2015 Reading List

3 01 2016

 

  1. The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew Inman
  2. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
  3. The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert
  4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  5. Managerial Accounting by Garrison, Noreen & Brewer
  6. Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
  7. House Rules by Jodi Picoult
  8. Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton
  9. Operations Management for MBAs by Meredith & Shafer
  10. A Topography of the Soul by Phil Dillingham
  11. Fundamentals of Corporate Finance by Ross, Westerfield & Jordan
  12. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  13. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
  14. Messenger by Lois Lowry
  15. Son by Lois Lowry
  16. Bringing Innovation to School by Suzie Boss
  17. #EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education by Grant Lichtman
  18. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead  by Brene Brown
  19. Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level by Don Wettrick
  20. Strategic Management: Competitiveness and Globalization by Michael Hitt, Duane Ireland, and Robert Hoskisson
  21. I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This! By Bob Newhart
  22. Holding Fast: The Untold Story of the Mount Hood Tragedy by Karen James
  23. Redemption by Bryan Clay
  24. Destiny’s Dwellers by DC Daugherty
  25. HBR’s 10 Must Reads: On Communication
  26. For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
  27. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  28. Life in the Turn Lane by Jim Patton
  29. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  30. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
  31. The Death Cure by James Dashner
  32. The Kill Order by James Dashner
  33. Tales From Another Mother Runner by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea
  34. Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzer
  35. Thank You Power by Deborah Norville
  36. Doing Virtuous Business by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch
  37. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  38. The Four Agreements by Manuel Ruiz
  39. Trafficked by Sophie Hayes
  40. Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
  41. Holy Bible/The Message by Eugene Peterson

Holy Bible/The Message  by Eugene Peterson
Yes, this book will always be at the top of my reading list.  This marks year five of reading through the entire thing, and I never get tired of it.  In fact, the more I read it, the more I desire to read more.  It’s a wonderful circle.  I continue to be challenged, rebuked, and encouraged, and I hope I always will.

I have been reading a different translation of the Bible the past few years, and this year I read The Message once I got to the New Testament.  It is a contemporary paraphrase, and I really didn’t like it.  I found myself reverting back to the verbiage of the NIV in many places where I found the wording particularly weird.  I know some people really like The Message, but I’m not one of them.

Pure Genius:  Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level by Don Wettrick
Innovation, design thinking, and 21st Century skills are the buzz words du jour in academia these days.  And all for a good reason.  As we move toward a flatter world (more global society), our students need to learn skills for jobs that probably don’t even exist today.  In his book, Wettrick offers educators an inside view into designing an Innovations Class along with the pros and cons.

I first met Wettrick at Microsoft’s Innovative Educators Forum in 2011, and we served on the same collaborative team.  Wettrick already was a rock-star teacher and is even more so now.  I recommend this book to any educator or administrator who needs to know how to bring innovation into the classroom in a real-world, authentic, and meaningful way.

Thank You Power by Deborah Norville
Norville cites anecdotal and scientific, peer reviewed research regarding how having a positive attitude can make all facets of life better, easier, etc.  Evidence across the ages points to “an attitude of gratitude” leading to better health, greater optimism, resilience in difficult times, and just living a plain old happier life.

Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzer
The subtitle is “tools for talking when the stake are high,” and that sums it up.  This book is filled with common sense (when we’re not in a crucial conversation) and incredibly simple (in theory) strategies to help us communicate when we’re in a tough situation:  emotions are high, stakes are high, confusion is high, etc.  In these moments when human nature tends to react as poorly as possible, we can retrain ourselves to step back, ask questions, listen better, and create safety and clarity to get meaningful dialogue flowing again.  This book is recommended for anyone who interacts with anyone else on the planet.

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
Hatmaker is one of my favorite authors.  She is as wise for her years as she is wickedly humorous and witty.  So what is this book about?  The tagline sums it up nicely:  fighting for grade in a world of impossible standards.

Bringing Innovation to School by Suzie Boss
Charged with being more innovative in the classroom this year, this book was the choice as our school-wide summer reading.  It was surprisingly interesting, and it generated several curriculum ideas for the classes I teach as well as an idea for a new class in the 2017 school year.

#EdJourney:  A Roadmap to the Future of Education by Grant Lichtman
Another required summer reading book for my work, this book was similar to the one by Suzie Boss.  In fact, they quoted many of the same authors, interviewed many of the same educators, and visited many of the same schools.  The middle section, chapters 6-10, in particular, offered several useful ideas I hope to adopt in my classroom in the coming years.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Lencioni is quickly becoming my favorite business/leadership author.  I’ve read several of his books for my MBA work, and the ones I haven’t read for that, I’ll soon be reading for my own pleasure.  Lencioni is able to weave a short, apt narrative brimming with important—and usually ridiculously simple—leadership principles.  His storytelling manner is quite effective, not just to hold the reader’s attention, but to get his point across.  This is a short easy read, and a definite recommendation for anyone in a leadership position or who works in a team setting in any profession.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
This autobiography details Malala’s life as a normal Pakistani little girl up to a being an activist teenager speaking against the Taliban and advocating for girls/women’s right to receive an education.  Her boldness, the support of her family—particularly her father—are inspiring.  This was a good reminder of how blessed we are in Western societies with our freedoms and rights, many of which we not just take for granted but complain wildly about when we don’t get our way.

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew Inman
Cartoons illustrate this humorous book based on its title.  I could relate to just about every single item Inman mentioned.  My favorite being how long distance runners begin to invent really creative ways to measure time and distance.  It’s a short, easy read, and I’d definitely recommend this for any runner.

Trafficked by Sophie Hayes
Hayes tells her harrowing story of how she was “groomed” for four years by her “best friend” who overnight turned into her pimp to pay off a drug deal.  Hayes was an educated, middle class young woman with a decent job.  Lured away for a weekend get-away, her world was turned upside down into one of physical and psychological abuse, illness, and prostitution.  I was stunned how quickly and easily her trafficker gained full control of her body and mind.

Tales from Another Mother Runner by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea
This is a collection of short essays submitted by women—specifically mother—runners from around the country.  Each telling her own story, some are serious, some hilarious, all meaningful.  Any mother who is a runner will easily relate to many/most of what these women share.

Daring Greatly:  How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead  by Brene Brown
Brown takes us through her many years of research on Wholehearted Living, as she coins it:  being vulnerable as we live in community with one another.  Her chapter on shame and guilt resonated with me a lot as this is something I struggle with every day.  This is not light reading, and you really need to process what Brown says, but it was enlightening.

Carry On, Warrior:  The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton
Glennon Doyle Mention shares her life’s story in hilarious fashion in this book.  It’s the first thing of hers I’ve read, and I was won over by the end of page one.  Her blog, Momastery, is just as riveting, insightful, and entertaining.  Much like Jen Hatmaker, she is a new favorite contemporary author and blogger.

Life in the Turn Lane by Jim Patton
Patton describes his “rags to riches” story from being a rejected HVAC repairman to becoming a M&A expert handling international billion dollar transactions.  Not only does Patton explain his business dealings a pragmatic sense, he intertwines his faith in Christ throughout his story.  A good book for any business man, especially one who follows Christ.

The Maze Runner Trilogy and Prequel #1 by James Dashner
Another series in the genre of post-apocalyptic dystopian societies trying to figure out how to save the human race after a mind-altering virus has been let loose on the world as a means of population control.  Having read the Giver Quartet, the Divergent trilogy, and the Hunger Games series, this one held my attention, but I quickly tired of reading fight scene after fight scene of something that sounded like it came from World War Z (or any other human-turned-crazy zombie-like creature movie of your choice.)

The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry
A mingling of science fiction and fantasy, the Giver quartet was perhaps the first of the new genre of dystopian teen fiction, long before The Hunger Games or Divergent series.  Lowry loosely crafts the four books together, with the first and last most closely tied.  It is a world devoid of emotion in one area, devoid of technology in another, but all have young men and women with special “gifts,” when brought together, can create a better world for everyone.  If you’re a fan of this genre, these four novels are a quick, easy, interesting read.

Holding Fast:  The Untold Story of the Mount Hood Tragedy by Karen James,
Karen James, the widow of climber Kelly James, details the week-long search and rescue efforts to find her husband and two climbing friends trapped on Mount Hood in the storm of the century.  Clear, concise, and well written, Karen also discussed her struggles with being a new widow, and she intertwines her faith and her family’s faith throughout.  It’s simultaneously tragic and inspiring.

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
Interrupted details the Hatmaker’s life-changing, God-calling “interruption” on their comfortable lives.  Much like Abraham, the family was called to leave all that they knew for something unseen and unknown.  Placing their trust in Him, they obeyed and followed.

I’m a huge fan of Jen Hatmaker, and I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Seven, but I could not relate to this book as I can to almost all of the rest of her writing.

A Topography of the Soul by Phil Dillingham
Phil is my pastor so I have the pleasure of learning from him almost every week.  He is a wise man, a godly man, a disciplined man, and he has a tremendous gift of teaching.  Even the most difficult concepts can be conveyed in simple terms.  Philosophy majors and convicts alike enjoy his teachings.

