Author: Fylvia

If I could be a beachcomber who simply reads, writes and watches old movies all day, I would. Since that’s as far fetched as most of my other daydreams, I read and write and watch old movies in between being a working mother and wife. But it’s all good—God’s brought into my life more exciting experiences than a beachcomber could ever imagine.

The Van Gogh Portrait of Gratitude

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 3.32.35 PMMaybe you’ve heard this story before, but I learned of it just few weeks ago,  and was fascinated by how the inability of one person to see value in something cost a family a fortune.

Very early one winter morning in 1883 Félix Rey, a young medical intern who had yet to graduate, worked hard to save a hallucinating patient who had suffered blood loss. The patient was Vincent van Gogh and the blood loss involved a severed ear and a prostitute—but that’s another story!

For several weeks young Félix cared for van Gogh, saving him from infection and possible death. When he finally recovered and returned home, van Gogh painted this portrait of Félix Rey as an expression of his eternal gratitude. While Félix became both a friend and advocate of van Gogh, he wasn’t really a fan of van Gogh’s artistic representation of him. So the painting was left propped somewhere inconspicuous in his home—that is, until his mother noticed that her chicken coop had a hole!

For the next two years of so, this van Gogh original did nothing more than keep chickens in their place—until one day an admirer of Van Gogh’s work heard about the painting in the chicken coop and bought it from Félix’s family.

Today the Félix Rey portrait hangs in the The National Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Its estimated auction value is $50 million.

 

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Book Review: Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 3.17.09 PMBesides my father, several hundred are pastors in my circle of family, friends, and church activities. So I’m well acquainted with the varieties in which they come. As a teenager, my favorite kind was those with a bad-boy history (Note to self: Rewatch The Cross and the Switchblade).

But NONE of the pastors I know look like or talk like Pastor Nadia. Even the ones with a past of worldly notoriety are just as, or almost as, tame and predictable as every other pastor. Sure, there’s the occasional ponytail or a tattoo peaking out of a sleeve once in a while, but for the most part, all the pastors I know are cut out of more or less the same cookie mold. The frosting may be different on each, but the cookies are all the same.

Reading Pastor Nadia’s unorthodox, unfiltered narrative was like eating a fudge cookie after a lifetime of vanilla. It made me somewhat uncomfortable–I liked it, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted the content to infect my soul. It’s like my brain was stubborn, resisting her use of colorful, unholy language to describe holy content.

So while reading Accidental Saints I had to remind my stodgy righteous self to do more than hear the raw, straight-from-the heart voice of  Pastor Nadia. And when I truly listened, I saw her and others—not as mere people—but as God’s children. They were testimonies of grace and compassion, of discovering Jesus. Yet the book is not really about the men and women who meander into Pastor Nadia’s life and ministry.  Each chapter is about how she finds in someone new a little bit of God. The book is also a guide for the reader on how to turn everyday encounters into opportunities to be like Jesus—to be a saint.

Oh, and if I’ve lead you to believe every page is filled with expletives, that’s far more true. While there’s a small sprinkling of them over the 200 some pages, there is also a mother lode of descriptive gems that reflect Pastor Nadia’s intimate knowledge of her Savior. Here’s one:

I need to be broken apart and put back into a different shape by that merging of things human and divine, which is really screwing up and receiving grace and love and forgiveness rather than receiving what I really deserve.

The sting of grace is not unlike the sting of being loved well, because when we are loved well, it is inextricably linked to all the times we have not been been loved well, all the times we ourselves have not loved others well, and all the things we’ve done or not done that feel life evidence against our worthiness. Love and grace are such deceivingly soft words—but the both sting like hell and then go and change the shape of our hearts and make us into something we couldn’t create ourselves to be (p. 180).

Accidental Saints has made me question the status quo of my Christianity.  And that’s a good thing—even if it makes me squirm a little.

If you have 20 minutes and 47 seconds to spare, here’s Pastor Nadia talking about her journey from a life of self to one where Jesus is central :) One of my favorite parts of this is towards the end: “God will use all of you—not just your strengths, but your failures and your failings and your brokenness. God’s strength is perfected in human weakness—so your brokenness is fertile ground for a forgiving God to make something new and make something beautiful.”

For the record, I received this book for free from Crown Publishing Group (a subsidiary of Random House) for reviewing it on my blog.

Book Review: A Minute of Vision for Men by Robert Patterson

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 11.05.08 AMMy first thought when I received this book was that it’d be a great gift for Chris, a colleague at work. [Nothing better than a gift that costs nothing :)]

But first, the review. So I read it at record speed, noting the following:

From the title to the colors to the content, the book is touted as a book for guys. But a lot of the content could be relevant for women too. While I get the rationale behind a devotional just for men, especially in a book culture where there are a lot more books specifically for women than there are for men, I’m not a fan of segregating daily devotional material by gender. Just my very subjective preference :)

That being said, if you’re a trivia buff looking for great stories with details about people and events, this book is perfect for you.

The title is almost like God pleading, “Please, just give me one minute of your day.” How could anyone say no to that! This book is a great baby step for a man—or a woman— wanting to invest in their spiritual health.

Having made these observations for my review, I presented the book to Chris. “Thanks,” he responded. “But does it come as a podcast?”

“There’s a Kindle version,” I offered.

