Books & Reading

My Reading Piles: The When & How

I’ve been sharing on Instagram lately, every week or two, the stack of books I’m planning to read. I’ve been getting lots of questions about them, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to share about my reading habits, for those of you who were wondering.

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1. Do you really read all those books?

Yes and no.

I’ve been including four books in every picture, because I like the consistency and it’s a manageable size: not overwhelming, but enough to show variety. But because of the way I read, no, I do not always read those exact four books from start to finish that same week.

I’m always reading several books at once, and at several different paces. I may devour two whole novels over a weekend, and take months to get through another book I want to really process as I read. (For example, I am still slowly plodding through Jane Eyre and Emily Dickenson’s poems from the picture above.) So when I post a picture of a book, I may have started it earlier, and am still working on it, I may plan to start it later, I may be planning to finish it that day. I’m a little all over the place.

However, I do strive for the pictures to be as honest as possible: I won’t include a book if I don’t at least plan to pick it up at some point during the week. And though I don’t post pictures every single week, it’s not completely unusual for me to finish three or four books in a week. I do occasionally abandon titles once I’ve started them, but this doesn’t happen often. So in that sense the answer is yes. If I post a book on Instagram, it’s pretty safe to assume that I’m going to read the whole thing at some point.

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2. How do you have time to read so much?

This is probably the question I get the most. There are a few things I do to fit in so much reading. First, reading is my very favorite hobby. I like to bake and I like to sew, but neither of those is nearly so delightful to me as curling up with a good book. It’s my go-to free time activity.

Second, reading isn’t something I only do by myself. I get to read tons of books that I enjoy because I read them aloud to my children (or listen to the audiobooks with them in the car!). Homeschooling has given us even more time for this, of course, but it’s something I made time for before we were a homeschool family.

Last year, we read Charlotte’s Web, The Wizard of Oz, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Little House in the Big Woods, just to name a few. Those are all books I would have loved to read all by myself anyway, and enjoying them with my family made them that much better. If you need encouragement and suggestions for reading aloud, this podcast is one of my very favorites.

Third, I carve out time for little snippets of reading that add up over time. For example, I am almost always working my way through some sort of devotional or Christian living book in conjunction with my devotional time of a morning. It takes maybe five or ten minutes a day. I don’t read through these books very quickly, but I probably get in an extra ten or twelve books a year that I wouldn’t get to read otherwise by doing this. If you had a book you read consistently in the pick up line at school, in the bathroom, or during your break at work, you’d probably be amazed at how many more books you could read, too.

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3. How do you decide what to read?

This is actually evolving for me, and I’m planning to share soon about how homsechooling is changing the way I read, even for fun. But as far as finding good things to read, I’m never without ideas. I keep a pretty extensive list of what I want to read at Goodreads, and add to it as I get recommendations from people I trust.

For family reading, the Read-Aloud Revival is my go-to resource, but I recently discovered Brightly, and really like it, too. There are also several fantastic books that are full of lists of good kids’ books. A few of my recent favorites are Honey for a Child’s Heart, Give Your Child the World, and Read for the Heart.

For myself, when I was still working at the library, I read reviews of new books in Publisher’s Weekly almost every week. Now that I’m not there anymore, I get my information about new books from Book Riot, Goodreads, and Modern Mrs. Darcy.

If you’re looking for your next book, any of these would be fantastic places to look. Or ask me – I love recommending books to people! (And please note: the book stack pictures on are not meant to be recommendations. I can’t vouch for these books personally until I’ve read them, and some of the books I share in those photos turn out to be duds.)

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4. Where do you get all your books?

I get almost everything I read at the library. I make liberal use of our inter-library loan programs, and have found, at least for our library, that there are very few titles I can’t get that way if it’s something our library doesn’t carry.

I do buy books occasionally, when it’s something I want to mark up or think I will read over and over again. I like to buy used when I can, and am always on the lookout for favorite titles when I’m at garage sales or thrift stores. But when I want a specific title, my default is Amzaon. We’re Prime members, and I can wait two days for almost anything if it means I don’t have to leave the house.

Do you have more questions about my reading habits? Or suggestions of books I should read? Share them in the comments!

