Of Literature and Lattes

Alyssa Harrison got along with her father, but clashed with her mother at every turn. Then her mother committed an unpardonable offense. So Alyssa moved out as fast as she could with no plans to return.

But then the company she worked for in CA was closed down by the FBI over rumored wrongdoing. The FBI interviewed all the employees—except Alyssa. While she waits for their call, she has no job and no way to pay for her apartment. The only place she can go is back home to Winsome, IL.

Her parents were divorced, and she wants to move in with her dad. But he doesn’t have the space and sends her to her mom. Sparks fly from the outset. Her mom doesn’t fight back any more, which somehow makes Alyssa madder. Alyssa can see changes in her mom’s life, but she doesn’t take time to try to understand them. She looks for a job and waits nervously for the call from the FBI.

Jeremy Mitchell moved from Seattle to Winsome to be near his young daughter. His wife had walked out of the marriage while still pregnant, and Jeremy’s visits with his daughter, Becca, have been sparse. But he wants to rectify that. He’s put everything he has into a Seattle-style coffee shop. But Winsome residents resent the changes from the homey coffee shop that Jeremy replaced. And he can’t seem to figure out where all his money is going.

Alyssa’s best friend, Lexi, sets her up to help Jeremy with his business. Alyssa speaks numbers like a second language. Alyssa and Jeremy are drawn to each other. But each has so many issues in their personal lives, and neither is sure they are staying in Winsome.

Of Literature and Lattes by Katherine Reay is the sequel to The Printed Letter Bookshop. It took me a while to remember some of the situations of the characters from the first book. I think the background of the first book would shed light on this one, especially Alyssa’s mother’s situation. But I do think this could be read as a stand-alone book.

The back of the book says, “With the help of Winsome’s small town charm and quirky residents, Alyssa and Jeremy discover the beauty and romance of second chances.”

The second chances theme comes through not only for Jeremy and Alyssa, but for many characters. And Winsome is a lovable small town.

Katherine’s books are always sprinkled with literary quotes and references. I wasn’t familiar with some of the books mentioned this time. The main one was Of Mice and Men, which I’ve never read—but now I am tempted to.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story, the bookshop, the small town atmosphere. It was a little hard to take all the arguing between Alyssa and her mother and Jeremy and his ex-wife. I know stories need conflict, but I am not used to people talking to each other so harshly. The tension in some scenes left me tense after putting the book down. This isn’t a criticism—I’m sure some families duke it out verbally as much as these do, or worse. And their verbal jabs point up the severity of their issues. It was just hard for me to take in personally.

My biggest problem with the book would be hard to explain without going into a lot of detail, which I don’t want to do in a book review. Let’s just say I am not ecumenical. There are times to put differences aside and just love people in Jesus’ name. But there are some differences that should not be put aside—like the truth that a person is saved by grace through faith alone. When the main spiritual spokesperson in a book is from a faith background that adds church ritual and traditions, that seems to emphasize works and faith, that’s a problem for me. Yes, I know James says our faith should manifest itself in works—but the works come as an outgrowth of faith, not in addition to faith to merit favor in God’s eyes. I have some very dear friends in this faith background, but I wouldn’t hold a joint ministry together with them. There are all sorts of angles to this that could be discussed endlessly, thus the difficulty of getting into it in a short book review. So I’ll leave it there for now.

My other problem with this book was not the fault of the author. I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by an English woman. It felt weird hearing the narration, including the character’s thoughts, in an English accent, but their speaking voices in an American accent. Then, the narrator’s English accent bled through the American voices sometimes. Most words ending in an “a” sound had instead an “r.” The word “idear” came up several times, as did “Grandmar,” “vanillar,” etc. Then there was “enything” for “anything” and “figger” for “figure.” Plus she didn’t do many of the male voices very well. So I’d recommend reading this over listening to it. Most of the comments on the audiobook page were similar. I love English accents in English audiobooks, but I didn’t think the mix worked well here.

If you like small towns with quirky neighbors, stories with a lot of book references, or families coming together over their differences, you’d probably like this book.

Book Review: Be Daring

Warren Wiersbe divided his commentary on Acts into two volumes. I reviewed the first, Be Dynamic (Acts 1-12): Experience the Power of God’s People, a few weeks ago. I just finished the second commentary, Be Daring (Acts 13-28): Put Your Faith Where the Action Is.

