Three Books on Suffering

Today, I finished reading a book called It’s not Supposed to be This Way. It’s my fifty-second book of 2019, and quite coincidentally, my third book on suffering in the Christian life this year. I’m going to share just a little bit on Terkeurst’s book, and along the way the other two as well, sharing which one was my favorite, and hopefully, giving you enough information that you can make a decision about which one you might read if you’re looking for a book on this topic.

It's Not Supposed to be This Way It’s Not Supposed to be This Way by Lisa Terkeurst. This is a book about disappointments in life and about our response to those disappointments. Terkeurst weaves and bobs throughout the chapters, sharing some of her life’s disappointments, her realization that we are living “between two gardens,” and some encouragement for living a life where our disappointments turn us toward God instead of away from him. She shares openly, but discretely about marital problems, a medical emergency and cancer in a way that makes the reader quickly realize that, if not for God, she’d be completely knocked flat by life. She shares not just her suffering, but the lessons that she feels like she’s drawn from that suffering.

everything happens for a reason Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved is a cancer memoir. It’s not really chronologically based, but Bowler is detailed in her emotional response and her struggles with the realization that stage four cancer, even for a young mother, is a terminal illness. She is very emotional, and does not attempt to make sense of her diagnosis. She simply trusts that God is and that, even a world that does not make sense, God loves her and that’s enough.

Terkeurst, on the other hand, is writing about both marital issues and about her own struggles with her health. She is not facing a terminal diagnosis, but is under the weight of multiple crises. Any one thing that she’s gone through under the past few years would be enough to make us buckle. She sometimes writes a little emotionally, but mostly writes in an upbeat and encouraging manner. She is definitely attempting to make sense of her struggles, even calling some of it satanic attack. She’s giving verses to cling to, affirmations, and really wanting to use her suffering as a way to encourage others. I think that’s how she’s finding meaning in her suffering.

hope in the darkCraig Groeschel’s Hope in the Dark was not born of his own personal struggle. He wrote a first draft of this book specifically for a secretary that was going through some intense personal suffering. He picked up the manuscript again and decided to revise it and to share it in book format because of his own sorrow over his daughter’s medical suffering.

Groeschel’s primary aim is to encourage others to continue in their belief in God even when the world does not make sense. In so doing, he hops through Habakkuk, sharing some of Habakkuk’s story and how that is an example for our faith in times of suffering. He is not attempting to give advice or affirmations, and he does not clearly have lessons spelled out that we can learn from suffering. However, his book is invaluable for those who feel that faith may not be worth it in their times of suffering. He explains why we should not give up on God.

Terkeurst, on the other hand is full of advice beyond holding on to your faith. She does not stick with a biblical character or book of the Bible, but instead cherrypicks through the verses that she finds most helpful or meaningful for those who are looking for promises from God and for comfort in the midst of their sorrow.

As a theologian, I do find that, at times, Terkeurst’s pushy and cheery exegesis is like nails on a chalkboard. I struggle with it, but I also realize that her primary audience probably appreciates the immediate sense of meaning-making and scriptural affirmations. It gives them something to do and something to cling to when life just does not make sense.

Groeschel and Bowler, on the other hand, are perhaps a bit of a tougher read emotionally because neither one of them is worried about satanic attack, punishment for sin or what we might have done to bring our sorrows on ourselves. There are places in Terkeurst’s book where she, quite frankly, is in danger of making the reader feel like their sorrow is their fault. Terkeurst gives the person in pain something to do, something to occupy themselves with when they feel that God is distant or has turned his face from them.

In the final summation, I must admit that Terkeurst is not really for me. There are places that I just love her writing, like where she says that we cannot trust our emotions. We have to run our emotions through the prism of biblical truth to see if they are actually true. I deeply admire and respect the way that she and her husband have used their story to encourage others to keep going in their faith, even when the times are tough. She’s not sensationalist, and I believe, after seeing her live, that she’s truly here to help and encourage. Still, I did not like the feel of this book, and there are times when I struggled to continue to read it.

I tend to prefer Groeschel and Bowler. Groeschel is the middle of the road writing in this set of three books. He is reflective, and he is not encouraging anyone to do anything more than to remember that faith is a mystery and that our suffering has meaning and that it will make us into the people that God would have us to be. His exegesis is a little flat, and at times he meanders around and is a bit repetitive.  This book would have been better had there been more of Habakkuk and less of Groeschel. I still believe that it was helpful.

