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Reading Fiction

I loved this article by Caryn Rivadeneira I found on Think Christian. I hope you get a chance to read it (it’s not very long), but basically, it is about the importance for Christians to read fiction as well as non-fiction books.

I confess that I am deeply concerned when I hear Christians say they ‘could care less’ about reading, or that they only read non-fiction. I have made two observations about these sorts of people.  If they don’t read at all, they are usually a person I have a hard time connecting with because I find them narrow minded.  The observation about the people who only read factual books is that they are usually men.  As if ‘real men don’t read fiction’ the way they also don’t eat quiche.  Or quinoa.  (And if they don’t read at all, they probably don’t know how to pronounce them either.)

I don’t care if the Christian reader or care-less non-reader is male or female. There is an important spot in their intellectual, emotional, mental diet for fiction.  They are probably not generally against watching movies, but the difference is that fiction requires more application and imagination.  Yes, it is something to be developed.  It is not a passive activity.  There are different reading levels and one will probably start at the bottom and work their way up if their mind is not used to reading.  But I have known deeply well-read people (even men) who have well-developed minds and emotions.  This must be evidence that not all fiction is fluff.

I don’t believe any book is better than God’s holy Word, the Bible, and I am currently reading a marvelous non-fiction book on the spiritual life by Brennan Manning. But even so I often find that God can use fiction to speak to me in different ways.  Not all books all the time, but recently there have been a few good reads that I believe God has used to draw some things to my attention, that have bothered me until I was forced to think about why.  These books weren’t necessarily Christian or literary.  But when I read fiction, I am put into the place of the characters and their feelings and I experience their lives in a way.  And it reminds me of things in my life past or present, and it brings things to the surface.  Is this scary?  It can be sometimes.  But God is there with me, holding my hand through it.  What a friend we have in Jesus!  He’s even my reading buddy.  🙂

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Dr. Rosalie de Rosset on Popular Fiction

b1893aa5519046e7963ad36493183ecfI discovered this article on Christianity Today that was published a few years back, in which Dr. Rosalie De Rosset was interviewed on the subject of popular fiction.  Despite the piece’s title “Women Are Being ‘Cheated’ By Fifty Shades”, the article is not particularly the same old harangue against E. L. James’ novel.  I found it to sum up Dr. De Rosset’s views on modern fiction and the Christian reader.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Q: How Much Do You Read at a Time?

d8f0759d4e55f98655a9919f46a67346I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!

I have a question: How much do you read at a time?

Some people will sit down and devour a whole novel in one sitting because they are so absorbed in it. But, most of us do not have this luxury even if we wished hard for it.  After all, we are busy living our own stories as well!  So just how does a person go about deciding how much to read at a given time?

There really is no right or wrong way to answer this. Even the above example of reading a book in a day is not ‘wrong’, although there are some studies that show a person will not retain as much of what they read if they do not take some breaks or time away from it.  I find this true for me, yet at the same time can also struggle to remember what happened when I take too much time away from break to break.

A lot usually depends on the free time a person has. Actually, I really shouldn’t write ‘free time’, as what time in this world is really free?  Time is more like an investment.  How much time can you afford to invest in reading a particular book?  As some books are light entertainment and others are more like brain exercise, the answer to this question might vary from book to book.

My goal this year had been to read four books a month, whether fiction or non-fiction. As it turns out, I had way too much on my plate for this to become a reality.  I have been lucky if I’ve accomplished reading 2 pages a night!  (I will have to analyze this dilemma further and figure out how to remedy it in the coming year, but more on that later.)  My goal is at least a couple of pages every day if I can’t make it more.  But the point is to not quit reading, no matter how slow it is taking me!

Sometimes when I am reading, I will decide on how much to read at one sitting by how long the chapters are, or the length of sections within a chapter. Sometimes I will be reading in the middle of a dialogue among characters, knowing I have to soon break off to go do something else or go to bed, but not wanting to end it in the middle of the verbal action.  I hate breaking things off like that, and it’s also hard to pick it back up and get in the swing of things later on.  So I usually read to the end of the conversation and break off at a scene change or during lots of narration.

Obviously, the more one can read at a time, the quicker the book will be finished and one can anticipate the next story. People are different in how they like to read, whether they love to slowly savor an interesting book, or prefer to quickly find out what happens next.  How do you like to read?

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2015 in Reading Habits

 

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Book Review: “Sanctuary,” by Beverly and David Lewis

1139765Genre: Amish; Christian Inspirational; suspense

Plot Summary: Ryan and Melissa James have been happily married for three years living in a dreamworld on Lord’s Point on the Atlantic Ocean. But all is not as it seems. Suddenly Melissa goes missing, leaving a vague note behind for her perplexed husband. When Melissa ends up in Lancaster County after having temporarily escaped the Russian mafia, she is welcomed by a Mennonite woman into the Plain community. Will Melissa ever see her husband again, and how will she escape when the murderer who killed her father shows up again?

