Category Archives: What I Read

Guest Book Review: Eve, by Elissa Elliot

This post courtesy of my lovely wife, a book review of Eve: A Novel of the First Woman, by Elissa Elliot, which I received as part of the Ooze Select Blogger program.


Eve For those of us who are women and/or looking for the female experience in the biblical narrative, many times we come up short.  The central figures of most biblical stories are males despite there being many female characters woven into the fabric of the entire biblical story.  As a woman you begin to wonder what life was like for all the women who are mentioned.  This novel is a refreshing story about what the first woman’s life may have been like.  The author takes care to use actual historical information, with a certain amount of literary creativity, to create a picture of what the lives of this first family may have been like from the perspective of all the women of the family. 

The style is much like that of The Poisonwood Bible with each female character taking it in turn to tell about formative events of the family. It uses the real dramatic version of the bible’s story of Adam and Eve to set the plot.   I enjoyed this story very much and would recommend it to other readers.


by Mindy Fine

2008 Book Reviews: 52 Books Read in 52 Weeks

Last year I made it a goal to read 52 books in the year. No specifics on the books, authors, length or anything, just to read a book a week through the entire year. And I pretty much reached my goal (see the list at the end of the post). I realized in the last half week that I had miscounted and was a book shy, but what are you going to do. As a resort to my middle school english class days I wrote a brief book review each week on the book I read. For those who are interested, there’s a nice collection of book reviews here.

This year, I want to read the books I avoided last year, either because they were too long to finish in a week or too academic (read: boring). I also want to catch up on my reading of Geez Magazine and a few other noteworthy articles, essays and the likes.

I am entertaining the idea of doing weekly video book reviews on children’s books I think or worthwhile. You’ll get to watch my cute kid play peek-a-boo with the camera and I’ll mention what picture book we liked that week. Anyone interested? We’ll see, no guarantees unless there is a high demand.

My 2008 Book List (get authors and my recommendations here OR use the search bar in the top right to find my book review on each one):

Buy Buy Baby
Slaughterhouse Five
Giving Up
Serving with Eyes Wide Open
White Man’s Grave
Jesus and the Disinherited
The God of Intimacy and Action
The Other Side of The River
The Paradox of Choice
The Heavenly Man
Playing for Pizza
No Future Without Forgiveness
Sheparding a Child’s Heart
The Manga Bible
The 4-hour Workweek
It’s a Bunny Eat Bunny World
Jesus For President
My Beautiful idol
The Church Ladies
Letters To a Young Teacher
Traveling Mercies
Reconciliation Blues
Porn Nation
Hokey Pokey
The Dip
The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture
When Friends Ask About Adoption
Sex God
God for President
New Day Revolution
Oh Shit! It’s Jesus!
Rapture Ready!
Come On People
What Does it Mean to Be Well Educated?
Rules for Radicals
Plan B
The Great Brain
The Church of 80% Sincerity
Grace (Eventually)
Here Comes Everybody
The Dance of Attachment
Bird By Bird
Operating Instructions
Abortion Book
Blue Shoe
war and terrorism
The Long Tail
Chicago: Never a City So Real
The Myth of Multitasking
The Shack

Book Review: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

outliersI picked up the large print edition of Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (A trick for getting new releases from the library quickly, get the large print edition).  Like all of Gladwell’s books, it was a thoroughly interesting read.

The basic premise is that we don’t become who we are simply by our own hardwork. It’s a case against our imaginary tale of the American Dream, where anyone with a work ethic can make it. Gladwell doesn’t say hardwork is bad or that those who are truly successful haven’t worked hard, but rather he points out the benefits and opportunities we’ve each had along the way. It’s a great collection of research and stories to make a case, in the end, for providing everyone with the types of opportunities that have brought about the success of so many in our country (hope that line made sense).

Anyways, this review is late in coming so I’ll conclude here and throw you some quotes and thoughts from the book.

Gladwell points out the effect of birth months as it relates to sports (taken from an extract in the Guardian):

Take ice hockey in Canada: look at any team and you will find that a disproportionate number of players will have been born in the first three months of the year. This, it turns out, is because the cut-off date for children eligible for the nine-year-old, 10-year-old, 11-year-old league and so on is January 1. Boys who are oldest and biggest at the beginning of the hockey season are inevitably the best. And so they get the most coaching and practice, and they get chosen for the all-star team, and so their advantage increases – on into the professional game.

