This book is a collection of Christmas-related Biblical passages. It is accompanied by many beautiful illustrations - some are original, for this volu...moreThis book is a collection of Christmas-related Biblical passages. It is accompanied by many beautiful illustrations - some are original, for this volume, but many are reproductions of paintings, sculptures, and stained glass from different countries and centuries.
Parts of this book I enjoyed very much, but I still am puzzled by the specific passages selected. Some famous passages were omitted which I had felt sure would be included. Moreover, chapters 2 and 3 are definitely post-Christmas, with Jesus as a twelve-year-old celebrating Passover and, later still, in his 30's preaching on adultery and hell (among other things). Did I mention this book was intended for young children? All in all, some very strange decisions at work here. It's mostly about Christmas and it's mostly for young children, but it doesn't commit fully to either.(less)
This book is kind of weird. It's Christian nonfiction, and it's all about how Christians should live and what they should and shouldn't do, which mean...moreThis book is kind of weird. It's Christian nonfiction, and it's all about how Christians should live and what they should and shouldn't do, which means it's not the type of book I usually read. I noticed it completely by accident: the author had written a novel that I had read for book discussion, and I had recognized the name. I became even more interested when I found that this book was written in a humorous tone, which really takes the edge off what might have otherwise been an unbearably preachy little book.
That said, Fabry still comes off as preachy (what did I expect?) That probably would've been all right, but some of what he preaches is really . . . out there. There are several passages that do makes sense, of course, but some of his statements just bizarre, even contradictary. For example, in one chapter, Fabry writes that "ineffective" Christians think of God as their pal. They forget how holy and powerful and infinite he is, and they spend too much time listening to "What a Friend we Have in Jesus." Seriously? Now he's picking on the hymns while criticizing the people? Leaving aside the argument that God's love for human beings is sorta central to the religion, his argument doesn't even hold up in the rest of the book. A few pages later, Fabry writes that another sign of ineffective Christians is that they think of God as being holy and powerful and important and forget that he is really interested in every mundane detail of their lives. This seems to me to be the spiritual equivalent of having one's cake and eating it too. If I'd had any expectations, this probably would have been a disappointment. As it is, even though I didn't really learn much or become spiritually enlightened, and even though I can't recommend it to anyone, I'm not sorry I read it, either. It was interesting enough, and there were a few funny moments. There was one hilarious joke about coffee grounds.(less)
This book wins the prize for being the most offensive Christmas book I have ever read. It's worse in some respects than even The Christmas Shoes. At l...moreThis book wins the prize for being the most offensive Christmas book I have ever read. It's worse in some respects than even The Christmas Shoes. At least that novel showed a few people with offensive attitudes. This book is just one guy (the author) demonstrating offensive attitudes and holding them up as some higher moral "truth." I almost didn't add it to Goodreads because I'm ashamed to have read it. I am embarrassed. I hope my friends who don't read many Christmas books won't judge the whole genre by this one item. But if you are looking for something Christmassy to read, don't pick this. Read my review, and you'll get the Cliffs notes version of everything this book has to offer. And then some.
[This book has a forward, a preface, and seven short stories.]
THE FORWARD: The forward is the only part of the book that's worth reading. The book's cover proclaims, "Forward by Walter Wangerin Jr," and that's probably a big part of why I chose to read this book in the first place. I'd read and enjoyed some of Wangerin's other stuff, and he doesn't disappoint here. His forward describes the structure of the stories to come, which will tell of various characters in various situations as they each reach an epiphany of startling joy that changes their whole perspective on life. The forward is beautifully written and uplifting.
THE PREFACE: I could never quite decide if the preface is supposed to be a short story, or whether it's the author describing an epiphany in his own life, presumably the inspiration for the stories that follow. I think the preface is supposed to be an anecdote, likely an exaggerated anecdote, from the author's own life. It is THE single most offensive part of the entire book. The author, I assume, is Christian in the technical sense of the word, because he gets all preachy. However, his extreme view do not represent any form of Christianity I have ever encountered. Also, he calls Jesus a parasite.
