If you had the opportunity to sit down and talk to someone on the other side of the world who has totally different religious beliefs than your own, would you do it? How about if this individual was believed to be the mastermind behind terrorist bombings that left many of your countrymen dead? Ahmad Hani Sa’id says Mark Taylor is the only journalist he is willing to give an interview to. Why is he so insistent on this particular man?
Mark is a former Marine who served in the Gulf War, during which time he formed a friendship with a Muslim young man who saved his life. Mark has often wondered what became of the young man, and suspects he may have something to do with the interview request. Tracy, Mark’s wife, begs him not to go. The CIA, on the other hand, wants him to go so that they can trail along and kill Sa’id.
Despite great trepidation, Mark accepts the assignment. The author does a powerful job of slowly building up the suspense, and doesn’t even get to the actual interview until page 273. Throughout the story, faith in Jesus is contrasted with faith in Muhammad. A faith based on love and salvation versus a faith based on violence and slavish rules. The message of the book comes through loud and clear: Jesus loves every person on earth, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist. Grace and forgiveness is offered to all, and it’s up to each person to chose who they will follow.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite things at school was to get a Scholastic book flier. (Yes, I was a book geek even then.) My parents didn’t have a lot of money, but we would pore over the selection of books, and pick something. Then there was the anticipation of that book being sent, and excitement on the day when the teacher got her class’s book order in and passed out the books.
Scholastic is still around, and this week my grandkids showed me their fliers. Now instead of one flier, there are multiple fliers – four of them this month. Wow, I said, and I was once again like a kid in a candy shop. I was surprised to see that Scholastic is now carrying a good variety of books with moral or faith-based themes. Among the fliers were:
Jesus Always: 365 Devotions For Kids
An 8-pack of Bible story books
The Berenstain Bears And The Joy Of Giving
Who Was Jesus?
The Plot To Kill Hitler (a biography about Pastor Bonhoeffer in Germany during WWII)
National Geographic Kids: Mother Teresa
Why Should I Share?
Why Should I Help?
Kindness Is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler
Pass It On (about sharing happiness)
The Kindness Value Pack
The 7 Habits Of Happy Kids Pack
Building Faith Block By Block
The Little Flowers Of Saint Francis Of Assisi
God Gave Us Angels
Five-Minute Bible Devotions
Kudos to Scholastic for expanding their selection of books for kids! This is especially important since so many walk-in bookstores have closed over the past decade. If ever there was a time that we need to be focused on living moral and giving lives, it is now.
If you grew up in an old-fashioned church, where everyone knew everyone, and there was a definite code of conduct, and keeping up your image in the community was all-important, you will identify with a lot in this book. The main character is 12-year-old Terry Anderson. He loves his parents, but thinks they are sometimes a little extreme in their faith.
Terry and his brothers are very tight, sharing a love of playing practical jokes, but also yearning to break free from the pressure to be perfect young Christian men. The Anderson family has always been poor, but things become even worse as the mother battles a debilitating disease, and the father is injured in – of all places – church.
There are three story-lines that run throughout the book – the Anderson family trying to survive bad health, Terry finding a stash of money that becomes an albatross around his neck, and a church congregation moving from an attitude of legalism to grace and forgiveness.
I absolutely loved Terry’s quirky dad, and the way he worked to keep his family together. It didn’t matter what kind of trouble his kids got into, he still loved and encouraged them. I also enjoyed the descriptions of what Terry was thinking about in church, and things that went wrong during the worship service. But most of all, I appreciated Terry’s inner struggle to do what was right when he really didn’t want to, which is something everyone likely struggles with.
This would be a good book to read for a discussion group. It’s not overly long (283 pages), and it has a good range of issues to talk about.
Yesterday I read in the news that the former president’s grandson, Jeremy, passed away unexpectedly in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Jeremy lay down after supper Saturday night, saying he wasn’t feeling well, and went to sleep. His family went to check on him later, and found him unresponsive. His heart had stopped and they rushed him to the hospital. He was revived briefly, but then his heart stopped again and could not be restarted. At only 28 years old, Jeremy’s life on earth was over.
Two things stood out to me. The first was how fragile life is. When I was in my 20’s, the thought of dying abruptly as I took a nap never occurred to me. Maybe death by car accident, as that could happen to a person of any age. But I, like everyone else my age, assumed that I would have a family, enjoy a career, pass through middle age, and move on to gray hair, arthritis, and grandchildren. But assuming something does not make it so.
The other thing that stood out to me was the way President Carter handled it. He felt the pain, but in his time of grief he went to the place where he felt loved and comforted – his church. The president has walked with his Lord all his life, and it was just the natural place for him to be. He found comfort in being with his friends, and in teaching his Sunday School class, as was his usual custom. Over the course of his lifetime, President Carter has shown himself to be a person whose heart follows God, no matter how wonderful or how terrible the circumstances. The way I see it, that is his lasting legacy. Thank you, Mr. President, for living a life that shows what you believe in your heart.
So you’ve seen the show “Duck Dynasty” on tv or DVD. It’s entertaining, but you wonder if the people on the show are different in real life. Check out “Happy, Happy, Happy” by the patriarch of the family, Phil Robertson. Throughout the book you can see his great love of nature, fishing, and hunting. Family life revolves around fish, frogs, squirrels, and ducks. Phil describes in great detail the sounds of each duck and how difficult it is to make a perfect call whistle for each one.
One story that you are sure to love is the one of Phil dealing with guys that are brazenly stealing fish right out of his nets. First he tries running them off with a shotgun, but it really doesn’t solve the problem. What finally works is amazing!
In addition to talking about fishing and hunting, Phil gives a vivid picture of his life growing up dirt poor, his marriage to Kay at a very young age, failures and successes while raising four sons, and finding faith in God. It is written in a witty, straight-forward style that folks can read easily and enjoy.