Book Review: Full Assurance

For several years I struggled with whether or not I was really a Christian. During that time we visited my mother-in-law’s home, and I discovered on her book shelves Full Assurance by H. A. Ironside. I borrowed it, and it helped me with one key point in particular.

Recently while looking for something else on my bookshelf, I came across this volume again (I guess that means I never gave it back – sorry, Mom!) I couldn’t remember much about it except for the one point that had helped me so much some 30 or so years before, so I decided to read through it again.

Ironside says in his introduction that he wrestled with assurance for a while himself, and he wanted to “make as plain as I possibly can just how any troubled soul may find settled peace with God” (p. 7). He said that “so many people who profess to want help along these lines are too indifferent to investigate,” but he wanted to appeal to “earnest seekers after truth” (p. 7). He assures that God cares about us and wants us to rest in His salvation.

In subsequent chapters he unpacks several verses that speak specifically of assurance, like Isaiah 32:17 (“And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever”) and Colossians 2:1-3 (especially verse 2: “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding“).

Then his longest chapter deals with “Difficulties Which Hinder Full Assurance” in the form of questions and answers, like “How can I be sure I have repented enough?” and “I do not feel fit to come to God” and “I don’t know if I can hold out.”

Ironside had been a preacher for almost 50 years at the time of this writing, and he deftly handles every issue from the Scriptures and shares several anecdotes to illustrate his points.

The point I mentioned having trouble with was whether I had repented “right” or “enough.” Forgive the long quote, but I wanted to share his whole answer here:

Very often the real difficulty arises from a misapprehension of the meaning of repentance. There is no salvation without repentance, but it is important to see exactly what is meant by this term. It should not be confused with penitence, which is sorrow for sin; nor with penance, which is an effort to make some satisfaction for sin; nor yet with reformation, which is turning from sin. Repentance is a change of attitude toward sin, toward self, and toward God. The original word (in the Greek Testament) literally means “a change of mind.” This is not a mere intellectual change of viewpoint, however. but a complete reversal of attitude.

Now test yourself in this way. You once lived in sin and loved it. Do you now desire deliverance from it? You were once self-confident and trusting in your own fancied goodness. Do you now judge yourself as a sinner before God? You once sought to hide from God and rebelled against His authority. Do you now look up to Him, desiring to know Him, and to yield yourself to Him? If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, you have repented. Your attitude is altogether different to what it once was.

You confess you are a sinner, unable to cleanse your own soul, and you are willing to be saved in God’s way. This is repentance. And remember, it is not the amount of repentance that counts: it is the fact that you turn from self to God that puts you in the place where His grace avails through Jesus Christ.

Strictly speaking, not one of us has ever repented enough. None of us has realized the enormity of our guilt as God sees it. But when we judge ourselves and trust the Saviour whom He has provided, we are saved through His merits. As recipients of His lovingkindness, repentance will be deepened and will continue day by day, as we learn more of His infinite worth and our own unworthiness (pp. 89-90).

One other point that I remember being struck with, though I can’t find now the specific place he discusses it, is from Hebrews 6:11-12: “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Showing “diligence to full assurance” helped me understand that when we’re having problems along this line, we need to “be not slothful” but diligently seek God’s Word for the answers rather letting doubts and questions fester in the background for years.

I have many places marked in the book. Here are a few of the helpful, standout quotes:

It is well to remember that some vivid emotional experience is not a safe ground of assurance. It is the blood of Christ that makes us safe and the Word of God that makes us sure” (p. 29).

Faith is not the savior. Faith is the hand that lays hold of Him who does save. Therefore the folly of talking of weak faith as opposed to strong faith. The feeblest faith in Christ is saving faith. The strongest faith in self, or something other than Christ, is but a delusion and a snare, and will leave the soul at last unsaved and forever forlorn (p. 39).

Assurance is not based upon any emotional change, but whatever emotional experience there may be, it will be the result of accepting the testimony of the Lord given in the Scriptures. Faith rests on the naked Word of God. That Word believed gives full assurance (p. 45).

So long as a man considers himself worthy there is no salvation for him; but when, in repentance, he owns his unworthiness, there is immediate deliverance for him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without repentance the sinner is unable to believe unto salvation (pp. 91-92).

