April 2011

Move over, Thoenes. This is the best, most believable Christian fiction I have read.

The main character in The DMZ by Jeanette Windle is Julie Baker, the orphaned daughter of missionaries in Colombia who became a reporter and returns to Colombia for an assignment. Things go wrong as she is investigating and she ends up in a hostage situation in the Amazon rain forest. There are a lot of political factors playing into the area’s volatility that are explored and it can get a bit confusing, but I didn’t find it overwhelming.

The DMZ is satisfyingly long, but not too long. I hate it when a book that is otherwise good is just…short. Not so with this one. Or when you are like “PLEASE JUST END” but also, not so here. The characters are well-written and believable. The faith-related aspects are perhaps a bit heavy-handed but not annoying, or at least not much. And the details…ohhhh, the details. You can tell a lot of work and research went into writing this novel.

I will say that there were a few situations where the lack of strong language was amusing, like an angry colonel saying, “my rear on the line” or, “danged if I know.” Substitutes like that for what most people would really say in those circumstances just seem feeble. I have a decent vocabulary (as in, one that reflects basic education) but I can assure you that if I am held hostage by guerillas in the rain forest I will quickly resort to using the sort of vocabulary that earns movies R-ratings.

On the whole, I really enjoyed reading The DMZ and look forward to reading more of Windle’s work.

This book was provided for review by the LitFuse Publicity Group.


This topic is quite controversial for my lil’ ol’ blog, but here goes. Due to religious/spiritual/whatever-you-want-to call-it reasons, I cannot in good conscience vote for gay* marriages to be legalized** or otherwise support them. I also have a degree in family studies from a secular institution and can attest that there are also many legitimate sociological reasons to oppose the institutionalization of homosexual relationships. But the reality is that no one really cares about that. On most controversial issues such as this, it seems to me that pretty much people believe what they want to believe and no opinion or even sociological reason will change their mind.

I will say, though, that I do understand the concerns of the gay* community concerning the lack of legality of their relationships. For example, if a person is in the hospital dying, the hospital may or may not allow their partner to see them, as they are not technically, by which I mean legally, family. And regardless of religious/spiritual/whatever-you-want-to-call-it reasons you have, that is just sad. Sometimes family is more than your blood relatives or the people who have the right papers. I really wish these types of issues could be addressed for the gay community. I can only assume it is these types of legal problems that make them want to get married in the first place; the odds on marriage aren’t that great these days so I cannot think of why else they would want to jump on board a sinking ship.

*I will never, ever cease to be bitter that this community of people has commandeered some perfectly wonderful words and changed their meanings, namely “gay” and “queer.”

**This raises the question of whether American courts, or American people, have the authority/responsibility/right to alter the definition of a social institution in the first place; they probably don’t. But that doesn’t stop anyone from trying. See above.

  • “I did a,b,c…x,y,z” today. Or, alternatively but similarly, “I have a,b,c…x,y,z to do today.” I DO NOT WANT TO READ YOUR TO-DO LIST. Also, why is everyone competing for Busiest And Therefore Most Impressive Person Ever?
  • Updates on your diet.  I do not care about the number of calories I eat, the number you do or don’t consume is utterly boring.
  • Updates on your new exercise regimen. I repeat: I do not care.
  • Frequent kid quotes. Kids say cute and funny things, and everyone loves reading them. Everyone does not love reading new kid quotes every 20 minutes; save it for the stellar ones.
  • Quoting whatever devotional or Christian quote-of-the-day thing you use every.single.day as your status. Maybe it is unspiritual of me but I just skip these.
  • Food status updates. Occasional ones are fine – I would love to celebrate with you that you got to eat Chick-fil-A today. However, if you eat out 8 times a week, please spare us.
  • Also, cooking updates. If you occasionally knock it out of the park and want to brag a bit, go right ahead. But don’t do this every night unless you are inviting me over for dinner. Every night.
  • That thing where Facebook uses your Twitter stuff for status updates. UGH. If I wanted to know what you were thinking every 2 minutes, I WOULD FOLLOW YOU ON TWITTER. However, I consider Twitter to be the most narcissistic and useless bit of the interweb so I don’t.
  • The airing of relationship trials and tribulations. Um…that stuff is not appropriate to share with the public.
  • Also, the airing of extremely personal misfortunes. Infertility is a difficult thing and no one looks down on you for seeking support, but your Facebook status is perhaps not the best place to do that.
  • “Dear _____,” updates. Like “Dear moronic driver who almost killed me” stuff. I dunno, these just really irritate me.
  • Suuuuuper long posts about whatever has recently ticked you off. Get a blog!

