Friday, January 25, 2008
The Turks Today by Andrew Mango
Mango follows up his biography of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, with this excellent review of the history of Turkey since Ataturk's death on October 10, 1938. He covers the political developments, the origins of the Cypress, Armenian, Greek, and especially Kurdish conflicts, as well as a good description of each region of the country (its history and current situation) with a chapter dedicated to Istanbul and another to Ankara. I found myself in a very different place in terms of understanding Turkey after having read the book. I also enjoyed taking many of his quotes and asking my classmates if they were accurate. I found that for the most part my classmates acnowledged that he described things accurately.
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for literature (the first Turk to do so, I think). I thought I should read one of his books given that I am trying to learn about Turkish culture. My Name is Red is set during Ottoman times in the 16th century, if I remember correctly. The book is set among the Sultan's artists who are composing a special and controversial book for the sultan. Europeans have started painting portraits which is the height of blasphemy to the Muslim Ottomans who think that man should never be the center and that all paintings should be from Allah's perspective. However, the Sultan wants a portrait of himself in the book. With anger and jealousy flaring a murder has taken place. The reader has knows that one of the central characters has done it but does not know who until the very end of the book. We follow the main character, Black, as he tries to solve the murder and marry the woman he loves. The story is a bit depressing and rather crude/lude, but overall I did like it and feel that I understand more about this place in which we are now living.
Overcoming Hurts & Anger by Dr. Dwight Carlson
I have known Dr. Carlson since 1993 when we were together (in a group) on a trip to Kazakstan, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. He and his wife are precious people and they have encouraged Laurie and I tremendously in our walks with Jesus. Dr. Carlson's life is as much a testimony as any book he could write, but, nevertheless, his books are excellent. This book is aptly titled as he discusses different ways we are hurt and how, when it is not dealt with/healed, it often expresses itself in anger. He covers the many faces of anger (not just the stereotypical angry outburst) and discusses how to "overcome" it as the title indicates. I have copied below the blurb from Amazon.com
Overcoming Hurts & Anger (300,000 in print) has been helping people deal with the hurt feelings and angry responses that wreak havoc in many relationships. In this thoroughly revised and expanded edition of his bestselling book, Dwight Carlson presents balanced, biblical insight for openly and honestly dealing with powerful emotions that everyone experiences at one time or another.
I try to read this one time each year. Living among Muslims it seemed an important thing to do when I orginally decided to do it. I found that reading through the whole book was helpful in coming to a better understanding of the many things said on all sides in the current craziness involving Islam and the West from conservative Christians, to radical Muslims, from liberal, "tolerant" people to liberal western Muslims, as well as from our neighbors in the three Muslim-majority countries in which we have lived. I prefer not to write anything regarding my thoughts on what the Koran says as they could be so easily misconstrued, although I am happy to talk about it in person with anyone who would like.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Prayer by Richard Foster
This is another book I would like to own, mark full of notes, and look back on regularly, but listening was better than nothing. Foster covers many different types of prayer in 21 chapters including simple prayer, prayer of tears, prayer of examen, prayer of adoration, unceasing prayer, meditative prayer, petitionary prayer, healing prayer, radical prayer, and many other. The book is practical as opposed to theoretical, and it includes a good bit of biographical data as he shares many of his experiences. I found the book to be full of grace and encouraging rather than condemning. I found myself wanting to pray more and wanting more of God. Foster is able to bring together a wide variety of Christian branches. This may be uncomfortable for some people.
Battling Unbelief by Dr. John Piper
Dr. Piper takes the 8 application chapters from Future Grace and reprints them in this shorter book. These chapters are: Battling Anxiety, Pride, Misplaced Shame, Impatience, Covetousness, Bitterness, Despondency, and Lust. I found each chapter enlightening, challenging, convicting, and encouraging. It would have been better to read this from a book then listen to the mp3 files, but since I was unable to read it, this was better than nothing. Dr. Piper goes from the perspective that we sin because we think it will bring us happiness. No one sins out of duty. But this is a lie. It never will bring us true happiness, only following Jesus will do that. He then shows the lie and how to battle it in each of the eight categories.