Books & Reading · Homeschooling

Voting & Democracy Unit Study (with links!)

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Hey, everyone! Did you think I’d forgotten about this little space on the internet?

It’s been a wild ride the last couple of months. As if job changes and beginning to home school weren’t enough of a change, we are taking a step of faith and moving to Nashville. We close on our house of eight years in twenty-five days, and have begun to find a new rhythm that works for us just in time to have it thrown into complete chaos by moving!

But all the while, I’ve been thinking about what to share here, about what would encourage your heart, point your eyes to Jesus, and help you as you seek to live our your faith and build a strong family. Soon, I hope, I will have much more to share with you. But for today, something fun.

I know you probably have strong feelings about this year’s election. I do, too. But a presidential election is still an exciting time, and getting to participate in choosing our next leader is a privilege I refuse to be anything but grateful for. I’m hoping to shield my kids from the vitriol of this election and just introduce them to the wonder and excitement of big ideas like liberty, democracy, and the electoral process.

I had some trouble finding democracy and voting unit study plans that were both interdisciplinary and appropriate for my pre-K and first grade boys. So, with a lot of time on my library’s card catalog website, and a little bit of flexibility and willingness to take time to answer my boys’ questions, I put together my own. I’m sharing it here in case anyone else is looking for good resources to teach preschoolers and early elementary students about the upcoming election.

Please note: discussions about liberty and voting often touch on a lot of other big issues, issues like racism, war, women’s rights, and political ideology. So I would certainly recommend previewing everything, so that you can decide for yourself what’s right for your class or family before you share it with them.

Our regular curriculum has a strong literature-based slant, so I kept that in mind as I approached this unit study. The books we read aloud together covered several subjects, including language arts, social studies, math, and reading, and then we added some fun projects to work in science, art, and music.

Below, I’ve listed the resources we used by type, then broken it down into what we actually used each day. What made the most sense to me was to give each day its own theme, but you could certainly group things in lots of other ways.  Enjoy!

Resources we used

Books

Naming Liberty // Jane Yolen
Just in Time Abraham Lincoln // Patricia Polacco
When Penny Met POTUS // Rachel Ruiz
American Poetry (From the Poetry for Young People series) // Edited by John Hollander
Duck for President // Doreen Cronin
The Grizzly Gazette // Stuart J. Murphy
Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert // Cindy Neuschwander
Grace for President // Kelly DiPucchio
The Day Gogo Went to Vote // Elinor Batezat Sisulu
Around America to Win the Vote // Mara Rockliff
Elizabeth Started All the Trouble // Doreen Rappaport
We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States // David Catrow
The Buck Stops Here // Alice Provensen
One Vote, Two Votes, I Vote, You Vote // Bonnie Worth
Francis Scott Key’s Star-Spangled Banner // Monica Kulling

Videos

National anthem when Maya DiRado received her Olympic gold medal (this one makes me cry every time!)
Lady Gaga sings the National Anthem at the 2016 Super Bowl
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: The Neighborhood Votes/ The Class Votes
Peg + Cat: The Election Problem
PBS Kids You Choose Project

Projects

Copper oxidation science experiement (to understand why the Statue of Liberty is green)
Printable President trading cards
Design your own campaign poster
Printable electoral vote map
Research on learning database PebbleGo.com (see if your library has it!)

Daily lessons

(No lesson plan for Monday because our books and projects that day were all about Halloween.)

Tuesday: Liberty and Democracy

Read-alouds: Naming Liberty, Liberty’s Journey
Memory work: Preamble to the Constitution (using the picture book We the Kids)
Music: Star Spangled Banner & Patriotic Songs
Science: Penny experiment

Wednesday: Presidents

Read-alouds: When Penny Met POTUS, George Washington easy-reader biography, Just in Time Abraham Lincoln, The Buck Stops Here
Memory work: Preamble to the Constitution (using the picture book We the Kids)
Fine-motor activity: cutting and folding presidential trading cards
Social studies: Pebble Go articles

Thursday: Suffrage and Campainging

Read-alouds: Elizabeth Started All the Trouble, Around America to Win the Vote, The Day Gogo Went to Vote, Grace for President
Memory work: Preamble to the Constitution (using the picture book We the Kids)
Math: The Grizzly Gazette
Art: campaign posters

Friday: Voting

Read-alouds: One Vote Two Votes, Duck for President, Grace for President
Memory work: Preamble to the Constitution (using the picture book We the Kids)
Math: Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert
Social Studies: Daniel Tiger and Peg + Cat episodes and discussion

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If you have any suggestions to add, share them in the comments below!

