Saturday, December 25, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
I’ve kind of been on a non-fiction book kick as of late and more specifically books focused on the social justice aspect of the Christian walk. (However, in contrast… I am now reading a completely predictable and sappy WWII Christian romance novel that is lame but I for some reason can’t abandon reading it…)
“Under the Overpass” is the first book in this genre that pulled back the curtain and allowed me to really comprehend the reality of homelessness in America. Instead of encouraging me to do this or that because the Bible says so or because I have been so blessed, the author, Mike Yankoski, took me on a journey to not just “tell me”, but to “show me.”
During college, Yankoski became convicted to experience life on the streets of America. He teamed up with a friend, Sam, and the two of them spent five months living homeless in six different US cities during 2003. The pair each left with a backpack, sleeping bag and guitar and survived by panhandling while playing music and taking advantage of generosity of soup kitchens and hospitality of local churches.
There were four things that stood out to me in this book:
- From the very beginning of the book, I was inspired by the sheer obedience Yankoski displayed in taking on the challenge of living homeless. It’s a crazy idea, but even gutsier to follow through and willingly put himself on the streets. I’m sorry…I don’t think I could do it!
- There’s a section where Yankoski describes homeless men and women who have obvious and severe mental illness issues. We’ve all seen people like he described…living in their own personal “hells” day after day. It makes one wonder how many of them are perhaps living under the power of demons like the man Jesus encountered in Mark 5:1-20.
- I was actually really impressed and surprised that Yankoski and his companion made an effort to attend a local church every Sunday. Yankowski describes many of these experiences and the varying reactions he received from “Christians.” Sadly, I can see that I would react similarly (apprehensive and stand offish) in some of the same instances if I were being completely honest with myself.
Lastly, I kept cringing every time Yankoski described the usual way “nice, normal” people averted their eyes and walked in a different direction to avoid coming close to the author and his traveling companion Sam. I do this all the time…I feel so paralyzed when I get in these situations. You want to help, but society has sold us a lie that we shouldn’t give homeless people money because all they will do is buy drugs or alcohol to support their habit. I thought Yankoski did a wonderful job shedding some light on ways I can navigate this better in the future.
Bottom line, I really enjoyed this narrative about living on the streets. It certainly could have been grittier (all vulgarities and crude language was removed out of respect for the readers and standards of the publisher), yet I felt it deconstructed enough of the wall I have around me to begin seeing men and women living in homelessness. I know I’ll have to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide my steps in terms of how I respond to what I see, but I feel this book has armed me with new a understanding and courage to take my own journey in this area.
You can read the first chapter of the book here.
The publisher has also created a pretty comprehensive action plan for “next steps” after reading the book.
Worth Reading? Yes
Recommend to a Friend? Yes…to those who have an interest in this topic
Worth Buying My Own Copy? Not necessarily unless you like to lend books out a lot.
Stars: 4 out of 5
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I’ve only been a Christ-follower for 6 years so I realize in the grand scheme of things my perspective on “what things shape my walk with Christ” can be naïve and presumptuous at times. Yet, I truly believe that as I look back on my life “Radical” by Dr. David Platt will be one of the defining books that shaped my walk with Christ. Much like “Choosing to Cheat” by Andy Stanley has shaped the way I approach work/life balance that is honoring to God (and a book I usually read over again once a year if not twice a year), Radical is going to be another “shot in the arm” book I read whenever I feel my faith journey has hit a plateau.
And if that is not enough of an enticement to run out and read this book, here’s another. I rarely buy books…I don’t care for clutter…therefore I am a huge fan of the local library. The first time I read this book it was the local library copy. Immediately upon completion of the book I went to my local Christian book store and purchased my own copy and reread the whole thing again – this time highlighting all the things I didn’t want to forget or wanted to reference quickly down the road. 1) I purchased my own copy and 2) I read the book twice in 2 weeks. Not very common occurrences for this book reader!
