Friday, March 29, 2013

On Disagreements and Unity

Last night, I attended a Christian Seder at my church.  Because many people were expected, our pastor cautioned people that they might not get to sit with their entire family, depending on how the tables filled up, and that we needed to remember that we were all a family together, not just individual family units.  Before it began, however, there was someone with whom I needed to speak.

Earlier this week, I wrote two posts (here and here) about an issue happening in my town.  On Wednesday, I attended an informational meeting about the project and learned two things:  one, an acquaintance from church is a city employee, and was sitting up at the front with the council, and two, the council decided to not pursue the project at this time.

I don't know what my friend's involvement in the decision was and do not know where he stands on the issue, but it is likely we are on opposite sides.  When I saw him before we began, I spoke to him and expressed my gratitude that the project had been tabled, and that I was hopeful decisions could be made more slowly and discussed among many people.  He was friendly and caring, and we had no animosity toward each other.

Later, when the meal turned into communion, after getting my matzah, I deliberately went to the cup that he was holding in which to dip my bread.

It is the body and blood of Christ for both of us, regardless of where we stand on an issue.  It was family unity.

At the last supper, Jesus said "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12).  And, I think, last night, that happened.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Christian Community and Praying for Government

Yesterday, I wondered about a Christian's role in government.  Today, I want to expand that and wonder about a Christian's role in interacting with government, as well as the idea of community.  This is a close-knit community, one in which people who live here have grown up in, gone to college in, and have decided to raise their own children in.  As adults, they often attend the churches in which they grew up.  It is a safe place, a friendly place, and in some ways, almost idyllic.  I love living here.

The other day, as the Sunday school class I was in was discussing wisdom, I was reminded that as Christians, we need to pray for our leaders, regardless of whether or not we agree with them.  While I agree with that, I struggle with it too, not only because I kind of stink at prayer, but because I am not sure what to pray for them, and I realized that prayer can also reflect my own biases.

Do I pray for what I want a decision to be?
Do I pray for "God's will"?  What if I am am equating "God's will" with what I want?
Do I simply pray for wisdom in making decisions?  If so, again, do I equate wisdom with what I want?

Or what if I pray about making this an even better place to live, a place for people to develop stronger bonds with each other, better friendships with each other, and a place in which people feel loved?  In what ways can a community, leadership and ordinary citizens combined, work together to enhance the community?  How can government and citizens serve one another and those around them?

In our unique community, we have an opportunity to put our "Reformed"* theological views into practice, not so much by the passing of laws (because laws do not change a person's heart), but by looking at ways in which a Reformed worldview can positively play out.  In Creation Regained, by Albert M. Wolters (which is an introduction to Reformed theology), he writes that "The 'Spirit of holiness' seeks to permeate our creaturely lives, making a qualitative difference in the internal workings of family, business, art, government, and so on" (90).  He goes on to explain about sanctification, and uses Jesus' shortest parable, (The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough, Mt 13:33) as an example of the "leavening influence in human life wherever it is lived" (90) of the gospel.  He explains that the gospel will affect things in different ways: the "government in a specifically political way, art in a peculiarly aesthetic manner, scholarship in a uniquely theoretical manner.  It makes possible a renewal of each creational area from within, not without" (90).  

This way of looking at sanctification and holiness through Jesus' parable is important in a community made up primarily of Christians.  Because we have both faith in Jesus, yet are still capable of sinning at the same time, we realize that the Holy Spirit works through us in small ways when we may not even know it is happening.  Part of the way that is done, I believe, is living in community with each other.  This is why so many churches offer "small groups" or "home groups" or whatever one wants to call them in order for people to develop better relationships with each other.  That is a very structured way of developing relationships, but they can also be developed organically.  When families run into each other at the park, or at a coffee shop, and conversations happen and trust and friendship deepen, the Holy Spirit is working.  In a community such as this one, there can be ample opportunity for this (well, not necessarily in the winter!) because we have such a wonderful abundance of parks and places to go.  It is through activities such as these that people can really practice community and loving one's neighbor (and one's enemies!) and in a highly Christian community, this should be encouraged and supported.

Wolters explains that in Reformed theology, there is an idea that came from Abraham Kuyper called "sphere sovereignty" in which "no societal institution is subordinate to any other.  Persons in positions of societal authority (or "office") are called to positivize God's ordinances directly in their own specific sphere.  There authority is delegated to them by God, not by any human authority...If one institution raises itself to a position of authority over the others, a form of totalitarianism emerges that violates the limited nature of each society sphere" (99).

