Recommended Read: 31 Days of Power!

Today’s book recommendation comes from Susanna from Gracepoint Berkeley church.  Awhile back she recommended two other books for intercessory prayer that have enriched many parents’ prayers.

Before you read on, just wanted to make sure you don’t get today’s book recommendation mixed up with the recommendation for 31 Days of Praise, by Alice from Gracepoint Minneapolis church. Same author, different book. 🙂

41lnkABu9iL._SX343_BO1,204,203,200_I would like to recommend Ruth Myers’ book 31 Days of Power: Learning to Live in Spiritual Victory if you need some help being daily reminded of the spiritual warfare that we are in, and how to articulate “faith-filled” claims and responses, as Pastor Ed preached yesterday.

I came across this book when I was sort of losing perspective during the toughest part of chemo side effects and did a search on other books that Ruth Myers wrote, and this prayer book helped me to gain proper perspective and turn my eyes away from my situation to see God’s cosmic picture.

Last night I prayed over the flaming arrows of Satan’s accusations that I hear so loudly at times. Today’s prayer from this book was “Safe from Accusation.” Wow, I felt personally loved by God as He wanted to nail that point for me as a follow-up to yesterday’s message.

Here’s an excerpt from today’s prayer (Day 7):

“I want to give You abundant thanksgiving and praise that I’m Your chosen one, and therefore the enemy cannot succeed in accusing me before You. He may try to bring a charge against me for my sins, but he will fail, for they’ve all been forgiven — past, present, and future. ‘Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for me, Christ rose for me, Christ reigns in power for me, Christ prays for me.’” […] “You have cleansed me, given garments of righteousness and praise instead of despair. So day by day I can rise up, put on those beautiful garments, and worship You in holy array — in the beauty of holiness.”

Here’s an excerpt from the prayer for Day 8:

“You are my strength every morning, my salvation in times of distress. You’re the stability of my times. So I clothe myself with my beautiful garments of praise. I treasure the safety You’ve provided from my crafty attacks by the enemy — from anything that would not be for my ultimate good or for the advance of the Good News. Even when You allow severe trials in my life, You know my path; and when You have tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

I personally dubbed this book as the “manly” version of 31 Days of Praise, as some brothers might prefer this book more.

Just so you know, copies of the book will be arriving at the bookstore at Gracepoint Berkeley church by next week.  I’m looking forward to powerful times of prayer (see what I did there?) and invite you to enhance your personal prayer life too!

 

How to Satisfy Your “Hunger” for Dystopian Novels

I’ve been so busy reading that I’ve once again neglected to post here. But recent conversations about The Hunger Games (hereafter referred to as THG) have prompted me to write this post.

It’s hard to believe almost ten years have passed since the first book in the popular dystopian trilogy was published. It’s safe to say THG sparked the glut of dystopian fiction that flooded especially the young adult literature market. We couldn’t escape, though I’m happy to report the craze has died down in the last couple of years.

Before you read on, I want to make clear that I love me some dystopian literature as much as anyone! There is something very powerful about the genre to cause people to consider the ways in which echoes of these dystopias might be in our current world, and to begin recognizing social structures, and so forth.

The dictionary defines “dystopian” as follows:

relating to or denoting an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.

The challenge with dystopian fiction for younger readers, however, is to build a world in which these unpleasant or bad consequences of a totalitarian state are explored in an age-appropriate way.

And here is my beef with THG. The target audience is 6th or 7th grade and up, but I disagree it is age-appropriate. Some teachers introduce the books as early as 5th grade, especially for reluctant readers, but I actually do not recommend the series at all (gasp!), for young and old alike. Why?

It is not just violent, but brutal. It is disturbing to read graphic descriptions of teens killing each other in hand-to-hand combat with all manner of weapons. Granted that is Suzanne Collins’ point — to disturb readers and to critique aspects of this bleak and twisted society. I get that she is not condoning this kind of violence. In fact, there is some “deep stuff” about government control through propaganda, about consumerist culture, media saturation, and about human nature.

However, most of the readers of the books do not have the framework to consider these deeper issues. They get engrossed with the plot because it appeals to 1) our sense of rooting for the underdog, 2) our baser attraction to drama and even violence (like how everyone runs towards not away from the fight at school), and 3) you and I know that half of the readers of the books got into the series because of the love triangle.

I don’t know how many students I had who said they hated the third book because it was “boring.” That’s because the focus was decidedly political and it is also the most violent of the three. I’m not naive and know you can’t avoid romantic business in young adult literature, but it goes beyond crushes and the Harry Potter level of stuff, and we’ll leave it at that.

So…what’s a teen to do?

Here are my recommendations. Read some of the books THG is borrowing from and inspired by. Some of the OG dystopians. The cool thing about this genre is that it’s timeless. In fact, some of the ones written long ago end up being even eerier, because you can see the ways in which we are actually like the futures the authors imagined. Yikes!

