Friday, April 30, 2010

Jesus Career Counselor by Laurie Beth Jones

I looked forward to reading this book because I thought I could integrate it into my own career counseling techniques. I am a high school counselor at an alternative high school. Although there is a separation of church and state, I hoped there would be nuggets I could use in counseling my students.

Laurie Beth Jones is an articulate writer and scripture scholar. She tells clever stories which segue into her lessons. By using the elements, she describes the strengths of a competent employee. She also offers 12 characteristics to guide the potential employee; rise, risk, roar, reflect, renew, restore, remain, return regenerate, revive, release and rejoice. Weaved within the pages are scriptural references and examples of people who possess different qualities from the Old and New Testaments.

This book is not a concrete "how to" guide for a career. The author's basic premise is that we can find work satisfying and God can guide us on our path. She gives sound tips for goal setting, understanding yourself, knowing lifestyle expectations but the book is ultimately about coming to know yourself in His eyes.

This is a concept book and includes excellent ideas in developing into a more complete person. The author uses examples from the scriptures which I found interesting, compelling, but a little distracting. Some of the examples were somewhat peripheral and I found myself digging into my scriptures to explore their character. On the other hand, it was a good exercise for me to look in the Bible for answers. The expectation, however, is that the reader already knows these people and read about them on Sunday at church. I feel pretty competent in my scriptural knowledge but I wish she had been more encompassing in discussing the examples from the Bible.

This is a weekend read. It contains good information and is a good taste for the person exploring career paths. As a counselor, I would have approached it with interest inventories, aptitude tests, and personal interviews. I guess this would put me in the element of "fire."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge

This book written by a Christian couple is based on the premise that a woman longs for three things; to be romanced, an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and beauty to unveil. Although, in summary, it sounds quite cheesy, Stasi and John guide the reader on a journey through scripture, literature, and real experiences that tend to lack empirical and statistical evidence yet resonates within the recesses of the mind.

That God created man, both male and female, in his own image is an accepted Christian doctrine. The authors take this doctrine a step further by expressing the divine nature of womanhood. He specifically blessed us with qualities that are feminine; relational, beautiful and seeking validation. It is their goal to assist the female reader unveil her femininity and connect with God and her man.

Validation is found within the books pages as the authors reveal that God is beautiful and glorious. He seeks to have an intimate relationship with His children. He seeks our honest hearts and implores us to seek Him.

It is easy to assume that every woman carries with her wounds that have not healed. Most pop psychology books provide ample fodder that our parents have wounded us. I tire of this mentality. It quickly establishes that our parents are the enemy rather than part of a support system that shaped our diverse personalities and independent selves. This mentality also relieves the grown child of any responsibility to respond differently to stimuli.

On the other hand, John and Stasi Eldredge offer compelling arguments for accepting our Divine Nature and infinite worth as Children of God. A God who reserves a piece within His heart that only we can fill. A god who can validate our existence and provide shelter and peace.

This book will not appeal to every reader. While reading it, I found gems of truth that resonated within my soul. In my attempts to articulate these truths at a later time, they sound sloppy and cheesy.

Bottom line: We possess divine matter. The qualities that are belittled and squelched for the perceived lack of strength are really our divine nature. It is the woman who seeks out relationships and deeply connects to those around her. It is the glue that holds society together. We are the ezer kenegdo, a beautiful Latin word that can not be directly translated into the English language and is erroneously penned as "help meet" to our husbands, conjuring utilitarian images. In a more accurate picture, we are the part of Adam that he lacks. Together we complete each other and hold a healthy and vital balance of who God is.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Like Enoch in the Bible, This May be My Final Goodbye

I have been having a love affair with  It's just so enticing. Everything I ever wanted is there for the taking and I don't even have to place a bid!  I can buy someone's used books or find that particular toy and it will come right to my house!  But just as I'm about to place the order, I see that I will still have to pay shipping.