In the case of government, what does this mean for the Christian, especially in a Christian community?  How do people in authority make God's ordinances positive, and what specific ordinances should be positivized?    And not only that, if a government should forget its role, how can a Christian citizen oppose political totalitarianism by "calling the state back to its God-ordained task of administering public justice"? (100, emphasis mine).

When I think of justice, I think of the book of Ruth, in which the edges of the fields were left to be gleaned by the poor.  Or I think of the words of the prophet Isaiah in which God tells him how he loves justice and hates robbery and wrongdoing (Isaiah 61:8).  Or the beautiful words of the prophet Micah, when he says "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8).  And we cannot forget the dark side of it either, when Jesus berates the Pharisees for neglecting justice and being more interested in themselves and their positions (Luke 11:42-43).

We all sit in church on Sundays, singing songs and listening to sermons, and wondering, theoretically, how it all applies to our lives.  And now, here is a real-life challenge, for everyone on every side of an issue, to search within, to pray, in order to do the right thing, the just thing, the loving thing.  In what ways will that Spirit of holiness make a qualitative difference in our lives?

Jesus summed up the law and the prophets with only two:  love God, love others.  How will we each work that out in our own spheres, be it individual or communal?  Will you join me in praying for our leaders and our community members, whether they are friends or enemies, for an outcome that would be loving and just?

*note:  I am by far an expert in Reformed theology; it is something I have only started learning about in the last year.

Monday, March 25, 2013

What is a Christian's Role in Government?

I live in an area that is predominantly Christian.  My town of about 7000 people has 18 churches in town, and there are a number of churches in nearby towns that people attend.  I would estimate that there is a high percentage of people here who attend church on Sunday (sometimes twice).

Because of that, our local government is obviously made up of churchgoers.

This makes it difficult for me, because if I disagree with them, as I do with a current situation, my first reaction is to consider them my "enemy", yet, in this close-knit Christian community, they are supposed to be my brothers in Christ, regardless of which church they attend.  I feel conflicted.

Leaders often have difficult decisions to make, and sometimes have to make unpopular ones.  However, leaders also need to use wisdom in making those decisions, and because the "golden rule" is not unique to Christianity, I would also hope that leaders would look out for what is best for people as a whole, to have a listening ear and a caring heart, and would treat them as they would want to be treated.  To do this requires that a leader search one's heart and ask if pride, power, and control is driving him, or if humility, a servant-leader mindset, and love for neighbor is driving him.

This is especially poignant now, during Holy Week, the week in which we are led to the cross.  I think of Paul's words to the Philippians:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,  but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,   he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross. --Philippians 2:3-8
It is this type of thinking that the Christian politician should have, I think.  Looking to the interests of others, especially of those who are weaker and powerless, is a way to look at whether or not a decision is right.  This type of attitude is not one of making laws because we want to be "Biblical", but rather, one that heeds Jesus' call to serve and follows Jesus' example in putting power and glory aside, even if the power and glory are deserved (and, perhaps, especially if the power and glory are deserved).  

It is wrong to have an undercurrent of fear of government.  I often expect that government at the national level doesn't really care about the people that it represents, because it is so far removed from the lives of everyday, average, ordinary citizens  But that is not something that I would expect at the local level of government, and yet, as I have conversations with people, the image that is forming is one of just that, and it saddens me.  People should not be afraid of retaliation if they speak out against their government.  People should be able to speak out against decisions with which they disagree and which directly affect them without fear of undeserved penalty.  And, if the undercurrent is fear, and the government is looked at as uncaring and desirous of power and control, what message does that send from a Christian perspective?

One of the best descriptions of loving one's neighbor comes from the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.  After witnessing some different events with people who are quite different from her (a boy who eats at her home and pours syrup all over his food, a filthy boy in her class who has head lice), her father has a talk with her, and tells her "if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along better with all kinds of folks.  You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--...--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." (page 30).

This lesson is one we all to often forget, and one that is of the utmost importance and should be practiced regularly.  Any leader making a decision should try to look at it from another's point of view.  It might mean talking to people who will be affected by the decision.  It might mean visiting their home and seeing what they will lose.  It might mean taking a bike ride with children to see if it will put them in danger.  It  means talking to real people with real lives and feelings and thoughts.  

