The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

A review by Sophie Roque, Library Volunteer

The story of 12-year-old Christopher Boone is an unfolding mystery of a neighbor’s dog that soon pulls in all the biggest mysteries of his own life as well. Told from a first-person perspective, the reader gets full access to Christopher’s curious mind. Readers will be fascinated by his seemingly endless supply of obscure facts and astonishing mathematical skills. Christopher’s sharp memory also adds an amount of detail almost never seen in books, which is enhanced by the many graphics and illustrations included alongside the text.

Christopher’s narration fully displays unique way of thinking and seeing the world. While he may seem odd or eccentric, the novel endears us to him as he navigates the challenges sparked by the strange case. He must also learn to navigate the complicated relationships of the people around him in a way that he never had before. From the parts of his family life kept secret by his father, to the intricate connections he learns about in his own life, there are more mysteries in this book than the one in the title.

Christopher’s journey as a detective reveals parts of life that are messy, complex, and confusing, especially to his well-ordered and logical mind. These issues are usually the business of adults, like his patient father and various neighbors, but Christopher plunges headfirst into them as part of his investigation. The reader joins him as he gathers his courage and wit to unravel these tangled threads of life and finally set them straight.

Genre: Fiction, mystery
Content warning: Swearing, implied violence against an animal, death of an animal, vulgar reference to sex, mention of slurs against autistic people, mention of slurs against disabled people, mentions of infidelity, violence against children, mention of drugs, mention of porn Suitability for children: Suitable for older children and teens

Vintage Books div. of Random House Publishing: c2003, 226 p.
Pb., ISBN: 1-40007783-4.

A Matter of Faith

Film Review By Chet Tan, Library Volunteer

“A Matter of Faith” centers around the Whittakers, a Christian family whose daughter Rachel (Jordan Trovillon) is going off to college. However, Rachel gets the shock of her life when she realizes that her renowned biology instructor, Professor Kaman (Harry Anderson), teaches the theory of evolution. This leaves Rachel so shaken that she tells her father Stephen (Jay Pickett) about it, prompting him to confront Professor Kaman about the “lies” he is teaching his students. In response, Professor Kaman invites Stephen to a public debate on the subject, which Stephen accepts. And so begins the crusade of the Whittaker family to share the truth of the creation story, which builds up to the climactic night of the public debate at the university that doesn’t go down as expected.

Admittedly, this is a difficult film to watch. The protagonists are supposed to be Christians, and yet it is difficult to sympathize with them when their determination to stand by their convictions borders on intolerance. Stephen’s demands of what is presumably a secular university seem to fly in the face of academic freedom. There is a scene where Evan (Chandler Macocha), a fellow Christian student who befriends Rachel, walks up to another student he doesn’t even know and then proceeds to publicly dress him down for having different beliefs. These onscreen actions can lead one to ask: is this how uncompromising a Christian should be?

Thus, the film’s resolution, which puts forth the proposition that both sides of the story should be presented so that everyone can decide for themselves what the truth is, comes as a welcome surprise. This is a message that all Christians need to hear, as we, in our zeal, may sometimes substitute Christ’s humility with self-righteousness, forgetting that our words must “…always be full of grace, seasoned with salt….” (Colossians 4:6 NIV) It’s just that this film takes a rather haphazard path to get to this message.
There is also a plot thread involving Rachel and another student, but I had to re-watch their scenes to make sure I understood what was going on. Without giving too much away, it can only be assumed that, in an effort to make the film more family-friendly, some of the dialogue ended up being vague and may need to be sensitively explained to younger viewers.

Watching “A Matter of Faith” had its challenges, just as its characters had to go through trials for their faith. The film certainly takes a roundabout way of getting its message across, but the payoff is worth it.

Director: Rich Christiano
Distributor: Five & Two Pictures (2014)

For Love’s Sake

A Film Review by Chet Tan, Library Volunteer

The moment I heard the character of Peter Walker, played by Richard Brimblecombe, explain to his son, James, played by William Wenlock, that becoming a Christian is not about being good, but submitting to Jesus, I knew this film was going in the right direction. “For Love’s Sake” depicts the struggles of a Christian family that is persecuted for their beliefs. However, this is not a period piece about the martyrdom of the early Church, but a drama set in 1970’s England.

Our protagonist is Mary Walker, a recently widowed mother of two young boys. At the outset, the challenges of her situation are obvious, and the viewer would not be faulted for expecting this movie to be about how our Christian heroine struggles with single parenthood amidst tragic loss. Except this film is not about that, as Mary’s depression makes caring for her children impossible at the outset, and eventually leads to her sons being taken away from her. Her efforts to pick herself up and get her children back leads to a steady stream of opposition, some of which presents a unique challenge and an unexpected twist.

