Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Book Review: The Twilight Gospel

About the book: The blockbuster Twilight Saga is being read by teenager and adult alike. These powerful novels are gaining even more popularity as the movies hit theaters. But what should a Christian response be? And is there a helpful way to approach a teenager or young adult captivated with the books without alienating her?

Dave Roberts read The Twilight Saga and while he appreciated the literary qualities, there were also parts that troubled him. As he considered the books as a whole and spoke to teenagers who read them, he saw the need for a resource. In The Twilight Gospel Dave brings to bear a Biblical lens showing that while there are important moral and spiritual lessons to be learned, there is also a promotion of a non-Christian worldview. He addresses such topics as the cult of beauty, the appeal of the self-disciplined vampire Edward, life after death, the use of myths and legends, sexuality, personal spiritual power, and the lure of materialism.

Crisply written and with a gracious spirit, The Twilight Gospel will help teens, their parents, and their pastors discern what is good from what is unhealthy in the novels and equip them to be biblically literate readers. Read an excerpt here.

My Thoughts
I really appreciated Dave Roberts' balanced approach to this book. He doesn't just focus on the negative aspects, he praises the positive as well, all through the lens of a Christian worldview.

I have not read the Twilight series, which perhaps made this a little less interesting (to me) than it would've otherwise been. However, I think that being able to discuss movies and books with your children that they have seen and read is an excellent way to help them learn discernment, to help them pick out the good and bad in what they see and read, to help them learn how to view entertainment with a critical eye, and to realize how we are affected by what we put into our brains. This book would be a fabulous discussion springboard between you and your teens.

Of course, you don't necessarily need to read a book critique like this one in order to have such a discussion, but if you haven't seen the movie yourself, or want to benefit from someone else's research, then this would be a great book to pick up.

A quote I liked from the book....

Fiction, obviously has power. But how much? Those who say that stories such as the Twilight Saga 'make' people undertake explorations of sexuality or the occult are overstating the case. Stories do not 'make' anybody do anything. They introduce the possibility and excite the imagination; that is all. By the same token, those who would say that these are merely stories and that people will not internalize the value systmes they find in the saga may also be suffering from a form of cultural myopia. Some people will take up the possibilities that they find in the story and act them out in their own lives. Stories bring ideas to life. (pg 19, 20)

Some of the positives in the story - women who unconditionally love, a man dedicated to peace, people willing to forgive and to sacrifice for others, those willing to work to control their destructive impulses, and a family who nurtures wisdom.

Some of the negatives in the story...
At the heart of the book we find the idols of beauty, occult power, consumerism and undisciplined eroticism paraded with a degree of naivety in some cases and with unthinking relish in others. (pg 155)

The author encourages the reader to read critically (as we always should, to do otherwise is dangerous), with caution and thought. The saying "don't believe everything you read" applies to fiction just as much as newspapers. So, enjoy the read - but don't mindlessly believe.

Thank you to Stephanie and Amy from Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Monday, 19 April 2010

13 Things to Look for when Choosing a Husband - Part 3 - Conclusion

If you haven't already, please read Part 1 and Part 2 of this 3-part series - 13 Things to Look for When Choosing Your Future Husband.

Here are the last 4 things on my list....

10) He needs to be able to communicate and he needs to be honest. Men, stereotypically, are not as good at communicating as women. But they can communicate and they need to know how to. You want to marry a man who is able to verbalize his wants and expectations. He needs to be able to hear your wants and expectations. And then you both need to be able to come to a compromise if those wants and expectations are different. Compromise does not mean one person has to give in. Often true compromise is both people giving slightly and meeting in the middle. Sometimes one person has to give in entirely, but it should not be that way very often, and when it is, it should not always be the same person doing the giving in. Both of you will be coming into the marriage with different backgrounds and therefore, different expectations. This is ok as long as you are both able to communicate your expectations honestly and then adjust them accordingly to make your relationship work for you. Honesty is always the best policy. You cannot trust someone who is dishonest. Be honest about your expectations. You cannot read each other’s minds and you can only work with what you know. Being shy and not talking are two different things. Even shy people are able to talk to those they are close to. It is essential that he is able to honestly communicate with you.

11) He needs to have a good work ethic. You want to marry a man who will be willing to work hard to provide for you. It doesn’t particularly matter what type of job he has (as long as it’s ethical of course!), it matters that he is self-motivated and a hard worker. This is especially true if you are desiring to be a stay at home mom when you have children. Again, this doesn’t mean that he has to have a high paying job, but that he is not going to shirk his responsibilities, and that he will work hard to provide for you and your children.

