Posted in Blogging for Books, Book Review

English Lessons

Hold on…don’t go anywhere. I’m not going to (intentionally) give you any lessons about English. Instead, I want to talk about an interesting little story that I recently read.

Through bloggingforbooks, I stumbled across a book by the daughter of Max Lucado, Andrea Lucado, that tells the story of her journey closer to God that happened to coincide with her journey to Oxford (England that is).

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From the first page of this book, I was connected. This girl gets me. She and I both practically grew up in church, so our faith in God just seem connected to who we are. That doesn’t mean we were immediately saved upon birth or anything; we definitely still each had to make our own decisions about who God is to us. In fact, that’s the purpose of her book, English Lessons.  In this personal memoir, Andrea tells of how she traveled to Oxford thinking she could use it as her personal mission field (that’s how I felt in London). Once she arrives, she realizes that being the sole Christian in her graduate classes may be harder than she thinks (I can relate). She begins to question the validity of her own faith. Through a series of friendships and experiences, she comes to realize that her life is so much richer with God, and she can’t imagine her life without God.

I was immensely jealous of Andrea’s story firstly because Oxford was a place in England I did not get to visit. Secondly, she was able to experience the city and meet so many interesting characters. Thirdly, she is very articulate about her story of questioning her faith and then coming back to God. She tells the story in a way that makes me want to ponder my own story again and be more reflective. There are possibly still lessons I could learn from the events that have happened and will happen within my own life.

Even though this book is clearly marked as an uncorrected copy and won’t actually be published until later this year, I am glad to have read it now. Andrea’s story is both personal to her and relatable to the many church kids out there who wonder what their life would have been like if they hadn’t grown up going to church.

For more information about this book, visit the publisher’s website.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Posted in Book Review

Seven-Mile Miracle

Have you ever felt distanced from God and you’re not sure how to find him again? According to Steven Furtick, you only need to go seven miles.

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In his book, Seven-Mile Miracle, Furtick describes the last seven phrases that Jesus spoke before dying as a metaphor for the steps we will take from salvation until eternity in heaven.

Mile One: God’s forgiveness

Mile Two: Salvation

Mile Three: Relationship

Mile Four: The times when we feel abandoned

Mile Five: The times when we feel distressed

Mile Six: The triumph God gives

Mile Seven: A reunion with God

This short book packs a lot of punches as it describes how we all just want more of God. No matter where we are on that journey toward the presence of God, we need more of God to take the next step.

I appreciated that the book was loaded with scripture. Many paragraphs have a scriptural reference. Furtick stays focused on what truly matters rather than delving into long anecdotes.

In the back of the book, a 40 day reading guide is also included. The guide provides the parallel gospel readings of the 40 major events leading to Jesus’s ascension into heaven. I haven’t made it through the 40 days yet, but I look forward to the journey. It would be perfect to do the 40 days before Easter, but I think I’ve already missed that.

 

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

They put me…Over the Edge

There are three creatures in this world that I wonder why God created them: ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes. Before you start telling me all of the reasons why these parasites are useful, let me have my moment. Out of those three, ticks freak me out the most. They latch onto your skin, they’re tiny, and they carry so many diseases.

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One of those diseases, Lyme, is the focus of Brandilyn Collins’s book Over the Edge. Released in 2006, this book tells the story of a real battle through the eyes of fictional character. Janessa McNeil is the wife of a famous doctor whose main platform exists on the premise that Lyme is not a serious disease and can be cured by a short round of antibiotics. Janessa is infected with Lyme by a psychopath out to prove to the world that Lyme is a long-suffering disease. Not even his own wife’s suffering health can convince him that Lyme might be more serious than his committee claims.

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Collins writes with such descriptive prose that the book kept me riveted to the page even long after I should have been asleep. I wanted to know who the mysterious man was and why he thought infecting another human with Lyme would prove to the doctors that Lyme was serious. Be prepared at the end for a major, but believable, plot twist.

Prior to reading this book, my connection to Lyme was only based on stories of people who have had it. I didn’t know the extent to which this disease can affect a body or the trouble doctors can have diagnosing it. I trust the facts in this book based on the author’s extensive notes at the end and the fact that the author herself suffered from Lyme.

This book also carries a hint of the Christian faith. The Dr. McNeil doesn’t believe, but Janessa and her daughter are believers in Christ, albeit a very weak belief. The disease pushes Janessa to read the Psalms for comfort and sympathy. The verses she reads are what pushes her to keep fighting. While the storyline doesn’t punch you in the face with the Christian faith, there are glimmers of faith.

This book will remain on my shelf simply because it’s a well-written fast-paced easy read. I won’t return to it anytime soon, but someday once I’ve forgotten the plot, I’ll come back and enjoy it again.

 

Posted in Book Review

The Cider House Rules

I’m a little slow in posting this since I finished the book over a week ago. It’s so fitting that I finished The Cider House Rules the day before Sanctity of Life Sunday.

What led me to pick up this book: I watched this movie several years ago with my best human friend. While I didn’t really remember the plot, I did recall the emotions that the movie made me feel.

The basic plot of the book: Homer Wells, an orphan, grows up in a not-so-normal orphanage that also functions as a birthing hospital. The orphanage’s doctor also performs abortions. Homer can’t seem to settle in a home, so he becomes the doctor’s apprentice. As he grows older and learns more about the women who come pregnant but never give birth, he decides that he cannot be part of that work. Eventually, he leaves the orphanage to work on an apple farm. He only returns many years later when the orphanage really needs him.

