Archive by Author | Sherry

She Is Mine by Stephanie Fast

“Stephanie Fast is the name she was given in America. She does not know her original name, birth date, or place of birth, other than that she is Korean. Because she is biracial, Stephanie Fast was abandoned, left in a strange place to fend for herself, likely to die of starvation, disease—or worse.

Stephanie has made it her life’s work to try to help rescue every orphan out there—terrified, hungry, hurting, abused. If you believe that how we treat the most vulnerable among us determines our own humanity you will want to read Stephanie’s book—you will want to get to know Stephanie’s story.”

The almost unbelievable and harrowing story of a Korean war orphan, abandoned by her mother and unknown to her American GI father, She is Mine is an amazing testament to the courage and endurance of the author, but even more to the grace of God in her life. Her website says “Stephanie’s story will leave you moved—and changed.” It left me moved, yes, and puzzled. I was puzzled by the mercy of God and by His sovereignty. Why was Stephanie spared the fate of another child she writes about in her memoir, a baby who died abandoned on trash heap after seven year old Stephanie, or Yoon Myoung as she was known in Korean, had tried to mother her and save her life? Why was Yoon Myoung/Stephanie adopted by an American couple and brought to the U.S. while other Korean orphans languished in orphanages or scavenged on the streets? I don’t know, and author Stephanie Fast provides no answers to those troubling questions. She can only testify to the fact that God saved her, and “in every instance of my life, whether I knew it or not, there was a greater, higher, wiser power propelling willing hearts to rescue me.”

Maybe God is “propelling” us to rescue just one, or to help, and we are not listening?

I recommend the book, but I do warn you that Stephanie’s story is a very difficult one which includes physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, abandonment, and violence. Stephanie eventually is rescued, and her message is that there is hope. However, reading this book can be emotionally draining. Even if you don’t choose to read Stephanie’s story, please take this blog post as a cue to pray for Stephanie Fast and for the millions of orphans and abused children who are struggling for survival and hope even today as you are reading these words.

Stephanie Fast’s website.

Called to Love is a ministry designed to encourage and support adoptive and foster moms by providing an annual retreat.

Chosen International is a faith-based organization whose goal is to encourage teens who have been adopted to embrace God’s plan of adoption for their lives, and grow into spiritually and emotionally healthy adulthood.

Christian Friends of Korea: hope and healing to the people of North Korea in the name of Christ.

New Beginnings International Children’s and Family Services. (adoption agency)

Kazembe Orphanage, an orphanage in northern Zambia run by my friends, the Morrow family.

John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall by Julie Danneberg

This picture book about an episode in naturalist John Muir’s life is visually stunning, and it tells an exciting story, worth the read.

April, 1871. Two evenings ago, I climbed the mountain to the foot of the upper Yosemite Falls . . . My wetting was received in a way that I scarcely care to tell. The adventure nearly cost all. ~John Muir’s journal.

Muir was a passionate naturalist, and his writing, mostly essays for magazines and newspapers, allowed him to earn a living while also pursuing his desire to observe nature and to preserve it. A friend of Teddy Roosevelt, Muir and the president went camping together in 1903, at which time Muir was able to enlist TR in his campaign to preserve America’s wilderness. Partly because of Muir’s influence, Teddy Roosevelt was able to lead the national government to set aside millions of acres of land for national parks, monuments, and wilderness preservation.

The event that is featured in this picture book, Muir’s near-death experience while exploring behind a Yosemite Valley waterfall, took place in 1871. Muir wrote two separate essays about the experience, and the author, Julie Danneberg used both essays to fashion her own version of Muir’s adventure behind the falls.

What you may not know about John Muir (not necessarily from the book, but mostly from Wikipedia):

1. Muir was born in Scotland, the third of eight children.

2. His family were Campbellites (Disciples of Christ), and “by age 11, young Muir had learned to recite ‘by heart and by sore flesh’ all of the New Testament and most of the Old Testament.” (Wikipedia)

3. In early March 1867, an accident changed the course of his life: a tool he was using slipped and struck him in the eye. He was confined to a darkened room for six weeks, worried whether he would ever regain his sight. When he did, “he saw the world—and his purpose—in a new light”. Muir later wrote, “This affliction has driven me to the sweet fields. God has to nearly kill us sometimes, to teach us lessons.” (Wikipedia)

4. In September 1867, Muir undertook a walk of about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from Indiana to Florida, which he recounted in his book A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf.

5. Ralph Waldo Emerson, on a trip to Yosemite in 1871, met John Muir and offered him a professorship at Harvard, which Muir declined. (Muir had never graduated from college, although he did attend classes at a college in Wisconsin.)

