"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December Books

Honeymoon with My Brother by Franz Wisner -- I've had this one for awhile, but never took the time to read it.  Pretty neat book. Two brothers - one left at the altar - travel around the world and record their experiences. I tend to enjoy these types of books and this was no exception.

Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man
by Fannie Flagg  -- A fiction book I got at a book exchange. Rather cute and fun and easy for when you want something light to read.

Jesus, The Middle Eastern Storyteller by Gary M. Burge -- I got this last Christmas, and had it in my "to-be-read" pile. I picked it up before Christmas this year and finished it today.  I enjoyed reading this short book and thinking of Jesus' parables in their cultural context.  The author discusses honor and shame in a community and how people would uphold it.  He talked about the story of the lost sheep, coin and son.  He discussed extending grace, and compassion.  I may have to read this one again soon!

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women by Sarah Bessey  -- I saw Rachel Held Evans mention this as one of her favorite books of 2013.  Since it was near Christmas, I added it to my Amazon Wishlist and although it was out of stock when I put it on there, it must have come back in stock 'cause I got it for Christmas.  I received seven new books for Christmas, and decided to read this one first.  It's really not at all like I thought it would be.  Maybe I thought it would be more snarky, have more fightin' words...not sure. But I found a lady who adores Jesus, and His compassion and grace oozes from her words!  I read this book and found encouragement, hope, purpose, love and a desire to serve others more.  I found a lady who didn't yell at all those people trying to keep her (and other women) down, but one who loves anyway. One who seeks to follow Christ, do her part, but allow HIM to right wrongs.  I found a sense of unity that is rare in my divisive world.  What a wonderful book to finish right before a new year.  She leaves me much on which to reflect.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 Meme

Some years I don't post this until January, but I've been working on this off and on since November 13, and I have it ready before 2014!

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

went to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn't make any that I recall. I decided just the other day (December 26) to keep a gratitude/service journal of sorts.  I want to be less negative in 2014 by focusing on all the good things in life.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?


4. Did anyone close to you die?

I wasn't super-close to her, but a blogger friend died in late May. I'd been following her blog for a few years.

5. What countries did you visit?

France and Belgium

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

less negativity, more serving others

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 19/20 -- it was this day that Samer's mom died (it was the 20th in Dubai, but due to the time difference I was online on the afternoon of the 19th when he told me via Gmail chat)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I can't think of any achievement

9. What was your biggest failure?

doing little to make the world better

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I got the stomach virus going around my family (and community) the other week, but thankfully I just vomited once and immediately felt much better, and have had no other problems.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

plane tickets

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Andrew's - he's most always a cheerful, helpful guy

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Syrian regime, Egyptian harassers, the US gov't, mine at times

14. Where did most of your money go?

health insurance

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Have I ever mentioned that I am not a "really, really, really excited about" type of person?  But I really enjoyed our trips (mostly to the NC mountains and beach).

16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2013?

the made-up "Zachariah Mordecai-yuh" song that Zach and I sing in my car; the other version is "Zacharooshka Mooshkatooshka Zah kuh roosh kuh....kuh, kuh, kuh"

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. Happier or sadder?

ii. same

iii. Thinner of fatter?

iv. fatter

v. richer or poorer?

vi. richer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

helping the poor; making a difference

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

I spent it with my inlaws for lunch, and my family in the evening at Mema's apartment.  We played Taboo and Apples to Apples with my family.

21. How many one-night stands?

22. What was your favorite TV program?

The Amazing Race  -- I love seeing other parts of the world, their cultures and the people  -- sometimes I see a place I've actually been (like Vienna in the last season)

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?


24. What was the best book you read?

This is always a tough one for me because how can I pick the best out of dozens of books?  Among my favorites were

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien

Coming Home to Jerusalem by Wendy Orange

Stolen Years: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi

Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions by Rachel Held Evans

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls -- I'm not sure why I liked this book so much, but my sister just finished it and said she enjoyed it as well. It's amazing what some kids endure!

Look Me In the Eye: My Life with Asperger's by John Elder Robison  -- This wasn't the most interesting book ever, but I learned quite a lot from this book so I feel it was among my most worthwhile reads of this year.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

26. What did you want and get?

books, memory cards, trips to the mountains and beach, many things!

27. What was your favorite film of this year?

The Help

28. What did you do on your birthday?

I took Zach and Michael to the local children's museum

29. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

practical, comfortable

30. What kept you sane?
several short trips just to get away and enjoy nature

31. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Vladimir Putin, the savior of the world...  nah, kidding.  Ummmmm....I'm not much for celebrities.   *thinks* Grumpy Cat?

32. What political issue stirred you the most?

Syria especially when Obama was talking about getting rid of the chemical weapons

33. Who did you miss?  

34. Who was the best new person you met?

David - a Korean guy we met at our hostel in Paris. He spent our first day with us.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

be quick to extend grace and mercy

* kidding! just seeing if you were paying attention!  I find that a silly question. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

November Books and Movies

I cannot recall another month where I actually watched more movies than read books, but this month that is exactly what happened!   Well, we went to France and Belgium. I don't read much while traveling by plane, but I did watch three movies on the 9.5 hour flight from Brussels to Atlanta.  They were

The Help

Admission (chosen because it was about 90 minutes)

The Breakfast Club (chosen because it was only 90 minutes)

When I got home I had to catch up on blogs and articles I missed while gone. Plus I was falling asleep around 8 every night and sleeping like the dead until 4:30 in the morning due to jet lag.  And now it's Thanksgiving and I've been doing stuff with pictures since Walgreens has had some free offers lately.  All that to say, I didn't read many books this month.  I only finished two.

Where's the Duck in Peking: Glimpses of China
by Cliff Schimmels - The author went to China to teach for a year and shares experiences of his life there. I really enjoyed these aspects of Chinese life.  A few things I'd heard before, while others were new to me.  For instance he reports of a female student coming to class with nasty bruises on her neck.  He later found out that if the Chinese feel they are getting sick, they will often pinch their necks to help with healing.  He told other stories about names and the three or four different translations for "ma" depending on the tone you used while saying it. I loved the last chapter when he mentioned their leaving China and how 250 students lined up to watch them depart. 

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards -- I found this in a book exchange recently. Pretty interesting book. Fiction. I like that it takes place in an area of upstate New York that a friend of mine lives.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Visiting My Roots

In a souvenir shop

 We went on a short trip to see our friend (well, he's really family), Samer, for a few days.  He told us to meet him in Paris this time, so that's what we did.  The flight was supposed to leave Raleigh and connect in Atlanta, but a maintenance issue prompted me to call the Delta helpline and we got an earlier flight to Paris through Detroit. Nice. I'd never been to Michigan so it was good visiting another state even if it was just the airport.  The flight over took 6.5 hours. I guess we had a good tailwind because even the airline ladies seemed surprised that it was so short.  It wasn't the most comfortable trip for me, however. I desperately wanted to sleep because I knew once we got there at 7 AM local time (1 AM back home), we'd be out and about all day without resting.  Alas, the more I tried to sleep, the less I did.  I resigned myself to just being tired, and I was for the first bit.  I felt like I could crawl up beside Napoleon's grave and just sleep for hours.    Thankfully, once we got outside in the cool (but not cold) air and sunshine, I felt more alert and happy and started feeling more peppy. I was able to make it until around 10 or 11 that night and fell asleep pretty readily!

