A Note Yet Unsung

This book by Tamera Alexander is the third installment in her Belmont Mansion series. Rebekah Carringtion returns home to Nashville, Tennessee after a ten year stay in Vienna. As a master violinist, she desires to be in an orchestra even though it is rare for women to be allowed in orchestras no matter what their skill. Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is the new orchestra leader of the Nashville Philharmonic. He is tasked with composing his symphony and training his orchestra before opening day of the new opera hall. His time is split with his rigorous responsibilities and returning to his childhood home to care for his dying father; all while dealing with recurring headaches, buzzing, and dizziness. Even though he recognizes her skill and talent, Tait turns down Rebekah’s request to be in the orchestra due to public opinion. Rebekah takes a job tutoring Adelicia Cheatham’s daughter at the Belmont Mansion and secures room and board there. As Tait’s deadline gets closer, he asks Rebekah to assist him with his symphony.

This is the first book that I have read by this author and I am impressed and anxious to read more from her! I absolutely loved this book! Being that it was the third book in the series, I do not know what connections the storyline and characters have to the previous books. Even so, I easily read it as a stand alone book. I loved the musical content of the book. I have always loved music even though I am not at all talented when it comes to instruments! The author provides a link so that readers can look up and listen to all of the music numbers mentioned in the book. There is some adult content worth mentioning… Rebekah’s stepfather tried to rape her when she was younger which is why she was sent away to Vienna. When she returns, he repeatedly refers to the incident and eventually attempts to do it again. There are mentions of drinking and making moonshine, murder, slaves, and a few other things that may offend some people. The Christian content of trusting God, praying, scripture, etc. was strong throughout the story. It flowed well with the story. I feel that this book was very well written and I will be purchasing the previous two books in the series so that I can read them as well! I recommend it to anyone who loves music, instruments, and historical romance!

In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission I am required to disclose that Bethany House provided this book for free in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

*****

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A Note Yet Unsung #3
By Tamera Alexander / Bethany House

206230: A Beauty So Rare #2

A Beauty So Rare #2

By Tamera Alexander / Bethany House

206221: A Lasting Impression #1

A Lasting Impression #1

By Tamera Alexander / Bethany House

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Once Upon A Time Storybook Bible

This book is illustrated by Omar Aranda and published by ZonderKids. The book is approximately 8 x 10 inches which is similar to other hardback illustrated children’s books. Comprised of 33 popular Bible stories, there are 18 stories from the Old Testament and 15 stories from the New Testament. Each story has a title, scripture verse (taken from the New International Version (NIV), vibrant illustrations, “Once Upon A Time…” paraphrased story, and a “Happily Ever After” word of wisdom and story scripture reference.

On the front cover, it states, “The Bible is not a fairy tale. Every great story happened once upon a time.” An example of a “Happily Ever After” section in the Queen Esther story states, “Esther was brave to face Haman and the king. God gave her the courage she needed to save her people. He makes all of us brave when we need to be.” In the Darkest Day story about Jesus dying on the cross it states, “Jesus gave his life to save the world. He died so that one day, you could join him in heaven. Tell him thank you for his sacrifice.” I love the colorful illustrations of this book. The stories are written simplistically for a preschool and early elementary audience. This book will definitely appeal to young children and would make a great gift!

In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission I am required to disclose that ZonderKids provided this book for free in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

*****

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Once Upon a Time Storybook Bible
By ZonderKidz

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When The Holy Spirit Lays Something On Your Heart…

…Listen and Obey. 

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I am in the beginning stages of planning something for the women of my church. The idea came to me after several months of hearing about many friends within our church dealing with various difficult circumstances. Some are dealing with their own illnesses or that of a family member, death of a loved one, marital conflict, parenting rebellious children, keeping the home front functioning while their husband is deployed, financial struggles, sin strongholds, and several other circumstances. I know that many times women carry the burden of caring for others while often neglecting themselves. Our church is large and many of us do not know each other. I want to bring us together for a day so that we can fellowship together and build lasting friendships and support systems. I want the women of our church will feel the presence of God even while they are dealing with heartache, tragedy, complacency, or any difficulty within their lives. I want our women to feel loved by God and know that God sees us and meets us right where we are.

