Thursday, September 22, 2016

Between the World and Me

"Between the World and Me" by TA-Nehisi Coates

I read this book because I'm trying to understand what is going on in our country with racial issues.  I want to learn, understand, and see other sides.  I'll admit this book was a bit difficult to read as I didn't understand all of it but I am glad I read it.  I don't necessarily agree with all of it, but it did give me some perspective that I didn't already have.  The author is a black man writing this book to his son about race in our country and what it is like to live as a black man.  Honestly it brought to my attention things I never thought of, things that I don't have to deal with or think about as a white person.  It opened my eyes and for that I am thankful because that is the reason I picked the book up in the first place.  "The crews walked the blocks of their neighborhood, loud and rude, because it was only through their loud rudeness that they might feel any sense of security and power."  These young black men acted this way because they felt so powerless in their world.  They put on such bravado outside because of how scared they were inside.  "I recall learning these laws clearer than I recall learning my colors and shapes, because these laws were essential to the security of my body."  He is talking about the laws of the streets.  These laws were of upmost importance to stay alive.  "'Good intention' is a hall pass through history, a sleeping pill that ensures the Dream."  Good intention doesn't get us very far, a call to action is what is needed.  Good intentions can be our excuse to not do what needs to be done.  "The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books.  I was made for the library, not the classroom.  The classroom was a jail of other people's interests.  The library was open, unending, free."  "Slavery is not an undefinable mass of flesh.  It is a particular, specific enslaved woman, whose mind is active as your own, whose range of feeling is as vast as your own; who prefers the way the light falls in one particular spot in the woods, who enjoys fishing where the water eddies in a nearby stream, who loves her mother in her own complicated way, thinks her sister talks too loud, has a favorite cousin, a favorite season, who excels at dressmaking and knows, inside herself, that she is intelligent and capable as anyone."  Putting faces to slavery makes it real and makes it that much more important to realize that these were people that were harmed and beaten and treated cruely.  They are not something we can look past.  "Then the mother of the murdered boy rose, turned to you, and said, 'You exist.  You matter.  You have value.  You have every right to wear your hoodie, to play your music as loud as you want.  You have every right to be you.  And no one should deter you from being you.  You have to be you.  And you can never be afraid to be you.'"

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

War Child

"War Child" by Emmanuel Jal

This is not an easy book to read but informative.  The book is a memoir about Emmanuel Jal and his life as a child soldier in Sudan.  He talks about the war and how it came to his village, how his family continued to run from place to place to get away from the war.  His mother was killed and that is when he went to a refugee camp and there became a boy soldier.  He had such hate in his heart for the people that killed and displaced his family.  All other emotions were turned off as he was trained to feed that hate.  He did things that haunt him still.  He was saved by a British lady who paid for his schooling.  But he didn't do well in school as he had so much emotional baggage and because all he knew was fighting.  He found his relief in music, telling his story, and in remembering the God his mama taught him about.  He found forgiveness and turned that into helping other child soldiers find their way.  "Fear will always win against pain, and all I had to do was run."  "Love?  I must push down the feeling, crush it inside me just as I had when I was a young boy and war had taken everyone from me.  I knew how love once made me feel".  In war you can't afford to feel love, all emotions must be pushed down so as to survive.  Emmanuel Jal has found feeling these emotions again not an easy feat.  "It is time for me to tell my story using the music and lyrics that are my weapons now I have laid down guns and machetes forever."  His words, his story is now his weapon to bring about change.  "I'm still a soldier, fighting with my pen and paper, for peace till the day I cease."

