Changing the World

What The Hate U Give Teaches Us About Replacing Otherness with Imago Dei

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas made its debut in 2017 and has become a pivotal novel for the times we’re in. And for very good reason. It’s a book that will hit you in the gut, all the while being inspired by the strength of the characters. Now it’s on the big screen, taking the viewer into a story that has become all to common, as names become Twitter hashtags and fill our news feeds. If you aren’t familiar with the book, here’s the description:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night?

And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The title of the book comes from hip-hop legend Tupac Shakur and his iconic THUG LIFE tattoo. Contrary to popular (or better yet, uneducated) belief, the tattoo had a deeper meaning. The first part stood for THE HATE U GIVE and Tupac revealed it was a statement against the oppression shown to Black Americans that starts from a young age.

I highly recommend this movie and book (heads up, there’s language), as it has quite a bit to teach us about seeing Imago Dei in everyone. Here’s a few I wanted to share:

Let Us Listen.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” James 1:19-20

Oh church, we have to be willing to stop and listen. Too often I hear “well I haven’t seen that” or “I don’t think this really happens,” etc., etc. If we don’t take the time to stop and listen to people (or only listen to one side), how can we truly learn? How can we seek out those who are hurting and be the hands and feet of Jesus to them? Be a brother or sister in Christ to them? How can we show the world this incredible joy and love we know and have, if we turn away from people? If we refuse to listen to what they have to say? There’s a scene in the book and movie (minor spoiler), where one of Starr’s closest friends stops being her friend. She no longer responds to text messages, she unfollows her on Tumblr and when Starr calls her out on it, she quickly puts it back on Starr (saying she doesn’t know who she is anymore) and walks out. In the book we see Starr’s other friend, Maya, come clean: “She’s lying…that’s not why she unfollowed you. She said she didn’t wanna see that…on her dashboard. All the ‘black stuff’, she called it. The petitions. The Black Panther pictures. That post on those four little girls who were killed in that church…”

We must listen, even when it makes us uncomfortable. Listening to a person’s pain is more important than our comfort.

Don’t be Colorblind.
God created every single shade we all are. So see a person’s color, celebrate it, and be willing to hear how their lives might be different from yours because of it. One of the significant lines from Starr is when she tells her boyfriend Chris, who is white, “If you don’t see my blackness, you don’t see me.”

Humans aren’t Issues, They’re People. People made in God’s Image.
Whether we’re talking about racism in America, immigration, refugees, or any other social issue, when we see and or use terms like “them/they” or only see the issue, we cut out and ignore the humanity every person on this planet carries. When someone’s life is only an issue, it’s easy to ignore.

Church, this isn’t Jesus.

When we move from seeing people as fellow human beings and instead see them as categories or issues we don’t agree with/understand or “them,” we lose. We lose the chance to show love. We lose the chance to be a witness. We lose the chance to be light in an increasingly dark world. How can we make an impact if we instantly categorize people who don’t fit in our worldview or share our life experiences? We also lose the chance to meet incredible people and friends.

We can’t let political affiliations become the Christians standard. Jesus is neither Republican nor Democrat. As believers, we cannot live and die by a political party. We live & die by the Gospel. Otherwise we lose sight of our most important calling – to love people. That’s the Gospel.

I learned that from Jesus. He constantly walked and ministered to “the others” the religious considered dirty and ones to avoid. Whether that was the Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), the Samaritan woman (John 4), the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), or countless others who encountered Jesus.

It is our duty to open our ears and hearts and hear their cry. It is our duty to show the world the Light we follow. It is that Light Who will break chains, change hearts, and make a lasting impact that will echo throughout eternity.

It isn’t easy, it isn’t comfortable and it forces people to take a hard look at where their heart is, BUT when we do, we see each other as God wants us to.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

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Author Interviews

Interview with Lynn Austin

Happy mid-October everyone! Today, I’m excited to share more behind-the-scenes with Lynn Austin and her latest release, Legacy of Mercy! I hope you enjoy this interview and be sure to snag a copy of Legacy of Mercy if you haven’t already!

Legacy of Mercy released on October 2nd and will be the first sequel you’ve ever written. What made you decide to write a sequel?

