January 16, 2016

The Word Center: centered on words and The Word



After a few years of trying to maintain several blogs with regular posts on Blogger, I saw a need to simplify! So a new umbrella blog has been set up for The Word Center on WordPress.

Lord willing, the blog will include Bible prayers, Bible poetry, devotionals, articles on writing, biblical principles of Christian healing, and reviews of new editions or translations of the Bible.

If you're a worker of words or a minister of The Word, I pray you will Follow the blog and find what you need. If not, please leave a question, helpful comment, or suggestion for future posts.

Thanks and blessings.

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016

...

January 15, 2016

THE Bible for Catholic Christians


My title for this review makes a rather bold statement, especially since I’ve reviewed some wonderful editions from various Catholic Bible publishers over the years. As I recall, I recommended each one in earlier posts, which you can read by scrolling through this blog and finding ones that interest you.

However, the title - The Didache Bible - surely did not sound interesting to me! Although the word “didache” labels something as instructive, it’s generally used in the negative sense of getting preachy. If, therefore, someone says, “Your writing is very didactic,” they’re probably not giving you a compliment and might even be saying, “B-o-r-i-n-g!”

So, why do I hold The Didache Bible in such high esteem that I purchased a hardback covered in leather as shown below?

Besides being published in the beloved RSV (Revised Standard Version) text with all of the deuterocanonical (aka apocryphal) books included, this Bible has footnote-commentaries from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), which brings you the full Bible and the teachings of the church in one priceless book.

Let’s take, for example, the footnote for Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth:

This simple statement that initiates the first book of the Old Testament reveals that God is eternal, i.e., his existence transcends time, and all time is eternally present for him. Second, God is omnipotent. Everything that exists originated with him. By his Word, he brought all of creation into existence without the use of pre-existing materials. Finally, God alone is the Creator, and he has authority over all creation. We affirm God as Father and omnipotent Creator when we pray the first lines of both the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. (CCC 268, 279-280, 290-295)”

To give you an example from the New Testament, I flipped open the book and saw the short but profound note for Matthew 7:3-5:

Failure to see our own faults leads invariably to harsh and unfair judgment of others. (CCC 1861)”

Naturally, I had to look up that number in my copy of the CCC, where I read then read again with bold emphasis:

Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of santifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offence, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

Deep! So it could take a lifetime to get the full value of this Bible and commentary. If that sounds overwhelming, take heart! The front matter has pages to ease our study and research, for example, by giving us a brief description of each book of the Bible followed by chronologies of the Old Testament and the New.

Other upfront pages list the parables and miracles of Jesus with back pages providing maps, a brief concordance, and a helpful glossary that’s like a mini-dictionary of Bible people, places, objects, and ideas – almost everything we need to know about our Judeo-Christian faith, Jesus Christ, and the Church. All that's left is putting what we read into practice and developing our relationship with our Lord God.


©2016, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a poet, writer, and highly ecumenical lover of Christ, the Bible, and the Church in all its parts and peoples.


The Didache Bible, hardback covered with leather



In case you want to explore further, this update of the CCC makes the perfect companion to The Didache Bible:

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paperback



January 11, 2016

Big Dreams Big Prayers Bible For Kids, NIV


If you’ve been following these Bible reviews for a while, you know that ZonderKidz has kindly sent me review copies of several children’s editions of the Bible with a different emphasis for each. Now, in the Big Dreams Big Prayers Bible For Kids, NIV, the focus is on describing prayer and encouraging young readers to develop lifelong patterns of prayer.

For example, the first page, “What Is Prayer?” answers by saying, “Prayer is simply being in a conversation with God – talking and listening – so you can build a relationship with him and get to know his ways.” The page then encourages readers to notice these features:

Highlighted verses to memorize from the New International Version (NIV) text
Conversation with God devotions
Reading plans, offering three options
Prayer Journal with pages in the back of the book to record prayers and responses

Besides the emphasis on prayer, this children’s edition prefaces each book of the Bible with key questions regarding the Who, Why, What, When, and Where of each book. Those brief introductions also list key people in the adjacent chapters and some of the Bible stories to explore, such as “Noah builds an ark” in Genesis 6 and “Joseph becomes a ruler” in Genesis 39-41.

Young readers will also find pages of “Big dreams, Big prayers” interspersed throughout the book. For example, in Numbers a page insert highlights verse 12:13 with Moses’ prayer for his sister Miriam to be healed followed by a contemporary devotional.

Nice, thick, slick inserts can be found, too, with excellent information but, unfortunately, placed randomly, rather than beside the chapters to which they refer. For example, “10 commandments for kids” beautifully explains those important words from God, but the page is placed toward the end of Psalms, rather than in Exodus or Deuteronomy. On the flipside of that page, the Lord’s Prayer can be found, instead of in Matthew.

