Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus of Nazareth is undoubtedly the most profound book I’ve read in 2008 and the best book on Jesus – outside of the Gospels – I’ve ever encountered. As such it seems an appropriate closing post for 2008. If you haven't read JoN yet, you owe it to yourself to make it a priority for 2009!

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI claims, “this book is . . . my personal search ‘for the face of the Lord.’” It can be yours too. It is alternately poetical, mystical, scholarly, exegetical and meditative. It is always erudite, challenging, thoughtful and catholic, i.e., universal. It is never preachy or pedantic.

Jesus of Nazareth is not for the faint-hearted, nor casual reader. I read every chapter except the last a minimum of three times, often more and mostly because it was necessary. On my first read throughs I found it impossible to take in the depth of his theology while keeping up with him. Paragraphs are packed with references. In order to do this book justice, you need to sit with a good bible translation beside you at all times. I only wish I’d had access to more of the books and authors the Pope quoted. He drew heavily from Holy Scripture, Scripture scholars (from different denominations), Church Fathers—east and west, saints and their writings and biographies, historical figures, philosophers, atheists, and numerous modern exegetes. In fact, it was the depth and breadth of the Holy Father’s sources which first surprised, then amazed and finally thrilled me; here was a true Shepherd for all of humanity. Any one human being who could command such a vast storehouse of the world’s knowledge is nothing short of a genius. And yet, it wasn’t his brilliance in the end that mattered, but his humility and simplicity.

Over and over again in Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI shows himself to be the world’s true Christian shepherd. He speaks of Jesus with such love, born of long years of relationship, which can never emerge from books, no matter how many, nor how well they are written. Joseph Ratzinger, the man, knows Jesus of Nazareth, Our Lord. It is He that this book is about. As an Evangelical Protestant pastor observes in this blog post, ‘whatever your image may be of Joseph Ratzinger, this book will change it. In it you see deeply into his own heart, and what is there is a humble and gentle spirit, and a deep godliness. He deals gently with those who object to the traditional view of Jesus, and his interaction with the arguments in Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner’s “A Rabbi Talks with Jesus” is worth the price of the book. It should be archetypal for how Christians should interact with their Jewish neighbors, and their Jewish critics.’ Read, Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI by Joel Gillespie, Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The book’s dust jacket claims that PBXVI is seeking to salvage the person of Jesus from recent “popular” depictions and restore Jesus’ true identity as discovered in the Gospels.’ As if Our Lord needs “salvaging” or “restoration”! If in fact that was his intention when he began the book, he surpassed that simple objective and left it far behind in what he ultimately created. However, since PBXVI does address recent ‘scholarship’ which seeks to quantify every aspect of faith, even this issue is dealt with in a straightforward and factual manner.

Each chapter in JoN is a scholarly, yet spiritual, treatment of one aspect of Jesus and/or His ministry. The book is ten chapters, begins with Our Lord’s Baptism and covers a number of significant events/issues relevant to the God-man Jesus Christ, concluding with the revelation of His identity. Tantalizingly – if you glean as much from the book as I did – the Holy Father promises a sequel, or rather, the second half of this book.

An important thing this book did for me was remind me how much there still is to learn about Jesus of Nazareth, and I don’t just mean facts, although there were plenty of those, but in terms of one’s personal relationship with Him—and how much spiritual ‘growing up’ I still have to do, or do I mean ‘growing down’? PBXVI gave me new perspectives on parables I thought I knew inside out. He connected symbols and figures from the Old and New Testaments – many of which I’d seen and heard before – but in ways stunningly innovative. He introduced me to numerous authors and scripture scholars completely unknown to me before. In the middle of a piece of text, there would be a sentence which would reach out and literally grab my attention like a hand jumping out at me from the page. My faith life has been re-energized by this book in ways I could never have dreamed possible. But mostly, I have come to see Him, Jesus, through the eyes of his servant, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. I am in awe.

Our Goodreads group, Benedict's Book Club, spent over four months with this book and we barely scratched the surface in my humble opinion. Since then A Study Guide - depicted above has been published which should facilite an even deeper and more meaningful journey with this incredible book. May it bless your new year as it has blessed my past one!