As I said in the last review, Wiersbe has commented on books longer than 28 chapters in one volume before. But Acts is a pivotal book between the OT, gospels, and the rest of the NT. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ changed a lot of things, and the early disciples were still figuring out the implications. But this was also probably the biggest expanse of the church in history.

Serious persecution also dogged followers of the Way, as Paul referred to it. Thus Wiersbe’s title to Be Daring fits.

The apostle Paul is the focus of these latter chapters of Acts: his standing as a loyal Pharisee and his persecution of the church, his miraculous conversion, his three missionary journeys, his arrest and imprisonment.

As usual, I have several quotes marked from the book. Here are a few:

The first one was from the context of the big council meeting in Acts 15 about whether the newly-saved Gentiles needed to keep the Jewish laws and customs:

It is beautiful to see that this letter expressed the loving unity of people who had once been debating with each other and defending opposing views. . . . We today can learn a great deal from this difficult experience of the early church. To begin with, problems and differences are opportunities for growth just as much as temptations for dissension and division. Churches need to work together and take time to listen, love, and learn. How many hurtful fights and splits could have been avoided if only some of God’s people had given the Spirit time to speak and to work. . . . Most church problems are not caused by doctrinal differences but by different viewpoints on practical matters (pp. 35-36, Kindle version).

This is still applicable in our times, isn’t it?

[Paul] used one approach with the synagogue congregations and another with the Gentiles. He referred the Jews and Jewish proselytes to the Old Testament Scriptures, but when preaching to the Gentiles, he emphasized the God of creation and His goodness to the nations. His starting point was different, but his finishing point was the same: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (p. 23).

If God had to depend on perfect people to accomplish His work, He would never ever get anything done. Our limitations and imperfections are good reasons for us to depend on the grace of God, for our sufficiency is from Him alone (2 Cor. 3: 5) (p. 43).

To walk by faith means to see opportunities even in the midst of opposition. A pessimist sees only the problems; an optimist sees only the potential; but a realist sees the potential in the problems (p. 71).

The church ministers by persuasion, not propaganda. We share God’s truth, not man’s religious lies. Our motive is love, not anger; and the glory of God, not the praise of men (p. 91).

Luke did not write his book simply to record ancient history. He wrote to encourage the church in every age to be faithful to the Lord and carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. “What was begun with so much heroism ought to be continued with ardent zeal,” said Charles Spurgeon, “since we are assured that the same Lord is mighty still to carry on His heavenly designs” (p. 174).

Acts doesn’t mention any of the apostles writing epistles, except the joint one in Acts 15. But we have clues from the epistles that many of them were written during this time period.

The book of Acts ends somewhat abruptly, with Paul in prison. Dr. Wiersbe shares from what we know of history what happened during the rest of Paul’s life: he was released from prison, ministered a few more years, was arrested again, and was eventually beheaded. Of course, at the time Luke was writing, they did not know how long Paul would be in prison. Luke probably figured it was a good a time as any to stop where he was and send this long letter to Theophilus. But Luke was also under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and perhaps the Spirit’s leading Luke to stop where he did was an indication that the transitional phase was over and the church was established and on its way to continued growth til Christ returns.

Book Review: Seagrass Pier

Elin Summerall has a lot on her plate. Her husband died a few years ago, leaving her with their baby daughter, now four years old. She took in her mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Then Elin developed a virus in her heart, which required a transplant.

Recovering from transplant surgery, Elin has been having frightening dreams—only they seem more like memories, memories of her donor being stalked and murdered. When she tells people, they think she’s just reacting to the trauma of the surgery and the strong anti-rejection drugs.

But then someone breaks into her home, leaving odd messages.

She takes her daughter and mother and flees to Hope Beach. There she finds an old acquaintance, an off-duty FBI agent, Marc Everton, who takes her story seriously and offers to help. They’ve never gotten along, except for one night in their past that they’ve both repented of.

Can they overcome their differences and work together before it’s too late—especially after Marc finds out Elin’s secret?

Seagrass Pier is the third in Colleen Coble’s Hope Beach series, and to me was the most intense. The first two were Tidewater Inn and Rosemary Cottage (linked to my reviews). Some characters from the first two books appear in the third as well. All of the books are set in a beach town on the Outer Banks, and all feature lovely historic homes I’d love to see in person.

The books have been reprinted with different covers, and one Kindle version bundles all three together.

