Review Tuesday: What is the Bible? By Rob Bell

I’m a huge fan of Rob Bell’s. I was introduced to his Nooma series back when I was in university volunteering as a youth leader at a church I went to. He spoke about Christianity in a way I had never heard before and it was captivating. He has published numerous books – his first one being Velvet Elvis. All of his books talk about Christianity in a new way – or at least a way that you don’t normally hear Christianity talked about, and What is the Bible? is without a doubt one of my favourite books of 2017.

From Goodreads:

Rob Bell, the beloved author of Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God, goes deep into the Bible to show how it is more revelatory, revolutionary, and relevant than we ever imagined—and offers a cogent argument for why we need to look at it in a fresh, new way.

In Love Wins, Rob Bell confronted the troubling questions that many people of faith were afraid to ask about heaven, hell, fate, and faith. Using the same inspired, inquisitive approach, he now turns to our most sacred book, the Bible. What Is the Bible? provides insights and answers that make clear why the Bible is so revered and what makes it truly inspiring and essential to our lives.

Rob takes us deep into actual passages to reveal the humanity behind the Scriptures. You cannot get to the holy without going through the human, Rob tells us. When considering a passage, we shouldn’t ask “Why did God say . . .?” To get to the heart of the Bible’s meaning, we should be asking: “What’s the story that’s unfolding here and why did people find it important to tell it? What was it that moved them to record these words? What was happening in the world at that time? What does this passage/story/poem/verse/book tell us about how people understood who they were and who God was at that time?” In asking these questions, Rob goes beyond the one-dimensional question of “is it true?” to reveal the Bible’s authentic transformative power.

Rob addresses the concerns of all those who see the Bible as God’s Word but are troubled by the ethical dilemmas, errors, and inconsistencies in Scripture. With What Is the Bible?, he recaptures the Good Book’s magic and reaffirms its power and inspiration to shape and inspire our lives today.

One of the features I most love about Rob Bell’s books is that he writes how he speaks. There are no crazy long paragraphs or chapters in any of his books, which makes what he saying easier to understand and much more digestible. It’s a great way of writing for what he’s talking about because he’s able to blow you away with just a couple of sentences.

In What is the Bible? Rob talks about a different way of reading/seeing the Bible. And his reasoning/arguments for seeing it that way are perfectly valid. I found it so mind blowing because as a kid going to Sunday school you are definitely taught to read the Bible in a certain way – and sometimes it felt that since the adults didn’t have the answers to your questions, your questions were either not valid, or God didn’t know. Faith and the Bible didn’t seem functional to the world that we live in. I changed my mind about that in university, but I’m thinking about it again in a new way because of this book.

I think my favourite part of this book is when Rob explains the history of something or puts a story/verse/word into its original historical context. In many instances there was a clarity that came simply from doing that, and my perspective shifted because now I understand the history. I definitely want more of that understanding, which is why I’m very happy that there’s a suggested list of reading at the end of this book. I’m definitely going to checking out some of those.

There are people who are seriously not going to like this book, and who will disagree with how Rob views the Bible simply because it doesn’t fit into their vision of what being a Christian and having faith looks like. The only thing I can suggest to those people is that you read it and see what it says. Your faith isn’t static or stagnant. It evolves and grows as you evolve and grow and if you’re not doing that then I think that speaks to a larger problem.

For anyone interested in the Bible, or interested in a really good non-fiction read I would suggest this book to you. It’s a good one.

Apartment Stories: Anxiety

Anxiety is a rather constant companion of mine. It use to be an every wakeful moment companion, a not let me sleep companion, and then it also use to bring its close cousin panic attack to the party. Thankfully, those days are behind me (for the most part), and anxiety only usually shows up occasionally, for small doses of time. Then this past week happened.

This past week –  last Sunday night and not stopping until about Friday evening, was rather brutal. Anxiety was with me more often than not. Doug, got sick last Sunday night, Monday we got our apartment sprayed for cockroaches. Those seem like insignificant things in the grand scheme of things – and they are…now. At the time it was anything but.

