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  It's time to start thinking about what to read on summer vacation! Woo hoo! Is there anything better than reading by the ocean? I think not. So here are four of my suggestions for summer reading 2017: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick. With everything in the news lately about North Korea and leader Kim Jong-Un, I've been curious about this country and its people. I admit my ignorance was strong! Although this book was published in 2009, it is still a great resource for understanding North Korea. The author interviewed and got to know people who had defected from North Korea into neighboring China or South Korea, and they gave detailed and unbelievable accounts of what life is really like for North Korean citizens. From tales of surveillance and starvation to gender expectations, this book is an eye-opener for what it's like to live in a Communist nation. I could not put it down! It's not dry or boring like a textbook. Rather, it is facts presented through stories, which is always the best way to learn. (I really want my son to read it, but there are some places with profanity, so I might wait...


  Tears filled my eyes yesterday as I raised my arms in worship and declared the truths of the hymn, "It Is Well with My Soul." Because it is. It finally is. Six years ago, it wasn't, and I wasn't sure it ever would be again. Six years ago at this exact time, my marriage had fallen apart. My husband was gone, and I was begging God to bring him back. Six years ago today, my soul was struggling to believe that the God who is love still loved me, and my soul was trying to make sense of a God whose plans to prosper and not harm me included a devastating separation and divorce. My faith was battling my sight, and my emotions were clouding my belief. Every day I had to remind myself that God had not forsaken me, and every day I had to tell myself to praise him despite how I felt. Some days I succeeded, and some days I failed. When you're in the midst of a storm, your faith becomes more than a mere profession of words. It becomes a lifeline to keep you alive. When sorrows like sea billows roll, it's easy to drown. Some days I felt...


  Oh, how I wish you would think I have it all together. But I don't, and I probably can't even fool you into thinking I do. That doesn't stop me from trying, though. It doesn't stop me from smiling a big smile when I really feel like crying and talking like everything's just dandy. It doesn't stop me from hiding my insecurities and pretending I know what I'm doing. I don't know what I'm doing, y'all. I'm a mess and a disaster and an actress who tries to pretend I'm not.  I don't have it all together. You don't have it together either, do you? You feel like a mess and a disaster, too, but you also pretend that you're not. It's a maddening game we play, and it's tearing all of us apart. We put on elaborate masks and fake faces for the world, and we hide who we really are. We deny the weight of the worries we carry, and we refuse to admit our deepest struggles. We want everyone to think we have it all together, and we don't even know what "it" is. Here's what I've come to understand: when we set out to pretend we're OK, we unintentionally hurt those who are not....


  There is no part of my natural self that wants to forgive. When someone has wronged me, hurting my heart and damaging my soul, my innate desire is to get even. I want them to hurt like I have hurt, and I want to feel justified in holding on to the anger. I want to tell myself that their behavior just means they're bad people, and I want to be OK with turning my back on them forever. I don't want to forgive them. I want to reduce the totality of their lives to their very worst acts, and I want to hold myself up in superiority over them. I want to believe I could never do what they've done, and I want to march on through my life holding what they've done against them. That's what I want to do. But I can't. I follow Jesus, and Jesus commands me to forgive. His ways definitely are not mine, and his way is always forgiveness. Unforgiveness in my heart always remains a festering wound in my life, and the infection it leaks always ends up making me sick. It slowly fills me with contempt and resentment, and the bitterness over what happened consumes me. Holding back from...