12) He need to be self-controlled. Self-control is important for so many things – managing anger, avoiding addictive behaviours and especially overcoming temptation in regards to sexual purity. You both need to determine ahead of time where to draw the line in regards to sexual purity. If he does not respect and value you enough to do this, then you deserve someone better. If sexual purity in regards to pornography is a struggle for him, he needs to be willing to have an accountability partner to help him fight this temptation – that is not something he will be able to do alone. You don’t need to find someone who is never tempted, you need to find someone who chooses to do the right thing despite the temptation.

13) He needs to be the man God wants for you. There are so many more qualities I could list, but the most important thing is to be willing to wait for the man God has for you. You are far better off waiting for the right man, no matter how long that takes, than marrying the first guy that comes along and being miserable for the rest of your life. And sometimes it’s not that there is anything wrong with a particular guy, but he still may not be the one God intends for you to be with. For ex – if you feel called to the mission field, and the man you want to marry is not, then that is not the man God wants for you. Waiting for God’s timing can be difficult, but it is always worth it!

Kiandra, my prayer for you is that you will continue to grow into a woman after God’s own heart. I pray that you will seek God when determining who your future husband will be and that you will have the patience to wait for His timing. Keep in mind, that even if you marry the one that God has for you, marriage is not always easy. The first year or so is often the most difficult as you are getting used to living with someone else 24/7, sorting through your different expectations of how your household should run, and just figuring out how the whole marriage thing works. A good marriage does take effort. But that effort is so worth it! If you are both focused on God, if you are focused on serving Him through your marriage, if you are focused on serving each other – your marriage will be blessed more than you could ask or imagine!

I have one last suggestion – pray for your future husband now already. Pray that God will mold him into the man he wants him to be. Pray that God will put people in his life to draw him to Jesus and to strengthen his relationship with God. Pray for his parents. Pray for his friends and for his teachers. Pray for him. Through the amazing power of prayer, you can bless his life before you even meet him. What a priviledge!

So, that concludes my 3-part series "13 Things to Look for When Choosing your Future Husband". Any big ones you think I left out? I know I didn't cover everything, but if there's a major one I missed, I'd love to hear it. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Book Review: A Distant Melody

About A Distant Melody
Never pretty enough to please her gorgeous mother, Allie will do anything to gain her approval--even marry a man she doesn't love. Lt. Walter Novak--fearless in the cockpit but hopeless with women--takes his last furlough at home in California before being shipped overseas. Walt and Allie meet at a wedding and their love of music draws them together, prompting them to begin a correspondence that will change their lives. As letters fly between Walt's muddy bomber base in England and Allie's mansion in an orange grove, their friendship binds them together. But can they untangle the secrets, commitments, and expectations that keep them apart? A Distant Melody is the first book in the WINGS OF GLORY series, which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II.

My Review
Sarah Sundin is a brand new author and this is her debut novel, a historical fiction romance. Well, let me tell you, I am sold on this woman's potential and cannot wait to read more from her!

I absolutely loved this book!

The first thing I loved about the book was that, despite the picture on the cover, the two main characters are not both gorgeous people that all the other men and women are swooning over. That's something that I find rather irritating about some other novels - the main female character is always gorgeous but too humble to even know how beautiful she is, blah, blah, blah. A little realism is nice once in awhile. No, they are not ugly, but they aren't both model material and I like that.

The characters are believable, the history is interesting, the relationships are realistic and the storyline is riveting.

It's not just a fluff piece either. Issues such as personal sacrifice vs obedience are explored and characters grow and change throughout the book.

Two thumbs way up!

If you're interested in giveaways (open to Canadians too!), check out Litfuse here. Thank you to Stephanie and Amy from Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Monday, 12 April 2010

13 Things to Look for when Choosing a Husband - Part 2

If you missed my first post on this subject, please read Part 1 of this three-part series first.

Here are the next five things on my list of things to look for when choosing your future husband....

5) He needs to handle anger and disagreements appropriately. Everyone gets angry at some point. But we need to be slow to anger - having a quick and fiery temper can be a recipe for trouble. The emotion of anger is not necessarily a sin. What we do with that anger is also important. Does he last out in hurtful words? Does he become violent in any way? Does he simply not deal with his anger at all? Does he withdraw or bottle up his anger? All of those are major red flags! Rather he should try to calmly talk it through, he should pray for the person/situation. He should try to resolve the situation and seek a solution to the problem. He should be willing to compromise his own desires in order to resolve issues, but he should not be willing to compromise his values or beliefs.