HBR’s 10 Must Reads:  On Communications
Harvard Business Review (HBR) has a series of books on different business topics, each featuring the 10 most popular/important contributions in their fields from the past several decades.  I had to read a few of the articles during my MBA program, but I was so impressed with them, I went back after I had graduated and finished reading the rest.  This series is truly a “must read” for any business professional.

Redemption by Bryan Clay
Clay details the journey of his life beginning as a rebellious young boy constantly in trouble and getting into physical fights at school all the way through winning an Olympic gold in the decathlon in 2008.  Clay illustrates lesson after lesson of what it means to really trust God, persevere through doubt during times of trial.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult
House Rules explores how a family deals with the effects of autism, and how those who communicate differently are challenged by a justice system that will not accommodate them.

This is my first novel by Jodi Picoult, but it was interesting and moved at a good pace despite the 500+ pages.  It was a selection for a book club I’m in, and the lady who chose it is a professional career counselor who deals with adult students with disabilities.  From her perspective, this was an accurate picture of what it’s like for a family dealing with an autistic child (Asperger’s).

Under the Banner of Heaven:  A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
Krakauer tells the story of Joseph Smith and the early history of the Mormon church up through present day with a special focus on the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS).  Several times while reading through the book, I had to walk away from it due to its disturbing narratives.  I’ve read numerous books on the Jewish and Rwandan holocausts, but there was something markedly different about the atrocities proliferated among the FLDS—the plural marriages, the child brides, marrying off a 12-year-old girl to a man in his 60s, the incest between fathers and daughters, the brainwashing.  This was not an easy book to get through, but if you’re looking for an unadulterated history of the Church of Latter Day Saints, this is it.

The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert tells the true story of Eustace Conway, a rare breed in today’s world—one who lives off the land in every regard, from making his own clothing out of buckskins, to farming with horses and mules, to building and living in his own teepee.  Gilbert does a masterful job of weaving through Conway’s life and how his childhood influenced who he is today.  It’s a fascinating read for anyone who appreciates nature on a deep level—deeper than “it’s pretty outside”—or who fancies himself an outdoorsman.  If you are the latter, you will be put to shame.

Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
This is Fey’s autobiography/memoir of sorts.  It’s funny and a little crude at times, but I appreciated her transparency in writing about how she worked her way to the top with integrity as well as her honesty in talking about the struggles of being a working mom.

Destiny’s Dwellers by DC Daugherty
Full disclosure, I work with the author.  That said, this is the third fantasy/sci-fi/young adult novel he’s written, and I’ve enjoyed them all.  This is volume 1 (of how many, I’m not sure) and tells the story of Destin and his work among the “Dwellers,” a group of dead kids, ages 5-15, who help others move on to their final resting place.  However, evil lurks in the streets of Chicago, and Destin feels called to offer himself as the final sacrifice to end the fear.  The redemption/sacrifice theme at the end of the novel was quite moving.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Mango Street is a series of vignettes about Esperanza Corderos, a young Latina girl, growing up in Chicago.  Incoming freshmen read this as part of their summer reading every year, and I wanted to read it for that reason.  I imagine the boys have a difficult time with the story.

Doing Virtuous Business by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch
Malloch highlights various businesses around the globe which have invested in “spiritual capital” and have reaped success and profits from which.  I didn’t care for Malloch’s clear denigrating of pretty much any primarily Democratic-created social program in America.  He also presented case studies that, while presenting good evidence to support faith-based business acumen, really didn’t have much to do with his chapter or section headings.

I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This! By Bob Newhart
I have always been a fan of Bob Newhart so I was excited to see this book at Dollar Tree for $1.  However, it was disappointing.  It was not well written, which I fault the editors more than the writer.  The stories were choppy, lacking in important detail, and ended abruptly.  Sadly, I cannot recommend this to anyone, including diehard fans.

The Four Agreements by Manuel Ruiz
This was recommended by several fellow MBA students in my cohort, so I thought, “can’t wait to read it!”  Disappointing is mild.  I struggled to stay awake while reading it, and it is one of the few books, besides MBA textbooks (see below) that I resorted to skimming just to say I read the entire thing.

The overarching advice:  stay true to your word, try your best, forgive, move on, etc. are all well and good and are things I definitely believe in.  However, the manner in which these ideas were presented seemed like they were written by an elementary aged child for other elementary aged children.  Read your Bible if you want the same advice.

Strategic Management:  Competitiveness and Globalization by Michael Hitt, Duane Ireland, and Robert Hoskisson
Textbook for my last MBA class on strategic management and competitiveness and globalization, just as the name implies.  It was a bit redundant from other textbooks I’ve read during this program, and it was incredibly dry.  It would take several hours just to get through one 25-page chapter, and I almost always fell asleep while reading.

Operations Management for MBAs by Meredith & Shafer
It was a text book for Operations Management.  Normally things like process, flow, and efficiency are right up my alley, but this book was a little dry.

Fundamentals of Corporate Finance by Ross, Westerfield, & Jordan
Advance managerial finance text book.  It was a toss-up between this and the accounting text book as to which I disliked more.

Managerial Accounting by Garrison, Noreen, & Brewer
It was an accounting text book.  Nothing more to say.





2014 Reading List

17 01 2015

Not much to offer this year as most of my reading was from textbooks for my MBA work.  That is one of the things I miss the most about life not in grad school mode–reading books of my own choosing from which I will NOT be quizzed or tested or have to cite in research papers.  Less than seven months, and I’ll be able to start tackling my growing book list with fervor. 

  1. Essentials of Economics, 3rd Edition by Stanley Brue, Campbell McConnell, Sean Flynn
  2. Corporate Information Strategy and Management by Lynda Applegate, Robert Austin, Deborah Soule
  3. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  4. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  5. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
  6. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
  7. Learning to Walk in the Dark y Barbara Brown Taylor
  8. Leaders, Fools, and Impostors by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries
  9. Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima
  10. Organizational Ethics: A Practical Approach by Craig E. Johnson
  11. Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers
  12. Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
  13. Falling Into the Face of God by William Elliott
  14. You Had Me at Woof by Julie Klam
  15. The Agile Pocket Guide by Peter Saddington
  16. Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd
  17. Coffee with Jesus by David Wilkie
  18. Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling by Harold Kerzner
  19. The Voice of the Heart by Chip Dodd
  20. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni
  21. Human Resource Management by Robert L. Mathis and John H. Jackson
  22. Business: Its Legal, Ethical, and Global Environment by Marianne M. Jennings
  23. Holy Bible

Holy Bible
Yes, this book will always be at the top of my reading list.  This marks year five of reading through the entire thing, and I never get tired of it.  In fact, the more I read it, the more I desire to read more.  It’s a wonderful circle.  I continue to be challenged, rebuked, and encouraged, and I hope I always will.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
I’ve read this book numerous times, but I felt I needed to revisit it this year.  Even though I know what’s coming, I’m still in tears throughout this historical fiction retelling of the book of Hosea.

Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima
This was a Christian approach to becoming an effective leader by confronting potential failures—the dark side of our personality.  Though it was required reading for one of my MBA classes on Ethics and Culture, it was an insightful book that I would recommend to anyone in any kind of leadership position, Christian or not.

Go:  A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd
Kidd takes the beginning graphic designer through the basics of form, typography, content, and concept of graphic design.

I wish I had read this a decade ago.  This is by far the best “how to” for beginning graphic designers that I’ve yet to read.  Absolutely everything about this book is an example of incredible graphic design.  I will be using this as a text book in the Digital Media & Graphic Design class I teach for my high school.

Coffee with Jesus  by David Wilkie
This is a collection of the popular online comic strip, Coffee with Jesus.  The characters are selfish, judgmental, childish, bitter, angry, and jealous.  Sound like anyone you know?  I saw a little bit of myself in each of them.  Jesus’ words are that still, small voice we hear and too often ignore, but spelled out in print gives it a little bit more edge.  I will probably be reading through this book frequently.

The Advantage:  Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni
Lencioni argues that rather than become smarter or having a better strategy, the one thing that organizations need to focus on first and foremost is their organizational health:  leadership, communication, behaviors, etc.

Even though this is a business book, Lencioni’s style is incredibly approachable, and his writing is filled with plain old common sense.  His advice works just as well in family relationships as it does in organizational relationships.

Falling Into the Face of God by William Elliott
This memoir chronicles Elliott’s adventure in the Judean desert—spending 40 days and 40 nights there to draw nearer to God.

Despite the monotony of living in a desert in a tent where it’s too hot to do much of anything, this was still quite a fascinating story.  For several years now, I’ve longed to go on an extended silent retreat—not 40 days and not in a desert—but now I realize this is something I must do at some point in my life.

Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers
Lena Scott/Abra Matthews is a young girl who runs away from home with the proverbial “bad boy” to find her life turned upside down in an instant.  Abused, ridiculed, unloved, she turns to the one man who can make a star out of her, but at what cost?