Despite that perplexing choice, the inserts speak to young readers about deep truths of Christianity in ways they can understand. For example, the insert “The ABCs of becoming a Christian,” shows:

Admit
Believe
Confess


Beneath each of those words, readers will find a clear explanation and relevant Bible verses to encourage them to consider what God has to say and then pray. May we do the same in Jesus’ Name.


©2016, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a poet, writer, and lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the Church. Recently she began writing praise poetry posted on PraisePoems.us.

Big Dreams Big Prayers Bible For Kids, NIV, hardback




January 2, 2016

Start the New Year with the King James Study Bible


Christians from almost every church denomination have loved the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) for centuries. Our hearts beat to its iambic rhythms. Our breath holds its pentameter when we read the words aloud, and when we memorize a favorite verse or passage of scripture, the KJV is the default setting we often seek for familiarity and a lift of poetic beauty.

The vocabulary in the KJV inevitably lifts us too! Translated in the time of Shakespeare, one can readily speculate on the identities of the members of the translation committee, but regardless of who helped, the English language itself was still in the making, which contributed to the KJV as surely as the KJV has influenced poetry and the English vocabulary ever since. Thus, hence, and therefore, every English-speaking poet, writer, and all-around Christian doth well to hath a KJV.

The vital next step, though, is reading it! And here’s where many have fallen away, thinking they’ll never get what it says. True, you will find most contemporary versions to be an easier read. Without the fullness of vocabulary, though, readers may miss the deeper meanings subtly packed into a Bible verse or story.

So, what’s the solution? If you want it all, the Holman KJV Study Bible has it.

The full-page color illustrations, photographs, and maps ground you in Bible times, places, and original intent, while a “King’s English” glossary defines words that might otherwise be unclear.

With the same outstanding features found in the award-winning Holman Christian Study Bible that I previously reviewed, this edition is one to turn to for in-depth study, Bible research, and the pure joy of reading God’s Word, silently or aloud.

As the only full-color KJV study Bible out there, you can expect to use this edition for many years, so a genuine leather cover makes a wise choice. But, since Holman Bible Publishers kindly sent me a free copy to review, I didn’t have that option. In case that’s your preference, too, I’ll include a link below to the leather, indexed option I normally consider the ideal. However, my review copy of the Holman’s LeatherTouch™ far exceeded my poor expectations for imitation leather. In other words, I like it!

The LeatherTouch™ feels sturdy yet silken to the fingertips. More importantly, unlike every other “fake leather” cover I’ve received, this one lays wide open on my desk or one my lap – the place this excellent edition is very likely to be.


©2016, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a poet, writer, and lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the Church in all its parts.


Holman KJV Study Bible, leathertouch



Holman KJV Study Bible, genuine leather, indexed





December 2, 2015

Psalms: Jesus’ prayer book makes a great Christmas gift!


My Bible study group at church has been studying the Psalms – the prayer book of God’s people from pre-Temple days through the early church. Not only do these prayer-poems connect us with Jewish and Christian worshipers throughout the ages and today, the Psalms also comprise the prayers and poetry read, memorized, recited, and prayed by Jesus and His disciples.

Think, for example, of Psalm 22, which Jesus spoke from the cross. Although He didn’t recite the whole psalm, the opening verses reminded His followers to consider each line as they wept. Most likely, this reminder of the full psalm brought hope. And, now, once we have heard the 22nd Psalm, the 23rd Psalm gains even more significance and offers even more comfort.

After reading the latter in our study group today, we had a fresh and insightful discussion as we compared various translations and talked about word choices, metaphors, and what we learned about God from the poem.

For example, the psalm begins with the reminder that, with God as our Shepherd, we have everything we need – physically, mentally, and spiritually. We have nothing to fear with God providing for us, protecting us, caring for us, and giving lavish gifts – a banquet where the Lord God treats us – you and me – as honored guests!

Wow! We should be honoring God with every part of our lives, but Psalm 23 reminds us that God honors us, welcomes us, and takes care of every need.

Many of these joys in fellowship with God had occurred to us at one time or another, but with our commitment to read, pray, and study the Psalms, we saw amazing details we’d never noticed. For instance, verse 6 tells us:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall
follow me
all the days of my life.”


In the previous verse, we’re in the presence of enemies – people who want to do us harm! And yet this psalm and others assure us that we’ve nothing to fear. Not only can we totally count on God’s presence to be with us, we can count on the Lord's goodness and mercy to follow us around!

Can you picture it? Goodness and mercy follow us. Goodness and mercy pursue us. Goodness and mercy stalk us!

Even if we’re surrounded by ill will, enemies, and evil, Goodness and Mercy WILL follow us all the days and nights of our lives.

Well, I hope this gives you an idea of why I wanted a separate book of Psalms to read, study, and use as my prayer book – maybe an edition with room in the margins to write “Claimed” and the day's date beside promises or space to make a note, such as writing “stalks” or “pursues” beside verse 6.

