And the Rest…

At the start of 2010, I had 43 books I’d read in 2009 that I wanted to review. I’ve been madly writing reviews, without posting them to my main site, waiting until I’ve caught up. I have eight books left from 2009. They were all very good, and worth mentioning, but in the interests of time, I’m only going to mention them with a short blurb in this post, and not give them a full page on my main site.

Once I finish them, I have another stack of seven books that I finished reading already in 2010. After I have caught up on writing those reviews, I hope to post all of the new reviews to www.sonderbooks.com. So here goes!

Children’s Fiction

These first three books I read as part of my class on the Newbery Medal. They are all historical novels, set in medieval times, and all well-written though just a tad old-fashioned. As Newbery Medal winners, you will be able to find more information about them than these reviews.

The Trumpeter of Krakow
by Eric P. Kelly

Scholastic, 1990. First published in 1928. 242 pages.
1929 Newbery Medal Winner.

Here’s a tale of intrigue and danger set in old Krakow. There are some strange sections about alchemy, and you can tell if someone is bad or good based on how they look, but despite its old-fashioned feel, this book still is very interesting. It’s almost more for teens, because the language is at a high reading level, and the main character is almost grown up, but he is still treated like a child, so the book has the feel of a children’s book.

Fifteen-year-old Joseph Charnetski and his family are fleeing to Krakow. As they almost reach the city gates, someone shows interest in an especially large pumpkin, which his father is not willing to sell.

They use an assumed name and find a hiding place in the city, near an old scholar and his daughter. Joseph’s father takes a job as the city trumpeter. The trumpeter is also the watchman, tasked to raise the alarm if there is a fire in the city. They never play the last three notes of the trumpet call in honor of an old trumpeter who gave his life keeping the call going during an invasion.

Joseph learns the call as well as his father, and as danger approaches, he finds a clever way to raise the alarm.

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Adam of the Road
by Elizabeth Janet Gray

Scholastic. First published in 1942. 320 pages.
1943 Newbery Medal Winner.

Adam of the Road is the story of a minstrel’s son in medieval England. The book starts out at school, with Adam waiting for his father to pick him up after some time apart, to go to London and back on the road. Adam has gained a beloved dog, Nick, who can do tricks and help with their act.

Along the way, a sinister rival minstrel steals Nick. As Adam’s chasing after him, he loses track of his father. He ends up wandering across England on his own, trying to find his father and his dog, and having various adventures along the way.

This is a good story that has stood the test of time. Adam is awfully young to be on his own, but people are kind to him, and he cleverly makes his way, never in real danger. A light-hearted and enjoyable adventure tale for kids interested in medieval times.

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The Door in the Wall
by Marguerite de Angeli

Yearling Newbery (Bantam Doubleday Dell), 1990. First published in 1949. 121 pages.
1950 Newbery Medal Winner.

The Door in the Wall is another story of a boy on his own in medieval times. Robin’s father went off to the wars, expecting his son to go train to be a knight. His mother went to be the Queen’s lady-in-waiting, expecting John-the-Fletcher to come soon to take him to Sir Peter de Lindsay, to train as a knight.

But Robin gets sick, and when John-the-Fletcher comes, he is not able to go along. For a month he is bedridden, unable to move his legs. He is lame and will never be a knight now.

Some monks take Robin under their wing. They help him learn to swim, to strengthen his arms, and eventually to walk with a crutch. They take him on a journey to meet his father, and they have adventures along the way. By the end of the book, only Robin is able to get a message out and save an entire castle.

This book is shorter than the others. It’s a fairly simple story, but interesting with the medieval setting and inspiring as Robin overcomes his handicap, and learns that his life still has significance.

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Teens

Growing Wings
by Laurel Winter

Firebird (Penguin Putnam), 2000. 195 pages.

All her life, Linnet’s mother has touched Linnet’s shoulder blades before she tucks Linnet into bed. One day, when she’s eleven, Linnet learns why. She’s itching horribly, and she has strange bumps on her shoulders.

