Seasonal Changes and Other Things

I heard a rumor that in other parts of the country they are experiencing something called “Fall”. Here in Southern California, we are experiencing something called, well, Southern California. That means it is hot, sunny, and we are still expected to be excited about pumpkin everything.


I love this photo because I frequently drink coffee, read a book and write a letter while I swing. #improbable

We have a backlog of books to tell you about-but not just yet. Today, a week before the official kickoff of holiday celebrations with calorie laden meals, calendar overload and exploding in-box sale offers, I want to encourage you in two things.


First, don’t abandon the most important thing you can read, the Word of God. As your routine changes, your days filled with extra activities, make sure the one thing you don’t change is time dwelling in the Bible. Wait. Maybe you have never made it a practice to read from the Bible every day-in that case, make a change, and start today. It’s a great time to start a gospel, maybe the book of Luke as we head toward Christmas. Or, a chronological plan, or the Psalms. Just make sure as you plan for meals you will cook or attend, you are partaking in the most nourishing of meals-the Word.

Secondly, consider making a book part of your gift to your loved ones this year . While I’m a huge fan of e-books, and a growing fan of audio books, for me nothing replaces the tactile experience of sitting with a book in hand. One of my great delights in our little church bookstore is watching children to come in, pull a book of the shelf and after opening it, promptly sit down right in front of the shelf to read. I grew up in a library, my daughter grew up in a bookstore, my granddaughter is growing up in one and I want every child to know the adventure of color and words and stories-especially about the God who loves them. We’ll be sharing some gift suggestions in the upcoming days to help you pick the perfect read for your friends, family and even yourself.

And, very soon, We’re going to share news of what is sure to be our book of the year! It’s coming out mid-December, we’ll be doing a giveaway for subscribers to the blog, and can I tell you, you will be buying more than one copy of this book. What’s the title? Who’s the author? No, no, not just yet! And we’re keeping it a secret from the littlest Lady of Lit because she might tell you. You’re going to be excited, I promise that. And if you’re not, well, I’ll pray for you because you should be. I jest. Sort of.

So buckle up, we’re heading into a new season!

Read well, friends.






How Much Adventure Can One Girl Take?

How much adventure can one girl take? Apparently a little more! Yep, I’m on another reading adventure. I’m excited to be on the launch team for Brazen: The Courage to Find the You That’s Been Hiding by Leanna Tankersley.

Who is Leanna Tankersley? I have no idea. That’s part of what makes these launch teams and adventure, I love discovering new writers and their insights. I’ll be sharing more once I get the book, but in the meantime, you can go here to read about the book and it’s author.

Don’t forget to check out Annie F. Downs book Looking for Lovely, you can read about that here. I’ll be sharing some quotes from that book soon, and the review once the book is released.

Read well, friends!

What? Another Adventure? I’m In!

So this is a thing now. Yep, I’m on another launch team!

This time we’ll be getting a sneak peek at the new book by Annie F. Downs, Looking for Lovely. Annie wrote a book that we had on our retreat list la12715655_10100721310884399_8263424046675766337_nst year, Let’s All Be Brave. It’s a great young adult book, but as a not so young adult, I really enjoyed both the topic and Annie’s writing.

My copy of the book hasn’t appeared in my mail box yet, so I don’t have any inside scoop to share other than a link to the website for the book. Click here to watch the video of Annie sharing how this book was born, read a little about the book and pre-order a copy if you can’t wait to hear what I think.

When Ashley was little and we were going to do something she thought would be an adventure, she would ask me to put her hair in two braids, and she called it her adventure hair.  I feel like I need to put my hair in two braids. Part of the definition of the word “adventure” is an exciting or remarkable experience, and launch teams definitely fit that description. Getting to have direct contact with the author, learning about the publishing world and making new friends with other team members all make for exciting new experiences. Then there’s the whole reading a new book thing-can’t wait for this one!

In the meantime, read well friends!


Part 2:The Gift That Keeps on Giving-Study Bibles

You want to take your Bible reading to the next level, and you want as many tools at your fingertips as possible. You don’t want apps, you want pages to turn and write on, and so you begin your search for a study Bible. What makes a study Bible different from any other Bible?

In the olden days, when you bought a car it came stock. That meant it had a steering wheel, crank windows, and you stuck your arm out of that cranked down window to adjust your mirrors. Those were the standard features. Or, if you were a big spender, you could get optional features like power windows but you didn’t care because you were a big spender and had air conditioning. Every feature had a price, and you could add as few or as many as your wallet allowed.

