The Organic God

The Organic God is a book by Margaret Feinberg in which she expresses various characteristics of God that she has discovered God to be over the years. Some of these include:

* bighearted
* breathtakingly beautiful
* amazingly wise
* surprisingly talkative
* wildly infallible
* outrageously generous
* unbelievably stubborn
* abundantly kind
* deeply mysterious

Overall this was a “B-” book, but what I really enjoyed was the appendices…. the first was a sound track. Margaret listed 2 songs for each chapter that she suggested the reader listen to after each chapter. EXCELLENT idea.

The other section was “reflections for a rainy day.” In this section she (or i guess someone else) listed some questions for reflection, along with some scripture to look up and reflect on. I used each of these sections to aid in a quiet/focus time.

I think this book would be a potentially good small group book for a college ladies group. Mental note.

Also, sidenote is that i would LOVE to have the job of reading books and creating a small group curriculum for them. Any authors reading this book, please hire me.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Bird by Bird is an instructional book on writing. And it was GREAT! This is the second Anne Lamott book that I’ve read, and I am much more pleased after this one compared to the other.

The inspiration for this book came from her being a writing teacher at a college in her area. She thought that it would be a good idea to put her class in a book form (but more interesting). I really appreciated this idea because I’ve always wanted to take a writing class, but have never had the time nor money. So this is as close as I’m probably going to get.

The book covered topics like character development, plot, getting in the writing frame of mind, tools to help you remember things, first drafts and second drafts, and getting published (and how you probably won’t).

My favorite chapter was “Finding Your Voice.” Anne talked about how her students always wanted to copy their favorite author’s writing, and how horribly bad that is. She encourages us, as writers, to tell our own stories in a way that is faithful to our personhood and perspective. Don’t copy another person because they are successful. Recognize who you are, what you want to say, and how you want to say it. And then go for it.

This idea was freeing to me, because I often compare myself to various authors, inwardly lamenting on how much better they are than me. Their characters are so interesting. The dialogue is so witty. The voice is so sophisticated. Or detailed. Or blah blah blah. I end up wanting to take a little bit of everyone and create something for myself. But then I’m being untrue to who I am, and the gifts (or non-gifts) that God has created me with :).

I look forward to using this book to help me start writing in the near future. My writing has consisted of school papers and blogging, so I hope that with creative exercises, I’ll be able to expand my horizons, find my voice, and begin this creative endeavor.

For all you inspiring writers out there, this would be an excellent book for your library.

Living the Sabbath

Before I begins this blog post, I must apologize for the lack of reading reflections. My last reflection was March 27th. That’s been a month and a half ago.

This book was FABULOUS. I enjoyed it thoroughly. So much so that it is actually changing the way I live my life.

Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight by Norman Wirzba. This book is one of the many in the Christian Practice of Everyday Life Series, which I think is a great move on BrazosPress’s part to publish this. If you haven’t gotten familiar with this publisher, I would encourage you to check them out at www.brazospress.com.

Onto the meat.

Part One focused on the idea of living the Sabbath, not just on Saturdays or Sundays, but throughout the entire week– living a life of rest. For those of you like me who have a hard time slowing down, enjoying the little things, and resting without guilt or having that “thing” in the back of your mind that robs you of true complete rest, then this book is a must read for you. So back to part one– it’s the set-up, the basis for why we should live this way, and not just on one special day. The tricky part is that to do this, one must decide to live a life that is not going to make you successful in America. We tend to be workaholics– working full days or longer days or more days or whatever that may be in order to make enough money to support a certain lifestyle that we want. To make sure we have the things that we want. Would anyone consider working 20-30 hours a week to support one’s basic needs, and then spending the rest of the time enjoying the garden to make your own food, or spending time with the neighbors, or hanging with one’s community? In America we would label that person as lazy, boring, underambitious, foolish, whatever. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. What I REALLY like to do is hang out with people, talk, etc etc. But in reality, there is little time to do that because jake and i are both working very full jobs that allow us to spend little time with people who are not a part of our immediate job circles. Currently I’m blessed that most of my friends are at work, but there are a few right here in Columbia that are not, and I rarely see them because we’re all so busy.

The second part focused on specific areas of life and discussed the idea of Sabbath living in context of each of those…work, home, economics, education, environmentalism, and worship (sunday morning corporate gathering).

One thing I really liked and was incredibly challenged by was the idea of living in such a way that allows others to live the Sabbath lifestyle as well. Wirzba brought up the fact that many of us buy things that are inexpensive so that we spend less money on necessities so we can spend more money on other things… but a lot of times those inexpensive things are inexpensive for a reason– they are not well made and will break easily (making us buy another one, which leads to more waste), or they were made by people who are not being paid a fair wage. Of course it’s really hard to know that, because we don’t buy locally and don’t see who is making what, and in what conditions. Wirzba encourages buying local when possible, in order to support things where you know that it was produced fairly.

