Category Archives: Recommendations

“The Sacred Journey 2: The Ancient Practices” by Charles Foster ~ Review

Soon after moving out to the Arizona desert from California’s Central Coast, I received this book through to review. I thought I was being clever in getting a free book, but I had no idea how powerful this book would be. “The Sacred Journey” is about the lost art of pilgrimage, a sacred journey to a place of spiritual importance. Just as Christians are pilgrims here on earth, the pilgrimage reminds us that we can’t be wrapped up in the trappings of permanence. This world is not our home, we’re just passin’ through. Charles Foster uses his own globe-trotting adventures as a backdrop to the lessons learned while out on pilgrimage; the importance of loving fellow travelers and helping them, of silence and meditation, and above all, being aware of what God is trying to teach you while you journey through life.

“The Sacred Journey” fascinated me. We had just left our deep roots near the ocean and moved out to the desert. What was worse, we were living in subsidized housing, which is government-code for roach-infested. Reading “The Sacred Journey” while living under these conditions was eye-opening, to say the least. Foster’s writing encouraged me to see our living situation through heavenly-eyes: only temporary housing until God moved us on. It challenged me every time I opened the pages to not complain about what was right in front of me, but look for what the lesson was supposed to be. Although I still complained (loudly and often), I can look back and see the places where the Lord had me grow, stretch, and learn, and many times it was because of something thought-provoking from “The Sacred Journey.”

Foster’s high, literary writing style was a huge appeal to me. His elegant, graceful use of language really touched me. However, many times when I would read quotes aloud to my husband, he would get confused, so perhaps Foster’s style isn’t for everyone. For me, however, this book is certainly one I recommend to fellow travelers on their journeys.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


We’re Not Freaks; We Just Don’t Celebrate Halloween

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I had a Christian Fundamentalist upbringing. And I’m not complaining about it. I think my parents did a great job of sheltering us as young children, and then letting us figure out life for ourselves as we got older. So there’s some things that my parents did that I’m doing differently and some things that I’m holding on to pretty strongly. One of those things is not participating in Halloween.

I’ve never been trick or treating. Two years ago I went to my very first ever dress-up Halloween party, but that was mostly because it was also a housewarming party for friends who’d just moved. I was a farmer, 1-week-old Josh was a pea-in-the-pod, and Anthony was Twitter. 

Growing up in Santa Cruz (hippie/wicca/occult central), the line was pretty distinct between light and dark around this time of year. We actually had neighbors who would hang black cats (real ones) from trees, dance around huge Samhain bonfires, summon spirits and all the rest. It was scary, and our family wanted no part of it.

As a kid, it made sense to me that we not participate in the dark holiday, and most of the families that we grew up with were of the same mind, so there wasn’t much peer pressure or feeling like we were missing out on something significant. We’d spend the evening handing out little comic books that my mom and her illustrator friend, Katie, made that had messages of hope and light. When we moved out of town and into the country, it was a night when our parents let us watch a bunch of movies and eat candy (a BIG deal, we almost NEVER got candy!).

Now an adult, those memories have stayed with me, and we have never celebrated Halloween since we’ve been married. It wasn’t too big of a deal for us until last year, when my cousin-in-law actually sat us down and told us he thought we were being crazy for keeping our kids away from this fun family tradition. And now Jonathan is in school, and all the kids are talking about trick or treating, costumes, and candy. Plus, it seems like, away from Santa Cruz, Halloween is more like any other over-commercialized holiday: a chance for WalMart to make a ton of money off costumes and candy. So I totally get why other Christians families don’t have a problem with the season, and I’m certainly not judging any one else’s decision.

Here’s some helpful links and alternative ideas (thanks Facebook friends for some of these!) with more history and info. 

– Have kids dress up during another holiday (like pilgrims for Thanksgiving). We usually did a “live nativity” at Christmas while a grownup read Luke 2:1-20.

– Attend or help with a church harvest party, carnival, or “trunk-or-treat” (where church members decorate their cars and pass out candy in the parking lot). I remember doing harvest parties a few times as a kid. When Jeffty was a baby, he was Moses in a basket, I was Miriam, and Christopher was Aaron.

– Celebrate All Saints Day by dressing up as a Saint. GREAT idea to pair with a history lesson!

– A history of Halloween and it’s traditions, including the Jack-O-Lantern and Trick-or-Treating (not a Christian source… has a scary graphic at the top of the page, FYI)

– A great blog post by James Watkins called “Should Christians celebrate Halloween?” (LOVE his conclusion with 1 Corinthians 8:4-13, about how if it doesn’t stumble your walk with God, do it! If it is a stumbling block to you, don’t do it!)