Linnet’s mother assures her she doesn’t have cancer. She is growing wings. Linnet’s mother also grew wings when she was Linnet’s age, but her mother cut them off. Linnet’s mother is determined not to do that to Linnet, but she doesn’t know what to do to hide them.

Linnet finds a community of others with wings, living in a house in the wilderness. Some adults who are “cutwings” are in charge. So far, none of the teens with wings have been able to fly. They are trying to learn, but also to stay hidden.

This is an intriguing story, with plenty of conflict in the community of winged children. Linnet explores her heritage and wonders what she can make of her life. Will she have to spend her whole life in hiding?

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Fiction

Miss Zukas and the Island Murders
by Jo Dereske

Avon Books (HarperCollins), 1995. 258 pages.

This is the second mystery about Miss Zukas, librarian extraordinaire. In this book, Miss Zukas and her exotic friend Ruth arrange a twenty-year reunion on an island in Puget Sound for their high school class from Michigan.

While they’re preparing, she gets threatening letters that refer to the long-ago death of one of their classmates. Once they’re on the island, naturally a storm strikes, isolating them, and a murder occurs. Can they solve the murder and keep from getting killed themselves?

This is a fun mystery. Miss Zukas’s librarian nature didn’t come up as much in this book as in the first one, and I felt that she leapt to conclusions without a lot of reasons. But she’s an entertaining character to read about. Gotta love a librarian detective!

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Nonfiction

Gratitude
A Way of Life

by Louise L. Hay and Friends
compiled and edited by Jill Kramer

Hay House, 1996. 312 pages.

This book is full of essays about gratitude, written by many notable people. How can you possibly go wrong? I went for quite awhile, reading one essay per day. It’s a nice way to put your day on track.

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The Bait of Satan
Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense

by John Bevere

Charisma House, 2004. First published in 1994. 255 pages.

In this book, John Bevere teaches that Satan’s biggest trap is taking offense. What’s more, you feel justified and in the right!

“Pride causes you to view yourself as a victim. Your attitude becomes, ‘I was mistreated and misjudged; therefore, I am justified in my behavior.’ Because you believe you are innocent and falsely accused, you hold back forgiveness. Though your true heart condition is hidden from you, it is not hidden from God. Just because you were mistreated, you do not have permission to hold on to an offense. Two wrongs do not make a right!”

This book looks at many different ways the devil deceives us into taking offense, and encourages you in many different ways to overcome and find forgiveness. A valuable, helpful book.

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Write Is a Verb
Sit Down. Start Writing. No Excuses.

by Bill O’Hanlon

Writer’s Digest Books, 2007. 212 pages. DVD included.

This is a book about getting it together and actually writing. I read it after I had already made and was keeping a resolution to write at least fifteen minutes per day, every day, so this book only reinforced what I had already determined to do.

If you want to write, and are having trouble motivating yourself, this book has some great ways to think through your motivation and ideas for marketing yourself. Think of this as a great pep talk, complete with a DVD so you can see and hear an additional pep talk.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Review of Captivating, by John & Stasi Eldredge

Captivating

Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul

by John and Stasi Eldredge

Nelson Books, 2005. 234 pages.
Starred Review.

Here’s another book I’ve been meaning to review for a very long time. I’m so thankful to my sister Marcy for giving it to me. I reread it again in 2009 in order to enjoy it again and to review it fresh in my mind. I think it blessed me even more the second time around.

Take it from me, this is a wonderful book to speak healing to a rejected and abandoned wife. And I suspect that any woman would be deeply blessed by these words. The basic message is that God has created you captivating and beautiful.

I’m usually leery of books that fit men and women into stereotypes. I think this book escapes that. Here’s what the authors say in the introduction:

“So — is a true woman Cinderella or Joan of Arc? Mary Magdalene or Oprah? How do we recover essential femininity without falling into stereotypes, or worse, ushering in more pressure and shame upon our readers? That is the last thing a woman needs. And yet, there is an essence that God has given to every woman. We share something deep and true, down in our hearts. So we venture into this exploration of femininity by way of the heart. What is at the core of a woman’s heart? What are her desires? What did we long for as little girls? What do we still long for as women? And, how does a woman begin to be healed from the wounds and tragedies of her life?

