Monday, 29 September 2008

From Grief to Glory

'Few things must rival the sorrow of a family that buries a child'. So begins James W Bruce in this book that has grown out of the spiritual journey of his family who suffered the loss of a son after 55 days. This is a family who looked to others who had also lost children for the sympathy of a shared experience. Their journey took them to the writings of many well known men and women of faith from times past, when death in childhood was much more common than now. And so this book is really an anthology of such writings. We read Robert Dabney's letters after the deaths of 2 sons within 2 weeks of each other, Calvin's hymn after he lost his only son born prematurely and Matthew Henry's journal following the deaths of 3 of his 9 children when he was able to say 'I am in deaths often; Lord, teach me how to die daily'. Bunyan, Whitefield, Edwards, Rutherford and many more all suffered the loss of children. Their writings recorded here along with insights by Bruce are very poignant and powerful. I'm sure this 'book of comfort for grieving parents' (as subtitled) will be just that.

Interestingly, a few weeks before 'From Grief to Glory' arrived in stock, I read another newly published book called 'Under the Rainbow'. This is an incredible testimony of a mother who lost 2 severely disabled children at the ages of 10 and 12 years. Her honesty regarding the shock of having not 1 but 2 disabled children, the practicalities of daily family life (which included another healthy child), the reactions of others to her children and how her family dealt with their deaths are very moving. Although at times angry and devastated, she was brought by the Lord to humble acceptance and submission to His will. Emotional, thought-provoking and profitable to read.

Having ourselves suffered the loss of a nephew at just 19 months old, this quote from Lorraine Boettner in the appendix of 'From Grief to Glory' rings so true...
Clearly, accomplishment in life cannot be measured in terms of years alone. It often happens that those that die young have accomplished more than others who live to old age. Even infants, who sometimes have been with their parents only a few days, or even hours, may leave profound influences that change the entire course of the life of the family. And undoubtedly, from the Divine viewpoint, the specific purpose for which they were sent into the world was accomplished. It is our right neither to take life prematurely, nor to insist on its extension beyond the mark that God has set for it.
From Grief to Glory, by James W Bruce III, published by Banner of Truth, £6.25
Under the Rainbow, by Catherine Campbell, published by Ambassador, £7.99

Friday, 26 September 2008

How to handle your life...

This is a nice little book just published by Christian Focus Publications. I am always happy to recommend Carine Mackenzie and find her children's books very reverent and biblically accurate. This book has 52 short chapters each using events from daily life to illustrate Bible truths. For example, one chapter describes a mountain walk and a blind man being led by his friend, Carine applies this to our need to trust in our heavenly guide during life's journey. Written for 6-11yr olds with Bible word searches and quizzes this could be adapted and used in many ways; personal daily devotions, family devotions, even short talks for children's groups.
My only hesitation is that as I read this book I sense that Carine is writing for children within the Covenant (as Presbyterians understand it). But this is subtle, Carine does not necessarily assume that the chidren are believers. Perhaps this may mean that some adaptation is required if used within children's groups with non-Christian backgrounds.
Having said that, I am still going to recommend this book as a useful addition to any tweenagers bookshelf as long as it is 'handled with care'.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Abraham Kuyper

Inventor of the increasingly used term 'world view', but Abraham Kuyper is not a household name in this country. He is better known in America because of its large Dutch immigration, and their Calvinistic Reformed tradition. But I dare to say that there has never been a figure like Kuyper in the English speaking world - ever. Evangelical Press published a book by historian James McGoldrick called 'God's Renaissance Man', which I read on holiday to learn more about Kuyper himself, after reading his famous 'Stone lectures' on Calvinism. He certainly was immense in his influence in Holland, combining undoubted intellect with vision and energetic organisational skills. He was a theologian, a pastor, but then started his own newspaper to propound his views to the man in the street. He waded into the political mire and managed to maintain Reformed views in being a founding member of the Anti-Revolutionary Party, eventually becoming the Prime Minister of a government sharing power with Roman Catholics. A pragmatist too! He believed that all of life belongs to God. To quote: "No single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!' " I fully agree. It is confessedly so by believers, and true of the natural man also, though in rebellion against it. McGoldrick attempts an accessible biography, and helpfully sets out the historical context in Holland and in international politics. He also assesses Kuyper's theology - his so-called 'sphere sovereignty' and doctrine of common grace. Perhaps this is a rather 'bitty' part in the book, and he very much judges Kuyper against the Standards of the Reformed churches, more so than the Bible itself in my opinion. The reader must judge! I feel Kuyper's danger was in creating a philosophy of Calvinism. It satisfies the mind in creating a logical framework, but comes to grief when going beyond the specifics of biblical revelation. But he was a fighter for liberty in his era - for instance, the recognition by the state of the right of parents to have the opportunity to educate their children in a christian context. And he achieved that. The establishment of the Free University of Amsterdam was his greatest triumph. Sadly, it gradually changed its course a good while after his death, but that cannot be laid to his charge. Admiration with reservations is my approach to Kuyper, but he deserves study - it will challenge you to think about life, the universe and everything so to speak!

Friday, 5 September 2008


Sorry to lower the tone somewhat after the last post. But can anyone tell me why it costs so much to send books by post to Europe? Considering that it is a near neighbour, rates are so high comparatively to sending books off to Singapore, Australia or the USA. Not only that, but to put the tin lid on it I sent books off to Holland recently and it was actually cheaper to send them airmail than surface mail! How come? Some consumer watchdog ought to have a sniff into all this mess and work out how much we're being conned.
Grumpy, but striving for contentment.