May Our LORD Jesus Christ of Nazareth bless you and yours in 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

something kind

'The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.' Isaiah 11:6

Sometimes the world seems a bit topsy turvy but usually when things get turned around, we don't quite expect so much love and fellowship on a high school football field. Here's a story to warm the cockles of your holiday heart about a team from Grapevine, Texas and their head coach, Kris Hogan, who 'wanted to do something kind' for the Gainesville State School team.

Truth is stranger . . . and more wondrous . . . than fiction!

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

My incredible second Mom and Dad are visiting from Indiana for the holidays. Here we are as a family on Christmas Eve just home from Mass. Say a prayer we can convince Sandy and Jude to stay through the 2nd. We're having such a nice visit!

God bless you and yours!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008 Action Alert - Tell Obama To Stop Supporting FOCA

Below is a message I just received from the folks at Americans United for Life. At this time of year when everyone is focused on the holiday frenzy, most Christians are happy to encounter someone who remembers it is Christmas, Christ's birth, which we are celebrating. But while we're doing our shopping, baking, cleaning, babies are still being killed. Can you spare a few moments from your preparations for prayer or to write our president-elect a note telling him how much you deplore his stand on abortion? Thank you and may you and yours have a Blessed Christmas Season!

Pro-abortion forces have given President-elect Obama 55 pages of instructions on what to do when he becomes President. A top priority? The "Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA).

Some insist FOCA isn't a real threat, that we can stop it easily. But that's not what pro-life leaders on Capitol Hill are saying.

Last week, I was in a meeting with Representative Mike Pence of Indiana -- one of the key incoming House leaders -- and he listed FOCA as one of the top four threats he sees in the next few months.

The Obama transition website has posted the 55-page pro-abortion marching order and opened it up for comment.

Let's tell him to ignore it.

Click here to ask President-elect Obama to stop supporting FOCA. FOCA would eliminate every abortion-related law nationwide -- even common-sense laws that protect women and minors -- and force us to pay for the radical pro-abortion agenda with our tax dollars.

We can do it!

May you and your family have a blessed Christmas.

Charmaine Yoest, Ph.D.President & CEO Americans United for Life

P.S. -- The fight against FOCA is just beginning. Please forward this email to friends and family members who can help us Fight FOCA. And please consider making an end-of-year contribution to help us tell even more people about the dangers of FOCA.

Quick Links
FightFOCA PetitionFightFOCA FAQAbout FightFOCAAbout AUL Action is a project of AUL Action Chicago Office: 310 S Peoria St Ste 500 Chicago, IL 60607 312.568.4700 DC Office:1413 K Street, NW Ste 1000 Washington, DC 20005 202.289.1478

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Your Nativity Scene

I got this from a friend. It's fun for kids . . . of all ages!

Merry Christmas!

Follow these instructions:

Click on creche.

Click and drag the images at the bottom and place them where you like.

When your nativity is the way you like, click on "animer".

Sit back and enjoy!

May you and yours have a Blessed Christmas Season!

Monday, December 15, 2008

More on F.O.C.A.

I've spent the day researching information about bulletin inserts on F. O. C. A., you know, the so-called, Freedom of Choice Act.

I hate calling it that but it's the name we're stuck with. The so-called Pro-Choice side in the abortion debate have been assigning the labels and we on the Pro-Life side get to use them . . . like it or not. Usually not. As often as I can I try not to use their terms; I try to call things what they really are. For example, an unborn baby is a 'baby'. It's also called a 'fetus' but since such terms distance us from the humanity of that unborn child, I try to avoid that and other such distancing terms whenever possible. But I'm not perfect. Far, far from it. So when you notice me slipping into sloppy jargon, feel free to call me on it. I like to have my mistakes pointed out to me. I like to learn and grow; I believe that's one of the main reasons I'm here in the physical realm.

