Geertje: War Seen Through the Eyes of A Child as an Adult
Gerda Blokhuis VandenHaak
Summary: Memories are a peculiar thing. They hurl us into a different world full of familiar smells, sounds and sights. Memories are sweet. Memories are bitter. All memories have a story to tell. In this book 78 year old Gerda shares her memories; memories of hunger, memories of sitting in a shack with Nazis and NSBers and memories of visiting a brothel in Cuba. She shares the painful memory of losing a precious daughter, and the joyful memory of adopting a little Indonesian boy. The dearest memory she shares are those final days she spent with her beloved Andy. All these experiences, all these memories shape an individual. They mold a character and shape an identity. Memories are proof of a life lived.
Gerda used poetry to process much of what she saw and experienced. Laced throughout this book in poetic format, the reader is given a glimpse of the inner turmoil that is present in every child of God as they struggle to make sense of earthly trials and the sovereignty of God. Gerda's poems accurately and beautifully reveal the anguish, heartache and questions of life intertwined with a depth of love and trust for her Lord.
Personal Thoughts: Gerda is a living, walking testimony of God's persevering grace in His children. Life has been hard for this child of God: war, fear, the irreparable devastation of the loss of a daughter, hunger, sickness, and finally the loss of a precious husband, lover, confidant and friend. The path to heaven is filled with difficulty. Following Christ wholeheartedly is not for the faint of heart.
Gerda and her husband visited Cuba 37 times to bring Bibles and encouragement to the churches. They visited Indonesia 3 times to set up a Christian school for (currently) over 1500 children. Gerda and her husband Andy lived a life of service to the Lord. Like Isaiah, they answered when Lord asked, 'Whom shall I send?"
Such a life of service! Oh, how difficult it was to read of cancer snatching Andy away. And so today Gerda continues the journey. The Lord alone knows when the final bend in the road will come into sight for His faithful child. And only He knows the work yet laid out to do for Gerda, His willing servant. The glory is His.
When in the morning, very early morning.
I walk outside.
Coffee in hand.
Early sunshine rays on my face.
I stand there.
Looking at the trees, at the lawn.
And see nothing.
For my eyes are turned inward.
Then tears come.
They run down my face and it surprises me.
On my hands.
On the deck.
Not tears of sadness.
But they fall.
Not tears of joy.
Tears of healing.
Tears of cleansing.
A peace, beyond understanding.
And I feel the hand of God.
The hand of God.
Great is Your Faithfulness.
For the Love of My Brothers
Brother Andrew with Verne Becker
Summary: The story of Brother Andrew, God's Smuggler continues. The Iron Curtain has fallen, but the work has continued into China, Africa, Cuba and the seemingly impenetrable Middle East. All over the world there are small gatherings of believers, living under an oppressive regime, that need encouragement, prayer and Bibles. Open Doors, the organization headed by Brother Andrew, seeks to fill these needs. This book once again tells the stories of our suffering brethren around the globe. In addition, each chapter rightly concludes by challenging believers to overcome their hesitations and to take up their duty, out of love, for the brethren. How will you respond?
Personal Thoughts: "Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die!" (Rev.3:2a) There are Christians in China and Egypt. There are very small bands of believers in Iran and Iraq. They are under incredible pressure. They are isolated and in hiding. They need our prayers, our presence and our encouragement. Open Doors is doing everything they can to fill this need. The work is great. Unfortunately, the labourers are few.
I was blessed to be a small part in Brother Andrew's ministry when I and 17 others smuggled just under 1000 Bibles into China in 2001. It takes prayer, preparation and penetration-first through legal means, and then through smuggling. We must be willing to pay the cost. Is God's kingdom not worth it? The need for willing and active Christians is real and pressing. As the hymn writer, Isaac Watts, aptly puts it:
Must I be carried to the skies
On flow'ry beds of ease;
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas.
