Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Humble Wayside Flower

To think that such a humble flower should be the chosen signature of such a gallant gentleman. Granted, this picture is a close-up, and its real size is about 1/4 inch in diameter.
File:Scarlet pimpernel 800.jpgThis picture to the right is probably a better size representation.

But (forgive me!) you didn't come for a botany lesson, did you?
I promised you a review of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and as my sense of honor is as unimpeachable as is the hero's, I shall stick to my word.

Synopsis
Maguerite Blakeney escaped the uproar in France just in time, by marrying Sir Percy Blakeney. A staunch friend of the people, along with her brother Armand, she even denounced the Marquis de St. Cyr and his family after her brother was publicly disgraced for making love to the Marquis' daughter. Unfortunately, this little incident sent his whole family to the guillotine, earning her the undying contempt of her foppish husband. Living in a dream, scarce twenty-three, she sets the fashions and graces the balls of London society, all the time fighting against an empty private life. During this time, the Scarlet Pimpernel and his deeds have surfaced in the English Channel, enthralling London with unequalled tales of bravery and humanity. Hats, dresses, even culinary dishes, are served à la Scarlet Pimpernel, and Marguerite and her husband have taken more than one French refugee under their wing. Enter: Chauvelin. When Marguerite's idolized brother throws in his lot with this mysterious hero's nineteen followers, the French ambassador puts the knife to her throat: she can help him discover the Scarlet Pimpernel and save her brother's life, or poor Armand will be sent to the guillotine by her hand.
Thus begins a beautiful woman's betrayal of the bravest hero of London society to save the brother she loves. From midnight balls to lonely coasts of France, The Scarlet Pimpernel will hold you enthralled until its climax. I promise.

A Few Thoughts
I already gave some thoughts in my series overview which I won't repeat. However, I have a couple to add. I would give Orczy points for her direct mentions of God, His providence, His blessings, and Christian principles. I don't know what her personal beliefs were, but she obviously had an understanding and respect for the Christian religion.
If you have problems with romantic gallantry, Sir Andew Ffoulkes obvious infatuation with Suzanne de Tournay, and Marguerite's longing for a renewal of her husband's love, then you'll want to avoid the series. I think the themes are appropriately and tastefully written, but I realize that different families have different standards.
I would critique Orczy on one point only: several times as Marguerite is vacillating on whether or not to betray the Scarlet Pimpernel, Orczy classifies the actions she takes as "Fate":

"She would not allow herself any more time to think. Her early, somewhat Bohemian training had made her something of a fatalist. She felt that events would shape themselves, that the directing of them was not in her hands." 

"Fate had decided, had made her speak, had made her do a vile and abominable thing, for the sake of the brother she loved."

May I remark that such actions are never "Fate" but the deliberate choice of our sin nature. It isn't 'fate' that chooses the unkind words I speak, or 'fate' that 'makes' me tell a lie or 'fate' that 'decides' whether or not I'll covet that original edition of something-or-other. It's me. It's my choice. It's my sin.

However, I would hasten to add that in spite of this poor choice of words, if a wrong is done Orczy does not excuse it, but defines it as wrong. You might be somewhat confused if you've never read the book before, but you're supposed to be, so that you will experience Marguerite's confusion. She keeps thinking "Am I right?" "Am I wrong?" "I must be right." "I know I'm wrong." Orczy doesn't make the decision for her by stopping us in the plot and pointing out all her errors. She only unveils it when Marguerite herself comes to the decision. And I have to say, I don't mind reading the book for myself, rather than having the author tell me how I'm supposed to read it.

And finally, a continuing look at the background of the French Revolution:

The Actors of the Play

Marat:
Jean-Paul Marat was a respectable doctor and scientist, who often treated aristocracy, including Louis XVI's younger brother. He presented several scientific theories to the Académie des sciences, but they were rejected, and he was not allowed to become a member. One of his studies was the effect of light on soap bubbles. In 1788, after the calling together of the Estates-Generals for the first time in 175 years, Marat gave up his scientific and medical career and devoted himself completely to politics. He edited his own paper, viciously attacking the aristocrats, and spent his time alternately attacking and fleeing to London. He even went into hiding in the Paris sewers, aggravating his skin disease, dermatitis herpetiformis. In April of 1792 he married Simonne Evrard in a common-law ceremony. He was elected to the National Convention, and one of his great achievements was the fall of the Girondins in 1793. After this he retired due to health problems and met his end at the hands of Charlotte Corday on July 13, 1793.

Danton:
Georges Jacques Danton, president of the Committee of Public Safety, became minister of justice the morning after the march on the Tuileries. It is unknown whether or not he provoked the riot. He voted for the death of Louis XVI in January of 1793, and said "The kings of Europe would dare challenge us? We throw them the head of a king!" Danton helped create the Revolutionary Tribunal, instrumental in the Reign of Terror a little later on. He failed to settle the differences between the Girondists and Jacobins, and thus determined that the Girondists must be done away with. As he attempted to lessen the violence of the Revolution and shift it towards the setting up of a stable government, Robespierre and Couthon began to look for ways to put an end to him. After an accusation that he had accepted bribes and attempted to take for himself the money held by the French East India Company, he was arrested and executed, along with many of his colleagues, on April 5th, 1794. His only regret, he said, was that he had to be executed before Robespierre.

