Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Psalms in a Modern Context

The psalms have always been one of my favorite parts of the Bible. The feeling of a people living close to nature comes through in this modern translation. I found it quite delightful. Some people might quibble that the translation is not completely true to the sources usually used for biblical translation, but I found that the poetry of the translation gave a good picture of the intention of the psalms.

The book also includes daily reading plans for Advent and Lent. I read the psalms in conjunction with the plans and found the combination useful. The cited Bible verses were not always exactly on point for me in the strict sense of Bible study, but they made me think.

The book itself is beautifully done. It's printed on heavy paper and the pages have a colored background that I found restful. All in all I found the book a good tool for contemplation and Bible study.

I reviewed this book for the Thomas Nelson Book Sneezer Program.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Write with Your Senses Wide Open


I don't have trouble putting down a book. I can do it for an hour, a day, a month, a year, or never pick it up again. Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger (available from Simon and Schuster in February) is different. I couldn't put down, not because of the tragic love story, the spunky heroine, or the honorable hero. Monniger's strong sensory images drew me into that world. I felt the fine spray of paddles dipping in the racing river, tasted the first bittersweet sip of hot coffee on a brisk morning, saw sunlight filter though the pines to awaken iridescent colors from a black bird wing.

To show rather than tell, we must use all five senses to draw the reader into the story. I love camping, so the images in Eternal on the Water, appealed to my senses stimulating emotion. Emotion drives the story. The more our senses are awakened to the emotions we once experienced, the more we feel a part of the story. Senses not only connect us to the story, they announce the emotion. Slimy things crawling on the floor hint at something unsavory afoot. Champagne bubbling on the tongue telegraphs happiness and celebration.

Fit the images into the story. Long paragraphs of description are unnecessary. The trick is to pick the exact image to bring the story to life. A shower of sparks erupting from the campfire when a pocket of sap in a pine log bursts, the murmur of the river drifting through the pines, the smell of bacon frying over a campfire on a windy morning, streams of water twisting like dark rope in the current: these images tucked into the movement of the story bring us into the world and make it ours.

Friday, February 5, 2010

David's Story – An Inspiration for Us Today

King David wasn't perfect and yet God loved him. If God loved David, a man of many faults, he can love us, too. I think that sums up the message of Max Lucado's latest book. Such a message gives hope to all of us. David, according to the Bible, faced many giants. He was far from perfect and committed the same sins many of us do yet he was beloved by God. He succeeded because when he faced his trials, he thought about God and asked his help.

Lucado skillfully weaves David's story into the trials of people today. Instead of asking God's help and facing our giants, too many of us run away to easy fixes: affairs, addictions, and over work. David, like many of us, was tempted by these easy fixes, but he called on God to help him. When he didn't, he suffered as we all do. When he did, he succeeded mightily. It's tough to go it alone.

I highly recommend this book for anyone struggling with giants in their life. Remember, if you talk to God and Jesus, you're not alone. You, too, can conquer your giants.