You might have heard by now that I also appreciate quality paper with pages sewn into a supple top-grain leather cover that feels great to the touch and should last for generations.

Searching the Internet, I found one such edition of Psalms that fits all of the above – and fits nicely into my hand! So I bought the Psalms in ESV (English Standard Version) published by Crossway for myself, but oh, what a great Christmas gift this would also make for other lovers of prayer and God’s Word. Praise God!

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a poet, writer, and lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the Church in all its parts.

Psalms, ESV, bound in top grain leather




November 30, 2015

Faith Builders Bible for children and new readers


Unlike a Bible storybook, the Faith Builders Bible for children and new readers includes the full text of the reader-friendly, New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) – a translation based on the NIV, but with new readers and elementary school-aged children especially in mind. For example, the beloved 23rd Psalm begins:

“1 The LORD is my shepherd. He gives
me everything I need.
2 He lets me lie down in fields of
green grass.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths
for the honor of his name.”


You’ll find that kind of clarity throughout this edition published by Zondervan, who kindly sent me a copy to review.

The readable text works well as do the illustrations, which will appeal to children who enjoy Legos or Minecraft, neither of which has any connection to this unique edition. For generations, though, children of all ages have played with building blocks, and so, undoubtedly, the publisher played with that idea to connect Bible reading with activities having child-appeal. And it works!

For instance, the opening two-page spread in the front matter shows “Building With Books Of The Bible” by stacking titles of those individual books above their particular category. Beginning with the Torah titles above the category “Law” and ending with “Revelation” above the category of prophecy, readers can see how the Bible comes together as one structure with many parts.

In the back matter, a “Dictionary to the New International Reader’s Version” helps to build vocabulary heard at home, church, or church school. For example:

“anoint 1. To pour olive oil on people or things. This sets them apart for God. 2. To pour oil on people as part of praying for their healing.”

The back of the book also lists “Great Bible Stories” by topic and the book, chapter, and verse(s) where they can be located, but the addition of page numbers might have helped readers who aren’t yet familiar with the Bible.

I also would have liked a larger font for younger readers and a page in the front or back listing the titles of illustrations and their page numbers. For example the illustration and story “Noah Builds An Ark” has been inserted between pages 120 and 121.

That building-block drawing helps children to envision the scene and, perhaps, inspires them to build an ark of blocks. More importantly, that illustrative page, like others in the book, gives a brief version of the story with reference to the chapters where the full account can be found before ending with a character-building “Building Block Verse:”

“Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
Genesis 6:22”


The text on those pages has a larger, readable font, which encourages new readers to read the stories themselves. In addition, the pages provide a Bible storybook within the Bible, giving children and new readers the opportunity to read more when they’re ready.

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a poet, writer, and lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the Church in all its parts.

Faith Builders Bible, hardback




November 20, 2015

NLT Illustrated Study Bible

My first impression of the NLT Illustrated Study Bible, which Tyndale House Publishers kindly sent me to review, was its heft!

Then, looking at the outer edges of the book reminded me of striations in cut rock, colorfully telling what’s gone on prior to its discovery. Similarly, layers of color along those outside edges hint at the wealth of photographs and original illustrations included in this sturdy study edition.

The magnitude of features undoubtedly required keeping page bulk to a minimum. Nevertheless, I regretted seeing the thinness of the paper, which seemed even thinner after feeling the thick, slick book jacket and the canvas-like cover sheets at the beginning and end of the book. An option would have been to cut some of the 1,000+ images in favor of a denser quality paper, but then we would no longer have all of the amazing visuals that help us to open our eyes more fully to God’s Word.

Indeed, the website http://openmyeyes.com/bible/ provides a video to introduce this edition and establish its primary goal as helping us to see aspects of the Bible that might, otherwise, go unnoticed.

To do this, the book includes the kind of helps we generally find in a Bible dictionary – for instance, profiles of 120 Bible characters – and the kinds of color photographs we expect in a Bible atlas. The overall effect is to show us what Bible people, places, and times were like, so we can picture ourselves as part of the scene and relate to the ongoing relationship God wants to have with us and all mankind.

In addition to the stunning visuals in this heavily illustrated study Bible, we also get over 25,000 notes to accompany the updated text of the New Living Translation (NLT), which remains one of my top favorites.

Highly readable and poetic, the NLT translates ancient manuscripts into a contemporary, respectful English version that’s easy to follow in a worship service or in a Bible study group when other people read aloud from almost any classical or modern translation. Even at home alone, however, this edition makes the Bible remarkably accessible to new readers and also visually inspiring to those of us who have loved the Bible throughout our reading lives.

© 2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, Bible reviewer, is a poet-writer of numerous books in all genres for Christian and educational publishers. She also blogs about prayer, poetry, and writing and recently began posting her Praise Poems.


NLT Illustrated Study Bible, hardcover