Quote: I have come to believe that Islam poses the biggest challenge to the church today. Not to political or economic systems, but to the church. Why? Quite simply, because we in the Western church don't come close to matching the level of commitment, determination and strength of many Muslim groups. Christ and the Bible certainly call us to a radical commitment, but we don't show it in the way we live. Until we do, Islam will continue to be the world's fastest growing religion--not because of its strength, but because of our weakness.
There is another major obstacle to overcome if we are to reach out to Muslims. We must forever set aside the idea that they are our enemies. We did this for decades with the Russians--they were the terrible, evil communists who were going to conquer the world. That very attitude on our part is why it took so long for their system to crumble. In our fear, we did not go to them with the love of God. --pg 208-209
Discovering the Shepherd
Summary: Psalm 23 is a familiar piece of Scripture filled with beautiful descriptions of a kind Shepherd caring for His needy sheep. Delving deep into the original text, there are unfathomable mines to be plumbed; priceless gems to be discovered that open our view to a beautiful and precious Christ.
The one and only Lord is my personal Shepherd who tends, feeds and associates with me. I can expect every provision He has promised, both physically and spiritually. He will even provide me with the weaponry needed to overcome the enemy in my spiritual warfare. He brings peace to my soul so that I might willingly lie in a state of peace and rest where He refreshes me by His love, grace and wisdom. He repairs the damage sin has inflicted on my soul and continues to lead me down that narrow path that leads to eternal rest.
And when life becomes difficult--the unavoidable trials pressing hard, I am reminded that I am but in the shadow of death, and not death itself. My enemy will not triumph over me for the Shepherd has already claimed me for His own. He will always be near, fighting and praying for me. And when I stray from the path, my Shepherd will use His rod to correct me, and His staff to guide me.
My Shepherd also provides me with a feast even though I still remain on this earth, my enemies all around. The very table on which this feast is prepared is an altar and the bread He serves is Himself. He showers me with the gift of His Holy Spirit. Indeed blessings abound! The benefits of being His purchased sheep will last all my life long, until it reaches the ultimate culmination. Yes, I shall reach heaven's blessed shores where I shall remain forever with my blessed High Priest, my Precious Lord and Savior, my beloved Shepherd.
Personal Thoughts: It has been most refreshing to read this book on Psalm 23. Immediately after I started, I knew the book deserved to be read slowly, methodically and prayerfully. The author does a good job of reminding the reader of this fact and breaks up the book into very manageable bite size pieces, complete with points of meditation and prayer.
I really appreciated that the author did not write a personal opinion on the text. Rather, returning to the original text, incredible care was taken to flush out the proper meanings of each word, bringing startling new discoveries and revelations of our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Yes! Christ is revealed in this Psalm! The New Testament references coincide beautifully with this Old Testament psalm, proving once again the oneness of Scripture.
Little One Lost
Summary: Our society has effectively silenced the cries of our littlest ones. Miscarriage is rarely mentioned, abortion is rampant and still borns are only briefly acknowledged. Every little soul has been created by God and thus bears His image. Every death, including the loss of our little ones, deserves acknowledgement and an appropriate time of grief. The loss of little ones is personified by the inclusion of personal stories of parents who have experienced the pain and grief through the death of their children. Mathes goes on to offer comfort to parents by enlarging God's covenant promises which are sure in Christ. Godly parents do grieve, but they do not grieve without hope, for He who creates also holds the power to keep and preserve.
Personal Thoughts: I was surprised at the thoroughness of this topic. At the outset I expected to read about miscarriage and still borns. Yes, these topic were wonderfully expounded, but so was abortion, infertility and adoption. And that's exactly what the author intended to do--to bring awareness to the many types of loss parents experience. I love how she pointed out that entire families grieve the loss of a little one, not just the mother. Part 6 is probably the most powerful section in the book which is entitled 'Healing our Pain.' Included in the final part of the book is chapter 26 which talks about compassionate care; there's a chapter that ought to be reprinted in many a church article and bulletin. Do you know how to comfort those who are grieving the loss of an infant? Do you know the words to offer that will begin a process of healing? Tolle lege--pick up and read!
