Thursday, November 30, 2017

Zechariah and Malachi: the last of the Old Testament prophets

I’ve come to the end of the Old Testament. The minor prophets, Zechariah and Malachi, have powerful messages and lessons that we can heed today. Zechariah’s messages came from visions of powerful things to come and instructions on how to live. He was speaking to the people who had just returned to their land after their captivity in Babylon. Zechariah is the most apocalyptic of the Minor Prophets as his visions detailed coming judgment. He also speaks of the coming Messiah. His purpose was to give hope to the people with the messages of the coming Messiah. Malachi’s message first focused on the sins of the priests and then the sins of the people but ended with a message of hope for those who remain faithful. His purpose was to confront the people with their sins and to restore their relationship with God.

The first half of the book of Zechariah is filled with powerful visions, many visions of things to come. I will discuss two which stood out to me. First, the vision of the Lampstand in Zechariah 4:1-14. He sees a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, seven channels of light to the lights and on either side of the lampstand is an olive tree. An angel of the Lord tells him that the vision means that the lampstand is fueled by the Lord’s Spirit. Verse 6 says “Not by might, not by power, but by Spirit.” The lampstand is kept burning by an unlimited reservoir of oil. It is a vision to remind the people and us that it is only through God’s Spirit that we will succeed, not by our own might and resources but by the pouring out of his spirit. Second, the vision of the four horses and chariots in Zechariah 6:1-8. The first chariot had red horses, the second chariot had black horses, the third had white and the fourth had dappled (spots or patches) (verse 2). The horses represent the four spirits of heaven who go out into the world (verse 5). The chariot with the black horses was sent north, the chariot with the white horses goes west and the one with the dappled horses goes south (verse 6). It is interesting that the chariot with the red horses isn’t mentioned specifically. In verse 7, Zechariah sees the powerful horses go out, “straining to go throughout the world” does this include the red horses as well? Was the chariot with the red horse held back? The Bible is silent about this and I’ve read different commentaries with no clear answer. I'd like to think the chariot with the red horses were held back for some reason, a reason God did not reveal to Zechariah. 

The second half of the book of Zechariah was written approximately 38 years after the first half and contains prophecies of the Messiah. Some have been fulfilled with Christ’s life and death and others have not yet come to pass. In Zechariah 9:9-13 is a specific prophecy concerning the Messiah. Verse 9 -10 states that the king will come to the people, first, riding on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 22:1-11, Luke 19:28-38 and John 12:12-16) and second as a powerful ruler. The Messiah will proclaim peace to the nations and he will rule from sea to sea. Zechariah 10:4 speaks from Judah will come a cornerstone, a tent peg, a battle bow and a ruler. The Messiah will be a strong, stable, victorious and trustworthy. In Zechariah 12:10-14 is the image of mourning. “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” (verse 10). This mourning can easily describe the crucifixion of the Messiah. Verse 12 states that the land will mourn as well. Lastly, Zechariah 14 describes the eventual triumph of the Messiah over the earth and his reign on earth. The Feast of the Tabernacle, the feast of thanksgiving, will be celebrated with the king (verse 16). It is the only feast that will be celebrated. The other feasts are no longer necessary as they were fulfilled through Christ. The Passover with his death. The Day of Atonement with acceptance of salvation through him. The Feast of First fruits with his resurrection.

The first half of Malachi focuses on the sins of the priests and the people. First, In Malachi 1:6-14, the Lord speaks to the priests for their use of blemished sacrifices. In Leviticus 1:3, the Lord instructed that burnt offerings must be a male without defect, however, the priests were allowing people to offer offerings with defects. Blind, crippled and diseased animals were offered as sacrifices to God in clear violation. God tells the priests by allowing this violation to occur they were dishonoring him and showed him contempt. They were offering sacrifices as they wanted and not as God commanded. Second, in Malachi 2:1-9, God admonishes the priests for setting their hearts against him and thus breaking the covenant he made with their ancestor, Levi. He calls them to follow Levi’s example. Levi spoke with “true instruction” and “nothing false was found on his lips” (verse 6). He walked with the Lord “in peace and uprightness and turned many from sin” (verse 6). Because they have turned away from this covenant, God has caused the priests to be despised and humiliated before the people (verse 9). Lastly, God turns to the sins of the people in Malachi 2:10-16, specifically to the kingdom of Judah. Judah has broken faith with Israel and married “daughters of a foreign god” (verse 11). The people also weep and wail that their offerings are no longer accepted by God (verse 13). God tells them is it because they have broken faith (divorced) the wife of their youth (verse 14) and failing to raise godly children (verse 15). He tells them to guard themselves in their spirit and keep the faith their wives (verse 15-16).