The other leaders I mentioned will have to wait until another review, I'm afraid. Next time I'm going to combine Sir Percy Leads the Band and I Will Repay into one review. Until then...

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

Friday, January 27, 2012

Liberté, égalité, fraternité! (Part One)

You knew it had to come.
Last Saturday, I was reading a book. (Surprise? No?) Just after Louis Capet's head fell at the guillotine, I looked at the date. And looked again. I was reading on January 21st, 2011, about what had happened on January 21st, 1793. And I thought "Oh, if I had only known on Friday." Obviously, Tuesday's post went a different direction, but today being book review day, I would like to spend the next three posts on part of a series that takes the prize for amazing historical fiction.

I was reading Sir Percy Leads the Band, by Baroness Orczy; the second in the series about the enigmatic Scarlet Pimpernel. You might be interested to know, as a side note, that Baroness Orczy's real name was Baroness Emma Magdalena Rosalia Maria Josefa Barbara Orczy, but she commonly went by Emmunska Orczy. And, no, it isn't pronounced how it's spelled. The proper pronunciation is "em-moosh-ka  or-tsy". I didn't know either. :) But I digress.

The Scarlet Pimpernel Series:
These stories which you may have heard me mention in a previous post,  will inculcate a passion for the oppressed (and one long-legged mysterious hero) that you will never be able to shake. Beware, for once you read one, you will never rest until you have read them all. The series spans probably about 1789 to 1795; basically the Reign of Terror.

Synopsis:
The fashionable world of London is agog with the tales of cruelty that cross the channel daily from France. Taverns and ballrooms alike lament the new French government, but what better can you expect? One man, however, does more than discuss the problem: he combats it. The dandies of London seem to know who he is, but the rest of fashionable society simply calls him "The Scarlet Pimpernel" due to the small red flower he signs each of his anonymous notes with. After you've discovered his identity in the first book, the rest of the series continues with his countless exploits to rescue captured aristos and common innocents from the clutches of the Committee of Public Safety.
Below is a list of the complete series, in which I have italicized the titles I have read:

The Scarlet Pimpernel
Sir Percy Leads the Band
I Will Repay
The Elusive Pimpernel
Lord Tony's Wife
Mam'zelle Guillotine
Eldorado
Sir Percy Hits Back
The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel

If you like the above, you might enjoy the companion volumes of short stories:

The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel
The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel
(I've read one of these, but I can't remember which)

Two volumes about the Scarlet Pimpernel's ancestor:

The Laughing Cavalier
The First Sir Percy

And one volume about the Scarlet Pimpernel's descendant:

Pimpernel and Rosemary


In the next three posts I'll review the first three books individually. I'll wait on the others until I refresh my memory; I haven't read them in a while. But this post is simply a series overview, and a short look at the history of the French Revolution. Suffice it to say that the elusive hero and his fellow dandies could use a bit of refinement in their choice of words. That is certainly something to consider, read The Beau Ideal to find how I deal with that. The recurring qualities you'll find in the series are sacrifice, love, forgiveness, and dominion. Which means (oh joy!) he has to fight against selfishness, hate, betrayal, and tyranny. Classic good does battle with classic evil in every single story as time runs short for the Scarlet Pimpernel to rescue the victims of Madame Guillotine. With himself and his nineteen (mostly) faithful followers, he dares to live out the commitment that no one is left behind, and the conviction that the life of a poor woman is just as valuable as that of a marchioness.

Which brings me to the French Revolution itself.

The French Revolution

You'll really get to know your history in these books; Orczy includes it as a matter of course. But it might help to brush up on a few basic facts for ultimate enjoyment.
The French Revolution extended from 1789 to 1799, beginning when the populace crowned reason as divine and 'removed' God from His place in the heavens. The people, or rather the Estates-General, proclaimed France a republic in September of 1792, and executed their sovereign Louis XVI the following January. With the rise of Robespierre and the Jacobins, the Committee of Public Safety condemned thousands of innocents because of their social standing, and the tumbrels carried some 16,000 prisoners to the guillotine.
What confuses some is that while Robespierre fell in 1794, Napoleon didn't take up rule as emperor until 1804. Did the blood-bath continue during that time? No, it didn't; while the Committee of Public Safety was abolished and Robespierre and his compatriots summarily executed, the Constitutional Republic took over from 1795-1799. This government was made up of a parliament and five directors, who, fearing the distrust of the people and divided by distrust among the houses, used military force to keep the peace until the rise of Napoleon crumbled their shaky republic.
The French Revolution certainly leaves a blot on history that illustrates the futility of a 'religion-less' society. The countless murdered innocents, the stories of the cruelly hardened dictators, and the reign of terror that held neither government nor justice, is definitely necessary to study. But for the grace of God, that would have been America. And but for the grace of God, that could be any nation trying to carve for itself a new place in the political world.

