Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guest Post: On Writing Historical Fiction by Simonetta Carr

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Writing Historical Fiction by Simonetta Carr

I love straight biographies - pure facts, no imagined characters, no added quotes someone might have said. I love the safety of adverbs of probability: “maybe,” “perhaps,” “presumably.” I love exploring options, giving the benefit of doubt. From the start of my series of Christian Biographies for Young Readers (published by Reformation Heritage Books), accuracy and objectivity have been my main goals.

Then P&R asked me if I wanted to contribute to their Chosen Daughters series. It was a different genre. While keeping true to the historical facts of the main characters’ lives, these types of books are normally categorized as historical fiction.

I had to think about this for a while. It’s true that historical fiction may be more appealing to young people than straight biography, but the project seemed risky. How could I attribute to a character thoughts or words that may have never crossed her mind or lips?

I was supposed to send two sample chapters, so I hesitantly started to write. At first, what turned out was a biography with a few uncertain attempts to imagine and describe. It was stifled and cold. Then I looked at the overall plot. Olympia’s life was full and adventurous, but it needed some organization. I needed to find her character arc and discover the main yearning that carried her through.

I started to study her letters, finding small clues to hidden feelings. Soon I realized that the freedom I could exercise as a fiction writer allowed me to dig deeper into her soul, daring to interpret and connect in ways I would not have done before.

In a way, the serious biographer says, “To the best of my knowledge, after reading all the primary sources and comparing them with secondary sources, I believe that this is an accurate account of this person’s life, and I am telling you why.” He takes the reader to a vantage point, distant enough to see the whole picture.

On the other hand, the serious writer of historical fiction says, “To the best of my knowledge, after reading all the primary sources and comparing them with secondary sources, this is what impressed me about this character’s life and feelings. This is how I see them. I believe it’s a valid interpretation, and I am going to show you.” He brings the reader very close to the character, where sights, smells, and sounds can be experienced, and then even closer, to the less conspicuous motions of the heart.

The biographer helps the mind to expand, to consider several possibilities and re-evaluate previous opinions. The fiction writer helps both mind and heart to get deeply involved in another person’s life, experiencing with a certain degree of empathy rather than passing an intellectual judgment.

Writing historical fiction takes courage. While the biographer presents an array of possibilities and lets the reader decide, the fiction writer has to make decisions, based on his research. I couldn’t say, “Olympia may have met her husband at the ducal court.” After studying carefully her letters and the costumes of her time, I had to imagine an initial meeting, her reaction, and his proposal, full knowing that someone else may disagree with my choices.

Writing historical fiction takes courage also in an emotional way. There is a memorable quote by film maker Akira Kurosawa: “To be an artist means never to avert one's eyes.” My husband knows how often I stick my head under the blankets when we watch movies. I am not just talking about the occasional scenes of actual violence. I don’t want to see any type of pain and suffering. Sometimes I even shun the tension of the anticipation. In my view, there is already enough unavoidable suffering around us.

But when we write fiction we have to get close to every feeling, even those we want to reject. That includes not only pain, but even attitudes that we normally despise. The best writers can appropriate those attitudes and express them as if they were theirs.

Overall, writing historical fiction is definitely more difficult than writing a biography. It’s more emotionally involving and more time-consuming. I just finished writing a biography of RenĂ©e of France which will be published by Evangelical Press next year (D.V.). It took a lot of research and study, which included a search for an unpublished doctoral dissertation. I also chose to translate most documents myself. Still, all that doesn’t compare with the amount of work my book on Olympia required.

With Olympia, I also chose to translate her letters directly (to avoid copyright problems) and studied primary and secondary sources. I also travelled to Ferrara to visit the castle where she lived and met with a historical researcher to discuss the floor plans of sixteenth-century middle-class homes. A biographer may do all this, but I could not stop there. I had to go on a much deeper study of the minor characters than what I would have done in a biography. I also had to discover what people did in the various situations Olympia had to face. How did men propose? What did a renaissance banquet look like? What were the celebrations during the pope’s visit to Ferrara? What did people do in their free time?

I remember when, after studying the laborious details of the Schmalkaldic war, I had to research the different diseases that sixteenth-century writers grouped under the generic name of “pestilence” and find textbooks describing how they were normally treated. I almost said out loud, “Olympia, a pestilence too? What else had to be part of your life?”