The second half of Malachi is a message of the Lord’s coming and the attitudes of the people. In Malachi 3:1-5, the Lord tells the people he is sending a messenger who will prepare the way for him (this part is understood to refer to John the Baptist) and the Lord will appear like a refiner’s fire (verse 2). He will sit as a refiner and purify of silver and gold (verse 3). This is the image that God will remove the impurities of our hearts and souls like a refiner does with silver and gold in order to make them pure. As the refiner purifies gold and silver with fire, God will refine our hearts and souls by using the difficulties and storms of life. In Malachi 3:6-15, God accuses the people of robbing him from his proper tithes and offerings (verse 8) as well making harsh statements against him (verse 13). Verse 14-15 is particularly meaningful to me as it reminds me of current attitudes toward God. It states “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’” Wow! Sound familiar? These verses point out the selfishness of this attitude. It’s about “what did God do for me? What good did it do for me?” instead of “what did I do for God?” It is the same attitude of those today who turn from God and deny his existence. Often times when I met someone who doesn’t believe God exists, it’s because they treat God like a genie who grants wishes and that someone didn’t get what he or she wanted, then God must not exist. Lastly, God speaks about the faithful few in Malachi 3:16-18. He calls them his treasured possession (verse 17). Those who revere his name will be healed with the rising of “the sun of righteousness” and they will be freed like calves free from the stall (Malachi 4:2).

In conclusion, as the words of the prophets come to a close, we are left with the same warning. Turn back to God, keep the covenant, and prepare for his coming or prepare for his judgment. Zechariah’s message was filled with visions of the coming Messiah and the end times. His prophetic messages were a blending of present, near future and end time visions. His message is clear that our hope is only found in God and his Messiah who are in complete control of the world. Malachi’s message gives us a practical guideline to serve our commitment to God. Give him the best we can, be willing to change from our wrong way of life and welcome God’s refining process in our lives. Malachi was the last of the prophets. When he died, the voices of God’s prophets became silent. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok a film that has it all

Thor: Ragnarok is the fifth chapter of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It is also the first Thor film which takes place in the other realms besides just Earth and Asgard. When we last saw Thor in The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), he left to find the remaining Infinity Stones as four have now turned up and he senses a greater plot afoot. The official synopsis reads: “Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe and finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok, the destruction of his home world and the end of Asgardian civilization, at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela.” There are many things I liked at the film, a few things I didn’t and I will respond to a few of the critics’ issues with the film.

First, what I liked about the film. First, the cast. Every actor filled their role very well. Chris Hemsworth as Thor as always brings the God of Thunder to life. In this film, Hemsworth was allowed to show more of his comedic side as well as the dramatic and action packed sequences. Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie was great. I knew very little about the character when I saw the film and I was pleased to see how she fit in the story. Thompson brought great heart and depth to the character. Cate Blanchett as Hela was amazing! She seemed to be tailored made for this role. Her portrayal of Hela is definitely an improvement in Thor villains over Malekith in The Dark World. Second, the story with all the humor (there were a few laugh out loud moments), the drama (which I will not discuss in case you haven’t seen it yet) and the action from beginning to end kept me entertained and on the edge of my seat. The movie didn’t feel like it was over two hours which is good. If I watch a movie and I am aware of how long it is, then it didn’t hold my attention. I should be so engrossed in the story that I am unaware of the passage of time and Thor: Raganrok did that. Lastly, the music. I loved the use of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song which fits perfectly with the Viking/Norse mythology which inspired Thor and his adventures.

Second, there wasn’t much I didn’t like about this film. However, what I didn’t like about the film were a few of the comedic scenes which were uncomfortable to watch. I cringed like “ewww really?!?” There is one joke in particular which features how Thor returns to Asgard and every time they said it, I cringed. I was glad when he finally returns to Asgard and this particular joke could stop. These types of jokes are so juvenile and unnecessary. They belong in a different comedies like Dumb and Dumber. Thankfully they weren’t the majority of the jokes in the film. While Jeff Goldblum is a great choice for the Grandmaster, some of his scenes were a bit tedious and cringe worthy. However, these awkward scenes were really few and far between so it’s something I could overlook when enjoying the film.

Third, many critics both professional and viewers had quite a few things to say about this film. One criticism I read is that the plotline of Ragnarok was an afterthought and wasn’t central to the film. I didn’t see that at all. While Ragnarok isn’t discussed at length in the film, it is Thor’s motivation to free himself from the Grandmaster and return to Asgard and defeat Hela. So I feel Ragnarok was not a side plot especially in the final act, when you see the final you may understand what I mean. Sometimes I think people wanted the Ragnarok storyline to be used to bash the audience’s head and remind them over and over that the end was coming. Not necessary. I think it worked in the film as they portrayed it. Second, many critics had a problem with the humor. There was too much. While I enjoyed the majority of the humor and didn’t enjoy some of the jokes, I don’t see why a superhero film can’t have humor. Iron Man did. Both Avengers films did. Captain America: Winter Soldier did. Maybe not to the extent of Ragnarok but it was there. Looking back on the first two Thor films, there were quite bit of humor in those films too.

In conclusion, I loved Thor: Ragnarok. It had great acting. The story was good and for the most part the humor fit. Despite finding some of the humor awkward and hard to watch, I look forward to watching it over and over again as part of the MCU. In my opinion, every movie will have flaws. No matter how much they try to cover all the bases, mistakes will be made and ideas will falter. However, this film is a great film which its flaws can be ignored. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Song of a Captive Bird: based on the life of Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhad

Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Dapzink is a story inspired by the life and poetry of Forugh Farrokhzad. Born in 1935 to her father, a man she only knew as the Colonel and his wife, Turan, Forugh was a child who found pleasure in breaking the rules and even greater pleasure in the storytelling afterward. In the summer of 1950, she met her cousin and future husband, Parviz Shapour. He was a satirist who encouraged her to write poetry. They were married in 1951 when she was 16 and her only son would be born two years later. However, she felt trapped by the bonds of marriage and motherhood, she began to travel to Tehran seeking to publish her poetry. Once her poems were published and gained attention, she finds her life at a crossroad. Parviz grants her a divorce and she loses custody of her son, she tries to rebuild her life and gain her voice as a feminist and a poet at a time when Iran was in turmoil.

