Friday, September 19, 2014

A Light in the Wilderness, by Jane Kirkpatrick

This novel is based on a set of historical facts and does it’s best to follow the true story line. Jane Kirkpatrick does state that there are some composite character’s created (an Indian woman and her grandson) for sake of the flow of the story, but they represent a true presentation of the local Indian tribe in Oregon when settler’s arrived.

Our story is about Letitia, a black woman, who started out as a slave in Kentucky, but was given her freedom by her original owner. She then moved with that family to Missouri where she parted company with them and joined up with one Davey Carson, whom she could not legally marry because he was white and she was black.

Letitia is a true historical figure, she was born in 1818 and died in 1888. The story follows the true line of her life as it transpired and is retold by witnesses who spent time with her.

Letitia and Davey Carson had a marriage that was not legal but was consummated in vows taken before the Lord God Almighty. To them it was a true marriage. Not necessarily one born of love, but one that was born of convenience and out of a caring for each other.

Davey and Letitia leave Missouri with a wagon train headed for Oregon. The book details the life on the trail and the hardships that those travelers had to face and overcome to get through to Oregon. Not all who set out would make it.

Letitia is one of the first Free Black People to travel to Oregon and while on the trail gave birth to her and Davey’s first child, a daughter.

The story is hard to read knowing that it is true because Letitia will continually face hardship for the fact that she is black. She is never assured of having a protected life. There are two people in particular who seem to want to force her to loose everything and leave Oregon. One is Greenberry Smith who is a man who tracked down runaway slaves and sent them back to their owners. He tried to force Letitia to leave Missouri but was forced to leave her be when she produced the proper documents showing that she was a Free Woman.

But that won’t stop him when he gets to Oregon. Letitia has lost her papers on the trail and Greenberry Smith will go all out to see her stripped of all her belongings and those of the life she has made with Davey Carson.

The other person trying to send Letitia and her children out of Oregon is the son of Davey Carson. He is prejudiced against colored people and feels that Letitia took advantage of his father. How wrong he is, but others don’t seem to care.
This story is so full of injustices that you will just want to scream at the top of your lungs about how poorly people could be treated. It will cause you anger to the point of wanting to take vengeance on people like Greenberry Smith, who by the way, joined a group that was basically the Northern Oregon association of the KKK.

But what is fascinating is that Letitia Carson will be the first Free Black Woman to bring a lawsuit against a “White” man. That supposedly is against the law. But a new lawyer, Mr. Thayer, from New York has come to Oregon and he agrees to take on Letitia’s case.

The outcome is one that is not certain. The laws are all against Letitia. Will justice actually be served? If it is it will be against the laws of the land and start new laws to have to be put into place.

This story will take you on a roller coaster of emotions from joy and excitement to pain, agony, grief over the loss of loved ones and pure anguish over how poorly white people could and did treat people of color back in the 1800’s.

There are so many lessons to learn from this story. I for one never knew about Letitia Carson until I read this book. I now realize that some of our history books of American History need to be re-written to include stories of brave people like Letitia Carson.

Enjoy the read!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why Does Religion seem to Foster Violence and Bloodshed?

In a very exhaustive text Karen Armstrong chronicles Religion and the History of Violence that seems to be associated and or attracted to it. This is not just a text about The Jewish History or the Christian History, but it chronicles many other faiths and how violence seems to be attracted to religion.

She starts out with the Bible and talks about the Jewish Scapegoat system where they started sacrifices but also put the "sins" of the nation on an unblemished goat and sent it off into the wilderness to take away the sins of the people. But the other goats/bulls/doves/rams/sheep were sacrificed on the altar and their blood acted as the atonement for the sins of the people.

Also throughout the Bible you find other religions also practicing the act of sacrifice believing that blood letting was the only way to appease the Gods.

But then the violence starts to come between people/nations. One nation feels it needs to purge the earth of another nation to "cleanse" the earth of the evil of that nation and blood is spilled. God also informs the Jews that they need to purge the promised land of other cultures, thus another round of violence.

You find that many religions felt that they were the only true religion so they thought the best thing they could do was exterminate others. You find this when Kings wanted to be worshiped and they destroyed (killed) other nations that refused to worship them. Or if one culture degrades the "god" of another culture you find that they go to war to prove which god is most powerful.

Armstrong will break down the violence/history of religion and war into three main categories. As has been pointed out in other reviews she starts with the Hunter/Gatherer mindset which is the earliest human mindset. Then as cultures progressed they seemed to move into an "emotional" phase where the emotions of the people took control and brought about the violence. Finally she finds us in the third stage where man has moved into a more philosophical phase where logic and reason are trying to control how we view others. But even in this logical phase we find that logic fails us as religions feel the need to purge others off the face of the earth.

This is not a quick easy read. It is an exhaustive look at the topic and it is evident that lots of time and research went into the collecting of data and then putting it in an order that tries to bring a good treatment of the topic.

