Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers

Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers, Douglas Bond
(Christian Liberty Press, 1999), pb., 242 pp.

This was a delightful read! We are officially Douglas Bond fans now! This book is significantly different from the Crown & Covenant books, however. In fact, as we began this book, my boys thought it was a bit slow coming out of a run of books which included battles, etc. However, they were soon caught up in this story as was I.

The story follows is centered around a summer spent in England by two fairly typical American children, Annie & Drew. At the beginning they expect to be miserably bored spending a summer in an old town named Olney. However, once they meet Mr. Pipes, the organist of the local Anglican church, everything changes. Pipes, an older Englishman, enthralls them with stories about hymn writers, their faith and their adventure amidst taking them fishing, exploring and sailing on the river Ouse. Along the way they learn many things about British culture and cuisine as well. The great truths found in the hymns they learn come to life as they hear them and see their reality in Mr. Pipes. In the end both children, who previously had attended church just on occasion, express their faith in Christ.

There is so much to admire in this book. What drew my boys in was the description of a great holiday- sailing, fishing, visiting key historical places, etc. I found myself longing for just such a holiday, myself! There were great places for laughter and excitement in the reading. Then, the deliberate straightforward advocacy of the great hymns was thrilling to me. We already sing hymns with our children, at home and in church, but it was great to have a fun book which reinforced this and in many ways explained why this is a key value in our family. It was also fun to learn some new hymns.

Furthermore, the description of the spiritual awakening of the children, particularly Drew, was very well done. It was not the standard cookie-cutter evangelical portrayal. Rather, Drew begins to note the real joy expressed in the hymns, how they cut across his sinful nature, how they look to eternity in contrast to his lack of preparedness for eternity. The fictional Mr. Pipes is a good evangelist. He is not merely interested in getting these children to repeat some words. He is looking for conversion, a change of heart. As things develop, and they are contemplating the hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation,” Pipes says to them:

There exists no greater privilege in all the world than membership in Christ’s true church. …
I want you both to be lovers of Christ’s church- yes, with all her warts- for she ever shall prevail, and those in her true communion on high will dwell with our blessed Redeemer Who bought His bride, the church, with His precious blood. (191)
After this there is a pause, a thoughtful silence, after which Drew responded, “I want to serve in Christ’s army.” Mr. Pipes responded, “Ah, yes. But it is a most demanding army filled with grand champions from ages past… But, my dear lad, it is the most noble service under the greatest of Captains” (191). This is exactly what I want my children to hear, and they really helped to get the wheels turning in my boys’ minds, leading to some good conversations about the need for a new heart.

There is more that needs to be said about this book, but it will have to wait for another post. We strongly recommend this book. It will aid you in encouraging the use of good hymns, raise the gospel for your children and might even make them want to try hot tea- my boys just today decided Earl Grey tea didn’t taste as good as it sounded in the book. :)

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Hittite Warrior

Hittite Warrior, Joanne Williamson
(Alfred Knopf, 1960; Bethlehem Books, 1999)
pb, 237 pp.

This is a book we read two years ago- my boys would then have been 8, 7, 5 and 2 (the two year old just fell asleep!). The story is set in the time of the Judges and does a good job of describing the people groups and religions of the time. I remember thinking it may have been a bit intense in places for us at the time, but it was a very compelling story.

Uriah, a Hittite, is the main character. The story moves from the time when his homeland is overrun, to his life among the people of Tyre. There he meets a Hebrew and discovers the terrible human sacrifices to the god, Moloch. In the end he finds himself among the Hebrews whom he expected to be lesser people. However, he meets Deborah and Barak and is there for the great victory of the Hebrews over their oppressors.

The story is full of adventure, action and intrigue. It also gives a good introduction to the culture of the time. The bad thing about waiting so long is that I cannot recall as many specifics. However, I do remember thinking that the presentation of Deborah was a bit odd. Watch for that, but it can be overcome.