The difference between a biography and a work of historical fiction is, in my view, very marked. I have read several attempts at creating a hybrid between the two – biographies with frequent fictionalized descriptions or dialogues – and the results were usually disappointing. Both genres have their place, and neither one is by definition more exciting or interesting than the other.

Read A Sample
In Olympia’s case, I recommend Holt Parker’s The Complete Writings of an Italian Heretic (University of Chicago Press), which contains both an accurate account of Olympia’s life and a full collection of all her existing correspondence, speeches, and poems in English. Weight of a Flame, on the other hand, takes the same story and helps the reader to experience it, much like a film or a painting would do. Some readers might want to start with this one and then read Parker’s book for a deeper study.

On my blog ( I am planning to give a chapter-by chapter account of what is true and what is fictional in my book. I hope you will follow it and add your comments.

*Simonetta, Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the difference between writing biography and historical fiction! It has been a pleasure to read and to get a glimpse into your world as an author! We really appreciate the great lengths to which you go in your research to ensure accuracy for your readers!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Celebrating the Excellencies of His Name - I AM

sharing my reflections on Christ's name "I AM". 

Many thanks to Becky Pliego for graciously asking me if I would be willing to participate!! :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Book Review: The Barber Who Wanted to Pray

If a child asked you how to pray better, how would you respond? Would you have a clever story by which to draw them in and make the lesson memorable? I might not have, however, after reading R.C. Sproul's book The Barber Who Wanted to Pray, I am much better equipped to answer my child's question.

My simple answer to my children would probably have been that prayer is simply talking to God and that they don't need to worry about saying things just right. However, that answer probably wouldn't really prove much help to them. Instead, Sproul follows Luther's steps as Luther follows Christ's steps in providing a simple way to pray. He begins by showing how one can use The Lord's Prayer as a guide in personal prayer and then moves on to The Ten Commandments and the Apostle's Creed. The method isn't legalistic or rote and can easily be applied to any portion of God's Word.

As far as stories go, this one was heartwarming as the family shared devotion time together. It also contained an element of suspense as Sproul opened with an outlaw in a barber shop. My children have asked me to read The Barber Who Wanted to Pray again and again. It is a delightful story. I pray that God uses it to help my children and many others learn more about talking with Him.

You can read the whole book on Crossway's web site.

Kara has also written an excellent review at Home With Purpose and is hosting a giveaway (entries to be accepted until Dec. 12, 2011) which some of you may wish to enter.

*Many thanks to Crossway for providing a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Review: America's Genius-Jonathan Edwards


Christian Timothy George has done the Christian community a wonderful service in writing a biography of Jonathan Edwards for our young ones. In America’s Genius: Jonathan Edwards, George clearly communicates the Gospel throughout the entire book. He upholds God’s sovereignty and communicates sound doctrine in a way that is understandable for young people. George also incorporates many Biblical lessons throughout this look at Edwards’ life including the power of God’s Word, loving one’s enemies, salvation by grace alone--not works, dying to self/daily taking up our cross, the importance of Christ’s resurrection, the satisfaction of knowing Christ, counting the cost of following Christ, God’s mercy, true wisdom, and more.

George doesn’t elevate Edwards but shows that he was a man with a sinful nature like ours through whom God was pleased to work. He fought pride, anger, and a sharp tongue. Like Paul, Edwards did not do what he wanted, but did the very things he hated (Romans 7: 15). Edwards’ prayers for humility were encouraging. Although Edwards was a remarkable, godly man, George esteems God highly and gives Him the glory for Edwards’ life.

George reveals the culture and thoughts of Edward’s day in an engaging manner. In so doing, George does include about a page and a half discussing bundling (beginning at the bottom of page 78). In this discussion, there is a definition, reference to sexual temptation, sexual pleasure, and sexual immorality, and an encouragement to flee temptation. George handles this subject very carefully, however, some with younger children may wish to skip these pages until their children are older.

This book includes helpful study guide questions that offer a Scripture for reflection and application. Among the topics are: delighting in the Lord, struggling against sin, speaking truth even when it’s hard, disciplining the body, the blessing(s) of pain, the value of God’s Word, worshiping God, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing God’s will, and living a life that eagerly awaits our Savior. George also includes a timeline, a list of actual quotes and/or paraphrases of Edwards, a bibliography, and a list of Edward’s works.

George quotes Scripture frequently and introduces his readers to Edward’s major works, his contemporaries, and those who influenced him. Furthermore, readers of this book will find encouragement to be faithful to and grow in their understanding of the Word of God. I highly recommend this wonderful book for young people!

