Wednesday, February 23, 2011

DISCIPLE by E. G. Lewis

Not all evaluations at Summit Book Reviews are on new releases. We thought we’d share this exceptional review by Sheila Deeth on contributor E.G. Lewis’s book DISCIPLE, published last year.
Disciple is the second book in E.G. Lewis’s Seeds of Christianity Series. Book one, Witness, introduced readers to Shemu’el and Rivkah, Bethlehem shepherds, parted by war and slavery, then re-united by love. In the background, Christ is born in a manger, grows up, and dies on Calvary.

The author’s ability to bring historical periods to life is as powerful in book two as in book one. His characters become part of a Judaic sect who believe in Yeshua HaMashiach—Jesus the Messiah. Moving to Jerusalem, they interact with famous people from the Bible—Peter, Stephen, Saul, Gamaliel…—all called by their contemporary names, all beautifully researched. The feelings of ordinary people, struggling to survive under Roman rule and religious persecution, are as contemporarily relevant as they are historically real. The cities and countryside are beautifully described. And the different civilizations are filled with human depth and authenticity.

Author E.G. Lewis has a wonderful skill with his writing, hiding deep and serious research under simple, honest story-telling. There’s no feel of being overwhelmed with teaching in this novel—neither religious nor historical. There’s no defensive “This is how it must have been.” But there’s a powerful sense of “This is how it could have been.” Famous events take place off-stage, and family events revolve round love and hope. Even the prayers are simple—no super-hero God answering each gloriously uttered prayer, but serious concern for real people, cries for help, desperation, and assistance recognized only after the event, as in real life.

The story travels from Bethlehem to Antioch, where followers meet in a carved-out-cave (there’s a wonderful picture on the author’s website!), until better accommodation is to offered them. Wonderful new characters join those remembered from book one. New storylines grow out of old experience. And the whole comes to a delightful close, even while leaving the reader longing for more.

While the author works on book three, Apostle, readers are invited to read historical notes at the end of the book. To research so deeply and tread so lightly with his fiction is a wonderful talent, and Disciple is another wonderful book, for Christians to share how it might have been, and for the curious to follow a fascinating journey.  — Sheila Deeth

Product Details
Trade Paperback: 324 Pages
Language: English
Publisher: Cape Arago Press
ISBN: 978-0-9825949-2-6

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

JESUS and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brant Pitre

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist

Doubleday Religion (February 15, 2011)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael, Marketing and Publicity Coordinator, Doubleday Religion/ / Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


BRANT PITRE, professor of sacred scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana, received his Ph.D. in New Testament and ancient Judaism from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He is the author of Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile (Baker Academic, 2005).

Visit the author's website.


In Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, Bible scholar Brant Pitre explores the ancient Hebrew traditions that influenced and defined the Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist. Here the author will explore "Communion as the New Passover," the "New Manna from Heaven," and the mysterious "Bread of the Presence" illuminating the heart of Catholicism in bold new ways. If you are looking to deepen your faith in, and understanding of, the inexhaustible treasure that is the Eucharist, then this book is for you.

Product Details:

List Price: $21.99
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Religion (February 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385531842
ISBN-13: 978-0385531849


the mystery of the

last supper

Jesus and Judaism

Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew. He was born of a Jewish mother, received the Jewish sign of circumcision, and grew up in a Jewish town in Galilee. As a young man, he studied the Jewish Torah, celebrated Jewish feasts and holy days, and went on pilgrimages to the Jewish Temple. And, when he was thirty years old, he began to preach in the Jewish synagogues about the fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures, proclaiming the kingdom of God to the Jewish people. At the very end of his life, he celebrated the Jewish Passover, was tried by the Jewish council of priests and elders known as the Sanhedrin, and was crucified outside the great Jewish city of Jerusalem. Above his head hung a placard that read in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” ( John 19:19).

As this list demonstrates, the Jewishness of Jesus is a historical fact. But is it important? If Jesus was a real person who really lived in history, then the answer must be “Yes.” To be sure, over the centuries, Christian theologians have written books about Jesus that don’t spend much time studying his Jewish context. Much of the effort has gone into exploring the question of his divine identity. However, for anyone interested in exploring the humanity of Jesus— especially the original meaning of his words and actions— a focus on his Jewish identity is absolutely necessary. Jesus was a historical figure, living in a particular time and place. Therefore, any attempt to understand his words and deeds must reckon with the fact that Jesus lived in an ancient Jewish context. Although on a few occasions Jesus welcomed non- Jews (Gentiles) who accepted him as Messiah, he himself declared that he had been sent first and foremost “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5). This means that virtually all of his teachings were directed to a Jewish audience in a Jewish setting.

