Monday, March 15, 2010

Chronological Guide to the Bible--Book Review

I received a complimentary copy of the Chronological Guide to the Bible from Thomas Nelson Publishing for review. I find enjoyment in almost anything associated with history and time lines. While I enjoyed diving into this book and swallowing a lot of information quickly, this is actually a study resource to keep on hand for reference. This would be a perfect resource to keep handy for studying a particular time period in the Bible. The Guide is divided into nine epochs, or time periods of history. Each section contains biblical events listed chronologically and the historical evidence of such events. Names of people and places mentioned in the Bible are explained from an archaeological point of view so as to explain that these places are recorded in other sources of historical information as well as the Bible. Traditions and terms that are alluded to in the Bible are also explained making Bible reading more understandable.

In each Epoch, a brief description of the time period is given, including events that are described in the Bible during that period, archaeological evidence found for that time, the people or groups living during that time, and any Biblical book or parts of books that cover that particular time period. After this introduction, there comes a brief historical overview of the time period followed by a chronological reading guide to show what portions of the Bible are covered here and should be read simultaneously. Since many books of the Bible or portions of books contain events that happened in the same time, there are sometimes more than one Bible book or a portion of one or more being covered in each epoch. In this instance, the Guide takes one book of the Bible at a time and briefly covers an introduction to that book, an outline, and a time capsule, which explains historical events recorded by date during that time. Following this is an explanation of subjects discussed in that book or portion of that book. This is much more detailed information.

For example, in Epoch Four, in the book of Judges, we are given the background of the place referred to as Arad in Judges. Archaeological discoveries made concerning this place are given. After this comes a section explaining the practice of worshiping many gods during that time which helps to understand what the Israelites had started getting involved in. There are more glimpses into the events of Judges after that, from explanations of how long the era of the Judges lasted to a description of exactly who Baal was thought to be to a section telling details of what being a Nazirite actually meant and more. Once that particular book or portion of a book is covered, the next book set at that time period is covered in the same way until each book of the Bible that contains information about the time period has been explained. Then the next epoch or time period begins.

This guide assists in understanding the context of what is talked about in Scriptures. Like, in Epoch Five, it describes exactly what a cistern is and how it was used when discussing the book of Jeremiah. This helps to understand the comparison Jeremiah makes between God's people settling for a broken cistern instead of a living fountain. Understanding the context of Scripture can help in comprehension and the Chronological Guide to the Bible offers the exactly that.

Friday, March 12, 2010

the great pit of carkoon

I listened to him more intently today. For weeks he has told me of the characters on the new game he's been playing, but my heart has been clogged. A heart is to be a guarded place, but when it is infiltrated the whole person is affected. The mind is swallowed with thoughts that consume seconds, minutes, hours, even days. Conversations happen all around, but little is heard because the mind is busy. The heart is to be protected at all costs, it is the cherished place.

My time has been so wasted lately in my thought life. If an enemy were to attack me, that would be the prime target for destroying me as thinking is my favorite past time. I welcome quiet places where my mind is free to ruminate, to chew the cud of everyday happenings.

I have known for months of the dangers of allowing my mind to wander and have even fought the onslaught of invading thoughts, but I became tired in the fight...and weak. Gradually, I fought less vigorously until finally I set aside my sword and just ducked for cover. To my own dismay, I eventually found myself so bombarded that all that was left, it seemed, was to hand myself over, a captive to an enemy, thrown into a pit, thinking this is where I deserve to be, where I belong.

Somewhere in the midst of the fight, before I had grown too weak, I searched for an ear. I found it almost accidentally and spilled bits of information about my struggle to that one, only bits. That has probably kept me. For at times when the onslaught has grown wearisome, I have found slight refuge in hinting again at my struggle to this one. A sort of release of the contained pressure on my mind. So when the time came when I was certain that I had been dominated and had reached the unbearable, there had been a seed planted in another. A seed of "I need someone to listen", "I have to speak things out loud to someone", "Help me sort this confusion". There is great comfort in speaking the shameful out loud to one who does not react with disbelief, dismay, accusation, or even grasping to provide an answer when really they don't have one.

To sit in the bottom of the pit and have someone crawl in next to you, plop down beside you in the midst of the mire and listen, hold you when you cry, let you speak everything out loud, everything that you would normally dread anyone knowing sit in that spot with them and then see them smile at you, hear them make fun of the predicaments we humans can get into and then laugh while causing you to laugh too, to spend hours allowing you to open your heart and let all the messy contents spill out in their presence...that is an ear provided by One who loves me so well.

I am so thankful for the ear that listened. Shared misery can create a tight bond. A burden bearer gives hope.

As little guy talked for nearly half an hour today about his new game, my mind heard him. No longer bombarded, pressure relieved, light shed on the darkness, the overwhelming now sitting quietly in a corner of my mind. As he mentioned the Great Pit of Carkoon, I considered the great pit I feel myself climbing out of and I was thankful he would never know about it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Beaded Hope--Book Review

Recently, I received a copy of Beaded Hope by Cathy Liggett to review courtesy of Tyndale Publishing. I do not spend a great quantity of time reading fictional stories, but this one peaked my interest due to its setting. The setting involves a missions trip to South Africa by a small group of women, all struggling with uncertainties in their lives. The draw for me was a missions trip and the affects it had on the lives of the women involved. Although it has been years since I've been on a mission's trip, my husband went for years and now our son has been led to go so the subject matter caught my eye.

