poisonwood bibleTitle: The Poisonwood Bible

Author: Barbara Kingsolver

Date Started: April 11, 2014  Date Finished: April 22, 2014

Number of Pages: 543   Total for 2014: 8,956

What it’s about: Nathan Price, a brash evangelical Baptist minister, and his wife Orleanna have four daughters. When he accepts a call to be a missionary preacher in the Congo, Nathan packs up his family and moves them around the world to bring God’s word to the “heathen” masses in the Kilonga region. Arriving at the end of the 1950s, on the brink of a time of great revolution in the then Belgium claimed nation of a thousand tribes and languages, the Price family finds nothing the way they expected it to be. Told from the point of view of all of the females in the family, this is an incredible story of survival in the midst of culture shock, famine, poverty and domestic discord.

This book is the best novel I’ve read in a very long time.

Why I Read It: It’s been on my “to read” bookshelf long enough! So glad I finally picked it up!

Jesus FeministTitle: Jesus Feminist

Author: Sarah Bessey

Date Started: April 9, 2014    Date Finished: April 16, 2014

Number of Pages: 234    Total for 2014: 8413

What It’s About: Oh, for a day when people no longer have to write books justifying the equal partnership of women in working for God’s Kingdom…

The title of this book may have given you pause. Jesus and feminism don’t seem to go together very well in Americanized Christianity. Yet, arguably, Jesus does seem like he was kind of a feminist. He elevated women in a way that was revolutionary in his lifetime. He welcomed women to walk alongside him, to learn at his feet and to carry good news to others (even the very best news of his resurrection was entrusted first to women). Yet the church spends so much time defining a role for women that is separate and not often very equal. Like many before her, Bessey challenges this viewpoint with her beautifully descriptive writing style. This book is Sarah’s own testimony of God’s goodness in her own life, but then it becomes the story of many women and men who are working for and serving God’s Kingdom.

One of the ideas Bessey writes about in her book is the cultural context into which certain ideals are often preached. In our culture of Christianity, “we” have this idea of Biblical Womanhood and what a female follower of Christ should be and do. The line that I’ll remember is when she quoted a friend as saying “If it’s not true in Darfur, it’s not true here.” If something cannot be preached in every context for every person or follower of Jesus, it has particular cultural relevance and may be instructive in context, but it should not be treated as Gospel truth.

And this powerful sentence from chapter 10 that reminds us why this is actually still important, even when people from all angles of thought grow weary of discussing or reading about it: “Many of the seminal social issues of our time–poverty, lack of education, human trafficking, war and torture, domestic abuse–can track their way to our theology of, or beliefs about, women, which has its roots in what we believe about the nature, purposes and character of God.” (She goes on to describe and statistically back what she means.) We are not over the need to talk about issues concerning women and the place of women in Jesus’ Kingdom and Church, in our society or worldwide.

Why I Read It: I was intrigued by the title and the words of others who had read it already.

blue christmasTitle: Blue Christmas

Author: Mary Kay Andrews

Date Started: April 4, 2012     Date Finished: April 4, 2012

Number of Pages: 208    Total for 2014: 8,179

What It’s About: Eloise (Weezie) is an antique dealer in Savannah, GA. She’s dating a man named Daniel, owner of a local restaurant. As she navigates the pitfalls of her personal and business life, weird things starts to happen. Items go missing; the gate is left is open; food for a party disappears; someone is seen sleeping on a bed in her shop one night. Busy with Christmas plans, she barely has time to examine it…until the night when it all comes together in a hilariously tragic way.

Why I Read It: For book club! It’s the April selection. It was a fast, fun read. I read it on Friday night, but am only just getting around to adding it to my blog!

 

I’m a day late with this list! I was still thinking about this until this morning, actually.

According to this, it’s electronic devices week!

“Are you going to have to unplug your night lights?”  a friend mused after reading the post about my Lenten “challenge.”

Well, sheesh, if we’re going to count each night light as an electronic device, I’m in trouble.

