Posted in Devotion

Stuff

As I sit in my comfy chair and look around my house, I am amazed at just how much stuff I have accumulated in the short 26 years of my life. Then I think about all of the stuff I’ve had over the years and discarded. I think about the trash I’ve created, and the material possessions I’ve wasted. I’m hit with two thoughts:

  1. I am extremely blessed.
  2. What is the purpose of having all of this stuff?

That second question is what has plagued me this summer as I’ve spent the time doing the “spring cleaning” that I didn’t have time to do in the spring. I have more clothes than I can wear in a month, more books than I could read in a year, and more plates than I use regularly. Some of the stuff surrounding me is needed for physical necessity, some for emotional necessity, and some for creature comforts. But is there a point when stuff starts diminishing my life rather than improving it?

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20

This advice from Jesus follows directly after teaching the disciples to pray and directly before telling them not to be anxious. The line between just enough stuff and too much stuff seems to lie in the heart. When the stuff in our lives starts to distract us from God or cause us to be anxious then it becomes a problem. We must decide if we are surrounding ourselves with stuff because it helps us to live a more productive life or if we are masking our anxieties about the future. Are we holding on to things because they bring us joy or because we’re afraid of forgetting who we are without them?

One of the hardest things for me to let go of is books. (No big surprise there right?) I’ll read a book, enjoy it, and want to keep it not because I’ll ever read it again but because looking at it helps me remember the euphoria I felt while reading it. There’s a fear of forgetting the pleasant times spent reading. There’s also a bit of pride in owning certain books that make me feel cool or intelligent. Both of those reasons reveal a small heart problem.

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There’s nothing wrong with owning stuff, and in my humble opinion, I could be collecting worse things than books. The problem with collecting stuff is that the stuff starts to take precedence in my heart instead of looking forward to God’s plans. It’s easy to become obsessed with getting the next big thing to impress your friends (or for me, owning the book that everyone is impressed with). As a believer, I must remember that the stuff I accumulate on earth does not define me nor will it make me happy (the loads of unbought books and other junk in thrift stores attest to that fact).

My identity and joy rest in God. The stuff may bring me little bouts of happiness, but that happiness is short-lived compared to the eternal joy I will experience in God.

Posted in Book Challenge, Book Review

The Great American Read

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. -C.S. Lewis

With that statement being true for me, you can only imagine my excitement when I first heard about The Great American Read, hosted by PBS. Firstly, book lists make me excited because I want to see how many I’ve read, but then secondly, I get to vote and prove to other people that my favorite books are awesome as well!? It’s an English major/teacher’s favorite fantasy.

Speaking of teaching, I can totally see this being an interactive bulletin board in my classroom. I can put up copies of the book covers and let the students cast their votes within the classroom, while also encouraging them to vote online in their free time. Who knows, maybe it’ll inspire them to read some of the books they haven’t read? It might also be interesting to see if any students have read more of these books than I have.

So now are you curious about which book I’ll vote for and how many I’ve read? Well, it made me feel better to know that I can vote for a different book each day because choosing just one book on this list would be extremely hard. I mean, The Chronicles of Narnia, To Kill A Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, and Little Women are listed. I’ve used all of those books as answers to the inevitable “what’s your favorite book?” question.

Let’s start first with the number of books I have read. Out of 100, I’ve only read a dismal 44. This brought me spiraling back to my lifelong conundrum of never having enough time to read all of the books out there. Then I started looking at some of the books I haven’t gotten around to reading that I really need to. For example, why did I never finish Catch-22 or Heart of Darkness? Why did I spend time reading Moby-Dick when I still haven’t read The Lord of the Rings? Oh I can answer that question: Melville was required reading for a class. Then there are some like Jurassic Park that I didn’t even know were books. Overall, I’m impressed with the list that Americans chose and hope to get my hands on these and understand the American mind even more.

So, the book I will choose to vote for? I think I will have to begin my voting with Narnia because technically I’m voting for seven books that way. I also think more people need to read the books and not focus on the movies as much. After that it’ll be a toss-up between Mockingbird and Jane Eyre. Some others that might catch votes include Little Women, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Giver, Gone with the Wind (that thing is monstrous!), and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Go to pbs.org/greatamericanread to get your own list and cast your vote(s).

