And the winner is...

The winner of the free copy of Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me is comment #4, also known as Drumszee! I hope you enjoy the book. Thanks to all who commented. I hope to be having more giveaways in the future.

I don't know about you, but on crazy, hot days like this, there is no place I would rather be than curled up on my Roots chair at home with a good book.

What are you reading these days?

Review: Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me by Ian Morgan Cron

When you have been waiting for something for as long as I have been waiting to read this book, there is always the chance that the pages will not live up to the expectation.

From the very first chapter, this book far exceeded all expectations.

In Ian Morgan Cron's second book, Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir of Sorts, the author takes us on an unforgettable journey through his life, his quest from childhood to become a man without the true north of having a present, sober father in his life.

The discovery of a black and white photograph of himself as a child begins the author's story, and serves as an anchor of sorts through the book. Mr. Cron takes us from that blonde-haired little boy, through a childhood with a larger-than-life, alcoholic father, who skewed not only the author's self-esteem, but also his relationship with God.

The main characters, those who have had the most impact throughout his life, are people that I will not soon forget. Most notably, his Nanny, whom in such few pages, I grew to love, and want to hug when I get to heaven, simply for her kindness to this little boy needing love.

One of my very favorite parts of the book are the brilliant ways that Ian ends each chapter. So many last sentences or paragraphs left me speechless, or in simple amazement at the beauty of it. My favorite is the last paragraph of chapter five, which Nanny features predominantly...
Minutes after Nanny died, my mother removed her cat-eye glasses and gave them to me. I've kept them in the top drawer of my bedside table for twenty-five years. I suspect they will remain there for the rest of my life. (pg. 58)
I could go on gushing about this book, as well as Mr. Cron's first novel, Chasing Francis, a work of wisdom literature, a balance of fiction and historical fact. But let me simply say, even if you do not usually read biographies and memoirs, get this book, and read it. Let yourself feel the purity and heartbreak of a child, and the unrelenting love of a God who, while at times is seemingly silent, but never stops loving and pursuing His children.

* * * * *

Win a copy of Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications have awesomely provided me with a copy of this book to give away to one reader. All you need to do to win the book is leave a comment on this post, answering the question below, then shoot me an email at misunderstood {at} sympatico {dot} ca so I will know how to contact you if you are the winner. Here is the question:

If you were to write a memoir, who is one significant person
your story would not be complete without?

Of the comments received, I will randomly pick a winner at 6:00 pm on Saturday, July 16, 2011.

Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson.

The 25 Books of Summer

Yesterday on my Shards of Light blog, I shared with the interwebs my plans to survive this summer. One of the six is to catch up on my reading for the year. As you can see to the left, as of today, with the two books I have just finished, I am still behind on my goal of reading 60 books this year.

With what I am calling The 25 Books of Summer, I am a bit closer to my goal. Two down, 23 to go. Here are the first two I have finished...
  1. Harvesting Fog, by Luci Shaw
  2. Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me, by Ian Morgan Cron
The first, Harvesting Fog is a beautiful book of poetry. Lucy Shaw has a magnificent gift of seeing and expressing life in a way that is healing to the soul. Even though I have turned the last page, I cannot bring myself to put it on the bookshelf yet. There are poems there that I need to go back and read again. Perhaps this is one that will never make it to the bookshelf...

The second I finished only minutes ago. I will be posting a review of Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me, but it is still too fresh, still too close for me to do justice to it at this point. This is one of those rare books that actually make you feel like you are reading on holy ground. Brilliant is not a good enough word as far as I am concerned right now. {As an added bonus, I have a second copy of the book that I will be giving away when I post the review. Stay tuned.}

So here we begin. As far as I am concerned, we couldn't have had a better start to the summer.

What I'm Reading {On}

It has been a year since I got my first Kobo eReader. To be honest, I never dreamed that I would love it quite so much.