For instance, during his first sermon in his hometown synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus began to reveal his messianic identity in a very Jewish way. He did not shout aloud in the streets or cry out from the rooftops, “I am the Messiah.” Instead, he took up the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and found the place that spoke of the coming of an “anointed” deliverer (see Isaiah 61:1–4). After reading Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus closed the scroll and said to his audience, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). With these words, he proclaimed to his fellow Jews that their long- held hope for the coming of the Messiah, the “anointed one” (Hebrew mashiah), had at last been fulfilled— in him. As we will see over the course of this book, this was the first of many instances in which Jesus would utilize the Jewish Scriptures to reveal himself to a Jewish audience as the long- awaited Jewish Messiah.

You Shall Not Drink the Blood

However, if Jesus did in fact see himself as the Jewish Messiah, then we are faced with a historical puzzle— a mystery of sorts. On the one hand, Jesus drew directly on the Jewish Scriptures as the inspiration for many of his most famous teachings. (Think once again of his sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth.) On the other hand, he said things that appeared to go directly against the Jewish Scriptures. Perhaps the most shocking of these are his teachings about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. According to the Gospel of John, in another Jewish synagogue on another Sabbath day, Jesus said the following words:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of

the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life

in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood

has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last

day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is

drink indeed . . .” This he said in the synagogue,

as he taught at Capernaum. (John 6:53–54, 59)

And then again, at the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed:

Now, as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and

blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples

and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a

cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to

them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood

of the covenant, which is poured out for many for

the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26–28)

What is the meaning of these strange words? What did Jesus mean when he told his Jewish listeners in the synagogue that they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life? And what did he mean when he told his Jewish disciples that the bread of the Last Supper was his “body” and the wine was his “blood”? Why did he command them to eat and drink it?

We’ll explore these questions and many others throughout this book. For now, I simply want to point out that the history of Christianity reveals dozens of different responses. Over the centuries, most Christians have taken Jesus at his word, believing that the bread and wine of the Eucharist really do become the body and blood of Christ. Others, however, especially since the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, think that Jesus was speaking only symbolically. Still others, such as certain modern historians, deny that Jesus could have said such things, even though they are recorded in all four Gospels and in the writings of Saint Paul (see Matthew 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:14–30; John 6:53–58; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26).

The reasons for disagreement are several. First of all is the shocking nature of Jesus’ words. How could anyone, even the Messiah, command his followers to eat his flesh and drink his blood? As the Gospel of John records, when Jesus’ disciples first heard his teaching, they said, “This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?” (John 6:60). Jesus’ words were so offensive to their ears that they could barely listen to him. And indeed, many of them left him, and “no longer walked with him” (John 6:66). And he let them go. From the very beginning, people found Jesus’ command to eat his body and drink his blood extremely offensive.

Another reason for disagreement is somewhat more subtle. Even if Jesus was speaking literally about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, what could such a command even mean? Was he talking about cannibalism— eating the flesh of a human corpse? While there is no explicit commandment against cannibalism in the Jewish Bible, it was certainly considered taboo. Again, the Gospels bear witness to this reaction. “The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” (John 6:52). This is a good question, and it deserves a good answer.

Perhaps the strongest objection to Jesus’ words comes from Jewish Scripture itself. As any ancient Jew would have known, the Bible absolutely forbids a Jewish person to drink the blood of an animal. Although many Gentile religions considered drinking blood to be a perfectly acceptable part of pagan worship, the Law of Moses specifically prohibited it. God had made this very clear on several different occasions. Take, for example, the following Scriptures:

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. . . .

Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. (Genesis 9:3–4)

If any man of the house of Israel or of the strangers

that sojourns among them eats any blood, I will set

my face against that person who eats blood, and

will cut him off from among his people. For the life

of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you

upon the altar to make atonement for your souls;

for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason

of its life. Therefore I have said to the people of

Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither

shall any stranger who sojourns among you

eat blood. (Leviticus 17:10–12)

You may slaughter and eat flesh within any of your

towns, as much as you desire. . . . Only you shall not

eat the blood; you shall pour it out upon the earth

like water. (Deuteronomy 12:16)

Clearly, the commandment against drinking animal blood was serious. To break it would mean being “cut off” from God and from his people. Notice also that it was a universal law. God expected not only the chosen people of Israel to keep it, but any Gentile “strangers” living among them. Finally, note the reason for the prohibition. People were not to consume blood because “the life” or “the soul” (Hebrew nephesh) of the animal is in the blood. As Leviticus states, “It is the blood that makes atonement, by the power of its life.” While scholars continue to debate exactly what this means, one thing is clear: in the ancient world, the Jewish people were known for their refusal to consume blood. Jesus’ words at the Last Supper become even more mysterious with this biblical background in mind. As a Jew, how could he ever have commanded his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood? Wouldn’t this mean explicitly breaking the biblical law against consuming blood? Indeed, even if Jesus meant his words only symbolically, how could he say such things? Wouldn’t his command mean transgressing the spirit of the Law, if not the letter? As the Jewish scholar Geza Vermes points out,

[T]he imagery of eating a man’s body and especially

drinking his blood . . . , even after allowance

is made for metaphorical language, strikes a totally

foreign note in a Palestinian Jewish cultural setting

(cf. John 6.52). With their profoundly rooted

blood taboo, Jesus’ listeners would have been overcome

with nausea at hearing such words.

So, what should we make of these words of Jesus?

Through Ancient Jewish Eyes

In this book, I will try to show that Jesus should be taken at his word. Along with the majority of Christians throughout history, I believe that Jesus himself taught that he was really and truly present in the Eucharist. In doing so, I will follow the Apostle Paul, a first- century Pharisee and an expert in the Jewish Law, when he said,

I speak as to sensible men, judge for

yourselves what I say.

The cup of blessing which we bless,

is it not a communion in the blood of Christ?

The bread which we break,

is it not a communion in the body of Christ?

(1 Corinthians 10:16)

My goal is to explain how a first- century Jew like Jesus, Paul, or any of the apostles, could go from believing that drinking any blood— much less human blood— was an abomination before God, to believing that drinking the blood of Jesus was actually necessary for Christians: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” ( John 6:53).

In order to achieve this goal, we will have to go back in time to the first- century a.d., in order to understand what Jesus was doing and saying in his original context. To a certain extent, this will mean taking off our modern “eyeglasses” and trying to see things as the first Jewish Christians saw them. When we look at the mystery of the Last Supper through ancient Jewish eyes, in the light of Jewish worship, beliefs, and hopes for the future, we will discover something remarkable. We will discover that there is much more in common between ancient Judaism and early Christianity than we might at first have expected. In fact, we will find that it was precisely the Jewish faith of the first Christians that enabled them to believe that the bread and wine of the Eucharist were really the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, as soon as we try to do this, we are faced with a problem. In order for us to hear Jesus in the way his first disciples would have heard him, we need to be familiar with two key sources of information: (1) the Jewish Scriptures, commonly known as the Old Testament, and (2) ancient Jewish tradition, enshrined in writings not contained in the Jewish Bible.

Now, if my experience with students is any indicator, many modern readers— especially Christians— find the Jewish Scriptures to be challenging and unfamiliar territory. This is especially true of those passages in the Old Testament that describe ancient Jewish rituals, sacrifice, and worship— passages that will be very important for us as we explore Jesus’ last meal with his friends before his crucifixion. As for ancient Jewish writings outside the Bible— such as the Mishnah and the Talmud— although many people have heard of them, they are often not widely read by non- Jewish readers aside from specialists in biblical studies.

For this reason, before beginning, it will be helpful to briefly identify the Jewish writings that I will be drawing on over the course of this book. (The reader may want to mark this page for future reference as we move along.) I want to stress here that I am not suggesting that Jesus himself would have read any of these, some of which were written down long after his death. What I am arguing is that many of them bear witness to ancient Jewish traditions that may have circulated at the time of Jesus and which demonstrate remarkable power to explain passages in the New Testament that reflect Jewish practices and beliefs.