Books & Reading

What I’ve Been Reading

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of a story.

Jesus often taught in parables, of course, but I’ve also been considering the words of the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12. Nathan goes, sent by the Lord, to David to confront him about his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah. But instead of simply telling David he sinned, Nathan tells a story. When David is outraged over the rich man who stole the poor man’s sheep, Nathan turns the tables on him and says, “You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).

That is what a good story, true or fiction, can do for us – it can hold up a mirror to our lives and help us see ourselves as we really are. In fact, sometimes, a story can do this better than an outright sermon, because we don’t have our defenses up. When we think we are looking at someone else’s life, and their faults, we are freer to examine our own than when we are bracing for confrontation.

I shared a couple of weeks ago about a book that did exactly that for me, a wonderful story called Hind’s Feet on High Places. But I’ve had the opportunity to read a lot of other fantastic stories recently, and I thought I’d share a few with you this morning.

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7 Women, Eric Metaxes

Eric Metaxes is known for, among other things, a couple of very long biographies. I checked out his book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer when it first came out, and had high ambitions to read it, but it was about a thousand pages (not an exaggeration) and after a chapter or two, I knew I just couldn’t do it.

But this little book profiles seven different women in under 300 pages – much more doable. Each chapter is its own little biography, and each stands alone, so if there’s someone you’re not particularly interested in, you can totally skip to the next one.

However, do not skip the introduction. He talks about why he chose the women he wrote about, and why women like Joan of Arc and Rosa Parks were able to accomplish what they did. “There are things men can and should do that women cannot, and there are things women can and should do that men cannot… So when men cease to be such or women deny their uniqueness, they make that complementarity impossible, and the whole, as it were, suffers.”

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First Impressions, by Charlie Lovett

If you love Jane Austen, or mysteries involving old books and used bookshops, this book is definitely for you. It was a fun, easy-to-read story, perfect for a long weekend or rainy day.

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A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle

This book – I had no idea how much I would love it. I think I read it once before, in junior high, but this time I read through the entire quintet of books. Each book is very different, but they are all good. I just finished the final book, An Acceptable Time, last night, and have enjoyed the whole series immensely.

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Bread and Wine, Shauna Niequist

This was also a reread for me, but a very timely one. In the book, among other things, Shauna talks about her husband’s health struggles, and her struggles to help him as he had to change his diet for his health. Reading about his journey was especially timely for me, and the recipes included throughout were exactly what I needed – wholesome and full of real-food ingredients, but delicious and soul-filling at the same time. Several are gluten-free and dairy-free, too.

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Happiness for Beginners, Katherine Center

I think this is Katherine Center’s best book yet. (I’ve read two others of hers, Everyone is Beautiful and The Lost Husband). I love her writing style and characters in general, but the main setting of this book is a weeks-long hike through the mountains. Jason and I hope to one day take the boys on backpacking trips like the one described in this book, so I loved all the details she included about hiking and camping. And this may have positively influenced my opinion of this book, but I took it with us on our first camp out of the year, and read it by the fire while Jason and the boys were fishing. It was so easy to imagine myself in the book.

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Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

Some friends of mine from work just started a book club, and this was what we read for our second meeting. I discovered about halfway through, to my disappointment, that my much-beloved antique copy of this book is abridged, so I have this copy on my Christmas list. Despite having the abridged copy, though, I thoroughly enjoyed rereading this book.

The last time I read it, I was in college, and related most to Jo and Amy, setting off on their adventures. This time, I saw so much more of myself in Meg and Marmee. I love books like this that only get richer with each reading. And I can’t wait to read an unabridged copy and find out what I’ve been missing! (Also, after you read it, watch this movie version, one of my all-time favorite films.)