“Sometime between the dreams of your youth and yesterday, something precious has been lost. And that treasure is your heart, your priceless feminine heart. God has set within you a femininity that is powerful and tender, fierce and alluring. No doubt it has been misunderstood. Surely it has been assaulted. But it is there, your true heart, and it is worth recovering. You are captivating.”

The book talks about how God made us beautiful, but we get wounded and believe lies about ourselves. But God romances us Himself. Here’s a section I like:

“We have all heard it said that a woman is most beautiful when she is in love. It’s true. You’ve seen it yourself. When a woman knows that she is loved and loved deeply, she glows from the inside. This radiance stems from a heart that has had its deepest questions answered. “Am I lovely? Am I worth fighting for? Have I been and will I continue to be romanced?” When these questions are answered, Yes, a restful, quiet spirit settles in a woman’s heart.

“And every woman can have these questions answered, Yes. You have been and you will continue to be romanced all your life. Yes. Our God finds you lovely. Jesus has moved heaven and earth to win you for himself. He will not rest until you are completely his. The King is enthralled by your beauty. He finds you captivating.”

There is also a theme in this book of how God made you the particular woman You are, and that is beautiful. Here’s a lovely paragraph in the final chapter:

“Whatever your particular calling, you are meant to grace the world with your dance, to follow the lead of Jesus wherever he leads you. He will lead you first into himself; and then, with him, he will lead you into the world that he loves and needs you to love.”

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/captivating.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Review of Until They Are Found, by Peter Gray

Until They Are Found

The Story of a Relentless Shepherd and His Rogue Sheep

by Peter Gray, B. Th.

UWCM Press, Adelaide, Australia, 2005. 72 pages.
Starred Review.

Here’s another book which I’ve been meaning to review for a very long time. The author sent me the book himself after he read some of my reviews of George MacDonald’s books and others where I admit that I have come to believe that God will eventually save everyone. I agreed to review the book, but that was in the middle of my life upheaval, when I simply wasn’t getting very many books reviewed. I did reread the book in 2009, and thoroughly enjoyed it both times.

Until They Are Found is a short book, almost just a pamphlet, but it concisely and persuasively looks at the three “lost” parables in Luke 15 to make the case that God will keep on searching for sinners until they are found.

The parables are the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son (more commonly referred to as the Prodigal Son). The context suggests that these parables should be considered together, that they are demonstrating the same thing.

In both the first two parables, the searcher searches until they find what was lost. Peter Gray puts it this way:

“What may we say was the reason for the lost sheep becoming found? Was the sheep saved by the doing of good works? Was the sheep saved by the following of law or commandment? was the sheep saved because it recognised its own state of ‘lost-ness,’ and went searching for its shepherd? Heaven forbid! The lost sheep was found for one reason and one reason alone. The lost sheep was found because the Good Shepherd came looking. The shepherd commenced a search and rescue operation that would never finish, until his sheep was found.

“His is a personal search, a persevering search, a successful search. He will search until they are found. The lost sheep contributed nothing to its being found.”

Peter Gray goes on to show how, taken together, Luke 15 definitely suggests that God will save everyone. I like his conclusion. He’s not dogmatic, but suggests that you take a good look for yourself:

“Universalism, the belief that all people will eventually be saved, is a theme inherent in this book. I, like many famous and well respected theologians of the past, hold to at least the possibility of universalism. In this book, I have attempted to let the text of Luke 15 speak for itself. The real possibility of universalism is what it said when I let it speak. Many Christians hold as one of their fundamental beliefs that not all will be saved. Because of that belief, the text of Luke 15 is read and not seen for what it is. I wrote in the preface that this book might leave you with unanswered questions. Universalism is the question I had in mind when I wrote that. It is a question that we should embrace instead of running away from.

“Is the New Testament more universal than the Christianity we have inherited would have us believe? Does the New Testament, even though it teaches the possibility of experiencing hell, also teach the possibility that God’s desire for all to be saved will actually happen? I believe so, but you must make your own decision.

“Happy wrestling!”