Denise George generously sent me a copy of America's Genius: Jonathan Edwards to share with one of my readers. Many thanks to all who entered!! Congratulations to Holly who won the giveaway! :)

*Many thanks to Denise George who graciously sent me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review: The Magnificent Amazing Time Machine

The Magnificent Amazing Time Machine by Sinclair Ferguson takes its reader on a journey back to the cross and to the beginning of time, offering a brief look at several pivotal events in Redemptive history. This book’s brevity results in a work that keeps the attention of young children while communicating several important Biblical truths.

Ferguson travels back to the beginning of time and allows his readers to listen to a hypothetical conversation between the members of the Trinity, in-so-doing revealing that salvation was God’s plan from the beginning of time. He also highlights (in a way that young children can easily grasp)  the various roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with regard to salvation. Furthermore, Ferguson teaches the reader about the role of the daily sacrifices which were offered by the Jewish High Priest.

My kids (ages 3 to 8) and I enjoyed The Magnificent Amazing Time Machine. It’s a unique book for young children that presents a wide-angle view of God’s plan to “save people from the terrible results of their sin”, accomplished by the Son and apprehended through the Spirit.

*Many thanks to Christian Focus Publications for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion! It is such a blessing to have Biblical resources that help us teach these deep, theological truths to our little blessings! :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book Review: Managing God's Money

  Cover: Managing God's Money

Managing God's Money  is a thought-provoking and convicting book. Alcorn rightly recognizes that God's Word does not return void resulting in a work which contains a great deal of Scripture. Managing God's Money provides a balanced, Biblical response to giving, saving, and spending our money. Mr. Alcorn's goal for the book is that we would know what God has to say about money. It is written in a helpful question and answer format with nice, short chapters. There were times when Alcorn's answers seemed too brief or general , however, he typically expounded upon those topics later in the book. He also provides an extensive list of resources for further study toward the end of the book. If you want to grow in using your money to invest for eternity, this book is a great place to start!

(If you're wondering how this book differs from Alcorn's other books on the subject, his product page has a helpful paragraph highlighting the differences.)

*Many thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with this complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: 365 Great Bible Stories

365 Great Bible Stories
Preview A Sample

I have to be honest, when I saw that Christian Focus was publishing 365 Great Bible Stories by Carine Mackenzie, my first thought was, "Do we really need another children's Bible?" There are already several excellent children's Bible on the market. However, our family has been incredibly blessed by all of the resources that we have purchased from Christian Focus so I really wanted to look through this children's Bible and compare it to the others that we have come to love.

As expected, Christian Focus did not disappoint. Here are some of the excellent features of 365 Great Bible Stories:

  • Text that is faithful to the Biblical account with minimal commentary,
  • Bible references included with section titles,
  • Clearly articulates "The Good News of Jesus Christ from Genesis to Revelation" (as stated in the subtitle ;),
  • Communicates important  Biblical truths with clarity,
  • Simple illustrations that are not too distracting (and no illustrations of Christ which is important to some people),
  • Heavy-duty pages and a built-in ribbon bookmark. :)

Additionally, there are a couple of things that set this children's Bible apart. Having 365 Bible stories, it covers significantly more of the Bible storyline than the traditional children's story Bible. (Our favorite story Bibles for children have 26, 42, and 90 stories.) Each story is contained on one page with a simple illustration and something about which to think, pray, or discuss. Even my three-year-old daughter was able to sit still long enough to read and discuss a selection.

Another feature that makes this children's Bible unique is the way that it highlights recurring "Themes and Topics" with illustrations throughout the book. For example,  "When you spot a dove picture that's a story about the Holy Spirit" (pg. 4). Other themes include: "Jesus Christ and Salvation, Wars and Battles, and Travellings and Journeys." You can simply flip through the story Bible, stopping at similar illustrations to trace a Biblical theme.

While there is no replacement for the living and active Word of God, it is helpful to have resources to help our children see the redemptive storyline of the Bible. 365 Great Bible Stories is another helpful resource to that end. It can be used by itself or along with a Bible to help bring greater clarity to the Truth in God's Word and the message of salvation.

*Many thanks to Christian Focus Publications for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Athanasius Winner

Congratulations to: 
Jennifer D.

Who is the winner of Simonetta Carr's
new book, Athansius.

Many thanks to:
my faithful readers for
making this giveaway possible!