But back to the day's events. When I asked my pastor to let me collect names for the National Right to Life petition against FOCA after week-end Masses outside the sanctuary in our Narthex (vestibule) I didn't expect I was going to be the one to educate him on what FOCA was. But he was over in Iraq for the past four months serving his active reserve time, dealing with a different sort of death and destruction. However, since our correspondence he's been incredibly supportive of my feeble efforts to drum up support for this petition. He did suggest we begin with educating the parish via bulletin inserts. Thus my homework assignment for the day.

So I just want to share with you what I've found. In case you might want -- or need -- to educate your parish too. Heritage House has some great material for all your group's Pro-Life needs, including bulletin inserts like these. Thanks to Sharon and Ellen for all your help and support!

God bless you and all the unborn children wanting only what you have: Life!

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

" Dignitatis Personae"

Read the newest Instruction Dignitatis Personae.

Then see what the Catholic bishops of United States are saying about Dignitatis Personae in this
Question and Answer session.

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A Love Affair With The Truth

A perfect title for an excellent documentary. As you will soon discover, if you care to, I'm devoted to our new Holy Father.

Besides owning over twenty of his books and several biographies, I read his books with a care I usually reserve for Holy Scripture, i.e., I pour over them. I'm moderator for the Goodreads group dedicated to reading his books, Benedict's Book Club and I follow what he does and says with (com)passionate attention.

And yet, this 'love affair' on my part is just over a year old. I only 'discovered' Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger when a friend insisted I read his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est. I did and I was hooked. Prior to that, I'm ashamed to admit I bought into the media image of him as 'Doctor No', the Church's Inquisitor Personified. I had never bothered to look beyond the Bad Guy portrayal of this gentle, scholarly and brilliant walking saint. But even the most cursory perusal of his life, choices, and/or writings reveals the heart of the man, Joseph, lover of Jesus Christ.

This documentary is perfectly titled. His life's work truly has been a love affair with The Truth. At one point he is called a Doctor of the Church. I might go one further and call him a Doctor of the Doctors of our Church.

If you're still looking for the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for Catholic in your life, get him (or her) this documentary. And then when your immediate family finishes watching it, share it with others in your extended family, friends and members of your parish. It's wonderful! May The Truth shine His Light upon us again as He did in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago. Advent Blessings!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Double Helix--double bind

Double Helix by Nancy Werlin is young adult mystery which my daughter handed me recently. The main character, Eli Samuels, a recent high school graduate, is at a crossroads in his life in more ways than one. His mother is completely debilitated and dying of Huntington's disease. He can't afford college but his father vehemently opposes a lucrative job offer with prestigious Wyatt Transgenics by its founder, a legendary molecular biologist. And yet Eli's father won't give a reason as to why he shouldn't take the job. Well, of course, Eli takes it and thus we have our mystery.

But if Double Helix were only a good mystery, you wouldn't be reading about it here. Woven throughout the tightly constructed plot, however, are perceptive questions about life, death, souls, suffering and the modern responses of technology, such as genetic manipulation (transgenics), cloning, and artificial methods of reproduction. As these are questions we're all going to be facing in the years to come, I highly recommend this book despite the implied acceptability of premarital sex by the main character, Eli Samuels, with his long-time girlfriend. Therefore I do advise parental discretion in recommending this book to young people. However, mature young people and most adults should find this book very enlightening in terms of examining and discussing ethics in the field of transgenic biology.

Double Helix is the kind of book I wish I could read in/with a group because of all the issues it touches on. I also would like to quote several sections which are especially appropriate for moral reflection and/or debate, but I will limit myself to the following selection between Eli and his bioethics professor:

'"Many years ago, I was at a national conference on biogenetics. It wasn't purely a scientific conference; it was open to the public. The idea was that people from all walks of life--intelligent, thoughtful people--would discuss our dreams about what this technology might do for us. There were panel discussions on the eradication of MS, and Parkinson's, and Lou Gehrig's disease, and on and on. We'd identify the genetic flaws, and no one would suffer from them ever again...It was electrifying, Mr. Samuels. I was as exhilarated as anyone. But then on the last day of the conference, a young man stood up in the audience. We had been listening to a speech about how prenatal testing was showing promising signs of making it possible to eliminate Down syndrome. And . . . " Dr. Fukuyama leans across the desk her eyes intent on mine. "Mr. Samuels, the young man who stood up in the audience to talk had Down syndrome himself. He was the head of a self-advocacy group of adults with Down syndrome."