Like I said, this is only the beginning stage… I have met with some church leadership who will present my ideas to the church board and staff. If approved, I can plan and organize to my hearts content. Just in the past week of meetings and creating a possible outline of events, I have felt the Holy Spirit working in my heart. I found myself crying for no apparent reason this morning as I was contemplating what to write for my presentation. The burden to encourage and to pray for the women of my church has swelled up in my soul.

I write this to you as a plea for your prayers. Please pray that if it is God’s Will for my ideas to come to fruition, that everything will fall into place:

  • that the church will give their approval
  • that a date can be set
  • that finances and child care will be available so that the women can attend
  • that God will give me the words to say
  • that the event team can create a plan that honors Him

Thank you for your prayer support! I’ll keep you updated!

ASK ALYSA

For some reason, I attract people who have questions. Some odd questions, opinion questions, serious questions… about religion, books, movies, politics, parenting, marriage, and so many other topics. I enjoy answering questions. I enjoy researching various topics when I do not know the answers. Recently, a good friend suggested that I should write a book about all the advice that I give! While writing a published book is definitely a life goal and dream of mine, I know that it is not going to happen right now because I have so many other priorities at the moment. Still, I had a brilliant idea of answering questions on my blog!

I have no idea how my readers will respond to this idea… so I figure that as long as people send me questions, I will continue to answer them! Click “Submit Your Question” below to submit your question. If you have more than one question, please submit separate surveys for each question (feel free to submit as many as you would like)!

Disclaimer: If you send a question, there is no guarantee that I will answer it on my blog. I will choose questions that I know that I can answer well and I will post questions that I feel will be the most relevant to my readers. I may invite a guest writer to answer questions on occasion. Some questions may require research which may delay posting an answer. If I answer your question, I will only post your first name and first initial of last name. I will also send you an email with the blog link.

The Beauty and the Beast Controversy

I am going to make people mad with this post. Probably people from both sides of the controversy. I have read articles and have seen Facebook posts about both sides and thought I would share my personal opinion here. Grab a cup of coffee… this is not a short read. [Update included towards the end of this post, now that I have seen the movie.]

Back story… Beauty and the Beast apparently has an “exclusively gay moment” in the new live action movie. All we (the majority of people who have not yet seen the movie since it will not be released in theaters until next week) know, is that LeFou some days wants to be Gaston and other days wants to kiss Gaston. Somehow he explores those possible feelings (maybe through a fantasy moment but we do not know how exactly yet). If you look up the lyrics or watch the clip of LeFou singing in the tavern in the 90’s animated film, it is not far fetched to assume he may have been gay in that movie too (however subtle it may be).

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Before I get started, let me just say that I disagree with the LGBT agenda. From a scientific/medical perspective, I do not believe people are born gay. I believe that they develop those feelings over time due to a number of contributing factors. From a Biblical perspective, I do believe that living a gay lifestyle is a sin. However, so is any other sexual lifestyle or action outside of marriage between a man and a woman (such as: adultery, premarital sex, pornography, and one that everyone commits at some point…lust). My beliefs on the subject in no way affect how I treat someone who is gay. I treat them the same way I do any other person. I do not have to agree with your choices and opinions (on this subject or any other subject) to still be your friend, have a conversation (and/or debate lol), give you a hug, invite you into my home, etc.

