The Meaning of Marriage–Timothy Keller

The recently published The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller is a book I would highly recommend for any married couple, no matter what stage of life they may be in. My 15-yr old daughter saw me reading this book & wondered if it might not be a little late for me to be reading such a book. I’ve been married almost 25 years, have a great marriage, but realize there is always room for growth and improvement.

Keller wrote this book from a series of sermons he preached at his church in Brooklyn, NY; a church made up mostly of ‘singles’. So if you’re single, don’t write this off as a book that would not pertain to you or be of interest. There is even a whole chapter just for you.

Keller sees our culture’s view of marriage as slightly off. He says people are looking too hard for that ‘perfect’ mate & not willing to realize that God is working in us. Of course, it’s important as believers to seek  a mate who is also a believer, but once we’re married, we need to see our spouse as someone that God is working on. Part of marriage is helping our mate, and letting them help us, become the person He created us to be. In his chapter, “The Mission of Marriage”, Keller states: “What, then is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us.”

About Ephesians 5:31-32 and that mysterious statement, ‘the two shall become one flesh’:  “Jesus’s sacrificial service to us has brought us into a deep union with Him and He with us. And that, Paul says, is the key to not only understanding marriage but to living it.”

From the chapter “The Power of Marriage,” Keller reminds us that it is not our spouses who give us the power to live the Christian life, nor are they able to meet all our needs. Depending on our spouses for what only the Holy Spirit can give us will prove disastrous. “After trying all kinds of other things, Christians have learned that the worship of God with the whole heart in the assurance of His love through the work of Jesus Christ is the thing their souls were meant to ‘run on’. That is what gets all the heart’s cylinders to fire. If this not understood, then we will not have the resources to be good spouses. If we look to our spouses to fill up our tanks in a way that only God can do, we are demanding an impossibility.”

If you, like myself and Timothy Keller, believe that “there’s no relationship between human beings that is greater or more important than marriage” and if you want to learn more about what God really meant for us when He created this relationship, you will want to read and reread this book.

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A Wrinkle in Time–50th Anniversary

A Wrinkle in Time celebrates its 50th year in print this year. A Wrinkle in Time was published in 1962 and won the Newberry Medal in 1963.

A Wrinkle in Time was my first introduction to science fiction. I was probably in the 3rd grade when our class listened to WiT being read. It made such an impression on me that when I ran across it in high school, I had to read it again; then I gave it to my sister to read. I’m sure I didn’t understand too much about the math & science involved, but the characters of Meg Murray and her brother, Charles Wallace, are characters that have stayed with me. Reading it again made me realize that the book is full of interesting characters & reminded me of what I loved about the book. From the grand entrance of Mrs. Whatsit to Mrs. Murray–a mother who knows how to encourage & love her children–the characters all have personalities anyone can relate to and just appreciate.

A Wrinkle in Time begins with the famous, or infamous, first line: “It was a dark & stormy night.” Really. This line is originally from the novel Paul Clifford by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, first published in 1830. It has been considered the worst first line in literature & is frequently parodied, most famously by Snoopy of the comic strip, “Peanuts” by Charles Schulz. There is even a contest to write a bad opening paragraph for the worst novels ever written, held every year by the English Department of San Jose State University. The contest is called the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

Meg is a frustrated young girl who feels out of place at school believing she isn’t as smart and ‘normal’ as others. Her brother, Charles Wallace, is a precocious 5-yr old; though others find him odd, believing he doesn’t even know how to talk. Their worst problem, however, is that their scientist father has been missing for quite some time, and the rest of the town believes he has abandoned his family.

Meg, Charles Wallace, and their new friend, Calvin meet three very different ladies: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. These ladies take the children on a journey to find Mr. Murray. This journey will take them to another world where they will have to fight an evil by learning more about themselves and their strengths.

Anna Quindlen writes an appreciation of the book for this latest issue. “On its surface this is a book about three children who fight an evil force threatening their planet. But it is really about a more primal battle all human beings face, to respect, defend, and love themselves. When Meg pulls the ultimate weapon from her emotional arsenal to fight, for her little brother & for good, it is a great moment, not just for her, but for every reader who has ever felt overlooked, confused, alone.”

From Progeny Press: “Although A Wrinkle in Time can be classified as science fiction, it also contains elements of fantasy, philosophy, Biblical truth, and a glimpse of the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil waged in a distant galaxy.”

L’Engle often incorporated her faith in her books. In her book, Walking on Water, she said, “I often seek theological insights in reading science fiction, because this is a genre eminently suited to exploration of the nature of the Creator and the creation . . . to think about worlds in another galaxy is a theological enterprise.”

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

The Winter Sea is an historical novel, with a bit of fantasy mixed in. Carolyn McClelland is an author, doing research for a book she is writing which takes place in Scotland in the early 1700’s. The Scots are plotting with the French to put James Stewart, whom they see as their rightful king, on the throne. The English and their queen are quite opposed to this plot.

This is really two stories in one as Kearsley tells McClelland’s story–her writing and her love interest in a certain Scot–and the story McClelland is writing. McClelland’s main character, Sophia, becomes involved with those plotting to bring  James back from his exile in France. It also turns out that Sophia is a real, historical figure; a distant ancestor of the writer, McClelland.