Rivers tells the story of Ezekiel 16 in this amazing novel set in the 1950s.  Unconditional love, redemption, and forgiveness are the main themes.

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor
Brown reflects on why we have been taught “the dark” is a scary place or is synonymous with sin.  Brown takes the reader on a journey explaining how our lives do not always work in the light; like the moon, it waxes and wanes and disappears altogether.

There were some incredible gems in this book.  “One of the hardest things to decide during a dark night is whether to surrender or resist.  The choice often comes down to what you believe about God and how God acts, which means that every dark night of the soul involves wrestling with belief.”

Leaders, Fools, and Impostors by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries
This was another required reading for my MBA class on Ethics and Culture, and it, too, dealt with the dark side of our personalities and the problems it creates for leaders.  While not quite as practical as Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima, Kets de Vries still gives numerous real examples of the dangers leaders face when they give in to the psychological traps of their personalities.

Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
World-renowned psychologist, Dweck explains her idea of fixed- versus growth-mindests and how, with the right, mindset, anyone can achieve most anything.

This was required summer reading for my job—because, really, who needs a real vacation?  The main idea is more common sense than some ground-breaking concept, and the book could have been drilled down to just a couple of chapters.  Instead, it seemed like Dweck was repeating the same premise 100 different ways with 100 different examples, but all said the same thing:  a growth-mindset is better than a fixed-mindset.  Growth mindsets allow us to accept criticism, acknowledge our faults or weaknesses and seek to improve and continually grow and mature in how we handle setbacks and disappointments.

You Had Me at Woof by Julie Klam
Klam describes her life transition into becoming a “dog person” and working with a dog rescue organization in New York City.  I appreciated Klam’s humor and realism in describing life with a dog.  It was a quick, easy read and one I would recommend for dog lovers, especially those who have a heart for rescue and adoption.

Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
Considering these were not text books, they automatically move to the top of my reading list for the year.  I read through all three of them in a week, and they reminded me a lot of the Hunger Games trilogy.  If you liked the one, you will probably enjoy the other.

The only disappointment was the very ending of the book.  No spoilers, but I was MAD.  I don’t remember ever finishing a really good book or series, and feeling mad.  I’m still not over it.

The Agile Pocket Guide by Peter Saddington
Only Project Managers will understand this:  this book was a “quick start to making your business Agile using Scrum and beyond.”  It was actually a fairly easy, quick, interesting read once I got used to the terminology.  I admit this little book got me interested in pursuing my CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management) certification.

The Voice of the Heart by Chip Dodd
Dodd explains the eight core emotions of the heart:  anger, fear, guilt, hurt, loneliness, sadness, shame, and gladness.  I don’t agree with everything Dodd believes, but there were some gems buried within.

Project Management:  A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling by Harold Kerzner
1200+ pages of All.  Things.  Project.  Management.  At least I’ve been told this is really the only text I need to study for the CAPM certification exam.

Human Resource Management by Robert L. Mathis and John H. Jackson
This was a textbook about . . . wait for it . . . human resource management!  Surprise!

Corporate Information Strategy and Management by Lynda Applegate, Robert Austin, Deborah Soule
This was a text book about corporate IT strategy and management.  For a text book, it was one of the better ones I’ve read so far.  But still, it was a text book.

Business:  Its Legal, Ethical, and Global Environment by Marianne M. Jennings
This was a textbook about business law.  Other than the chapter on securities law, I enjoyed a lot of this.  I’ve always contended I’d have made a good lawyer.

Organizational Ethics:  A Practical Approach by Craig E. Johnson
This was a textbook about ethics in organizations.  The case studies presented in each chapter were interesting, but not so much the rest of the text.

Essentials of Economics, 3rd Edition by Stanley Brue, Campbell McConnell, Sean Flynn
This was a text book about economics.  That is all.





2013 Reading List

6 01 2014

The first list is the order in which I read, and the second list is the order of importance to me along with a brief synopsis and my thoughts on the book.

1. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
2. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
3. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
4. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
5. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
6. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
7. Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures by Amber Dusick
8. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
9. Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth
10. Ah-Choo! The Uncommon Life of You Common Cold By Jennifer Ackerman
11. Brain Surgeon by Dr. Keith Black
12. Death to the Dictator by Afsaneh Moqadam
13. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
14. Spectral Relapse (Walking Ghost Phase book 2) by David Daugherty
15. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
16. Ms. Understood by Jen Hatmaker
17. Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
18. The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
19. Fit2Fat2Fit by Drew Manning
20. The Watchmaker’s Daughter by Sonia Taitz
21. Life, In Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson
22. Unbroken: A War World II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
23. Dwarf: A Memoir by Tiffanie DiDonato
24. Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde by Rebecca Davis
25. A Century of Wisdom: Lessons From Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor by Caroline Stoessinger
26. Honest Advice for Teachers by Susan Eubanks Stepp
27. The Silver Hand (Song of Albion book #2) by Stephen Lawhead
28. The Endless Knot (Song of Albion book #3) by Stephen Lawhead
29. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
30. Glorious Holy Spirit by Fr. Cedric Pisegna
31. The Best Women’s Travel Writing, Vol. 8 ed. by Lavinia Spaulding
32. Wild (From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail) by Cheryl Strayed
33. The Servant by James Hunter
34. Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey
35. Leading Leaders by Jeswald Salacuse
36. Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads: On Communication
37. Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads: On Teams
38. Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle
39. Holy Bible

Holy Bible
Yes, this book will always be at the top of my reading list. This marks year five of reading through the entire thing, and I never get tired of it. In fact, the more I read it, the more I desire to read more. It’s a wonderful circle. I continue to be challenged, rebuked, and encouraged, and I hope I always will.

Parenting: Illustrated in Crappy Pictures by Amber Dusick
Dusick is my new favorite blogger, talking about the typical goings-on in a house with a young child and a toddler. Oh, and she draws crappy pictures to illustrate these goings-on. Not only can I relate to EVERYTHING she writes, her illustrations are hilarious.

If you are a parent, grandparent, or hope to be a parent, you need to read this book and check out Dusick’s blog at http://www.crappypictures.com. This is my new go-to gift for baby showers.

Unbroken: A War World II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Unbroken details the life of Louis Zampereli, an Olympic runner who enlisted during WWII, became a bombardier, was hot down during combat, survived 40+ days and drifting over 2,000 miles into enemy hands, was beaten and tortured and starved in a Japanese POW camp, and later became a Christian, forgiving his tormentors.

Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, tells a riveting story of Zamperili’s life and trials as a POW during WWII. To read it is to be in awe of how much cruelty humans can endure as well as their compassion and ability to forgive. I cannot wait till this is made into a movie.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
As the title implies, Cain explores the powers of introverts in a very extroverted culture in America. The research is stunning and often counter-intuitive as to the benefits introverts can bring to the workforce, leadership positions, parenting, and teaching.

Considering almost half of mankind is introverted, whether you are an introvert or extrovert, this book is a must read.

Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey
This is Yancey’s tribute to 13 remarkable men and women from around the world who helped transform his life and his work, rescuing him from “the Church.” Some were Christian, some were not. All lived profound lives that impacted Yancey deeply, demonstrating for him a life-enhancing rather than a life-constricting faith.

While I had heard of several of Yancey’s mentors: Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and C. Everett Koop, others were unfamiliar: Dr. Paul Brand, Dr. Robert Coles, and Henri Nouwen, but nonetheless inspiring. Yancey provided such riveting mini-biographies of these individuals, I find myself coming back to his words time and again.

The Servant by James Hunter
Billed as “a simple story about the true essence of leadership,” it is a quick, easy read that will rock your world as a leader—whether you are a leader of multi-national corporation or just the leader of your family.

The most thought-provoking discussion from this novella has to do with love as a verb. Too often, love is equated with an emotion, a feeling, but loving people is so much more than how we “feel” about them. To love another person is to treat them with respect and dignity, that which is due all humankind. I can dislike someone and not trust someone, but I can still love them.

Honest Advice for Teachers by Susan Eubanks Stepp
This is a collection of letters Eubanks Stepp received and answered for her weekly education column in some media outlet that I never got around to checking on. Hilarious and truthful, this should be a must read for all educators, students, administrators, and parents.

Fit2Fat2Fit by Drew Manning
Manning chronicles his one-year journey from being a physically fit personal trainer to gaining 75 pounds after six months of eating the typical American diet and withdrawing from all physical exercise to losing it again over the next six months. He came up with this experiment after realizing he seemed to be missing something with his overweight clients.

Manning’s insights into the struggles the overweight and obese face, physically, emotionally, and psychologically, we’re fascinating. Though I’ve never been overweight, I especially appreciated his chapter on overcoming the “final 15.” Even I can relate to the struggles of wanting to she’d just a few more pounds or break through the “wall” when running or training for a race.

Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth
Convicted one day that “something is very wrong with the way we spend our time,” Sleeth set out on a course to simplify life and slow down. What she discovered were core tenants of how the Amish live.