This photo is from the first day. See how upbeat I look despite not sleeping for hours?

 We had a great visit with Samer. To be honest, Andrew and I aren't big-city type people, and I probably would never choose to go to Paris because it's not a place I've ever dreamed of going.  I am content hiking in the mountains or walking along the beach. That said, I really do enjoy most everywhere I've ever been.  I try to see the good in each place, and enjoy what is there. And Paris had some great sights!  Samer had been there before so he acted as our guide.  Of course.

It was raining a bit when we got to Versailles Palace.
November 5, 2013

 One thing Andrew really wanted to do was go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Samer had not gone all the way to the top. I think it might have been closed last time he was there.  Since Andrew wanted to, we went back to the tower one night. Actually it was the night of our visit to Versailles, and the weather had cleared so the view was great!  We saw for miles and miles. Samer took some great photos (a few of which I shared on Facebook), but here is one of just the three of us that someone offered to take for us.

It was cool up there - especially the two sides where the wind was whipping!

We did other stuff in Paris, but I won't bother with that now.  (Oh, we found the American Hospital where my mom was born.) I knew Paris for 6 days would be (or could be) museum overload for at least one person in our group, so I told Samer we should probably look for another destination.  He chose Belgium. He had never been to this country so it was the first one we'd all visit for the first time together. And it was lovely!  We landed in Brussels, but took a couple day trips to Bruges and Ghent. 

The rain in Brussels added a pretty sheen to the streets.

Bruges had several quiet streets that we enjoyed.

We got home Sunday night (Brussels to Atlanta to RDU - 9.5 hours, but a much more pleasant flight), and I've been trying to get my body back on North Carolina time ever since. It's 9 PM and I am ready for sleep now. I got up around 5:15 so I am tired.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October Books

The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere by Debra Marquart -- The author tells of her life growing up in North Dakota

Bruchko by Bruce Olson -- what a neat story about a 19-year-old man who went to tell the Motilone Indians about Jesus. I really appreciate how he tried to relate to them, share the gospel within their cultural boundaries and not try to make them into white, Christian Westerners.  Someone at church wanted Andrew to read it, so I decided to read it as well.

The Summer of My Greek Tavérna by Tom Stone - a rather delightful book about the author's attempt to run a restaurant on the isle of Patmos one summer (hard work); this book soooo made me want to visit Greece

Twenty Chickens For a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood by Robyn Scott -- I got this book at a book exchange at a local park. I wasn't sure how interesting it would be, but I enjoyed it even though it had rather small writing and was over 400 pages.  Africa is fascinating to me. And this book took place in Botswana. I had fun trying to imagine growing up there. It was great reading about life through Robyn's eyes.

Forever Lily: An Unexpected Mother's Journey to Adoption in China by Beth Nonte Russell  -- I usually really like these China adoption stories, and I did like this book. The story has a unique twist - or one I'd never heard of before. But I didn't care as much about all the talk of dreams and visions and meditations and past lives since those are just things I struggle with believing. But the story itself is pretty good.

Yao: A Life in Two Worlds by Yao Ming with Ric Bucher -- I saw this book while browsing my library's biographies. Since I'm often interested in China, I thought it would be good to see how Yao talked about his life there - and his life in the United States.  And it had some interesting and humorous facts at times, but it was a little heavy (understandably) on NBA talk.  Some of that was OK, but I tend to prefer more cultural tidbits. Thankfully those were in this book and were among my favorite parts.

Zacarias, My Brother by Abd Samad Moussaoui -- The author talks about growing up in France and the path his brother took from being a nonreligious Muslim to becoming one of the strictest, most intolerant kind.

My Story by Elizabeth Smart -- a friend sent this to me after she finished; great book. I was truly amazed by her story. What a wonderful person!

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls  -- I found this in a book exchange box at the park,and, wow, it was so interesting and dreadful to me at the same time.  Jeannette's life could not be more different than Elizabeth Smart's (aside from the hunger part). I couldn't help comparing the two a bit since I'd just finished Smart's book.  I really enjoyed this book, and am amazed by the author's pluck in surviving her childhood. What crazy, crazy parents.  I think you'd judge them, too.

I think the last two books I read made me want to be more aware of a few things.

1.  People who are panhandling may truly be evil deceivers.
2.  If I ever see a young person who doesn't seem like she belongs, probe.
3. Try to question a young person in this situation away from the adult she is with.
4.  Realize there are hungry people not too far away. 
5.  Give to them.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

September books

The Lost Heart of Asia by Colin Thurbron - join the author as he travels through parts of Central Asia. I'm not very familiar with these regions so this book was somewhat interesting although I felt it took me a long time to read it.

Between a Church and a Hard Place: One Faith-Free Dad's Struggle to Understand What It Means to Be Religious (or Not) by Andrew Park - I enjoyed this perspective on religion from a "faith-free" guy.  I especially enjoyed reading about his brother's conversion, and the author's visit to a local Bible study group and humanist lecture.

The Girl With No Name: The Incredible Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys by Marina Chapman  -- very interesting book especially about Marina's childhood in the jungle. I only wish the book hadn't stopped when she was 14.  The ghostwriter did mention a sequel...I'd love to know more of this story!

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill  -- what a controlling religion - I guess they all are to some degree, but this one didn't even appreciate family relationships. Scientology: not for me

The Road Out: A Teacher's Odyssey in Poor America by Deborah Hicks  -- A teacher who grew up in a small Appalachian town dedicates herself to a small group of poor girls in Cincinnati.  They bond over their love of reading...well, love for most of them.  This book introduces us to the girls around age 8 and follows them until most of them are twenty.   It's quite interesting to see how they ended up (as if 20 is how they ended..ahem).

The Frozen Leopard: Hunting My Dark Heart in Africa by Aaron Latham -- Another book about safaris in Africa.  I enjoyed visiting the gorillas, zebras, learning about rhinos and elephants and impalas with this group!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

August Books

In Search of King Solomon's Mines by Tahir Shah -- After purchasing a treasure map in Jerusalem's Old City, the author sets out on an adventure to locate King Solomon's gold mines.  This book takes you through parts of Ethiopia, introducing you to lovable characters such as the Bible-toting Samson, and the crazy, qat-chewing driver Bahru, and Yusuf, the guy who slaughtered and quartered cows and fed them to hyenas by holding a stick (why? so they wouldn't come eat the village children).  Although the adventure of finding gold doesn't really interest me, the author's storytelling was pretty good. And I like reading about African countries so there's that.

Secret Girl by Molly Bruce Jacobs -- When she was thirteen, the author's father told her she had a sister she didn't know about.  Anne was born with water on the brain, and as done quite often back then, was institutionalized. This book is Brucie's memoir - her story of meeting her sister and pursuing a relationship with her all while dealing with her own problems with addiction. 

To the Moon and Timbuktu by Nina Sovich - Most books like this that I find at my library are a dozen or more years old, but this one was on the new book shelf. I tend to enjoy travel memoirs and this one depicting the author's "trek through the heart of Africa" was pretty good.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson -- After twenty years of living abroad, the author decides to hike the AT.  I read parts of this to Andrew and we laughed and laughed. So, yeah, it was funny in parts. Other parts were rather interesting (like chapter 14 on Centralia, PA) and others a bit boring.  Good book overall. 

