Simple Joy Saturday #37

Simple Joy Saturday #37

Every Saturday I share three simple things that brought me happiness during the week.  These posts may grow or change as time passes.  Please feel free to share your own simple joys in the comments section!

simple joy saturday logo from kats9lifes

1. Village Juice Company and the friends who love it as much as I do

2. The Chronicles of Narnia

Who would have thought that I would get to read children’s fiction in grad school?!  Here’s one of my new favorite quotes from The Magician’s Nephew:

“‘But do not be cast down,’ said Aslan, still speaking to the Beasts.  ‘Evil will come of that evil, but it is still a long way off, and I will see to it that the worst falls upon myself.”

3.  Goggles and a new swimsuit

This week I learned that the right equipment can make all the difference.

Not a Savior, Just the Truth

Not a Savior, Just the Truth

Over the summer, I attempted to listen to the audiobook version of Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle.  As I criss-crossed the state of Texas, I quickly lost track of Vivian and Harp’s whereabouts, and I abandoned the book until early October.  Although I am only about halfway through the novel (and I probably won’t formally review it when I am done), the basic premise of the story has left my mind curious.


This is the summary from the book jacket:

Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed “Rapture,” all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivian Apple isn’t looking for a savior. She’s looking for the truth.

That last line haunts me…

Vivian Apple isn’t looking for a savior.  She’s looking for the truth.

Not savior.  Just truth.

Let me give some background information.  This fictional book is in no way Christian nor does it reference true Christianity.  In the novel, the “Evangelical Church of America” is essentially a cult started by a man named Frick who dreamed that God chose him to protect select individuals from the rapture and Apocalypse.  Indeed, Vivian did not need that sort of deceitful “salvation.”

Nonetheless, it is easy to think that we don’t need a Savior, we just want the truth.  Furthermore, we want OUR truth, the truth that works for us personally.  That truth can be anything as long as it makes sense to us and meets our personal needs.

Image result for oprah gif what is truth

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” – John 14:6

Jesus is the truth.  John 14:6 does not say that He “could be” the truth or “might become” the truth or “was” the truth.  He is the truth.  That truth is not relative or changing.

So if Vivian Apple only needs the truth, she needs Jesus.


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We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.  – I John 4:14

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – I Timothy 1:15

The truth is that Jesus is also our Savior.  To believe the truth is to believe that He died for our sins, was buried, rose again, and is the Savior of the World.  You cannot separate the fact that Jesus is truth from the fact that Jesus is Savior.

Image result for cross on a hill

So if Vivian Apple needs the truth, Vivian Apple needs a Savior.

Top Ten Tuesday: Banned Books Week

Top Ten Tuesday: Banned Books Week


Everyone who loves reading has done it.  We stay up well past the time that we should go to bed just so that we can enjoy one more chapter of our current book. Sometimes these books are stealthily hidden beneath blankets and read with flashlights so that parents will not know what we are reading.

This week, the American Library Association is honoring “banned books,” which are books that have been outlawed for various reasons including language, morality, religion, and illustrations. In my opinion, every book worth reading has been banned for some unnecessary reason.  Also, banning books only serves to stimulate a child’s curiosity and build their desire to read the book.

Below are my favorite banned books, the reason that they were banned, and why I loved them.

  1. The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum – People claim that it supports pessimism and has no literary value. I love The Wizard of Oz because it taught me how to think imaginatively and beyond concrete reality.
  2. The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket – I will be the first to admit that Snicket’s books are disturbing.  However, Snicket is one of my favorite authors because of his unique tales and unprecedented vocabulary-teaching ability.  Besides, Snicket is not even a real person, so can we blame him for being bizarre?
  3. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain – Mark Twain has been called racist, and there is foul language in the book.  Nonetheless, this classic tale teaches history and loyalty.
  4. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – Some parents do not like that the series includes “coming of age” topics and homosexuality.  I loved the series because I could relate to Alice as a teenage girl.  Yes, the book did include “secular” content, but we live in a secular world.  As Christians, we should be in the world;  we should know what is happening around us.  However, we are not of the world, and we will not agree with everything that the world promotes.
  5. The Giver, by Lois Lowry – The Giver includes violent misdeeds such as euthanasia and infanticide.  However, it is also a story of love, breaking the status quo, and bravery.
  6. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George – Violence and offensive language are the two main reasons that certain adults have tried to censor Julie of the Wolves.  I appreciate Julie’s bravery, the story’s adventure, and George’s attention to culture.
  7. A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein – Silverstein tends to be sarcastic and sassy.  One of his poems says, “If you have to dry the dishes, And you drop one on the floor, Maybe they won’t let you Dry the dishes anymore.”  Parents saw this as promoting disrespect and disobedience.  I happen to love Silverstien’s dry humor.