A profound thought is that this same effect impacts schools and students performance. In turn we could respond appropriately. “Elementary and middle schools could put the January through April-born students in one class, the May through August in another class, and those born in September through December in the thrid class. They could let students learn with and compete against other students of the same maturity level.”

Another section talks about “Power Distance Index” (PDI) and attitudes toward hierarchy.

This statement is actually a quote from another person, Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede, who wrote in his classic text Culture’s Consequences,

“I actually saw the Dutch prime minister, Joop den Uyl, on vacation with his motor home at a camping site in Portugal.”

“The world could be so much richer than the world we have settled for.”

People Send Me Stuff – Hat Tips and Reviews

Somewhere along the way in doing this blogging thing something happened. Either my blog became popular, or more accurately, blogging became popular and recognized by businesses as a tool to sell you stuff. Regardless, the reality is that people want my to talk about certain stuff on my blog.  Mostly, I get sent books and occasionally a DVD or CD. And, in recent months, I’ve let those items pile up and begin to gether dust on the book shelf (sorry!). However, I’ve took a look at a few and thought I’d give my brief thoughts and reviews. So, in no particular order…

NKJV Chronological Study Bible

I’m not particularly a fan of the KJV or the NKJV. If I remember correctly (and I probably don’t), the KJV is based on an outdated manuscript collection. Since the KJV came out, more manuscripts, older and more accurate to the original letters and books of the Bible, have been discovered. So, KJV while an ‘older’ more ‘traditiona’ translation, is actually not as ‘old’ and accurate as other translations that are based off of these other manuscripts.

That said, the Choronological layout of this Bible is pretty cool. It’s also pretty impractical if your planning on using it in any fashion other then a cover to cover read. Trying to find a passage from Psalms in it is next to impossible. The illustrations and study notes are interesting, but unimpressive. Lot’s of old school European paintings of Jesus, not a single depecition from any other ethnic history or origin. Seems to me that the textual translation isn’t the only thing that is stuck in an old mindset, the publisher was too.  Over all I was unimpressed and while I definitely think there’s plenty of value to glean from the text, regardless of translation, I’d recommend you look for a different version.

(Didn’t realize that one was going to be so harsh. Sorry, but they don’t ask you to be positive when they send you this stuff, and that’s my honest opinion)

TOMS Shoes

A while back I wrote an article about Fair Trade Footwear, and I mentioned TOMS Shoes. It’s basically a cloth slip-on, and when you buy a pair, a child who needs shoes gets a pair as well. Anyways, TOMS noticed some traffic coming their way from my site or something and they sent me a DVD about the last shoe drop (where they bring the shoes to the kids). I haven’t watched it yet. Then, they sent me this beautiful handmade cloth from Ethiopia. Both just gifts to say thank you for supporting TOMS Shoes.  What I appreciate is that they recognize the importance of creating allies and advocates in their work. What I’m surprised by is that they haven’t addressed some of the questions that arose in the comments section on that post about the labor conditions where the TOMS Shoes are actually made.  Maybe they’ll send me a pair, size 13, along with an explanation of the labor practices where they were made (and if you don’t have a good answer, I don’t want a pair).

Evensong Rising

evensongrisingOne of the other ways I get stuff is through a program called Ooze Select Bloggers. They sent me a CD a while back by Evensong Rising. It’s a pretty interesting group. I’m terrible at music reviews, I’m not sure how to describe genres or anything like that. Supposedly they have a new kind of sound (according to others they are  ‘ancient/future’ worship)  but they seem like a typical praise band to me. I didn’t get to read through the lyrics too much, but there was one song I heard that I really liked, Rise Up (I’ll include the lyrics at the bottom of the post). Overall, I think they’re lyrics are a refreshing change. The group is fairly diverse, also a welcome change, and the music is at times unique.  I’m still hoping for a more diverse music selection from the emerging church and neo-monastic crew, preferably some Hip-Hop.

That’s all I have time for. Definitely some more brief reviews coming at some point. But this is it for now.

