Monday, November 16, 2009

Faith and Fangs - Touched by a Vampire

There will always be rivalry between brothers and sisters. It does not stop, even when they are in their late teens. The latest debate between my sister's 20 year-old son and 18 year-old daughter has to do with which book series is more popular: Harry Potter (my nephew Tom's choice) or the Twilight saga (my niece Anna's latest passion. I am not particularly a fan of either one. Not because of the witchcraft oging on at Hogwarts in the Potter series, or the forbidden love between a young girl and a vampire in Twilight. I am not a fan because the stories don't hold my interest. They were not necessarily written with Tom and Anna's gray-haired aunt Mary as their target audience. 

Or were they? I noticed that many of the women at my office have been reading the Twilight series. Maybe there is more to this mortal/vampire love story than what meets the eye. So when I was given the opportunity to review Touched by a Vampire: Discovering the hidden messages in the Twilight Saga by Beth Felker Jones, I saw an opportunity to be able to do more than roll my eyes when I see one of the novels on the table in the employee lunch room.

I'll admit that my first impression before opening Touched by a Vampire was that I had my hands on a "what's right and what's wrong about Twilight," similar to some books that came out in response to The DaVinci Code. But that was not the case. I knew absolutely nothing about Twilight's two main characters Bella and Edward, and here I was, about to read a book exploring the "hidden messages of the Twilight Saga." To the benefit of out-of-touch mortals such as myself, Beth Felker Jones did a very good job of condensing the four volumes of the saga into a six page overview in the introduction of her book. (She also gives a very plain warning before the overview that if you have not read the books and do not want her to ruin any surprises to read no further. If that describes you, heed that warning! Secrets will be revealed throughout this book!)

Most people love to sink their teeth into a good story; Jones goes beyond the story. She takes a candid look at some of Twilight's themes such as romance, gender roles, abstinence and sex, the perfect family, children, the search for purpose in life, and other topics. She compares the way that Edward and Bella love each other to the ways that God expresses His love for us, without condemning the reader or the Twilight characters.

The insights brought out in Touched by a Vampire are not intended to be kept within the confines of the front and back covers of the book. Each chapter has discussion questions to help the reader to process how these themes can be applied to her life (or his life - I know some men who have read the Twilight books). Additionally, at the end of the book there is a discussion guide for those who have read the saga to help them view particular events of the series in the light of their Christian walk.

Did I gain anything of value from this book? Yes, I did. I saw myself and some mistakes that I have made in my own relationships through Jones' exploration of some of the themes, and was reminded of how those mistakes were not necessarily consistent with the way God yearns for us to respond to His love, or how we should love one another.

Would I recommend this book? That depends on who's asking. If you don't want any plot secrets of the Twilight series revealed, then do not read this book until after you have finished reading Breaking Dawn. If you have read the entire saga, or don't care to read it but want to be able to open up discussions with those who have, then this book would be beneficial for you. Either way, when you do read this book, it is likely that you may even learn something about your own relationships in the process.

(This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.)
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Waiting is not easy

Life is full of times of waiting. Sometimes it can be fun - waiting in line for a midnight showing of a movie; waiting for Christmas; waiting to give a special gift to a special someone. Sometimes it can be full of anxious excitement - waiting to walk down the aisle to say "I Do"; waiting for the birth of a child. And sometimes waiting can be torturous, such as waiting for your husband's reaction when you tell him you wrecked his new Lexus (just an example, honey - the car is fine!).

But I think the most difficult wait is when we are waiting for God to answer our prayers when we are at the end of our rope and feel as though we can hold on no longer; when our prayers are nothing more than sighs and sobs. How can we continue to pray if we can't even put words to our despair? Does God even hear us any more?

Yes, He does!

We serve a God who is faithful to those who love him. If God hears even one of our prayers, he hears all of them. Like any good father, though, He will not grant all of our requests immediately. There are reasons we must wait, and not because God likes to watch us squirm. Even though at times no one can explain why, or for reasons we do not understand, the wait may be uncomfortable, but God has our own good in mind by not answering us right away.

So what are we to do during these long periods of waiting for our prayers to be answered?
  • Be real.  Be real before God. He knows your heart and what  your thoughts are anyway (Psalm 139:2). It is when we come to God openly and honestly, admitting the depths of our weakness and helplessness, that we can experience the greatness of His compassion, the power of His strength, and the unending faithfulness of His promises.
  • Persist in prayer. In the gospel of Luke there is a parable about a widow who persisted in appearing before a local judge, pleading for justice against her adversary. Jesus explains the parable in this way: "Don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly!"
  • Remain in God. God wants us to bear fruit for Him. During our worst of times we may not see any evidence of fruitfulness. Do not mistake these times as being cut-off from God! In the wintertime even the healthiest of vines have appear dead. Remain in God through His word, fellowship with other Christians, by prayer, worship, and obedience. Believe in His promises. When the season of waiting is over you will see evidence that God has remained with you. You will see evidence of the fruit He intends for you to bear. And we can rejoice in His abundant grace!
Where are you waiting for God's answer to your prayer? Is it in waiting for healing? For a turning point in a relationship? In answers to financial stress? Have you been so beaten down that you feel you can't get up just one more time? Do you feel discouraged, with no courage left to face another day of waiting? Even if all you can muster is a groan or a sigh or a cry, pray these words from Psalm 5:1-3

O LORD, hear me as I pray;
pay attention to my groaning.
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God,
for I pray to no one but you.
Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD.
Each morning I bring my requests to you
and wait expectantly.

Be persistent. Wait expectantly. God will answer.

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