I found myself captivated by some sections and bothered by others, not because of the writing, but because of how humans can have such faulty thinking at times. It you pick this book up you are going to find that it offers lots of thought provoking insights that you will either totally agree with or maybe find you disagree and wonder how Armstrong made that evaluation of the topic.

I guarantee you that this will cause you to stop and think and give you plenty of information to talk to others about.


To Everything a Season, by Lauraine Snelling

The small town of Blessing, North Dakota, is the kind of small town most anyone would want to live in. The people are gentle, kind and caring. The work is tough, but rewarding (mostly farming). The land is rich and gives back good crops and wonderful produce.

As we enter into this small town we discover that mostly Norwegian immigrants who have come to forge a new life for their families populate it. They have left Norway behind because the cost of land was out of reach for most of them. They have found that North Dakota will offer a new chance at a good life.

Their community is one of faith. Their Lutheran roots have given them a faith in God that they cannot deny. They have discovered that through prayer, Bible reading and family traditions they have woven a bond that is strong and is not easily broken.

Something else is unusual in this small town. They have two doctors and a new hospital. That may not seem unusual until you discover that both of the doctors are women. This is somewhat unheard of in the early 1900’s. But a sister and sister-in-law are both doctors and are working together in the community they love to care for those who have medical needs.

In this first novel of the new series we are introduced to the Bjorklund and Knutson families. We will meet three generations of characters who will populate the story. Their ways are a bit different than most, and their language floats between English and Norwegian. But other than that they are families like in any other culture. The live, they love, they work and they die. The cycle of life remains the same.

In this town though there are several things happening. First a gang of bank robbers are captured and cause quite a bit of angst. One of them, just a twelve year old, will end up staying on because of an injury to his leg. He will find a family he has never really had before.

Then the hospital will have three new young nurses come from Chicago as part of a year long training program. These young women will also find a new home and a new type of family that they have not had before. One of them, Miriam, will also find Trygve Knutson, a fine young man, and she will have to decide what God intends for her and her future.

Lauraine Snelling gives us a simple story, simple characters and plenty of dialogue between characters. It is not flashy, nor is it nerve wracking or pulse stopping. It is life, and it is a simple of life.

But as you read you will find comfort, care and a longing in yourself for a simple life, one that is not complicated, but one that includes good friends, good family and a relationship with your Creator, your Lord and Savoir.

Enjoy the beginning of what you will find a simple and enduring series of books regarding a plain but wonderful town called, Blessing!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Shepherd is a healer and caregiver to his flock

One of the many tasks of a Shepherd is to provide for the medical needs of his flock. During the hot season when biting flies are a real problem the Shepherd will take each of his sheep and anoint them with an oil mixture. This mixture is to help ward off the flies that bother the sheep.

The mixture also helps to keep certain bugs from laying their eggs in the ears of the sheep and goats so that they will not have loss of hearing, or worst, infection that is so irritating that the animal will quit grazing.

Also if an animal gets injured the shepherd will clean the injury and apply ointment or gauze to it as necessary. Then also the Shepherd will make sure that the flock has a good clean water source as well as making sure they have plenty of grass to graze on.

Think now about Jesus and His ministry. He went about healing people of their sickness, or even healing blindness or paralysis, not to mention that he raised some from the dead. That shows the care and love of the Good Shepherd for His flock. His desire was to see them healthy and whole and able to serve the Kingdom well.

I especially think of the story of the woman with the bleeding disorder. She is like a sheep that knows her shepherds voice and also knows that the shepherd can bring the healing that she needs. So, she follows Christ and just works her way towards him so that she can touch his robe and thus be healed. She has faith in her Good Shepherd.

While in Kansas I had four goats on our farm. They needed to have care at times and one thing that I noticed was that they learn to trust me when I needed to care for them. They would actually stand willingly and allow me to apply ointment, or brush them, or clean their feet or ears. They learned that it was for their good. But we also learned that they didn’t let Karen do it. They liked me but not her. They knew me as their shepherd and not her.

Finally, it is interesting that my goats would at times get their heads stuck in fencing. When this happened you had to work gently with them to get their heads out. Some times they were cooperative, some times they weren’t. When they cooperated they got let loose quickly, when they fought it they got hurt and tangled even worse and learned a painful lesson.

These things remind me that as the flock that follows the Good Shepherd we need to learn His voice, learn that He cares for us physically as well as emotionally and mentally. We need to learn to follow Him because He will lead us to clean water and good grazing. We also need to learn that He will be the one who comes to rescue us when we are stuck in a bramble bush or when we are hurt.

Finally, let us also keep in mind that the Pastor is considered an under shepherd of the Good Shepherd. Thus your pastor should be the one who brings you plenty of care, healing, physical and emotional care, etc. Does your pastor know you well enough to provide for your care? Do you know your pastor well enough to trust him and allow him to care for you?

If those questions aren’t answered in the positive you need to seek ways to remedy that. Get to know your pastor better and allow him to minister to you in a way that allows you to have good growth.