Almost Amish is filled with practical, common sense principles, that sadly are overlooked in today’s world of being plugged in 24/7.
1. Homes are simple, uncluttered, and clean; the outside reflects the inside.
2. Technology serves as a tool and does not rule as a master.
3. Saving more and spending less bring financial peace.
4. Spending time in God’s creation reveals the face of God.
5. Small and local leads to saner lives.
6. Service to others reduces loneliness and isolation.
7. The only true security comes from God.
8. Knowing neighbors and supporting local businesses build community.
9. Family ties are lifelong; they change but never cease.
10. Faith life and way of life are inseparable.

Harvard Business Reviews’ 10 Must Reads: On Communication
This is simply a compilation of the 10 most important articles on communication published in the Harvard Business Review in 2013. I had to read for an MBA class on organizational behavior and leadership, but the principles found within will cross over into all areas of my life, personally and professionally.

Leading Leaders by Jeswald Salacuse
Another MBA course text, Salacuse discusses strategies on how to lead “elites”—how to manage smart, talented, rich, and powerful people. The chapters on “The Art of the Strategic Conversation,” “Leading One-on-One,” Integration” were particularly interesting and helpful in my current position.

Harvard Business Reviews’ 10 Must Reads: On Teams
This is simply a compilation of the 10 most important articles on teams published in the Harvard Business Review in 2013. I had to read for an MBA class on organizational behavior and leadership, but the principles found within will cross over into all areas of my life, personally and professionally.

Glorious Holy Spirit by Fr. Cedric Pisegna
Father Cedric’s book on the Holy Spirit is directed mainly toward Catholics, but is certainly applicable to any Christian from any denomination. He presents the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Holy Trinity, as a real person who dwells within each of us, and through his power can we unlock our potential as God’s children.

This was a very quick and easy read, however, the style was a little disjointed. The one phrase I have really latched on to and ponder quite a bit is, “Face it, Embrace it, and God will grace it.”

The Watchmaker’s Daughter by Sonia Taitz
Sonia chronicles her life growing up as a immigrant’s daughter in New York City, post WWII. Her parents both survived German death camps during the war which had a tremendous impact on her life, though she was a generation and thousands of miles removed from those horrors. Humorous, insightful, and very well written, Taitz tells a remarkable story.

A Game of Thrones, books 1-5 by George R. R. Martin
This epic saga tells the story of the fight for the throne of Westeros. Many families claim the kingdom, but who will win the throne?

With each book weighing in at about 1,000 pages, I devoured the entire series in about two months. Intriguing and clever, I recommend this series to anyone with a lot of time to read. I really want to watch the series now.

Wild (From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail) by Cheryl Strayed
Strayed details her months-long hike of 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Mostly alone. As a woman. Carrying a pack that weighed over half her body weight. More than what any other hiker who she met carried. Through deserts. And snow.

Hiking the PCT and Appalachian Trail are on my bucket list so this was a fascinating read for me.

Life, In Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson
Anderson tells the story of how at 17, she attempted suicide by laying down on the train tracks near her home as a train approached. Miracle after miracle followed, and she lived, even after losing 8 pints of blood, and both her legs were severed. After the attempt, anderson shares her struggles with learning to live without legs and how it ultimately brought her to follow Christ.

This was a very quick, easy read though the material was at times disturbing. I appreciated Anderson’s honesty which lends itself to a remarkable testimony that is her faith today.

Ah-Choo! The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold by Jennifer Ackerman
Ackerman takes us through how colds are transmitted from one to another, how our bodies respond to the cold virus, cures, and more.

This was a very easy read for a non-medical person. Ackerman did a thorough job explaining the life cycle of a cold as well supporting and debunking common myths and cures. She included sections specific to asthmatics—what we should/should not do and take—which was particularly interesting and helpful to me, being an asthmatic. I will probably be referencing this book time and again when I or anyone in my family suffers a cold.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Based on a true story, this dual narrative follows two young Sundanese children: Nya walks eight hours every day to fetch water for her family. Salva is a “lost boy” refugee searching for his family and wondering how he can bring blessings to his war-torn native home.
This was a quick, easy, gripping read.

Ms. Understood by Jen Hatmaker
Hatmaker takes us on a spiritual journey of rediscovering biblical femininity through the stories of the five woman mentioned in Jesus’ lineage outlined in Matthew 1.

Hatmaker, author of one of my favorite pieces of non-fiction, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, is spot on and deliciously funny in her writing and presentation of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. My husband and I even had a good conversation on whether Bathsheba was merely naive or purposefully manipulative when going to Solomon with Adonijah’s request to marry Abishag.

A Century of Wisdom: Lessons From Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor by Caroline Stoessinger
Stoessinger shares the stories of Herz-Sommer’s life growing up in Czechoslovakia and then surviving tereseinstadt Camp during WWII. That she was an accomplished concert pianist saved her life. After the war, she emigrated to Israel and then England where she sill lives at — years old.

While some of the stories were interesting, I was expecting more tidbits of wisdom. Instead it was mainly recollections of all the people who knew Alice throughout her life and all the different pieces of music she played.

Spectral Relapse (Walking Ghost Phase book 2) by David Daugherty
Four teens report to Arlington for their compulsory one-month of defense training before heading off to college. Very quickly, things take a turn for the worse, and an event from 25 years ago intersects with the present in a deadly fashion.

Written by a co-worker of mine, I’m really impressed with this series. I enjoyed this book even more than the first, Walking Ghost Phase, and I finished it in less than 48 hours. Great cliff-hanger ending (thanks David!), but now I can’t wait for the next book.

Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle
Book number four of L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time series, tells the story of Sandy and Dennys, the Murray twins, as they find themselves in a foreign land in a different time—in the middle of the story of Noah and the Ark.

This has always been my favorite of L’Engle’s books. Perhaps because it’s based on a Bible story, with great artistic liberties thrown in, but I think this is her best writing.

Brain Surgeon by Dr. Keith Black
Black, a world-renowned neuro-surgeon, describes his life battling brain tumors from researching the causes as well as new cures and everything in between.

This was a quick, easy, not-too-technical book to read. Not only were Black’s adventures in the operating room interesting to read, the prejudice he encountered growing up as a black teen in the south in the 50s and 60s was inspiring. I was particularly moved reading about how Black’s father, an educator himself, went above and beyond in providing remarkable opportunities for his son as well as the remarkable opportunities Black sought out for himself in his youth.

The Silver Hand and the Endless Knot (Song of Albion books #2 and 3) by Stephen Lawhead
I read the first book, The Paradise War, last year and finally finished the trilogy. In the time-between-times, men from our world end up in an “other world” and must learn to live, fight, and ultimately reign or the both worlds could come to destruction.

The stories were interesting. My only criticism of Lawhead is that his descriptions are quite verbose. I can only read so much description of a forest or ocean before it gets boring. I also skipped most of the songs the bard sang, and it didn’t make a difference to the overall plot not having read them.

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
Alex and Conner are magically transported into “The Land of Stories” book, and thus begins the adventure of their life. In a land where fairy tales live, the twins must find the eight treasured items to make the Wishing Spell work so they can get home.

Colfer, better known as Kurt Hummel from “Glee” did a fine job on his first young adult novel. It was a fun easy read, and I look forward to reading the others he’s working on.

Dwarf: A Memoir by Tiffanie DiDonato
DiDonato wrote of her experiences growing up as a dwarf and the bone-lengthening surgeries she endured to add some 14 inches to her stature.

Reading about the bone-lengthening procedure was interesting. After her story made national news, she received a bit of flack from the dwarf community, but I appreciate her desire to simply be more independent. I’m not all that tall, but I never realized how many things I can do like reach a faucet and turn door knobs easily that shorter people cannot.

The Best Women’s Travel Writing ed. 8 Lavinia Spaulding
This book consisted of short stories by about two dozen women chronicling their worldly travels. Some were interesting, but more were largely forgettable.

Death to the Dictator by Afsaneh Moqadam
Moqadam, a pseudonym as are the identities of the others in the book, presents the devastating price a young man, Mohsen, paid after casting a vote for Mousavi during the 2009 Iranian presidential elections. Ahmadinejad declared himself winner, and the world protested, often in violence.

I honestly hardly consider what goes on in the Middle East, but this book opened my eyes a little wider to the threat and fear of persecution the common people endure on a daily basis living under such a dictatorship.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
This is a story of two women whose lives collide in a remarkable and fateful event one afternoon on a beach in Nigeria. Years later, their worlds collide again in England.

I can’t tell much more without giving away a huge chunk of the plot. It was a rather ho-hum book for me, but it was a quick easy read between the heavier and more intense books I’ve been reading.

Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde by Rebecca Davis
This is Davis’ memoir of a period of time she lived with a former Hasidic Jew turned jujitsu master, pot-smoking, bacon-eating atheist. Davis had just broken up with boyfriend of four years when she found this apartment via Craigslist.

Her stories of living with Cosmo, the Jew, were mostly interesting and sometimes humorous. However, her recollections of her promiscuity, drug use, partying, and her knocks against God left much to be desired.

