Posted in Book Review, Devotion

Identity

“The truth is you have been made perfect and are wholly loved. Chosen simply because you breathe, because you exist, because of who created you. I know this world has led you to believe that your worth is measurable. Life has always told you that lie–that you have to work for love or change to be accepted. But the truth is different.” The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker

This novel contains a life-giving message about our identity in Christ. Told through the perspective of a rejected young girl in a society where women’s sole purpose is to be chosen by a man and then to be his wife, The Choosing teaches that while God did lay out certain gender roles he did not mean for those to be our identity as humans. Let me explain by getting a bit more personal.

I’m almost 26, and I’ve only dated a handful of times. I’m not married, and it’s not as if I have guys knocking at my door wanting to get to know me. Sometimes I look at myself and wonder, “what’s wrong with me that guys don’t want to get to know me?” I can imagine I’m not the only girl or woman to ask that question. In fact, Stasi Eldredge describes it as the “am I enough?” question asked by every girl or woman (see Captivating if you’re interested in this question more). Her idea is that women are designed with that question inside; hopefully their father answers the question at a young age by loving and valuing the girl. She admits though that often the question is not fully answered, leaving many woman wondering why they’re not enough. Ultimately, it’s God who must answer that question for women. God says to me and all women, “yes, you are enough. There is nothing wrong with you because I created you just the way you are. My Son’s blood covered all of your sins and guilt. You are beautiful, chosen, and loved, my dear child.” Hmm…take a moment to drink that in.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. Song of Songs 4:7

Even though this novel has a futuristic dystopian setting, the world in which Carrington finds herself mirrors our world in many ways. In this future world after a disease wipes away much of the population, the Authority has set up rules for living according the Veritas, which is essentially the Old Testament.  At a certain age, girls participate in a Choosing ceremony in which they are either chosen by a young man to be his wife or sent to the Stacks to work manual labor. Families are assigned social status based upon where they live. Basically a person’s worth is determined by his or her social status, or a woman’s worth is determined by her ability to attract a male of higher social status than the one in which she was born.

The “truths” in this world match our world in that we are told our identity and worth are dependent upon what we do for a living, our social status, or sometimes even our marital status. Culture preaches that my life isn’t really started as an adult until I marry and start a family. As Carrington discovers in the novel, that’s not the truth. Our identity is not based upon any of these worldly aspects. Simply because I live and breathe, God sees value in me. He chose me as someone worthy of his love. He thinks I am beautiful and worth pursuing. Once we each accept his unearned love, we are free from the bonds of the world.

What if you could abandon all of the labels the world has placed on you? Who would you be then?

Sometimes we forget God’s truths though. We start to chase after a higher paying job, a more esteemed social status, or a relationship. We forget that God has already established our identity, and we do do not need any of these other factors. That’s when we must remember again. As the character called Aaron, who functions as the speaker of God’s truths, says,

Life is a journey of remembering and forgetting one’s true self.

Thankfully God is always there to welcome me back into his arms just like the prodigal son’s father welcomed him.

I am loved, chosen, pursued, and cherished by God.

Posted in Book Review

The Girl You Left Behind

Spring break is great because I have time to read entire books and fully appreciate them, especially when it decides to snow ruining any ideas of being outside. The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes is one such book. Set between World War 1 France and present day England, the story focuses around a painting of a wife that was stolen after the war. Moyes put me directly into the war with the story of a woman whose artist husband is away fighting, leaving her to live with her sister and kids. She has a painting of herself done by her husband that reminds her of happier days. Over time some German soldiers demand her to cook them meals at the family hotel. The Kommandant is intrigued by the painting, and eventually she’s willing to give him anything if he’ll order that her husband be released from the prison camp. The next day she is taken from her home and thrown into a German truck.

Then the storyline shifts to a modern day British widow with the same painting in her bedroom. Boy was I mad when I didn’t have answers to what happened to the French woman, and I didn’t particularly care about this whiny British widow even if she had the painting. Things got interesting though when it was revealed that an investigation was underway to find this painting because it was stolen during the war (think Monuments Men). The book continues to spin the story of the court case, weaving in small details of the French woman, until a slam ending revealing the French woman’s fate and the owner of the painting.

Overall, the literary style was incredible. There were amazing descriptions and fine storytelling. Even though I was mad about the character and time shift, I recognize its cleverness. This book was one I just can’t let go of yet because of its writing style and storytelling.

Posted in Book Review

A Reading Slump

Mission accomplished. After a long dry reading spell in which the only literature I’ve read since Christmas is my grad school textbooks or sophomore English novels, I have finally read a book, erm play or essay or short story thing. To make it simple, I read Silas House’s The Hurting Part which is a short story turned play turned essay set in 1960 America.

In the story, a young couple leaves all they know in Kentucky, including their daughter, and move to Ohio in an attempt to earn some money. The plan is to save money and return to Kentucky eventually. Centered around Christmas, the play showcases the sorrows of four individuals who left their homes to move to Ohio. Beautifully written, the play easily moves between the present and past with the use of dual stages.

The script is written so well that I could imagine the scenes playing out. I only wish I could see this play in person.

Now that I have broken my slump, I think I’ll stay in the Appalachian genre by re-reading The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver.

