Peeking out from behind the curtain...

Yeah, it's been a while.

That happens sometimes.

It's the good thing about blog-writing as a hobby...pick it up and leave it off as life permits.

Without guilt.

Life hasn't permitted lately.

But maybe, maybe just perhaps it might soon.

And I hope you'll be here, not dying of shock when my posts come up in your feed again.



Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith from Politics (Alisa Harris)

Alisa Harris's earliest memories with her family and church come from protest demonstrations at abortion clinics and community rallies promoting the latest conservative Christian (or who proclaimed to be) with big plans to take America back from the devil Democrats. In her book she gives a synopsis of how her faith and political involvement evolved from black and white to a better understanding of the gray in between. 

There are a couple of important factors here that bear mention. First, it is not fair to say that Harris represents conservative Christians as a whole. Whatever your opinion on the matter of picketing abortion clinics, the fact is that not every conservative agrees with holding up pictures of aborted babies or screaming at young girls or women as they enter local clinics (Note: the book does not indicate that this is the author's experience or actions, but it is that of some in this "camp.") Second, Alisa Harris has no doubt experienced quite a journey of growth in her faith and how that applies to her political involvement, but she is still rather young. By no means do I intend that wisdom can only be imparted from those who are older (unfortunately fools come in all ages, shapes, and sizes), but it is a significant piece of the pie to consider. She was also single for most of the time described in this portion of her life, and up until publication (perhaps even to date) had no children. Marriage and the arrival of kids play a huge role in shaping one's worldview, so it would be interesting to see how those affect Harris in the years to come. I'd read it. 

I'm not sure what attracted my attention to this title in the first place, but it's sufficient to say it sums up where I've been faith-wise for some time. I would not say that I'm in line with Harris on some of the issues she covers in this book. Generally, though, I appreciate the book's topic of true reflection on what you believe. Do you really know why you believe what you believe, or are you just regurgitating what you are hearing and reading online? Regardless of whether you go picket or post links on your Facebook account, it has long been true that growing up in the South generally means that good Christian=conservative Republican. It is high time to challenge that assumption, and to do so through raising our kids not by teaching them what to think but HOW to think. 

It is not accurate to say that conservative Republicans have it all figured out and that liberal Democrats are in line with the devil, nor vice versa. It is not accurate to say that you are taking a stand for Jesus Christ to align yourself (especially those who do so with arrogance) with a political party. People issues are one thing, but the very complex foray into political activism is entirely another. 

Too many people think that if Christ were here in American in the flesh today that He would be a Republican. 
They also think He would be middle class. 
They also think He would be white. 

The truth is, our Messiah does not care about the political idols that we have established here in America. Too many times I see and hear people touting political victories as God-honoring when the only thing honored was the god of politics that somehow has people in a blinding chokehold. 

Politics run on power, and Scripture teaches over and again that Jesus avoided demonstrations of power (even His triumph over death, though proven over and over, was apart from an audience) in favor of quiet displays of His love for people. All people. Poor people, sick people, defenseless people, vulnerable people. Pretty much everybody had a seat at His table. You know who really got on His nerves? The legalistic Pharisees who would have been a close comparison to some politicians today. 

It is historically accurate that the church has long since manipulated by political parties (both sides of the spectrum), and that is far from what honors our God. We need to open our eyes to this...and, as Harris says in her last sentence, to be Christ's followers not through displays of power but through being a picture of love. 



Chaos Walking trilogy (Patrick Ness)

Though I've read at least 40 books in the past three months, it's the Chaos Walking trilogy that has me wanting to write about them again. Of all the dystopian/futuristic YA lit flooding the market in recent years, there is just something different about Chaos Walking.

Todd and Viola are the main characters of the series, and both their distinct differences as well as their similarities are what bind the past of the old world to the future of the new world. Speaking of the new world...it's essential background knowledge that Todd and Viola are one of several thousand inhabitants on a planet called New World. It's also important to know that on New World there is something rather strange about the atmosphere that causes men's thoughts to become audible (and their visual thoughts/memories shared with whoever is near). They refer to it as their Noise.

The Knife of Never Letting Go
It's in this first book that we meet Todd and learn that he is on the verge of becoming a man. It isn't quite clear what "becoming a man" means, though, and Todd is as conflicted as he is eager to join the rest of his community...given that he is the very last boy among them. This community (Prentisstown) is made up entirely of men, and there are both strange and terrible stories about just what exactly has happened to all the women who originally settled here in New World. Prentisstown is filled with men whose Noise is broadcasted throughout the city, which makes for a very odd life indeed.