Four dystopian novels I recommend, from most recent to oldest:

The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993). A lot of people don’t realize it is part of a quartet of books, so you can get the series fix. It is a great dystopian novel to start out with, dealing with issues of identity, and causing us to consider how we track people in our schools and society. Don’t watch the movie first…I’ve heard it is disappointing. (Recommended age: 6th grade and up.)

 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953). One of my absolute favorite dystopian novels, and in my top 10 favorite overall books. It deals with censorship and with the power of knowledge, among other themes. Chances are you’ll be asked to read this at some point in middle or high school, but it is totally accessible and enjoyable of a read on your own. He wrote a bunch of other great short stories that get you thinking as well. (Recommended age: 8th grade and up.)

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954). This is probably THE dystopian novel contemporary dystopian novels borrow from the most. (Being stuck on an island and trying to survive might also remind you of some shows.) It has the violence (though far less graphic than THG), memorable characters, and definitely a great book to discuss human nature and the different ways we tend to organize groups/societies. There are also a lot of biblical allusions, or references, so this makes for a favorite to teach symbolism.  (Recommended age: 8th grade and up.)

Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945). Another popular book read in English as well as History classes in school, Orwell uses what seems like a story about farm animals to critique Stalin, the dictator of the Soviet Union. People love this book because it is super SHORT! It is also relatively easy to understand, and hilarious in a eerie way. It’s definitely memorable. (Recommended age: 8th and up. But read it again in 10th grade, when you take World History!)

If you read these four, you’ll see that you’re not missing out by not reading THG.

What’s your take on THG and its age appropriateness or merit as a dystopian series? I would love to hear your thoughts about any of the books featured in this post.


Oh, and for a Suzanne Collins alternative, I recommend The Underland Chronicles, which has stronger characters, themes, and world-building. And is age-appropriate.

 

 

 

2017 Bibliopolis Summer Reading Challenge!

I am excited to announce the 2017 Bibliopolis Summer Reading Challenge, which starts today, and ends September 1st. And yes, if you’re in the middle of a book right now, you may use it for the challenge.

Sorry to all the adults, this is a chapter book challenge for high school and younger only. I’m guessing the participants will be 2nd-12th graders, but if your K-1st grader wants to tackle it, they are welcome to, especially if you the parent want to read along with them.

How does it work? If you’re at Gracepoint Berkeley church, you can pick up a copy of the bingo board at Bibliopolis. If you’re at one of our church plants, or away for the summer, you can download your own copy of the 2017 Summer Reading Challenge bingo board here.

There are 25 squares (of course you can read MORE!). You can choose what bingo line you want to start reading. You’ll get one raffle ticket per book, and one bonus ticket for every bingo line. So you don’t necessarily have to make bingo lines for this challenge.

Read the rules carefully, though. You can only use a book once on the board! I suggest doing it in pencil, so that you can move books around later if you need to. 🙂

For each book you read, you’ll fill out a book review. Below is a picture of it, but again, you can download your own copy of the Book Review form here.

You’ll want to put this somewhere safe. I would strongly suggest using a folder or binder for your entire challenge, as you’ll need to keep all of your book review forms together as well!

The book review doesn’t take too long, but do notice at the bottom it says that you will be asked to redo your book review if you do a shoddy job.

I hope you have fun doing this challenge, and yes, I will do it too!

What’s the first book you’re going to read?

 

 

 

Heroes of Faith Challenge Winners (Get Inspired!)

The Heroes of Faith Spring Reading Challenge at Gracepoint Berkeley church is officially over. In all, we had 14 people finish, with some people completing twice.

Here are some noteworthy statistics/awards:

  • Most favorited Heroes of Faith: George Mueller (Christian Heroes Then & Now) and Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place)
  • Post-College finishers: 5
  • College Student finishers: 7
  • Elementary Student finishers: 2!
  • Female finishers: 12
  • Male finishers: 2
  • Most represented ministry: tie between Klesis and Koinonia Berkeley with 3 each.
  • Double finishers: Seniors Emily Rah and Krystal Han, from a2f Berkeley and Koinonia Berkeley respectively
  • Most senior finisher: Sarah Kim (?? years old)
  • Youngest female finisher: Julia (9 years old)
  • Youngest overall finisher: Wesley (8 years old)

With their permission, I am featuring our youngest finishers and their mini-reviews. I hope you’ll be inspired to pick up some more books!


 

Julia (holding her favorite biography) celebrating her completed bookmark with two of her friends!

Hi, my name is Julia. I’m 9 years old and in 4th grade. The heroes of faith book I liked the most is about William Wilberforce. I liked that book the most because when he really starts to understand the true meaning of what it is like to be a Christian, lots of people are asking him to present a bill against slavery to Parliament. After like a week he finally decides that he will present the bill. He decided to do that because this guy named Thomas gave him a copy of his essay to read. After he read all those words he started studying slavery. He learned all of these crucial facts about what people were doing to slaves, and that is what led him to the point when he presented the bill to the others.