So back to the movie… Honestly, I see both sides of the controversy. Anyone who disagrees with an agenda absolutely has the right to boycott a movie, book, store, event, etc. that pushes that agenda. I hated the book The Shack and I am not going to go to the theaters to see the newly released movie. I am not necessarily boycotting it because I will most likely watch it at some point (people keep asking my opinion since I am one of a minority who dislike it) but I am not shy about expressing my opinion of the book. I did not like Disney’s Princess and the Frog and do not allow my children to watch it because it deals directly with the forces of a currently practiced religion that contradicts what we believe. Will I let them see it at some point? Maybe, but it would be with the sole purpose of discussing the film at length and comparing the beliefs portrayed to other religions. If someone does not want to see a gay moment, then by all means, they should not go see the movie. However, on this particular controversy, I tend to side more with the people who find it baffling that so many people are offended about this. Here is why (in no particular order):

First of all, I do not particularly like boycotting. I think that sometimes there is a place for it and sometimes it can be effective. However, most of the time in my opinion, when Christians and conservatives boycott non-Christians and liberals then we are all feeding into a vicious cycle. I think more often than not when this happens, both sides are being hypocritical. The problem is people tend to boycott what ever is popular to do so due to media hype… think Target, Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, etc. They fail to carry that deeply held conviction of why they are boycotting a particular thing into all the other areas that follow the same agenda, policy, etc. For example, if someone boycotts Target for the bathroom issue then they need to boycott Apple, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, IKEA, several airlines, several credit card companies, and countless stores, restaurants and other businesses (a quick google search will bring up a more in-depth list). Most people cannot and do not come close to being willing to give up all of that. Read About Boycotting to explore this further.

Second, my question for anyone who has decided to boycott Disney as a result of this movie is: Why Now? Why is this particular movie making you want to boycott a company that has supported the gay agenda for as long as I can remember? I vividly remember the movement within churches to boycott Disney in the 90’s over their decision to have “gay days” at their parks. More recently to boycott the Good Luck Charlie TV show over an episode that portrayed two mommies. What about all of the Disney owned ABC TV shows that have gay characters. I read a blog post by a woman who is so upset that this movie is portraying a gay moment that she is not only not going to watch the movie but she is also going to cancel her planned Disney vacation for this year. She mentions all of the examples (even more than I mentioned) of how Disney has supported the gay agenda in the past but, all of a sudden, this movie crosses the line.

Third, what about all of the other sins that are portrayed in children’s movies (Disney or otherwise)? Do you have as much discussion and uproar over the child disobedience/rebellion, the witchcraft/sorcery, the anger/revenge, the lying/deceit, the sexual innuendoes, bullying, etc.? I am pretty sure I could go through and find something wrong with every single Disney movie out there. Just picking apart Beauty and the Beast, there is bullying, alcoholism, attempted murder, revenge, jealousy, sorcery, (maybe a hint at prostitution??? i.e. beautiful girls hanging out in the tavern with a bunch of drunk men)…

Fourth, one of the most common rebuttal to people protesting this movie that I have seen is that “they have a problem with a gay moment but they do not have a problem with a girl falling in love with a buffalo.” I know this seems silly but there is some truth there…

So where do I stand? Somewhere in the middle. I definitely respect the right to be upset about something that goes against what you stand for. I also do not think that a “gay moment” should be in a children’s movie. However, I am not going to boycott the movie.

If anyone knows me at all, they know I love Disney movies! In my opinion, they are stories that teach valuable lessons that I want my children to learn. Many of the movies have strong female roles that encourage girls to be brave, be kind, dream big, etc. Most of the movies have issues that cause characters to get in trouble due to their choices or actions (or someone else’s choices or actions) but almost always the characters learn from their mistakes (villains are the exception but that is what makes them villains). [Read The Pretty Princess Phenomenon for more.] Beauty and the Beast is no different. It is a story about seeing the good in people, learning to love, letting go of anger, self sacrifice, and many other positive elements.

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In conclusion, I most likely will let my children see this live action Beauty and the Beast. I read Plugged In online reviews before taking my children to the theaters to determine if I think a movie is appropriate for their age/maturity level. I will do the same before taking them to see this movie [UPDATE: Here is the Beauty and the Beast Plugged In Review]. My guess though is that the good far outweighs the bad. If the “moment” is something that needs to be discussed with them, I absolutely will discuss it. Just like I would discuss any other issue I have a problem with that comes up in movies. I already discussed homosexuality  with my oldest daughter a couple of years ago. I know that my children will encounter homosexuality in our culture. They may see it in a movie, on TV, walking through a mall, or at their schools. So, instead of trying to shield them from it, I feel that it is better for me to have a conversation with them.