Song of a Captive Bird is an interesting story of a woman ahead of her time. I wasn’t familiar with her or her poetry but as a lover of poetry I was intrigued. Her life was filled with horrors and heartache. First at the mercy of her father, then her husband (who didn’t treat who horribly but expected her to conform), and then at society who wasn’t prepared for her voice. Ms. Dapzink describes Forugh’s life with such details that I cringed and cried at her pain and at her frustration. Sadly, Forugh was killed in a car accident on February 14, 1967. Her poems would be banned and censored by the government but her poems still found their way into the hands of the people and have been read for decades after her death. I enjoyed how Ms. Dapzink used Forugh’s poems throughout the story so the reader can understand the situation which inspired her work. I highly recommend Song of a Captive Bird.

Song of a Captive Bird
will be available on February 13, 2018
In hardcover and eBook

Why should I stop, why? 
the birds have gone in search 
of the blue direction. 
the horizon is vertical, vertical 
and movement fountain-like; 
and at the limits of vision 
shining planets spin. 
the earth in elevation reaches repetition, 
and air wells 
changes into tunnels of connection; 
and day is a vastness, 
which does not fit into narrow mind 
of newspaper worms.”

-verse taken from “It is Only Sound that Remains”

Friday, November 24, 2017

Foods native to the Americas we might have been aware of

As I continue with my series for Native American Heritage Month, I thought about what foods we enjoy today that was introduced by the Native Americans. Just as spices were introduced to Europe through exploration of the East, a variety of foods were introduced to the world known as the Colombian Exchange. The world today owes the Native Americas of North and South America for many of the food it enjoys. Approximately, 60% of the world’s food originated in the New World. From fruits to vegetables to meats, the Native Americans enjoyed a vast and varied diet. Traditionally thought to be mainly hunter-gatherer societies, Native American tribes were also farmers who cultivated a wide variety of foods.

1. Tomatoes: First cultivated in South America in the region of Chile to Ecuador, birds are believed to have carried the seeds spreading them to present day Mexico as early as 800 BCE. The Aztecs embraced the red tomato as well as the green husked tomatoes known as tomatillo to become a staple in their diets. Europeans first feared the tomatoes. They thought they were poisonous as tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family. There is some debate about how the tomato reached Europe. One story states that Hernan Cortes brought the plant in 1521 while another story states that Christopher Columbus might have brought it back in 1493. The first mention of the tomato in European writings was in 1544. However, it wasn’t incorporated into Italian cuisine until the late 17th or early 18th century.

2. Potatoes: Usually associated with the Irish and the Great Famine of 1845, the potato was first cultivated by pre-Inca peoples of Peru between 3700-3000 BCE. Over 3,000 varieties of potatoes can be found in the Andes of South America. First introduced in Europe in the 16th century by the Spanish, the potato has been estimated to be responsible for a quarter of the growth in the Old World population and urbanization between 1700 and 1900 as the potato yields abundantly with little effort. European farmers were skeptical of the potato but soon it became a staple in European diets. North American, however, didn’t see the potato until the Irish immigrants brought them in the 1700s although a wild variety of potato can be found as far north as Mexico and Texas. 

3. Maize (Corn): I’m sure everyone is familiar with corn as originating in the New World. However, many do not realize how important maize is to the Native peoples. First cultivated in Mexico and Central America, maize plays a vital role in many Native cultures. Corn is one of the Three Sisters, along with squash and beans. Referred to as a relative, corn is essential in many creation stories. For example, Little Giver is a corn spirit in southeastern tribal stories. He presented the people with the gift of corn. Selu of Cherokee legend is a goddess associated with fertility. The Mayans believed that humans were fashioned from corn and based their calendar on the planting season. The Zuni people of southwestern US has a story of the 8 corn maidens whose dance helped the corn grow.

4. Berries: Cranberries were used as food, wound medicine and dye by the Northeastern natives. Due to its bitterness, cranberries were used as a part of a tonic which was given for various ailments. The Algonquian peoples called the berry, sassamanash, and introduced it to starving settlers in Massachusetts. In the 1820s, cranberries were shipped to Europe and became popular in Nordic countries as well as Russia. Currants were used by many native tribes for medicinal purposes. Blackfoot natives used currant roots for treatment for kidney disease and menstrual issues. The Cree natives used currants as a fertility enhancer. The strawberry we know today are a crossbreed of two New World strawberries: Fragaria virginiana from eastern North America and Fragaria chiloensis of South America. The two species were first bred in Brittany, France in 1750s.