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Dream Deferred A Joy Achieved

A Dream Deferred A Joy Achieved by Charisse Nesbit

This book is a collection of stories of children in the foster system who have made it through and gone on to succeed in life.  The author was a foster child herself and wrote the book because she was tired of hearing all the horrible stories of children in foster care.  There are success stories to be told of resilient children that despite what was stacked against them, succeeded.  "Savasia says she never became accustomed to being called a 'foster child': I hated those words.  They made me sound like I was somebody else's hand-me-down."  I am thankful for the perspective of this book, that I was able to learn straight from these children's stories.  "Remember, you are so much more than what you came from.  You cannot choose your parents or cannot explain their behavior.  You now have the opportunity to really understand who you are and what you can be.  An environment will have an impact on what's around it, but you can still rise above it."  I love those words of encouragement to children going through the system, they can rise above, we all can.  "I am in no way excusing the abuse.  I just now understand the circumstances."  "For kids in the foster system, she offers these words: 'First, I love you.  I know what you're going through.  Keep dreaming your dreams even though you feel powerless.  When the sadness overwhelms you, pray-make friends with God.  Speak up!  Your voice is important, and it MATTERS.'"  "I couldn't tell my secrets because if I did, I would have to defend myself even more becasue by saying I am a foster youth, I am saying to them that I am on drugs, a thief, will become pregnant as a teen, or will be a juvenile delinquent.  If I was a foster youth, according to statistics, I was not to be trusted.  I was not to be defended..."  The labels that we have given foster youth need to be thrown out.  We need to give these kids a chance, we need to defend them and show them that they are loved.  I recommend this book for a great perspective on our foster youth from our foster youth.

Angels of a Lower Flight

"Angels of a Lower Flight by Susie Scott Krabacher

This is a memoir about a women who saw an ad for an orphaned child on tv and found that she wanted to do more than just give money, she wanted to hold these children and let them know they weren't alone.  This started her life's work.  Susie had been abused and taken advantage of her whole life, she knew how these children felt.   She went to Haiti and began taking care of abandoned children in the hospitals.   One trip led to the next trip which led to her opening an orphanage.  This book is inspirational and heart breaking.  It is also a tad bit on the graphic side.  The author was once a Playboy Bunny and she doesn't hesitate to tell all.  But, aside from that, I like the book and the courage the author had to go into a foreign country and make a change for the better.  "Good intentions never amount to anything unless you actually do something about them."  Talking about an issue doesn't resolve the issue, we have to get in there and actually put our words to action.  "When he committed suicide he took a part of my life without permission."  "A poverty-stricken county is fertile ground for corruption and greed, even for the best of us."  Poverty and hunger can lead so many to do things they wouldn't normally do.  It is easy to judge when we have never been in their shoes.  "I don't believe we are wrestling simply with humanity's evil.  If God exists, then why wouldn't a devil also exist?  If Satan is real, it'd be a great benefit to him for us to believe he isn't.  I have to believe there's a personality behind the horror I routinely witness.  It's simply too much awfulness to pin onto chance.  But I'm not afraid of the devil.  I brace myself with a stronger power."

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Writing my Wrongs

"Writing My Wrongs" by Shaka Senghor

I will admit this book is a little tough to get through.  It has a lot of cussing and explicit examples of what happens in prison.  Yet, it is a good book to understand about growing up on the streets, prison, and re-entry after prison.  It is an amazing story of how some choose to make something of themselves and help others, while others can't break the cycle.  "I was tired of being hurt and confused by two people I loved more than anything in the world."  Childhood is when most of our prison inmates have experienced the abuse that leads them to the streets and the crimes that they commit.  "I had never thought about the fact that by getting locked up, I was also imprisoning everyone who loved or cared about me."  Our actions and choices affect so many around us and yet in the moment we only think of ourselves.  "We weren't bad people, but we had made some very bad decisions that were shaped by the bad things we had experienced.  We were fathers, brothers, uncles, drug dealers, robbers, and killers.  And we weren't any one of those things by itself-what we were was a mixture of failure, neglect, promise, and purpose."  I think that we forget that our inmates are people, people who have made bad choices yes, but also people who have been badly hurt themselves.  "I had helped to bring a new life into the world-but now I was taking my life out of it."  He had made a choice that landed him in prison, a choice that took him out of his child's life.  "My crime was no badge of honor in my son's eyes-it was a scarlet letter that signified how badly I had failed him and the other young Black males in my neighborhood, many of whom would die or spend their lives in prison for trying to emulate me."  And this brought about the change in him, realizing that he needed to do better by his son and help others that were like him choose a better life.  "It had taken me years to realize that no one goes to prison alone; my imprisonment had impacted my family as though they were sitting in the cell with me." "That's why I'm asking you to envision a world where men and women aren't held hostage to their pasts, where misdeeds and mistakes don't define you for the rest of your life.  In an era of record incarcerations and a culture of violence, we can learn to love those who no longer love themselves.  Together, we can begin to make things right."   

