Book Reviews, Nonfiction

Ancient-Modern Bible | Review

Alright, my interest was immediately piqued as soon as I saw this cover and title. Ancient-Modern Bible? What exactly was this all about? So obviously, I I immediately snagged one. Here’s a bit from the intro I thought worth sharing:

“The fellowship stretches across the globe, encompassing charismatic Anglicans in Singapore, non-denominational Baptists in Long, and Orthodox believers in Rio de Janeiro. And it’s a fellowship that reaches back through time, from the very earliest disciples of Jesus living in Jerusalem, through the second-century converts in Roman-ruled Africa and Europe, to medieval monastics, and onward to reformers, pietists, missionaries, revivalists, and more.”

“Our prayer is that the Ancient-Modern Bible will encourage and strengthen you, and that your own study of this incomparable book will be enriched by the reflections and insights of faithful men and women from across the centuries who, just like you, came to Scripture to learn from the Author of life.”

I love the goal behind this Bible. By providing commentary from an array of voices throughout history, it shows the value of various thoughts and theologies and reminding Bible readers about our ultimate goal. The commentary on one page ranged from: Bonhoeffer, John Calvin, Jack Hayford and Jerome. Another section had Eugene Peterson, Spurgeon, Calvin, Henry Halley, and Augustine. Other voices ranged from C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, and Dallas Willard.

Other helpful features I appreciated were the brief timeline and discussion before every book, the different historical Creeds of the Church, and the essays on different doctrines and teachings of the church. One of my favorite features are the various biographies of Christian voices (including lists of important works to dive further).

Outside of the ancient voices, I didn’t see any modern voices of color (Like something from Martin Luther King Jr.). I went through a majority of the commentary and I think this was a missed opportunity, as this Bible, in its other aspects, focuses on bringing different voices together.

I would also love to see different translations. I don’t read (outside of specific research) from NKJV, so maybe that’s something we’ll see in the future.

Oh! And I loved the historical artwork in the back. I found one of my favorite paintings (Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son”). A great way to honor the different ways we are drawn to God.

Overall, I think it’s a worthy addition to your library.

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Many things have changed in the last two-thousand years. The good news of Jesus Christ isn’t one of them. The NKJV Ancient-Modern Bible features all-new book introductions, articles, and commentary from voices both ancient and modern to help you experience the Word of God as never before. Read the Bible alongside Augustine, Luther, Graham, and others—and discover the rich wisdom of ages past and present, which is the rightful inheritance of every follower of Christ. The NKJV Ancient-Modern Bible is an opportunity for readers to experience the Word of God with fresh eyes, as members of the global and historical community of faith. This is a Bible two thousand years in the making.

Features include:

  • Full-color design that uniquely blends cutting edge modern typography and layout with traditional, sacred elements
  • Bible commentary from church thinkers past and present, from Huss to Keller, from Chrysostom to Spurgeon, from Aquinas to Wright
  • Biographies of church leaders & thinkers
  • Doctrine and history articles on significant councils, creeds, and controversies
  • Sacred art from throughout church history
  • Easy-to-read 8.5-point font

More Details:

  • Thousands of verse-by-verse and passage-by-passage comments from the church’s greatest teachers and thinkers, including John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, Augustine, John Wesley, Timothy Keller, Matthew Henry, Billy Graham, A.W. Tozer, C.S. Lewis, Henry Halley, Martin Luther, N.T. Wright, Jack Hayford, John Bunyan, Eugene Peterson, Jerome, Warren Wiersbe, R.C. Sproul, Ulrich Zwingli, D.L Moody, William Tyndale, D.A. Carson, John Knox, Scot McKnight, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Soren Kierkegaard, and John Chrysostom
  • Full page biography articles sharing the inspiring life stories of men and women who were transformed by the gospel, from the early church, through the Reformation, and beyond.
  • Sacred art as inspired by the Bible through the centuries, including Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Gustave Dore, Christian Rohlfs, and Makoto Fujimura.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

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Fiction, Nonfiction, Travel Adventures

10 Books I Want to Read After Visiting D.C.

I thought I’d have a different kind of travel “recap” with my recent adventures to D.C. I’ve been a couple times before, but there’s so much to see that I could visit 10 more times and still have a list! We were able to see the monuments (including the new MLK Jr. memorial), visit Mt. Vernon (home to George Washington), The Holocaust Memorial Museum, The National Museum of African American History and Culture and The National Gallery of Art. I love these type of cities. With such a historical city full of museums and bookstores, I managed to add 54837543957430 more books to my reading list (naturally), so I thought I’d share some with y’all!