And since it's so important to learn about, it's good to have an enjoyable source. (i.e. the Scarlet Pimpernel series) :)

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

Next time, I'll take an individual look at The Scarlet Pimpernel, and the leaders of the French Revolution: the Robespierre brothers, Marat, Danton, Les Bas, St. Just...the tyrants that sent armies of fellow citizens to Madame Guillotine.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Greater Thirst

There are days when I am indifferent to the fact that Chauvelin is pulling the whistle out of his pocket to signal the  capture of the Scarlet Pimpernel. There are afternoons when I can't bring myself to fight with Freckles for the Limberlost.  There are nights when I don't need to know the exact reason why we are all one race.

All those things are important...

But some days...

I have a greater thirst.

It is on those days that "Lady Bibliophile" turns into "Manuscript in Progress". When I am content to let the Author  of my existence write the page himself. When I stop trying to seize the pen to write my own story, and gladly yield it up to Him. When I cannot read a book, because, in a figurative way, I am becoming one.
I find it so refreshing as a bibliophile that the Lord uses 'bibliophile' terms in His Word. For some of the most important concepts of Scripture and Eternity, He calls himself the Author. The Author of life (Acts 3:15), the Author of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10) and the Author of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
And all of us readers know that if someone is an author, then they are writing a book that we will get to read. :)

Today, there is only one book that I want to read. And it's the only one that I can't.

"Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. and I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged  according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away...I saw the Holy City...And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 20:11-21:4)


This is the book that I want to read, because if I were able to read it, then I would be about to experience Eternity.

While I can't do that, I can guess at least one name that will be read, by the grace of God. It will be mine, not because of anything I have done, but because of His righteousness. If I were standing on my own at that great day, and the book of life was opened, then I would be judged-not for the things I did right, but for the things I did wrong. And I would be punished accordingly. But because the sweet Lord Jesus brought me to my knees, and led me to the cross, I will be standing on that Judgment Day under His wings, covered by His blood. I can anticipate it: My heart will be pounding, and I'll be shaking from anticipation, and I'll come to the full realization of how unworthy I am. And then I'll watch as the book is opened, and the names are read forth, and I think I'll be crying in anticipation. And then, my Lord will read my name-and I will wonder at the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, who could save such a wretched sinner as I am. And I will fall to my knees before my Advocate, and cry my last tears as He wipes them away.

That will probably be the last book  I ever read-or hear read. That will be enough.

And that, today, is my greater thirst.

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile


Friday, January 20, 2012

"Nobody Listens to Me"

There might be a reason.

But joking aside, there are times when nobody listens to what you're trying to say, and in some cases, you really do need to know why. Such was Ken Ham's predicament when he set out to research the deficiencies of modern evangelism.

Answers In Genesis (AIG) is the front lines creation defending ministry of the century. And Ken Ham, the president, is unapologetic when it comes to defending the faith, a trait that has earned him the animosity of atheists and Christians alike. He is passionate about giving answers, and debunks the unhelpful "Just trust in Jesus anyway."

Not, he says, that trusting in Jesus is a problem. But you can't fully trust in Jesus without knowing the reason for it.


Product Details

In today's review, Why Won't They Listen? by Ken Ham, we'll be looking at the deficiencies of modern evangelism, and a biblical solution to them.

Much of the Church throughout the world is missing out on using what I know to be one of the most successful means of reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This technique is useful, even in cultures that have become increasingly devoid of the knowledge of God and His Word--or cultures that have no Christian basis whatsoever.
It's called "creation evangelism."
This is a highly successful method of evangelism that could change entire nations, if only the Church understood it and used it in today's skeptical world.
There's no doubt that our once-Christianized Western nations are not only becoming more secularized, but that an anti-Christian element is growing with increasing fervor. Other nations that have never had a major Christian influence seem so closed to the gospel. How can we reach all these people with the saving message of Jesus Christ?
There is an answer--a powerful answer!

Thus Ham sets up the rest of his book in chapter one.

Synopsis
The issue of creation vs. evolution is extremely divisive in the church today. Many have chosen to compromise on the creation portion of the Bible. The evolutionists can have our beginnings; we'll just keep preaching Jesus. But a dwindling portion of church attendees and born-again Christians point to something wrong in this tactic. And if you follow this problem to its conclusion, it all points back to Genesis.
Ken Ham and AIG make it clear that they believe you can be saved whether you believe in Genesis or not. But you won't fully know why you need salvation, and nor will those you try to witness to. Ham uses two powerful sermons-Peter's sermon in Acts 2 and Paul's in Acts 17 to illustrate this important principle. Peter was preaching to the Jews at Pentecost, and many others who had come to worship at Jerusalem. Thousands were saved. Paul preached to Epicureans and Stoics at Athens, and 'a few' followed him. Obviously, Peter was more successful, so we should base our evangelism on his tactics.

Or was he?