With that in mind, after the Old Testament itself, some of the most important Jewish sources I will draw on are as follows:

The Dead Sea Scrolls: an ancient collection of Jewish manuscripts copied sometime between the second century b.c. and 70 a.d. This collection contains numerous writings from the Second Temple period, during which Jesus lived.
The Works of Josephus: a Jewish historian and Pharisee who lived in the first century a.d. Josephus’ works are extremely important witnesses to Jewish history and culture at the time of Jesus and the early Church.
The Mishnah: an extensive collection of the oral traditions of Jewish rabbis who lived from about 50 b.c. to 200 a.d. Most of these traditions are focused on legal and liturgical matters. For rabbinic Judaism, the Mishnah remains the most authoritative witness to Jewish tradition outside of the Bible itself.
The Targums: ancient Jewish translations and paraphrases of the Bible from Hebrew into Aramaic. These emerged sometime after the Babylonian exile (587 b.c.), when many Jews began speaking Aramaic rather than Hebrew. Scholars disagree about their exact dates.
The Babylonian Talmud: a vast compilation— more than thirty volumes— of the traditions of Jewish Rabbis who lived from around 220 to 500 a.d. The Talmud consists of both legal opinions and biblical interpretations, in the form of a massive commentary on the Mishnah.
The Midrashim: ancient Jewish commentaries on various books of the Bible. Although parts of these are later than the Talmud, they contain many interpretations of Scripture attributed to Rabbis who lived during the times of the Mishnah and the Talmud.

These are by no means all of the ancient Jewish writings that are relevant for understanding the New Testament, but they are the ones I will be looking at most frequently in this book.

In particular, I want to highlight the importance of the rabbinic literature: the Mishnah, the Talmud, and the Midrashim. Although many of these writings were edited after the time of Jesus himself, both rabbinic experts and New Testament scholars agree that, if used with caution, they are still very important for us to study. For one thing, the rabbis often claim to be preserving traditions that go back to a time when the Temple still existed (before 70 a.d.). In many cases, there are good reasons to take seriously these claims. Moreover, unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls or the writings of Josephus, the rabbinic literature continues to play an important role in the life of Jewish communities to this day. For this reason, I will pay particular attention to the Mishnah and the Talmud, which are still considered by many Jews to be the most authoritative witnesses to ancient Jewish tradition.

With all of this background in mind, we can now focus our attention on those ancient Jewish beliefs about the coming of the Messiah that may shed light on the Eucharistic words of Jesus. Unfortunately, many modern readers are only vaguely familiar with Jewish beliefs regarding the coming of the Messiah. In fact, a good deal of what most Christian readers have learned about Jewish messianic ideas is often oversimplified, riddled with exaggerations, or even downright false.

Therefore, in order for us to situate Jesus’ teachings in their historical context, we need to back up a bit and answer a few broader questions: What were first- century Jews actually waiting for God to do? We know that many were expecting him to send the Messiah, but what did they think the Messiah would be like? What did they believe would happen when he finally came?

Our Review:
One of the dividing doctrines that separate Catholics and Protestants is a belief in the Real Presence.

In JESUS and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, Brant Pitre presents powerful and compelling arguments in support of this ancient belief. He reaches deep into the Old Testament, the Talmud, Mishnah, and other ancient Jewish writings to trace the Eucharist as it was prefigured in ancient Judaism through the Passover, the manna, and the Bread of the Presence —the Shewbread— kept in the Tabernacle of Moses and later in the Temple.

But Pitre doesn’t stop there. He also examines Messianic hopes of First Century Judaism which, we learn, extended far beyond a simple expectation of a political leader. He cites Jewish literature that speaks of a new Exodus, a new Passover and a new manna and then shows how the words and actions of Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled those expectations. To close the circle, he references writings of early Church Fathers to demonstrate their agreement with this conclusion.

I cannot praise this book enough. Pitre pulls aside a curtain to reveal some of the forgotten roots of Christianity. The book is very readable and his well-documented presentation never bores. Though clearly written from a Catholic perspective, I wholeheartedly recommend JESUS and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist to Protestant readers seeking to understand the basis of Catholic beliefs regarding the Eucharist.

— E G Lewis

Monday, February 14, 2011

PASSPORT THROUGH DARKNESS: A True Story of Danger and Second Chances by Kimberly L. Smith

Passport Through Darkness: A True Story of Danger and Second Chances is a non-fiction, first-person account of Kimberly L. Smith’s unexpected introduction to sex trafficking in Portugal and how that led to her efforts to rescue orphans from starvation and death in Sudan. Interwoven between her own personal experiences, are stories of the sufferings of Christian Sudanese men, women and children enduring unbelievable circumstances...the loss of their homes and loved ones, torture, rape, maiming, starvation and worse.

