Summer Reads 2019

GREAT SUMMER READS (or, if you’re like me, *listens* on Audible)! WHAT ARE YOURS?!?!?

“Where the Crawdads Sing” (Delia Owens) just finished this superb novel. Gripping and great, get it!

“Of Mess and Moxie” (Jen Hatmaker) Authentic, Christian, and crunchy. Says for *any* woman, but really geared toward moms.

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” (Rebecca Skloot) Gritty, phenomenal true story behind the woman who gave a most important gift to science. Not for the squeamish. Leaves you with healthy questions about medical research.

“Educated” (Tara Westover) Exceptional memoir of growing up in poverty without formal education and excelling in academia. Amazing story.

“The Very Worst Missionary” (Jamie Wright) Hilarious and thought-provoking view on missionaries and the church in general. Bad language throughout. Author doesn’t understand theology, but gets people. See my expanded review.

“True Crime Addict” (James Renner) Story of author’s obsession with a real-life mysterious disappearance and how it affects his life. If you’re on webslueths or other internet crime solving forums, this appeals.

“Holding: A Novel” (Graham Norton) Yes, THE Graham Norton. This mystery novel is so superbly written that I question the singular author presentation and wonder at the ghost writers in the room. BUT, it’s a terrific tale with colorful characters and clever twists and turns.

“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” (Cheryl Strayed) You are on this journey with her, and you are rooting for her!

“A Girl Named Zippy” (Haven Kimmel) PRECIOUS and hilarious stories of growing up in the 1960s/1970s in Indiana. (Ms. Kimmel is a current resident of Durham, NC and sometimes hosts writing workshops.)

Another School Shooting, and Another…Will it End?

One hit close home for me, as it happened in my home state of North Carolina, and two of the college student victims (who survived after surgeries) were from my hometown. Another just happened at a school in Colorado.

Resource officers are key. But, so are alert parents, friends and educators who can reach out to those kids who may be exhibiting depression or anxiety or any number of mental issues.

So, what’s the solution?

Too often, we expect teenagers to act like mature adults, and too often we ignore their cries for help in attitude and behavior as just “being teens.” The anger that festers and manifests in violence does so in solitude, or blossoms with a comrade of like dark mindset.

Everyone wants a quick fix. Ban guns! Hire more psychologists! Put gun detectors in schools!

But, this is a multifaceted problem, and with multifaceted problems there are multifaceted paths to resolution. As ALWAYS, it starts with one kid at a time. We need to ensure that all kids have access to help in whatever manner they need.

Take away the guns, and the anger is still there. Look at London. Without guns, their violent crimes are up. They’ve had to ban knives! Knives! Crazy.

It’s always the heart. Some have cried that guns are the problem and if we just get rid of guns are schools will be safe. But, we know that’s not the case, because every issue starts with the heart. The heart is the center of the violence, and weapons are the means to dispel that anger from the individual. Those weapons could be anything: hands/fists, bombs, knives, trucks or cars, clubs or bats, guns…etc.

Until we take responsibility for helping kids (and adults) work through anger and mental issues, we can’t just keep taking away various weapons to make the problem go away, because the problem will still be there long after the weapon is out of reach.

Edgy Rebel Meets Radical Jesus – book review of “The Very Worst Missionary,” by Jamie Wright

There is much to love here! Real, raw, and righteous, Jamie is an awesome example of living the Christian life as a person figuring out this Jesus-thing. My church has a motto, “love people where they are and help them grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.” That’s what Jamie gives us, the ability to love people where they are and help them grow. She starts with herself, and her own story and Jesus trek, then brings us into the bigger picture of examining what the church is doing in communities and in missions. She ponders the question, “Have Christians become Pharisees?” Her tale is a wild ride that leaves you reeling but also meditative. She gives us soul-searching questions regarding what it means to help our fellow man, and how we impact those around us and in our world. How we love our “neighbors.” 

