Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#37: Prayer – Does It Make Any Difference? (Philip Yancey)

It’s not often that I pick up a book on a subject like prayer and read it from cover to cover. I’m so thankful that I did just that with Philip Yancey’s book on the subject. My prayer life has improved while reading it and I have begun to understand prayer more intimately.  If you’ve been reading my personal blog, Livin’ Life, recently, you’ve seen how the book has touched me. (You can check out the posts related to prayer here and here.)

If I had to pinpoint the one point that most spoke to my heart, it would definitely be this truth:  prayer is not an activity we engage in out of duty or because God needs it. Prayer is authentic, real, honest communication with the Living God! It’s all about relationship. That’s such a basic concept of the Christian faith, but I think many of us miss the boat when we view prayer as a laborious duty we need to fulfill. I found Yancey’s closing of the book exciting and inspiring. While thinking about Heaven as described in the book of Revelation, Yancey has this to say about prayer:

Prayer itself will necessarily change [in Heaven] — not end, exactly, but realize its rightful place as conversation. Prayer now is a kind of awkward rehearsal, like talking on a mobile phone to someone in Africa, the connection garbled and staticky, the English broken and accented. God “has never acquiesced in the break which was brought about in Adam,” wrote Jacques Ellul. Indeed God has not. The entire Bible chronicles God’s effort to renew what was lost on that day in the garden when Adam hid and no longer conversed with God as a friend. One day we will all have that chance.

Sometimes I think about my first face-to-face conversation with God. I have so many unresolved questions, so many laments and regrets. Where should I begin? Various openings play out in my mind, until I remember with a start whom in fact I will be talking to, the One who spun out galaxies and created all that exists. Objections fade away, doubts dissolve, and I imagine myself falling back on words akin to Job’s:  “Oh, now I get it.” And then the conversation resumes.  (Yancey, 327-328)

Did I enjoy this book? Yes.  Do I agree with all of Yancey’s arguments? No. I especially have issues with his statements about Divine healing. Have I been challenged and experienced growth while reading it? Most certainly. It’s not important that we all agree about every aspect of prayer; what is important is that we pursue a conversation with the Father that daily becomes more and more intimate.

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#36: Still Missing (Chevy Stevens)

I am intrigued by debut novels. It’s always fun to see if I can detect that “spark” that developed in an established author. Chevy Stevens certainly grabbed by attention with her first novel, Still Missing. Published in 2010, Still Missing tells the story of Annie, a beautiful real estate agent. While ending an open house late one afternoon, a potential buyer stops in and asks to see the house. Situations quickly spin out of control and Annie finds herself abducted by the man she will come to call “The Freak.” Still Missing is the suspenseful tale of Annie’s year-long ordeal with The Freak and the stress of her return to society and family after her escape. Rather than simply providing a chronological account, Stevens expertly weaves her story together in a series of psychological therapy sessions that contain Annie’s first person narrative.

I love the way Stevens guides the reader through the story and provides plenty of plot twists to keep you guessing. The prose is fast-paced. Annie, The Freak, and Annie’s family and friends are wonderfully developed which allows us to feel as though we are part of the community of Clayton Falls. Reader, be warned — this novel contains disturbing scenes of violence and adult language. (To be clear, the novel does contain a significant number of the “most offensive” expletives in the English language.)

Other novels by Chevy Stevens include Never Knowing(2011) and Always Watching (2013).

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#35: The Trial (Robert Whitlow)

After some heavy reading, I picked up a copy of The Trial that had been lying around for some time. I have enjoyed the other books by Robert Whitlow that I’ve read. I had no idea that this novel would make such a profound impact on me.

The novel centers around Mac McClain, a lawyer who lost his wife and two sons in a tragic accident several years ago. Mac has now been appointed as counsel for Pete Thomason. Pete is accused of murdering his girlfriend and attempting to cover it up by driving her car over a cliff. The major problem with Pete’s defense is that he has no memory of the events leading up to the accident and can offer no explanation for what occurred. All in all, the legal thriller is fascinating and well written.

What grabbed my heart, however, were the spiritual journeys going on behind the scenes. Mac is deeply depressed as the novel opens and contemplates suicide. Pete scoffs at religion until he meets a jailhouse preacher who leads Pete to Christ. Most notably, however, is a prayer group hosted by the local Presbyterian church. The descriptions of their intercessory prayers vividly portray the powerful impact of prayer in spiritual warfare. I especially appreciated the variety of prayer times that were described. Some were quiet and solemn; others were a rush of words brought on by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. With references to small visions and gentle directions within a person’s spirit, The Trial packs a punch and reminds us that God is constantly at work around us and is concerned about the things that concern us.

I’m looking forward to tracking down the movie inspired by the novel.  Here’s the preview if you want to check it out.

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#34: Winter of the World (Ken Follett)

It was a challenge, but I made it through the 940 pages that make up the second book of The Century Trilogy. Don’t misunderstand, I loved every minute of it. The struggle came with the interruptions that came due to vacations, family commitments, and personal illness. Since this covers an era of history that fascinates me, I found myself slowing down and savoring each word and scene.

Winter of the World is the continuing saga of the families introduced in Fall of Giants. The second volume covers the horrific events facing the world between the years 1933 and 1949. I was appalled as I read of Hitler’s rise to power while coming to a clearer understanding of how the German people would allow such a thing to happen. Tears ran down my face as I witnessed the extermination of handicapped children in an effort to strengthen the Aryan race. I admired the courage of German spies who risked their lives to procure vital information for the Allied forces while English women fearlessly attempted to save as many lives as possible during the nightly bombings on London. Battles at Pearl Harbor, Normandy Beach, and the Russian front became vivid. I watched in horror as the first atomic bomb was detonated in the New Mexico desert. The consequences of the bomb’s completion were both riveting and fateful. The creation of the Marshall Plan and the Berlin Airlift filled me with immense pride as an American.

If you find the 20th century as engaging of a century as I do, I strongly encourage you to read these novels! If you’re not a history buff, but you still love a captivating story…..read these books. My only complaint is that I have to wait to see how the story turns out for these families; Follett’s final volume of the saga, Edge of Eternity, is scheduled to be published in late 2014.

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