Maphead by Ken Jennings -- curious about places and maps and geocaching and contests to see who can visit the most countries?  Curious about geography bees and road atlas rallying?  If so, you may really enjoy this book!

Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World by Seth Stevenson -- Yes, another travel book, but this was different in that the author and his girlfriend went to some different places, AND their goal was to travel without flying. So, the book is more about the journey to places rather than the really cool sights they saw within certain cities and villages.  Sailing by cargo ship - yep. Sailing by cruise ship - reluctantly.  Biking in Korea - did some of that.. Russian trains - so different from the speed bullet train in Japan and traveling by train in the good ol' USA.  Neat book.

Too Proud to Ride a Cow: By Mule Across America by Bernie Harberts  -- Ever thought about riding a mule across the southern states of the US from coast to coast? Me either. But that's what the author did.  He started out with Woody the mule and his goal was just to go from one end of North Carolina to the other. But when he got to the Tennessee border he decided to keep on traveling.  I read a few parts of this to Andrew. I especially enjoyed when he talked about fearing others and the hospitality of the people he met along the way (especially around page 75), and also when he worked a day picking pecans and his thoughts on how much Mexican workers are paid after he did this all day and made $17 for his efforts (pg. 147).

Mixed Signals by Liz Curtis Higgs -- just a Christian fiction I picked up at a book exchange.  It's the story of Belle the star of mid-day radio. I liked that it took place in Abingdon, Virginia, since I was there just last month.  The book also mentions Damascus which is nearby.  An easy read as we drove home from the beach, and my first fiction book in a while!

The Way It Was ~ 1876 by Suzanne Hilton -- a pretty neat book about the way life was the year the United States celebrated it's 100th birthday. Full of information from books, magazines, journals, and diaries.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

July Books

All Things New by Lynn Austin -- This is first fiction book I've read in quite some time. My mom picked it up from the library and thought I'd like it so I read it when she was finished. It takes place in the South after the Civil War.  It was a bit predictable, but a good lesson to me in some ways. I especially took note of how certain thoughts were engrained in people: Negroes are made for manual labor and can't be taught to read; some people are below your station in life - don't marry outside of your station; how to be a proper young lady or gentleman. Overall I'm so glad we've moved passed all that. I definitely would not make a good fit for that past southern way of life!

Native Stranger: A Black American's Journey Into the Heart of Africa by Eddy L. Harris -- a really interesting read of how many African destinations looked/was experienced by a black American

"Africa had made me wish for the first time in my life that I were someone else, made me wish I were shorter so I could squeeze into the backs of trucks better, made me wish I were richer so I could help more or hide more,  insulate myself better, made me wish I were poorer so I would not be so affected by the poverty.

But it was why I had come: to walk the same earth, choke on the same dust, and feel what they feel. I was feeling it.  And I was hating what I felt."  (pg. 262)

Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time by Sarah Rudin -- I'm not familiar with this author, but somehow ended up with this on my Amazon wishlist and received it for my birthday (or was it Christmas?).  Anyway, I enjoyed her thoughts on Paul. She stated how she wasn't a huge fan of Paul because of his controversial stances, but the more she studied Paul among his contemporaries, she realized he wasn't half bad!   Curious about the sexism, the homophobia, the love chapter, why he was OK with slavery?  Give this book a read and see if it changes your perspective. -- also see previous posts for more discussion on veiling

Predators, Prey,and Other Kinfolk: Growing Up in Polygamy by Dorothy Allred Solomon -- for the thousandth time I was reminded why I despise polygyny and what it does to families.  The author details her life, the struggles and heartache of growing up in a fundamentalist sect of the LDS.  While her father isn't portrayed as a villain - you can tell she loves him very much - I can't stand the heartache these women and children went through all because they wanted to please God (whatever!).  The author details her family's (and ancestors') polygamist pasts, their life from here to yon (as they moved to avoid anti-polygamist authorities and traditional Church members), a rival fundamentalist group and more sinister things that happened. 

There Are Mountains to Climb: An Inspiration Journey by Jean Deeds -- Andrew and I both enjoyed this account by a 51-year-old lady from Indiana who decided to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  It was great reading about her experiences on the trail, and hearing about people she met.  It's especially nice since we have been in certain areas near the AT so we could picture certain things (like hikers visiting Damascus, Virginia.)

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler  -- This book is about a Peace Corp volunteer and his life in Fuling in the mid-1990s.  I enjoyed his perspective as one of only a handful of foreigners living in this area of China.  He discussed social taboos, how his students would react if he said something "wrong," how he was greeted and harassed on the streets, his relationship with locals, his travels during the summer holiday, the locals' political views and thoughts on the US, his struggles and successes in learning Chinese.

"There was a great deal of history in China and if you protected all the ancient sites the people would have nowhere to grow their crops."  (pg. 107)

"Some Fuling men allowed their pinkie nails to grow a full two inches, because this was a sign that they didn't do manual labor. A number of my male students had nails like this, which looked absurdly feminine on hands that clearly had been toughened by work in the fields.  But none of the students planned on returning to the peasant life, and their nails were a clear indication that their lives were moving forward.  Most of the long-nailed men in Fuling were of this transitional social class; they tended to be former peasants who were finding success as cab drivers, clerks, or small entrepreneurs.  The truly rich rarely grew out their nails, because their wealth was already obvious enough from their expensive suits and cell phones."  (pg. 276)

A Journey North: One Woman's Story of Hiking the Appalachian Trail by Adrienne Hall -- That's right. Two books this month about women hiking the AT.  Maybe it has everything to do with our going to the mountains twice within four weeks.  This past weekend when we went, we talked a lot about Jean Deeds' account (see above) since we were in Damascus, Virginia, part of the time and actually walked a few minutes on both the southbound AT and the northbound AT.  We recalled many tidbits from Jean's book. When I got home, I read this one.  Several things were different.  Adrienne was half Jean's age (22 as opposed to 51).  Adrienne didn't hike alone (she went on the AT because her boyfriend asked her on this date...haha).  Adrienne and Craig left mid February for their trip, whereas Jean left around the end of March when most thru-hikers leave.  Jean's journey began in 1994 whereas Adrienne went two years later.  That part isn't much different, but their accounts and experiences seemed to be.  Adrienne and Craig ran into lots of snow in the South and lots of swollen streams in Maine.  Along the trail (not at a stream or river-crossing location) at one point, Adrienne said the water was up to her waist!  Adrienne was an environmental studies major and you can tell from her book. She shared more about reintroducing red wolves to the Southern Appalachians, the habitats of salamanders and how logging and development have caused their decline.  She talked about keeping the AT wild and how awful she felt when she saw people using cell phones in the shelters or saw cell phone towers as they were hiking.  She told more of the Cherokee legends of, say, why the Smoky Mountains were smoky and talked about being one of very few female hikers and her own dabbling with goddess accounts in college and related those to the mountains.  A good book for the most part.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Veiling as a sign of equality?

In my last post, I mentioned reading Paul Among the People by Sarah Ruden, and talked about hair and veiling and Paul's instructions for women in the church to cover their heads.  A few of you offered your thoughts and interpretations you have heard. This is what Sarah Ruden had to say about this matter in her book.