That is not to say that I never buy actual books anymore. Of the 14 books I have read so far, only six of them were read on my Kobo. But, of the 12 in the list to the left that I am currently reading, seven of them are on my Kobo.

I will always love paper, the smell of paper, the weight of it. I will always be interested in the fonts used, the bindings, the texture of the paper used in books. These things are constants and will never change.

But I do love the convenience of the Kobo. Of having 202 books at my fingertips whenever I have a few moments to read. Of being able to travel without backbreakingly carrying 12 books in my carry-on, as I did for last year's NYC vacation.

And then there is the fact that every few weeks, a whole new slew of free eBooks become available on Kobo. I have gotten some beautiful ones, including the one I wrote about last week, The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, for absolutely nothing. These free books have introduced me to new authors and saved me money on ones I thought I would have liked, but ended up not. You've got to love anything that gets you free books. Seriously.

If you haven't tried eBook reading, I highly recommend that you do. And the beauty of it is that you don't actually even need to have an eReader to do so. Any smartphone, iPad, or computer will run the Kobo App, and you can have access to the free books any time. Give it a whirl, and let me know what you think.

It's been a good reading year. Happy anniversary, little friend!

"The Magician's Elephant" by Kate DiCamillo

Every once in a while, I come across a book that, even before I have turned the first page to the second, I know it will be pure magic. I know that I will hate for it to end. I know that it will be one of my favorites ever.

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo is just such a book.

I have fallen in love with orphan Peter Augustus Duchene, the boy hero of the story, his missing sister Adele, an elephant whose name I wouldn't understand, and Leo and Gloria Matienne, the police officer and his wife who, while childless, have all the love in the world in their hearts to give .

Now, I could go on gushing, but that would do a disservice to this magical, beautiful, hope and wonder-filled book. But instead, I will let Ms. DiCamillo's words do the job for me. Here are some of my very favorite quotes...
"Leo Matienne had the soul of a poet, and because of this, he liked very much to consider questions that had no answers. He liked to ask, 'What if?' and 'Why not?' and 'Could it possibly be?'"
* * * * *
"Magic is always impossible," said the magician. "It begins with the impossible and ends with the impossible and is impossible in-between. That is why it is magic."
* * * * *
"Beyond the alley, past the public parks and the police station, up a steep and tree-lined hill, stood the home of the count and countess Quintet, and in that mansion, in the darkened ballroom, stood the elephant.

She should have been sleeping, but she was awake.

The elephant was saying her name to herself.

It was not a name that would make sense to humans. It was an elephant name—a name that her brothers and sisters knew her by, a name that they spoke to her in laughter and in play. It was the name that her mother had given to her and that she spoke to her often and with love.

Deep within herself, the elegant said this name, her name, over and over again.

She was working to remind herself of who she was. She was working to remember that, somewhere, in another place entirely, she was known and loved."
There are so many brilliant lines, so much magic in this book, that one really must experience it for oneself. Do yourself a favor: drop what you are doing right now, and go get yourself this book. If you have a Kobo, get it here, like I did. But whatever you need to do to get your hands on it, you won't be sorry.

What I'm Reading


Believe it or not, I am still on my way to having 60 books read this year.

That being said, I am a bit behind. Even for someone as numerically challenged as it am, i know that sixty books a year means five books a month. Given that we are more than halfway through May, the GoodReads widget to your left should say that I have 23 books read already.

Clearly that is not the case.

But given that summer—that most dreaded of all seasons for someone like myself—is just around the corner, I have a feeling that there will be no shortage of page turning coming my way as I attempt to hide from the heat, humidity and horrible glare from the sun.

One of my biggest struggles in attempting to read as much as humanly possible in a year is that many of the books I choose to read—most of which recommended to me or taken from the reading lists of people I admire—are books that cannot be read quickly. Some cannot be read quickly because they are designed so, such as the Rilke and Nouwen day books, meant to be read a bit every day. Others cannot be read quickly, because I so love the book, the last thing I want to do is read it quickly and have it end before I am ready. That would be tragic.

