Reading to Understand the War in Ukraine

Last month The Atlantic published an article Nine Books to Read to Understand the War in Ukraine. It moved me to expand my knowledge, to educate myself, and to better respond to other’s opinions on the current crisis.

Any of the recommended books sounded interesting to me. I decided to take a trip to the library and see what I could find. I had my favorites selected, but the reality was I was at the library’s mercy. Unfortunately, they didn’t have copies of most of the books. The book that most interested me that they did have I decided was too long of a read. So I browsed other books with related topics and checked out this one by a professor and former foreign policy analyst, Constantine Pleshakov. Turned out to scratch the itch.

One could certainly read this book faster than I did, but I wanted to sit in it more than just do a quick read. Truthfully, I would probably need to read it several times to fully grasp all the history and political nuances addressed. Yet, I’ve gained so much from this read that otherwise I wouldn’t possess.

My one trip to that area of Europe was ten years ago. I went to Belarus as one of several ESL teachers for a week-long schooling. That glimpse was a blink, but an excellent thumbnail into the mindset of those who face the dilemma between holding on to their past or ferociously determining their future. An individual making that life choice can be stuck for much of their life. Imagine the nth degree reached when it’s an entire nation or region.

For anyone facing that dilemma but more importantly for the leaders and citizens of Ukraine, I share this blessing from Numbers 6:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

The vast majority of us base our thoughts about this war on what we read online or hear on the news. I encourage you to do yourself and the Ukrainians a favor-take the time to do your own digging. You’ll benefit more from conducting your own dig that looking in someone else’s hole.

Photo by Marjan Blan | @marjanblan on Unsplash

2021 Library

For a fourth year I have followed a self-developed reading strategy with the objective to read broader. The goal: read books falling under nine headings. This strategy is still working for me.

For the curious, here is the library of 21 books (Look at that! 21 in ’21! Totally coincidental…or was it?) listed alphabetically and avenue of reading:

  • The Greatest Motivational Tool by Rod Olson (hard copy)
  • Simplifying Coaching by Claire Pedrick (kindle)…best book on coaching I’ve read in a while
  • The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby (hard copy)…most challenging book in this library
  • Presence by Amy Cuddy (hard copy)…book with best takeaway, “Fake It ‘Til You Become It.”
  • Hope Rising by Casey Gwinn & Chan Hellman (kindle)…favorite book in this library
  • Opening Up by Writing It Down by James Pennebaker & Joshua Smyth (kindle)
  • Now Hope by Paul De Jong (kindle)
  • Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird (kindle)…most surprising book in this library
  • Baca by Valerie Hyer (hard copy)
  • Unfinished Business by Lee Kravitz (audio)
  • When Mama Can’t Kiss It Better by Lori Getz (kindle)
  • The Journey by Lee Ann Martin (hard copy)
  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (hard copy)
  • Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt by Jentezen Franklin (kindle)
  • Prepare by J. Paul Nyquist (hard copy)
  • Sound Doctrine by Bobby Jamieson (hard copy)
  • Awe by Paul David Tripp (kindle)…I read this annually
  • Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table by Louie Gigilio (kindle)…favorite Christian living book in this library
  • How the Light Gets In by Pat Schneider (kindle)…second favorite book in this library
  • Heartbreak to Hope by Samuel Wright (hard copy)
  • Another Gospel by Alisa Childers (kindle)

2020 Library

For a third year I have followed a self-developed reading strategy with the objective to read broader. The goal: read 30-35 books falling under 9 headings. This strategy is still working for me.

For the curious, here is the library of 31 books listed alphabetically and avenue of reading:

A Life God Rewards by Bruce Wilkinson (hard copy)

A Spirituality of Listening by Keith Anderson (kindle)

Awe by Paul David Tripp (kindle)

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah (kindle)

Before You Go by Wade Hodges (kindle)

Chasing Dreams by Jerry Kill (hard copy)

Choosing to Lead by Harvey Kanter (kindle)

Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers by Leslie L. Fields & Dr. Jill Hubbard (kindle)

Honor’s Reward by John Bevere (hard copy)

How to Pray by Ronnie Floyd (hard copy)

I Choose Honor by Rich Wilkerson Sr. (kindle)

I Hear You by Michael Sorensen (kindle)

It’s Not My Fault by Henry Cloud & John Townsend (kindle)

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (hard copy)

Me and White Supermacy by Lyla F. Saad (kindle)

Note to Self by Joe Thorn (kindle)

Spurgeon’s Sermons on New Testament Men by Charles Haddon Spurgeon (hard copy)