See Me

"See Me" by Nicholas Sparks

If youv'e been following this blog for any amount of time, you know that my favorite author is Nicholas Sparks, he never dissapointes.  See Me is his latest novel, although he is currently writing a new one.  I don't know how he writes so many and they are all so good.  This one might be one of his best, yet I might say that every time.  Colin is a young man with a long history of violence.  He has decided to start a new path and leave the old Colin behind.  The question is, can he really do it?  Maria is a girl that has also left her past behind and seems to have the world at her fingertips.  A chance meeting between the two of them might cause Maria's past to catch up to her and Colin to show her hasn't really changed at all.  "But if you're going to make a judgement about me, then you need to know who I really am, not just the part I decide to tell you.  I'd rather be honest about all of it and let you make the call as to whether you want to keep talking to me or not."  Wouldn't this be great if everyone we met did this at first, to let us know who they really were?  I think it would be a little frightening at first but so much easier to just get it all out on the table in the beginning.  "I think you can do whatever you want.  In the end, we all live the life we choose for ourselves."  We are the ones at the end of the day that have to live with the choices we made, best make the choices you can live with.  "Love makes everything complicated, and emotions always go wild in the beginning.  But when it's real, you should hold on tight, because we're both old enough to know that true love doesn't come along all that often."  Pick up this book, you won't be sorry, I promise.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Little Princes

"Little Princes" by Conor Grennan

An unexpectedly good book.  I love stumbling upon a gem.  Conor is a 20 something man who wants to travel the world.  He leaves his job and spends the first three months of his trip at an orphanage in Nepal.  This three months will change the course of his life.  He finds out that the children aren't really orphans at all but children with families, children who were trafficked, childre whose parents had no idea they were alive.  This became Conor's goal, reunite these families and stop the trafficking of children in Nepal.  This goal became a nonprofit and with it many sacrifices for Conor and many children saved.  "Despite myself, I had become a parent to these kids-not because I was qualified, but because I had showed up."  Often times we just need to be willing, to show up, and God will use that willingness.  "It is my estimate that he has trafficked close to four hundred children."  The families are so poor in Nepal, the drought so severe, the war so long, that parents were giving up their children in hopes that they would have a better life.  They were tricked by men who took all these families had, lied and then sold the children.  "We marveled at the images on TV, at the faces of these peaceful, wonderful, loving people, suddenly crazed with passion, with determination, with revolution, with the spirit that drives men and women to stand on front lines and absorb bullets and batterings to win freedom for those who stand behind them."  "But God used that time of great sadness to reclaim me, to redeem me.  Things that are broken can be made whole."  God is in the business of reclaiming, redeeming and making our broken lives whole again.  "It was always difficult to accept these gifts, knowing how little the parents had and what it must cost them.  But I also knew that this was for them.  They needed me to know how much their children meant to them."  When Conor went to the remote villages to find the children's families he would be given gifts in gratitude.  He knew these gifts were more than the family could afford but he also knew it showed how much they cared for their children.  "The kids spoke little English, but as I had learned long ago, language isn't always necessary when interacting with kids."  Loving and playing with children is speaking their language, no words needed.  This is a great story of being willing and being used.  We can all do great things when we are willing to show up and let God use us.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