So here is what I'm reading right now...

The Thank You Economy {Gary Vaynerchuk} Someone in my Church Communications Group Tweeted that he was reading this book and that every Church Communications person out in the Twitterverse should read it. So I exercised my ever-growing Kobo Wi-Fi skills, and in moments, had it in my hot little eReader. I'm almost halfway through, and can tell you it is making me totally rethink how I do my job, and how it can be done so much better.

Walking On Water
{Madeleine L'Engle} This one has been on the list for a while. It's one of those that I refuse to read quickly, simply because I don't want this time with Madeleine to end.

Harvesting Fog {Luci Shaw} A poetry book, again, designed to not rush through. I feel the need to go back again and again to each poem to get every drop of life in them.

Everything Belongs {Richard Rohr} Derek and Jennifer, my youngest brother and sister-in-law sent me this book off my Amazon wishlist for my birthday. Another one not meant to be rushed through, there is so much wisdom in the book on contemplative prayer, I can already tell that I will need to read it again!

Emma {Jane Austen} I've begun Emma many, many times in the past, but for some reason, this time I am still going. This may be my favorite of Jane's...

That is all I have for now. I'll have some favorite words to share with you later this week, some from the above books.

Review: The Watcher by Sara Davison

Too much of Kathryn Ellison's life has been defined by the words, "wrong place, wrong time". It all started with the brutal attack twenty years ago, that set everything in motion. Then, through the events of the aftermath, Nick Lawson walked into her life. While she could not deny the fact that there was something undeniable between them in their meeting, she was in absolutely no position to act on the impulse of her heart.

Now, all these years later, Nick knocks on her door once more, to see if perhaps there might be another chance for the two of them. But before Kathryn can move ahead, the memories and ghosts of the past must first be laid to rest. Unbeknownst to Kathryn, however, one of the 'ghosts' has just escaped from prison, and has only one thing on his mind, finishing what he didn't on that night twenty years ago.

Full of suspense with overarching themes of forgiveness and grace, and an unusual spiritual element, The Watcher is a good first novel for Sara Davison. While it took me a bit to get into the book, by the time I was halfway through, I was more than hooked, and ended up losing sleep in my need to know the outcome.

If you are a fan of suspense and mystery mixed with a bit of romance, you will enjoy The Watcher.

Book has been provided courtesy of Word Alive Press and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available now from your favourite bookseller.

favorite words...

I had been wanting Luci Shaw's Harvesting Fog for a while, and it finally found its way into my home. While it is small, it is not a book to hurry through. There are some nights that I only get through one poem, and that one poem will not let go of me.

One such poem is this one. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do...
—Luci Shaw, Harvesting Fog, p. 26

Behold the fleck of ant
bearing with diligence his large
load of crumb down the long
mile of floorboard.

If, by observation, we become
part of an insect's life, is he
aware of us? What thread of vision
links antic and observant?
What false criterion of size?
And who is it who, watching us,
whispers Watch for Who it is
Who watches you?

Review: Devotions For Lent

Devotions for Lent from the Mosaic Bible is an excellent guide for the Lenten season. Divided into the six weeks that encompass the season, this little book belies its size by packing in more quotes, beautiful photos, poetry and inspiration than you can imagine. Even included are all of the scripture readings {in the back of the book}, so if you travel or commute, this one tiny little book can by your sole companion for all the whole season.

I have read other books on Lent, but this is definitely one of my favorites. Each of the six weeks is broken down by theme {Identifying Discontent, Dependence, God's Holiness & Grace, Sin & Death, Fasting, Hope}, and these themes are fleshed out in the words of Christ followers both ancient and modern {from Augustine to Lauren Winner} and Scripture. The combination creates a beautiful fusion that helps to prepare your heart as the days progress closer to the Holy Week, and Easter itself.

