Chris Fabry’s Dogwood

Dogwood by Christ Fabry is set in West Virginia and told from four different points of view.

Karin is a pastor’s wife with three children. But she feels far from God. She has trouble sleeping and spends most nights in her closet with a Bible and a book of poetry. She doesn’t seem to know what the basic problem is or how to feel close to God again. An aged woman in her church, Ruby, takes an interest in her and tries to help her.

Will Hatfield is from Dogwood, but has spent the last twelve years of his life in prison for his part in an accident that killed two children. He has loved Karin since he was a teenager and plans to go back to Dogwood and win her when he gets out.

Bobby Ray is Karen’s brother, a rookie police officer, and a soon-to-be dad of his first child with his wife.

Danny Boyd is a young boy who talks to a counselor about his feeling responsible for the death of his sisters.

At first, the four different points of view are confusing, especially as some of the names of side characters are similar. I listened to the audiobook, which makes it harder to backtrack to double check names or points. But after a while, I was able to distinguish who was whom and who belonged with which character.

I was able to piece various parts of the story together as the narratives went along. I had figured out one aspect, but the main twist, revealed in the last 30-45 minutes of the story, took me by completely by surprise.

I loved some of Fabry’s phrasing here:

My constant companions were fears, not God. I convinced myself he was simply on vacation, out carrying someone else on that beach with all the footprints. My heart had shriveled, and my soul was as wrinkled.

Ruthie was the first to tell me that God hadn’t abandoned me but was drawing me deeper, calling me out of the shallows, past the abyss, and into the current of his love and mercy. Yeah, right, I thought. God hadn’t asked me if I wanted to go deeper, and thank you very much, I liked the shallows. It’s easier to play when there’s no current. In the middle you lose your footing; you lose control.

Water that’s not moving becomes stagnant. And if there’s not someone pouring into you, the pitcher gets dusty. A person is most satisfied and most useful when she is both giving and receiving. In marriage. In life. In friendship. With God too.

There were a couple of statements that bothered me, like “I’m convinced God sometimes wants to communicate outside the usual box” and “Listen to your heart.”

And I didn’t like couple of scenes with a teen couple swimming in their underwear and mention of women displaying cleavages for Will to see.

But the overall story was very good. Chris tells some of his thoughts in writing the novel here. This is the first of a trilogy. I had already read June Bug, the sequel, a few years ago. I probably won’t read the last one, though, about an angel’s assignment in Dogwood.

Tidewater Inn

In Tidewater Inn by Colleen Coble, Libby Hollander is an architectural historian. She and her business partner, Nicole, convince investors to let them restore old buildings.

While Libby checks out one house, Nicole visits a property on the Outer Banks. But what she discovers stuns both of them. Libby had been told her father died when she was five. However, he had been living on Hope Island all this time, remarried, had two more children, and left his Tidewater Inn to Libby when he passed away a year before.

Libby learns that her half-siblings knew about her. Even though they’ve received a sizeable cash inheritance, they’re not happy that she inherited the inn. Another investor is also interested in the Inn. Though Libby would dearly love to keep it, she doesn’t have the money to restore it. The investor wants to begin a ferry service to the island and build up some other properties, but long-time residents fear commercialization of the island.

Before Libby can even begin to delve into all this, however, Nicole is kidnapped right before her eyes—and the local sheriff thinks Libby is the prime suspect.

And a hurricane is heading toward the island.

There are different layers of mysteries tied up in the story, and a handsome Coast Guard lieutenant helps Libby untangle them.

Several years ago I had read a few of Colleen’s books about a woman named Bree and her rescue dog, Samson, and some of the rescues they were involved in. And, lo and behold, Bree and Samson turn up in this book for a bit.

I enjoyed the story, Libby’s journey, and the setting. I grew up on the Southern Texas coastline, near Padre Island, and stories set in a coastal town bring that back to me.

This is the first book in the Hope Island series, and I’ve already started the second.

Back to the Classics Challenge Wrap-Up

Karen at Books and Chocolate hosts the Back to the Classics Challenge. Books have to be 50 years old and fit within the categories chosen for the year in order to qualify. Karen draws a name from participants at the end of the year to receive a $30 gift card towards books, and the number of categories you finish determines how many entries you get.