Respectable Greek and Roman women traditionally wore concealing veils in public. Marriage and widowhood were the chief things that a veil signaled.  (For a Roman woman, "to get married" and "to veil oneself" were exactly the same word.)  The veil held great symbolism:it reminded everyone that all freeborn women, women with families to protect them, were supposed to enter adulthood already married, and that they were supposed to stay chastely married or else chastely widowed until the end of their lives.  The veil was the flag of female virtue, status, and society.  In the port city of Corinth, with its batteries of prostitution - including the sacred prostitutes of the temple of Aphrodite - the distinction between veiled and unveiled women would have been even more critical.
But on the other hand, society was changing fast: slaves ... gaining more status and security in households and settling down more often with slave partners; slaves being freed; divorce proliferating...- any or all of these things could have made the veil a matter of controversy. Women not entitled to the veil may have wanted it, and women entitled to the veil may not have wanted it.  Bruce Winter puts the emphasis on a new type of married, divorced, or widowed Roman woman on the scene in the first century A.D., more keen on showing off her elaborate hairstyle than on constantly wearing an old-fashioned veil. 


At the very least, there must have been among the Christians women with pasts.  Would not bareheadedness, the lack of a "symbol of authority" on their heads, have galled them? They were entitled to be there - but the norms of the time said that they had to be there in the outfits of degraded, vulnerable beings. It was against the custom and perhaps even against the law for them to be veiled.  At Greek religious festivals, "women's police" would circulate, making sure not only that respectable women were not flashily or revealingly dressed, but probably also that other women did not take on the exclusive, prestigious symbols of a matron or widow.  In Rome also, dress was regulated in detail: for example, any married woman found to have committed adultery would lose forever the right to wear a floor-length, heavily bordered stola and a veil.  Any woman who had ever been a prostitute was of course not allowed to wear them either.

I think Paul's rule aimed toward an outrageous equality. All Christian women were to cover their heads in church, without distinction of beauty, wealth, respectability - or of privilege so great as to allow toying with traditional appearances.  The most hurtful thing about bareheaded, gorgeously coiffed wives might not have been their frivolity but rather their thoughtless flaunting of styles that meant degradation to some of their sisters - as if a suburban matron attended an inner-city mission church in hip boots, a miniskirt, and a blond wig.  Perhaps the new decree made independent women of uncertain status, or even slave women, honorary wives in this setting.  If the women complied ... you could have looked at a congregation and not necessarily been able to tell who was an honored wife and mother and who had been forced, or maybe was still being forced, to service twenty or thirty men a day.

(pgs. 85-88)

What do you think?

Monday, July 15, 2013

On Veiling and Hair and Paul

I have a relatively new Facebook friend and she's Jewish - my first Jewish friend! I met her on a HuffPo link. I liked one of her comments, and she requested me as a friend just like that!  I'm not sure how she'd label herself (if she would), but she told me that as a married woman she doesn't wear "trousers," but wears skirts that cover her knees, blouses that cover the elbows and she covers her hair in public.  She said single women don't cover their hair, but married women do in her community.  She also pointed out that her husband does modest things for her like not swimming in gender-mixed places.

I say all that because I was reading Paul Among the People by Sarah Ruden. She said she really did not like Paul because he sounded so misogynistic and homophobic, but as a scholar in classical languages, she started reading Paul in light of his contemporaries.  The book is "the apostle reinterpreted and reimagined in his own time."  She quotes Bible passages attributed to Paul, and compares them to other literature and known historical contexts of Paul's time.

One thing that really took my attention was about hair. It made me think, "Oh wow, the Middle East really hasn't evolved much from this thinking," and I don't mean that in a derogatory way because, likely, they have evolved, but they just still hold onto the traditions. That's more what I mean. I recall hearing people talk how in some places in, say, the Levant tribes do what they have done for centuries. And in many ways, I find that wonderful because there is something to be said for holding onto your culture and not letting social media or all this dang stuff available in the world make you lose something precious.

(I'm probably not saying that right, but I know what I mean in my own mind.)

So the subject was women's hair. More specifically she was talking about that passage concerning women in church covering their heads. From time to time I see a Christian group that practices this here, but despite my rather strict upbringing, it's one thing we never did in the Baptist churches I'm familiar with.  (Women didn't even have to have particularly long hair thankfully, since mine really doesn't grow long without growing into a shrub).  I have heard Muslims declare "See, you all are supposed to do what our women do...you just cherrypick that out and don't obey. You should be wearing hijab as well."  (Have you heard this, too?)

So I was going to write what she said about the veil, but figured first I'd ask for interpretations that you have heard regarding this passage. The main one I recall is that it was cultural and that our hair is our natural covering so we don't have to worry about veiling in the 20th century.

Instead of writing her thoughts on the veil, here is what she said about hair:

"Paul does not write of 'nature' (verse 14) by accident. The ancients believed that it was female hair's nature to inflame men, almost like breasts or genitals: men experienced women's hair as powerfully, inescapably erotic, in a way that makes our hair-care product companies look like an accounting textbook."  (pg. 88)

Then she quotes erotic passages from Ovid and Apuleius about hair and continues, "Notice the implicit association between hair on display and actual nakedness. This wouldn't make much sense unless both signaled sexual availability and both were thought of as automatically bringing on male desire."  (pg. 91)

What are your thoughts on hair, veiling, Paul's words on the subject, interpretations you've heard, what your church teaches on this matter, the fact that I added a new friend on Facebook based on a HuffPo link comment?  Anything?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

June Books

The House by the Dvina: A Russian Childhood by Eugenie Fraser -- an interesting account of life in Archangel through the eyes of a girl growing up there with her Scottish mother, Russian father and extended family.  Bridget recommended this book and I got it for my birthday off my Amazon Wishlist. 

Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival by Anderson Cooper  -- I've seen this one at my local library and finally decided to read it.  I enjoyed reading more about his personal life as he told stories from various troubled spots around the globe. 

The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions by Marcus J. Borg and N.T. Wright  -- as the cover states, "the leading liberal and conservative Jesus scholars present the heart of the historical Jesus debate." I got this one for my birthday, and enjoyed reading both men's perspectives. A very respectful book. These two may not agree on Jesus, but they are friends!
I shared this bit on Facebook one day:

I often find it interesting how people talk about the Biblical stories and creeds within their own cultural context. For instance I was reading this morning ...

"The cultural relativity of biblical and creedal language struck me with considerable force when I was in South Africa on a lecture trip a few years ago, soon after the official end of apartheid, My schedule including lecturing at a black theological seminary, an interesting learning experience.  On the drive back to Pretoria with my white host, I was told that the black church was being encouraged to develop its own creed. The reason?  Because the status of "only son" was not a very high status in that particular black culture. One has no access to an "only son"; he is socially isolated.  A much higher status was that of "oldest brother." Thus, if one were to speak of Jesus with the highest status known in that culture, one would speak of him as "our oldest brother" and not as an "only son."  (p. 154)

The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling by Quinn Cummings -- I know a lot of people who homeschool their children including my sister. I saw this book on the new books shelf at my library and it was an entertaining and informative read.  Although the author's version of homeschooling seems quite different from what I'm used to here in North Carolina, I really appreciated seeing how "we" looked through her Los Angeles eyes.  My sister said she read this book awhile back and enjoyed it as well.