I am enchanted by the liturgical calendar, and how following it can enhance not only my relationship with God, but also prepare me for the spiritual rhythms of life. I love how even the ordinary days can be extraordinary when you pay attention.

But these are no ordinary days. This week marks the beginning of Lent. Having spent my early years in both Catholic school and the Catholic church, Lent is something that is ingrained in me as a time of deprivation. Time to give something up. but later in life, understanding how it fits into the liturgical calendar, Lent has also become a time of preparation for the celebration of Jesus' resurrection, Easter. I have come to understand that the deprivation is not an end to itself, but rather is to clear out your life to help prepare your heart, and better hear God.

Devotions For Lent is the perfect companion to do so. {oh, and because they come in packages of ten, you can share with your family, small group, or just bless random strangers!}

I have received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Tyndale House.

favorite words {02.15.16}

sometimes life gets a bit crazy, and it takes a bit of catching up to get back on track. such is the last few days for me.

but last evening i got reacquainted with my life a bit, and got caught up on some reading, so now it's time to get caught up on some favorite words.

this is something from February 14's reading from Henri Nouwen's Bread For The Journey...
There is beauty and goodness right where we are. And only when we can see the beauty and goodness that are close by can we recognize beauty and goodness on our travels far and wide. There are trees and flowers to enjoy, painting and sculptures to admire; most of all there re people who smile, play, and show kindness and gentleness. They are all around us, to be recognized as free gifts to receive in gratitude.

Our temptation is to collect all the beauty and goodness surrounding us as helpful information we can use for our projects. But then we cannot enjoy it, and we soon find that we need a vacation to restore ourselves. Let's try to see the beauty and goodness in front of us before we go elsewhere to look for it.
this one has really hit home for me. since one of my words for 2011 is beauty, obviously there is that. but even more, given my day job as a graphic designer, too often do i use the beauty that surrounds me daily solely for my job, instead of to restore and renew myself.

i need to find a way for both...

favorite words... {02.08.11}

i found a new writer i love yesterday. her name is Enuma Okoro, and you can find her blog {and the rest of the post below} here.

here are the first words of hers i have read. by the end of the paragraph, i'll be surprised if you don't love her as much as i...
I am learning to dwell in daily meditation, to rise and seek after God out of necessity. And it can’t be lost on me, the small miracles inherent in this. Small, but who knows how the smallest miracles expand and stretch wide like canvas covering a host of unspeakables. I ask boldly for small things. Then I watch and wait for God, clenching a fistful of mustard seeds. My other hand wrapping around Psalms and Epistles, Prophets and Gospels like a bouquet of flowers, Gerber daisies perhaps, colors that leak boldness and hope like water. I poise ready to tiptoe behind the holy ascent up a holy hill. My mouth parts with breath, preparing breath, centering breath, prayer breath. If I can at least speak the truth from my heart, regardless of a shaky gait and what is right...may I too abide in God’s tent? Am I too far from blameless? {Tuesday, Feb 1, 2011}
see what i mean?

favoite words {february 7}

"We make our way through Everything like thread passing through fabric: giving shape to images that we ourselves do not know."
from: Letters On Life: New Prose Translations
by: Rainer Maria Rilke

favorite words, weekend edition

What can we say about God's love? We can say that God's love is unconditional. God does not say, "I love you, if..." There are not ifs in God's heart. God's love for us does not depend on what we do or say, on our looks or intelligence, on our success or popularity. God's love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. God's love is from eternity to eternity and is not bound to any time-related events or circumstances. does that mean that God does not care what we do or say? No, because God's love wouldn't be read if God didn't care. To love without condition does not mean to love without concern. God desires to enter into relationship with us and wants us to love God in return.