Here are the categories I finished this year. Titles link back to my reviews. I actually finished back in June (a record for me, I think), but am just now finishing this post.

1. A 19th century classic: The Warden by Anthony Trollope
2. A 20th century classic: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
3. A classic by a woman author: Silas Marner by George Elliot (Mary Ann Evans)
4. A classic in translation: The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
5. A classic by BIPOC author: The Narrative of Sojourner Truth by Sojourner Truth and Olive Gilbert
6. A classic by a new-to-you author: Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster
7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author: Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title: Animal Farm by George Orwell
9. A children’s classic: Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
10. A humorous or satirical classic: Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction): A Room With a View by E. M. Forster
12. A classic play: Our Town by Thornton Wilder.

Karen wants us to put the number of entries we get for the prize drawing based on the number of categories completed. I have three entries because I completed all twelve categories.

Karen also wants us to put our contact email here: barbarah06 (at) gmail (dot) com.

Once again, I very much enjoyed this challenge. Some of the books were cozy; some were challenging. All stimulated thinking in one form or another. That they still speak and still provoke thought and discussion after to so long a time is, I suppose, what makes them classics.

Be Dynamic: Experience the Power of God’s People

Warren Wiersbe has divided his commentary of Acts into two books, the first of which is Be Dynamic (Acts 1-12): Experience the Power of God’s People.

Wiersbe has commented on longer books than Acts in one volume. But I think he must have divided his notes on this book of the Bible because it is such a pivotal book.

Acts was written by Luke as a sequel to the gospel bearing his name. Both books are addressed to Theophilus.

At the beginning of Acts, Jesus had already died, been buried, and been resurrected. He spent 40 days teaching His disciples, then He ascended back to heaven. The last thing He told His disciples to do was to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the end of the earth. He promised the power of His Holy Spirit would enable them to accomplish this task. The book of Acts tells the story of how that witness spread.

Perhaps another reason Wiersbe divided this commentary in two is that Peter is the main character in the first twelve chapters. Then the focus shifts to Paul.

Yet a third possible reason: there were so many changes over the course of Acts, some of which are confusing to people to this day. For one, Jesus’s ministry had been primarily to Jews, though He ministered to Samaritans and Gentiles as well. But when God used Peter to open the doors of the gospel to Samaritans and Gentiles (which most believe is what is meant by his being given the keys of the kingdom), many disciples were confused. But they couldn’t argue with the definite way God had led. Then came the whole question of what part the OT law had in the life of a NT disciple. They had to meet together and hammer out these issues, which some of the epistles go into further.

Another change was the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, as promised by Jesus in Acts 1:4-5 and 8. In the OT, the Spirit came upon certain people at certain times for specific tasks. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to inhabit every believer all the time.

The filling of the Spirit has to do with power for witness and service (Acts 1: 8). We are not exhorted to be baptized by the Spirit, for this is something God does once and for all when we trust His Son. But we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5: 18), for we need His power constantly if we are to serve God effectively. At Pentecost, the Christians were filled with the Spirit and experienced the baptism of the Spirit, but after that, they experienced many fillings (Acts 4: 8, 31; 9: 17; 13: 9) but no more baptisms (p. 35-36).

Another controversy has to do with Acts 2:44-45: “ And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Some have said that this is a form of Communism. Wiersbe says it is not, because “the program was totally voluntary, temporary (Acts 11:27-30), and motivated by love” (p. 43).

One striking feature of this era is that the church took persecution for granted as part of life.

They did not pray to have their circumstances changed or their enemies put out of office. Rather, they asked God to empower them to make the best use of their circumstances and to accomplish what He had already determined (Acts 4: 28). This was not “fatalism” but faith in the Lord of history who has a perfect plan and is always victorious. They asked for divine enablement, not escape, and God gave them the power that they needed (p. 68).

In one of my favorite chapters in Acts, chapter 12, Peter is delivered from prison and goes to the home of Mary, where the disciples were praying. If you remember the story, Rhoda comes to the door and is so astonished to hear Peter that she forgets to open it. She runs back in to tell everyone, and no one believes her. Almost every sermon or lesson I’ve heard from this chapter ridicules the disciples for praying without faith. Here they were praying for Peter, yet they couldn’t believe God had set him free. Even Wiersbe takes this view.