Talking to High Monks in the Snow by Lydia Minatoya (hard copy)

The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly (hard copy)

The Dog Who Saved Me by Susan Wilson (hard copy)

The Genesis of Justice by Alan Dershowitz (kindle)

The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias (hard copy)

The Pastor’s Wife and The Other Woman by Joe & Pennie Wright (hard copy)

The Power of Christian Contentment by Andrew M. Davis (kindle)

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller (hard copy)

Unwanted by Jay Stringer (kindle)

Uniquely Bivocational by Ray Gilder (hard copy)

What If Jesus Was Serious by Skye Jethani (kindle)

What Now?  by Jim Henry & Deb Terry (hard copy)

When to Leave by Wade Hodges (kindle)

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor (kindle)

2019 Library

For a second year I have followed a self-developed reading strategy with the objective to read broader. The goal: read 25-30 books falling under 9 headings. Having read 27 books across these topics, I testify I still enjoy this strategy.

For the curious, here is the library of 27 books, listed by order read and avenue of reading:

A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer (kindle)

The Crib, The Cross, & The Crux by Lisa Fulghum (hard copy)

Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Chambers (kindle)

Every Square Inch by Bruce Ashford (hard copy)

Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab (audio)

An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with Truth by M. K. Ghandi (kindle)

Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger (hard copy)

Saying No to Say Yes by David C. Olsen and Nancy G. Devor (kindle)

Them by Ben Sasse (kindle)

When to Leave by Wade Hodges (kindle)

Before You Go by Wade Hodges (kindle)

Awe by Paul David Tripp (kindle)

Our Presidents and Their Prayers by Rand Paul and James Randall Robison (audio)

Calico Joe by John Grisham (audio)

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott (audio)

The Bait of Satan by John Bevere (kindle)

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris (kindle)

Boundaries For Your Soul by Kimberly Miller and Alison Cook (kindle)

Forgiven by Terri Roberts (hard copy)

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown (kindle)

Something Needs To Change by David Platt (hard copy)

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller (hard copy)

Leading Change Without Losing It by Carey Nieuwhof (hard copy)

It’s Not My Fault by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (kindle)

Replenish by Lance Witt (hard copy)

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer (kindle)

Integrity by Dr. Henry Cloud (hard copy)

Review & Question

Last Tuesday afternoon I had time to spare. Nap was taken. Running a race the next morning. Wildcard Baseball not on yet. What to do in small town PA? I decided to visit about the only place I hadn’t yet checked out that seemed interesting. I went to the library.

It was 4pm; they closed in three hours. My only plan was to look for something that caught my attention and see how long it lasted. Here’s what I found:

I’m telling you this for two reasons: 1) Book review and 2) Personal question

Book Review

I had no idea when I registered for this half marathon that I would end up driving through Amish country. Having spent part of the morning in that area roughly 20 minutes away, it made complete sense that a portion of the religious section of the library revolved around the Amish lifestyle and beliefs. Remembering this national headline and reading the subtitle of this book, caught was my attention.

In about the right length of a movie-two hours-I knew the story of this family and this event in much more detail. I had learned. I had cried. I had grown. If that’s not a ringing endorsement for a book, then what is?

Question

I’m keeping track of the books I’ve read this year. Yes, I added this title to the list. But I had to answer a question that might sound silly, but it was a real question in my mind. And it wasn’t the first time I’ve wrestled with it. Could I truthfully say I’d read that book? Yes, I read it for two hours. Yes, I knew the story. Yes, I knew the ending. I even looked up whether the author is still alive due to what she shared about her health condition. I knew a lot about this book and its author. But, I didn’t read every word of the book. I read as much as I could in two hours.

So here’s my question to you. If you’re a reader (definition: you read a couple of books a year), how much of a book must you read in order for it to count? 51%? 75%? 100%?

All my life, I’ve been the 100%er. Not no more.

For fun, let’s see your answer. You can comment on this post. Or return to the social media link you followed and post your answer. No shame. Be honest.

2018 Library

Back on January 13, I posted an entry about a self-developed reading strategy for the year. The objective: read broader. The goal: read 25-30 books falling under 10 headings. Perfection wasn’t the hope as much as growth. Having read 28 books with at least one book under each heading, I testify that this strategy worked. I’ll repeat it this year, after some tweaking.