So, it's wintertime, and the preface's narrator is riding the bus. He is offended by the bus driver, who talks to him while she drives. And she's fat. And she's middle aged. And she's dating. And did I mention she's fat? Seriously, he goes on and on about how she's fat, and not pretty, and fat, and he checks out her bum and reports that it's larger than the seat, and he checks out her boobs and reports and that no one would care to check out her boobs, and also she's fat. And she's talking to him, which is clearly a mortal sin. Now I admit, it's probably a little unnerving to have a total stranger initiate a long conversation while you're stuck on a bus together, but when you start asking her questions to prolong the conversation, you've more or less waived your right to be offended when she answers you. She wasn't going on and on about politics or war or something even borderline offensive. No, she tells him to watch his step climbing on. (Gosh, no wonder he was offended. Sheesh!) She tells him it's easy to fall and get hurt. Then she gets slightly more personal, I admit, and mentions that her daughter slipped off a curb and is in a lot of pain from a torn ligament. And she talks a bit about her family, and he asks about her family, and she answers. As he leaves the bus, he realizes that even though she is offensive to him, others (namely God) might still care for her. Meanwhile, he is "the distinguished professor," "arrogant" and "sophisticat[ed]"; Christ came to earth for him and for all people, and he realizes that all people includes her too. He counts her sins, "overweight, obnoxious, promiscuous, over-the-hill," and realizes that Christ might "work in her," but of course, he would have to reach her by using someone else who is "saintly." And therefore, in a back-handed way, God cares for her anyway, even though she's fat. And that's a Christmas miracle.
STORY NO. 1: It's a Christmas pageant, and the little match girl a teenager who plays Mary has left the church; she is out in the snow with no coat holding a doll. She realizes that without the doll, there's no pageant, since the doll is Jesus, and she can take time to reach some spiritual epiphany since no one can do the play without her and the baby. So she stays outside in the snow with no coat until she sees Jesus in the doll.
STORY NO. 2: There's a poor old woman who never gets to visit her granddaughter. The child's mother uses the girl as leverage against the grandmother, and the little girl doesn't know that the old lady she passes every day is family. Meanwhile, grandma buys presents for the child from a catalogue, and the mom pretends that they're from Santa. In this story, some of the grandmother's friends arrange for the grandmother and the girl to have some time together for Christmas carols. In exchange for this, they make the grandmother promise never to send gifts again or to contact the granddaughter in any way. And the little girl still doesn't know they're related. But the grandmother knows it's worth it, sacrificing any future relationship for the sake of two anonymous hours. Oh joy.
STORY NO. 3: A woman has never been able to have kids, so she and her husband adopted two girls. Now one of them is in high-school and pregnant, and the mother is jealous of her daughter for being able to be pregnant. The daughter resents the mother for being so envious in the first place. Then the mom realizes there is still joy in the holiday - she still has another daughter, in college, who is easy to love. So she goes to see her instead.
STORY NO. 4: This is probably the second most offensive portion of the book. In fact, it's a toss-up between the preface and this story. The Bible says to pray without ceasing, so the lady in this story, who prays once a day, never says "Amen." She figures that by picking up the same prayer the next evening, she is praying without ceasing. And what does she pray for? Why, sinners, of course! Those poor successful, rich, sinners, (specifically her daughter and son-in-law) who don't go to church. Yes, I tell you, her prayers revolve around these heinous sinners who live miles and miles away and never bother her. But she calls them up to remind them to go to church. And yet, even though she is ever so holy and wise, they don't listen to her. So this one Christmas, she goes to visit her daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids. And she looks out the window, is distracted by the beauty of the mountainside, and says, "Oh, my God." Her little granddaughter asks her what she sees, and she says, "Jesus. He's [. . .] there." She looks and can't see anyone. She asks where he is, and the grandmother tells her to look at the mountains. Of course, there's no one there. The granddaughter is frustrated at this peculiar game of hide-and-seek, and she says that she can't see Jesus. She wants to see him. Well, the grandmother takes this as a sign, as the answer to her prayers. Now, she can take the granddaughter to church, secretly, and it won't be a sin because she asked to see Jesus. Control issues aside, it's a little disturbing to read about an adult playing mind games with a child and insulting her intelligence, all at the same time. And talk about entrapment! She could have said, Look at the blue jay? --Where? --It just flew behind the mountain! --I want to see it! and declared that her granddaughter was destined for a life of ornithology. And good grief, if the grandmother is that controlling/judgmental/manipulative/crazy-religious, it's no wonder the daughter moved so far away.
STORY 5: A pre-teen gets a horse for Christmas, but it arrives several weeks before the actual holiday. So on Christmas morning, when there are a few things to unwrap but not many, she throws a hissy fit. Her father excuses her because she is at that awkward age between childhood and adulthood, and because she is starting to get boobs. Seriously, what is with this author writing about women as though they were a piece of meat? Some animal has been killing their chickens but not eating them, and the daughter is upset because of the waste. When she and her father learn that the marauding animal is a mink, they realize it's okay because it's just so beautiful an animal. That is, the daughter decides there is good in everything. She is able to forgive the mink because it's just so cute. If it had been an ugly animal, there would be absolutely no story here at all.
STORY 6: A woman is worried about a little girl whose father promised to visit for Christmas but never showed up. Turns out, the little girl doesn't have any feeling for her father, is completely indifferent to him, and is therefore protected from any emotional pain. She becomes excited by a new year's party, and she doesn't care about her dad at all. The woman is relieved by such a wonderful blessing befalling so young a child.