Many times Ironside counsels readers to study the Bible:

As soon as one knows he is saved, he should begin, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, a careful regular, systematic study of the Word of God. The Bible is our Father’s letter to us, His redeemed children. We should value it as that which reveals His mind and indicates the way in which He would have us walk. ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:16-17). The study of the Word will instruct me in the truth, it will show me what needs to be rectified in my life and walk, it will make clear how I may get right with God, and it will guide me in paths of uprightness. No Christian can afford to neglect his Bible. If he does, he will be stunted and dwarfed in his spiritual life, and he will be a prey to doubts and fears, and may be carried away by every wind of doctrine (p. 48).

Nothing will make up for lack of this diligent study of the Bible for yourself. You cannot get the full assurance of understanding without it. But as you search the Scriptures, you will find truth after truth unfolding in a wonderful way, so that doubts and questions will be banished and divinely given certainty will take their place (p. 50).

How necessary then for His redeemed ones to study His Word in dependence upon His Holy Spirit, that they may be delivered both from the fears that are a result of ignorance of His truth and pride that is a result of self-confidence. The liberating Word alone will give to the honest, yielded soul who searches it prayerfully, in order that it shall have sway over his life, the full assurance of understanding, for it is written: ‘The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple'” (p. 54).

There’s a very helpful section for those fearing they might not be “elect” or “predestined,” but it’s about three pages long, too long to share here. But one excerpt: “But what does the Word say? ‘Christ died for the ungodly.’ Are you ungodly? Then He died for you. Put in your claim and enter into peace” (p. 92).

I have seen this book listed by various titles just Full Assurance, or Full Assurance: How to Know You’re Saved; Full Assurance, or A Series of Messages for the Anxious Soul, and the author’s name sometimes listed as Harry A., most times as H. A. Ironside. I assume they are all basically the same book, but I don’t know whether there might have been some revisions between reprintings. The copy I have is from 1968, but it says it is a revised edition. If you look at Kindle versions, check the reviews first: one I came across said that several chapters were left out.

This book is an excellent resource especially for those who have wrestled with assurance of salvation or those who counsel such people, but it is also a good resource for those who want to learn more about what salvation is or for those who are already saved to understand and appreciate more what their salvation involves.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

Advertisements

Book Review: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo was published in 1831 but set in the Paris of 1482.

Quasimodo was a deformed child left at a place where foundlings were deposited for anyone who might want to take them in. He had so many physical issues that one of the gossipy women observing him declared it “must be a sin to look at such a thing.” A priest came by, saw the child, and adopted him.

The priest, Claude Frollo, had been a promising scholar when his own parents died. In compassion he took in his younger brother, Jehan, and raised him, and thoughts of what would have happened to Jehan if Claude had not been available compelled Claude to take in Quasimodo.

But several years later, Jehan became dissolute, preferring drinking and carousing to studying. Quasimodo, “From his very first steps among men…had felt himself, later on he had seen himself, spewed out, blasted, rejected. Human words were, for him, always a raillery or a malediction. As he grew up, he had found nothing but hatred around him. He had caught the general malevolence. He had picked up the weapon with which he had been wounded.” Quasimodo became the bell ringer for Notre Dame and loved the bells as he did no one else except Claude, but the bells made Quasimodo deaf. He was unable to benefit from the study Claude longed to impart. Thus, “Claude, saddened and discouraged in his human affections, by all this, had flung himself eagerly into the arms of learning, that sister which, at least does not laugh in your face, and which always pays you, though in money that is sometimes a little hollow, for the attention which you have paid to her. Hence, he became more and more learned, and, at the same time, as a natural consequence, more and more rigid as a priest, more and more sad as a man.” His insatiable thirst for knowledge led him to delve “further, lower, beneath all that finished, material, limited knowledge; he had, perhaps, risked his soul, and had seated himself in the cavern at that mysterious table of the alchemists, of the astrologers, of the hermetics.”

Further drawing Claude away from anything good and right was his lust for a gypsy girl named Esmeralda, who used to dance in the streets with her tambourine and have her goat perform tricks to earn money. Claude deemed that his unhealthy obsession for Esmeralda must be due to some sorcery on her part.

When Quasimodo was publicly punished for a crime that Claude put him up to, Esmeralda was the only person who took pity on him and offered him water. That act of kindness caused Quasimodo to love her, though he knew his love would never be returned.

Claude’s jealousy led to an assault for which Esmeralda was blamed. Quasimodo rescued her and hid her in the cathedral. But massive misunderstandings all around led to multiple tragedies.