5. Squash: The word comes from a native word askutasquash, meaning “a green thing eaten raw” from the Narragansett, an Algonquian tribe of the Rhode Island area. Although most natives would eat various squash raw, they were also dried and roasted. The most common native squash is the pumpkin. Pumpkins are thought to have originated in Mexico area between 7,000 to 5,500 BCE. Pumpkin seeds, also called “pepitas” have been discovered by archaeologists in caves of Mexico dating back to 7,000 BCE. The natives used pumpkins not only as a food source but medicine as well. In particular, the seeds were dried and roasted and used for intestinal issues and kidney aliments. Another native squash is the acorn squash. The seeds were the most consumed part of the acorn squash as they were dried and stored for a food for lean times as well as for journeys.

6. Meats: While Native Americans consumed little to no meat in their everyday diets, they consumed various wild and domesticated animals. Tribes near water sources consumed various fish, lobster and shellfish. For example, the costal tribes of California consumed abalone. In California’s Northern Channel Island, the natives there gathered and consumed abalone for nearly 12,000 years. Turkey is another meat source that was popular as a feast food especially for the Mayans and the Aztecs who revered the wild turkey known as huexolotlin as a manifestation of the trickster god, Tezcatlipoca. Turkeys were domesticated and spread as a food source from Central America north through the southwest and the eastern America. The Muscovy duck was often fattened and eaten as a feast food in Mexico, Central and South America. The duck is thought to originate on the Miskito Coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras.

In conclusion, this list is just a small portion for the wide variety of food which originated with the New World. I found it interesting that many of us cannot think of the potato without thinking of the Irish or even Italian food with the tomato based pasta sauces. These foods are so engrained in those ethnic cuisine, we don’t realize that they were always there. It wasn’t until the exploration of the New World that the dishes we know today came about. Many of the foods I listed are among my favorite foods. How many of your favorites are on the list? 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

As Bright As Heaven: one's family struggles through a pandemic on the homefront

As Bright as Heaven is the next novel by, one of my favorite authors, Susan Meissner. The story opens in January 1918 as Pauline Bright visits the grave of her infant son and contemplates a move which will uproot her family and into an unknown future. Her husband, Thomas, has been offered an inheritance in Philadelphia. His uncle, Fred, runs a mortuary in the city and asks Thomas to be his heir and take over the business. It’s an opportunity that seems hard to turn down. Pauline and Thomas along with their three daughters, Evelyn, 15, Maggie, 12 and Willa, 6, leave the only life they’ve known and move to Philadelphia. As they settle into their new home and new city, the Great War rages in Europe and many American men are preparing to join the fight. And soon rumors of an illness spreading across Europe reaches the shores of America. Soon the city and the Bright family are faced with the growing pandemic of the Spanish flu. Will the family be touched by this horrible illness? How will they endure the challenges they face?

I was very eager for this new book. I’ve been a fan of Susan Meissner since I read A Fall of Marigolds a couple of years ago. So when I won an advanced copy from Bookish First, I was on pins and needles as I waited for it to arrive. Told from the perspectives of Pauline, Evelyn, Maggie and Willa, the story unfolds in a very dramatic roller coaster of tragedy and heartache. I’ve heard of the Spanish flu pandemic before and read about it in other novels; however, I have never read a story quite like this one. Ms. Meissner has a gift to give her characters such a voice that their words stay with you. So different from her recent novels where the present is connected with events of the past; however, the story is still an emotional ride with the Great War and the pandemic as the catalyst to the events the Bright family must face and endure. I highly recommend As Bright as Heaven.

As Bright as Heaven
will be available in hardcover and eBook

on February 6, 2018

Monday, November 20, 2017

The History of Lacrosse you may not have realized

Lacrosse is a game many of us may not be familiar with. Many of us don’t know that its origins either. The game of lacrosse has its origins with the Native Americans of Canadian and eastern United States. It is one of the oldest sports in North America. A version of the game originated in Canada as early as 1100 AD. It was a game played with a ball and a stick and would begin as the ball was thrown into the air and the two teams rushing to catch it. The game had important significance to the Natives of North America. The game we now know today was extensively modified by Europeans in the 19th century.

Different tribes had various names for the game. The Onondaga called it dehuntshigwa’es or “men hit a rounded object.” The eastern Cherokee called it da-nah-wah’uwsdi or “little war.” The Mohawk called it begadwe or “little brother of war.” The game generally tended to be a huge mob of players, ranging from 100 to 1,000 men, and were major events which could last several days. The two teams were generally made up of men from opposing villages in an open field between the two villages. The rules of the game would be decided the day before. Generally there was no out-of-bounds and the goals would range from 500 yards to 6 miles and would be chosen by natural landmarks such as large rocks or trees. The teams would play from sunup to sundown. On the stick there would be placed a mark about chest high. Hits below the mark were not awarded any points. Hits above the mark were awarded one point, hits to the top half of the stick were worth two points and hits to the very top of the stick were worth three points. Also the ball could not be touched with the players’ hands. Scores were loosely kept by the audience or the players and medicine men would act as coaches.