I wasn’t able to find this book on Amazon, but the author has a blog with contact information, including a new book available. Here is his blog, called The Saviour of the World. Here is a link for ordering a copy of Until They Are Found, with the first chapter available to read.

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/until_they_are_found.html

Review of I Do Again, by Cheryl & Jeff Scruggs

I Do Again

How We Found a Second Chance at Our Marriage — and You Can Too

by Cheryl & Jeff Scruggs

Waterbrook Press, 2008. 193 pages.
Starred Review

This book tells the story of a marriage that seemed hopelessly broken. Cheryl had an affair and divorced Jeff. But by a miracle of God, their marriage was restored seven years later, better than ever before.

The authors put it this way:

“This book is about the end of a marriage — about betrayal, disappointment, anger, and wrestling with God. But it’s also about how we found a new definition of happily ever after.

The book is intended as a message of hope, that God can do amazing things, and heal seemingly impossible breaches.

The authors now counsel married couples having difficulties, and I found their words encouraging. They say,

“We want people to be healed, and we want marriages to be healed. That’s what we pray for all the time. But we don’t know God’s plans for every couple. Our experience has taught us that God can redeem anything, so we never give up on anyone. But regardless of which direction they go, we let them know that we love them and support them and that God loves them no matter what. If you are in this circumstance, we’d advise you to keep yourself and your children safe, diligently seek the Lord through prayer and Scripture study, obtain godly counsel, and do your best to follow God’s leading based on your understanding of him. Never forget that God loves you and he will never withhold his love even if you make a mistake.”

It’s so nice to hear this kind of story, for a change.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/i_do_again.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Review of The Sacred Romance, by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge

The Sacred Romance

Drawing Closer to the Heart of God

by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge

Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1997. 229 pages.
Starred Review
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: #3 Other Nonfiction

This powerful book explains life as a Sacred Romance. From the first chapter:

“The inner life, the story of our heart, is the life of the deep places within us, our passions and dreams, our fears and our deepest wounds. It is the unseen life, the mystery within — what Buechner calls our “shimmering self.” It cannot be managed like a corporation. The heart does not respond to principles and programs; it seeks not efficiency, but passion. Art, poetry, beauty, mystery, ecstasy: These are what rouse the heart. Indeed, they are the language that must be spoken if one wishes to communicate with the heart. It is why Jesus so often taught and related to people by telling stories and asking questions. His desire was not just to engage their intellects but to capture their hearts.

“Indeed, if we will listen, a Sacred Romance calls to us through our heart every moment of our lives. It whispers to us on the wind, invites us through the laughter of good friends, reaches out to us through the touch of someone we love. We’ve heard it in our favorite music, sensed it at the birth of our first child, been drawn to it while watching the shimmer of a sunset on the ocean. The Romance is even present in times of great personal suffering: the illness of a child, the loss of a marriage, the death of a friend. Something calls to us through experiences like these and rouses an inconsolable longing deep within our heart, wakening in us a yearning for intimacy, beauty, and adventure.

“This longing is the most powerful part of any human personality. It fuels our search for meaning, for wholeness, for a sense of being truly alive. However we may describe this deep desire, it is the most important thing about us, our heart of hearts, the passion of our life. And the voice that calls to us in this place is none other than the voice of God.”

The authors present life as a grand Story:

“Life is not a list of propositions, it is a series of dramatic scenes. As Eugene Peterson said, “We live in narrative, we live in story. Existence has a story shape to it. We have a beginning and an end, we have a plot, we have characters.” Story is the language of the heart. Our souls speak not in the naked facts of mathematics or the abstract propositions of systematic theology; they speak the images and emotions of story. Contrast your enthusiasm for studying a textbook with the offer to go to a movie, read a novel, or listen to the stories of someone else’s life. Elie Wiesel suggests that ‘God created man because he loves stories.’ So if we’re going to find the answer to the riddle of the earth — and of our own existence — we’ll find it in story.”

But the authors also talk about “Arrows” that pierce our hearts and tell us that life is meaningless, that there is no Romance.

