Thursday, August 26, 2010

book comments 32

So many books, so little time. I'm terribly behind on my books comments -- and those of you who enjoy reading these reviews might be a bit disappointed in this one. I've put off reviewing for so long, I've amassed quite a list of finished reads, and I don't have time to review each of them as thoroughly as I'd like. So, my apologies for the following superficial remarks... ;o)

"The Walking Dead, Vols. 5-8" by Robert Kirkman et al.
--continuing the story of Rick and his friends, all trying to survive the zombie apocalypse, the collapse of civilization, and their own degeneration into savagery
--addresses the question of how zombified we humans can be, even when we're not really zombies
--plot takes some turns I don't like; Kirkman is definitely not nice to his characters
--> increases UPDA value
--This graphic novel series is being turned into film; it will premier on AMC in October, and I am trying to figure out how I'm gonna watch it without cable. ;o)
--highly recommend to genre fans

"Hannibal Rising" by Thomas Harris
--fascinating tale of how Hannibal Lecter became the charming, highly intelligent cannibal that he is
--totally believable, totally sympathetic main character
--fascinating historical fiction
--reminded me again of how brilliant Anthony Hopkins is
--highly recommend to genre and Lecter fans

"Dragon's Blood" by Jane Yolen
--fun YA fantasy about a boy and his dragon
--I read this in high school, kept it for years with the idea of reading it again, finally got around to it when I wondered if I should keep keeping it -- and decided that yes, it's keep-around-able.
--recommend to YA fantasy fans

"Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, Books 1-3" by Dean Koontz, Kevin J. Anderson, and Ed Gorman
--I wrote lots of nice things about this series here.
--great read from some incredibly talented people
--terrific take on the Frankenstein legend
--highly recommend

"The Descent" and "Deeper" by Jeff Long
--premise: Hell is a real place, a globe-spanning, subterranean cave system inhabited by a race of creatures who've inspired all of our myths and fantasies about Satan and his domain -- a race of sub-humans who just might be our ancestors.
--totally fascinating story of what happens when modern humanity tries to invade that underground realm
--both novels = highly UPDA
--highly recommend

"The Snow Queen" by Joan D. Vinge
--an otherworldly sci-fi fantasy of Summer pitted against Winter, love against hate, good(?) against evil(?)
--what I call classic sci-fi: concerned with telling an epic sci-fi yarn, not with courting the common denominator of reader expectation
--hard to get through at some points, but still a satisfying story
--recommend to sci-fi buffs

"NorseCODE" by Greg van Eekhout
--modern fantasy based on Norse mythology
--not generally my area of interest (I'm more a Greek pantheon sort of girl), but I did enjoy the Valkyries
--a couple of vivid main characters, quite a few cookie-cutters in the supporting cast
--enjoyable to see how the author wove elements of myth into everyday modern life
--neither recommend nor un-recommend ;o)

"Fledgling" by Octavia Butler
--Sorry, fellow Twilight fans.....but this is the most original vampire story I've ever read. ;o)
--Warning: typical Twilight fans probably won't enjoy this.
--I won't tell any details, because I don't want to give anything away. Just trust me: You've never read a vampire story like this.
--very adult themes
--highly recommend to genre fans

"Beauty" by Sheri S. Tepper
--a fairy tale incorporating Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, the frog prince, and a host of others -- a tale spanning a millennium...or 100 years, depending on your point of view ;o)
--fun read, kind of hard to get through in a couple of places (mostly when the author waxes political)
--a light-hearted read with several strangely dark, gritty moments
--recommend to genre fans (maybe)

"The Light of Eidon" by Karen Hancock
--high fantasy tale of a religiously devoted young man given over to slavery by his brothers, fighting his way to fame in a gladiator-style arena, and saving a nation -- all while coming to a true brand faith he never even dreamed of
--a good read, although I got frustrated with the MC several times because he refused to see what was right in front of the reader's eyes
--> not a conceptual problem but a writer problem; the author dropped too many hints too early on
--still, I enjoyed the story enough to be open for sequels if there are such

Book Count To-Date: 47.5

book comments 31

"Reimagining Church" by Frank Viola

If a book like "Pagan Christianity?" (PC?) has a sequel, then this is it. If PC? is the book that de-constructs a person's previously conceived thoughts on the condition/origin of what is considered, in our modern world, The Church, then "Reimagining Church" presents concepts that aid in re-construction.

If PC? takes away hope, then RC gives it back again.

As I've said before, PC? repeated some information I already knew and filled in some gaps in my understanding of church history. Not only that, it reinforced quite a few beliefs I have held for years (pretty much since I grew old enough and mature enough to recognize interpersonal and hierarchical problems in the churches I've had personal experience with). It has also helped me remove some non-Christo-centric filters with which I've been viewing scripture, Christianity, and my fellow Christians for most of my life.