1.  My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King

2. The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson

3. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

4. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

5. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ve had this book for years and only read bits. He saw early on how the German “church” supported Hitler and gave up everything (including his life) to fight against it. After visiting the Holocaust museum, I really need to finish it.

6. Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith

7. Monet, or the Triumph of Impressionism by Daniel Wildenstein

8. Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell

9. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

10. Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol 1, 1884-1933 by Blanche Wiesen Cook (there’s three volumes total)

And because you can always add more to the pile, here’s a list of books and movies I’ve read/seen that are worth your time.

I’ll end with a few pics from the trip!

The crew

Another must see – the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Lincoln Memorial is beautiful, especially at night!
A girl can’t resist going to local book stores!
I’ve mentioned before how much I love art, especially Impressionism, so I LOVED getting to see Van Gogh’s self-portrait.
And Monet!!
I’ll close with this one – I didn’t know that there was a second edition of the Shaw Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (a memorial to the Massachusetts 54th in the Civil War), but there is! The original is outside The Boston Commons.

What books have you picked up after a trip?

Movie Musings

Gladiator | Movie Musings

(Moving Musings are my thoughts on some of the all-time greats in cinema. I love story and the power that comes with it, so I thought it would be fun to occasionally post about them. Also, there shall be spoilers. If interested in past Movie Musings, just click here!)

First things first: Y’all I LOVE this movie. It has all the pieces in a story that captivate my attention. A hero driven by something greater than himself, a purpose, a perfect soundtrack that stirs your heart as soon as you hear it….I just love it. Even the phrase Maximus likes to say is one of my favorites, “Strength and Honor.”

And if you didn’t know, my cat’s name also happens to be Maximus. And this scene? Mic drop.

(This may have also been the recording to my voicemail in my early days of cell phones. I thought I was such a cool college kid in 2000.)

This movie also has one of my favorite all time movie quotes:

“What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”

Now onto our main characters: Commodus and Maximus. Of the quote “strength and honor,” one had both, one had neither. One thought it was okay to have a society that fed off of death. How disturbing that a whole culture rejoiced and thrived off of human life fighting to the death for entertainment. The other? He fought to keep the dream of something more beautiful alive; a Republic. A nation for the people.

© 2000 – Dreamworks LLC & Universal Pictures – All Rights Reserved

Also Commodus is ridiculously creepy. Why else didn’t we like him? He was a coward, he cared only for himself, created laws depending on his mood and had little care for the people of Rome, the people he was supposed to be serving.

Yet, on the other hand, soldiers and gladiators alike trusted and followed Maximus, many to death. Why? He had honor, integrity, he put others before himself (and why Marcus Aurelius wanted him Emperor), loved his family and was brave (among other attributes). He was what a leader should be.

© 2000 – Dreamworks LLC & Universal Pictures – All Rights Reserved

What makes a leader? What makes a person the kind of person others will follow?

Furthermore, when I watch this movie, I often ask myself: What will my legacy be? Both Commodus and Maximus left very different legacies. Will I be remembered as one who fought for the people and where I put others before me? Did I give my life and heart to something beyond myself?

Lord, may the answer to that question be yes.

Have y’all seen this movie? Share some of your thoughts!

Inklings, Movie Musings

It’s Been Long Enough: My Thoughts on The Hobbit Movies

(If you’re new, welcome to Inklings Week 2016! Don’t miss any of the posts this week, you can find them here!)

I realize I never really shared my thoughts on The Hobbit trilogy movies. I admit, I had plans to and I never got around to it…I’m sure my feelings will help explain why.