During 2010 Platt has lead his church on a journey aptly called “The Radical Experiment” in which he challenged the members of his church to:
- Pray for the entire world
- Read through the entire Word
- Sacrifice their money for a specific purpose
- Spend time in another context
- Commit their life to a multiplying community
Radical: Taking back your life from the American Dream serves as a thesis for proving out why American Christians need to begin making radical changes in their lives in order that we fulfill the Great Commission. Platt states that “somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable.” He further says “…the cost of discipleship is great. But I wonder if the cost of nondiscipleship is even greater.”
What resonated with me most about this book is pondering the gravidity of not obeying God’s will for my life. That the cost of nondiscipleship is a grave and serious trend in American churches that is propelled by a body of believers paralyzed by the comforts and luxuries that the American Dream offers. The majority of American Christ-followers see discipleship making as a role only church leaders or long-term missionaries can fill when in reality all Christ-followers are commanded (not suggested) to go to all nations and make disciples. Platt summarizes this point poignantly when he says “…we have unnecessarily (and unbiblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all.”
I am looking forward to letting the lessons learned in the book permeate through me over the next several weeks, months and years. I truly want to take on the Radical Experiment for a year and be intentional about praying for the world and getting into the Word daily. For the first time in several years I actually considered what other context God may be calling me to in 2011 to spend a week of my time. The past several years I’ve been very lukewarm about joining an E3 Partners mission trip (Adam has been on two the past year and half – 2009: Ecuador; 2010: Russia.) This past Monday I signed up for an E3 Partners short-term mission trip to Kursk, Russia in August. I am so nervous about this, but excited for what God will do through and in me during that week.
If you are feeling stalled in your walk or apathetic about the way church is done in the US, I highly encourage you to read this book. You will be encouraged and able to pick yourself up, dust off your discouragements and start biblically living God’s will for your life.
Worth Reading? YES! YES! YES!
Recommend to a Friend? Yes...I'm apologize now to all my friends who will get sick of me talking about this book
Worth Buying My Own Copy? ABSOLUTELY!!! I wish I could buy 10 and give them away.
Monday, November 1, 2010
The 80s returned today...
Friday, October 29, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
- 1.75 billion people are desperately poor
- 1 billion are hungry
- Each year nearly 2 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade.
- There are 145 million orphans worldwide.
- Yet, a mere 2% of the world's grain harvest would be enough, if shared, to erase the problems of hunger and malnutrition around the world.
- Nearly 226 million people in the U.S. call themselves "Christians." From a pure mathematical point of view, there should be fewer orphans in the world.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I have to say that Water for Elephants was a very enjoyable story to read. I've seen this book in plenty of airport gift shops for the past year, but had a friend say it was worth the read. So glad I gave it a chance.
Book Description: (from saragruen.com)
As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie.
It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
It was such a treat to get swept into the gritty and colorful world of a traveling circus during the Great Depression. To me - and probably most readers - this is not a well-studied or talked about story in history so I found most of the story so engrossing and educational. I love learning about new things in history. You can definitely tell that Sara Gruen meticulously researched this era for this book.
My favorite parts were when Jacob interacted with Kinko or roustabouts (laborers). I was eye-opening to see how Jacob straddled the two worlds of "the haves" and "have nots" and had a knack for being authentic and equally comfortable in both worlds.
I know this has been categorized as a "romantic" story, but I didn't really feel that was a strong overtone. I really enjoy romantic story lines, but this was a compelling book without the love story. Gruen does a magnificent job with dialog and pacing throughout the novel. It does have a few crude, sexually-explicit scenes described, but given the culture the book is set in it was not all that shocking and honestly added to the grittiness of the story.
I was surprised to learn (thank goodness I had finished the book) that they are making Water for Elephants into a movie. It comes out next year and stars Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. Totally think Reese will be amazing in this film...having a hard time with the idea of Edward the vampire playing Jacob. I am so glad I didn't have his face in my mind as I was reading this story...would have totally given me a different experience. I kept picturing Ryan Gosling as I read the story! However, I hope I am pleasantly surprised and proved wrong when I go see this next year.
