My Book Bag: Killing the Rising Sun

As I mentioned in my post last Friday about the Holocaust Museum, I do not handle the harsh facts of torture and death very well. That’s why I owned Killing the Rising Sun by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard for several months before I read it. And that’s why I’m just now writing about it several months after finishing it.

This book was an amazing account of the fight in the Pacific in World War II. In fact, it is such a highly detailed account that I do not recommend it for children below seventh grade. I do highly recommend it for high schoolers. I had my daughter, who is graduating this year, read it as part of her history curriculum. She was moved by it. It gives the reader a deeper appreciation for the men and women of the Greatest Generation, and for the sacrifices that all Americans made during those years.

This book provides a seamless overview of the lives of MacArthur, Eisenhower, Hirohito, FDR, Truman, Oppenheimer, and Churchill. It is a quick way to see how all of these men, and more, were united through history. For information on the European front of World War II, you might want to read Killing Patton, also by O’Reilly and Dugard.

The most interesting portion of the book to me was about the creating, testing, and finally, after a bold decision by  President Truman, the actual dropping of the atomic bomb. The authors build up the suspense with all sorts of fascinating and little-known facts about the dropping of the first nuclear bomb. For the history lover, the book is worth the read just to get to that information.

The end of the book includes letters from Presidents Truman, Carter, Bush 41, and Bush 43 about their feelings on the dropping of the A-bomb. Clinton and Obama declined to comment, which I found strange since FDR and Truman, the leaders ultimately behind the decision, were Democrats.

I have read the biography of Harry S. Truman by David McCullough, and I have visited his home and library in Independence, Missouri, twice. I already had a high opinion of the man who was our 33rd President. This book made me feel even more admiration for him.

History lovers and patriotic Americans alike will delight in this book, just be warned, it contains graphic information.

My Book Bag: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken has been my favorite novel of the year (so far). I was able to borrow the audio version through my library and stream it through our van’s Bluetooth feature on our vacation several weeks ago. The book is read by Lizza Aiken, Joan Aiken’s daughter. In the introduction, she shares how her mother came to write the story and the adventure that the manuscript itself had before finally being published in 1962.

There are wolves that roam the moors in England. They travel in packs and threaten all who travel by train or carriage. And there are even wolves at Willoughby Chase! This is a moving story about two orphans, Bonnie and Sylvia, who are mistreated by their evil governess, Miss Slighcarp. The orphans bravely face many discouraging situations, but their pluck and resourcefulness aid them through one obstacle after another. They are also helped along by a faithful nanny, Patton, and a loyal friend named Simon, and of course, Providence. The girls survive and even thrive through heartache and disappointment. I enjoyed the plot twists and turns.

We enjoyed listening to this as a family while we traveled on our own adventure. I highly recommend it as a family read aloud or just for personal enjoyment. It’s appropriate for ages 9 – 99, so why not give it a try? It is well deserving of its “classic” status.

My Book Bag: In His Steps

Do you have any books on the shelf that you have been meaning to get to, but keep forgetting about? I do, and this book, In His Steps by Charles M. Sheldon, is one of them. A few weeks ago, I finally pulled it off the shelf to give a go.

It begins with an ordinary day in the life of Pastor Henry Maxwell. We see him preparing a sermon when he is interrupted by a knock on the door. It’s a tramp, asking for a job. Mr. Maxwell says he knows of nothing and sends him on his way. He doesn’t even offer him a bit of food or some water!

The next day, Sunday, the man shows up at the church and points out the hypocrisy of the well-dressed, financially secure and stable church members. They dress up, but they don’t help. They talk the talk, but they do not follow through with action. The man collapses there in the church from malnutrition, and well, I’ll let you read the rest if you haven’t done so already. Needless to say, this causes quite a stir at the First Church of Raymond. Pastor Maxwell is moved by the condemnation of this vagrant. What follows is the challenge to Reverend Maxwell and later, the members of the church, to ask themselves the question, ”What would Jesus do?” before making any decision.

It’s not what I would call a gripping story, but it was well written. Mr. Sheldon wrote this book one chapter a week and gave it as his Sunday evening sermon way back in 1896 (Just think, Cleveland was President!), and soon caught the attention of other publishers and was reprinted around the world. Because only part of the manuscript was sent to the copyright office in Washington, D.C., the copyright was never issued. In His Steps was public domain, therefore, Mr. Sheldon never received any royalties.

The lives of the members of First Church were changed forever by pledging not to make a choice without asking the question, “What would Jesus do?” and then prayerfully seeking the answer. While this book successfully explores this idea, it must be noted that this is pure fiction.

A few thoughts:

I believe that true Christians are already striving to do what Jesus would do. We do that because we have the Holy Spirit driving us, chastening us, and moving us as we go through life. Can we ignore those impulses? Of course. But when we do, it is sin, and the Holy Spirit chides us for it. We do not need to wear a bracelet with “WWJD” on it to remind us. (You may recall that was a popular fad a few years ago due to this book.)