Rise Up
Words and Music by Chris Sorenson

A world of darkness… People are scared
A world of hunger… People unfed
A world of anger… People in pain
A world of sorrow… People in need
We pray… Lord bring them light
We pray… Lord bring them food
We pray… Lord bring them justice
We pray… And we hear you say
You are my hands and my feet
You bring the hope that they seek
You build my kingdom so it’s
Stomp out their hunger for Me
Kill all injustice for Me
You build my kingdom so it’s
Our world is freezing… People unclothed
Our world in slavery… People oppressed
Our world is warring… People displaced
Our world is dying… People all thirst
We pray… Lord bring them shelter
We pray… Lord set them free
We pray… Lord bring them peace
We pray… And we hear you say

Book Review: The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

The Long Tail is another book in the vein of Sway, The Tipping Point, Freakonomics and many others. The byline: Why The Future of Business is Selling Less of More. Chris Anderson, the author, is the editor of a very popular tech magazine called WIRED.

The idea being that in our popular culture, for years, the way business, particularly music and movies, but also everything else, have been dominated by the Hits. In fact, you pretty much only heard of or knew of the hits, since prior to the internet there hasn’t been a great way to pass learn about the rest.

Anyways, the book is extremely interesting, but is a tiny bit on the academic, numbers, theories, side of things, rather then stories. Anyone who is in business or plans on being in business (of any kind really) should probably read this book.

The conclusion made is basically that there is a lot of room now for everyone, not just the blockbusters and platinum albums of the world. That we don’t need to be famous artist, or writers, or actors to have a place.  There isn’t a good way for me to summarize all the different things he talked about, so I’d just recommend the book.

A Visual Explanation (Hits are the most popular, but the Long Tail still has plenty of interested consumers)

I will leave you with some quotes though:

The supermarket helped create the Middle Class. Its low prices freed up substantial funds for families to spend on cars, homes, education and other needs and amenities of life. As supermarkets proliferated in the 1950s and 1960s, they played a pivotal role in creating the American middle class. On the supermarket’s silver anniversary, President Kennedy said that the supermarket’s low-cost mass marketing techniques “. . . have enabled a higher standard of living and have contributed importantly to our economic growth.” -from Food Marketing Institute p. 45

On The Long Tail of warefare:

Traditionally, warfare (the ability to change society through violence) has been limited to nation-states (except in rare cases).  States had a monopoly on violence.  The result was a limited, truncated distribution of violence (a power law).  That monopoly is on the skids due to three trends:

* A democratization of the tools of warfare.  Niche producers (for example: gangs) are made possible by the dislocation of globalization.  All it takes to participate is a few men, some boxcutters, and a plane (as an example of simple tools combined with leverage from ubiquitous economic infrastructure).
* An amplification of the damage caused by niche producers of warfare.  The magic of global guerrilla systems disruption which turns inexpensive attacks into major economic and social events.
* The acceleration of word of mouth.  New groups can more easily find/train recruits, convey their message to a wide audience, and find/coordinate their activities with other groups (allies).

The result:  a long tail has developed.  New niche producers of violence have flourished.  Demand for the results these niche suppliers can produce has also radically increased.  Big concepts (such as a struggle between Islam and the US), not championed by states, has supercharged niche suppliers like al Qaeda and its clones.

Because I’m interested in Wikipedia and wikis for InsideNorthside, I thought this was worth mention:

Is Wikipedia “authoritative”? Well, no. But what really is? Britannica is reviewed by a smaller group of reviewers with higher academic degrees on average. There are, to be sure, fewer (if any) total clunkers or fabrications than in Wikipedia. But it’s not infallible either; indeed, it’s a lot more flawed that we usually give it credit for.

Britannica’s biggest errors are of omission, not commission. It’s shallow in some categories and out of date in many others. And then there are the millions of entries that it simply doesn’t–and can’t, given its editorial process–have. But Wikipedia can scale to include those and many more. Today Wikipedia offers 860,000 articles in English – compared with Britannica’s 80,000 and Encarta’s 4,500. Tomorrow the gap will be far larger. –p.69

Regarding book sales (I never knew):

in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies. In other words about 98 percent of books are noncommercial, whether they were intended that way or not. -p. 76
Interesting statement regarding our society being “post-scarcity” (scarcity being a basic economic principle):
And what is the motive force behind China and India’s rise if not abundant labor, allowing them to, in a sense, waste people? -p. 145

On the Blogosphere (words of Judge Richard Posner):

The charge by mainstream journalists that blogging lacks checks and balances is obtuse. The blogosphere has more checks and balances than the conventional media; only they are different. The model is Friedrich Hayek’s classic analysis of how the economic market pools enormous quantities of information efficiently despite its decentralized character, its lack of a master coordinator or regulator, and the very limited knowledge possessed by each of its participants.