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne -- I stopped by the library the other day and saw this on the new books shelf. I glanced at it and decided to check it out.  Apparently this guy has a blog, but I've never heard of him before. Still, it was a good way to learn more about Tourette's (I have an online friend whose daughter has this) and how this syndrome affected this guy's life. Also, he grew up Mormon so I appreciated that aspect as his faith was mentioned often in this book. I enjoyed the anecdotes from the library as he works at the Salt Lake City Public Library which sounds massive compared to the small branches in my own county. 

A Comrade Lost and Found: A Beijing Story by Jan Wong -- The author, a Chinese-Canadian journalist travels with her husband and teenaged boys for a month-long stay in China.   The author has a special reason for the trip: she wants to find a young woman she betrayed three decades prior.  I enjoyed this book - a great way to learn tidbits about China through the eyes of a former Maoist.  It's interesting to see how drastically this country has changed, and what shocked the author about this country's changes.  How former dedicated Maoists, for instance, lived such luxurious lives.  Lots of interesting tips about life in Beijing as well.

The Unwanted by Kien Nguyen  -- A memoir of an Amerasian man who grew up as a despised "half breed" in Vietnam, but later was able to come to America.  The author tells of his growing up years - the privileged life he lead until the fall of Saigon and how drastically things changed for them as the years went by.  I read books like this wondering why I ever complain about anything because, truly, some people in this world have horrible lives. He closes the book saying, "as dark as my memoir may be, it is not unique by any means. It's estimated that more than fifty thousand Amerasian children shared my fate, or worse.  Their stories were all too common ones of terror and repression, abuse and neglect, strength, and ultimately - for the lucky ones - survival. I kept writing in hopes that these innocent victims' lost childhoods might finally be mourned, and their buried secrets at last revealed."  (pg. 343)

To See You Again: A True Story of Love in a Time of War by Betty Schimmel -- I seem to be a sucker for these memoirs from people who were persecuted by the Nazis.  This story takes place mostly in Hungary although later the family was marched to concentration camps in Austria and later moved to Germany (by the US liberators). The last part of the book tells of the author's married life in the United States as well as her visit back to Hungary after the Communists took over.   Once again I am amazed at how cruel people are to each other, and am disgusted by Germany and  likeminded people who treated fellow humans worse than animals.  I enjoyed this book for the most part though the latter fourth I thought the author was stupid for having married a man she didn't love. Maybe I figured she could have made a better effort since she was foolish enough to marry him.  But then who am I to judge why people marry? 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Blogger Friend Dies & May Books

Have any of you ever lost a blogger or other online friend?  To death?  Sadly, this Monday Carol aka American Bedu lost her battle with cancer.  Her blog was one of the first I ever started reading.  I believe January marked five years that I have "known" her through her blog.  Interestingly enough, she was in Saudi Arabia married to a Saudi man when we "met."  But she died a widow in North Carolina with her son and grandchildren and numerous friends loving and supporting her.  Here are a couple articles about her.
Arab News reports her death

Curious how her husband died and how she ended up in North Carolina?  Such a SAD story!!

Carol wrote about Abdullah often. He seemed like a wonderful man.  It's hard to believe we'll never read any more posts from her.  I was reading Susie's post last evening, looking at Carol and Abdullah's picture together and got teary-eyed thinking the two of them were no longer with us.


I'm dividing my reading between two books I received for my birthday and it's not likely I'll finish them in May. One is religious so I have to read it in digestible segments or my brain gets overwhelmed.  The other is rather interesting (in a childhood-in-Russia way), but I've just not read it quickly.  But these, I've finished so I'll post them now. 

The Return: A Family Revisits Their Eastern European Roots
by Petru Popescu -- I read one of his books last month (about how his Czech inlaws met each other in a Nazi concentration camp) and found this one about his own family's story.  He talks about his life growing up in Communist Romania, and his defection to the United States. The last part is about his and his wife's trip back to Eastern Europe first visiting her family's roots in Czechoslovakia and then his return after fifteen years. Very good read. I love the story he shares about when he first came to America and almost bought catfood for himself thinking they were cans of tuna.  Thankfully the ladies in the store steered him into buying people tuna, and he informed them that Romanian cats eat table scraps and mice.  They seemed shocked (or so he reports.) 

Teaching in a Distant Classroom by Michael H. Romanowski and Teri McCarthy -- I was hoping this book was more like one I read earlier this year which I loved!  But it was more about choosing the correct curriculum yet tweaking it if need be.  It had some good stuff, but since I'm not teaching overseas I didn't feel it was extremely helpful for me. I did enjoy some of the examples.

Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions by Rachel Held Evans -- If you think a twenty seven year old should never write a memoir, you'd probably not enjoy this, but I read Rachel's other book last year and loved it. This book tells her spiritual journey of how she went from being a fundamentalist-type evangelical (one who knew all the answers) to someone who questioned her faith, and came to different conclusions.  I really enjoyed this book especially when she talked about pond-scum theology. I could relate to many of her thoughts.

Daily Life in the Time of Jesus by Henri Daniel-Rops -- I found this at the local Goodwill store one Sunday afternoon. It's over 500 pages, but quite an interesting book covering a variety of topics about life during Jesus' time. I like cultural stuff so this was pretty good to read this month.

Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood by Barbara Demick -- I read a book by her a couple years ago on North Korea and it was so good, that I wanted to read another.  This one was interesting as well, though I preferred the one on North Korea. 

Here is something from it that I shared on Facebook.
More from this book on Sarajevo during the war:  Check out these prices:  One can of Coke - $7.50; one box of chocolate chip cookies - $11; one banana - $6; coffee - 1lb. for $50; one gallon of gas - $100!  Also I mentioned yesterday that Ping-Pong balls were often given for small change.  Cigarettes were often given for salaries.  For instance, one man received 5 packs per month for his work with the police department.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sally and Alastair

This may only be funny to me - and Andrew, but I figured I'd post it in case I ever wanted to reread something that made us laugh.  

On Sunday Andrew and I were out together and talk of his upcoming birthday came up. He said, "I'm getting so old I can't remember anything, Sally*."

I replied: "Yeah, I know what you mean, Alastair."

An incredulous pause by Andrew.

"Alastair?! Who thinks of *Alastair* when they are losing their memory?"

Hahahahaa...OK, maybe you had to be there. :)

(*This is the name he calls me whenever he pretends his memory is failing).

Thursday, May 9, 2013


To be honest, I struggle with waiting on God.  There is one issue in my life that reallllllllllllllllllly makes me angry, and I want God to fix it.  Like five years ago.  I've prayed about it. I've cried about it. I've railed about it. I've about given up on God about it.

And there are other areas where I no longer wait. I gave up on God ever doing anything in those areas.

So, I saw this in a church newsletter the other evening and have reread it a few times because it speaks to me concerning how I handle waiting.

When God asks you to wait, what happens to your spiritual muscles?  While you wait, do your spiritual muscles grow bigger and stronger or do they grow flaccid and atrophied?  Waiting for the Lord isn't about God forgetting you, forsaking you, or being unfaithful to his promises. It's actually God giving you time to consider his glory and to grow stronger in faith. Remember, waiting isn't just about what you are hoping for at the end of the wait, but also about what you will become while you wait.