But Dr. Layton Talbert (one of our former Sunday School teachers), in his book Not By Chance: Learning to Trust a Sovereign God, brings up a different viewpoint. We don’t know that they were praying for Peter’s deliverance from prison. Dr. Talbert points out that the text doesn’t say. James was killed by Herod earlier in the chapter: since he was not delivered they may not have expected Peter to be, either. “The only precedent we have for the church’s prayer under similar circumstances is in Acts 4:23-30. There, in the face of recent imprisonment, persecution, and renewed threats, the church made only one request. And it wasn’t for deliverance from prison or persecution; it was for boldness in the face of both (4:29)” (p. 203).

A few more quotes from Wiersbe:

Repentance is not the same as “doing penance,” as though we have to make a special sacrifice to God to prove that we are sincere. True repentance is admitting that what God says is true, and because it is true, to change our minds about our sins and about the Savior, (p. 52).

If Satan cannot defeat the church by attacks from the outside, he will get on the inside and go to work (20: 28–31) (p. 79).

God has no grandchildren. Each of us must be born into the family of God through personal faith in Jesus Christ (John 1: 11–13) (p. 108).

Luke summarizes the events up to this point in Acts 12:24: “But the word of God increased and multiplied.

As always, Dr. Wiersbe’s notes were very helpful in studying the Bible.

The Last Year of the War

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner opens with an elderly Elise Dove, who has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Elise calls her disease “Agnes” and describes her as “a sticky-fingered houseguest who is slowly and sweetly taking everything of mine for her own.”

As Elise mourns the memories she will some day lose, she thinks of a long-ago friend she met in an internment camp during WWII.

Elise was a teenager then, living like any American teenager in Iowa. One day Elise came home from school to find strangers rifling through their belongings while her German parents were seated at the table. Elise thought they were being robbed. In a way, they were. A few statements and actions of her father’s had been misinterpreted, and he was suspected of being secretly involved in Nazi activities. The whole family was eventually shipped to an internment camp in Crystal City, Texas.

There Elise met Mariko Inoue, a Japanese teen girl who sounded every bit as American as Elise. The two became friends for the eighteen months they were in the camp, and even beyond. But their families were repatriated to the parents’ home countries, and the girls lost touch for the next sixty years.

Now Elise’s housekeeper has taught her how to look people up on Google with her new iPad. Elise decides to fly out to the place where she thinks Mariko is, without telling her children about the trip or about “Agnes.”

The present-day Elise’s search is sprinkled with flashbacks of her family’s trials, time in the internment camp and then in Germany, and what happened to them after that.

I had known about internment camps, but didn’t realize German and Japanese Americans were interned together. I also thought of the camps like POW camps. But they were actually like small towns, with schools, stores, jobs, etc. However, there were also fences, barbed wire, and guards with guns.

Both the present and past narratives are compelling. Having had a mother-in-law with dementia, I was a little on edge during the older Elise’s travels, hoping she’d be okay. For that reason, the very end, the last couple of paragraphs, were disappointing. They fit in with a metaphor raised earlier in the book, but they left Elise hanging, which left me without a satisfying resolution. But the rest of the story was very good.

I’ve read Christian or inspirational fiction from Susan Meissner, but this is pretty much strictly historical fiction. The only mention of God I can recall is a passing statement. Sadly, there are a few bad words, which I was disappointed to see.

I very much enjoyed Kimberly Farr’s narration of the audiobook.

I’ve read lots of WWII fiction, but this is the first I’ve read that is partially set in an internment camp. How about you? Have you read anything about the camps?

The Good Portion

Most of us don’t get terribly excited about doctrine. We don’t rub our hands together before opening the Bible eagerly, anticipating what doctrine we’ll encounter this time. We think of doctrine as dry and dusty, full of highfalutin polysyllabic words that go over our heads.

We think doctrine is boring.

But right doctrine is our bedrock. Knowing what we believe and why comforts us and keeps us on course.