(The picture is from Tim Laniak and his CD of Shepherd photos that I purchased at a Peacemaker's conference several years back)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Sheep Know the Shepherds Voice

In John 10:1-6 we have Jesus teaching his disciples and he says, “’Truly, Truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers’. This figure of speech Jesus used with the, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.”

This scripture holds a lot of truth that we in the Western world have not fully understood at times. We are living in the industrial revolution instead of living in the agrarian society those Jesus disciples and followers lived in. For them they would understand the telling of this story much better. But even then it says, “They did not understand what he was saying to them.”

If they didn’t understand when it was familiar to them then why should we think we understand it any better?

I went to Wyoming several years in a row with our College Students to work with students from the Lander Evangelical Free Church as we held a Vacation Bible School for children on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Two of the students from Lander were twin’s, Heather and Amy Birch. These girls were true country/ranch girls. They could ride horses with the best of cowboys.

But one thing they taught me was when they invited us over to their home. They had two sheep that they were raising as part of their 4H club. The girls told me to go to the fence of the pasture and try calling to the sheep. I did but the sheep just kept grazing. They didn’t even look up.

But when Heather and Amy came and hollered just one short command the sheep’s heads popped up, they turned and then started to run towards the girls. Obviously they knew their masters voice and they responded to it. Even with the girls standing right next to me the sheep would not heed my voice or commands, but the girls would whisper a short word and the sheep responded.

That is what Jesus meant when he said, “The Sheep hear his (the Shepherds) voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” The sheep respond to the master. They know whose voice to obey and respond to. The Shepherd keeps them safe and well fed.

Later in this section of scripture in verse 11 Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” Still the Disciples were not sure what he meant. Are you sure what he meant? Do you understand the story and the truth of Jesus words?

Do you know the Good Shepherd’s voice? Do you hear it well when He calls to you? Do you follow Him well when He calls and leads you out of the locked paddock area? Do you respond to the Shepherd’s voice or do you ignore it?

Let me just say that if you ignore the Good Shepherd’s voice then I have another question, “Are you sure you belong to the Good Shepherd?” Because if you did you would hear His voice and respond.

Tomorrow I will take this thought a bit further in talking about the Good Shepherd.

(The picture is from Tim Laniak and a CD that I purchased at a Peace Maker's Conference where Tim spoke.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Vinedresser's Notebook, by Judith Sutera

This short illustrated book is chalk full of good lessons for every Christian. Judith Sutera joined the Benedictine Monastery of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, KS years ago. Her primary task upon joining was to assist her mentor, Sister Jeannette Obrist, with the growing of the grapes that the Monastery has had for years.

Judith takes us on a guided tour of what it means to learn how to tend grape vines and produce the best fruit. She then takes those lessons and writes about the lessons intended for Christians to learn regarding their life with Christ and the fruit that their lives should produce.

Taking the lessons from Christ's own teaching and then taking other scripture you will find nuggets of gold within these pages to help you better understand the need for solid roots, lots of pruning, and gentle loving care of the fruit that is growing.

This is a great little book for every Christian to read and meditate on. It would also provide a great book for small group discussions and book clubs.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

ISIS, is this our next Viet Nam?

I thought that the President's message to the people last night was well written and well delivered. He addressed the issues and I believe addressed them in a good balanced way. I did appreciate his comment that even though we try to eradicate evil from the world it will always be here. Try as we must to eliminate those who perpetrate evil on others we can never eliminate it completely. Why you ask? Because man has a sin nature and that sin nature will never be gone until Jesus comes again and sets up a new heaven and a new earth.

So, while the message was good and I believe that he confronts the issue well in stating that it can not be a United States only response, it must include the Arab nations as well, it still speaks of a trap that the United States has walked into before.

What is that trap? Well, it is sending 450 advisor's to the area to help train the Iraqi Military to deal more proactively with ISIS. Think back to a little place called Viet Nam. We said we would only send "Advisor's" to that country to help train them to deal with the incursion from the North. But instead, that little bit of advising ended up with over 58,000 American Soldiers dying in a conflict that was never even called a "war."

Yes, Viet Nam started out with some air strikes and a military group of "advisor's" to help the South Vietnamese deal with their conflict. But it didn't stop there.

So, I must ask, "Is history repeating itself?" We hear all the time from those who teach our children that history has a way of repeating itself. I am concerned that this will escalate to a point where history repeats itself and we end up sending more and more advisor's to the region and they end up involved in ground combat.

Even the "advisor's" will tell you that when the shooting starts, if you are in the way, you grab your gun and return fire, it's a self-preservation thing as well as what you have been trained to do. I do not fault our "advisor's" for fighting, they must do what must be done. I just wonder if we are moving towards another foreign incursion that will draw us in and cause us to loose many good young people in combat.

With that said, I must also say, I think it is right for us to get involved. I think it is proper for us to see the evil and want to respond. I believe that we have an obligation to help when there is a bully in the neighborhood that is starting to kill innocent people.

Let's just not be blind to what the eventually outcome will mean.

Please pray for our President and our government officials who have to make these difficult decisions. Please also pray for our Military who will be put in harms way to help stop the evil that is calling itself ISIS.