December 17, 2013

Laddie by Robyn Henrie

            As I read Laddie, I noticed several themes throughout the book.
            The first theme was nature. Little Sister goes in to much detail in some parts of the book describing her natural surroundings, how comfortable she is within that environment, and how she adores God’s creations. I found it interesting that her pets and playmates were a blue jay and two chickens.
            In a couple of places in the book, Mother and Father either explain to their children or are looking over their property. They reflect on the beauty as well as the many uses they have gained from  their property. As an example, the fruit trees they have planted provide food in the fall, as well as beautiful blossoms in the spring.
            The second theme was education, but more importantly, how and where this education was acquired. Little Sister had a fairly vast amount of knowledge for a six or eight year old. Her father taught her all about nature as they walked and worked together around their property. It sounds like she had a large amount of time to freely roam the property. She learned to find answers to her questions from Father, and in the books their family owned. Formal education didn’t suit her; she wanted to be outside. She learned her lessons in the top of the granary.
            Father was well-read through the books and agricultural magazines he read every evening. Mother gained her education at the same time her older children were learning and going to school. Father knew Mother had very little time for studying, and read to her and discussed with her while she worked. Most evenings were spent with the children memorizing and then reciting their lessons to Father. I share Laddie’s opinion that you never ‘finish’ your education. You are learning all the time until you die.
            In addition to school knowledge, each child had a list of skills to learn according to their gender before getting married. Mother made sure each of her daughters could care for a home, and tested those skills as she took a vacation for one month. Father made sure each son could do all the work necessary for running a farm, and left them in charge for a period of time.
            The next theme was moral character. There are plenty of examples of hard work, compassion, and conviction. The parents did their best not to judge those neighbors who worked hard. However, they made their opinions known to their children of community members who didn’t work and lived off the sympathies and guilt of their neighbors. Mother showed compassion by living the principle of doing unto others when she took in travelers just as she and Father had been taken in when they first arrived in the community. Laddie showed his conviction to be true to himself in choosing farming as his profession instead of a lawyer, as the Princess desired. Your profession does not define who you are.
            The last theme was relationships with other people and also the animals. The most prominent relationship is between Laddie and Little Sister. He loved her from the day she was born. He helped her in her learning. He confided secrets to her. They had a special bond.
            Little Sister was very observant of her siblings, and knew how to interact with each of them. She mentions that Leon had a different personality, and she was the only one who understood him.
            Whereas some members of the community avoided interactions with other individuals and families, the Stantons were friendly with neighbors, regardless of status. Laddie went the extra mile to work his way into the social graces of Mr. Pryor, so he could date Pamela. My favorite example of relationships is between Laddie and Mr. Pryor’s dogs, much to the surprise of Mr. Pryor.
            This family was very religious. The parents had a personal relationship with God. Little Sister tells of the time Leon went after the ‘Even So’ traveler. She would hear her parents pray for Leon and said it sounded like God was in the room with them. Because of this relationship, Father was not afraid to tell Mr. Pryor that his opinion God was a myth was offensive and not to repeat it in his home, even though Mr. Pryor became very angry.

            Although there are more themes in this book, I focused on education, nature, moral character, and relationships.

December 16, 2013

The Hiding Place by Kami Hymas

The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom is one of those books that I have to read every few years.  It is chalked full of beauty and truth.  It is the story of ordinary Christian women living as much like the savior as any two people can.  I read this book over and over because it has real life examples of how I want to live my life.  The things that I am not brave enough or good enough to do, Corrie and Betsie did.  I would hope that I could be that brave, that faithful and that full of Christ’s love.  There are many themes in the Hiding Place, but I would like to discuss only three.

First is the theme of Love.  The power of God's love can transform any person or situation and we see this over and over in the book.  When Corrie loses Karel, her father teaches her that God can transform her love.  "Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us the perfect way."  This is then exemplified in her own life years later when she is able to pray for Karel and his wife during the war, “Bless Karel, Lord Jesus," I murmured under my breath.  "And bless her.  Keep them close to one another and to You."  And that was a prayer, I knew for sure, that could not have sprung unaided from Corrie ten Boom. “
And again when her mother is paralyzed and can no longer love in the old way.

Mama's love had always been the kind that acted itself out with soup pot and sewing basket.  But now that these things were taken away, the love seemed as whole as before.  She sat in her chair at the window and loved us.  She loved the people she saw in the street-and beyond: her love took in the city, the land of Holland, the world.  And so I learned that love is larger than the walls which shut it in.

It took great love to hide the Jews in their home.  It also took great courage, but their courage came from their love of Christ.  They were able to risk their lives to save others because they loved Christ more than themselves.  They put the needs of others before their own.  That is Christ like love.
Betsie especially had an amazing ability to love unconditionally and to see the human need in even her enemies.  When they enter Ravensbrook, she sees the guards in a way that Corrie does not. "These young women.  That girl back at the bunkers.  Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love!  We must find the way, you and I, no matter how long it takes…"  Where Corrie "saw a gray uniform and a visored hat; Betsie saw a wounded human being."

I love watching Corrie fight with her natural man and win as she struggles within herself to forgive John Vogel, the man who betrayed their family.  But the ultimate example of the power of Christ's love is when Corrie meets one of her captors after the war.

His hand was thrust out to mine.  And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.  Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them.  Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more?  Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened.  From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His.  When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.

