The Secret World of Hildegard (Jonah Winter)

This is a picture book telling the story of Hildegard von Bingen. Here is some background info about Hildegard von Bingen, who lived in the early 1000's. She is significant in the musical composition world because she was the first writer of music whose biography is known. She was also a scientist who studied animals, plants, and medicine. Her book Causes and Cures still provides the basis for alternative medicine. She is celebrated as a saint in Germany, though she was not ever officially made a saint.

This book is more about her mystical visions than her musical and scientific accomplishments. She always credited her creativity to God, the creator of all things and all people. The story begins with establishing that girls were not allowed to go to school, and were only taught to serve. "They were taught to be quiet and to be very gray." Even from Hildegard's days as a young girl, she had a special world all inside her head, though she did not know what it was or what to do with it. When she was 3, she correctly predicted the color of a calf that had not yet been born (Though, I found myself wondering, is that really such a big deal? You look at the momma cow and the daddy cow and choose one or the other, or a  combo of both!)   

Hildegard continued to have visions, and began to have headaches because she did not know what to do or who to tell about those visions. Because of her headaches, she was sent away to a monastery, in hopes that the nuns could help her with the headaches. At the monastery, the nuns taught Hildegard about the Bible, prayers, music, and how to read. She continued to have visions, and finally began to tell a monk and a nun about them, who wrote them down and compiled them in a book that was presented to the Pope. He approved and her writings were sought by many people.

In the end, her headaches went away, and Hildegard was happy because she was sharing the creativity God had given her.

It's a very different sort of biography. The pictures are pretty, though. I'm just happy to have learned something about a famous woman in world history.


Foreign to Familiar (Sarah A. Lanier)

In our preparation to travel to an African country in the near future, we are attempting to learn as much as possible about other cultures. A fellow adoptive mom recommended this title, and I count it as a MUST READ for, well, anyone who deals with people. Do you fall into that category? ;)

Sarah Lanier is a world traveling professional who has spent significant time in a variety of cultures. She has discovered some keys to understanding the various cultures around the world.

In hot-climate cultures (Africa, Latin America, some US, etc.) people are more relational. Everything centers around relationships, and nothing is more important than how you make someone feel. To show respect for people, you must honor them as a person. All communication is indirect and must create a feel-good environment in order to honor the other person. Hot climate cultures are group-oriented, and people find identity and protection in their group. In these cultures, possessions are never an individual's (as in, I have a bike) and are alway's the group's (as in, WE have a bike). People prefer the company of others and are always careful never to hold private conversations in the company of others. Spontaneity is normal, and events are rarely planned in advance. When they are planned in advance, they do not begin at the time they were planned for (Example: In America we are accustomed to saying a wedding begins at 2:00. In Africa they might say the wedding is at 2:00, but it won't begin at that time. That is the time people begin making their way to the event.)

In cold-climate cultures (Europe, some US, etc.) everything people are more efficiency-driven. Everything centers around productivity, and nothing is more important than wise use of time. To show respect for people, you must honor their time. There is no care given to how someone feels. All communication is direct, in order to maximize efficiency. Cold climate cultures are more individualistic, and a person's identity is found in their self-standing and their ability to take initiative. Possessions are considered an individual's (it's MY bike, not OURS) and are responsible for maintaining and protecting them. People enjoy group events, but also prefer times of solitude and having space to themselves.

It's interesting to note that even within the given context of these cultures, people's personalities can also be individualized. A person can live in a hot climate culture like the American South, and still have some cold-climate tendencies such as valuing personal time and personal space. Also, a person can live in a cold climate such as Germany and still communicate indirectly.

These are only a few of the differences described in the book. It was a quick read, and very valuable for helping to understand where people are coming from, and how they think. You can best communicate with someone if you can understand their method of thinking. This knowledge will be very powerful when we are in Africa, but it is also good for understanding all sorts of people around us on a daily basis. I rarely say this because I believe that books are as different an unique as the people who read them, but this book is for everyone! 


Confessions of a Reformission Rev: Hard Lessons From an Emerging Missional Church (Mark Driscoll)

Rarely...no, NEVER, has a book's table of contents captivated me to the point of wanting to read it. That particular book feature is normally not a deciding factor in my selections. In Pastor Mark Driscoll's Confessions of a Reformission Rev, however, the ToC is both funny and an all-inclusive synopsis.

Chapter 0: Ten Curious Questions
Chapter 1: Jesus, Our Offering Was $137 and I Want to Use It to Buy Bullets
Chapter 2: Jesus, If Anyone Else Calls My House, I May Be Seeing You Real Soon
Chapter 3: Jesus, Satan Showed Up and I Can't Find My Cup
Chapter 4: Jesus, Could You Please Rapture the Charismaniac Lady Who Brings Her Tambourine to Church?
Chapter 5: Jesus, Why Am I Getting Fatter and Meaner?
Chapter 6: Jesus, Today We Voted to Take a Jackhammer to Your Big Church
Chapter 7: Jesus, We're Loading Our Squirt Guns to Charge Hell Again

Not what you'd expect from a book about church planting? Not what you'd expect from a pastor? Mark Driscoll and his Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington don't even come close to what most Americans expect from either. I'm not a church planter, and neither is my husband, but my family is involved with a relatively new church plant. We have quite a few friends who are involved with different types of church plants as well. To be honest, though, I didn't go into this one hoping to learn about church planting...I was just intrigued by the Table of Contents.

Each chapter deals with various structural and organizational, make-it-or-break-it issues within all new churches...and even more so in a Seattle plant. As the church numbers grew from 45 to 150 to 1000 to 3,000 to 10,000+, Mark Driscoll and other founders and leaders of Mars Hills Church experienced everything from spiritual warfare to childcare issues. In this book he speaks quite openly about his frustrations and his learning experiences as a pastor. It's quite raw in places, yet with every situation and with every decision (even the ones that weren't great choices), he sought (and continues to seek, from what I've read) to lead a church to be aggressive and willing servants to their city. Under his leadership, the church has developed a refined process for placing members in the places they are most gifted to serve, and people are expected to do so. Members are expected to give generously, and they are expected to serve. My goodness. With thousands of members who are on mission to give to and serve their community, (among many other factors) there's no wonder this church has become so successful.

Check out the Google link below to preview some of the book.

Mars Hill Church
Google Books link to Confessions of a Reformission Rev


Market! (Ted Lewin)

One of my precious librarian friends has followed and supported our journey, and shared this book title with me last week. I love hearing about new African (and especially Ugandan!) resources. I REALLY love getting it for next to nothing on Amazon. ;)

Market! is a nonfiction piece about various marketplaces around the world. It is a vibrantly illustrated book (watercolor on canvas, I think) that features scenes from Ecuador, Nepal, Ireland, UGANDA, the United States fish market, and Morocco. Each section displays common people and items found in those respective marketplaces, and offers insight into the culture of the country. It would be great for teachers to use in their social studies curriculum, and will also be a useful tool for showing our kids how wonderfully diverse our world is!