Is Nothing Sacred?

As a single Christian woman I was given Sacred Singleness by Leslie Ludy for encouragement.  There are few women out there (admittedly, I am not one of them) who are content to be single for the rest of their lives. Now, I am not the type who normally sits around in woe over my singleness, it is a choice for the time being, as well as a convenience. My impression after reading this book is that it was written for those women who find themselves struggling with an overwhelming desire to be married and a grave sadness in being single. Ludy’s goal is for such a woman to give up the “relentless pursuit of finding the right guy” and find that Jesus is “more than enough to satisfy the longings and desires of [her] heart” (21). For God to “transform a discontent, worried, anxious, guy-consumed single young woman into a vibrant, radiant, fulfilled soldier of the cross” (125). A nice idea in theory, but I found I could not support Ludy by the end of the book.

My first point of criticism is her citations. When she quotes a person whom she is using to strengthen her argument she cites her source and gives full credit to the author, either directly or by footnote. In presenting counter-arguments, however, she does not always give a full citation. She criticizes how Christian women are “often led to believe it’s okay to build everything around our emotions and our wants. ‘Your heart is good,’ is the message of one popular Christian book. ‘By living out your desires and dreams, you bring glory to your Creator'” (31). No credit is given to an author. As a reader, I found her inconsistency not only poor writing, but frustrating because it leaves me with the impression that she expects me to place full trust in her own research and blindly accept her opinion. Without being able to look up and read source material for myself, what other choice does she leave me?

I think it would be safe to say that Ludy’s overall expectations are unrealistic and lack significant psychological understanding. I don’t say this lightly, only because the examples of women, including herself, who have embraced the lifestyle and mindset she preaches seem to share similar behavioral patterns. She admits that, “I realized the only times I’d ever been single without a guy in my life were the times I’d had no choice . . .whenever I didn’t . . . I spent most of my time and energy trying to find one (18). Another woman’s testimony claims, “Instead of seeking [God’s] presence  . . . I sought after a man’s,” she says, “there was something deep inside that was still not satisfied” (36). Ludy also mentions a young woman who is “an attractive girl, but she exudes a sense of unhappiness and insecurity that diminish her physical beauty” she “feels that God has let her down, and she’s letting the whole world know it” (46). Ludy claims that all these latter two women lack is “a love story with Jesus Christ” (46). I, on the other hand, would be interested to know more about their family backgrounds.

Our relationships and where we seek fulfillment is strongly linked to our upbringing and the sort of familial environment our parents provided. Our spirituality, by proxy, has lot to do with our personal psychology and cognitive life experiences. Thus, I found it laughable when Ludy chastises “modern Chiristian books [that] are dripping with human psychology and human ideas, but are devoid of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ” (58). Personally, some of the most practical Christian literature I have read is written by Christian psychologists, counselors, and therapists with credentials and years of field work behind them. So, when Ludy’s states, “If we are feeling angry, unhappy, miserable, or ticked off about being single (or any other circumstance in life), we shouldn’t merely admit it and call it honesty. Rather, we should admit it and call it what it is– sin” I am inclined to ask her: Was it that easy for you? (109). Is it ever that simple? On paper, maybe. In reality, I cannot believe so. There are too many factors of life which play into our psyche and merely labeling our innate desires and wants sin and asking “God to forgive us and cleanse us by the power of his blood” will not wipe away years of built up resentment and emotional scarring (Ludy 109).

My last point of contention with Ludy is her solution to “filling the void” of the single years. She argues that with all the time single women spend worrying about relationships “we live a life completely focused on self. Meanwhile, children are starving, women are being prostituted, and countless families around the world are ripped apart by disease and poverty” (120). I am not doubting these are worthy causes and I applaud those who find their calling in reaching out to those less fortunate, but Ludy’s manipulative tactics, I think, will only convince the most naive reader that this is something every single woman must pursue.

The rest of the book is devoted to promoting orphan outreach, foster programs, and adoptions and getting involved as a single woman. I found her duplicitous when, speaking of missionary and foster work, she adds: “As odd as it may sound, I believe the best way to find a godly marriage partner is to stop hunting for one and instead focus your entire life around Jesus Christ and His priorities . . . God’s not limited by our circumstance or surroundings . . . God can bring your spouse to you in the remotest village in Africa or in the most hidden slum of Haiti” (124). Is she now proposing a tit-for-tat strategy for her readers? And how does she expect to sell any woman on taking up a noble cause with a strategy based on guilt?

