Monday, October 29, 2012

Praying to the goddess of mercy by Mahita Vas

Wow. That's the first word that comes to mine as I finished this book in a little cafe called "Toast Box" not feeling particularly toasty but freezing from the chilly air-conditioning.

I bought this book yesterday at Popular Bookstore in Bukit Timah Plaza as I waited for my sister who was at the hairdresser's. Randomly browsing through the shelves, this book caught my eye with "bipolar" emphasized in the bright pink font against the dark blue background.

You see, like the author, I've been diagnosed with the same disorder. So I was naturally interested in reading her perspective on it. Coming from a fellow Singaporean, that was an added bonus as I've only read books by doctors or personal recounts by Westerners on online blogs.

I must say it's a pretty decent read and the story of the author's life flows along quite briskly. She's lived a pretty charmed life I must admit. An SIA girl for a couple of years and in top advertising firms for the next two decades. It's really interesting reading about her insights in these industries, especially with alternating episodes of mania and depression.

The chapter on seeing a psychiatrist could not have come any sooner as I was wondering when that'll happen. It really took pretty long. Thank God I found out early and stabilized rather quickly despite the initial resistance.

Would really love to meet the author one day and more than just getting my book signed, I'd love to hear from her directly. And she has the most wonderful husband and kids to boot. It's amazing, you should read the book.

I'd recommend the book to everyone. For those wishing to get an insight on the bipolar mind, whether to support a loved one who has been diagnosed with it or for those who just want to understand the condition better. Or perhaps you might be a fellow sufferer and this is something to help you along your journey.

Enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

I first got wind of this book from Twitter as Rachel Held Evans is an author I started following this year. Her publisher was having this contest where 75 people would be chosen to be part of her Launch Team and given an advanced copy of her book to read. Being me, I jumped at the chance! It's the Singaporean trait in me, wanting to win, that coupled with the fact that I am a book-lover, made me quickly sign up on her website.

When they asked the question, "How do you think you can contribute?" I simply stated that I was from Singapore and being part of this tiny Southeast Asian nation, that I could provide an Asian perspective to the book. Yes, I played the nationality card. But it worked! Praise the Lord!

Back to the book. I finished the book on my iPhone (a first as I prefer the feel of paper) in 8 days as it was both extremely hilarious yet very relevant. As I told my friends, Rachel manages to add humour to such a serious topic - a difficult task indeed, if you ask this budding author.

I shall break up the rest of the review into questions that you (a potential reader) might ask.

What's the book about?
This book is about this author deciding to live one year literally living out what the Bible says about womanhood, thus, "A Year of Biblical Womanhood". But more than that, she does extensive research on how various denominations and religions do this, from interviewing the Amish, talking at length to a Jewish woman living in Israel and even attending a 3-day retreat at a Benedictine monastery.

How is this book structured?
As she lives out her year biblically, Rachel divides up the book into 12 different chapters, each one describing a month she spent, beginning in October. She chose to focus on a different virtue each month, in the following order:

October - Gentleness, November - Domesticity, December - Obedience, January - Valour, February - Beauty, March - Modesty, April - Purity, May - Fertility, June - Submission, July - Justice, August - Silence and finally September - Grace.

This is a pretty impressive list don't you think? On top of these virtues, at the end of each chapter, she highlights one woman from the Bible, someone that you might not have read about due to the lack of emphasis on women in the Bible.

What are my favourite chapters? 
Chapters May (Fertility) and June (Justice) are my favourite chapters by far. 

In the first, Rachel talks extensively about sex and the prevalent attitude about it. At one extreme, Christian women are told to submit to whatever their husbands want them to do in the bedroom and at the other, feminists fight against the seemingly oppressive patriarchal attitude that conservative Christianity seems to have. Rachel examines carefully what the Bible says, you can read it, and comes to this conclusion: Mutuality in the bedroom is key. I love it! Not just because I'm a woman, but because it makes sense.

Next, I saw the injustices that women all over the world suffer and my heart breaks for them. After reading the chapter, I am stirred to purchase what Rachel read in that month, a copy of Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, "a passionate call to arms against our era's most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls" according to www.randomhouse.com. I want to do my part (however little) to help lift the living standards of women and find out how to do that.