In effect, the blogosphere is a collective enterprise – not 12 million separate enterprises, but one enterprise with 12 million reporters, feature writers and editorialists, yet with almost no costs. It’s as if The Associated Press or Reuters had millions of reporters, many of them experts, all working with no salary for free newspapers that carried no advertising.

On the internet making us more open minded:

Since nothing on the Web is authoritative, it’s up to you to consult enough sources so that you can make up your own mind. This [The Web] is the end of spoon-fed orthodoxy and infallible institutions, and the rise of messy mosaics of information that require—and reward—investigation. The sixties told us to question authority, but they didn’t provide us with the tools to do so. Now we have those tools. The question today is how best to use them without becoming overwhelmed by uncertainty. p. 190-191(ht. for typing)

Probably enough quotes for one book. Hope you enjoyed!

Book Review: Sway by Ori and Rom Brafman

Looking for a quick and interesting read, I picked up Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, by Ori and Rom Brafman. In the vein of Freakonomics, The Tipping Point and others (don’t know what that genre’s called). The book proved thoroughly interesting.

The basic premise is that we are swayed to act irrationally by various external forces. By learning and being aware of them we can learn to make more rational decisions, though the reality is we our often affected so sub-consciously by these forces that they are hard to avoid.

Rather then summarizing the different Sways myself, I found an excellent summary over at JollyBlog‘s book review:

Loss aversion – this is a form of playing not to lose, making decisions in order to cut our losses, or avoid further losses.

Commitment – this is our tendency to hold fast to our course of action in the face of accumulating losses.

Value attribution – we attribute value to people or things based on quick impressions.  In other words, if the right people like something we attribute greater value to that thing than if the wrong people like it.

Diagnosis bias – once we diagnose a situation we see the world through the lens of that diagnosis and all of reality conforms to our bias.

Fairness perception – we’ll often act against our own best interests if we feel that we are being treated unfairly.  There is a cool experiment he talks about involving two subjects.  Someone offers them a sum of money, let’s say $100.  One person gets to divide it any way they want and the other person can decide to accept or reject that division.  If the second accepts they both get the money per the division by the first.  If the second rejects, they both get nothing.  Most of the time the first person divides it 50-50, the second accepts and they walk away happy.  But, when the first person makes an imbalanced division – let’s say he keeps $70 and offers the other $30 – in pretty much every case the second rejects it.   In either case, whether it was a 50-50 or a 70-30 split, the second person would have come out to the good, but in the second case they rejected their own gain because of the fairness perception.

Altruism-Pleasure conflict – people will perform better for altruistic motives than for rewards.  In other words, if someone does something for altruistic motives and then you come back and offer them a reward for doing the same thing, you will often find them losing motivation and/or performing worse.  You gotta read that chapter to understand how it works.

Group Conformity – when in group settings, people tend to stifle their own opinions, often when their own opinions are patently correct and the groups are patently false, to go along with the group.

I’d recommend this book to anyone whose enjoyed any other books in this genre. It’s a quick and easy and interesting read. For some further insight into the subject matter here’s a video by the author about the book.

Now, some totally random tidbits that don’t necessarily give you a good overall view of the book, but might be interesting nonetheless.

Apparently LBJ was a pretty crazy guy…

“There’s a thin line between determination and intimidation and LBJ had no trouble skipping between the two. When he was elected to Congress, he’d call fellow legislators at all hours of the night, just to catch them off guard. Later, as president, during official White House meetings he’d shock and intimidate visitors by announcing a swimming break, taking off his clothes and jumping naked into the pool.” (p.33)

