#845 A Place Called Hope by Philip Gulley

 A Place Called Hope by Philip Gulley A Place Called Hope by Philip Gulley

One day Sam Gardner, a Quaker pastor, is called upon by his friend, a Unitarian minister, to perform a wedding in his absence. Sam did not know that this one wedding would cause his life to turn upside down. The wedding was for two women, while not legal, at the time, the two women wanted something to solidify their relationship. They posed to Sam that since he wasn’t actually marrying them, he was just saying a prayer for them and Sam could find nothing wrong with that. So Sam performed the prayer and went home.

All heck soon broke loose. People wanted to know why Sam had performed a gay marriage, while Sam didn’t initially know the couple was same-sex, he performed it anyway because they had just as much right as anyone else to be happy. The council of his particular meeting soon wanted him out. Sam resigned, but there were no jobs to go to. He couldn’t work at the car dealership. His wife had just started working again and funds were tight. His sons were in college and the army respectively. College was not cheap.

Sam looked to a place called Hope. They had a Quaker meeting there, but there were only twelve members. They took their time deciding if they wanted to hire Sam, months in fact, but finally they did. Sam and his wife moved to Hope, after selling their house. The new meeting was a strange one, at least to Sam. The members would take turns getting up and lecturing about almost any subject and how it related to them spiritually. Sam thought this was weird, but the people of the Hope meeting were quite set in their ways. Sam soon found that Hope wasn’t a bad place to be.

What I liked

I can’t say that I’ve ever read a book about a Quaker pastor. I have read books mentioning Quakers, specifically some early adopters of women’s lib, but not a book specifically about a Quaker pastor. It’s an interesting world and I learned a lot of Quaker terminology, which will serve me well at some point.

I do like that Sam became a bit more open-minded and humbled by this experience as the book went on. Good for him.

What I didn’t like

I don’t know how to exactly describe it, but Sam seems a bit holier than thou. Sure, he’s more open-minded that some, but it still seems he’s on a high-horse in regards to religion. You are supposed to let people worship how, where, or what they may; it’s in the scriptures. This means, if someone finds a way of worship that’s good for them, you leave them the heck alone and let them do it. Why does it matter how they’re worshiping God or whomever, as long as they’re doing it? I feel like Sam would say a lot of, “This isn’t how Quakers do X.” Who freaking cares?

While Sam and his wife are interesting, Sam reminds me very much of a white, older man who thinks he knows how everyone else should do everything. While he does progress in this story, he’s got a long way to go as far as our current day standards as far as how men should not seek to mansplain to everyone, in Sam’s case, Quaker mansplain to everyone.

Overall

Quaker Oats–they’re Quaker because they go to church every Sunday…not really; it’s just a name.

Weigh In

What do you think about people like Sam?

Do you find that some people you know seek to tell everyone how to do something rather than doing that something themselves?

#845 A Place Called Hope by Philip Gulley was originally published on One-elevenbooks

Advertisements

#811 The Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner

The Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca KannerThe Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner

God told Noah to build an ark because God was going to cleanse the world of all the evil that grew there. There would be a great flood. It would rain for forty days and forty nights. When the flood waters receded, God’s chosen people would go down from their mountain and start the world anew. This is the story we all know, but was about the other people involved? What about, say, Noah’s wife? We don’t know a whole lot about her. She isn’t named.

This book is a look at what Noah’s wife could have been like. It’s highly fictionalized, of course, but how can you not fictionalize something that happened, or didn’t happen, so long ago?

A young woman lives with her father. She has a birthmark upon her forehead, what we would call a port wine stain. People say she is marked by the devil. They call her a demon woman. Her father tries to protect her, but when a tradesman goes missing, because her father killed him for attempted rape, a mob forms outside the tent of the woman and her father. One man knows of a righteous man who has been waiting for a righteous wife for hundreds of years. This is hard to believe, but the woman’s father agrees to let the man take her for a wife.

The man, Noah comes to get his new wife. He is old. His donkey is old. He does not care about the spot on the woman’s forehead. He cares that she is righteous. He takes her away to his land. Noah lives among a very unruly group of sinners, banished from other lands, and constantly committing all sorts of crimes. Murder and sexual immorality are rampant. In time, Noah and his new wife have three children. Shem, Ham and, Japeth. They grow into men. God has finally had enough of the evil of the people of the Earth. They have not hearkened to the voice of God’s prophets, which say to repent. Noah is commanded to build an ark. It’s not an easy task.