I would urge all Christian politicians everywhere, as we focus on Holy Week, to think, to contemplate, to meditate on the willing sacrifice of Jesus on Good Friday and really ask yourself what Paul's description of it has to say about power and control.  Search your heart.  Search your soul.  And on Easter Sunday, as you sit in church, celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, celebrating the new life that he offers to all, think of life in terms of the people whom you represent.  Think of helping to protect their lives, think of helping to enhance their lives, think of not taking away from their lives.  

I leave you with more words from Paul's letter to the Philippians:
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. --Philippians 4:8-9

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Worth Reading Wednesday: Spiritual Abuse

For this week's edition of Worth Reading Wednesday, I want to call your attention to a synchroblog series that is being hosted by Hannah, Joy, and Shaney Irene in order to draw awareness to spiritual abuse.  Anyone is welcome to link up his or her story, as well as submit stories to Elora Nicole to be posted anonymously.

Introduction to the Week 

Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week Day 1
Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week Day 2
(Day 3 will be on Shaney Irene's blog on March 22)

Elora Nicole
Rachel Held Evans

Please read the stories.  If you have a story of your own to share, please share it.  The abusive experiences told here should not happen, and anyone can help to stop them, to prevent them, to educate, to help people heal.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Forgiveness Without Asking

In "Is Forgiveness Conditional" I wrote about some troubling verses that imply that we cannot be forgiven unless we forgive others.

First of all, I want to be clear that I am not demanding that everyone just go say "I forgive you" without working through healing.  While I think that forgiveness can bring about healing, there are many people out there who have been hurt far worse than I can ever imagine, and I don't know their lives or their stories.  Nobody can demand that somebody forgive another person.  It must come from God working in that person to guide and help them forgive another.  What I don't want is that pain and hurt to turn into bitterness that prevents people from living an abundant life.

I remember a time in high school when a friend stopped talking to me, for reasons I could only guess.  We never were friends after that, and I stayed angry at her for a very long time.  After high school, as we all went our separate ways, we lost touch.  But one day, when I was living in Utah, I decided that I needed to forgive her.  The anger that I was holding on to was only keeping me bitter about it; it didn't affect her at all!  In addition to that, she may not have even realized how hurt I had been when she took away her friendship.

At the time, I felt lighter; I felt as if a burden had been lifted from me.  Today, while I wouldn't consider us good friends, I would consider us friendly acquaintances.  We reconnected one day on Facebook, and I am happy about that, because I believe that it shows that people can let go of past hurts and move on towards healing and reconciliation.

While this experience of mine is minor, and, you might think, an easy type of forgiveness, there are people who have forgiven others for much worse.  Recently, Mary De Muth wrote an extraordinary letter illustrating  forgiveness when she wrote a letter of forgiveness to the boys who who sexually abused her when she was five years old.

When I think of the forgiveness experienced at the cross, I think of these words:

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots to divide his clothing. --Luke 23:33-34 
Often, what we hear is "Jesus died for your sins".  But in these words of Jesus, he is forgiving the very people killing him as they are doing it.  Now, if any of you have stories about being able to forgive someone as they are hurting you the most, I'd love to hear about it, because I know I certainly haven't experienced it.  For most people, it takes time.  But for Jesus, it didn't.  His love for them was so great that he wanted forgiveness for them while they were at their worst, while they didn't even know they were at their worst.

In both of these examples, forgiveness was given regardless of whether or not it was asked for or wanted by the perpetrators.  What does that tell us?  Is forgiveness for the people who did the hurting, or for the people who are hurt?  

Friday, March 15, 2013

How Will You Read This Blog Without Google Reader?