My thoughts:

I have not seen any of the film versions of this book, but from what I understand, many of them twist the ending to be more upbeat. There is no happy ending in this book, except maybe for the playwright and the goat. In fact, it’s so dark and seemingly hopeless, I pondered for a long while what it was all for.

Some have said, due to the fact that the Hugo’s original title was Notre-Dame de Paris, and most of the action in the novel takes place in and around the cathedral, that it is the main character. One reason Hugo wrote this book was to call attention to the value of the Gothic architecture in the city and to rouse support for preserving it. Many of Paris’s buildings had been damaged over the centuries and new construction or repairs were not always in keeping with the Gothic style. One chapter in the book talks about how literature will “kill” architecture as a means of expression.

But on another level, this novel depicts a very human story. I can’t believe that it is all about the cathedral.

It could be about the destructive power of lust. Most of the tragedies that came raining down on almost everyone stem from Claude’s obsession with Esmeralda. Some of the others came or were exacerbated by a lust for power. Early in the novel, a playwright wanders into the wrong part of town and is put on “trial” by the riffraff of the city. Later, two different trials by the proper magistrates show themselves to be no more just than the underground kangaroo court. Even one scene involving the king shows his misplaced priorities.

It could be about the mistake of judging by appearances. Quasimodo, of course, was obviously misjudged from day one, which had an effect on his character. A captain, Phoebus is misjudged, but on the other end of the scale: because he is so handsome, people think he is good, when in reality he is a cad. Esmeralda is misjudged for her beauty but also for her ethnicity: gypsies were not respected, and she is constantly accused of sorcery or other crimes just because she is a gypsy. One of my favorite parts is a song Quasimodo sings outside Esmeralda’s window, translated by Project Gutenberg as follows:

Look not at the face, young girl, look at the heart. The heart of a handsome young man is often deformed. There are hearts in which love does not keep. Young girl, the pine is not beautiful; it is not beautiful like the poplar, but it keeps its foliage in winter. Alas! What is the use of saying that? That which is not beautiful has no right to exist; beauty loves only beauty; April turns her back on January. Beauty is perfect, beauty can do all things, beauty is the only thing which does not exist by halves. The raven flies only by day, the owl flies only by night, the swan flies by day and by night.

It could be about the nature of real love. Claude thinks he loves Esmeralda but his affection is dark, destructive, and self-centered. Esmeralda thinks she loves the captain, but her warm feelings are based on his looks and an act of kindness he rendered toward her. She’s totally blind to his real nature. Quasimodo, though not a good character, shines in his love for the bells and the cathedral – some say he is the soul of the cathedral, and without him, the building “seems deserted, inanimate, dead…like a skull which still has holes for the eyes, but no longer sight.” He loved Claude, but it was a love based on “gratitude carried to its extreme limit.” But his love for Esmeralda causes him to extend himself and sacrifice for her benefit. When he rescues her from the gallows, for the first time the mob sees him as “really beautiful,” at least for a time. Personally I like this view the best.

It could be about fate. In Hugo’s introduction, he describes “rummaging about” Notre Dame coming across the word “ANNAKE” inscribed on one of the walls. Later someone in the book defines the inscription to mean “Fate.” That did not make much sense to me, as the troubles in the book came often from wrong choices rather than outside forces. But Wikipedia defines the word as “a personification of inevitability, compulsion and necessity.” That makes more sense considering who inscribed it and why. The Wikipedia article also quotes Hugo in a collection of his poems, Toute la Lyre:

Religion, society, nature; these are the three struggles of man. These three conflicts are, at the same time, his three needs: it is necessary for him to believe, hence the temple; it is necessary for him to create, hence the city; it is necessary for him to live, hence the plow and the ship. But these three solutions contain three conflicts. The mysterious difficulty of life springs from all three. Man has to deal with obstacles under the form of superstition, under the form of prejudice, and under the form of the elements. A triple “ananke” (necessity) weighs upon us, the “ananke” of dogmas, the “ananke” of laws, and the “ananke” of things. In Notre Dame de Paris the author has denounced the first; in Les Misérables he has pointed out the second; in this book (Toilers of the Sea) he indicates the third. With these three fatalities which envelop man is mingled the interior fatality, that supreme ananke, the human heart.

I’m still sifting through what that means.

