Archive for February, 2013

Prophecy (Giordano Bruno, #2)Prophecy by S.J. Parris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A peak behind the curtain of Elizabethan England, the Catholic conspiracy to overthrow her, and the House of Stewart waiting in the wings. Throw in a few bizzare murders of young beautiful courtiers and you have the basic idea of Prophecy. via amazon.com

I thoroughly enjoyed S J Parris' first novel, Heresy, likening it to a Tudor Inspector Morse tale, and was delighted to be offered the chance to review a pre-publication copy of this second story starring the same protagonists.

In this story the heretical monk, Giordano Bruno, is back at the French Embassy in Elizabethan London, where he is drawn rapidly into both a catholic conspiracy to invade England, and a related murder mystery when two of the queen's ladies in waiting meet very sticky ends.

The style is very similar to the first book, with Bruno trying to both uncover the truths about the murders, and navigate complex relationships with the other characters. The tale is again told in the first person, but here it makes a bit more sense as you get to understand Bruno's concerns, guilt and frustrations, and the motivation for some of his deeds.

I loved the period detail, particularly the descriptions of Elizabethan versions of well-known London locations. In this book Parris also makes much more use of actual events and personalities, such as Francis Walsingham, William Cecil and John Dee. I could almost hear some of the dialogue being spoken by Geoffrey Rush and Richard Attenborough.

The story is a real page-turner with a steady pace which kept my attention right to the end. However, if I have a slight criticism, it's that some plot twists, such as the murderer's identity, seemed to be signaled very early, while at other times key actions were taken by characters who had not been introduced.

These are minor failings, and overall this is a very enjoyable romp. I look forwards to Bruno's next outing.

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Paul's Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural SettingPaul's Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting by Robert J. Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Banks asks us to lay aside our preconceived notions of what we have always thought church o be, and instead ask the question what did those who created it think it was. When one begins there and refuses to let prejudice get in the way, some pretty large paradigm shifts come into light. First, he asks us to realize that we are not primarily saved to be in a personal relationship with God, but rather we are saved to be part of a community. Secondly, he asks us to consider the fact that there are no real ecclesiastical offices named, voted for, or instituted by those who would have done so...were it the primary goal for organizing our religious lives. Thirdly, he defines the words we translate now as pastor, elder, deacon etc. as they first appear in Scripture, and as they later slightly shift in meaning in the pastoral letters. Banks contends that most of the words we think we know so well, we really don't know at all. Take for instance the idea of elder being someone, in our time and space, who is wise and a good business man with upright moral character...in the texts it simply is presented as a older person albeit with those same attributes. Likewise the words for shepherds is more closely linked with navigation of ships. In short the naturally occurring populace of a gathering has giftings of teachers, and mentors, and servants, and teachers, and vision casters etc. The gifts are sprinkled throughout the gathering and carry no stipulation that they are in any way institutionalized. However there is an authority structure in that certain gifts carry within themselves an inherent authority. For example an elder, because he is older, commands respect and attention to his direction not because he is somehow superior to the community or holds an office, but rather because he is older and we naturally respect our elders. Because of the understanding of the gathering as a family with a strong group identity, these men would have been seen as father-figures...and consequently listened to and obeyed. This idea of family is not just a pithy analogy, but is rather a fact. Jesus told us that those of us who do his Father's will are mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters...not as analogy but as a fact. As such then, our gatherings should be groups where all the gifts are present but that operate along the same rules of conduct as a natural family would operate. Paul's Idea of Community is largely a textbook of sorts and the research and technical aspect are, admittedly, tedious at times. However, as we see church changing across the American landscape with no amount of money, time, or effort changing the droves fleeing traditional congregations, it seems prudent to ask why. Could it be that it is because the Holy Spirit himself is authoring the change because we have missed the mark of what our gatherings are supposed to be so widely? Given the supposed dangers for errancy of thousands of little groups meeting all through the world, and taking into account the miserable record of organized religion, it would seem we are left with a cost benefit analysis. Is it more dangerous that the gatherings, that have now supplanted organized religion on Sunday morning (according the Barna Report), is the danger greater to Jesus and his Kingdom that people will slip into heresy, or that traditional church will end up strangling the little life left in the American church today? Those are the questions raised by Robert Banks' book, and one we had better find the answer to quickly.

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For literally years people have been asking when Nicole would do a workout video.  They always want to know who her trainer is, or where she works out, what program she is implementing.  I mean, what about me?  What am I?  Chopped liver?  No, we laugh about it because I am a freak about working out and always have been.  She on the other hand has always employed a bit of tact and balance…not my strong suit.  So, while I’m off running triathlons, playing football or basketball, skiing, and generally ruining my knees…she has steadily and methodically done her same routine over the years.  The results are obvious.  We’d love for you to be a part of the experience of bringing her method to the spotlight, and her madness to the dance floor.  Please consider joining us in making Nicole’s new dance/ workout video by clicking below.  Thanks…oh and, if you’re lucky, I just may do a little shakin on there my own self!  JK!!

 

 

Nicole C. Mullen’s “Let’s Dance”! by Nicole C. Mullen — Kickstarter.