See, I have a phobia of throwing up. And Doug was throwing up. Was I there for him and taking care of him when he was sick – of course. Did I lose it thoroughly afterwards to my anxiety? Yes. Did I have a panic attack? No. Years ago I would have. So small steps in the right direction.

Then the spraying of the apartment. I had a sick boyfriend sleeping finally, and a piece of paper saying that I didn’t have to leave the apartment. Turns out the paper I had was wrong and we did have to leave – for 6 hours. Packed up sick boyfriend and we all went to my grandmother’s. Oh, and did I mention I was working from home that day too?

The next 48 hours were spent with me worried – irrationally worried – that I was going to get sick. Was I? No. Even writing that sentence makes me a little anxious because I’m afraid I’m jinxing myself. Doug had night shifts later in the week, and I slept over at my parent’s place after finding another cockroach after the spray and losing it. Because, hey, I hadn’t really been sleeping well. You can’t really sleep if you can’t really stop shaking.

The big triggers for me from this week that set me off were the throwing up and the change of my routine. Everything in the kitchen was in the living room and dining room, the stuff from the bathroom was in the hall and the bedroom. The apartment was in disarray, and I felt like I was in disarray already. Small drops of water as it were, that easily turn into a flood.

Now reading all of this from my calm mental and relaxed state – I know that I sound irrational. And that’s because it is. Anxiety is irrational. A switch gets flipped, a light goes off and all of a sudden your flight or fight response is triggered for no rational reason. And it can (as it did in this case) go on for days. It can be terrifying when you can’t easily calm down, and there’s no rational way to explain why you can’t.

So how did I calm myself?

As the week when on it started getting a little less on its own. I helped it along by meditating a lot. Meditating slows down your wayward thoughts, makes you breathe deeper, forces you to calm down slowly. I use the app Insight Timer. A friend of mine recommended it and it’s wonderful. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of meditations all for free. It’s fantastic.

I walked. Doug and I (when he’s not on night shift) taken 30-60 min walks around the neighbourhood. The exercise is light, but it gets you moving, gets your endorphins running, and by going with Doug it gave me someone to talk when my brain started running away with me again.

I also purposefully made this weekend my “reset weekend”. Doug and I put the kitchen and bathroom back together because a) it had to happen and b) it made me feel so much better. Friday night I went to bed at 9:30 and slept for about 9 hours. I woke up feeling refreshed. Saturday I made my day of rest – I cooked myself French toast for breakfast, I read, I relaxed. Sunday, was (is) more productive as we cleaned the apartment, and I sat down at my laptop to work. But even so, Sunday (today) is being approached with a relaxed productivity. Things need to get done, but there’s no racing around. It’s almost like nesting or puttering.

So here’s what I’ve been reminded of this weekend. Life happens, and it’s okay to fall apart after you’ve handled the important things (like taking care of a sick boyfriend), and it’s also okay to take the time to reset yourself. We’re not machines, and sometimes we don’t function like we think we should. And that’s all okay. We just have to take care of ourselves, ask for help when we need it, and most importantly try to remain positive that the irrational cloud that’s hanging over us from time to time isn’t a permanent fixture in the skyline.

Review Tuesday: The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry

The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry is book one in his Cotton Malone series. The series was recommended to me by a coworker who knew that I loved history and to read. I’m so glad that I gave this book a try because this series is right up my alley – and there are at least 13 books so far! I always love when you find a new series that you love and that has numerous books. It can be like finding an oasis in the middle of a dry book dessert.

From Goodreads:

The ancient order of the Knights Templar possessed untold wealth and absolute power over kings and popes . . . until the Inquisition, when they were wiped from the face of the earth, their hidden riches lost. But now two forces vying for the treasure have learned that it is not at all what they thought it was–and its true nature could change the modern world.

Cotton Malone, one-time top operative for the U.S. Justice Department, is enjoying his quiet new life as an antiquarian book dealer in Copenhagen when an unexpected call to action reawakens his hair-trigger instincts–and plunges him back into the cloak-and-dagger world he thought he’d left behind.