[UPDATE: Now that I have seen the movie, here is my opinion of it… I loved it!!! It follows the original story line pretty closely. There are some additional scenes and songs to carry the story and go into more detail on some things that were missing in the original (such as what happened to Belle’s mother). I was not sure how I would like Emma Watson as Belle but she did a fantastic job! She proved that she could be more than a Hermione and her singing voice is beautiful. The costumes and set were amazing! And of course the well known songs were brought to life in an amazing way!

MINOR SPOILER ALERTS: The question on everyone’s mind is, “What was the gay moment?” There were a few places where there were subtle hints. In my opinion, they were so quick and subtle that I am pretty sure most children would not notice or if they did would not understand unless it was explained. Towards the beginning of the movie, it was obvious that LeFou wanted to be just like Gaston. He mimicked his moves and followed him around like a puppy. During the song “Gaston” in the tavern scene, it became more apparent that LeFou may have had stronger feelings for him because of his intense admiration while singing the song (again, I do not think a child would pick up on that). At one point during the song, they were dancing and LeFou wrapped Gaston’s arms around him. He jokingly asked, “Too much?” Later in the movie when Maurice was trying to convince the town’s people that Gaston was bad, Gaston manipulates LeFou to lie for him by appealing to his senses. He grabs his shoulders and talks about how close of friends they are. LeFou does lie because he does not want to offend the man he admires. During the castle battle scene between the town’s people and the castle objects, the wardrobe dresses three men in elaborate women’s clothing and hair dos (in the original movie she does this to one man). Two of the men are clearly disturbed by this and run away but one of them turn around and it is clear by his facial expressions that he likes the new look. In the final ballroom scene, after the castle objects have turned human again, everyone is dancing and we quickly see LeFou and the other man mentioned above dancing together.  There was no gay kissing as was implied when they said that LeFou “some days wants to be Gaston and other days wants to kiss Gaston.”

A couple of hours after seeing the movie, I asked my 10 year old if she noticed anything along these lines and she said no. When I explained a couple of the scenes she remembered the men being dressed as women but did not remember seeing LeFou dancing with another man. Now that I have told her it is there, she will probably notice it next time she sees it though. I have decided not to bring it up to my 8 year old daughter so as not to draw attention to it. If she mentions it to me at some point, I will address it then.

I really did love the movie. The gay moments were very minor and had nothing at all to do with the overall story line. If you want to see the movie but not sure if you want your children to  see it, I would recommend watching it first and then deciding. END UPDATE]

*****

Feel free to voice your opinions and engage in respectful debate in the comments. However, any comments that are disrespectful, use inappropriate language, etc. will be deleted.

Participating in Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday… the day that many observe the Lent season. The following I mostly posted back in 2014 Observing Lent along with some updated thoughts relevant to this year.

I was not raised in a family that participated in Lent. I always thought that Lent was a Catholic ritual. In high school I asked several friends why they came to school with ash on their foreheads and they could never give me a good reason for why they “observe” Lent. They seemed to be doing it because they were told to do it or because that is what they have always done. I never actually participated in an Ash Wednesday service until 2010 when we were living in Japan. When the pastor of our church did the service, I found that I really liked the concept behind Lent.

Got Questions?org gives this definition of Lent:

“Lent is a period of fasting and repentance traditionally observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations in preparation for Easter. The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 40 days. During this time, participants eat sparingly or simply give up a particular food or habit. Ash Wednesday and Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves to repent of their sins in a manner similar to how people in the Old Testament repented in sackcloth, ashes, and fasting (Esther 4:1-3; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 11:21).”

