Category Archives: Reviews

Book Reviews; The Duggar Collection

I am going to review all 3 major titles in what I call “The Duggar Collection.”  They include; The Duggars: 20 and Counting!, A Love That Multiplies, and Growing Up Duggar. The first two in the list were both written by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, the last was written by Jill, Jinger, Jessa, and Jana Duggar.  If you’ve ever read my review of Do Hard Things, this review will be similar.

First, some background.  I do watch the television series about this family on TLC; 19 Kids and Counting so I was already familiar with the Duggars and there were no earth-shattering revelations for long-time watchers of the show contained in the books.  If you like the show, you’ll like the books, if you like to mock the show (or the family) you’ll mock the books.  While the Duggars’ particular brand of Christianity isn’t my brand, I still respect their morals, commitment to family, financial position, etc… so I did enjoy all three books.

Second, if you want to cut the list down, I can help do that for you.  If you want a book about the parenting principles and the life stories of Jim Bob and Michelle, read A Love that Multiplies.  It covers very similar ground as the first book, but it is more recent and contains the story of Josie.  If you want a book about relationships and courting from the perspective of 4 young ladies, along with stories of the Duggar clan, then read Growing Up Duggar.

The good; the Duggars are a breath of fresh air in this modern world when it comes to parenting.  They care about their kids (yes, all of them), and have committed their time and energy to making sure their family is taken care of and brought up within a caring and loving environment.  The books give the reader a window into their philosophies, which they obviously ground in scripture the way they interpret it. They include their perspectives on debt, modesty, parenting, homeschooling, morals, business, courting, etc…  If you are interested in these topics presented with Christianity mixed in to all of them, then you’d probably enjoy the books even if you disagree.

I think that large families, as long as they are self-supporting, are awesome.  I’m amazed that some people hate the Duggars simply because there are so many of them.  They don’t take government support, they all seem bright and healthy, intelligent, interesting, etc… Whether a couple has no children, or 19, it is their choice and they can be a strong and happy family.

The girls’ book particularly was interesting to me, because I’m always curious of what the “next generation” thinks about all this.  They tackle the area of relationships, and do so in a generally thorough (yet sometimes detail-lacking) manner.  Their discussion on courting, parental relationships, and sibling relationships was informative, and again, refreshing.

The not-so-good; although the Duggars deny that they are a part of “The Quiverfull Movement” in Christianity, it is hard not to see the connection.  Why such a large family?  Because they believe that it is God and God alone Who determines the number of kids that a couple are blessed with, and this means no contraception allowed.  So, what’s wrong with that?  This particular movement tends to draw Legalists in by the boatload, and to judge others who don’t follow the same philosophy.  Happily, I can say that I don’t pick up a lot of judgmentalism from the Duggars, who overtly say that they teach that their way is not the way for everyone when it comes to having kids.  They simply stand by their own convictions and cite scriptures that they feel back up their POV.

Another not-so-good aspect to the family is that they “follow” or “read” materials and philosophies of some individuals in Christendom that are questionable in their theology, and perhaps even in their private lives.  Bill Gothard is one such example.  Anytime there is a strong teaching of different gender roles, one must be extraordinarily careful and be on the look out for sexual misconduct.  I’m one that believes in different roles for the genders in certain areas, and I’m also one of the biggest skeptics when it comes to a philosophy that uses words like “sweet;” think sweet, be sweet, keep sweet, as applied to females. Ugh. FLDS anyone?  Sex abuse anyone?  Bill Gothard has had sexual misconduct allegations following him around for awhile now, and we have to be sure we look on someone as being innocent until proven guilty.  However when talking of certain philosophies there is a great chance in some of them for women and girls to be abused.

Thankfully, I see no sign of that from the Duggar clan.  I don’t believe in condemning someone because of the people they read, but I include this type of information in my review because I want to make it clear that it is is a red flag for my readers if they decide to delve into the Duggars’ books.  Know that many of the ways they interpret certain scriptures are not the way that I, or even a majority, of Christians interpret them, and many of their resources listed are impacted heavily by those like Gothard and those in the Quiverfull movement.

