Month: May 2013

What I’ve Been Reading — Spring 2013 Edition

Between work and home and other endeavors, I don’t read as much as I would like to, but I’m always looking for interesting things to engage my brain and imagination. I’d like to post on what I’ve been reading from time to time. This first edition covers Spring 2013. Hope you enjoy these short reviews complete with my “star rating.”

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

I found a lot of useful information about women leaders from this book. It’s well written, backed up by personal anecdotes as well as research, and it’s an easy read.  I was familiar with the author, Sheryl Sandberg, because of her wonderful TED talk. I was not disappointed. I recommend this to everyone, not just professional women. Women who work at home will benefit from this book as well as men who work in and outside the home. I give it four and a half stars.


Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander

Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander – This is the story of a Neurosurgeon who had a near death experience while he was in a coma. I expected to like this book much more than I actually did. I enjoyed hearing about the details of his illness and peering in to what happened for him while he was in the coma, but I was much more interested in hearing how this newfound belief in heaven or an afterlife changed his life, and he talks very little about this in the book. There was also a few details that come up in the end that feel forced to me and more than a little unbelievable. (I’m being deliberately vague because, although it wasn’t my favorite book of the spring, others might still want to read it, and I don’t want to give anything away.)  I give it two and a half stars.


Two Old Women by Velma Wallis

Awhile ago in an online discussion group I am a part of, someone mentioned this book. I was intrigued because the person recommending it mentioned that it was filled with sermon illustration type material and that it was a very quick read. I’m needing books that are quick reads these days. This book could easily be read in an afternoon. It’s the story of, well, two old women, who are left behind by their nomadic tribe in their old age. Will they give up and die alone, or will they fight to survive? It’s a tale of friendship and survival, and it takes the reader to far away places. I give it four and a half stars.


The Racketeer by John Grisham

This is the first John Grisham novel I’ve ever read! I’ve seen a lot of the movies, however, and when I saw this at the library, I checked it out on a whim. I was hooked at the beginning and really curious to find out what happened at the end when it started to take some detours from where I thought it was going. It was tough for me to plod through the middle of the book, however. I started to feel sort of ambivalent toward the main character. I didn’t dislike him, but I wasn’t really rooting for him either. I would recommend this book for beach reading, but I hesitate to be much more enthusiastic than “Eh, it was ok.” I give it three stars.


The Immigrant Advantage by Claudia Kolker

This book takes the reader through various customs immigrants from other countries bring to the US. It shows how these customs lead to greater health and happiness for the groups that practice them. It does not discuss immigration policy or politics. I loved reading about these different customs and cultures and found the book very worthwhile. I give it four stars.


What is God’s Name? by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso

Three things I love about this book

1. The illustrations are amazing

2. The story and theology are profound, yet very simple for even a small child to grasp.

3. The author reminds parents in the front cover: “… each child develops an image of God by age five with or without religious instruction.”

I highly recommend  this one. Five stars.


Llama Llama Nighty-Night  by Anna Dewdney

 This book is amazingly charming. It has a special place in my heart because Clayton is learning to talk and repeat things and he says “wwaaaaaama waaaama niiiight niiiiiight” which is heart-meltingly adorable, but I love the simple rhyme and the illustration. I will be looking for Llama Llama Misses Mama next time I’m at the library!

That’s it for now… what did you read this Spring?

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Is prayer without action meaningless?

On Tuesday I read an interesting article on the CNN religion blog called “Who Hears #prayersforoklahoma?” It’s worth reading over HERE, but the two second summary is this: After the devastating tornado in Oklahoma, social media responded with the twitter hashtag #prayersforoklahoma which sparked a debate on the usefulness of these sorts of prayers. The White House picked up the hashtag, as did other celebrities and fancy people. In response, other fancy people began to question the usefulness of such prayers, calling them shallow, void of true activism (giving money or aid), and another example of how believers everywhere have our heads in the clouds instead of anchored in reality. I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts on this, the inaugural post of this new blog.

  • First, and most importantly, I think there are valid points to be made on each side of this issue. On the one hand, writing a simple prayer and labeling it #prayersforoklahoma is a pretty low impact, low cost, “slactivist” way of responding to a national tragedy. It doesn’t provide food to hungry bellies or shelter to those who are now without their homes, it doesn’t do anything. Wouldn’t it be far more useful to donate $100, $10 or even $1 to relief efforts?
  • On the other hand, it seems to me that most of these tweets were sincere attempts to show solidarity, compassion and genuine heartbreak for the loss of life in Oklahoma. Perhaps the desire to share in that suffering, to show support and care and to remind one another to pray is “doing something”. “Pray in all circumstances,” the Bible says.
  • I am reminded of Jesus’s concern for the people of his time who were making loud, eloquent prayers on street corners. “Pray in secret where it’s just between you and God,” Jesus said. Is tweeting #prayersforoklahoma the modern day equivalent of praying loud prayers on a street corner? I think there is a case to be made that, yes, maybe it is — particularly given the reaction we’ve seen from non-believers who seem to be turned off by it. Perhaps they sense insincerity in the gesture. Instead of fighting back and arguing, perhaps the right response would be to close the door and pray pour out our hearts in prayer for Oklahoma. Privately.

What do you think?