Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reading Critically

It is always a good idea to read critically, even if what you read is something very well researched.

Like the Bible.

This is a little different from my usual topics, but I wanted to share something I saw today. I was reading in Proverbs today in the New International Version (NIV) on Bible Gateway. This is what Proverbs 10:22 says:
The blessing of the LORD brings wealth,
   without painful toil for it.

I did a double take at that. That sounded like a prosperity gospel verse. I had never noticed it before, but I wondered about the translation of it.

I checked some other translations at Bible Gateway (very easy to do, that's why I recommend it), and this is what I got:
It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich,
And He adds no sorrow to it. (NASB)

The blessing of the LORD makes one rich,
      And He adds no sorrow with it. (NKJV)

The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich,
      and he adds no sorrow with it. (NLT)

The blessing of the LORD makes rich,
   and he adds no sorrow with it. (ESV - adds a note that an alternate reading is "
and toil adds nothing to it")

I think the other readings matching up suggests that the NIV isn't the best reading in this instance.

I don't know Hebrew, but I wish I did so I could go to the original text. When we rely on translation, there is some interpretation involved by those doing the work. Every version is going to have verses where it the translation is skewed a little.

This doesn't put doubt on the Bible. It is an issue of trying to convey thoughts in English (or whatever language) from Hebrew. What it tells us is that we need to read critically and realize that we shouldn't rely on one translation when we study the Bible. The NIV version of 10:22 reads a lot differently to me than the others, and it didn't match up with other parts of the Bible that speak of working hard. We don't shut off our brains when we read anything, especially God's Word. Yes, I believe in inspiration and the leading of the Holy Spirit, but He also gave us minds for a reason.

If you are looking for a good book on Bible study, my favorite is How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CSFF Tour Day 3 - The Monster In The Hollows

Today is the last day of our feature of Andrew Peterson's wonderful series The Wingfeather Saga and the latest book, The Monster In The Hollows.

What do I know though? I'm almost a greybeard.

How about we ask some of the intended audience?

Two thumbs up!
I have been reading this series to my boys Nathan (11) and Matthew (9 1/2) for three years (Caleb is starting to get into it, but he has the attention span of Kalmar on a bad day). They have eaten up the antics and adventures of the Florid Sword, Peet the Sock Man, Oskar N. Reteep,the Durgan Patrol and even Sara Cobbler (a girl!).

Nathan has recently read the first two books again, so he wrote up a summary of the series.
On The Edge Of The Dark Sea Of Darkness:
"I like how they think they're normal kids with a normal life, until everything changes in a few days. Then they find out Tink (Kalmar) is a king, Janner is a Throne Warden, and Leeli is a Song Maiden."

North! Or Be Eaten
  "From the Glipwood Forest to the Stranders, Dugtown, the Fork Factory, and the Ice Prairies there are challenges wherever the Wingfeathers go, and with all that excitement, why can't you love this book!" (Why indeed?)

The Monster In The Hollows:
"The Wingfeathers think they can be safe in the Green Hollows but they immediately run into problems. When they seem to have a normal life, Janner finds out that his little brother is stealing animals and the Hollowsfolk aren't happy. As they're about to be hanged (as my brother and I go crazy), the surprise is actually the [removed for spoiler purposes!]"

Matthew focused on Monster.
"The Monster In The Hollows is really exciting. It has a lot of mystery, which I really like about it, and is one of the reasons it's my favorite book in the Wingfeather Saga. I really like how it has a lot of cliffhangers, because my brother and I went coo-coo on a lot of the cliffhangers. I really also like the part where Janner found out that Kalmar was gone in the middle of the night and went and tracked him in the snow!

But my favorite part of all was when they figured out [a major spoiler]. I was really surprised because we thought he was [spoiler], so I was really shocked. I did also like the chapter "Artham and the Deeps of Throg". So I am looking forward to another book."

Ok, I had to provide a little redacting to not blow some great surprises. I hope the words of some true boys who enjoy good books will encourage you to pick this up, especially if you have kids. Even if you don't, it is a great series to read for kids of any age!

See what else the inmates are saying for the CSFF Tour at Becky's blog.

CSFF Tour Day 2- The Monster In The Hollows

I'm a little behind in my touring, but for my second post for the September CSFF Tour featuring Andrew Peterson and his most recent book in the Wingfeather Saga, The Monster In The Hollows, I wanted to offer my review of the book. For my third post, I will have some different perspectives...

I can't help but emphasize how neat a guy Andrew Peterson is. He wrote personal letters to my boys when they wrote to him about his last book. As Mharvi Reads shows in a note from Andrew, he takes his responsibility as a storyteller seriously (you really need to read that note!).

The care he takes shows once again in Monster. He touches the heart, excites with suspense, brings humor with sneakery and spitting contests, and keeps drawing the Wingfeather children closer to their destiny. He puts in small details that makes the fantasy world of Aerwiar complete.