In short, I liked all 3 books, though there was repeating information in each.  I have learned a lot about large families and also how certain scripture are interpreted by those from this perspective.  I truly appreciate the information they presented on raising kids, morality, and their faith. While everything seems to be going well right now for this family and the kids, there is always a chance that things could change, such as if we see one or more of the kids joining more mainstream Christian churches and “rebelling,” then we could see a different side to all of this. In fact, statistically, we’d expect to see some Duggar descendent choose their own path, as God guides the individual.

The danger in some of the teachings they push are just that, which is the danger of demanding everyone be a foot, or all be an arm in the Body of Christ; “Cookie-cutter Chrisitians” in other words.  We also must be sure that we are not relying on good works or conformity to save us, but rather on Christ for it by grace we are saved through faith.  It is a good thing to rely on God to guide us and convict us, and at the same time to make sure we are truly understanding scripture as it is meant to be understood.  So, just make sure you are firmly grounded in scripture and in faith when reading books on other beliefs within Christianity (such as the Duggars have); test all things and hold to that which is good and true.

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The Fast and the Furious Series Review

This is going to be the first time for some of you to read one of my more “secular” posts, but as always I believe you can often find the sacred in the secular.  I admit it, I’m a Fast and Furious fan.  I fell in love with the first movie when it came out, and have followed it ever since.

If you find cussing, violence, and scantily clad women offensive, or if you’ve been led away from those things, avoid these movies.  So, why am I writing this review?  Because I believe most people are missing the main point and feature of the movies in this series.  I also believe that Vin Diesel is trying, in his own way, to get people to realize several key themes.

First, that the world is now connected in ways that it never has been in the past.  Culture is bleeding over political borders, and with it the good and the bad.  Crime, and crime bosses can now go global.  They can do so digitally or physically, and this is one lesson that we all need to learn in a very real way.  Two examples spring to mind; the recent reports of Chinese hackers invading US systems, and the violence on our Southern border.  We all now owe it to our society to start thinking more and more globally, and our news organizations will hopefully wake up and begin providing us with global coverage.

Of course, there are good things coming from this blending of cultures as well.  New styles, new food, new friends, new conversations to have.  And I think that this connects to Vin’s other main theme in these movies; faith and family.

The latest F&F installment, Fast and Furious 6 kinds slaps you upside the head with it, but apparently many reviewers are missing the point.  Faith and family.  Each installment in the main series always has a moment or two of Dom’s running rule; when you sit down to eat, whoever eats first (or tries to) has to say grace.  Some do it with more learning and style, and some try their best.  Dom’s cross also becomes a continuing plot device.

This lesson wasn’t something that was full-force in the first movie; Dom cared more for his own feeling of freedom than for his team, but that quickly changed as one-by-one his family was either hurt, or killed.  Over the course of the series we’ve seen Dom’s family grow, and with it, his loyalty.

Family.  This is where the “sacred” comes in.  This string of movies does a very good job of showing how those people that are not directly related to us can become our family.  In fact, each person that is a born again believer in Jesus is our family.  How often do we really truly see that in our church communities?  It’s rare.  If we truly wake up to what Jesus is telling us, we should help and protect our fellow believers, because they ARE our family.  They are not “like” family they are true family.

I believe this series does a superb job showing us this, in a secular sense of course… annnddd, you really do have to sit through a bunch of racing scenes to get there, but I do believe Vin Diesel is purposefully communicating that idea of family across all borders; language, culture, background, etc… And, yes, Vin isn’t technically a writer, but I hear him and Paul Walker have input into the series, especially when it comes to things the fans demand.

What else do I love about the series?  I love the cars.  I love the humor.  I love the way it self-deprecates.  I love the characters, and their interplay.  There is also ideas such as self-control and forgiveness taught throughout.  The series has become a huge blockbuster and the special effects are there to prove it, but at the heart of it, this series is still about family.  Sure, there are now over-the-top explosions, and cheesy physics defying crashes, but the film never takes itself to seriously on that score.

These movies are definitely not for everyone, but I can’t wait til the 7th installment!