My readers decided for me! I received many, many letters from them asking if there would be a sequel to “Waves of Mercy.” The main character, Anna, is only in her twenties and is a new Christian, so when she decides to return to Chicago and marry her fiancé at the end of the book, readers wanted to know what happens next in her life. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to explore what happens next for Anna, too. She has just discovered who her birth mother is, so naturally she’ll want to learn more about her. She’ll also want to solve the mystery of who her real father is and what became of him. What if he is still alive? Lots of material for a story here, especially when the other people in Anna’s life try to discourage her investigations.

You are known for writing multi-generational books and Legacy of Mercy is no exception. What intrigues you about writing in this style?

I enjoy creating women’s personalities from various eras and exploring how the roles and opportunities changed for women from generation to generation. I find it very interesting to see how the choices one generation makes has an influence on each generation after them. It causes me to be more thoughtful in the way I live, knowing that my children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren may be impacted by my life.

Which character in Legacy of Mercy do you identify with the most and why?
I would have to say I identify the most with Geesje DeJonge. For one thing, she is about the same age as I am, and has lived long enough to be able to look back through the years and analyze them. She is in a position to see all of the ways and times when God carried her through—something we usually only see in hindsight, not when we’re going through the difficulties. I’m at the same stage in my life, and I can see God’s faithfulness to me in spite of the many times I questioned His wisdom.

When you sit down to write a story, do you know how it is going to end? Describe your writing process. How do you stay disciplined and not get distracted?
I never know how a story will end when I start writing. I rarely even know what comes next when I’m writing a chapter! I begin with the historical setting, and as I’m doing my research, my characters usually begin to take shape in my mind. I flesh them out by developing resumes for them so that they become real people in my mind, with backgrounds and personalities. Then I figure out where to begin the novel and simply make up the plot as I go along. If I’m surprised then the reader will be surprised.

My deadline keeps me disciplined. I know that if I write a certain number of pages a day, I’ll finish the book on time. I also know how very hard it is to write well when I’m behind schedule and a deadline is looming. Wanting to avoid that last minute panic keeps me disciplined on a daily basis.

As for distractions—there are so many! Over the years, I’ve had to learn when to put the book aside and enjoy a pleasant distraction (an old friend who has come to town, an afternoon with my husband), and when there’s no value in the distraction and it will only make the writing process harder.

Did anything surprise you about the Legacy of Mercy story?
Yes. One of the main characters ends up in an impossible situation, which put me in an impossible situation as I tried to figure out what to do! But I just kept writing and the dilemma untangled in a very natural but surprising way. (You’ll see when you read it!) Also, the ending surprised me—a lot! I hope that all of my readers who asked for a sequel are pleased with it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband’s work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she’d earned at Hope College and Southern Connecticut State University to work as a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.

Extended family is also very important to Austin, and it was a lively discussion between Lynn, her mother, grandmother, and daughter concerning the change in women’s roles through the generations that sparked the inspiration for her novel Eve’s Daughters.

Along with reading, two of Lynn’s lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published 27 novels. Eight of her historical novels have won Christy Awards for excellence in Christian Fiction: Hidden Places (2001), Candle in the Darkness (2002), Fire by Night (2003), A Proper Pursuit (2007), Until We Reach Home (2008), Though Waters Roar (2009), While We’re Far Apart (2010), and Wonderland Creek (2011). She was inducted into the Christy Award Hall of Fame in 2013. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. Lynn’s novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.

Book Reviews, Fiction

Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd | Book Review

I’m all about trying out new authors and expanding my reading horizons, BUT I also love having my go-to authors, where I know each book I read will be (and is!) simply fabulous, entertaining, and always added to the bookshelf. Sandra Byrd is one such author and her latest, once again, did not disappoint.

Lady of a Thousand Treasures brings about a fascinating piece of history – the wealthy and their love and obsession with artifacts. I found it fascinating that so much of history was stored in houses and mansions of the rich. I loved how Byrd brought that to life and how that played out in society.

Plus Byrd knows how to write a romantic thread – never over the top, but always oh so fabulous. I definitely recommend adding this to your list, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Who is one of your go-to authors?

(Thank you to Tyndale Publishers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Miss Eleanor Sheffield is a talented evaluator of antiquities, trained to know the difference between a genuine artifact and a fraud. But with her father’s passing and her uncle’s decline into dementia, the family business is at risk. In the Victorian era, unmarried Eleanor cannot run Sheffield Brothers alone.