It was an entertaining story. Due to my “reading ADD”, I finished two other books while reading this one, and I also began reading two others. So, it wasn’t extremely exciting or I couldn’t have put it down.

I didn’t find any solid theology in this book, but as far as Christian fiction goes, it was excellent.

If you haven’t read it, I think you will enjoy it.

Until next time,

 

My Book Bag: A Dog of Flanders

A Dog of Flanders by Marie Louise de la Ramée is a very short book that is listed in my daughter’s reading curriculum for next year. I had heard of it but never read it. It is a considered a classic, so many of you have probably read it. Since I had never read it, I thought I’d take a look.

It is a moving story of a young boy, a rescued dog, and a loving grandfather. The boy, Nello, is orphaned and taken in by his poor grandfather. Together, they rescue a dog. The dog, whom they name Patrasche, shows almost human-like appreciation for their love by serving willingly to help them earn a living. Patrasche faithfully pulls a cart loaded with milk, as this is how they eek by. Nello has a great talent for art and longs to be as great as the painter, Peter Paul Rubens. Nello grows up, falls in love and seems to be making his way as an artist when he is falsely accused of starting a fire.

It’s a moving story of loyalty, devotion, and respect. In case you haven’t read it, or would like to read it again, I will not divulge the ending. I will say, however, it was a surprise.

I am glad I took the time (a few minutes, really) to read this book. I was brought to tears and educated on Flanders. I did not know it was part of Belguim until I read this book!

I think my fifth grader will enjoy it next year, as she is an enthusiastic animal lover.

Thanks for reading about what I’m reading.

My Book Bag: Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor by D.A. Carson is a quick and delightful read. It will especially buoy the heart and mind of those in ministry. D.A. Carson, the author, is a former pastor, theologian, and professor who has risen to prominence in his ministry. He writes this book not about himself and his own ministry, but about his father and mother, Tom and Marge Carson, and their faithfulness to the Lord over many years. Tom Carson ministered in French-speaking Quebec. He never pastored a large church or lectured theology to an auditorium of future ministers. He was just an ordinary pastor. But as D.A. Carson shows us so beautifully in this short book, God likes to use the ordinary.

Tom Carson never wrote a book, but he did keep journals. After his father’s death, Don (D.A.) Carson decided to write about his ordinary, and amazing, father. The journals of Tom Carson are filled with his own private pleadings with the Lord to help him overcome his sins, like laziness, yet he was not lazy. He labored long and hard each every day preparing sermons, working on his French, visiting the sick and corresponding with those who not yet come to Christ and yet, he felt lazy. Perhaps this was because he never really saw the results in number that he so longed to see. Tom Carson served faithfully behind various pulpits, sometimes as the second man, others as the pastor or interim pastor, never feeling adequate enough for the job. His journal often describes how horrible his preaching is, or how poorly he preached, in his own opinion, of course.

At one point in Tom’s ministry, he became the center of a controversy. Simply put, Mr. Carson was promised funds from a fellowship to start a church, and the board- men he knew and admired – reneged. Mr. Carson firmly pointed out the problem, but ultimately, he was forced to separate from several men who had been his mentors. This was a painful time. Mr. Carson was in the right and could have slandered these men to his son, who would hear about the controversy much later in college. What a man Tom Carson was to keep his silence in order to protect his son from bitterness!(p. 59)

One journal entry that struck me was from April 7, 1973: “A pretty good day, but I’m not on the ball for my Lord. How different my diary is than that of David Brainerd.” (p. 105)

Don Carson observes of his father, “In some ways, he was replicating the stance of the apostle Paul. Most people go through life afraid that people will not think enough of them; Paul went through life afraid that people would think too much of him. (2 Cor. 12:5-6)” (p. 131)

In later years, Marge was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Tom lovingly and faithfully cared for her until her death. He then lived out his days quietly serving the Lord as best he could, admiring his son, Don’s, great success in ministry in England and the states.

Near the end of the book, Don Carson says this about his father: “Tom Carson never rose very far in denominational structures, but hundreds of people in the Outaouais and beyond testify how much he loved them. He never wrote a book, but he loved the Book. He was never wealthy or powerful, but he kept growing as a Christian: yesterday’s grace was never enough…He was not very good at putting people down, except on prayer lists.” (p. 147)

I enjoyed this book on two levels. First, I was blessed by it as a pastor’s wife, often identifying with that feeling of being ordinary, and perhaps a little useless. What a blessing to be reminded that obscure doesn’t mean worthless. Second, I identified with it as being the daughter of an ordinary Christian. My father was not a pastor, but he certainly was the greatest Christian man I knew. He worked tirelessly in the world, often feeling that same defeated and hopeless feeling that Tom Carson felt – and that I often feel – yet he got up and kept going. He got on his knees, even when they ached, and he got up to work, even when he was discouraged. He kept a Bible verse in his shirt pocket and worked to memorize it. He kept a smile on his face and a funny song ever-ready at his lips. He walked faithfully with the Lord, as just an ordinary guy, until he saw his Lord face to face! This book was certainly a balm for my heart and a blessing to my soul.