They did a study where a college class has a surprise substitute teacher. The students receive different descriptions of the teacher, an identical biographic paragraph except one line: “People who know him consider him to be a very warm person…” or “People who know him consider him to be a rather cold person…” After sitting through the class, hearing from the exact same professor, the students fill out a questionnaire. Those who had the “very warm” description described the teacher as such. Yet, students who’d sat through the exact same class but who’d received the “rather cold” description described the professor as “self-centered, formal, unsociable, unpopular, irritable, humorless, and ruthless.” One word difference completely changed their perception of the same person! (p.73)

The book also references studies challenging the effectiveness of SSRI’s (Prozac, Zoloft, etc)

“When it comes to SSRIs and children, only three out of the sixteen randomized control trials they had for kids showed a positive result. Only three out of sixteen. And of course there is also the risk of serious side effects.” -Dr. David Antonuccio, regarding research on SSRI’s (p. 97)

Book Review: Terrorism and War by Howard Zinn just read through Terrorism and War by Howard Zinn, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to hear a brilliant mind on the current issues of war and terror. The whole book is just over one hundred pages and it’s in an interview format, as it basically is a compilation of a series of interviews Zinn gave around 2002, just after 9/11 and the Afghanistan war and just before the Iraq war. Zinn is a truly brilliant mind and I feel makes a decent case that war is simply not a useful tool anymore, period.

Some Quotes…

“I think there is a simple test of what concerns bin Laden, whether it is our democracy and internal freedom or whether it’s our foreign policy. And that simple test is: What side was Osama bin Laden on before 1990? That is, before the United States stationed troops in Saudi Arabia, made war against Iraq, and began its sanctions against Iraq. We were just as democratic and libertarian internally before 1990 as we are today. But Osama bin Laden was not offended by that. He was on our side — and we were on his side — in the fight to take control of the government in Afghanistan. The turning point for Osama bin Laden is very clear. It has nothing to do with democracy and liberty. It has to do with U.S. foreign policy. And that turning point came in 1990 and 1991.” p. 13

Speaking of alternatives to war…

The question always comes up about World War II: “What would you have done?” The answer is not an easy one, but it has to start off by saying, “I would not accept a solution that involves mass killing. I would try to find some other way.” The other way is not passivity; the other way is not acceptance; the other way is resistance without war. The other way is underground movements, strikes, general strikes, noncompliance. Even Hitler, in World War II, was at times successfully resisted in Denmark, in Norway, in Germany itself, by wives protesting the deportation of their Jewish husbands. Those methods of resistance don’t ensure a peaceful resolution, because the repressive forces are always strong. But they are means that are more proportional to the end, especially since they are means that are engaged in not by governments but by people, which is a very important consideration. With popular resistance, you have a greater assurance that your end will be attained than if governments are in charge. p. 23-24

On why he doesn’t call himself a pacifist…

I have never used the word “pacifist” to describe myself, because it suggests something absolute, and I am suspicious of absolutes. I want to leave openings for unpredictable possibilities. There might be situations (and even such strong pacifists as Gandhi and Martin Luther King believed this) when a small, focused act of violence against a monstrous, immediate evil would be justified. p. 25

A tidbit that was noted in the book:

According to an article in the Boston Review, “up to 35 million people-90 percent civilians-have been killed in 170 wars since the end of World War II. (Boston Review 24, no. 1, Gabriel Kolko, Century of War: Politics, Conflict, and Society Since 1914)

And I’ll finish with a final quote from the book, of Dwight Eisenhower, our 34th President:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

Book Review: Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott you’ve had a baby or are going to have a baby then Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott is a must read. It’s a journal of the first year of her son’s life and a true to life parenting story to balance all the “Parenting in Three Easy Steps” types of books.

I won’t bore you with my consistent praise for Lamott, I’ve read a ton of her books this year and have loved every single one. She’s so true to life and makes you recognize the beauty in the little things.

Instead of raving about it I’ll leave you with some quotes and excerpts from the book (Some long, cause I was a huge fan). I’ll start with a couple whole sections:

Have I mentioned how much I hate expressing milk? I do it nearly every day so there will be bottles of milk on hand for whoever comes by to take care of Sam, but I hate the fucking breast pump. It’s the ultimate bovine humiliation, and it hurts, the suction is so strong. You feel plugged into a medieval milking machine that turns your poor little gumdrop nipples into purple slugs with the texture of rhinoceros hide. You sit there furtively pumping away, producing nebbishy little sprays on the side of the pump bottle until finally you’ve got half a cup of milk and nipples six inches long. It’s so incredibly unsexy and secretive, definitely not something you could ever mention on “Wheel of Fortune,” nothing you’d ever find in a Costoo piece about ten ways to turn on your lover — crotchless underpants and a breast pump. I sit there in the kitchen miserably pumping away, feeling like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, pumping out a bottle of milk for the little infant Antichrist. Yesterday the refrigerator wasn’t working, so after I produced a small bottle of breast milk, I had to store it in a wide-mouth thermos filled with ice, like it was a severed finger that I was about to rush to the hospital to have sewn back on. It was too ridiculous for words.