Why Christians? Because they are the ones whose villages are burned, with countless numbers killed, tortured, maimed, raped and left homeless by marauding Arab Muslim terrorists, called the Janjaweed. However, the Janjaweed eventually targeted African Muslims who had earlier converted to Islam rather than be killed. The lighter-skinned Arabs call them contemptible, and despite conversion, Sudanese Muslims have also become targets along with the Christians…so much for protecting themselves by converting.

Smith ably describes her own culture shock, and then acceptance and love for the people she tries to help. There is the horror of small orphaned children being carried off by hyena’s or wild dogs. In addition to facing starvation, they all need a safe place to sleep. Many climb into scarce tree tops where they may topple out and be injured, or fall prey to wild animals.

James Lual Atak was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan who gave up an opportunity to come to the USA in favor of helping other abandoned children like he was. It was James who gathered the first 153 orphans to himself and that’s where the orphanage began.

Eventually, using brave Christian men from Kenya willing to risk their lives, “Mama Kimberly” is able to have buildings constructed to shelter many, but not all, of the orphans. Her efforts are limited and many still die, but more live than would have if she had not raised money to provide buildings for the orphanage, food and education.
Although she reveals personal stories of the pain and suffering of a few individuals, she also recounts the problems her trips back and forth between Sudan and the USA caused in her marriage and how they were ultimately resolved.

This book will make you grateful to live in a Western culture and make you want to help others in need through no fault of their own. There are still thousands waiting for help.

This is not a long book, and I wanted more stories of the people in Sudan and those who now survive in the orphanage built there. For more information, here is a link to her organization:

Make Way Partners:

We are grateful to B & B Media Group, Inc. for providing us with a copy to review. 
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (January 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 143470212X
ISBN-13: 978-1434702128

Friday, February 11, 2011

WINTER HAVEN by Athol Dickson

"Do not seek the truth, and find no evil."

Is there a more spiritually poignant—or intellectually alluring—tagline than this?

So, why Winter Haven? A few words on the story and the writing.

The Story: Winter Haven is a town on an island of the same name slouching listlessly across the Gulf of Maine. Its inhabitants, isolated by fifty miles of seawater from mainstream reality and unimpeded by centuries of somewhere else's progress, defy such progress and create a reality of their own. And they're fine with that. Until one of them places a phone call.

On the surface, Vera Gamble of Dallas, Texas, is unremarkable. A mousy accountant, her self-imposed life of obscurity comprises work, rented movies, frozen pizza and being taken advantage of. And she's fine with that. Until the phone call comes.

Vera's autistic brother, Siggy, missing for thirteen years, has washed up on Winter Haven's shore. On a rare impulse, Vera slips the comfortable prison of her double-deadbolted apartment and ventures to Winter Haven to claim Siggy's body. Immediately, she meets with her first of many shocks on this island full of mysteries. Like Winter Haven, time and distance play tricks on Siggy—he still appears to be the fifteen-year old boy he was when he ran away from home.

So Vera takes her first faltering steps on the road to discovering the truth about Siggy's demise, the island's secrets, but mostly about herself. A collection of quirky townspeople — oh, has Mr. Dickson captured the small-town Mainer! — propel and impede Vera in her quest. She stumbles awkwardly into a mystifying tale of a vanished Pilgrim colony, around the eerie specter of the woman reputed to be the reason for the Pilgrim's plight, through the dusty rooms of a dilapidated mansion from another era, and into the disturbingly enticing arms of handsome Evan Frost, who may not be who he seems to be...or might be who he seems to be...or who he seems to be might not be what she thinks...well, you get the picture.

Oh, and Vera has a few issues of her own, secrets she's suppressed since her childhood. The secrets burst back to the surface of her consciousness, unbidden and unwanted—no, deathly feared—and force her to face the reality of who she is. For Vera, too, has a 'handicap' to deal with, a malady that may just hold the key to her own sanity—just as Siggy's held the key to his.

The Writing: Athol Dickson. 'Nuff said.

Winter Haven is the suspense reader's dream. But it's more than that. Look back up at the tagline. Uh huh, you'll get much more out of it than you expect. If ya pass up this chance for a wicked good read, it'll be yer own fault, ayuh.

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Bethany House; Reprint edition (March 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764206567
ISBN-13: 978-0764206566

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

COME TO ME by Laura J Davis

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Come to Me

Word Alive Press (October 21, 2010)

***Special thanks to Laura J. Davis for sending me a review copy.***


A singer and songwriter for over 25 years, Laura J. Davis began writing full-time, after an emergency surgery caused the loss of her singing voice. She is a member of Canada's largest community of writers who are Christian, The Word Guild, where she volunteers as a first editor. Laura and her husband, Jim, reside in London, Ontario.