The ark is finally built. Each of the sons must have wives, but this is not as easy as it sounds. There are not many virtuous women anywhere. Three women manage to make it on the ark and then the storm rages. Things rage in the family as well. There are hostilities. There is treachery. Surviving sinners float on rafts. Old enemies surface. Eventually, the waters do go down and the family sees what the world to come is like.

What I liked

I really like these fictional accounts of Biblical figures. We don’t know a whole lot about any of them, even though we may have heard their names a thousand times. What was Noah really like? What about his wife? Women lack names often in the scriptures. It’s not just the Bible, most books of scripture fail to name most women. I have read  The Red Tent, by Anita Diamont, multiple times and I have enjoyed it each time. The Red Tent is about Dinah from the Bible. I just think what these women’s lives could have been like is very interesting.

This book takes the idea of not being named to an extreme. The main character in the book, Noah’s wife, does not have a name. She was never named because she was a girl and because of the mark on her forehead. In my knowledge, women were named in the tradition of the Jews and other religious groups of the time, but I could be missing something. I never really thought about these women not being named because they didn’t actually have names. Of course, I tend to think that the writers of the books of the Bible, and other scriptures, did not think women important enough to name, in most instances. There is the consideration that because the Bible has been edited and translated so much that at one point it could have included a heck of a lot more about women. Heck, maybe women even wrote it for all we know, or at least a book or two.

The author did include a lot that was  scripturally accurate. Methuselah was still alive during the time of Noah, if you believe people living for hundreds of years. Angels having children with Earth women and those children being giants, the heroes of old, was actually something mentioned in the Bible. How this could be true, I have no idea, but men are not naturally over seven and a half feet tall, most men aren’t naturally over six feet tall. Once you get past 6’4″-6’5″, you have to start considering genetic abnormalities that made someone so tall. We as a species generally run in to five-foot-something range.

The author did miss the part about a couple of Noah’s sons uncovering his nakedness, but I forget exactly when that occurred in the timeline of Noah.

This book did humanize Noah for me. I never really thought about how Noah might feel. I guess I always considered him to be this figure that was stoic when the people of the Earth drowned. In reality, he probably did care for quite a few people who died. It probably made him really sad. Of course, you have to take all of this with a grain of salt, because maybe Noah never existed.

What I didn’t like

I think the author painted Noah in too humanly of a light, but then again, he was a human, albeit one that lived for a heck of a long time, supposedly. I feel like he was kind of a jerk in this book and I don’t imagine Noah as a jerk. Any guy who would patiently put up with that many animals, on a boat, for that long, has to be a good guy.

There are too many stories about a great flood for something to not have happened. At some point, there was  giant flood for a lot of the people on the Earth. Whether or not this flood occurred at the same time is another question. Big floods did happen in reality, whether or not they were Noah’s flood is a different thing.

Let’s say a big flood did flood the whole Earth at once. It’s absurd to believe that no one else survived except Noah’s family. In fact, even in the Bible, it’s mentioned that one of Noah’s grandsons or someone marries someone over from such-and-such place. How were there people at such-and-such place if no one else survived? The Ark supposedly landed on Mount Ararat in Turkey, which is a mountain, but there are plenty of other taller mountains. There are plenty of places that people could have survived. Maybe they built boats as well. God often had multiple prophets going at once. Maybe he told some other prophets to also build boats, or maybe some of the people Noah told about the flood built their own boats.

I cannot believe that someone would know someone for so many years without having a name to call them. That’s demeaning. That’s like saying this person isn’t human and doesn’t deserve to have a name, even slaves have historically had names. Someone who was not a slave should have certainly had a name. Any human should have a name, no matter what their status in life is.

Overall

Noah’s wife must have been a pretty great person to go through all that she went through.

Weigh In

If God told you to build a boat, would you?

Do you think Noah’s family must have been patient to put up with each other and all those animals on a boat?

#811 The Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner was originally published on One-elevenbooks

#758 The Shack by William P. Young

The Shack by William P. YoungThe Shack by William P. Young

Mackenzie Phillips did not expect his family’s camping trip to end in tragedy, but it did. One minute the family was canoeing, the next, one of the daughters, Missy, is gone. She’s missing. There is no sign of her anywhere. There’s a coloring book, a red crayon, and a ladybug pin that does not belong to Missy. A search follows. The only thing ever found of Missy is her bloody dress in a shack near the campsite. That’s it. It’s all the work of the notorious Little Lady Killer. Each time he kills a girl, he leaves a lady bug pin, with an extra dot for the newest victim.