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
Lamott describes how these three simple prayers have changed how she communicates with God. This book, thankfully short, left much to be desired. Lamott basically listed all the ways you can pray–help my friend with cancer, help my son with his financial problems, help the tornado victims, etc. That’s pretty much all it was for the other sections as well.

Besides the simplicity and redundancy, Lamott, in what I assume was an attempt to not offend anyone, kept referring to “your higher power” even though she professes to follow Christ. Call it what is is, and don’t tip toe around the Truth.

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Price family heads to the Congo in the 60s as missionaries. The mother and four daughters just hope to survive the year while the dad is on a crusade to baptize everyone. Things don’t work out well.

Being to a man whose family really were missionaries in the Congo (formerly Zaire) in near the same area Kingsolver put the Price family, I’m not impressed with Kingsolver’s portrayal of missionaries, and her description of the flora and fauna of the area was quite flawed as well. The only thing I really liked about the book was the writing style, but other than that, it was a disappointment.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Mr. Fairbrother dies suddenly of an aneurysm in the sleepy little English town of Pagford, leaving a vacancy on the town’s council. This highly coveted spot leads to the undoing of many town-folk.

This book was a big disappointment coming from the Harry Potter genius. It was painfully slow in setting the scene and character development, only getting interesting for the last 10% of the novel. I would not recommend this to anyone. Save your money and your time.





I’m Not 40 Anymore!

21 09 2013

I turned 41 yesterday, hence the title. I must say, being “over the hill” has been a great ride so far. I am in far better health now than I was 20 years ago. My cholesterol continues to decrease each year and is at an all-time low of 133. I can still do 180° right and left leg splits. My 5K speed continues to get faster. Spiritually, I am more in love with the Bible than ever and find prayer calming and humbling. Professionally, I continue to revise my curriculum every year. I am not content teaching the same stuff just because it’s easier. I just started working on my MBA. In terms of behavior, I am more patient all around and am much calmer in the car. When it comes to my family, I am ridiculously blessed with an amazing husband and two incredible sons.

I am also very goal-oriented, so I decided to take stock of my “40 Things to Do in the Next 40 Years” list that I wrote a year ago. (My updated notes are in parenthesis after each item.)

Physical
1. Do 40 military style pushups at one time, no breaks. (Still working on this)
2. Successfully finish a Tough Mudder. (Tough Mudder teased us with a Nashville race in May 2013, then moved it out of state.)
3. Swim freestyle for 50 meters without stopping. (Nope, practicing would help)
4. Run a sub 30-minute 5K in an actual race. (I’ve done several races this year, but not a straightforward 5K, not yet. I have 4 more races before 2013 is over, so I’m really hoping this will happen. I ran a marathon relay not too long ago and PRd with an 8:28 minute mile at one point.)
5. Do ab ripper at least twice each week, preferably three times. (Nope)
6. Bike once each week. (Nope)
7. Run two-three times each week. (Yup! I’m averaging 10 miles per week over 4 runs)
8. Swim once each week. (Nope)
9. Always remember to wear sunscreen. (Almost always)
10. Hike the Appalachain Trail. (Maybe next decade?)
11. Still be able to do 180° right and left leg splits 40 years from now. (Yup!)

Diet/Nutrition
12. Eat at least two servings of fruit each day. (Yup! Except on my birthday; then I get all my calories from sugar and lard . . . and maybe some cheese)
13. Eat at least two servings of vegetables each day. (About half the time)
14. Remember to take all my supplements each day—multi vitamin, calcium/Vitamin D, fish oil. (Usually)
15. Cut back to one sweet/dessert item each day (except on birthdays). (I’m down to two per day which is way better than it was a year ago.)
16. Try one new recipe each month. (Yup!)
17. Drink more water. (About the same)

Spiritual
18. Fast 40 hours straight once each week. (I still fast, but not for 40 hours—my body did not take kindly to that. I was getting too dizzy and lightheaded.)
19. Memorize one scripture each week. (Sadly, nope. I do read the Bible every day, and my knowledge of scripture is growing, but I just don’t officially memorize verses.)
20. Give half our income away, probably through Compassion International child sponsorships. (Well on our way!)
21. Teach my children to pray in all circumstances. (Working on it; this will be a lifelong lesson.)
22. Teach my sons the importance of sexual purity and protecting and honoring their bodies and the bodies of any girls/women they have relationships with. (Praying about this regularly and having age-appropriate conversations as they arise.)
23. Watch my sons grow into their own faith in Christ. (Yup! So cool to see my sons coming into their own faith rather than living out simply what we tell them to do and say and believe.)
24. Go on a mission trip. (Yup! Texas in March 2013 and India in June 2013)

Mental
25. Get my MBA. (Just started my classes! Graduation = fall 2015)
26. Get my PhD. (Maybe next decade; need to finish the MBA first.)
27. Not go crazy. (Debatable)
28. Read on average one book per week. (Pretty darn close)
29. Become fluent in another language. (If sarcasm counts, I’m fluent.)
30. Learn to play the piano. (Too busy; maybe after my MBA and PhD?)

Miscellaneous
31. Have a weekly date with my love. (Desperately need to do better!)
32. Play more games with my family. (Same #32)
33. Visit all the Wonders of the World. (Five down, two to go—Petra and Angkor Wat)
34. Travel to a new country each year. (So far, so good)
35. Grow my hair out to my wedding day length. (Almost there!)
36. Join a community choir. (Too busy with #1-35)
37. Watch no more than 1 hour of TV each night, except when Dancing with the Stars goes for two hours. (Yup! I have almost cut out TV completely, probably because I’m reading so much. I honestly don’t miss it . . . except Dancing with the Stars.)
38. Re-invent/re-paint/re-design several rooms in my home. (Consulting a friend who is an interior designer is on my to do list for the summer of 2014.)
39. Build a library with floor to ceiling book shelves in my home and fill it with great literature. (Also on my—as in my husband’s—to do list for the summer of 2014.)

Most Important
40. Remember that each day is a gift and to live a life that reflects how grateful I am to be alive. (I’m better at this than I used to be, but there will always be room for improvement. Can we ever be too grateful?)





2012 Reading List

9 01 2013

I didn’t read as much as I had hoped for in 2012. My original goal was 52 books, one per week. As a working mother, that was perhaps a bit ambitious. I only made it to 40.

The first list is the books I read listed chronologically. The second list, ordered by my rating and preference, gives a brief synopsis of each book followed by my opinion.

Overall, my favorite non-fiction read was 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker, and my favorite fiction was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I also discovered three new (as in new-to-me) authors I can’t wait read more from: Jen Hatmaker, A.J. Jacobs, and Stephen Lawhead. Leave me a comment on your favorite books. I will read just about anything as long as it’s good: fiction, non-fiction, historical, sy-fy, young adult, Christian, memoirs, mystery . . .

1. Season of Betrayal by Margaret Lowrie Robertson
2. The Five Languages of Apology by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas
3. The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
4. The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs
5. The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel
6. Walking Ghost Phase by David Daugherty
7. Off the Deep End by W. Hodding Carter
8. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
9. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
10. Dear Stangers by Meg Mullins
11. In the Arms of Grace by LeChristine Hai
12. The Hidden Girl by Lola Rein Kaufman
13. The Girl Who Survived by Bronia Brandman
14. Swimming with Crocodiles by Will Chaffey
15. The Wedding Letters by Jason F. Wright
16. The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright
17. Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs
18. House by Frank Peretti
19. Illusion by Frank Peretti
20. The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
21. Just a Minute by Wes Stafford
22. Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson
23. The Book of Vice by Peter Sagal
24. Eve by Elissa Elliott
25. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
26. Running for My Life by Lopepe (Lopez) Lomong
27. The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner
28. Goodbye is Not Forever by Amy George
29. Hood by Stephen Lawhead
30. The Kill Order by James Dashner
31. The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Thirteenth) by Lemony Snicket
32. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
33. Breaking Free by Beth Moore
34. Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead
35. Tuck by Stephen Lawhead
36. Ana’s Story by Jenna Bush
37. Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose
38. Radical by David Platt
39. The Paradise War by Stephen Lawhead
40. The Bible

The Bible
Yes, this book will always be at the top of my reading list. This marks year four of reading through the entire thing, and I never get tired of it. In fact, the more I read it, the more I desire to read more. It’s a wonderful circle. I continue to be challenged, rebuked, and encouraged, and I hope I always will.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
In an attempt to simplify her life, Jen Hatmaker came up with a carefully crafted list of seven areas of her life in which to mutiny against excess: food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress.

Like Hatmaker, I deeply desire simplifying my life, getting rid of stuff, living on less, and giving more to those who really need it. I am deeply intrigued by Hatmaker’s ideas on how to accomplish this and look forward to my own mutiny against excess, though I am not sure what it looks like specifically, yet.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Randy Pausch, a former professor of virtual reality courses at Carnegie Mellon University, writes his “last lecture,” literally and figuratively. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given just a few more months to live, Pausch puts his thoughts, wisdom, and advice in this short, sweet, easy read.

