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.

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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.

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Posted in Bible Study, Blogging for Books, Book Review

God Loves

I don’t have much, if any, experience in the romantic love department, so I’ve often just skimmed over Song of Songs as I’ve read the Bible. Dee Brestin’s He Calls You  Beautiful helped bring out the metaphor of the book. It’s not just a physical romance between a man and a woman; it’s the image of us as the dark-skinned scorned woman being wooed and falling in love with our King, God. Here are some truths I derived from reading this book.

  • God desires to have a relationship with each of us in spite of our sin.
  • Our eyes are to be like dove’s eyes: focused forward, avoiding distraction.
  • Just like in a marriage, God asks us to love him in sickness and in health. God never gets sick, but it may feel at times as if he’s not present or a little crazy. We still love him.
  • Just like the groom leaves the bride after she refuses to leave her mother and marry him, sometimes God leaves us to the consequences of our sins. Just like the groom though, God comes back to call us to him again.
  • In the bigger context, the bride in Solomon’s story represents the day when Jesus’ followers will be reunited. In her name you can literally find peace and in many instances she represents the new Jerusalem. You’ll have to read the book to get a better understanding of this metaphor.
  • At times my faith may become lukewarm, but just like the lover in the poem, God will stand at the door of my heart and knock until I open back up to him. Similarly he also leaves us with his word just as the groom left myrrh in the door to remind us of his love and push us to run back to him.

Though my earthly heart longs for marriage so much that it hurts at times, I am thankful that this book reminded me of my position as a bride of Christ. He has wooed me, chosen me, and continues to express his love for me. Someday we’ll be joined together for eternity in heaven, and it will be more sweet than any earthly marriage. For now I’ll keep preparing myself to meet my King, and maybe an earthly husband will be in God’s will as well.

Many waters cannot quench love, nor floods drown it. (Song 8:7)

I received this book from Blogging for Books.

Posted in Blogging for Books, Book Review

Gearing up for School

School is right around the corner. While at some points, I feel as if summer just began, in other ways I am ready to have a purpose for each day. There are so many ideas floating through my head (and hopefully all going into my notebook so they will be remembered) about how to make this school year better than last year. In order to keep myself fresh and restore my motivation, I’ve been reading some teacher books (I know…nerdy). One of these books was Positive Discipline: Tools for Teachers by Jane Nelson and Kelly Gfroerer.

When I first came across this book, I was interested because discipline and classroom management is one of my self-identified growth areas. Sure I can write detentions and write-ups, but that was only effective with some students. As I read this book, I also identified instances where I know I could have responded to a situation with more grace. Mainly this book was a refresher of many concepts I remember being told in teacher training, but those concepts got lost in the stress of being a new teacher. Some of those concepts include giving students the power to make good decisions by asking rather than demanding, having a plan for when students make bad decisions, and allowing myself to cool off before taking action.

One very helpful tool was the Mistaken Goal chart. It identifies four reasons why a student might be misbehaving: undue attention, misguided power, revenge, and assumed inadequacy. The chart identifies how teachers might feel and normally react and then some empowering behaviors to try instead. I think this tool might be on that I post next to my desk as a tool of reflection and growth.

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The book itself is broken into very short chapters with a short tool, some real-life stories, and research to back it up. This makes the book easy to read in short segments which is probably better for reflection and action. Personally, as a high school teacher, I wish more of the examples had been from a high school classroom because I couldn’t picture using many of the tools in a 50 minute period with teenagers. I also wish the writers had provided more clarification about the tools because I often didn’t understand the tool until I read the stories.

Coming in a paperback format and having coloring-book style pages, I think the book does contain useful information and is well-organized. I would definitely recommend it to elementary teachers. I hope that the authors will make an updated version for secondary teachers because teenagers are treated and taught differently than elementary students.

 

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

 

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!