Oh, and if you are interested, here’s the watch order if you’d like to see the whole series chronologically and, Han’s first appearance was not in the F&F series, but in a movie called “Better Luck Tomorrow” it would come before Los Bandoleros):

  • The Fast and the Furious
  • Turbo-Charged Prelude {short}
  • 2 Fast 2 Furious
  • Los Bandoleros {short}
  • Fast & Furious
  • Fast Five
  • Fast & Furious 6
  • The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

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Ministry Review; World Vision

Sponsoring a child in need.  Many times that conjures up old commercials from the 80′s begging for funds… that turned out to be lining the pockets of a few of the people in charge, with no money going to the children.  Also, the old model was based upon the idea that Western outsiders knew best how to help a community rather than the community itself knowing what they need.

Gratefully those days are gone for the most part.  If you wish to sponsor a child there are now an array of charitable organizations that have tossed out the old model, in favor of a new sustainable grassroots model.  Also, with watchdog groups constantly checking on these charities it is far less likely that someone is simply pocketing the money.

One such organization is World Vision International.  Each country that is  a part of WV, has their own website; so for example World Vision US is:  www.worldvision.org  This website is a hub that you can use to get news, learn about the organization, sponsor a child, browse their catalog and send gifts such as goats, chickens, microfinance a loan, etc…  World Vision used to catch a bit of flak for advertising as though your money went directly to the sponsored child, but now they have made it much clearer that your money goes to the child’s community, and not just to the child itself.

Each child that is sponsored is assured to be a part of the programs for education, schooling, etc… and you can send extra gifts to the child’s family or community.  This system tends to work better, since the whole community is involved and less jealousy is likely to occur.  Also, the grassroots touch is that each community gives feedback as to what is needed, and what would most help.  Sustainability is one of the main goals of World Vision and they work to make a perpetual change.

Why do I call this a ministry?  Because they are indeed a Christian organization.  This does not mean that they push or proselytize.  Their belief is that they live out part of Jesus’ message by helping those that need a bit of encouragement or a leg up.  There are some areas in the world where Christianity can be taught, they can hand out Bibles, etc… but there are also some areas where Christianity, it active proselytizing, is not allowed.  They still serve those communities, hoping to make an impact for Jesus based on love and action.

The pros of this ministry; it connects you with an individual child, it is a large organization, so can make a big impact.  They have disaster response that is second to none.  They are so well known, so they are also watch to make sure there is no fraud.

Some cons; each country has its own people in charge (which is good too), but this makes it hard to police and constantly insure no one is conning the system, and that funds are being well used.  (However, the organization does indeed run checks, and takes any reports of problems seriously.)  For us more conservative minded Christians, there is a bit of unease when the “social gospel” is focused on, instead of the more salvational message of Jesus, but that is the purpose of this organization.

I don’t usually like to talk about charitable acts, but yes, we’ve just started sponsoring 2 World Vision children, and I’d love to share my experiences on here, and can wait to start writing letters and sending small trinkets along to them via mail.  If you have any questions, I’ll try to answer them, or point you to a phone number or webpage.  If you have any WV stories to share, I’d love to see them in the “comments” section here.

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Book Review; Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”

Ooookkaayy… this should be interesting.  So, my philosophy is not to comment on something either glowingly or negatively unless I’ve read or watched it myself, especially if it is of a controversial nature.  It seemed like everywhere I turned in Christendom people were discussing this book, or warning others not to discuss the book…so I knew I had to read it and review it.  I have to be clear; this is my introduction to Bell.  I have no former gripe or praise for him, no angle to work for or against him.

Hopefully, I’m going to do something a little bit different in this review, as other reviews have already rightly attacked the factual flaws in Bell’s work.  If you want that style of review,  you can get one here: God is Still Holy and What you Learned in Sunday School is Still True: A Review of  “Love Wins.” I don’t agree with everything in the review, but it gives a good overview of many of Bell’s problems.

No, I want to approach this a bit differently and talk about implications.  First, let me say…I can’t believe this book, Love Wins, was actually published…I mean, I get why.  It’s going to make a ton of money, but it’s content is illogical, and its style is unpolished.  I’m really struggling with this review because I can’t believe that people would change their view on God, Heaven, or Hell based on this book.  The “gotcha” questions Bell proposes in the first bit of the book are easily answered by anyone versed in Apologetics, not just well-versed, just versed.  They are “milk” type questions…and are eerily reminiscent of the list of “questions” found on fundamentalist atheist websites.