Waiting always presents me with a spiritual choice-point. Will I allow myself to question God's goodness and progressively grow weaker in faith, or will I embrace the opportunity of faith that God is giving me and build my spiritual muscles?

It's so easy to question your belief system when you are not sure what God is doing. It's so easy to give way to doubt when you are being called to wait.  It's so easy to forsake good habits and to take up habits of unfaith that weaken the muscles of the heart.

                                                                              -- Paul David Tripp, A Shelter in the Time of Storm

Monday, April 29, 2013

April Books

A Year in the World by Frances Mayes  -- pleasant enough book, but not my favorite; I did think often "oooh, I'd like to go there!"  Too bad I don't travel more

Posted on Facebook: 

"How glamorous Ed looks in his Italian tuxedo, his 'smoking' as it's called by Italians who frequently leave off the second word of an imported term: basket, instead of basketball, night instead of nightclub."  -- Reading this just now in A Year in the World by Frances Mayes made me remember my conversation the other night about why some of us call knit hats "toboggans."  It must be our Italian ancestry!  Toboggan hat becomes plain old toboggan.

Ten Green Bottles by Vivian Jeanette Kaplan -- "The true story of one family's journey from war-torn Austria to the ghettos of Shanghai"  -- really interesting book especially when the family finally moves to Shanghai thrives, then the Japanese take over and they have to move to the ghetto where they adapt and thrive (somewhat) and THEN the Americans bomb their area while trying to win the war - ah!!

The Oasis: A Memoir of Love and Survival in a Concentration Camp by Petru Popescu --  I really enjoyed this tale of a couple who met in a work concentration camp towards the end of World War II and how they experienced life there and beforehand; it was interesting to read some Jewish rituals as Blanka thought back on her growing-up years; now I want to read the story of this author as he escaped Communism in Romania  (got it at the library 4/25, and will read soon)

MASH: An Army Surgeon in Korea by Otto F. Apel, Jr, MD and Pat Apel -- really interesting book about the MASH units in Korea. I enjoyed reading about life in Korea from a doctor's perspective. He shared funny parts, and many amazing parts about how they worked to keep people alive. I was brought to tears thinking of how hard they worked on soldiers who, quite frankly, seemed lost causes or too far gone to save.  But they did!

One time he was talking about their need for blood, and how "the occupation army in Japan appealed to the Japanese people to give blood for Americans fighting in Korea.  Long lines of Japanese stood outside the blood bank in Tokyo....The blood was flown from the U.S. Medical Laboratory in Tokyo to the blood bank in Korea and helicoptered to the MASH units.  An interesting quirk arose at this point. Japanese blood contains less of the Rh-negative factor than the blood of people of European origin. Therefore, Japanese blood could not be used to treat Americans. Japanese blood was used only for Koreans or other Asians. But it did allow doctors or nurses to use other blood for Americans and thus maintain adequate levels of blood in the medical facilities."  (pg. 140)

They learned the importance of patients getting up and walking as an aid to healing. Also, the importance of antibiotics - and more widespread use of them was "tested" on these ailing soldiers.

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 by Madeleine Albright  -- If you are interested in Czech history especially during World War II, you may like this book.  It also talks a bit about Bohemia, Czech and Slovak breaks and the rise of Communism in this section of the world.  Of course Ms. Albright talks about her family's experiences during these years which makes it even better.

War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam  -- this book is a collection of accounts by 9 women; I enjoyed the variety of experiences, and especially enjoyed the account of the lady who adopted two daughters from Vietnam and went back years later with one of them

Outwitting the Gestapo by Lucie Aubrac -- this book tells the story of a group of French resisters during the time Germany occupied France during WII; it's told from the point of view of Lucie - and covers 9 months of her life; pretty interesting book

Saturday, March 30, 2013

March Books

The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community by Mary Pipher -- I saw this book while I was with Michael at Barnes & Noble, and found it available at my local library. The author discusses her experiences with various refugees who moved to her home in Lincoln, Nebraska.  In this book you will be introduced to Kurdish sisters who fled Iraq, school settings - one with elementary-aged refugees, another with high school students, also you will meet people from Kenya and Sierra Leone. The author also gives tips and other observations about cultures. Of course I enjoyed this one although halfway through the book I felt inviting refugees here was a mistake as America is too difficult to understand, too cruel in many ways. Then I recalled what these people left, and was heartened with stories of refugees who seemed happy and more adjusted to life here. The book made me want to be more cognizant of foreigners among us, to be open to helping them, to offering friendship...and for the hundredth time it made me wish my city were more international! Why am I stuck here??

The author noted how an Ethiopian man caught many fish, and she, thinking he'd want to save them for himself and his family, offered storage space in her freezer. He looked at her quizzically and said he had no need to store them as he was giving them away to friends.  Also she told how Afghan women were very upset with the artwork their children brought home from school because they used dried beans and macaroni.  People in our country are starving and they use food in art here!

A couple quotes from the section on "Home" towards the end of the book that I liked:

"The love of your own country hasn't to do with foreign politics, burning flags, or the Maginot Line against immigrants at the border. It has to do with a light on a hillside, the fat belly of a local trout, and the smell of new-mown hay."  Bill Holm (pg. 320)

"American restlessness is overstated. We all come from immigrants, but if we look far enough back in our family trees, we will find a farmer.  In Grass Roots, Gruchow makes the point that the average settler wasn't in search of a new world to conquer, but of a refuge, 'a place with a few cows, a garden, a house of one's own, as far away from trouble as possible.'"  (pg. 324)

Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love and the Search for Home by Kim Sunée  -- This is a memoir by a Korean-born woman adopted by a couple from New Orleans who ended up moving to Europe for many years as a young adult.  Her story is so unlike my own, and I was sad that she had such a hard time fitting in and felt so adrift.  I kept hoping I could introduce her to Someone who could fill this void in her life.  This book made me appreciate food that I'm familiar with. I am sure her food is superb (she includes recipes at the end of nearly every chapter), but, eh, I just like my normal Southern-American food.  This book was in my local library biography section.

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman -- curious what it's like to be incarcerated in a women's prison? Read this book. 

Hide: A Child's View of the Holocaust by Naomi Samson - a Polish Jew recounts her life in hiding from the German soldiers and the Polish "friends" and neighbors who tried to kill them;  She, her mother, brother and sister hid for a year and a half in a hayloft or under the house of a couple Polish women who fed them reluctantly -- when the children were finally free, two of them had to crawl as their muscles had attached to their legs wrongly during their growing while curled in a fetal position all that time --- so sad! And again I wonder HOW can people be so cruel to other people?!

Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption by Shon Hopwood -- found this in the new books at the library; it's the story of a Nebraskan man who committed bank robbery and served more than a decade in a federal prison. During that time he finds he has a knack for legal things and his story is quite a testimony to the power of grace and redemption - and it helps you better understand the people in prisons (somewhat...)  and what's with my reading two prison memoirs in recent days?

Stolen Years: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi -- Wow, what a book!  It seems jail is a theme this month.  Malika's jail experience isn't like the others however. Her family (mother and siblings) were imprisoned - banished to a place where they only had themselves and their jailers as company.  Quite a story out of Morocco.  Don't mess with the king!