The game would serve different purposes in the lives of the natives. First, it was used to settle any intertribal disputes. The winning team often brought glory and honor to their tribe. Second, it was used to toughen young warriors for combat. As the game could be played for days, it required conditioning and stamina that would be essential for victory in actual battle. Third, it was used simply for recreation. Many native tribes celebrate their heritage with playing the game. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy (or Iroquois Nation) is one example of the game as a time honored tradition. Lastly, the game served religious purposes. The tribes would play together for the “pleasure of the Creator” and to pray together. The game is known as The Creator’s Game. There were rituals before and after the game which were important. The players would decorate their bodies with paint and charcoal as well as decorate their sticks. There were strict taboos about the foods the players could consume before the game. Wagers would be made before the game. After the game, a ceremonial dance would be performed followed by a large feast.

The game was first observed by French Jesuit missionaries in the 1630s. They condemned the game, deeming it too violent and for the use of betting. Jean de Brebeuf wrote about the game and gave it the name lacrosse. He described the Huron playing the game in 1636 using the French term for field hockey, le jeu de la crosse. Despite the Jesuit opposition, the colonists were fascinated by the game. By 1740, many French colonists would be playing it. The interest in the game grew in Canada during the 1800s. In 1856, a Canadian dentist, William George Beers, founded the Montreal Lacrosse Club and is known as the father of modern lacrosse. He would further alter the game by codifying it in 1867. He shorten the length of the game to first team to reach 5 goal or lead by 3. He reduced the number of team members to twelve. He regulated the field to 200 yards. And he redesigned the stick and ball. The Mohawk Lacrosse Club in Troy, New York became the first organized club in the US. By the 20th century, many high schools, colleges and universities would adopt the game as a league sport. It also became a sport for the 1904 and 1908 Summer Olympics but would be later dropped as an official sport. Today, an indoor version called box lacrosse is played by a team of five.

In conclusion, lacrosse is another example of the Native Americans influence on our lives today. A game that was played for the Creator, it has many purposes in the lives of the Native Americans’ lives and community. It served as training, recreational and religious purposes. For many Native tribes today, it is still played for the Creator and as a celebration of their heritage. Today, it is an organized sport in various parts of the United States and Canada. Lacrosse may have a French name but it is a Native sport at its core. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Hagar: a study into a minor Biblical figure with a big life lesson for us all

Hagar Rediscovering the God who sees me by Shadia Hrichi is a 7 week Bible study about Hagar and her role in the Bible and God’s influence in her life. Each week is divided into 5 days of personal study with each day having one or more questions to ponder or group discussion. The author states in her introduction that Hagar is a great example of someone who discovered God during a difficult time in her life. A minor character with a powerful redemptive story. What lessons can be gleaned from a woman who suffered at the hands of others? What did God do for Hagar that He can still do for us?

This study is very interesting. Unfortunately, I had no time to fully do the study before posting my review; however, after reading though the study, I am eager to do the study in its entirety. I found the format cut off in the eBook version, if you can get a physical copy and want a study, I highly recommend Hagar Rediscovering the God who sees me.

Hagar Rediscovering the God who sees me

Is available in paperback and eBook. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Contemporary Native American Literature

Native American literature is traditionally oral stories handed down through the generations. Contemporary Native American literature saw a resurgence in the late 1960s during a time some have called the Native American Renaissance, a term considered by some academics to be controversial, and gave rise to a new generation of Native American writers. According to Anna Combs, “the purpose of Contemporary Native American Literature is to” fuse the literate and oral cultures and to construct an ethnic identity of Native Americans in the late twentieth century.” I will discuss three books which I see as examples of this purpose.

The first book I would like to discuss is N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn. It was published in 1968 and was created with the resurgence in modern Native American literature. The title is a reference to the connectedness between the spiritual and physical worlds as well as the people and the land. The story follows Abel as he returns to the reservation in New Mexico after fighting in WWII. His grandfather, Francisco, tries to instill in him a sense of native traditions and values. However, the war has left Abel broken and shattered. Abel begins to wander, eventually ended up in Los Angeles, California where life is difficult for him as many criticize him for not assimilating to the modern world. When he returns, once again, to the reservation to care for his dying grandfather, he hears the stories of his people. His grandfather stresses the importance of staying connected to the traditions. Abel participates in a traditional ritual which helps him return to the land, his people and his place in the world. I also read this book for a Native American literature class and again it stayed with me because the story is intertwined with poetry and I love poetry. The imagery and words are powerful as it highlights that many of our struggles are spiritual as well as physical. It is not a book to rush through. It needs to be read slowly, absorbing and contemplating the images and meanings. I still have my copy from college along with my notes in the margins. I’ve read many criticisms about this book and I find that many who disliked it do not truly understand the poetry as Momaday is a self-described poet and not a novelist. Regardless, I found House Made of Dawn very powerful.

The second book I would like to discuss is Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony. I read this book for a Native American literature class in college over ten years ago. It is a book that has stayed with me. The imagery, the message, the process of recovery the main character goes through are powerful. The story follows Tayo, a half-white, half Laguna Pueblo man, who has returned from WWII. The white doctors say he’s suffering from battle fatigue (we’d now call it PTSD). He is struggling with the death of his cousin, Rocky, during the Bataan Death March of 1942 and the death of his uncle, Josiah, back home. He believes he let his uncle down as he was unable to keep his promises. After spending several years in a mental health facility, he is sent home to his aunt and grandmother. The story connects with the three main Pueblo spiritual entities who created the world. The fight in the spiritual world connects with Tayo and his own spiritual fight to rid himself of his guilt and pain. Tayo is key to the healing of the land as well as his own healing. With multiple timelines weaving into one and mixtures of spiritual, past and present, Ceremony is a story of how it’s all connected and how moving forward often involves confronting the past and making what peace you can with it.

