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.