From the Shelf: Young Adult

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Alabama Moon is a boy who has never been in a car or slept on a bed. Raised by his father in the deep forests of central Alabama, he’s taught to see the government as his worst and only enemy. But when his father dies, Alabama Moon must face his worst enemy yet – loneliness.

The following adventures lead him through a boy’s home, the clutches of an entitled police officer, and into the arms of the story’s moral. Friendship.

This book is cute and spends a lot of time detailing how to stalk a deer as well as how to butcher and eat a rat snake. What ended up surprising me was the innocence of it. Maybe it’s been too long since I’ve read a young adult novel, but when one is reviewed as ‘coming of age’ I don’t expect the main character to be 10 years old.

People came ‘of age’ a lot older back in my day. (Haha.)

It was a kindly story however and I enjoyed the descriptions of Southern terrain and quirky folk. Not to mention, justice was served with at least one person getting their happy ending.

And in a world like the one we live in…a simple, hatchet chopping hero with one happily ever after…well, that’s a breath of fresh air.

 

 

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Have You Not Known?

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The word majesty, when applied to God, is always a declaration of his greatness and an invitation to worship.

-J. I. Packer

Invitation where His majesty is declared. In early morning bird song. A heated pool.

When supper bubbles and someone is there to keep the light on.

To worship at the baby bassinet or the side of a hospital bed.

This life is never outside the care and concern of His greatness and we shelter in His majestic care.

Art thou afraid his power shall fail

when comes thine evil day?

And can an all creating arm

grow weary or decay?

 

 

Supreme in wisdom as in power 

The Rock of Ages stands,

Though him though canst not see, nor trace

The working of His hands.

 

Mere human pow’r shall fast decay 

And youthful vigor cease,

But they who wait upon the Lord

in strength shall still increase.

 

They with unwearied feet shall tread

the path of life divine,

with growing ardor onward move,

with growing brightness shine.

-Isaac Watts

 

 

A New Week

We have our marching orders for Monday. The whatmusts and wherefores.

We know what we ought to do, but when our feet hit the bedroom floor and our hearts are already muddled up, what can we say into the morning? How do we preach Sunday to the devilish doubts before lunch?

This. This song that we sing in the face of our sinful hearts.

“When Satan tempts me to despair

and tells me of the guilt within”

upward I look and see Him there

who made an end to all my sin

because the sinless Savior died

my sinful soul is counted free

for God the just is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me”

~C.L. Bancroft

And praise God that this anthem is ours.

Five Minute Friday: Beauty

Well this isn’t hard. A theme roaring in my ears every minute of every day.

It’s the mirror lie, gawking back at pooching bellies or dimpled knee.

It’s the drive to pick up socks, shirts, jeans and blow the dust off table tops.

One step and then two, it’s the face we look into when our own shabby bones give up the ghost and sink on our knees.

Beauty is the thing we can dig deeper into, learning new ripples in the rock. Each developing ring the marker of another year, another lesson under our belts.

It is a very gift to remind us what lies ahead. The rainbow clouds spelling hope in rainy sky. It’s not what we deserve, but what we need.

Beauty in the promise of things made whole.

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From the Shelf: Current Events

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The first book I read this year was Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. A friend had sent it to me after Christmas, because the author lives and practices law in Alabama. In fact, one of his cases involved an accidental bombing in Dothan, 1977.

The main thread of this book explains the ultimate release of Walter McMillian, a man on death row for a murder he didn’t commit. As Bryan Stevenson works on this case, he uncovers many examples of a dysfunctional justice system. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and Alabama one of the highest in the country. This book outlines through many examples, some of the reasons why.

It was sobering to read the ways in which a zealous system misfires. Stevenson explains the role that politics play in election of judges, or even community pressure to lock someone, anybody, up for a crime. His stories talk about sloppy lawyers, unconcerned in defending the people who cannot pay and the resulting incarceration of innocent people. Stevenson tells stories of children prosecuted as adults receiving life sentences without parole, or those with severe mental disabilities who are imprisoned for life. He talks about all white juries in racially divided communities, perhaps not intentional but certainly unwise in the pursuit of justice. Prisons operating for profit, futile drug laws, the death penalty, the list goes on.

The question for me personally, is not so much if I should care, but how. I love my new home and state, but that doesn’t mean I have to blindly believe it’s the best at everything. Or that I can just assume every person on death row deserves to die. Loving is caring enough when things are terribly wrong and we should care when justice isn’t served. Or even when we should consider meeting justice with mercy.

I’m no opposer of the death penalty and those who pose a risk to society should certainly be restrained. Depravity is real and consequences of sin surround us. However, this book has made me think more deeply at least about my Christian response to the incarcerated, or those at risk to be. I want to be slower in talking about “those” people, the riff-raff, poor people, the ones who don’t look like me or make poor decisions. If I truly believe in the sanctity of life then there are no lines I can draw in the sand and I should certainly care about extending what Christ gives to me, ironically something like the title – just mercy.

*Bonus Read: Hillbilly Elegy*

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I added this to my list on the basis of its title alone.  It’s the memoir and opinion of J.D. Vance. Now a successful lawyer and author, Vance tells his story of growing up in Appalachian dysfunction. He writes in a deeply personal voice that explores the ‘why’ of white, working class poverty. The attitudes, the cycle of abuse and many other factors that contribute to generations of disadvantage.

This was the perfect book to read as counter point to Just Mercy. No one group has the market cornered on sad stories. Together these books have broadened my horizons and compassion for the mission field at home. I think the best way to sum things up is found in Hillbilly Elegy (pg.255). In writing about a boy named Brian who Vance mentors, he says;

“Any chance he has lies with the people around him – his family, me, my kin, the people like us and the broad community of hillbillies. And if that chance is to materialize, we must wake the hell up…I believe we hillbillies are the toughest g*%@ people on this earth. We take an electric saw to the hid of those who insult our mother…But are we tough enough to do what needs to be done to help a kid like Brian? Are we tough enough to build a church that forces kids like me to engage with the world rather than withdraw from it? Are we tough enough to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that our conduct harms our children?

Public policy can help, but there is no government that can fix these problems for us…These problems were not created by governments or corporations or anyone else. We created them, and only we can fix them.”

If nothing else, food for thought.

 

 

 

 

Making All Things a New Year

Hanging at the front of every end, is beginning.

In the death of pat answers, safety nets and preconceived notions, we have the start of something else.

It’s a plan beyond our best intentions, beauty from ashes, a fresh start in it is finished…we sing…

“the lamb who was for sinners slain, is making all things new”

Death opening to New Life. Shaking ground becomes sure.

Resolutions that might fade into memory by February, instead become mercies new every morning. Safe in the Saviour of every failing.

And despite each pain of this year, the Puritan says…

“Nothing hurts the godly…all things…shall cooperate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings.”

He is worthy and able to redeem 2017 – dead, buried and resurrected Jesus.

How much more can He benedict the days before us? The very Lord of hope and life.

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