6. Muir was extremely fond of Thoreau and was probably influenced more by him than even Emerson. Muir often referred to himself as a “disciple” of Thoreau.

7. John Muir petitioned Congress to establish Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.

8. California celebrates John Muir Day on April 21st each year.

9. “God never made an ugly landscape. All that the sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.” ~John Muir.

10. “My eyes, at times, would fill with tears in the editing room as we worked on telling Muir’s story. It was a pleasure getting to know him better.”
~Ken Burns, filmmaker for “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

So, for a small introduction to the life and thought of John Muir, with beautiful illustrations by Jamie Hogan, see John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall. He may have wandered into what I would call “nature worship” as he grew older and left his Campbellite (and biblical) foundations, but nevertheless, he did have a fine and passionate appreciation for God’s creation, an appreciation that he was able to communicate to the rest of America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to the betterment of our national heritage.

Saturday Review of Books: May 25, 2015


“‘When you open a book,’ the sentimental library posters said, ‘anything can happen.’ This was so. A book of fiction was a bomb. It was a land mind you wanted to go off. You wanted it to blow your whole day. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of books were duds. They had been rusting out of everyone’s way for so long that they no longer worked. There was no way to distinguish the duds from the live mines except to throw yourself at them headlong, one by one.” ~Annie Dillard

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge


I am so enjoying my discovery and exploration of Elizabeth Goudge’s novels. In February I read The Dean’s Watch, and I wrote that it might the best book I read this year. I read The Rosemary Tree last summer–and relished the author’s insight into human psychology. I also read Gentian Hill in 2014, and I put it on my list of ten best adult fiction books I read last year. Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library has recommended Valley of Song to me, and many, many readers have recommended Ms. Goudge’s children’s fantasy The Little White Horse. I think Goudge is the sort of author that I’m going to enjoy stretching out and reading in a leisurely manner, two or three of her books per year, spaced out over the course of the year.

That said, Pilgrim’s Inn was lovely, and it made me crave more Goudgian writing. I’m trying to think what actually happens in the story. A family buys an old inn and moves to the country. One character struggles with a “mental breakdown” in the aftermath of World War II. Various characters struggle with their own secret sins and temptations. One married couple falls in love with each other all over again, and another man and woman learn to love each other in spite of the difficulties and impediments to their union. Children act like children and do very childlike things, but the insight into child psychology and children’s thought lives is amazing. Altogether, it’s not at all a plot-driven novel, and I can see how today’s readers, trained by television and movies, would find it slow and somewhat sentimental, perhaps becoming restless and even bored. I had to consciously slow myself down and appreciate the unhurried pace of the story and of life in the English countryside with people who are still trying to build new lives after the hour of the war.

The inn itself is a sort of a magical place, and several encounters and chance meetings in the woods m=nearby produce healing and psychological breakthroughs. The air and atmosphere of the novel is Christian without the spiritual underpinnings becoming intrusive or didactic. The characters grow and learn and make surprising decisions and revelations, just as people do in real life.

I can’t imagine a more enjoyable summer reading book than Pilgrim’s Inn. Slow down and enjoy a sojourn in post-war England with some really intriguing people living in a wonder-filled place. Oh, I forgot that there’s a matriarch in the story who begs to played in a movie version by Maggie Smith. They had better hurry up and make the movie because I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part. Do you ever cast the characters in your favorite books?

“As this world becomes increasingly ugly, callous and materialistic it needs to be reminded that the old fairy stories are rooted in truth, that imagination is of value, that happy endings do, in fact, occur, and that the blue spring mist that makes an ugly street look beautiful is just as real a thing as the street itself.” ~Elizabeth Goudge

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

Saturday Review of Books: May 16, 2015


“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.” ~William Styron

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

I guess I wanted just one valuable takeaway nugget of truth or advice or wisdom from Mr. Yancey’s meditation on the dearth of grace in our world and even in our churches, and what I got was a meditation on the lack of good news of grace in our culture and in our churches. Expectations meet sad reality.

“What ever happened to the good news?” “Why does the church stir up such negative feelings?” “How can Christians make a positive, grace-filled difference in a world of desperate need?”

Rod Dreher talks about his Benedict Option. I feel as if I’m living the Benedict Option to some extent, and it’s not enough—because the need is, as Mr. Yancey says, desperate. My children and my eventual grandchildren don’t have centuries to wait to see the culture, the world redeemed and made right by Jesus’ mercy and by grace-filled Christians living simple grace-filled lives in Christ.