My Asian perspective?
To be honest, I just typed that in to improve my chances in winning the contest, because growing up in Singapore, I've been fed American TV shows and have consumed large quantities of US and Brit pop music, so how Asian could I possibly be?

But I was wrong. I do have an Asian perspective to offer. :)

I feel that living as a Singaporean Chinese Christian in an independent church, there seems to be an unspoken but very real rule that women are expected to submit to men. Now, we are not oppressed, with a couple of female pastors in our church, but with the senior pastor being male, there inevitably comes this attitude that Christian women are to obey their husbands no matter what they say. I supposed it comes with the strong patriarchal values we Asians were brought up with. Because in the 3 major races represented in Singapore, Chinese, Malay and Indian, all of them have familiar strains where the head of the household dominates, sometimes, even controls the entire family's thought, word and deed.

I could be wrong, being a single, unmarried woman in church, but this is just how I perceive things. 

So when Rachel describes her marriage with Dan as being one that is egalitarian (a belief in equality) and complementary, inwardly, I go, "YIPPEE!" And I do expect to find a partner like that, and I'm pretty hopeful actually. Haha.

My conclusion?
Go buy this book! Christian or otherwise, it's a HILARIOUS read and very informational at the same time. I recommend it not because I'm part of a launch team, but because I believe that even if you don't benefit from learning more about how different women around the world aim to live their lives biblically, you will almost certainly have a great laugh out of this entertaining read.


You can order it here!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Walking with God by John Ortberg

I was browsing around Tecman looking for a Derek Prince book when I chanced upon this. I've heard about John Ortberg previously and this title was so compelling I had to get it. And it sure didn't disappoint.

This book is a year long journey of Ortberg's walk with God. I really learnt how to quieten down and listen to the voice of God, to hear what He wants to say through Ortberg's sharing of how he does it.

There are no chapters in this book but is instead separated into Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. I found the book an easy read as the author takes on an open, honest conversational tone right from the start. He admitted to hearing from God and then ignoring His advice on the right day to go for a journey in winter time. And continues to relate to us how that was a disaster.

This is an excellent book for anyone wanting to walk even closer with God and wanting to hear His voice in the midst of this busy, connected world we live in. I certainly did, and I hope you will too.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Contemplative prayer by Thomas Merton

I first came across Merton's name in a quote that Nicole Conner put up on twitter. Ever since then, I did some research on him and decide to buy this book.

I then ordered it online from bookdepository.co.uk, I eagerly anticipated its arrival. After exactly 2 weeks, I received it in the mail.

At 94 pages, it is one slim volume. However, do not let its size deceive you. This is one book that requires a lot of unpacking.

Thomas Merton writes in a way that forces one to think deeply. I had to read at half my usual pace because of the way it is written. I did enjoy it though.

This book was written for monks but in Merton's own words, "just as a book about psychoanalysis by an analyst and primarily for analysts may also (if it is not too technical) appeal to a layman interested in these matters, so a practical non-academic study of monastic prayer should be of interest to all Christians, since every Christian is bound to be in some sense a man of prayer."

Yup. That is exactly the reason why I got this book. But if you are expecting a clear, step-by-step instructional guide on the subject, be prepared to be sorely disappointed.

What this book does is to examine how some have approached prayer and Merton's thoughts on it.

It can be pretty profound.

I believe this is the first book (at least one that is a non-textbook) that I have used a pen to underline paragraphs that stood out to me. More than once in fact. This is no mean feat considering that I do read quite a bit.

Here is a sample of what I have underlined,

"Our knowledge of God is paradoxically a knowledge not of him as the object of our scrutiny, but of ourselves as utterly dependent on his saving and merciful knowledge of us."

"dread divests us of the sense of possession, of "having" our being and our power to love, in order that we may simply be in perfect openness (turned inside out), a defenselessness that is utter simplicity and total gift."

I am in the process of reading this book for a second time because it truly deserves rereading.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who has read Christian books on prayer but still desire something deeper. This book does it.

I have always wondered why there is a need to pray if God knows us and our thoughts. And more than the importance of speaking out and declaring our desires, this book revealed to me that prayer is also a retuning of our mind to be more aware of God.