The positives of the book: At first I was cheering for Homer when he told Dr. Larch he wouldn’t perform or assist with any abortions, but then he continued to say that he wasn’t opposed to abortions being performed. He did acknowledge that the fetus is a living human which is why he couldn’t perform an abortion.

Overall, the book is well-written, and in true John Irving fashion, the characters are many and well-developed. Spanning almost 600 pages, the reader sees the duration of Homer’s life in almost minute detail. You’ve been warned: it’s a commitment, but it’s a good book to commit to reading.

The drawbacks of the book: I struggled with the views on abortion because I am totally against abortion. None of the characters fall into that category. It would have been nice to see Irving include one character to challenge Homer’s views on abortion. Thankfully, though, there is more to the book than the abortion debate.

I’d recommend this book to any adult who has a well-formed opinion on abortion. If you’re unsure where you stand, you might want to do some research first because this book could possibly sway you in the wrong direction.

Posted in Life, Remembering

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

A year and a half ago, I was starting a position in the office where I worked as a college student. Part of me was excited for the work I would be doing, but there was also a small part of me that wondered why I was starting a year-long non-teaching commitment in July instead of seeking teaching jobs.

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

Fast forward a little less than one year when I started seeking teaching jobs since I knew the end of my time at CELTS was coming. I applied to several public schools because I thought that’s where God wanted me. I had noble plans of being this strong light in the public school system.

Maybe I could have been that light, but once again I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

I was devastated when I learned that the one English position open at that time in Madison County was filled internally. After leaving the career fair (which took enormous courage for me to even enter), I sat in my car and cried. Even though it was only early spring, I felt as if all of my options were drying up.

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

I kept putting my application out to public schools, and in the meantime I started looking around at other types of schools. My student teaching mentor had just come from OBI, and he had told me all about the school and it’s mission. I had briefly looked at it immediately following graduation, but nothing had come at that moment. On a whim, I sent my application to the school even though no jobs were posted at the time.

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

I continued worrying and working on applications, so I was pleasantly surprised when the president of OBI called to say they had an English position that might open up. He offered to host me for a couple of days, so they could get to know me and I could see the school.

Long story short, I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan. In my plan, I would have found a teaching job directly out of college, and it probably would have been in a public school. I had completely written VISTA positions out of my plan a summer before I accepted one in CELTS, but God had a plan in place to get me to the place where I am right now. Even though it has had it’s rough moments, I rest in the confidence that God orchestrated my presence here.

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan, but that didn’t make his plan any less real or perfect.

Posted in Blog, Life, Remembering

You want me to pray???

Recently I saw a Facebook post reminiscing about the times in youth group when the youth leader asked for a volunteer to pray and there was dead silence. I can certainly remember those moments, and often I was one of the silent ones. On the off chance that the youth leader called on me or I volunteered, there was a brief moment of panic. If I’m honest, there’s still that moment of panic when I’m asked to pray aloud today. My question is “why?”. Why are we afraid to pray aloud? It’s just talking to God after all. I do that frequently, so what am I afraid of?

After some soul searching, I have come to the conclusion that I think for me it’s a fear of the people listening more than a fear of talking to God. I panic that others will think my prayer isn’t “holy” enough or long enough. Maybe I won’t use the right words, or maybe I won’t have any words at all.

This morning I was reading the passage in Matthew 6 where Jesus teaches the crowds how to pray. If pointing out that pagans pray so that others can hear them wasn’t enough explanation, Jesus follows up with an example prayer of his own. Guess what? Jesus’ prayer isn’t long and drawn out. It uses fairly simple words and has a pretty straightforward message.

This example gives me courage that when I feel like talking to God, I should do so freely whether out loud or in my head. After all, when I’m praying aloud, it’s God’s ear that matters, not the ears of others.

Posted in Bible Study

Restart

January 1st often brings about resolutions and promises which the pessimistic side of me says are often broken before the end of January. The optimistic side though always looks forward to a new year because it feels like a new opportunity to restart. Maybe I’ve gotten slack on reading my Bible or maybe I’ve become lazy about getting some form of exercise. Maybe I just need a mental swipe to know that it’s an opportunity to make this year better.

God saw that the Israelites needed this sort of clean swipe. The Israelites weren’t living the life God intended for them to live, and Jeremiah spends his book mourning their behavior and pleading for change. In Jeremiah 25, God allows the Israelites to go into captivity by the Babylonians. I’m sure some of the Israelites were upset with God at this point, but God had a plan. This is exactly the sort of opportunity God was presenting to the Israelites in Jeremiah 29, but he didn’t just present the opportunity. God presented the opportunity with a promise.

In Jeremiah 29, Jeremiah sends a letter to the exiles in Babylon who were following God. He relays the words of God that basically tell them to keep heart. In the well-quoted verse eleven, God says, I have “plans to proper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.” Later he adds that the people will seek him and find him when they seek him with all of their heart (vs. 13). In this, God is saying that he is giving the people a chance to restart. He allowed them to go into captivity as an opportunity to seek him with their full heart. Some of the Israelites needed that.

This set of verses gave me hope in a world and country that seems to be going topsy-turvy. Sometimes I wonder why Jesus hasn’t returned yet, but then I remember that he has promised that he will return. The Israelites probably wondered why he didn’t rescue them sooner, but he promised them 70 years in captivity. God hasn’t given us a specific time frame to be on this earth, but he has promised that he will return and that he has plan that is good. In the meantime, we must continue living out the commands he has given us. If you’ve gotten slack in keeping the commands or even in your relationship with God, take this fresh year as an opportunity to restart. God forgives any time of the year.

 

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40