20151117_093040Study Bibles are the optional features version of the Bible world. Some have a few options, some have many, and you get to choose which one has the features you want the most. Live in SoCal and don’t need a rear window de-icer? Don’t choose that option. You have fourteen books on biblical archeology and don’t need the expanded map section? Choose another Bible. Easy peasy, right?

It is if you know what features are available and what they do for you. Let’s look at what you might find when you hit the car lot, I mean Bible aisle.

Note This

I have found the most requested feature is notes. Who doesn’t have a question when they read the Bible? Annotations or notes provide commentary on selected verses on the page.  The focus of that commentary falls into three categories:

  • Objective or Interpretation-this type of note will give background information, biographical or cultural information to help give context and understanding to passages. They often expand on a particular doctrine. To put it another way, they lean toward biblical facts. The NKJV Study Bible, the ESV Study Bible are good examples.
  • Application-this type of note will focus more on how the text relates to living out our faith. Using the facts of a passage as a foundation, these notes tell us what to do with what we’ve learned. The Life Application Bible is the king of this category, and is available in the NKJV, NLT, HCSB, NASB, NIV and KJV. Whew, alphabet soup!
  • Subjective-notes of this type have a particular subject in mind; think women or teen or apologetics. Notes of the previous types will be included but there will also be a special emphasis on the topic, either in the notes or in special feature articles. This also includes Bibles whose notes are exclusively by one author. The Transformation Bible with notes by Warren Wiersbe or the David Jeremiah Study Bible would be examples.

If notes are the number one tool you want your study Bible to have, here are two things you need to know.

  1. They will fail you.

Even the most comprehensive notes will only cover a fraction of biblical text, so you may want to consider a whole Bible commentary like the Believer’s Bible Commentary or a single volume commentaries like Warren Wiersbe’s Be series, which cover a single book of the Bible.

  1. Notes are by men, the text is by God.

Commentary isn’t infallible, only the scriptures are. Some study Bibles lean heavily toward various doctrinal positions, though most seek to approach positional doctrines in a balance way. Know that the most important thing you read in your Bible is the Bible itself.

Let’s Get Acquainted-Book Introductions

Many Bibles have some information at the beginning of each book that tells you something about the author, or time period in which it was written. Book introductions and outlines are expanded in study Bibles, and a great source of information that gives context, timeline, key doctrine and themes in the book. Many times the question your notes don’t answer can be resolved in your book intro.

Where’s That Verse-Concordance

Just like the book intro’s, you’ll find a concordance in many Bibles, and this too will be more comprehensive in a study Bible. Located at the back of the Bible, words are listed in alphabetical order with corresponding text “addresses” listed where the word is used, with a very brief excerpt of the verse. Like notes, these are expanded, but not exhaustive. A great tool to supplement your Bible’s concordance is the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance which is, well, exhaustive. And large. You won’t carry that to church with you.

In many study Bibles you will also find a subject index. Like a concordance, it will be an alphabetical listing of topics and people and places in scripture with the corresponding verse reference.

Connecting the Dots-Cross References

Cross references are a great resource in connecting scripture to scripture. Indicated by a small letter in a verse, the corresponding reference will lead you to other verses that are relevant to what you are reading. Sometimes it can be a passage that has a similar event, or doctrine, or topic. This is a great study tool, making links and giving understanding to the text you’re reading. R. A. Torrey said the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. He created the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, a book of exhaustive cross references. Poor cross references can be a deal breaker for me when I’m selecting a study Bible.

Can I have a Word? Word Studies and Dictionary

While all of the tools we’ve looked at so far are standard, if expanded options in study Bibles, one feature you will find in some is word studies. When we looked at translation types we noted that having an accurate word for word translation helps us to know the literal meaning of the message. Since most of us don’t read Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic, word studies are a great tool to help us dig deeper into the intent of a passage. When you look up a word in a word study, it will give a definition of the word and show how it’s used in a particular verse. In a study Bible, this will be limited, a Vines Complete Dictionary is an accessible, more comprehensive tool. The Open Bible has helpful word studies, and an exceptional cyclopedic index.

More Bells and Whistles-Maps and Charts

Expanded versions of these are often in close page proximity to the text they relate to in a study Bible, making them easier to use than flipping around in the back of your Bible.  These are very valuable for helping gain context and understanding to the ancient world. How much is a ephah? Don’t know? Find the chart.  Also handy-Harmony of the Gospels, which charts timelines, events and locations in the gospels.

