Thursday, May 28, 2009

Summer Reading

I always come up with a huge list of books to read, but then I go to the library and just pick up whatever looks good. Here's what I'm planning on reading in the next few weeks. For the flight, I'm packing: 1. The MacArthur Study Bible and a notebook 2. Essential Virtues by Jim Berg 3. Let Me Be a Woman by Elizabeth Elliot 4. A novel, to be chosen randomly from my bookshelf before I walk out the door. I'm open to suggestions. For Bible study, edification, or professional development: 1. The God of Comfort by Hannah Whitehall Smith 2. Mountain Breezes by Amy Carmichael 3. A Chance to Die by Elizabeth Elliot 4. Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman by Beth Moore 5. Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty 6. The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry 7. Glencoe Literature: British Literature For fun: 1. Plague Maker by Tim Downs 2. Redwall by Brian Jacques 3. Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer 4. Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan 5. Reread The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis So what are you reading this summer? Any recommendations?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Books I Read in May 2009

May isn't quite over yet, so I might be able to read more before the end of the month; I'm going to be flying to Vermont tomorrow, so I wouldn't be surprised if I can read a book or two during the 22 hours of flights and 7 hours of layovers. Oddly enough, I'll do all of that reading in one day. I leave Guam on Friday morning, fly to Thursday night in Honolulu, fly all night and Friday morning to Newark and then arrive in VT around 6pm on Friday. This extra long day makes up for the one I'll lose on the return flight to Guam. Christian Living: Whispers of His Power by Amy Carmichael I won a gift certificate for a free book (for my Peppermint Chocolate Cake in the baking contest for the Mother/Daughter fellowship) and Mrs. Herron recommended this daily devotional by Amy Carmichael. As Mrs. Herron said, this book is "food for the soul." I've only read a few entries so far, but the Scriptures and illustrations and explanations are excellent. I'm looking forward to learning and growing more this year as I read from this book every morning. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller On Sunday morning, Pastor preached an excellent sermon on Psalm 23 and referenced this book a couple of times. (The sermon should be available here in a few days.) After the service I immediately went to the bookstore and bought a copy. Keller was a scientist, a shepherd, and later a pastor. His insights into the nature of sheep and the character of God are extraordinary. I was reminded of the diligent care of the Good Shepherd. God is such a wise, caring, and tender Provider. If by Amy Carmichael I read this little book a couple of weeks ago. How convicting! The phrase "I know nothing of Calvary love" has been echoing in my mind, especially when I find myself doing something unloving. I plan to reread this book soon and spend some more time meditating on the truths of the poem and the short essays in the 3rd section. I would be doing that now, but I gave away my copy and the bookstore is out! Believing God by Beth Moore I finished this study this week. Later, I'll write more about what I learned. I & II Peter Bible Study by John MacArthur My Sunday school class has been studying I&II Peter this semester, and I just finished this book. I also plan on writing more about this study later. Fiction: Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer This is the third book in the Twilight series. Parts of the story were interesting, but like I've written before, there are some long, slow sections. I kind of lost interest in the series. I read this book at the beginning of May and haven't bothered to get the fourth one yet. I'm sure I'll read Breaking Dawn this summer and then I'll summarize my opinions of the series. This post was designed to make you come back later and read more. :-) I didn't do this on purpose, but I have things to say about several of these books that would work better in separate posts. From the ridiculous to the sublime . . . The Circle Trilogy (Black, Red, White) by Ted Dekker WOW! An incredible series! What a beautiful allegory of redemption. I couldn't possibly summarize the plot and do these books justice, but you need to read these books. All three books are sold in one copy, which is a good thing because the books don't really end; you have to read all three together. I read all three books in about a week and a half--and during the last week of school, nonetheless! You won't be able to put these books down.