Think about it. Peter preached to Jews: people who knew what the Judeo-Christian law was. They knew that God created the world, they knew what sin was, they knew the Ten Commandments. Paul, on the other hand, preached to Athenians, who had numerous gods, differing creation legends, and no one moral code. It isn't surprising that since Peter's group only needed an explanation of Jesus that thousands were saved, while since Paul's group needed a whole foundation switch, only 'a few' were saved. Do you think Peter would have had the same success preaching his sermon to Paul's crowd?

So what does this all mean, anyway? In our culture today, many don't know who Jesus is. Nor do they know where they come from, why they're here, or where they're going. And while most have some sort of moral code, they don't know why sin is sin. So this being the case, which evangelism method should we be using-Peter's, or Paul's? You'll have to read Why Won't They Listen? to find out.

Evangelism is the call of every Christian. The eternity of souls depend upon our methods. We want to make doubly sure that we have the right one.

Answering the Questions

"I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak to you of heavenly things?" (John 3:12) If we don't explain to non-believers that our faith is reasonable in such matters as creation and Noah's flood, then how can we expect them to believe us when we tell them about the Virgin birth and Jesus the God/Man?

Here are a few thoughts that your prospective convert needs to understand, especially if they have no understanding of Christian beliefs.
Why do we need Jesus?
To save us from our sin, yes, but if you talk to the average evolutionist, they don't even have a basis of morality. Sin is relative. Stealing might be wrong for you, but that doesn't mean it's wrong for me. So why do we need Jesus? We can only truly understand it in the context of Genesis chapter one. When God created the world, He made a perfect creation. There was no death, no pain, no sorrow or suffering. He also created law: Adam and Eve must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and He created consequences: if they ate from the tree, they would surely die. Because Adam and Eve chose to defy His command, they did die. Perfection died the day they ate it, and later their physical bodies died. Death is a curse, and because all men come from Adam, sin descended upon all men. We are eternally separated from God. But then the last Adam, Jesus Christ, came to earth as a perfect sacrifice to atone for what the first Adam did. "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22). Jesus "the perfect Adam" was the only one who could redeem the first Adam's sin. After the person you're talking to understands this, then they will fully understand as you continue the salvation message. They must understand Law before they can understand their need for Grace.

I'm certainly not saying, and nor is AIG, that modern evangelism efforts are worthless; certainly not. But when we are doing God's work, we must do it God's way. The Church's evangelism is certainly bringing much fruit. But sometimes we need to step back and ask, can we be bringing even more and better-lasting fruit? It never hurts to evaluate the times we live in, and to study God's word so that we may best reach those who are lost.


Have a question about creation/evolution? From dinosaurs to C-14 dating, from the laws of logic to "why would a loving God allow suffering?", AIG covers it all. Send me an email using the address on the sidebar, leave a comment, or visit www.answersingenesis.org. Our faith has a foundation, and we can rest on it.

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2011 Annual Book List

I was amazed to realize in looking over my book list for this last year that I had read exactly 52. One for each week, it evens out to, though I didn't actually follow that timetable. I am so grateful to think of all the encouragement, wisdom, and growth I received mentally this year, and I thought that you might be inspired if I posted this list.  I'm going to be reviewing many of these books in the future, and would not give all of them an unconditional recommendation,  but the ones I wouldn't read again I put a special note by. Also, the ones I just loved I had to make a note of, too. To think after reading all those books, I'm still behind on my list. :)

1.       The Betrayal, by Douglas Bond

2.       Lysbeth, by H. Ryder Haggard

3.       Kingdom’s Dawn (1), by Chuck Black (any CB is a must-read)

4.       A Father’s Promise, by Donna Lynn Hess

5.       (Title not yet published)

6.       Kingdom’s Hope (2), by Chuck Black

7.       Kingdom’s Edge (3), by Chuck Black

8.       The Pilgrim of Hate, by Ellis Peters

9.       The Valley of Fear, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

10.   Ellie: A Pioneer Girl’s Journey West, by Dean Cummings

11.   Joyfully At Home, by Jasmine Baucham

12.   Best Friends for Life, by Michael and Judy Phillips

13.   Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens

14.   Kingdom’s Call (4), by Chuck Black

15.   Kingdom’s Quest (5), by Chuck Black

16.   Music in the Balance, by Frank Garlock and Kurt Woetzel

17.   Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione (1), by Chuck Black

18.   Sir Bentley and Holbrook Court (2), by Chuck Black

19.   How to be a Lady, by Harvey Newcomb

20.   The Shepherd of the Hills, by Harold Bell Wright

21.   Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart (3), by Chuck Black

22.   Kidnapped , by Robert Louis Stevenson

23.   Lady Carliss and the Waters of Moorue (4), by Chuck Black

24.   Prester John, by John Buchan

25.   Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor (5), by Chuck Black

