Sunday, June 26, 2011
Synopsis: Lift Your Eyes by Clyde E. Nichols is a daily devotional that contains a scripture reading and short story for each day of the year.
Nichols, a pastor in Temple, Texas, tells us in his forward that he collected favorite scriptures from his congregants and assigned a day for each one accompanied by an anecdote to meditate on and hopefully increase the reader's understanding and appreciation for the scripture and the God they serve.
Some of the stories are personal reflections from Pastor Nichol's own life while others are stories, both humorous and serious he probably collected over the years. Many of the stories are taken from history and are about famous but also little known Christians of the past.
For instance, I had heard of the story about Corrie Ten Boom preaching forgiveness than being confronted with the necessity of practicing what she preached when a former guard from the concentration camp where she had been a prisoner came up and extended his hand to her in friendship.
Others I didn't know such as George Matheson, a Scottish minister who became blind at the age of seventeen but still went on to become an accomplished minister, giving all his sermons by memory.
Some will tug your heart strings like the elderly lady taking a taxi to hospice (February 19th) while others will inspire like the man who finally got up enough gumption to read his Bible in front of his cursing drinking co-workers (March 9)
All the stories are thought-provoking and designed, along with the Scripture, to increase the reader's intimacy with and focus on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
There's a fascinating story about a man named Butch O Hare . This story is too good not to repeat in its entirety.
The Story Of Two Men
I want to tell you a couple of stories about two men. Butch O’Hare was from Chicago. He was a navy pilot during World War II. In the Pacific his squadron had taken off from its carrier on a mission.
A few minutes away from the carrier, he realized his plane had not been serviced. His fuel was too low to make it to the target. Radioing his squadron leader, he turned back.
On his way, he spotted fifty Japanese bombers flying straight for the American fleet. Nobody knew they were coming. The American fleet would be devastated. All the planes had been sent off.
Butch O’Hare remembered his father who had chosen God and honor first over all.
He whispered a quick prayer and then dived toward the fifty Japanese bombers. When his machine guns ran out of ammunition, he began suicide dives disabling as many planes as he could.
He disorganized the entire Japanese flight, until the other American planes he had radioed turned and came back to help.
Later, he learned that he had shot down five Japanese bombers and heavily damaged any number of others. He was the first navy aviator ever to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
When you fly into Chicago today, you land at O’Hare Airport, named after the young man who that day saved thousands and thousands of American sailors.
Easy Eddie was also from Chicago. He was part of Al Capone’s mob. The lawyer who kept the mob out of jail, he never got his hands dirty.
Everybody thought well of Easy Eddie. Even after Al Capone went to jail, the mob kept going because Easy Eddie kept it going.
One night a friend gave him a Bible. Putting his feet up, he read.
Before long he realized that he was going to hell and that everything he was living for was the work of Satan.
That night he gave his heart to Christ. The next morning he walked into the FBI headquarters and turned state’s evidence. It brought down the mob.
Within a year, Easy Eddie was gunned down in the streets.
What do these two stories have in common? Easy Eddie’s last name was O’Hare. He was Butch O’Hare’s father.
That's just a sampling. If you like that story then you need to get this book.
My opinion: This is a wonderful addition to any believer's Bible study library. It's a great resource for daily meditation and quiet time.
Thanks to Janette Fuller for providing me with a free copy of Lift Up Your Eyes. For more information you can visit her site at http://janettefuller.blogspot.com/2011/04/once-in-lifetime.html
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
The Joker and the Chest is about a teenage boy, John Marcellus. John has an irresistible compulsion to play “pranks” on handicapped people. He doesn't know why he does it except that he gets a “thrill” doing it. After his third prank his family sends him to a boarding school where he meets up with Morgan Fairway. Morgan is the headmaster's son and they become friends.
While helping to transfer everything out of an old school building into a new one, Morgan and John come across a decrepit chest in the attic of the old building. Apparently there is a mystery surrounding this chest and Mrs. Katanski, the elderly custodian of the school, knows something about it and is anxious for the boys to stay away from this chest. Could the chest contain evidence of a murder committed years ago?
Let me stop right there and say the above two paragraphs contain ingredients for a good story. Unfortunately Mr. Murphy does not develop any of these ideas nor does he tie them together. A plausible explanation is never given to why an otherwise nice, respectful boy like John impulsively plays pranks on helpless people. I might add that Murphy's use of the word “prank” is flawed. John goes beyond pranks. What he does sadistic and cruel. Slamming a child's hand in a door is not playful, neither is taking the crutches of someone with a broken leg or knocking all the books onto the floor of a girl with a broken arm. It's mean and hateful.