“Hmm. I prefer listening to my devotions while driving to work.” [Note to publishers: While Chris is just one guy, he just might be representative of many men out there—Under a minute is great, but even better is being spoon fed an audible version ;) *sigh* MEN!]

Check out other great books from Tyndale House PublishersAnd for the record, I received this book for free from Tyndale Blog Network for reviewing it on my blog.

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Book Review: In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson

battersonNot all great preachers are great writers. Mark Batterson is one of the few who are. Like my favorites, Max Lucado and Charles Swindoll, Batterson has the cadence of a poet and the wisdom of a pastor.

This book includes profound thoughts that are beautifully crafted. Here are a few:

God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time. A sense of destiny is our birthright as followers of Christ.

We’re inspired by people who face their fears and chase their dreams. What we fail to realize is that they are no different from us.

In the beginning, the Sprit of God was hovering over the chaos. And nothing has changed. God is still hovering over chaos.

Your ability to help others heal is limited to where you’ve been wounded

The premise of this book is that you can experience success and blessings when you boldly chase after dreams that come from God—be it those revealed in the faintest of whispers in your subconscious or those packaged in calls heard loud and clear. The book then goes on to prove this premise by shuffling examples and practical lessons, beginning with Benaiah.

And because I’m a sucker for nobodies who surface as heroes, I love that Benaiah and his lion-chasing bravado on a snowy day is the foundation of this book (despite reviews—like this one—that question the heroic details of the story). For me a story doesn’t  have to be accurate in order to inspire and motivate me. The storyteller and preacher in Batterson were successful in making me assess missed opportunities, while recalibrating my life lenses with a vow to make the rest of my life on earth more accountable to my Creator God.

In spite of the much needed motivation I received from this book, I did find that everything from the illustration of Benaiah to the contemporary examples to the practical tips could have been sandwiched into a much shorter book. The repetition of some content and fillers had me speed reading through much of the book. Other than this shortcoming, I really like this book and have passed it on for someone else to benefit from its encouragement.

For more information about the book from Waterbrook Multnomah, go here. To learn more about Mark Batterson and his ministry, go here.

And for the record, I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Making the Most of Life

Today is the day after Election Day 2016.

Today began with little sleep last night. And it continued with every hour adding a new deadline, more stress, and more pessimism.

My to-do list was not getting done and my creative energy was at an all time low. One task on my list was to find a creative way to tell a story. My search led to this serendipitous discovery! And my soul has been recalibrated.

Michelle Phan concludes her video, “Every great dream begins with a dream. And every dreamer has a story. So don’t settle for a happy ending because ‘… to be continued’ is way more fun.”

But you have to watch it from the beginning to really appreciate the end—which is not really the end :)

The Hacksaw Buzz

hacksaw_ridge_posterI was at an advance screening of the movie Hacksaw Ridge last week. As a Seventh-day Adventist, it was a moment of humility and pride to realize how big an impact my faith and my church could have if both are seen in how I (Adventists) live.

With today’s premiere of the movie, the Internet is abuzz and bursting at the #HacksawRidge hashtag seams—to which I shall add my own :)

Of all I’ve read so far, this one by NPR’s Morning Edition captures best the tenacity of Desmond Doss’ faith. It’s factual, straightforward, and bold. It’s based on Terry Benedict’s  2004 documentary, The Conscientious Objector—which was one of the primary sources for the script of Hacksaw Ridge. 

Here are excerpts:

A quiet, skinny kid from Lynchburg, Va., Doss was a Seventh-day Adventist who wouldn’t touch a weapon or work on the Sabbath. He enlisted in the Army as a combat medic because he believed in the cause, but had vowed not to kill. . . .

Doss’ commanding officer, Capt. Jack Glover, tried to get him transferred. In the documentary, Glover says Doss told him, ” ‘Don’t ever doubt my courage because I will be right by your side saving life while you take life.’ ” Glover’s response: ” ‘You’re not going to be by my damn side if you don’t have a gun.’ ” . . . .

Doss saved 75 men — including his captain, Jack Glover — over a 12-hour period. The same soldiers who had shamed him now praised him. “He was one of the bravest persons alive,” Glover says in the documentary. “And then to have him end up saving my life was the irony of the whole thing.” (Read the rest here.)

The first half of the movie tugged at my heart strings. And while the violence and gore of the second had me looking away for most of it, I left in awe of a life lived in complete faith and with a conviction that can never be shaken. And since then, I raised the bar on my own faith-walk.

Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales, by Randy Singer (Tyndale)

deadSome books take a good 20 pages to set the stage before actually telling the story. That’s not Singer. With him there’s no dillydallying; he pulls you right into the story in the very first page. I like that.

By the same logic, I would have liked to seen the lawyers die a bit sooner. Instead it happens much later, about half way through the book. The title told me they were going to die, so I wanted that pivotal point to show up earlier :)

The story itself is well woven and well told—simple and void of overreaching prose. The storyline holds the reader captive and the ending is well worth the wait. Some may find the sub plots somewhat far-fetched and distracting, but I didn’t. I felt they added to the development of the characters.

Although a pastor, Singer does not unnecessarily pepper his story with random Bible verses or biblical principles. Instead the characters tastefully reflect Singer’s pastoral persona: there are steps taken in faith, grace expressed in second chances, and contentment in living every day—no matter that might look like.

(I received this book free from Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)