I don’t know if the concept of “cell memory”—the idea that a transplant recipient can have memories of the donor or take on traits of the donor—goes as far in real life as is portrayed in this book. But as this is a work of fiction and not a medical treatise, I was able to set aside whether this could really happen and just go with the story.

If you like romantic suspense with a Christian undercurrent, you would probably like these books. Just don’t do what I did and start the last one in the evening without being able to put it down until way past bedtime.

Book Review: Rosemary Cottage

Amy Lange visits her family’s beach home, Rosemary Cottage, to mourn for her brother, Ben. They used to spend time at the cottage every summer together. But Ben died, in what some say was a surfing accident. A mysterious email suggests another possible explanation. However, the police think the email is just a prank.

Amy is a midwife. As she revisits Hope Island, she begins to think she could start a practice there.

Curtis Ireland is a member of the Coast Guard rescue team on the island. He’s raising his young niece, Raine, since his sister died after being struck in the water by a passing boat. His aunt, Edith, has come to help him with Raine.

Amy’s brother was idolized by her family as the golden boy, set for a successful life. Gina, Curtis’s sister, was the “black sheep” of the family, yet had made positive changes the last years of her life. But appearances can be deceiving.

Amy and Curtis join forces to investigate the siblings’ deaths, yet each holds back secrets. Each is defensive of his or her sibling. But they need to put aside their differences . . . especially as someone begins to threaten them both.

Rosemary Cottage is the second book in Colleen Coble’s Hope Beach series. Tidewater Inn was the first, and some of those characters appear in this book as well.

I not only liked the beachy setting, but I enjoyed the old houses mentioned in each book. There’s a budding romance for those who like that in a book, and there’s plenty of suspense for those who prefer action and intrigue. I thought the faith element was developed naturally.

All in all, a nice summer read.

Chris Fabry’s Dogwood

Dogwood by Christ Fabry is set in West Virginia and told from four different points of view.

Karin is a pastor’s wife with three children. But she feels far from God. She has trouble sleeping and spends most nights in her closet with a Bible and a book of poetry. She doesn’t seem to know what the basic problem is or how to feel close to God again. An aged woman in her church, Ruby, takes an interest in her and tries to help her.

Will Hatfield is from Dogwood, but has spent the last twelve years of his life in prison for his part in an accident that killed two children. He has loved Karin since he was a teenager and plans to go back to Dogwood and win her when he gets out.

Bobby Ray is Karen’s brother, a rookie police officer, and a soon-to-be dad of his first child with his wife.

Danny Boyd is a young boy who talks to a counselor about his feeling responsible for the death of his sisters.

At first, the four different points of view are confusing, especially as some of the names of side characters are similar. I listened to the audiobook, which makes it harder to backtrack to double check names or points. But after a while, I was able to distinguish who was whom and who belonged with which character.

I was able to piece various parts of the story together as the narratives went along. I had figured out one aspect, but the main twist, revealed in the last 30-45 minutes of the story, took me by completely by surprise.

I loved some of Fabry’s phrasing here:

My constant companions were fears, not God. I convinced myself he was simply on vacation, out carrying someone else on that beach with all the footprints. My heart had shriveled, and my soul was as wrinkled.

Ruthie was the first to tell me that God hadn’t abandoned me but was drawing me deeper, calling me out of the shallows, past the abyss, and into the current of his love and mercy. Yeah, right, I thought. God hadn’t asked me if I wanted to go deeper, and thank you very much, I liked the shallows. It’s easier to play when there’s no current. In the middle you lose your footing; you lose control.

Water that’s not moving becomes stagnant. And if there’s not someone pouring into you, the pitcher gets dusty. A person is most satisfied and most useful when she is both giving and receiving. In marriage. In life. In friendship. With God too.

There were a couple of statements that bothered me, like “I’m convinced God sometimes wants to communicate outside the usual box” and “Listen to your heart.”

And I didn’t like couple of scenes with a teen couple swimming in their underwear and mention of women displaying cleavages for Will to see.

But the overall story was very good. Chris tells some of his thoughts in writing the novel here. This is the first of a trilogy. I had already read June Bug, the sequel, a few years ago. I probably won’t read the last one, though, about an angel’s assignment in Dogwood.

Tidewater Inn

In Tidewater Inn by Colleen Coble, Libby Hollander is an architectural historian. She and her business partner, Nicole, convince investors to let them restore old buildings.