If we’re feeling insignificant, lonely, unloved, we might be inspired by an Instagram meme or a friend’s compliment—for a little while. But what truly ministers to our hearts is the foundational truths that God is with us even if we don’t “feel” Him, that He loves us even when we feel most unlovable, that we matter to Him because He created us and redeemed us.

Almost every NT book encourages right doctrine and warns against false doctrine. Doctrine determines and directs our thinking and actions.

With that in mind, Keri Folmar wrote The Good Portion: Scripture: The Doctrine of Scripture for Every Woman “to shed light on the treasure and sweetness of the sacred Scriptures. The book attempts to summarize the doctrine of the Word of God in a way that keeps the relational nature of the Bible at the forefront. After all, the Bible is God speaking to us. It is God revealing Himself with words and calling us into relationship with Him.” The title comes from the example of Mary of Bethany, who chose “the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42) by sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His teaching.

The eight chapters cover how we can know God through His Word, the Bible’s inspiration, trustworthiness, authority, clarity (ability to be understood), necessity, and sufficiency. Keri does a wonderful job keeping ” the relational nature of the Bible at the forefront.” The chapters are not “dry” at all, and each feeds into knowing God better and developing our relationship with Him.

A few of the quotes I noted in the book:

God is not silent. He has revealed Himself. He will speak to us if we will take our Bibles off the shelf and taste and see His goodness. It is through regularly hearing God speak that we can know Him and enjoy relationship with Him.

Churches want ‘customers’, so they work hard not to offend. Pretty soon the cross is bloodless, and Jesus becomes merely a good example for some to follow. It all starts with sidelining the Bible. We are told, “Let’s not put God in a box or a ‘book.”’ The Bible may remain a “participa[nt] in all our conversations,” but it loses its authority as the Word of God—all in an attempt to make Christianity more palatable to modern sensibilities. But the apostle Paul would not have agreed. He preached to pagan peoples, using the pure Word of God, declaring, ‘We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word’ (2 Cor. 4: 2). We should also refuse to tamper with God’s Word, not judging it to be obsolete, but letting it sit in judgment over us.

If we believe the Bible is universal truth, we should use it to interpret our experiences and circumstances, not the other way around.

God has communicated to us in a clear way, yet Paul tells Timothy to ‘rightly handl[e] the word of truth’ (2 Tim. 2: 15), implying that we can wrongly handle it. Our goal in reading, studying or teaching the Bible is to understand the author’s intended meaning. Hermeneutics can help us in this endeavor. Let’s look at several overarching principles or guidelines to interpreting the Bible.

Mary has chosen Jesus over completing her tasks. Mary has chosen Jesus over pleasing or impressing others with her clean house and good food. She has chosen Jesus over everything else that is tugging at her heart and her time. Mary knows what’s necessary. She wants to know Jesus.

Don’t miss the impact of this passage: Jesus was commending a woman, 2,000 years ago in the Middle East, for sitting under His teaching. He wants women to know Him and be grounded in the Scriptures. He wants women to be serious students of the Bible, studying it and hearing it taught. Godly women choose the good portion by going to Jesus in His Word. And Jesus says this good portion will not be taken away.

Keri writes as a pastor’s wife in Dubai. Her experience sharing God’s Word in another culture and dealing with people from other religions helps to illustrate the truths she shares.

This book is the first in a series of three. “This series of books on doctrine for women is an attempt to fuel your enjoyment of God by encouraging a greater knowledge of Him.” I’ve not read the others, but I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this one.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Call of a Coward

As Marcia Moston worked on laying slate stones for a patio outside her comfortable New Jersey home, a sudden thought came to mind. Her husband, Bob, was on a mission trip to Guatemala. What if he returned home saying their entire family should go back? Marcia brushed the thought off as absurd.

But two days later, that’s exactly what happened. The mission Bob had helped needed a couple to oversee a home for widows and orphans, and he felt God was calling his family to the job.

Marcia tells of her family’s experiences following God’s call in Call of a Coward: The God of Moses and the Middle-Class Housewife.

Marcia didn’t eagerly jump at the chance to go to a Central American country.