For example, Bell asks, “What saves someone?”  I answer, and the Bible answers; Grace through Faith.  Bell asks, “Well, isn’t faith an action, and hence a work.”  I answer; No, something can be an action without being a work.  The Israelites were not allowed to work on Sabbath, were they allowed to think?  Sure.  Were they allowed to love?  Sure.  Where they allowed to trust (that’s faith)? Sure.  So, the big answer to all Bell’s rhetorical style questions is; we make it in by grace through faith, and faith is not a work.  QED.

So, moving on, what do I mean that I want to approach this review by implications?  I mean, what are the implications IF Bell’s thesis is right?  The implication of Bell’s thesis is that God is a monster…in fact He’d be the very monster Bell decries.  Bell clearly says that love can’t be forced, but the logical implication (reading Bell) is that it can be.  In the end, says Bell, everyone will succumb to God’s love and turn to God willingly.  That is a logical contradiction.  To be free will there must be true choice, but in this case, just by looking at Bell’s title; Love Wins, one can see there isn’t.

“Love wins.”  I didn’t know love was in a competition.  I didn’t know it was out to beat me.  But, I guess I was wrong.  Bell feels that God will so smufficate a person with love, they WILL respond and turn to Him either in this life in the next.  I resent the implication.  I resent his maligning of God’s character and God’s love.  God is not a rapist, nor is He a brainwasher.  Bell’s thesis is creepy in the extreme.  If you want to debate Hell, fine.  Annihilation vs. punishment, fine. Universalism, fine.  I even love to discuss the possibility CS Lewis raises that Hell is locked on the inside. But by claiming that God “wears you down” over long periods of time til you cave…why would anyone think that is acceptable from a Holy Loving God?

Bell’s implication is that God is neither Holy nor really Loving in any true sense, nor Just; He’s just interested in making sure every human being can be put on some Heavenly tally sheet.  Bell’s implication is also that evangelism is pointless, and so is suffering in this life.  What I mean by that is that everything winds up the same for everyone given enough time in the life to come.  A rapist that rejects love and God in this life gets an infinite series of chances to accept God’s gift of salvation, and in fact, will indeed come to accept it because nothing can stand up to God’s love.  We call that brainwashing.  A brainwashed individual is not acting under free will.  Jesus suffered when He observed that He had tried and tried to get through to the Jewish people, but “they would not.”  Why so upset if they were all going to be A-OK through all eternity?

Now, I completely understand someone being frustrated by evangelists trying to scare the crap out of someone to get them to believe in a loving God.  Fortunately I wasn’t raised that way.  For me, it has ALWAYS been about love and choice; true love and true freedom in choice.  I trust God to be just while still believing that Hell is real.  If we want to talk about Him giving every human an equal and fair chance at Heaven, I’m there.  If you want to point out that God doesn’t send anyone to Hell, that they choose it, I’m there.  If you want to point out the Devil is not in charge in Hell, and that it may not be all physical torture and pitchforks, I’m there.  But I draw the line at clearly maligning God, Our Father’s, character.

Briefly; other problems.  Horrible hermeneutics, flawed logic, sloppy writing, and whoever set up the actual book format…well, they shouldn’t win any prizes.  Plus, Bell dances around any reference to eternal contempt for some alongside eternal life for others, and ignores bulk passages that clearly indicate that faith in Christ is required to enter Heaven, that we die and then the judgment happens, etc… Not to mention he tries to describe Heaven, and it’s implications…he should’ve left that to Alcorn’s book “Heaven.”

I love books that make readers consider things from a new angle…this wasn’t one of them.  I’ve read another book recently that I guess I should’ve reviewed instead; “If Grace is True: Why God will save every person” by Gulley and Mulholland.  I didn’t agree with them either, esp. since they deny Christ’s sacrifice was necessary; however, their book was set up logically enough to review in a succinct way.  I feel Bell is theologically and intellectually dishonest, either unconsciously or on purpose.  He seems to be the type trying to “out moral” God…it just won’t work, and this isn’t the reference I’d turn to if I were to try.

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The Moon By Night…

This is the second in a series about Madeleine L’Engle’s Austin family books.  If you are new to what I’m doing with her books, please check out this link to know what the point of this “review” is about; Madeleine L’Engle.  This book was also new to me, so it was my first time through it.  It is also a good, but easy read.