A final book I would like to discuss is Mary Crow Dog’s memoir Lakota Woman. She is a Sicangu Lakota. Born September 26, 1954 and raised on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. In her memoir, she describes her childhood and her young adulthood during the American Indian Movement of the 1970s. The book details her participation in the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties, a cross-country protest to bring national attention to the issues effecting the Native American people such as living standards and inadequate housing. She also describes her participation in the 1973 Indian Occupation at Wounded Knee. Her description of the occupation is the part which has stayed with me. It began on February 27, 1973 when an estimated 200 Oglala Lakota and the followers of the American Indian Movement seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The town was chosen for its symbolic value as it was the site of the 1890 massacre where 300 men, women and children were killed. Her memoir was published in 1990 and she remained active in the Native American church until her death on February 14, 2013 at the age of 58.

In conclusion, there are many more examples of great Native American literature which help portray the Native American life, culture and traditions. There is power of these stories is in the imagery and in the words the author uses to tell the story of these characters. As an avid bookworm, I find profound life lessons and truths in stories outside my culture and the world as I experience it. I highly recommend reading these books I have discussed as well as other Native American authors. You will see and, hopefully, understand the world in a different way.


Combs, Anna Contemporary Native American Literature January 15, 2014. Retrieved November 16, 2017.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Getting Back in the River: a great book through the grieving process

Getting Back in the River by Sara Dumaine Brouillet, Ph.D is a grief recovery book. Using Biblical principles and the psychological progress of grief, Dr. Dumaine Brouillet guides the reader on the path recovery following a loss. It doesn’t what type of loss, a sudden death or a death after a long illness, the grief process of the individual left behind can be devastating. Her main tool is what she calls GBU letters. Good, Bad and Uglies letters are two letters written by the individual. One from the individual to the loved one who has passed. The idea is to bring out the hidden thoughts and feelings and make them conscious. This letter is then disposed of in a manner chosen by the writer after 72 hours of writing it. The second letter is written by the individual from the perspective of the loved one. Each letter will discuss the good about the loss, maybe the loved one suffered from a long illness and his or her death was a relief. The bad about the loss, maybe the individual wasn’t able to say goodbye in time. And the uglies about the loss, anything the individual hated, feared and other worse thoughts and feelings.

Getting Back in the River is a book rich with information with in-depth information about the grieving process and God’s Word. It was a bit more complicated read than I expected but the author is sincere in her guidance through the grieving process. Writing from her experience as a grief counselor, she offers personal experiences with clients. As the grieving process is a long and complicated journey for some, I recommend this book. As we will all suffer the loss of loved ones in our lives, we can benefit from the book’s insights and techniques.

Getting Back in the River

Is available in paperback and eBook

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Spinster Wife: the twists and turns of a great mystery

The Spinster Wife by Christina McKenna is an emotional journey for one woman as she finds the strength to rebuild her life and deal with the demons that haunt her. The story opens as Dorinda “Dorrie” Walsh wakes up in a B&B on the Northern Irish coast, disoriented and covered in blood. Shifting to Rita Mae Ruttle, an abused housewife in Killoran, she finds an ad for a rental house and she decides to make a run for it and hide from her husband. Once there, she gets the sense that she’s being followed and even set up for strange occurrences which happen since she arrived. As the story goes back and forth between Dorrie and Rita, the reader is led on a path of twists and turns to discovering how the two women are connected. Is Rita truly safe from her abusive husband? How are the two women connected?

From the first page, the story takes the reader on a journey of twists and turns, of dangers and suspicions. And just when you thought you had it figured out, another twist and another turn. The resolution as the story reveals the connection between Dorrie and Rita is a shocker and the author does a brilliant job keeping it a secret until the big reveal. I loved it! I highly recommend The Spinster Wife as a brilliant story with excellent twists and turns which will leave the reader guessing until the very end!

The Spinster Wife

Is available in paperback and eBook

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Missing Factor: a game of cat and mouse and suspense until the end

The Missing Factor by Daniel C. Lorti is a suspense thriller which a man is on the run for his life. Jim Factor is a successful arms dealer who has worked with client all over the world. When a deal goes bad, Mikhail Borichov, a member of the Russian Mafia, believes Jim is the reason why and orders a hitman to find him and deal with him. Jim now finds himself on the run as he tries to find out who sold him out? When his wife hires a private investigator, Adam Weatherly, to find Jim, Jim now must evade the hitman and the PI. A cat and mouse chase starts in Newport Beach, California to San Francisco to Europe as Jim fights to discover who set him up to protect his family and regain his life. Will Jim survive? Will he be able to stay one step ahead of those following him?

The Missing Factor is an interesting suspense thriller with guns battles and vendettas. The story is filled with twists and turns, hidden agendas and suspense that the reader will be on the edge of his or her seat as the story reveals who is behind it all. While I enjoyed reading this book, I think the book will appeal more for fans of The Jason Bourne series and other espionage type thrillers. If you enjoy suspense thrillers with games of cat and mouse, cloak and dagger, I recommend The Missing Factor.