Also, if we’re going to count every appliance we own that makes our house run in a modern way and keeps my neat-freak husband from losing his mind. I mean, if I had to count the appliances individually, I’d probably trade one of them in for my hair straightener because I’m preaching at a women’s gathering on Thursday and I’m apparently still too vain to just wash and go with my hair when it really counts.

Here’s the list:

1. my phone

2. my laptop

3. my hair straightener

4. the television

5. all of the major household appliances (dishwasher, stove and washing machine. Surprise–our clothes dryer broke before the weekend! If it gets fixed, about which I am hopeful, it counts in number 5.)

6. all of the lights.

7. [Left blank so far. There are 5-6 things I'd like to add to the list, but I'm going to try to go without all of them.]

Wait! Where’s the coffee maker? How could you not include a coffee making device?

A lovely family from my church is going on vacation this week for Spring Break, and the Mr. of the family read my blog and sent me a message: You can use our French Press while we’re gone so you don’t have to count the coffee pot! 

I mean, I was planning to include the coffee pot (part of why 7 is blank). But using the French Press has been fun!

Easter is coming, friends, and I am so glad! This is the point in Lent when I usually feel so weary. The practice of regular prayer has helped, but on this dreary, rainy morning I’m feeling it a bit today.

Easter. Is. Coming.

orangeTitle: Orange Is The New Black: My Year In A Women’s Prison

Author: Piper Kerman

Book Started: April 2, 2014  Book Finished: April 6, 2014

Number of Pages: 322  Total for 2014: 7,971

What It’s About: Piper Kerman had a brief “career” as a drug mule in the early 90s post-college when she delivered a suitcase of drug money for her then girlfriend. When that ex-lover snitched on her as part of the terms of her own conviction, Kerman was charged, convicted and finally sentenced a decade later. Now with a legitimate career and a fiance who loves her, the woman who is barely a threat to society surrenders herself for her fifteen month sentence at Danbury. She learns to navigate the prison system, makes friends and works her way through her sentence. Her memoir of this time is an up-close look at the women who are incarcerated and the triumphs and failures of our nation’s prison system.

Why I Read It: I heard Kerman speak on “The Moth” Podcast last June and was intrigued by her story. I watched each episode of the Netflix Original Series based on this book. When the book was super cheap on Amazon, I bought it. Again, the armchair social scientist in me was curious about her story.

If you’re wondering how close it is to the Netflix series: Yes, Piper Kerman (her real name) was in prison for 13 months, however the series has been embellished and sensationalized to be more entertaining for an audience used to lots of violence, swearing and sex. Kerman’s book does not contain a lot of the more illicit scenes and details written into the series, and although the overall arc of the story is similar, a whole lot has been added.

zodiaTitle: Zodiac: The Shocking True Story of the Nation’s Most Bizarre Mass Murderer

Author: Robert Graysmith

Book Started: March 27, 2014  Book Finished: April 4, 2014

Number of Pages: 400   Total for 2014: 7649

What It’s About: The author was on staff at the San Francisco Chronicle during the time the Zodiac Killer first struck. He has collected all known evidence of the killer, including evidence not previously released to the public, and compiled it in this book. Victim by victim, month by month, he recounts this evidence, offering his own commentary when applicable.The case remains open, although, according to Wikipedia, a credible, death bed confession is currently being investigated.

Why I Read It: The untrained social scientist in me is always fascinated by tales like this one.

Photo Credit: Nibby Priest (taken in Church Fellowship Hall)

Photo Credit: Nibby Priest (taken in Church Fellowship Hall)

(…or any group fitness class.)

You probably know that for the last one and a half years, I’ve been participating in Zumba classes that are held at Presbyterian Church in downtown Henderson KY. Three instructors teach in the gym at the church on Mondays (5:30 p.m.), Tuesdays (5:30 and 6:35 p.m.) and Saturdays (9:00 a.m.).

Almost all of the participants are women. Many are mothers. Some bring their children with them to Zumba. Sometimes the kids play in an attached classroom, but sometimes they watch or participate in the class. The instructors are very gracious, and I think it’s great when kids are there.