If you read this blog through Google Reader, you may be wondering what to do now that it is going away.  There are a few options:
  • Sign up by e-mail.   It's in the top right of this page.  Anyone who signs up will receive, for free, the first page (the introduction) of the study guide I've been working on.  Please bear with me as I learn just exactly how to do this! (Edit: I'll probably send out the intro in my first newsletter).  I've been using feedburner for email sign ups and alerts, but I've heard good things about Mail Chimp, so there will likely be some experimenting with these to see what works best.  If you choose this, you can always set rules/filters in your email to have anything you subscribe to sent to a specific folder.  
  • "Like" me on Facebook.
  • Follow me on Twitter
  • Use an alternate reader. (Edit: there are a few listed in the article, and I've been hearing good things about one of them, Feedly).
Due to the probability of more people reading via e-mail, I want to continue to stick to a three times per week posting schedule (with a few exceptions here and there) so as not to clog up your inboxes.  Also, I think I will send out a quarterly newsletter as well.  I'd been thinking about doing that anyway, so I guess the timing is right for it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What I Learned From the Catholics: Peace

This post is one in a series of posts about what I have learned from the different denominations and religions that have come into my life.  There may be more than one post per denomination.  To see the others, click on the "What I Learned" label. 

(No, Elizabeth Esther, this is not the "How I Came Back Home to Catholicism" post you were hoping for).

There is a part of every Catholic mass I have ever been to in which the priest tells people to offer each other the sign of peace, and we shake hands, and say to each other "peace be with you".  I remember when I was a child, I always liked when nobody was sitting at the middle aisle end of "our" pew, so that I could scoot over and shake Father Butler's hand as he walked down, offering peace.

Today, a new pope was chosen, and I had a conversation with Elizabeth Esther about all these unknown Catholics coming out of the woodwork and mentioned my own baptism and confirmation, and commented that when I'd regularly attended Catholic mass at the last college where I worked, it was often the most peaceful time of my week.

While the room in which we met was used for other events, such as our weekly morning chapel services, the weekly nightly praise and worship service, music recitals, and at times campus-wide meetings, on those Thursday nights at 9:00 p.m., it was different.

It was quiet.

It was dark, yet with a soft glow from the lights.

Although it was always dark in this recital hall, at night, during mass, it seemed to fit better than during the day.

It was always a small gathering, maybe 10-15 people total, but there was a camaraderie and welcoming spirit.  Some were Catholics since birth, others were converts to Catholicism.  Some were not Catholic at all.  Some were young college freshmen, others were professors nearing retirement.  We would talk quietly a little, before mass began, and then I would sink back into my seat and recite the words, that though long-forgotten, would always come to my mind and lips, as they were tucked away in the recesses of my brain from years of saying them week after week as I was growing up.

Each time I went to mass, I didn't have to think.  I didn't have to be in charge (as I was for chapel services).  I could just relax.  And be.

It helped, I am sure, that mass was on Thursday nights and I didn't work on Fridays, and so for me, it was a way to end the week and start the weekend, a way of grasping a moment in time that didn't belong to either my work life or my family life.  It was a time of solitude, silence, peace.

While I love my current church, most (all?) Protestant churches are oriented towards developing relationships with each other through socializing before and after church and through programs.  While this can be a great thing, what is often lacking is private time alone to focus on God.  My church has a small room that is set aside as a "prayer closet", and the other night, I spent almost an hour in there, doing my final day of meditation for my "Celebration of Discipline" experiment.  Just as Catholic mass brings me peace, so did this.  We all need time alone, in solitude, to focus on God, yet we often do not make time for that.

We fight about theology so much and so often, that we forget that we can actually take some very good things from denominations different than our own, and peace is what I personally get most out of Catholic mass.

How about you?  What brings you peace?  Have you ever found it in an unexpected place?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. --John 14:27

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review: Your Beautiful Purpose by Susie Larson

I received a copy of Your Beautiful Purpose by Susie Larson free from Bethany House for the purpose of this review.

Calling/vocation is a topic in which I am very interested, so I was glad to be able to read and review Susie Larson's book, Your Beautiful Purpose.  While I don't necessarily think a book about calling needs to be directed only toward women (my favorite book on the topic is The Call by Os Guinness), Larson speaks to women through her book who desire to find out what God wants them to do with their lives.

In her introduction, she states that she is writing to women with buried passion, women who have been beaten down, women who do not resonate with words like dream or calling.  I think she does a good job of speaking to all of these types of women.  While not everyone will relate to everything in the book, I think there is enough in it that anyone can get something out of it.

Larson writes about topics such as jealousy, waiting, fears, and discernment, among others.  She includes a study guide at the end of each chapter to help the reader process what she has read and what it means for her.