Thanks to all who entered! 
If you didn't win this time, stay tuned;
I have another great giveaway coming up soon. :)
Have a blessed day, my friends!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Book Review: The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study

"Your hands have made me and fashioned me;
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments" (Psalm 119:73, ESV).

Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study: A Survey of the Bible (vols. 1-4 and Answer Key)

A few weeks ago, Crossway sent me a rather large package. I opened it to reveal a set of Starr Meade's The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study: A Survey of the Bible. I was excited because this meant that we would have a set of this excellent resource to share with a friend, as we already had a personal copy.

When these books first came out, my daughter and I (age 7) were reading Acts together. We decided to use these guides as we read and found it a rich and rewarding experience. One of the things that I most appreciate about The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study is that the four volumes are organized chronologically (the fifth volume is an answer key). As we read through the book of Acts, Meade guided us to read the Epistles in the context of early church history. It was very insightful to read the Epistles alongside Acts, and it helped to add depth to our understanding of God's Word. Doing so with these study guides helped us to pause and reflect in a way that we had not previously done.

As I was preparing to write this review, I was finishing up my reading in the Old Testament: Ezra-Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. I decided to use The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study as a guide so that I could share a recent experience with it. Although I have read the Bible chronologically for a number of years, I found Meade's survey a helpful asset for a number of reasons. Just as before, I found myself pausing to reflect on things that I had simply read hastily in the past. The result was a much more meaningful interaction with God's Word.

Meade does an excellent job of communicating why it is important to study God's Word, taking adequate time to reflect and meditate. She shows how all of Scripture is really one big story about how God redeems a people for Himself through Christ. She lets Scripture speak for itself yet adds short commentary to bring clarity where appropriate while remaining faithful to the Biblical text. Additionally, she has a gift for making doctrinal concepts easier for young people to understand and does so masterfully in these books.

May God use this resource to help people of all ages give themselves to the reading of the word of God, and to meditation on it…
"not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts," as George Mueller has said: "for this is the first and great and primary business to which I ought to attend every have my soul happy in the Lord" (as quoted by John Piper in When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy, pg. 119).

You and your family can try this resource and see if it serves you as well. Westminster has a sample of the Introductory Info., Genesis, Psalms, Luke, and Romans! Enjoy!

*Many thanks to Crossway for sending me a complimentary copy of these books in exchange for my honest opinion!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Athanasius

Christian Biographies for Young Readers by Simonetta Carr present clear and concise introductions to John Calvin, Augustine, John Owen, and Athanasius. Written for children aged 7-12, these books are sturdy, hardback copies with thick pages. Additionally, they have a nice, large font which is especially helpful for young readers. Each book has a helpful timeline, maps, many realistic photos, and lovely illustrations which are sure to hold attention spans and capture imaginations. Ms. Carr is careful to give pronunciation helps and definitions for any larger words that may prove challenging.

One of the things that makes Christian Biographies for Young Readers unique is that Ms. Carr seeks to make Reformed, Christian doctrine accessible to children. She writes:
"From the start, my vision has been to introduce not a random choice of role models, but men and women who have helped to shape the church and our Reformed theology. In other words, the focus is on God's providence, His church, and His doctrine" (From Simonetta's Blog Post "Lady Jane").
She successfully accomplishes this, focusing on godly folks who study and proclaim the Truth of God's Word. Ms. Carr's books are thoroughly researched and generally accurate (a few minor corrections have been posted on her website). I love how she chronicles her researching and writing journey on her blog!

The goal of her newest addition, Athanasius, is to "...bring the Nicene Creed to life for children of all ages, raising relevant questions on the divinity of Christ and the importance of creeds and confessions" (From Simonetta's Blog Post "Latest News"). Ms. Carr does this splendidly. In the following video, you can learn why these things really matter (answer to this question begins at 3:01):

While Ms. Carr's book on Athanasius is thoroughly Biblical, one thing that I think would strengthen it is including some Scripture references and quotes throughout the text. However, I would not let that deter you from investing in these books; simply use it as an invitation to study God's Word with your children to learn the Truth! (Here is a copy of the Nicene Creed with Scripture proofs, if you need help getting started.)

Christian Biographies for Young Readers (in general) and Athanasius (specifically) are helpful resources for familiarizing children with important doctrinal concepts through some of the men that God has used in the history of the church. It is wonderful to see how Ms. Carr esteems God's sovereignty and seeks to lay foundations that will help young readers to not be "...children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes..." (Ephesians 4:14).

