Friday, July 18, 2008

Book Review: A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion Series #1) by Francine Rivers

Do not start this series unless you intend to finish it. Do not read this book unless you want to be haunted by the characters for months to come. Francine Rivers’ A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion Series #1) is hauntingly written, with powerful archetypal characters that will linger in your subconscious. Once you come to know them they will surface in your thoughts repeatedly to remind you of important lessons in Christian character.

Powerfully written, this first in a series of three works of historical/biblical fiction transports us to a time shortly after Christ’s death. Hadassah is a young Hebraic Christian girl whose father knew Jesus during His time here on Earth. We first meet her during the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman armies. Losing her entire family during the siege and attack she finds herself taken hostage and eventually sold as a slave.

Throughout A Voice in the Wind we are able to watch Hadassah mature in her faith and come to trust in the Lord completely. The book chronicles the challenges she faces as she strives to love those she serves in a Christ-like way. The Roman family who owns her is immersed in the idolatry and widespread sin common in their society. Despite, and indeed because of this fact, Hadassah is driven to love them and serve them beyond her personal limits as she seeks to show them Christ’s love relationally.

Her mistress Julia embodies the self-centered and morally decaying Roman society. Through her example we come to see that all types of sin have been with us ever since the fall, including modern ‘hot spots’ such as abortion and homosexuality. At times one would think that the book was written in a modern setting due to the relevance of the issues dealt with throughout.

Julia’s older brother Marcus is a Roman playboy, disaffected and empty, seeking fulfillment in all the wrong places. His emptiness draws him to Hadassah when he begins to see Christ’s light shining within her. Rivers was a romance novelist prior to her conversion, and as Marcus is drawn to Hadassah we encounter some highly sensual scenes as he attempts to engage her physically. For those who prefer to avoid sensual, romantic novels, I can assure you that though Marcus is persistent Hadassah holds firm to her Christian values throughout. It is a delight to watch her placing God before anything else in her life, difficult though that may be.

I found myself challenged by Hadassah’s integrity and seemingly never-ending love for those she served. As I watched her place her own needs and desires aside time and time again in order to serve I found myself challenged to examine my own performance in the role of servant-mother. Observing her walk with the Lord inflamed my desire to know Him intimately, and I sought to draw nearer to Him. Would that my light could shine as brightly as hers! Believers will come to love Hadassah as they are encouraged by her Christian example, strengthened in their faith, and challenged to go deeper – to give all.

Francine Rivers has developed a name for herself as a modern master of Christian fiction. I can see that her reputation is well deserved. While the characters can appear too archetypical – black or white, it is their clear struggles, weaknesses and strengths that make this novel a valuable tool for Christian growth. This tenth anniversary edition includes a new foreword, an introduction from the author and a book discussion guide. The discussion guide features probing questions for individual or group study of the characters’ natures. I was, and remain strongly moved by their individual journeys; they continue to live on in my heart.



Jennifer Bogart blogs about christian parenting, family living, homeschooling and more! She loves writing Christian book reviews.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Book Review: The Five Senses of Romantic Love - God’s Plan for Exciting Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by Sam Laing

The Song of Solomon, also referred to as the Song of Songs, has been a mystery to me in my walk with Christ as a new believer. What exactly was this book of the Bible talking about? My gut instinct told me to take it literally, hearing preachers refer to it as descriptive of Christ’s love for believers. Parts of it are certainly suggestive, and indeed, graphic – I have a difficult time thinking of Jesus in those situations and terms. For me it would take some fancy talking around the scriptures for this approach to make sense to me.

Enter Sam Laing and his book, The Five Senses of Romantic Love - God’s Plan for Exciting Sexual Intimacy in Marriage. Laing takes a literal approach to the Song of Solomon, examining it as an encouraging text written from God to married couples as a model for the joys of marital intimacy. Laing has authored his book for married couples only, so if you are single you should wait to read it, and this review as well unless you have an impending marriage in your future. Indeed, Laing opens his book with this caveat, which I greatly appreciated. He appears to be a Christian man of integrity and would not see single believers stumble or be led into temptation by contemplating the marital act of intimacy that they cannot rightfully enjoy.

The topic of sex within the confines of marriage (where it rightfully belongs) is often neglected in conversations and preaching concerning the Christian life. Thankfully, there have been several books authored in recent years that seek to equip Christian couples with a view of sexual relations from a biblical perspective. For a new believer such as myself, I have wondered what God finds pleasing in this area, what His take on marital intimacy is. The Five Senses of Romantic Love is a highly practical guide for those seeking an answer to similar questions.

Laing writes enthusiastically on the subject, expounding upon God’s design for love within marriage; the joy and pleasure He intends for our spouses and us. Using the Song of Solomon he provides practical ways to enhance our love life through engaging each of our five senses. The book is divided into 8 chapters. The first addresses God’s general intent for delight in the sexual union of man and wife. The following five each address one of the five senses: sound, sight, fragrance, taste and touch. The last two offer advice specifically to women and men based upon the two main characters of the Song, a wife and her husband.

While he uses the Song as his basic text for his work (NIV scripture mainly), this title does not provide a comprehensive overview or analysis of the Song (though he does include further resources for an in-depth study). His concern is rather to aid married couples through practical, openhearted suggestions to add to, and increase the delights of marriage. His words are friendly and kind, never pushy or insistent, and he is fairly discreet in his use of language throughout the book – nothing explicitly graphic or crude here.

His advice is very personal, and at times he shares general principles that have been enjoyed within the context of his own successful marriage. Along with this personal perspective, we at times find Laing using very short, or somewhat vague passages in the Song to launch into a discussion of his own personal feelings on a topic. Often there is not much information given in the scripture, nor is it as detailed as the author’s recommendations – some examples of this include his conclusions on cosmetics, jewelry, and clothing. Many of these recommendations seem to be based largely on his own preferences, as not much is said on these topics within the scripture itself. I didn’t find this objectionable however, as this book seeks to provide practical advice and insight from the author rather than serve as an authoritative commentary. Laing also makes disclaimers throughout the work that couples should use what works for them, and not feel bound to any suggestions that are made.

As a woman, I enjoyed reading his frank and open perspective as a man, both on the Song, and on what men appreciate and long for within a marriage. His insights based upon the characters revealed to us in the Song, their actions and attributes form the basis of the last two chapters; the first specifically addressed to women, the second to men. These chapters summarize personal characteristics and traits based on the word of God that we should seek to cultivate within ourselves in order to enhance our marriages.

The Five Senses of Romantic Love fills an important niche in Christian literature – equipping married believers for love. I particularly recommend this work for Christians who may mistakenly believe that sex within marriage is an unpleasant duty that is even somehow displeasing to God. Readers interested in a literal, joyous, and practical approach to applying God’s wisdom from the Song of Solomon to their marriage will find this offering a unique treasure. Excellent devotional reading for bedtime, couples will benefit from reading this book together.



Jennifer Bogart blogs about christian parenting, family living, homeschooling and more! She loves writing Christian book reviews.