I chose The Hunchback of Notre Dame for the “classic that intimidates you” category of the Back to the Classics Challenge. It intimidated me due to its length, due to the fact that the subject matter didn’t naturally draw me, and due to Hugo’s penchant for rabbit trails. I have come close to reading it many times and then backed away, but Tarissa’s review encouraged me toward trying it.

There were fewer side discussions here than there were in Les Miserables, one of my top three favorite novels, and this book is not as long as Les Mis. But Les Mis ends triumphantly and beautifully even though it ends sadly. And even though darkness pervades Les Mis, light shines through. There’s little light in Hunchback. I was stunned to find much more sensuality in Hunchback, even though a major character in Les Mis is a prostitute. I thought Les Mis was fairly discreet, but Hunchback goes into much more detail in Frollo’s thoughts and in the captain’s nearly successful seduction scene. On the other hand, sometimes it sounds worse than it is: Esmeralda is described as “half naked” when she is taken to the gallows, but she is in a shift (something like a slip) with her legs uncovered: that hardly constitutes being “half naked” in our day, but it would have been indecent then.

So, I have mixed emotions about the book. I am glad to have read it, but it will never go down as a favorite. But I did enjoy the way Hugo developed the characters and their psychology. And, as most classics do, this book had me pondering different aspects of it for days after finishing it.

Forgive the lack of page numbers for the quotes: I listened to the audio version marvelously narrated by Bill Homewood. I got a paperback copy from the library to go over some parts, but it was a modernized translation. So I ended up using the Gutenberg version online to look up certain sections.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

Book Review: Back Home Again

Back HomeIn Back Home Again: Tales from the Grace Chapel Inn by Melody Carlson, Alice Howard is a middle-aged single woman who has lived with her father in the old family home for years. Now her father has passed away, and her sisters have come home for the funeral. The house has been left to the three of them equally, and as they discuss what to do with it, they hit upon the idea of converting it to a bed-and-breakfast.

Their first obstacle is a meddling aunt and small-town resistance to anything new. Then, the three sisters are so different, and two of them in particular disagree over every little aspect. Alice tries to be a peacemaker between her two sisters and her family and the town.

The sisters, their aunt, and the town learn to come together, forgive, and give each other the benefit of the doubt.

This is the first book in a series of over thirty, authored by various writers. A light, pleasant read.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday)

Book Review: The Pattern Artist

Pattern ArtistIn The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser, Annie Wood left her dysfunctional family to go into service as a housemaid in England in 1911. She had a knack for sewing and alteration and hoped those skills would pave her way towards becoming a lady’s maid. She accompanied the family on a visit to America, and a number of factors worked together to compel her to run away with a couple of friends to see what life had to offer in this country.

Their first few days are rough, but then Annie lands a job at Macy’s Department Store in the sewing department. Her suggestions for her customers are noticed favorably by her managers, but negatively by a jealous coworker. A Butterick pattern salesman sees her potential and recruits her to join his company as a pattern designer.

Annie’s path is not always smooth, though. A number of obstacles, dangers, and a tragedy block her way. But she hopes, with hard work, determination, and a faith just beginning to bud, that she might find her own American dream. She learns “Humble beginnings are a badge of honor. It’s not where you begin, but where you end up” (p. 187).

This book caught my eye because I have enjoyed many of Nancy’s books, plus I used to do a lot of sewing and worked in a fabric shop for years. It was fun to read of how all of that worked in the early 1900s.I had not heard before of the Reform Dress Movement, an effort “started in the 1840s, rejecting the unhealthy confinement of the female form, and promoting practical clothing” (p. 189), but I am glad it helped get rid of corsets and ridiculous fashions like the hobble skirt.The movement plays a part in Annie’s career.

I enjoyed the author’s explanations in the afterword about how she came to include some of the various historic details. And somehow I totally missed the double meaning of the title until I read it in that afterward, but it should have been plain to me. Realizing that made me enjoy the story all the more.

It dawned on me at some point that the family Annie first worked for was in Nancy’s Summerfield (Manor House) series. I have only read the first book in that series so far, but it was fun to make that connection.

Overall quite an enjoyable read!

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday)

Book Review: 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents

Hope in caregiving30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents  by Kathy Howard caught my eye both because of our own caregiving journey and because Kathy used to write for Do Not Depart, a group blog I follow.