Ms. Carr continues to grow as she exercises her gift of writing. My children and I have thoroughly enjoyed all of these interesting biographies and look forward to reading many more, Lord-willing!

You can have an opportunity to read Athanasius too! Just fill out the form below for a chance to win. (The answer to the optional question can be found in the book sample on Westminster's site. ;)

Giveaway is closed. Congratulations to Jennifer D. who won and thanks to all who entered!

*Many thanks to Simonetta Carr and Reformation Heritage Books for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Author Interview: Equipping Counselors for Your Church

Today is the release day for Bob Kellemen's new book Equipping Counselors for Your Church! As a result, I am posting the video trailer for the book and sharing my author interview (including, but not limited to, questions about moving from knowledge to wisdom and building deep relationships). Enjoy!

Elizabeth: "In your video trailer for Equipping Counselors for Your Church, you say that the audience for this book is anyone committed to and passionate about one-another ministry. What do you hope that the average lay reader will take away from his/her reading of this book?"
Dr. Kellemen: "Thanks so much, Elizabeth for your thorough engagement with the book. The number one message I pray the average “lay” reader will take away: “Don’t take a back seat to anyone!” Based upon God’s Word, in particular in the book I highlight Romans 15:14 and Ephesians 4:11-16; God’s people are competent to counsel. The second message is: When Paul says Christians are competent to counsel, he specified four areas of competency that we all need equipping in: biblical content, Christlike character, counseling/relational skillfulness, and Christian community. So: the two messages are: You can do it! Here’s where you need to be equipped to do it!"
Elizabeth: "Your subtitle is “The 4E Ministry Training Strategy”. Can you summarize why it is helpful to have a formal, systematic process for casting a vision (envisioning), enlisting, equipping, and empowering a group of members for ministry of the Word?"

Dr. Kellemen: "Process is a great word. I would add one more: relational, so that we highlight a relational process. People are tired of programs (so am I!). I’m not offering a program, but a relational process that each unique church can utilize in a congregation-specific manner. With that background, back to your question. God has “wired” my brain to think “comprehensively.” The “4Es” provide a comprehensive relational process churches can use to move from launch to leadership to leaving a legacy. In my consulting, all the time I see churches doing one or two of the “Es,” and then struggling to figure out why the ministry is filled with false starts. The “4Es” offer a “four lap ministry training strategy” so we get off the starting block, run the race effectively, and finish the race for God’s glory."
Elizabeth: "You write: “We need to develop the type of ongoing ministry structure that enables them, through God’s empowering, to employ their gifts for God’s glory” (pg. 163). How can leaders strike a balance between developing a ministry structure while avoiding becoming program driven?"

Dr. Kellemen: "That’s a great question that I addressed somewhat in my response to question two. In the book I discuss our tendency to go to extremes: either all spontaneous or all structured. Instead, I encourage “organizing the organism”--we are a living, breathing family, and all families require freedom within boundaries--relational structure. In the book, I illustrate how Jesus in Matthew 10 provide an entire chapter of “instructions” on how to “do” the ministry--and no one was ever more relational than Christ. I also illustrate the structure we find within the early church in Acts 2--and no church was more relational than the church in Acts. I also illustrate the beautiful “balance” of spontaneity and structure in the Black Church under enslavement--and their one-another ministry was incredibly relational. We need to be both/and: organism and organization, spontaneity and structured. The book develops this concept throughout."

Elizabeth: "How do you help your trainees move from knowledge of “Christ’s Changeless Truth” (Biblical Content) to wisdom (applied knowledge)?"

Dr. Kellemen: "Pray! Throughout Equipping Counselors for Your Church I highlight the principle that you become a counseling ministry by giving and receiving biblical counseling. You learn to be a biblical counselor by receiving biblical counseling. A major weakness that I’ve seen as I’ve consulted with biblical counseling churches is that we tend to be all lecture/head knowledge, but little “lab” and heart-to-heart ministry. The “lab” component of training means not only that you learn “skills” of counseling, but that as a training group we open up to one another to receive care, comfort, and loving confrontation. We apply truth to our lives and thus learn how to help others to apply God’s truth to their daily lives and relationships."

Elizabeth: "Can you give an example of how you equip counselors to relate truth to life?"