Jamie Wright

Thankfully, I hear the editor’s saving suggestions manifest in her writing when she goes all flat-jammy on someone, then walks it back. Which is necessary for memoir writing, especially for a Christian writer. It’s almost as if you get to the point where you’re like, “gal, please don’t go there”…”oh, yeah, you went there”…and, “oh, okay now you’re walking it back.” Writers must remember that they have a voice, but the people they write about do not. The supporting characters, as it were, lack a public platform that the writer enjoys. It’s teetering on a tightrope to talk about someone else’s foibles and not come across judgmental. Jamie handles it well and I think she’s had some great advice on how to do that. 

One of the things I must caution any reader is that Jamie swears constantly. Like, all the time. She doesn’t quite get why people don’t swear. It’s not about being a “good Christian,” it’s about being mature and taking the time and effort to explore the richness of the English language. She’s on her path, as we all are, and she might get there, or she might decide that swearing is her identity. I’m not going to judge, except from what I read of scripture it’s not pleasing to God. Do I swear? Yeah, press a hot cookie sheet against my hand and I’ll go all navy midshipman. Do I use it in my everyday language? No, it’s not necessary. I can make a point with other words, and frankly have a bigger impact. 

Overall, I loved this book. It’s real and it’s honest. Jamie has great points to make about what the church is doing, and I’m like, “right on, sistah!” I hope she writes a sequel. There’s more life to be lived! 

Getting the Full Picture

CBS journalist Lara Logan is trending on Twitter today because she made what some are calling an “outrageous claim.” She said the news media is biased and that people need to read Breitbart to get the full picture.

She’s right!

She said, “Although the media has historically always been left-leaning, we’ve abandoned our pretense — or at least the effort — to be objective, today. … We’ve become political activists, and some could argue propagandists, and there’s some merit to that.”

To get the entire picture of what is going on, we need to seek our various viewpoints. Not just the mainstream press, which has liberal bias, but conservative news organizations and international ones, as well.

I’ve been doing this for years. Some of my go-to media outlets: BBC, Fox News, PBS, MSNBC, Breitbart, AP, The Washington Post, The Washington Examiner, Wall Street Journal, The Blaze, etc.

Also, I follow certain individuals: James T. Harris, Steven Crowder, Ben Shapiro, Piers Morgan, Katie Hopkins, et. al.

Ms. Logan states that one of the issues of following the mainstream press is that 85% of their journalists are Democrat. Everything printed about Trump is negative, and all issues are reported in black and white. She says that’s simply not akin to the real world, which we know exists in shades of grey. She claims when there’s nothing positive reported about Trump, Republicans or conservative issues, then it cannot be real, because it’s not in line with what we know of the world which is comprised of both positives and negatives.

She emphasizes that the way the press portrays the right and Trump cannot be factually accurate due to the nearly 100% negative coverage.

So, Ms. Logan will get excoriated by the media, Dems and the left for her position that we just need more well-rounded input from a variety of sources.

My challenge to you: seek out info that opposes your belief system, and test the waters of another line of thought. You may not be swayed, but you’ll be INFORMED.

Socialism Doesn’t Work

Margaret Thatcher said it best: “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

Truth.

Have you seen Venezuela in the news lately? If not, please research it. A country with immense wealth and prosperity reduced to ruins by socialism. Sad.

A friend of mine, one who I thought was pretty bright, told me that social programs were socialism. She thought that the US would do better with more socialism. I had to explain to the poor dear that social programs aren’t socialism. She countered that the government pays her Medicare and Social Security, so it’s socialism. I explained that the government earns money by taxing people who work in capitalism. Government money = Taxes. This is not socialism.

Without taxes on working ventures and people our government runs out of funds. Thanks, Maggie! Sure, in socialism the government takes over industry, but truthfully, when was the last time you’ve dealt with a “well run” government office? There’s a reason for the DMV jokes!

It amazes me this new push for socialism. I understand the impetus: we all want to help our fellow man. We all want to be compassionate.