Bowler’s book is more of a memoir style book than a self-help book. Groeschel and Terkeurst are both undeniably self-help. Bowler, on the other hand, is more reflective and seems to have less of a need to convince any one of any thing. Perhaps that’s one of the ways a terminal diagnosis can change you. She also, quite honestly, reacts with scorn to the idea of analyzing her suffering to see why God might have allowed it in her life. I find myself drawn back again and again to her thoughts and to her words.

I just don’t think that we should place the burden of positivity on ourselves, and I don’t think you should have to make sense of your suffering. I do not believe that other people have a right to tell you what your suffering should mean either or what is even suffering. Even if God has a reason for everything that happens, I do not believe that it’s our job to make sense of it or to do anything more than cling to our faith that God loves us and that sometimes healing in our health, our relationships and our circumstances does not look like how we pictured.

Now, I’m going to see if I can read some books on other topics and stay clear of this topic for a while.

My Week in Books (3/10/19 to 3/16/2019)

I was on break from grad school this week, so I used the time to do some relaxing fiction reading. I read some great books!  I also passed the fifty book mark for the year, so I found that to be pretty exciting.

coddling of the american mind The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. Lukianoff and Haidt took an article that they wrote for The Atlantic and developed it into a book-length piece exploring the “three great untruths” that iGen believes, the effects of these beliefs, how they came to believe these untruths and what parents and universities can do to reverse the current trend of untruth.

There is good information to be had in this book, and the authors admit that they’re targeting some extreme cases in what is, while a concerning trend, something that they do not expect to spiral out of control. They also admit that many of the behaviors and attitudes that seem so extreme among these college students are “problems of progress.” In other words, our society has become such a good society that we find ourselves dealing with the problems made by that society. Truly minor irritations in the scheme of things.

Perhaps the most troubling thing that Lukianoff and Haidt point to is the rise in anxiety and depression in teen girls that correlates with their excessive social media use. I find that I struggle with anxiety, depression and the “need for more” as I spend more time looking at Facebook and Instagram, so it only makes sense not to have that as an option for a young girl in her formative years. If I, at forty, had to close myself off from social media as a hard boundary, perhaps teens (especially girls) should not be given the burden of dealing with social media.

Overall, however, this book is interesting in seeing trends, but it is not doomsday, and I think that some readers of the article and the book have taken it to be so. I also think that Lukianoff and Haidt’s suggestion to young people to take a gap year and work or serve during that year between high school and college would be a great trend that would reverse some of the extreme behavior of privilege seen on college campuses, as many college students who have swallowed the “great untruths” are ones who have been academically shepherded by parents from high school to college without ever really having a chance to play a role in the “real world.” (book 47 of 2019)

queenie Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. Queenie is going through a “break” with her boyfriend. She has a supportive group of friends, an out-of-touch family, and a boss that just doesn’t seem to give her any good stories to write for their publication. She also has habit of spending too much time on an app called OKCupid, finding what amounts to a string of hookups. Will Queenie confront the pain that she has buried within? Will she get her life sorted out? Will her break with Tom led to a reunion or a break-up?

This book has its moments. It’s funny.  I loved the interplay between her and her friends. Some of the skeezy encounters that she has with men are funny too. Others are just plain uncomfortable, and on occasion, violent. This is a book that has been compared by the publisher’s blurb with Bridget Jones’ Diary, so I was expecting lighthearted dating misadventure. I was not expecting someone with real pain, who was dulling that pain through a series of increasingly random and violent sexual encounters. In fact, I almost put down the book at one point because I was concerned that the content might get worse.