The death of a longtime client, Baron Lydney, offers an unexpected complication when Eleanor is appointed the temporary trustee of the baron’s legendary collection. She must choose whether to donate the priceless treasures to a museum or allow them to pass to the baron’s only living son, Harry—the man who broke Eleanor’s heart.

Eleanor distrusts the baron’s motives and her own ability to be unbiased regarding Harry’s future. Harry claims to still love her and Eleanor yearns to believe him, but his mysterious comments and actions fuel her doubts. When she learns an Italian beauty accompanied him on his return to England, her lingering hope for a future with Harry dims.

With the threat of debtor’s prison closing in, Eleanor knows that donating the baron’s collection would win her favor among potential clients, saving Sheffield Brothers. But the more time she spends with Harry, the more her faith in him grows. Might Harry be worthy of his inheritance, and her heart, after all? As pressures mount and time runs out, Eleanor must decide whom she can trust—who in her life is false or true, brass or gold—and what is meant to be treasured.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin | Book Review

I can’t remember the last time I wanted a sequel more, than after reading Lynn Austin’s Waves of Mercy. I’m so glad so many people requested more to Anna’s story and even more so that Lynn wrote one!

I thought the sequel went along well with the original story line and characters’ personalities and actions. I enjoyed what Lynn did with the story and the historical lane she took readers through. I loved getting to connect again with Geesje and Holland, Michigan. Austin also touches on different themes that are just as important today. If you’re a fan of Lynn Austin and historical fiction, don’t miss out on this one!

(Thank you to Bethany House for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Having returned to Chicago, young socialite Anna Nicholson can’t seem to focus on her upcoming marriage. The new information she’s learned about her birth mother continues to pull at her, and she hires Pinkerton detectives to help her find the truth. But as she meets people who once knew her mother and hears stories about the past, Anna soon discovers that some secrets are better left hidden.

At the same time, unflattering stories about Anna are leaked by someone who would love to see her disgraced and her engagement broken. And as Anna tries to share her faith with her society friends, she understands that her choice to seek God’s purpose for her life isn’t as simple as she had hoped.

When things are at their darkest, Anna knows she can turn to her grandmother, Geesje de Jonge, back in Holland, Michigan. Geesje’s been helping new Dutch immigrants, including a teen with a haunted past, adjust to America. She only hopes that her wisdom can help all these young people through the turmoil they face.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Inklings

How to Have the Perfect Hobbit Party (and Happy Birthday Bilbo and Frodo)

It’s a Hobbit weekend! Today, The Hobbit released in 1937. Tomorrow is also another important day in the Tolkien world – Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday, which is simply referred to as Hobbit Day. Obviously both are very worthy of celebration. And so, I’m here to help. I have experience in this area and who am I to deny the internet my expertise? It would be wrong of me and that’s not the kind of person I am.

Now, on to party business.

Food: This is a vital part of Hobbit existence (another reason why I think I’m part Hobbit). If you’re going to have a party, please make sure to have ample snacks. Thanks to the internet, there’s plenty of ideas to choose from, including Samwise’s Strawberries and Cream Tart, Bofur’s Mince Pies (or any of these really), Lembas bread (obviously), and a Hobbit Hole Cake.

Decor: Although not 100% necessary for a party, I wanted an excuse to share my favorite recent finds.

(Sources: Here Here Here Here Here Here)

Favors: It is Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday after all…

(Sources: Here Here Here Here)

What would you add to the party?

Book Reviews, Fiction

What Blooms From Dust by James Markert | Book Review

With a hints of magical mysteries, James Markert’s What Blooms From Dust brings the Dust Bowl alive in a unique and intriguing way. The characters, the small town of Nowhere, the mysterious happenings, and the redemption of a city all make for a story that kept me hook and connected to each of the characters.

I admit, every book I read on the Dust Bowl makes we want to drink 10 gallons of water and shower 57 times, but that’s the sign of a good book. The vivid details bring to life a part of history that affected so many. Plus there were a few more facts I learned about the Dust Bowl that I didn’t know before (like the fact that it was caused by people not understanding how to farm the land).

If you enjoy historical fiction, be sure to grab this book. If that’s not your go-to genre, I think it still might be worth a shot.

What books do you enjoy about this piece of history?

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK:
“The closer he got, the brighter that red became. It was a rose—a rose that had no earthly business growing there, right in the middle of all that dust.”