Admittedly, the film has a low-budget feel, but this did not detract from its impact. If anything, it drove home the real world feel of the movie, which is appropriate, since the DVD’s packaging indicates that it is based on a true story.

The acting is not spectacular, but then a spectacle would not have been appropriate. Claire Walkington’s portrayal of Mary is understated, as she slowly rouses from her helplessness to a restrained determination when she resolves to bring her children home. William Wenlock and Luke Foxall, the latter playing older son Paul Walker, subtly show us the simplicity of how children would cope with these kinds of trials, devoid of unrealistic hysterics or drama, but from two very different perspectives.

The Walker family’s refusal to compromise their beliefs is nothing short of heroic. If you have ever assumed that Christians in the developed world don’t suffer for their faith, then consider “For Love’s Sake.”

Director: Andrew Walkington
Distributor (Philippines): Heartshaper Video, c2016.

Making Peace with Your Past By H. Norman Wright

A review by Anna Jean Marie Bañas, Library Volunteer

Our inner child affects the way we live at present, and this child will continue to do so. The point made here is that our inner child may be the past we need to make peace with.

The book starts with a discussion of the different factors contributing to the development of the inner child. Naturally, there is emphasis on the treatment given by the immediate family, especially the parents and their attitudes, and how the individual as a child reacts to it. Terminologies are not overwhelming and could easily be followed. As that introduction to the inner child is done, challenges to changing are also addressed. Several examples are given as to how a past experience becomes manifest and how this manifestation affects everyone, even without them necessarily knowing where such patterns of belief and behavior come from. Possible methods on how to mitigate and solve the problem areas are given. God’s importance is not forgotten in all these, especially in how believers are supposed to address the (broken) inner child, and how healing from God can start.

Furthermore, resentment and rejection are addressed as they can indicate how our inner child is. In this, forgiveness is important as this changes the response we have. Also, guidance and strength from Jesus Christ help the individual. Another issue tackled is perfectionism in that it can ruin the way we interact in this world. Along with over coercion and overindulgence, which are all rooted in our childhood due to how our parents brought us up, these parental attitudes may find their way in how we deal with people, situations, and ourselves at present. Ways in how to break away from these patterns of acting or thinking are also explained. Questions to facilitate self-evaluation and steps to change the problem(s) stemming from our inner child, our past, are presented. 

Each section is properly explained in terms that are easily understood. The examples and situations given are relatable. The groundedness, trust and faith believers have to have in God cannot be overemphasized. It is not so much as a self-help book as it is a reminder that in all our past and present brokenness, God is there to restore us, especially when we allow him to. This book addresses many questions, presents explanations, and gives good examples, drawing from both experiences and Scripture.

Michigan: Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, c1985/ Manila: Lighthouse Inspirational Books & Gifts, Inc., c.2016. 201 p. ISBN 978-971-834-362-3.

The Ministry of Ordinary Places By Shannan Martin

A review by Anna Jean Marie Bañas, Library Volunteer

Does ministry always mean something grand and unattainable for the ordinary (untrained) person? This question might be more relevant today as we still experience the effects of this pandemic. Several commonplace situations might also be on the table. What if you are just “stuck” at home or live in a small town or village? Or what if the people you encounter are the same kinds of people for some time? What if you are the newcomer?

Finding one’s place and calling in the daily and mundane life of people living in urban and suburban spaces shows that an ordinary person can be “called” and used as an instrument of God.

Finding one’s place and calling in the daily and mundane life of people living in urban and suburban spaces shows that an ordinary person can be “called” and used as an instrument of God. Shannan’s light narrative is easy to follow, and as she walks us through her daily life, events and relationships in her community, we can see how opening one’s mind, heart and life to what God presents right in front of us has far reaching effects as well.

Relatable ways on how one could effectively and easily share God’s love through family, neighbors and other community members through simple deeds and actions are recounted. This further strengthens the truth that one’s mission field need not be far to reap souls for Christ. Shannan arranges her stories into smaller events and themes of daily life which makes for high relatability of the reader. A healthy sprinkle of Scripture reference neatly ties her experiences with Christ’s teaching to His followers. Readers can follow how her little actions lead to increasingly deeper connections with members of her community. They are also shown not to discriminate and devalue the seemingly simple people and events presented to them by God.