I hate paying for shipping.  I understand the concept (stamps cost money) but I don't like it.  I currently have 5 items waiting in my basket. I just have to pay shipping.  But I can't because they are from private sellers who all charge shipping!  I am so torn.  I feel so cheap.  And a little tawdry.

A few months ago I allowed myself to indulge just a little bit and feed my Suzy Homemaker secret.  I love bread.  I love Italian restaurants where I can order a dinner salad and eat bread all night long while sipping on my Diet Coke.  I'm not talking Olive Garden breadsticks but real, chewy, warm, crusty Italian bread.  I made it my life goal to make the most chewy homemade bread.

I spent hours researching my technique and discovered that, no matter how hard I tried, I would never get my sourdough batter to taste like San Francisco's.  I also discovered, through trial and error, that fruit flies are attracted to sourdough batter start.  This was particularly disappointing after growing it for a month.

I found a website that gives step by step directions via Julia Childs in the 1960s.  Surprisingly, her technique is still relevant today, although I choose to use a bread mixer rather than knead.  I followed the directions, made mistakes, and had success until I had the perfect french bread texture and taste. But it was ugly.

Enter Amazon.
I really had to have it. I put it in my basket and went through the process of purchasing it but then I stopped. I couldn't bear to pay shipping.

But then I saw this:
I'm pretty sure this is the most beautiful bread pan I'd ever seen. I really, really, really wanted it but it cost so much and then there was shipping on top of it so I didn't get it but if I had I knew I would have reached the pinnacle of my very existence and baked the most divine loaf of bread ever. It's cast iron. Like my head.

Then one day Jaime from contacted me to do a review on products. They have everything and they don't charge shipping. Not only that, the pans were a couple of dollars less at CSN.

Remember that other place I used to torment myself with their wares?  I don't.
If you don't hear from me again, it's because I have fulfilled the measure of my creation. My family agrees.  We ate the whole loaf.

If I am still around when my baguette pans come, prepare yourself to be wowed.  Or sorely disappointed.

*Bread is made from regular bread flour, quick rising yeast which I always let rise the full double or more, freshly ground wheat, cooked freshly ground wheat berries (one cup water to half cup of cracked wheat), salt, about 4 T brown sugar and olive oil until I like the smell. I heated the pan and seasoned it with Canola oil to pre-season, formed the loaf and let nature take over. Cooked at 400 for 10 minutes then dropped it to 350 for 20 minutes. Smeared with butter. Sometimes I add sunflower seeds to the dough but make myself remember where I came from (Utah State University, home of the granolas).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Extras

Scott Westerfeld invented an amazing dystopia with the introduction of Tally Youngblood.  The characters in "The Uglies" were likeable and reasonably well developed without going into too much detail. "The Pretties" continued the saga with a story of overcoming obstacles and making choices for the greater good. "The Specials" was an interesting read but I was starting to get bored.  Tally was no longer likeable but a person who had all the powers possible but she lacked an overall conscience until she started caring about the environment. 

"The Extras" is part four in the trilogy (yes, I really did write that) and is exactly just an extra book.  The protagonist is struggling with making sense out of the new world since Tally and her crew instituted free agency.  The story takes on technology and those who are addicted to fame and sneaky ways of getting it (via FB, twitter, blogging, etc., although those programs are not listed).

Without including spoilers, I found the story to be interesting and relevant up to a point.  The author has clearly developed the art of magnetic fields and how to use them to travel. I found myself having to skim that part of the book. I also didn't like Tally any better when she is introduced in this book than I did in the "Specials."

The ending left me dissatisfied and a little frustrated that I had spent the time to read a book only to find out that I didn't like the ending.  It was an interesting take but seemed like a cop-out.

