September 17, 2011

Emily of Deep Valley ~ a review

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Fiction at 3:58 pm by catsinboxes

After about a week and a half of unusual busyness, I was very ready to put my nose in a book. Besides, it’s that time of year. The leaves are just starting to change, the nights are perfect for sleeping with the window open, all-in-all it’s perfect book weather.

At a recent trip to Half-Price Books, a book in the clearance section caught my eye. (As an aside, I’ve had good luck finding fun reads in the clearance section!) It was -bet you can guess!- Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace.

For those of you who are Betsy-Tacy enthusiasts, you don’t need any explanation. But I have a confession; I never read any books by Maud Hart Lovelace growing up. Not a single one. The reason was simple; my sister loved them. So, out of pure contrariness, I didn’t read them.

But, at 19-going-on-20, I’ve reached an almost-reasonable age. So, I pulled the book off the shelf and examined it.

For those of you familiar with the Deep Valley books, this cover will be normal. If this is new for you, don’t let the cover put you off! I personally am not a fan of the cover; I don’t think it does Emily credit. But now for the book review . . .

For Emily Webster, graduating from Deep Valley High School is bittersweet. She loves the excitement and the whirlwind of activity leading up to graduation, but she dreads what will follow. All of her friends, “the crowd”, will be heading off to college. For Emily, life will continue in Deep Valley as she lives and cares for her grandfather. This book covers a year in Emily’s life, a year in which many things happen.

In a way this is a comfort book; it’s relatively slow-paced. I realized that and made a point of reading it slowly, not skimming over the details. I love the character development because by the end of the book, just like Emily, the reader is looking at Deep Valley and the people in Emily’s life differently.

Personally I loved the book because I can really relate to many of Emily’s feelings. This is a coming-of-age book in the most proper sense of the word. It captures the awkwardness -often inward- of a girl’s feelings as she slowly is coming into her own. I know what that’s like!

One word about the “Deep Valley” part of the title. This book takes place in the same location as the rest of Maud Hart Lovelace’s books, only about two years later. Characters that I had heard of by name had brief cameos, but it’s not necessary to read all the other books before this one. At least, I didn’t let that stop me!

Summing it up, if you are a girl (sorry guys, this probably wouldn’t be for you!), and you’re in need of something to read, I highly recommend Emily of Deep Valley. It’s a quick enough read to polish off in one weekend, and it doesn’t need the mental concentration that -say Dickens- would demand.

With all that said, I must be going. Have a great Saturday and enjoy your weekend!

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September 6, 2011

Crazy Tuesday

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 5:51 pm by catsinboxes

On the road with my mom, five younger siblings plus a puppy; I’m a bit unsure what to blog about! I’m not in the right mind frame for a movie review or something very creative, especially since I’m using my iTouch to write this post!

It’s been a crazy day with errands to run, piano lessons to attend, the house to straighten up, and a host of other little things that all contribute to the general busyness of the day.

Said puppy is now sleeping with his head on my lap. I’m anticipating a drool spot!

That’s all for the moment and I’m going to sign off; an audiobook is coming up . . .

September 4, 2011

Sunday Snippets

Posted in Blogging, Book Reviews, Faith, Theology/Christian life at 5:43 pm by catsinboxes

I hope you like the title.  In search of something to blog about, I employed ‘apt alliteration’s artful aid.’  I’d like to thank D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones for introducing me to that expression, compliments of the book Preaching & Preachers.  Incidentally, I first heard the prhase during a time when I was consistently hearing sermons using that method.  As a note-taker, I had come to dread the “cleverness” of alliteration Sunday after Sunday, so I heartily appreciated the tongue-in-cheek alliterative critique!

To be truthful though, I’m in the process of figuring out what I would like to do on Sundays for blogging, and if I even should blog on Sundays.  I try to be intentional in how I spend my Sundays, so my inclination – if  I post – would be to do something short and sweet and Sunday related.

For this week, I’m going to share two things: the current theological book I’m reading and one of my current favorite worship songs.

1.  Current theological book ~ Jonathan Edwards on True Christianity (The Essential Edwards Collection) by Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney

Initial impressions: I just began this, but I really enjoy the writing style.  It is crisp, insightful, and thought-provoking.  I’m looking forward to writing more about it!

2.  Encouraging worship song of the week ~ Desert Song by Hilsong United.  A bit of background about this idea: I find it interesting how at different periods of my spiritual life, different songs/hymns are very encouraging.  I have some that are continual favorites but others that come and go, very relevant at one point and simply encouraging at another.  Two weeks ago we sang Desert Song during our church’s worship service, and I found it very encouraging.  I love how the lyrics are grounded on Scripture; it adds a lot of depth to the song itself.

