Spring Reading

I did quite a bit of traveling this spring. After being in Oklahoma for our son’s wedding, I hit the road. I was away from home April 11 through May 10. I was able to visit friends in Chattanooga, Nashville, Memphis, near Birmingham, and Tuscaloosa. I spent a weekend at a women’s conference (check out info for the fall conference) and eight days at a study program where I spent time with men and women from around the country. (The summer study program will be Mark.) I attended my youngest daughter’s college graduation then traveled to Baltimore with Ron on a business trip. We were able to see the Oriels play and even made it on the Kiss Cam. It was a long trip but great fun.

During my travels I was able to spend quite a bit of time reading. After I returned home I had land to mow, gardens to plant, and trees to water. I also spent time on our shady porch enjoying spring weather and finishing a few more books.

You may notice that some books are linked to Amazon, but others are linked to Alibris or Half Price Books. (A few are found on the Gutenberg Project website free download!) I am not an affiliate with any of these sites.

I prefer real books, the kind I can hold in hands and pass on to others when I’m finished. (I read books on my tablet when I travel.) I encourage you to find books at your local library or used book store. Thrift stores like Goodwill are also great places to find used books. If you can’t find the book you are looking for locally, then order online. After you read one of these books, why not give your copy to a friend to enjoy?

Here is my list of books read this spring.

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung

In 1975 the Khmer Rouge take over power in Cambodia. Five-year-old Loung Ung does not understand why they have to leave the city, why her father says they must not speak of their former life, or why the soldiers lie and hate them. This heart wrenching tale gives us look into what it was like for thousands of Cambodians forced from their homes. Starvation, labor camps, young girls forced into marriage by soldiers, men and women disappearing from villages never to be seen again. The aftermath of war is horrible.

Loung Ung is a gifted storyteller. This book is well written. Although I had a hard time with much of the story, I could not put the book down. Perhaps I should not be surprised by the depravity of men, but I am still amazed at how awful we can be towards those who are different from us. God help us.

King Truths by Alveda King

Alveda King is the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I heard her on a news program. The things she said in her interview interested me so I bought this book. I had a hard time reading it at first. I’m not a fan of the latest buzz words like “empowerment” nor am I fan of teaching that only builds us up emotionally, so when I read the introduction I almost stopped reading. I’m glad I keep going.

Ms. King writes of “21 Keys to Unlock Your Spiritual Potential.” She starts with the keys love, salvation, and forgiveness, all important truths in the lives of Christians. Each chapter covers one key. She includes stories from her life in the King family plus scripture references. Much of her theology is right on point.

Here is a quote from the chapter on Divine Salvation:

But salvation through faith in Jesus Christ brings healing and justice to all these issues and more. Salvation is a divine key because we have no godly spiritual authority if we are not in Christ. We can’t even begin to think about aligning with the King of kings without first being saved.

You can read another quote that caused me to think here.

Ms. King’s style is very different from mine, and I would love to have a long lunch with her discussing our shared faith in Jesus and trust in the Word of God. I’m certain I would learn a thing or two.

The Twelfth Imam Series by Joel Rosenberg

The Twelfth Imam

Tehran Initiative

Countdown to Damascus

In the race to develop nuclear weapons, Iran is further along than anyone in the West imagines. The CIA has no idea just how far they’ve come. But when one of the top Iranian nuclear scientists is killed, his son-in-law realizes the truth. Also a brilliant nuclear physicist, the son-in-law has no idea what to do until he meets Jesus. A real encounter with the God of the universe changes everything. For him. For his family. And for the world.

As I’ve written before, I’m a Joel Rosenberg fan. I’m not sure how I missed this series when it came out about eight years ago. I bought the first book in the series after reading The Kremlin Conspiracy last month. I read all three books in the series in about a week. As I listened to the news and see things happening between Iran and Israel lately, I found these books fascinating. Once again Mr. Rosenberg seems to know more about world affairs than our mainstream media or even our national leaders.

Capital Gainesby Chip Gaines

The subtitle of this book is “Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff.” The costar of Fixer Upper and cofounder of Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas, gives us an honest look into where he started and how he got where he is today. This book is full of antidotes about life as a risk taker in small town Texas.

I enjoy the show Chip and Joanna star in. I love their decorating style (although I’m not a fan of shiplap) and I love even more the way they demonstrate a loving marriage. Because of this, I was excited to read the book. I read it all in one evening; the chapters are short and the message isn’t complicated. Capital Gaines is a fun and interesting read.

