Friday, August 15, 2014

Fire from Ashes and From God to You (Ancient Faith Publishing)

I discovered Ancient Faith Radio at least 5 years ago. It was during this time of questioning and searching that I gained a new knowledge and appreciation of Eastern Orthodoxy. One of my favorite podcasters was Steve "the Builder" Robinson. He had two particular podcasts, Our Life in Christ (where I learned the most about Orthodoxy) and Steve the Builder (where I learned the most about Steve and living a Christian life in the secular world.) I reached out to Steve on occasion, and he was always a blessing to talk to. When he stopped making his podcasts, sadness doesn't even begin to describe how I felt. When I saw that he was releasing a book, I was over the moon happy and knew I had to read it!

Fire from Ashes is a brief book (less than 150 pages) written by Fr. Joseph Huneycutt and Steve Robinson, both podcasters or former podcasters at Ancient Faith Radio. The premise of the book is the struggle and need of perpetual conversion. There is no such thing as "once saved always saved," and anyone who tells you otherwise is in heresy. We must remember that even the righteous man falls seven times and rises again.

The book begins with the story of a heroin addict named Mark who used to work for Steve. Steve compares him to St. Dismas the Good Thief who died on the cross next to Jesus. Both lived less than stellar lives, but both reached out to Jesus on their deathbeds and took a chance on Him being able to save them. This story was taken from one of Steve's podcasts, so it was familiar to me, but it still moves me everytime I hear it. A lot of Christians don't like to hear these deathbed conversion stories, but we should rejoice every time a soul makes it to Heaven. The book says, "The 'deathbed conversion' is the instant realization of the futility of our life and the acceptance of our personal responsibility and guilt for our sin, but it is also a turning to the love of God in the sufferings of Christ for our sins." AMEN!

Chapter Three is one that I feel will relate to most people, because it discusses habitual sin. There are many types of habitual sin, but the authors choose to discuss pornography and masturbation. This seems reasonable, since that is a habitual sin that is much more prevalent today with the advent of the Internet. The authors take the time to remind us that it is good to struggle with sin. If we are struggling, we are least putting up a fight. It's when we stop fighting against our sins that we are defeated. However, we are not alone in this fight. God is on our side. The saints are on our side. The angels are on our side. Our Church is on our side.  We would do well to remember this.

Overall, this was a very approachable book and you could see the personalities of the two authors in not only the words on the page, but the illustrations they provided as well. What I especially loved about this book was all the examples they used from Scripture and the Church Fathers. The examples that St. John Chrysostom and St. Moses the Black provided will stick with me a long time. Though the target audience for this book is Orthodox Christians, I believe it would be helpful for Catholics as well. We are all sinners in need of perpetual conversion and this book does a fine job explaining what perpetual conversion is and how to live it.

From God to You is the second book on icons by John Kosmas Skinas. His first book was called Pictures of God. In this book, your children will trace the history of icons through the ages. The book starts by explaining that people have always tried to get rid of icons (even to this day sadly). However, they have survived thanks to the Church. Our journey then begins with The Icon Not Made by Human Hands and the story of King Abgar. Two icons later, we learn of the first Christian iconographer St. Luke, who painted an icon of Mary from her kitchen table.

Other features in this book are explanations of the Egyptian style of iconography; specific symbols early Christians used, like the peacock; and important icons in history like the Pantocrator from Mt. Sinai. We also learn about facial expressions, directions of the eyes, and the meaning of colors in iconography. The icons in this book are beautifully reproduced in these pages. The explanations are simple and easy to understand. I also really love how the author explains that saints are like "restored icons" because he used their lives to to make beautiful images. It inspires us and our children to imitate these great men and women so that we may be made into icons as well. If you are looking for a set of books to teach little ones about icons I wholeheartedly recommend Pictures of God and From God to You.

These books were provided to me for free by Ancient Faith Publishing in exchange for an honest review. If you found the review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!