Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Book Club: Reading Lolita in Tehran

Last month, my book club read Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. It's a true story or memoir of Nafisi's work as a professor of English Literature in Iran. After she leaves the university setting, she selects seven of her most committed female students to come to her house every week for two years and study literature that has recently been forbidden.

They study books by Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James and Vladimir Nabokov. I can't get into the literary focus that Nafisi shares in her book but it seems that each of these Western authors reveals a new aspect of the oppression the women are under during the revolution and war with Iraq.

I actually didn't enjoy this book as much as I had hoped I would. It took a long time to even feel like I understood what was going on. It was a little hard to follow. The last half was more interesting and had more action because the bombings had started and each family was deciding whether to stay or flea the country. The parts I enjoyed really had nothing to do with the literature they studied.

I have to say that I did learn a lot about the revolution. Since I honestly didn't know anything about it before. So, I can't give you the urgent "read this book" that I usually do, but I am glad I finished it!

Tattoos on the Heart

A good friend recommended I read Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle and I'm so glad I did. I don't typically read gang-related books (maybe I just don't come across them often?), but this one was really good.

Gregory Boyle is a Jesuit Priest and founder of Homeboy Industries -- a nonprofit that comes along side men and women who want to leave their gang-life and provides services like tattoo removal and job placement. They've started a number of businesses for the purpose of employing them too which is really neat.

He shares personal stories and thoughts about his work and what he has seen in the decades of loving the unlovable. There were so many times I wanted to underline the sentence I had just read but it being a library (and me reading it at the gym) didn't give much opportunity to log the quotes I loved.

I think my biggest take-away from the book as a whole was that we are called to love everyone. No matter how different they might be from us. Every single person has value and worth. And when people see their value/worth for the first time it can bring about a lot of change. Writing that seems easy enough but doing it is really entirely different.

Boyle gives a lot of really great stories as examples of how he shows love to gang members in LA. There are many changed lives because of the work he does. His stories are also covered in heartbreak as well given the demographic he works with (oh so many funerals).

Of course there are theological thoughts he shares that I don't quite agree with and I'm unclear if he actually gets to share Jesus with his "homies" as he calls them so they are given an opportunity to receive salvation; I have no doubt in my mind that they see Jesus in the work of Father Boyle though and feel the love of God coming through him.

Reading the book revealed to me my own boundaries I have around myself and others and how I withhold compassion, love and even forgiveness -- and as his subtitle indicates, boundless compassion is powerful. So powerful.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Stephen's Dedication Day

Photo credit: Matthias Giezendanner

Our little guy, Stephen was dedicated in church this past Sunday, September 3. Chris's dad was in town and I'm so glad we could do it while he was with us! Pastor John Lloyd, who has been our pastor for nearly a year led the service. 

A dedication is a covenant we make with God in the presence of our congregation. It isn't something that provides salvation for Stephen or forgives his sins (he will have to make the decision to believe in Jesus and follow him on his own. We have prayed and will continue to pray that he makes that choice early in life!). The dedication is just us as his parents (and Bob as his Grandfather) standing up and proclaiming that we will do our best to share the gospel with our son, teaching him who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him. And asking the congregation to be a part of his spiritual journey. 

Photo Credit: Matthias Giezendanner
Both of the boys did pretty well up front. Of course the 15 1/2 month old was a bit fidgety but he had randomly taken a morning nap that day so he was actually in a decent mood! 

Photo Credit: Matthias Giezendanner
Chris was tasked with holding the mic but at one point, Stephen reached for it too! It looked like he might actually say something but tried to bite it instead!

Photo credit: Matthew Ronan

Praying over Stephen with our congregation was really special. I love the photo above and below because it's a glimpse of the people that love our son and care about his salvation! (as well as the support we have in this journey!)

Photo credit: Matthew Ronan
At the end the pastor prayed, "Gracious God, giver of all life, may your blessing be and remain upon this child; keep Stephen always in your love, that he may grow wise and whole. Bring Stephen safely through the dangers of childhood and temptations of youth. Lead Stephen to personal faith in Jesus Christ and to be Christ's faithful disciple throughout his life. May goodness and mercy follow Stephen Christopher Babiak all the days of his life." 

My heart sang an "Amen." And then Chris did the proud dad-lion thing: Announcing Simba Stephen!

Photo credit: Matthias Giezendanner
After the service our good friend Matthias followed Stephen outside and took the most adorable photographs! I just can't get enough. Here are two of my favorites:

Photo credit: Matthias Giezendanner

Photo credit: Matthias Giezendanner
Ghah! Isn't he just the cutest! I love this little baby-man. I'm so glad the suit fit that my sister sent us and the shoes we had actually fit and even matched!

Stephen we love you so very much and trust God for your salvation. I'm so thankful he has given you to us and pray I would be the mom you need me to be. I look forward to watching you grow in knowledge and love of Jesus.