Years earlier we had pledged to follow the Lord wherever he led, but after ten years of marriage, my fervor had settled around me like a cozy comforter on a winter’s night. Zealous promises made on a beach under a starry sky lay buried under the security of paychecks and health insurance. Bob’s return from his mission trip with the conviction that we go to Guatemala unleashed a torrent of fears that shattered my tidily defined world (p. 17).

They were already heavily involved in Christian work. Guatemala was dangerous with rebel activity. What about their ten-year-old daughter, Lily?

Adamant as I was about not going, a glaring contradiction in my theology nagged me. I wondered how I could so easily believe in Someone who created the universe, parted the Red Sea, and rose from the dead, but not trust him to take care of my daughter (p. 18).

God kept working on Marcia’s heart until she finally surrendered. Then the family prepared to drive all the way from New Jersey to a Mayan village in Guatemala. Marcia tells the story of their journey, time in Guatemala, call to a small pastorate in Vermont, and the joy of leading several mission trips back to Guatemala. She writes with with both humor and conviction that God calls and works in and through His people today.

Marcia’s writing first came to my attention in columns for The Write Conversation. I enjoyed what she had to say and her style, and I loved the title of her book. So I bought it and finally read it.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

Those kicking and screaming death-throes moments when you realize you aren’t and you can’t are God’s opportunities to show you he is and he can (p. 34).

Saying grace before eating took on a whole new importance for me. A blithely spoken, “Lord, bless this food” came to mean a seriously earnest, “Kill it, purify it, and give me the grace to eat it” (p. 36).

It’s a noble thing to say you would lay down your life for a loved one. It’s quite another if you are called upon unexpectedly to share your last bit of chocolate (p. 90).

The hepatitis had left us with about as much energy as a sloth on sedatives (p. 121).

Later, I found out that my sister in New York, who had no idea where we were at the time, had woken up that same night we were in the town of the sorcerers, with an urgency to pray for us (p. 133).

The downside of a miracle is the predicament required to precipitate it. That’s also the very place where faith grows (p. 155).

Reflecting on the biblical admonition that any works not built on Christ would be burned, I imagined the glow filling the eastern horizon of heaven as my works went up in a bonfire if I didn’t stop throwing myself pity parties (p. 162).

I looked at the engrossed, saucer-eyed faces and breathed a silent prayer of thanks for being witness to this “first” in someone’s life, for the privilege of bearing words of life (p. 181).

You can find an interview with Marcia here.

I’ve always identified with Moses’s list of excuses why he couldn’t possibly answer God’s call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. And I identified with Marcia’s trepidation as well, and was encouraged by how God answered and enabled her. 

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Be Equipped: Acquiring the Tools for Spiritual Success

When we’re about to step into a new phase of life, we stop and reflect about where we’ve been so far, how we got to this place and time, and what we need to do for the future. We even do this at the end of one calendar year and the beginning of another.

So it’s not surprising that Moses and the children of Israel stopped to review their history and look ahead just before they entered Canaan, their promised land.

This was not just a moment of nostalgia, though. Israel had been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years because the previous generation balked right at this point. And Moses knew he could not go in with them: God had told him he would die beforehand. So Moses wanted both to encourage the people that God would keep all His promises to their forefathers to lead and care for them plus instruct them as to what God required of them.

The book of Deuteronomy covers these reminders and instruction. Warren Wiersbe’s Be Equipped (Deuteronomy): Acquiring the Tools for Spiritual Success shares some helpful insights on each chapter.

It’s when we forget our high calling that we descend into low living (p. 29).

The verb “to hear” is used nearly one hundred times in the book of Deuteronomy. . . . hearing the Word of God involves much more than sound waves impacting the human ear. Hearing God’s Word is a matter of focusing our whole being—mind, heart, and will—on the Lord, receiving what He says to us and obeying it. The Word of God must penetrate our hearts and become a part of our inner beings if it is to change our lives (p. 34).

“His commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:3, NKJV). Obeying the Lord becomes a joyful privilege when you realize that His commandments are expressions of His love, assurances of His strength, invitations to His blessing, opportunities to grow and bring Him glory, and occasions to enjoy His love and fellowship as we seek to please Him. God’s Word is the open door into the treasury of His grace (p. 35).