The scripture says, With God, nothing is impossible.  But I would add, with God's love, nothing is impossible.  If we are filled with Charity, we can endure any hardship or situation.  Corrie and Betsy transformed their barracks into havens of peace where the spirit could dwell, even amidst the squalor, through God's word and his love.  They found meaning and purpose in the worst conditions imaginable and great good came from it.  Certainly we can and should do the same in our own homes, in our church and in our communities.

Another prominent theme in the book was trust in God.  In all things the Ten Booms put their trust in God.  They believed he was at the helm and would conquer all.  They were humbly willing to follow his plan and looked at everything that happened as God's will.  Their courage was emboldened because of that faith.  They were willing to risk their lives because they believed whatever happened was God's will.  When the war was about to come to Holland, Father said, "Oh my dears I am sorry for all Dutchmen now who do not know the power of God.  For we will be beaten.  But He will not."  That is a perspective that would help in so many everyday situations, not just in war.  If we have the overall view that God will prevail and his kingdom will prevail then the evils of the world and the hardships we encounter can be endured so much easier.

The night the bombing starts when Corrie tells Betsie about her dream, she says "If God has shown us bad times ahead, it's enough for me that He knows about them.  That's why He sometimes shows us things, you know-to tell us that this too is in His hands." Betsie exhibits this faith again the night that Corrie gets cut by the shrapnel on her pillow.  "Betsie, if I hadn't heard you in the kitchen------"
But Betsie put a finger on Corrie's mouth and says, "Don't say it, Corrie!  There are no 'if's in God's world.  And no places that are safer than other places.  The center of His will is our only safety--O Corrie, let us pray that we always know it!"   Honestly, I am torn about this idea.  Part of me wants to believe as they do and I think in the church today many do believe this way. I think I do too to some extent.  We believe that whatever happens is God's will.  That every trial we have is God's will, that if someone dies it is his will, that if there are people living in the world in horrible situations and conditions that it is God's will.  That concept can certainly bring comfort during hard trials. But where in the scriptures does it say that?  Where in the writings of the living prophets does it say that?  Does God really control everything?  What about free agency?   We live in a fallen world.  A fallen world where people choose evil.  Where people get sick and die.  Isn't our job to do the very best we can to know God's will and to do it?  And to endure the trials that come from living in a fallen world?  And to seek comfort and find purpose through the Holy Ghost and through trying to do God's will? Not necessarily that everything that happens in life IS God's will.   I'm not sure how I feel about this idea and I'm sure many would strongly disagree with me.  But I'm just putting it out there as a discussion point, as food for thought.  I’m not necessarily challenging the concept fully.  I would need to do more study for that.  

The last theme I want to discuss is the Ten Booms ability to be grateful in all situations and the perspective it gave them to endure.  Some of the most poignant parts of this book came when they were showing gratitude.  As Corrie and Betsie were forced to strip down for showers, they were able to find a place to hide their bible and vitamins.  They walked back out of the bathroom with nothing on, standing in a long line of naked women and Corrie thought, "And so it was that when we were herded into that room ten minutes later we were not poor, but rich.  Rich in this new evidence of the care of Him who was God even of Ravensbruck."  It would have been so easy to focus on the bad in their situation, but they chose to feel grateful for the little they were allowed to keep, looking on it as a miracle of God's love.  How much happier we would all be if we could do that in our lives- which are not nearly as awful as Corrie and Betsie's were.  Even hours later still standing naked in line, Corrie leaned toward Betsie and said to her, "Betsie, they took His clothes too."  Remembering that the Savior suffered all for us and felt all our sorrows and pain can be immensely comforting in our times of trial-as it was for the Ten Booms. That perspective helped them and can help us to endure.
My favorite story in the whole book is the story of the fleas.  When forced to sleep on a bed covered with fleas, Betsie remembers that the bible teaches us to give thanks in ALL things.  She tries to help Corrie understand that the way to endure the hell they were in was to thank God for every little thing.

I stared at her, then around me at the dark, foul aired room.
"Such as?" I said.
"Such as being assigned here together."
I bit my lip.  "Oh yes, Lord Jesus!"
"Such as what you're holding in your hands."
I looked down at the Bible. "Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here!  Thank You for all the women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages."
"Yes," said Betsie.  "Thank you for the very crowding her.  Since we're packed so close, that many more will hear!" She looked at me expectantly.  "Corrie!" she prodded.
"Oh, all right.  Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed, suffocating crowds."
"Thank You, Betsie went on serenely, "for the fleas and for---"
The fleas!  This was too much.  "Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea."
"'Give thanks in ALL circumstances,'" It doesn't say, 'in pleasant circumstances.' Fleas are part of this place where God has put us."
And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas.  But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.

Weeks later, they discover that the reason the guards left them alone and gave them so much freedom in their barrack, freedom to teach the gospel, was because of the very fleas Corrie could hardly muster gratitude for.  There are many fleas in our own lives.  Hard things, or even just annoying things that we can be grateful for and it would change our whole outlook on life.  I know it would for me.  I have a tendency towards negativity that I want to break myself of.  I want to be grateful in all things, to see the beauty and good in all things.  When we can do that, we can conquer as Corrie and Betsie did.

As for us, from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope.  Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light.  The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God.  "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword?....Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."
I would look about us as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face.  More than conquerors….It was not a wish.  It was a fact.  We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute--poor, hated, hungry.  We are more than conquerors.  Not "we shall be."  We are!
Many classics are fictional and we will not ever be able to thank the characters in those pages for the ways in which they change our lives for the better.  But someday I will thank these two women.  I will give them a hug and thank them for the ways in which their story, their courage, their faith and their love changed me and made me better.