September 3, 2011

Marks of the Messenger

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Faith, Favorite Quotes, Theology/Christian life, Together for the Gospel at 6:34 pm by catsinboxes

This week I finished reading Marks of the Messenger: Knowing, Living, and Speaking the Gospel by J. Mack Stiles (IVP, 2010).  It is one of the many books I received at Together for the Gospel 2010, and I thought it was very good.  Weaving together personal experience and scripture, J. Mack Stiles examines the gospel, true evangelism and what they entail to Christian life.

The following is not going to be a book review proper, or an outline of the book’s main points.  Instead I’m going to share points that I found particularly thought-provoking or encouraging.

While I enjoyed the entire book, I particularly enjoyed the final four chapters.

In chapter 7, which focuses on boldness in sharing the gospel, Stiles points to the prayer requests of Paul.   The gospel was central to the prayer requests of Paul.  Not only that, several of Paul’s prayer requests also concerned boldness, that he should be fearless in proclaiming the Gospel.  (Ephesians 6:19-20)  If Paul was asking that others pray he would be fearless, how much more should we?  I love that point!

Chapter 8 examines how the world’s view of love has shaped how Christians look at God.  I thought the following example was very appropriate:

“Me-centered love easily bleeds into Christian thinking about God’s love.  We start treating God as a celestial butler, and singing songs that make it hard to tell if Jesus is a savior or a boyfriend.  Take this refrain [referring to the crucifixion] for instance. ‘Like a rose, trampled on the ground, / You took the fall and thought of me; / Above all.’ ”

After quoting this, Stiles turns to scripture and points out that as Jesus prepared to go to the cross, he wasn’t thinking about us, he was thinking about doing his father’s will.  (John 12:27-28)  He concludes, “. . . Christians by the thousands sing this song and never realize its message is more culture than Bible.”  I’m thankful for the reminder and even more thankful for how intentional the worship is at my local church.

Stiles recognizes the influence of the local church, and in his second-to-last chapter emphasizes the importance of the local church in evangelism.  (This guy is friends with Mark Dever, so this is hardly a surprise!)  I thought that for one chapter he did an excellent job of covering a number of important points.

The concluding chapter is a manifesto, summing up the book.  Several points in the concluding chapters reminded me of Radical by David Platt, which would build on Marks of the Messenger nicely.

In conclusion, I’m going to share some passages that I highlighted while reading Marks of the Messenger:

On sin:

“To paraphrase G. K. Chesteron, I can’t see why people have such problems with original sin; it’s the one doctrine for which we have empirical data.  Just look at the last 3,500 years of human history.”  (pg. 30)

God’s love:

“God’s love is his most magnificent characteristic.  This is so assumed in Western culture it’s practically lost all meaning, but one thing that distinguishes God’s love is how his love, his perfect, tender, self-sacrificing love, holds back his red-hot, scorching wrath.”  (pg. 32)

Don’t assume the Gospel:

“The implications of the gospel are critical to becoming who we are meant to be as healthy evangelists.”  (pg. 53)

The gospel lived out:

“Our lives need to be lined up with, in accord with the gospel . As we’ve seen before, the gospel is not only about salvation.  The gospel is how we live every day.”  (pg. 56)

“Caring for others represents the gospel, it upholds the gospel, it points to the gospel, it’s an implication of the gospel, but it is not the gospel, and it is not equal to the gospel.”  (pg. 69)

“Boldness is not a lack of fear.  It is faith in something bigger than our fears so that we appear fearless.  Confidence in something bigger than our fears gives us the strength to do the right thing in spite of opposition or persecution.”  (pg. 82)

Have you read Marks of the Messenger?  If so, what did you think?  Please feel free to join the conversation! 

Why Cats in Boxes?

Posted in Blogging at 12:31 pm by catsinboxes

After my last post, I was ready and eager to get back into blogging.  I thought of any number of creative posts.  The only problem was that I thought of them when I wasn’t near a computer.  This isn’t going to be a post of excuses though or a post updating what I’ve been up to; it’s going to be a post about the blog itself.   Why . . .

Why indeed.  Simply put, I started this blog as a high school student in January 2010.  I loved writing, and I wanted to blog.  So, over the past year and a half, that’s just what I have done.  I chose the name because I love cats, and I thought it was fun.  It also was the kind of blog name that wouldn’t categorize my blog.  I could be eclectic, and the blog would cover it.  Eclectic is just what I’ve been, if you read through this blog.  It began with the intent of covering “Book reviews, history papers, perhaps some creative writing, and a few general posts about everyday life …”  That was good for a high school student, but now I find I’m writing about a little bit of everything.  I definitely am eclectic, which is okay, but I’d also like to be a bit more intentional.

SO . . . with all that said, you’ll be seeing some changes around Cats in Boxes.  I’m not going to outline them, I’m not going to make promises about posts that might not ever appear.  Instead, I’m just going to start making changes ~today!