I am glad I didn’t stop reading though because the journey into Queenie’s darkness was worth it when I was able to read her coming into herself, dealing with her demons, and becoming the woman that she was always meant to be. This turned out to be a really good and really empowering story of a young woman dealing with the mistakes and traumas of her past and becoming stronger and more able because of those mistakes and traumatic experiences. (book 48 of 2019)

little town on the prairie Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This book covers about 18 months of the Ingalls family on their homestead and living in town for winter. Laura and Carrie going to school and Laura’s studies and social life are the focus of this novel. The children and I read this one aloud and I think this one is one of my favorites of this series. (book 49 of 2018)

reid_9781524798628_jkt_all_r1.indd Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Daisy Jones and the Six was the megastar band of the 1970s, and they suddenly broke up with no one knowing exactly why. The narrator in this story is a journalist, telling the story of the rise and fall of the band, attempting to piece together the why behind the breakup. With several strong characters, and sex, drugs and rock and roll abounding, this book is quite a fascinating read.

I really loved this one, and I enjoyed the format of book as well. This is a mock documentary, told in a style very reminiscent of the old VH1 show, The Story Behind the Music. I spent hours watching that show, so getting the story of this band through contrasting interviews was so fascinating. It was hard to believe I was reading a novel and not a real documentary as I read the book. I also was completely pulled into Billy and Daisy’s story. I really just loved the whole book, and wanted to sit around and read it.

I also do need to stop and say that I have read all three of the books from my Book of the Month box in the month it came in for the first time ever. Great selections this month!! (book 50 of 2019)

Uprooted Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Last year her book Spinning Silver made my top ten list for 2018, and it was the first book that I’ve read by her.  I’ve been looking at Uprooted for months, and finally decided that this week was the time to read it. This story is perhaps a very loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast, at least that’s what I heard when I was looking for reviews and things on the book. So, I thought I knew what to expect, but I was wrong.

Every ten years a fearsome wizard, The Dragon, takes a girl from one of the villages under his domain. This story is told from the perspective of one of the girls he has taken as tribute. There’s interesting interactions, magical powers and a malevolent wood that seems to be stealing people for evil purposes in this one. I don’t want to say more about this book because I don’t want to give too much away, but this one has a good shot at making my list of favorite books for 2019. I’m debating whether I love it or Spinning Silver more. Seriously. I also purchased a kindle copy of His Majesty’s Dragon to see if I would like some of her other writing as much. (book 51 of 2019)

That’s all my reading for this week. I started reading for class towards the end of the week. (My new favorite topic is the history of biblical interpretation.) I also started Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage, but as much as I’m enjoying it, I’m not really feeling fiction right now (too much research reading has my head firmly locked into nonfiction), so we’ll see what I end up reading for next week.

Hoping you have a great week, and if you live here in the US that you’re wearing your green for St. Patrick’s Day!!

My Week in Books (3/3/19 to 3/9/2019)

This week, I finished first year Greek. This is a very exciting personal accomplishment for me because now, with a lexicon (for unknown vocabulary) and some patience, I can translate (with technical skill) any passage in the Greek New Testament, the Septuagint or the Early Church fathers. I’m still missing some knowledge of grammar that would aid me in classical Greek, but I have the basics of Koine. The rest is just understanding syntax, learning exegesis and polish. And, of course, building fluency. It’s still a long road, and I need what I’ve learned to sink into my brain a little more, so I won’t be taking any more Greek until May.

I do have a whole week off of school before hermeneutics starts. A wise person would use it to get ahead on the hermeneutics reading (because there’s a bunch of it), but I’ve never been a wise person, so I’ve been reading for pleasure instead. Here’s what I finished this week.

basics of biblical greek Basics of Biblical Greek by William D. Mounce. This has been my textbook for two semesters of Greek at seminary. Using it, I have really learned the basics of grammar, and can pick up any passage and technically translate it. (I’m still missing some nuance, but will pick that up in second year Greek.) Mounce’s textbook is user friendly, and he provides amazing support through his website. Don’t just buy the grammar though, if you’re buying the textbook. Buy the DVDs and workbook to really dig in and learn this language. There’s a new fourth edition that just came out last month, and I’m sure it’s probably the way that you want to go, but the third edition is great. (book 42 of 2019)

alienated america Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse by Timothy P. Carney. Carney was inspired to write this book because of the wellspring of agreement that Donald Trump tapped into when he claimed that the American dream was dead. He wanted to see where the American dream was alive and well, where it was dead, and who these early (primary) supports of Trump were. In this journey, he sets forth a plausible theory for why so many of the blue collar and white middle and lower middle class communities have died.