And another…

“Last night I decided that it is totally nuts to believe in Christ, that it is every bit as crazy as being a Scientologist or a Jehovah’s Witness. Then something truly amazing happened. A man from church showed up at our front door, smiling and waving to me and Sam, and I went to let him in. He is… named Gordon, fiftyish, married to our associate pastor, and after exchanging pleasantries he said, ‘Margaret and I wanted to do something for you and the baby. So what I want to ask is, what if a fairy appeared on your doorstep and said that he or she would do any favor for you at all, anything you wanted around the house that you felt too exhausted to do by yourself and too ashamed to ask anyone else to help you with?”

‘I can’t even say,’ I said. ‘It’s too horrible.’

“But he finally convinced me to tell him, and I said it would be to clean the bathroom, and he ended up spending an hour scrubbing the bathtub and toilet and sink. I sat on the couch while he worked, watching TV, feeling vaguely guilty and nursing Sam to sleep. But it made me feel sure of Christ again, of that kind of love. This, a man scrubbing a new mother’s bathtub, is what Jesus means to me.”

She has this great line about apologizing to her son for saying mean things about guys.

“I nursed him for a long time tonight. He’s so beautiful it can make me teary. I told him I was sorry for thinking such sexist stuff about his people.”

And this last story is just a touching example of God’s love.

There’s a woman named Anne who took her two-year-old child up to Tahoe during the summer. There stayed in rented condominium by the lake. And of course, it’s such a hotbed of gambling that all the rooms are equipped with those curtains and shades that block out every speck of light so you can stay up all night in the casinos and then sleep all morning. One afternoon she put the baby to bed in his playpen in one of those rooms, in the pitch dark, and went to do some work.

A few minutes later she heard her baby knocking on the door from inside the room, and she got up, knowing he’d crawled out of his playpen. She went to put him down again, but when she got to the door, she found he’d locked it. He had somehow managed to push the little button on the doorknob. He was calling to her, “Mommy, Mommy, and Anne was saying to him, “Jiggle the door knob, darling,” and of course he couldn’t even see the knob to know what she was talking about. After a moment, it became clear to him that his mother could not open the door, and panic set in. He began sobbing. So Anne, his mother ran around like crazy trying everything possible, like trying to get the door to work, calling the rental agency where she left a message on the machine, calling the manager of the condominium where she left another message and running back to check in with her son every minute or so. And there in the dark, this terrified little child. Finally she did the only thing she could, which was to slide her fingers underneath the door, where there were a few centimeters of space. She kept telling him over and over to bend down and find her fingers.And somehow he did. So they stayed like that for a really long time – connected, on the floor, him holding her fingers in the dark. He stopped crying…

I keep thinking of that story, how much it feels like I’m the two-year-old in the dark and God is the mother and I don’t speak the language. She could break down the door if that struck her as being the best way, and ride off with me on her charger. But instead, via my friends and my church and my shabby faith, I can just hold onto her fingers underneath the door. It isn’t enough; and it is.

Book Review: A book about Abortion

Post-election now, I want to learn and understand about the extreme passion that surrounds both sides of the abortion issue. I’m excited on one hand to see such passion in the Christian church about an issue, though I sometimes feel it is misguided, but I’m excited to see it and hope to blog and dialog about how we can direct that passion to caring for the lives of women and children in our midst.

This week I went to the library in our neighborhood. There is an extremely high teen pregnancy rate in North Minneapolis (I’ve heard one of the highest in the nation, but I’ll have to confirm that statistic). The point is that I did what I think some teens might do if they are sexually active or had an unexpected pregnancy, I went to the library, looked up abortion and checked out a couple books. There was only one book here geared towards a teenage crowd and it presented it self as an unbiased pro/con look at the issue.