26.   Sir Rowan and the Camerian Conquest (6), by Chuck Black

27.   Wild Grows the Heather in Devon, by Michael Phillips

28.   Reformation Heroes, by Diana Kleyn and Joel R. Beeke

29.   Kingdom’s Reign (6), by Chuck Black

30.   The Keeper of the Bees, by Gene Stratton-Porter

31.   Bacon Sandwiches and Salvation, by Adrian Plass (recommended with caution)

32.   A Season of Shadows, by Paul McCusker

33.   Magnificent Obsession, by Lloyd C. Douglas (confusing)

34.   The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas                                                                                                                             

35.   A Tangled Web, by L.M. Montgomery (hilarious. great story.)

36.   Imposter, by Davis Bunn

37.   Raiders from the Sea, by Lois Walfrid Johnson

38.   Treasure of Stonewycke, by Michael Phillips and Judith Pella

39.   God’s Smuggler, by Brither Andrew

40.   Freckles, by Gene Stratton-Porter

41.   Her Father’s Daughter, by Gene Stratton-Porter

42.   Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

43.   The Puzzle of Ancient Man, by Donald E. Chittick (excellent creation science on ancient man)

44.   Dream Big…But Beware of Dream Killers, by Todd Wilson

45.   To Have and to Hold, by Mary Johnston (Vision Forum edition)

46.   The Thirty Nine Steps, by John Buchan

47.   A Rift In Time, by Michael Phillips (interesting speculation on the location of Eden)

       48.   Hinds’ Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard (five stars-must read)

49.   The Harvester, by Gene Stratton-Porter (not recommended)

       50.   From Sea to Shining Sea, by Peter Marshall and David Manuel

 51.   The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope
       52. Lion of Babylon, by Davis Bunn

 If you wanted my number one recommendation, I would start with Kingdom's Dawn by Chuck Black, or if you like speculative creation science, A Rift in Time, by Michael Phillips. :) I hope to be able to review all of these in the future. I love beating my reading record!

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

Friday, January 13, 2012

Laddie: A True Blue Story, by Gene Stratton-Porter

"Have I got a Little Sister anywhere in this house?" inquired Laddie at the door, in his most coaxing voice.
"Yes sir," I answered, dropping the trousers I was making for Hezekiah, my pet bluejay, and running as fast as I could. There was no telling what minute May might take it into her head that she was a little sister and reach him first. Maybe he wanted me to do something, and I loved to wait on Laddie.
"Ask mother if you may go with me a while."
"Mother doesn't care where I am, if I come when the supper bell rings."
"All right!" said Laddie.
He led the way around the house, sat on the front step and took me between his knees.
"Oh, is it going to be a secret?" I cried.
Secrets with Laddie were the greatest joy in life. He was so big and so handsome. He was so much nicer than any one else in our family, or among our friends, that to share his secrets, run his errands, and love him blindly was the greatest happiness....
"The biggest secret yet," he said gravely.

Gene Stratton-Porter was born in Wabash County, Indiana, the twelfth child in her family. In many ways, this book is autobiographical, as the story is told through the eyes of the twelfth child, Little Sister, who loves her adult brother Laddie best of anyone in the family. Such was true of Gene's own older brother, Laddie, who died in a tragic accident when she was small. (Such tragedy was not carried into her literary representation of him.) :)
Laddie: A True Blue Story evokes both humor and deep thought, a trademark of this female author. Published in 1913, and the second novel of her lengthy writing career, Laddie contains a reaffirmation of some of the grandest themes of faith, family, and community.

Synopsis
The tale begins when Laddie asks Little Sister to take a note to a meeting place he has made in their woods. He tells her that it is for a fairy princess, and it is to let the princess know that he cannot keep his promised meeting with her. Little Sister goes, and finds that, no, it is not a fairy princess, but the daughter of their stuck-up English neighbors, the Pryors. And she gradually discovers and joins in Laddie's fight to win the heart of Pamela Pryor, "the Princess".
But Laddie isn't a romance. It is a 'fictional documentary', if you will, of Little Sister's own family; and each of the characters has his own plot that she is involved with. From helping Laddie break into the hearts of their neighbor family, to joining in the pranks of her sixteen-year-old brother, Leon; from watching sister Sally get engaged (and trying to tell the family herself) to praying a very special prayer for heartbroken Shelly, Little Sister's childish touch is felt everywhere.
She has her own problems as well, and just as she helps her family, they help her with her love for the outdoors and her dread of starting school under the instruction of an unimaginative schoolteacher. From the agony of hair curlers to the joy of sitting in her favorite catalpa tree, Little Sister covers everything with breathtaking detail.
Don't let the word 'quiet' put you off, though. There's plenty of real-life excitement, including the seeming mystery surrounding the Pryor family, the underground station that Leon and Little Sister find, and the time the Stantons take in a thief who runs off with Leon and all the church money.

A Short Critique:
Like all stories in the realm of literature, Laddie has a few faults, some of which are never remedied. There are a couple of occasions in which Little Sister takes matters into her own hands, and her parents never hear about it. Also, in Laddie's fight to break into the hearts of the Pryor family, Mahlon Pryor, the father, uses profanity several times in his meetings with Laddie and Little Sister. Little Sister is about ten or eleven, and still developing an understanding of God and how He works. Sometimes when He doesn't give her immediate results, she assumes that He didn't work; but on the flip side, when she recognizes His answers to prayer she is full of excitement at seeing His Hand.