I was drawn to this book because it taps into a conversation that was really publicly displaced in the memoir Hillbilly Elegy (a great book if you haven’t read it). I read that book when it first came out, and found that it explained a lot about the people that were on the fringes of my life, my family and my husband’s family. However, I didn’t know why some branches of family succeed and some fail, and I felt like this book provides some pieces of the puzzle. I also felt, upon reading about the close-knit community of faith that Mormons have, that I understood the memoir Educated, and Tara and her brothers’ upward mobility, a little better as well. I found myself surprised at times by the statistics, and I was certain by the end that the American dream was alive and well. This was a read that really made me think (book 43 of 2019).

the municipalists The MunicipalistsSeth Fried. A paper pushing bureaucrat. An artificially intelligent computer projection with personality. A Metropolis in serious need of saving from an anarchist plot. Combine this all together in an investigative plot and a secret mission, and fun and hilarity ensues.

Or at least it should. Unfortunately, I really struggled to care about the first person narrator in this book. I was thinking about not finishing this book when OWEN, and his hilarious personality burst onto the book and saved it. Through OWEN, I grew fond of the narrator and enjoyed the story, but I would have liked to be able to have had more of his interactions with OWEN. I also would have liked to have seen a little more backstory and world building. I think if I had been more interested in the world that the characters inhabited, I would have enjoyed this book more. (book 44 of 2019)

Paul Paul: A Biography by N.T. Wright. This is scholar, and apostle Paul specialist N.T. Wright’s attempt to write a popular level biography of the beloved apostle. It is well done, interesting reading, telling the life of Paul in a way that, for scholarship, is quite conservative. Wright is part of the “new perspective” on Paul, so if you don’t appreciate that line of thought, you will not appreciate this book.

I enjoyed this book, but I sometimes put it aside for days at a time because Wright has a rambling style in his popular writing that I can only enjoy when I am relaxed enough to give it my full attention. My Greek class was kind of giving me fits at some points in reading this book, so my enjoyment level was a little bit lowered from what you might expect. Still, it was enjoyable and I learn some things along the way.

I find it slightly ironic that, the more I age, the more I find myself emerging and becoming the person that I always was. I have a deep love for Wright’s work, but found myself putting aside his books for several years because I was attending a church that frowned on his theological leanings. Perhaps I allowed my true self to be smothered in some ways as I attempted to try on a persona that wasn’t really me. Either way, I’m who I was and yet not, and find that I have come full circle back to Wright and several other writers that I had put aside. There are too many things about this book (and about being comfortable in your skin with who you are) to love. (book 45 of 2019)

family life of a christian leader The Family Life of a Christian Leader by Ajith Fernando. This book is the advice of Fernando, who was a national director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka for thirty five years, to how to focus your personal life as a Christian ministry leader. He has chapters devoted to personal flaws, such as our excessive self-love and lack of desire to deny ourselves, as well as chapters on marriage and children.

Fernando is best when he is discussing his actual family life and giving examples. At other times, he sounds preachy, and like he is resorting to Biblical platitudes. The advice is good, and I gleaned much from his wisdom, but this advice really wasn’t as personal as to leadership and family life as I would have liked. This is probably more in the vein of Brothers, We are Not Professionals and less in the vein of Sacred Privilege, if you have read either of those books. I liked this book, but didn’t love it. (book 46 of 2019)

So, how about you? What have you been reading lately? Any suggestions for me based on my current reads?

My Week in Books (2/24/2019 – 3/2/2019)

Guys, I had a huge reading week, and I passed the forty book mark for this year. This post is quite long, so let’s just get straight to the books.

early riser Early Riser by Jasper Fforde. This quirky science-fiction novel is set in an alternate Wales where climate change has made things incredibly cold. In fact, the weather is so cold that most humans hibernate for sixteen weeks during the coldest parts of winter. Charlie is experiencing a first winter of not hibernating as a part of the Winter Consuls. They protect those who are asleep, which is a great and interesting opportunity for Charlie. Unfortunately, Charlie keeps having the strangest dream, and it seems like parts of the dream are coming true.