Books I Read in April 2009

You may notice that I read only one "Christian Living" book in April. That's due to a variety of reasons: 1. I took a long time to read Living the Cross Centered Life; 2. I worked more on my Bible studies rather than read other books; and the worst reason, 3. I had a harder time getting up as early in the morning, since we're approaching the end of the semester. Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing by CJ Mahaney This is another book that I will probably reread every year--and I'm really not big on rereading books when there are so many new ones available. These books by CJ Mahaney are short enough to reread every year, and they're so helpful and so packed with Scripture and Biblical principles that I don't mind, and actually invite, the repetition. Mahaney quotes many hymns and other authors who have written about the cross, and includes many recommendations for books about the cross, which I plan to buy and read. I started reading this book the week before Easter and found the chapters describing Christ's death on the cross powerful, sobering, humbling, and awe-inspiring. I was overwhelmed with God's love and grace and mercy. I also benefited greatly from the chapters "Breaking the Rule of Legalism: How the Cross Rescues You from the Performance Trap" and "Unloading Condemnation." I discovered a couple of new authors/series this month. I really enjoy Tim Downs's Bug Man Series about forensic entomologist Dr. Nick Polchak. I found this series completely randomly because the library was out of Ted Dekker novels (which Mr. Bob and others had been encouraging me to read) and these books were directly below where Dekker's should have been. The first book I read was out of order because I didn't realize I was choosing from a series, but I started reading them in order. You don't really need to read the books in order, but some things about Nick's character are more understandable if you see how he develops. The books are amazingly clean (refreshing for a modern novel!) but if you're squeamish about descriptions of bugs and/or dead bodies, don't read these books because those form the whole premise of the novels. First the Dead by Tim Downs This is the third novel in the Bug Man series and is set in New Orleans before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. I learned a lot about the events as well as a lot about forensic entomology. Tightly written. Fast-moving. Fascinating plot. Historically accurate. Shoo Fly Pie by Tim Downs This is the first novel Downs wrote and the first in the Bug Man series. I enjoyed this interview with Tim Downs about writing his novels. Chop Shop by Tim Downs This is the second novel in the series. Nick appears in a cameo role in Plague Maker, the next Downs book on my list to read. I'm looking forward to more novels by Tim Downs. And this month, I finally started the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. So many of my students have read the books and talk about them all the time, that I thought I should read them. I'll comment on the series more when I'm done with it, but the books aren't as bad as I thought they'd be from some of the reviews I'd read and comments I'd heard. But they also aren't as good as my students and many reviews made them sound. The quality of writing isn't that great; I am heartily sick of phrases like "his stone cold lips" and "his velvet voice" (what does that mean?). Bella is a boring character. And while I can read the books quickly (Twilight took me about 4 hours on a Saturday morning) and I was intrigued by some parts of the general plot (I'd never read any books with vampires and werewolves), some parts dragged and about half of each book could have been cut and I'd have been happier with the editing (who wants to read about each day of high school?). I'm certainly not completely taken with the books, and much to my students' dismay, I will not allow them for book reports. Much better fantasy literature is available. C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia, J.R.R. Tolkein's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, Orson Scott Card's Ender Wiggin series, and Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series . . . to name a few.

Books I Read in March 2009

Humility: True Greatness by CJ Mahaney I learned so much from this book and I am continuing to apply the truths I learned. This is the kind of book you should read every year or so because no matter how much you weaken pride and cultivate humility, you'll still find pride in your heart: "The real issue here is not if pride exists in your heart; it's where pride exists and how pride is being expressed in your life" (29). Mahaney directs our attention to Christ, who is the example of true greatness and true humility and then suggests many practical ways we can practice humility every day (and even while we sleep!). Here's his list of suggestions, which are developed in the chapters of the book:
Always: 1. Reflect on the wonder of the cross of Christ. As each day begins: 2. Begin your day by acknowledging your dependence upon God and your need for God. 3. Begin your day expressing gratefulness to God. 4. Practice the spiritual disciplines--prayer, study of God's Word, worship. Do this consistently each day and at the day's outset, if possible. 5. Seize your commute time to memorize and meditate on Scripture. 6. Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. As each day ends: 7. At the end of the day, transfer the glory to God. 8. Before going to sleep, receive this gift of sleep from God and acknowledge His purpose for sleep. For special focus: 9. Study the attributes of God. 10. Study the doctrines of grace. 11. Study the doctrine of sin. 12. Play golf as much as possible. 13. Laugh often, and laugh often at yourself. Throughout your days and weeks: 14. Identify evidences of grace in others. 15. Encourage and serve others each and every day. 16. Invite and pursue correction. 17. Respond humbly to trials.
Stop Dating the Church: Fall in Love with the Family of God by Joshua Harris Now, I'm not struggling with church attendance or commitment to the local church (I love my church!), but the title of this book has intrigued me for several years. I finally bought it during the fabulous February sale at Sovereign Grace (hence the greater number of Sovereign Grace books you'll see on my reading list in the next few months. Mark your calendars and order from them next February!). This book helped me understand Christ's love for the local church and how important the church is. I especially like the chapter "Rescuing Sunday." Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan I've been reading through this new series as each book comes out. The fifth, and final, book has been published and as soon as it comes out in paperback, I'll read it and put it on my classroom shelf. I like how these books teach mythology in an interesting, adventure-filled story. My students love this series! I learn a lot too! For example, I didn't realize before that Daedalus built the Labyrinth (I'm sorry Dr. Silvester; that story slipped by me in Classical and Medieval Literature. Truth be told, a lot of things slipped by me in that class. It was my worst grade in my major classes . . . I teach mythology in my senior World Literature class now, because I don't want my students to be as lost and overwhelmed as I was when I heard all the stories for the first time.) I read a couple more books from The Mitford Series by Jan Karon during spring break:

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Books I read in February 2009

Worldliness ed. by CJ Mahaney Don't read this book if you don't want to change. I thought I was doing all right and that my standards were pretty good . . . until I read this book. I especially appreciated all of the questions that address the heart. I'm so glad I read this book, even if it did mean giving up some things I used to watch, read, etc. I'm reading this book to my homeroom and I'm praying that it will help them think through their choices about media, music, materialism, and modesty. Choosing Forgiveness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss This is a great book. I think the name of the book is pretty self-explanatory. I especially liked the chapters dispelling the ideas we have to forgive God and forgive ourselves. It always rubbed me the wrong way when people said they "forgave God" for something He did to them or that they "couldn't forgive themselves." Excellent Biblical counsel and a clean style. I highly recommend this book. No. 1 Ladies Detective Series by Alexander McCall Smith Last year, I read a couple of books from the beginning of this series and picked up a few more from my favorite library this month. The series follows the adventures of Mma Precious Ramotswe, a detective in Botswana. The stories are charming and amusing. I haven't been able to read the series in order, but the books are written in such a way that you can jump from one to another; there's a loose story line linking the books, but for the most part, the novels are episodic. I'm still working through the series, so I look forward to reading more. Here's a list of the complete series:
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (1998) Tears Of The Giraffe (2000) Morality for Beautiful Girls (2001) The Kalahari Typing School for Men (2002) The Full Cupboard of Life (2004) In The Company of Cheerful Ladies (2004) Blue Shoes and Happiness (2006) The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (2007) The Miracle at Speedy Motors (2008) Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (2009)
These are the ones I read this month.

Books I Read in January 2009

I've listed the books I read in January by Christian living, fiction, and Bible studies. Within each category, the books are listed in roughly the same order I read them (for lack of a better organizational system), although that organization is complicated by the fact that I sometimes read more than one book at a time. Christian Living:

Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley

Carolyn pairs a history of feminism with a Biblical philosophy of womanhood and testimonies that contrast with the elements of feminism discussed in each chapter. I had never really studied feminism, so I found the history helpful. The testimonies were encouraging that God can change lives and help women live counter-culturally to our society. An informative, interesting and challenging book.

Calvary Road byRoy Hession

A small book that packs a powerful message. I spent several weeks going through this book slowly and meditating on the truths taught. I'm sure I'll reread this book.

Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris

Well, the title clearly states the message of this book. Written in an engaging manner, the Harris twins challenge teens to rise up against the low expectations set by our society. I found this book helpful (you can see that I still struggle with procrastination, as I'm writing a post about January's books in May . . .) and I've loaned the book to some of my teens. I sometimes have to remind myself that I can expect my students to do hard things and I keep my expectations high because I know they can rise to them.

Alone with God by Jason Janz

Although I don't follow the exact plan that Jason outlines, I like the basic principle that our devotional life should be about developing a relationship with God. I find that the plan Jason presents is too fractured with only a couple of minutes spent on each part of the devotional time, but again, I do like the general emphasis. I've also loaned this book out to a couple of teens and they've found the book helpful in organizing their devotions.

Mood Tides by Dr. Ronald Horton

Dr. Horton presents a defense of the emotions as God-given and natural. Just because a person is sad doesn't automatically mean that person is sinning. I believe that depression can be a result of sin, but Dr. Horton reminded me of many Bible heroes who experienced depression for natural, human reasons. He supports his points with Scripture, literary, and philosophical examples. You may also find this review helpful.