Visit the author's website.


Step back in time and experience the life of Christ through the eyes of His mother. Come to Me offers the reader an intimate glimpse into the lives of Jesus and His family in a way that brings them to life. The themes of trusting in God and surrendering to Him are evident throughout this remarkable story.

From the cradle to the cross, Come to Me speaks to the hearts of those who are seeking, and deepens the faith of long-time believers. It is a moving tale of the life of Christ from the mother who raised Him to become the Saviour of the world.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.95
Paperback: 338 pages
Publisher: Word Alive Press (October 21, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1435705564
ISBN-13: 978-1435705562


Jerusalem 44 A.D.

She sat outside for over an hour meditating, praying and remembering. The rising sun wrapped her in a warm cocoon that threatened to lull her back to sleep. Mary arched her back and stretched. She ran her hands over the cream-coloured pillow covering her precious bench and yawned. Joseph had surprised her with the bench the first year they were married. They would often sit together in the early morning hours, when the rest of the world was still asleep and the sun was waking up.

How she longed for those times again, when Joseph would take her hand and they would begin the day in prayer and dedication to Yahweh. My sweet Joseph, how I long to hear your voice and feel your embrace once more.

She had known Joseph for most of her life. In a village as small as Nazareth, it would have been unusual if their paths had never crossed. Older than her by twelve years, Joseph had watched Mary grow from a child into a beautiful young woman. With careful planning, he had placed himself in her life with the purpose of marrying her when she came of age. He had called her ‘Little Mary’ and she had called him her ‘Gentle Giant,’ names said with an affection that had grown into a deep and lasting love.

“You’re such a long way up, Joseph!” she would laugh. “I get a sore neck just looking at you, much less kissing you.”

Then one day he had come into the house and said, “Little Mary, I have a surprise for you, but first, you must close your eyes!” Mary obeyed and felt Joseph sweep her up in his muscular arms and place her on something soft and luxurious.

“Open your eyes now,” Joseph said, his brown eyes twinkling with excitement.

“Oh, Joseph!” For the first time in their marriage, she was able to look straight into his eyes.

“What is this?” She looked at her bare feet and wiggled her toes into the cream-coloured pillow that stretched across a new oak bench. A small gasp of surprise escaped her lips. “It is beautiful.” She sighed as she ran her hands along the back of the bench. “Hear O Israel…Oh, Joseph! You have carved the Shema into it. Oh, how precious.” She clasped her hands together and turned toward her husband. “You made me a prayer bench.” Her almond shaped eyes shone with delight.

“Ah, well … my motives are not that pure I am afraid.”

She tilted her head. “Oh?”

“Yes, I was thinking we could use it so you wouldn’t get a sore neck kissing me.” He wrapped his arms around her tiny waist pulling her close. “Or you could use it for praying.” He shrugged and smiled. “Your choice.”

She laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck. “I think for now I shall use it for kissing you and later I will use it for prayer.”

Mary sighed, a sleepy smile lingering on her face. They had dubbed it the kissing bench. They had thought it was something their children would laugh and giggle over in the years to come. What a wonderful life we made together!

It was a good marriage, despite its uncertain beginnings. So many events had happened in those early days that Mary could not imagine which memory she cherished most—the angelic visitation, the birth of Jesus, or his resurrection. The enormity of what had transpired in her life had humbled her more than she realized.

Of course, she would never cherish the memories of what they had done to her firstborn son. Forgiving them was easier than forgetting. She could never forget. How long had it been since that horrible day? She could still smell the blood and hear Jesus’ screams mingled with her own. Her chest grew tight with grief as she closed her eyes to dispel the images that had haunted her for the last eleven years.

She was fifty-eight years old and until six months ago had been with her nephew, the Apostle John, on a brief visit to Rome to strengthen the churches there. When the Emperor Claudius began expelling Jews from Rome, John had decided that she should return to his home in Jerusalem for her own safety.

“Poor John,” she muttered as she recalled the argument she had had with him over returning.

“It’s too dangerous for you in Rome now, woman!” He had pleaded with her all day and finally in anger and frustration gathered up her belongings and started stuffing them into a satchel. “As the mother of our Lord and a Jew, your life is in more danger than mine right now. This discussion is over. You will leave without any more arguments.”

