Time for an update on what I've been reading lately...it's been a season of challenging stories, most of them life stories about real people. They aren't the typical autobiographies like I remember reading in school in the 50's and 60's, but very interesting and enlightening, disturbing and depressing at times. Several are about people in parts of the world where I have never been ~ the Middle East and Africa. Many of the books were recommended by my girls.
These books have been impactful for me, but I have not yet processed how they might affect my life in days to come...that might have to be a blog later on.
A three part series by Jean Sasson (who lived in Saudi Arabia from 1978-1990) gives an insiders view of life among the royals. The story comes from a princess who has a desire to alleviate the suffering of women in her country where women are often ignored by their fathers, sold into marriage to men 4-5 times their age, treated as slaves by their husbands, and murdered or isolated in a small windowless room for the rest of their lives for the slightest transgression. From extravagant shopping trips spending millions in just a few days to camping trips in the dessert complete with Persian rugs, servants, and 25 Mercedes at their disposal, the decadent opulence of the royal family is described in detail. Image your 15 year old daughter with a safe in her bedroom containing over a million dollars worth of jewels. The books are "Princess: a true story of life behind the veil in Saudi Arabia", "Princess Sultana's Daughter's", and "Princess Sultana's Circle". The danger of male dominance and the desperate lives of the women they rule comes to life. The royal women respond in acceptance, minor rebellion, alcohol and drug abuse. In the end, Princess Sultana determines she will never again allow an individual woman to be mistreated.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah describes "how wars are fought now ~ by children, traumatized, hopped-up on drugs, and wielding AK-47s. Children have become the soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty violent conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers." As a young boy of, Ishmael fled attacking rebels and wandered about Sierra Leone with other boys his age. Within a year he was picked up by the government army and...well, you need to read the book! I cannot imagine what it was like for him...it was gut-wrenching and unforgettable.
"This is where you'll stay," he said, swinging the door open to reveal our new home: a small bathroom about four feel long and three feet wide....There was a shower stall at one end and a toilet at the other - the room wasn't big enough for sink." But six women of various ages lived in this room for three months, packed in tight and on top of one another, absolutely quiet, silent, because if any one could hear them they would be found and killed. This is the story of Immaculee Ilibagiza...in 1994 her world was ripped apart as the bloody genocide in Rwanda claimed nearly a million lives. In the midst of the killing spree Immaculee discovered the power of prayer and a relationship with God. Amazing...again I cannot imagine what it was like for her...the fear and suffering and loss. "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust". Read it and weep.
Then there's a four part novel series by Terri Blackstock. (Last Light, Night Light, True Light and Dawn's Light) The story centers around the Banning family in Birmingham, Alabama. An electromagnetic pulse from a star millions of miles away causes electricity on earth to fail ~ without warning. Suddenly planes are dropping out of the skies, millions of cars stop in place, refrigerators shut off, and lights are no more. Think of the implications in such a world wide crisis...people fighting over bicycles they haven't ridden in years, tearing up your newly landscaped front yard to plant food, taking turns guarding your home and your gardens 24 hours a day, hauling water from a pond...with crime running rampant around your upscale suburban neighborhood. The implications are huge. The Bannings are a Christian family and their faith is tested on every front. In the process of surviving they are challenged by the Sermon on the Mount. Instead of hoarding, they decide...you'll have to read it and see for yourself. There are no easy answers.
Last but not least, Nancy Ortberg has come out with her first book called LOOKING FOR GOD: a unexpected journey through tattoos, tofu & pronouns. Nancy has a carefree style of writing and a wonderful storytelling ability. It's different, but effective. I liked it and found it helpful as I strive to see God at work in my life and the world around me day by day. "We get so prescriptive with the spiritual life. We prepackage it, duplicate it, mass-produce it, insist upon it, and brag about it. We make it a formula. As a result, we tend to see God from such a narrow perspective."