But, we conservatives want to teach humans to fish, not just give humans fish. There are times people need fish. But, there are many more times people need to be taught how to bait a hook.

Sidenote: Democratic socialism is a hybrid of capitalism and socialism, but it balances a dangerous tightrope of two opposing systems. Wanting something to be so, and having it be so, can be incongruous. I want my dog to lose weight, but I can’t stop feeding her table scraps is akin to the logic behind this philosophy.

Those of us who can, work. We pay taxes so those who can’t will live. It’s a great system that has worked for many decades. Is it wrinkle-free? No. Nothing is. But, is it compassionate? Yes.

We don’t need to become socialists to provide for others. There are many religious and non-profit organizations that fill in those gaps that the government misses. There are neighbors helping neighbors, and companies offering free and reduced services and products. There are many instances of compassion in our capitalistic society.

Capitalism isn’t an ill. Through government taxation, it pays for the social programs that help our fellow humans.

Fleeting and Fleeing

“The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.” ~Matthew 13:20-21 (MSG)

The parable of the sower–which some say should be the parable of the soils–has taken on new meaning for me, as scripture is wont to do over time. We read the same passages at different points in our life or in our growth as Christians. From them we glean new understandings and deeper insights.

It’s a living Bible, after all.

So this second soil, the gravel, reminds me of my early days being a Christian. I was old in body but young in spirit, and I would get “swept up” in the passion of it all. A great worship song, a dazzling sermon, a soulful interaction with other believers: those became the essence of my experience.

And, like a junkie, looking for the next good high, I sought out those elated moments as testimony to the Gospel.

But they weren’t. They were joyous moments, no doubt, but they weren’t the essence of what God can bring to our lives.

And, so many Christians put their faith in the feeling rather than the One. That’s why people keep church shopping and worship hopping, from one thing to the next: pod casts are the way to go one week, and Wednesday night worship music the next.

I’m not talking about finding the right church, or leaving one church for the next, because that can happen. And, I’m not talking about varied worship experiences, because that’s terrific stuff.

I’m talking about people who seek the feeling and who never find satisfaction because they chase an emotion. They fail to seek a relationship with God because God doesn’t get them “high” every time they walk into a building, have a conversation, or access an app.

And, that’s how it is with the gravel soil. The seed sprouts right up, bright and brilliant green, dancing in the light, until the scorching heat of the day burns it dead.

Life is hard. People are sinners. The walk with Jesus isn’t a halcyon trek.

Matthew Henry writes: “That which distinguished this good ground from the rest, was, in one word, fruitfulness. He does not say that this good ground has no stones in it, or no thorns; but there were none that prevailed to hinder its fruitfulness.” 

Oh, and I only got the Matthew Henry quote because I was following an online study on bible.com, not because I’m some scholar. I’m pretty much an average person, getting info from here or there. There are no great tomes of religious leaders in my library, just mostly some proletarian adventure books and funky memoirs about idiosyncratic lives.

As long as our goal is to keep going back to scripture, to keep furthering our walk with God, to keep our minds open and learning, we can create the soil that produces fruit.

World Hijab Day…eh?

International Hijab Day is coming up. It’s promoted on social media with hashtags such as: #FreeInHijab and #WorldHijabDay.

I have nothing against a woman who wants to wear a hijab because it’s required by her religion. We have a mosque here in my hometown, and I interact daily with hijab-wearing women who work at my local stores. But, don’t tell me I have to wear a hijab or I’m not “showing solidarity.” I shouldn’t have to “show solidarity.”

You see, I’m polite and courteous to my fellow man. But, don’t tell me to wear something that promotes a religion far, far from my own religion. The goal here is not to “show solidarity” but, ultimately, to get us to convert to Islam.

And, this is how it starts.

Make it “normal” and “acceptable.” Then, get others used to the idea. Have them try it. Make certain “hijab only” zones. Get women used to wearing it. Make more and more areas “hijab only.” It may take a decade or a few decades, but eventually, eventually it’s required in all public places.