Dr. Kellemen: "I give several examples in the book from my own life, including the very first training group I ever led (long, long ago...). After the “lecture” component, we took a few minute break and then shifted our chairs in a circle. I was totally comfortable as the leader in the lecturer role. But then in the lab role, where I couldn’t depend upon my notes and keep things “under control,” I had an image go through my mind. I saw myself as a ten-year-old boy in my Dad’s oversized suit with my feet unable to touch the floor. I had a choice to make: attempt to ignore that image, or be honest with myself and the group. I choose honesty. For the next 90 minutes, we all choose honesty. We all shared how we were terrified at the thought of counseling others. As we shared our stories, we explored God’s story together and applied His truth to our fears. We learn to counsel others by opening up to give and receive counsel from each other--the very first night of our training."

Elizabeth: "We live in an age where people tend to be a lot more individualistic and busy. How do you encourage people to build deep relationships where one-another Biblical fellowship, ministry, and equipping become the norm rather than shallow “chit-chat”? How do you teach trainees to draw others out in a gracious way?"

Dr. Kellemen: "First, you have to model it. In my response to an earlier question, I noted how I modeled openness about my fears and openness to receive counsel from those I was training. That changes everything--it frees everyone up to open up. Second, you have to invite, not insist. That is, you can’t force an individual or group to “go deep.” You invite depth of relationship by building trust, by caring carefully and graciously, speaking the truth in love. What I’ve found in all three churches I’ve pastored and in my fifteen years of training in a seminary setting is that people are longing for such life-changing groups. People don’t want their training to end--not because they are afraid to step out and step up to minister, but because they have made such amazing connections with one another. Time after time I hear, “Our biblical counseling equipping group has become the most intense and intimate small group I have ever participated in.”

Elizabeth: "How does Equipping Counselors for Your Church compare with the other books that you have written? How do your other books complement this new release?"

Dr. Kellemen: "That’s a great question! I think of Equipping Counselors for Your Church as my “opus.” It is the result of three decades of equipping. Soul Physicians provides the theological foundation for understanding people, problems, and God’s soul-u-tuons. Spiritual Friends is the relational training manual used in labs to equip people to develop 22 biblical counseling “competencies.” God’s Healing for Life’s Losses applies this model to areas of suffering and loss. Beyond the Suffering and Sacred Friendships illustrates how to provide one-another biblical care through the lives of African American heroes of the faith and women heroes of the faith. Equipping Counselors brings it all together by showing leaders how to equip God’s people to care like Christ."
Elizabeth: "Appendix C10.2 (pg. 238) is a LEAD Sample Objectives and Lesson Outline. Do you have more of this type of Bible study material available for leaders who do not wish to write their own curriculum from scratch?"

Dr. Kellemen: "Yes and no. On the one hand, I don’t want to just give people a fish; I want to teach them to fish. The purpose of giving that one sample was to teach people to fish by showing them what a lesson plan might look like. On the other hand, I consider Soul Physicians and Spiritual Friends to be training manuals. Soul Physicians has two built in application guides at the end of each chapter. Spiritual Friends is a small group lab training manual. This is why many churches and schools use these two books as their primary manuals for equipping lay people for one-another ministry."
Elizabeth: "You wrote about applying Peacmaker’s 4G’s to conflict resolution as the leaders move toward change. What are some ways that people can encourage their leaders as they seek to equip others to do the work of ministry?"

Dr. Kellemen: "Interesting way to look at it. Often I focus on helping leaders to encourage and help their people as they go through the change process. You are asking, if I understand correctly, how people can encourage their leaders during the change process. Leader do need encouragement during times of change! No matter how hard you try as a leader, people will question your motives and your methods. So, stand by your leader. Be an “Aaron” holding up his/her arms. Realize the leader is human, too--with hurts and faults, struggles and sins. Speak words of encouragement into his life and about his ministry. Listen. Care."

Elizabeth: "How would you encourage the reader whose heart resonates with this type of formal approach but whose leaders have a different ministry mindset?"

Dr. Kellemen: "That happens more often than we might think. I address that in the book. You have to start with a humble sharing of your vision. You want to identify any areas where there might be overlap of vision (not assuming that if we are not 100% in agreement, that we are 100% in opposition). Be supportive. Ask for permission to develop a small test/beta/pilot group. My experience has been that these groups become such pockets of growth and excellence, that most leaders end up asking, “How did you do that? How could we incorporate more of that into the wider church ministry?”

Elizabeth: "Dr. Kellemen, Thanks so much for your willingness to answer my questions and for taking the time to write such a thorough and helpful book on the subject of training others to do the work of ministry and minister the Word!!"