To The End of June

"To The End of June" by Cris Beam

Oh boy, this was a heavy, hard, yet interesting read.  If you are interested in the foster system, are a foster parent, know a foster parent, or work within the system, I recommend this book.  The author explains how our system began, the changes that have occurred along the way, and how our system is failing those it is meant to help.  Cris followed several foster kids and their families over a period of time to help show what it is like being a foster child and a foster parent.  As one who volunteers with foster kids, I know first hand the faults in our system but this book gave me a different look at the biological parents and their struggles.  Honestly my eyes were open to views I hadn't thought of before and I highly recommend this book.  "I know that foster children are twice as likely to develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder than are veterans of war."  And that sentence was on the first page!  What are we doing?  "This is one of the reasons why a lot of people go straight for adoption, that they don't bother with foster care.  It's because of the investment-you see your investment go down the drain in months."  Foster parents put a lot of work into these kids only to have them be moved to another home.  It's hard, selfless work and it takes such courage.  "That's why nearly every kid in foster care is diagnosed with ADHD or even Oppositional Defiance Disorder-they don't have impulse control, because they never had proper attachment.  Unfortunately, the system tends to tackle the symptoms rather than the cause, by medicating the children for their hyperactivity or aggression, without addressing the underlying loss, which can take years to repair."  So much of this system is reactive and not proactive and I believe this alone is why we fail our children.  "But if you live in a state where your're going to be charged with child abuse for your addiction, or you know your kids will be taken away if you show up at a treatment site, you're stuck regardless."  Can we get them help before we take their children?  Would there be better success for the child and the parent?  "We've been building a city for children on a sinking foundation."  "Parents should do it because the kids need.  Otherwise they're going to be disappointed.  More money, more training, all of these things would be a boost, but foster parenting, by definition, means personal sacrifice.  You do it because you want to help a kid, and because you enjoy seeing them grow.  The gratitude for what you've done might come later.  Like after five years of hell."  Or honestly, maybe not at all.  "For her doctoral dissertation, Eliana interviewed one hundred kids in foster care, asking them why they thought they were there.  Ninety percent said it was because of something they did."  And that is what these children carry with them.  "Kecia explained that the first of her theories was the most basic and obvious: group homes led to jail because of the connections that you made in care.  The kids you met could lure you into trouble, and the adults were strangers you couldn't trust.  One thing led to another."  Group homes were not meant to raise kids.  "There's one commonly cited statistic-that 80 percent of all inmates have spent time in foster care-"  That figure alone should make us take a good look at our system.  "These kids said they would have rather been abused at home with their parents than abused by the state.  We realize now that the outcomes for children in foster care are going to be worse than if they had stayed in the home."  That statement blows my mind.  I can't even wrap my head around it.  "The agencies and the foster parents dont' know how to manage what every single foster child seems to need-that need to go back.  We need to get better at this part of the foster care trajectory because that journey back is land-minded for self-destruction."  No matter the abuse, no matter the circumstances, a child will always want to go back.  "This is why child welfare experts try to fix the myriad problems in child welfare and fail: the problems are rooted in a society that cares little for its children, for its poor, its mentally ill, undereducated, incarcerated, addicted, and isolated."  As a society we have proven this through our failing systems. "And the poverty aspect of foster care is particularly troubling, as the one shining truth in my research was this: the poorer you are, the more likely you are to get entangled with child welfare."  The author doesn't offer solutions, she wrote the book as mere information.  It leaves the reader wondering how do we fix this, how do we help these children and families?