A River In Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa

At age 13, in 1960, Masaji Ishikawa moved from his homeland Japan to North Korea with his parents and three sisters. For thirty-six years he endured hardship and starvation. He finally escaped to China and with the help of the Japanese consulate made it back to Japan. This book recounts the horrors of living under the oppressive regime of the North Korean leadership.

I can’t say I enjoyed this book. Who enjoys reading about the suffering of others? Yet it is an interesting book; I couldn’t put it down. For those who think socialism is the solution to all our problems, please read this story. The experiment is a dismal failure in North Korea just as it has been in other parts of the world. People are starving to death.

I wish I could say this book has a happy ending, but it doesn’t. And still I recommend it to everyone.

Grace Behind Bars by Bo and Gari Mitchell (published by Focus on the Family).

Bo was a businessman and minister. Chaplain for the Denver Nuggets. Fund raiser for many nonprofits. Husband and father. Successful in every human way, yet God wanted to get his attention and teach him a few things.

Bo was asked to help a couple of friends; he did because he thought the banker and the friends were brothers in Christ. He had no idea what he was doing would land him in prison.

I found the beginning of this book hard to read – it seemed like a list of all the wonderful things this couple had done, as if they were bragging. I kept reading because Gari Mitchell had given me (and four hundred others) the book at a women’s conference. I wanted to honor her by reading the whole thing. I’m glad I did. I soon found myself unable to put it down. And their humility shone through.

Bo and Gari learned many things while Bo was in federal prison. God used their trials to refine them and their family. The book is not just the story of their family; it is a lesson for all of us: God will use whatever it takes to get our attention, and His love, grace, and mercy will carry us through.

Before I Saw You by Amy K. Sorrells

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. You can read my full review here.

Jaycee lives in a small town in Indiana, a town like many others racked with broken families. Families broken because of heroine. Her mom ends up in prison and Jaycee must make her way with a collection of odd friends and an abusive boyfriend.

I’m not usually a big fan of Christian fiction. Often it’s cheesy, preaching, and predictable. This book was none of these. It is well written and engaging. I made myself stretch it out over four days because I didn’t want it end.

I look forward to reading the author’s other novels.

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall

I picked up a used copy of this book to find recommendations for new reads. More than 100 contributors helped compile this list and summaries of recommended books. I should have heeded the many of the Amazon reviews which stated this might be a good resource for someone working towards a degree in literature; it’s not a great resource for casual readers.

Many of the books I’d never heard of and when I read the summary had no desire to read. I found I’ve read less than a tenth of the books listed, mostly classics like Ben Hur, Les Miserable, and Great Expectations. After reading through most of this book, less than a dozen titles were added to my To Read list.

If you want to check out their recommendations, buy a cheap used copy. Or better yet, Google “Great Books” and you’ll find better recommendations.

A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

The complete title of this satirical pamphlet is A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burden to Their Parents, Or the Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public. I’d heard of this classic piece of satire but had never read it. It took less than an hour to read. I wish I’d spent that time reading something else.

Swift had visited Ireland and was outraged by the callousness of English Protestant landowners who seemed to care little that Irish families were starving. His suggestion is that children of poor families be sold as delicacies for the wealthy.

Knowing it is satire did not reduce my revulsion at the thought of children being killed for meals for the wealthy. And yet, babies are being killed by the thousands because they are inconvenient or unwanted. May God bring revival to our land.

I found this book free on the Gutenberg Project website. It is also available in MP3 format free from Librivox. Don’t spend money buying this book.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

My paternal grandmother lived less than a mile from us when I was young. My three sisters and one girl cousin used to spend the night with her sometimes. I remember her reading Little Women aloud to us, but, being so young, I didn’t remember much of the story until our son Andrew played Laurie on the local community theater production. After reading The Invincible Louisa, I picked Little Women up to read for myself.

This delightful story of four sisters growing up during the Civil War is a must read for all young people. Through trials and tragedy the sisters love one another and strive to do good. This book is definitely on my list of books to reread every few years. Perhaps I’ll have the pleasure of reading it to my grandchildren someday.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

From Amazon:

Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States and is now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men in its population.

The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions.

I wasn’t impressed. I will not be watching the Hulu series.