What suppers did the Austins enjoy? Steak with salad, potato salad and marshmallows, scrambled eggs with hashbrowns and coffee of course, spaghetti, pork chops with turnip greens and salad, stew and salad, hash, tuna and veggie salad, fried chicken with potato salad and lettuce salad, and hamburgers.

What did they listen to in this particular story?  The Emperor Concerto, and the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, as well as Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, also sung a lot, including All Through the Night, Now the Day is Over, I Will Lift Mine Eyes unto the Hills, Tallis’ Canon, and the Eddystone LIght.

What were the kids reading or the adults reading to them? A Connecticut Yankee, Anna Karenina, Patterns of Culture by Ruth Benedict, and The Conquest of Space. The poem “Patterns” by Amy Lowell was also mentioned.  The Diary of Anne Frank played a bit role, but the play was the focus, not the book.

Their furry companions were in the story a bit less, but still there;  Colette their french poodle, Mr. Rochester their Great Dane, and Prunewhip.

What was the fam up to in this story?  Traveling and camping across country, and lots of people watching.  We also learned that Wallace “Daddy” Austin has a blackbelt in Judo, and were also introduced to Zachary Grey for the first time.  As they traveled they played several games, including one I’d never heard of; the Botticelli word game.  They also did a twist on the alphabet game; going through the alphabet naming a song or poem that begins with the letter; for example A = Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” begins with “Afoot…” and B = “The Blessed Damozel.”  (The only other one mentioned was I = “I Will Lift UP Mine Eyes…”)

Good prayers and quotes included? (BTW, when I can, I try to find the reference and the correct form of the quote,)

“Mark Twain’s” attributed quote, “When I was seventeen I was amazed at how little my father knew about life.  At the age of twenty two, I was amazed how much he had learned in five years.

One that became a theme, “Comparisons are odious” attributed to Donne, Fortescue, AND Marlowe amongst others. lol

One of my favorites from the book:

The Rain is Raining all Around

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.

- Lord Bowen

The themes of growing up and also God was strong in this book; the different characters weigh in either directly or indirectly on their own beliefs or thoughts on God.  I think my favorite character in this one was Uncle Douglas…

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Meet the Austins…

Dear reader, check out this link to know what the point of this “review” is about; Madeleine L’Engle.  This is one of her books I just read for the first time…I’d met the Austin family previously in books that come later in the Austin family series.  I really enjoyed this story, and it did serve as a good introduction to the Austins, which in turn, sets up the rest of the books in the series.  It is a very quick read, and “easy” reading.

What suppers did the Austins enjoy? Standing rib roast with roast potatoes and carrots, spaghetti with carrots and garlic bread, Spanish rice, Shepherd’s pie, strawberry mousse, pork roast with applesauce and carrots, pot roast with deep-dish apple pie, bread pudding with raisins, tapioca, jell-o, raisin bread, steaks with baked potatoes and salad, baked beans with hot dogs chopped up in them, and the ever present beverages of coffee and hot cocoa.

What did they listen to while preparing all of this?  Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto, Rosenkavalier, Schonberg’s Verklarte Nacht, Handel’s the Cuckoo and the Nightingale, Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, Handel’s Royal Fireworks, and John liked to listen to “The Gambler.”  The crew liked to sing; Cockles and Mussels, The Eddystone Light, You take the High Road, Oh, Susannah, Ash Grove, and Tallis’ Cannon.

What were the kids reading or the adults reading to them? The Jungle Book, Charlotte’s Web, The Secret Garden, The Sword in the Stone, and Doctor Dolittle.  Also, a book on Albert Einstein’s spiritual views was quoted and talked about, but no title was ever given.

Their furry companions that curled up at their feet?  Colette their french poodle, Mr. Rochester their Great Dane, and at least three cats; Prunewhip, Hamlet, and Creamy.

What was the fam up to in this story?  Skywatching as usual, including star gazing.

Good prayers and quotes included?

St. Francis’ Prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.

A quote from Hildevert of Lavardin;

God is over all things, under all things; outside all;
within, but not enclosed; without but not excluded;
above, but not raised up; below, but not depressed;
wholly above, presiding; wholly without, embracing;
wholly within, filling.