The Silent Sister

"The Silent Sister" by Diane Chamberlain

I've read a few of Diane's books and they always leave me intrigued, like how does one come up with these plot lines?  This novel was a good change from the heavy non fiction books I've been reading lately.  It is a book that will keep you guessing and wondering all the way through.  Sometimes you don't even know who to root for.  When I was nearing the end of the book I couldn't put it down, I had to know what happened and how it all came together.  Throughout the book I continued to be surprised and I appreciate that about a book, that it is unpredictable.  The book is about a women whose father has passed away and she goes to clean out his house and deal with his estate.  She has a brother who is unstable and of no help.  She does not know whom to trust.  As she continues to go through the house she finds out that what she believed to be true about her family is not true at all.  Her sister that she was told committed suicide might still be alive, the man she thought was her father may not be, and now she doesn't know what or who to believe.  I'd recommend this book if you like a good plot that keeps you guessing and turning pages.  

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

"The Dressmaker of Khair Khana" by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

The author wrote this book about a young Afghan women who during the Taliban reign, helped her family survive by starting a dress making business in the secrecy of her home.  She helped many other families by employing other women.  Kamila risked her life to help her family and those around her.  She showed such strength and courage.  "They were just kids trying to survive another year of war together with no parents to watch over them."  Many of these girls parents had fled for safety but believed the safest place was for their children to stay.  So without their parents, without men to earn money, they had to find a way to survive.  The pressure was great and the risks were severe.  "In that instant she felt perfectly alone, unable to share her burden, and with no choice but to simply carry on." So many women were left to care for their families in a hostile environment that didn't allow them much freedom.  "I want you to know I'm proud of you. I never for one moment doubted that you would be ale to take care of our family and that you could do anything you set your mind to.  You must stay at it, and you must try as hard as you can to help others.  This is our country and we must stay and see it through whatever comes.  That is our obligation and our privilege."  Kamila's father said this to her.  He was so proud of her for what she had done, he counted and believed in her.  I applaud her father for he is belief in her and for Kamila's courage to help others even when it put her life in danger.  "Her life was about more than her own safety."  "With all this despair crippling her city, who was she not to do her part?"  I wish that more people here, today, in our county, felt this way.  We all have a part to play in bettering our lives, our families, our communities, and our world.  Why do we not do our part?  "...but remember that they only have to catch you once to destroy everything.  You name, your family, your life.  Everything."  "Brave young women complete heroic acts every day, with no one bearing witness." The author wrote this story to tell the world that women everywhere are doing heroic things to keep their families together, to love and help others.  We all have our part to play.  This was an intriguing and encouraging book.  I appreciated the look into Afghan women and the types of oppression they have lived through.  

The Treasure Principle

"The Treasure Principal" by Randy Alcorn

As I was told by a cousin when I began reading this book, "It will make you want to give everything you have away."  It's true, this book gives new perspective to giving.  Randy talks about the joy in giving and storing our treasures in heaven not here on this earth.  It's a radical mindset this day in age where the more we have the better off we supposedly feel.  But greed is not the way to happiness and it seems the more we get the more we want.  I enjoy giving but this book challenged me to look at my giving and all my things with new eyes.  "A steward manages assets for the owner's benefit.  The steward carries no sense of entitlement to the assets he manages.  It's his job to find out what the owner wants done with his assets, then carry out his will."  This is how we are to look at our money, not as ours but as God's, and ask what He would have us do with it.  "The more we give, the more we delight in our giving-and the more God delights in us.  Our giving please us.  But more importantly, it pleases God."  "Our giving is a reflexive response to the grace of God in our lives."  He has shown us abundant grace and our response is to give freely.  "Everything we send on ahead will be waiting there for us.  It's our gift to Him, but in His generosity He will give those treasures back to us."  We can't take our possessions with us when we die but we can send them on ahead by giving them away now.  "Any temporal possession can be turned into everlasting wealth."  "He doesn't look at just what we give.  He also looks at what we keep."   What are you holding onto that would bring you greater joy in giving it away?  "If we pay our debt to God first, then we will incur His blessings to help us pay our debts to men.  But when we rob God to pay men, we rob ourselves of God's blessing.  No wonder we don't have enough.  It's a vicious cycle, and it takes obedient faith to break out of it."  We are responsible for our debts but are we not giving to God because of those debts?  Maybe we have it backward, give to God and watch our money increase so we can dutifully pay our debts.  "The more you give, the more comes back to you, because God is the greatest giver in the universe, and He won't let you out give Him."  I love that.  I want to try this, try to out give God and see what happens.  "Unless we learn how to humbly tell each other our giving stories, our churches will not learn to give."  We need to hear these stories so that we can be inspired to give and give abundantly.  I challenge you to read this book.  I challenge you to ask what God would want for you to give away.