His words offer such insight and understanding, they bring us back to a world in which we should respect everyone, treat others with common courtesy, and pursue your own dreams to the fullest extent. This is a book I need to read at least once a year. You can also find the actual Last Lecture Pausch gave at Carnegie Mellon on YouTube.

Breaking Free by Beth Moore
Moore takes us through a Bible study on “discovering the victory of total surrender” to God’s design for our lives.

I realize I’m probably in the minority here, but I’m normally not a Beth Moore fan. I’ve read other books/Bible studies of hers which left me unimpressed. Most of this book didn’t do much for me either. However, the reason it is this high on my list has to with the last few chapters on taking our thoughts captive. I re-read this section every few days to remind myself of the truths and promises of God’s word on this topic. The way Moore presents it was new and captivated me.

Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs
After a bout of tropical pneumonia, Jacobs felt compelled to take on another monumental task—become as healthy as possible from head to toe. Over two years, he read countless health blogs and books, consulted with dozens of doctors and health experts across the country, and tried just about everything he could to maximize his health.

Witty to the core, Jacobs presents information across the spectrum from pseudo-science health fads that probably do more danger than good to research on peer-reviewed scientific studies published in JAMA. Among the dozens of topics Jacobs covers are toxins, acupuncture, juicing, noise pollution, barefoot running, and how to go to the bathroom properly—and there is a better way than what most Americans do. This book is insightful and humorous, and I would recommend it for anyone remotely concerned about their health.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Narrated by Death, The Book Thief is a novel about Liesel Meminger, a young girl living with a foster family in Nazi Germany. This is the story of how she became the Book Thief and how her love and hatred of words saved herself and others.

I think this is my new favorite work of fiction. I finished its 550 pages in just a few days—including many late nights followed by sleepy mornings. It is brilliantly written, captivating, amusing, and heart-wrenching.

The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner
Wagner explores “why even our best schools don’t teach the new survival skills (critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration across networks and leading by influence, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurialism, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, and curiosity and imagination) our children need and what we can do about it.

I must admit that I did not have high hopes for this book as it was required professional development reading over the summer for my work. While the first half was rather dry and filled with “old news” by now on the state of the American school system and all its failures, the second half had me intrigued, especially the anecdotal stories about a few schools who “get it.” I remember reading about these schools thinking, “I want to teach there. I wish we could do that where I teach.” I was inspired by their innovation and deeply challenged to rethink how I teach and what I teach.

Radical by David Platt
Platt asks us to consider how our pursuit of the American dream—more, bigger, better everything—has waylaid our pursuit of the life Christ wants us to live.

I most appreciated Platt’s challenge for his readers to join the Radical Experiment, a one-year journey into authentic discipleship in which one commits to: 1) pray for the entire world, 2) read through the entirety of God’s Word, 3) sacrifice our money for a specific purpose, 4) intentionally spend time in another context, and 5) commit our lives to multiplying community. I hope to take up this challenge in 2013.

Just a Minute by Wes Stafford
CEO and President of Compassion International, a child-advocacy sponsorship group, wrote this book of stories based on his years of travel to the world’s poorest areas and coming back to America to report on what he experienced. He is convinced that if “God stands a child before you, for even just a minute, it is a divine appointment” from which we have the chance to build it up or tear it down.

Stories came from internationally known figures like Nelson Mandela and Colin Powell as well as from those children fighting to survive amidst trash piles in the slums of the world. After each little snippet, I found myself praying, “Please, God. Help me do better.” I highly recommend this book to every parent, teacher, doctor—anyone who is involved with children in any regard. Sometimes all we have is just one minute to make a profound difference in the life of a child.

The Five Languages of Apology by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas
Written by the same author of The Five Love Languages, this book offered a perspective on different types of apologies and why some apologies seem sincere to the giver but not the receiver. While I felt it was mainly a collection of redundant examples on how to apologize, I did appreciate the chapter on Learning to Forgive. Personally, accepting an apology is often more difficult than giving an apology.

“Forgiveness means that you will not seek revenge, that you do not demand justice, that you will not let the offense stand between the two of you. Forgiveness results in reconciliation. That does not mean that trust is immediately restored. Reconciliation means that the two of you have put the issue behind you and are now facing the future together.”

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
Jacobs, a self-proclaimed agnostic, attempts to live according to all biblical mandates and guidelines as literally as possible for one full year. What started as an “intellectual adventure of the most influential book in the world” became much more. Jacobs’ writing reminds me of Dave Barry—humorous and yet always with a moral or lesson close at hand.

My favorite line of the book comes in the introduction. “As with most biblical journeys, my year has taken me on detours I would never have predicted . . . I didn’t expect to, as the Psalmist says, take refuge in the Bible and rejoice in it.” My own experience echoes this sentiment exactly.

Goodbye is Not Forever by Amy George
This is the true story of George’s life. Her father was arrested by the KGB when she was a baby. As WWII progressed, she and her two siblings and mother were taken by cattle car to a slave labor camp. Surviving the horrors of Nazi Germany, the family finally emigrates to America where they start life anew in every way possible, most importantly, as followers of Christ.

Like every other Holocaust and WWII survivor story I’ve ever read, this one was fascinating. Even through such tragic events, hope remains. I am always reminded to be thankful for the ridiculously blessed life I live.

House by Frank Peretti
Two couples wander into an old “inn” in the middle of nowhere Alabama after freak car “accidents.” Little did they know they were wandering into their worst nightmares, literally.

Mastermind of supernatural storytelling, Peretti does not disappoint with this one. Though it’s a classic good versus evil plot, there are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. I read the 372 pages (hard copy) in less than 24 hours. It was all the more real to me personally because of a dream I had (I Am The Light) on this same idea of dark and light just days before even hearing about this book.

Running for My Life by Lopepe (Lopez) Lomong
Lomong was kidnapped, at age 6, during a church service with his family and taken to a rebel camp in Sudan. As one of the smaller boys, he was passed over for training as a future soldier and left to fend for himself. Just a few weeks later, Lomong’s “three angels” helped him escape, and they made their way to a refugee camp in Kenya, where he spent the next 10 years of his life. He eventually makes it to America as one of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan, however, his story continues on through competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics on the American track team.

Lomong’s story is incredible. How this young man never lost his faith in God taking care of him amidst some of the worst of conditions possible for a human to live in, is inspiring to say the least.

Eve by Elissa Elliott
This is a fictional account of the Genesis stories of the creation of Adam and Eve, their banishment from the Garden of Eden, and the death of Abel. Eve adheres pretty closely to the Biblical account, although Elliott takes great liberty in the details, as one would have to.

I really enjoy reading historical fiction of Biblical stories and people, especially the women. This book did not disappoint. It was well written and much more thought provoking than I initially expected.

Ana’s Story by Jenna Bush
This is a true account, told through Bush, of the story of Ana, a 17-year-old mother living with AIDS in a third world Central American country. Ana’s life was difficult on: growing up in poverty, living with her abusive grandmother and her live-in boyfriend who also molested Ana and her younger sister, living with the secret of AIDS, and becoming a young mother.

Bush met Ana while working with UNICEF after graduating from college. This is a very quick and easy read, but an intriguing story nonetheless.

Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson
Stephanie and her husband, Christian, were in a Cessna plane crash. He suffered burns over 30% of his body, she had 80%. She spent three months in a medically-induced coma as her body fought all odds to survive.

Stephanie’s story of overcoming death, fear, unimaginable pain, rejection, and judgment is inspiring to put it mildly. I appreciated her honesty as she shared her struggles throughout her recovery as well as how her faith not only saw her through the ordeal, but strengthened as a result.

Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose
Called to Indonesia as a young missionary bride, Rose sets out to serve the lost in the years leading up to WWII. Once the war began, Rose and her husband were imprisoned in different POW camps. Suffering torture, abuse, malnutrition, and other illness, Rose survived to tell of her story.

I’ve read many books of WWII holocaust survivors, but this was my first glimpse into the life of an American POW in a Japenese internment camp/prison. Rose’s faith through her ordeal is inspiring. I’ve found myself thinking some of her same prayers lately, though my trials are far less severe, intense, agonizing than hers.

In the Arms of Grace by LeChristine Hai
LeChristine Hai was a child of the Vietnam War. Taken to an orphanage with her brother because her mother couldn’t offer them a safe life amidst the war in their homeland, this is Hai’s “rags to riches” story. Along with 100 other Vietnamese orphans, she escaped to the US, was immediately adopted and her life transformed. It was a long, twisted, depraved, sad, and deeply burdened life. Hai’s story is also one of grace, forgiveness, and finding peace and strength in God.

Hai’s is a fascinating tale—disturbing, sad, and sickening at some points, but filled with grace, forgiveness and sacrificial love at others. I couldn’t put this one down once I started, and as with any good autobiography, I now want to learn more about the Vietnam War and read more stories of those affected by it.