A poem from Thomas Browne;

If thou could`st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, `This is not dead`,
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes, He says, `This is enow
Unto itself – `twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me.`

Fun book to read, the themes of childhood, change and death were interesting.  This book, more than L’Engle’s others that I’ve read, seemed geared toward “younger” readers, but adults who like her style and characters will enjoy this book as well.  On to read the second in this series…

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Madeleine L’Engle…

I have a real love for a good book.  Nothing has to be spectacular, it doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, or even Twain…just good writing telling a good story.  I was first introduced to Madeleine L’Engle’s writings in school, where most kids are, A Wrinkle in Time was the first of her books I enjoyed.  At the time, I remember being slightly bewildered at L’Engle’s ability to tell a science fiction story while at the same time weaving it in with a character centered family style tale.  Since then, I’ve enjoyed many of her books, and am still happy to read some of them for the first time.

This being “The Christian Scribbler” I do indeed take an interest in the fact that L’Engle is often designated a Christian writer.  I always loved the spiritual aspects of her books, and the prayers, music, and religious discussion she always found a spot for.  That being said, I don’t always agree with her personal, or private, theology.  She tends toward universalism, which includes the idea that everyone will wind up being saved in the end.  For many Christians this would be a deal breaker, and you wouldn’t be allowed to enjoy her writings…for me, not so much.

I believe L’Engle’s style, and the content of her writings are fascinating, enlightening, and should spur anyone with an intellect to seek out information, music, and in fact, knowledge of all kinds.  I also like food.  And family.  And friends.  Reading her books reminds me of another of my favorite authors; Jan Karon and her Mitford series.  As I read L’Engle’s books I can’t help but be drawn into the families she writes about…caring what they are listening to, what they are fixing for supper (in a regular oven, or over a Bunsen burner), what books they are reading or subjects they are studying.  I was so interested in this kind of thing that I looked to see if they had ever put out a cookbook as a companion to L’Engle’s writings as they had with other popular books or series.  They hadn’t.

So, I decided to make my own lists of interesting bits from L’Engle’s works….I’ll be starting with Meet the Austins and going on from there.  Every time I make a new entry here on my blog, I’ll update this page with a new link to the new article.  I love the fact that L’Engle’s characters are smart, intelligent, thoughtful, talented, compassionate, etc…  The family scenes and discussions are fascinating, and remind me of some of the more thoughtful people in my life, including family and friends.

My “lists” for each book will include things like, “What’s for supper?”  Also, books a member of the family are reading, subjects they are studying, what music they are listening to, their Pets (which are key members of family life), and miscellaneous things, like prayers and quotes that feature in the storylines.   This is just meant to be fun way of sharing my enjoyment of these books with other fans, and perhaps get others to join in the fun by reading her works; the books that are hyperlinked will take you to my reviews and lists…

Austin Family books in order:

  • The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas (short story)
  • A Full-House: An Austin Family Christmas (short story)
  • Meet The Austins (Full-length book; first in the series)
  • The Anti-Muffins (short story, but included as a chapter in the newest editions of Meet the Austins)
  • The Moon by Night (Full-length book; second in the series)
  • The Young Unicorns (Full-length book; third in the series)
  • A Ring of Endless Light (Full-length book; fourth in the series)
  • Troubling a Star (Full-length book; fifth in the series)
  • A Severed Wasp (Full-length book; it overlaps with a different series, not “technically” an Austin family book)

Books about the Murray Family; AKA The Time Quartet, or Time Quintet

  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • A Wind in the Door
  • Many Waters
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet
  • An Acceptable Time (Overlaps with the O’Keefe Family series)

Books about the O’Keefe Family

  • The Arm of the Starfish
  • Dragons in the Waters
  • A House Like a Lotus
  • An Acceptable Time (Overlaps with the Murray Family series)

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Voyage of the Dawn Treader; Movie Review

I finally managed to see the new Chronicles of Narnia movie: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (VotDT).  There are many fans of the CS Lewis books that despise the movies, but I’ve enjoyed each of them for different reasons, VotDT is no different. I thoroughly enjoyed this latest installment and recommend it to movie goers, Christian and non-Christian alike.  There will be SPOILERS for both the book and the movie, if you’d rather wait to see it yourself, please stop reading now. ;)

One of the first questions people want to know, esp. Christians, is; Does the Movie follow the book?  I would honestly have to say yes in general, and no in specifics.  Yes, in that the main characters are intact, as are the main interactions.  No in the specific plot devices and details.  Extra additions to the plot include a dreaded greenish mist that whisks people off to the Island of darkness, and the seven lords of Narnia being given seven swords by Aslan that all must be found and placed on Aslan’s table in order to break the spell of the green mist. I’m assuming some of the changes are actually inspired by, or sets up, The Silver Chair.

