Books are Gluten Free!


Spring break truly is my favorite time of year. It comes as a welcome respite in the busiest season, and it is not a trip, it is a vacation. When I’m not sitting on the beach or by the pool, I’m drinking coffee slowly, I’m walking to local shops, I’m chillin’ with the fam, I’m mixing a G&T, I’m evaluating my tan putting on sunscreen. I’m reading.

Choosing books is an arduous task when you compare it with the above list. This year I tried to read 1984. I feel like I should have read that by now. But spring break is not a time for “shoulds.” Besides, I kinda feel like I’m over communism. (I just finished teaching a unit on Korea to 6th graders. Trying to help them really understand communism is not an easy task) I promptly put it down and picked up some good stories, all of which are true! As I write, there are tropical waftings of residual sunscreen coming up from the pages…

From an AJC review: The tragedy of AIDS in Ethiopia comes into sharp focus in Melissa Fay Greene’s powerful new book, There Is No Me Without You. Greene, who lives with her family in Atlanta, tackles the terrifying truth that in 2005, Ethiopia counted among its population 1.5 million AIDS orphans. Officials estimate some 12 million children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS in all of sub-Saharan Africa.

Here’s a brief summary: For years Neely Tucker was a foreign correspondent covering the world’s most dangerous hot spots — Sarajevo, Nairobi, Kinshasa. In 1997 he was based in Zimbabwe. At that time, the country was the epicenter of the AIDS crisis in Africa. Unable to have children of their own, Tucker and his wife, Vita, threw themselves into volunteer work at a local orphanage filled with sick infants whose parents had died or had simply abandoned them. It was there they met a baby girl named Chipo. In the Shona language, her name means “gift.” Like thousands of children in Zimbabwe, she had been abandoned at birth and left for dead. Neely Tucker writes about the struggle to keep Chipo alive, and then the long journey through Zimbabwe’s bureaucratic maze to make the child a permanent part of the family.

My favorite part:

“I had remembered the thought from long ago that had led me to this courtyard in southwestern Nigeria: the idea that there was some sort of truth to be found in the world’s most sorrowful places. It was something I had viewed as critical to my understanding of the world, and I had pursued it since the day I had come of age in Mississippi and began to see things as they really were…Had it been left to me, Chipo, my very own daughter, would be dead because I had not been there. There are defining moments in your life, in which your measure is taken for good and you remember it always. So it was for me then.”

 

Penelope Ayers by Amy Julia Becker.

Summary: Penelope Ayers is a memoir about a beautiful, gracious, lonely New Orleanian who discovers one February morning that she has cancer. Penny’s life to this point has included an alcoholic husband, divorce, depression, and raising two boys on her own. And yet this crisis prompts her to reach out for help. Three generations of her fractured, colorful family respond, and in so doing, they all experience grace and healing.

My favorite part: “I wondered, What does it mean to have hope for Penny? What does it mean to have hope for eternal life?” I knew it had to do with the resurrection–that if Jesus truly had been raised from the dead, then I could believe others could be raised with him. So hope meant believing in a promise, in a future that didn’t contain the wrenching reality of pain, and death, and separation. And yet hope involved more than the future, was more complicated than a denial of the hurt and confusion of the present moment, more complicated than trite condolences about death bringing us to a better place. Somehow, I thought, hope had to connect the present and the future, bind them together…To hope meant to stand in the place between–feeling the pain of the present while, somehow, still trusting in God’s goodness, in the reunion yet to come.”

 

Korean Relations

In 1953 North and South Korea signed an armistice. That ceasefire still stands today; they never signed a peace treaty. In other words, they agreed to stop killing each other, but the issues remain unresolved. Kim Il-Sung and the North Koreans wanted to unite the nation under communism while the South Koreans resisted. In my World Cultures class, my students read about how Korea went from the united golden age of the Silla dynasty to today, where guards face each other 24/7 on the DMZ.

How does that happen? How do we move so far apart from the people closest to us that we have to carry loaded weapons around just to protect ourselves?

Hear this from James 4 (ESV)

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”

Our textbook says that “fear and suspicion” keep North and South Korea from uniting. It also says they hope to be one country one day. It seems there is a tension more powerful than the electric barbed wire that physically divides. However, the longer they remain separated, the harder reunification will be. But what is the underlying difference? The Iron Curtain has come down, but what about the fence?

“You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’?”

In our relationships, what will it take for us to put our guns down, to seek reconciliation, to humble ourselves? Why is it so hard to admit we are wrong, say we are sorry, and forgive? Sometimes it is the silence that keeps us from understanding each other. Often what remains unsaid is louder than what is said.

North Korea, for all of its craziness, isn’t so different from us. We want to believe that we can be self-sufficient, isolated, and ok on our own. We don’t want to recognize our need for something beyond ourselves. Somehow the slightest movement toward each other is enough to see that God is already there, already working toward redemption. Here’s the hopeful part…

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”