Quote: "The littlest lambs are not lost. The Good Shepherd gathers them in His arms and gently leads their parents beside peaceful still waters into hopeful green pastures. Christians should not be afraid to call a baby a baby. Let's recognize that a child at any point in the pregnancy is a creation of God. Let's not fall prey to a pro-abortion mindset that minimizes pre-term loss. Let's reach out to dads, siblings and grandparents as well as moms in acknowledging their losses. Let's continue ministering to our hurting sisters and brothers long after the initial pain. And let's humbly realize the reason why God, in His infinite wisdom, chooses to end a life before it really begins is beyond our finite understanding." --pg, 133,134
The Only Depressed Christian
Summary: Depression slowly, yet relentlessly, strangles the quality of life out of its victims. It creeps up so stealthily, never revealing itself, never giving an introduction. It takes and takes; leaving nothing but darkness, confusion, exhaustion and despair. Depression sunk its deep fangs into Andrew. Regardless of how hard Andrew fought using the tools he had--masks, distractions, relationships, new settings, marriage, counselling, advice and even the church, the black dog would not yield. He persistently robbed Andrew of his home, his marriage, his work, his speech and even his life. There was no relief. No escape. This man has a story to tell. It's an important story that teaches us what happens when we as individuals and a society ignore mental illness. Depression knows no bounds. It knows no gender nor race. Are you ready to face the black dog if he comes?
Personal Thoughts: First and foremost I want to point out that Andrew is a Christian. He believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and clings to the Word of God. He would not be here today if that were not the case. Yes, Christians get depressed too! It takes a lot of courage for a Christian to write their own story about their battle with mental illness, and I deeply respect Andrew for it. This book gripped me so completely that I read it in a single sitting--I could not pull myself away. I appreciated that he stressed the fact that becoming a Christian won't cause your problems to vanish. I also deeply appreciated that he often uses the scriptures to back himself up. It is a sad truth that often Christians--even mature ones--can respond so unfeelingly towards the broken.
Andrew's story is climactic in nature. As the disease continues unabated, he honestly shares the immense toll it takes on his body and mind,steadily destroying his life...and I quote," Depressed people ask God's help for the littlest things most people never think of--like climbing a set of stairs or crossing a parking lot. These things can become uncontrollably difficult." Andrew, I think you've done an incredible job at giving the world an intensely personal look into the life of a depressed individual. You've allowed us to walk with you and to read your thoughts while struck with debilitating depression. I hope many read your story.
Quote: "The brain is an organ and it cannot function properly if it is damaged or affected by an illness. When someone has a mental illness they need to receive the same level of medical attention as others with non-mental related issues. Many are still in denial about the reality of mental illness and don't acknowledge how much it can destroy people's health and lives."
In the Land of Blue Burqas
Kate McCord (pseudonym)
Summary: It's amazing what kind of discussions one can have over a cup of tea. In this book the author travels to Afghanistan to start a non-governmental organization with the goal of helping Afghan women. Over tea, our author slowly introduces the Honorable Jesus and His ways in real life situations that these Afghani women face every day. Combatting aggressive stereotyping against western ideas and promoting forgiveness, love care and generosity is a herculean task in a war torn country, full of pain, revenge, suppression, fear and tradition. But despite the odds, God is at work in the hearts of the Afghanistan people. Watch as faith begins to grow. Learn of Afghan tradition, worldview and culture. Recognize that God's love can shine anywhere. And it all starts over a cup of tea.
Personal Thoughts: The entire strength of this book lies in the last chapter--but you have to read the whole book to build a proper understanding and love for the Afghani people before you understand the punch line. Simple, quick answers are seldom the correct ones. Often we have much of our information wrong when it comes to understanding the people in the Middle East. We look at them and judge their hearts and circumstances through our western ideological glasses. If this book has taught me anything, it is that when people are willing to listen to one another, understanding and friendship can grow. If we can drop our biased opinions, don a burqa, learn the language and sit down with these people over a cup of tea, special conversations can take place. If we can learn the learn the Afghani's worldview, we can also learn how to share our biblical worldview in a way that might be effective. Afghanis have seen the practicality in biblical thinking. They are willing to listen. The gospel can be shared in the Middle East--all over a cup of tea.
