My Reading List

My time here in Brazil has been so wonderful in so many different ways — I’ve gotten to meet some amazing people, spend time with Cintia and get to know her family and have them become a part of my family. I’ve eaten lots of wonderful food, I’ve been to some beautiful places, learned about the culture and the language and last, but certainly not least, I’ve had lots of free time to read great books. The latter came as a big surprise, I knew that I would have some time alone, but I had now idea how much time I would have on my hands. It’s been hard sometimes, but overall, it’s been a huge blessing and I am thankful for the time. Who knows when I’ll have this kind of time to read, pray, think and study again?? Maybe never. Well, here’s a taste of what I’ve been doing with my spare time!

“When People Are Big And God Is Small,” by Ed Welch This is the first book I read after arriving in Brazil. I had already read it once over the summer, but it was a quick, cursory read and this time I got to take my time and really enjoy it. It’s an excellent book for anyone that has ever been influenced by peer-pressure, codependency or the fear of man. And that means everyone. It’s a practical and biblical book that looks at the fear of man and it’s one and only cure — learning the fear of the Lord. I highly recommend it. It’s really readable and so helpful.

“Jonathan Edwards: Lover of God,” This is the first of five small books on different aspects of Jonathan Edwards. This is a great introduction to Edwards. It makes him and his work so accessible. While I definitely enjoy reading his books and find that pushing through them has been so rewarding, sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down and discouraged reading his work.

Jonathan Edwards: Lover of God takes a close-up look at the life of Edwards, from his days as a young child at home to his early death from a smallpox vaccination. It contains samplings of Edwards’s philosophical contributions, his sermons, and his personal and theological musings, revealing his thoughts, mind and heart. Edwards wore many hates — philosopher, father, preacher, college president, theologian, husband — and yet, one of them stands out among them all, Edwards: Lover of God.”

“Spectacular Sins And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ,” by John Piper. Here’s what Matt Chandler, Pastor at the Village Church in Texas writes about the book, “The weighty truths about the sovereign wisdom and power of God unpacked in these pages created in me an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and ultimate safey. To be reminded of his might over everything is priceless, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to preach the same again.”

This is a little book, just eight small chapters, but it has a lot of truth packed in. It was encouraging to be reminded that God is sovereign over all, “God did not just overcome evil at the cross. He made evil serve the overcoming of evil.” It’s lines like this one that make you think and then make you stand in awe of the greatness of the Sovereign One. Great book.

“North and South,” by Elizabeth Gaskell. I received this as a birthday present from a dear friend a couple of years ago after watching the BBC miniseries over New Year’s Eve. I LOVED the movie. And I read the book immediately after receiving it and I liked it. Well, I re-read it here and it’s safe to say that the second time around it made my favorites list. I don’t know why, but it was 100 times better the second time. I don’t want to give anything away, so all I’m going to say is that you need to read it. So GOOD!

“Conversations with Myself,” by Nelson Mandela I bought this book along with “Committed,” by author Liz Gilbert of “Eat Pray Love,” at a bookstore in Niterói after running out of my own books to read. There certainly were not an abundance of choices in English. It was this and “Committed,” along with a Justin Bieber biography and a Miley Cyrus biography and then a handful of Twilight books.

This book was interesting and I enjoyed it. It’s really just a compilation of lots of different notes, journal entries and letters from Mandela’s life organized into different sections. I think that Nelson Mandela is absolutely fascinating and what he did for his country is amazing, but his personal life was one disaster after another. In the end, no matter how great your accomplishments here on earth, none of it matters if you do not believe in Jesus.

“The Geography of Bliss,” by Eric Weiner

A friend gave me this right before I left to come to Brazil. It was a highly entertaining read about “one grump’s search for the happiest places in the world.” Basically this man travels all around the world going to the happiest places, as calculated by a happiness professor. It was interesting and I enjoyed reading about places that you typically don’t think about traveling to everyday.

This was a little bit disappointing for me. I loved the movie, “Eat Pray Love,” and was hoping that this would be a great book. It wasn’t. It was more a book about the history of marriage than about her own personal journey. I thought that she was unfair in her generalizations, her history was questionable in some places and her conclusions about marriage are completely contrary to what, I as a believer, think about the subject. Not really worth the time…

Well, I’m having internet issues, so you will just have to wait until later to see the rest of my reading list! Tchau, amigos!

JJ

The Critic Comes out to Play

Last night I went to New Play — an ASU student written, directed and acted theatre production. There were four different one act plays.  I was not really impressed, by the end I was straining to stay awake and fidgeting out of boredom. With the exception of The Wake, all left much to be wanting. The trend last night seemed to be an inordinate overuse of the F word. It seems that this word and all of the crass innuendo that comes along with it has replaced real comedic dialogue and wit. It’s sad and it’s also the “easy” way out.  It’s a cheap trick to make the audience laugh (those who think that is funny) without having to really work for it ; so it’s also less rewarding for all parties involved — writer, actor and audience.

Well Made was the first play of the evening and at first I thought it might be an interesting commentary on playwrights and their struggles. However, due to poor acting and what seemed to be an inconsistent and at times just weird dialogue it failed to live up to its’ full potential. Well Made opens with a scene showing a playwright being eaten alive by her harshest critics. It continues by showing her being escorted to hell by a grim reaper type. The hell she goes to is one specifically for playwrights who did not follow the rules for a well-made play. Sarah, the protagonist, meets such writers as Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen and then adding a bit of an ironic twist, she meets a nun who wrote a religious play for her middle school youth group. Most of the time is spent in hell grappling with the reality that her work had been so bad that it put her in hell. She meets the devil and others like Sophocles. At the end she wakes up and tears up the play she was working on since it didn’t fit the model for a well made and well written play. Most of the actors in this play seemed to be just that, actors. They weren’t convincing and it felt stiff and memorized. It was an interesting message and commentary on society — writers are constrained by their audience and critics and are kept from writing what could brilliant material because of their fear of being eaten alive and thrown into “hell.” Again, it felt forced and it was not as effective as it could have been with the dialogue.

After that was Three Little Words. Again, this could have been another interesting commentary on unemployment and how it affects Joe or Dan down the street. However, the language distracted and took away from the message that was trying to be conveyed. There were some funny moments and the actor who played the main character did a good job and was convincing, however the same cannot be said of the other actors. Overall, this play was second-rate and the all of the language got really old really fast.

Okay, now onto my favorite of the night — The Wake. This show was funny with a bit of a poignant side that made you think about real life. It was also shorter and concise, which was a relief after the first two. It was a comedy with a darker side, but not really a black comedy. The play revolves around a family mourning the loss of their loved one. It shows a family for who they really are – it almost felt like being a fly on the wall and watching people interact and seeing who they really are without trying to impress anyone. It was interesting and there was some witty dialogue. The two child characters added some funny slapstick kind of humor as well. Overall the acting in this play was far better than any of the other three and was easier to watch and more enjoyable too.

Ohhh and where do I even begin with I Love You Mr. Laurent? It was much too long and the writer clearly needed more than one act to fully develop the plot and be able to conclude and resolve all of the different story lines. By the time it was over I was ready to start singing the hallelujah Chorus. It was really bad. I felt like I was watching a combination of Batman and “The Picture of Dorian Grey.” I really don’t have anything more to say about this one. It was long and boring and confusing.