Most people find it easier to handle adversity than prosperity (see Phil. 4: 10–20), because adversity usually drives us closer to God as we seek His wisdom and help. When things are going well, we’re prone to relax our spiritual disciplines, take our blessings for granted, and forget to “praise God from whom all blessings flow.” The material things that we wait for and sacrifice for seem to mean much more to us than the gifts that fall in our laps without our help (p. 58).

In this part of his farewell address, Moses painted the people of Israel as they really were, “warts and all.” It was important for their spiritual lives that Moses do this, for one of the first steps toward maturity is accepting reality and doing something about it (p. 73).

I enjoyed and learned from our time In Deuteronomy and was helped by Wiersbe’s comments.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Her Story

Before reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Her Story by Susan Hetrtog, I didn’t know anything about Anne except that she was the wife of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh and an aviator herself as well as an author.

Anne grew up as the daughter of the US ambassador to Mexico and a very ambitious mother. Anne was quiet, sensitive, and introverted. She felt her sister, Elizabeth, was everything she should be and wasn’t.

Charles Lindbergh became famous for making the first solo non-stop flight from New York to Paris. According to Wikipedia, this flight was “widely considered a turning point in world history for the development and advancement of aviation, ushering in a new era of transportation between parts of the globe.” Lindbergh’s feat turned him into an instant American hero and Time Magazine’s first “Man of the Year.”

Anne’s father became the financial advisor to Charles Lindbergh and invited him to their compound in Mexico for Christmas one year. Anne was enamored immediately, but expected Charles would fall for her sister. Charles didn’t seem to fall for anyone, but when he started thinking about marriage, Anne came to mind.

Anne thought long and hard about marriage to Charles before accepting. They’d have to deal with a lot of public attention: Hertog quotes one source as saying public interest in Lindbergh was about like that of the Prince of Wales. Another source said only the Kennedy family was more in the public eye.

Anne thought Charles was “beautiful,” but she was well-read, and he didn’t have much interest in reading (at least the kind of books she liked). She wasn’t sure she could live with someone without sharing this aspect of herself. She was sure that she would have to sacrifice for the relationship. But in the end, she decided she couldn’t live without Charles.

He taught her to fly and to navigate, and she accompanied him on many of his flights.

My biggest impression of Anne, at least from this book, is that she was a conflicted woman most of her life. She loved flying, but she missed her children when she flew. She loved domesticity, but resented how all-consuming it was and longed to have solitude and time to write. She both loved Charles and chafed under his leadership. She didn’t embrace her early Christian upbringing, but wrestled with sin and salvation and what it all meant (yet she said, “I wasn’t searching for God” but to understand herself, p. 427). She mixed in Buddhist and theosophist tenets with Christian ones. She espoused “Christian virtues,” yet seemed to miss its grace and salvation. “She went beyond the stern precepts of her ancestors’ Calvinism; she was searching for the ‘changeless light,’ looking inside herself, trying to make peace with God” (p. 411).

Charles was very domineering and could be incredibly insensitive, wanting Anne to spend days and weeks co-piloting with him and leaving their son with others on the son’s birthday and even one Christmas.

Anne believed in submitting to and supporting her husband, but didn’t seem to realize that submission and support didn’t mean never voicing a differing opinion. Anne had always been one to acquiesce, first to her mother and then to Charles. In fact, Charles and Anne’s mother argued over what should be included in their wedding while Anne sat back and let them decide.

The couple’s firstborn son was kidnapped from their home at the age of twenty months. According to Hertog, the investigation was totally inept, with differing agencies vying to be the one to solve the case. Ransom notes were delivered and Charles even paid a ransom, but the child was never recovered. Later the baby’s body was found buried not far from their home.

The kidnapping was a wound that never healed for Anne. The media frenzy drove the Lindbergh’s to England for several years.

As events were ramping up leading to WWII, Charles took an isolationist stance. He felt the cost of human life in a war against Germany would be too great. He was more concerned about Russian communism than German fascism and felt the former would take over Europe if the latter was defeated. But, to the shock of many, Charles said in radio addresses to the American people that he agreed that white people were a superior race and Americans didn’t need to fight other white nations over an issue that was not their problem.

Anne took her submission to Charles so far that she wrote a book expounding on his views, though it was “against her instincts” and she later regretted it.