I truly enjoyed the world that Fforde is building throughout this book. It’s an interesting mystery to figure out what is going on and there were a couple of times that I was truly surprised by the outcome. I perhaps would have liked more of the world and the book by turns. This is a book that starts kind of slowly, but finishes way too quickly. My dissatisfaction with both the slow beginning and the rapid ending make this a three star book for me rather than a four or five star read. (Book 35 of 2019)

anne of green gables Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. This is, of course, the first volume of the iconic Anne of Green Gables series, and chronicles how Anne came to live at Green Gables and her childhood years. This book follows all her childhood mishaps, and it shows her becoming quite a warm and gentle young woman who is about to embark upon a school teaching career due to a bend in the road of her life’s path.

I have read this book numerous times as Anne was one of my favorite heroes growing up. This time, I read it, with pleasure, to introduce Anne to my daughter Emalee, and I found that I am still just as charmed by Anne, but that Marilla had a relatability to her that I had never discovered in my childhood readings of this book. And, of course, I still cry my way through the last two chapters of the book, even though I’ve read it multiple times. I still remember the first time I felt that sorrow with Anne at the end of the book too as a young girl.

By the way, I love the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition look of this book, and I only wish Penguin had made the whole series in the same edition! Even my daughter commented on how much she wished they’d made a “pretty version” of the other books. (Book 36 of 2019)

the women in the castle The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck. Last year, when I read Echo, I realized that Nazi Germany during and after World War II is an underrepresented segment of that aspect of World War II fiction. An acquaintance recommended this book as a good representation of just that kind of story. This book is the story of three widows, gathered to live together in a castle after World War II, dealing with post-war Germany and the roles that their husbands played in the war. The book jogs backward and forward a little in time to show wartime as well as to update on their status (and that of their children) 40-45 years after the war.

This was a pleasant read and I enjoyed the story. I found some of the plot lines to be pretty predictable, but I have never really put myself in the role of someone who was on the German side of the war. That in itself made this book a worthwhile read for me. I have heard this book compared to Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingalewhich was my favorite fiction read in 2017, but it’s a pale comparison at best. If you were going to pick between the two, I’d go with The Nightingale, but if you were going to compare the plights of women in Germany versus the ones in occupied France, these would make good companions.

Despite the fact that it was a worthwhile read, I must confess that I struggled to remember that I had read it as the week went on. I didn’t forget the story, but I kept going, “I think I read something else this week, but I can’t quite remember what it is.” So, this is not a book that is sticking with me.(Book 37 of 2019)

return of the king The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien. This is the epic conclusion to a story about a ring and a story about a king. I don’t think there are any spoilers in telling you that Aragorn becomes king (and marries his dear love), and that the ring is destroyed, but its mark still leaves a shadow over Frodo long after the adventure is done. This is a much longer and slower paced conclusion than the book, and there’s a lot of beauty in the conclusion.

The children and I listened to it on audible. The boys loved it, and the girls far prefer the movies to having to wade through Tolkien’s prose and appendices. I honestly get both positions. I am glad to have experienced this because I have often started the trilogy but never made it through, and I appreciate the books and how beautiful they are now in a way I did not 10 or 20 years ago. (Book 38 of 2019)

the sunlight slayings The Sunlight Slayings by Kevin Emerson. This is the second of the Oliver Nocturne series, and Oliver is dealing with the ramifications of both vampires and Emalie thinking that he killed Dean. Sometimes, he even thinks that he might have killed him. Then, vampires start dying, victims of some strange occurrence where they die from the inside-out with their beings suffused with sunlight. Who is responsible? Is Emalie involved? Will Oliver’s parents find out Oliver’s lies? Will Oliver be one of the victims?

This is a page-turner. I’m really dying to figure out some of the secrets in this series, especially now that we’ve had two books in this world. If this series was not my current buddy read with Connor, I would have already picked up the other books and torn through them. As it is, I’m glad we’ve already got book three in hand to start next week (Book 39 of 2019)

Stuart Little Stuart LittleE.B. White. A classic tale of a mouse born into a human family (or at least a mouselike young man). You’ll read about him and his very different adventures as well as his striking out into independence on the search for a friend. I can’t imagine anyone who has reached a certain age and hasn’t read the book, but if you’ve only heard of the movie version, the original book is very different.