“This is the story of all our lives, in one way or another. The haunting of the Romance and the Message of the Arrows are so radically different and they seem so mutually exclusive they split our hearts in two. In every way that the Romance is full of beauty and wonder, the Arrows are equally powerful in their ugliness and devastation. The Romance seems to promise a life of wholeness through a deep connection with the great heart behind the universe. The Arrows deny it, telling us, ‘You are on your own. There is no Romance, no one strong and kind who is calling you to an exotic adventure.’ The Romance says, ‘This world is a benevolent place.’ The Arrows mock such naivete, warning us, ‘Just watch yourself — disaster is a moment away.’ The Romance invites us to trust. The Arrows intimidate us into self-reliance.”

This book is about the adventure of living out the Romance. It encourages you to think about your higher calling, to listen to your heart. It reminds you that your life does have meaning.

I like this sentence, which puts perspective on hard times:

“God is so confident in the good that he is willing to allow our adversary latitude in carrying out his evil intentions for the purpose of deepening our communion with himself.”

The overarching message of the book is this:

“We are the sons and daughters of God, even more, the Beloved, pursued by God himself.”

What an amazing calling!

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/sacred_romance.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Review of The Promise, by Robert J. Morgan

The Promise

How God Works All Things Together for Good

by Robert J. Morgan

B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2008. 211 pages.

This book is an extended meditation on Romans 8:28 — “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to his purpose.”

The author states that the theme of the book is In Christ, we have an ironclad, unfailing, all-encompassing, God-given guarantee that every single circumstance in life will sooner or later turn out well for those committed to Him.

As he says in the introduction:

“But consider this: What if you knew it would all turn out well, whatever you are facing? What if Romans 8:28 really were more than a cliche? What if it was a certainty, a Spirit-certified life preserver, an unsinkable objective truth, infinitely buoyant, able to keep your head above water even when your ship is going down?

“What if it really worked? What if it always worked? What if there were no problems beyond its reach?”

The bulk of the book is going over this verse, phrase by phrase, with life stories and thoughts about what each part of the promise means. I didn’t find it particularly surprising or especially profound. However, this is a very good verse to spend that much time exploring and thinking about!

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/promise.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Review of Our Lady of Kibeho, by Immaculee Ilibagiza

our_lady_of_kibehoOur Lady of Kibeho

Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa

by Immaculee Ilibagiza
with Steve Erwin

Hay House, Carlsbad, California, 2008. 210 pages.
Starred Review

I was so deeply moved by Immaculee Ilibagiza’s other two books, Left to Tell and Led by Faith, I also snapped up this book, even though I am not Catholic and the miracles she tells about are definitely related to the Catholic faith.

But, as with her other books, this story is wonderfully moving and inspiring. She convinced me that God is doing great miracles in and through the Catholic church, and I praise His name for that! Her narrative gives glory to God and testifies to His power and His great love for His children.

In her Introduction, Immaculee explains what she’s setting out to do in this book:

At that time, as incredible as it sounds, the Virgin Mary and her son, Jesus, began appearing to a group of young people in the southern Rwandan village of Kibeho. The visionaries brought messages from heaven intended for the entire world to hear: messages of love, along with instructions on how to live better lives and care for each other and pray more effectively. But with those messages also came dire, apocalyptic warnings that hatred and a thirst for sin would lead Rwanda and the rest of the world into a dark abyss. The Virgin Mary’s prophecy of the 1994 genocide is one of the main reasons the Catholic Church has focused much attention on the apparitions in Kibeho.

In November 2001, the Church, in a rare move, officially approved the apparitions of the Virgin Mary seen by three schoolgirls: Alphonsine, Anathalie, and Marie-Claire. The girls were tested and examined rigorously by doctors, scientists, psychiatrists, and theologians. Yet no testing could explain the miraculous and supernatural events that occurred when the Blessed Mother appeared to the girls. The evidence of a true apparition was irrefutable, and the local bishop said that there was no doubt a miracle had occurred in Rwanda. Thus, the Vatican endorsed what’s known as “the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows,” which is the only approved apparition site in Africa….

I was actually among the earliest believers that Mary and Jesus had come to Rwanda….

