2018: Third Quarter Books

July
The Last Girl (Nadia Murad)
I was interested in reading this after Mindy Belz had mentioned it in a WORLD Magazine article. It’s not a book to “enjoy,” but I am very glad I read it. I learned a lot about Yazidi culture and atrocities committed by ISIS. Reading about ISIS’ evil was enraging, sickening, and horrifying. It was frustrating to read the book a year later knowing that they still have not been brought to justice. My thoughts and emotions were all over the place, from praying imprecatory Psalms, to longing for the image of God in them to be restored. His image is distorted beyond recognition by men who treat others as if they have no soul, acting soulless themselves – yet they still have an eternal soul that will be judged.
One of the most moving things was the contrast between women being treated like cattle and sold cheaply and the lives risked and thousands spent to get them back.
I wish she had written more about reentry.

True Feelings (Mahaney + Whitacre)
A friend mentioned this book a few months ago, and it sounded like a good one to read in the midst of moving. My reaction to recent moves was to shut down most emotion, but that had negative impact, so I wanted encouragement to process those feelings rightly.
I highly recommend this book for women seeking to understand the role of feelings as a Christian. They present a balance between ignoring and following feelings. Our emotions tell us what we believe and value and what is happening around us – they are reliable to tell us who we are but not what is true. Right emotion (positive or negative) stems from godly values (VS our sin’s inward bent), and are to, through, for, and from God – not how we or others think we should feel.

Mimosa (Amy Carmichael)
A friend loaned me this one. It’s the story of an Indian woman connected with Donavur in a very hard place and God’s faithfulness to her. This quote summarizes it well:
“What He did with her was good. Was He not all-powerful, so that He could direct everything? Had He not shown her by a thousand secret signs that she was love? Would she, who was only a human mother, deny one good thing to her son if she had the power to grant it? No more would He.”

Water From a Deep Well (Gerald Sittser)
For class.
At first I was uncomfortable with this book, until I saw Sittser’s writing as descriptive rather than prescriptive. Then I was able to learn from various spiritual models and draw from their wisdom. We can draw from their strengths without condoning the whole model or ignoring its faults. It was still difficult to read about models I find less-biblical without their shortcomings being addressed. But in the end, I was challenged not to draw the circle to small, admitting that while none are perfect, there are a variety of legitimate models of spirituality.
I was struck by both the diversity and unity of historic Christianity. In all of these models, men and women were seeking to value and worship God above all else. They aimed to be Christlike, living lives transformed in every area, weaned from the things of the world. All were taking His commands seriously.
I appreciated how Sittser handled the diversity: we all need to obey God, but our paths will all be different, although they have the same end. There is unity in the desire and the goal, but the way we live that out will vary. Not all are called to extreme asceticism, but all are called to take up our cross. Not all are called to missions in hard places, but all are called to take risks. Not all are called to die a martyr’s death, but all are called to daily die to self and prove His worth. These truths were reminders I needed. I also benefited from learning from the monks that my work and prayer should be affecting one another, and that while I need to be in the world, I also need to be careful not to be inundated by endless information in a way that keeps me from worship and work. This endless information can even include the deep well of Christian history: like the men and women Sittser mentions, the well I need to draw from the most is that of God Himself.

Love Has a Price Tag (Elliot)
A collection of essays, longer than but similar to Keep a Quiet Heart and Let me be a Woman. It’s Elliot’s usual no-nonsense, gentle, biblical style. A few memorable quotes:
Does prayer work? “That question assumes the results ought to be measurable. The trouble is they are not by any means always measurable or predictable because the One to whom we address our prayers is infinite and incomprehensible… and He is love. (Matthew, stone instead of bread)”
“It is always possible to be thankful for what is given rather than to complain about what is not given.”

Kissed on Arrival (Holmes)
Ezra and I read this together in the car. It’s a collection of travel stories, ranging from embarrassing to hilarious. Sometimes I was laughing so hard I couldn’t finish reading. We’ve been inspired to start writing down some of our own travel adventures. Highly recommend for a light read. The chapters are short, too, which makes it great for the car or after dinner entertainment.

Orthodoxy (Chesterton)
Orthodoxy was a fascinating read, but it wasn’t very pertinent to me right now so I didn’t take a lot of it in as much as Chesterton deserves. He makes very good arguments, and I took notes to reference later if needed, as without opportunity to exercise the information I won’t remember much. But I’m also trusting incident to recall parts to mind.
He is anti-Calvinist repeatedly, and of course, Catholic. But it is still a worthwhile read for his interactions with secularist philosophy and his mastery of words.
His comments on reducing everything to reason leading to insanity were timely reflecting on PPD and looking ahead to moves and getting too introspective trying to figure it all out. But I sometimes need to leave room for mystery.
Two favorite quotes:
“Praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul.”
“Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.”

August
Women and God (Nielson)
Probably #2 on my list of books I read this year.
Nielson aims to help us look at His Word – not more, not less – and truly know what God/Jesus/Bible’s intent towards women is, not what people say they are.
She argues that the evils towards women in the world are where we end up without His Word. “The farther we get from God’s word, the less we know his goodness to us.”
His way isn’t the problem, sin – which leads to our distortions of His word – IS the problem. His design does not harm women, distortions of it and the results of the Fall on our bodies do.
Her goal is not to end up with empowered women or submissive wives but women worshiping God, which includes education and dignity to all women everywhere.