The book, as its companions  On The Edge Of The Dark Sea Of Darkness and North! Or Be Eaten, is entertaining for adults and children. I love the deeper meanings that Andrew layers in, and my boys are on the edge of the sofa, taking in all the suspense and reacting to each cliffhanger chapter ending with "Noooooo!"

I don't know how many people read to their children anymore, but this is a great series to read to your kids. I like doing voices, and there are many options for me to ham it up. For the Guildmadam Olumphia Groundwich, I felt her voice should really be done in a Monty Python "Spam" sketch type voice:

Any book that give you an excuse to use a Monty Python voice is a winner in my book.

The rest of the CSFF clan's posts can be found in one location on Becky Miller's blog. Check them out. My next post will have a special guest feature, so please stop by.

Monday, September 19, 2011

CSFF Tour Day 1 - The Monster In The Hollows

This is a great convergence.

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day (the favored holiday of this blog).

And today, the CSFF Tour features The Monster In The Hollows, which features a peg-legged ex-pirate who uses his old leg bone as a weapon!

Andrew Peterson has recently come out with the third book in the Wingfeather Saga. It started with On The Edge Of The Dark Sea Of Darkness and followed with North! Or Be Eaten. Both books have delighted youth and adults with the whimsical, lyrical tales of the Igiby children.

Imagine if you will:

Twelve year old Janner, his younger and impulsive brother Kalmar, and his sweet but crippled sister Leeli. They are ordinary kids, loved by their mother Nia and their peg-legged ex-pirate grandpa Podo. Life for these kids is pretty normal.

Except for being chased from their home by the lizard-like Fangs of Dang. And except for surviving a harrowing journey across the land of Skree (toothy cows, bomnubbles, and the Fork Factory. Woe!) along with a daring escape across the Dark Sea of Darkness (and the dragons!).

But since they made it to the Green Hollows everything is dandy. Except the little episode Kalmar had. The one where he grew a tail. Grey fur. A muzzle and sharp teeth. And pointy little ears. It seems the Hollowfolk think Kalmar is a monster, and everyone hates them.

Oh, and Gnag the Nameless is still looking for some kids that he thinks are the Jewels of Anniera.

Janner is charged with watching over his brother, who by the way is the next High King of Anniera. As the Throne Warden, he has a duty to his country and his family. Who can blame him if he wants a different life?

I'll have more to say about the book tomorrow, but here are some other fine folk who have more about this intriguing book:

Gillian Adams Red Bissell Jennifer Bogart Thomas Clayton Booher Beckie Burnham CSFF Blog Tour D. G. D. Davidson Cynthia Dyer Amber French Nikole Hahn Ryan Heart Timothy Hicks Julie Carol Keen Shannon McDermott Rebecca LuElla Miller Mirriam Neal  Eve Nielsen Joan Nienhuis Donita K. Paul Sarah Sawyer Chawna Schroeder Tammy Shelnut Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Rachel Starr Thomson Robert Treskillard Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler Nicole White Rachel Wyant

Here Ye Go Again...Arrr!

 Ye be warned!

Ye have entered the waters of The Iron Maiden Micaiah. She 'ere not fierce with steel or powder, but with her big brown eyes and winsome smile. She'll plunder yer booty with cuteness she will. Preferably pink booty.

As yer (almost) yearly source for all things pirate-y for International Talk Like A Pirate Day, here be some linkage to anchor yer ship to:

Some lubbers try to denounce true pirate behavior.

What do history say about pirates? Who cares, if ye can't read!

Some clever scalawag shows how this here pirate jig is done, and there be links o'treasure aplenty on this page.

This here be treason!

Finally, a drinkin' song fit fer a pirate lord! Arr!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pay Me In Flesh - A Zombie Legal Thriller

Hungry for something different in fiction?

Ready to sink your teeth into some tasty reading?

Or perhaps you prefer brains...

Pay Me In Flesh is the brainchild of one K. Bennett, a fertile mind who came up with a simple premise: what could be done that's fresh in the zombie genre. Well, try this teaser on for size.
In L.A., practicing law can be hell. Especially if you’re dead.

In an increasingly hellacious L.A., zombie lawyer Mallory Caine defends a vampire hooker accused of the crime Mallory herself committed, even as a zombie-killer closes in and the love of her former life comes back as the Deputy DA she must oppose. And as Lucifer himself begins setting up L.A. as his headquarters for a new attack on heaven and earth, Mallory slowly discovers she may be the one who has to stop him. 

This mass paperback book is packed with witty dialog, unforgettable characters, and an attorney with a bite. Mallory Caine is trying to find out who killed her and see if she can recover her soul. She hates to eat brains, but she's doing what she must to survive. She's not the normal lumbering, witless undead. Sure, she needs a little moisturizer and prefers educated brains (Harvard and Stanford go down much nicer than your drop-out), but she still sees a need for the innocent to get justice.