Understandably, they fell out of favor. When war did come, Charles felt he should help his country even thought he disagreed with their fighting, but had a hard time finding anyone who would accept his help.

He condemned American cruelty during war, but somehow seemed to overlook Japanese and German cruelty. After the war, “Only a trip to a concentration camp, and a tour through the rubble led by a ‘skeleton’ boy, moved him to condemn the brutality of the Germans” (p. 418). “This kind of human destruction, he wrote in his diary, was not worth the fulfillment of political ends” (p. 419).

Somehow, the Lindberghs seemed to be forgiven after the war. Anne published several books, the most famous and enduring being Gift of the Sea.

Anne’s concern about the press proved true. Their attitude seemed to be “We made you, we have a right to you.” They made up stories when information wasn’t forthcoming. They endangered the Lindberghs—once “reporters stalked Jon (their second son) on his way to school. Sideswiping the Morrows’ car, they pushed it off the road and pulled open the doors to take the boy’s picture” (p. 278). Later, Charles’ ship arrived during a photographers’ ball. “On hearing of Lindbergh’s return, the conductor stopped the music, and the men, cameras in hand, rushed to meet the Aquitania. Stampeding on board, they hammered on Lindbergh’s door. When he refused to open it, one photographer broke into the adjoining cabin, took photos, and fled” (p. 348).

The author has access to the public (edited) letters and diaries and five years of interviews with Anne. She mentions one affair Charles had that was unknown to Anne until after his death. Wikipedia reveals that he had seven children by three different German women–perhaps these were unknown as well at the time of the book’s publication. The Lindbergh’s youngest daughter, Reeve, met with her German half-siblings.

One problem with this book was that it was hard to distinguish the author’s voice from Anne’s. The author spent a lot of time explaining what Anne wrote, but it’s hard to know if this interpretation was Anne’s or the author’s. It did seem the author inserted herself in the book more than was necessary and covered some of the same themes repeatedly.

Plus, I listened to the audiobook, and it wasn’t always clear when the narrative went from the author’s words into a quotation from Anne’s writing. I do have a hardcover copy of the book as well, which includes several photos. In some ways, I probably would have gained more and understood some of the connections better if I had read the book rather than listened to it. But, as it is quite long, I felt I’d get to it sooner via audio.

So, in the end, I know a lot more about the Lindberghs but respect them a lot less. There were traits to admire in each of them. But, like all of us, they were flawed people.

Unconditional

Unconditional by Eva Marie Everson is based on a movie by the same name, which in turn was based on true events.

Samantha Crawford loves her life, living on a ranch with her beloved husband, Billy, riding her horses, and writing and sketching children’s books.

Then tragedy strikes. Billy is gunned down in an alley in a poor part of town.

Samantha loses her belief in God’s love and goodness. She doesn’t write any more.

At her lowest point, Samantha encounters a child hurt by a hit-and-run driver. Taking the child and the child’s brother to the hospital, Samantha runs into one of the children’s neighbors—her best from from school, Joe Bradford.

As Samantha reconnects with Joe, she learns he has kidney disease. But he spends his time ministering to the children in his neighborhood. He and his girlfriend, Denise, provide after-school snacks, attention, affirmation, and encouragement. But Joe’s time is running out unless he can get a kidney transplant.

Observing Joe’s simple faith and ministry, Samantha’s heart starts to warm again. But she’s also driven to find her husband’s murderer, convinced that the police have given up on the case. And she thinks she just may have found him—in Joe’s neighborhood.

I had not heard of the movie, but picked up this book on a Kindle sale because I had enjoyed some of Eva Marie Everson’s books. I didn’t know when I started reading it that it was based on a true story. “Papa Joe” Bradford started Elijah’s Heart to aid at-risk children.

Finding out the story was true made it even more heart-warming and inspirational than it already was. In an interview, Joe Bradford says about 97% of film is true to his life and the Samantha character is a composite of different friends.

The movie used to be on Netflix, but isn’t any more. However, it’s online here and on YouTube here. I enjoyed watching it last night. The book uses scenes and dialogue from the movie, but includes more information. Here’s a trailer for the film:

Have you seen or read Unconditional? If not, I hope you do.