Quote: "We foreign aid workers, doctors and educators who move into their communities shatter the stereotypes many Afghans have been taught to believe. We non-Muslims are supposed to be evil, and yet we cradle their dying children in our arms. We make arrangements for their sick to get medical care. We feed their widows and orphans. We give blankets against the cold, and in hundreds of other ways we demonstrate a different way to live. We tell a different story.
If, instead of loving my neighbours, I had brought lies, deceptions, corruption and immorality, I wouldn't have been considered a threat. I would have been held up as an example of what's evil and wrong in the world. But when I told Afghan Muslim people that God is good and God loves them, when I told them God forgives us and invites us to forgive others, when I told them God's kingdom was made for us and we were made for God's kingdom, and my stories resonated in their hearts, worldviews did change, attitudes shifted and new actions followed. --Pg. 302
How to Memorize Scripture Quickly and Easily
Summary: Bible memorization is a lost skill and sadly is often viewed as a tedious and difficult task. With this in mind, Friedman offers a delightfully refreshing perspective in his new book on bible memorization. He wisely takes his time convincing the reader of the importance of storing God's Word in the mind and heart, and he does so in a tone that exudes kind encouragement. He wants the reader to find joy and success in his/her efforts! But thankfully he does not stop there. Recognizing that people learn differently, Freidman moves on to tackle the three different learning styles--offering his readers a short questionnaire to help his readers best discover their own learning style. And this is where the book gets incredibly practical. Based on these learning styles Freidman offers great practical memorization strategies for those who learn best through visual, auditory or kinesthetic techniques. With some effort and a positive attitude, your memorization goals are possible to achieve!
Personal Thoughts: First of all, I love how Freidaman writes. He's positive and encouraging and very God-centered. His book has such a natural flow that keeps the reader engaged and interested. I love how he quotes both Old and New Testament. This shows a real depth to his own faith life and highlights the beautiful oneness of Scripture. I certainly learned a few things and am looking forward to implementing them in my own study of Scripture. I am also looking forward to using some of the techniques that I've learned in this book to help my children learn their Bible memory work for school and church classes. His abundant use of personal pronouns makes the book especially unique. All in all, I highly recommend this book. It is an immensely practical book that will aid you in enhancing your spiritual life for many, many years.
Quote: "It is important to note that memorizing the Bible is not an end in itself. Just learning something by heart will not necessarily bring you closer to an understanding of how our Father wishes us to live. Memorization will only truly serve you on your spiritual journey if it is done with the intention of intimately understanding the Word."
Beholding the Glory of the Lord
Jos Douma-translated by Dick Moes
Summary: Pondering the glory of God is an awesome, weighty exercise that requires eyes that have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit. No one can truly see or experience the mighty God and remain unaffected. Indeed, what splendour! But so often we become dull and unaffected in spiritual matters. We allow a veil to fall over our eyes which often effectively hinders that glory from penetrating into our souls. Is Christ precious to you? Do you see the beauty in a bleeding Savior? Does your heart swell at the thought of Him praying for you and advocating for you in heaven? In order to show us the glorious Savior, Douma pulls glittering, priceless gems out of this rather obscure passage--2 Corinthins 3:18. Anyone, yes I say anyone, can get a glimpse of this glory--from the greatest theologian to the simplest pew sitter. Do you want to experience real lasting change? Then look to the Lord. Recognize His beauty. Delve into the Word and ask the Holy Spirit to lift that veil. If you keep looking at this world you will be conformed. But when you look to Christ be ready to be transformed.
Personal Thoughts: One of the greatest strengths of this book is its use of personal pronouns. Reading words like 'I, me and my' immediately personalizes the content in the book. 'What causes me to lose sight of His glory? ...the more I enjoy the beauty of Jesus, the more I will change.'
Douma has just an excellent analogy using a plant as an example of a Christian's steady growth under the correct conditions. I don't think I will ever forget that word picture that he painted. It's on page 49 for those of you whose interest has just been piqued.