STORY 7: This story is told in the first person from a judgmental man who openly admits to being "not nice" and "unabashedly elitist." He puts on a performance, a dramatic reading of Scripture at a church, and even though he doesn't think much of his own artistic merit -- he'd been having a bad night, from an acting perspective -- someone still told him afterward how great he was. Somehow, this leads the elitist actor to some kind of spiritual epiphany.
This book is dreadful. It's even worse than it seems here. But it does have some redeeming qualities. 1) Some of the characters are nuanced and interesting. Some are flat, and some are over-the-top, but some are really well-designed and might, in the hands of a different author, offer worthwhile reading. 2) His stories have plots. I have read several short stories that just give a detailed look at one character in an extreme situation and end before anything actually happens. Not Schaap. He, at the very least, offers stories. Person A encounters Person B under C circumstances and D happens. I finished reading this book, and I felt upset and offended, but at least it felt like finishing an actual book.(less)
This book is a beautiful addition to any Christmas collection. It has nice pictures and looks great on your shelf.
Also, if you need a festive bookmark...moreThis book is a beautiful addition to any Christmas collection. It has nice pictures and looks great on your shelf.
Also, if you need a festive bookmark, some of the pages have bookmark-shaped designs just waiting to be laminated.
That said, I can't really recommend anything else about this book. I'm not sure if this is the authors' fault so much as the editor's, since it looks like the book is comprised of several different excerpts from a few different writers, all lifted out of context. Consequently, each page of the book feels like a dust-jacket summary, and with this level of preachiness, you might just as well pick up a box of Bible tracts and sift through them.
Now about the content . . .
There are a few spiritual questions raised, and there are a few deep points that are probably worth pondering. And then there's the rest of it. I was afraid to put it on my Christian shelf because so much it is, well, unlike any Christian theology I've ever heard. For example, do you know the worst possible sin you can commit? Apparently, it's happiness. That's right, according to this book, the best that any Christian should hope for to reach a kind of peace, but any actual happiness is a sign that he or she has betrayed God and the faith. So if you're happy, you really need to reevaluate your spiritual priorities.
It was about at this point that I reevaluated my interest in this book, and I put it back on the shelf where it's been sitting ever since. Doesn't it look pretty!
Now to be fair, the author might have been trying to articulate a complicated, nuanced philosophical/spiritual/theological concept, but there's very little room for explaining anything (let alone citing sources) in a three-paragraphed Bible-track-sized page. But at least that page had a cute picture. (less)
This book was funny! Not as funny as The Christmas Scrapbook, perhaps, but vastly amusing nonetheless. This book is a series of amusing anecdotes set...moreThis book was funny! Not as funny as The Christmas Scrapbook, perhaps, but vastly amusing nonetheless. This book is a series of amusing anecdotes set throughout the year, detailing the experiences of Sam, minister of a Quaker church in Harmony, Indiana. I enjoy books that make me laugh out loud, and this one did.
I think its biggest flaw, maybe its only flaw, was taking itself too seriously. Most novels have some central conflict that builds up until the climax, but this book, a series of funny vignettes, didn't necessarily need one. I didn't mind the central conflict that was introduced, but I felt that it was done in a very careless, hurried manner, as though it were only added in a later draft. About 80% of the way through, a schism threatens to divide the church, and many people want Sam fired. By this point in the story, however, it is too late for the book to be anything but a comedy, and the hasty resolution to the conflict seems far-fetched. The people pushing for him to lost his job suddenly, inexplicably, stop. The temporary lull is long enough for one character to draw everyone's attention elsewhere, and suddenly people are making up and inviting each other over for luncheon.