Kathy opens with a brief introduction sharing caregiving experiences of her husband’s parents and her own. Then each of the 30 chapters begins with a Scripture passage, progresses through two pages of content relating the passage to caregiving, and ends with a short prayer.

Topics include how to still honor your parents when you’ve switched roles, “ugly emotions,” “losing them before they’re gone,” keeping peace with family members in the midst of differing opinions, forgiveness, perseverance, guilt, God’s grace in our weakness, and many others.

One point Kathy made that impacted me was that when we experience regret (over anger, impatience, or whatever), after we confess it to the Lord and receive forgiveness, we can release feelings of guilt and shame. God’s goal for those feeling is “repentance, restoration, and renewed usefulness (2 Corinthians 7:8-11). God never uses our past mistakes as a weapon against us. Instead, He desires to use them as a catalyst for our personal growth and change” (p. 65).

Another point I wish I had thought of was helping our parents deal with what they’re going through: loss of independence, failing bodies, upheaval in their living situation, death of plans and dreams, inability to participate in activities that have always brought them pleasure before, adjustments to new situations. By sharing God’s Word and truth with them, in a sympathetic rather than a preachy way, we can encourage their faith and help them renew their hope. There are aspects of this I just didn’t consider, and Jim’s mom was not one to complain or even say, “You know, I am really struggling with such and such.”

The format of this book is not an exhaustive treatise, but rather a friend sharing help, support, and information.

When you’re in the midst of caregiving, there is nothing quite like talking to or hearing from another caregiver who understands by experience all that’s involved. Kathy’s book provides that fellowship and encouragement and always points to the God of grace.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday)

 

What’s On Your Nightstand: July 2018

Nightstand82The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand the last Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

I enjoy this monthly opportunity to share what we’re reading. And I love when it falls on the actual last day of the month!

Since last time I have completed:

Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs, a biography of Louisa May Alcott, reviewed here. Very good.

More Than These: A Woman’s Love for God by June Kimmel, reviewed here. Good encouragement to make and keep God our first love.

Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles: 25 Keys to Having Memorable Devotions by John O’Malley, reviewed here. Good, practical book.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte, reviewed here. A semi-autobiographical novel of a young Englishwoman all alone in the world who ventures forth to a teaching job in France.

My Father’s House by Rose Chandler Johnson, reviewed here. Good Southern fiction about a woman rediscovering her roots and her faith after fleeing from a dangerous husband.

The Song of Sadie Sparrow by Kitty Foth-Regner, reviewed here. Good story of adjustments, growth and faith in nursing home residents and their families, with a little mystery on the side.

When the Morning Glory Blooms by Cynthia Ruchti, reviewed here. Very good, about unplanned pregnancies in three different timelines which all end up tying in together.

Looking Into You by Chris Fabry, reviewed here. Very good: a woman who placed her baby for adoption twenty years ago rediscovers her first in a TV documentary and then as a student in her classroom.

A Small Book About a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace by Edward T. Welch was finished last time but not yet reviewed. That review is here. Excellent.

That looks like a lot, but it covers all of July and the last few days of June, a little more than the usual nightstand post.

I’m currently reading:

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents  by Kathy Howard

Full Assurance by Harry A. Ironside

The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser

Back Home Again: Tales from the Grace Chapel Inn by Melody Carlson

Up Next:

Christian Publishing 101 by Ann Byle. I keep listing this one and not getting to it. But I will one day!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Finally! I think I may be one of the last people on the planet who have not read this yet, but I wanted to before the movie came out.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book VI: The Long-Lost Home by Maryrose Wood. I’ve been waiting for this last book in the series for ages and just discovered yesterday that it’s out. I’m going to need something light-hearted after I get done with Hunchback.

How about you? Anything interesting reading on your nightstand?

Book Review: Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles

If you’ve ever tried to develop a habit of Bible reading and prayer time (often called devotions or quiet time), you know it doesn’t take very long at all to run into some obstacles. The first one is usually making time: busy schedules crowd out quiet time or urgent needs come up in the midst of it. Then when we do get a few minutes, we’re easily distracted. If we can rein in our attention and focus, we don’t always understand what we read or know how to apply it to our everyday lives. And if we do understand, we forget what we’ve read within minutes. We see cozy Instagram photos of people with their open Bibles and steaming mugs of coffee and wonder why our devotional time seems to far so fall below the picture-perfect time others experience.