Fiction:

Shepherds Abiding, Out to Canaan, Light from Heaven by Jan Karon

I love Jan Karon's books. They're so wholesome and winsome. They're uplifting and charming without making me sick with sentimentality. And they're filled with Scripture. What a nice contrast to the pessimism of modern literature. I've read the books completely out of order based on what was available at the library.

Bible Studies:

Believing God by Beth Moore

This study on faith has been challenging and helpful. Although I sometimes get annoyed with the gushy-ness of Beth's writing style (I'm not really big on a person I've never met and who has no idea who I am telling me that she loves me and is praying for me), I've still found the study profitable. I & II Peter Study Book by John MacArthur We're doing this study in Sunday school and I've been enjoying it and learning a lot. I memorized I and II Peter for Bible quiz when I was in high school, so I've been familiar with this book for a long time, but I've definitely profited from studying this book in-depth. I like the format of the studies and the emphasis on digging into God's Word. The study questions have been thought provoking and many questions list cross references on the same topic that aren't expounded in the text.

Monday, May 04, 2009

That's My King!

I showed this video today to introduce James Weldon Johnson's poem "Creation." I love being able to share the gospel so openly in my classes and that I can tie in the gospel with the literature I teach. My kids love this sermon and got caught up in the emotion, shouting "Amen!" and clapping along with the congregation. The powerful truths of this sermon are so encouraging and uplifting. Every time I watch this video, I cry; I really needed the reminder of Who I serve. video

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Best books I read in 2008

I know this post is really late in coming, but I figured "better late than never." And I read some good books in 2008 that I wanted to recommend to you. I'll write more about the books later, as I have time . 1. KJV/ERV Parallel Bible I read the entire Bible last summer. It was a great way to refresh my memory about some stories and to get an overview of the Bible. I picked up on some themes I had never noticed before and loved tracing the work of God through Old Testament and seeing how His plan was completed in the New Testament and how He continues to work today. I chose the Easy-to-Read version because . . . it's easy to read. Harvest Ministries published this parallel study Bible with the KJV in one column and the Easy-to-Read next to it. You can follow a plan, such as the plan which a Bible class at Harvest used, or this one, or you can simply divide the number of pages in your Bible by 90 (like I did). 2. The Path of Loneliness by Elizabeth Elliot Elizabeth Elliot clearly knows and loves her God and she inspired me to passionately pursue Him too. Although I shied away from reading this book because I thought it was just about singleness, I am glad I read it, because it addresses every Christian's need to find satisfaction in Christ. Next to the Bible, this was the best book I read all year and is probably one of the best books I've ever read. 3. Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?: Trusting God with a Hope Deferred by Carolyn McCulley And this is the best book on singleness I've ever read. I was hesitant to read this book, too, because I hate books about singleness. However, Carolyn McCulley doesn't talk down to singles (she's single too) or make empty promises (if you just do x, you'll get married) or imply that the reason I'm still single is because I'm not content (a "more spiritual" way of saying "if you just do x, you'll get married" or "if you work a little harder, God will answer your prayers"). I learned how singles can use their gifts in the church to spread the gospel and minister to the saints. Because of a challenge in this book, I've been purposefully developing my homemaking skills, so I can entertain guests and bless others in that way (if you're one of my friends, you know I still have a long way to go). I regularly read Carolyn's blog Radical Womanhood and recommend that you make a trip over there. 4. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card I'm not much of a sci-fi fan--actually, I hadn't read any sci-fi since I went through a Jules Verne phase in high school--so I was a little nervous to read Ender's Game. I was afraid I wouldn't like it and offend the friend who recommended it to me. However, I really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. I won't try to summarize the plot, because I'm really bad at doing that (just ask Johnny Wiglesworth--I almost ruined the book for him because I did such a horrendous job at pitching it!). I also read Ender's Shadow but it wasn't quite as interesting to me as Ender's Game. 5. Flyboys by James Bradley I wrote about this book in February. Excellent book! By the way, this book is nothing like the movie--different war, different theater. 6. Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell A powerful story of Luttrell's survival after his entire team of Seals was killed in a fight in Afghanistan. I'm thankful for the men and women who serve our country in the military (including my brother!). POE: Strong language, but I thought the story was worth reading. 7. Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones This book was a lifesaver. I already had procedures in place, but Jones helped me see that I often nagged my students. I also learned much from the chapter on developing a presence in the classroom (my roommates laughed as they watched me perfect the "royal turn" but that and a look that means business have come in handy this year!).