I have never met so clearly expressed in a work of fiction the duties of the family towards each other, their church, and their community. Little Sister's father is exemplary in his leadership, forming the minds of his children to think broadly, and to be well equipped both academically and spiritually. Little Sister's mother never went to school, and he tutored his family in the evenings as an unobtrusive way to give her the education she never received. He also is unapologetic in his faith, and when Mr. Pryor has the audacity to visit their house and make derogatory comments towards Christianity, Father Stanton tells him that he is not welcome unless he refrains from such opinions under their roof. He is also very understanding with his children's questions and weaknesses, showing a loving discipline, and giving clear explanations to them , such as in the following excerpt:

I knew it was a good time, and I could ask anything I chose, so I sat on his knee and said: "Father, when you pray for anything that it's all perfectly right for you to have, does God come down from heaven and do it Himself, or does He send a man like Laddie to do it for him?"
Father hugged me tight, smiling the happiest.
"Why, you have the whole thing right there in a nutshell, Little Sister," he said. "You see it's like this: the Book tells us most distinctly that 'God is love." Now it was love that sent Laddie to bind himself for a long, tedious job, to give Leon his horse, wasn't it?"
"Of course!" I said. "He wouldn't have been likely to do it if he hated him. It was love, of course!"
"Then it was God," said father, "because 'God is love.' They are one and the same thing." 

Mr. Stanton even realizes that Little Sister is not made to fit in with the factory belt-style education that existed even then, and pulls her out of school to allow her to study her lessons out of doors, in the environment that she learns best in.

But he doesn't stop with his family. From the time he started breaking the ground when he and Mrs. Stanton moved to Indiana, he studied agriculture and stewardship to make his land not only productive, but also aesthetic. He knows that with a little careful planning and hard work, he can make his land a beautiful place that is a blessing to the community, and a good testimony to strangers passing through. And in his position as county commissioner, he encourages others to do so as well.

I'll cover the concept of Gene's love for nature in further reviews of such books as Freckles and A Girl of the Limberlost, but I'll just make a quick observation to close: in her books, she has a balanced and appreciative view of nature that worships the Creator above the creature, something we see rarely in conservationists today.

In spite of the fact that she never graduated high school, she shows a clear (though not perfect) look into timeless issues of family relationships, good stewardship, and sacrificial love for friends and neighbors.

Read Laddie: A True Blue Story for a refreshing (and sometimes suspenseful) look into the workings of the Stanton family. It's sure to become a family classic.

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile


*A favorable review is for the book mentioned only, not necessarily a complete endorsement of all works by the author mentioned.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Beau Ideal

It wasn't until I was about thirteen or so that I wondered what to do with the sin in my reading material. I'm not saying that I was reading anything horrific, but until then, the story had been enough for me. I was so engrossed in whether Sir Percy would rescue the old priest, that I never noticed when 'something else' slipped out of his mouth in the process. I wanted to know 'whodunit' so bad, that I never absorbed the fact that good old Wimsey was winking at all his friends' and relatives' affairs.

And then I began a quest to find out how to overcome evil. I learned a great life lesson in the process.
 
Painstakingly, I began weeding out all the 'something else’s' and sordid 'whodunits' from my reading material. By the time I was done with my evaluations, my stack was pretty small, and I really wasn't enjoying the call of the page any more.

 Reading is almost like oxygen for me. If I have a book in my purse, I can wait in perfect content when the car breaks down or I have a dentist's appointment. And the bigger the book, the better. I remember waiting in a doctor's office for one of my family members, reading Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit. The spine was probably a good two inches thick, and the book was nothing to sneeze at. I had to pause in my perusal to listen to an older gentleman exclaim over its size. Some of you can really relate. :) And if you can, you'll also relate, when I say that I can't breathe right if something is wrong amidst the shelves. (Figuratively, of course.)

It took me many months to figure out. Over a year in fact. But by the end of that time, I was slowly realizing that yes, I mustn’t excuse the evil, but my 'beau ideal' of a good book was totally unreal. Because, unconsciously, I was expecting all the books I read to be God-breathed and flawless.

I'm not saying that we should wink at sin. Some books I did whittle out of my stack for good. But God taught me that only He is perfect, so only He can write a flawless book. All other attempts by our sinful human natures will be only poor attempts to copy His perfection. And so when I choose to read a book by anyone other than God, I will encounter mistakes. I will encounter sin.

So how do I deal with this? I learned to take the imperfect to Perfection, and let Him teach me how to evaluate whether to keep or toss.

 Here are a few steps He has taught me to use after I’ve judged the book by its cover, and then begin on the text:


1. Prayer:

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).