My Book Review: To be honest, I’m a bit biased as I very much dislike Amish fiction. I’ve never really seen that particular genre with the rose colored glasses many others seem to and don’t like fluffy Christian fiction. However, I’ve always thought of author Beverly Lewis as being the mother of the modern Amish fiction movement and a cut above the rest of the genre out there. My mom had this book and I remember her telling me bits about it when she read it nearly 15 years ago. It sounded like it had an interesting plot and the main character wasn’t Amish, so I decided to give a try.

I guess you can’t really consider this book as ‘Amish fiction’ since the character of Lela Denlinger (who welcomes Melissa into her home) is actually Mennonite. But she lives in the Amish county and has an Amish sister, and the Amish and Mennonites are closely related.

This book made quick reading. Lewis’ writing style is very light and sweet– a bit too sugary sweet for me. I thought the characters felt a little too stereotypical and the details were dated as well. At the beginning of the story, Ryan and Melissa are nonbelievers but become saved during the course of the story. The instruments of grace God uses are their friends Denny and Lela. I usually have a high pain tolerance when it comes to preachiness, but Denny in particular felt quite heavy handed with the preaching. So if you don’t like preachy Christian fiction, this book probably won’t be for you.

Lela is given a love interest, but it doesn’t really tie into the main plot very well and it just seems to be page-filler. I didn’t much care for the character of Paul Martin, who ditched her for someone else years earlier and now is lonely with a forlorn son and bascially wants her to feel sorry for him and take him back.

On the positive side, there were several plot twists that really surprised me toward the second half of the book that picked up the pace of suspense. I liked that not everything was completely sorted out at the end of the last paragraph, but left you sort of completing the story in your mind’s eye.

I don’t think I’ll wish to read any more Beverly Lewis books, but I have enjoyed some of her stories translated to movie. I’ve decided I enjoy them much better that way. If you’d like to dip your toe into Amish fiction, this book may be a good place to start. Beverly Lewis is a well known best selling author, and I’m sure her books have probably gotten better over the years. But once again, this genre just isn’t for me…

Here is a thoroughly written article about both sides of the ‘Amish fiction debate’…

 

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Character Reflections Series: Heroines Who Explore

372c66a171300933e6dd929f738cb84eIt’s been a while since I’ve written a Character Reflections Post (mainly centering on heroines, rather than heroes), so I think it’s high time I added another article to this subject!

I enjoy many different genres, and yet just about any of the books I read have a common theme connecting them together.  The books I love appeal to my sense of adventure.  Which might seem sort of strange if you knew me in person because I don’t really strike anyone as a LIVE OUT LOUD kind of girl.  What is adventure exactly?  We know it contains an element of risk, but why risk?  Because it’s the exploring of the unknown.  We don’t really know what will happen, and it will either take courage or foolishness (depending on the endeavor) to follow through with the adventure.

Today I want to focus on the exploration aspect of adventure.  There are many kinds of exploration, not necessarily the kinds that will take a character through the secret passageways of ancient pyramid in Egypt.  Are you an explorer?  Every human starts out life as an explorer.  As babies, we first discover our fingers, then our toes.  Once we can focus on objects and distinguish mommy and daddy, we move on to crawling, then walking and getting into all sorts of trouble!  As we grow older, some of us lose that childlike sense of wonder and awe of the world.  That’s when grown-ups get old and stuffy and why I never wanted to grow up when I was a kid.  But I’ve since learned that adulthood doesn’t have to be that way.  We can still be mindful to look at God’s world with new eyes every day, and that is the essence of childhood.  I love this quote by J . R. Tolkien:

“Children are meant to grow up, and not to become Peter Pans. Not to lose innocence and wonder, but to proceed on the appointed journey…”

39fc26dbc95d073b4e5c2b6133c9bf51Some of us will admit we still love to read childrens’ stories.  The best childrens’ literature speak to adults just as much, if not more so, than to children.  They include timeless truths that weedle their way into our hearts better than most non fiction does.  Think of some of your favorite childrens’ stories; I’ll bet they include exploration of some sort.  The Giver, by Lois Lowry is a dystopian/sci-fi novel about children who explore the world they never knew surrounded them—a world of color and emotion.  Edith Nesbits’ stories are about children who explore their own world with the added element of magic.  And who doesn’t love exploring the magical world of Narnia with the Pevensies?  It all starts with the youngest of the siblings: a little heroine named Lucy who explores a wardrobe and then a new world because she has a childlike heart of faith and adventure.  Then there is Susan.  Susan is always the kill-joy of the group.  It’s understandable.  She’s the oldest sister with a mother-hen personality.  She experiences human fear, but don’t we all?  It takes courage to embark on adventure, coupled with a healthy dose of discernment and wisdom.  But in Prince Caspian, Susan worries to the point that it hinders her capacity for doing what needs to be done.  She wants to abandon the adventure in lieu of safety back home.  It’s easier to be that kind of character.  But it is Lucy who is remembered as the series’ heroine.