Yancey nails the problem: a world without Christians who are filled with Christ’s grace and love is a world without hope. But the world doesn’t necessarily see it that way. He gives examples. Then, he gives some suggestions on how Christians can begin to interact with the world, “a series of observations and suggestions for Christians to consider as we interact with a world that does not always share our views”:

1. “Clashes between Christ and culture are unavoidable.” Well, duh. The question is how to act when those “clashes”, more like crashes, happen. I am to act in love. But what that looks like is difficult and confusing.

2. Christians should choose their battles wisely. Absolutely. I think that cake-baking and flower providing are not where I would draw the line, but then, I’m not in the cake-baking or floral business. When people are being deliberately provocative and hoping to trap you into saying or doing something that can be used as bad publicity or example, the best way to respond is the way Jesus did to the Pharisees. A soft answer turns away wrath. The problem is being prepared when I don’t know when or where the attack might come. One good plan might be to think (and pray?) before I post a snippy (any?) comment on Facebook or other social media.

3. Christians should fight their battles shrewdly. This one goes along with #2. “Wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” We should pray this daily for one another because the only way I’m going to be either wise or harmless is by the grace and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

4. In engaging with culture, Christians should distinguish the immoral from the illegal. Again, duh. We have laws against murder and theft, not against blasphemy and coveting. Why? Because we live in a pluralistic society in which not everyone agrees on a definition of blasphemy or that to is wrong to blaspheme God’s name. Everyone pretty much agrees on a definition of murder and agrees that murder is wrong. However, even that consensus is being endangered with the continued drumbeat for euthanasia and abortion. Where do we draw the line? If the culture says killing children up to the age of one is OK, do we continue to agitate for laws protecting young children, or do we just content ourselves with not killing our own children?

5. The church must use caution in its dealings with the state. More caution every day.

This book provides a beginning point for discussions about “how then shall we live”. But it’s not the definitive answer-book on the subject. I guess for that one would have to go to The Book.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

Twelve Bright Trumpets by Margaret Leighton

Published in 1942, this collection of twelve stories illuminates various events and eras during the time we call the Middle Ages. The first story takes place in Roman Britain about 400 A.D., when the Romans were withdrawing their legions from their colonial possessions in order to defend Rome itself from the barbarians. In the story, a ten year old Celtic boy, Gaius, is awakened in the middle of the night when his village is attacked by Northern pirates, Picts and Scots. He attends a meeting of the Celtic chieftains in which they learn that the Romans who have been their defense are leaving, and they decide to accept help from the friendly Angles and Saxons, many of whom have made their homes in Roman Britain.

The rest of the stories in the book are just as exciting and just as informative as the first:

“A Blackbird Sings” (about 800 A.D.)
The monastery where the peasant boy Remy is going to school receives a visit from the Emperor Charlemagne.

“The People Remembered” (about 870 A.D.)
Just after the Danish invasion of Britain has been stopped by King Alfred, Cedric, a young Saxon, meets the brave king.

“Hail, Normansland!” (about 900 A.D.)
Astrid, in Norway, awaits the return of her father who, with other Vikings, has been attacking the northern coast of France.

“The Conqueror” (about 1075 A.D.)
Edith , a Saxon girl, and Alix, a Norman girl, become friends when they are both attending a convent school in Normandy in the time of William the Conqueror.

“The Great Journey” (1095-1099 A.D.)
Denis, a young squire, accompanies his master on the First Crusade and is rewarded for his part in the taking of Jerusalem. (This one is a bit dated in its perspective, maybe correct but definitely not in tune with contemporary attitudes about the Crusades. The Christian crusaders are described as “as shrewd as they were bold and fearless” and “young, valiant and keen for battle”; the Turks are “unspeakably cruel”, “without mercy”, “infidels”, and “heathens.”)

“Twelve Bright Trumpets” (about 1150 A.D.)
At the death of her mother and father, Rohais is left alone to protect the castle until her brother from the Crusades. (My favorite of the twelve stories and the story from which the book’s title is taken. I thought the ending was clever and memorable.)

“Echo Over Runnymede” (1215 A.D.)
Geoffrey, page to an earl who objects to King John’s tyranny, is present at the signing of the Magna Carta. (Watch Disney’s Robin Hood, which features a greedy King John, after reading this story?)

“Town Air Is Free Air” (13th century A.D.)
Jacques, a young serf, runs away from the feudal manor village to escape the terrible anger of the baron’s game warden. (My second favorite story in the collection. Jacques finds a home, and the story could lead to much discussion of slavery, freedom, human rights and dignity, and similar topics.)