Just as Jeremiah Goodbye is set to meet his fate in the electric chair, he is given a second chance at life. With the flip of a coin, he decides to return to his home town of Nowhere, Oklahoma, to settle the score with his twin brother Josiah. But upon his escape, he enters a world he doesn’t recognize—one that has been overtaken by the Dust Bowl. And the gift he once relied on to guide him is as unrecognizable as the path back to Nowhere.

On his journey home, he accidentally rescues a young boy, and the pair arrive at their destination where they are greeted by darkened skies and fearful townspeople who have finally begun to let the past few years of hardship bury them under the weight of all that dust. Unlikely heroes, Jeremiah and his new companion, Peter Cotton, try to protect the residents of Nowhere from themselves, but Jeremiah must face his nightmares and free himself from the guilt of his past and the secrets that destroyed his family.

Filled with mystery and magic, this exquisite novel from award-winning author James Markert is a story of finding hope in the midst of darkness and discovering the beauty of unexpected kindness.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Bookish Radness

Because I Love The Insta

I finally made it to two Indie bookstores in Denver this past weekend and because I might have an obsession with Instagram and books, I may have started a new account featuring bookstores and libraries I visit. I’m all about living the Nerd Life Internet. Plus, supporting them is pretty much supporting myself, so wins for everyone 🙃.

It’s @bookstoreandlibrarylove if you want to follow! In case there’s any issues with the link and photos below, you can find it here!

Bookish Radness

End of the Summer Giveaway!

Y’all. It is time! I have been meaning to sort through and organize books from recent blogging, contests, books I’ve bought, etc and I want to share the love. Since it’s the end of summer, I think a giveaway is in order! I’ll be randomly picking two winners for a box of books!

Head over to this link (it’ll open up to a Rafflecopter) and enter to win!

Open to US residents only. Void where prohibited by law.

Enter through Rafflecopter here!

Book Reviews, Fiction

Shadow Sister by Katherine Scott Jones | Book Review

I’m so excited to share this book with y’all! I’ve been a fan of Katherine for quite some time now and am thrilled her second book is out for the world to read! It’s a beautiful story and one worth sharing. I had the opportunity to endorse it and I mean these words just as much as I did when I wrote them:

“A beautiful story of family, love, and hope, Shadow Sister is a refreshing tale of one woman’s journey through loss and heartache to redemption. Jones’ ability to create real characters and places will leave you wishing you could roam the streets of Bolivia. It will also open your heart to the marginalized and those serving them. I was left inspired and encouraged. I definitely recommend this book!”

(Thank you to the author for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK: When a vintner’s daughter travels to Bolivia to scatter her estranged sister’s ashes, she unravels secrets that test her devotion to home and make her question whether truth is worth the cost of forgiveness. Bittersweet and bold, Shadow Sister explores the mysteries of the human heart and the bond of unquenchable love.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

Formula of Deception by Carrie Stuart Parks | Book Review

Oh book reviews – sometimes you’re hard to write!

This one wasn’t a hit for me. After thinking on this for a while, I figured out what missed the mark: The book had too many lines cast out. There was the personal drama Murphy was going through, the mysterious prologue, the current crimes she was helping to investigate, and more as the truth was ultimately revealed. While there were some intriguing bits, it started to lose its credibility towards the end. I also thought some developments were rushed and that always makes it hard for me to connect with characters.

I admit, I often compared this to Gwen Marcey’s stories (the main character in Parks’ previous novels), and it didn’t match those reading experiences (which is a hard thing to do because I LOVE those novels and Gwen is hilarious).

So, while the history was interesting, this one didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK: An artist hiding from an escaped killer uncovers one of World War II’s most dangerous secrets—a secret that desperate men will do anything to keep hidden. After the murder of her twin sister, Murphy Anderson changed her name and appearance and moved to Kodiak, Alaska, to avoid the press and publicity. But when local authorities discover she’s an artist and request her help in drawing a dying man’s memories, she unintentionally ends up in the limelight again—and back in the killer’s crosshairs.

The deathbed confessions of an Alaskan hunter have Murphy drawing the five bodies he discovered on remote Ruuwaq Island ten years ago. But what investigators find has them mystified. Evidence suggests that the bodies were deliberately destroyed, and what they uncover in an abandoned Quonset hut from World War II only brings more questions. As one by one the investigators who were at the hut die, Murphy knows there is something much darker at stake. What happened on this island during the war? And who is willing to kill to keep its secrets buried?

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads