Saturday, December 19, 2020

Book Review: Raising a Rare Girl

Raising a Rare Girl: A Memoir by Heather Lanier

 As do all pregnant mothers, Heather Lanier expected the perfect baby. But Fiona Soen Ray was born with the rare Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. In this memoir Lanier shares the raw emotional turmoil and sheer exhaustion she has experienced raising this “rare girl.”

 This is a beautifully written, honest memoir, and after reading it you will never again think of another person as “disabled,” “handicapped” or even “mentally challenged.” Lanier takes you along on a journey through the years to discover who Fiona really is.

 Although her husband, Justin, is an Episcopal priest, Lanier finds it inconceivable to imagine one man could redeem us from sin. But she certainly exhibits all the qualities of a Christ-like mother with her sacrificial love, dedication and faithfulness to the task of raising Fiona.

 I highly recommend this book because it shows the anguish that any mother would experience as she tirelessly cares for a child she loves yet sometimes finds some caregivers dismissive and even critical of her concerns. 

This is My Story . . . This is My Song

             A Christmas party changed my life. Many years ago, I pondered whether the activities at a party I had attended that night honored Christ. I concluded, they did not. And I decided then and there that I wanted to do better.

            Bill went to bed when we got home, but I lingered in the glow of the Christmas tree. And that night I told God I wanted Christ to be Lord of my life. And God gave me the best gift of all. His peace.

            Don’t get me wrong. I had grown up in a Christian home. My parents prayed with us and took us to church—faithfully! I had gone through confirmation, and I took seriously the profession I made before the congregation that I believed in Jesus as my Savior. And I did. As much as my teenage mind could comprehend. But I couldn’t quite comprehend why Jesus had to suffer and die. Couldn’t God have worked out our salvation some other way?

            Now I was an adult, 30 years old, and I felt I needed to take my faith to a deeper level. I finally had come to understand that God is perfect and no imperfection can come into His Presence. I knew I was not perfect. I needed a Savior. An Advocate. So I told the Lord that I accepted Jesus as my Savior. And it was as though a Hand slipped into the glove of my life. That’s how I once heard the experience described by Max Lucado. And it certainly was true for me.

            That Hand is the Holy Spirit, and He immediately began pointing out to me areas of my life that needed some work. For instance, (although I hate to admit this) when I was unhappy with Bill I gave him the silent treatment. It didn’t matter if I tossed and turned a whole night from being in a snit. I held out as long as I could.

            But after that Christmas, we disagreed about something. I no longer remember what. But I knew—I knew—it would be wrong to give Bill the silent treatment. However, I wasn’t ready to talk. So I went to the kitchen and baked a cake.

            In those days you started from “scratch,” so I had to measure the flour and the sugar, etc. By the time I had the cake in the oven, I was ready to go to Bill and say “Can we talk.”

            I won’t say we never again had a spat (fortunately, Bill loves to eat cake!), but I never again tossed and turned a whole night because I was too stubborn to talk. That’s just one example of how the Spirit works. He gives you a sensitive conscience.

            He also gives you a desire to learn and grow as a Christian. I’m 80, and I’m still reading my Bible and looking things up and praying and applying God’s teachings to my life. There’s always more to learn.      If I dare to think I know it all, something pops up that reminds me I’m not as good as I thought I was. Just like that, the Lord hands me another issue with which to grabble.

            God also gives you a desire to serve that’s just right for your age and stage. Right now my service consists of posting daily devotional thoughts on Friends of the Heart and my personal Facebook pages. “Tune in” daily if you want to follow my journey of reading through the Bible.

            So what about you? Have you allowed God to be the Hand in the glove of your life? Or are you holding Him at arm’s length? Are you worried He might require you to deal with an issue you’ve struggled with? Might require you to go to Africa? (I did worry about that a bit.)

            Well, do not fear. God loves us as a mother loves her baby. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15 NIV). God nurtures us and wants what’s best for us. He never requires something of us that He does not give us a real heart’s desire to do.

            So sit by your Christmas tree tonight. By the twinkling lights, search your soul. Ponder your relationship. Maybe you need to ask forgiveness. Maybe you need to commit to learning more about God in the upcoming year. Maybe you need to ponder what Christ has done for you. No matter how near or how far you feel, take a step toward that Christ lying in the manger. And God will surely offer you the best gift of all: His peace. For now and for all eternity.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Book Review: What Good is God? In Search of a Faith That Matters by Philip Yancey

Philip Yancey looks at the least likely situations and places to find God—campus massacres, revolutions, the Middle East, to name just a few. And he comes away amazed at not only finding God but finding his faith strengthened.

For instance in communism’s fierce opposition to the gospel, Yancey finds the church grows. And he offers interesting statistics. According to human rights organizations, more Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all the rest of history combined.

Yancey credits the moral foundation for the success of the western world and warns against taking it for granted. “Christianity can be good for a society. But as that society achieves a level of comfort and prosperity, its citizens feel less need for religious faith. They live off the moral capital of the past. Meanwhile God moves on, to a place that senses more need.”

The author’s background raised serious questions about Christianity. He noted the churches of his youth paid scant attention to the evils of racism and injustice. So as Yancey matured and became a journalist, he went on a search to find a faith that matters.

In Bible schools, he learned discipline and commitment, but as he spoke with people including addicts and prostitutes, he recognized the power of God to overcome evil. Yancey also studied the life of C. S. Lewis, a British writer and lay theologian, who became a changed man and after his conversion. From Lewis, Yancey better understood there are no ordinary people. Lewis saw the image of God in every person.

I appreciate Yancey’s honesty and his thorough research. No matter your level of Christian maturity, his writing is insightful regarding the challenging life of the 21st century.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Book Review: Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church


An eclectic group of people influenced the faith development of popular Christian writer Philip Yancey, and in this book he introduces them to us. Some, such as Henri Nouwen, are well-known Christians while others, such as Mahatma Gandhi, rejected Christianity as farfetched since it is based one man, Christ Jesus. Yet all caused Yancey to pause and consider the claims of the faith.

For instance Martin Luther King Jr. impressed Yancey with his insistence on peaceful demonstrations to stand for what’s right. Dr. Paul Brand impressed Yancey by seeing pain as a symptom to be dealt with rather than something to be shunned and ignored. Robert Coles, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are two more of a total of 13 whose stories are told on these pages.

I appreciated hearing the stories of these influential people since I had not read books on any of them. Yancey shares interesting details he discovered doing thorough research. And he shares just a bit of his own story of growing up in a legalistic church that stymied his Christian growth with a myriad of rules.

Some of the profiles included more details than I would have needed, but I’m glad I read the book. I came away enriched and encouraged by the stories of a dozen men and one woman, Annie Dillard.