate various body parts . . . until the final donation takes her life. But, then something happens that might change matters. Can a person declared "dispensable" return to life outside?

I read about 75 pages of The Unit and it made me so gloomy that I set it aside for a while, then flipped toward the end to get an idea of what was going to happen and returned to finish it. The writing is good, very fluid and extremely emotional. It's a translation and I have no complaints about the translation, which I think is well done. But, it's such a horrifying story.

Thought-provoking as the idea is that people might become walking organ banks, it's unfortunately just a little too fathomable and I found it profoundly depressing. Still, The Unit is a good book -- definitely worth discussing. Since I flipped near the end (something I do when I'm concerned that I'll hate an ending), I had an idea about the plot twist without knowing how the ending would turn out. To be honest, the more I ponder the ending, the more it pisses me off. I could understand it, in a way, but it just seemed totally wrong. But, then, the whole concept is morally wrong, isn't it? I think that's part of the point. The rest of the point may be that far too many people are marginalized and their lives considered somehow less valuable by society. The author's particular focus is on single, childless women. Men, in Dorrit's world, are not considered dispensable until they reach the age of 60.

The one thing that really bugged me about this book was the fact that there was not enough description of the outside setting. All through the book I kept wondering if there was any option to escape. Could Dorrit have gone to Canada (where I personally want to go, right about now, since we're under a heat advisory) or some other country to escape her fate? Or, was the entire world locking up people who were considered useless to society? That, I thought, was a critical missing piece in the book. There's really no mention whether there were options to avoid being locked up in the dome in the first place, apart from finding a way to become "needed", although as the book progresses and people in the outer world become frantic, it appears that the situation may eventually change. Once inside the dome, suicide is impossible -- that much is explained.

Still, you have to wonder why anyone at all would pack a bag and willingly climb into a vehicle to be taken such a place. Perhaps that's another good discussion point: Is it truly possible that anyone could feel so undervalued that donating organs to "needed" people might become, in his or her mind, a worthy possibility? Would one have to be suicidal not to try to find a way to avoid entering the domed world? If so, why not just jump off a nice, tall bridge? I'm just thinking with my fingertips, here. I do think this would be an excellent discussion book.

3.5/5 - Above average. Thought-provoking story, nicely translated writing but I needed a little more of a glimmer of hope, deeper description of the world outside and a little more explanation as to why one couldn't or wouldn't run or hide while still in the outside world. It does have a bit of a Logan's Run feel, but at least with Logan's Run, you knew what happened to people who tried to escape. There is some graphic sex, so this one gets a family-unfriendly warning.

What ho! I see there's going to be another Logan's Run movie, coming out in 2010. Here's the question: Can anyone beat that funky 70's version with Michael York and Jenny Agutter? I'm quite fond of the old movie and I love, love, love the final scene, when they emerge into the outside world. That was filmed at a fountain in Fort Worth, Texas, in case you didn't know.

I am not going to complain about the heat. I am not going to complain about the heat. But, I need to think cool, so here's a nice little picture of a friendly fellow kayaking near a glacier in Alaska:

Ah, I feel better now. He has a coat on!! There was ice floating in the water! If he had an ice-cream bar in that empty hand, it wouldn't have instantly melted! Nice thoughts. On that note, I'm off to stick my head in the freezer. Stay cool!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rubber Side Down: The Biker Poet Anthology, Ed. by Jose (JoeGo) Gouveia

Rubber Side Down: The Biker Poet Anthology
Ed. by Jose (JoeGo) Gouveia
Copyright 2008
Archer Books - Poetry
195 pages, incl. photos

Poetry is an iffy thing with me because I know absolutely zippo about it. I just know what I like and what I don't. Most collections are a little of both -- love some, like some, a little falls flat. Even my favorites, like Pablo Neruda, sometimes leave me thinking, "Nyeh," to one poem and, "Wow, wow, wow," to another. Pablo leans heavily toward the wow side.

Rubber Side Down is, in my humble opinion, better than average because it gives those of us who aren't a part of this unique culture a peek into the joy of their somewhat rebellious lifestyle. I can't even balance on a scooter, so motorized biking is certainly not my thing, but it didn't matter one whit. You should see the number of little Post-its sticking out of my copy. I really enjoyed this book. It's an anthology by a variety of authors, so there's a good mix of serious and funny, breezy and deep. I was particularly fond of some of the funnier poems and those that tell a story. Sometimes, the language alone made me smile.

I get in one last, quick ride
Before the hinting tumult of clouds coalesce
Into the thunder light show and falling
Bucket cat dog pianos of rain.

--from "Weather & Other Maps" by J. Barrett (Bear) Wolf

Another favorite: "The Ballad of California Slim and Nightstick Jim" by J. H. "Colorado T." Sky tells the story of a biker and a highway patrolman who are at odds until they decide to race in order to determine who gets his way -- a biker who wants to drive at his own speed or the patrolman who wants to give him a ticket. The highway patrolman, Nightstick Jim, wrecks his car and the biker, California Slim, must decide whether or not to save his nemesis before the car bursts into flames.

"Wondering Aloud: Several Haiku" by Wu Hai "Woo Wu" Tien contains this little gem that can't help but make you smile:

truth, punctuating
with comma fangs, will bite you
in the asterix

"Biker poetry is more . . . " by MarySusan Williams-Migneault beautifully puts the experience into words (excerpt only):

Biker Poetry is the engine firing up
blasting across the horizon
stretching out before you waiting.
It is the gravel in your pores
the bugs up your nose
the rain scraping your skin
as it whizzes across your face
the sun setting while the engine cools
and you sit staring out a diner window--
admiring your steel pony while breaking bread
with your Biker brothes and sisters
Biker Poetry is the break . . .
the soul . . . of a spirit
that chases after the wind
and calls the "Road" home.

Cool. So, the experience itself is poetry.

4/5 - Very good, a really terrific mix. Some of the poems didn't do much for me, but the vast majority are just wonderful -- like the gift of a translator, explaining the foreign language of another world.

Thanks to Lisa Roe, publicist extraordinaire, for the review copy!

And, while we're on the topic of poetry, I Did Not Finish a very slim poetry book that I attempted to read, earlier this year. Of Dreams and Realities by Dr. Frank L. Johnson is described as, "A collection of poems about real life situations, fantasies and inspirations." Only 39 pages long, but I found the poetry far too rhythmic and . . . I guess predictable in that you can read one line and automatically know the rhyming word the next will have as its ending. The cover is absolutely beautiful, but the image I saved is corrupt so you'll just have to trust me on that.

Just finished:

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer - and, unfortunately, it kept me up till the wee hours of the morning, so I'm in agony with a reading hangover. Ouch, ouch, ouchy ouch.

Note to Borders:

Those 40% off a single book coupons work. Another ouch -- a hit on the bank account. I bought only Young Adult novels, yesterday . . .

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
The King's Fifth by Scott O'Dell and
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

City of Bones caught the kiddo's interest so he also, unfortunately, stayed up late reading. He's already halfway into the book. At least he managed to go to bed before I did. I wish I read as fast as my son.

Next reviews will be The Unit, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and The Corinthian -- in no particular order. I have only one tour book, this week, and I could not finish it because the writing was too good -- too painful to read a book that begins with grief during a week that contains Father's Day, which I never handle particularly well (the protagonist is widowed), but I'll post the sneak peek chapter.
Off the top of my head, the only photo I can recall with a two-wheeled motorized vehicle, from my files (taken in Costa Rica):
Love that hat. Off to stick my sore head on a pillow. Happy Monday!