Anselm of Canterbury

Anselm

Posted by Bambi

I have had my eye on Simonetta Carr’s Church History books for children, for quite some time.  Pricey, they are.  So when Cross Focused Reviews offered a free copy for a review, I jumped on the opportunity.

I believe one of the missing disciplines in the lives of Christians is the study of church history.  Studying church history produces in us a humility as we read of our Christian forefathers who served Jesus unto death.  It puts our own meager efforts in perspective when we read of martyrs, willing to give all.

Also, church history can help us see our error.  If we don’t read of the errors in the history of the church, we are doomed to repeat them.  Old heresies can creep up again and again and it helps to have a knowledge of them. Therefore, we have quite a few church history resources on our shelves here at home.  But aside from a few mediocre biographies, I just haven’t been able to find much for the 7-10 range to cut their teeth on.

Simonetta Carr’s Anselm of Canterbury delivered.  While the information can be dry, the story of Anselm is presented in an engaging way for younger students of church history.  Also, the illustrations are particularly beautiful.

Have you ever heard of Anselm?  I hadn’t either, but I have long been impressed enough with Carr’s collection of titles, to know that I should know who he is. <blush>

Anselm was a great theologian and deep thinker,  who lived during the time between Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. That is, the 12th century.  Therefore, Anselm lived in a world quite different from ours. In Anselm of Canterbury, the big questions before Anselm, and therefore what Carr presents to young readers are, “Why did God have to become man? If God can do anything, couldn’t He have saved His people some other way?” With clarity and simplicity, Simonetta Carr presents Anselm’s Biblical answer to this question in a way that children can easily comprehend, without over-simplifying the concept.

Carr is certainly a gifted author, and the words of truth come off the page in an easy-going manner, not coming across as “preachy.”

While Carr’s books are said to be written to children as young as seven, I found that Anselm was way over my (almost) seven-year-old’s head.  Sarah Grace, who is eight, had more understanding, but honestly… it took some effort on her part.  However, by age 9-11 I think just about any kid would enjoy and benefit from the book, taking away knowledge they didn’t previously have.  In my opinion, the book is a great length for narrations if you are of the Charlotte Mason persuasion 😉

I would really love to add the rest of Carr’s titles to our shelves:

John Calvin

Augustine of Hippo

John Owen

Athanasius

Lady Jane Grey

I think Anselm of Canterbury is an excellent childhood introduction to the life of this great thinker.  You can purchase the book at one of our favorite book stores: Monergism Books.

American Phoenix

americanphoenix

Posted by Shelbi

American Phoenix, by Jane Hampton Cook, is—in a nutshell—a biography of John Quincy Adams (pre-presidency) and his wife Louisa, a history of the War of 1812, and a good look into an early-1800’s Europe being terrorized by Napoleon Bonaparte. The book is rather long (512 pages), very well written, and both enjoyable and educating. I didn’t know much about the War of 1812, so I was surprised to learn that it really can be seen as America’s second war for independence from England.

The thing I liked most about the book, though, was its study into the life of Louisa Adams. Her strong patriotism and love for her country, coupled with devotion to her husband, led her to leave her home and two children for six years (1809-1815) in order to accompany her husband to Russia, where they together represented the Republican United States in a monarch/dictator-run Europe. As America struggled to be recognized as an independent nation by the rest of the world, the Adamses worked tirelessly on the other side of the world to promote that end. Their fascinating encounters with European royalty and interesting brushes with Napoleon often took place in the midst of personal tragedy (Louisa Adams gave birth to a daughter in Russia, who died 13 months later) and extreme anxiety about their children and family in America, who lived in some of the very cities attacked by the British. Their quest to see their beloved country achieve honor, dignity, respect, and recognition from the other nations of the world was ultimately successful. Speaking of America, Louisa Adams wrote in her diary, “I trust in God that the day of retribution is not far off and that glory which yet awaits us will far, far outweigh the disgrace which has hitherto attended us.” A godly Christian woman, she penned these words a few years before her death:

“And when it is His will that I lay me down to sleep; that sleep, from which we wake no more in this world; may I die in my Savior Jesus Christ; in the fullest hope of those divine promises, which lead the purified soul to heaven forevermore.”

The book runs a little lengthy, and I did think that the same amount of information could have been condensed into a smaller space. That issue aside, American Phoenix is a wonderful re-telling of important American history that should not be forgotten.

 

Seven Men

7 men

Posted by Shelbi

I think it’s a little strange that this is the second book I’ve reviewed on this blog that contains the words “Seven Men” in the title (read about Seven Men who Rule the World from the Grave here), but I was so excited to hear that Eric Metaxas had written another book that I couldn’t resist the chance to receive a free copy from Booksneeze, in exchange for a review on our blog.

