Sunday, February 25, 2007

Living Books

Some books catch your heart, deepen your knowledge, make you laugh or cry, transform you or transport you to a world outside your four walls. This is a "living book". "Throwaway Daughter" is just such a book. Written by Ting-Xing Ye (with William Bell), Throwaway Daughter is the story of an abandoned female baby in China who was adopted by a Caucasian couple and raised almost from birth in Canada. The book tells the story of her feelings growing up Chinese in an almost totally white neighborhood. Her struggles to accept her background intensify until, at graduation, she decides to go to China to look for her birth mother. The book does not hold back - her intense feelings are laid bare. The heart-breaking ramifications of the one-child policy in China are clearly displayed. After reading this young adult novel dealing with this issue you might want to go on to "A Mother's Ordeal" which is a true story of a young woman and her fight against China's one-child policy. I'm anxious to read Ye's memoirs called "A Leaf in the Bitter Wind".

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Going to the dogs

My sister just bought a dog from the SPCA in a town an hour away from here. She went online to check out what was available. It made me wonder if I should be doing the same. I fluctuate between not really wanting a dog to really not wanting a dog. But the kids want I spent a precious hour of my day looking at dogs on the web. There are lots of unwanted dogs out there! I went through pages and pages of dogs. My desires are very specific - small, non-yappy, non-allergenic, stuffed (no...never mind that one, although they were selling some cute little puppies last Christmas that were so lifelike and their bodies even went up and down like they were breathing). All the tiny ones that seemed like they would take up a small space in the house and have small poops, weren't suitable for children. And then I came across a corgi. Immediately my thoughts went to one of my favorite authors - Tasha Tudor. I LOVE this woman. She is the epitomy of someone doing what they want to do in life. One of my favorite books about her is written by her daughter Bethany Tudor. "Drawn From New England" is full of stories from Tasha's life, photos, and pages from her sketchbook. She is a real inspiration and example of a hard working, creative woman. Corgis and Tasha go together because that is the kind of dog that she has always had and I have always thought I would like one too.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Stories of those who stood for Jesus

Everyday during our reading time in the morning I read to the kids from "Jesus Freaks" by dc Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs. The stories in this book are incredibly inspiring and yet sobering too. Would I have the strength of character to conduct myself as these heroes of the faith have done? I can only think that they probably had the same opinion of themselves, but that God gave them what they needed for the situations they were in. I don't keep any of the stories back - even from my 6 year old, even though some are quite gruesome. One day they may need to hold onto these evidences of courage and sacrifice to get them through a tough time. Our exemplary heroes of today are few and far between.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Uncle Tom's Cabin

A few years ago I finally read "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It's one of those classics that I'd heard so much about, but had never actually read myself. Apparently this book made SUCH an impact in the United States after it was written - people finally started "getting it" about slavery. I wanted to see if the book really was as impacting as I had heard. And yes, it was. I could see how a sensitive mind would be changed by the life stories Harriet Stowe had in her book. On the 200 year anniversary of the abolition of slavery in England I would like to reread this important book.

After reading this book I began to wonder if a book on a more modern "issue" would have the same impact in today's world. I came to the conclusion that it would probably take something with a multimedia approach to reach the masses today. Like, for instance, a movie or Youtube. Just look at how many people tuned into "the bride freaking out over her hair" Youtube episode. There are plenty of crucial messages that need to be brought to the forefront – I hope and pray that concerned citizens are being raised up to use whatever resources needed to capture the attention of people who can then take action and make a difference.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Outreach Magazine

I picked up my first copy of Outreach Magazine a few weeks ago. This issue focuses on innovative churches in America - I wrote down lots of websites to check out and put many books on my "wishlist" (as if I need any more books to read!). I think that after perusing these sites for awhile my understanding of the postmodern church/emerging church will be a little clearer. Layer by layer my understanding grows.

The bonus to this issue was an educational DVD on the
new movie coming out "Amazing Grace", the story of William Wilberforce. It includes a trailer, movie clips, music and more. Hopefully the movie won't be long in coming to Canada - it looks very good. Wilberforce was a strong abolitionist who fought for many years and finally was instrumental in ending the slave trade in England. He was good friends with John Newton, who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace - hence the title of the movie. For up-to-date info on the modern slave trade visit Stop the Traffik When we wonder how it could have happened in history - ask yourself "What am I doing about the problem right now?"

Read With Me

This inspiring book would be of interest to anyone with a desire to help adults learn to read. Each chapter tells the story of an adult who struggles for one reason or another with reading and the tutor who helped them make the "reading connection".

A quote from the author Walter Anderson - "I would argue that literacy itself does not make people smarter or better. Literacy is as neutral as an axe; it can rust away, unused, or it can fell a tree, shape lumber, or sever a head. The ability to read and write is not knowledge but a tool to acquire knowledge; it allows us to use our brains in a unique and rewarding way. More, it can affect how we perceive the world, giving us genuine personal power. And that, finally, is its greatest value: literacy empowers."