How Should We Then Live by Francis Schaeffer
I listened to this twice and am also reading the book and trying to design a curriculum out of it for our kids. I wish I had been introduced to Dr. Schaeffer earlier. This is a truly great book. He is able to look through history and see where we have come and predict where we are heading with amazing accuracy. 30+ years later Dr. Schaeffer's thoughts are still very applicable. He begins with Rome and follows western thought through the Rennaisance and Reformation and to the present. He shows clearly how the different movements were shaped by their belief or unbelief in the God of the Bible. His contrast of France and England during their revolutions is excellent as well as his explanation of different movements in art and how art and philosophy both reflect and guide the worldview and lives of their times. This is a must-read (or listen to) for everyone, I think.
It's Not My Fault by Cloud & Townsend
Cloud & Townsend cover the idea that we must take responsibility for our actions if we want to be happy and have healthy relationships, but that most people do not do this. They walk through the many ways people avoid taking responsibility and try to show how we can change. I think they are right for the most part, but as is so often the case with books like this, reading it will not bring about much change in most people. They do not say much that is new, and if we could just do it, then they would not need to write the book. I doubt that many people read the book and say, "Oh, that is the problem. Now that I know it, I'll just be different." However, in spite of this, I did find the book helpful and am glad I listened to it. I have not fully changed in the applicable areas but am further down the rode than I was before reading it.
E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
E-Myth stands for entrepreneurial myth- I felt the need to mention this as my guess is that most people will assume it refers to something involving the internet.
This is a quick read and an excellent book for anyone involved in a small business or business start up. It is rudimentary but covers most of the essentials in a very readable way. The author records conversations between himself and a woman who has made all the common mistakes in her own business and is at the end of her rope. He discusses the mistakes and walks her through the steps she needs to take to make her business a success. I appreciated most of what he had to say. An example would be the process he goes through in helping her understand what her "product" is. She sells fresh baked pies. Initially she thinks that pies are her product, but he shows her that if she is to be successful, she needs to understand that her product can't be pies. Lots of people sell pies, what sets her apart? That is her product. Her product is that feeling people get when they come to her store and eat her pies, that feeling that they are in their grandmother's kitchen... This is what she needs to sell. His basic idea is that new business owners should treat their business like it is going to be a big franchise (begin with the end in mind)- like McDonalds. In doing this, in thinking this way (and he spells it out pretty clearly) they will not make the common mistakes, and even, if they never become a big business with lots of franchises, their business will be much more successful, and they will enjoy it much more.
Culture Shock: Turkey Culture Smart: Turkey
I found these two books very helpful (and mostly correct) as introductions to Turkish customs and ways. They gave me something from which to start and saved me some embarrassing and offensive mistakes. I was also able to take what I read and ask questions of friends here in Turkey. In this I was able to both clarify/confirm things in the book as well as have an avenue for building relationships. Lastly, I was able to know what to expect in certain situations and when I was being mistreated. Often foreigners make mistakes by either assuming a situation will be like they are used to at "home" (when it is not) or assuming it must be different here (when in fact it is the same). These books helped in at least a few situations like the above mentioned.
I think these are part of a series that covers many countries. I would recommend them.
Glittering Images by Susan Howatch
In this first book in Howatch's church of England series set in the 1930's, 37-year-old widower Dr. Charles Ashworth, a doctor of divinity, is sent on a mission by Dr. Lang, the archbishop, to check on Dr. Alex Jardine, the bishop of Starbridge, who has recently lambasted the archbishop in the House of Lords regarding a controversial bill that will widen the grounds for divorce. Ashworth falls for Mrs Jardine's helper, Lyle Christie, and gets caught up in a web of lies and deceit that will rock him to his core and force him to face his own demons. The glittering images are the masks/personalities that the characters wear to hide their true selves. Ashworth must learn how to discard his glittering image in order to truly be able to serve God live a life of freedom. I found part 2 in which he goes through this process to be very helpful and thought provoking as I think of my own "glittering image" and how I tried to conceal certain parts of my "self" and how that keeps me from truly loving the people God has put in my life. [Note: there is one explicit sex scene. I wonder if the author included it to make the book more "secular" as it does not seem necessary, in my opinion, to include the details she includes. The event is important to the story, just not the details.]