2/5 stars

Friday, April 9, 2010

Keep Sweet

Alva Jane is a 14 year old girl in a fundamentalist sect in southern Utah. The prophet is thinly veiled as Uncle Kenton (insert Warren or Rulon). She is the oldest daughter of her father's fourth, and currently, favorite wife. As she comes of age she is excited about the possibility of becoming celestial with her husband, certain it will be one of her choosing.

The story is well developed and explores the culture and doctrine of the FLDS church. Alva Jane quickly realizes how much power the brethren hold and how petty jealousies can quickly change a woman's life. Copious research is evident throughout the book and seamlessly woven into the story. Child brides, sexual, physical and emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, and the idiosyncrasies of fundamental latter day saint doctrine brushes dangerously close to reality.

The story of Alva Jane is clearly a patchwork of other women who have escaped polygamy. Although it is evident that Alva Jane wanted and needed to escape, the author also provides compelling reasons why others choose to stay.

I found the book haunting yet not unhappy. Although the author does not go so far as to use the story as a soap box, she clearly writes the book as an educational tool and, indirectly, seems to plead to the local law enforcement to do more to help those within the community.

This is an uncomfortable book to read for a mainstream Mormon. It's like the creepy uncle you wish wouldn't come to your family reunions or the cousin you just don't like but you have to play with him whenever he comes over to visit. You want to ignore them but they don't go away. That's how the vast majority of mainstream Mormons feel about polygamy. As much as it makes our skin crawl and as much as we want to deny the implications, it is still part of our church history.

I do wish the difference between FLDS and LDS churches were more delineated as they are very different. I did also find a couple of episodes that within the book that seems improbable and may be confused with mainstream LDS culture.
1) The FLDS do not actively proselyte thus it is unlikely that Alva Jane's love interest would serve a mission.
2) It is unlikely (although not impossible) that members of the FLDS church would attend Brigham Young University, a private LDS university. The school is subsidized by member tithes thus, members pay less tuition. FLDS members would not enjoy this benefit and would pay non-member tuition which is considerably more. With Southern Utah University within a short drive of "Short Creek," most who are chosen to further their education are sent to Cedar City for a bachelor's degree. They are not an uncommon sight at both Dixie State and SUU. I have never seen an FLDS member at BYU.

Even though I still don't like the creepy uncle, I appreciate the book and the writing style. I found the story compelling and the research well articulated. I appreciated the objective point of view Michelle used which allows the reader to make her own determinations of Alva Jane and her choices.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Will the World End in 2012?

This book is thoughtfully written and author's thoughts are supported by scripture. He gives ten theories of apocalyptic events and includes scientific theories and probabilities.

This is an easy read and quite enjoyable. The book presents basic information for someone new to the "End of the World" hype. The author's approach is to examine possible scenarios for the end of the world and does so through philosophy, science, and science fiction, essentially breaking down the threats into bite size pieces.

It is a Christian book, therefore the author, Raymond Hundley, adds his philosophy (and that of Christian faiths) that the book of Revelation foretells of the end and the Second Coming of Christ.

All in all, good book. Enjoyed the journey.

This book is from Thomas Nelson and was provided for review as part of their BookSneeze program.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Pees His Pants

Ten year old boys are a little on the funny side. While exploring the condo where we are staying, he stood in front of a mirrored closet door. His eyes moved from one reflection of himself to the other. Finally, he concluded this stare down with, "I don't think I trust either one of you."

This is the same boy who, when he figured out Mr. Taylor and I were speaking in code (talking about one of the children), he stared at us both in disbelief then exclaimed, "You're talking about my secret adoption, aren't you!"

I don't think he realizes how funny he is. A couple of years ago we were wrestling and I let him pin me. He then informed me he would never get married and have children. He would grow up and get a dog and a cat and name them Bob and Fred.

"Who will cook for you? And go to the store? Who will make your lunches?" I asked.

"Bob and Fred," he replied matter-of-factly.

That made me laugh and, since he was sitting on my stomach at the time, he ended up laughing, too.

Then he lost control of his bladder.