I have found online that there is great controversy between Christians who think it is okay or not okay to observe Lent. It is important to note that Lent or any other Christian tradition or act of faith is NOT required in order to receive God’s gift of salvation and it will not win God’s blessing or make us more holy. It is not commanded in scripture to celebrate Christmas or Easter but we do so because it brings us joy to celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. In the same way, Lent can be a focused time of reflection. While participating in Lent or other traditions, some people may have wrong motives or they will be doing it because that is what they have always done. For me, it is a time of reflection and a time to remove something from my life that is hindering a closer relationship with God and/or to add something to my life that I should have been doing already.

I think that this graphic gives a good representation of how I choose to observe Lent (I can no longer find the original link I had to the graphic):

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This, of course, is something we should keep in mind all year and not just in the weeks leading up to Easter. I think that observing Lent is a humbling way to focus our thoughts and actions. We also need to keep in mind that while doing any type of fasting/abstaining/self-denial that it should be personal between you and God. While there is nothing wrong with telling others that you are observing Lent, it should not be used as a way to bring attention and glory to ourselves. Instead, we should be humble and desire to bring glory to the Father.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 NIV

Some years, I do not feel lead to participate in Lent and do not give it a second thought once I decide not to participate. Other years, like this year, I have a strong desire to participate which leads to prayer as to what I should eliminate from and/or add to my daily life.

This year, after much prayer, I presented the idea of participating in Lent to my girls ages 10 & 8. I explained the basics of Lent to them and when I told them what I was giving up they were in shock. I told them that they did not have to give up the same thing that I was but that they should choose something that would be difficult for them so that they can use the time they desire to pray. Even more important than giving something up, I plan to use this season to do a family devotional with the girls.

Lately, the girls and I have been having daily struggles of frustration of completing chores, attitudes (mine included), getting out the door on time for school or church, as well as other things. My oldest and I battle it out with yelling matches that unfortunately remind me of how much anger is a stronghold in my life. With my husband overseas and a newborn in the home, I need to find a way to bring peace between me and the girls. So, along with implementing consistent chore charts and behavior plans, we will be doing a daily devotional during Lent.

The church that we attend does not do an Ash Wednesday service, so we will not have ashes on our foreheads today. However, my girls and I will still begin our reflection journey together. I am praying for peace, reconciliation, obedience, and respect to be present in our home. I have a bad habit of starting things and not finishing them, so if you think of me or this article sometime over the next couple of months, please consider taking the time to say a prayer for us!

Giveaway Reminder!

Don’t forget to enter to win my Quiet Time Book Giveaway!!! TWO DAYS LEFT TO ENTER!!! Winner will be announced on Wednesday-March 1st! Please share the giveaway with your friends and family who may be interested. Visit the original post for instructions on how to enter to win! Click Here:

Quiet Time Book Giveaway

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The Shack

In light of the new movie adaptation of The Shack, I thought I would reblog my review of the book. I have no plans to watch the movie because of how strongly I feel about the bad and misleading theology the book presents. I would consider watching it if someone asked me to give my opinion of it but I highly doubt the movie would make significant enough changes from the book to change my opinion of it. If you choose to watch the movie and/or read the book, I encourage you to do so with caution and with careful consideration and comparison to scripture. Do not let the emotional story cloud your discernment.

Heart Treasures

Here is my “review” of the book, “The Shack.” I wrote this and e-mailed it to all of my friends in August 2008 after reading “The Shack” for my church’s book club. Since the book is still making its rounds in the Christian community and since it came up in conversation in the comments section of another blog; I thought that sharing this would be relevant.

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I recently read a popular book called “The Shack” by William P. (Paul) Young. I am giving you my opinion of this book now because I can find a ton more positive reviews about this book than negative. Especially within the Christian community; most of the reviews/comments I have read give mostly praise and “how this book changed my life” perspectives. Personally, for a book that many people consider as Christian Fiction; I find this book to be mostly unbiblical and very…

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