Yes, it’s great because they are exercising and kids exercising is a “win.” Yes, it’s great because they are learning some basis dance moves (cha cha, mambo, salsa, single single double). But it’s also great because they are seeing something they don’t get to see everywhere: women of all ages and body types, of all abilities and inabilities doing something fun and healthy.

We worry about daughters in our society. The media available to them is often full of air-brushed and plastic body parts. We worry that they’ll try to obtain something that’s impossible–the perfection that only comes with personal trainers, personal chefs, personal plastic surgeons and Photoshop.

In my Zumba classes on Tuesday night (I took 1.5 classes on Tuesday), there were several children present. At one point, there was a part of a song where we were all facing the north wall of the gym and shaking it. I mean, that’s the instruction: face that wall and shake it out. Bodies of all types, created by God and beautiful in each one’s own way, shook and moved. Young and old, short and tall, thin and curvy, full of energy and exhausted after a day at work or at home. Women, who got up that morning and themselves may have looked in the mirror and made a face because what they saw was not the impossible perfection they wished the were seeing, were smiling and shaking and laughing and encouraging each other.

When you take your daughter to Zumba, she gets a different message than the traditional media gives. She sees real bodies,none of them completely alike, being strong and healthy. She sees real women, some of whom she may look like when she grows up, doing something fun and energetic. She learns that “normal” isn’t airbrushed, and “perfect” isn’t impossible. She sees that “healthy” involves laughter, that “strong” can mean trying something new and that no body moves exactly the same way.

When you take your daughter to Zumba, she may just be learning to love her own body. And that’s truly a “win.”

fault in our starsTitle: The Fault In Our Stars

Author: John Green

Date Started: March 30, 2014   Date Finished: April 2, 2014

Number of Pages: 318   Total for 2014: 7,249

What It’s About: Hazel Lancaster is 16 years old and has stage IV cancer. It’s terminal. She’s sent to a cancer support group for kids. One night, while there, she meets Augustus Waters. The ill-fated high school students soon find their way into each others hearts and arms as they wrestle with questions we all wrestle with as we approach and consider death–does my life matter? Will I be remembered? Is there anything after this? This story, funny and tragic all at the same time, resonates deeply.

Why I Read It: This book is beloved by teenage girls everywhere, much the same way “A Walk To Remember” was a decade ago. After much urging, I borrowed it via Kentucky Libraries Unbound. It’s fantastic.

thank yousIt’s Thanks Week during Lent (Don’t panic if you didn’t know.  I made that up.) and I’m writing 7 thank you notes each day, Being thankful will cause you to be happier and more satisfied with your life. Writing thank you notes will brighten the days of people you love or people who have gone above and beyond, but weren’t really expecting any thanks.

Here are ten people you can go out of your way to thank this week! I recommend notes, but an email or phone call or text or face to face will work, too.

1. A teacher who made an impact in your life or is making an impact in the lives of your children.

2. A coach, scout leader or mentor to your or your children.

3. A young person who volunteers in your community.

4. Your pastor, youth minister, or any member of your church staff.

5. A friend who gave you a gift.

6. Someone in the healthcare field who went above and beyond for you or a loved one.

7. A person who loves you and is important in your life, but you never think to thank him or her (like a spouse or a parent).

8. A person who has made a difference in your life or the life of one of your children.

9. A co-worker (or in my case church member) who helped you do your job or filled in for you while you were away.

10. God (as in a written prayer of thanks).

Who Is This ManTitle: Who Is This Man?

Author: John Ortberg

Date Started: February 15   Date Finished: March 30

Number of Pages: 225    Total for 2014: 6.931

What It’s About: Ortberg takes us through several areas of impact that the person of Jesus Christ had in the world, from the dates on the calendar to how women are treated, from his impact on art to the destruction his followers have caused in his name. History’s most recognizable figure…yet, a man who lived so humbly. Ortberg writes like he preaches and this book is full of fun topics to discuss in a group.

Why I Read It: We read this book for a study at the church led by one of our church members.