While Libby checks out one house, Nicole visits a property on the Outer Banks. But what she discovers stuns both of them. Libby had been told her father died when she was five. However, he had been living on Hope Island all this time, remarried, had two more children, and left his Tidewater Inn to Libby when he passed away a year before.

Libby learns that her half-siblings knew about her. Even though they’ve received a sizeable cash inheritance, they’re not happy that she inherited the inn. Another investor is also interested in the Inn. Though Libby would dearly love to keep it, she doesn’t have the money to restore it. The investor wants to begin a ferry service to the island and build up some other properties, but long-time residents fear commercialization of the island.

Before Libby can even begin to delve into all this, however, Nicole is kidnapped right before her eyes—and the local sheriff thinks Libby is the prime suspect.

And a hurricane is heading toward the island.

There are different layers of mysteries tied up in the story, and a handsome Coast Guard lieutenant helps Libby untangle them.

Several years ago I had read a few of Colleen’s books about a woman named Bree and her rescue dog, Samson, and some of the rescues they were involved in. And, lo and behold, Bree and Samson turn up in this book for a bit.

I enjoyed the story, Libby’s journey, and the setting. I grew up on the Southern Texas coastline, near Padre Island, and stories set in a coastal town bring that back to me.

This is the first book in the Hope Island series, and I’ve already started the second.

Back to the Classics Challenge Wrap-Up

Karen at Books and Chocolate hosts the Back to the Classics Challenge. Books have to be 50 years old and fit within the categories chosen for the year in order to qualify. Karen draws a name from participants at the end of the year to receive a $30 gift card towards books, and the number of categories you finish determines how many entries you get.

Here are the categories I finished this year. Titles link back to my reviews. I actually finished back in June (a record for me, I think), but am just now finishing this post.

1. A 19th century classic: The Warden by Anthony Trollope
2. A 20th century classic: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
3. A classic by a woman author: Silas Marner by George Elliot (Mary Ann Evans)
4. A classic in translation: The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
5. A classic by BIPOC author: The Narrative of Sojourner Truth by Sojourner Truth and Olive Gilbert
6. A classic by a new-to-you author: Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster
7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author: Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title: Animal Farm by George Orwell
9. A children’s classic: Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
10. A humorous or satirical classic: Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction): A Room With a View by E. M. Forster
12. A classic play: Our Town by Thornton Wilder.

Karen wants us to put the number of entries we get for the prize drawing based on the number of categories completed. I have three entries because I completed all twelve categories.

Karen also wants us to put our contact email here: barbarah06 (at) gmail (dot) com.

Once again, I very much enjoyed this challenge. Some of the books were cozy; some were challenging. All stimulated thinking in one form or another. That they still speak and still provoke thought and discussion after to so long a time is, I suppose, what makes them classics.

Be Dynamic: Experience the Power of God’s People

Warren Wiersbe has divided his commentary of Acts into two books, the first of which is Be Dynamic (Acts 1-12): Experience the Power of God’s People.

Wiersbe has commented on longer books than Acts in one volume. But I think he must have divided his notes on this book of the Bible because it is such a pivotal book.

Acts was written by Luke as a sequel to the gospel bearing his name. Both books are addressed to Theophilus.

At the beginning of Acts, Jesus had already died, been buried, and been resurrected. He spent 40 days teaching His disciples, then He ascended back to heaven. The last thing He told His disciples to do was to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the end of the earth. He promised the power of His Holy Spirit would enable them to accomplish this task. The book of Acts tells the story of how that witness spread.

Perhaps another reason Wiersbe divided this commentary in two is that Peter is the main character in the first twelve chapters. Then the focus shifts to Paul.

Yet a third possible reason: there were so many changes over the course of Acts, some of which are confusing to people to this day. For one, Jesus’s ministry had been primarily to Jews, though He ministered to Samaritans and Gentiles as well. But when God used Peter to open the doors of the gospel to Samaritans and Gentiles (which most believe is what is meant by his being given the keys of the kingdom), many disciples were confused. But they couldn’t argue with the definite way God had led. Then came the whole question of what part the OT law had in the life of a NT disciple. They had to meet together and hammer out these issues, which some of the epistles go into further.

Another change was the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, as promised by Jesus in Acts 1:4-5 and 8. In the OT, the Spirit came upon certain people at certain times for specific tasks. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to inhabit every believer all the time.