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After You, Jojo Moyes

(WARNING: major spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read Me Before You, turn back now!)

I was hesitant to read this book, (a sequel) because I disliked the first book, Me Before You, so much. I was in a rough place emotionally when I read it, and we had just put our dog to sleep a couple days earlier. The whole time I was reading, I was just sure the ending would turn out on the side of hope and life, so when Will decides to go ahead with his assisted suicide, I was heartbroken, discouraged, and sorry that I had wasted all my vacation reading time and so much emotional energy on a story that left me so disappointed. But the sequel – it was exactly everything I wished Me Before You had been. And if, unlike me, you liked the first book, you’ll like this one, too, I think.


Those are the books I’ve been loving lately. If you want more book recommendations, I’ve been trying to share more of books I’m excited about on Instagram, and you can always see everything I’m reading on Goodreads.

Happy reading!

Books & Reading

Recommended Reading: Back to School

I cannot believe it’s back-to-school time already. Ozark starts Kindergarten in LESS THAN A WEEK. We have the school supplies and the backpack, the lunch box and the water bottle. We are going grocery shopping this weekend for school lunch food. So I am prepared, but I am not exactly ready. You know what I mean?

I do love this time of year, though. Even though I’m not in school anymore myself, something about the fall makes it easy to embrace routine, tackle difficult projects, or learn something new. A lot of the books I’ve read recently are absolutely perfect for this time of the year, whether you’re looking for a great novel or a really interesting piece of non-fiction.

At the Water’s Edge – This is a new one by the author of Water for Elephants. The story is extremely compelling, especially if you like World War II novels or are intrigued by the idea of the Loch Ness Monster.

The Invention of Wings – I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to reading this. It’s a novel, but it’s based on a true story about a little-known woman who was a major part of the early abolition movement. Another home run by Sue Monk Kid (also the author of The Secret Life of Bees).

To Kill a Mockingbird – Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two months, you probably know that Harper Lee just released a brand-new book about Scout when she’s all grown up. It’s been met with mixed reviews, but a lot of people are saying it’s important anyway. If you’re thinking of reading it, might I suggest reading To Kill A Mockingbird first? If you’ve never read it, it’s more than worth your time, but even if you read it as a student, it’s worth a reread. I was a freshman in high school when I last read this book, which I recently realized was half my life ago. I’ve grown up a lot since then, and my understanding of Lee’s characters and message has deepened considerably.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking – One of the benefits (or so I’m told) of approaching your thirties is a growing realization of your own stregnths and weaknesses. It’s been both eye-opening surprising for me to discover, over the last couple years, that I am an introvert. (INFJs are commonly mistaken for extroverts.) I found this book helpful and fascinating. Did you know that people who are introverted (and likely more sensitive to their environments) are actually physiologically thinner-skinned than their extroverted peers?

The Omnivore’s Dilemma – I love Michael Pollan’s work, and this book was no exception. He explores the route of food through the industrial food chain, but also delves into the worlds of organic farming and hunting. If you like knowing about where your food comes from, this is an excellent read.

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Of course, you may not be quite ready to tackle my back-to-school reading list. It’s still quite warm outside, the pool is still calling, and you need something to read. I get it. The lazy days of summer seem to me more ideally suited to fast-paced, easy-to-read engrossing stories that you can finish in a weekend. (In fact, my summer ideal is a two-book weekend.) If you’re not quite ready to give up your summer, here’s what I recommend:

Royal Wedding – I unashamedly love the Princess Diaries series. This installment is written for adults, about Mia as an adult. It falls squarely in the “chick lit” category, and is an easy, fun read.

All Fall Down – Grace, the main character in this book, returns to the European embassy where her grandfather is an ambassador following her mother’s death. It’s clear that there were some traumatic events that led up to this, and you’ll spend the entire book trying to piece them together. If you liked last year’s We Were Liars, you will enjoy this book. And that’s all I’m going to say.

Rapunzel Untangled – Nominated for the year’s Truman Readers Award, this book re-imagines the story of Rapunzel in a modern, non-magical context. What if someone kidnapped a baby and keep her locked up in a tower for 16 years? What would that look like today?