Let's dare to enter into an intimate relationship with God without fear, trusting that we will receive love and always more love. {February 5}
from: Bread For The Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith
by: Henri Nouwen

favorite words... {02.04.11)

...from Henri Nouwen's Bread For The Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith:
Kindness is a beautiful human attribute. When we say, "She is a kind person" or "He surely was kind to me," we express a very warm feeling. In our competitive and often violent world, kindness is not the most frequent response. But when we encounter it we know that we are blessed. Is it possible to grow in kindness, to become a kind person? Yes, but it requires discipline. To be kind means to treat another person as your "kin", your intimate relative. We say, "We are kin" or "He is next of kin." To be kind is to reach out to someone as being of "kindred" spirit.

Here is the great challenge: All people, whatever their color, religion, or sex, belong to humankind and are called to be kind to one another, treating one another as brothers and sisters. There is hardly a day in our lives in which we are not called to this. {February 4}

favorite words... {02.03.11}

every once in a while you make a discovery.

yesterday i discovered Ann Voskamp, and her beautiful book, One Thousand Gifts {click on 'read now' under the book to read the first chapter}.

here is an excerpt from chapter one...
From all of our beginnings, we keep reliving the Garden {of Eden} story.

Satan, he wanted more. More power, more glory. Ultimately, in his essence, Satan is an ingrate. and he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden. Satan's sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave.

Isn't that the catalyst of all my sins?

Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren't satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.
i encourage you, go to the link above and read the whole first chapter. and then do yourself a favor, get the whole book, read her blog. you won't be sorry.

* * * * *

p.s. i finally decided on a reading goal for this year, and for this year i'm going a little more conservative, and will go with a goal of reading 60 books in 2011. it works out to five books per month, and since you can see by the widget to the left that after january, i'm only at two, well, it looks like i have already got some catching up to do.

do you have a reading goal for this year?

favorite words...

Exodus 33:15-17

Then Moses said, “If you [the Lord] don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”

The Lord replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.”

favorite words...

i love my Kobo. so many books, so compact, so {or perhaps too} easy to buy books and begin reading them immediately.

but tonight, i made a cup of tea, and read a good, old fashioned, paper book. one that i got a while ago, but twistedly enjoyed it so much, i didn't want to keep reading it, because then it would be over. yes, my logic is faulty, but at least it's my own.

A Homemade Life
by Molly Wizenberg, creator of the Orangette blog, which i love, wrote these words in an essay entitled, 'Summer of Change'...
"There's been so much said and written about Paris that it's daunting to hazard a statement of my own. That city just has something. I can't think of any other place so idealized, so longed for, so sighed over. My Paris isn't always such a sweet one, with kisses a la Doisneau on every street corner, but I like it better that way. It's the place where I've been loneliness, and where I've been happiest. Sometimes I've been both at the same time. It's where my father introduced me to croissants and pain au chocolat. It's where I met my first love, and where, six weeks later, he stopped calling. I sat on a bench at the Champ de Mars and filled an entire Kleenex mini-pack with my snot and tears. It's a place where even crying feels romantic somehow, where heartbreak makes you feel like part of history. It's who and where, for a long time, I wanted to be...

I say Paris is the place where I've been loneliest, and also where I've been happiest. But what I mean is harder to say. The thing I call loneliness is delicate and lovely, like a blown-out eggshell. It's both empty and hopeful, broken and beautiful."
i couldn't agree with her more.

favorite words...

every once in a while, as i read myself through life, i come across a combination of words that takes my breath away, causes me to stop reading, go back, and read again, simply for the sheer brilliance of the words.

my favorite sentence of all time comes from The Book Thief, and even though i am reading it for the second time, when i came across this sentence on the weekend, even on my second time through, my heart beat a bit faster.
"When she came to write her story, she would wonder exactly when the books and the words started to mean not just something, but everything." {Markus Zusak, The Book Thief}
i can tell you exactly when and where i was the first time i read them {December 24, 2008, pearson international airport, waiting for an airplane that was going to be six hours late due to too much snow}, and in that moment, i knew that i was in the presence of brilliance.

call me a word nerd if you want—wait, that rhymes—i'd be happier if you called me a book nerd, but i really don't care. when you are in the presence of genius, you must give credit where it is due.