  8. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis – After reading this book, parents worry that their children will become disobedient and mischievous for the sake of adventure.  Christians also criticize Lewis for animalizing Christ.  On the contrary, Lewis wrote Narnia as a metaphor of Christ’s suffering, not a sacrilegious attack.
  9. If I Ran the Zoo, by Dr. Seuss – The country’s view of ethnicity was vastly different in the 1950s when Dr. Seuss wrote this book.  That is why he included the line about helpers who “all wear their eyes at a slant.”  My family spent quite a lot of time at a few different zoos when I was younger.  Basically, my brother is Gerald McGrew.
  10. Junie B. Jones, by Barbara Park – Like so many other child heroes, Junie tends to be bratty, disobedient, and rude. However, these well-intentioned books simply seek to tell the story of childhood from the perspective of a first-grade girl.  Let’s be honest–what child isn’t bratty, disobedient, and rude at times?  The key is that parents should use the book as a way to discuss proper behavior with children.


What Would Jesus Do?

What Would Jesus Do?


I was born a little late to truly be part of the WWJD movement, but I do have a few recolections of it.  I remember choosing woven bracelets at the local Christian bookstore with my grandma.  I remember seeing similar bands on the wrists of older girls at school.  I believe my mom had a Spanish version of a WWJD band strapped to her “teaching bag.” My brother and I had a book on cassette that told the story of children who always asked the question, “What would Jesus do?”

In truth, this trite phrase has merit.  Verses such as I Peter 1:16 tell us to “be holy” because Christ is holy.  If we actually apply the question “What would Jesus do?,” we will never sin.

Recently, I read the book When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman.  In it, Addie relates her personal narrative of growth in an evangelical family.  Some of the stories she told were shocking.  Consider the following statements that people made to her:

Jesus fasted for forty days.  I think we should try to do everything Jesus did.

One boyfriend told Addie to do 10 push-ups every time she was sarcastic because

Jesus was never sarcastic, and you want to be like Jesus, right?

When Addie was trying to determine where to go on a summer mission trip, she was told to

Kneel on the floor.  Draw a circle around yourself and pray.  Whatever you do, don’t move from that circle until God gives you an answer.

What?!  Is this truly what Jesus would do?

Yes, we should strive to be like Jesus, but not in a cultish, legalistic way.  For a minute, I want to poke holes in these three statements and, consequently, the beliefs of many Christians.

 I think we should do everything Jesus did.

First of all, Jesus is GOD. He created the world (John 1:1).  He healed the sick (Matthew 9:35).  He walked on water (Matthew 14).  He fed 5,000 people with five rolls and two small fish (Matthew 14).  Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose again three days later (I peter 3:18). It would be impossible to do everything that Jesus did.

Even if we only focus on those things which are humanly possible, such as fasting and overcoming temptation, we must remember one key point:  Jesus is wholly God.  Unlike us, He retained 100% of His deity when He came to earth.

Jesus was never sarcastic.

Except for when He was.  I think Luke 7 and Matthew 23 both show that Jesus rightfully used sarcasm on occasion.

Don’t move until God gives you an answer.

The biggest problem with this is that it implies that the person praying will hear an audible answer from God.  Addie could have stayed on that floor for years and never known where to go on her missions trip.

So what would Jesus do?

Jesus would spend time with the outcasts (Mark 2:15).  Jesus would fight temptation with verses of God’s truth (Matthew 4:4).  Jesus would pray fervently for the Father’s guidance (John 5:30).

And I believe that is what we should do as well.

Book Review: When We Were On Fire

Book Review: When We Were On Fire


As I thought about my plans for Friday afternoon, I frowned slightly.  I had schoolwork I could do, but I didn’t have enough to fill up an entire weekend.  So I aimlessly wandered into the school library.  After walking fruitlessly through the tall shelves, I typed “Mere Christianity” into the catalogue search box and wrote down the call number.  I expertly maneuvered to the correct shelf and reached for the book.  It wasn’t there.  I glanced at the nearby shelves and even asked my suite mate (who happened to be the librarian on duty) for help.  Both copies of the book were gone.

So I logged into the online digital library and clicked on the first book that seemed somewhat interesting.  I downloaded When We Were On Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over by Addie Zierman.  Nine hours later, I had played the piano, swam half a mile, eaten two meals, played a board game with friends, and read the entire book.

Within the first few pages, I identified with Addie.  She was born into an evangelical family and raised on a healthy dosage of Psalty the Singing Songbook.  Although our similarities largely end there, I had already decided that I needed to read the rest of Addie’s story.

