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.

burrowingowl

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.

Posted in Book Review

Blast to the Past: Christy Miller

There are some books that I just can’t critique too harshly because they hold such dear memories for me. The Christy Miller collection by Robin Jones Gunn is one of those series of books. I first read these books when I was a teenager, but I’m fairly certain I only read the first two collections (There are four collections of three books bound together.). This weekend, I finished the fourth collection.

christy miller collection

The series focuses on a teenage girl named Christy Miller, who starts the series by visiting her aunt and uncle in southern California and ends up moving there with her family. During the series, she comes to know Christ as her savior, makes new friends, and goes on a romantic roller coaster ride with a couple of guys. She learns about herself and her convictions while experiencing many of the emotions of a typical teenage girl.

As a teenager, I enjoyed reading about her romantic adventures and was encouraged by her journey to and through faith in God. In fact, I would say that this book helped me define what I want on the romantic front and provided a foundation for how to live out my faith that has stuck with me into adulthood. One meaningful lesson I learned and repeat to other is to not live in the land of what-if. That means when I start following that train of thought towards wondering what a situation would be like if, I remember that the land of what-if is not a real place. I remember to live with the current circumstance and let God take care of the future.

As an adult, I am glad I finished the series and almost wish I would have read the entire series earlier. I relate to many of Christy’s emotional turmoil even though our living situations were vastly different. I say “almost wish” because I value the learning I have done by living my own life. Maybe I would not have made mistakes in my relationships with humans or God if I had read the entire series as a teenager, but I also wouldn’t be the person I am today. These books helped me reflect on my past and look toward my future and present.

I’d recommend these books to any teenager. While they are geared toward girls, I recently read an article that discussed letting boys read “girl books” that resonated with me. Boys may find something to enjoy if they choose to read these books, and they will learn about feminine feelings and a relationship with God. Most definitely, though, I would recommend these books to teenage (or adult) girls. They were a quick read for me as an adult, and I imagine they would be for most teenagers as well. Parents should read the books alongside their teenagers so that important conversations about God and relationships can take place. These books should spark conversation because the characters are so real and present real emotional dilemmas.

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Go Set A Watchman

When I finished Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, all I could say was, “wow”. I think the world needed this book. It provides a look into racial tensions and breaks down the idyllic family set up in To Kill A Mockingbird. Definitely, Mockingbird needed to come first, but Watchman has its place in the world as well.

Watchman hits straight on the head what I imagine was the internal conflict within many white Southerners. They may not have hated blacks, but they sure didn’t want them mixing with their kind. Atticus was okay upholding the law and protecting the name of innocence, but he didn’t want to grant equality to blacks. They could work for him but not with him. In fact, later in the novel, Atticus argues that the blacks are not sophisticated enough to live in the world of white people.

This novel is also a coming of age story for Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Mockingbird was a young coming of age story, but Watchman is an older coming of age story in which Scout has to find her own conscience and voice. She says about Atticus, “The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she could point and say with expert knowledge, ‘He is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman,’ had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly.” At first she tries to blame herself, but through the wisdom of her uncle, she comes to realize that maybe her father is not perfect which frees her to be her own person.

New characters are introduced that don’t fit into the plot of Mockingbird, but I think I can dismiss that by saying Mockingbird came from a child’s limited scope of view. To Kill A Mockingbird still remains on my list of novels that I hope to teach someday, and Go Set A Watchman only serves as a way to enhance the first published story. Thank you, Harper Lee, for adding more levels to these already dynamic characters. I give this a 5 out of 5 as a stand-alone book and a 4 out of 5 as a sequel to Mockingbird because of the inconsistencies.

“Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.”