Still, improbabilities aside, this book is quite funny, a feel-good comedy about churchgoers. What makes them wonderful? What makes them terrible? What makes them so dreadfully annoying? And on top of it all, Gulley raises some profound questions about the role of theology in religious practice and the validity (and danger) of fundamentalism. Overall, a compelling book.(less)
This book is the Wimmer Lecture No. 3, given in 1949. This book, partially because of its very short length, works very well as an overview or even in...moreThis book is the Wimmer Lecture No. 3, given in 1949. This book, partially because of its very short length, works very well as an overview or even introduction to the philosophy of Saint Anselm. Specifically, Anselm was concerned with the connection between faith and reason. Interestingly, Anselm saw the two as working together, not separately. He felt that without first believing, he would never understand; but he also believed that, since humans are rational, nonbelievers could be reached through reason and logic. Moreover, he was always seeking the "Truth," which for him, was something more than fact. Anselm says, "If one does what he ought to do, he expresses truth." Phelan's lecture is a fine introduction to these concepts, but it really left me wishing to read more. Phelan touches on different philosophies from Anselm's time and after (being as existance and not essence), and he also briefly contrasts the truth of man (veritas hominis) with the truth of existance (veritas existendi). Each of these concepts could be a lecture by itself, and I would have liked to see them examined in slightly greater depth. Still, Phelan only had a short amount of time to deliver his lecture, and he does quite a lot with so little.(less)
This book seems like a great introduction of the Stations of the Cross. Children won’t be overwhelmed by too much information, but the concise section...moreThis book seems like a great introduction of the Stations of the Cross. Children won’t be overwhelmed by too much information, but the concise sections are still valuable; this book packs a great deal into a few words. The illustrations are bright and thoughtful, and the Palm Sunday and Easter accounts are an added plus.(less)
I didn’t agree 100% with all of the theological aspects of this book, but then, being Protestant, I didn’t expect to. I borrowed this book wanting a L...moreI didn’t agree 100% with all of the theological aspects of this book, but then, being Protestant, I didn’t expect to. I borrowed this book wanting a Lenten devotional, and I got that and more. I am not alone in thinking that familiarity with Christ’s passion is important; apparently, early Jesuits would develop meditation schedules which set aside several hours for imagining, as clearly as possible, Jesus’ suffering. I assume that the point of this was not only to establish empathy for Christ’s pain and deeper understanding of the sacrifice He made, but also to be closer somehow to God, by sharing, to some degree, this death.
I was expecting this book to explain, station by station, the suffering of Christ. And it does, with clarity and insight that I would not have reached on my own. But it also does much more than that, linking the suffering of Jesus two thousand years ago to human suffering today, showing God’s mercy at work in today’s world as well, comparing the disciples at the foot of the cross to worshipers in churches today. It is this timeliness, I think, that makes this book so moving. I was, and am, impressed. (less)
This book offers Scripture quotes on love, and although it is a very short read, it nevertheless serves as a good reminder of what is perhaps the most...moreThis book offers Scripture quotes on love, and although it is a very short read, it nevertheless serves as a good reminder of what is perhaps the most central tenant of Christian faith. In his foreward, Leestma writes, "God loves us. We love Him--We love others. Putting all this together [. . .] makes life worth living."
I like the verses that he selected, which show what love is, what God's love means for us, and how our love for one another can enrich and comfort. I was surprised that he used the Living Translation. That is, while I understand why he would have avoided the older style of the 1611 KJV, I am surprised that he didn't pick the American Standard or something similar. Maybe the Living Translation was popular in 1971, but I seldom see it now.
I enjoyed this book, and while it certainly didn't delve deeply into theological subtleties, it is still a good reminder and a calming influence. Too bad that it's so short; it's really nicely done.(less)
Dark, unsettling, profound, ironic, and certainly fun to read -- I really liked these poems, even though they are somewhat . . . troubling. Not the pl...moreDark, unsettling, profound, ironic, and certainly fun to read -- I really liked these poems, even though they are somewhat . . . troubling. Not the place to go if you're looking for humor! I suppose that by now, the ideas in these poems may not seem so original, but I still found them chilling. (less)
This book was amazing! I'm not a huge fan of Amish fiction generally, as it is too easy to be preachy and/or over-the-top-sappy, but this book is neit...moreThis book was amazing! I'm not a huge fan of Amish fiction generally, as it is too easy to be preachy and/or over-the-top-sappy, but this book is neither. This is a warm, down-to-earth story with real characters, and while it never preaches at me, faith is still very important within the story. In this story, an Amish family encounters their long-lost, English-raised sister, and the story that unfolds is so intriguing, so real, that one cannot help but be mesmerized. This is a tale of honesty, deceit, and manipulation, of joy, pain, and love.
I received this book for free from Goodreads Firstreads Giveaways.(less)
This book provides an answer for the worries of daily life, and Max Lucado writes with a distinctive voice: funny in some places, serious in others, a...moreThis book provides an answer for the worries of daily life, and Max Lucado writes with a distinctive voice: funny in some places, serious in others, and comforting throughout. I laughed out loud in a few places, and I was delighted as his ability to take an austere topic, specifically a Bible passage, and relay it with both respect and hilarity.
My only complaint is that although the book addresses aspects of secular life that may cause fear, such as deaths, alcohol addictions, financial struggles, wars, illnesses, and unemployment, he fails to address fears that come from faith life. In fact, he tends to write the issue off entirely, saying that if you aren't sure that you have accepted God, then you haven't. I disagree, as I think that it's much more complicated than that. However, in pretty much all aspects of life except this one, this book can be (and is) a great source of comfort.
It takes only a few minutes to read this book, and Lucado draws on his own family history, on a Biblical parable, and on several verses of comfort from the Old and New Testaments. Well worth the read.(less)