Devotional ObstaclesJohn O’Malley tackles these issues in Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles: 25 Keys to Having Memorable Devotions. I appreciate that he deliberately chose a positive, encouraging title rather one with a negative cast, like Seven Reasons I Fail in My Devotions. His purpose, he writes, is not assigning fault or blame, but rather “putting tools in your hand to help you go from defeated to victorious in your time alone with God.”

The author emphasizes that our relationship with God is based on grace, not performance. Our devotional time is not meant to try to impress Him (or anyone else). Devotions are not a work to gain favor with God; they’re a means of communicating with Him. But there are ways to improve our understanding of His communication to us.

Our Quiet Time with Him is more about discovering His presence than finding the perfect Bible reading plan or study method. If we complete a Bible reading plan and did not discover His presence, we may have checked off the box for the day on our daily Bible reading plan, but we missed Him.

When we do not spend time with God, we deplete ourselves. We deplete our peace, joy, and strength. When limiting our access to time with God, we tend to lean on our own understanding; we are filled with doubts, and we consult our own heart instead of the mind of God (Proverbs 3: 5-6).

Jesus said that His sheep know, hear, and follow His voice. Your time with the Lord is about listening. God’s Word is the answer to every human need. Read not to accomplish book or chapter count. Read and listen.

If it takes you five years to read through the Bible, you are not less of a Christian. Read it at a pace that you can comprehend it and receive something from it.

The author discusses each of the obstacles mentioned above: finding time for devotions, battling distractions, improving comprehension, discerning how to apply what we read, understanding cultural differences, and retaining what we read.

I loved the author’s description of application as “the intersection of Bible learning and Bible living.”

I particularly liked his illustration about understanding and learning from the different culture that the Bible was written in. He likens it to taking a friend to a family reunion. The friend won’t know the histories, background stories, and quirks of all the family members, so you’ll likely have to explain some references along the way. “Culture is the system of beliefs, values, and ideas of a people in a certain time period.” However, “God and His Word are transcultural.” The author suggests some resources for finding out more about the cultural aspects, but above all other resources, he reminds that the Holy Spirit indwells believers and teaches us from God’s Word.

I also appreciated the tips for retaining what we read, something I don’t remember seeing in other books about devotions. One tip was to write down on a 3×5 card three key points from the verses read and then read and think about the verse and those points several times throughout the day.

The author advocates a lot of 3×5 cards, however. I counted at least four that he recommended filling out: one for a verse to meditate on; one for recording the time spent and main truth learned; one for writing down several statements about why we read the Bible; and one to write down your expectations for what God will do through His Word. He notes that one can use a journal, electronic device, etc.

The author includes some Bible study plans, lists of resources, and work sheets.

My only point of disagreement in the book was with the author’s statement that “Applying Scripture to your life is what brings the Word of God to life.” I know what he means: we don’t benefit and really learn it unless we apply it. But I always wince when I see someone speak of “making the Bible come alive.” God’s Word IS alive (“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” – Hebrews 4:12, ESV; “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” – John 6:63b, ESV). We’re the ones who need to be brought to life. But I know the author believes these truths, so the disagreement was with the wording.

This book is immensely practical and to the point with little to no fluff. It is an excellent resource for anyone who is trying to establish a devotional time or who has run into any of these obstacles in their own quiet time.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: When the Morning Glory Blooms

Morning Glory When the Morning Glory Blooms by Cynthia Ruchti explores three different, but related, timelines.

The first one, in modern times, involves Becky, whose teenage daughter had a baby out of wedlock. Becky takes care of her grandson so her daughter can finish high school, but she struggles with how much she’s helping and how much she’s enabling her daughter’s lack of sense of responsibility.

In 1951, Ivy just saw her boyfriend off to the Korean War. Then she found out she was pregnant. Now she’s afraid to tell him. She doesn’t want to put him in danger by distracting him, but she’s also afraid he’ll reject her. Ivy works in a nursing home, and one of her patients is Anna. Anna wants Ivy to help write down her story, and at first Ivy acquiesces just to please Anna. But she realizes that Anna is perfectly clear and not at all the dementia patient Ivy had thought. And Anna’s story is not only remarkable in itself, but it touches her own in many ways.

In the 1890s, Anna inherited some property. Her dream: to turn the old home into a haven for unwed mothers. She had little resource except faith. Her plan was not well-received by the community – except for her pastor and his wife, who helped to bring others on board.