Some of the inspirational parts, for me, were:
"Consider the desires in your heart.  Pay attention to stories that stir up your passions.  Dare to believe that He wants to use the gifts He's imparted to you.  He's the one who put desires in you that He might fulfill His purposes for you.  He can even use the worst things you've ever done, or the worst things that have ever happened to you, to change the world through you.  He desires to transform you into a humble, bold, healed, and confident woman who trusts Jesus with her every breath" (page 19)."
"Deep within our souls there's a sincere desire for God to use us, a desire imparted to us from God Himself.  Woven into our spiritual DNA is a beautiful calling and divine purpose for us to fulfill" (page 129)
"When we focus on our fears, the risk of stepping out feels greater than the potential reward of living by faith.  Daring to dream is no small thing.  And it's not for the faint of heart.  But in Christ we're called, appointed, and equipped to live lives bigger than we are" (page 121).

I especially enjoyed chapter 11, about "active waiting", because it spoke to me as where I currently am in my life.

While there were a few times I thought what she was saying was cliche, and a few times I wasn't totally following her train of thought, overall, the good in the book outweighs it, and I'd recommend women who are wondering about their calling, or who need a refresher, read the book.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Meditation Results and Intro to Prayer

This was originally posted at Soul Munchies.  Due to SM being on hiatus, it's been reposted here.

Last month I introduced you to the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster and explained that I would be focusing on one discipline each month.  There are 12 disciplines so this will be a year-long experiment.  This past month was the discipline of meditation.  As I explained then, Foster writes that "Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God's voice and obey his word.  it is that simple" (page 17). 

In the chapter, Foster writes about four different ways to practice meditation:  
  • meditation on Scripture
  • re-collection or centering down
  • meditation on the creation
  • meditation on events of our time to perceive their significance
For my meditation time, I combined meditating on scripture and meditating on creation, because, why choose one activity when I can do something a little different and do two of them?  I chose a dark, quiet place each time, with just barely enough light to be able to somewhat see in my journal.  

"For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him" --Psalm 62:1,5

On the first night, I wrote down these ancient words and then stared out the window into the darkness of night. 

As I observed the world outside my window, I wrote down everything that came to mind, not stopping to think about it, but just letting the stream of consciousness flow.  I wrote two and a half pages.  

Howling wind.  Spitting now.  I looked at a tree and saw a spot where a branch used to grow that was now broken, dead.  Across the field behind my back yard is a farmhouse, and in the summer, there are horses in the field.   

I didn't know how long I would meditate or what it would or should be like.  I didn't know what type of experience to expect.  And so I just looked, and wrote, and waited in silence, and thought about God, and wondered how long I would have to wait until He showed up.  But the verse from the psalm isn't about him showing up, it is about the psalmist waiting

When we wait, we anticipate, we don't know what will come, we are not in control.  We wait upon God and then we realize that He does not leave us; He is there, always, and we must look around and be aware of all of the ordinary ways in which God's presence is here.  God is here in the ordinary, and in the mysterious.  God is here in me.  

I didn't stay at the same window each time I meditated, and looking out different windows gave me new views and new thoughts and new words.  There were many days I failed to meditate.  Sometimes a week would go by before I'd do it again.  But God also waits in that silent place of inaction for me to enter, to rest, to just be.  

Meditation is difficult.  It takes me at least five to ten minutes to even become quiet and settled enough to do it.  It can be difficult to even find the time and space to do it, especially if you have children.  Sure, they go to bed at night, but that doesn't mean they will stay there!  And so, take it when you can.  Meditation is relaxing, restful, fulfilling, and joyful.  It is restorative.  After a busy, noisy, activity-filled day, my times of meditation at night were just what I needed.  Someone else might find morning to be the best time to meditate.  Despite so much advice I have read to "get up 15 minutes early" or "the best time to be with God is in the morning", I have realized that this does not work for me and I'm not even going to bother to attempt it.  God made me.  God knows I am not a morning person.  

And so, as I move on from meditation to prayer, I can't help but think that my meditation was a type of prayer.  Richard Foster writes that "of all the Spiritual Disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father" (p. 32).  He explains that meditation was more of an introduction to the inner life and that prayer is something that is "life creating and life changing" (32).  