Before I dive into my nerdy post of angst, I will say I love the music from all three. When you have Thorin, Pippin and Ed Sheeran singing, bound for musical brilliance (the LOTR soundtrack is my background jam right now)

I also need to add I don’t think PJ (Peter Jackson) is a terrible director or producer. He’s insanely talented. I remember picking up the first LOTR movie on sale at Target (I had seen the cartoons long before that and remembered pieces of it) and after watching it, I vividly remember thinking “WHY HAS NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT THIS BEFORE?!” It was love at first sight. I read the books immediately and was first in line for the two other movies (I took off work on release day).

BUT. Even he admitted he was making it up with The Hobbit as he went. So it’s not just me.

Alright, now let’s get honest and real…..

Movie One

“YAYYYYYYY!!! We’re back in Middle earth!!”

https://giphy.com/embed/knFyKpWwkFfMI

I was so ready!
https://giphy.com/embed/HVr4gFHYIqeti

After the movie, I thought “You know, PJ added some things and mixed them up, but that’s okay…he changed a few things in LOTR too…I think these will still be so great!” I have to say though, the Gollum/Bilbo scene was spot on and I really enjoyed the riddles scene.

I mean, y’all, who didn’t get chills when Thorin began singing “Misty Mountains?” Chills!

If only the awesomeness lasted…

Movie Two

“Well at least the dragon was really cool. I’m trying to just enjoy Middle Earth and not focus on what is happening to one of my beloved books. I’ll just pretend the love triangle isn’t actually happening. Instead, we’re just going to pretend it’s like LOTR all over again.”

https://giphy.com/embed/kl3F9X1zETOW4

Movie Three

“These movies are dead to me.”

Let’s go ahead with some bullet points:

  • THAT’S NOT HOW KILI AND FILI DIED. THIS IS LAME. I HATE THIS MOVIE.
  • Why hate on the eagles? They deserved better.
  • Ignoring Beorn are you PJ? Why? He’s awesome (he took out the Goblin leader in the Battle) and why did he get 17 seconds towards the end of the battle which consisted of jumping off an eagle while transforming?
  • The love story…just no.
  • Have I mentioned Kili and Fili deserved better? They died protecting their King, they weren’t killed by the pale jerk of an Orc (WHO WASN’T IN THE BOOK) (And before you get angry, yes I know Azog is in Middle Earth history, but he was not in The Hobbit and did not need such a role. The enemies they had were just fine). Also, neither died protecting a non existent elf either.
  • Did PJ watch Tremors while writing this?
  • I don’t understand the obsession with the creepy unibrow fellow (he doesn’t deserve a Google search to remember his name). Why was he in the movies again? Besides to haunt your dreams?

Suffice to say my Hobbit heart was broken in two when all was said and done. I couldn’t even bring myself to buy it on DVD…that means something Internet…

Alright, did y’all like the movies? I promise not to hold judgement if you do! 😉

Inklings

A Guest Post From Wesley – All Things Tolkien and Lewis!

(If you’re new, welcome to Inklings Week 2016! Today is another fabulous guest post from my friend Wesley! Don’t miss any of the posts this week, you can find them here.) 

Hi everyone! I’m Wesley and I blog over at Library Educated. When Jamie asked me if I wanted in on Inklings Week I could not say yes fast enough! I’ve been a C.S. Lewis fan for a long time but have come to appreciate J.R.R.’s thorough world building and vast landscapes!

I think that it is fair to say that the people who love the books of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are a fairly rabid bunch (maybe not like, One Direction fan base type of rabid, but I think that that’s okay). People have expressed their love of these books in all types of ways: tattoos, art, reimagined book covers, things that I MUST HAVE on Etsy, and of course – memes.

It’s hard not to be inspired by the books even before you open the books up and dive into their stories, look at some of these covers!

And my personal favorite of the Tolkien group:

Did you know there was a Queen who illustrated Lord of the Rings? Yeah! Check it out!

And onto some of my favorite CS Lewis covers (many from the same editions):

#saddragonissadbecausehisnameisEustaceandhealmostdeservedit
(Long hashtag is long)

Tattoos

(You guys, this whole post could be made up of “Not all who wander are lost” tattoos for the Tolkien end of things. We will keep it to one.)

Any my favorite, random funny things on the internet (everyone’s favorite really, right?)

Ring ding ding ding ding ding ding!

