Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Young Adult Reads (November 2017 Book Reviews)

Often my reading will go in spurts.  I will read a lot of one type of book such as historical fiction then all of a sudden I will be reading book after book of fantasy.  It depends on my moods, what's on my kindle, and what is available at the library.  This past month I read mostly young adult books that would be considered fantasy or dystopia.   So  It thought I would join in on Modern Ms Darcy's linkup featuring books read this month.

So what did I read....

1. Calliope Jones and the Last World Diver by Haylie Machado Hanson

This was a quick, easy read while I was traveling at the end October.   Calliope is a teen who has a great sense of physical direction but is not sure where her life is headed.  She is also a middle child and often feels unimportant.  After finding a mysterious object when she is out surfing, Calliope searches for answers which lead her to a man some would call crazy and a dark man who is after her mysterious object.  What follows are big decisions on who she is and what she should do to save those she loves.  Up next in the series is...

   which is on-my-to-read-next list.

Note: Both books are currently on $2.99.

2. Intangible (Piercing the Veil Book 1) by C. A. Gray

My husband enjoyed this series so I thought I would try it out.  Mix a modern day scientist with Arthurian legends, and you get a fun combination for a story.  Peter is a smart teenager whose boredom at school gets him in trouble when he does random experiments that sometimes cause explosions.  His father is a physicist who is on the edge of a breakthrough but sometimes seems a bit crazy.   Lily is the new girl at school who is fascinated by Peter and his father.  A car accidents catapults Peter and Lily into a world different from their own where they become involved in fighting against the Shadow Lord.  Who is the child of prophecy?  Will good win?  

Up next in the series and also on my to read list is...

Note: The first book in the series is currently only 99 cents.

3. The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry

One of my students is scheduled to read The Giver this year.  So I decided to watch the movie so I would have an idea what the story was about.  My daughter had been talking about reading the second book in the series so after watching the movie, I decided to check them out-all of them.  It was a fun reading binge.

The second book is Gathering Blue.  This book is set in a different location from the first book.  Kira is a girl with a lame leg.  It is miracle that she is still alive considering that her town does not tolerate weakness.  But Kira has a gift that the town needs.  The book centers on Kira as she struggles to survive then is blessed with this new role.  It shows her growth as she finds out secrets that need confronting but how best should she do that?

The third book is Messenger.  This book is set in a village that takes in all those who are broken and need a place to go.  Matty lives with the Seer who is blind.  Matty takes messages to different locations and is one of the only ones left that is able to travel safely through the forest.  But something is happening to the forest and town.  It is up to Matty to help figure out how to stop it.

The last book is Son.  The series wraps up in this book as you find out the back story to one of the characters of the first book and his mother.  In the novel, you are reminded of the power of a mother's love, the longing to be known, and that evil must be defeated by good.  

If you have a teenager, these books would be great to read together and talk about the different themes of each book.  I look forward to discussing The Giver with my student when he reads it last this year.

What have you read this past month?  What genre is your favorite right now?

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Happily Ever After?

(Photo credit to Big D)
I love Hallmark movies especially the Christmas ones.  Girl meets boy.  Miscommunication happens; sparks fly.  The next hour and a half is full of laughter and maybe tears but the ending always promises a happily ever after.  It is predictable and fun.  

Last month, I read When God Doesn't Fix It by Laura Story.  In the book, she writes about her husband having a brain tumor removed and the complications of that surgery/tumor.  She shares how she had trouble sharing her story because it didn't have a happily ever after.  If it had been a Hallmark movie, he would have been miraculously healed.  Instead he is still dealing with memory issues from the tumor.  There was not a miraculous ending.  They are daily living in the aftermath.  It is no longer a drill.  This is their new normal.  

I am glad she didn't wait to share her story but listened to God's prompting that He could use her story just as it was.  Laura and her husband did have a story to tell.  God was more real to them than before the surgery.  There was no physical healing, but there was a spiritual changing.  God was training them to depend on him through all the ups and downs.  That kind of story is messy but so beautiful.

I don't know what it is like to have health problems but I can relate to the phrase "when God doesn't fix it."  When we lived in Central Asia, I remember praying for peace.  Still there is no peace as the news tells of yet another explosion.  I remember praying for flight permissions for over a year.  It seemed like all the doors closed.  We left with no resolution and no answer to our prayer.  The flight permission prayer was answered a year and a half after we left. The crazy thing is that even though many of those prayers had no answer, I saw God working.  

God used that time and place to expose a lot of ugliness in me.  Some days it was like he was doing major surgery.  Then there were the seasons where one crisis after another would arise.  It was in those times that I felt like we were covered by his fathers and under His wings we found refuge. (Ps 91) Our family learned to trust and love in a whole new way.  It wasn't always pretty, but we learned a lot about being a team and a family.  We learned that God is sovereign and faithful even when our circumstances didn't make sense.