The Bookseller – I picked this up off the new shelf at the library, and was so intrigued by the jacket description I decided to check it out. Katherine wakes up, alternately, in two different lives every time she goes to sleep. Which life is the dream? Which is real? I couldn’t put this book down.

The Girl on the Train – No one quite expected this book to the be breakout bestseller it’s become over the last several months, but it’s clear why it’s so popular. The story is so intriguing: Rachel, an alcoholic who rides the train every day, has had a vantage point into the lives of a couple whose home is along the tracks, even though she doesn’t really know them. When the woman goes missing, Rachel is sure she can help figure out what happened. Disclaimer: this one is a little intense, suspense-wise, and with regards to some of the things the characters do and say, but if you’re looking for a chilling mystery, this book is worth your time.

Books & Reading

The best books I read in 2014

Another year is in the books, or it will be in about 9 hours, and I just finished the last title I’m going to check off my list for this calendar year. According to Goodreads, I read 122 books this year, which sounds like a lot, even to me.

If I’m being perfectly honest with myself, I recognize that there are times that I was reading when I probably should have been doing something else. In 2015 I really want to get better at stepping away from a book when I’m using it to escape when I should be engaging or to cope when I should be going to Jesus. But I imagine that even if I get good at that stuff, I will probably still read a lot in 2015. If I read every day during the boys’ nap, even if that was the only reading I did, I could easily log 700 hours in a single year, which is more than enough to finish a whole lot of books. And I have some really good ones on my list that I’m looking forward to reading.

But since it is still 2014 (at least for a few more hours), I thought I would share some of the books I most enjoyed from this year’s long list. Not all of these were published this year, but I read them all for the first time at some point over the last twelve months.

My favorite books from 2014, in no particular order, are:

Cinder, Marissa Meyer ($2.99 for Kindle right now!)
This is the first book in the Lunar Chronicles, a series of re-imagined fairy tales with a sci-fi element. I love fairy tales, and while I wasn’t so sure about the sci-fi part, the series gets better with each book. There are three out already: Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, and the 4th book, Winter, is set to release next year.

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart
This was a suspenseful, impossible-to-put down novel. I’m worried that if I say any more I’ll give away the ending, so you’ll just have to read it for yourself.

If I Stay, Gayle Forman
Imagine losing your whole family in a car accident, and having an out-of-body experience while in a coma yourself, realizing that you have the power to decide whether or not to fight for what’s left of your life or join your family in death. Such is the position Mia finds herself in. This book intersperses flashbacks filling in her story with an inner monologue as she wrestles with her decision, and I found it wonderful and compelling. Heads up: there is some pretty strong language in parts. (This came out as a movie this year, too, but I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say anything about it one way or another.)

Where’d You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple
Once upon a time, I really wanted to be an architect. The eccentric mom in this story is eventually revealed to be a brilliant architect, who at one time had received the MacArthur genius grant. It’s a light-hearted and quick read, perfect for a long summer weekend, which is when I read it.

The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
I explained this to someone recently this way: If Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory wrote a book about falling in love, it would be a lot like this. The sequel, The Rosie Effect, came out yesterday, and I can’t wait to read it.

Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarity
The newest title from the author of What Alice Forgot. Brilliant book about the complicated relationships between moms of young children. It opens with someone dying at a school charity event, and you’ll race through the whole book trying to find out who died and who did it.

The Blue Castle, L. M. Montgomery
I loved Anne of Green Gables when I was younger (Jason bought me this copy for Christmas, and it’s beautiful), but I just recently discovered that Montgomery wrote other books. I read Emily of New Moon last year, but I liked this a lot better.

Anything, Jennie Allen
I devoured this book, and keep turning its concepts over in my mind. The basic tenent for this book is my prayer for 2015: God, we will do ANYTHING you ask of us.

Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, Sarah Mae ($2.99 for Kindle right now!)
This is by far the best parenting book I’ve read in a while. At once practical and incredibly encouraging, from a mom who’s had those pull-your-hair-out moments. I got it from the library, but my own copy is on its way to my house now thanks to Christmas money and Amazon. A group of moms I get together with regularly will be going through this next year, and I can’t wait to read it again, and really take my time with it.