That sounds wonderful, doesn't it?  But you know what?  I stink at prayer (which is funny, because I led a six or eight week study on prayer once).  My mind wanders and I am not someone who can get up in church or Bible study and just pray out loud (which is also funny, because I have done exactly that).  It feels fake to me because I can't think that quickly about what I want to say, and so then it doesn't feel as if it comes from my heart.  "It's just talking to God," people say.  I know that.  But often, prayer can feel like "small talk" or a one-sided conversation rather than the in-depth communication that I think it is meant to be.  So, we'll see how it goes.  I may dig out that old prayer study and try different types of prayer and talk to different people about how prayer works for them.  But I don't want to get too far away from the actual practicing of it, and have it become just an intellectual exercise, so I'm not sure how much of that to do.  

What about you?  Do you have a particular style of prayer you use the most?  A particular time of day?  What is prayer to you?  Do you find prayer easy or difficult?  

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Update on Study Guide: Called to Influence

Way back in October of 2012, I let you know about a study guide I was writing to use in a Sunday school class at church.  Today, I printed it, copied it, put it in folders, put labels on the folders, and set it out with a sign-up sheet.  It's done.   Well, done for now.  I hope that as we go through the class, I'll be able to see what works and what doesn't work and get some good feedback from the participants.

This is the outline of it:

Called to Influence:  Women in Leadership in the Bible and the Church

  • Session 1:  Calling, Gifts, & Gender
  • Session 2:  Wisdom
  • Session 3:  Women of Influence
  • Session 4:  Prophets
  • Session 5:  Jesus & Women
  • Session 6:  The New Testament Church
  • Session 7:  Leadership
  • Session 8:  Recap & Reflection
I'm anticipating it to go well, but I'm also anticipating finding things I can change and ways I can make it better.  I am amazed at how much effort I put into it and am so in awe of those of you who have written full length books.  Especially those of you who are also moms.  

I am thankful to those of you who were influential in inspiring me to write it in the first place.  

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

On--or not on--the Blog This Week

This year, I have been trying to stick to a Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday blogging schedule.  I often get them written on the weekend and scheduled ahead of time.  That has not happened recently.  For various reasons, I haven't had my typical 4-6 hours of Saturday writing time in about a month.  It is also crunch time to get my study guide finished so I can get it printed and copied this week so it can be handed out on Sunday to anyone taking the class which starts the week after that.  So, this week, the blog will not be a priority.  I hope to be back to blogging very soon, though!

Friday, March 01, 2013

Book Review: Wings of Glass by Gina Holmes

I received a copy of Wings of Glass (releases today) by Gina Holmes from Tyndale  House Publishers as a part of their Tyndale Blog Network program.

Abuse is a difficult topic to cover, and I commend the author for choosing to write a novel about this highly emotional subject.  Her protagonist, Penny, eloped at age 17 with Trent, who worked for Penny's father.  Throughout the book, Trent's abuse of Penny and Penny's acceptance of it reads very real.  Penny's friends, Callie Mae and Fatimah both try numerous times to help her, but Penny waffles between staying with Trent and leaving him.  Her pregnancy compounds the issue:  she doesn't want her baby to be hurt, but she does want her baby to have a father.

Homes does a great job keeping the reader interested to the end to find out what exactly will happen with Penny and Trent.  Will his abuse escalate to the point of resulting in death?  Will he change?  Will they stay together?  Will Penny leave him?

There were some problem areas, though, throughout the story:

  • The book starts off as a letter to Penny's son Manny, explaining to him about his father and their situation.  At first, I liked the idea, but after a while, all of the insertions of "Manny" into the text was distracting.
  • Penny elopes with Trent at age 17, after only a week of being "his woman".
  • Penny and Trent attend church at one point, but then it is never spoken about again until much later.  It seems to the reader that they hadn't gone back, but when it is mentioned that second time, it is explained that they had been going all those months.
  • While Trent's abusive behavior is not condoned, and characters say that Penny is not Trent's property, some of the other thoughts in the book stick to the idea that the man is in charge (the head) of his household and must take care of his wife.  While Penny & Trent's relationship is contrasted negatively with Fatimah and Edgard's good relationship, the image in both of them is that the man is in charge. 
  • When Penny finally sees her parents again, her father seems to be a different kind of person than described earlier on in the book.  I think the author could have explored the family histories of both Trent and Penny more, to show how their pasts helped to shape who they were.  
The symbol in the book of the statue with wings of glass was beautiful, and aptly described Penny.  Fatimah and Callie Mae's friendships with Penny are wonderful, and Fatimah and Penny's is full of hurt and forgiveness both; it's a beautiful friendship.  

Overall, the book was ok.  I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it.