I am not going to go into how my personal biblical beliefs and world view clash with Ludy’s.  Nor how some of her scriptural references conflict with my understanding of God’s word. There, there will always be discrepancies. I want to remain objective, if I may. That way those who read this book, whether Christian or not, may develop their own opinions. I am a huge proponent of reading something, whether or not you might agree with an author, as to encourage conversation and discussion.

With that, I give Sacred Singleness 1 out of 5 stars for good intentions.

Dearest Friend

I was a little disappointed at myself when I looked at my “currently-reading” list and saw 7 titles listed before finishing this one: Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams by Lynne Withey. Guess I just can’t resist bogging myself down. I love a challenge!  Despite the amount of time it took me to finished this book (2 months) I did enjoy it very much. The title of this biography refers to how they addressed one another in their letters. I had a desire to know more of the Adams’ since their marriage is known historically as one of the most romantic of its time. Romantic  not only in the sense that theirs was a marriage of love, but that they were so like-minded, equally yoked you might say.

John Adams looked to his wife for political advice and honored her opinion, but was not without his grievances at her sometimes more emotional pleadings. Once he admonished her for accusing him of a lack of feeling in his letters during their separations writing, “For Heaven’s Sake, my dear dont indulge a Thought that it is possible for me to neglect, or forget all that is dear to me in his world,” (Withey 110). Nice to see that husbands and wives don’t change much over time.

Withey’s style was easy to follow and not as dry as biographies are on occasion. I found her engaging and easy to follow. She emphasized throughout Abigail dedication to her family and her conflicting interest in politics and the dichotomy of both the Adams’ passion for politics and the desire for a quiet home life. Themes to which she refers up until the very end of the book. If one could say anything of Abigail Adams it was that she was consistent. Both a very emotional and intelligent woman, though not as educated as she would have liked. Her letters, from which Whithey quotes, are chalk-full of misspellings and improper punctuation not strictly due to the period in which she was writing.

Personally, I loved the excerpts where we see Abigail struggle with both her sense of duty and her own “womanly” emotions. In one of my favorite excerpts from a letter to John, Withey summarizes Abigail’s feelings, “It was a woman’s lot, she thought, ‘to experience more exquisite Sensations than is the Lot of your Sex. . . . I never wonderd at the philosopher who thanked the Gods that he was created a Man rather than a Woman'” (134). Abigail was also very well-traveled too having lived in Europe during John time as an ambassador. Quite a lady of the world. On the whole, it’s just over 300 pages. Not a substantial read and good just if you want to learn more about a rather interesting woman of the era.

Adjectives Are Not Your Friend

Actually, they are. Sparingly. Want to know why I am not a fan of most romance novels (aside from the usually poor technical writing)? Adjectives! Adjectives to describe the blue-white clothing on the heavily-muscled man’s broadening back (…). Description for the sake of description. As a reader there are two responses: “Wow! This must be a good writer because he uses so many fancy words.” OR “This is driving me insane. I’m not impressed and I just want to get to the next sentence without wading through a jungle of words.”

Sadly, I thank most authors, especially fledgling writers, fall under the assumption that the best writer’s in the world pad their prose with useless descriptors. In reality, less is more. Read the authors that have withstood the test of time and you will not find the surplus of flowery language found in most fiction today. Mark Twain even made fun of this practice in his short story, “A Double-Barreled Detective Story.” He writes:

“It was a crisp and spicy morning in early October. The lilacs and laburnums, lit with the glory-fire of autumn, hung burning and flashing in the upper air, a fairy bridge provided by kind Nature for the wingless wild things that have their homes in the tree-tops and would visit together; the larch and he pomegranate flung their purple an yellow flames in brilliant broad splashes along the slanting sweep of the woodland; the sensuous fragrance of innumerable deciduous flowers rose upon the swooning atmosphere; far in the empty sky a solitary esophagus slept upon motionless wing; everywhere brooded stillness, serenity, and the peace of God.”

An entire paragraph of nonsense. Yet, he goes on to show published responses to the passage from readers who admired his description, but didn’t quite understand the words. Especially, the reference to an “esophagus” in the sky. Likely, Response #1 readers who didn’t get the joke.

In good writing, if there is a lengthy bit of description it has a purpose. Writers have a romance with words, that is what makes them writers, but even the most happy couples will support the old adage of having too much of a good thing. So, please, for the sake of your readership, less PDAs. Thank you.

