Assessing and Looking Foward

Last year, I resolved to read more and included a photo of the books I intended to read in 2019.

Someone commented on that post that he need not finish every book he starts. He resolved “to free [him]self from boring books by freely abandoning them.” 

Without realizing it, he gave me permission to do the same. And I did, more than once. Yet here I invoke a paraphrase of Reagan’s eleventh commandment that no writer say anything bad about another. And my cup of tea may just not suit you.

As is always the case, the list of books I finished is quite different from those I wrote about a year ago. Other books just shouted to go to the head of the line. And I brought them forward.

So this year, my list still contains a few books from last year. I still resolve to read more by managing television and internet time better than I did in 2018 and then in 2019.

Two books that jumped to the front of the line immediately upon my acquiring them were both by Abby Johnson. Unplanned (the basis for the film of last year) and The Walls are Talking are Johnson’s accounts of having worked in the abortion industry and now working to help others escape employment therein.

I read them out of order, reading The Walls first and following up with Unplanned. In her Preface to The Walls, she states, “This will not be an enjoyable read. It is a necessary one[.]”

She is correct on both counts.

Also jumping to the front of the line last year was My Father Left Me Ireland by Michael Brendan Dougherty. My son gave me this book for Mothers’ Day ahead of my journey with my husband to the land of my heritage. The book provided a solid context about Ireland’s history of the Easter Rising and the Troubles. As an American who grew up in a single-parent family, Dougherty also provides a clear diagnosis of the crisis America faces today.

I read one and a half other books on Ireland–but neither matches Dougherty poetic and profound account.

Among the books on last year’s list that I finished is Everything Happens for a Reason–Kate Bowler’s stellar, sometimes humorous, discussion of what it’s like to live with a terminal diagnosis–emphasis on live.

I also consumed A Pope and A President by Paul Kengor. This book allowed me to relive some of the history I’d seen on the evening news over the decades and to get a behind the scenes, in-depth understanding of God’s working in that historic news. There’s always so much more to the story–and Kengor provides it.

I’m still working through Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak–an amazing piece of literature. I get the sense Zusak may have been trying to stay off the Young Adult shelf in America where The Book Thief had landed from his native Australia. However, some of the language he uses in the book’s dialogue does seem to accurately reflect the way teen boys would talk without an authority figure directing them otherwise.

An off-list book I continue to work through is Raising Jesus: The Skeptic’s Guide to Faith in the Resurrection. E.J. Sweeney’s book offers an amazing discussion of the reasons we can trust the veracity of Christ rising from the dead–from a viewpoint skeptical of the miraculous. I frequently underline and make notations as I read.

Even if you’re not a skeptic, this book is still a great apologetic tool for any discussion you may have with someone resistant to faith. I don’t agree with all Sweeney writes (I’m not that skeptical), yet his scholarship is dead on, and his arguments sound.

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life is one I had planned to read in 2019 but didn’t get to. It’s on my list for 2020. I was gratified to see a student reading it on campus last semester. He assured me that it’s a worthy read.

I plan to pick up Man and Woman, He Created Them: A Theology of the Body by Saint-Pope John Paul II again this year. You can read this book as you would a devotional. It seems meant to be digested slowly.

Sonia Pernell’s A Woman of No Importance is on my list for the new year upon the recommendation of a trusted friend.

Also in my pile of books are Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments. You might think that watching a couple of episodes of the Tale on Hulu would discourage such a goal in me, but articles like this one and this one push me the other way.

On my list–but not yet in my pile–is Robert Sarah’s The Day Is Now Far Spent. I thoroughly enjoyed his The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, another book you can read as a devotional.

On my list but not pictured is Out of the Ashes by Anthony Esolen, a book about what we should do when we find the civilization around us crumbling. Sounds timely.

And I couldn’t resist John Zmirak’s title The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins. I’ve thumbed through the book and read most of the introduction. Zmirak seems orthodox in his faith and hilarious in his outlook.

Blessings to you this New Year. What do you plan to read?

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Connecting the Dots on a Divine Plan

“Look how evil forces were put in our way and how Providence intervened.” Ronald Reagan~

They lived on different continents, but their lives unfolded in parallel lines that would one day intersect into friendship.

When each was eight years old, their mothers suffered a terrible illness.

Both of their fathers died in 1941.

As they were growing up, they both participated in acting and athletics.

They faced assassins’ bullets six weeks apart–and survived. They credited God with saving their lives–preserving them for a divine purpose.

Ronald Reagan and Karol Wytola–better known as Saint Pope John Paul II–are the subjects of Paul Kengor’s book A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Untold Story of the Twentieth Century.

Kengor’s research is impeccable and deep. The book takes details that seem disconnected and draws lines between dots that no one else had yet connected.

Kengor ties those details together throughout to make a tapestry of key events that changed the world in the twentieth century.

I remember the day Ronald Reagan was shot on the way to his car after a speaking engagement. For the rest of the day, I was in front of the television.

I remember Secretary of State Alexander Haig saying, “I am in control here.”

Reagan was in the hospital and the nation wasn’t sure whether he would survive. And the vice-president–George H. W. Bush–was out of town. After the shooting and until we fully understood that John Hinckley acted alone, our military was on high alert.

Haig knew the Soviet Union. He wanted America not to look weak at a moment when we felt weakened.

The press lambasted Haig that day and beyond. How dare he assert his own authority?

What the press didn’t put together, but in this book Kengor does, is that Haig’s statement very likely was a solution to a problem he didn’t know he could affect.

That solution likely helped to prevent the Soviet Army from invading Poland.

Solidarity had disrupted Poland to the point that the puppet government had declared martial law. The Soviet military was lined up at the border much as the Chinese army today stands at the ready to invade Hong Kong.

While Haig knew the Soviet Union’s mindset, the Soviets also knew Haig’s since he had been a NATO commander in Europe.

Kengor’s research outlines interviews with a US agent who had been monitoring Soviet communications, anticipating the possibility of a USSR invasion of Poland.

After the shooting and after Haig’s statement, the communications went silent. The Soviets never invaded.

Six weeks later, Reagan was recovering from the attempt on his life when he learned that Pope John Paul II was shot in Vatican City. Their friendship grew on a foundation of shared experience.

The two men, however, shared more than similar childhood experiences, more than the experience of having been shot without deadly result.

Kengor writes that they “shared an understanding of the reinforcing relationship of faith and freedom, the importance of ordered liberty, and the evil of atheistic, totalitarian communism.”

The Haig incident is a small piece of an engaging book. Kengor shows how a Protestant President and a Catholic Pope worked together and separately to defeat what President Reagan called the “evil empire.”

Kengor shows us what Reagan called the DP–the Divine Plan–which saved two lives evil had marked for death–two lives destined to meet and change the world.

There is a divine plan still today. Perhaps you and I play a bigger part in that plan than we realize. Perhaps no one will write a book that lets people know how the dots of your life and mine connected to change the world.

But if we have hope and faith and never quit, the world will change for the good.

“I plead with you–never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.” Saint Pope John Paul II~

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”