Psalms Alive! (review)

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Psalms Alive!Psalms Alive! by David Kitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Psalms Alive! author, pastor, and dramatist David Kitz takes us on a journey through thirteen selected psalms. In the Preface Kitz explains why he wrote the book:

“For the past number of years I have been bringing the Psalms to life for audiences through the medium of live drama. Here now in book form, from a dramatist’s perspective I provide a glimpse into the prayers and praise of the psalmists” 18.

Each of the book’s 26 chapters begins with the quoted scripture passage under discussion. This is followed by Kitz expanding on it in a variety of ways that include personal stories, explanations of biblical customs and settings, devotional inspiration, and challenges to apply the scripture’s advice to life. Each chapter ends with a “Bringing Life to the Psalms” section consisting of three to four discussion and personal application questions.

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Bible art journal on Psalm 19:14 using a quote from Psalms Alive! (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

Kitz’s writing is lively, picturesque, and wise. He expands liberally on the ideas presented in the Bible passage. He doesn’t leaves us in the theoretical clouds though, but makes sure his conclusions connect to everyday living. My book is full of underlined sections. Here are a few of my favourite quotes:

From the Preface: “When we handle the Word of God, we are handling life. When we take hold of the Word of God, it takes hold of us” – 17.

From a chapter on Psalm 19: “Your heavenly Father does not need a stethoscope to check on the condition of your heart; he needs only to listen to the words coming out of your mouth” – 43.

From a chapter on Psalm 103: “Relationship is always the wellspring of all revelation. It is while we are in God’s presence that we discover the mind of Christ” – 149.

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Bible art journal detail (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

I used this book, along with others in an online creative Bible study and found much inspiration in it for Bible art journaling. It has deepened and broadened my appreciation of the psalms discussed. It would make an excellent textbook (along with the Bible, of course) for men’s or women’s Bible studies.

I received this book as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review and participating in the study.

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Annie Vallotton

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Annie Vallotton Bible illustrations

Annie Vallotton drawings from Good News For Modern Man, pp. 114 and 165 (1966 edition).

Annie Vallotton

“I drew some of the drawings eighty to ninety times before I achieved the one I wanted. I wanted to get to the truth, which is the most important thing.” Annie Vallotton ( from an interview on the Bible Illustration Blog)

Pharisee stands tall
hands clasped over robed paunch
beatific smile on heaven-raised face
while tiny Publican (rendered in five lines)
crouches in the distance
head down, shoulders stooped.

Beat-up rag of a traveler lies
arm out, helpless. Good Samaritan
kneeling beside grabs attention
with the tilt of his featureless head.
Even donkey across the road
looks concerned.

Minimalist, stick-figure theology
cartoon-like but not funny
iconic, simple
elegant, out-of-time
“maximum expression
with a minimum of lines”
more literal than interpretive
emotion-filled as freeze frames in a play
Annie Vallotton’s black-and-white
line-drawings illuminating
Good News for Modern Man.

Illustrations so simple they look
like a child could draw them.
So clear a child can grasp their truth
and adults looking on become
children again.

© 2015 by Violet Nesdoly (All Rights Reserved)

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I was fascinated by the Annie Vallotton illustrations when I first saw them long ago in my once new, now yellowing paperback Good News For Modern Man. When I was putting my children’s devotions online some years ago and seeking pictures, I contacted the Good News Bible people and they actually gave me permission to use the Vallotton illustrations on the blog (with attribution)!

Annie Vallotton was born in Switzerland in 1915, lived much of her life in France, and died only two years ago (in December 2013) at the age of 98. Articles and interviews reveal that she was a gifted but humble woman who valued truth, loved the Bible and its stories, and wanted people everywhere, especially children, to love it too.

Today I draw attention to her patience, obvious from the epigram in the poem above. Imagine drawing something 80 to 90 times to get it right!

Her example is a nudge to me to let things take the time they need. As a writer, I want to have the patience to ruminate, to give thoughts, ideas, and opinions time to form, to proofread carefully, to revise after the piece has had some time to cool, to curb my fingers from typing the flash emotional response on social media. Above all, I want to take the time to step back and consider, am I being loyal to God’s truth in all that I write—even the things that make no mention of God at all?

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spiritual-journey-framedThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning, where the theme this week is PATIENCE.

Unafraid (review)

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Unafraid: Trusting God in an Unsafe WorldUnafraid: Trusting God in an Unsafe World by Susie Davis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Already a fearful child, the sight of an eighth grade classmate—a neighbor boy—gunning down a favorite teacher in May of 1978 proved to be too much for Susie Davis. As a result, she developed irrational routines like hiding in her closet when she was home alone and later in life checking the whole house for intruders before taking her children inside. For years she functioned this way, covering her coping mechanisms well.

She did eventually break down and that led to a season of God peeling the layers off the fears that held her in their power. With the help of her husband, friends, and especially God she was able to break fear’s chains. Unafraid is the story of her journey from fear to wholeness and her message of hope to other fearful people.

Davis’s writing voice is friendly and encouraging, though she does sometimes lapse into lecture mode. She uses a lot of sentence fragments which I found distracting as they drew my attention away from content and to the writing itself.

The book does contain sound advice about how to counter fear. However, two flies in the ointment spoiled my enjoyment of this memoir.

In a chapter where she likens the trauma of a bad event to Good Friday and recovery from it to Easter Sunday, she calls the time between these things Saturday, writing these words:

“Saturday is the ‘What the holy heck just happened?’ kind of feeling” – Kindle Location 854.

After seeing the word “holy” used often in this book in reference to God, I found its use here as a minced oath puzzling and disappointing. It cast a shadow over the whole book for me.

In another chapter describing her “dark night of the soul” she waits to get one of God’s “love notes” to her—perceived communication from Him through circumstances or His voice coming through her thoughts. However, not once in that section does she mention the possibility of hearing from Him by reading the Bible—the place most Christians would go first to get a message from God.

These quibbles aside, there is also lots of wisdom and good advice for the fearful in this book, wisdom like:

“So many of the giants I face are in my head. Fear whispers unspeakable things and I flinch. … This is when it’s time for me to take captive, cast down, and throw those thoughts in prison. And I do that by worshiping Jesus. Just as the wise men worshiped Jesus, I lay prostrate fore God and not before my fears” – KL 1504.

and

“… I must daily walk away from fear. And the only way I can hope to do that is to think of fear the same way my Father things of fear. As an idol in my life” – KL 1726.

The book concludes with a set of Discussion Questions and a Study Guide, making it useful for book clubs as well as group and personal study.

I received Unafraid as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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