The setting for this story is South Africa where a small group of women travel together to work with women in that region. I didn't actually understand the premise for the American women going there at first. Usually when a group goes on a missions trip there is a plan to minister in the area through evangelism with Vacation Bible Schools, puppet shows, or special services. In this story it seems like these women are just dropped off with no focus about what to do until it is explained that they will help the women of that area earn a living by buying their bead work and selling it back in the states. The lack of focus about what they were doing there confused me a little. However, they do end up getting involved in the lives of the women there and helping them by purchasing their crafts. Of course, in the process their own problems, which are addressed in the first few chapters, must be dealt with and the encounters they have with individuals in South Africa lead them to understand how to handle their situations.

Although this is a fictional story, it is based on an actual group called Beaded Hope that does purchase the bead work of women in South Africa to assist them in earning money to support their families in areas greatly affected by AIDS. Many women have no other way to provide for their families so this ministry allows them to earn money by their craft.

The idea that spoke loudest to me in the book was the effect the women in South Africa had on the American women. Oftentimes when setting out on a missions trip, the travelers expect to be the ministers, but so often come back home realizing they have been the ones most affected. Sometimes those in poor countries show us how to be content with little. Sometimes those in countries plagued by circumstances they cannot control, like diseases or duress, show us that trials can draw us closer to Christ, whereas if things always go our way, we tend to forget our need for Him. This book shows that in a few of the characters in South Africa.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

who knew?!

Watching from the screen door as they walk to Granny's, my mind travels back, remembering the reaction of big girl to the news that a little girl was on her way, enlarging our family yet again. Big girl was not happy. She's not mean spirited at all, but she was content with the family as it was. The idea of yet another child was quite a chunk for her to swallow. She handled it a little better after learning it was a boy, as long as it wasn't a girl. Em had been the only girl in our family and the extended family for years. She was pretty happy with that arrangement.

But sonograms are only as reliable as the one looking at them and sometimes a person may think they see what is really not there after all. Such was the case a couple of years ago, for in a follow up sonogram, Dad and I explained to the new sonogram reader that we already knew this little guy was a boy, but we really wanted to know if he appeared healthy. She stayed quiet and we wondered what was up. Then finally she had two things she needed to tell us. "First," she said, "everything looks good, very healthy, but" she added, "I need to tell you, this is no little boy!" We both had smiles ear to ear, as girls have been rare in our family, but immediately our thoughts went to that big girl of ours at home. What would she think? She was the one we most desperately wanted to share the news with. Certainly when she thought about it and realized she would have a little sister, she would really be happy.

Not so.

She is really not mean spirited, but she did not want a little female invader. Throughout the pregnancy, then the birth and homecoming, I waited thinking eventually she's going to love her. Love comes slowly sometimes, I've learned. I never woke up and instantly recognized her love for the little sister she had never invited in her life. But over months and months, she would make her a juice cup and smile back if smiled at. Or while holding her, she would make funny faces and laugh with her...if she thought no one was looking. Then she finally didn't care if anyone saw her as she would take little sis on her knee and play "Trot to Town". Now she traipses over to Granny's with little girl on her back, bouncing along the way.

I watch from the screen door and think it took much longer than I thought it would, but it's also much sweeter than I had hoped for. It's a genuine love grown from the heart of a girl's selfish wants being transformed into the realization that her desires do not get priority in this life.

I watch them walk away together and amazement fills me because I think they are both fabulous. I will never be afraid to say wonderful words describing them, as I know they are not mine and I have little to do with the characters they are. They belong to Someone greater than their dad and me, He is the One who made them so much alike...and different. He is the One who gave the one brown eyes when she wanted blue, but then gave the little one the blue ones! He is the One who made them both sneaky and stubborn, yet strong and determined. He is the One who gave the one who always wanted a big sister a little sister instead, so maybe she can be the big sis she always wanted. Who knew He had all that planned...and more?

Monday, March 1, 2010

go strong, follow Him

He wakes up each morning and types a few words of encouragement on a laptop and then heads to work. "Work" is a strange word for it considering we had planned on him filling out applications here and there, then simply settling for what he could find to give him a small, first time income, but this place he goes to was not in our plans. Someone else came up with this. He goes eagerly each day, learning the ropes in the field of ministry, living outside himself, something I'm not sure I've ever been really good at.

As he has reached this age of "sort of" adulthood, I admit there have been times when I've gotten a little defensive with him. My flesh has surfaced more than once when he's resisted something I've spoken about and instead vocalized his own thoughts on the subject. There has been a natural tendency to want to remind him who carried him in the womb, who cared for him and taught him all these years, but then in the quiet the ever Faithful reminds me of what my goal has been for them all. "That they will follow Him".

As I stay home more than usual lately, and watch him going to work, to services, to places far away to minister by building churches, I'm reminded that though I go through trials of my faith, he is no longer following me, but the Great One, Christ Himself, who does not fail. What more could I want? Certainly, not for that child of mine to follow me.

There is a fleshly desire, I believe, that makes me want them all to stand by what their mother says and always remain faithfully devoted to me and reverence me as that special person, the likes of which they will never find again in their lives. But when I see that desire for what it really is, nothing more than my selfishness seeking honor and obeisance for no purpose more than to simply build me up, that's when I'm able to laugh at me and such silliness. Then I can say quietly, in my heart, out of the hearing of them all, "go strong, God's man, follow Him, He will not fail you, though I will, He will keep you and I can't, go strong and I won't try to hold on to you, I will only cry happy tears as you walk away with Him."

I want them all to let go of me and grab hold of the True One. I do not want their allegiance. I cannot do for them what He can. Even as I struggle, I can have no greater joy than to know that these children walk in the truth.