I implore you to read Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor and be encouraged in the Lord.

My Book Bag: A Royal Experiment

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About a year ago, my friend, Elna, wrote a book review that piqued my interest. Based on that review, I added A Royal Experiment (titled differently in the UK) by Janice Hadlow to my “to read” list this year and purchased it on Amazon with some Christmas money. It was indeed a great read, and I am happy to recommend it to you. Elna’s review is excellent. I encourage you to read it.

This book is about the private lives of King George III and his children. King George was the “tyrant” to which Jefferson referred in the Declaration of Independence, and my love of American history naturally traces back to English history. This book clocks in at 617 pages – not counting the notes, etc. It was lengthy, but Ms. Hadlow is an excellent storyteller and the book is enthralling. I read it in about five weeks – with a brief pause to read two other books.

King George’s father, King George II, was not a good husband or father, nor was his father before him. Their families would have made perfect guests on one of today’s talk shows. King George III learned from the mistakes of his parents and desperately wanted to have a happy, normal family of his own. Therefore, when he chose to marry Charlotte, he did so with the plan of remaining faithful to her, even though they had barely known each other before their arranged marriage took place. They made a good team, each striving to make their home a happy one. They worked together to give their thirteen children a proper education. King George did the unthinkable in his day – he would get on the floor and play with his children!

The thing that struck me most was the fact that even though King George did his best to behave himself, to live uprightly, it was not enough. His boys grew up to be serial philanderers and adulterers. King George IV made known to all that he had a mistress and would not part with her even after his marriage to his bride, Caroline. Naturally, they soon separated and remained so permanently, dragging their only daughter, King George’s granddaughter, through much sorrow in the process. Meanwhile, George’s daughters struggled in their roles, wanting to marry, but having difficulty finding the right man. Several of them led lonely, unhappy lives. Others found love late in life, but it was not the love that they had hoped for. Scandal plagued the family when Sophia, one of the younger daughters, bore a child out of wedlock. And ultimately, the insanity that claimed King George’s mind also revealed his own adulterous appetites.

The lives of King George and Charlotte reminded me of the passage in Matthew 12 and Luke 11, where Jesus says that the unclean spirit leaves a man, then returns later find the house swept and garnished, and brings seven other spirits with him. No matter how much “reform” we put upon ourselves, no matter how many rules we establish in our personal lives, only Christ can make a true difference. Do people benefit from moral living? Of course they do, King George and Charlotte did enjoy benefits from living according to biblical principles, but only the power of Gospel can change hearts. In our own power, we can only be good for so long before something slips. In King George’s case, it was his mind that left him, something he definitely had no control over.

If I had ever entertained any delusions of grandeur about the Royal family, I do no longer. This book shatters the image that royalty has it all. In fact, I pity them. I am very glad to be just an average American.

The secret to having a happy family is really no secret: it is by God’s grace alone.

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. ~ Psalm 127:1

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My Book Bag: The Killer Angels

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I first read about the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, when it was referenced in a biography of Robert E. Lee called Clouds of Glory. Since reading that biog, my curiosity about the Civil War has been piqued. I’ve decided to read as much about the Civil War as I can. My daughter, Lauren, will not be surprised to hear that I have two large books on my “to read” list this year that relate to the Civil War (The South Was Right! and Stonewall Jacksonin case anyone is curious). When I saw this book for sale at a cute bookstore Terry and I visited on our recent getaway, I couldn’t resist buying it. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down.

The Killer Angels has been the most historically accurate fictional book that I have read. Mr. Shaara worked long and hard to see both sides of the Civil War so he could portray both sides as simply men trying to do the right thing. Neither side was the “monster”. As a southerner, who is used to seeing the South demonized, I found this refreshing.

The Battle of Gettysburg came alive like never before in the pages of this book. You could feel the tension and suspense even though you know the ending of this famous battle. Mr. Shaara allows you to hear the voice of Lee, Buford, Chamberlain, Longstreet and others who, before, were simply names on a page. Yes, their words are fiction, but the words and actions portrayed seem accurate according to what I have read about these men. The author did his best to stay true to their real personalities. After reading this book, I am now quite interested in Lawrence Chamberlain, a professor from Maine and a lieutenant colonel for the Union, who’s leadership contributed to the North’s great victory.

While I am true southerner at heart, I can honestly say that I am thankful the North won the Civil War. I am glad that we are “United”. I merely contend that a war should have never been fought; Lincoln should have worked harder at listening to the South’s complaints and finding a peaceful solution.

However, a war was fought, and it has left its mark upon thousands of families, upon our history, and upon the many battlefields across our land. If you’d like to take an exciting trip back in time and witness the Battle of Gettysburg, you can get a front row seat in Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels.

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