I’m not going to name the book, I’d rather encourage you to try this same experiment (go to your local library, find the books about abortion geared toward teens and read them). But, I’ll share with you my impression of the book I read. And while I reserve the right that my opinion on this issue is still undecided, this was my honest impression of the book at the library that I read.

I felt the book was extremely biased toward the pro-choice movement, or more specifically, it made a case for abortion as simply another form of birth control. While I respect that opinion, the book claimed to be an unbiased pro/con book and it did not do service to the anti-abortion perspective. I’ll include just a few examples.

  • The picture they chose to display at the beginning of the “Pro-Life Camp” chapter was one of a protester dressed as Death, scith and all. And though I recognize there are a number of protesters with disturbing scare tactics, it clearly gives a certain impression of this group when you begin to read.
  • When talking about the abortion procedure, they give one or two vague sentences about the risks. I don’t expect scare tactics, but they did not make an effort to list statistics or possible outcomes, they simply stated that like any other surgery there are some risks. They mentioned that a women’s uterus could be damaged during the procedure, but didn’t indicate that for some (again they should be giving statistics for this like they did for other sections) women that means they are never able to have children.
  • They give one paragraph to the religious views regarding the topic and they state that none of the Christian, Jewish or Muslim scriptures say anything about the topic of abortion. Again, I’m not arguing that they do, but there are plenty of verses that people reference that could at least be mentioned so the reader can draw their own conclusion.
My intention in giving this review is not to give fodder to one side of the argument or the other. One knows there are plenty of biased literature from the other perspective as well. My hope is that pro-choicers can read this and realize that to find common ground the pro-choice view must be honest and fair about the views of the pro-life group (and visa versa). And I hope that pro-lifers can read this and recognize that if education on the issues is important then making sure that information reaches the hands of these women needs to be a priority.

Book Review: Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott (Eventually) is the third Lamott book I’ve read and I’ve continued to enjoy them. I read one review that said it was just more of the same, and I think in some ways they are right, but where that reviewer saw it as a negative, I didn’t feel that way. Lamott’s writing is about her life and so it’s no surprise when she talks about her son, the difficulties of parenting, her relationship with her mother, life at her church and stories about hiking. It isn’t an international spy thriller, but that’s not the point. Lamott, let’s you into the day to day in her life so that you can see the depth of value and meaning in the day to day of your own life. I feel more in tune with the little things happening around me after every chapter I read of Lamott’s writing.

She also hit’s up some tough issues and offers her perspective in an honest way, telling her story, not necessarily arguing a point or a side, just sharing her experience. I wish we (Christians particularly) felt more free to do that. To share, without fear of condemnation, our experience. Lamott is an extremely courageous woman for sharing the stories and life experiences that she shares. I hope just a little of that wears off on me.

Here are some quotes I enjoyed:

“This culture’s pursuit of beauty is a crazy, sick, losing game, for women, men, teenagers, and with the need to increase advertising revenues, now for pre-adolescents, too. We’re starting to see more anorexic eight- and nine-year-olds. It’s a game we cannot win. Every time we agree to play another round, and step out onto the court to try again, we’ve already lost. The only way to win is to stay off the court. No matter how much of our time is spent in pursuit of physical beauty, even ot great success, the Mirror on the Wall will always say, “Snow White lives,” an this is in fact a lie – Snow White is a fairy tale. Lies cannot nourish or protect you. Only freedom from fear, freedom from lies, can make us beautiful, and keep us safe. There is a line I try to live by, spoken at the end of each Vendata service: ‘And may the free make others free.”
Of course , some days go better than others.
Let’s start with something easy: To step into beauty, does one have to give up on losing a little weight? No, of course not. Only if you’re sick of suffering. Because if you cannot see that you’re okay now, you won’t be able to see it if you lose twenty pounds. It’s an inside job.” -p.74

Lamott has a way of writing these amazing lines that make me crack up. Here is one talking about her friend who ended up marrying a guy who was basically a jerk.

“The polite answer to why Nell married him is: Nell settled. This happens with one’s coolest girlfriends, who sometimes mate with people not worthy to drink their bath water, and I mean that in a warm and nonjudgmental way.” -p.128