As you can see, each of the stories involves unplanned pregnancies. Even though they were handled in different ways in different eras, they still brought complicated and painful consequences. Yet in each story line, those involved found some measure of grace and some maturity and growth through their circumstances.

The three are also connected by morning glories – but I’ll let you discover what that means.

A few quotes:

Your baby’s name is not Regret.

Wouldn’t one think that the forgiven would be quickest to forgive others? That the redeemed would fall over one another in their rush to carry the song of deliverance to those who had yet to hear its calming melody? That those who had found refuge would do everything in their power to light the way for others?

When young women lived with me, they worked beside me both because their help was needed and because work is both healing and character building.

I thought I’d have trouble keeping up with three different threads of story, but Cynthia wove them together well while keeping each distinctive enough to avoid confusion. I enjoyed the humor especially in Becky’s narrative. There were a few surprises: some of the connections between the women turn out to be different from what I had thought they would be. I enjoyed the unfolding of each woman’s story, and the need to extend and receive grace displayed in each one.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Back to the Classics Challenge Mid-year Check-in

Karen at Books and Chocolate hosts the Back to the Classics Challenge for reading classics at least 50 years old. She’s holding a mid-year check-in for the challenge – and a giveaway!

I enjoy this challenge because I was not exposed to many classics as I grew up, and this challenge inspires me to expand my horizons and explore books I might not otherwise read. I’m happy to report that I have read 11 of the 12 classics on my list, and I am now reading (or listening to) the 12th. Here’s what I’ve read so far:

My unfinished one is a classic that scares you (due to its length or it intimidates you in some way), and for that I chose The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. I’m working on it now.

Karen allows for three children’s classics, and I am counting Where the Red Fern Grows, The Secret Garden, and Journey to the Center of the Earth for those. I’m not counting 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea because nothing I read about it indicated it was written for children.

I enjoyed all of these except Journey to the Center of the Earth, but I think my favorite is He Fell in Love With His Wife. Adam Bede would be a close second. Frankenstein was the biggest surprise.

Have you read any classics lately?

Book Review: More Than These

More Than TheseWhen I saw More Than These: A Woman’s Love for God by June Kimmel featured at By the Book, my interest was piqued for three reasons: JustRead Publicity Tours was sponsoring a giveaway of the ebook; I had used some of June Kimmel’s Bible studies before; June’s son-in-law was our youth and music pastor at the church we attended when we first moved to Tennessee, and he and his wife are some of the dearest people on the planet. Fortunately, I won a copy of the book!

The premise of the book is that we have multiple facets of our lives that vie for first place in our hearts, crowding out our first love for God. Some of these are God’s good gifts, like family, friends, and ministry. But when they take His place, we’re not loving either Him or them in the best way. Others are sinful aspects that we need to put to death. So June examines several of these issues, couching them in a time when she and her husband felt led of the Lord to move from South Carolina, where they were near all of their grown children and grandchildren and had jobs and ministries they loved, to Wisconsin for a new ministry opportunity.

A few quotes from the book that stood out to me:

Without love, our good efforts are empty and hollow. We are useless and unprofitable if our service, however noble, is done without supreme love for God.

We must be in the Word to know God’s promises. Sometimes people expect God to do what he never promised to do.

May we see beyond the circumstances of the moment and praise God continually. May our fear never exceed our love for God.

Do you have goals for tomorrow? Did that ambition begin at the feet of the Lord Jesus? Our plans may be exactly what God has for us, but is it the dream we long for or the Master?

We all have positive and negative experiences to recall, but God doesn’t want us living in the past or focusing on it instead of Him. God simply wants to use our past as a tool to shape us into His image.

Unless we surrender our fearfulness to the Lord, it will draw our focus off the Savior by consuming our thoughts. The circumstances intended to draw us closer to the Master will attempt to capture the throne of our heart.

June encourages us to “diligently study His Word and endeavor to take the truths we learn and turn them into daily actions that demonstrate the goodness of our God.” The more we get to know Him, the more our love for Him grows.

I would have preferred the study questions at the end of each chapter rather than all together at the end of the book, but that’s just a matter of personal preference.

Thanks to June, By the Book, JustRead Publicity Tours, and Ambassador International for the giveaway and for sending me a copy of the book!

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)