Books: Captive in Iran

July 4, 2014

I vaguely remember having heard about Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh when they were in the news so much a few years ago. When I first saw a headline (on the internet) about two single women arrested for distributing Bibles in Iran, I first assumed they were missionaries from another country, perhaps from the U.S.

Then I learned that they were Iranian themselves, and that the charges against them were also about apostasy. It is not illegal in Iran to be a Christian, but it is a capital offense to convert from Islam to Christianity. I suppose I may have wondered how they came to faith in Christ. But I really don’t think I paid a lot of attention to their story at that time.

When I recently reviewed Tyndale Summer Reading Program book list for this year, I decided that Captive in Iran: A Remarkable True Story of Hope and Triumph amid the Horror of Tehran’s Brutal Evin Prison would be one of the first books I would read. I spend much of last week reading it, and I am still trying to sort out my reactions to it.

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Mustard seeds

May 10, 2014

Among my kitchen spices I have a small container of mustard seeds. I’m fairly certain I bought it by accident, intending to buy mustard powder and not paying enough attention to the label. I’ve never used any recipe, as far as I can remember, that called for mustard seeds, although logically there must be some since the seeds are sold in the spice aisle rather than the garden center. (Maybe they’re in the garden center too; I’ve never looked.)

The one time I have used that container of mustard seeds was when I was doing the children’s sermon at church and the passage was one of those that referenced mustard seeds. I don’t remember which one – it could have been the parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13, Mark 4, or Luke 13). Or it might have been Matthew 17 or Luke 17, where Jesus speaks of having faith like a grain of mustard seed.

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Books: Confident Faith

November 23, 2013

After reading five books in Tyndale’s Summer Reading program, I was entitled to receive one book free from the same reading list. I had some trouble coming up with five books I was interested in reading, though I did end up finding all five worth reading. I had borrowed them from the library, however, and had no interest in acquiring my own copy.

I finally settled on Mark Mittelberg’s Confident Faith: Building a Firm Foundation for Your Beliefs. The reviews I read at were very positive, and Lee Strobel (whose books The Case for Faith and The Case for Christ I had previously read and found helpful) calls it an “invaluable guide” which he wishes he had had when he was looking for the truth about the Christian faith.

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Books: Gilead

October 12, 2013

When a friend on facebook mentioned Gilead, I made a mental note of it. Then Carolyn Weber blogged about it on, and I decided I definitely needed to read this book. Sometime.

But during the summer I was reading books in the Tyndale Summer Reading program. And at a used book sale, I picked up a 3-in-1 volume containing mysteries by Elizabeth Peters (whose books I have enjoyed), John D. McDonald (whose books a one-time friend had enjoyed but I had never read), and another author I’d never heard of. Then more recently, I found some books I hadn’t read before by Brandon Sanderson and Jasper Fforde. And of course there’s the book club that meets once a month at the library.

Most of that was pretty light reading. One day when I was at the library recently (I’m there every week for Toastmasters, and occasionally in between to return or pick up books), I decided I was ready to tackle some more serious books, including some on my list from reading The End of Your Life Book Club. Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner was not on the shelf, but I did find Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead.

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Books: Borders of the Heart

August 9, 2013

I picked this book to read because it is part of Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program. The previous three books I read were from the non-fiction list, and I had liked all of them, even though none were books I would probably have read otherwise. So I decided to try some books from the fiction list.

I selected Borders of the Heart in large part because it is by Chris Fabry. I had not read any of his novels previously (but planned to read one sooner or later), but I had read three of his humor/inspirational books. I bought Spiritually Correct Bedtime Stories to go with the very humorous Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner and Legally Correct Bedtime Stories by David Fisher.

I don’t think it was quite as funny as the books by Garner or Fisher, but I enjoyed it enough to also buy Away With the Manger and The 77 Habits of Highly Ineffective Christians. I have to admit I didn’t enjoy them as much, but I was interested in seeing what Fabry did with fiction.

I was particularly interested in seeing a novel tackle the issue of illegal immigration, especially from a Christian perspective. As it turns out, however, the main characters are not actually dealing with a case of illegal immigration but with a drug cartel. (That is also an important issue, and one that has significant ramifications for how the whole border issue is handled.)

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Books: Undaunted

June 19, 2013

One of the books that changed me is More Than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell. I’ve read it and reread it over the years, but I really never thought about what sort of person the author might be. Someone sure of his faith, clearly. I probably would have guessed that he was someone with a strong Christian foundation since early childhood. And considering that he had also written Evidence That Demands a Verdict, probably a bookish person, more comfortable doing research than sitting around chatting.

I’d have been wrong on the latter two guesses. Undaunted: One Man’s Real-Life Journey from Unspeakable Memories to Unbelievable Grace is Josh McDowell’s story, from early childhood through college. He longed for love from his alcoholic father but received none; he detested the sexual attentions of a farmhand but could not avoid them. There was no spiritual foundation, and by age twelve he hated God almost as much as he hated his father.

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The meaning of salvation (part 2)

December 21, 2012

One of the first things I was told I needed to do as a new Christian was share my faith. Since I preferred the company of books to people, and I rarely expressed my thoughts to anyone if I didn’t have to, this was very difficult for me.

One of the first and most difficult conversations was telling my mother about my new beliefs, as I knew my parents had a pretty low opinion of fundamentalist Christians. (I don’t remember telling my father anything; I assume my mother told him about it.) They had always insisted that my sister and I were to make our own choices, however, and they were surprisingly accepting of my going over to the fundamentalist “side”, if not exactly supportive.

In his comment on my previous post, modestypress says he “would feel less aversion to Christianity (or other religious beliefs) if there were less obsession with guilt (about our imaginary original sin Adam and Eve ancestors) and with an imaginary Hell, and with condemnation of people who do no harm (e. g. non-believers and homosexuals).” I’m sure my mother’s aversion to the fundamentalist version of Christianity was for much the same reasons.

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