It doesn’t take magic to explore.  Another great children’s novel is the 1957 classic, “Gone-Away Lake,” by Elizabeth Enright.  In this book, Portia and her cousin Julian explore the local woods surrounding her aunt and uncle’s house.  They observe butterflies, birds, mineral rocks, moss, and other natural specimens.  But then they discover their biggest find of all: an abandoned vacation lake town and the elderly couple who lives there.  What have you discovered while stepping out your comfort zone?  Exploring adds mystery and color to life and keeps us young.

6f1bdc5a752501c5cc6ff2a9f52b65c7It can also humble us.  Sometimes I think some of the hardest people to get along with are the people who “know it all already” and never grow, change, or learn.  They stay in the same spiritual, emotional, mental rut that they were in 20 years ago and refuse to consider that someone else’s viewpoint could be valid.  I’m sure we all know someone like that, and maybe we act like that a time or two!  A heroine who discovers that perhaps she doesn’t hold all the answers to the world’s problems is Margaret Hale from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.  Her world is turned upside down when her family moves to a place she never wanted to go to and she now has to adjust to new culture and ideas.  As she learns from those around her, she realizes that there isn’t just one perfect way to do life.  And she grows as a person because she has explored other ways of thinking instead of being comfortable with her own opinions.

“…to search out a matter is the glory of kings,” the Bible says (Provebs. 25:2).  It also tells us in Psalm 4:4, “search your hearts and be silent.”  A quality of character growth includes exploring our own lives to see if something needs dealt with, confessed, or healed.  This might take the biggest courage of all.  Some people explore the world and all it has to offer just to avoid this vital kind of exploration.  But their personal problems sooner or later catch up with them.  Hayley finds this out in The Trophy Wives Club, by Kristin Billerbeck.  Divorced at 28, she has to do some deep soul-searching so she can move on with her life and not repeat the same mistakes she made in the past.  How did she get to where she was in the present?  What was her personal responsibility and what wasn’t?  Who is she now?  What does she want to be and where does she want to go?  These questions aren’t answered at just one time in our lives, but over and over throughout our lifelong journey.

Heroines are capable of exploration and adventure.  Let’s not forget real-life heroines, like Sacajawea who played an important part of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  Or Mary Kingsley, the 1800’s British explorer of Africa.  Amelia Earhart: pioneer of aeronautics.  And Marie Curie, physicist, chemist, and researcher of radioactivity.  We can read about these inspiring females and the roles they played in history and explore the world from an armchair!

What are some of your favorite heroines who explore, whether famous, fictional, family member or friend?

 

 
 

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What Our Voices Tell

857cfc8a628c6f22a9bdb41b69e09b89Are you voice-conscious?  I don’t necessarily mean of your own voice, but of other people’s voices?  Think of a pleasant-sounding voice of someone you know or of a public figure.  How does that voice make you think of them?  What about someone else’s annoying voice?  It may not matter much to you what they say; all you know is that their voice drives you nuts.  I think voices go a long way in either attracting us to people or repelling us away from them.

Perhaps you don’t feel you have a good sound that proceeds out of your mouth.  It is true that there isn’t a whole lot we can do to change our inherited genes.  But there is a lot more we can change about our voices than many people realize.  I’m not a professional voice coach, but there are skilled trainers who specialize in helping actors and ordinary people work on breathing, control, posture, etc. that can help them improve the sound of their voice.

Our voices tell a lot about us.  Our personality and what we believe about ourselves is on exhibit when we talk.  Some people are outgoing, bubbly, love people and their voices are often filled with loud laughter and enthusiasm.  Other people are more introverted and when they speak their voices may be quiet, reserved, or inhibited.  I realize these examples are stereotypical, but you catch my meaning.

Voices can also signal to others our emotions, whether we say what we’re feeling or not.  Most people’s voices tense and get higher up in their throats when they’re nervous but come down to the chest area when relaxed.  You can audibly hear the smile in someone’s voice when you talk to them on the phone.  There are other vocal queues, such as sharp defensiveness, loud anger, quiet fear, and quavering, raspy sadness.  A good writer will include these clues in a story to enable you to ‘hear’ the characters’ dialogue.  How a person says something usually will affect us more than what they said, whether that is a good thing or not.