Hood, Scarlet, and Tuck by Stephen Lawhead
A spin on the classic tale of Robin Hood takes on a new life, new characters, and new meaning in an unexpected setting. These three books comprise the “Raven King” trilogy telling this epic story.

I always enjoy a well-written piece of fiction, and Lawhead’s trilogy was a nice break from some heavier non-fiction I’ve been reading. I enjoyed this one so much, I will probably devour his other dozen or so books once I get my hands on them.

The Paradise War by Stephen Lawhead
Two Oxford students find themselves in a mystical place where two worlds meet—our present world and the “Otherworld” of the ancient Celts. Passing through a vortal, they find themselves in the ancient world and in the middle of a fight between good and evil with cosmic catastrophe in the making.

I found this Lawhead book on our book shelf, and having enjoyed his Hood trilogy, I picked this one up. I enjoy his story lines set in ancient England as well as his writing style. I imagine I will go through all of his books during 2013.

The Wedding Letters by Jason F. Wright
In this fictional love story, Noah hits Rachel with his truck, and the two later fall in love. In the style of Nicholas Sparks, their road to the altar is filled with twists and turns.

I’m not one for fictional love stories, but what made this one unique were its underlying Christian values of what true love is. This was not just a story of love but also of honor and forgiveness. Wright’s concept of “wedding letters” introduced in this book is also a marvelous gift to any newly married couple.

The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright
This is the first of Wright’s book about the Cooper family. The three children gather together after their parents die on the same night. They discover a box of letters their father wrote to their mother, once each week on Wednesday, over the course of their marriage. Memories are shared and secrets are uncovered.

I would recommend both works of fiction by Wright, but I would read this one first as it is chronologically the first. The characters and backstory are introduced and will make reading The Wedding Letters more meaningful.

Swimming with Crocodiles by Will Chaffey
Will Chaffey had just graduated from high school and decided to travel and work in Australia before heading to college. While on the continent, Chaffey met another adventurer, and together they attempted a trek across some of the most remote and dangerous primitive land in the Australia outback.

Reminiscent of Into the Wild, Swimming with Crocodiles was a fun adventure story. Chaffey’s detail of the trek, as well as little pieces of trivia regarding the land and creatures inhabiting Australia’s outback were intriguing as well.

Off the Deep End by W. Hodding Carter
Carter tells his story of “trying to swim his way through a midlife crisis.” An NCAA Division III All American swimmer in college, Carter decided to begin swimming again and attempt to qualify for the Olympic Trials in 2008.

Having just become addicted to triathlons at age 39, and being an incredibly poor swimmer, I enjoyed reading Carter’s story of personal struggles leading to personal triumph through swimming. Not only did working on achieving physical goals help him through his crisis, it also helped strengthen his marriage and his relationship with his kids.

The Girl Who Survived by Bronia Brandman
Bronia was 11 when the Germans invaded her hometown in Poland during WWII. This is Bronia’s story of courage, luck, determination, and kindness from strangers who helped her survive the horrors of Auschwitz.

I am always fascinated by true accounts of Holocaust survivors. While this was a short story, really written for a much younger audience, I still found it fascinating and worth my time.

The Hidden Girl by Lola Rein Kaufman
Lola’s family was killed by the Gestapo, and she was left to fend for herself against the Nazi invasion in her native Poland. This is Lola’s story of having to depend on the kindness of strangers as she survived WWII hidden in a dirt hole.

Like The Girl Who Survived, this was another short account, written for a young adult audience, of how young children survived the horrors of losing their entire family, going into hiding, concentration camps, Nazi raids, and more atrocities during WWII.

The Book of Vice by Peter Sagal
Sagal takes the reader on a delightful and enlightening trip from the strip clubs on the Strip in Vegas to its gambling halls to the “Swingers Shack” to the kitchen of Alinea, the hottest molecular gastronomy restaurant in the country—all in the name of “research.” Sagal explores the vices of humankind, how we got there, what we do while we’re there, and why we continue.

Humorous and insightful, it’s fun reading this book in the manner in which Sagal speaks as he hosts NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” news quiz show. The anecdotes were amusing and the actual research and psychology behind why we do what we do when we know we shouldn’t do it was interesting.

Walking Ghost Phase by David Daugherty
A group of students take a summer trip to Washington, D.C. before starting college, only to be there during a nuclear attack. They are mortally wounded with radiation poisoning. This is the story of how they come to terms with their imminent death.

I must admit upfront, that I work with Daugherty. This was his first published book, and I really did enjoy it. The plot was interesting with enough twists and turns to keep me not wanting to put it down. I hope he continues to write.

The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel
Koppel, a young journalist in New York City, found a decades-old red leather diary among a dumpster of forgotten treasures from the bowels of her New York apartment building. She began reading the story of a young lady, Florence Wolfson, and her life from ages 14-19. Koppel and Wolfson became kindred spirits through their journey of retelling Wolfson’s life story.

Upon finishing the book in March, two interesting events occurred. One, I learned Wolfson had died just three days earlier, age 96. Two, I was getting ready to head to New York for a few days, chaperoning a group of high school students. I had walked many of the streets Wolfson frequented in her youth, but I saw them through a different lens on that trip. What a difference a story can make in how you see the world around you—a world you thought you knew—in a different light.

The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs
Author of The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs challenged himself to read through the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. Taking a little over a year, this is a humorous compilation of random facts he learned as well as insightful look into his relationships with those who supported him—some more than others—during this process.

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
Dr. Elwin Ransom is kidnapped and transported to Mars where his captors intend to plunder the planet of its natural resources and offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the strange creatures who inhabit the planet. Ransom escapes and falls into the hands of the creatures he was trying to avoid.

As with any of Lewis’ works, Out of the Silent Planet, the first book of his Space Trilogy, offers many a unique allegory between Christianity and life on the planet of Malacandra as well as social commentary on human society.

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
Emerald Torrington prepares to celebrate her birthday with a few dear friends at Sterne, her home in remote England. A terrible train wreck brings dozens of passengers to Sterne’s doors seeking shelter for the night. During the evening that ensues, nothing goes according to plan. The birthday celebration is ruined by a wicked parlor game and the youngest Torrington decides that this was the perfect time for her Great Undertaking.

A fun, quirky novel, the setting and characters reminded me of Downton Abbey. The Great Undertaking, in particular, was quite comical, and the ending gives a surprising twist.

Season of Betrayal by Margaret Lowrie Robertson
Lara McCauley goes to Beirut in 1983, against her better judgment, with her journalist husband. Her marriage disintegrating, she becomes friends with a Polish journalist and gets a part-time job as a broadcast film editor. Naïve to the core, she unwittingly sets in a motion a deadly set of events in an already war-torn country.

I doubt I would have picked this book up had I realized it was a novel at the onset. I thought it was a true-story, but it is not. This novel was somewhat interesting, but I had a hard time getting into the main character, Lara. While a victim of circumstance, she also created plenty of her own calamities through sheer stupidity.

Illusion by Frank Peretti
Dane loses his wife of 40 years, Mandy, in a fiery car accident. Through a top-secret government project, she really doesn’t die, but comes back as her 19-year-old self in present times and must learn to adjust all the while possessing strange new “meta-physical” talents she can’t comprehend.

I normally like Peretti’s work, but this was not one of them. I found the long descriptions of magic shows and tricks dull and redundant. I skimmed over much of the book and was a little disappointed in the ending; it was almost anti-climactic in its brevity.

The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Thirteenth) by Lemony Snicket
The Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, find themselves on an island inhabited by a group of castaways and led by a mysterious man named Ishmael. Here, they discover more secrets relating to their dead parents.

I had read the first 12 books years ago and then forgot about the final one. Caleb began reading the series this summer which is what spurred me on to finally finishing this one. The first book was clever, but each one after followed the same formula, and they became a little too predictable. They may be fun reads for young adults, but it’s not a series I would read again.

The Kill Order by James Dashner
Sun flares hit the earth causing most of mankind to die. Of the few survivors, who form settlements in what is left of America, a disease of rage and lunacy takes hold.

This was definitely one of the more forgettable books I’ve read this year. I skipped much of it as it was sadly repetitive. I can only reading so many pages of how two guys ran down a hall from their would-be captors and dove through a door. This is the prequel to the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series; though I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it through those three books.

Dear Strangers by Meg Mullins
Oliver’s father died unexpectantly and days later, the baby they were to adopt was given to another family. Oliver spends the next 21 years searching for his almost-brother, much to the chagrin of his sister and re-married mother. In a strange turn of events, Oliver finds this young man and confronts him, only to lose him to a gun-shot wound to the head from his step-father.

This work of fiction was awkward, painfully slow, and a chore to finish. It’s not one I’d recommend to anyone.





40 Things

20 09 2012

 

40 & Fabulous

40 & Fabulous

I turn 40 today, and until a short while ago, I dreaded being that number.  It was so old.  Half of my life was over.  Then it hit me . . . I was at the age where I realized I turned into my parents.  Upon reflection I realized that wasn’t a bad thing.  How blessed am I to be able to say that?My attitude began to turn around from being negative and dreading this birthday to wanting to celebrate in grand fashion, which we did.