The Missing Factor

is available in paperback

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Native American Heritage Month: a time of celebration and contemplation

November is Native American Heritage Month. First sponsored by the American Indian Heritage Foundation through the efforts of its founder Pale Moon Rose, the aims of the heritage month is to provide a platform for Native people to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and ways and concepts of life. It also gives Native Americans the opportunity to express to their community, at the city, country and state levels, their concerns and solutions for building bridges of understand and friendship. I’ve been interested and have great respect for Native Americans and their history and culture since the seventh grade. I will touch briefly on the topics of culture and traditions, music, crafts and dance, and ways and concepts of life in this post.  There are approximately 566 federally recognized Native American tribes in the US each with their own culture, language and history, and each with their own unique traditions, housing, dress and food.

I want to address the common misconceptions about Native Americans and there are many; however, I will address a few. First, the Natives weren’t that advanced when the Europeans arrived. They were primitive and similar to a third world country. The truth is they were advanced just different than from what the Europeans were used to. They had a complex society with medical advances that scientists today are using the plants they were as medicines today. The French who traded furs with many different tribes, had a great respect for the Natives and recognized the things they actually did better. Second, Indian Royalty. We’ve all heard people claim that they are descended from an Indian princess. My family was included in this as we were told we were descended from a Canadian Indian princess. While I was excited to be descended from First Nations (as they are called in Canada), I was skeptical of the princess part. Why? Because the Natives had no concept of royalty. Chiefs were not ordained from birth to lead the tribes. They were often chosen for their bravery and leadership and their family may have been well treated and respected but they were not royalty. I think the idea of royalty is how the Europeans tried to explain the Natives’ societal hierarchy and it stuck. Lastly, Native Americans worship nature. While they do have a profound respect for nature and are greatly in tuned with it, they do not worship it. There is usually a god they worship who represent an aspect of their daily lives. For instance, they would pray to the god who would help them with the crops or the hunt or. They also have a concept of a God, usually called the Great Spirit and an evil spirit similar to Satan.

With so many different tribes in the United States and each unique, it is hard to speak in general terms about the Natives’ culture and way of life. The Plains Natives were different from the Natives who lived in the Desert and those who lived in the Northern Mountains. No matter what area of the country, the Natives contributed a great deal to our country both past and present. Many foods were introduced to the world’s diets and became staples were first cultivated by the Natives of the New World. Foods such as corn, potatoes, peanuts, tomatoes, chocolate, pineapples and avocadoes just to name a few (Scholastic). Natives were also the first to raise different types of animals for food, for example, turkeys. They also were the first to cultivate cotton, rubber and tobacco. Approximately 60% of the world’s food supply came from the Natives agricultural system (Gibson). Native Americans contributed a great deal to medicine as well. The Canadian Natives knew how to prevent scurvy by eating foods rich in vitamin C and passed the information to European sailors (Scholastic). The Shoshane tribes used crushed stone seed powder as an oral contraceptive while the Potawatomi nation used the dogbane herb for contraceptives centuries before modern medicine developed the birth control pill. The rate in which Native Americans have participated in military service is higher than any other ethnic groups. Most notably the Code Talkers in World War II; however, Native Americans served in the Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the Iraq wars as well (Gibson). The concept behind American Sign Language originated with the hand signals used by the Natives and traders. Lastly, many of our English words are Native in origin such as barbecue, hammock and hurricane as well as many American cities are Native words, for example, Miami, Wichita, Spokane and Seattle (Gibson).

I also understand how many Native peoples would feel conflicted or even insulted at the idea of a month dedicated to people who were systematically abused and still suffer. Sunny Clifford wrote in an opinion article, “As much as I appreciate the gesture of Native American Heritage Month I feel torn about it. I’m torn because this nation needs a month to remember how it came to be. No, if you want to honor Native Americans then teach the real history in your schools.” I understand her conflict. While I think it’s great that a culture gets to be highlighted for a month; however, it is insulting that for the rest of the year, their part in history is largely ignored. I also hate that while I was in school, most of our country’s history is taught by dates and major events. I did not truly learn about Natives in our country’s history until I took history and ethnic studies classes in college. Unfortunately, history is expansive and detailed that it would very difficult to teach it as the individuals who lived it deserved to have it retold and remembered. History is only one subject that American children must take and unfortunately the focus is not on history but on math and science. Another hurdle is the Winston Churchill quote “History is written by the victors,” those who “win” are those who can write about “how” events occurred and who was at fault. Often, the victors or those writing about the victors will ignore or rewrite facts in order to make the victors look better. Some information gets lost to the sands of time and other information gets drowned out by the loud and more powerful. It is will take an extra effort to make sure every voice in American history is heard.

In conclusion, there is no denying that the Native Americans were not a backward or primitive society that many European settlers would have history believe. The Native peoples contributed not only to the United States but the world as well. I still have a deep respect for the Native peoples and I continue to discover new things about their culture, their way of life and their contributions to my life in ways I never knew before. Unfortunately, there are many myths about the Native tribes which are still believed by a vast majority of people. Whether it is by design or it’s by ignorance, our educational system has ignored the voices of those who lived through historical events. Only through education can we dispel these myths and see the Native Americans as great contributors to our country and our world. For the next couple weeks I will feature a post about an aspect of Native Americans in our country through books, films and sports.