And, that’s how these things work. Not with a mighty proclamation, but by slowing bringing the water to boil. The frog in the water doesn’t sense the need to jump out because the water ever so slowly becomes warmer and warmer until it’s killed the frog.

That’s why fighting for our freedoms and rights are so important against government tyranny and against the New World Order. I live in America. Men and women have died to protect my right to practice my religion in peace and without forcing religious rules on me.

I’m not going to be wearing a hijab, ever. But, I’ll be polite and kind to the woman who is wearing one.

Mandela Effect

I was “today years old” when I found out Van Gogh did not paint “The Scream.” Now, I’m questioning everything.

Is this a Mandela Effect?

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch

So, for those of you who don’t know, or aren’t sure, the Mandela Effect is the idea that people experience events from alternate realities or parallel universes. (Some say we slide between universes.) It’s called the Mandela Effect because many people remember Nelson Mandela dying in prison, while current history (as of this writing–haha!) states he was released from prison and became President of South Africa.

There are many things I can state for sure happened, I can see it in my mind, and yet these events never took place.

For instance, my daughter and I were trying to decide between matte or patent leather shoes for her military blues. I urged her for the matte, and I was wrong. So, we went back the store to buy the patent ones, and they weren’t there. I remember holding them up and looking at them both, the matte and patent, and then telling her to buy the matte.

She tells me she doesn’t remember the patent leather ones in the store. She was trusting me blindly in returning to the store–because I’m mom, after all. But, I remember seeing them side-by-side on the shelf. As we stood there in the aisle, she laughed at my “mis-recollection.” I laughed, too, but still it bothered me. I held those darn shoes in my hands! They were real to me!

Was this a Mandela Effect, or a false memory?

Psychologists call the Mandela Effect an example of confabulation, or false memory. Psychologically, this involves mistakenly recalling events or experiences that haven’t taken place, or the distortion of existing memories. Of course, the Mandela Effect is harder to believe than false memory, because we know that eye-witness accounts are less reliable than forensic evidence.

Still…it’s jarring when it’s YOUR memory.

There are many examples, but do you remember “Jiffy” or “Jif” peanut butter brand?

What about you? Have you had a false memory that stunned you? Tell us about it!

Christmas Carols

Let’s talk Christmas carols. These are curious questions for me. Pipe in with your own questions and/or answers!

1. “Scary ghost stories.” WHO is telling scary ghost stories at Christmas? Stephen King’s fam? Who?

2. Twelve Days of Christmas. Just what is going on here? Maids a milking? Lords a leaping? Who gifts like this?

3. “Evergreen” vs. “What Child Is This?” One of my favorite tunes, so I should be excited to be able to listen to it all year, but why? Are they two separate songs or just one?

4. “Packages on the tree.” Okay, my hubby has been known to put gift card envelopes on our tree, but why would you attach packages to the tree? Don’t they go underneath?

5. “Down the chimney down.” That’s a lot of downs. Is the chimney down another term for chimney? Does the second down refer to the first down? I’m confused.

6. “Circus clown.” The second verse to Parson Brown just totally weirds me out. Who are these people who dance around with a snowman they’re pretending is a circus clown?

7. And, from the same song, why is it, “Happy Holiday,” and not “Happy Holidays?” Doesn’t everyone say happy holidays?!

Welcome to Monday!

Welcome to Monday! If you’re on the high, enjoy it, rest and prepare for the low to come next. If you’re in a valley, know that the high will come in time. In the meantime, give your troubles to God, He has overcome this world.

And, I’ll pray for you! Leave a few sentences in the comment so I can pray intentionally.

Life is full of highs AND lows, and we have to be willing to submit to the course and trust God with all the things we cannot control.

HAVE. A. WEEK. (Not good, or great, or bad, just a WEEK!)

Like my grandfather used to say when we’d ask him about getting older, “It’s better than the alternative.”

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33