As the day approached, I also began to think about the next half of my life.  What do I want to accomplish?  Who do I want to be?

So being an ultra-organized, detailed-oriented, goal-setting, to-do queen, I did what came naturally.  I created a list.

This wasn’t merely a Bucket List.  I already have one of those.  There is a difference in this new list and my bucket list.  My new list is realistic.  My bucket list isn’t.  For example, I really want to throw a live grenade and watch something blow up.  I know that will never happen.

My new list is comprised of things I want to do in the next 40 years of my life.

Physical
1.       Do 40 military style pushups at one time, no breaks.
2.       Successfully finish a Tough Mudder.
3.       Swim freestyle for 50 meters without stopping.
4.       Run a sub 30-minute 5K in an actual race.
5.       Do P90x ab ripper at least twice each week, preferably three times.
6.       Bike once each week.
7.       Run two-three times each week.
8.       Swim once each week.
9.       Always remember to wear sunscreen.
10.   Hike the Appalachain Trail.
11.   Still be able to do 180° right and left leg splits 40 years from now.

40 & Fabulous (and still quite flexible)

40 & Fabulous (and still quite flexible)

Diet/Nutrition

12.   Eat at least two servings of fruit each day.
13.   Eat at least two servings of vegetables each day.
14.   Remember to take all my supplements each day—multi vitamin, calcium/Vitamin D, fish oil.
15.   Cut back to one sweet/dessert item each day (except on birthdays).
16.   Try one new recipe each month.
17.   Drink more water.

Spiritual

18.   Fast 40 hours straight once each week.
19.   Memorize one scripture each week.
20.   Give half my income away, probably through Compassion International child sponsorships.
21.   Teach my children to pray in all circumstances.
22.   Teach my sons the importance of sexual purity and protecting and honoring their bodies and the bodies of any girls/women they have relationships with.
23.   Watch my sons grow into their own faith in Christ.
24.   Go on a mission trip.

Mental

25.   Get my MBA.
26.   Get my PhD.
27.   Not go crazy.
28.   Read on average one book per week.
29.   Become fluent in another language.
30.   Learn to play the piano.

 Miscellaneous

31.   Have a weekly date with my love.
32.   Play more games with my family.
33.   Visit all the Wonders of the World.
34.   Travel to a new country each year.
35.   Grow my hair out to my wedding day length.
36.   Join a community choir.
37.   Watch no more than 1 hour of TV each night, except when Dancing with the Stars goes for two hours.
38.   Re-invent/re-paint/re-design several rooms in my home.
39.   Build a library with floor to ceiling book shelves in my home and fill it with great literature.

Most Important

40.   Remember that each day is a gift and to live a life that reflects how grateful I am to be alive.





Left to Tell

17 06 2012

Left to Tell by Imaculee Ilibagiza

Left to Tell by Imaculee Ilibagiza

Two years ago, my mother-in-law handed me her copy of “Left to Tell” by Imaculee Ilibagiza. Little did I know how immensely this book would affect my life.

Imaculee was a college student in 1994 when the Rwandan genocide took place.  She was the lone survivor of her family during the short, devastating war that took place between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes.  For over three months, Imaculee was hidden in a 3’x4’ bathroom—along with seven other women—of a family friend, a Hutu pastor.  While those who slaughtered her mother, father, and three brothers with machetes and spears laughed and danced right outside the bathroom where she was hiding, Imaculee called out to God, and He met her.  “Left to Tell” is the story of not just the events of the Rwandan Holocaust of 1994, but more importantly, it is Imaculee’s story of the power of anger, hope, surrender, prayer, forgiveness, and obedience.

Reading the book was incredible and powerful and brought me to tears on several occasions, but I recently had the privilege of hearing Imaculee speak at the Christian Scholars Conference that was held in Nashville a week ago.  I pray that I will be able to get my hands on a recording of her talk, because there were so many things she said that I need to remind myself of on a daily basis.  I really just need to read her story again.

The Power of Anger

Imaculee spoke of the intense anger she had toward those who were encouraging and committing the senseless killings—friends, neighbors, teachers, elders.  There were even college-educated men with PhDs who were speaking on the national radio reminding the Interahamwe, the group responsible for the massacre, not to forget about killing the children.  “A child of a cockroach (referring to the Tutsis) is still a cockroach.  A child of a snake is still a snake.  We must cleanse our country of them all.”

Imaculee said, “you can grow the head, but if you don’t grow the heart, too, we can create monsters.”  This is indeed what happened within the borders of her native Rwanda.

I doubt there is anyone who would deny Imaculee had every right be angry.  Her anger consumed her every waking thought.  It weighed her down.  Once she was able to let go, she felt like she could float on air.  “Now what?” she asked herself.  “Now that I am not burdened by anger, what do I fill my time with?”  She chose to try to learn English.  She didn’t just simply choose not to be angry any more, but she replaced the all-consuming power of it with something beneficial.  Her former burden became freedom. 

The Power of Hope

In the early days of the genocide, the pastor’s house was searched several times, top to bottom, inside and out.  Never had Imaculee felt such fear—body-numbing, evil-pervading fear.  During the first search, she cried out to God to let her know that He was there.  Killers had been in and out of the house for two hours, and toward the end, a killer had his hand on the bathroom doorknob.  Instead of turning it and discovering eight hiding Tutsi women, he let go and told the pastor, “You’re a good Hutu.  You wouldn’t hide anyone.”  Then he left with the others.

In that moment, Imaculee felt the presence of God in a more real way than she’d ever known before.  She knew God was not just with her, but in her as well.  From that moment on, she had a hope like none other.  If God was with and in her, He was with and in the killers.  If God could reveal himself to her in her distress, God could reveal himself to the killers.  She called on the LORD Almighty, and he was there.  God asked her if she knew what almighty meant.  “It means I can do ANTYHING!”   And part of anything was resucing Imaculee and the other women.  Part of anything included giving her hope in an otherwise hopeless situation.

The Power of Surrender

Once Imaculee found hope and let go of her anger, she completely surrendered herself to Christ.  Through her surrender, she realized that eternity is much bigger than her life and what was going on around her.  She began to focus on what eternity with Christ meant, and that made her life seem like a blip on the radar.  It was there for but a second in the grand scheme of eternity.  It didn’t matter anymore.  Eternity mattered.  Surrendering to Christ’s will, even if that meant a gruesome death by machete, was all that mattered.

The Power of Prayer

Reading about and listening to Imaculee talk about her time spent in prayer in that bathroom was fascinating.  She had her father’s rosary with her, and she would pray it hundreds of times a day.  She spoke of being transported into another realm, and hours would slip by, but it seemed as if just a few minutes to her.  Her time in prayer and reading scripture brought her a peace and strength that our human minds cannot fathom.  Yes, she was hiding for her life.  Yes, her killers were often times just feet away outside the pastor’s home.  Yes, if found, she would probably be raped then die a slow, painful, gruesome death by machete.  Yes, her killers were former friends and neighbors.  And yes, she found peace through it all through prayer. 

The Power of Forgiveness

Imaculee’s words on forgiveness were the most powerful and life-changing for me.  I wept openly in the airport of Santo Domingo, Domincan Republic as I read the final chapters of “Left to Tell” when Imaculee recounted her story of forgiving one of the men who killed several members of her family.  That she was able to forgive is remarkable enough, but how she came to this forgiveness is also remarkable.

In hiding, Imaculee would recite the rosary for hours.  For a while, whenever she came to the line in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us,” she would skip over it.  She did not want to lie to God about wanting to forgive those who killed her family.  God eventually reminded her of these very important words, and Imaculee could no longer ignore them.  God reminded her that he could do ANYTHING.  This anything included forgiveness.

God reminded Imaculee of Jesus’ words as he hung on the cross, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”  As those words penetrated her mind and heart, she realized that her killers didn’t know what they were doing.  They were lost sheep following a lost leader.  This realization not only helped Imaculee say the words in the prayer, but helped her believe them as well.  She began praying for the killers.  And when the time came for her to visit one of them in jail, she forgave.

The jailor who was with her during this visit was outraged by her act of forgiveness.  His wife, children, and other family members were also slaughtered by the Interahamwe.  He would beat the prisoners each day and go home angry, depressed, and defeated only to repeat this cycle the next day.  And the next.  And the next.  Only after seeing Imaculee forgive this one man, did he eventually realize forgiveness was even possible.  He later thanked Imaculee.  Seeing her forgive gave him the hope and courage to forgive.

The Power of Obedience

When Imaculee’s father implored her to go into hiding, she had a decision to make.  She could stay with her family which she desperately wanted to do.  Or she could be obedient to her father.  As she left, her father gave her his rosary.  In that moment, she knew she would never see him again.  She chose to obey anyway.  Because of her obedience in that one moment, Imaculee lives.  Her family died horrible deaths, but she lived to share her story with the world.  A story that is changing lives.  A story that has impacted my life in numerous ways.  A story that would not be here today were it not for her obedience to her earthly father and her heavenly father.