Although I agreed and was challenged by most things in this book, I didn’t agree with the chapter on education. Maybe that’s because I have training in that area, I’m not sure. Wirzba seems to think that technology is harmful to our children…and suggests the only real technology we need is one computer class in high school to learn the basics. I see that he’s not happy with the ultra-reliance and addiction to technology that some have….and I either. But I feel that if we teach our children how to use technology well, in a God-glorifying way, then that’s better than saying “forget technology” in the students’ learning.

I HIGHLY recommend this book to all.

And I was wondering…what is the thing that keeps you from living the Sabbath lifestyle? For me it’s the constant wanting to produce one more thing…the need to do something in order to prove my worth as an individual. What’s yours?

Peppermint-filled pinatas: breaking through tolerance and embracing love

Friendship. Tolerance. Diversity. Love.

This book was a huge resource for my RealLife talk a few weeks ago on the subject of Radical Love: Acceptance.

Part One of the book is Bill Hybels’ Just Walk Across the Room with cooler LA lingo. Don’t get me wrong. I loved Bill Hybels’ book and I do enjoy the cooler LA lingo. It was a good reminder of making intentional relationships with those in our neighborhoods. To go love people. To make some friends.

Part Two of the book is called “Love is the New Apologetic.” Eric Bryant (the author) discussed how to love and accept those who are different from us..specifically focusing on overcoming stereotypes, loving those with different religions, loving the poor or “untouchable, loving those who have different views of gender and sexual relationships, and also loving across political liines. All of which christians are known to have trouble with.

Our call as believers is to love others well, and Jesus says that people will KNOW that we are Christ-followers by the way that we love. And right now, that’s not exactly what we are known for, as a collective group. “Rather than hearing a call for true freedom, people feel unloved by Christians and therefore unloved by God because of our behavior” (page 21). Bryant’s hope and prayer is that we would become a loving community– displaying God’s love for the world. And I think this book is a great motivation in moving Christ followers in that direction.

Oh, and of course, why the title, Peppermint-filled pinatas? Well, when you were little, and were at a party with a big pinata, you would expect the pinata that burst to litter the ground with candy bars and starburst and suckers. But what if, after you see the pinata split open, you find the ground covered with peppermints instead? Wouldn’t you be disappointed? Exactly.

BabyCenter Essential Guide to Your Baby’s First Year

What a helpful book to a new mom! Many mom and baby books give you tons of advice about what the “best” way to do something is…but not this one. BabyCenter, which is a popular online resource, interviewed tons of new moms about the first year of baby’s life, and they provided the results– when does the baby REALLY begin to sleep through the night? What was the hardest thing about becoming a mom? When did the baby first roll over? It made me feel relieved that most babies don’t develop “by the book”, and to enjoy the developments of the baby at HIS own pace….whether that be faster or slower than “normal.”

On Becoming Baby Wise

I need to start off by saying that there are a hundred different ideas about how to raise a baby. Hundreds. And everyone thinks the other people are wrong. So when I read differing ideas, I become conflicted. Who do I believe?

And now the book. Baby Wise is the opposite of what the Happiest Baby on the Block talked about. These doctors talk about how babies need structure, a schedule of sorts. Where, if you remember, Happiest Baby talks about how babies need to be listened to and given what they indicate they need.

Mental angst.

Basically, you put baby on a schedule. Sleep, eat, play, repeat. At first just an hour and a half or two hours inbetween. Then a little longer, more food, little longer…all until they sleep through the night. After the baby sleeps 8-9 hours straight, you can let them go 4 hours before eating again. And that’s how you get them to sleep through the night. By a good schedule of eating.
I think there’s more to that than just a schedule of eating. I think it has to do with the maturation of the brain, as well as the temperament of the baby. But I’m sure eating enough helps very much too.

I think this is a helpful book for new moms to read. It would have been helpful to read this before week 9. But really Asante was already sleeping through the night ..almost anyway. I was doing a few of the things instinctively. But the one thing I am now trying to be more intentional about is having Asante sleep after playing, and not after eating. That way he doesn’t become dependent on having to eat before sleeping.

Sex God

The subtitle of Sex God is “Exploring the endless connections between sexuality and spirituality.” I must admit that I wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of this book because I was thinking- any connection between sexuality and spirituality is probably not that important anyway. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the content of this book.

Here’s how he connects sexuality and spirituality- “You can’t talk about sexuality without talking about how we were made. And that will inevitably lead you to who made us. At some point you have to talk about God.”

I agree.

After the fall, we became a disconnected people. Disconnected with the earth. Disconnected with each other. And Disconnected with God. “Our sexuality, ten, has two dimensions. First, our sexuality is our awareness of how profoundly we’re severed and cut off and disconnected. Second, our sexuality is all of the ways we go about trying to reconnect.” Basically, Rob says that our sexuality is redefined as anything that is an attempt to reconnect to the earth, to humanity, and to God.