 One day, Todd is out near the swamp and he discovers a "hole" in the Noise. This turns out to be a girl (Viola), the first he's ever met. Todd is completely thrown by her, specifically the fact that she has no Noise. He has never known anyone whose thoughts he could not hear. When Todd tells his fathers (his real parents died long ago, and Todd has been raised by Ben and Cillian), they spring into action and immediately begin to get Todd out of Prentisstown. Todd has no idea what is going on, but obeys them, taking very light supplies and his mother's diary as he flees. He finds the girl again, and together they take off to escape an army of troops from the city coming to capture and perhaps kill them.

 As Todd and Viola run away from Prentisstown, they meet several people along the way who help them learn where they are running TO: Haven. Haven is considered the biggest, safest, most advanced city on New World, and it is there they will find refuge. That is, IF they aren't killed along the way by the various madmen chasing them or Spackle (natives to New World) who might attack them out in the wilderness.

The Ask and an Answer
The second book in the series opens with Todd and Viola's arrival in Haven, and their subsequent disappointment that the place is not what it's been cracked up to be. Viola is wounded, Todd is out of his mind with fury, and both are separated by the man who they have feared most on New World: Mayor Prentiss of Prentisstown. They spend most of the book separated and concerned about the other, but still maintain a very special connection aligning them with hope for the future.

 The Spackle are an important part of this book as well. Native aliens to New World, the Spackle communicate only through their Noise, which Mayor Prentiss does his best to squelch. In hopes of saving Viola, Todd agrees to work with the mayor and his son until he can figure out a way to get to her. It is through this working relationship that Todd learns just how deranged the mayor is...at the same time, Viola is dealing with a madwoman of her own who has her own methods of taking Haven back from the crazy mayor.

  Monsters of Men
The last book in the series opens with an all out three-way war between the mayor and his men, Viola's mistress and her army of angry women, and thousands of enraged Spackle. Todd and Viola are completely in love by now but are divided by the sides of men and women who are fighting one another and the Spackle for control of New World. The story is further complicated when a scout ship arrives from another population of new humans hoping to settle on New World. The lines between crazy and redeemable are blurred as Todd begins to hope the mayor can change after all, and as everyone on each side are fighting for their lives as well as for the future of New World.

 There were several themes in the trilogy that wholly intrigued me. First, there's the gender separation by the Noise. The men and the women were both equally right and equally wrong in the mistakes they made when pitted against one another, yet there was the perpetual argument of who erred against whom first or worst. It was fascinating to see how the various communities reacted to one another in separation.

 I also of course couldn't help but wonder WHAT the Noise is supposed to mean...especially in light of the fact that only men are affected. What is the author saying about men?

 It was also interesting that Ness included two separate couples of the same gender in his trilogy. The relationships were not critical to the plot in any manner, other than that they made up half of the only four couples defined at all in the works.

 I just haven't been able to get the series out of my head! I haven't found anyone else who has read the books yet, so hopefully spewing it out here will give me some closure.


Moon Over Manifest (by Clare Vanderpool)

It is 1936 and Abilene is 12 years old when her daddy sends her to Manifest (supposedly just for a little while, though a little while soon turns into a long while). She has spent her whole life drifting from one town and job to another with Gideon (her father). Abilene knows all about being the new kid. She copes with this by determining that there are "universals" everywhere a person goes. Rich snobs, tricksters, odd balls, etc. are some of the labels she hastily applies to the people of Manifest.

It is only after discovering a box of trinkets and, along with the help of a few friends she quickly learns she has misjudged, Abilene uncovers the pieces to the mystery of Manifest...and her father as well.

*Moon over Manifest is the 2011 Newbery Award winner.


The Connected Child (Dr. Karyn Purvis)

During our adoption process, my husband and I were required by our (wise, oh so wise) agency to seek multidimensional education in adoption parenting...which, by the way, can be both the same and yet also very different as parenting biological children.  

The Connected Child is a book that came up in nearly every reference list of every conference presenter, web training, international adoption medical seminar, and conversation with other adoptive parents, and for good reason. This stuff is gold.

Though this work is really more a reference book than one to read cover-to-cover, I did it anyway. Hard headed, I am, indeed. Filled with practical tips for meeting the highly specific needs of children who have difficult histories, this book has rightly earned its place in the very tight circle of adoption parents. Truth be told, the explicit instructions for nurturing children is good for parents of any type.

I would recommend reading the first few chapters, skimming the rest, and utilizing that Table of Contents and Index to the best of one's ability. This one's a keeper, people.