6) He needs to take responsibility for his own actions. Everyone makes mistakes. An immature and selfish man will tend to blame someone else for his mistakes and avoid taking ownership of his choices. A mature man, a man you want to be married to, will be able to admit when he has done wrong, take personal responsibility for his wrong choice, ask for forgiveness and make restitution when necessary.

7) He needs to have a servant heart in order to be a servant leader. Marriage is a big adjustment. You can no longer make decisions based on what is best for you alone, you now have to make decisions based on what is best for both of you. And nothing reveals selfishness more than having children! The man you choose to marry needs to have a servant heart. He needs to be able to set aside his own desires if that is what’s best for his family. You want a man who will want to do whatever he can for you out of love for you. How can you tell before you marry him if he will have this servant heart? By observing how he is with other people. He should be empathetic towards people and their troubles, willing to offer a helping hand when he can. He should be generous with his time and money. In short, he needs to be unselfish, willing to put other’s needs ahead of his own.

8) He needs to have things in common with you. The saying opposites attract is not always true. It depends what you’re opposite about! This doesn’t mean that you need to enjoy all the same hobbies – but you need to be ok with the ones he has, because that’s not going to change when you get married. It’s ok for married couples to do some things separately, but more often than not, you want to do things together. This also doesn’t mean that you have to have the same views on everything – but you definitely need to agree on your core values and beliefs and any other issues you consider to be major ones.

9) He needs to be willing to change, but you cannot expect him to change. Everyone has weaknesses and you can’t expect him to be perfect. You have to decide if his weaknesses are ones you’re willing to live with forever. Yes, he could change, and he should change if he is desiring to grow in his walk with God. But you cannot marry someone with the expectation that he will change a specific weakness or character flaw after you get married. Marriage never solves problems – in fact it usually makes the problems worse. And becoming parents makes the problems worse yet. He does need to be willing to change. Similar to #8 – he needs to recognize his own flaws, be willing to take responsibility for them, and then be willing to do the work necessary to change them. However, you cannot make him change and there’s no guarantee that he will.

Stay tuned next week for the conclusion to this 3-part series. (And, yes, I know I'll be in Orlando next Monday - gotta love scheduled posting capabilities!)

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

How to make crispy sweet potato fries

Those of you who know me, know of my major aversion to potatoes. I don't eat them ever, not even to be polite! I don't even like fries, unless they're skinny and crispy and don't taste at all like potatoes :)

But I've tried sweet potatoes and I kinda like them. I really like the sweet potato fries I've had in the restaurants, so I decided to try to make them at home. Baked sweet potatoes - pretty healthy snack!

So, I tried. And failed. Miserably. They were like limp shoelaces of mush. Yeah, my thoughts exactly.

Thus began my internet search for tips on how to make crispy sweet potato fries.


So, in case there are other sweet potato fry lovers out there, wanting to bake their own healthier versions at home, here is the recipe...

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries
3-4 small sweet potatoes (orange flesh)
2 egg whites
2-3 Tbsp all purpose flour
1-2 Tbsp of spices (Any combination of curry, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, seasoning salt, taco seasoning, etc.)

1) Put a cookie sheet (with edges) into the oven and preheat it to 400F.
2) You can leave the peel on the potatoes for even more healthy goodness (don't forget to wash them!), or you can peel it - up to you. Cut sweet potatoes in half (ok, I totally should've taken pictures - maybe I'll do that soon and add them in later). Stand them up and cut into 1/4" semi-circles, then cut them into 1/4" fries.
3) Soak cut fries in water for 10 min - 8 hrs (I did it for 1 hr). You can change the water in between if you like. This process sucks some of the starch out of the potatoes, one of the causes of the mushiness factor. Drain water and rinse fries (again, rinsing off starch). Dry fries thoroughly - pat dry or air dry.
4) In a large bowl, whisk egg whites until frothy. Toss fries in egg whites. Add flour 1 tbsp at a time and toss to coat. Add spices and toss to coat.
5) Remove hot pan from the oven, spray with Pam (or whatever oil you want to use) and spread coated fries onto pan. Do not allow fries to touch.
6) Put the pan on one of the lowest racks in the oven and bake for 30-40 mins, turning after about 20 mins. Open the oven door at least 2 times during baking to allow the moisture from the baking potatoes to be released. Check on them every couple minutes after the 30 min mark to make sure they don't burn.
7) Remove and enjoy with your favourite dipping accompaniment.