After an accident where John almost dies he is finally “cured” of his need to play pranks on others but his reformation of character is rather abrupt. Murphy would have done well to delve deeper in to the psyche of John. Why does he like hurting helpless people? Why is it so out of character for him to do so? These questions are not adequately answered.
Totally unrelated to this lack of character study is the “mystery” of a chest in the attic. In the end (which isn't long in coming-the whole book is fifty-eight pages) we find out...nothing. The mystery isn't solved, the story of the murder case is never told in full and we never find out why old Mrs. Katanski is so protective of the chest.
All in all a poorly developed plot with poorly developed characters. The makings are there. Maybe Mr. Murphy could go back and flesh his story out.
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Saturday, June 11, 2011
What author would I like to meet? Hmm...A living one? Hmmm....Could we fantasize and meet a dead one?
I'd love to meet GK Chesterton. I'd like to debate him even though I know I'd lose abominably. I'd just like to hear his responses.
Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me: A Memoir....of Sorts is Ian Morgan Cron's account of growing up Catholic with a father who on occasion worked for the CIA but mostly spent his days in a drunken stupor. I can divide this book up into three sections: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
The Good: Cron is a good writer. This is obviously not the stuff of a ghost writer. Cron has an agile mastery of the English language and a scathing sense of humor to boot, both of which he puts to good purpose in his book. The first half of the book is filled mostly with humor, going to Catholic school with scary nuns, his first (and traumatic) experience as an altar boy and trying to fit in at school but failing miserably. These are experiences many of us can identify with and laugh at.
The Bad: About the middle of the book the story takes a dark turn. The humor is gone and replaced with a tone of bitterness and anger. He describes the hardship of having to live with an alcoholic father and a workaholic mother. Furthermore, Cron himself starts experimenting with drugs and alcohol as a teenager and by the time he's in college he's a raging alcoholic. In this section Cron loses his faith. He decides that God doesn't listen to the prayers of a young person begging to be delivered from the hell of an alcoholic home.
The Ugly: Because this book is published by a Christian company (and “Jesus” after all is in the title) I kept waiting for Cron to give an inspiring testimony of how he finally turned to God and was delivered from the hatred he had for his father and his own demons of alcoholism. He does write of being delivered from his addictions but no prayer is uttered, no explicit credit is given to God. I suppose it is implied: his psychologist is an Episcopalian priest, his wife is a Christian and he has a mystical fascination with the Eucharist.
When he talks of the Christian youth groups he attended in high school and college at the urging of well-meaning Christian friends he more or less sneers “it was dumber than I thought it'd be” (pg. 162). He also talks about God in an irreverent way which I'll assume we're supposed to chalk up to his bitterness.
Cron's turning point comes in the middle of a church service when he hears a voice asking him for forgiveness. He later concludes that Jesus was asking for his forgiveness. He gives it and things seem to take an upturn swing after that.
I guess that's the ugliest thing in this book: Cron's act of making God in his own image. Please show me in the Bible where Jesus asked anyone for forgiveness. Did the woman who bled for seventeen years demand it? Did the parents of demon-possessed children expect it? What about the lepers or the men blind from birth? In fact there's only one group of people I saw in the Bible that thought Jesus was accountable to them. They were called Scribes and Pharisees. A Perfect, Sinless Being would never ask for what He does not need.
I can understand being angry at God. All of us have been angry at Him at one time or another- some of us, like people with alcoholic or otherwise abusive parents have more reason than others, I'm sure.
But true repentance and salvation comes not when we call God on the carpet but when we understand that all humans are on the carpet, accountable for a sin-sick soul. We all possess lives that need God's forgiveness and His Son's sacrifice to pay what our sin owes. This crucial point is what's missing in Cron's book.
Somehow he ends up becoming an Episcopalian priest but he never tells us how he arrived there. And here's another ugly detail of the book: For a man of God, Cron has riddled his book with vulgar and coarse language. Unfortunately I'm seeing this as a disturbing trend in many Christian circles, literary or otherwise.
If you're wondering why I haven't mentioned Cron's father's work in the CIA it's because it really doesn't play a large role anywhere in the story. This book is mainly about Cron's father's and then his own substance abuse.
I think this book could benefit people who bear the scars of living in a household held captive by alcoholism yet at the same time, he doesn't offer a true path to healing and deliverance. For that you'd need to find a book that actually makes God and His Scripture as the focal point rather than a young man's angst.
I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers
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