God gives good gifts to all His children, and to those of them that are bibliophiles, He gives the gift of good books. He will direct and show you which ones He allows you to read. I find that my reading is individually tailored to my personal walk with Him. Sometimes He gives me a book to read that I may not recommend to others. Sometimes He says "They may, you may not," and I have to leave the book on the shelf. He always makes it abundantly clear when I ask Him for counsel.
 

2. Honor the wisdom of the authorities He has placed over you:

"Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck" (Proverbs 1:8-9).

Have you ever heard "What's that book?!" It's a warning signal. If you're not willing to share the storyline with your proper authorities, then you probably shouldn't be reading it. They ask because they love you, and it is their God-given duty to protect you. When I was young, my parents would say no sometimes, and I have always tried to trust them. Now that they have laid a foundation of trust they allow me freedom to examine and judge for myself, but I keep them informed so that they know I am trustworthy.
 

3. Cultivate a strong foundation:

"Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil" (Proverbs 2:12-14)

If you spend the time of your youth developing a close prayer life with the Lord, studying out the principles of His Word in daily Bible reading, and listening with an open heart to preachers of His Truth, then you will be in tune with His Spirit, and you will find a limitless store of wisdom that you can carry into your literary adventures.


4. Trust the Lord to shield you:

"For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones" (Proverbs 2:6-8).

God has never left me guessing, never thrown me upon my own resources. When I go to the library, or a bookstore, I often pray that He will shield me from temptation. He always has. He always will.


5. Face your fear:

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

Never be afraid to let the light of God's truth illuminate your bookshelves. He never takes away something that is beneficial, nor does He indulge in capricious revenge. He wants the very best for you. If you place yourself and your books in his hands, then what better place can there be?



A Few Practical Suggestions


But sometimes a book He tells me to keep, He also tells me to edit.

Here are a few things I do, when I find that the book I'm reading may not be 'the beau ideal' but contains redeemable content.

-Oftentimes such authors as Sir Walter Scott focus on highland or medieval cultures. These people could be very superstitious, bordering sometimes on witchcraft. When I read Ivanhoe or the Lady of the Lake, I don't feel comfortable reading about an animal sacrifice or someone's wicked incantations. To avoid this, I have to skip one chapter (or canto, as the case may be) and I don't have to deal with it at all in the rest of the story.

-In the WWII genre of fiction and biographies, the cruelties committed in German concentrations camps are sometimes suitcases I don't want to carry, such as in Eric Metaxas' Bonhoeffer. Maybe I'll skip a paragraph; maybe I'll skip an entire section. With a little editing, I can conform the book to my own needs and convictions.

-In cases where characters are particularly foul mouthed, I take correction tape and presto! it disappears as if they had never spoken it. (Obviously, I have to buy the book to make this happen.) Since I'm more interested in stories than collector's editions, I don't consider this to be defacing the book in any way, and it sure makes it a lot more enjoyable to read.

These are a few examples, but the principles stay the same, no matter the genre. What my dad told me time and time again when I was younger: "We don't do in pretend life what we wouldn't do in real life." Don't let your characters get away with things. :)

One more thought: If you've never done this type of editing before and would like to try, you might find a warning helpful before you begin. You will most likely encounter someone that thinks this unnecessary, and tries to laugh you down. But I would encourage you to remember that editing is not cheating or over-reacting. I do it to take captive every book to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. I play by His rules, and read by His standards. And if I am following the commands that he has laid forth in Scripture, then that is the only necessary thing. You read according to your conscience, not according to the fear of man.

What do you do to edit the books you read? I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions to help me further in my own reading adventures.

Blessings,

Lady Bibliophile


Next Time...

Ready for a little fun? Lord willing, I'll post my first book review this Friday, on one of my favorite authors. Hopefully the first of many more to come.


Don't forget! I love special requests. Do you have a favorite you'd like to see a review on? Send me an email, or leave me a comment, and I'll certainly try to include it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

You Can't Judge a Book...

You probably finished the quote yourself. "By its cover."


Really.
 

I know that this proverb has two interpretations. To some, it means 'you can't determine that something is good based on its pretty packaging' to others 'you can't determine that something is bad based on its cover; it might just be shock value'.

I want to share my literary evaluations with you so that you in turn can apply it for yourself. It wouldn't be good if you picked up a book at the library and then couldn't read it because you can't find a review online. :) Reviewing is not complicated, and the more you practice, the more automatic it will be.

And it all starts with making a judgment based on the cover of the book. This is the gateway to the mansion so to speak, and you have to determine whether the gateway's well-kept flowers are a sign of true worth, or its ugly weeds are a warning to keep away.


In thinking over this post, I developed three basic questions, which you can add or adapt to your family's needs and convictions. These questions are very simple, and very quick. They shouldn't take half an hour to answer, only five minutes or less. You ask these questions as soon as you take a book off the library shelf.