In middle school, Addie is befriended by two church friends, and she spends her pre-college years piously proving her spirituality.  She is the good church girl that boldly stands when others sit.  But when she starts her freshman year at Northwestern, she becomes just one of the hundreds of “sold-out” Christians.  She realizes that she will “have to vie for what used to be [her] most defining characteristic; [her] faith” (103).  Quickly, she redefines herself, to the dismay of her legalistic roommates.  Addie states that just as two girls encouraged her to live out her faith, two girls were able to drive her away from it.

After a miserable year in China and a disheartening search for a home church back in the states, Addie seeks to drown her depression in wine.  She becomes cynical, disengaged, and hopeless.  In her eyes, Christians are undeniably life’s problem. She resented the Bible-study leaders that seemed to judge her every move and she felt unwanted by the church members that never ask about her true emotions and experiences.  This book chronicles Addie’s journey through piety, penance, abandonment, and finally, grace.

Although I cannot condone every aspect of this book, I do encourage you to follow Addie’s struggle to realize that God does not leave us.

Book Review: Redeeming Love

Book Review: Redeeming Love


“What good are you?”  she cried out to the heavens.

No answer came.

At a young age, Sarah learns that life is bitter.  Her father wanted her aborted, her mother dies, and no one will lovingly raise her.  At only eight years of age, she becomes an owned object rather than a human.  Her future is dismal, and it is God’s fault.

By her teenage years, Sarah is full of hatred and emotionally wrecked.  She has already accepted that her life is a vicious cycle of pain.  Death is the only way out.

An even stronger force than the hatred that feasted on her was the weariness that sucked her soul dry.


Michael Hosea, on the other hand, is a young, strong farmer in search of a wife.  He made the difficult journey west with his sister, who died along the way, and brother-in-law, who is now in search of gold.  When he sees Sarah walking down the road, he hears God’s voice say that she is his intended wife.  There’s only one problem: Sarah is the town’s best prostitute, not the godly lady he has been seeking.

Lord? Did I misunderstand?  I must’ve.  This can’t be the one.

Lord, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind.

In her book Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers retells the biblical story of Hosea.  Time after time, Sarah refuses Michael’s care and runs from his inexplicable grace.  Yet, he continues to bring her back to his love and safety.

Redeeming Love also paints a picture of God’s love for his children.  When Sarah was cruel to Michael,

He was never angry…He complimented and encouraged her.

When Sarah ran away from him, he went to find her and

knelt before her and washed her dirty, blistered feet.

At times, we are cruel to God.  Yet, he is gracious and slow to anger (Psalm 103:8).  We run away from God in search of worldly pleasures.  Nonetheless, God binds up our wounds (Psalm 147:3).

No matter what we have done in our pasts or do in our futures, God, chooses to love us. just as Michael,

chose to love [Sarah].  With all [her] past, with all [her] frailties, with everything.  He knew from the beginning where [she] came from, and it didn’t make any difference to him.

Give thanks for God’s redeeming love.

Give ye thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his love endures forever

– Psalm 136:1

Book Review: Blood Sisters

Book Review: Blood Sisters


She had no idea where she would stay, nor how long she’d be gone.  But one thing was crystal clear.  Her destination was Cedar Crest.  Somehow she was going to find out what had happened to Jasmine Marie.


Judith McPhearson has been through a lot.  She never knew her father.  Her only son was taken by leukemia when he was in grade school, and her husband died following a plane crash in the unforgiving wilderness.  After a year of robotic teaching, Judith has given up hope.  She pours herself a  tall glass of water and a few handfuls of pills.  This is the end.  She is done.

Moments later, we find Judith throwing a motley collection of garments into her bag and driving to her hometown.  It appears that her long-lost childhood friend, her blood sister, Jasmine Morrison, has been living only a short distance away.  Yet, Jasmine had never contacted Judith.  Now, Jasmine is dead, and Judith is determined to find out why.

Judith is not in Cedar Crest long before some strange actions rile her suspicions.  Residents refuse to talk about Jasmine, and those who dare mention her do so with disgust.  Within only a few days, Judith finds herself swimming in a mysterious sea of unanswered questions.

In order to discover Jasmine’s story, Judith must risk her own friendships, good name, and life.  However, Judith’s main pursuit is not to learn more about her friend.  She seeks to answer the question that the entire town is silently asking God:

So what’s up with this black thing, God? What color do you say I am?  What color are you?

From the opening chapters of Blood Sisters, Melody Carlson ensnares the reader and weaves a tale of bigoted hatred, selfless sacrifice, and unconditional love.  This novel does more than tell the story of a middle-aged widow in search of a lost friend;  it teaches that God painted our world to be a colorful mosaic for His glory.

The truth is, I’ve got friends of all kinds, different races, religions, ethnic backgrounds.  And color doesn’t matter to me in the least.  I believe God made us all different because he saw the beauty in it.