I nod.

"We were all a little taken aback," says Dr. Fukuyama. "But this young man stood up, Mr. Samuels, and he said the following. I have never forgotten it.

"'I don't understand. We don't make trouble. We don't steal things or kill people. We don't take the good jobs. Why do you want to kill us?'"

For a few seconds I cannot breathe. I stare at Dr. Fukuyama. She stares back at me. Then she smiles, a little sadly. "That moment changed everything for me. My excitement disappeared. I got a glimpse of the world we might create, with our high-flying ideas about the eradication of suffering...There's a difference between using our gene therapy for the treatment of existing medical conditions, and using our growing, but far from perfect knowledge of genes--or of humanity--to declare that we absolutely know who has--and hasn't--a right to life at all."' (pp. 244-245)

As an interesting personal side note, my oldest daughter was the one who gave me the book. She thought to shock me with me it--that I would dislike it and find it so much worse than the Twilight series because the young couple, Eli and his girl friend, actually engaged in premarital sex. So the comparison between the two books provided for some excellent discussion. I was able to show her the redeeming value in this book despite the parts in it which are clearly immoral.

Recommended, with reservations. ****

Note: When I wrote this review a few days ago for Goodreads and included the above example about the dangers facing those with Down syndrome, I was thinking future; I didn't expect to encounter concrete evidence that as a class of people, those with the Down syndrome are already being targeted for extinction. And with "new, noninvasive genetic screens" that are due to arrive in doctor's offices next year as "pos[ing] no harm to fetuses or mothers", there is virtually no speed bump on the road from pregnancy test to abortion.

Read Mary Carmichael's article "New Era, New Worry," in this week's issue of Newsweek. Interestingly the article has a subhead that says, "New tests for Down syndrome could lead to more abortions and less support for families."

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gepetto the Toymaker

He refers to himself as Gepetto the Toymaker. And sometimes making toys can come in handy.

I'm talking about my own dear spouse, who I call Bear.

Last year the folks at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) here in Oklahoma City got wind of the fact that my Bear is pretty handy at making things, especially anything and everything that flies. They approached him with a little idea for making a few training models for their new air traffic control students.

Gepetto got immediately to work. First he had to make a protype of each aircraft type they wanted. Next, came developing molds for 'mass production', purchasing supplies, and beginning the endless process of mixing, pouring, and and waiting for each unit to dry. Once the resin is 'set', the unit is ready for removal; one by one, each individual airplane is slowly and carefully taken out of the mold, meticulously cleaned and painted, a laborious and painstaking process. Just one man, a messy garage and plenty of dedication.

Needless to say, when his airplanes were featured recently on Good Morning America, Bear/Gepetto was quite proud. No, he doesn't get named. They don't even talk about his hard work, but they do show it here and now you know the rest of the story. Sometimes it's kind of fun to be taken behind the scenes . . .

Want to hear what the Toymaker has to say about it?

Here are some of the models I have built for the FAA. All are made to 1/200 scale (1" = 200"), the scale for most of the FAA trainer jets. In the three-airplane picture are prototypes which I carved from Bassword, sanded to shape, then painted with primer to smooth them for molding. The largest T-tail jet is a RJ (Regional Jet), and the smaller jet is meant to represent a Falcon. The smallest is an approximation of a 310-size twin. The RJ is approximately six inches long, and the 310 is approximately two inches long. The other picture is of finished models; a Citation-type business jet, and a standard 172-sized airplane. The FAA requires them in plain white paint for the most part, with windows and no paint schemes. The reason? They keep walking off with students!

Also included is a shot of a citation in the rough as it comes out of the mold, with the two pink mold halves opened up. The models are cast in Urethane resin, a non-toxic resin with good strength characteristics to hold up to handling. It is relatively expensive, and cures in six to 20 minutes depending on heat and humidity. I cannot mold in the summer time; the resin cures in less than 2 minutes, which means I can't get the resin mixed and poured in time to ensure a good cast.

