Join us for the next Library Book Talk from 11:00 to 12:30 on Saturday, April 1. Treat yourself to English tea and scones as Betsy van der Hoek presents one of her new favorite books, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses by the British author C.S. Lewis. This is a blessedly short book containing nine talks given by Lewis to different audiences over the years. If you’ve ever struggled to get past the “harps and clouds” image of Heaven, come find out why you need to read this book! Other topics include Christians and war, forgiveness, and what makes church membership special. It’s a tremendously uplifting book that you can come back to again and again. We’re looking forward to a glorious discussion.
Christy, by Catherine Marshall, is a novelized account of Catherine’s mother, Leonora Whitaker, as a 19-year old teacher, who travels in 1912 from her protected upbringing and loving parents in Asheville NC to a remote valley in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee only 40 miles from her home and parents. Her encounters with the residents of Cutter Gap, both with her students and their parents plus the mission supervisor and pastor, bring us a vivid view into the past of these mountain folk, but also ourselves in today’s world. As Christy struggles with learning how to teach 65 students in her one-room school house, she has to come to grips with a foreign culture, her inner person, her ideas of God and his creation, and how to respond to what she believes her life should be and will be. As we watch Christy grow in wisdom and maturity, we can see how we can best grow ourselves in our service to the community. Christy is not a book for all ages, but it is an excellent book for mature youth and adults to examine themselves and how they view the world today through the adventures of a young lady seeking God and how to do his will.
In Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy author Eric Metaxas traces the riveting story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, exploring one of the darkest episodes in human history. The rise of Nazi Germany is seen through the eyes and life of a young man who grows from a highly acclaimed, though inexperienced, academic theologian in his native Germany in 1930 to a deeply committed and involved Christian activist. In 1933 Bonhoeffer was one of the first to raise a public voice against Adolf Hitler’s persecution of the Jews. Subjected to increasing demands to stop preaching against the government and expounding his traitorous views, in 1939 Bonhoeffer went into exile in the U.S. to avoid taking an oath to Adolf Hitler, but chose to return to Germany later that year saying, “I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people... Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose but I cannot make that choice from security.” Bonhoeffer was arrested and charged with helping Jews escape persecution, among other crimes of subversion. He was imprisoned for over a year and finally executed for his perceived part in an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler in April 1945, just weeks before the surrender of Germany. He was 39.
Book Review: The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, by C.S. Lewis.
New York: Touchstone, 1996.
Covenant Library section: Christian Living
Does anyone need an excuse to read C.S. Lewis? Throughout this book, Lewis urges us to “set our hearts on things above” (Colossians 3:1). Weighing in at a mere 143 pages, is a collection of nine addresses or talks given by the famous Oxford professor around the time of World War II.
Several of these were originally given to groups of students, and the perspective he offers to young people in “Learning in War-Time” and “The Inner Ring” is still fresh. Not one to shy away from controversy, his address to a pacifist society was entitled “Why I Am Not a Pacifist.” “Transposition” challenges the idea that life in heaven is a pale imitation of earthly life; instead, it is just the other way around. “On Forgiveness” and “A Slip of the Tongue” delve into the meaning of true forgiveness and commitment to God: “He claims all, because He is love and must bless. He cannot bless us unless He has us. When we try to keep within us an area that is our own, we try to keep an area of death” (p. 141).
“Membership” is a gem, elucidating the principle of (church) membership as distinct from individualism and collectivism. As members in the body of Christ, we are far more than interchangeable units. The title essay, “The Weight of Glory,” is worth re-reading either when we feel discouraged or inclined to love the world too much. It tears away the veil of what we think we want, and points us to the only One who can satisfy us forever.
The introduction to this book should not be missed. It was written by a Kentucky scholar named Walter Hooper who served as Lewis’ secretary during the last year of Lewis’ life. He shares a number of personal anecdotes from his acquaintance with C.S. Lewis, and for a moment, you are there too.