It begins with a violent robbery attempt on Cotton’s former supervisor, Stephanie Nelle, who’s far from home on a mission that has nothing to do with national security. Armed with vital clues to a series of centuries-old puzzles scattered across Europe, she means to crack a mystery that has tantalized scholars and fortune-hunters through the ages by finding the legendary cache of wealth and forbidden knowledge thought to have been lost forever when the order of the Knights Templar was exterminated in the fourteenth century. But she’s not alone. Competing for the historic prize–and desperate for the crucial information Stephanie possesses–is Raymond de Roquefort, a shadowy zealot with an army of assassins at his command.

Welcome or not, Cotton seeks to even the odds in the perilous race. But the more he learns about the ancient conspiracy surrounding the Knights Templar, the more he realizes that even more than lives are at stake. At the end of a lethal game of conquest, rife with intrigue, treachery, and craven lust for power, lies a shattering discovery that could rock the civilized world–and, in the wrong hands, bring it to its knees.

Now, there have been numerous books published about the Knights Templar and their lost treasure. It’s a fascinating topic that has entertained conspiracy theorists and historians for centuries. The most recently runaway famous tale of the treasure is of course Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. The Templar Legacy is a smarter, more in depth, story than The Da Vinci Code. Oh yes, I said it. If you love history, conspiracy/treasure hunts, and adventure this is definitely a book for you.

This book is plot driven. There isn’t really character development – the characters are who they are. The plot thought is intense, and dense. It is fairly easy to follow along, but you do have to pause every once in awhile and connect the clues in your head – or at least I found that I had to – but I liked that. I liked that I had to think about how everything was connected, and about which character and side (there are definitely sides in this book) knows what, and doesn’t know something else. It was just lovely storytelling.

Cotton is the best of both worlds by being a book lover as well as an action man. He knows how to handle himself in risky situations, and his mind is razor sharp. He’s slightly stereotypical in that he’s a divorced man and has no real interest in any kind of family life (other than a son that he sees over the summer), but he isn’t an alcoholic, which I loved. I always find a lot of single male characters who are some kind of detective (even in the loosest sense of the word) are. So that was a bit of fresh air. I think that all of the other characters in this story are really only here for this book, I’m not assuming that I’ll see much of them again. But, that’s just how these series books go.

I have two complaints about this book.

  1. For Cotton being an action man, there are a couple of times where he’s just stupid and he makes what seem to be basic mistakes that I don’t think that he should have made, or that a character with his background would have made.
  2. Some scenes just go on WAY too long because it shifts perspective back and forth while people are shooting at each other. It would be a great action movie because you would know when to switch cameras to focus on another person, but in the middle of reading it, it just bogs the flow down I felt.

Overall, it was great, enjoyable, smart read that blends history and fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I can’t wait to keep reading the series.

Apartment Stories: Mother F*cking Cockroaches

I need to preface this story by saying that I have never seen a cockroach before. I’ve seen hissing cockroaches on tv, but that is my only frame of reference. 

It all started when I picked up the kettle one evening a couple of weeks ago, and saw some beetle-y type of bug zip off. It startled me, but it was like a black blur, so I thought nothing of it.

A couple of days ago by, and then one morning I’m home alone, and open up the cupboard to have a beetle-y type of bug try to kamikaze me. I yelp, the bug falls out of the cupboard and there’s a mad dash of the bug trying to escape and me trying to kill it. The bug escapes.

Another day goes by and this time there’s one near the sink when I pick up the sponge. More yelling occurs, and this time I manage to take a picture of it. I text Doug (who is at work) and ask him “WTF is this bug.” The picture is a crappy one, and he can’t be sure. I ask him if it’s a cockroach because it’s the only word I have to define what these bugs are. He says it doesn’t look like one.

Now, all of these sightings so far have only been seen by me. I am currently the girl who cried bug, and Doug at this point thinks (I’m sure) that I’m blowing this out of proportion.