I don't think any aspect of educating my children is as fulfilling as watching them learn to read. To give a child the tools to unlock the wonders of the written word is a priceless gift. To do this for an adult who has struggled for years with the stigma that illiteracy causes would be just as fulfilling, I'm sure.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Spider's Web

I didn't really WANT to reserve a large-print version of Peter Tremayne's novel "The Spider's Web", but that's the only way it came and I want to read the whole series of Sister Fidelma's mysteries situated in ancient Ireland. (reading large-print makes me feel old) It actually took me over a week to read it - that tells you how full my life has been. Or maybe it wasn't as interesting as the previous ones have been. It WAS enjoyable and the title is apt - the plot was as complex as a spider's web. I continue to enjoy the historical aspect of Tremayne's novels - I learn something new each time I read. My quest to obtain the audio version of one title so that I can say the names and places correctly.(I think it's Valley of the Shadow) has still been unsuccessful, so I'll keep looking. Oh, the excitement of the chase!

On an aside - I did try another Alys Clare book (she writes mysteries from ancient Ireland as well). The first few pages were enough to convince me that I won't bother with her again.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A book about snow is appropriate for the weather

I was recently going through my MANY children's picture books looking for a book on slavery to read to my Sunday School class. I came across a beautiful book I bought from Scholastic a few years ago, "Snowflake Bentley" by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. This book is SO inspiring!

Wilson Bentley was born in 1865, the son of a farmer. He was homeschooled till he was 14 and only attended "real" school a few years. Willie had a love affair with snow - the annual snowfall in Vermont where he lived was 120 inches! So wanting to know everything he could about snow was a logical study. The aspect of the book that is especially inspiring to me is that when he was 16 he wanted a camera that could photograph snowflakes. It was very expensive, but his parents spent their savings and bought it for him. He went on to devote his whole life to the study of snow and is considered the expert in the field.

Wow! That really makes me think when one of my children has a passion, but no money. I want to encourage their constructive interests and help them out if I can. Who knows where it might lead? Several of my kids are musically inclined and one likes to do wood carving, so I'm always buying magazines and musical paraphanalia. The hard one is that the next step with one son is a new computer so that he can record properly using a program he just bought. My goodness - computers aren't cheap. We may be able to work out a "buy it now - pay for it later" deal.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

A Treasure of a Book

A friend recently returned a book to me that I consider a real treasure to have on my bookshelf. I was introduced to MaryJane Butters this summer when I serendipidiously came across her magazine in a small grocery store that I rarely shop at. She spoke to my heart! I consider her the Martha Stewart of the farm scene. A real "down-home", grassroots type of person - but she could be a little intimidating in that she seems to be able to do anything and have energy to spare. But her values and love of family and women shines through all her writing. The book that I treated myself to just before Christmas is entitled "MaryJane's Ideabook ~ Cookbook ~ Lifebook", and it's all that for sure. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of farmlife (or urban farmlife or wanna-be farmlife). There are recipes and instructions and reflections on life and living. It's the kind of book I would be proud to have written and is a useful resource to have on the shelf. It would be a great shower/wedding present for someone who likes to be a do-it-yourselfer. Check out her website for challenging ideas on eating organically.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

In the Twinkling of an Eye

Some books just beg to be picked up and "In the Twinkling of an Eye" was one of those. Although a paperback, it has the look of an antique book because of the way they have photo-texturized the cover. It also has a "good heft", meaning it just feels good in your hands. I picked it up at a homeschool convention on spec, never having heard of it before. The back cover spoke of the rapture and that intrigued me. Sometimes you buy a book on impulse and it turns out to be exactly what you like to read. This book reminded me very much of "In His Steps", which challenges us with the question "what would Jesus do?". "In the Twinkling of an Eye" is set in the late 1800's and puts forward the question "are you ready for Jesus to come?". What made the book especially stimulating for me was all the Jewish insights that were brought out, as I have a deep interest in anything Jewish. In fact, one subplot in the book was the developing awareness of several Jewish people that the Messiah had indeed come two thousand years before and will come again. While I didn't find the book to be riveting, it certainly raised some provocative ideas and was challenging in its position that all the conditions are in place to indicate that Jesus could be coming back at any time.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

"A New Kind of Christian"

Postmodernism...I just haven't wrapped my head around it yet. This book by Brian McLean brings postmodernism to the Christian arena. It's written as the back and forth discussion between two men - one who is searching for more meaning to his Christian experience and one who thinks he has some of the answers. This is definitely NOT an easy read. I started it months ago and wasn't able to get all the way through. The meaning or substance of postmodernism continues to elude me. Finally, in desperation (the book is borrowed), I flipped to the last few chapters. Here he gets down to the nitty-gritty of how a PM church would look. This was helpful. I think what he's saying is that PM in the context of church means that people want to put their faith into practice. A lot of doing practical stuff, not just talking about faith in an intellectual way. A quote from page 132, "So salvation is joining God's mission instead of trying to live by our own selfish personal agenda." Community seems to be very important; and being open and tolerant.

I still haven't decided if PM is something that should be studied and dissected or just allowed to happen, if indeed it is happening. If you don't "get it" are you ever going to? Or do PMers "get it" automatically and that's what makes them PM? Am I a helpless Modern?

Because I am who I am, I will continue to read more on this topic. Any enlightening resources would be welcome.