Shannan’s voice is of one who has given up her life to serve the Lord in every way possible. Her responses also teach that it takes discernment and training to be attuned to what God calls people out to do. Her heart is on building relationships with those around her, for Christ to be able to work through and in each individual’s lives. This gives another view on how people could further the Kingdom of God in the place where they are currently planted and be effective, nonetheless. All it takes is that willingness to allow God to work through and in their lives. Through all these, God will allow people to grow and develop, placing their roots deeper and allowing them to bloom where they are planted. Highly recommend.

About the Book Reviewer:
Anna Jean currently works from home teaching Korean students online. When times get better, she hopes to return to hiking as she loves the outdoors, and photography also complements this hobby of hers. She also enjoyed the adult education classes offered at church, where you would have seen her plying herself with coffee.

The Ministry of Ordinary Places By Shannan Martin. Thomas Nelson: Nashville c2018. 217 p. ISBN 978-0-7180-7749-5.

The Vision of His Glory: Finding Hope Through the Revelation of Jesus Christ

A review by Daisy J. Serrano, Library Member & Contributor

If you think that the Book of Revelation has no value to today’s Christian, Anne Graham Lotz’s book will change your mind. This well-written and informative book is a practical application of the Book of Revelation to daily living. Lotz shares what she learned through her personal study of the book of Revelation – that the true meaning of the revelation of God’s glory is to bring us hope for the present as well as the future. The Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation after the Lord Jesus appeared to him in a vision in the penal island of Patmos. He describes the greatest events of all human history that are now being seen on the world in which we live. Most important, St. John wrote it to give hope not only to the early church when Christians were tortured and died for Jesus Christ but also for the present and coming generations who will experience severe distress and challenges in their lives. The Book of Revelation emphasizes the authenticity of Jesus Christ. This book shows you how to have a personal encounter with God and discover the wealth of hope under five different circumstances: when you are depressed, when you are deluded, when you are discouraged, when you are distressed, and when you are defeated. It culminates with the hope that ignites our hearts, the hope for eternal life. Written as stand-alone chapters, each circumstance could also serve as a personal devotional, study guide or workbook for small groups. It is an enjoyable read because it describes the end times in understandable terms. It clearly explains some of the puzzling and complicated symbolism and numbers in the Book of Revelation and emphasizes that God’s boundless love and enduring mercy is the source of real, life-changing hope. A Devotional Guide on the Book of Revelation at the back of the book contains worksheets designed to help you communicate and develop a personal relationship with God. In the process, you may be blessed with the vision of His glory. A must reading for Christians and to those who want to learn and understand more about the end times. Highly recommended.

What You Need to Know About Healing: A Physical and Spiritual Guide

A review by Daisy J. Serrano, Library Member and Contributor

What do you do when you are faced with sickness and suffering? Does God continue to heal us today? How do we know God is healing us? Are special people and/or a special process necessary to heal us? Why doesn’t God heal the sick people in my church? An intriguing question on everyone’s mind is whether God continues to heal today. This book answers this question and more. Yes, God can and does heal. But not everyone is healed miraculously, even though we faithfully pray for it. Sala provides an overview of how God brings healing. He goes through the Bible, reviewing the accounts of God healing and providing Scriptures, which affirm God’s power and purpose in healing. He looks at the healing acts of Jesus and those recorded by the early church fathers. Does God heal everyone? God brings healing in different ways as part of His sovereign will to treat you as an individual. Sometimes, He brings instantaneous supernatural healing. There are times He uses the hands of skilled physicians. God may also bring healing though a combination of medical science and His grace in response to fervent prayers in faith. There are also occasions when God allows suffering. It is apparent, Sala writes, “that supernatural healing is not the way God intends to answer all our prayers to be healed.” He looks at Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” as pain, weakness and grace. The taste of His presence and goodness transforms pain to purpose. Sala calls this redemptive healing. He explains what the suffering person should do to turn pain and suffering into redemptive healing. Real life accounts of miraculous healings are found throughout the book: healings that are instantaneous, healings that have taken place over periods of time, and instances where healings, as we consider it, did not take place at all. And yet, through it all, “God was there and he was not silent” (Francis Schaeffer). Sala discusses healing as it occurred in the Old and New Testament, in the days after the New Testament, and in the modern times today. He addresses why believers are hesitant to believe God heals today. He also describes the misuse of the gift of healing. Anecdotes of the different ways God may manifest His healing in a person’s life are shared to demonstrate His sovereignty: immediate/ supernatural healing, integrative healing (healing through a physician), redemptive healing (spiritual blessing in the midst of pain) and ultimate healing (through death). God may heal through a combination of medical science and His grace in response to fervent prayer. We may not fully understand the outcomes of healing but God’s character and attributes remain unchanged, even when a man suffers pain. We are reminded that the Great Physician remains compassionate and loving to each one of us, especially when we are hurting. Highly recommended.