Eric Metaxas is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and Amazing Grace. I don’t think that Seven Men really lived up to the other two books, but it was still an enjoyable read.

The seven men written about in this book are George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles W. Colson. The introduction on manhood, while being a little watered down, was also good. Since the book is copyright 2013, it’s recent enough that the author was able to use the July 2012 Aurora, CO, movie theater shooting and the behavior of some of the men involved as an example.

Here are a few excerpts from the book:

George Washington (my favorite chapter):

“More than 200 years after Washington’s death, his willingness to relinquish power–twice–is the most remarkable thing that we remember about him. These refusals to seize power for himself were the greatest acts of one of history’s greatest men…There was a consensus at the time, since confirmed for all time, that no one else could have performed these elemental tasks as well, and perhaps that no one could have performed them at all.” (pg. 28)

Eric Liddell:

“Why does the world still remember and love Eric Liddell today, when other athletes from his era have been long forgotten? Lord Sands, an Edinburgh civil leader, put his finger on the answer during a dinner honoring Eric after the 1924 Olympic Games. It was not because Eric was the fastest runner in the world that the guests were gathered there that evening, he said. Instead, “it is because this young man put his whole career as a runner in the balance, and deemed it as small dust, compared to remaining true to his principles.” (pg. 86)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Bonhoeffer shared the fate of innumerable Jews who had recently been killed as he had been…But it seems clear that for Bonhoeffer, giving his life for the Jews was an honor. The God of the Jews had called him to give his life for the Jews. Bonhoeffer really believed that obeying God–even unto death–was the only way to live…In his famous book The Cost of Discipleship, he wrote: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” ” (pg. 112)

Although each of the men in the book are presented as committed Christians (I’m still not sure about the chapter on the pope), vague phrases like “remaining true to his principles” and “surrendering himself to a Higher Purpose” are used more often than not. The chapter on Pope John Paul II extolls mostly his attempts at moral reform, rather than any preaching of the gospel he might have done. Disappointingly, he praises Charles Colson highly for his Evangelicals and Catholics Together program (ECT), the purpose of which was the “reconciliation of theological differences between the two groups”.

However, even though Seven Men was not as good as (and more politically correct than) Bonhoeffer or Amazing Grace (both of which were very theologically sound), I would still recommend it for anyone who is interested in any or all of these godly men of the past.

Twelve Extraordinary Women

twelvewomenPosted by Savannah

John MacArthur’s Twelve Extraordinary Women is a sequel to his book Twelve Ordinary Men. In his first book, he studied the lives of Jesus’ twelve disciples, dedicating a chapter to each. In Twelve Extraordinary Women, he chose twelve women who were critical in the story of redemption.  Some of the women he chose you would expect to find in such a book, such as Eve, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Sarah the wife of Abraham.  Others, like Rahab the harlot, Anna the prophetess, or Lydia, the woman who opened her home to Paul, are surprisingly present.  Even though some of these women seem insignificant, many of them risked their lives, or at least their reputations for the sake of the gospel.  I’ve decided to share what I learned about my favorite woman in this book, Anna. She was one  of the more “insignificant” ones, so I found her more interesting, and learned a lot.

Anna is mentioned once in the whole Bible, and then there are only three verses that talk about her. The passage from Luke 2 reads:

Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher.  She was of great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.  And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

The fact that Anna was a prophetess does not mean that she could predict the future.  It doesn’t even mean that she received special revelation from God.   Prophetess simply means that Anna was a woman who faithfully proclaimed the Word of God to everyone; all the time. Any preacher, or any person at all could be called a prophet if they continually spoke the Word of God like Anna did.  The text also mentions that Anna “did not depart from the temple”.  Perhaps the temple officials had given Anna one of the small chambers in the temple, that were used occasionally by priests when they saw her faithfulness and devotion.   Whatever the case might have been,  the text seems to literally mean that Anna lived in the temple grounds. She also had been a widow for many, many years.  Apparently she had been living in the temple for a long time fasting and praying.  What could Anna have been praying about?  She no doubt prayed about many things, but perhaps one of her main subjects of her prayer was for the soon coming of the Messiah. In verse 38 of Luke 2 Anna comes along just as Simeon is pronouncing a blessing on Christ and His parents.  She “gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem”.  Anna’s prayers immediately turned to thanksgiving to God for answering her, and she spoke of Christ to everyone.  Anna’s passion for the Lord and her love for Him is something we all should aspire to.

I really enjoyed reading this book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about the extraordinary women of the Bible.

 

Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee

more love to thee

Posted by Bambi

After reading Stepping Heavenward several weeks ago, I have now officially become obsessed with Elizabeth Prentiss, adding all of her books to my 2013 booklist.  (My list continues to grow at a faster pace than what I am reading at.  So many books, so little time.) But I had to get more insight into this fascinating woman of God before I dove into the rest of her works, so I borrowed from our local library Sharon James’ biography of Elizabeth Prentiss.

