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May book list

May is our hottest most miserable month here.  Temperatures are around 105 or more every day and the humidity increases making it feel even worse.  One of the hardest things about the heat is the way it zaps your energy.  After putting in a day of work, you're pretty much done.  Reading is a great activity for when you don't feel like doing anything.  And one thing you can do when the power is off, is read.  So May is not a good month for doing big projects, but it is a good month for getting some reading done.

The Power of Suffering:  Strengthening Your Faith in the Refiner's Fire by John MacArthur
 Our culture seems, on the whole, to do what they can to prevent and to avoid suffering, yet suffering of some sort comes to each of us.  MacArthur has some very helpful things to say and this book would be one I'd be willing to share with people going through a hard time. He gives a good solid theology for suffering. He said two things, though, that I'm not sure I agree with.  The first was that MacArthur thinks that when Paul said he had a thorn in the flesh, he believes that thorn was a person. I've never heard that before and am not sure I agree. The other thing he said is that miracles don't happen today and I don't agree with that at all, though I do agree that we probably overuse and loosely use the word "miracle".  I liked how he pointed out that while suffering helps us grow in patience, that's not the main purpose of our suffering. The main purpose is to help us know better how to worship, honor, and glorify God in everything. When we get to heaven, we won't need to be patient, but we will be spending the rest of our lives glorifying God. For me the book was not written in an engaging manner and I would have benefited more if he'd included real ways in which he had suffered and learned these biblical truths.

A House Divided by Robert Whitlow
This book takes a close look at alcoholism and its effects on a family. The author gives us an inside look at the 12-step program while showing that it is God who can change lives. I enjoyed this book, but some of the legal details (the father and two children are all lawyers) went a little over my head. I also thought the case two of them were working on came together a bit fast in the end. Otherwise it was a good read.

Stolen Woman by Kimberly Rae
I think that Ms. Rae did an excellent job developing the characters, but I found parts of the plot quite implausible. Nevertheless, I was sorry to come to the end of the book. I also felt like the author has a good knowledge of India, its peoples, being a third culture kid, and of injustices taking place in our world.

The Photographer's Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman
I took my time reading through this book (more than a year!). As the subtitle says, it is all about composing and designing better pictures. The author introduces a lot of technical aspects of photographing which, when you see them in a picture you know it's a good photo without being able to say why. He teaches you things such vectors, using circles and rectangles, dynamic tension, filling the frame, and color in composition, just to name a few. I took a long time reading this book as it has a LOT of information and I found I wanted to look up examples of the techniques on the internet and try to think of how to use what he was teaching in photography. Reading through this book made me realize how much there is to learn about photography and how far I still need to go! The author does assume you know your camera well and that you know basic photography terminology, but you don't need to be a professional to understand the book.

The Young Mountaineers Short Stories by Mary Noailles Murfree
I came across a list awhile ago that compared what 8th and 9th grade students in the 1930's were required to read. Of course, I can't find it on the internet now, but at the time I went on Amazon and found a lot of them and downloaded them for free. This was one of them. This is a series of short stories about young boys having all sorts of adventures in the mountains of Tennessee. The stories are well-written and still very readable and enjoyable, but probably most kids today wouldn't "get" the setting. There was also a lot of dialect that was hard to read. I think boys of today who like to be outdoors and who like adventure, camping, hiking, being in the wilderness, etc. would still enjoy these stories. The stories are also good because, without being preachy, the author shows her characters learning how to be honest, to be brave, to be honorable, etc. 

True Religion: Taking Pieces of Heaven to Places of Hell on Earth by Palmer Chinchen
I liked this book as far as it went, but I felt like Dr. Chinchen's emphasis did not go far enough. He really did a great job on challenging young people to get involved in missions and to do what they can to bring "pieces of heaven to places of hell on earth". No believer should ignore the plight of others and Dr. Chinchen really challenges young people to get involved. I think the audience of the book is meant to be university age students and I love how he makes helping the poor and doing missions something that is in the realm of possibility for each person. However, the focus really seemed to be on short term missions and on short term solutions such as collecting shoes for people, which I'm not criticizing. But I do wish he had put more of an emphasis on committing to life-long missions. It's a lot different to take a day and wash dirty children than it is to have dirty children surrounding you year after year and realizing that whatever you can do is so small compared to what they really need. It's fine to go in and deliver hundreds of shoes, but it's a lot different to live year after year with people who, when those shoes are worn out, still won't have the means to purchase a pair of shoes for themselves. There have to be better ways of helping pull people out of poverty than "band-aid" solutions like passing out shoes and giving kids baths. Those things are great.....but I wish Dr. Chinchen had put more of an emphasis on getting in there for the long haul. As a personnel coordinator of a mission in one of the poorest countries in the world it is my job to place teams and individuals. I can tell you that teams are a lot of work for the missionaries on the ground and that the benefits are more for the team members (and often those benefits are worth the hard work of hosting teams!) than for the host culture. I also have mixed feelings about the phrase "hell on earth" because somehow it feels judgmental to me. There are places that truly are hell on earth; but I think it's a misconception that everybody living in poverty is miserable and unhappy. Some of the poorest people I know are happier than some of the richest people I know. 
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