Voice atmosphere affects us even when we’re not aware of it.  Whenever I hear someone talking who sounds like they have a clogged, froggy throat, I instinctively start clearing my throat!  People who have no interest in painting whatsoever often watch Bob Ross reruns just to listen to his soothing voice (I’m not making that up!).  A salesman’s excited voice can persuade us to buy something we hadn’t intended to.  It sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime!   I tried watching a PeeWee Herman movie one time and didn’t make it through the first 5 min. before I turned it off.  I knew I couldn’t put up with the unsettling laughter for an hour and a half.

4102215430dc411e85019836ab4021c9There is something about a voice that is a very powerful thing, and it’s a shame so few of us are aware of it.  I watched an interesting conference featuring several professional voice coaches who made an interesting observation.  In the Golden Days of Hollywood, actors were trained how to speak.  Nowadays, only a small number of actors realize the importance of voice on their performance.  Think of some of your favorite actors, and then think of their voices.  How many of the greatest contemporary stars have excellent voices that draw you in and make you believe their performance?  These are the great storytellers of our time.  I may do a series of posts that study some of my favorite voices.

Voices can have a sentimental value to us as well.  Of course much of it has to do with the relationship we have with them.  But because of connection, we cherish their voice.  What we wouldn’t give to hear our loved one’s voice after they’ve passed.  One of my favorite voices is my Grandpa’s deep bass, which has slowly mellowed as he’s gotten older.  I remember often sleeping late in bed in the mornings while he talked to my mom out in the kitchen.  His voice has a rainy day effect, in that I would doze back to sleep better just hearing him.  I also remember him reading books to my sister and I when we were little.  It wasn’t so much the story itself that we loved to listen to.  It was Grandpa’s voice that made it special.  I’m glad I’ve recorded him recounting family history for my genealogy project because hearing him tell the stories is priceless.

It’s funny how a voice you haven’t heard in a while brings back a lot of memories, too.  It’s been 8 years since I’ve moved away from my home state, and the people sound differently where I now live.  Several years after I’d moved, I wanted to make a call to someone from my home church.  As soon as his voice came on the phone and I heard his “Pixburghese” accent it brought me back to Pennsylvania!  It also brought back fond church memories, and since the man was a good friend of my dad’s, it reminded me of when I was little as well.  The sound was very comforting and at the same time brought a feeling of homesickness I didn’t know I had.

c68252792fccffeb461c14538ae63fecThere are voices that annoy as well.  One of my favorite programs has several hosts and each of their voices are very different from the others’.  Some of them are warm and enjoyable to listen to.  But some of them talk high up on the edge of their throat and it makes me want to hand them a cup of honey-lemon tea for their poor, abused voice!  They have good things to say but again, voice is quite a powerful tool many of us take too lightly.

How can we develop our own voice?  A good first step is to learn how to breathe properly from the diaphragm, not the chest.  Of course, that’s best achieved with good posture.  Get adequate sleep and drink the proper amount of water daily (which, among other things, should help with the ‘phlegm’ sound in the throat).  Be attentive to your own sound and when your voice sounds high and tense.  One way to develop awareness to your voice is reading aloud and learning to use modulation and inflection.  Here is a good video on the subject as well.

*A bit of trivia: Did you know that Nat King Cole smoked three packs of menthol cigarettes a day in order to achieve his rich, husky sound?  He eventually developed lung cancer and died at the early age of 46.

What are some of your favorite voices (public, celebrity, or otherwise) and why?

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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On Controversy Over New Left Behind Movie

nic-cage-open-letter-sliderI don’t know about you, but I’m getting mighty tired of hearing fellow Christians shooting ourselves in the foot and producing embarrassing testimonies by being so harsh and critical of the new religious movies that have been coming out recently.  I remember there was an outcry from some folks who were planning on boycotting Prince Caspian when it came out because “it wasn’t word for word as the book.”  Other movies are deemed too hokey, or too casual, or too overly-dramatic, or too imaginative, or too imperfect to go see.  It can become a form of self-righteousness.  “I won’t go to see that film because I don’t agree with that actor’s personal life…”  Or whatever the case may be.

MovieGuide recently posted an article and an open letter to Nicholas Cage that I think is very good and worth reading.

The bad in Hollywood keeps getting worse.  But the door is swinging wider open all the time for much good news in the film industry, and for that I heartily applaud movie-makers who have a hand in it!  Keep it coming!  And fellow believers, we’ve waited too long for this opportunity of good, clean Christian art in the movie entertainment-world to be continually shutting down honest efforts.  Instead of legalism and small-mindedness, let’s get out there and make it even better!

“Left Behind” is based on the best selling book by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

 

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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