so, since i haven't yet decided on a reading goal for this year, i have decided to do something different. i will share with you the best words that i've read {or listened to} every day.

today's words are from Listening To Your Life: Daily Meditations With Frederick Buechner...
Long after Roger Mouse's death, Godric bids him a proper goodbye:

When friends speak overmuch of times gone by, often it's because they sense their present time is turning them from friends to strangers. Long before the moment came to say goodbye, I think, we said goodbye in other words and ways and silences. Then when the moment came for it at last, we didn't say it as it should be said by friends. So now at last, dear Mouse, with many, many years between: goodbye. {January 31 reading}
* * * * *

what's the best thing you've read today?

daily meditations

as i wrote in my shards of light blog, there was simply no way to choose between the three books of daily meditations that i wanted to read this year, so i've chosen all three. which, really, given that daily meditations are not the longest of readings, i don't see as a problem.

the three are all by favorite authors of mine, and i have read and loved books by them all.

Listening To Your Life, by Frederich Buechner
while some of the readings are from his fiction, and others non-fiction, this book has what seems to be the longest of the readings, depending upon the day. but there is no disputing his genius. just this morning's reading proves it. "When a man leaves home, he leaves behind some scrap of his heart... It's the same with a place a man is going to. Only then he sends a scrap of his heart ahead." {Jan. 21}

Bread For The Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith, by Henri Nouwen
this book is the most different of the three, as it Mr. Nouwen wrote each of them specifically for this book, while the other two are excerpts from the previously written words of the other two authors. you can read a quote from January 21's entry here.

A Year With Rilke: Daily Readings From the Best of Rainier Maria Rilke, by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
i have made no secret of my love for Rilke and his words. he wrote my favorite poem, my favorite quote, and the more i read of his, the more i love. i fully expect to love every page.

what about you? are you reading any daily readings this year? if you've read them in the past, what is your favorite?

57 out of 75

well, the year is over, and i have fallen short of my goal of reading 75 books in 2010.

while not disappointed, as the 57 books that i did read were all amazing, especially the last one, the brilliant Bonhoeffer biography {which at 542 pages should count for at least 2-3 books, if not the entire missing 18!}, i really did think that i would do it.

truth be told, i probably could have. after yesterday's wedding reception for my baby brother, instead of watching an episode of Glee, sat down with the stack of Dr.Seuss books from my childhood and finished those off, but since i have already read a great many children's books last month, searching for the perfect Christmas present for the nephews, i opted not to.

so, i've been asked what my favorite books of 2010 were, so here's the rundown:

Juliet by Anne Fortier
without a doubt, this fictional tale of a young woman's discovery that she is related to Giulietta, the character Shakespeare immortalized in his Romeo and Juliet is my favorite of the year. i didn't want it to end, and i think that if a movie isn't made out of the book, it will be a tragedy.

the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
not only do i love this series, i also love the movie and cannot wait for the next one.

School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
i went through a 'food lit' phase this summer, and this book, lent to me by my friend Angie was the highlight of that phase. simply a beautiful story of all the members of a cooking class.

The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood
one of those surprising books that i read ridiculously fast, simply because i was swept up in the story. if you have to choose between the book and the movie, there is no choice. pick up the book.

How To Catch A Star and Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers
while searching for books for my newest nephew, i came across these two board book gems. they are, especially Lost and Found, quite simply the sweetest stories. i will not be surprised if somehow they end up on my own coffee table one day very, very soon...

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas
yes, it's a big book. but even if it will take you all of 2011 to read, go out today, buy this book and begin reading it. {my review is in the previous post}

* * * * *

well, i guess this wraps up 2010. it didn't go exactly as i had planned, but what does, really? i haven't begun thinking about a goal for this year, so we'll have to see what happens there. but i will say that my Kobo is filled with exciting books just waiting for my attention. i believe i will go and pay some attention right now.

happy new year!