The tragedy shakes Mack’s family. The family was always prayerful and always close to God, whom Mack’s wife likes to call Papa, but now, Mack doesn’t know what to think. How could a good god allow such an awful thing to happen?

Four years later, a strange letter comes in the mail. Nobody knows where it came from. The letter invites Mack to the shack, but is signed “Papa.” Is this some cruel trick by Missy’s murderer? Is this letter from God? Mack prepares for both scenarios. If it’s the murderer, he has a gun. If it’s God, he has questions. What he finds in the shack is nothing he could have ever expected.

What I liked

I really liked this book. I don’t want to give away much of anything about it. It’s very profound. If you want to read something that makes you think and feel on a deep level, this book can certainly fit that bill.

This is a Jesus book, which you might not appreciate if you’re not a Jesus person. Usually, I don’t appreciate “Jesus” books because everyone is too high and mighty about it, making both Jesus and God too impersonal; this book is the opposite of that.

I loved this scenario of possibly meeting God. If you met God, what would you ask him/her? What would you say? How would you act? Do you think you would tremble in fear in the presence of God, or do you think that you and God would get along like family?

I can’t imagine how I would behave around God. I have definitely been a prayerful person in my life, but I think it’s different when you can’t see a person and they’re not actively responding to you, having actual verbal responses and a face to look act would be a game changer, I think, anyway.

This is one of those books that makes the idea of a higher power one of the most beautiful things you can imagine, at least for a short period while reading the book.

What I didn’t like

I don’t entirely agree with some of the theology in this book. I liked a lot of it. It was beautiful.

There is this bit presented in this book claiming that the independence of humanity is what has screwed everything up. This book also claims that Adam and Eve eating that fruit screwed it up for all of us. I don’t believe this. God gave us the ability to be independent and think for ourselves so that we could be more like him. God certainly thinks for himself and makes decisions for himself, so why wouldn’t his creation? We were made in God’s image, after all.

I also believe the whole eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was supposed to happen. It was the first exercise of choice for humanity. When humanity saw that it could make choices and that choices had consequences, it was able to understand the idea of being this autonomous creation of God.

The death of a child is an awfully sad way to go about all of this.

Overall

I really enjoyed it.

Weigh In

Can you imagine meeting God?

Do you find that you’re angry at God/the universe/the higher power of your choice if something bad happens to you that is beyond your control?

#679 They Called her Mrs. Doc by Janette Oke

They Called her Mrs. Doc by Janette OkeThey Called her Mrs. Doc by Janette Oke

Cassie comes from a well-to-do Canadian family living in Montreal. Her father is a doctor, who is constantly having young and upcoming doctors over to the house. Cassie is seventeen and is becoming marriage minded. It’s not easy speaking to the young men, but Cassie does on occasion. Her mother begins to teach her how to cook and how to sew so she will know how to be a wife.

One of the doctors returns multiple times, but it’s not the doctor Cassie expects. This one is rather plain, but not ugly, and has a rather ordinary name, Sam Smith. After Cassie turns eighteen, her father says she can make her own choices about having gentleman callers. When Sam turns up in the parlor, Cassie is a bit surprised, but goes along. She finds that Sam is easy to talk to and she enjoys his company. The two spend more and more time together and ultimately, decide to get married.

Sam goes away on his residency, but writes to Cassie and lets her know his plans. He wants to go back out west, where he grew up. His mother died there because there was no doctor and he vowed to return home and be the doctor his town needed. The news is a bit devastating to Cassie, but she made up her mind to follow Sam wherever he went. They get married in a small ceremony and then head west. The journey was not at all what Cassie expected.

They soon make it to their new home and life starts. It’s difficult for Cassie, but she soon makes a friend of the pharmacist’s wife and is taught that anyone can have a personal relationship with God. This is news to Cassie and it makes her life much easier. Soon Cassie begins having babies, one after the other, until there are five. These years are full of energy and responsibility for Cassie, but that’s not all the responsibilities Cassie has. She learns to do a little doctoring here and there. She even helps Sam out at the clinic when he breaks his arm. She helps Sam out so much that someone dubs her Mrs. Doc.