For Laura and her husband, they are still living in when God doesn't fix it.  I pray that God is still as real to them today as He was yesterday.  May they worship God in his goodness and sovereignty.  In turn, may I never forget to pray for the team in Central Asia who is working in a land where peace is elusive and the work is difficult.  May I remember that God is good even when He doesn't fix it.  May I worship him in the ups and downs of life.

If you think about it, happily ever after might be over rated when you can have a life dependent on a God who is in charge of eternity.  You might say that eternity promises a joy ever after in the presence of the one who loved us and made us.  

Are you in a place where you are struggling and wish that God would just fix it?  Do you see Him in your situation?  Whatever your situation, I would love to pray for you.  Let me know in the comments how I can best pray for you.


Sunday, October 08, 2017

Lessons from the Book of Job

I remember the first time one of my friend's lost a parent.  My friend was grieving, and I didn't know how to help. Not knowing what to do, I basically did nothing. I was worse than Job's friends.  At least, Job's friends showed up.  I still remember my friend sharing her disappointment with me at a later time.  I was not there when she needed a friend to just be there. 

Everywhere we turn there is grief and suffering.  There is war, disasters, disease, and heart ache.  At times it can be overwhelming.  How do we handle our grief let alone help someone else in their grief?

Last month, the First5 devotional app went through the book of Job-one chapter a day.  It was the first time I had ever lingered in Job seeing his pain and suffering up close.  Usually I rushed through Job reading the chapters that needed checked off for my bible reading plan. This time I stayed around long enough to learn a few things. 

1. I am too much like Job's friends.

Job's friends started off well as they sat with him in silence and then they opened their mouths.  They wanted to fix the problem-make it better.  In the process, they went off track theologically.

Too often when someone shares their grief or pain, I want to fix it.   In his book, The Listening Life, Adam McHugh writes about how to listen to those in pain.  He suggests letting people have their pain and helping them to be able to express that pain.  This means listening and asking good questions. 

He also writes how anxiety gets in the way of our listening to those in pain. This anxiety could come from unresolved grief in our life.  Adam says, "If you have not explored the grieving part of yourself, you will likely be ineffective at listening to the grief of others."  If I keep grief bottled up inside, it is not healthy for me and hinders me listening to others in their grief. The anxiety might also be caused from a worry that their pain will be too much for us.  This hit home for me. I am often anxious about what I should say or what I should do that I miss out on what the other person is actually saying!  

In this season, I am trying to let the grief come so I can take time to process things I had pushed aside.  I hope in turn, it is helping me become a better listener and more able to empathize and be there for my friends in their grief and suffering. 

2. Endurance Leads to Hope

This doesn't seem right.  Shouldn't hope come first?  In Job, we see Job's first response to tragedy is worship.  Then he experiences more suffering, and his friends come.  As the speeches go on, Job's pain and despair deepen as he responds to his friends' accusations.  But then... then a glimmer of hope shows up here and there in Job's speeches.  For example in Job 19:25, Job says,
And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last He will take His stand on the earth.
In the midst of his suffering, Job sees the hope of a savior.

Paul in his letter to the Romans also talks about how endurance leads to hope.  In chapter 5, Paul writes that tribulation brings perseverance (i.e. endurance) which builds character resulting in hope.  Our hope is not that our circumstance will get better, but hope in a redeemer who can save.  Paul describes it as "a hope that does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit." (Romans 5:5 NAS)

Endurance is a foreign concept to us in an era where we don't usually have to wait for anything.  When suffering comes, we are okay for a day or two, then we are ready for the suffering to go away and for our prayers to be answered.  We passed the test.  God is good. We move on.  But sometimes the hard does not go away, and our endurance is tested.  In an interview at the 2016 IF: conference, Katherine Wolf talks about her disability and how there came a day she realized that her suffering was not a drill.  This was her new reality.  God was still good, but life was still hard.  Yet in the hard, she found hope.  In fact, she and her husband wrote a book about their life called Hope Heals.  

Looking back on our time in Central Asia, I see how endurance led to hope.  We came away from there with a stronger hope in our Redeemer even when many of the things we wanted to see happen did not.

3. It is in my emptiness that I am most ready to hear God's whisper.

At the beginning of Job, Job was ready to have it out with God.  He wanted answers.  By the end of Job, Job had emptied himself of everything-his pride, his perspective, his need of answers.  It was only at the end in his emptiness that Job was ready to listen and receive God's words.  In that emptiness, he truly saw God. He never got answers, but he did receive a better understanding of who God is.  His relationship with God was also deepened.

Suffering strips us of our pride, our agenda, our plan.   It is in this state that we are finally ready to listen to what God has for me. It is not pretty getting to that listening place, but worth it when we hear God's voice speaking into our lives.  It is in this place that we can truly see God.

What have you been learning from your study of the bible?  What has God taught you about suffering and endurance?