And a Narnia – X-Men crossover? Yes please!
Awwww!
When you wish upon a scary floating eye…..

So basically my Inklings Week post was me messing around on the internet for hours and I couldn’t be more grateful to Jamie for the opportunity!

Yay!! Thanks so much for joining in Wesley – this was so much fun to read (lots of laughs too!). So y’all have a favorite from Wesley’s post?

Inklings

The Friendship of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (Plus It’s International Inklings Day!!)

(If you’re new, welcome to Inklings Week 2016! I don’t want you to miss any of the posts this week, so be sure to check them out here!) 

I miss you Oxford!

“Friendship makes prosperity more shining and lessens adversity by dividing and sharing it.” Cicero

Today is officially International Inklings Day!!!! On this day 90 years ago, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were gathered for English tea with Oxford English faculty at Merton College and met for the first time. This would begin a 40 year friendship and this friendship would inspire generations to come and also help to produce some of literature’s greatest masterpieces.

Yet, truth be told, it wasn’t friendship at first sight. After that first meeting, Lewis commented (I believe jokingly!) about Tolkien: “No harm in him: only needs a smack or so.” He thought him rather opinionated, but this was more due to the fact that at the time Lewis was an atheist and Tolkien was a strong Roman Catholic. As Diana Pavlac Glyer explained in Bandersnatch (which really is an excellent book and you should all read it!)

“It got worse. As Lewis and Tolkien got to know each other, it became clear that they had a number of serious disagreements. They had different interests and personalities. They came from different religious traditions. And they had different academic specialties. Lewis was an expert in literature and philosophy; Tolkien was a philologist, an expert in languages. He loved Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon. Lewis said that meeting Tolkien triggered two of his childhood prejudices. He explains, “At my first coming into the world I had been (implicitly) warned never to trust a [Catholic], and at my first coming into the English Faculty (explicitly) never to trust a philologist. Tolkien was both.

Soon after the faculty disagreed on required courses for English students and Lewis and Tolkien found themselves on opposite sides of the debate. So Tolkien decided that in order to win people over to his curriculum, he would gather the faculty together to bring about love for mythology and ancient languages. This turned out to be a genius move. Once again, I’ll quote Bandersnatch:

Lewis and Tolkien discovered they had significant common ground. They gravitated towards each other because they shared an interest in what they called “northernness,” the vast skies, icy landscapes, and heroic tempers of the ancient Vikings. As they talked together, Lewis was slowly won over to Tolkien’s view of the English curriculum. And as they worked side by side, they forged a solid friendship. E. L. Edmonds, a student at Oxford, remembers, “It was very obvious that [Lewis and Tolkien] were great friends—indeed, they were like two young bear cubs sometimes, just happily quipping with one another.”

Tolkien would go on to play a significant role in Lewis’ conversion to Christianity (especially on the night of September 19, 1931, where, along with Hugo Dyson, the three men spent hours discussing life and faith and Lewis later said this was his final push for Christianity) and Lewis would be Tolkien’s biggest supporter and encourager in finishing Lord of the Rings and other works. Their friendship was a staple in each other’s lives and, while, in later years the friendship did change, it never lost it’s meaning.

In Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of a Friendship by Colin Duriez, we see that “with C.S. Lewis’ death, it was a “wound [Tolkien] knew he would not lose, as one loses a falling lead.” Even years after Lewis’ death Tolkien wrote about Lewis: “The unpayable debt that I owe to him was not ‘influence’ as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him [did I] ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby.”

I’ll leave with a few fun facts because I’m all about fun facts.

  • Lewis’ character, Elwin Random, in Out of the Silent Planet, resembles Tolkien quite a bit. Elwin means “elf-friend” and the character is a Cambridge philologist who has a love for languages.
  • The Professor in Narnia was also inspired by Tolkien.
  • Treebeard was inspired by C.S. Lewis.
  • They each have rad names: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and Clive Staples Lewis
  • They both lost their moms at a young age
  • Tolkien’s dad died when he was a toddler and Lewis’ Dad withdrew and sent Lewis to a boarding school after his mother’s death.
  • They both fought in WWI.
  • In 1961, Lewis nominated Tolkien for the Nobel Peace Prize in literature (which he totally should have won)
  • Both Humphrey Carpenter (Tolkien’s official biographer) and Edith Tolkien (when she told scholar Clyde S. Kilby) stated that C.S. Lewis actually wrote Tolkien’s obituary, which was published the day after his death (9/2/73) in The Times.