1. What does the worldview of the book look to be?

Not all the books I read are by Christian authors, and I make adjustments accordingly. But the books I read, especially if they are just for leisure, need to be written by a person who follows a basic moral code, whether or not he acknowledges the code is from God. Lying should be wrong. Murders should be punished. Adultery should not be excused (and maybe should be left out altogether). Coveting should not be glossed over. Christians should not be an object of ridicule. (More on this concept in a later post.) God should not be mocked. If the author constantly attacks you, then it’s not worth your time, unless you are doing an in-depth refutation of it.

Let’s try judging a book by its cover.



Take a look at this cover:

Product Details

And this cover:

Product Details

Both obviously have romance involved, but if you were to pick one, which one would you take your chances with?

2. Is the story line appropriate?

Unless you stick to the most conservative Lamplighter and Vision Forum books (excellent reads, by the way) you are going to encounter some form of sin. Your decision is, which form of sin do you want to encounter? Where do you draw the line?

Rom 16:19
'Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.'
NIV

We know what evil is. We encounter new forms of evil almost every day of our lives. But we need to be oh, so careful to guard our hearts and our minds, so that we are not crippled by information that is too shameful to know or too heavy for us to carry. One of the best examples I know of this concept is in The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom. One day she overheard someone use a word that she did not understand. Later, she and her father were riding together on a train, and she asked him the meaning of it. He thought for several minutes, and when they rose to leave the train, he pointed to his big suitcase full of watch parts and said, "Corrie, I want you to carry this suitcase for me." She was a young girl at the time, and in spite of all her efforts, she couldn't lift it off the floor. "It's too heavy, Papa." He said, "My child, the knowledge you asked me for is too heavy for you to carry right now. I will carry the 'suitcase' until you are old enough to handle it." I encourage you, as I have learned many times, to let our Heavenly Father and our earthly protectors carry the suitcase until we are strong enough to handle it. You who look up at lot of new books probably can relate to the small warning feeling I get sometimes with a book in my hands. I know when it's from the Holy Spirit, and I also know that whenever I have violated it, it has been cause for regret.

So let’s look at this point, using the books above.



Take a look at the synopses of the previous two books:

The Peasant Girl's Dream*:

Heather and Snow depicts the low highlands of the Grampian Mountains west of Aberdeen at its most vivid, set in the same region as Salted with Fire (The Minister’s Restoration in the Bethany House series) and tells a humble story of the enduring quality of love–between a man and his friend, between parents and children, between brother and sister, between man and woman, and between a simple-minded boy and his God. What you read here may not turn your world upside-down with startling revelations. This is a quiet story, to be savored as its influences and relationships and perspectives soak gently into your spirit.



Twilight*:

Bella Swan's move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Bella's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Bella, the person Edward holds most dear.
Deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful, Twilight captures the struggle between defying our instincts and satisfying our desires. This is a love story with bite.



If you were picking a reaffirming, Christian book to entertain you in your leisure time, which would you choose?

(Hint: #1)

Show Less 
3. Am I willing to put it down?

Consider the genre of the book you pick up. If it's a biography of Kaiser Wilhelm II, you're going to know beforehand that he isn't alive anymore. If you have to put the book down (not sure why, but you never know) then you know the outcome, and you probably won't care much. Likewise with The Hound of the Baskervilles. Even if you haven't read it, you probably know the ending. But how about one of those Christy Miller books where you're strung along and strung along between 'she might marry Todd' or 'she might not marry Todd'? Aren't you really going to want to reach the satisfactory ending, even if you do find a bit of questionable material? And with an Agatha Christie, are you going to be able to sleep tonight if you never know who the murderer is? Some of you might have that strength, but I know I don't. So I have to be really careful when I first pick up the book.

Prov 4:23-27

Above all else, guard your heart,

for it is the wellspring of life.

Put away perversity from your mouth;

keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

Let your eyes look straight ahead,

fix your gaze directly before you.

Make level paths for your feet

and take only ways that are firm.

Do not swerve to the right or the left;

keep your foot from evil.

NIV

To reword this verse, 'It is better for you to throw the book away than to be crippled in your innocence and testimony.'

If you're looking up a new book, and you think it's good but you're not sure, you can always read the last chapter first, then go back and start from the beginning. It's a legitimate option, and makes it easier to put the book down if you need to.


Reading is a delight, a special blessing, a great responsibility. Never compromise-you're worth more than that. Never violate the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the commands of the Lord Jesus-if He tells you to put the book down, then He will give you a more worthy replacement. And don't agonize over the decision. If it looks to be good, then pick it up and give it a try. You never know, you might find a few new friends.

Wishing you all success in your literary explorations...

Blessings,

Lady Bibliophile

Next Time...

-One more foundation article to write, and then I think I'll be ready for a book review next Friday!




*The books used in this post are meant to be obvious contrasts between a Christian and non-Christian story, simply judging the book based on its cover. I have personally read The Peasant Girl's Dream, highly recommend it as a deep and spiritually edifying story, and hope to do a review on it in future. I have never read Twilight, nor do I intend to, as it clearly defies Biblical standards. If you would like more information refuting the Twilight books, go here or here, to read articles by strong Christian young ladies who have studied out this series in-depth and found it to be lacking.
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