Clifford, Sunny What Native American Heritage Month Means to Me. Indian Country Today. November 24, 2013. Retrieved November 4, 2017.
Gibson, Kelly Native American Contributions to the U.S. September 22, 2011 Retrieved November 5, 2017

Scholastic Native American Contributions Retrieved November 5, 2017.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Leia Princess of Alderaan: the story before A New Hope

Leia Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray is the story of Leia Organa as she comes of age and the events which lead to her role in the Rebel Alliance as we know her in A New Hope. The story opens on her Day of Demand when at 16, she demands that she be recognized as a princess of Alderaan. In order to prove herself, she must complete three challenges: one of the body, one of the mind and one of the heart. As she enters the political arena on Coruscant and sees the galaxy as a whole, she begins to truly see the Empire and the evilness of the Emperor’s hold. She also begins to see her parents and their secret dealings. She even has her first love as she and a fellow Alderaanian named Kier. More and more the galaxy is collapsing under the weight of the Empire’s hold, she learns who she can trust, who are her true friends and her role in the galaxy. How will Leia decide what her role and place in the galaxy is? We know she joins the Rebellion but how does she get there?

I was given this book as a birthday and I was excited to read it. It was better than I anticipated. I loved the little references to the events of the prequel movies, Rogue One (2016) and even The Clone Wars (2008-2015) TV show. Ms. Gray does an excellent bringing an intimate look into the princess and rebel we all know and love. The back cover of the book claims there are even hints and clues to The Last Jedi which hits theaters this December. Don’t let this deter you from reading it because unless you have seen the movie, you won’t know what these hints are. I look forward to reading it again after I see the new film and have my “a-ha” moment as the clues are clear. I highly recommend Leia Princess of Alderaan.

Leia Princess of Alderaan

is available at all major booksellers

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Achtung Baby: an American woman's experience with German parenting and education

Achtung Baby by Sara Zaske is a memoir of sorts as she recounts her parenting experience while living abroad in Germany. She describes the cultural shock and barriers as she begins her life in Germany and a young mother of a toddler. Ms. Zaske discusses the American view and attitudes of the German people and discovers it’s all wrong. She also discusses the strengths in the German parenting styles and their educational system and compares the weaknesses of the American parenting styles and its educational system. She covers the topics of the attachment theory which American parenting advice books seem to give great importance to early education in play rather than instruction. The German educational system is designed to let the children have an active role in what they learn and how they learn. The children learn from the very beginning with hands on experience. Is there anything Americans can learn from German parents?

Achtung Baby is an interesting read as I discovered the German educational system and how the parenting styles emphasizes teaching self-reliance and independence in their children almost from the very beginning. Ms. Zaske asks that American take a hard look as to why “we” don’t. While I disagreed with some of her assertions about American parenting, you cannot argue with the fact that something needs to change in American parenting. Ms. Zaske had excellent points. She points out that Americans have the attitude of “work is life.” This attitude is that you are defined by what you do for a living and it’s so true. I also found myself realizing that I do do some of the things that German parents do for their children in order to instill confidence and independence in their children. I found Achtung Baby fascinating and I recommend it for all parents as well as those who are becoming parents.

Achtung Baby
will be available January 2, 2018

in hardcover and eBook

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Refuge on Crescent Hill: where the truth will set you free

Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson is a story of family secrets and one woman’s journey home. Camden Bristow was a photographer who traveled the world taking photos of amazing sights and documenting tragic events. Until one day when the calls for her work stopped. Left destitute, her only option is return to her grandmother’s home on Crescent Hill. As she heads there, she has no idea what awaits her or what secrets will be revealed once she gets there. Alex Yates is the charge of the economic development for the same town of Etherton but every one of his ideas has been shot down by the city council and he is desperate for the next idea. Alex is running from his own past and a secret he’s desperate to keep hidden. Stephanie Ellison-Carter is a student writing a research paper about the Ellison family. She learns that her family had some jewels stolen and the theft could be linked to the disappearance of one of the Ellison’s slaves. As their journeys began to merge, their own personal secrets will be revealed. Will Camden finally find a home? Is there someone who is trying to sabotage Alex’s attempts to boost the town? How are Camden, Alex and Stephanie linked to the Crescent Hill?

I thoroughly enjoyed Refuge on Crescent Hill. Having read Ms. Dobson’s books before, I was eager to dive into this one and it did not disappoint. From the opening page to the closing epilogue, the story is driven family secrets, evil plots and twists and turns of a great mystery. I enjoyed all the characters, even the villains fit well especially the ones you wouldn’t suspect. When the connection between the three characters are revealed, it is an emotional moment for the characters as well for the reader. It reminds you that we might be strangers but our family pasts may be connection through an amazing story of strength, courage and bravery.  Even though I wanted to strangle Camden at times for being an idiot, I cheered for her by the end. I highly recommend Refuge on Crescent Hill

Refuge on Crescent Hill

is available in paperback and eBook