“My happiest hours are spent with three or four old friends and old clothes tramping together and putting up in small pubs – or else sitting up till the small hours in someone’s college rooms talking nonsense, poetry, theology, metaphysics over beer tea and pipes.”

I hope y’all enjoyed this brief look at Tolkien and Lewis’ friendship! Who has greatly encouraged and inspired you in your life?

Inklings

The Reason I love C.S. Lewis | Guest Post by Katherine Reay

(If you’re new, welcome to Inklings Week 2016! I’m excited to have the lovely Katherine Reay on the blog today chatting about C.S. Lewis! Don’t miss any of the posts this week, you can find them here!)

Welcome Katherine!

If you’ve read any of my books, you know I love books. The stories I write are saturated with the stories of others because I believe books form a common language. The Classics are not “classic” merely because they are old. They endure because they are timeless and true. We return to them again and again because they speak with relevance to our experiences, our thoughts and our lives.

If you’ve read any of my books, you also know I love C.S. Lewis. He isn’t mentioned or quoted or cited as often as Austen, Bronte or Dickens – and there’s a reason for that. He is my little secret and the foundation, if not the propulsion, for everything I write.

Here’s a peek behind the curtain…

The idea for Dear Mr. Knightley came from a few sources. One can readily recognize Daddy Long Legs (Jean Webster) behind its structure. But rather than an homage to that story, Dear Mr. Knightley only “hides” within its framework much as its heroine Sam Moore hides behind literary characters. Rather Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters helped me form the basis of Sam’s journey.

The Screwtape Letters is a “diabolical parody” written in a series of letters from a top devil, Screwtape (an Under Secretary and “affectionate uncle”), to a beginning devil, Wormwood. The subject? Advice on how to secure a “patient” – a human soul – for their father in hell. The story is packed with humor and incredibly accurate insights into the human psyche as the patient is bombarded again and again by obstacles, temptations and pressures – anything and everything to keep his eyes off eternity. Reading this, I wondered how might a woman react today to getting hit again and again. Could she recognize the eternal or even begin to ask and answer those deeper longings for love, trust, safety in the midst of such trials?

It may not have been a nice way to treat Sam, but I did enjoy her tenacity in seeking wholeness. She – and we – keep asking those deep heartfelt questions and seek answers no matter our sufferings. We may even ask more loudly and fight harder for truth in the midst of them.

Lizzy and Jane, my second novel, came to me as I read another Lewis favorite: The Four Loves. In this non-fiction work, Lewis outlines and examines the four loves in our lives and the order in which we could/should regard them. Affection. Sibling love. Romantic love. God love. This examination prompted me to ask what could or would happen to a woman if I took all four loves away. What would force her to recognize their loss and seek them again? Although I consider Lizzy & Jane my “sister story,” Lizzy’s journey is one answer to this question.

As an aside, if you get a chance to listen to The Four Loves’ audio recording, please do. It is one of the only remaining recordings of C.S. Lewis reading his own work, and his voice, intonation and occasional jokes will make you smile.

The Bronte Plot is my most obvious homage to Lewis. His The Great Divorce is a wonderful dream and a fascinating journey. While asleep, Lewis travels to heaven where he witnesses souls journeying “upward and onward.” Decisions must be made and burdens relinquished. Wrapped within fantasy, he introduces us to the idea of free will, choice and consequence – strings pulling at our hearts and the nature of surrender. This was a touch point for me when I wrestled with Lucy and Helen’s choices in The Bronte Plot and planned their journey both internally and throughout England.

My next book, A Portrait of Emily Price, will release in November and it too began with Lewis. I had a bit more fun in this story as I examined Lewis’s Surprised by Joy and Till We Have Faces. Emily Price is a look at one young woman’s search for surrender and joy amidst some beautiful Italian scenery, delicious food, great art and a very handsome husband.