My parents frequently traveled to Kibeho and told me details of their visits, and I’ve always had great love for the Virgin Mary. This, coupled with my fascination with the apparitions, drove me to find out as much as I could about them so that I could share my findings with you in these pages. I met with the bishops, priests, and doctors who studied the apparitions; I’ve become friends with several of the visionaries themselves; and I’ve repeatedly listened to the hundreds of hours of apparitions that Father Rwagema recorded. These are the sources I draw upon for this book. In other words, it’s not a history lesson, but rather my personal account of an authentic miracle unfolding and the profound effect it had on my country, my parents, and my faith.

The shrine for Our Lady in Kibeho has become a place of worship and prayer for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from across Africa, many of whom claimed miraculous healings at the site, yet most of the world hasn’t even heard about this blessed place. It is my deepest hope that this small volume will help change that, and that Kibeho will become as well known as Fatima or Lourdes. The messages Jesus and Mary brought forth at Kibeho are of love — which today’s world so desperately needs to hear.

The result of Immaculee’s efforts is a book with a fascinating, powerful, and inspiring story. Read it yourself and draw your own conclusions!

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/our_lady_of_kibeho.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Review of Led by Faith, by Immaculee Ilibagiza

led_by_faithLed By Faith

Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide

by Immaculee Ilibagiza

with Steve Erwin

Hay House, Carlsbad, California, 2008. 205 pages.
Starred Review
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: #2 Nonfiction: True Stories

Led By Faith continues the story Immaculee Ilibagiza began in Left To Tell, telling what happened after her amazing escape from the Rwandan Holocaust. That story is an astonishing one of survival and of how God spared her life, protected her, and helped her to forgive the evil men who killed her family and so many others.

Led By Faith tells of Immaculee’s less glamorous struggles, trying to follow God’s leading in the aftermath of the horror. She deals with more prosaic concerns like sexual harrassment, fighting false accusations, breaking up with her boyfriend, paying for a wedding, and finding a job in America. In many ways, these struggles were much easier for me to relate to, but she still deals with them with amazing faith and forgiveness.

The timing of my reading this was excellent, coming just when I needed it. Last night, I got a chance glimpse on Facebook of a young woman whom I knew had had a long-standing affair with a married man, and encouraged him to leave his wife and kids. Then shortly afterward I saw on a friend’s profile the profile picture of a man I’d been acquainted with — who was posing with a smiling young woman — presumably the woman he abandoned his wife and kids for.

That got me reflecting on how much, how very much, pain and suffering is caused to people and to innocent children by adultery — and yet our culture treats it as if it’s all a lovely step of growth, something to be proud of. Such men proudly appear in public with their new “love,” pretending they haven’t made fools of themselves and deeply wounded the very people they promised to love and cherish.

I have many friends now who have been betrayed by their husbands. Some are happily married now to someone else, some are happily married to their original husbands, some are living a happy single life, and some are still in the midst of the pain and suffering. But all suffered horribly, all have been through incredible and unbelievable pain. All would agree with me that there is a reason that God calls adultery evil, plain and simple.

But I like Immaculee’s approach to people around her doing evil. Here is what she thought when two men with power tricked her and trapped her in a hotel room with plans to rape her:

“I was no longer afraid of Mr. E, and I was no longer afraid of Kingston. I felt sorry for these men, who only looked for material gain or physical gratification, never caring whom they hurt to satisfy their wants. Looking at Mr. E, I now saw him for what he was: a weak and pleading man with a dirty mind standing by the edge of a hotel bed. All he saw when he looked at me was an orphan he could mistreat without fear of getting caught or facing the consequences. It was all too familiar, and God had helped me through far worse situations with men far more vicious and depraved than Mr. E.

“What good did he think his power would do him when he faced God? How could he think his money would protect him when all he had could be snatched away from him in an instant?

“I wanted to tell him about meeting Mupundu, who’d been a big politician in the Hutu government and the richest woman in Mataba . . . until she gave in to the bloodlust of the genocide. I saw her limping back to our village from Zaire, and she’d lost everything — her money, her power, her family. She didn’t even have shoes to cover her bleeding feet. She’d turned from God, and she’d lost the only real thing she could count on, just as surely as Mr. E would lose everything unless he turned his heart away from wickedness and back to the Lord.”