Freedom: The Story of My Second Life by Malika Oufkir -- the sequel to the above book; the author tells how she readjusts to life. Can you imagine being locked away for twenty years and how much things changed in that time? Like automatic sinks...how does the water come out?  She also tells of her first experiences with love (or lust) after her escape.

Dalai Lama, My Son: A Mother's Story by Diki Tsering -- I enjoyed hearing some of the customs and expectations of the people in Tibet.  The wedding preparations and the way people consulted their astrologers and the way ghosts killed their children - fascinating!

Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi -- a book of memories of growing up in Iran; I enjoyed reading about events in Iran through the eyes of this lady and her family

Look Me In the Eye: My Life with Asperger's by John Elder Robison  -- I saw this at Barnes & Noble and found it at the local library; I enjoyed learning more about Asperger's as it affected this person's life. I have friends with this condition (not a disease) and some of what the author wrote seems true of them.

The Poet of Baghdad: A True Story of Love and Defiance by Jo Tatchell -- this story is about Nabeel Yasin's early years in Iraq and how he escaped his home country and lived in exile until the Iraq War.  I enjoyed reading about the life of a family during these years in Iraq as the story spans many decades

Friday, March 1, 2013

February Books

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung  -- sad story about a family torn apart by the Khmer Rouge regime as told by one of the youngest children; this book made me cry as I (kind of, sort of, not really) experienced her hardships through her words and thought of others who have endured such horrible times at the hands of evil people

The Life of Objects by Susanna Moore -- a novel I found at the library; probably attracted to it by the author's name and it was in the new book section; an Irish lady goes to Germany and lives with a family during World War II; interesting to hear of this family and her time in Germany through her eyes

The Silenced Cry by Ana Tortajada -- a Spanish lady and two friends travel to Pakistan to meet Afghan refugees and are able to take a short trip to visit Kabul; each chapter is a day from their travel

Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk -- a look at Istanbul through the eyes of a secular man who grew up there; he focused quite a bit on the melancholy of the city, its attempts at westernizing and how it appeared through western eyes; some of it was interesting, but I didn't enjoy this as much as I hoped I would (library book)

Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa -- I really enjoy these types of books.  A Canadian lady decided to teach two years in Bhutan instead of going for her doctorate. So this book tells of her experiences - trying to fit in, meeting people, seeing the place through her eyes. I especially enjoyed her days of teaching the younger children and what they taught her about survival (lighting her stove and cooking for one thing).   Here is an interview with her.

The Gate by Francois Bizot -- A French man tells about his time in Cambodia. The part about his being a prisoner was my favorite.

After the Wall: Germany, the Germans, and the Burdens of History by Marc Fisher -- An American journalist lives in Germany for four years telling about people he interviewed and interesting things in the news. I enjoy cultural books so this was an interesting read for me.  Germany interests me as well since I've been there,my uncle lives there and Samer lives there presently.  I was surprised to learn how traditional western Germany was compared to East Germany as it relates to women and children.  I liked reading some of this to Samer and would love to hear how things have changed in Germany if this same author/journalist lived there now and wrote about it.  Oooh, here is a CSPAN interview with him that I'll have to watch one day.

Prejudice Across America by James Waller -- a professor takes about twenty students to various cities in the country in order to learn more about prejudice against American Indians, blacks, Jewish Americans and so forth. I enjoyed the brief history of each place, its significance in race relations, and feeling as if I were on the trip as I read what they did and how they reflected on what they experienced each day.

One quote from the book that I put on Facebook

"What will not make headlines are the ironic facts that the founder of the original Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest, is buried in a Memphis park that is now used mostly by blacks; that the Klan members who planned the rally had to ask a black mayor for permission to assemble and a black chief of police for protection; that most of the Klan members who actually participated in the rally came from Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Maryland; that the Klan only has about five thousand members nationwide and the South no longer stands as its membership stronghold; that the city of Memphis now has more blacks than whites and that, generally, substantial and tangible process has been made in the arena of race relations."  (pg. 159)

Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World by Jan Goodwin -- although this book is about twenty years old, I enjoyed reading about the author's reflections as she traveled the Islamic world and listened to women in various countries.  She talked to some about polygyny, others about their lives under US sanctions in Iraq, some about their conversions to Islam and other interesting topics.

"The first and last person who suffers under sanctions is always a child. These are not economic sanctions, but sanctions against life."

"Raskia Mansi, heavily pregnant, was asleep in the sweltering afternoon heat next to her six-year-old daughter, Zara, who had been hospitalized with late-stage malnutrition. Raskia awakened as we drew level with the bed. The wife of a factory worker, she was expecting her thirteenth child the following week.  'I didn't want to get pregnant again,' she said, 'but I can't afford or find the birth-control pills I used to take.' She also cannot afford to feed the children she already has. Twenty-five days before, her eighteen-month-old daughter, Marwa, had died in this same hospital from the same problems as Zara has. Her husband...receives a pension of D. 220 a month.

'To buy food, medicines, we have sold everything - my wedding jewelry, our furniture, our heater, our blankets, even our clothes. This is the only dress I have left,' she said pointing to the one she was wearing. What was a typical family meal? I asked her.  'A soup made with water and rice. One of my children was so hungry, she ate a candle,' she said, as her eyes filled with tears.  Raskia is anemic herself, and doctors expect her new baby to have a low birth weight. Six-year-old Zara is expected to die, and doctors believe the new baby also will not survive."  (pg. 257-8)

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende -- Ten days after marrying Mary, this couple moved to a minimalist community for eighteen months of living with little technology. Through this experiment, they learned the value of physical labor, a sense of community and reliance on neighbors.  Eric concludes that we shouldn't exclude technology, but its role should be supplemental. "Technology serves us, not we technology." 

As Far As You Can Go Without a Passport: The View from the End of the Road by Tom Bodett  -- A cute, short book with "comments and comic pieces by Tom Bodett of National Public Radio's 'All Things Considered.'"  -- mostly little stories reflecting on life from Alaska

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January Books

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien  -- I really enjoyed this book because I love cultural stuff. This book points out areas where we as people living in the West may have "cultural blinders" which make us misunderstand parts of the Bible.  Or maybe not understand the verses in the ways the people living back then did.

They deal with such things as race and ethnicity, languages, individualism, honor/shame, time, rules, relationships, virtue and vice and everything being all about me.  Good stuff! Challenging stuff!  I want to read this one again to soak it all in.

1000 Years of Annoying the French by Stephen Clarke -- I saw this book nearly a year ago at a train station in Germany. I guess I forgot how long it was, but I put it on my Amazon Wishlist and received it for Christmas.  It was a rather interesting and amusing way of learning/reviewing/reading new stuff about the French and English conflicts (or should I say annoyances?) over the centuries. The author looks at people, events, places, food with interesting twists and humor.  I think I learned quite a bit.

And God Said by Dr. Joel M. Hoffman - I put this one on my Amazon Wishlist because I read something on HuffPo Religion about how shepherds (think Psalm 23) didn't convey today what they did back then.  And the Ten Commandments were not translated quite right (kill is more like murder and covet more like taking). Also the Song of Songs "my sister, my beloved" - that's not an incest thing, but a sign of equality in the relationship. Also the Hebrew levav incorporates emotions and rationality together.  So loving the Lord your God with all your heart includes both emotion and rational thinking.  So I saw a post online about this author and got the book. It was more technical than I thought, but not in a bad way.  Just a bit deeper and more into linguistics and translating than I might have thought. 