Douma's tone is fatherly. He wants to share something very special with us--something that has affected him deeply. He is in love with the revelation of God's glory, and he wants us to share that same love.
Also of important mention: the book has a very obvious division that can be startling to an unsuspecting reader. The first 3 chapters are theological in nature--essentially the reader is poring over 3 incredibly well articulated sermons. Then comes the second part where the book takes a very sudden and abrupt turn in the writing style with 40 short, practical devotions. Now, there's nothing wrong with the content at all. Not at all, but unfortunately after reading a thorough exposition on the glory of God in the three previous chapters, the devotionals seem a little simplistic. However, I do believe that in order to benefit most from these 40 selections, they should be read and digested slowly with perhaps one or two read in a day. This would be the best way to impress each of the topics in the mind and avoid reading them quickly or carelessly. The longer one can daily pore over a book, the longer its contents will be embedded in the mind.
Quote: "You see, it's possible to hear the gospel and to intellectually accept it, but yet have the feeling that it's not really landing in your life." --pg. 29
Overcoming Spiritual Depression
Summary: We can be so thankful that in His Word, the Lord does not only reveal Elijah on the mountain peak of life. I Kings 19 reveals a despondent prophet who wants to die. This chapter in Scripture is the primary focus of this book. As one who himself has suffered depression and struggled terribly with the spiritual aspect of it, Elshout knows his stuff and is very open and honest about the reality of despondency. He spends a good amount of time considering the difference between physical and mental exhaustion and how events are perceived very differently between the two. He tackles the touchy subject of God's graciousness towards the suicidal. Satan's devices, lies, temptations and assaults against the depressed are clearly revealed. Best of all, all of Elshout's examples are spot on--in fact painfully accurate. Read this book if you want to understand depression through the biblical account of Elijah. Read this book to gain encouragement if you yourself are depressed. God is faithful. A bruised reed He will not break.
Personal Thoughts: Some books can only receive a genuine review when it is the target audience that does the reviewing. I read this book during a season of physical and spiritual lethargy. There may be only 104 pages in this book, but it took me over 2 weeks to read it. Such is the nature of depression. The wording in this book is so simple and easy to understand--yet it's packed with practical wisdom conveyed in a tone that says, 'I understand, I've been there too.' And that is the strength of this book.
Quote: "The Lord was also near to a lonely Elijah traveling into the wilderness--an Elijah who was tossed with tempest. Had that not been true, Elijah would have perished in the wilderness. The faithful covenant-keeping Jehovah will not leave such souls to fend for themselves who in their 'better' days feared Him, called upon His Name, submitted to His rule, and looked to Him for help. The praying High Priest in heaven also prays for them during seasons when they are neither able nor dare to pray..." --pg. 30
Gianna: Aborted and Lived to Tell About It
Jessica Shaver Renshaw
Summary: One spring day, a frightened, pregnant young woman stepped off the bus and into a building with the caption Avalon Hospital above its doors. "It's the best thing. We know, We've walked in your shoes before," she was counselled. The young woman donned a gown and awaited her turn to see the doctor. In a few hours it was supposed to all be over. But the abortion failed. Instead, a tiny, premature little girl was born, wailing. Little Gianna has grown up and is a huge advocate for life. She attends pro-life rallies, counsels other young pregnant women, appears as a guest on talk shows and makes appearances in schools. The gospel is her primary message with a plea for the unborn coming secondary.
Personal Thoughts: The real clincher to this story occurs upon the revelation of the birth mom's complete story--one you don't get to read about until near the end. This is when Planned Parenthood is exposed as the heinous organization that it is. Aside from the unborn children, how many women's lives have been destroyed by the foundation of lies this company is built upon?
Quote: "I picture the Lord's strong hand always covering me and not letting me be harmed," Gianna said of her biological mother's abortion. "Her sin nearly killed me, but my sin did kill Jesus, and I've been forgiven on the cross, so I can forgive her also." --pg 189