Auto vs. Bio

ImageCheck another one off! I’m determined to widdle my reading list down to three. I think I am at four or five now with The Days I Knew: The Autobiography of Lilly Langtry finished at last. This one I had been reading since May. I enjoyed it except for the last couple chapters in which she mostly chatted about her ventures in horse racing. Conflict of interest, I suppose. I would have like to know a lot more about her personal life. Then again, I am sure she had many things in that area which she would not have wished to disclose. There has been enough written about Lilly Langtry out there, having been a celebrity in her own day (The Victorian Age), for me to find should I wish to know more.

Reading her own telling of her life reminded me of something (a weakness) I think of autobiography. People who writes about themselves, unless brutally honest, are likely a paint of picture of themselves which they wish the reader to see. Whereas a biography, especially if written posthumously and written well, may give a person a clearer picture of who the subject actually was or is. I’m finishing up a biography on Abigail Adams at the moment which I will be delighted to speak about here in the near future. In the meantime, I may have to save looking more into Lilly for a later date.

Wie Modern!

Or “How modern!” auf Deutsch… In an effort to get myself to read more recent books I’ve chosen one in particular to place on my to-read list. While perusing Barnes & Noble today I picked up Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. I read his novel Never Let me Go for a creative writing class way back when and I actually found his style and tone quite unique, almost hypnotic. I won’t be reading it right away because, well, too many other things to finish right now, but you can bet as soon as I knock out one, this will be the next in line. I’m actually very excited because it’s rare that I find a piece of modern lit that I like and the premise of this novel sounds intriguing.

My biggest hang-up on what’s being published today is that not enough stories are character-driven and are very event-based. Meaning, it’s not so much the strength of the protagonist that publishers are aiming to draw the reader in, but what happens to him or her. Whether it is being involved in international espionage, or a run-in with an inter-galactic lover it’s always something not somebody that’s the focus. I sort of miss the everyday stories that invite me to become invested in a real person. So, Ishiguro, let’s see what you got!

P.S. A 1989 publication date, to me, is recent enough.


This is how I would describe my relationship with Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. I have been working on this hefty volume since January and to make myself seem slightly less pathetic let me just say that I am usually reading at least 3 books at once. The lack of cable or television will do that to a person (the count is currently 5 books). However, I have been picking it up and putting it down so many times that here I am in August and still only to page 700 of 1400. Granted, when I put a book down I usually read one or two in-between so I am not exactly helping myself and, really, I just sound like a literary snob right now who prides herself in the amount of books she can read (only partially true). However, there is a rhyme and a reason why it’s taking me so long and why I haven’t “shelved” it just yet.

Hugo likes:

– The prose is beautiful. I am reading the Charles E. Wilbour translation which was published around the same time as the original French novel, as Wilbour was a contemporary of Hugo. I looked though other translations before making my purchase and, believe me, don’t go with any other. There is a difference. I also read unabridged and there are plenty of abridged titles out there of 1000+ page novels. Though they’ve never tried that with Gone With the Wind. I’m sure there would be an uproar if they did.

– Jean Valjean. Can this character get any more human? More flawed? More in need of forgiveness? Every time the story veers away from him I find myself shouting, “Get back to Valjean!” He’s complex and just a pleasure to follow.

– Setting. This seems like a given, but Hugo was not writing about the time period in which he lived per se, but before. So, doubtless he had done an exhaustive amount of research or used what he knew (since he was a genius) to place his characters in a time of conflict, 19th century France, and build a story around them. He blankets the novel with chapters upon chapters of history which is both it’s greatest strength and, story-wise, a great weakness). Too often, novels set in the past fail to totally immerse readers in the historical setting and expect them to be satisfied with only a few vague references.

Hugo dislikes:

– Tangents. He has so much knowledge and opinion that he feels the need to share it. He even states at one point that he knows his rant has nothing to do with the story, but he’s going to state it anyway! All right Hugo, time to get off your high horse. Either write a history book, a political manifesto, or a piece of fiction where, ideally, the characters speak for you.

– Female characters. I feel like Fantine and Cossette fall into archetypes. The fallen woman, the innocent and pure child. They are flawless victims of circumstance. Not to say that bad things do not happen to good people, but they’re very one-dimensional in the sense that we don’t see many character flaws. Granted, this is typical of the time period and even Dickens in all his glory was guilty of placing the “good” women in his stories on pedestals untouchable.

Anyway, I have a long ways to go and Hugo will not fail to impress, overall I am sure. Hopefully, I will keep plugging along and finish it before this year is over!

Room to Speak

So, I realized I have far too much to say about the books I read and sometimes I just need a whole separate place to talk about them so aside from my main blog which is mostly my stream of thought and my own personal interests. Here, I give myself the free reign to talk as much as I want and as long as I want about the books I read and “offer” my opinion of what people are reading today.

Beware – I can be cynical.