Don’t Immaculee’s words apply equally well to any sinner? She is consistent in reminding the reader what a horrible place those who do evil have gotten themselves into. We can forgive them, because God is more than capable of taking care of their punishment, and their own consciences will punish them cruelly. If we refuse to forgive, then we only bring ourselves into that hell with them. Why should we give them so much power, when turning to God, Who gives the power to love and forgive, can bring such healing?

I’ve noticed with my friends who have been betrayed that the betrayers consistently aren’t able to face the guilt and shame of what they’ve done — so they consistently blame their wives for their actions. They don’t want forgiveness, which would imply they had done something wrong. They want to be excused. They want to go along with our culture’s lines like “They were too different,” or, “She didn’t meet my needs.” In the case of the Rwandan genocide, the government was all too eager to portray the Tutsis as insects who needed to be exterminated. But, inevitably, the guilt came later.

Immaculee’s perspective, to first feel sorry for the perpetrators, is so valid. That young woman can smile in the profile picture — but how in the world can she possibly have a healthy relationship with someone who is already established as a liar and a cheater? And why is it, with the broken marriages I know about, that the one who cheated is the one eaten up and consumed by hatred, bitterness and lack of forgiveness? Where is all that happiness they said they were going to find by leaving their wives?

Okay, I’m going on and on about what was on my mind when I was reading the book, and not about the book itself. But it’s that kind of book — a beautiful model of love and forgiveness and guidance and walking by faith. It tells you that sinners are to be pitied, and evil can be overcome by good. The principles can apply to almost anyone.

If you have ever been wronged, if you have ever noticed evil in the world around you, if you have ever worried about what to do next or how you would get by, then you can learn from and be inspired by Immaculee’s story.

I wish her all the blessings in the world. And I love her message that love and forgiveness can overcome hatred and evil.

In the Epilogue, she goes back to Rwanda for her brother’s wedding and finds a country that is healing. This is the beautiful ending to the book:

“Cousin Ganza had told me that people were healing in Rwanda, that faith was being restored. God, he said, was working a miracle of forgiveness in our country. Gazing out over the glowing city below me, I knew that this miracle would inspire the entire world. If the evil that was unleashed here could be conquered with love, where could evil not be conquered? If the hearts of Rwanda could be healed through forgiveness, then what heart couldn’t?

“The sun slipped beyond the horizon, its last rays illuminating the tops of a thousand hills. It was enough light for the entire world to see Rwanda rising from the ashes of genocide.”

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/led_by_faith.html

Review of the Audiobook The Last Battle, by C. S. Lewis, performed by Patrick Stewart

last_battle_audioThe Last Battle

by C. S. Lewis

performed by Patrick Stewart

Harper Audio, 2004. 5 hours, 5 compact discs.
Starred review.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: Wonderful Rereads

When I saw the library had The Last Battle on audio CD, performed by Patrick Stewart, I snapped it up without a moment’s hesitation. Patrick Stewart could make the phone book sound entertaining!

This is the last book of The Chronicles of Narnia, which I’ve read so often I’ve lost track of how many times. It struck me on this listening that this one isn’t so much about the story as it is about describing the wonders of what heaven may be like. After all, the main characters don’t win the last battle — they are defeated, but then Aslan makes all wonderfully right.

So I’m not sure you could really enjoy this book if you don’t believe in heaven. If you do, however, here’s a chance to glory in the magnificent voice of Patrick Stewart marvelling over the wonders of what may be in store for us. Definitely an uplifting treat!

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/last_battle_audio.html

Review of the print version.

Review of Walking with God, by John Eldredge

walking_with_god.jpg

Walking with God

by John Eldredge

Thomas Nelson, 2008.  218 pages.

Starred review.

http://www.walkingwithgod.net/

The caption on the front of this book reads, “Talk to Him.  Hear from Him.  Really.”