I read this one with the kids, and they enjoyed the adventures and the tales of Stuart. (I read this one to the older kids a few years ago, and they didn’t remember this one.) The lack of resolution in the ending, however, really ruins the whole book for both Emalee and me. The other children, although they still enjoyed the book, wished White had written a sequel. This one also lacks the emotional punch of Charlotte’s Web, but since I cried my way through Anne of Green Gables earlier this week, that might be a good thing. (Book 40 of 2019)

Learning to Speak God from Scratch Learning to Speak God from Scratch by Jonathan Merritt. This book begins with Merritt’s realization that making a move from Atlanta to New York City silenced his ability to have spiritual conversations. The phrases and ideas behind them that made perfect sense in the south often were completely undiscovered by the New Yorkers that he was suddenly surrounded with. Through this, Merritt begins to think about the decline of spiritual conversations, spiritual language and the feeling that some words are either too fraught with baggage to even come to a consensus their meanings. What does it mean for our faith if we withdraw from using these words and from having spiritual conversations? After pondering the reasons for use of sacred words and where we are linguistically, Merritt continues by sharing several words and how those words have been altered in his spiritual vocabulary, using personal anecdotes and reflections.

This is truly a beautiful book, and I think it is an important conversation. We come to words like God, sin, suffering, lost, and grace with our own backgrounds and our own presuppositions, and we often don’t realize that someone else’s background and connotations surrounding those words are very different. When we add in meanings through church history and in the biblical languages, things can get very confusing indeed.

It was just such a book as this, Kathleen Norris’s Amazing Grace, that made me see, when I was close to rejecting my faith that I needed to wrestle with God rather than run away from him. God was big enough to handle my doubts, fears and often, accusations. (That book still has a place in my top five favorite books ever.) Merritt’s book is perhaps not as well done as Norris’s, but his book digs into the idea of lost languages and speaks to modern issues in a way that is much appreciated, and that young seekers may even relate to better. His personal reflections are top notch, and I might have really found a few things that hit me where I live, especially in the chapters on “disappointment,” “neighbor,” “self-esteem,” and “lost.” In fact, I copied so many quote from the chapter on disappointment into my commonplace book that I might as well have copied the whole chapter.

I am thankful that I paused to read this book, and I will definitely be exploring the bibliography, probably starting with Borg and Taylor’s books, so I expect I will be taking up this topic of spiritual words on my blog often in the coming months. This book receives my highest recommendation. (Book 41 of 2019)

This post finished my February reads and starts my March Reads. For those keeping track of my stats, I read fifteen books in February. Of those, my favorite book was actually a novel this month. I think everyone should add Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine to their reading list if they haven’t read it already. Eleanor is a little quirky, but more than that, she is not completely fine and her story of healing and finding her own little community is just perfection.

Notable Articles

I have another crop of articles that I have either found thought provoking or helpful that I wanted to share, and hopefully, you will find something to help you here too.

The first article that I’ve been reading is Why Men Like Me Shouldn’t Be Pastors. I really struggle with how many people think they’re qualified for leadership, but don’t make the biblical standards. This quote from the article really says it all:

Nothing is more commonsense to me than the idea that very few men are qualified to be overseers, and that the ones who aren’t qualified should be able to have a hearty confidence in the leadership of the men who are.

The article Let Children Get Bored Again is kind of preaching to the choir over here. I have seen my children’s struggle to fill their minds and their lives when they do not have screens as a crutch to lean upon, and I find it quite disturbing. I have also seen how our penchant for entertainment has really driven even our ministry practices in working with kids and teens. It’s probably an inevitable trend, but it’s not a healthy one.

On a lighter note. Sometimes, I really just want to read a good romance novel, but find that many of the books classified as romances are not what I am expecting. I know what I expect out of one, and Romance Novels, Defined hits the nail on the head perfectly. She also shows examples of some popular books that have been mentioned as romances (but aren’t) and why they don’t fit the definition.

I admit that I am an advocate for reading books. I believe this article that says that reading will make you nicer and more empathetic. After all, reading both fiction and non-fiction have helped me to understand the ideas and views of others and to see that we’re not that far apart. The emotional experience of reading fiction is often far more powerful than any essay or nonfiction book that you can read.

I also spent way too much time this weekend reading the 50 Best One-Star Amazon Reviews of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. It’s actually a Faulkner novel I haven’t read because of it’s fearsome reputation, but now it’s on my TBR.  Also, some of these reviews and their responses are comedy gold.