To learn more about Equipping Counselors for Your Church or any of Dr. Kellemen's other books, you can visit his site. You'll find video trailers, sample chapters, and many other free resources that are sure to be a blessing. You'll also find discounted book bundles, if you are interested in purchasing multiple titles simultaneously. ;)

If you have any questions for Dr. Kellemen, please feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Review: Equipping Counselors for Your Church

Equipping Counselors For Your Church
As someone with a heart for ministering to other people, I was excited to see Bob Kellemen’s upcoming release Equipping Counselors for Your Church. In his video trailer for the book, Dr. Kellemen states that “the audience for this book is anyone committed to and passionate about one-another ministry”. Throughout this book, he uses the word “counseling” to encompass ministering the Word to one another and disciple-making, resulting in a relevant and helpful book for us all.

Dr. Kellemen’s goal is to “equip equippers so that the church is saturated with Biblical counseling”. He has created a simple, helpful framework to help leaders intentionally train and empower members to minister the Word to one another. He walks his readers through a Biblical study of God’s mission for the Church; connecting people; helping them grow in Biblical content, Christlike character, counseling competency, and Christian community; and relational organization to bring greater glory to God.

Because Dr. Kellemen has been a pastor of three very different churches (ranging from 100-3,000 members), he doesn’t have a strict one-size-fits-all approach to equipping. He establishes some basic principles that would be applicable to any size church and helps leaders walk through how to prayerfully design a structure that will best help the “unique congregation use its distinctive gift-mix to fulfill our special calling in our specific community” (pg. 41), to bring greater glory to God.

Although Dr. Kellemen’s principles are basic, he is not so vague as to be unhelpful. He includes a lot of useful forms, evaluations, application questions etc. that make this almost like a workbook that leaders can utilize to set up a ministry structure. Equipping Counselors for Your Church is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide that will likely bless a lot of people.

While Dr. Kellemen’s book is primarily geared towards those who are leaders within the church, there are some things that make this helpful for those who are passionate about one-another ministry. Equipping Counselors for Your Church helps the reader establish a Biblical vision for God’s Church and personal ministry. There are a number of useful lists within this book including Scripture passages and doctrine/theology to study; qualifications and proficiencies to pursue, character traits to cultivate; and commonly used materials for Biblical counseling. One of my favorite features is the excellent evaluation/application questions throughout the text and at the end of each chapter.

Ultimately, Dr. Kellemen helps all types of readers to understand that:
“People with changed lives know Christ, grow in Christ, and become Christ-like disciple-makers. Changed lives occur as we apply Christ’s changeless truth to help suffering people know that it’s normal to hurt (sustaining) and possible to hope (healing), and as we help sinning people to know that it’s horrible to sin but wonderful to be forgiven (reconciling), and supernatural to mature (guiding)” (pg. 65).
Equipping Counselors for Your Church is about growing in Christ-likeness, intentionally loving like He loved, and encouraging others to do the same for God's glory. May this book help many leaders to share a Biblical vision and enlist, equip, and empower their congregations to do the work of one-another ministry. May it also help them to build a team of people who are uniquely gifted and have a special passion for Biblical counseling to serve the body of Christ more formally. May it help all of us as we grow in Christ-likeness, becoming full of goodness, complete in knowledge, and competent to instruct one another (Romans 15:14).

Dr. Kellemen has graciously offered to respond to and interact with any questions and/or comments that you all might have about his book. Although Dr. Kellemen has already been interviewed by his publisher, he kindly took the time to answer some interview questions of mine. I plan to share those with you all tomorrow. ;)

*Many thanks to Dr. Kellemen and P & R Books for their willingness to send me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Book Review: Nobody's Child

Click to see a larger image of Nobody's Child by Austin Boyd

Publisher's Synopsis:
"For Laura Ann McGehee, her body represents the one remaining financial resource that can save the family farm. For Sophia McQuistion, Laura Ann’s unusual sacrifice fulfills her own dream of having a child. Weaving together bioethics and faith in a heart-rending tale of love lost and loves found, Nobody’s Child dramatizes the ethical question we can no longer ignore in medicine: Just because we can do something … should we?"
My Take:

Nobody's Child asks a good question but is wrongly called a Christian bioethics novel. Although "God" is made mention of numerous times throughout the novel, "Jesus" is mentioned only once (on page 199 of 328) and that in a rushed prayer, "Why this, Jesus? Please save Sophia. And baby James" (pg. 199). While there were many opportunities to proclaim the truth and hope of the Good News of Jesus Christ, Boyd drops the ball repeatedly.