It is a fresh take on both the legal thriller and the zombie novel. The pace of the books keeps the reader lurching forward, and the city of Los Angeles becomes a character in the mood and setting of the novel.

I don't want to give too much away. Suffice it to say, I think you won't find a more original novel premise this year, and Pay Me In Flesh is a read that will have you laughing, drawn in, and hungry for more.

You may hear a rumor that K. Bennett shares a startling resemblance to James Scott Bell, but that's a common point of confusion. Pay it no mind...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Christian Artist Who Isn't

I'd like to introduce you to a lovely young woman from New Zealand.

Brooke Fraser.

You may not be familiar with her. She's a singer/songwriter who is gaining an international reputation for her thoughtful, creative music. Hopefully you will become acquainted with her, because her songs are quite beautiful, with a unique sound and a touch of whimsy.

So why am I talking about a kiwi musician on a writing blog?

I follow the publishing industry in general, but the Christian fiction (CBA) arm specifically. The discussion of what is a Christian artist/writer/book is a never ending cycle of back and forth.

As for Brooke, she seems to have two distinct careers. She has released three albums for the mainstream, each progressively doing better first in New Zealand, then internationally. However, you may have heard her music on Sunday mornings as well. Her songs "Hosanna" and "Desert Song" are known worldwide in contemporary worship services, and she has done worship with Hillsongs United in Australia (sometimes as Brooke Ligertwood, her married name).

The interesting part is this dichotomy, where she is a successful artist to a mainstream audience, and can write and sing for a Christian audience without losing her other identity. When asked about "tension" with these two different worlds, she replies in an interview on an Australian website for Christian music:
You can't put what God is doing on this earth into a box... it can't be summarised into tidy categories. Whatever God is doing through my life, it's not just about me. There's a stirring happening in God's Church, through the creative arts, creative ministries and other things too... and as time moves on we get closer and closer to Jesus coming back. God has a plan for the whole earth and it involves everyone one of us doing our part -- it's not necessarily going to look like something we can easily understand on the natural. I write worship songs that are for the building up of God's people in the Church, and I love that because I'm able to express really clearly, and declare uncompromisingly my love for Jesus. But at the same time I recognise the importance of my other songs as being like parables... taking Church to people who would never walk into a church...

She says in the article that she doesn't consider herself a CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) artist and actually resists it strongly because of concerns about "merchandising the gospel." I know other artists won't identify with CCM because of concerns of being pigeonholed and possibly reducing their audience, but I've never found a major artist who refuses identification with CCM due to such a conviction.

I like the part where she recognizes some of her songs can be directly worshipful, and others are like parables. One of my favorite bands is Switchfoot, and I think many of their songs work in this way.

Songwriting is a different skill than writing fiction, but I believe the ideas brought out by Brooke in her interview and career offer insight to those pursuing writing fiction and wondering where their work fits. I think a fiction example would be Ted Dekker, who is writing best-sellers in the thriller market, while still pursuing stories that speak more directly to a Christian aspect. His books certainly fit a parable.

I know there is a lot to discuss as far as marketing, reaching audiences, and message, but I think having the concept of parable versus being a direct expression of faith in fiction is one to consider.

For my writer friends - where do your stories fit? Parable or more directly speaking to issues of God and faith? What are books that have done both well?
Oh, and go check out Brooke's website for some refreshing music!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Eyes On The Prize

We all need reminders.

I just wish I didn't require a spiritual head smack to get one.

I've been frustrated with some circumstances, mostly at work. My job has changed over time, and I don't always feel like I'm making a difference or using my training or talents. I went to school for medicine - I seem to work in crisis management (and not the medical kind).

Add in some co-workers who make life difficult at times, and I have been longing to do something else lately. Life could be worse. I'm still employed, the job is not difficult, and I am liked by my management. Still, I get agitating at times, and I was focusing more on my circumstances that I didn't like over anything else.

That's when God spoke.

It went something like this: "Knock it off!"

I was reminded to focus on the One in control of the circumstances, over the circumstances themselves. He is in control - as always. I have seen His faithfulness too much to worry. I don't remember this all the time, and I'm glad He doesn't lose patience with me.

So if you hear me whining again, give me a kick in the shins please. God is too good for me to do that. I felt much better yesterday looking to Him instead of where I am. That's how I'd prefer things.

What about you? Have you ever had one of those holy "thwacks"?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Beautiful Truth

Thanks to Andrew Peterson on Twitter, I saw this wonderful post about "Proclaiming Truth Beautifully." Trevin Wax takes a post from The Gospel-Driven Church as a launching point to discuss authors who speak truth, but don't just do it from a point of giving information. They give it in an artful way that conveys God's beauty not just via information, but through the language used as well.

Great post - highly recommended. As Trevin ends his post: "May God raise up a generation of writers who not only know the truth, but beckon others to swim in the depths of grace!"