Time passes on. The children grow up. Cassie continues to doctor neighborhood children and animals. Ultimately, Cassie and Sam grow old, but their love is still as good as ever. Cassie reaches the stage of life where her children want to care for her instead of her caring for them, but Cassie knows all things have their time.

What I liked

I’ve read this book several times and I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve always found it sweet. Cassie and Sam do not have this glamorous relationship. They’re not Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, or Kanye and Kim; they’re this simple couple, very smart couple, but simple. They don’t have fervent, rapturous infatuation in their relationship. They love one another, a lot, and are each other’s best friends. Those are the kinds of relationships I admire. My grandparents have been married sixty-four years and that’s the kind of relationship they have. They’re not making grand romantic gestures to one another. They have lived life together, both the good and the bad, and they’re friends. Their relationship is deep-seated in each other.

I think we should all strive to have relationships like Cassie’s and Sam’s, or like my grandparents’. There is a lot to be said for someone who treats you like a partner and a person. Sam never looked down on Cassie; he knew she was smart; he knew she was determined. He made her feel respected and loved, and that, matters more than being super handsome/beautiful/hot/thin, or having lots of money, or buying a dozen roses every week; just insert whatever high relationship standard you want in there. Being a good person is important in a relationship. Being a good person in a relationship with another good person is where the apex of a relationship is.

What I didn’t like

There isn’t really anything I didn’t like. The book is a big sad in parts, but overall, it’s a great read.

Overall

So sweet.

Weigh In

Would you leave your family and travel to a far-away land for a relationship?

If your spouse asked you to leave your family and live in the wilderness, would you?

#677 A Woman Named Damaris by Janette Oke

 A Woman Named Damaris by Janette Oke A Woman Named Damaris by Janette Oke

Damaris is young, fourteen, but she’s already a grown up in a lot of ways. She helps her mother take care of her father, daily. Damaris’ father drinks, a lot. If there is any money, it’s gone before anyone knows it. The man comes home and yells and breaks things. He demands coffee only for himself. He gets violent at times.

Damaris’ mother tells her that she could pass for seventeen and a lot of girls are on their own at seventeen. One day Damaris’ mother gives her a pocket watch and a brooch. A day soon after that, Damaris’ mother suggests that she go and have a wade in the creek. This is Damaris’ mother’s way of telling her that she should go. Damaris packs her few possessions and sets off into the wilderness alone.

She leaves the roads for open land and eventually follows some train tracks into a town. She’s heard of a wagon train going on further west and tries to find passage on it. She finds a position with a family that has lots of kids. The work is exhausting, but Damaris manages. The captain of the wagon train is very nice to Damaris and even writes her a letter of recommendation. Damaris marvels at the fact that so many men around camp don’t seem to be drunk, nor are they spending all their money on alcohol.

Damaris eventually makes it to a small town where she manages to get three part-time jobs with three different women. Each of the women encourage Damaris in one way or the other. One woman in particular helps Damaris find some self-worth. Damaris’ mother always told her that her name came from the Bible, but the family didn’t have a Bible. The woman helps Damaris look for her name and they find it, but Damaris is a bit disappointed; there isn’t a lot to say about Damaris in the Bible.

Meanwhile, Damaris develops a friendship with a man named Gil and helps a family of children in need. Damaris finds a way to forgive her family and she also finds a way to see that not all men are the same.

What I liked

This has always been one of my favorite Janette Oke books. I just like how determined Damaris is. She goes off on her own and she finds some faith in life, in God, and in herself. I think I probably identified with Damaris when I was younger. I didn’t have the greatest home life and wanted nothing more than to get away from it. I liked how Damaris struck off on her own and found a way to make things work. She also gained herself some faith. I’m not overly religious, but I do like the idea of people finding faith in something.

What I didn’t like

The last time I read this book was before I was married to my ex and this time when I read it I wasn’t married to him anymore. I never had to worry about my ex abusing substances, alcohol or drugs, but the emotional part of it was very difficult. Some of the moments in this book made me cringe a little. When Damaris practically has an anxiety attack because she encounters a drunk man, I get it. Sometimes there are situations that you would like to be strong in, but because you’re traumatized you can’t.

I identify with Damaris yet again. Before I identified with her for wanting to get away from home and now I identify with her because she escaped a traumatizing situation.

Overall

Damaris is one determined woman.

Weigh In

Do books change meaning for you when you read them during different phases of your life?

If there has been a long gap between reads of a book, does the original interpretation of the book still apply to your life?