For the curious, here is the library of 28 books, listed by order read and avenue of reading:

He Loves Me, by Wayne Jacobsen (hard copy)

Limitless, by Nick Vujicic (hard copy)

Lincoln’s Spymaster, by David Hepburn Milton (audio)

The Closer, by Mariano Rivera (audio)

Always Looking Up, by Michael J. Fox (audio)

Awe, by Paul David Tripp (kindle)

The Rest of God, by Mark Buchanan (kindle)

Rhythms of Rest, by Shelly Miller (kindle)

Measure of a Man, by Martin Greenfield (audio)

Safe People, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend (kindle)

Children of Jihad, by Jared Cohen (audio)

Understanding Gender Dysphoria, by Mark Yarhouse (kindle)

First Man, by James R. Hansen (audio)

Kiss the Wave, by Dave Furman (hard copy)

Miracle in the Andes, by Nando Parrado (audio)

I Hear His Whisper, by Brian Simmons (hard copy)

Quiet, by Susan Cain (audio)

No One Gets There Alone, by Dr. Rob Bell (kindle)

Onward, by Howard Schultz (kindle)

David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell (hard copy)

Coach the Person Not the Problem, by Chad Hall (eBook)

A More Perfect Union, by Ben Carson (audio)

Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell (hard copy)

How to Read the Air, by Dinaw Mengestu (audio)

Transformed, by Joe Pellgino and Jack Redmond (hard copy)

The Search for More, by Marge Knoth (hard copy)

Dangerous Calling, by Paul David Tripp (kindle)

Boundaries For Leaders, by Dr. Henry Cloud (hard copy)

Children of Jihad (book review)

The library is my friend. These days it’s because of the audio books available there-“there” meaning the Manatee Central Library just blocks from the church office.

My routine so far this year has been to get an audio book, listen to it while driving around town, return it as soon as I’m done and immediately get a new one. In selecting a new one, I am content to take the first one that grabs my attention. 

The last one to grab my attention was entitled Children of Jihad. I’m guessing it got my attention because of my recent travels to the Middle East. This writer, Jared Cohen, had travelled there-much more deeply than I had or probably will and for completely different reasons. The cd jacket cover said Cohen’s reason was to try to understand the spread of radical Islamic violence by researching Muslim youth. Attention grabbed.

Published in 2007, this book recounts Cohen’s travels for a few years starting in 2004. Cohen was 23, a Rhodes scholar wanting to learn about global affairs by witnessing them firsthand. His travels took him through Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. He visited villages, cities, universities, and even unknowingly drove through the heart of an insurgency war zone landing him in Mosul.

His tales are mind blowing, mind shifting, and even mind altering. He reveals a perspective that only comes from firsthand encounters and perspectives. He challenges, like any good journalist, both sides of the story. In this case, the one side of the story includes the locals he met while the other side includes those back at Oxford and in his home state of Connecticut. 

Again, I haven’t travelled like Cohen. My encounters in the Arab community have been in the bubble of ministry here in the States and in one country where Cohen didn’t include his research. But I agree with his assessment. We don’t have all the story if all we know is what we see on American news. We are not being respectful to the citizens of the Middle East and their relatives around the world when we lump them all under the same profile. We should lower ourselves and engage them to really appreciate their personal story and to respect them as we respect ourselves.

This book will cause you to pause. To rethink. To revisit. Maybe even to confess. If you care to do such developmental work, Children of Jihad can be a tool for you.

The Next Level (Book Review)

Thankfully, I took my time reading through this book. Bought it four years ago on recommendation, but it’s been waiting its turn. As often happens, the timing was perfect. So thanks for the recommendation, Nancy.

This book is palatable for readers of all levels, by the way. The 31 chapters, that Wilson labels days, are no longer than 8 pages. So one could move leisurely through the book if desired. Each chapter is very devotional in nature, ending with a few questions for personal meditation or for group discussion. If you are a small group leader, you should definitely consider using this book for your group.

God has good and specific purposes for the tests he gives us. 

Each day focuses on a character in the Bible and a test they passed or failed that provided a next-level opportunity in their life’s journey. What Wilson does very well is make these tests applicable to the reader’s life as well. Examples of these tests include obedience, identity, perseverance, readiness, honesty, humility, loneliness, direction and courage. Who of us have or won’t face these tests? Here are some observations from these tests:

In many ways, knowing who we are and whose we are is at the heart of every other test in our lives. 

God never wastes our pain. He uses it to draw us deeper into a relationship with him and to touch people’s lives. 

Insisting God answer our questions creates a roadblock for our faith. 

There’s a difference between saying “yes” to God and saying “yes” to people. 

We get the most joy in life when we become holders of the spotlight instead of insisting on being in the spotlight. 

Whether you read it now or it waits its turn, this book should be in your library.