Biographies are not typically my first choice of genre, but Sharon James is a terrific biographer.  She also wrote the biography My Heart in His Hands about the life of Ann Judson, which I have also read and loved.   I was a little familiar with James’ style already.

Understandably, the book begins with the birth of Elizabeth.  The type of parents she had, as well as siblings and homelife, are described and lend understanding to the early circumstances that shaped such a woman.

Elizabeth’s father was a pastor.  He had a great influence on her life, even though he died after suffering a long illness of tuberculosis when Elizabeth was only nine.  Her father wrote, “O what a blessed thing it is to lose one’s will.”  Undoubtedly this submission to God and the devoted heart of her father, made its mark on Elizabeth, and therefore into “Katy” of Stepping Heavenward…and therefore into me.  I was struck by what an amazing influence and generational legacy a father can leave to his child, even in such a short time.  The nine years of fatherhood that Edward Payson faithfully devoted to his daughter has inadvertently effected millions of people!

In a letter written to his sister Eliza just weeks before his death, his words here give us a glimpse of such a man as fathered Elizabeth Prentiss:

Were I to adopt the figurative language of Bunyan, I might date this letter from the land of Beulah, of which I have been for some weeks a happy inhabitant. The celestial city is full in my view. Its glories beam upon me, its breezes fan me, its odors are wafted to me, its sounds strike upon my ear, and its spirit is breathed into my heart. Nothing separates me from it but the river of death, which now appears but as an insignificant rill, that may be crossed at a single step, whenever God shall give permission. The Sun of Righteousness has been gradually drawing nearer and nearer, appearing larger and brighter as He approached, and now He fills the whole hemisphere, pouring forth a flood of glory, in which I seem to float like an insect in the beams of the sun, exulting yet almost trembling while I gaze on this excessive brightness, and wondering, with unutterable wonder, why God should deign thus to shine upon a sinful worm. A single heart and a single tongue seem altogether inadequate to my wants; I want a whole heart for every separate emotion, and a whole tongue to express that emotion. But why do I speak thus of myself and my feelings? why not speak only of our God and Redeemer? It is because I know not what to say—when I would speak of them my words are all swallowed up.

Can any of us even imagine being born into such a home as this? 

Once Mr. Payson died, the family scraped to make ends meets.  Louisa, the older sister, moved away to teach school and support the family.  A few letters exist that Elizabeth wrote to her sister:

May 18, 1828.

My dear sister:—I thank you for writing to such a little girl as I am, when you have so little time. I was going to study a little catechism which Miss Martin has got, but she said I could not learn it. I want to learn it. I do not like to stay so long at school. We have to write composition by dictation, as Miss Martin calls it. She reads to us out of a book a sentence at a time. We write it and then we write it again on our slates, because we do not always get the whole; then we write it on a piece of paper.

(Incidentally, because the homeschool mom in me is always present, when I read things such as this it reaffirms to me that the best way to teach a child to write is this method of copy and dictation.  What a marvelous writer this method made of Elizabeth Prentiss!)

As a young woman, Elizabeth was already known as having pious character and a public devotion to Christ.  She had already been contributing stories and poems to The Youth’s Companion, a New England periodical, for several years.  In 1838 she opened her own girl’s school.

Although the details of Prentiss’s life were fascinating, more so to me was her spiritual journey.  Her profession of faith, her time of spiritual depression, her lessons learned through the suffering after losing two children within one month (one infant, one four-year-old)…all of these made the soul of Elizabeth Prentiss, and James does an outstanding job of giving readers a full picture of her.

These words were found written on a scrap piece of paper, indicating the grief Elizabeth felt, yet her trust in God:

MY NURSERY. 1852.

 I thought that prattling boys and girls

Would fill this empty room;  

That my rich heart would gather flowers  

From childhood’s opening bloom.

One child and two green graves are mine,

 This is God’s gift to me;  

A bleeding, fainting, broken heart—   This is my gift to Thee

To a friend, just a few months later, who was also recently bereft of two children she wrote:

Is it possible, is it possible that you are made childless? I feel distressed for you, my dear friend; I long to fly to you and weep with you; it seems as if I must say or do something to comfort you. But God only can help you now, and how thankful I am for a throne of grace and power where I can commend you, again and again, to Him who doeth all things well.

