Thursday, September 29, 2011

Christmas in September: An Angel for Christmas

An Angel for Christmas

About the Book:
Christmas has never brought out the best in the MacDougal family. Still, year after year, they gather together in the Blue Ridge Mountains to try to make the season merry and bright. But this year is an especially strained one, with Shayne's impending divorce, Morwenna's slavish devotion to work and Bobby's reluctance to face what life has to offer. They've never felt less like a family.

Then, in the midst of a snowy sibling shouting match, a mysterious stranger appears. He could be a criminal, a madman—or something far more unexpected. Despite their fears and the growing danger in the dark woods around them, the MacDougals take a leap of faith. But when another stranger arrives on the mountainside, they don't know which of them to believe. One of these men can't be trusted. And one is about to bring Christmas into their hearts.

My Comments:
Christmas, that lovely time when adult siblings gather and relive the insecurities and petty bickering of childhood, who would want to miss it?  The MacDougal siblings didn't miss it this Christmas,though each of them had reason to want to be elsewhere.  Still, as they gather, the usual battles begin until they find an injured man who claims to be a police officer who was chasing a criminal until the criminal injured him, took his clothes and left him for dead.  They take him in, but then a man appears in a uniform who says the man they have befriended is the criminal.  Of course the logical thing to do is to call the authorities, but since the phone lines are all out due to snow, they have to decide what do to.

I found the story kind of heartwarming and kind of strange.  We never learn exactly what the criminal did, but it sounds like he is more of a two-bit thief than a murderer so it seems strange that he would have attacked the officer in that way.  In a lot of ways one of the guests is like an angel and even talks about God and angels but to me it kind of fell flat.  I won't say it is a bad book, it is just one that didn't quite click for me.  Grade:  C+

This book is part of Christmas in September, a link-up of reviews of Christmas-themed books, which has prized for both readers and reviewers.  Come join us.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Christmas in September: Review of A Lawman's Christmas

A Lawman's Christmas (McKettricks, Book 14)

About the Book:
Love comes home for the holidays in a brand-new McKettrick tale from #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Linda Lael Miller.

The sudden death of the town marshal leaves Blue River, Texas, without a lawman…and twenty-five-year-old Dara Rose Nolan without a husband. As winter approaches and her meager seamstress income dwindles, she has three options. Yet she won’t give up her two young daughters, refuses to join the fallen women of the Bitter Gulch Saloon and can’t fathom condemning herself to another loveless marriage. Unfortunately she must
decide—soon—because there’s a new marshal in town, and she’s living under his roof.

With the heart of a cowboy, Clay McKettrick plans to start a ranch and finally settle down. He isn’t interested in uprooting Dara Rose and her children, but he is interested in giving her protection, friendship—and passion.
And when they say “I do” to a marriage of convenience, the temporary lawman’s Christmas wish is to make Dara Rose his permanent wife…

My Comments:
I think you either like Linda Lael Miller's books, or you don't.  They are all pretty much  alike--a rugged, handsome and sensitive  Western man (generally a rancher) meets a pretty woman.  Not very deep, no socially relevant subplots, just happily ever after with a little steam thrown in.  In this case, all the steam is in the last chapter, so if you are looking for a clean Christmas romance, just skip that chapter.  This is shorter than most of her books by about 150 pages, so keep that in mind if ordering it sight-unseen.  All that being said, the book was exactly what I expected, and I enjoyed reading it.  Grade:  B.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  I was not obligated to provide a positive review.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Bloggers Who Follow Me

Kristi writes Books and Needlepoint.  She started blogging about books at about the same time I did but she's managed to amass a greater number of followers than what I have.  I enjoy her reviews, and she's usually got a giveaway or two.

Wendi writes a book and product review blog:  Wendi's Rainy Day Reads.

Elena was one of the first bloggers I read regularly.  She writes about her family, homeschooling and her faith at My Domestic Church.

Brian writes The Armchair Theologian.  Honestly, I don't recall ever seeing his blog before today, but I'll have to start reading it.

Heartfelt, Heartlook is a Catholic blog, not updated frequently but the posts that are there are good.

Toni writes My Favorite Hound and he is cute.  She also writes A Circle of Books, which is a book blog.

The author of Slapinions follows me.  He writes about life, fatherhood, and politics.