“Marco and the Marble Hand” (14th century A.D.)
Caught by a reawakened enthusiasm for art in Florence, Marco, a peasant boy, finds something to show the artist, Master Antonio.

“A Noble Magic” (about 1450 A.D.)
Karl, a copyist’s apprentice who is tired of copying books by hand, finds at the establishment of Master Gutenberg a noble magic.

“Queen of the Sea” (about 1500 A.D.)
Camilla, at home in Venice while her brother is on a voyage with Vasco da Gama, almost misses the great water festival.

These would be wonderful read aloud stories to accompany a study of the Middle Ages and leading into Early Modern times and the age of exploration. I recommend the book ages seven to twelve, if you can find a copy. (I see that Amazon has used copies, and Rainbow Resource has it in stock.)

Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash

Silent Alarm is a young adult novel about a school shooting as experienced by the shooter’s sister, also a student at the high school where the shooting takes place. The strength, and the main weakness, of the novel is that it never answers the basic question left in the aftermath of all school shootings: why? In this case, why did Alys Aronson’s older brother, Luke, kill fifteen people and then turn the gun on himself? How could the brother that Alys loved and learned from do such a thing? Of course, I have no answer to the question of why one man’s sin leads to death, for himself and for others, while another’s equal sin leads to repentance, mercy, and life.

What the novel does well is present the predicament of those who are left behind in the families of murderers, in particular. Alys is devoted, conflicted, and victimized. Because Luke is not around for them to hate and to blame, the victims’ families blame Alys and her family. How could they have let Luke do such a horrific thing? How could they not have known?

Alys also blames herself. Maybe she should have known that something was wrong with Luke. Maybe she should have not enjoyed being the favored child, the one who followed the rules. Maybe she should have died, too, when Luke pointed the gun at her, but didn’t shoot.

Silent Alarm is not an enjoyable book. It ends with some small wisp of hope for Alys, but not much more that that.

“And even as I lie there hoping, hoping with everything I am that somehow I have the right to go on, to make a life for myself apart from what Luke has done, I also know that it might just be a fantasy, a moment of wishful thinking. A story I tell myself in moments of quiet contemplation, when the wind outside shifts through the trees in a whisper, rustling the curtains, and lulling me into sleep.

But in spite of everything that’s happened, I would like to believe it.”

Don’t read for answers, and don’t read if you are prone to or connected with depression or depressive violence. But if you’re interested in a different perspective on school shootings and their aftermath, Silent Alarm is a well-written interpretation of a tragic event, sans nasty language and gratuitous violent description. (Of course, the central event itself is quite violent.)

Saturday Review of Books: May 9, 2015


“If you cannot read all your books…fondle them—peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them, at any rate, be your acquaintances.” ~Winston Churchill

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh and Richard H. Schneider

I Dared to Call Him Father: The Miraculous Story of a Muslim Woman’s Encounter with God by Bilquis Sheikh and Richard H. Schneider

I read the 25th anniversary edition of this classic testimony of a well-to-do Muslim Pakistani woman, Bilquis Sheikh, who came to faith in Christ at the age of sixty-five through a series of dreams and visions and through comparison of the Koran to the Christian Bible. Bilquis’ study of the Bible was very confusing to her, but her breakthrough came when a Catholic nun suggested that she talk to God “as if He were your father” and ask Him to show her the truth. She did, and she sensed the presence of God as she prayed.

“‘I am confused, Father,’ I said. ‘I have to get one thing straight right away.’ I reached over to the bedside table where I kept the Bible and the Quran side by side. I picked up both books and lifted them, one in each hand.’Which, Father?’ I said. ‘Which one is Your book?’

Then a remarkable thing happened. Nothing like it had ever occurred in my life in quite this way. For I heard a voice inside my being, a voice that spoke to me as clearly as if I were repeating words in my inner mind. They were fresh, full of kindness, yet at the same time full of authority.

In which book do you meet Me as your Father?

I found myself answering: ‘In the Bible.” That’s all it took. Now there was no question in my mind which one was His book.”

Bilquis went on to leave Pakistan and travel around the world, telling people of how God had spoken directly to her to lead her to Christ. It is an inspiring story and would pair well with Nabeel Qureshi’s Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus which tells about a more intellectual route to faith in Christ for a Muslim seeker. The two converts have in common, besides their Muslim background, their great devotion to family and the deep pain of estrangement from family that their conversion cost them. However, both Mr. Qureshi and Bilquis Sheikh write that Jesus is worth the cost, that following Him and living in His presence is the ultimate treasure.