Worth reading? Absolutely - a historical treat!
Worth buying my own copy? Undecided...if you like to pass along books to friends, then I would buy a copy
Recommend to friends? Yes, especially those who like historical fiction
Stars: 5 out of 5
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Now the situation has grown even more dire. Small discrepancies in the historical record seem to indicate that one or all of them have somehow affected the past, changing the outcome of the war. The belief that the past can be observed but never altered has always been a core belief of time-travel theory—but suddenly it seems that the theory is horribly, tragically wrong.
Meanwhile, in 2060 Oxford, the historians’ supervisor, Mr. Dunworthy, and seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who nurses a powerful crush on Polly, are engaged in a frantic and seemingly impossible struggle of their own—to find three missing needles in the haystack of history.
Told with compassion, humor, and an artistry both uplifting and devastating, All Clear is more than just the triumphant culmination of the adventure that began with Blackout. It’s Connie Willis’s most humane, heartfelt novel yet—a clear-eyed celebration of faith, love, and the quiet, ordinary acts of heroism and sacrifice too often overlooked by history.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Sunday, July 4, 2010
- If I Perish
- Same Kind of Different As Me
- What I Saw and How I Lied
- The Last Song
- She Can't Even Play the Piano
- Dawn of a Thousand Nights
- Isaac's Storm
- Catching Moondrops
- The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter
- James and the Giant Peach
- Delivering Happiness
- The Book Whisperer
- The Sword
- Water for Elephants
- Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers
- Out Live Your Life
- What's Mine Is Yours
- Under the Overpass
- A Memory Between Us
I must admit I was eagerly awaiting the October release of Jennifer Erin Valent’s conclusion to her trilogy of books about Jessilyn Lassiter. What a treat it was to receive my very first ARC (advance reader copy) in early June and find none other than the last book - Catching Moondrops - to this delightful story. I promptly posted on Twitter and Facebook to all my friends that I felt like someone important to have received an ARC. And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect – I was leaving for vacation in five days. A perfect book for pool time reading!
Book Summary: (from back cover)
Jessilyn Lassiter no longer has to convince people she’s not a child. Having just turned 19 in the summer of 1938, her love for Luke Talley has never been more real. And Luke is finally beginning to care for her in the way she’s always dreamed of. But their budding romance is interrupted when Tal Pritchett—a young, black doctor—comes to Calloway, stealing the heart of Jessilyn’s best friend, Gemma, and stirring up the racial prejudice that has been simmering just beneath the town’s surface. The tension starts to bubble over when Jessie’s elderly neighbor Miss Cleta becomes the first white townsperson to accept Tal’s treatment. And when a young black man is lynched, Calloway is brought to its knees once again as Jessilyn realizes that her anger can make her heart as full of hate as the klan members who have terrorized her town and her family.
I’ll confess one of my motivating factors for wanting to eagerly read the last book in this series. I was dying to find out what happened between Jessilyn and Luke Talley, a young man and family friend that Jessilyn has crushed on since he saved her from drowning as a thirteen-year-old girl. Would Luke finally tell Jessilyn his true feelings about her? Would the Klan hurt one of them and squash all their possibilities for happiness? Would they get married?
Now, I won’t dare spoil this review with the answers to these questions. However, I will tell you that my stomach hasn’t fluttered with that many nervous butterflies since the time I was dating nine years ago! The gift Luke gives Jessilyn on her 19th birthday will take your breath away…it’s that clever and amazing! Quite simply, Valent has mastered writing about tender, young love in a way that is pure but ever more exciting than typical romantic novels. It really is an art! As women read Catching Moondrops, I think they will reflect on their own dating years and wistfully wish there had been a Luke Talley in their life and the sheer patience to wait for love to mature over time.