In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language by Joel Hoffman -- another book by the same author, this book was a bit more technical and while I enjoyed some of it, I realized I am not all that interested in how the pronunciation of ancient languages may have changed.  I did like the chapters about the Jews' magic letters - the consonants they used also as vowels - and the information about the Dead Sea Scrolls and reviving the Hebrew language in modern Israel.

Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman -- the author "invites you to release your tight hold on that familiar, try-hard life and lean your weight heavy into the love of Jesus"

In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Qanta A. Ahmed, MD -- After reading this, I wondered if one of my favorite bloggers who writes about Saudi Arabia had read it, and found this interview from a few years ago.  Apparently I'd seen it back then, but I reread it since I just finished the book last night.  The author tells about her impressions of the people in Saudi Arabia. At times I was giggling at her descriptions. Not necessarily that the people were so funny, but her word choices were amusing. Who describes someone's beauty this way?  "I studied her for a long time, searching for the source of familiarity in my attraction to ineluctable good looks. After a few moments I found it: the squared-off jaw leading to a subtly cleft chin; the perfect symmetrical nasolabial folds, deep lines stretched across full, high cheeks flanking the wide, warm smile; and finally, the endearing yet slightly imperfect alignment between her incisors peeping between wide bow-shaped lips were all very familiar. She was the Saudi Gloria Steinem."  (pg. 372)

I was sad during parts of this book especially the chapter on the lost boys: those the author claims are products of polygamous families and don't know quite where they fit because they often are sons of second, third or fourth wives.  Many of these came to her hospital intoxicated or with arms showing their drug usage. My heart went out to them.  I enjoyed reading about her hajj experience. The way she felt absolved of her sins from performing these rituals made me think of people who feel similar when they come to Jesus.

Dear Zari: The Secret Lives of the Women of Afghanistan by Zarghuna Kargar -- I'm not sure how this book ended up on my Amazon Wishlist, but I received it for Christmas and really enjoyed it.  Whenever I'm tempted to complain about my life, I should recall the truly awful reality for many women in this world. Not every story had a tragic ending, but most did. In this book you can read about a woman (a girl of 9 in reality) given to a family to settle her brother's gambling debt. She was badly mistreated and when she started her period, she was given to one of the son's as a vessel to produce his babies. Another lady was married to a man who was known in the village as a homosexual. Her marriage to him was only to give some respectability to the family, and she was sorely mistreated in this culture that dislikes homosexuality.  Another woman grew up as a boy - and this continued through adulthood so that she had no chance for marriage and having a family of her own. Instead she was mocked as a eunuch.  Throughout the book Zari speaks of her own life and I found this interview online just now if you are curious to learn more about her.  In the epilogue she wrote how the radio show was useful in helping women in Afghanistan so I was sad to read that the British government no longer funded the Afghan Women's Hour.  Apparently the show empowered women and gave information to them that was turning the tide.  Here is more about the book.

The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War by Louise Steinman -- I like reading about history this way. The author discovers a Japanese flag that her father sent home from his time in World War II.  After an acquaintance translates the writing on it, the author decides to find the man or his family and return it. This takes her to Japan where she met the man's family, and later to the Philippines where she saw where her father had served.  I especially enjoyed her recollection of visiting Hiroshima and the peace museum there. Also it was interesting "seeing" Japan and the Philippines through her eyes.

Whose Land? Whose Promise? by Gary M. Burge -- "what Christians are not being told about Israel and the Palestinians" -- I enjoyed this book as the author identified the background to the problem, the Old Testament and the land, the New Testament and the land, and introduced us to several Palestinian Christians and evangelical Christian groups working for justice in Israel/Palestine.  I really wish many people I know would read this book because too many have a very lopsided view and stance on their nearly unconditional support for Israel. I understand why they support Israel, but willful ignorance is not a good reason.  Not when you can read books, search online for news and talk to people who have been there and can share the realities of life there.

Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America by Kati Marton -- Can you imagine receiving a file from the State where you glean more about your childhood than your parents ever told you? This was the "gift" left for the author when the Hungarian government made her parents' files eligible for her to receive.  The stories are told by informers to the State. A rather interesting book if you enjoy this sort of thing. I liked reading more of Hungary during the Communist rule and how this brave couple defied their government to realize their dream of living in the United States.

Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus by Hugh Halter -- This unorthodox pastor gives tips on how to be Jesus to the world. I enjoyed many things he said especially entering into people's pain although I don't always like the commitment that takes.  Challenging book.

Our Brother's Keeper: My Family's Journey through Vietnam to Hell and Back by Jedwin Smith -- the author tells the story of his family, his childhood memories and his brother's death in Vietnam. He shares of his eventual meeting with his brother's fellow soldiers and takes a trip to see where his brother died. I got this from the library - good book overall

In My Brother's Shadow: A Life and Death in the SS by Uwe Timm -- a German man reveals his thoughts and research as he reads his brother's diary. I enjoyed this look into a German family's life during the war. It was especially interesting hearing his thoughts about the silence of the German people: did they really not know what was happening to the Jewish people?; also see this post

Coming Home to Jerusalem by Wendy Orange -- The author, a Jewish American, decides to visit Israel, falls in love with it so much that she decides to move there with her young daughter. This book describes her first days and weeks, first winter there (which she hates).  Later she meets many Palestinians, traveling for her work as a journalist to the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem.  Many things stood out to me in this book: how Israelis fear, the racist banter that flows freely, the sense of community, the fact that the Sephardim are looked down upon by the Ashekenazim.   I understood a little how she felt. Just reading the book made me want to move there..and I've never even wanted to visit Israel!  Really though it made me remember my days in Syria. And how I missed it so much even though I was only there for twelve days. I wanted to move there if I could.  (By the way, we left four years ago today - January 28 - for Damascus.)  Wendy was in Israel when the IDF left Gaza, when Arafat returned, she reported on Jordanian and Israeli leaders signing a peace accord, she talked to settlers, men in Hamas, and many many others. (I only wish I could have sat in on some of those conversations!) 

She quoted both a Jewish woman and an Arab man telling how Palestinians are the Jews of the Arab world.  (pgs. 59 & 169)  I found that interesting, but it makes sense now that I consider how Palestinians have been treated by other Arab countries.

I like the story of how she and another leftist Jew were invited to present the Israeli viewpoint on a (then) recent PBS documentary.  She knows the two Palestinians asked to join the panel and all during lunch, the four of them are agreeable and having fun while the host tries to create divisions in order to make the upcoming discussion more... well, whatever TV people look for in panels.  She was amazed that once they started talking about the documentary, how those divisions came up. They'd just been together laughing and talking and being so agreeable - what happened? Upon reviewing it, she realized what was "minor for Jews leapt out as central for the Palestinians, and vice versa. ... I hear Charles and myself as sounding exactly like right-wing Jews."  (pg. 220)

Also interesting was Bibi Netanyahu's election - and how the Sephardim (who tend to be the working, poorer, darker, from-Arab-countries Israelis) were elated that "their guy" won! I never would have guessed that. Of course this book was about things in the 1990s...perhaps this has changed.