Wrap it up, I’ll Take It

Hopefully you have some information to help you decide which features are most important to you in a study Bible. There are study Bibles in many different translations, both Essentially Equivalent and Dynamic, and in a number of different bindings, which can dramatically affect the price. Many are available in large print, but as you see in the above photo, they aren’t compact to start with, so a large print is like a phone book. Of a major city. Really. With tiny print.

There is no perfect study Bible. I know this because all those in the photo are mine and there’s more where they came from. As good as they are, they will not answer every question, reveal every definition, or give every application. That’s why I referred to a few more exhaustive resources that are worth your investment.  That said, a good study Bible is a good thing, and remember-

The best Bible is the one you’ll read regularly and do what it says!

Read well, friends.




The Gift That Keeps on Giving

It’s that time again-commercials showing that  a glanChristmas_gift_christmas_decoration_FAN2011788-647902.jpece out of the window reveals a luxury car with a bow on top, or a tiny box filled with big sparkle. Blogs are filled
with holiday gift guides and our inbox lights up all day long with coupons and ads for our favorite stores. One gift guide I want to share is for the gift that keeps on giving-Bibles.

I get asked this question a lot, “What is the best Bible?” My response is usually this:

The one you will read regularly and then do what it says.

Accuracy of translation, study notes, readability, print size, none of that matters if you don’t pick it up and read it. And reading it only does so much, then it’s up to you to respond. So what Bible will help you do both? This is the first in a two part (or more, depending on the word count) series, and we begin with a look translations.

A Word about Words

Look in any Bible section and you’ll see a plethora of cryptic initials lining the shelves; NKJV, NLT, ESV, NCV….how do you decode them? How are they different from one another?

There are three basic types of Bibles. First, and most accurate are the translations known as Formal Equivalent, or Essentially Equivalent translations. These are texts that have been translated as close as word for word as you can get, from the original language of the Bible to English. Rating them by grade reading level, these will fall anywhere from the 12th grade level (King James Version) to the 8th grade level (New King James Version). The key here is word for word; language is complex and one word in Greek may need four words in English and vice versa. These translations are seeking to be as close to literal translations word for word as possible. Why does that matter?

Think of the way you’ve seen the definition of words change over the years, or the way a word is redefined as a slang term. It can change the whole meaning of a sentence. By using a translation that is as close to the original language as a translation can be, you can be sure you are getting the original intent of the message. These versions are great for study, and here are some of those initials decoded in the Essentially Equivalent category:

  • NKJV-New King James Version. The accuracy of the King James Version without sounding like an old English king. No thy or thee, but retaining the precision and poetry of the KJV. This is the translation the lead pastor at my church, Calvary Vista, teaches from every week.
  • ESV-English Standard Version. A new favorite of mine, a readable translation from a different parent text than the NKJV. That subject is a blog post for another time, but both parent texts have more in common than differences, and both are trustworthy.
  • NASB-New American Standard
  • HCSB-Holman Christian Standard Bible

Let Me Give You the Gist

The second type of translation is called a Dynamic translation. These are versions that seek not to translate the text word for word, but rather verse by verse. While they are not a commentary, they have a more explanatory quality than the essentially equivalents. Still considered a translation, though not literal, the objective of these versions is to provide a readable translation that gives the gist of the verse in a more modern language style. These fall into the grade reading level at around 6th grade, which makes them close to the NKJV and ESV at around 8th grade.  The two most widely known examples:

  • NLT-New Living Translation.  A revision of the paraphrase called The Living Bible, this is a true translation with a high degree of objective accuracy. This is my lead pastor’s dynamic translation of choice, and mine too, although I think he got the idea from me. Okay, probably not.
  • NIV-New International Version. For years this was the go-to dynamic, but there’s been controversy. Revisions to the original 1984 version have caused concern among scholars and Bible teachers. In 2011 a revised edition with a commitment to providing a more gender neutral translation was released, and has caused some verses to be worded in a way that actually changes the accepted meaning of the text. This has led to some churches, teachers and stores no longer recommending or using it.

These translations are great for kids, for people new to reading the Bible, and for devotional reading. I use them regularly as a comparison text to shed light on verses I’m reading in the NKJV or ESV.

Should this be the only type of translation you read? Well, since the best Bible is the one you’ll read, if this is it, then read away.

But our spiritual life isn’t a stagnant existence, we’re to be growing, right?

So the way we read the word, the way we study and glean from it should grow with us, and moving into an essentially equivalent translation is a great way to do that.

If you think they are too difficult to understand, try this: instead of using a dynamic as a comparison text, start using an essentially equivalent as a comparison. Look up passages and dig a little deeper, learn to do word studies to help you understand the specifics of what you’re reading.