Happy reading!

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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 Devotion

READING, READING

I go through phases where I want to read every book published and be the most well read (stop booing “nerd” at me). It becomes a bit of an obsession of mine, and sometimes supercedes my time with God. Usually I eventually feel guilty, repent, and change my schedule, but the cycle comes back around again. 

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:38

This verse hit me like BAM today. It’s not just about the times I let this neglect of my relationship happen. It’s the attitude that creates that moment where novels (and occasionally other books) become more important than God-time. 

I don’t need to read every book written when I have the most important one from God. It’s not wrong to spend time reading, especially those books that make me ponder God, but never should that point of pride about being well-read matter more than my relationship with God. In fact that pride shouldn’t exist at all.

Posted in Life

Dumped… Again.

Sometimes finishing a good book feels like getting dumped.

Recently I took a reading personality test that asked me how I know a book is good. I answered that a book is good when it makes me want to skip meals or obligations in order to keep reading. I also know a book is good when I go  to a book store and see a book, immediately want to buy it because I enjoyed it so much, and then realize I already own it. Finally a good book puts me in a book slump where I spiral into massive amounts of Netflix watching.

Finishing a good book feels similar to how I’ve felt after a relationship ends, granted I’ve only had a bit of experience in that category. During a good relationship, you allow the relationship to absorb time you used to spend doing or thinking about other things. After it ends, you sigh over other relationships, wish you could have it, and realize that you already had it. Finally after a good relationship you may be in a relationship slump where dating can be hard to break into again, so you watch massive amounts of Netflix to cope.

It’s not a perfect metaphor, and any good book lover who’s ever been dumped might just understand these feelings. Let me know.

Posted in Book Review

A Reading Dilemma

I’m packing up to leave for a trip very soon, and I’m going to be gone a couple weeks. I have a slight problem (besides the fact that I’m going to miss my Scout like crazy).

I don’t know which books I should bring on the trip! Okay so this is sort of a first world problem and probably not worth stressing about, but book lovers will understand. I’m not sure right now what mood I’ll be in. One time I went away for just a weekend and brought a book to read, but when I found time to read it wasn’t appealing to me (I also haven’t read it since because of that bad taste).

Some smart person will probably tell me that I should use a Kindle or an app, so I have a whole collection of books to choose from. No. No. No. It’s just not the same. Sorry. Not happening.

Alas I must make a decision, so I selected one teacher book, an Elie Wiesel collection, a Robin Jones Gunn book I haven’t read, and a Ted Dekker. Hopefully the wide variety in addition to the Bronte I’m currently reading will suffice me if I can’t find a bookstore.

Happy reading!

Posted in Book Review

Hoot

In some ways, Hoot by Carl Hiassen is a coming-of-age story, which is probably why I like it. It tells the story of Roy Eberhardt who just moved from Montana to Florida. He is immediately targeted by the two school bullies and nicknamed “cowgirl”. Poor kid. Even while being tormented, he is intrigued by a boy running away from the bus stop without shoes. The story continues to reveal that an international pancake enterprise (the fictional enemy of IHOP) plans to move into town right where several families of burrowing owls live.

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This book, intended for young adults, hits on environmental issues and unsettled households with an array of serious and comical characters. I think it would be a fun book to read with middle school students in a classroom. The story could promote discussion about big businesses, environmental consciousness, and moral dilemmas, and there’s plenty to talk about on the literary side of the conversation.

Hiassen does a good job of creating memorable characters while also driving a plot forward. The book contains Mullet Fingers, a runaway teenager who abandons his name; Chuck E. Muckle, a big-headed CEO; Curly Branitt, the dim-witted foreman; Officer Delinko, an officer trying to get ahead; and most importantly Roy Eberhardt, a kid learning to adapt. Most characters remain static, but the author makes them appear dynamic by only revealing bits of their characters at a time and by driving the plot forward very quickly.

I’d recommend this book wholeheartedly to any middle school or early high school student, but I also wouldn’t stop an adult from reading (or re-reading) this book because of the strong environmental argument. We can all learn a lesson from Mullet Fingers and Roy about standing up for what you believe is right no matter who stands beside you.

Hoot

Now to see if the 2006 movie is any good.