I’ve been interested in all the articles stemming from some of the latest Barna research. This one, called Millennials, Evangelism, and Whatever Happened to Hell? examines some commentators ideas as to why Millennials are slow to evangelize. I think the speculation is interesting, and I think many of us who are turned off by evangelism are actually turned off by the argumentative, ugly conversations that many of us were taught in church are “true evangelism.” No one wins in those conversations.

I also found myself drawn completely into the article Pearl Harbor was not the Worst Thing to Happen to the U.S. on December 7, 1941. There’s a whole world of American history I know very little about. I found this fascinating, especially the “greater United States” map that Immerwahr includes.

This list of 52 books for 52 places is so fun that I decided that i had to print it off as a new and different kind of TBR list. As it happens, even though many of these are classics (and modern classics), I have only read two on the list.  How many have you read?

I could have used this article on How to Stop Overthinking Everything before I let all my negative thoughts and worries from this week keep me until three am one night this week. I swear that, if overthinking or brooding over a problem were a competition, I could find myself winning it.

The kids and I watched this video on people who took pop culture way too seriously today. Ya’ll, people are crazy sometimes!! It was kind of fun to get to laugh at the crazy ways people respond to their games, movies, books, and merchandise.

I’ve also been reading about religious language. The words that we use to describe God and religion are becoming a small obsession of mine. One of the articles that I found myself reading in relation to that is the article Is “God” a Trigger Word?. I have often pondered both the positive and negative connotations of words that we barricade our faith with, but it’s the first time that I really thought about how “God” in itself can be a barrier for many people.

That’s all for today.  I’ll share more articles soon!!

7 Things I Learned in February

I’m taking an idea I have seen with several writers, but originally saw on Modern Mrs. Darcy. This seems to have been popularized with Emily P. Freeman, and so I’m writing down both the profound and the mundane things that I learned in February.

1. 7UP originally contained lithium.

I was watching a You Tube video with the children about the origins of various soft drinks, and so many of the stories were new to me. Yes, I knew that Fanta originated in Nazi Germany, but I didn’t know that 7UP contained lithium.

I also didn’t know that Coca-Cola was originally a cocaine and wine combination until prohibition made wine illegal. Even as a Georgia native, I found that surprising and difficult to believe. My children say that we must plan a trip with the Hubby to the World of Coca-Cola and see what other strange soft drink facts we can find.

2. Even the news I see come across a social media feed is customized based on my friends, my reactions, and my previous clicks.

Two books I read this month (Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now and Redeeming How We Talk) both made the argument, from completely different perspectives, that social media decreases our exposure to other viewpoints. This, of course, lowers our empathy towards others, as we don’t realize that our tailored feeds don’t match the tailored feeds that other people see. We assume other people are seeing the same things we are, and so we don’t understand where their different perspectives on life come from.

3. Quitting social media increases my happiness and contentment in life.

I took Jaron Lanier’s six month challenge for social media seriously. The only time I have been getting on either my Instagram or my Facebook is to watch a friend’s Facebook lives (for her jewelry sales). My happiness in life has increased, and I am not downing myself or angry anymore at comparing the areas where I just don’t compare to other people. Facebook makes me sad and I don’t miss it.

Except I don’t know what to do when I pick up my phone now and have nothing to do. It’s like I’ve taken away something to do with my hands in public. It also makes me notice how much time other people spent on their phones and how I am often the only person in a room not attached to my phone. I also notice how much time my hubby spends scrolling Facebook on both the computer and the phone, and it bothers me a little.

I haven’t made the commitment to delete my social media accounts yet, and I will even send this post out through Facebook, but if you want me to see a comment on the post, you should probably leave me a blog comment.

4. How to reset my Fitbit.

I just learned this today. I was sitting on the couch and my Fitbit told me my heart rate was 154. I knew that couldn’t be right. I had to text my husband and ask him how to reset it. On a Versa, you need to hold down the left and bottom right buttons until it turns off. Then, you can tap the left button and it will come back on.

When I turned my Fitbit back on my heart rate was 82. I knew it wasn’t reading it right but my first impulse was to go, “Oh no! What’s wrong with my heart?” Maybe I have an over dependence on technology.