The book is filled with phrases that reflect a poor understanding of Scripture and doctrine. For example, sin is blamed on circumstances (Paragraph 1, pg. 49); doing "home church" is suggested (pg. 73); and hard times, death, and disappointments, are chalked up to "part of living" (pg. 254). Boyd never mentions that these things are consequences of the Fall nor does he communicate the hope that one day, God will restore all things because of what Jesus has done.

Furthermore, the main character, Laura Ann, struggles with shame and condemnation for selling her eggs. Many folks tell her that she was courageous. In the end, she sees the good that comes in spite of her choices, but she is never confronted with the hope of the Gospel. Regardless of the choices that we make, we can be right in God's eyes and walk in newness of life. The decisions that we make don't save us, only trusting in Jesus will save us. He lived the life that we should have lived and died the death that we should have died in order that we might be made right before God.

Nobody's Child was a disappointing read. I wouldn't recommend this title.

*Zondervan provided me with this book free of charge, for the purpose of review.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Review: Guarding the Treasure

"I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food" (Job 23:12b).

Guarding the Treasure is a good introduction to "How God's People Preserve God's Word." This book is filled with lots of interesting facts and includes a glossary, maps, illustrations, and an extensive bibliography. The author, Linda Finlayson, does an excellent job engaging her reader by alternating between informative and narrative text. My eight-year-old (an avid reader) promptly disappeared to read this book.

In Guarding the Treasure, Ms. Finlayson tells of the authors, translators, authorities, smugglers, linguists, teachers, missionaries, and others who God has used to bring His Word to people. Through history, Ms. Finlayson also gently acquaints her reader with ideological issues and raises questions that are still relevant today. For example, in 1564-1611, Richard Bancroft and Laurence Chaderton debated varying worship styles. Here's a peak at the discussion:

"Laurence shook his head and sat down in the only chair in the room. 'The Church of England is full of the same ceremonies and rituals that I grew up with in the Catholic Church. According to Calvin, we should worship God simply in spirit and truth, with praise, prayer, Scripture reading, preaching and the sacraments.'
'No, no!' Richard replied, punching the pillow for emphasis. 'God is holy, majestic and beyond our understanding. Would you come into his presence as if you were speaking to the butcher? We don't just stroll into the palace as if the Queen is of no importance. How much more should we approach God with all reverence and awe!'
"…Laurence gave a small smile and reached over to put a cloth marker in the book he had been reading. This debate between them was not new. Richard strongly believed that the Anglican Church was following the right way to worship God and especially because it had been ordained by their good queen, Elizabeth. But Laurence was more convinced that the simple Puritan approach was right. The church didn't need all the other ceremonies. Neither would give ground to the other as they enthusiastically debated the issue" (pg. 160-161).

Ms. Finlayson is sensitive to varying doctrinal positions and doesn't add personal commentary as she presents these types of secondary issues. As a result, you will be able to think through them with your children and discuss what the Bible says.

Although Guarding the Treasure brings to light sacrifices made by those who have gone before us, there is a more important reason to study history: to see God's faithfulness to all generations. He loves us so much that He has given us His Words and has preserved them for all of us. Even when the challenges seemed insurmountable by human standards (like getting 50 guys to put aside their differences to work on translating God's Word), God showed that nothing is impossible for Him. We can trust Him because He has always been faithful, and He never changes. We can speak the truth without fear, and we can make sacrifices, not because of who we are but because of who He is and what He has done for us in Christ!

In conclusion, Ms. Finlayson notes that the work of preserving God's Word is not done; we are part of the story. So far, God has used Wycliffe Bible Translators to translate the Bible into over 700 languages. "They estimate there are still over 2,000 languages without the Bible and Wycliffe Bible Translators plan, with God's help, to translate the Bible into every one of them" (pg. 213).

"But what is most important is that we, like Christians throughout history, value our Bibles just as they did long ago. We must read God's Word and obey it. The Bible has come to us through the mighty work of the Holy Spirit and the obedience of God's servants through the ages. We have been given a treasure, a precious and valuable book from the Creator of the universe and the One who loves us. It is the most important book in the world" (pg. 214).

Guarding the Treasure will teach your children to value and respect their Bibles. Although it was written for children aged 8-12, people of all ages will find it interesting and will be encouraged to read the Word daily and learn how God wants them to live their lives. I highly recommend this book!

*Many thanks to Christian Focus Publications for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!