Posted in Book Review

The Glass Castle

Sometimes you have to read something to remind yourself of the reality in which some people live. The Glass  Castle by Jeannette Walls is just such a book. Told in stark honesty, this memoir tells the truth of the author’s life growing up with adventurous parents who never saw a need to fit into societal comforts.

In this family, the father dreams of building a glass house for his family. In the meantime his entrepreneur lifestyle and his wife’s starving artist mindset keeps the family scrounging for money, food, and a reliable mode of transportation. The situations described by the author in which she lived filled me with sadness.

I don’t think, though, that the author’s intent was to make readers sad. She never gets dramatic about her descriptions, nor does she give the impression that she regrets her upbringing. There were hard times and times without food, and she did leave before graduating high school, but the story ultimately was about how she became who she is. It’s a story of overcoming and life choices. 

It’s a story that will stick with me as I look at people. When Walls first moved to New York, she didn’t tell anyone of her past. That reminds me that sometimes people have hidden hurts and not to judge them.

 The Glass Castle is not for the faint of heart. It’s not overly graphic though there are some tough subjects and language. It made me sad and angry at times, but it reminded me of my blessings as well as to be a blessing to others.

Posted in Book Review

I learned that the term cows only refers to female cattle. How did I learn that, you ask? This evening I had the opportunity to play Catan: Settlers of America. Overall, it was a nice change from the original Catan or any of the expansions. It was useful to have played Catan before though because it enabled us to skip over some of the rules. It wouldn’t be impossible to learn though because the rule book is very thorough.

The gist of the game is similar to the original Catan, but it is set in the United States. Players try to build cities farther Eastward and deliver goods to other player’s cities.

Other Positives

The concept is fun because you can recognize cities that you know. It would allow families to discuss history of the Westward expansion. The rulebook explains the history in the almanac.

One nice addition from the original Catan is the resource bonus. If a number is rolled and you don’t have that resource, you get a gold coin. The gold coins can buy resources or help you travel.

The Downfalls

The game is very long. With three players we spent 3 hours playing the first time. Of course some learning time was factored into that. The game is easily modified to be shorter though. We played a second time with only half of the original goal and spent half of the time.

Unfortunately it only allows for 3-4 players. We also couldn’t find an expansion option. The board is so large already that expanding it would be hard.

Personally, I found the pieces a bit large and unwieldy. By the time you get a city, wagon, train, and rail on an intersection it’s quite crowded.

Unlike other Catan games where I find development cards to be an annoyance, development cards in this game make a huge difference. They allowed me to win the first time by letting me build two free roads.

I look forward to playing this game again in the future. 

Posted in Book Review

The Debt

Ah, Christmas break is amazing. After finishing the last day of school, I was able to sit down and just read for pleasure for several hours. I finished a very interesting book entitled The Debt by Angela Hunt. 

Set in a fictional Kentucky town, a pastor’s wife must rethink her view of the church when her grown biological son shows up in her life. Her son, whom she never met nor told her husband about, is a minister of a different kind than her husband; he goes to less-than-obvious places to build relationships with people who might never set foot in a church. She begins to see the flaws in the way she and her husband have been doing church.

This book’s purpose wasn’t to condemn church work or even to say that every church member needs to visit bars and impoverished neighborhoods. Rather, it asks us to pause and look at the opportunities God gives to us to be carriers of his word. For some of us that may mean doing work within the church, but for some of us that may mean carrying his work beyond the church walls.

Another main idea of this book was the idea of the church in connection with the world. The church in the book launched a nationwide boycott of a bookstore chain because a book with which they disagreed was being sold there. The pastor’s wife begins to question the effectiveness of such a boycott in spreading God’s love. She begins to see that the church is simply pushing agendas against sin rather than spreading the hope of God’s remedy for sin. One particular quote stands out: “don’t be shocked when sinners sin”. Just like the characters in the book, we need to examine what we’re fighting against. If we spend all of our time telling sinners that their sin is wrong without telling them about Jesus, we’ve missed the call. Remember, God meets us in our sin and then begins to change us, not the other way around. 

If you want a thought-provoking yet easy read, this might be a book to add to you Christmas wish list. 

Happy reading!

Posted in Book Review

The Hiding Place

“Today I know that such memories are the key not to the past, but to the future. I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.” 

Corrie ten Boom lived a life devoted to God in spite of her rough and often life-threatening situations. In her book, The Hiding Place, she tells the story of opening her home to Jews needing a place to hide. After being caught and arrested, she describes the horrors of jail then prison then prison camp. At times the prison camp closely resembled the concentration camps. Through all of the insecurity, pain, and misery, her faith in God rings loud and clear. Just as she said, she allowed God to work in her life, and he prepared her for every step, even at times protecting her supernaturally.

“There are no ifs in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety.”

Her story left me speechless in ways. She continually trusted that God would provide despite all around her signs of failure. She did his work until she died. I’m not currently in a place where I am in pain or in need of anything, but I still want to be in God’s will. It’s only there that I can work and rest in peace.

“But even kalte kost (bread ration alone) would be a small price to pay… for the precious books I clutched between my hands.”

Finally, Ms. ten Boom’s devotion to God is the most admirable thing about her. In this instance, she’s risking losing food in order to keep her copy of the Bible. Later she risks losing her life to smuggle a Bible into the prison camp. It makes me ponder how I would react if I was told I couldn’t own a Bible anymore. 

I’d highly recommend everyone to read this story.

story.