I never realise my own affliction in the loss of my children as I do when death enters the house of a friend. Then I feel that I can’t have it so. But why should I think I know better than my Divine Master what is good for me, or good for those I love! Dear Carrie! trust that in this hour of sorrow you have with you that Presence, before which alone sorrow and sighing flee away. God is left; Christ is left; sickness, accident, death can not touch you here. Is not this a blissful thought?… As I sit at my desk my eye is attracted by the row of books before me, and what a comment on life are their very titles: “Songs in the Night,” “Light on Little Graves,” “The Night of Weeping,” “The Death of Little Children,” “The Folded Lamb,” “The Broken Bud,” these have strayed one by one into my small enclosure, to speak peradventure a word in season unto my weariness. And yet, dear Carrie, this is not all of life. You and I have tasted some of its highest joys, as well as its deepest sorrows, and it has in reserve for us only just what is best for us. May sorrow bring us both nearer to Christ! I can almost fancy my little Eddy has taken your little Maymee by the hand and led her to the bosom of Jesus. How strange our children, our own little infants, have seen Him in His glory, whom we are only yet longing for and struggling towards!

Reading Elizabeth’s own words during her loss of her two children, gives much insight into the beautiful scenes of Stepping Heavenward as Katy loses her child.  No wonder Prentiss could compose such a soul-stirring scene…she had lived it herself.

As the book encompasses the life of Elizabeth, there are details and beautiful accounts of her reaction and service during the Civil War, as well as political observations she made.  Throughout Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee, details are also given each time one of her books were written, published, the public’s reaction to it, how Prentiss balanced her writing with caring for her family, and also unique–the input her husband had on characters of her stories.  She recounts once to a friend that the character she loved most in one story, George did not, and so she changed it.

I now feel that I know Elizabeth Prentiss a bit better. Her love and devotion to God, her habits of selflessness and humble service to others, and her lifelong pursuit of holiness have made her one that I look forward to meeting in Heaven one day.  Her story as a Christian, a pastor’s wife, a mother and a writer is a beautiful testimony of the work of God in the life of a woman who, while still sinful, was fully submitted to him.  Sharon James’ biography gets five stars from me.

Call of Duty

call_of_duty_200
Posted by Seth

This book is about the life of Robert E. Lee, but mostly about the time he spent as a General commanding the southern army during the Civil War. It gives lots of facts about the war that I never knew, but especially about the battle of Gettysburg.

I never really realized what kind of man Lee was until I read this book. Part of the book says, ”Lee had duty to care for his mother, duty as a son, a student, a soldier, a husband and father, a general, and a mentor of students both at West Point and Washington College. Duty called to him at every point of his life.”

I think this book portrays Lee in such a manner that you can learn how to lead, how to have patience, and how to earn respect.  Another quote on the back of the book says, ”Greatness is very difficult to portray–and Lee was great. To convey that remarkable fact, biographer Wilkins has placed Lee against eternity.”

This book is part of a series called Leaders in Action.

I would recomend this book to people who want to learn more about the Civil War, and those who are interested in learning more about the life of Robert E. Lee.

Amazing Grace

amazing grace2
Posted by Shelbi

For Christmas I specifically asked for and received the book “Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery” by Eric Metaxas. I had borrowed the book from the library back in February 2012, but since it’s such a wonderful book I wanted to have my own copy.

Amazing Grace, first published in 2007 to coincide with the release of the movie about William Wilberforce (which is also called Amazing Grace), was a New York Times bestseller. After reading the book it’s not hard to see why. A riveting biography that reads like fiction, this book is the story of England’s Wilberforce, who after being elected to Parliament in 1780 at age 21, dedicated the remainder of his life to ending the British slave trade. As he famously wrote in his diary in 1787, “God Almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade, and the reformation of morals.”

Following Wilberforce from his birth to his death, Amazing Grace chronicles his heroic life and life-long battle to accomplish his two great objects. An extremely unhealthy man who struggled with physical ailments his entire life, Wilberforce never allowed this to be a reason for idleness. Though he is most well-known for bringing about the end of the slave trade, he worked tirelessly to bring about the reformation of society in England, funding schools for slum children at his own private expense, improving the living standards of the very poor, founding many groups for the prevention of cruelty to animals, and establishing orphanages for abandoned children. After the abolition of the slave trade, he succeeded in his effort to change the laws which forbade Christian missionaries from traveling to India, which was then under British rule. Nor should we forget his very interestingly named “Friendly Female Society for the Relief of Poor, Infirm, Aged Widows and Single Women, of Good Character, Who Have Seen Better Days”.

Though the British slave trade was abolished in 1807 (meaning that slaves could not be bought or sold), slavery in the British Empire remained intact until July 26, 1833, when Parliament passed a bill abolishing slavery and emancipating all slaves. After three days of exulting in the news, Wilberforce died on July 29 at age 74. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. As his headstone reads, they “carried him to to his fitting place among the mighty dead around, here to repose: till, through the merits of Jesus Christ, his only Redeemer and Saviour, (whom, in his life and writings he had desired to glorify,) he shall rise in the resurrection of the just.”

I highly recommend this book for anyone who desires to learn more about this great figure of history.