Problems? bubbles in the mold and the resin; that means I have to hand fill every pore in the skin of the cast model with putty, wait for it to dry, and then sand it down. Sometimes I have to do it more than once before painting. And worst of all: I sometimes have models that just don't fully cast for a lot of reasons. The picture of the "bucket of shame" says it all... how many don't make the cut. You never find out until you split the mold after it cures... and start over again. Each successful model requires approximately 3 hours from start to finish. Multiply that by 60 and do the math... It's laborious, and that's all I'll say!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The site reads:

An American Moment: Your Vision

Start right now. Share your vision for what America can be, where President-Elect Obama should lead this country. Where should we start together?

Since our new president wants to hear from us, I have shared my thoughts with him . . . several times. I will probably go on writing him. Here is one of my letters to his people:

My vision for America is a country where Life matters--from conception until natural death. I see us as a country where all people count, where the innocent are protected and the voiceless are heard. I pray for such a wonderful land and I believe it is possible. Mr. Obama has promised 'change'; this is the kind of change America needs and really wants. Are we really the 'Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave' as the song says? My vision will require courage. How free are we? And are we brave enough to stand for that freedom? God bless you!

Do you have a moment to spare for Life? Can you compose a few sentences about the value of human Life and why it is the responsibility of government to protect it? We don't need government to protect our economic interests; the economy if left alone will work itself out. But we do need a strong and honest government to protect the innocent and vulnerable. Will you help? Go here and compose your own brief letter; you'll be glad you did. Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Book Lover PJs

Can you tell these are Book Lover’s Pajamas?

Acorn advertizes them here:

'Invite sweet dreams of books you’ve read, books you want to read, and books you’re reading right now. Crisp 100% cotton poplin is printed all over with rows and rows of books —history, mystery, biography, romance. Shirt with contrast
piping on notched collar, button front, and patch pockets; pants have an elastic drawstring waist. Roomy, relaxed fit. Sizes S(6–8), M(8–10), L(12–14), XL(16–18). Imported.'

But for $69.00 I think I'll have to pass. Thanks Mary Alice! We can both dream about them . . . while we live like Erasmus who said, "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes."

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Advent Angel

Rooftop 'angel' visits Kentucky couple . . . Well why not? It is Advent! Read about it here. Have a Blessed Advent!

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Right to Kill?

On 10 December, Human Rights Day, the Secretary-General launched a year-long campaign in which all parts of the United Nations family are taking part in the lead up to the sixtieth birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on Human Rights Day 2008.

This landmark historic document was adopted by the General Assembly on 10 December 1948 by a vote of forty-eight in favour, zero against, with eight abstentions (all Soviet Bloc states, South Africa and Saudi Arabia) and has been translated into three hundred thirty-seven different languages. The Guinness Book of Records describes the UDHR as the "Most Translated Document" in the world. The need for the Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. It is a deceptively simple document consisting of thirty articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national and religious constitutions, laws, and addresses. Recently I read and reviewed it here on Goodreads.

However, as with most things, the Declaration is involved in an ongoing struggle. From the anniversary website we read:
The UDHR protects all of us, and it also enshrines the gamut of human rights. The drafters of the UDHR saw a future of freedom from fear, but also of freedom from want. They put all human rights on an equal footing and confirmed human rights are essential to a life of dignity.

The UDHR drafters’ vision has inspired many human rights defenders who have struggled over the last six decades to make that vision a reality. The contemporary international human rights edifice that originates in the UDHR is to be celebrated. But it has yet to benefit all of humanity equally.

The struggle is far from over. As the Declaration’s custodians and beneficiaries, all of us must reclaim the UDHR, make it our own. While we are entitled to our human rights, we should also respect the human rights of others and help make universal human rights a reality for all of us. In our efforts lies the power of the UHDR: it is a living document that will continue to inspire generations to come.