The filling of the Spirit has to do with power for witness and service (Acts 1: 8). We are not exhorted to be baptized by the Spirit, for this is something God does once and for all when we trust His Son. But we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5: 18), for we need His power constantly if we are to serve God effectively. At Pentecost, the Christians were filled with the Spirit and experienced the baptism of the Spirit, but after that, they experienced many fillings (Acts 4: 8, 31; 9: 17; 13: 9) but no more baptisms (p. 35-36).

Another controversy has to do with Acts 2:44-45: “ And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Some have said that this is a form of Communism. Wiersbe says it is not, because “the program was totally voluntary, temporary (Acts 11:27-30), and motivated by love” (p. 43).

One striking feature of this era is that the church took persecution for granted as part of life.

They did not pray to have their circumstances changed or their enemies put out of office. Rather, they asked God to empower them to make the best use of their circumstances and to accomplish what He had already determined (Acts 4: 28). This was not “fatalism” but faith in the Lord of history who has a perfect plan and is always victorious. They asked for divine enablement, not escape, and God gave them the power that they needed (p. 68).

In one of my favorite chapters in Acts, chapter 12, Peter is delivered from prison and goes to the home of Mary, where the disciples were praying. If you remember the story, Rhoda comes to the door and is so astonished to hear Peter that she forgets to open it. She runs back in to tell everyone, and no one believes her. Almost every sermon or lesson I’ve heard from this chapter ridicules the disciples for praying without faith. Here they were praying for Peter, yet they couldn’t believe God had set him free. Even Wiersbe takes this view.

But Dr. Layton Talbert (one of our former Sunday School teachers), in his book Not By Chance: Learning to Trust a Sovereign God, brings up a different viewpoint. We don’t know that they were praying for Peter’s deliverance from prison. Dr. Talbert points out that the text doesn’t say. James was killed by Herod earlier in the chapter: since he was not delivered they may not have expected Peter to be, either. “The only precedent we have for the church’s prayer under similar circumstances is in Acts 4:23-30. There, in the face of recent imprisonment, persecution, and renewed threats, the church made only one request. And it wasn’t for deliverance from prison or persecution; it was for boldness in the face of both (4:29)” (p. 203).

A few more quotes from Wiersbe:

Repentance is not the same as “doing penance,” as though we have to make a special sacrifice to God to prove that we are sincere. True repentance is admitting that what God says is true, and because it is true, to change our minds about our sins and about the Savior, (p. 52).

If Satan cannot defeat the church by attacks from the outside, he will get on the inside and go to work (20: 28–31) (p. 79).

God has no grandchildren. Each of us must be born into the family of God through personal faith in Jesus Christ (John 1: 11–13) (p. 108).

Luke summarizes the events up to this point in Acts 12:24: “But the word of God increased and multiplied.

As always, Dr. Wiersbe’s notes were very helpful in studying the Bible.

The Last Year of the War

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner opens with an elderly Elise Dove, who has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Elise calls her disease “Agnes” and describes her as “a sticky-fingered houseguest who is slowly and sweetly taking everything of mine for her own.”

As Elise mourns the memories she will some day lose, she thinks of a long-ago friend she met in an internment camp during WWII.

Elise was a teenager then, living like any American teenager in Iowa. One day Elise came home from school to find strangers rifling through their belongings while her German parents were seated at the table. Elise thought they were being robbed. In a way, they were. A few statements and actions of her father’s had been misinterpreted, and he was suspected of being secretly involved in Nazi activities. The whole family was eventually shipped to an internment camp in Crystal City, Texas.

There Elise met Mariko Inoue, a Japanese teen girl who sounded every bit as American as Elise. The two became friends for the eighteen months they were in the camp, and even beyond. But their families were repatriated to the parents’ home countries, and the girls lost touch for the next sixty years.

Now Elise’s housekeeper has taught her how to look people up on Google with her new iPad. Elise decides to fly out to the place where she thinks Mariko is, without telling her children about the trip or about “Agnes.”

The present-day Elise’s search is sprinkled with flashbacks of her family’s trials, time in the internment camp and then in Germany, and what happened to them after that.

I had known about internment camps, but didn’t realize German and Japanese Americans were interned together. I also thought of the camps like POW camps. But they were actually like small towns, with schools, stores, jobs, etc. However, there were also fences, barbed wire, and guards with guns.

Both the present and past narratives are compelling. Having had a mother-in-law with dementia, I was a little on edge during the older Elise’s travels, hoping she’d be okay. For that reason, the very end, the last couple of paragraphs, were disappointing. They fit in with a metaphor raised earlier in the book, but they left Elise hanging, which left me without a satisfying resolution. But the rest of the story was very good.