The next morning comes around, and I am running late for work, and need to take a shower. I pull the curtain back to see another one of these God forsaken bugs in the tub. This time though Doug is home – sleeping finally after a nightshift. So what do I do? I wake the poor man up and demand that he come look at this bug.

He comes into the bathroom and said the words that I dreaded hearing, “Yup, that’s a cockroach.”

I left the bathroom, went back to bed and just cried.

Overdramatic? Yes. Was I, in that moment, totally done with all of this? Yup.

Doug comes back to hug me, and promises to talk to the building manager about it that day. I get ready for work, Doug makes me lunch and I make it to work – on time even.

Later, when I come home, I get the scoop. Our building’s common areas are sprayed every month, and they also spray any apartments that have any problems. WE MISSED THE EXTERMINATORS BY ONE DAY. So, they’re coming early July.In the meantime, Doug sprayed the apartment, and we’ve recently set traps. Doug has taken out at least 3, and I’ve taken out 1 (it was really tiny. I do not do bugs people).

You know what the funny thing is though? Before we met Doug and I never had any problems with bugs in any apartment that we’ve lived in. We’ve been together almost a year and a half, and we’ve dealt with bedbugs and cockroaches. It’s like we had too good apartment karma and the scales needed to be balanced or something.

Never a dull moment here at the apartment. Stayed tune for next’s week (mis)adventure!

 

Review Tuesday: One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

It’s been a long time since I did a Review Tuesday, and it’s not like I stopped reading books (I’ve read 47 so far this year), it’s just that I got super lazy. But, I’m trying to kick the lazy-ness. So, I’m back with the Review Tuesday. And first book I’m back with is One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul.

From Goodreads:

A collection of essays about growing up the daughter of Indian immigrants in Canada, “a land of ice and casual racism,” by the cultural observer, Scaachi Koul.

In One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, Scaachi deploys her razor-sharp humour to share her fears, outrages and mortifying experiences as an outsider growing up in Canada. Her subjects range from shaving her knuckles in grade school, to a shopping trip gone horribly awry, to dealing with internet trolls, to feeling out of place at an Indian wedding (as an Indian woman), to parsing the trajectory of fears and anxieties that pressed upon her immigrant parents and bled down a generation. Alongside these personal stories are pointed observations about life as a woman of colour, where every aspect of her appearance is open for critique, derision or outright scorn. Where strict gender rules bind in both Western and Indian cultures, forcing her to confront questions about gender dynamics, racial tensions, ethnic stereotypes and her father’s creeping mortality–all as she tries to find her feet in the world.

This is one of my favourite books of the year. I’m usually not a big fan of essay-style books, but I fell in love with this one. I truthfully found out about it through a Facebook ad where the ad copy was something along the lines of “my boss told me I have to market this book even though one day we’ll all be dead and none of this will matter,” and it made me laugh, so I had to look up the book. (Well done marketing person).

The one thing that I loved about this book was that it was written from a completely different perspective from my own. I’m a middle class white female. I’ve never experienced racism before – I’ve definitely experienced sexism, (which she also talks about) but not racism. So it was interesting to read about someone close to my age who experiences it on a fairly regular basis. Interesting and disturbing. Her version of Canada is different from mine, and I wasn’t happy that she was experiencing – and is experiencing – something so awful. But, it was good to read about it because I needed to know. And every Canadian needs to know that this happens. Nothing can change if we don’t all frankly talk about what we experience.

Racism was one of the big things that Scaachi talked about, but she also talked about sexism (Good Lord I hear ya on that), and just other life experiences that she’s had. I also really enjoyed her essay about the perpetual fear that she lives in – only because I also have that going on (though to a lesser degree).

Overall, this was a very smart, funny, and engrossing book. I loved that it made me think, made me reevaluate things that I thought I knew, and just made me laugh. The writing is brilliant and engaging and I couldn’t put it down. I also LOVED that it was Canadian. I’m starved for Canadian content.

If you haven’t read this book you definitely should. It’s not one that you can miss.