And that’s where my memories of this book end. Lol. I remember I really liked it, but as I look back on it, everything is very blurry. I thought about not writing a review on this book at all, but I know I need to be exercising my brain in order to get it back to normal (sidenote- I labeled absurd the theory that when you have a baby, it’s like you lose brain cells as well because you become forgetful and you lose your memory—but now I realize how true that is…)

One thing I do remember about the book is thinking that there are a couple groups of people who would really benefit from reading this:

1. People who are addicted to the physical act of sex—whether doing it, or looking at it.
2. Girls who use their bodies to manipulate guys/get attention from men.
3. Girls who really crave affirmation from men.
4. Men who use women to fulfill their needs/wants. Whether those are emotional or physical.

This would be a good book for the permanent bookshelf if one was working with high school or college students for a long period of time.

I need to learn not to doubt Rob Bell ☺.

Serve God, Save the Planet

Serve God, Save the Planet is an EXCELLENT book. Dr. Matthew Sleeth, the author, focuses on the responsibility that we have as Christians to be good stewards of the resources that God has given us here on earth. He focuses on the very practical– what individuals can do today, and tomorrow, and this year, to change their lives in a way that is honoring to God, and hence saving the planet.

There were some GREAT chapters…I was really impacted by chapter 6– Too Much Stuff. This guy and his family has done some incredible simplifying in their lives– down to getting rid of their clothes dryer and washing machine. And just being really …. aware of what they are buying and consuming. Outsiders could view them as legalistic, but they’re actually just really intentional, because their hearts have been changed by the Lord and they want to be pretty radical in how they are living. Not that he labels himself as radical– but I think most people would say that about him.

How will I adjust my life in light of what I learned in this book?

I’m still thinking about it, but I think that it may be getting rid of some stuff– shoes, clothes, jewerly, books. Getting rid of the stuff that is just sitting around. Either selling it and putting it in our Africa fund, or giving it away to people who need it.

Although this book was uber good, there were a few chapters that I thought were a teeny bit outlandish, and maybe didn’t even fit the book that well. Particularly the one about being good parents. I think that may have been his soapbox and he wanted to fit it in somehow.

One idea he talked about was the idea that we, as Americans, are really afraid of death, and will spend thousands and thousands of dollars to put off the inevidable. Everyone dies. Why spend millions of dollars to put that off for a year? Interesting idea, and one I will think about. But, if anyone has someone close to them that is sick and close to death, I’m sure that they would say that the millions of dollars is worth it to them for one more time with their loved one. But, the question is- is it worth it to our global neighbors? Could that money be spent in a better way?

I recommend this book to everyone!

Eat This Book

What I loved about this book was the way that it revised the way I look at Scripture. And that was exactly what I needed at this time.

He started out by talking about how we don’t need a master’s degree in order to understand Scripture…but that God wants to communicate to us through it even if we don’t know the greek or hebrew of certain words or all of the cultural background. We can just read and let it soak into our hearts and see how God speaks. And we listen.

And then we respond. He talks about how it’s useless useless to read Scripture without living it out as we’re reading it. Amen. But what a tall order.

Later he talks about the need to study– really study Scripture. Get commentaries, etc to help us.

And he ends the book by talking about how the Message came about, and the need to communicate Scripture in a way that people can understand. And I agree with him, especially after reading the last chapter.

I would highly suggest this book for anyone wanting to get refreshed in their Scripture reading, praying, meditating, studying, and most importantly, living.

The Happiest Baby on the Block

If you are a mom, or a dad, or plan on becoming a mom or a dad, I would highly suggest this book. My landlady, Hilary, gave me this book, along with a swaddling blanket– she said it was a godsend for her.

Basically, he gives 5 S’s to helping your child quiet down and sleep longer, especially if the baby is “colickly” (i put this in quotations because he doesn’t actually think that colic exists– did you know that there are some villages around the world where there is no such thing as colic?)

1. Swaddle. Wrap them babies up tight so they can’t move their arms.
2. Side (or stomach, i’ve found). Babies sometimes don’t like it on their backs because they can easily startle themselves and feel like they are falling.
3. Shhhhh. yes, “shhh” them like you would teenagers in a movie theatre. Also known as creating white noise. Asante particularly likes the sound of the bathroom fan and my hair dryer.
4. Swinging. Put them in a swing, rock them, drive in a car. Anything that creates the feeling that they had in the womb with the momma walking around all the time.
5. Sucking. Whether it be a bottle or a pacifier or whatever.

All of these work together to create the womb effect– making them feel like they are back in their mother’s womb until they are mature enough to be able to quiet themselves.

Thankfully Asante is a really calm baby, so we don’t have to use these very often. I’ve noticed that the swaddle often helps. And once he’s swaddled, we do the swinging or sucking.

Here’s to a happy baby!