She writes with honesty and humility – admitting at times she doesn’t know or can’t fully answer the questions she is grappling with. Her perspective is complementarian, but she isn’t afraid to call out ways that has been misused or places complementarianism has gone astray, while also calling out culture. There is a lot about marriage and family, but her focus is on Christian women in general, and she always tries to apply scripture’s teaching to all women – like why does submission in marriage matter to unmarried women? Her style is engaging, especially her retelling of familiar passages like Genesis 1-3.

Personally, most of the content was familiar. But I was still encouraged in her discussion of creation order and the real meaning/value of “helper” (“The helper is God’s means of turning ‘not good’ into ‘very good.’”), Jesus’ care to women, walking the line and not making scripture say more or less than it says… but chapter 4, “The Darkest Places” was my favorite and answered some of my questions about the treatment of captives. It was especially striking after reading “The Last Girl” last month, and seeing again how vastly different Christianity is from ISIS (despite the way some try to portray them in the same light). I also enjoyed chapter 5 on “Strong Women” like Deborah and the response not to put down women but raise up men who can lead.

Who is it for? Anyone seeking to humbly search the Bible to understand what it says about women. Why the death penalty for adultery? Why periods? Saved through childbearing? What is descriptive and what is prescriptive? Men need to read it, too, to understand better how God wants women to be treated, and see further how our distinctions work together to build church unity. If you want my more extensive notes, just let me know. My only real disappointment is that I wish it had been more in depth!
This one looks similar but I haven’t looked at it so have no idea how it is (someone else’s review here)!

Caring for One Another (Ed Welch)
given to me by my dad, this was a timely book for moving to a new community!
It’s meant to be a group study, but was helpful to read through on my own and think about what things lead to humbly walking with others, knowing their trials and desires, and tips for bringing Christ and comfort in response.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin
I know I read this many years ago, but wanted to re-read it after other recent readings on race relations. I didn’t realize it was so long, but it was still an enlightening read.

Cranford (Gaskell)
I confess I skimmed most of this… it really didn’t hold my attention as there was no overarching plot. I did enjoy it and it was amusing, but this may be a case for me of liking the movie better than the books.

Little Men (Alcott)
I have a lot of Alcott’s books on my phone and read them in little moments… but I did skim most of this as it started to drag, though it was amusing.

These Strange Ashes (Elliot)
It was wonderful to hear more of what Elisabeth Elliot’s missions work before she was married. This and “The Savage My Kinsman” were both informative about Bible translation, which helped a lot when some Bible translators came through our church and I was able to understand better how much work goes into translation, especially when the language is previously unwritten.

Feelings and Faith (Borgman)
I skimmed this, mostly to compare it to True Feelings. Both are very good. Borgman goes into more depth about certain feelings, but less in depth about changing our feelings. It’s also more theological and less conversational, although much of the content is the same.

Conscience (Naselli and Crowley)
Another one recommended by a friend. I was mostly reading this with regard to other people I interact with, but still found it freeing for myself, understanding how much I allow other peoples’ consciences to influence me towards guilt in areas that I have been convinced of otherwise.

September
Shepherding a Woman’s Heart (Bev Hislop)
This was one for class. I felt it summarized very well the book “Preaching that Speaks to Women” in a more accessible way. Helpful thoughts on the (good!) differences between men and women and how shepherding women is different.

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (Dever) and What is the Gospel? (Gilbert)
I had read both of these before but they were required reading for class. It was good to review the content, and they’re a good overview of both subjects.

The Breadwinner series (Ellis)
I got these via eBook and gobbled them up in a few days. I really enjoyed the first two, but by the third I was losing interest and I felt that the fourth was cheesy (mostly the interactions between Parvana and the Americans). But otherwise they were well written and engaging, and eye-opening as to life (especially for women) under the Taliban. This was especially striking after having read so much lately about the biblical view of women!

skimmed: Questions Muslims Ask (Scott) and The Gospel for Muslims (Anyabwile)
Questions Muslims Ask was reviewed in WORLD a while back and I had added it to my reading list. It’s written so it can be read by either Christians or Muslims, which is helpful as a starting point but I think that made it less effective. His portion on the Trinity was confusing in some parts, and while I think I understand what he meant I’m still not entirely sure. The Gospel for Muslims was much clearer and covered a lot of the same ground, but is written towards Christians.

in the middle of: How to Write a Sentence (Fish) and The Cost of Discipleship (Bonhoeffer)

Books I read for class that don’t really merit their own mini reviews:

(they weren’t necessarily bad but I didn’t feel that they contributed very much to my life or knowledge).
In the Company of Women (Hunter)
One to One Bible Reading (Helm)
The Master Plan of Evangelism

And for leisure I read Kitty My Rib, which is about Katharina Von Bora but it wasn’t as good as I was hoping.

KIDS:
We’re Riding on a Caravan – Barefoot Books, Krebs/Cann
Lili At Ballet
The Maggie B
Ocean Meets Sky
You Belong Here
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge
Autumn Story
Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn
Round is a Tortilla
Are You A Dragonfly (Allen. Note: reference to millions of years in the back page facts)
Night of the Moonjellies (Shasha)
Hurry and the Monarch
Miss Spider’s Tea Party

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