Saturday, February 27, 2016

Book Review: Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy - Barbara Johnson

Think Erma Bombeck from a Christian Ministerial position.

If you are an atheist you'll hate this book. It's simply not for you. Just letting you know up front.

Barbara is unabashedly Christian and she preaches from that stand point. Her gospel is about spreading joy and finding humor in adversity (something I find personally a great way to get through things). She knows heartache and she shares it in this book.

Her husband suffered a car accident so severe that he was never going to be much more than a vegetable. He fully recovered. But it was a trying time as she had to figure out how to raise their four sons alone with a severely disabled husband.

Her eldest son was killed in action during the Vietnam War.

Son number two was killed a few years later in a car accident.

Strangely even these events didn't do her in. Her biggest challenge was son number three who announced to her at Disneyland in the mid 70's that he is gay.

Okay, this is a pretty funny chapter as she explains her reaction and how she started viewing everything and everyone. Suddenly everything was shouting at her "homosexual" as the Disney parade went by.

It sent her into a tailspin where she went into a severe depression and thought of it as worse than the deaths of her two oldest who were "deposits in heaven." Her son also disowned them and stayed away for eleven years cutting all ties which was another trial. It caused her to set up "Spatula" a help community for parents of gay children.

Now to be fair, although her experience and viewpoints will upset many people, at the time it was the 70's  and into the 80's after the aids scare. At the time the "gay lifestyle" which she was so afraid of was pretty real. Unprotected sex in bars. Promiscuity. It's not a lifestyle that parents of straight kids want their children to be involved in when they've raised them to find a good spouse and settle down.

Her heartache is real even if it isn't politically correct in these times.

But through it all she never rejected her son and prayed for him to come home.

She also shares her "joy room" a place where she collects the bits and pieces that people send her to express joy. It's a neat idea if you have the space.

The book is also filled with quotes that inspire her.

Barbara passed away a few years ago from brain cancer. She thought it would be her diabetes that would get her.

If you can set aside your own prejudices and remember when it was written (1990), then this is an enjoyable book. Not as funny as Bombeck, but definitely a woman who found joy.

Book Review: The Little Books of Why: Why a Star? - Bodie and Brock Theone

Lessons learned while lying with her mother under the stars, a story of when Brock and Bodie were ten (they really were childhood sweethearts), and astronomy all tie in with the star in the sky at Jesus' birth.

Bodie is an expert in tying real life experience to bible stories and their meanings. In this small book (80 pages), she doesn't ignore science, but instead integrates it into faith and belief, looking at science and religion as two sides of the same coin.

She even attempts, using science, to explain how it was possible for this special star to appear in the sky at that time.

In the end, it really is about seeing signs and interpreting them as proof that God exists. Of course there are those who don't see it that way, but for those, no sign will ever be proof.

Book Review: The Little Books of Why: Why a Shepherd? - Bodie and Brock Theone

Out of the three Why books I read (there are four), this one is my favorite.

Bodie tells us of her experience as a kid being a shepherd as her camp vacation. In it she goes through the different challenges and responsibilities a shepherd has to the sheep. There's a lot more to it than just lying around.

When you understand what the responsibilities are it becomes clearer what Christ's responsibility is as the shepherd and the meaning of Psalm 23 (The Lord is my shepherd) as well as the parable of the lost sheep.

She does it beautifully going step by step through her responsibilities of taking care of the sheep in the pasture which to most of us is a foreign experience, to the responsibilities not only of Christ's people, but of all people. When the parables were told by Christ, ordinary everyday things and experiences were used so the people could understand. Now it takes a little more effort to understand the deeper meanings that a surface understanding doesn't quite explain. Most of us will never have the experience of being actual shepherds.

I found the book thoughtful and gave me a few ah ha moments.

Book Review: The Little Books of Why: Why a Crown? - Bodie and Brock Theone

Bodie and Brock Theone (pronounced Tay-nee), are a prolific wife and husband team of inspirational historical fiction. You can't go into a religious bookstore without seeing their books.

This series of little books (80 pages) are intended as one sitting inspired writings to help understand God and His ways better.

In this one. Bodie is really the writer of these books as she uses her real life experiences and ties them into biblical stories and her understanding.

In this book she uses the story of the Garden of Eden extensively, as well as Jesus' last day wearing the Crown of Thorns. Of course the theme of the crown comes up repeatedly for the crown has had great symbolism throughout history.

My only complaint about this book (bearing in mind that I don't necessarily come to the same conclusions that the Theones do), is that at some points they quote chapters from their upcoming (at the time) books. It sometimes felt like a book used to sell their other books. Which is an interesting marketing ploy. Write a little book to sell a bigger book.

But other than that I found it interesting - especially for those like me who are learning different ways to look at religious beliefs and symbols.

Book Review: The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch

An accomplished professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction and Design at Carnegie Mellon University, and happily married father of three young children, Randy received the devastating news that he had terminal pancreatic cancer when he was in his early forties.

It is tradition for retiring professors to give their "last lecture" and this is Randy's.

Instead of focusing on his death sentence, he instead focused on his life lessons.

This is a truly inspiring yet non-religious book. He states up front that he won't talk about religion.

But he shares the rules he's lived by and how he achieved his various goals, which included being in zero gravity and working in the animation department at Disney.

One of my favorite stories in this book is a trip to Disneyland when he was a boy. He and his sister decided to spend ten bucks (this is 1969 so that was a lot of money for a kid), on a salt and pepper shaker set in one of the stores. At one point they dropped and broke it. Devastated, they went back to the store and told the clerks what happened. The Disney people gave them a replacement. When they told their Dad the story, he from then on, made sure he visited Disneyland often and rewarded his employees with trips to the park. His father ended up giving Disneyland more business than the ten dollars they gave up.

The point of the story was to be generous. Not because you expect something, but generosity does multiply.

The book is filled with inspiring stories of how he got to where he is and helping those along the way.

Sadly, Randy wasn't able to achieve his goal of surviving cancer and died not long after his lecture even though he appeared to be in perfect health. However he talked about how he lived his short but accomplished life.

The biggest heartache for him was leaving his children without a living father. Which shows that in spite of all we accomplish out there in the world, what really matters is family, whatever that is for us.

This is a really nice gift book especially for someone who is about to embark on a new page in their life.