Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book Reviews

For those of you who know me even slightly, you probably know I am an avid reader. Actually, my husband claims it is more than that, he says I should join Books Anonymous! "Hello, my name is Beka, and I have a problem..." Usually my books of choice are fiction, especially when I had small children and reading was one of my only escapes. Perhaps it is because the kids are growing older and my brain feels slightly less fatigued and more able to cope with deeper thinking, but recently I have been attracted to several non fiction books; three in a row, in fact! I really enjoyed all of them. They were well written and thought provoking. To mark this momentous occasion, I thought I would share them with you...

The first book I read is a slim volume entitled Prayer Saturated Kids by Cheryl Sacks and Arlyn Lawrence. This book was an easy read and very practical. It had some great creative ideas for encouraging kids to pray as well as exposing them to different kinds of prayer. I was convicted that I often dismiss kids' prayers as trivial, but this book reminded me that God loves and wants to encourage their great faith! We should as well!
Parts of this book made me feel uncomfortable, but it wasn't because I strongly disagreed with the content as much as some of the authors' ideas were outside of my comfort zone, not necessarily a bad thing. While I was interested in trying some of their suggestions, there are other things that I just can't picture myself doing. I do wish they had spent more than two paragraphs in dealing with disappointment in prayer. The little that is said is sound, but the issue could have used further discussion. Throughout the entire book, the reader is encouraged to help kids grow in their life of faith through prayer, a good thing. But we know that sometimes God chooses not to answer a prayer how or when we would like. This can be a difficult thing for anyone, adult or child, to deal with and the topic deserved a more thorough response from the authors. I don't believe they offered a definition of faith either, which I think is crucial for a biblical understanding of prayer. Over all, I would recommend this book. It reminded me of my responsibility of teaching and modeling prayer for my children.

The second book loan I had was one entitled Sacred Marriage. The subtitle hooked me right away, "What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?" Again, this was an easy book to read and digest, but very thought provoking. It was very practical too. I really enjoyed the way Gary Thomas intermingled centuries of Christian thought and a thorough knowledge of Scripture as the basis for his points. Thomas delves into the nitty gritty of relationships with very clear examples. While I wouldn't have said my goal in life was happiness, when presented with a picture of what it might look like to pursue holiness in relationships and the logical actions that would follow that decision, I realized I was more focused on my personal happiness than I had imagined. Pursuing holiness may also make me happy, but not necessarily, and that is ok. This book definitely changed the way I look at my relationship with Ian and started me thinking in a similar vein about other relationships... how does parenting, working inside and outside my home, being a neighbor, interacting with people from other cultures etc... make me more holy? Or am I settling for happy? If you are married at any stage, I would HIGHLY recommend this book!!

Foreign to Familiar is the third book I just finished reading. This book by Sarah Lanier is not very long, it could easily be read in one or two sittings, but it is very clear and presents ideas in ways that are easy to grasp. Lanier uses her background of living and working all around the world to share different ways that cultures relate. She compares and contrasts two different, generalized ways of seeing the world. I appreciated that she didn't say or even imply that one way was better than the other, rather she clearly shows the strengths and weaknesses of both styles of interaction and how the two styles can better understand the other. From her concrete examples, you can tell that she has a lot of experience in interacting with both "hot and cold" cultures (her labels). As I read I saw the multitude of ways I could unintentionally convey the wrong message to someone just by living and communicating as I have always done. This book heightened my awareness of possible misunderstandings people might have in interacting with me. I feel better prepared to look for red flags in my interpersonal communication. Because of the easy transportation available in our world today, almost anyone could benefit from this book whether you have students or neighbors, coworkers or fellow church members who grew up in a culture different from your own. Anyone that travels or interacts cross-culturally should read this book.

Now that I feel like the Reading Rainbow music should be coming on at any moment, I will wrap this up! Normally recommending books like this would be way too much effort, but I really did find all three of these books exceptionally helpful. I would be interested in your opinion if you have read or choose to read any of them. They've given me much food for thought over the past month. Now that my brain has feasted, I will head back to the fiction section... Don't want to over eat! :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sahel Spirit Week

Each year over Columbus Day weekend, the community here in Niger put on a softball tournament. They have both competitive and social teams competing for a trophy in each category. Since softball is a game that allows for both sexes, many ages, and varied ability levels, it is always a fun time for the whole family. This year, the tournament was especially fun as almost every game was a close one and there were several come from behind wins. Ian played, as he does every year. Their team lost by one run in the second overtime inning to the Competitive team from Sahel. It was such a great game, it was difficult to be too disappointed.Sahel Academy, where the kids attend, sponsored a total of 4 teams this year! One competitive and three social teams. As usual, leading up the the weekend and the following week of "fall" break, the school had Spirit week. Each day, the student council picks a new theme. At recess time, there is a costume parade. Finally to top off the week, Friday at the end of school, there is an all school pep rally where the each class presents a cheer, the Sahel teams are loudly cheered for and prayed for, and the costume winners for elementary and secondary are announced for each day. Here is Kay's class with their cheer.This year, the themes of the day included:
Hippie Day:
Tom was especially proud of his mustache, but I think it was the wig that insured him the prize!
Class Choice Day:
Grades 1/2 were cowboys and grades 3/4 were Indigenous Peoples... Not pictured is our 50's girl, Heidi Sports/Team Jersey Day:
Heidi and Kay proudly supported the Red Sox, and Tom wore his Romanian soccer jersey. Kay's sign reads, " I cheer for 2 teams, the Red Sox and whoever beats the Yankees!"Fairy Tale/Fantasy Day:
Tom's ultimate goal for this day was to wear a costume for which he could stuff a pillow up his shirt! As a result, he was the Princess and the Pea...Here is a second picture of the Pea with his sister the Gingerbread Man...And last, but not least, Puss in Boots! (This was rehearsal without the nose and whiskers.)and, as always, Friday was Sahel Suns Spirit Day, our colors are Yellow and Black!

As always, the kids were very creative and had lots of fun. Tom even came home with a free soda coupon for winning first prize for elementary Hippie Day! It was so fun seeing their excitement and imagination! Hope you enjoy the pictures! Unfortunately, some days Heidi had to go to school dressed for PE and change into her costume after-wards. To see the pictures of her on those days, and more of the kids, check out my face book account and see photos that other people took during the costume parades.

Kay's Teacher: Our Answer to Prayer

Over many months we have been praying for the special someone that would teach Kay's third and fourth grade class! Here she is!
When I think of Miss M, I think of 1 Corinthians 13 because above all, I know she loves the kids she teaches! We are praying for strength and creativity for her. For good communication with each child and family, and understanding of each child's needs and strengths. Without love, however, all the math and grammar she could teach would be empty and meaningless, so we are thankful for her good humor, her servant's heart, her dog, Lieta, and especially, her love for kids!