Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi–Book Review

Gifty is a PhD student studying reward-seeking behavior in mice. She is interested in finding the neural circuits that govern addiction and depression. There’s a reason for this — her brother died of a heroin overdose after becoming addicted to oxycontin after a sports injury; her mother has suffered from depression off and on since that time.

Transcendent Kingdom: A novel by [Yaa Gyasi]

Although Gifty wants to find the solution to life’s problems through science, she cannot elude her childhood faith. This faith continues to sustain her immigrant mother who raised Gifty and her brother alone after her husband abandoned her. It became real to Gifty on the day she answered the altar call in her Pentecostal church:

“I had never felt anything like it before, and I have never felt anything like it since. Sometimes I tell myself that I made it all up, the feeling of my heart full to bursting, the desire to know God and be known by him, but that is not true either. It was as real as anything a person can feel ….”

She sees her work as holy, sacramental.

“Whenever I fed the mice…. I thought of Jesus in the upper room, washing his disciples’ feet. This moment of servitude, of being quite literally brought low, always reminded me that I needed these mice just as much as they needed me. More. How would I know about the brain without them?

The present day story line is interspersed with journal entries from her childhood, letters she addressed to God.

This is not a conventional Christian novel. There are no easy answers — instead there is struggle–. the struggle to balance faith and science, human suffering and transcendent joy, despair and hope.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. Reflective and challenging. I liked it!

For more book reviews see:

Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey–Book Review

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger–Book Review

The Book of Wanderings by Kimberly Meyer–Book Review

God Will Take Care of You

We sang this recently in worship, and I realized how well it went with our monthly theme.  In uncertain times, it’s important and helpful to remember that God will take care of us.  The words to this hymn were written by Civilia D. Martin in 1904 (she also wrote His Eye is on the Sparrow).  Her husband was scheduled to give a sermon, and she was ill.  He considered canceling his engagement until his son told him, “Father, don’t you think if God wants you to preach today, He will take care of Mother while you are away?”  By the time he returned home, Civilia was feeling much better and had composed this song, based on their son’s comment.  He promptly sat down and wrote music to go with the text.  Listen and let your spirits be lifted!

For another hymn by Civilia Martin go to this post:

Singing Saints



Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Times of Uncertainty

“May God in His mercy lead us through these times; but above all, may He lead us to Himself.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

For more quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer go to these posts:

Loyal to the End — A Quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Staying On Course–Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Need for Repentance


Learning – About Who We Are

About eighteen years ago my husband, Joe, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and my world dropped out from under me. At the time, I was working and Joe was going to college to get an Associates Degree. I was supporting the family and that wasn’t unusual since my husband could only get jobs that were low paying. I had already done my school time and had gotten my Associates, so it was his turn now. But Joe never completed school. He never worked again. He did live for another sixteen years and I became the touchstone that held the family together. Our boys were 16 and 20 years old and this greatly impacted their world.

When you become a caregiver, everything that you want is set aside. The world revolves around the one that you are caring for. And that’s the way it should be. But in that shoving aside the wants and needs that you have as a person tends to make a person disappear. Hobbies go away because you don’t have time, in fact, just to take small bits of time for yourself is a logistical nightmare.

I managed to go to counseling during that time and I still continue to go. I didn’t want to lose myself but I could feel parts of me drifting away. It’s hard to explain to someone who has never been through a crisis situation. When it’s all done and over, if you didn’t have a good sense of self to begin with, you find that all you’ve gained is gone. You feel like you live in a shell and the person that was in the shell is gone for good. It’s empty and scary.

Fast forward eighteen years through all the surgeries and medical decisions and hardship and tears. I look back now and see all the changes that I had to make to my life, some good, some bad. Decisions I made, some good, some bad. The life I lived, some of it good, some of it bad. The point is this: It’s done, it’s over. I will probably still make good and bad decisions. Bad things will still happen in my life.

The one constant that I had during this time was my faith, it actually got stronger. I learned to lean on Christ, who always gave me strength to go on. Now I’m learning to live again, who I am. I’m not going to be the same person that I was eighteen years ago, and now that I think more about it, I don’t want to be that person again. I’m a new, improved version. Yes, I’m a bit ragged around the edges and I still have my bouts with depression and sadness. I have a goal now. To be the best me I can be.

Being the music person I am, I have to post a song. This song touches me and the tears start flowing when I hear it. It so strikes my heart because this is what it’s about. Coming out of the shell and being the person God wants us to be. Thank you, Danny Gokey, you’ve really hit the mark on this one. What follows is the lyrics and a link to the song:

“Tell Your Heart To Beat Again” by Danny Gokey

You’re shattered
Like you’ve never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you’re never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again

Just let that word wash over you
It’s alright now
Love’s healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
Cause your story’s far from over
And your journey’s just begun

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again

Let every heartbreak
And every scar
Be a picture that reminds you
Who has carried you this far
‘Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven’s working
Everything for your good

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again
Your heart to beat again
Beat again

Oh, so tell your heart to beat again

Tell your heart to beat again by Danny Gokey