Cooked, Michael Pollan
Jason probably got tired of hearing me go on about this one, both while I was reading it (every few pages I would turn to him and say, “did you know…?”) and every time I recommended it to someone at all of our various gatherings of friends and family over Christmas. It’s pretty academic, but I thought Pollan did a good job of making complicated science and detailed food history really interesting.

Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull
Absolutely a must-read for anyone who is in management and wants to create a collaborative culture in the workplace. Or for anyone who loves Pixar movies and is interested in the behind-the-scenes of how they were made. I might buy this one. That’s my list. Happy New Year, and happy reading!

Books & Reading · Heart · Home

Why I Am Against Banning Books (Even Ones I Don’t Want My Kids to Read)

(A well-meaning patron at the library kindly pointed out that this is not the correct spelling of the word “freedom.” Image credit.)

This past week was #BannedBooksWeek, which is a big deal at the library where I work. We’ve been talking a lot about censorship and what it means to live in a free country and why sometimes people band together and try to get a book removed from their school or library or community.

Oftentimes, the people behind the call to ban a book are those who professes faith in Jesus, as I do.

I do not want to cause division in the church, or stand against my brothers and sisters in Christ, but I think banning a book is wrong.

I think most Christians ban books as an attempt to be good parents, out of fear of what their children might be exposed to.

I’ve written before about the responsibility before God that parents have for their children. You carry this responsibility for your own children, not for other people’s. If you’re worried that something is inappropriate for your son or daughter, then read it. Or read detailed reviews about it. Then, if you still have objections to the book, do not let your child read it.

Parenting is full of hard choices, and only you really know if your child is old enough to handle the knowledge that some people do o’t believe in God, or that some people use bad words, or things about drugs and alcohol, the occult, or sexual immorality. But those things are in the world, and at some point, even though we are are to be separate from those things, we must be aware they are out there.

Sometimes, as Christians, we act like we can’t be exposed to anyone who doesn’t live the way we do—through our friendships, or our entertainment choices, and yes, even through the books we read. But is this what the Bible says? No.

Paul says to the Corinthians, “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people–not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral or greedy and swindlers or idolaters. In that case, you would have to leave the world” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10, emphasis added).

Right now, my kids are only three and four. So there are very few books at their age level to which I object. I recognize that I am not making a ton of hard decisions. Will I let my boys read the Harry Potter series when they are old enough? I don’t know. I will cross that bridge, prayerfully and thoughtfully, when I come to it. I want to do a good job of letting my children learn what sorts of things they will face in the world within the safety of our home so they will not be blindsided when they are on their own. But I also want to be careful not to expose them to too much too soon.

I will be making those decisions as a parent with the responsibility for my own two children. I refuse to try to exert control over other people’s children, especially those of people outside my church. 

The Nazis controlled what people read. The USSR controlled what people read. Today, China controls what people within its borders read. When a group, especially the government or another public institution such as a library, decides to reign in and exert authority over people’s entertainment choices, we come dangerously close to mirroring totalitarian governments.

More importantly, telling people what to think is not the way of the Church  as we see it embodied in Acts. We are told the people in the church in Berea “were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).  They didn’t follow anyone blindly. And they did not let Paul or anyone else tell them what to think. They listened to his words, and they measured them against the words of the Bible.

They were careful, but they did not put their heads in the sand. I want to be the same way.

Ideas can be dangerous. But the most dangerous idea of all is this one: that Jesus came in the flesh, died a criminal’s death as an innocent man, and rose from the dead so that sinful people could be in right relationship with a holy God.

The Bible is more subversive and more radical than any other book that will ever be published.

The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). What other book is?

All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Can you describe anything else you read this way?

There are governments across the world today that are committed to preventing those God-breathed words from reaching the eyes and ears of their people. They want to see the message of the cross of Christ shut down, and the people who proclaim it silenced. Let us not be like them.

Let us allow the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and The DaVinci Code stand alongside our precious Bible to show the truth and power of what we believe. If we really know deep in our hearts that the Bible is true, then we can rest assured that it can stand up to that kind of scrutiny. I promise you: God’s word will not, cannot, be superseded.