The next questions always include; Did they leave in Aslan changing Eustace back from a dragon, and did they leave in the, “In your world I have another Name,” speech by Aslan? These are two key Christian parts of the book and they did leave them in, though changing Eustace back into a boy was much less hands-on (or paws-on) and less graphic (which is why I assume they changed it), plus the “baptism” aspect of it was missing, as Eustace did not go into a body of water.  Also missing was the element of Eustace trying to change himself back, but failing, and Aslan stepping in to do the work.

The Aslan speech at the end was left largely intact and was pulled off well. It was clearly communicated that the children must learn to know Aslan by His Name here in our world.  My main gripe with this scene; they left out the Lamb that turns into a Lion.  It would have been a little detail that spelled out things so much more for the audience; Aslan represents Christ Who is the Lion and the Lamb.

Will Poulter’s Eustace Scrubb brings a lot of comedy into the movie and the actor did very well with it; the transformation of snotty little Eustace into a true Narnian at heart was pulled off well.  However, one of the things in the book that always stood out to me was that Eustace was never cut any slack on The Dawn Treader, and his crime of stealing water was treated seriously by Reep.  In the movie version, the serious nature is pointed out when Eustace nabs an orange, but Reepicheep lightens the tone of the repercussions.

The only bit in the movie that may be too scary for some of the younger fans is the sea serpent scene (a nice homage to The Ghost Busters is there, if anyone is paying attention to the dialogue).  The serpent was done really well, IMO, and may frighten younglings a bit too much.  The Dawn Treader itself was far less cheesy than I’d feared.  Oh, BTW, this review does not include a review of the 3D, because I did not see that version.

Long review short, I liked this movie, and believe it is a movie for the whole family, except the youngest members.  The movie, along with the book, teaches many important lessons including fighting temptation, our inability to change ourselves without help, friendship, family, humility with biblical self-respect, etc…  I enjoyed it, and look forward to the DVD, as well as the next installment that will hopefully be greenlit soon.

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Doctor Who; Big Bang Review…

SPOILERS ahead, don’t read if you haven’t seen the last episode of Doctor Who.  Ok, so I’m going to skip straight to editorializing the last episode from my Christian POV.  As many of my readers already know, I’m fascinated by atheists writing storylines that actually support certain contentions of Christianity, especially when it is not the writer’s intentional, conscious aim.

As I’ve said before, I do believe many atheist writers show the internal “knowledge” of God by what they write about even though they very publicly state they are against the idea of there being a God.  This episode wasn’t an exception.  Moffat was indeed the writer for this season ender, BTW.

The name of the episode catches the attention right off the bat; the big bang…modern science’s label of the declaration that the universe did indeed have a beginning.  Why that title?  Because during the course of the episode we discover the Doctor’s answer to resetting the universe is to create Big Bang Two (or Too would work I suppose ;) ) Why do I find that particularly interesting?

Well, apologists will recognize that one of the main arguments for God is the Cosmological argument which I have blogged on previously.  With the recognition that the universe had a beginning, one should be ready to admit that it had to have a Creator.  Something transcendent, something un-caused and ultimate…that is God.  Atheists attempt to deny this and to dance around the issue.

Well…in the show we have a set up for Big Bang 2.  Ok.  Big Bang 2 is set up and executed…it is designed.  It would not come about unless it had a designer.  Isn’t that interesting?  So Moffat can conceive of a second big bang, but that big bang has a creator…isn’t it possible for him to admit that the first big band also had to have a Creator as well?  Add another layer on.  I’ve already discussed the Messiah-like attributes of The Doctor (and it’s linked above)…who designs and executes the second big bang?  The Doctor, the Messiah-like figure on the show.  Hmmm…..

