Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book Review: The Littles by John Peterson

Pictures by Roberta Carter Clark

The Littles are a family of people that are only a few inches tall, who live secretly in the wall of a normal family’s house. When the family goes on a trip, some vacationers from the city come to stay in the house, which shakes up the Little family’s lives. The Littles will need all their resourcefulness to survive the troubles that the visiting family unintentionally throws their way--including a cat.

While this book is filled with fun ideas about the Littles and the way they live, the story is somewhat lacking. This makes the concept of the Littles far more memorable than the book that introduces them, though the concept is a bit reminiscent of The Borrowers. Despite the shortcomings, it was pleasant enough that I found it worth reading, since I am interested in fantasy and children’s books, and if you like those two things, you may also find it worth reading. The short length keeps the very simple story from getting boring.

There is only a small amount of mild violence and scariness involving mice and cats, so it should be safe for most readers. Parents may want to read it with their children to comment on the infrequent instances of rude or unwise behavior that take place in the story. It is also worth noting that the Littles steal from humans to survive, but this problem is largely eliminated due to the Littles repaying humans as best they can, rather than feeling entitled to the things they take.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Movie Review: The Red House

When he comes to work at a secluded farm, a young man gets interested in the nearby creepy woods after being warned to stay out of them by his employer. An attempt to use the woods for a short cut scares him right back out of the woods, but this only hardens his resolve to not be afraid of them. He soon discovers that the woods hide many mysteries, and with the help of his employer’s daughter, he sets out to uncover the secrets of the woods.

This atmospheric mystery/thriller is in most ways an excellent film. The setting is vivid and is used effectively in many scenes. The characters have a lot of depth. The story itself is suspenseful, as one revelation after another is carefully revealed. However, the story also has a few weak points that keep this film from being a classic--but they are not enough to keep it from being worth seeing if you like old-fashioned mystery/thrillers.

Despite revolving around dark secrets and murders, this film is not violent, and hints at the violence rather than showing it in most cases. There are several scenes with passionate kissing. The teenagers in this film, both the good and the bad, tend towards the rebellious and reckless rather than the wise, though the good teenagers mainly succumb to this due to moments of bad writing and are less so in general.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Biblical View of Music

I’ve been thinking a lot about music lately, and as I was exploring what the Bible has to say about it, I came across this passage:

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to Him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. -- Psalm 33:1-3 (NIV)

I think we can learn just about every basic guideline for Christian music from this passage. It gives us at least eight principles to apply to our music:

1. Sing joyfully

Joy should fill our music, as we rejoice in the Lord, remembering His salvation and blessings. Music can also be used to portray other emotions. Sad songs of lamentation, love songs, war music, and many other types of music are recorded in the Bible.

2. To the Lord

Our goal in music, as in all of life, should be to glorify God. Whether this is with beautiful instrumental pieces, or songs that tell the truths of the Bible, we should always remember the One who gave us music and use it to serve Him.

3. You righteous

We, the saints, are to make music to the Lord. This can be done by composing it, performing it professionally, singing in a church, or many other ways. We can even make music to Him when we are alone with Him.

4. It is fitting for the upright to praise Him

Music that praises God is not just acceptable, but very good for us to make, and something we should not neglect. Few things are more beautiful than churches and lives of saints that are filled with heartfelt songs which exalt our Lord and King.

5. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to Him on the ten-stringed lyre

We can use a variety of instruments to make music, which is elaborated on further in Psalm 150, where it lists all common types of instruments. From harps to electric guitars, from pianos to drums, we have a wide selection of ways to perform music.

6. Sing to Him a new song

In addition to the Psalms and songs in the Bible, we can write our own music, and we can be innovative in how we write it. Traditional and contemporary musical styles are equally capable of being used to write songs of praise, and neither type should be overlooked.

7. Play skillfully

We should seek to be skillful in our musical performances and compositions. From complex symphonic pieces to simple pop songs, from a masterful guitarist to a mom singing her child to sleep, we can never be perfect, but we can strive to do well.

8. And shout for joy

The Bible endorses lively music, the kind that leads to certain kinds of shouting and dancing, the same as it endorses more somber pieces that lead to contemplation. One kind of music is not more spiritual than the other. Each is good in its own way.

Music is one of the most wonderful gifts that God has given us, and it means a lot to me. If music means a lot to you, I hope that these guidelines are helpful to you as you explore the diversity of musical instruments and styles and use them to glorify God.

Do you agree with these guidelines? Can you find any other musical principles in the verses I quoted?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Book Review: Dr. Dredd’s Wagon of Wonders by Bill Brittain

When a stranger and his wagon of wonders rolls into a town, the locals turn up to see what curious things he has brought to show them. However, the last thing they expected was for him to have a boy who can bring rain to their drought-stricken town. As the stranger seeks to take advantage of the town’s need and demand an unusual payment in return for giving them rain, his scheme is tested when the boy who can bring rain escapes and seeks refuge in the town from his cruel master. If the town dares to protect this innocent boy, they will face the wrath of the stranger’s dark sorcery.

The writing in this odd book is pretty good for a children’s series, and it uses an unconventional point of view arrangement to tell the story. The story itself is elevated a bit above the usual formulaic children’s series installment by some original touches, though it harms itself with an illogical occurrence towards the end and some political correctness. Readers who are particularly fond of scary or fantastical stories might enjoy it despite its flaws. While I found this book interesting to read, it wasn't good enough to make me want to seek out other books in the series.

Aside from the mild violence and scariness one would expect from a dark fantastical novel for young readers, the only content of note is the high level of magical use. A witch is portrayed positively, but there is no hint of where she and other good mystics get their power. However, it is made clear that the villain’s power is from the devil. Christianity is portrayed positively, though generically, but unfortunately no one in the book sees anything wrong with mixing witchcraft and Christianity.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Spurgeon on Squirrels and Christians

This quote from Charles Spurgeon sounds like something I might say, so I thought I would share it.

“As I sat last year under a wide-spreading beech, I was pleased to mark with prying curiosity the singular habits of that most wonderful of trees, which seems to have an intelligence about it which other trees have not.

“I wondered and admired the beech, but I thought to myself, I do not think half as much of this beech tree as yonder squirrel does. I see him leap from bough to bough, and I feel sure that he dearly values the old beech tree, because he has his home somewhere inside it in a hollow place, these branches are his shelter, and those beech-nuts are his food. He lives upon the tree. It is his world, his playground, his granary, his home; indeed, it is everything to him, and it is not so to me, for I find my rest and food elsewhere.

“With God's Word it is well for us to be like squirrels, living in it and living on it. Let us exercise our minds by leaping from bough to bough of it, find our rest and food in it, and make it our all in all. We shall be the people that get the profit out of it if we make it to be our food, our medicine, our treasury, our armory, our rest, our delight. May the Holy Ghost lead us to do this and make the Word thus precious to our souls.”

-- Charles Spurgeon