While Valent has a gift at writing romantic prose, she should also be applauded for writing Christian fiction in a way that doesn’t come off as trite, predicable and, well, “Christian.” While there is certainly a Christian point of view woven through her novels by design, I know that many non-believers will find the books immensely fulfilling and plant seeds for examining and challenging their own faith. The fact that Valent wrote about Jessilyn’s tailspin into hate, bitterness and unforgiveness is to be applauded. How many of us have felt the emotions that Jessilyn felt as we came to grips with our faith and humanity? Jessilyn’s faith journey is written in a raw and realistic manner that is so refreshing in Christian literature.It was so sad to close the book on Jessilyn and Luke, but Valent tied up the loose ends well enough that I felt satisfied and absolutely ready to read the next book this new author writes! For those of you who are waiting patiently for this book to show up in bookstores…you won’t be disappointed. For those of you who have not read the first two books – Fireflies in December and Cottonwood Whispers – You have less than three months to get caught up and ready for the October release!
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Saturday, January 23, 2010
It was interesting reading a novel about the timeframe just after WWII – I just don’t come in contact with much media that dwells on that time in history. I thought this book moved along very well and it certainly kept my interest. However, I had a hard time suspending belief that a 23-year-old soldier would shower affections on a nearly 16-year-old teenage girl. Granted this perception was from the 16-year-old’s point of view so it was a bit warped, but overall it was just sort of creepy and not believable for me.
Nonetheless, there were enough twists and turns in this YA book to have made it worth my while to read. That's probably why it was named a National Book Award winner in young people's literature. It was a fast, easy read that was a nice departure from some of the "heavy" books I’ve read lately.
Worth reading? Yes, if you like YA
Worth buying my own copy? No
Recommend to friends? No (I don’t think most women my age would like it.)
Stars: 3 out of 5
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Monday, January 4, 2010
The Bloom Book Club’s first selection for 2010 is “Same Kind of Different As Me.” This is the first book club – albeit it’s online – that I’ve ever joined. I was encouraged that the last book they read was “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan (which by the way will “wreck you” …in a good way) so I decided to give this book a try.
As the back of the book puts it, Same Kind of Different As Me is the true story of:
A dangerous, homeless drifter who grew up picking cotton in virtual slavery. An upscal
e art dealer accustomed to the world of Armani and Chanel. A gutsy woman with a stubborn dream. A story so incredible no novelist would dare dream it.
[Okay…I thought that last line in the back cover description was a bit overstated, but nonetheless, you get the idea that this is an incredible true story of how faith, hope and love can bring together two men who had nothing in common upon first glance.]
I rarely cry (maybe three or four times a year) and I found myself crying at one point in this book. So, I’m going to say with confidence that this is a good book because it got me to actually shed some tears!
My biggest takeaway of the book was a friendship analogy that Denver, the homeless drifter, cited when Ron, the upscale art dealer, said that he wanted to be Denver’s friend. He begins the analogy by describing the difference between how a black man fishes and how a white man fishes.
“When colored folks go fishin, we really proud of what we catch, and we take it and show it off to everybody that’ll look. Then we eat what we catch…in other words, we use it to sustain us. So it really bothers me that white folks would go to all that trouble to catch a fish, then when they done caught it, just throw it back in the water.”
He then responded to Ron’s (the white guy) invitation to be his friend: “So, Mr. Ron, it occurred to me: If you is fishin for a friend you just gon’ catch and release, then I ain’t got no desire to be your friend.”
Wow! What a statement! It really got me thinking that you can do good things for the poor, but if you really want to see the world through Jesus’ eyes you need to invest and be in relationships with the poor. Otherwise, you’re just catch’n and release’n people.
There’s a really great C.S. Lewis quote at the end of the book that I wanted to share about the clash between grief and faith. To me, this quote is a an encouraging answer to the age-old question of “why does God let bad things happen to good people?” Take a read (or read it two or three times like I did to make sure it fully sank in.)
“The tortures occur,” he wrote. “If they are unnecessary, then there is no God, or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary for no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t.”- C.S. Lewis
Worth reading? Yes
Worth buying my own copy? Yes, because you’ll want to lend it to someone (as I will do tomorrow!)
Recommend to friends? Yes, especially those interested in social justice issues and community outreach ministry
Stars: 5 out of 5