I'm still processing. I'm still trying to drop all filters and view things through one single filter: Jesus Christ. He -- and yes, I mean his words and teachings, but mostly I mean his Person -- is the only filter I need. He is the only filter I want. And until I get rid of every single filter except for him, I will not be able to see other people the way he sees them.

Anyway. PC? made me aware of my desperate need to drop all filters except the filter of Christ. "Reimagining Church" is one of many tools God has given me to help in this process. It's helping me see the church -- everything she is and does -- through the single filter of Jesus Christ.

And that's all I can really say about it. If you want to know more, you should read these books for yourself. I don't have the words.

Book Count To-Date: 31.5

the spiritual application of kitty litter

So, yesterday I was cleaning out the litterboxes and having a hard time of it because Merry wouldn't just leave me to it.

Merry, if you don't already know, is the kitten we (read: I, against the husband's better judgment) rescued from the dim, despairing reaches of our parking lot in June. We estimate that she is now 4-5 months old -- and, as I've described elsewhere, she is a tiny automaton with fur, powered by a boundless energy source and stuck in a redundant play-eat-sleep loop.

Pippin, our five-year-old tabby, remains unimpressed with the new addition, but they both seem to enjoy chasing each other.

Anyway, as soon as I started cleaning out the litterboxes yesterday, up bounded the little automaton to investigate what I was about. As I scooped unmentionable stinkiness into a plastic trash bag, she craned her neck over the edge of one litterbox to sniff.

"I'm working here," I told her.

Ignoring me in all-too-familiar cat fashion, Merry came closer and stuck her head into the sack containing the stinkiness.

"That won't smell good," I warned.

Unconcerned, Merry investigated the contents another moment or two.

"I really don't need your help," I said.

Merry withdrew her head from the sack, clambered into the larger of the two litterboxes, and promptly pooped in it.

"I am trying to work here!!!"

But, alas, my protests were for naught. The kitten finished her toilet, made a few half-hearted scratches that didn't half cover up the mess, and raced away to find the older kitty and torment her with some game or other.

Leaving me, of course, with a fresh mess to clean up.

And that's when I thought, "This must be how God feels."

Not that I'm setting myself up as God over my cats. (Anyone who knows cats and/or God knows what a laughable prospect that would be.) I'm more like the kitten. Actually, I think we're all more like the kitten.

God cares for us. He cuddles us and feeds us and gives us a place to sleep. He talks to us and listens to us when we cry. He puts special things into our lives simply for the sheer joy of seeing us happy. He loves watching us be what we're created to be.

And he cleans up our messes all the time.

And more often than not, we humans get in his way while he's doing it.

We don't leave well enough alone. We make a mess of our lives -- and maybe we ask him to help clean it up; maybe we don't. Either way, God steps in to do what's necessary to clean up the mess...

...but we don't trust him to do it. We come back to it to see what he's doing with it. We poke and nudge and prod: Are you doing this right? We try to cover it up, even though there's really no hiding it. We stick our noses into what he's already cleaned up -- even as he tells us he doesn't need our help and warns us that we probably don't want to smell this.

And sometimes, instead of letting him finish his work, we clamber back into the situation and mess it up all over again.


Pippin, our adult cat, also gets curious when I clean out the litterboxes. She watches me carry the plastic sack to the kitty cubby; she might even jump up into the cubby so as to get a closer look. But she sits back, watching. She doesn't stick her nose into what I've already cleaned, and she certainly doesn't climb into the box to do business in it while I'm trying to work. She knows that if she just lets me finish, she'll have a nice, fresh box and won't have to smell messes again for awhile.

That, of course, is where the effectiveness of the metaphor ends: A litterbox is *meant* to be messed up over and over again. A human life, however, is not designed for continual ruin. God wants to clean up our lives for us -- and then be there to help us keep them clean.

I want to mature so I can learn to sit back and let him do it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

focus, people!

“I believe in justice: but I am not a preacher of the gospel of justice, but the Gospel of Christ who calls us to justice. I believe in love, but I am not a preacher of the gospel of love, but the Gospel of Christ who calls us to love. I am committed to peace, but I am not a preacher of the gospel of peace, but the Gospel of Christ who calls us to peace. I believe in the value of the simple life, but I am not the preacher of the simple life, but of the Gospel of Christ that calls us to the simple life. Let us beware of the ultimate plagiarism of borrowing some great concepts from Jesus then running off proclaiming these concepts and not sharing the Christ [who] empowers these concepts.”

--Myron Augsburger
Former President of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, 1983.

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most pick themselves up and hurry on as if nothing had happened."

--Winston Churchill