Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: Operation Paperclip


Who knew? I remember the end of World War 2 and the Nuremberg trials, but I never heard there were high-ranking men of Hitler’s regime who were brought to America and put to work in medicine and space exploration under a secret program known as Operation Paperclip. The name was chosen because a paperclip was used to code the profiles of these men, who were suspected of or proven to have committed heinous war crimes. While some Nazis were hanged for war activities, these scientists and specialists were wooed to the states and often given nice homes and salaries to keep them here, supposedly to insure they would not move to Russia to share their knowledge there.

Once in the United States, many of these men reinvented themselves as victims of the Third Reich, ordered to do what they did, rather than admit they participated in atrocities at concentration camps. Author Annie Jacobsen has included the stories of 21 of these men who worked on rockets, chemical and biological weapons, aviation and space medicine, to name just a few areas affected by their research. Wernher von Braun and Walter Dornberger were two of the more than 1600 of Hitler’s technologists who came to America. Many of them made important contributions in their fields. Some, however, may have been linked to the thalidomide tragedy in the 1950s, and some were forced to leave the country after their past became known.

Operation Paperclip tells of one man who rose to top level positions in private companies, rubbed shoulders with top brass, consulted with the military on rockets and attended many “classified” meetings. Some became lecturers in their fields, deftly avoiding questions about their background by simply saying they were cleared to come to America.

Jacobsen’s listing of “principal characters” helps readers maintain perspective. She also includes more than 100 pages of notes along with an index of people and government groups, etc. This is not a quick read, but it is an important read, for it opens our eyes to the moral implications of what has gone on behind closed doors.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Book Review: Plum Pudding Murder

If you like intriguing plots laced with subtle humor, this is the mystery for you. The protagonist, Hannah Swensen, owns a bakery, The Cookie Jar, so references to food abound, recipes included. And they look like good ones! Who wouldn’t want to try Orange Julius Cookies? How about Frosting Splatters—iced soda crackers. I don’t like to bake, but I think I can handle that one. And since Plum Pudding Murder centers on the Crazy Elf Christmas Tree Lot, the book includes favorite Christmas dinner recipes. Bring on those Scandinavian Spuds and Cranberry Sconces.

This is the first in the Hannah Swensen mysteries that I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. I’ve already picked up two more from the library. Perfect for reading while keeping one eye on a television program. Nothing too involved. Yet the characters charm and keep you turning those pages. Good to the last crumb.

The back cover lists ten other mysteries by writer Joan Fluke, so you better get started. Maybe you’d like to bake some cookies for atmosphere. And to nibble while you read.  







Monday, March 3, 2014

Lent: Addition or Subtraction?


Dear Friends,

Here I am at 6 a.m. Ready to have my quiet time with God. I’m an early riser.

Lent begins on Wednesday. Christians often give up something for 40 days to focus on God instead. But quite often our motivations are mixed: For example, we may give up desserts to focus on losing weight. Not that that’s bad, but it doesn’t advance our goal to grow spiritually during this special season.

May I suggest that this year, even if you give up something, you add something to your day? If you don’t already have one, add a devotional time. There is nothing like a focused time with God to strengthen you spiritually.

Now in case you’re not sure what to do during a devotional time, a quiet time, whatever you want to call it, this is what I do: I first read a short devotional to “preheat” my mind. I love The Upper Room, which is available online at http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2014-03-03. I am blessed as I read thoughts written by people around the world who share my faith.

Then, because I want my daily actions to be molded by God’s Word, I read a chapter or two in my Bible. Where else can you find advice that applies to your personal thought life, your public work life, your family life and your leisure time? I usually follow a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan to make sure I don’t skip the prophets. Yes, those books are tedious, but they are a valuable part of God’s word, just like vegetables are a necessary part of our diets.

Following my Bible reading, I pray. I love lists (just the nature of the beast), so I use a prayer journal. I am considering praying without my list for Lent, just to vary my routine. Whatever way you choose, take time to tell God what’s on your mind and heart. He wants to know.

Bible reading and prayer are the basic parts of my devotional time, but I also enjoy inspirational books. Right now I’m working my way through Devotional Classics edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith. This book contains 52 selected readings from the writings of great Christians, such as Augustine, E. Stanley Jones and Annie Dillard, followed by thought-provoking questions. I plan to work through one reading per week.

Yesterday I took 15 minutes to just sit before the Lord. Some days I read my Sunday school lesson or a book related to a Bible study I lead. This year I’ve signed up for “Commit to Live Fit,” a 40-day challenge offered by Susie Larson of Faith Radio: http://myfaithradio.com/2014/commit-to-live-fit-week-one/. Join me if you would like to receive a daily reminder to focus on God and fitness during Lent.

Whatever length of time works for you and whatever you do, the idea is to focus on God without distraction. I promise you that at the end of the 40 days of Lent, you’ll have established a habit you won’t want to break.

Leave a comment and share other ways you plan to deepen your faith this Lenten season. Let’s inspire each other!

Shirley Brosius

Friends of the Heart has two events this month:
March 15, 9 a.m. – Ladies Spring Brunch at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Mechanicsburg

March 29, 9 a.m. – Women’s Retreat at Patuxant Naval Air Station, Lexington Park, MD, sponsored by Patuxant Presbyterian Church. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Noticer Returns

The Noticer Returns, a novel by Andy Andrews


          I almost quit reading this book early on. New characters kept appearing, and I kept getting interrupted in my reading and confused understanding the plot. But I had already taken a few notes I wanted to remember, so I soldiered on. And am I glad I did. This may go down as one of the best books I’ve read, certainly one of the most thought provoking.
 
          Jones, whose personage is never explained, keeps turning up at strategic points in people’s lives. As they struggle with life’s challenges he helps them see things from a fresh perspective. For instance, to parents seeking advice on molding the character of their children, he points out the difference between integrity and morality. When was the last time you thought about that? To a woman refusing to visit her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, he points out what the woman is missing by keeping her distance.
 
          The subtitle “Sometimes you find perspective, and sometimes perspective finds you” tells you what author Andy Andrews is about. A great storyteller, Andrews offers a fun read sneaking in principles valuable to couples, parents, teachers, employers, employees—really anyone facing the complex issues of life. In other words, everyone!