I definitely read more books in April than I did in March! That is partly because by the end of April I was almost, but not quite finished with a couple of books.
My first book was The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper, which I downloaded on my kindle for free. The opening scene is the tranquil Glimmerglass Lake. A week, many adventures, and 576 pages later the book ends with Glimmerglass Lake once again as tranquil as it was before the adventures of Deerslayer took place. In the space of one week, there is mystery, romance, adventure, battle scenes, and Deerslayer becoming a warrior in his own right.
In reading this book, one must remember several things. First, it was the writing style in 1841 to write long, wordy, descriptive sentences. Today's modern reader may struggle with that, but I found the story itself worth all the extra verbiage.
Secondly, it's easy to see Deerslayer as racist or prejudiced. Deerslayer keeps referring to "white gifts" and "Indian gifts" and if one did not understand the time in which the book is written, it would be easy to assume that he was racist. However, Hurry Harry's view of Indians as being almost less than human was probably more the common view of the day, and it definitely is a racist view. Deerslayer sees Indians and whites as equal, though different. I'm sure that was quite a liberal view for 1841 and especially for the days of the French and Indian War which was the setting for the novel. I believe that if there had been more Deerslayers and fewer Hurry Harry's in America, there would have been fewer atrocities committed against the American Nations.
Thirdly, I love how Deerslayer is a Christian and he allows that to speak into all areas of his life. Even where I may disagree with his conclusions, Cooper paints Deerslayer as a man of convictions, of honesty, and of integrity. I did have a few problems with some of Deerslayer's conclusions, such as believing that all men will make it to "heaven" or to the "happy hunting grounds" or whatever they call it if they have followed their "god/God" and have lived a good life.
All in all, I enjoyed the book.
The second book was The Finding of Jasper Holt by Grace Livingston Hill, because every now and then you just need some super light reading. Grace Livingston Hill books border on being corny, and yet I enjoy them! This book seems somewhat implausible ... the heroine and the hero survive a tragedy together; her purity and beauty inspire him to change; but even though he's a rogue, he turns out to not be so bad after all.
My third book for April was Emotionally Mature Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. I had mixed feelings about this book. There were several things I didn't agree with and I won't list them all. But some of my objections were:
1. The title. It sounds like we have to be emotionally healthy before we can grow spiritually. I think on the converse, that when we give our lives to Jesus and allow the Spirit to work, that He can change our emotions and heal our baggage. I would have liked it better if it had been called Spiritually Healthy Emotions.
2. He was quite insistent that we have to know ourselves to know God. I agree and I don't agree. We do need to be aware of our utter despicable sinfulness to cry out to God to save us. But as we get to know God better and better, He points out the things in our lives that need to change, including emotional things.
3. I've not visited his church, so I don't want to be too critical. But I am always a little suspicious when church leadership promotes one way of doing extra-biblical things as the way it has to be done. I realize every church has its culture and perhaps a practice of mysticism to become healthy spiritually and emotionally is just part of their church culture. I don't know, but I am suspicious.
4. The idea of praying the "Jesus prayer" (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.) in time to your breathing just seems weird and new-agey to me.
Now, some good things to be said about the book.
1. There are many, many, many emotionally unhealthy people in our world. I don't think it's wrong to seek professional help to deal with poor emotional practices. If you go to a health professional for physical help and healing, why not go to a professional for emotional help and healing. It may be that this book helps you realize some areas where you need help. But again, I think it is God who helps you be aware of your need for help as you follow Him, and not that you need to be completely whole emotionally before you can know God.
2. One needs balance in following contemplative and mystical practices. But I found it helpful to be reminded that it's a good idea to set aside time throughout the day for prayer and Bible reading.
3. What a great reminder to keep the Sabbath!
4. The author does a great job of pointing out how often we as believers lie ("I'm fine", etc.) and how often we try to meet unrealistic expectations from others instead of just taking time to be with Jesus and do what He wants.
In conclusion, I would really only recommend this book to mature discerning Christians. I think there's too much poor theology that would confuse new believers.
And the fourth book was Fall on Your Knees by Anne-Marie MacDonald. This is a book about family relationships ... or maybe I should say dysfunctional family relationships. It deals with incest, abuse, homosexuality, racial prejudice, and trauma and its out-workings all in one book. Those are a lot of heavy subjects to put into one volume. I started out really liking the book and thankful that the author was able to write about dark, heavy subjects without crossing the line into lewdness and more information than we need to know. But the book got worse as it went on. Not only did Ms. MacDonald make the book much longer than it needed to be, but the family got weirder and weirder. I will say that Ms. MacDonald is an excellent writer and she kept me turning the pages until near the end when I started skimming because I really wanted to finish the book and it just seemed to go on and on. I never lost the plot by skipping pages! So, I didn't hate the book, but it's not one I would tell others they just really need to read.