In Other Words…

The third type of Bible to know about is called a paraphrase. The definition of paraphrase is, “a restatement of a text, passage, or work giving the meaning in another form.” There is no translation here, but a rewording of the text to explain its meaning. These are highly subjective to the one doing the paraphrasing, more like a commentary.  While helpful for devotions or comparison reading, I can’t recommend these for your sole scripture reading. That’s just me, but the dynamics are so readable they are a better choice.

Two you’ll find these days are the Living Bible and the Message Bible. Despite what I just said about not being the only Bible you read, I got saved reading the book of Romans in the Living Bible, and that worked out well, didn’t it? The Message? Not a fan. My blog, my opinion, I think there are just so many more beneficial choices out there.

So, there you have it, a primer on choosing the best Bible for you. As the wise Pastor Dave always says of reading the word,

“It’s not about getting through it, it’s about getting it.”

Make a practice of reading daily, reading thoughtfully and reading expectantly, and you’ll do just that.

Next, we’ll talk about study Bibles!



Reading Adventures with MaryAnne

I’ve embarked on another reading adventure! Remember my adventure as part of Emily P. Freeman’s launch team for her latest book Simply Tuesday? Not only did I discover a book I love and hope you’ve picked up for yourself, but I really enjoyed the behind the scenes look into the writers heart and the publishing/marketing industry.

Like Alice, I seem to have fallen into some rabbit hole for launch teams, because I received an invite for another one. This one is more of an adventure, I was a total Emily fan before the launch team, but this time the author is a total unknown to me. See, I really don’t know every author and book ever written! This is a little scary, because as a launch team member, you have to write about the book-what if I hate it? What if I wouldn’t recommend it? Will I be black listed from launch teams forevermore?

Whatever. That’s why it’s an adventure. Isn’t every book you pick up an adventure? You may think you know where you’re going and what you’ll find there, but there is always a new discovery. So be adventurous and sign up to follow the blog so you can join the literary exploits.

This new book is a subject near and dear to my soul. My other blog is called That Good Part because I want to choose the good things that can’t be taken away every day, and I want that for you too. Don’t you want your life to be focused, intentionally following Jesus in a way that bears fruit for your life? Of course you do. So let the adventure begin, drumroll……..

Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy by Alli Worthington

Several yebreakingbusyars ago I read Kevin DeYoung’s book Crazy Busy, and I haven’t stopped recommending it yet. This whole busy thing has infected our culture in ways that have choked off the benefit of all we’re busy about-now we’re just crazy. I’m excited to read
book on the subject from another voice,
this time a woman, and a very interesting sounding woman at that.

Alli Worthington is the Executive Director of Propel Women, a website devoted to the role of Christian women in leadership, and the calling of women in the marketplace. Oh, you think she writes about things that don’t relate to you because you’re not an entrepreneur? She’s also a wife and mom a passel of kids. I think we can expect a book full of practical direction for people who want God’s purposes worked out in their life while resisting being consumed by what isn’t of Him at all.

So sign up and put on your adventure outfit!

Something Familiar

For people like myself and my Mom who do a lot of previewing and reviewing, every now and then we just need to pick up a book for the sake of enjoying it. Recently, in a moment of brain numbing busyness I found myself drawn to a series of books that I hadn’t read since childhood.

What series was it? The Elsie Dinsmore Life of Faith Series by Martha Finely. Set in the deep south right before the start of the Civil War, these books follow the story of young Elsie Dinsmore as she grows not only in grace and beauty but also in her faith in Jesus. Her life is not without its challenges and not long after picking up these Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetbooks you will find yourself connected to this young character as you start to see bits of yourself in her.

Yes, these are books written for young girls, generally I recommend them for Jr. Higher’s, but there is something special about going back and re-reading the books of your youth. First of all, there is something to be said about picking up a book just to enjoy it and not having to think too hard about it. Secondly, reading a book that
you read originally as a child is a unique experience, you get to take a moment and be transported back to your young self. When I re-read this series I remembered reading it for the first time and the season of life that I was in. Trying to navigate the rough seas of Jr.High, I remembered coming home from long days and curling up on my bed with these books and escaping to a different world. Going back as an adult is like returning to a childhood home; remembering the familiar characters and scenery but at the same time being aware that everything looks a little different now, as you stand a little taller, having grown a little wiser and hopefully, seeing things a little clearer.

What books did you read as a child? Perhaps it’s time to take a break and return to something familiar? Curl up on the couch and be reminded of simpler times, enjoy the simplicity of the language, and take note, you may see a few things you never noticed before!

Carpe Librum! (Seize the Book)