Book Review: The Rhyme Bible Storybook for Toddlers, by L.J. Sattgast
Covenant Library section: Children
Every parent should have in his or her arsenal a variety of Bible story books to establish and maintain a daily Bible reading routine. Young children need different books from those who are older. This is one that our (Van der Hoek) family used as our children’s earliest introduction to the stories of Scripture, and we love it. It got read over and over till we knew it all by heart. The Rhyme Bible Storybook for Toddlerscontains twelve stories from the Old Testament and fourteen from the New Testament. The simple rhymes of the text are pleasing to the ear and easy for wiggly listeners or early readers to understand. Some complex stories, even the Joseph story, are admirably—and accurately—framed in concepts familiar to toddlers. For this audience, brevity is truly the soul of wit.
Of all the great rhymes in this little book, the Christmas story is one that approaches the lyrical. A talented composer could make a new carol out of it (hint, hint). The colorful and playful illustrations of Toni Goffe enhance the rhymed stories. My personal favorite is the plague of the frogs on pages 62-63. For “graduates” of this book, there is also a larger Rhyme Bible Storybook for ages 4-8 by the same author and illustrator which is not in our library collection.
Book Review: The Stories Behind the Hymns, by James McClelland
Belfast: Ambassador Productions, 1983.
Covenant Library section: Music
The way some hymns came to be written is truly amazing. Did you know that one hymn was written on a dare between two sisters? Another was inspired by a summer thunderstorm. One very famous children’s hymn was taken from a novel that has since been forgotten.
Some triumphant hymns are born of tragedy: a man whose fiancee turned him down because he was going blind; one writer struggled with depression and suicidal tendencies; others were bedridden or faced persecution and loss. What can we say of the Scottish hymn-writer who twice (years apart) was to marry, but in both cases his bride-to-be died the day before the wedding? He ended up a lonely bachelor in Ontario, Canada, where he wrote some comforting verses for his ailing mother back in Scotland. The verses got into the local paper. A copy of the paper was used to wrap a parcel that was sent to New York, the recipient saw the verses on the newspaper wrapping, sent it to a publisher, and as they say, “the rest is history.”
These hymn-writers were men and women, young and old, wood-carvers and theologians and housewives and dairy farmers. God enabled them to distill their faith and Christian walk into verse to encourage and inspire all who would come after them. In this short book, McClelland has written anecdotes about how 33 well-known hymns came to be written. It’s an easy read that will certainly deepen your appreciation of worship singing.
God’s Smuggler. Brother Andrew with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 2001.
“God’s Smuggler was required reading in the KGB. Just about every agent had a copy. We knew what you were doing.”
This statement by a KGB agent, tucked into the epilogue of the 2001 edition of this biography (originally published in 1967), is an electrifying postscript to an adventure story I just couldn’t put down. The man known as Brother Andrew was born in Holland in 1928. He recounts that he was raised in a strict Christian home but always had a yearning for mischief and adventure. As a boy he got involved in sabotage work against the German occupation. Later he joined the Dutch army, but harrowing experiences in Indonesia left him an emotional and spiritual wreck. When he came home he was converted to Christianity. Soon after that he became a freelance Bible smuggler behind the Iron Curtain. The book details how he brought Bibles and hope to Eastern European Christians. Later his travels took him to China and the Middle East.
I appreciated seeing how God used Brother Andrew’s innate thirst for adventure to enable him to do an extraordinary work. Not just anyone could have made those solitary trips in a little run-down car with suitcases full of Bibles. He combined smart strategies like changing methods every trip with total dependence on God for his funding and safety. He followed the George Muller method of fundraising, never soliciting funds, but praying for what he needed. People would then send him money out of the blue—often the exact amount he needed for a specific purpose. And instead of deceit in dealing with Communist agents, he used prayer. He said, “Looking back, I think the real answer is that the KGB could not stop us…. God made seeing eyes blind, hearing ears deaf, so His isolated people could receive encouragement.” Brother Andrew is now in his eighties and his organization, Open Doors, is still working to spread the Word all over the world.
This book is available in the Biography section of the Covenant Presbyterian Church Library.