Monday, February 19, 2007

The Joy of Reading to My Children

Last night I was reminded of how much I love the time of reading to my children each evening before bed. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred. I simply was reminded again of how wonderful this time is. We are reading a great book(review forthcoming) that is funny, interesting and brings up the gospel in very helpful ways. As my youngest (4yrs old) was drifting off to sleep, the others were laughing together, asking questions, and pondering quietly the gospel. This is no mere duty. It is a joy, a pleasure, a treasure, truly a solace for me, something for which I long and which rejuvenates me. It is truly one of my favorite parts of the day. This is why I chose the name of Longfellow’s poem for this blog.

Don’t get me wrong. Most nights have challenges, and some have many (the youngest not drifting off to sleep, difficulties in getting to the point of reading, my own tension resulting in unnecessary sharpness, etc.). It is not that things go perfectly. Rather, it is that in this time I can see that we are building shared memories and experiences, that they are learning facts and deep truths, and we, regardless of how the day has gone previously, are now settled together enjoying a good book.

If you don’t have such a time with your children I encourage you to begin such a one. How and when may vary widely. We have shifted along the years to meet different circumstances. It is never perfect. But, I would not miss it for the world. I feel impoverished when we miss a day.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Veritas Press Catalogue Online

I previously recommended this catalogue as a good resource for finding books. Now, I have learned that the catalogue is available online. You can flip page by page through the latest catalogue here. This is a primary source we use for finding books.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

The World of Columbus and Sons

The World of Columbus and Sons , by Genevíeve Foster
(1965; reprint, Beautiful Feet Books), pb., 406 pp.

This is a fascinating book! Rather than simply telling about Columbus’ travels, Mrs. Foster portrays Columbus against the backdrop of the political, cultural and social setting of his world. Thus the story covers not simply 1492 but begins in 1451 and goes through 1537. Similarly, the book addresses not simply Spain and the New World, but also the royal families, wars and politics of practically all of Europe as well as the East. This is a large task- hence the 400 pages.

I was skeptical about whether this would be a book to read aloud, doubting that it would hold my boys attention and that they would be able to keep up as the narrative shifted from country to country with all the interconnections between royal families. In fact, less than a quarter of the way through I decided to shift to another book. However, to my surprise, my boys were very disappointed and pleaded for us to continue reading this book! They admitted it was sometimes difficult to keep some of the connections between royal families straight (as it was for me!); nevertheless, they said it was fun to listen to and to see how all these things connected and set the stage for Columbus’ life.

I, personally, found this book to be very informative particularly in the development of Europe in this period. Nowhere else have I seen a book that relates, for example, DaVinci, Michelangelo, Erasmus and Luther to the work of Columbus! If you can’t read this to your kids, but are studying this period read it yourself. Mrs. Foster writes well so it is an enjoyable read.

I don’t know the theological orientation of Mrs. Foster but she is fair in her portrayal of Christianity, willing to point out the glaring errors of Medieval Catholicism but also praising faithful people in the time. She is basically favorable towards Luther. At one point she says that Moses was a priest and warrior and as a result he was denied entrance into the Holy Land. This is not the reason he was denied entry! I was pleased that my sons noticed the error and my oldest suggested (as I was thinking) she may have been thinking of David who was not allowed to build the Temple.

In summary, we strongly recommend this book. Though it is long it provides an overall view of this entire period covering various countries, wars, art and all the key explorations in this era. The integrated view that results is very helpful.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

First Voyage to America, From the Log of the Santa Maria

First Voyage to America, From the Log of the Santa Maria
By Christopher Columbus (Dover, 1991), pb, 91 pp.

This is a very interesting book. The text is taken directly from the surviving notes of Columbus’ log on this famous voyage. To have the actual text of Columbus’ recollections, his own statements about his thoughts, motives, fears, etc. is quite an opportunity. However, it is not a great read just straight through. We started it but shifted to another book. This could be a good book to dip into or to use as a resource.

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