I’ve read Christian or inspirational fiction from Susan Meissner, but this is pretty much strictly historical fiction. The only mention of God I can recall is a passing statement. Sadly, there are a few bad words, which I was disappointed to see.

I very much enjoyed Kimberly Farr’s narration of the audiobook.

I’ve read lots of WWII fiction, but this is the first I’ve read that is partially set in an internment camp. How about you? Have you read anything about the camps?

The Good Portion

Most of us don’t get terribly excited about doctrine. We don’t rub our hands together before opening the Bible eagerly, anticipating what doctrine we’ll encounter this time. We think of doctrine as dry and dusty, full of highfalutin polysyllabic words that go over our heads.

We think doctrine is boring.

But right doctrine is our bedrock. Knowing what we believe and why comforts us and keeps us on course.

If we’re feeling insignificant, lonely, unloved, we might be inspired by an Instagram meme or a friend’s compliment—for a little while. But what truly ministers to our hearts is the foundational truths that God is with us even if we don’t “feel” Him, that He loves us even when we feel most unlovable, that we matter to Him because He created us and redeemed us.

Almost every NT book encourages right doctrine and warns against false doctrine. Doctrine determines and directs our thinking and actions.

With that in mind, Keri Folmar wrote The Good Portion: Scripture: The Doctrine of Scripture for Every Woman “to shed light on the treasure and sweetness of the sacred Scriptures. The book attempts to summarize the doctrine of the Word of God in a way that keeps the relational nature of the Bible at the forefront. After all, the Bible is God speaking to us. It is God revealing Himself with words and calling us into relationship with Him.” The title comes from the example of Mary of Bethany, who chose “the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42) by sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His teaching.

The eight chapters cover how we can know God through His Word, the Bible’s inspiration, trustworthiness, authority, clarity (ability to be understood), necessity, and sufficiency. Keri does a wonderful job keeping ” the relational nature of the Bible at the forefront.” The chapters are not “dry” at all, and each feeds into knowing God better and developing our relationship with Him.

A few of the quotes I noted in the book:

God is not silent. He has revealed Himself. He will speak to us if we will take our Bibles off the shelf and taste and see His goodness. It is through regularly hearing God speak that we can know Him and enjoy relationship with Him.

Churches want ‘customers’, so they work hard not to offend. Pretty soon the cross is bloodless, and Jesus becomes merely a good example for some to follow. It all starts with sidelining the Bible. We are told, “Let’s not put God in a box or a ‘book.”’ The Bible may remain a “participa[nt] in all our conversations,” but it loses its authority as the Word of God—all in an attempt to make Christianity more palatable to modern sensibilities. But the apostle Paul would not have agreed. He preached to pagan peoples, using the pure Word of God, declaring, ‘We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word’ (2 Cor. 4: 2). We should also refuse to tamper with God’s Word, not judging it to be obsolete, but letting it sit in judgment over us.

If we believe the Bible is universal truth, we should use it to interpret our experiences and circumstances, not the other way around.

God has communicated to us in a clear way, yet Paul tells Timothy to ‘rightly handl[e] the word of truth’ (2 Tim. 2: 15), implying that we can wrongly handle it. Our goal in reading, studying or teaching the Bible is to understand the author’s intended meaning. Hermeneutics can help us in this endeavor. Let’s look at several overarching principles or guidelines to interpreting the Bible.

Mary has chosen Jesus over completing her tasks. Mary has chosen Jesus over pleasing or impressing others with her clean house and good food. She has chosen Jesus over everything else that is tugging at her heart and her time. Mary knows what’s necessary. She wants to know Jesus.

Don’t miss the impact of this passage: Jesus was commending a woman, 2,000 years ago in the Middle East, for sitting under His teaching. He wants women to know Him and be grounded in the Scriptures. He wants women to be serious students of the Bible, studying it and hearing it taught. Godly women choose the good portion by going to Jesus in His Word. And Jesus says this good portion will not be taken away.

Keri writes as a pastor’s wife in Dubai. Her experience sharing God’s Word in another culture and dealing with people from other religions helps to illustrate the truths she shares.

This book is the first in a series of three. “This series of books on doctrine for women is an attempt to fuel your enjoyment of God by encouraging a greater knowledge of Him.” I’ve not read the others, but I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this one.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)