So what will YOU be doing 10/31?

M. Christine Weber – You’re gonna want to know this author!

In addition to being the coolest children’s pastor on the planet, the best home-made latté maker I’ve ever met (and that’s saying something from this barista of 8 years), the most creative cook and certainly coolest Mom-friend I have, Ms. Weber is also a fantastic author. I know, because I’ve read two (but, sadly, only two) chapters of her current work-in-progress, and I’m SUPER impressed (and I really can’t wait for her to send me the NEXT two chapters… or the whole book… hint hint!).  Anyways, in honor of HER one-year blogoversary, she’s created a contest, which I am shamelessly joining in and I encourage you to check her out, too. That is all!  =)

My Blogoversary Giveaway! | M. Christine Weber.

“Dracula” – Old School Vamp Still Rocks

I’ve read Twilight, some of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, and a few other vampire novels, but the student in me wanted to know where this all came from. In school, my emphasis was on mediaeval source texts and how stories changed over the years. So, naturally, I had to read the original vampire novel: Dracula. Today, in honor of the release of the DVD version of Eclipse (Team Switzerland!), I offer you my vampire review.

And wow, if you haven’t read Dracula, you are depriving yourself of some crazy creative and creepy writing.  The format of the novel is a little tough to figure out at first, but once you get into the story, it is difficult to put it down, even with the slower pacing (which is very common for novels in the late 1800’s).  Bram Stoker knew how to make and maintain suspense, and his vampire is terrifying!

The format is an epistolary novel, meaning that each chapter is composed of journal entries, letters, telegrams, and newspaper clippings.  However, the dialogue is masterfully maintained throughout, because the characters are (conveniently) able to recall in amazing detail all the conversations they have in a day (which, if they could, and they were writing by hand, they must have written for HOURS every night!).

Jonathan Harker is a junior laywer, engaged to be married to Mina, who has been a companion for the lovely young Lucy.  Harker is sent to Transylvania to meet with Count Dracula and to teach him about English culture and life, as the Count plans on moving to London. While there, however, Harker realizes that Dracula is a fiend of the worst kind, and Harker escapes the castle and makes his way back to England alone.

Dracula continues with his plans to move to London, and organizes his own passage on a ship, which, according to the captain’s log, sails through a terrifying journey where, at the last, all the crew are dead.  The ship runs aground in a fierce storm on the shores of Whitby, where, as chance may have it, Mina and Lucy are staying. Lucy is proposed to by three men, Dr. Seward, Morris, and Holmwood, and she accepts Holmwood (who later in the novel inherits the title Lord Godalming). Oddly (but helpful in this novel), all three of Lucy’s suitors remain good friends.

In the days following the shipwreck, Lucy begins sleepwalking outside and becomes strangely ill. Mina fears to tell Lucy’s mother, who is in poor health, but she wonders about the puncture wounds on Lucy’s throat, so she calls on Dr. Seward.  Seward is at a loss, and sends for his professor, Dr. Van Helsing.  Despite the best efforts of Mina, Van Helsing and all three of her suitors, Lucy “dies”, but soon begins preying on small children as a beautiful vampire herself. Van Helsing tells the men that they must stake her and cut off her head. If you feel like delving into a really bizarre world, do some research on Lucy the Vampire’s death scene — it’s chilling what some literary scholars have come up with!

Meanwhile, Harker returns to England and marries Mina and they join with the others in hunting down Dracula in the streets of London. When Dracula realizes that he is found out, he begins feinting about their defenses and eventually gets to Mina in a super-creepy way: crawling through her window, taking her out of her bed and biting her. From then on, Mina is under his spell, and feels pulled to join him as his bride. This guy is no Edward Cullen. He’s every girl’s worst nightmare.  Eventually, the brave men are triumphant and Mina is set free from Dracula’s enchantment, but not after several chapters of suspense and excitement.

I was really impressed by the scope and entertainment this novel has to offer, but especially how this vampire was SO different from the modern vampire stories I’ve enjoyed.  There wasn’t a single time in Dracula where I felt bad for the Count or had any sympathy or compassion for him. He is evil, through and through. The good guys were very very good, and the bad guy was very very bad, and the entertainment value of this novel was very very awesome.

Now it’s your turn: what was the last vampire novel/movie you watched and what did you think?

Evanescence – Bring Me To Life

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