Monday, March 7, 2016

For The Love

"For The Love" by Jen Hatmaker

So, everyone has been reading this book and I don't normally jump on the bandwagon but my friend told me that it was too funny to pass up.  I have also just recently become familiar with Jen and I do enjoy her honesty so I thought I would give the book a try.  Yep, it is definitely funny, and honest.  "We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead by wise."  Wise is so much better than awesome.  "Wise women know what to hold onto and what to release, and how to walk confidently in their choices-no regrets, no apologies, no guilt."  Can you imagine?  "Nothing is wasted: not a characteristic, preference, experience, tragedy, quirk, nothing.  It is all you and it is all purposed and it can all be used for great and glorious good."  So let's not try to hide who we are, God uses it all for His glory.  "The best I offer the world is the truth-my highest gift.  What the world does with it is not up to me.  I am not in charge of outcomes, opinions, assessments.  I am not in the business of damage control.  When I present a fabricated version of myself-the self who knows all, is ever certain, always steps strong-we all lose, because I cannot keep up with that lie and neither can you."  Truth is so powerful and done in love can be life changing, but I like that fact that she states whatever happens after the truth telling is not my concern.  "You are doing a wonderful job.  Parenting is mind-numbing lay hard and no one is perfect at it and we'll all ack a thousand parts, yet somehow, against all odds, it will be enough.  We all need to hear that, don't we?  "When people fail you-and they will-Jesus is ever faithful.  When circumstances tank-and they will-Jesus will hold you fast."  Thank you Jesus for being the One we can depend on.  "Lean honestly into every hard place, each tender spot, because truthfulness hurts for a minute but silence is the kill shot."  "Treating your husband like a good friend will preserve your marriage forever."  Kindness, sometimes that's all it takes.  "Every marriage includes two sinful, aggravating human beings.  Grace is our only hope."  Grace for the person we are married to and grace for ourselves.  "Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting through..."  Marriage is worth fighting for.  "But fear is a terrible reason to stay silent.  Fear is a terrible reason to do anything.  It isn't a trustworthy motive and it doesn't ever lead us to wholeness."  Fear can rule you, it's ruled me, but God can break those fears and when we speak them, often they no longer hold power over us.  "There is a clear correlation between how we treat each other and how a watching world will feel about Jesus."  No wonder our world is so lost right now.  We can do better, treat each other better, love better and in turn show Jesus better to a world that so desperately needs Him.  "Our shared redemption should keep us grateful and kind, becasue what other response even makes sense?"  "You are too vital to lose years to regret or shame or insecurity or fear.  We are not slaves to those masters; Jesus saw to that.  Face your issues with courage, sister, because truth and love win, and you have both those cards to play."  We need you, you are vital to His kingdom.  This book has a lot of good little nuggets and will make you laugh.  It is not a heavy read but full of points to ponder and use.

The Gifts of Imperfection

"The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown

Fellow perfectionists, READ THIS BOOK!  If you need help letting go of perfection this is a great book to read.  We all need help embracing who we are and to stop being so hard on ourselves.  Kindness to others and ourselves goes a long way.  "Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light."  We can be light in darkness, we first have to be willing to step into that darkness.  "Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.  And our world could stand to be a little kinder and braver."  Courage begets courage, in us and in others.  When I am afraid to do something my girls are afraid too.  I'm teaching them courage my doing the things I'm afraid of, not not showing fear but acting despite that fear.  "When we don't practice love with the people we claim to love, it takes a lot out of us.  Incongruent living is exhausting."  So often we treat family worse than we treat strangers.  We need to practice better love to all those around us.  "We don't change, we don't grow, and we don't move forward without the work."  You want to see change, you have to put in the work.  We can't just talk about change, we have to get up and work for the change we want to see.  "Powerlessness is dangerous.  For most of us, the inability to effect change is a desperate feeling.  We need resilience and hope and a spirit that can carry us through the doubt and fear.  We need to believe that we can effect change if we want to live and love with our whole hearts."  Believe in yourself and others, that with God will can make a difference.  "The gremlins are constantly there to make sure that self-expression takes a backseat to self-protection and self-consciousness."  We worry too much about what others think instead of being true to ourselves.  "When we don't give ourselves permission to be free, we are rarely tolerate that freedom in others."  When we give ourselves permission we grant it to others too.  This book takes time to get through, a lot of things to process, but worth the read.  

Like Any Normal Day

"Like Any Normal Day" by Mark Kram, Jr.

A very interesting book, one that I don't necessarily agree with but, gets you thinking.  This is the story of Buddy, who is an all-star high school football player. He has it all going for him, friends, girls, athleticism, and personality.  It took about 30 seconds to change all that.  At a football game he was tackled, flipped upside down and landed on his head.  He lay facedown on the field, believing these were his last moments.  Now this happened in 1973, before all the precautions against injury were in place.  He was flipped onto his back, lifted onto a stretcher, and placed into an ambulance with the assumption he had a broken leg.  Buddy ended up with a broken neck that left him paralyzed.  The brunt of his care was shouldered by his mother. Buddy was in constant pain from spasms that left him weary.  He was extremely worried about what would happen to him once his mother was too old to care for him, and that time was fast approaching.  He felt guilty for the huge burden that he was to his mother.  Buddy wanted his mother to be able to live her own life before it was too late for her.  He had an incredible bond with his youngest brother, Jimmy.  Jimmy lived to see Buddy laugh.  He also shoulder Buddy's emotional well being.  One day Buddy had had enough of his suffering and asked Jimmy if he would take him to Dr. Kevorkian.  Buddy made all the arrangements and Jimmy agreed.  Jimmy felt like so much had been taken from Buddy that he deserved to have this one thing.  This is a story of hardship, struggle, brotherly devotion, and unending love.  It is a story that tells of how tragedy affects so many.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Orphan Train

"Orphan Train" by Christian Baker Kline

This was a one day read it was so good.  It is a novel but speaks of a time in our history where we were shipping orphans by train to the Midwest.  It is not something a lot of people know about, yet it was a reality for over 200,000 orphans.  Many were given a better life, many were mistreated.  The author weaves together two stories, one from modern day-a foster girl just trying to survive, and an old woman remembering her past as an orphan.  I enjoyed how the stories wove together.  It was really well written and interesting to find out about the orphan train.  "The general feeling is that it's best not to talk about the past, that the quickest relief will come in forgetting."  And yet who can ever truly forget their past?  "I feel myself retreating to someplace deep inside.  It is a pitiful kind of childhood, to know that no one loves you or is taking care of you, to always be on the outside looking in.  I feel a decade older than my years.  I know too much; I have seen people at their worst, at their most desperate and selfish, and this knowledge makes me wary.  So I am learning to pretend, to smile and nod, to display empathy I do not feel.  I am learning to pass, to look like everyone else, even though I feel broken inside."  A child who feels so unloved and has learned to give what others are looking for, to not feel but just be agreeable.  "And so your personality is shaped.  You know too much, and this knowledge makes you wary.  You grow fearful and mistrustful.  The expression of emotion does not come naturally, so you learn to fake it.  To pretend.  To display an empathy you don't actually feel.  And so it is that you learn how to pass, if your're lucky, to look like everyone else, even though you're broken inside."  "Why, you're as handy as a pocket in a shirt."  

A Grace Disguised

"A Grace Disguised" by Jerry Sittser

If you like tragedy, like me, then this book is for you.  It is written by a man, Jerry, who in one car accident lost his wife, his daughter and his mother.  He tells of the accident that changed his life forever.  Jerry writes of how he chose to respond to the loss.  He writes that in how he responded was his defining moment, not the accident itself.  He had other children to live for and set an example for.  He could not do what he wanted, to lie in bed and wallow in self-pity, he had to show them how to continue to live despite the huge loss.  "We do not always have the freedom to choose the roles we must play in life, but we can choose how we are going to play the roles we have been given."  Choosing how we deal with trials is about the only choice we really do have.  "It is the power to choose that adds dignity to our humanity and gives us the ability to transcend our circumstances, thus releasing us from living as mere victims."  "So with the background already sketched in by circumstances beyond my control, I picked up a paintbrush and began, with great hesitation and distress, to paint a new portrait of our lives."  It's not easy to pick up the pieces from loss, any loss, and start anew.  "Who knows how one experience, so singularly horrible, can set in motion a chain of events that will bless future generations?  Loss may appear to be random, but that does not mean it is.  It may fit into a scheme that surpasses even what our imaginations dare to think."  We do not know the impact our loss, and how we deal with that loss, will effect those around us.  Only God sees the bigger picture, yet there are many that are watching how we respond.  "The problem of expecting to live in a perfectly fair world is that there is no grace in that world, for grace is grace only when it is underserved."  And we are all under serving of that grace.  "Wrong that is forgiven is still wrong done and must be punished.  Mercy does not abrogate justice, it transcends it."  Wrong is still wrong yet I love his statement that mercy transcends the wrong and that can only be God.  "If people want their souls to grow through loss, whatever the loss is, they must eventually decide to love even more deeply than they did before.  They must respond to the loss by embracing love with renewed energy and commitment."  "Choosing to withdraw from people and to protect the self diminishes the soul; choosing to love even more deeply than before ensures that we will suffer again, for the choice to love requires the courage to grieve.  We know that loss is not a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  So naturally we dread the losses that loom ahead.  But the greater loss is not suffering another loss itself but refusing to love again, for that my lead to the death of the soul."  Such good words, yet so very hard to live out, although necessary to live the life God intended.  

Man's Search for Meaning

"Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor E. Frankl

This is an old book, one many have read.  It is a powerful book of a man in a holocaust concentration camp who survives only by the hope he carries.  He tells of the atrocious things that happened and how those who survived did so by holding on to hope.  He goes on to write that if man has no meaning he will have no reason for living and such not make it through hardships.  Viktor became, and actually was prior to the war, a psychiatrist.  He helped many people find meaning so that they could overcome.  He goes on to say that in suffering, if we find the meaning, how it will make us stronger and what we can learn from it we can be overcomers. "Disgust, horror and pity are emotions that our spectator could not really feel any more.  The sufferers, the dying and the dead, became such commonplace sights to him after a few weeks of camp life that they could not move him any more."  The prisoners became numb, there was too much suffering and wrongdoing that their brains just could not comprehend and so the emotions get cut off for survival sake.  "When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task.  He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering his is unique and alone in the universe.  No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place.  His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burdens."  How we bear our burdens is the biggest part to this life.  We all have them, we all deal with them differently, but our character shows through in these burdens and who we believe to be in control.  "In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of sacrifice."  A good book on finding meaning in our suffering and gaining perspective.  The end gets very technical, as he goes into the psychology of what he leaned but I did throughly enjoy the first part about his experience in the concentration camp.