If we truly believe that the Bible is the ONLY book that is inspired by God, and that it is infallible and authoritative, then let us allow it to stand for itself.

 

Books & Reading

Young Adult Books I’m Loving Right Now

As #IreadYA week wraps us, I thought I’d take a few quick seconds to share with you guys a little bit about this genre of literature, one of my favorites. For those of you who do not know, YA is the abbreviation among bibliophiles for books written to the Young Adult audience, that is, teenagers.

As someone who spent a number of years in youth ministry, I can say unabashedly that I love teenagers. That doesn’t mean I necessarily love all the stuff they do. I don’t really listen to music that teenagers like, and I certainly don’t dress like a 17-year-old (I hope!). So, while I could pretend that I fell in love with YA lit while I was reading for the sake of knowing what was popular with the kids in my youth group, that wouldn’t be the truth. (Although I did do some of that, too; it’s why I finally read Twilight.)

The truth is, I read YA books because I like them. It doesn’t have anything to do with wanting to find recommendations for the young adults I know, or because I’m stuck in that phase of my life or want to relive it. I just flat-out like these books. As a general rule, I find YA books easy to get caught up in, hard to put down. And that’s what I want out of a book. I read a lot of nonfiction and a lot of heftier novels, too, but if I go too long without reading something that completely captures me, a YA book is what I will most likely seek out.

If you’re an adult who reads YA fiction, you’re certainly not alone. The recent popularity of series like TwilightThe Hunger Games, and Divergent has not been exclusive to the teen market. Lots of adults are reading those books, too.

And if you don’t read YA books, but you like a good novel, you should give YA books a shot. Here are a few I’ve read in the last couple years that I would highly recommend:

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

Back when I actually was a teenager, I read a whole bunch of books about kids who had cancer and other terminal diseases. My parents jokingly called them “morbid death books,” but I loved them. There was something cathartic about reading about honest pain and loss, and it put my own petty problems in perspective. John Green does a great job tackling real issues and real emotion in this excellent book about two sick kids who fall in love. I’ll warn you: it’s a tear-jerker, but it’s great. And there’s a movie adaptation coming out this summer!

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle

This one has been around for awhile, and with good reason. I read it in junior high, and again last year. It’s a quick read, and a great story. If you love it, you should follow it up with When You Reach Me, another interesting YA take on time-travel that draws heavily from A Wrinkle In Time.

The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson

I don’t want to give too much away about this one, but it’s about a girl studying abroad in London who finds herself caught up in events related to an at-large Jack the Ripper copycat. It’s a compelling, page-turning mystery, with plenty of interesting history about one of England’s most notorious killers.

Roger and Amy’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson

This book was nominated for the 2012-2013 Gateway Reader’s Award (a Missouri distinction bestowed by high school readers), and with good reason. I couldn’t put this book down. I loved the story of the relationship Roger and Amy forge during the miles they log together, maybe because I could relate to it so well, since a road trip was the catalyst for my own love story with Jason. The book is also visually interesting, with playlists and receipts and maps from th’ road trip tucked between each chapter. This would be a great read to take on vacation this summer.

The Trouble with Flirting, Claire LaZebnik

This book is modern, YA retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. I read it immediately after finishing Mansfield Park a couple of months ago, and really enjoyed it. Claire LaZebnik does a great job of bringing the same love triangles and friendship issues into a contemporary context, but she’ll keep you guessing about how the story is going to end. I haven’t yet had a chance to read Epic Failher take on Pride & Prejudice, but I’m looking forward to getting to it this summer. If this kind of book is up your alley, I also keep hearing great things about Dear Mr. Knightley. If you’ve read either, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver

Warning on this one: it contains some language, and plenty of references to drugs, alcohol, and sex. But probably no more so than any movie that depicts a particularly brutal group of popular high school girls, which is what this book is about. The narrator, Samantha Kingston, dies at the very beginning of the book. Then, in Groundhog-Day fashion, she keeps reliving her last day over and over again. This book is brutally honest about how cruel teenagers can be to each other, but it has a redemptive message, and is definitely worth reading.