I could go on and on… There’s so much Lewis to explore. There’s Narnia (Lewis liked Reepicheep and Puddleglum best. I favor Edmund and Eustace.), there’s his science fiction (Out of the Silent Planet etc.), there are essays, there are letters… And there are countless biographies and collections that bring Lewis’s humanity and brilliance to us. Currently, I’m thoroughly enjoying C.S. Lewis: Man of Letters by Thomas Howard. Howard is addressing each of Lewis’s fictional works and his analysis overflows with the joy he finds within Lewis.

And there is the crux of it… The reason I love Lewis. Joy! He sought joy, expressed joy, and he reveled in joy. Absolutely everything Lewis wrote points to it. I read Lewis because he not only provides a wonderful story, but because I agree with his motivations to write and enjoy such stories. He would assert that Joy exists, “story” always comes first and a “deeper magic,” a deeper story, propels the best fiction.

Thank you so much for inviting me here and letting me indulge in one of my favorite subjects. If anyone wants to comment, I’m sure Jamie would love to chat and, if she doesn’t mind, I’ll chime in as well.

Have a joyful and joy-filled day!

KBR

Inklings

Why Tolkien and Jack Matter (And We’re Kicking Off Inklings Week!)

IT’S FINALLY HERE!!! Inklings Week 2016! This is the second annual event and I’m so glad you’re joining in! I have lots of giveaways planned (some at the end of this post) and guest posts and all around Inklings awesomeness. So join the fun friends! (Also if you’re interested in last year’s posts, you can find them here)

I can say without a doubt, that the fictional works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have shaped my faith (and life) in more ways than any other pieces of literature. Some might say I’m a “fan” or maybe a bit “obsessed.” To which I say yep! That is 110% true. I can (and do) talk about them all the time. I can’t help it. Very few fictional works have spoken so deeply to my heart as those of Tolkien and Lewis.

There’s a scene in C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader where, after all their adventures on the ship, Lucy and Edmund encounter Aslan for the first “real” time in the book. It is here they find out they will not be returning to Narnia. Lucy cries out because she fears she will never see Aslan again. His response is as such:

“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

Dead y’all. Dead. Outside of, you know, the Bible, Aslan has taught me more about God’s character and Jesus than any other fictional character.

And that’s what Tolkien and Lewis have done for me. They understood the power of story and were able to make themes of hope, redemption, love, sacrifice, friendship and adventure come alive.

What is it about their fantasy works that stir the heart the way they do? Well, let’s ask them shall we?

In Diana Pavlac Glyer’s Bandersnatch, Lewis offers the answer to those who condemn a book because it is fantasy.

“‘But why’, (some ask), ‘why, if you have a serious comment to make on the real life of men, must you do it by talking about a phantasmagoric never-never land of your own?’ Because, I take it, one of the main things the author wants to say is that the real life of men is of that mythical and heroic quality.” He continues, “The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by ‘the veil of familiarity.’ The child enjoys his cold meat (otherwise dull to him) by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savoury for having been dipped in a story.”

Joseph Loconte also explains it rather well in his book, A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and War:

Mythmaking, what Tolkien calls “mythopoeia,” is a way of fulfilling God’s purposes as the Creator. By inventing a myth—by populating a world with elves and orcs, dragons and witches, gods and goddesses—the storyteller tries to retrieve the world he knew before man’s fall from grace. “There was an Eden on this very unhappy earth,” Tolkien explained many years later. “We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of ‘exile.’ ” The mythmaker, fired by the sense of exile and the desire to return to his authentic home, reflects “a splintered fragment of the true light.”

That’s just the surface of it, yet packs a punch in explaining why their works matter so much. Plus, the stories are awesome!

Why do you love Tolkien or Lewis (or both!)? What are some of your favorite reads from them?

Book Reviews

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin | Book Review

“If a white man became a Negro in the Deep South, what adjustments would he have to make? What is it like to experience discrimination based on skin color, something over which one has no control?”

So began the journey of John Howard Griffin and story in what would become a classic in America non fiction and racial history. Griffin served in the Air Corps, studied in France (where he helped smuggle Austrian Jews to safety) and was blinded for 10 years from a war accident at which time he started writing and would soon take on this life altering project. Such a life and such a story.