Cult by J.L. Pond

Rudy is a senior in high school. Though he attends a Christian school and grew up in a Christian home, he struggles with habitual sin and heavy questions about God. He can’t talk to his parents about his doubts, and, until a new girl comes to school, he thinks no one else would understand his questions about faith. Together along with two friends Amy and Rudy form a cult to explore truth about faith.

Parents of teens should read this novel. Most of us don’t understand the many struggles our kids face. Too many of us are so set in our beliefs that we won’t listen to our teens when they express doubts or question the theology they’ve heard their whole lives.

Teens should read this novel. Answers to your doubts can be found when you honestly search for them.

J.L. pond is a first-time novelist and I look forward to his next book.

Newberry Award Books

This year I am reading many of the Newberry Award Books which are for younger readers. Most of these are quick reads; they take only a day or two to finish. I’ve read most of these before, either in my youth or as part of our homeschool curriculum.

Here are the Newberry books I read this spring along with the year they won the award.

1931: The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth

In this Japanese a little cat watches his master paint. After painting other animals, the artist draws a cat and is rewarded by a miracle.

One of my favorite curriculum was NonWestern Cultures from Sonlight. They’ve changed the title and some of the books, but it’s still a great program. I’m reading some of our books from this program.

The Cat Who Went to Heaven is an easy and quick read; I finished it in about two hours. It would be a fun book to read to elementary aged children.

1934: Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women  by Cornelia Meigs

As the title indicates, this is a biography of Louisa May Alcott. Reading of her family and their struggles to make ends meets gave me even more respect for this woman. At one point she left home to “find her own way,” in large part because it meant one less mouth for her mother to feed. She did many odd jobs yet continued to write.

Bronson Alcott had taken one of them to a friend of his who was then editor of a famous magazine. “Tell Louisa to stick to her teaching,” the gentleman said kindly. “She is never going to be a writer.” Was Louisa crushed when she heard of his verdict? “I will not stick to my teaching; I will be a writer,” she declared. “And I will write for his magazine too.”

As we know, she did become a wonder writer! After reading this well-written and engaging, biography I quickly picked up a copy of Little Women for my next read.

1936: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink.

Carol Ryrie Brink is the granddaughter of Caddie Woodhouse whose life the book is based on. Carol loved to listen to her grandmother’s stories of her life growing up in Wisconsin, so she wrote a book to share them with other children.

Caddie was a tomboy and got into many scraps with her brothers, one two years older and the other two years younger. This delightful book which is set in the mid-1860s is full of their adventures.

Bible Studies

1 Peter

Note: The link is to the study currently available. It is the older version: a twelve week study. The study program I attended completed the new revised version of the study of 1 Peter. It will not be available until next spring.

I’ve written before about their study programs; we love attending studies on the PMI campus with friends from around the world.

When they write a new study or revise and older one, the norm is for local folks to go through the study over many weeks. The staff adjusts and edits as they get feedback from students. Then they open up a study program where we go through the entire study in a short time: seven days for a seven week study, ten days for a ten week study, etc. This time we got the pilot program, meaning we were the first to go through the new study.

Each morning we have discussion then listen to two lectures. We have all afternoon to complete a lesson, which takes 4-5 hours on average. I love these intense studies.

The revised 1 Peter is an eight week study.

In this epistle, the apostle Peter teaches us how to stand firm through hard times. Very applicable in today’s climate. He begins by reminding us of our salvation then teaches us how to live it out. Suffering for doing what is right is one theme; submission is another. In both, Jesus Christ is our example.

I recommend this study for all Christians.

Lord, Teach Me to Study the Bible in 28 Days by Kay Arthur

I’ve worked through this book before but did it again because my husband led classes through this study in our home. He leads a Friday noon class at a local business, Saturday morning class at our home (both of these are men only), and begging in May he leads a coed class in our home on Sunday nights. I joined his Sunday class.

In this four week study you will learn how to study the Bible Inductively by working through passages from 2 Kings and the books of Jonah and Jude. It is a great way to begin learning truth for yourself directly from God’s Word.

Loving God and Others: The Heart of True Faith by Kay Arthur, David and BJ Lawson

Monday evenings I lead a women’s class. Since I was traveling, we chose a couple of 40-Minute studies. These studies are designed to be taught/led by just about anyone. Before I left town, I helped a few of the ladies get comfortable leading by having them lead with me present. Four women each took a week while I was out of town. I led the last few weeks.

As the title of this study implies, it is a topical study of the two Great Commandments: 1) Love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all you soul, and with all your strength, and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself.

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