5. What a dreamer is.

I admit that I have not been well versed on the immigration debate. They start talking about walls, amnesty, paths to citizenship and dreamers and I just kind of zone out. I don’t know enough to comment on DACA, the wall and other things related to the immigration debate. So, this month, I read Welcoming the Stranger to try and help counterbalance some of that.

While I am still not sure how I feel about many of the particularities of the debate, I feel like the whole debate has been humanized for me. Moreover, I do feel that some sort of permanent solution and path to citizenship must be reached for these “dreamers” or children of illegal immigrants. In most cases, they have no control over the fact that they were brought into the country illegally and can’t control their status. To me they are, or at least should be, Americans, and we should open up a path to citizenship to them.

6. Who the Tollund Man Is

I find that I never knew that this phenomena of bog bodies existed until this month, with The Tollund Man being the most famous of these bog bodies. They’re kind of like the mummies of Egypt. Of course, the mummies of Egypt are kings and royal officials, and the bog people are human sacrifices, but both are well preserved.

7. The Areopagus in Athens was a Council, not just a location

I had always read Acts 17 with the idea in my head that Paul’s sermon in Athens was just a little discussion of ideology. However, I find more and more that Luke often seriously underplays the seriousness of the activity against Paul and Paul’s actions. While the book of Acts is a page-turner, what Luke boils down to a sentence or two is often quite shocking when seriously pondered.

This week, I was faced with the pondering the idea of Paul’s sermon in Athens, and the realization that the Areopagus was not just a nice out cropping of rock for a nice discussion. Instead, Paul was (once again) being drug before a council and asked to explain what his ideas were and on what authority he was staking his claims. It was just such a council that would have decided the fate of the philosopher Socrates 400 years earlier.

So that’s what I learned in February. What have you learned this month?

A New Waffle Maker

Yesterday, Gamestop was having a big pro membership sale. It wasn’t a great sale according to my husband, who enjoys playing video games as one of his hobbies. However, they had a couple of things of note, and we ended up bringing home a Pokemon poke ball waffle maker.  I have wanted a waffle iron that made round waffles, and even though these aren’t as thick as Belgian waffles (which is probably for the best), they have a very pleasing round shape. The kids also love that they are shaped like a poke ball.


Having the waffle maker brings a food into my home that I haven’t made in quite some time. For years, in an attempt to watch my carbs, I have banned bread, waffles, pasta, and muffins from our home. It has been a futile attempt and I have watched myself continue to gain weight due to my achilles heel of fast food.

The waffle maker may seem like a small thing. However, for me it is huge because it marks my attempt to gauge my eating more by eating more vegetables and looking at my general calorie count than in attempting to abide by a diet made up of foods that I cannot eat. It also means that I am attempting to actually cook foods that my family actually likes instead of experimenting with things they hate.

There will be more salads than sandwiches in our house. Also, there will be more grilled chicken and veggies than creamy pasta dishes and cheesy bread. However, my relationship with food is not balanced, and it is time for me to bring balance back into our life and our home. . . and maybe stay out of McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A’s drive thrus most days.

As far as the picture goes, Emalee is the one who decided we needed both bananas and chocolate chips for our inaugural family waffle night. I could also only eat half a waffle, and I felt content. I also felt that I had fed my family well and that went a long way to food peace for today.

I think I really realized when I read The Elephant in the Room earlier this year how unbalanced my relationship with food is. I read and watched him constantly sabotaging his own efforts to eat well by following up a healthy dinner with a covert trip to Wendys. It made me think about how often I sabotage my own efforts. If I don’t make a perfectly healthy dinner, or have time to make one, I find myself settling for a five dollar box at Taco Bell. That is the crux of my struggle with my weight. I far too often settle for what is convenient because, if I don’t have time to cook perfectly, I wonder why bother.

So, I’m diligently coming along, still pondering the things that mess me up and the places where my relationship with food is broken. I’m trying to settle for good enough, even if that means a salad bar dinner most evenings (because between tae kwon do and church many of my evenings are spoken for). Still, grilled cheese sandwiches and even waffles should also find their places in our food lives.  Both are better for me than a Whopper and fries or my beloved fried Chick-fil-A nuggets and soup.