Mary remembered folding her arms across her chest and swallowing the angry words that had threatened to spill from her lips. No one had ever talked to her in such a manner.

“John, if it is dangerous, why are you staying? Should I, the mother of the Messiah, become a coward and run to save my life when others are dying? It is not right. Your brother James was beheaded for proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. I should do no less.”

“Jesus charged me with your safety, Aunt Mary. Would you have me dishonour my Lord by shirking my responsibilities?”

That was when she had seen the pain and anguish on his weathered face. She had finally understood. He could not bear losing her as he had his brother and so she submitted to his wishes.

He took her to Jerusalem, stayed for a while to help her adjust and then returned to Rome to minister to the churches there. She now spent her days with the other believers in Jerusalem, meeting together regularly for prayer and fellowship. Today she was expecting Luke, a Greek physician led to salvation through the Apostle Paul.

As she waited for his arrival, she kicked off her sandals and wiggled her toes. Although it had rained the night before, it was now a beautiful spring day. Mary loved the earthy smell in the air after a rainfall. It was a combination of mud, water and worms that oddly reminded her of the seaside. Breathing deeply, she leaned her head against the rough stone of John’s home, stretched out her bare feet and plopped them in the nearest puddle.

From the time she was a child, she had often gone barefoot through the hills of Galilee after it had rained, for she loved to squish her toes in the mud and feel the cool blades of grass on her feet. In Jerusalem a plot of grass was hard to come by, which made her miss her home in Nazareth all the more. Joseph had always worried that she might cut her feet on the sharp rocks, or sting them on the nettles hidden throughout the Galilean countryside.

She sighed and closed her eyes. Oh Joseph, my darling, there is no fear of that here.

“He is risen!”

Startled, Mary shielded her eyes from the sun and looked up to see a blonde, blue-eyed man, with a clean-shaven face and strong jaw line.

“He is risen indeed! You must be Luke. John has told me so much about you. Come to check up on me have you?” She smiled, grabbed the bowl of olives that sat beside her and put it on her lap.

Luke chuckled, his dimples showing off his chiselled features. “Actually, I just wanted the chance to meet my Lord’s mother - but don’t tell John. He thinks I’m here to inquire after your health.”

She laughed, her brown eyes sparkling. “You don’t fool me—either of you. John sends so many different people to check on my welfare that it’s a wonder I can remember all their names.”

She patted the bench inviting Luke to sit. Taking some olives from the bowl, Mary proceeded to pit them. Luke watched in fascination at how quickly her slender fingers worked.

“May I help?” He asked.

Raising her eyebrows, Mary stared at Luke for a moment, then nodded and placed the bowl between them. “Jesus used to like pitting olives too. He said he found it calming.” She giggled. “Unfortunately, he ate more than he pitted.”

Luke chuckled as he popped an olive into his mouth.

“I’ll tell you what I told Jesus,” she said, shaking her finger at him. “If you eat more than you pit, then you’ve just had your supper.”

“Well then, I’d best stop eating them, as I’m used to eating more than olives at my meals.”

“Get to work then and I might feed you more than olives!”

Content in an affable silence, they settled into their work. Luke immediately felt welcome, as if he had known Mary his whole life and he told her so. Mary blushed and thanked him.

“Oh, my goodness!” She suddenly jumped up from the bench and ran into the house.

Luke, perplexed at her sudden disappearance, continued pitting olives. He was about to follow her into the house when she returned with a basin of water to wash the dust off his feet. She knelt on the ground and removed his sandals. Embarrassed that the mother of the Lord was washing his feet, Luke swallowed his discomfort and allowed her to minister to him, remembering the lesson Jesus had taught his disciples the last night they were together.

When she finished, she proceeded to wash her own feet and then put her sandals back on. This led her to tell him about Joseph and his fear of her running barefoot.

“He was such a wonderful man,” she said. “He was a man who feared the Almighty, a good man—especially when I found myself with child.” She poured the dirty water from the basin onto the ground and then sat beside him. “You cannot begin to imagine what it was like during those days! I was fourteen years old, betrothed to a man much older than I and with child –but not with his child.”

She grew still and stared off into the distance. Luke gazed at her in silence, revelling in the fact that he was with the woman who had given birth to the Saviour of the world. He wondered how she had handled that night. Where was she when the labour had begun? Who had delivered the baby? Had there been any complications? Luke had so many questions, he hardly knew where to begin.