JESUS 101: Was God in Error? [part 1]

The President of the Philippines paraphrased his version of the Adam and Eve storyinto his speech, after which he was bluntly colorful in his criticism of God.After he laid out how Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, the presidentstipulated that God basically set them up for failure. How? By putting in thegarden dangerous elements such as the Serpent and the tree of the knowledge ofgood and evil that would eventually tempt them to sin. Then, there is thecommandment itself. Why would God give such a command? With these questionshanging unanswered, the President concluded with a question, “How can yourationalize a God like that?”

As a believer, I have to at least try to provide an answer.

First, allow me to tackle the president’s criticism aspect on God’s being. This whole episode reminded me of another person who was critical of how God handledthings. His name was Job.

Job was a wealthy man, considered “blameless” and “upright” according to God. One day, the devil came before God where He boasted about Job’s goodness, but the devil argued that Job is good only because God had favored him extravagantly. After some cajoling by the devil, God allowed the devil to put Job to the test to see if after the devil’s torment, Job would turn and curse God. Job passed the first test, when after losing his business to marauders and all ten of his children to a devastating catastrophe; he still blessed God in his prayers. But then the second test was when the devil inflicted upon his body with horrible debilitating skin sores. At first, he seemed to accept his circumstances, but after having a lengthy poetic discourse with whom he thought were his friends, he bemoaned the injustice that God allowed evil people to prosper while he suffered. Job wanted to confront God and complain. Now, it would seem that Job may have gotten the upper hand of the argument, but God had a big lesson for him.

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said, “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” [Job 38:1-4]

So, what is the lesson for us? I don’t know about you, but if God decides to come to correct me in the midst of a whirlwind, there can only be two logical ways for me to face him, with fear and humility. Why? Fear is easy enough. Anyone capable of controlling the weather is worthy of fearful respect. As the Bible says, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…’ [Proverbs 9:10] As to humility, the question that God brought up about where was Job… or that matter, where were I or you… when He laid the earth’s foundation… well, you have to see the logic. It is arrogance for any of us to be critical of God, especially when first you don’t have His power and lack the experiential knowledge of Creation. Fortunately, Job learned his lesson and he was blessed beyond imagining.

Meanwhile, there are many people who still wonder whether God erred and why we are paying for it? We will tackle this in Part 2.

Until then blessings to you,

-Johann Quisumbing

It’s NOT About ME

A review by Daisy Serrano, Library Member and Contributor.

Are you wrapped up on your personal ambitions and goals such that your entire life revolves around you being number one in the workplace? That your aspiration to make a name for yourself takes precedence over spending time with God and your family? What happens when you continue to feel inadequate in spite of achieving your goal? What will you do when you realize that maintaining your goal requires more than 90% commitment to your work to the detriment of family and personal time? This book truly reflects its title, “It’s Not About Me”. If you have been wrapped up in your own struggles, read this book to remind you that God created us to bring other people back to Christ. Whatever we are going through has a purpose, which is discussed in detail in this book. This book is full of Biblical teachings which are easy to read, and provide us a fresh perspective on how to live for and be with Christ. It challenges us to model the life of Christ when we realize that we exist to live for God and not for ourselves. God plays a central role in the Bible, in our lives, in our work, and everything else. The keen insights on how to live a Christ-centered life make us more loving to others and lessen our focus on ourselves, especially on things that do not directly affect us. As we become less self-centered, God begins to play a more important role in our lives. We will no longer fear evil – indeed if God is for us, who can be against us. Joy, love, fulfillment, abundance, and holiness begin to fill our lives. This book allows us to view the Christian walk with a new perspective. Regardless of your life’s situation or circumstances, when we lay aside our personal goals and ambition and instead focus on God’s light to shine on us one day at a time, our spiritual understanding of God is strengthened. Does God love us? Behold the answer on the cross. However, since we live in a “me” centered culture, it may be difficult to accept that only God is to be honored and glorified, regardless of your life’s situation and circumstances. This book explains how the Bible (God’s Word) continues to be the single whole authoritative source for our lives. It reminds us that our life is about God and how He plans to use us for His glory. How sweet it will be to hear Jesus saying to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant”. A Study Guide found at the back of the book presents questionnaires for each of the 14 chapters. The questions are further subdivided into Beholding and Reflecting questions. Highly recommended.