When I was a young college student at Biola University, a popular book was Decision Making and the Will of God.  What I got out of this book was the idea that God didn’t care about the minute details of our lives.  You shouldn’t ask God what color shirt you should wear today or whether you should go to lunch early or late.  The book taught that God gives us moral guidelines in the Bible, and within those guidelines we can do what we want.  That God would be happy with either wonderful choice of a marriage partner, for example.

John Eldredge takes a different view.  He believes that we can share our daily lives with God, ask His counsel for large and small decisions, and accept His guidance.  Honestly, in the past few years as I’ve gone through the fire of being abandoned by my husband, God has been near to me like never before, and I’m finding He is indeed willing to come alongside and help and guide, as John Eldredge describes.  It was inspiring to read this account of someone who is trying to live his life, walking with God.

And the book takes more the form of a journal than of a manual.  John Eldredge takes the approach of describing his own walk with God so that we can see how it might look.

In the Introduction, he says:

“It is our deepest need, as human beings, to learn to live intimately with God.  It is what we were made for. . . .

“Really now, if you knew you had the opportunity to develop a conversational intimacy with the wisest, kindest, most generous and seasoned person in the world, wouldn’t it make sense to spend your time with that person, as opposed to, say, slogging your way through on your own?

“Whatever our situation in life — butcher, baker, candlestick maker — our deepest and most pressing need is to learn to walk with God.  To hear his voice.  To follow him intimately.  It is the most essential turn of events that could ever take place in the life of any human being, for it brings us back to the source of life.  Everything else we long for can then flow forth from this union.”

As the book begins, he describes why he believes intimacy with God is possible even today:

“Now, I know, I know — the prevailing belief is that God speaks to his people only through the Bible.  And let me make this clear: he does speak to us first and foremost through the Bible.  That is the basis for our relationship.  The Bible is the eternal and unchanging Word of God to us.  It is such a gift, to have right there in black and white God’s thoughts toward us.  We know right off the bat that any other supposed revelation from God that contradicts the Bible is not to be trusted.  So I am not minimizing in any way the authority of the Scripture or the fact that God speaks to us through the Bible.

“However, many Christians believe that God only speaks to us through the Bible.

“The irony of that belief is that’s not what the Bible says.

“The Bible is filled with stories of God talking to his people.  Abraham, who is called the friend of God, said, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me . . .’ (Genesis 24:7).  God spoke to Moses ‘as a man speaks with his friend’ (Exodus 33:11).  He spoke to Aaron too: ‘Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron about the Israelites’ (Exodus 6:13).  And David: ‘In the course of time, David inquired of the Lord.  “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked.  The Lord said, “Go up.”  David asked, “Where shall I go?”  “To Hebron,” the Lord answered’ (2 Samuel 2:1).  The Lord spoke to Noah.  The Lord spoke to Gideon.  The Lord spoke to Samuel.  The list goes on and on.

“I can hear the objections even now:  ‘But that was different.  Those were special people called to special tasks.’  And we are not special people called to special tasks?  I refuse to believe that.  And I doubt that you want to believe it either, in your heart of hearts.

“But for the sake of argument, notice that God also speaks to ‘less important’ characters in the Bible.  God spoke to Hagar, the servant girl of Sarah, as she was running away. . . .  In the New Testament, God speaks to a man named Ananias who plays a small role in seven verses in Acts 9. . . .

“Now, if God doesn’t also speak to us, why would he have given us all these stories of him speaking to others?  ‘Look — here are hundreds of inspiring and hopeful stories about how God spoke to his people in this and that situation.  Isn’t it amazing?  But you can’t have that.  He doesn’t speak like that anymore.’  That makes no sense at all.  Why would God give you a book of exceptions?  This is how I used to relate to my people, but I don’t do that anymore.  What good would a book of exceptions do you?  That’s like giving you the owner’s manual for a Dodge even though you drive a Mitsubishi.  No, the Bible is a book of examples of what it looks like to walk with God.”

Here is another book of examples, exploring the question of what it looks like to walk with God in today’s world.  There’s food for thought, and there’s inspiration and encouragement.

God, what is the life you want me to live?

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