In April of this year, Pope Benedict XVI, visited the United Nations General Assembly and delivered a twenty minute address urging the organization to realize its mission. Benedict paid tribute to UN staff and those who died on missions. He also stressed that human rights must include the right to religious freedom which is not limited to the exercise of worship, but allows believers to play a role in society. The Pontiff went on to say that the United Nation's role and responsibility was increasingly becoming one of protection: 'Indeed this is coming to be recognized as the moral basis for a government's claim to authority.'

A week from today we will celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Will it be a cause for celebration? Did the General Assembly -- or anyone -- listen to what the Holy Father said last April?

Next week on December tenth, radical pro-abortion groups will present petitions asking the UN General Assembly to make abortion a universally recognized human right, thereby destroying the most fundamental right, the Right to Life.

It has always been understood, from time immemorial, that the strong have the responsibility to protect the weak, but never before have so many of the vulnerable and voiceless ones of the world depended so much on the strong. Speak out! Let the United Nations and the world know that while we hold human rights sacred, the killing of unborn human beings is the most heinous crime imaginable and would undermine and destroy the credibility, integrity, and very purpose of the Declaration.

It still isn't too late! Sign the petition for International Call for the Rights and Dignity of the Human Person and the Family.

Our petition requests proper consideration must be given to:

1. The right to life of every human being, from conception to natural death, each child having the right to be conceived, born and educated within the family, based on marriage between a woman and a man, the family being the natural and fundamental group unit of society,

2. The right of every child to be educated by his or her parents, who have a prior and fundamental right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Thank you and God bless!

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008


This review of Twilight is written by a concerned mother of teenage daughters for all conscientious mothers of teenagers. Whenever a popular new book – or series of books – comes out the question always arises, do we allow our child(ren) to read this book(s)? When our child(ren) are little, the decision(s) are easier; as they enter adolescence, it becomes more complicated.
When my own two, now 17 and 16, were young I was the local rating authority: a book had to pass the mommy-booklady rating system or it didn’t come home from the library or bookstore. As a homeschool mom I read – or tried to read – everything my kids read. I still try to keep up with that goal, especially where new books are concerned.

Twilight is a fantasy romance novel which has captivated teenagers and adults alike. Since it came out in 2005, it’s been on the New York Times bestseller list, won A Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year, An Amazon “Best Book of the Decade . . . So Far” and – most ominously – A Teen People “Hot List” pick. So what’s all the fuss? What is the story?

The book’s back dust jacket lets you know that Edward is a vampire, who thirsted for ‘her’ (the female protagonist, Bella's) blood and yet ‘she’ was also in love with him. Hmmmm... When I first read this in a book store, I can’t say I was overly impressed. I tried reading Dracula a few years back and scared myself silly. Vampires are about the most terrifying of the scary ‘monsters’ in my book, no pun intended. I’ve read and cried over Frankenstein which is only frightening in the sense that it’s about unrequited love; the ‘monster’ has the basic longing for love from his creator and/or desire for a mate, neither of which can be fulfilled. Dracula on the other hand is about ‘real’ vampires—the kind who only feed on human blood, turn into bats, must be killed by a dagger through the heart, etc.

The author of Twilight, Stephanie Meyers, a young, thirty-three year old mother of three, hasn’t read the classic horror novel and says she can’t read about ‘real’ vampires. According to her, her vampires aren’t ‘real’.

So what makes them ‘unreal’? What makes this fantasy story featuring those infamous creatures of the undead different? Or is it? It was questions such as these which prompted me to want to read and review Twilight; that and the fact my daughter handed me the book when she finished it. Since she is at that age where I have to begin to allow her to make choices about her own reading material, the best thing I can do is read – and discuss – her books along with her, hopefully guiding her and insuring she makes well-informed choices. That’s what I did and this review is the result.

When I began to read Twilight I was first struck by its ordinariness. It is set in modern day Arizona and Washington state and revolves around a teenager, Bella, who moves to the small town of Forks, WA, to live with her father upon the remarriage of her mother; once there she meets Edward Cullen and his unusual and exquisitely beautiful family. Meyers is a voracious reader and it shows in her writing; it flows. Twilight is light, readable and even though there is very little action in the first half of the book, I found myself pleasantly entertained. Up until about the middle of the book, I had no serious objections to the book. The language is clean, the situations are appropriate and compared to most books/movies today, I could easily give the book a solid “G” rating. All in all it reminded me of an up-to-date retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ with a twist. Edward is good. He cares for Bella. He ‘saves’ her time after time: from himself, from her, from circumstances and even from other vampires. And best of all, Edward and his family are vampire vegetarians, i.e., they refrain from drinking human blood and live off of animals instead.