What makes The Winter Sea unique is the way McClelland does her ‘research’. She has the idea of what she wants to do, but until she finds a certain place in Scotland to write, it doesn’t seem to work. Once she finds herself in this place, the characters and their lives come to life in her imagination. People and details that she hasn’t yet found in her research, begin to ‘tell’ her their story. Is there a such thing as ‘genetic memory’, she begins to wonder? If not, how can she know so much about these characters? How have they managed to come so alive for her as she writes?

I enjoyed The Winter Sea for its characters and the way Kearsley intertwined the two stories. Not being very familiar with this time period of English/Scottish history, that part of the story was a little harder to get into; but once I got my characters straight, it made for a fun way to learn some history. Having McClelland connect with her own characters in such an unorthodox way made it a story within a story, and added to the romance and suspense.

Kearsley has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. The Winter Sea was a finalist for a RITA award and the UK’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award. This book is available at the Union County Libraries.

Happy Birthday, Luci Shaw!

Today is the poet, Luci Shaw’s 83rd birthday. Ms.Shaw was born in London on 12/29/1928. She is the author of ten volumes of poetry and a charter member of the Chrysostom Society of Writers. Ms. Shaw became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1995. She graduated with high honors from Wheaton College in 1953. She has been the Writer in Residence at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada since 1988.

I posted one of Shaw’s poems a few days ago: “Mary’s Song”. This poem is included in the book Accompanied by Angels.  For over 50 yrs, Ms. Shaw wrote and included a poem with her Christmas cards. These poems of the Incarnation were gathered together and published in this book.

One of Ms. Shaw’s books, The Crime of Living Cautiously, is introduced in this video made when Shaw was 68. For any of you who think you may be too old to try new adventures, you need to watch this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL2PExlczrU

To learn more about Ms. Shaw and her writings visit her website at: lucishaw.com                                                        

“Judas, Peter”

Because we are all

betrayers, taking

silver, and eating

body and blood, and asking

(guilty) is it I, and hearing

him say yes, 

it would be simple for us all 

to rush out

and hang ourselves.

But if we find grace

to cry and wait

after the voice of morning

has crowed in our ears

clearly enough

to break our hearts,

he will be there

to ask us each, again,

do you love me?

Shakespearean Teaching Aids II

The Shakespeare Stealer  by Gary Blackwood is an enjoyable way for upper elementary and middle school students to learn about the historical background of Shakespeare’s time. In this book, a young boy, Widge, is taught to write in a special cipher by his master. He is bought by another man, who instructs him to sit in on a play (Shakespeare’s Hamlet) and to take down every word in this cipher.

Widge tries to do as he instructed, having little choice, but gets in various amounts of trouble and ends up being part of the players themselves. To his surprise, he discovers he actually has some acting talents. More importantly, he learns about friendship, loyalty, and how to make some hard decisions.

The Shakespeare Stealer is geared toward middle schoolers, but I don’t believe it is too young for those in high school. I enjoyed reading it myself and found it a good way to learn more about that time period, and seeing it from a young person’s point of view.

The Shakespeare Stealer won the ALA Notable Children’s Book Award, and Blackwood followed this book with two other books: Shakespeare’s Scribe and Shakespeare’s Spy.

There are several study guides available. There is one online that was created by some students at Salisbury State University in Maryland intended for middle and high school teachers. It includes various activities, websites, an author study, and other links pertaining to Shakespearean study. You can access this site at: www.faculty.salisbury.edu/~elbond/stealer.htm

Mary’s Song by Luci Shaw

Mary’s Song

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast

keep warm this small hot naked star

fallen to my arms. (Rest . . .

you who have had so far to come.)

Now nearness satisfies

the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies

whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps

whose eyelids have not closed before.

 

His breath (so slight it seems

no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps

to sprout a world. Charmed by doves’ voices,

the whisper of straw, he dreams,

hearing no music from his other spheres.

Breath, mouth, ears, eyes,

he is curtailed who overflowed all skies,

all years. Older than eternity, now he

is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed

to my poor planet, caught

that I might be free, blind in my womb

to know my darkness ended,

brought to this birth for me to be new-born.

and for him to see me mended,

I must see him torn.                      Luci Shaw

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

St. Petersburg, October, 17, 1756 Three people who never leave her room, and who do not know about one another, inform me of what is going on, and will not fail to acquaint me when the crucial moment arrives.–From the letter of Grand Duchess of All the Russias (later Catherine the Great) to Sir Hanbury-Williams, British ambassador to the court of Empress Elizabeth.

So begins The Winter Palace, an historical novel about Catherine II of Russia, also known as Catherine the Great. Catherine was born as Sophia in Prussia and brought to Russia to marry the nephew of the Empress Elizabeth. This story takes place during the years of 1743-1764 and told through the eyes of a girl who becomes a friend and ‘tongue’ of Catherine. Barbara, or Varvara, is also a  ‘tongue’  (or what we would call a spy) for the Empress Elizabeth.

Stachniak, born in Poland and author of several other historical novels, has written an intriguing and fascinating account of Catherine’s young life. Rich, historical detail give us a picture of the court life of Russia during this time and the constant danger of trusting anyone. Catherine did not become popular overnight and was at the mercy of the Empress Elizabeth. Catherine’s husband, the future Emperor Peter III, was much like a child and as much a pawn for the Empress as was Catherine and the children she bore.  Catherine shows hints of her future greatness as she keeps her wits, makes friends where she needs to, and prepares to take the throne when the time is ripe.    

                                                                                                       The Winter Palace is due to be released in January of next year.

I received this book for free though Goodreads First Reads.