At the beginning of this year I started a chronological Bible reading plan. I had never read the Bible this way and thought it would probably be interesting, and also make more sense than just reading it straight through because then you end up reading the same stuff a couple times in various places. I am liking the chronological aspect, but I have to admit that I got behind during our hotel stint in Arkansas as I normally read while Asher naps but in a hotel we had to keep all the lights off while he napped. After that point I was in Leviticus and therefore had little incentive to catch up. I am convinced that Leviticus is the stumbling block to any read-through-the-Bible plan.

But! before Leviticus is Exodus, which is (in my opinion) far more interesting. Two things have stuck with me from Exodus – I am now wrapping up Numbers, still a bit behind – so here you go.

The Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you.

That is Exodus 16:29. Do we – as individuals, and also as the church – view Sabbath as a gift from God? Somehow, as I observe all the pretty people chatting in the lobby with their expensive coffees in hand, or sneaking out early to go to soccer or just grab a table at La Hacienda, I think not. God has given us a gift, a blessing, of rest and it seems that for so many people it is just a day to catch up on errands or show off for all the other churchy people.

I found the description of manna quite amusing:

…a flaky substance as fine as frost…

This is a perfect description of baby cereal. Now, every morning when I make Asher’s oatmeal, I think of manna. I would love to say that this makes me think of how God provides every day’s needs, and new grace every morning (and those things are very true), but really I just marvel that an entire nation was able to gather enough of the stuff to keep everyone fed without brooms and dustpans.

Hmmm…this is a really tough one. Books have shaped and changed my views on pretty much everything. It would be impossible to pick just one.

One that helped me clarify what I believe and why is Crunchy Cons, which I wrote about here. I still think about it frequently…I should probably own a copy. It is technically about politics but is really more about how a truly conservative way of life is the intersection of faith and politics – conserving the earth & its inhabitants because they matter to the Creator, conserving the family because it’s important to God, restraining consumerism because that’s just an economist’s word for greed, patronizing local businesses because personal interaction is more meaningful than saving a few cents at a soulless discount store. I wouldn’t say this changed my views as much as helped me realize, “Oh, THAT’S why I like to recycle!” and so forth.

Spirituality – Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer have all shaped my faith. Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner too; in particular that one changed my views on liturgy. Also A Long Obedience in the Same Direction and The Wisdom of Each Other by Eugene Peterson.

Marriage – Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas (I don’t actually know that I ever finished it, but just the subtitle is thought-provoking: what if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?), Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot, Real Sex: the Naked Truth About Chastity by Lauren Winner, The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. This is not technically a book, but Tommy Nelson’s video series on Song of Solomon was influential too; he does have a book on it, I just haven’t read it.

Parenthood – Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp, The Most Important Place on Earth by Robert Wolgemuth, The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer (which isn’t strictly about parenting but about how to see yourself as an artist in everyday things including parenthood; one thing that really stuck out to me was “illustrating” a sermon for the children sitting with you in church, so they understand what’s going on too). Obviously I am just getting started in this arena.

Fiction – The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Magician’s Nephew, and Till We Have Faces, all by C.S. Lewis. Screwtape Letters changed how I think about temptation, sin, and satan; Great Divorce changed how I think about heaven and eternity; Magician’s Nephew changed how I think about creation; Till We Have Faces changed how I think about love. I can’t point to specific changes they have made in my life but I love, love, love the Harry Potter series and have read them numerous times. Oh! and The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, too.

Edit to add: I can’t believe I forgot to list The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I have to admit, I’ve never been very interested in Islam or Middle Eastern life but I read them based on a recommendation from a trusted book source and am glad and thankful I did.

That’s all I can think of right now…so – pipe up. Let me know what books have changed you so I can add them to my reading list!