Mary’s eyelids dropped as she let her mind wander back to the night of Jesus’ birth. She had been surprised at the pain. In fact, she had never realized it would hurt so badly. Afterwards, oh afterwards, the reward of her son was so great that she had thought her heart would split wide open with love. The King of the world had been born to her!

“Happy thoughts?”

Mary’s eyes flew open. Blushing, she smiled and said, “His birth—it amazes me still.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, what was it like back then? When you found out you were … um … with child?”

“It’s been over forty-four years since Jesus’ birth.” She shrugged. “Aside from my immediate family, I’ve never really talked to anyone about it before.” Mary sighed and pitted more olives as she contemplated how much she should tell the young doctor.

And now our Review:
Two thousand years of Christianity has caused many to view the great heroes of the Bible as the larger-than-life saints they became rather than the real people they were. Out of a fear of irreverence, much Biblical fiction—movies as well as books— keeps Peter, Paul, John, Mary and others at arm’s length, never permitting them to come down to earth.

This is not the case in Laura J Davis’ novel, Come to Me. She set out to bring the Holy Family into clear focus and has done so by allowing the reader to step back in time and experience Jesus of Nazareth the way his contemporaries knew him.

This well-written and interesting account of the life of Christ unfolds as Mary relates the events of her son’s life to Luke the Evangelist. Davis’ Jesus is bold yet charismatic…a true man’s man. I particularly enjoyed her portrayal of Jesus purposefully, and lovingly, distancing himself from his mother as he prepared to begin his public ministry. If you enjoy Biblical fiction centered on the life of Christ, I recommend Come to Mefor your consideration.

You should know that one dollar from every copy of Come to Me sold, will be donated to Compassion Canada's Unsponsored Children's Fund. Compassion Canada is the Canadian arm of Compassion International.

— E G Lewis

Sunday, February 6, 2011

LOST MISSION, by Athol Dickson

This was remarkable. Just remarkable.
Athol Dickson's writing credentials are impeccable, and one need only read Lost Mission to discover why. Painstakingly researched and masterfully told, the story bookends lives separated by 200 years in time, but intertwined in eternity.

In 1767, Fray Alejandro left his Franciscan monastery in Italy in response to a call to minister to the heathen natives of New Spain. Adventures and misadventures befall the holy man as he strives to establish La Misión de Santa Delores in Alta California with his abbot, Fray Guillermo, and brother priest, Fray Benico. All three padres are forever changed in their endeavor. Fray Alejandro bequeaths an unlikely legacy that changes the lives of all who behold it. Especially four lives in our present day.

Lupe de la Garza of Rincón de Delores, home village to Fray Alejandro in his final days, senses a similar call to witness the Gospel to the lost Americanos north of the border. Carrying Fray Alejandro's legacy in a cloth sack, Lupe sets off on her mission. Enter Ramón Rodriguez, on a quest to earn money for his family and his dream back in Mexico, who leads her into the desert wilderness over the border only then to lose her. Discovered and saved by newly ordained Tucker Rue, himself seeking divine guidance in the solitude of the desert, Lupe joins him in his ministry to the Latinos of Wilson City. Seeking to renew her call to preach to the Americanos, Lupe leaves Tucker's ministry and ends up in the employ of the rich and powerful Delano Wright. The stage is now set.

The lives and fortunes of these four people, who couldn't be farther apart on the spiritual and socio-economic spectrums, become inextricably enmeshed--glued fast by Alejandro's legacy and a mysterious figure who himself spans the centuries. Faith and principle collide with temptation and human weakness with predictable results. Well, maybe not so predictable.

The story reaches its climax when the dormant and lethal specter of the long-lost Misión de Santa Delores arises and engulfs modern-day Alta California as it did in Fray Alejandro's day. Redemption is granted, restitution is exacted, and nothing is left to fate.

There are many lessons we learn from Mr. Dickson’s skillful pen, perhaps the most notable being that the consequences of our actions, words and even thoughts—good and bad—affect not only our own lives, but the lives of those around us. And yes, even of those who come ages after us, those whom we will never meet this side of eternity.

This is simply a must read for both the story and the storytelling. Like an intricate and costly tapestry, the storyline is illuminated and enhanced by a frame of extraordinary prose. It isn't just a great read, it's an emotional, intellectual and spiritual investment.

Less than halfway through Lost Mission, I ordered two more of Mr. Dickson's books. You'll be seeing his name again on this blog.

Product Details:
Paperback: 350 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Howard Books
ISBN-10: 1416583475