As far as a review; I enjoyed the finale…but the ending was a bit anti-climactic, and I do mean the very end.  I got used to the series setting up an exciting hook and catch for the next season…Big Bang didn’t really do that for me.  I am indeed looking forward to next year, but it is because of the show in general, not just because of the ending of this eppy.  Big Bang was fast and fun, and of course we got to see a side of the new Doctor in his new style of dancing and his interactions with the kidlings.  Downside to the eppy?  The presence of River Song…boo.  I really hope I’m right in that she is not who the writers want us to think she is!  I suppose we’ll see…

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Lost; The End Review

I haven’t talked about Lost much on here, but it is a show that I’ve watched since the very first episode, and now that it ended the way that it did, I have to comment on it. SPOILERS abound; if you haven’t seen it, don’t read on!

Ok, the main thing everyone is asking is, “Did you like the ending?” Well…that is an odd question for me. I can honestly say that I give it a 4/10…but that score requires some explaining.

First, the writers did a good job with the character arcs. They wrote a scenario that gave the audience a sense of closure without putting in much detail. So, all of our Losties wind up dead one way or another, surprise surprise, and in our world we are not sure when or where the off screen deaths took place. Take Hurley for example; we know he was the Protector for a bit, but did indeed pass away at some unspecified time and place in our future.

We know that their souls (the essence of who they were) all wound up together in what is now popularly labeled “Purgatory.”  I have to say, I think the writers kind of went PC overboard on the Universalist style church…how many religious symbols, statues, books, artwork, etc… can one crew put into one set dressing?  I would point out that to do that, but then have Christ prominently displayed outside the church in many shots, “Christian Shepherd” being the one to open the door to the “next step,” and the Christian faith of several of the Characters throughout the seasons, is an odd choice, since that is enough to get all those against the Christian faith riled up without fully committing.

Now, here’s the thing about a story…it has a plot and it has characters.  The characters are there to further a plot and to enrich it.  They are not the plot, they are a part of the plot, they are part of the story.  That is what I think the creators of the show either neglected to remember, or deliberately ignored in the finale.  So, the second part of this review is about the plot in general, not the characters.  The plot was, for all intents and purposes, completely ignored.  Think about it; we know absolutely nothing about the island or the surrounding mysteries.

We don’t know what the light is, energy of some sort, perhaps tied to spirituality, perhaps not.  We don’t know who first populated the island, who the “mother” of Jacob and “Esau” was and why we should believe anything she’d say (or her nutty sons), who built the “plug” that keeps the energy in, why certain people can see dead people, why Walt could control the island off and on the island, why did Kate see a black horse, why did the smoke beastie peer into people’s souls for no ultimate apparent reason, and on and on and on…  The island was the main setting, and the main plot device, and it was completely neglected during the finale.

Look, I like good books, movies, and tv shows that make people think and ask questions…so a lot of people really liked the ending.  But, here’s the thing…I know about the afterlife, I know about spirituality, I know about the love of a group of people, and friendship, and adventure.  I don’t need some vague reference to what happens after someone dies.  I was hooked on the show because of the mystery of the island, not the mystery of the humans on the island except as it pertained to the island itself.  I love character driven shows too; but the plot is what needs to be advanced through the advancement of the characters.  To me, the writers did a fine job on the characters, and a bad job on the plot.

Could this be for future profits and storytelling?  I do hope for future storytelling, or answers.  The writers did a bang-up job setting a scene and a world full of possibility as far as the island is concerned, they just didn’t give any answers in this series.

To be fair, I’ve seen many criticisms of the show, or aspects of the show, that are based on people just not thinking things through (surprise surprise).  For example; no, Jack did not just dream the whole island and all the people up; it really happened.  The rules put in place that people are nitpicking; who could and could not leave the island, who could come to the island, were set in place by Jacob (remember the game Jake and his brother were playing, and the brother told him someday Jake could make up his own rules for his own game?  Jake used the island to do just that). Purgatory was transcendent, and that is why they could all be there at the same time.  Jake picked who he did because they had issues to deal with and needed a life change anyway, so he brought ‘em there for his own ends, but also to try to get them to change, etc… etc…

So, there ya have it.  I’m glad I watched the show, didn’t love the ending but have my reasons why.

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