Throughout half of his life he fought for others to have their freedom even though people kept on rejecting the bill. He still persevered, he brought up the bill several times, and had lots of supporters too. He eventually succeeded and it became a law officially.

This inspired me because he was a really bad person before. He would never study and his tutor would make fun of him if he studied or went to church or even read the Bible, so William would just gamble away and drink a lot. But when he met his old friend Isaac, he turned into a Christian and wanted to help all slaves get their freedom.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone.


 

IMG_0119
Wesley not only reads Heroes of Faith biographies, but plays baseball too. 🙂

Wesley is 8 years old and in 3rd grade. Here is his mini-review of his favorite book from the challenge:

 

My favorite Christian Heroes book I read is about Jacob Deshazer because he was stuck in jail for many years and then he told a lot of people about God in China. When he was in jail for many years, he got to read books and one of them was the Bible. He read it 15 times before he gave it to someone else. This is how he became a Christian. I also thought it was cool that he was part of the Doolittle Raiders who first attacked Japan with a B25 bomber.

 

 

Farewell to the Spring Reading Challenge

There’s been so much going on over at Gracepoint Berkeley church these days that the official end to the Heroes of Faith Spring Reading Challenge came and went yesterday and I didn’t even realize it!

Several lessons learned, the most important one being that when a challenge is too long, people lose momentum. I thought that having a longer time period to read the requisite books would translate to more people completing the challenge, but the opposite happened. Perhaps procrastination has something to do with it too!

Lesson #2 is that the hype man exists for a reason. I didn’t want to keep beating people on the head with the challenge, but because I didn’t hype it up everywhere I went, people kind of lost steam, and most just…forgot about it.

Don’t worry! I’ve learned and have some ideas for the summer reading challenge. So stay tuned!

With regards to the Heroes of Faith challenge, *EVERYONE* gets an extension until Friday, May 19th to complete your reading and to post a mini-review of your favorite amongst the books you read. So it’s not too late! You can fill out the challenge completion form and post a comment on the main page of the challenge. (If you already posted on the Alas post or elsewhere, that’s ok! You don’t have to repost.)

***by the way, all the people who have completed the challenge thus far have been women. Just sayin’!***

 

 

Alas! The Spring Reading Challenge

Even though no one took me up on guessing what our next reading challenge at Gracepoint Berkeley church would be, I’ll tell you!

So many of us were challenged and inspired by the many Christian heroes of faith we learned about at our respective winter retreats, and I’ve noticed biographies flying off the bookstore shelves! To keep up the momentum, our spring reading challenge is going to be the Heroes of Faith Reading Challenge.

If you click on the link above, you can find the details on what you need to do in order to complete the challenge. In short, you only need to read 5 new books on any Christian heroes of faith. They don’t have to be about 5 different people. If you want to get super deep into one hero’s life, that’s totally fine.

My hope is that you’ll be inspired to greater faith as you read about these real people living out their commitments to love and serve God…and grow as a reader, too! 🙂

If you don’t know where to start, here is a short list of books you definitely can’t go wrong with!:

john-wesley-web
Our key quote for the reading challenge. (You can find it on your bookmark!)

 

Excited for all of us to continue being inspired through this challenge.

Oh, and yes, for those of you who are highly motivated by the prize, you can win multiple times. The more biographies you read the better for your soul, so it’s a win-win for you. 🙂

If you remember, I’m working on my goal to read all of the Christian Heroes series this year. I’m starting with all the women’s biographies, and I’m currently reading about Isobel Kuhn.

Which hero of faith are *you* going to read about first?

 

1st Anniversary of Bibliopolis U

Last year, after the college winter retreat at Gracepoint Berkeley church, we launched Bibliopolis U for the college students and post-grads. Since then we’ve had a few book fairs and three reading challenges — remember our Free 5th Book Challenge? How about the Summer Bingo Challenge? And of course, our most recent Winter Reading Challenge.

Bibliopolis U took the reading revolution churchwide, and many people have shared that they have read more books this past year than in a long while (or ever)!

To commemorate an awesome year of reading, and to jump start an even more awesome one to come, I invite you all to share about the best Christian book you read in 2016. It’s ok if you can’t decide your absolute favorite — just pick one you liked a lot!

You can fill out the form to submit your review/recommendation, and some of these will featured in our bookstore and on the blog. This is *YOUR CHANCE* to be on the wall, even if you haven’t been able to complete any of the reading challenges! Even if you read just one book, it’s technically the best book you read in 2016. 🙂

This is not limited to the people at Gracepoint Berkeley church, but open to everyone across our Gracepoint Ministries.

Looking forward to all of your responses! Don’t be shy, ok? 🙂

Did you have an awesome reading year? Share your reading wins below in the comments!