However. And yes, there is a however. And here it is. Call me an old fuddy-duddy but even on the inside of the front dust jacket, we read that the book is “deeply seductive” and it is. There is a day when Bella lies to everyone to sneak off to be alone with Edward. She knows what she is doing is both wrong and dangerous, yet she does it anyway. Okay. Lots of books contain situations where young people make similar poor choices; Twilight isn’t the first, nor will it be the last, book to offer such ideas to young people. And do they even need to get their ideas from books anyway? In this particular example, Bella is fortunate and nothing ‘bad’ happens. Meyer’s writing keeps the story on the knife-edge of suspense allowing Bella to safely enjoy her innocent tryst with Edward with no unfortunate consequences. Nevertheless, Bella is playing with fire. In the story, Bella is alone with a vampire who desires her very much. She has voluntarily walked into a dangerous situation which even Edward cautioned her against. In real life, young readers of Twilight walk into similar situations every day with young men far less honorable than Edward. As a hundred year old vampire who presumably really does love his beloved, he has lived long enough and seen enough to know what havoc his passions can unleash.

Can as much be said for most young seventeen year old males? Can as much be said for any of us?

Although Edward was born in 1901, as an immortal vampire, he looks like any other teenage boy, only incredibly more beautiful. Bella is captivated by him. Stephanie Meyers, the author, even admits that she was in love with her character as she wrote the book. Can any young, impressionable, hormonal, adolescent girl fail to be swept away by page after page of romantic descriptions of his overwhelming good looks?

I don’t even deny to falling ‘under the spell’ of Edward and Meyer’s writing a bit myself—and I usually tend to abhor the romance genre. It is seductive. I include this information because this is a review for parents and in particular parents of young teens.

My going-in concerns about Twilight were centered on vampires. I have deliberately stayed away from the issues of Holy Scripture and the forces of Evil – which I very much believe in – because other reviewers before me have already dealt with these issues and this review is turning into a book as it is. Instead, I would just like to point out the moral dangers of reading too many books of this sort. Young minds are incredibly vulnerable. As a responsible parent, I would exercise great caution where Twilight is concerned. Presumably you know your child better than anyone else. Unless your daughter (or son) is extremely mature, I would strongly discourage anyone under sixteen from reading this book. Whatever your decision, read Twilight for yourself first and then -- if you decide to let your child read it -- be sure to discuss it together.

The lack of a rating is deliberate. With the release of the movie, Twilight, two weeks ago a resurgence in popularity of the book can be expected.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

One Glass of Milk

My husband sent me this story today and it touched me.

One day, a poor boy who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, found he had only one thin dime left, and he was hungry. He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door.

Instead of a meal he asked for a drink of water! She thought he looked hungry so she brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it so slowly, and then asked, "How much do I owe you?"

"You don't owe me anything," she replied. "Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness."

He said, "Then I thank you from my heart."

As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man was strong also. He had been ready to give up and quit.

Many years later that same young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease.

Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, a strange light filled his eyes.

Immediately he rose and went down the hall of the hospital to her room. Dressed in his doctor's gown he went in to see her. He recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life. From that day he gave special attention to her case. After a long struggle, the battle was won.

Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge, and the bill was sent to her room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill.

She read these words, "Paid in full with one glass of milk" (Signed) Dr. Howard Kelly.

Tears of joy flooded her eyes as her happy heart prayed, "Thank You, God, that Your love has spread broad through human hearts and hands."

There's a saying which goes something like this: bread cast on the water comes back to you. The good deed you do today may benefit you or someone you love at the least expected time. If you never see the deed again at least you will have made the world a better place, and, after all, isn't that what life is all about?

The hardest thing in life to learn is which bridge to cross and which to burn.

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