Delicious!!! Now, I just need to experiment with different spices to find out what I like best. Today I used chili powder, but I used too little (I didn't use 1 tbsp as I was scared of getting them too spicy). I've heard taco seasoning is supposed to be great. I've also heard a combo of garlic and cinnamon is supposed to be good. I know, sounded weird to me too.

Unfortunately, I seem to be the only one in my family that enjoys these delicious fries. That's ok - my own personal snack! Now I just need to figure out how to store a half used sweet potato.

Monday, 5 April 2010

13 Things to Look for when Choosing a Husband - Part 1

My friend Pam recently created an incredible birthday book for her firstborn's 13th birthday. It's a book of wishes, prayers, advice, etc, from meaningful people in her life that her daughter can look to, especially during the turbulant teen years. A book that will remind her of all the people who care about her, and have invested in her life. A book of advice, a book of humour, a book of memories, a book of encouragement. I think this is just such a fabulous idea. Her daughter brought it to church this past Sunday and I got a little peak at the finished product and it turned out absolutely amazing! I think I may be copying this idea for my own kids.

Anyway, now that the book is no longer a surprise, I'm going to post my submission to this wonderful project. It turned out to be pretty long, so I think I'll break this down into 3 posts and post one every Monday for the next 3 weeks. Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, as there are definitely more than 13 things to consider in a husband, but I dare to say, if he fits the bill for all 13 on the list, things are certainly headed in the right direction.

So, without further ado, may I present.....

13 Things to Look for When Choosing Your Future Husband

Happy 13th birthday Kiandra! I am honoured that your parents asked me to contribute to this special book. They love you so much and I know you will treasure this gift forever.

Nathan and I happen to be married for 13 years now, and I thought I would share with you 13 things to look for in choosing your future husband. Other than your choice to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, choosing your husband is the most important decision you will ever make. With that in mind, only date someone you would seriously consider marrying. The purpose of dating is to find a suitable husband. “Falling in love” causes you to ignore red flags, to ignore advice from concerned family and friends, and to excuse inappropriate behavior because you are looking through rose-coloured glasses. Keeping things at a friendship level is vitally important until you are sure he possesses all the qualities you are looking for. With that in mind, here are 13 things to look for in a future husband…

1) He must be passionate about continuing to grow in his personal relationship with Jesus. Do not assume that just because he goes to church that he is a Christian. Do not assume that because he is a Christian that he is committed to continuing to grow in his faith. The only way you can discern this is by getting to know him on a friendship level, watching how he interacts with those around him (especially his family – as we are most ourselves in front of the people who know us best), listening to the advice of your parents and other wise (older) friends and family and other people whose opinion you respect (youth leader, pastor, etc). The Bible is clear that we should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers – choosing to do so will only result in heartache. He needs to be passionate about his relationship with God, willing to challenge you to grow in your own faith, and to be the spiritual leader of your home. This does not mean that he has to be outgoing. But he cannot use a shy personality as an excuse not to lead.

2) Make sure your parents approve of your choice. I know that sounds old fashioned. But your parents are wise people. They love you more than anyone else in the world does, and they have loved you before you were even born. They have prayed for you and your future spouse, they have poured into your life and invested in you like no one else has. No other people in this world want you to succeed in life and to have a godly and fulfilling marriage more than your parents do. They are older and wiser than you and will be able to see red flags much easier than you will be able to. Respect your parents and seek their blessing in your choice of a marriage partner.

3) A sense of humour goes a long way baby! Though this isn’t necessarily a high priority and is really more of a personal preference, having a sense of humour certainly makes life easier and a lot more fun! Marriage is not always easy, life is not always easy. Being able to look at things with a sense of humour, being able to laugh at yourself, being able to joke around together and have fun together is important. Sometimes there’s nothing to do but laugh or cry – and laughing is so much more fun! Of course, there is a line here as well – the sense of humour should not be at someone else’s expense. People can hide a lot of insecurities by insulting other people and masking it in a joke. Virtually everyone makes fun of other people at some point – but it should never be cruel or crude. An appropriate sense of humour is a great asset in a future husband!

4) He needs to be respectful. You can tell a lot about someone by the way they treat others – especially their family and their elders. I mentioned this in a previous point, but people are the most themselves around their family or other people who know them best. They have nothing to hide – these people know their every character flaw. It is especially important to see how he treats his mother, as this is a pretty good indicator of how he will treat you. He needs to have respect for all people – no matter their gender, race, social status, age or anything else. He needs to see all people as the image bearers of God that they are and treat them that way.

There ya have it - the first 4 things on my list of 13 to look for when choosing your future husband. Stay tuned for Part 2 next Monday.


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