In the Deep South of the 1950s, journalist John Howard Griffin decided to cross the color line. Using medication that darkened his skin to deep brown, he exchanged his privileged life as a Southern white man for the disenfranchised world of an unemployed black man. His audacious, still chillingly relevant eyewitness history is a work about race and humanity-that in this new millennium still has something important to say to every American.

Where to start with this book? We’ll go with the writing – it’s incredible. He keeps you captivated and so many sentences or insights were beautifully written and profound. He cuts straight to the reader’s heart and soul. You’ll go through all of your emotions with this book. There are so many insightful quotes that I thought about including, but I vote you read the book instead. So much of what he observed can (sadly) be applied today.

“Surely in America a whole segment of decent souls could not stand by and allow such massive crimes to be committed.” – John Howard Griffin

You know those times you read about some period in history and it leaves you completely dumbfounded and speechless? There were many times I felt that way while reading this book – reading stories (ones I’ve read so many times before) of such pure hatred for no other reason than the color of one’s skin. What in the living heck humanity? I simply cannot comprehend that person’s heart or soul.

His honesty throughout the pages is profound. He doesn’t hold back his feelings. He is vulnerable and that is what makes the book the classic that it is. Here’s one of his thoughts:

“The laughter had to be gross or it would turn to sobs, and to sob would be to realize, and to realize would be to despair. So the noise poured forth like a jazzed-up figure, louder and louder to cover the whisper in every man’s soul. “You are black. You are condemned.”

This was made into a movie in the 1964, but I think it’s time for a remake. We still need to hear and see these stories.

Some of the people he encountered were amazing too. Like the old man preacher he met first in Mobile. He understood loving the enemy. “When we stop loving them, that’s when they win.”

I cannot say enough how vital and important this book still is. I’ve read this before, yet reading it a decade later is still so impactful. If you only read one nonfiction book this year, may this one be it.

“Where racism is practiced, it damages the whole community, not just the victim group.”

Is there a book that has recently rocked your world? I’d love to hear about it!

Where to Buy: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

Ponderings

9 Lessons From Abraham Lincoln (Because He’s a Fav)

I have no shame in my love of history, especially all things about the Civil War. I’m a huge fan of Lincoln (and memorized the Gettysburg Address because I love it so much and it’s what all the cool kids are doing these days). So to honor his memory, here’s a few lessons I’ve taken away from good ol’ Abe. Plus tomorrow is his 206th birthday.

1. Surround yourself with people who challenge you.
Lincoln choose men for his cabinet who opposed many of his politics and ideas. Why? He knew he would be challenged. Surround yourself with people who will challenge you in your personal life, your relationships and your work/school.

2. Sometimes short and sweet has more impact.
The Gettysburg Address, one of the greatest speeches in American history, was just over two minutes long.

3. Try things you wouldn’t normally try.
Lincoln studied math because he wanted to sharpen his reasoning skills. Exercise your mind and never stop learning.

4. Honesty always win.
Always.

5. Laugh.
Lincoln was all about a good joke. Don’t take things so seriously you forget what life is really about.

“Live a good life. In the end it is not the years in a life, but the life in the years.”

6. Live fearlessly.
Not recklessly mind you, but without fear. Fear can be a powerful thing if we let it guide us. Don’t let it stop you from trying something new. It’s not always easy, but worth it.

7. Don’t be afraid to fail.
It isn’t pleasant when we do, but some of the greatest lessons learned are from times something has failed. Learn from mistakes and failures. Pick yourself up, dust off your pants and take that step forward. Lincoln once said: “I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise.”

8. To be truly great, be about something bigger than yourself.
There are lots of people who have tremendous leadership skills, but that doesn’t make them great. Led by his faith and focus on others (like, say, an entire nation), Lincoln led with greatness.

9. And finally: Do what’s right, even when it’s costly.
Lincoln was assassinated because of what he did. I don’t know how many of us will have the opportunity to free people and save a nation, but we can make an impact in our circle of influence, no matter the size. It can be in small everyday decisions or life-changing decisions. Inspiring stories never feature people who cheat, lie or turn their back on others. Doing what’s right is always worth it.

High five President Lincoln. High five.

Who is one of your favorite President and what lessons did their life teach you?