Bingo is the queen of book giveaways.  See Bookin With Bingo if you want to win!

Caite reviews books and writes about a lot of other things too at A Lovely Shore Breeze

David is a Catholic father who used to be a regular with Sunday Snippets.  I miss reading his posts.

I'll be listing more follower's blogs on future Top Ten posts, so if you want to see your blog here, follow me.  See what other Top Ten lists people are posting over at Amanda's place.

Banned Books Week: Another Opinion



I've noticed that several bookbloggers on my list of regular reads are talking about Banned Books Week this week, so I assume someone somewhere has so named this week. Whenever I hear a brouhaha about banned books it reminds me of a "kiddie lit" (literature for children) class I took in college. The instructor struck me as the basic socially liberal college professor who did not have and probably never would have children of her own. She devoted at least one class period to discussing the evils of censorship. Shortly thereafter she was, to make a point, telling us a story about some friends of hers. The father was an art professor at the college, Mom was a SAHM before that term was coined (1981 or so) and the child was about five or six. Mom was in the school library and noticed a set of career books for young children--something along the lines of "You Can Be a _______" with different books for different careers. Of course, since they were for very young children the books were illustrated. The problem with this set was that all the doctors, lawyers, business executives and the like were men, whereas the nurses, secretaries and waitresses were women. My instructor noted with obvious approval, speaking about the mom "She got those removed from the school library". 

At that point, I asked "Isn't that censorship?" and after thinking about it for a second, like it had never occurred to her, she had to admit that it was. Unfortunately the class was not filled with students who liked to think and argue so the discussion never went any further.

Obviously no library can contain every book. Someone has to decide whether to purchase book A or book B, and once the library owns a book someone has to decide whether it has outlived its usefulness. No teacher can require that students read every book printed; she or he has to decide which book(s) the class will read. What is censorship? What is selection? Little Black Sambo was called "inappropriate" in my kiddie lit book. I don't know how many school libraries still carry it; though given that statement I was surprised to find that my local public library does have a large number of copies throughout the system. If I write a children's book about the evils of mixing with people of other races and the obvious inferiority of those of African descent, or about how horrible a person Mary's mother is because she is divorced, or how Steve has two dads, and that means his dads are horrible sinners (but that Steve still needs to love them) what is the chance that my book is going to end up in the average public library? What if I write a book about how awful the neighbors are to Tawanda and Jim who just moved in, all because she is Black and he is White? How about a book about how Susie is better off now that her mother, Mary, had the courage to leave that awful husband of hers, or about how Steve's family is different because he has two dads and no mom, but that in some ways all families are alike, because they are all made of people who love you. Somehow I think I'd find more libraries to buy the second set of books than the first, yet the ideas promoted in the first set are ideas held by at least a segment of our society.

There always seems to be an uproar when parents ask that books be removed from school libraries or from class reading lists. Those opposed to removing the book decry censorship; after all, the books were selected for a reason. As a parent (a parent BTW who prefers to guide her kids toward certain books rather than forbidding them to read others) it is my job to raise my kids. It is my job to form their faith and morals. Part of that is trying for form a culture that supports those morals. A teacher who uses and is positive about a book that supports lifestyles I consider immoral is undermining my authority--it doesn't matter whether I promote racial harmony and equality and the book you are teaching glorifies segregation and White Supremacy or whether I support segregation and White supremacy and you are teaching the kids that integration is a moral good. All too often I see those who want to limit access to certain books, or remove books from required reading lists, characterized as intellectually limited and/or overprotective. Before you rush to judge such people, consider how you would react if your children were exposed to or required to study a book that put a positive spin on something you found morally repugnant? If "Heather Has Two Mommies" is ok, is "Heather's Mom is Sexually 
Immoral" ?

Blog Tour: The Wounded Heart

The Wounded Heart: An Amish Quilt Novel

About the Book:
When a business offer turns into something more personal, Amelia is torn between what logic tells her is right, and the desire of her heart.

A widow with two small children, Amelia Beiler is struggling to make ends meet. She is running her late husband's business, but it's not what she was raised to do, which is run a home. When she gets an offer for the business from Eli Fischer, she's only too relieved to consider it-especially when it looks like Eli's interest might include more than just the shop. But when she begins to experience strange physical symptoms and is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it's difficult not to question God's will. If she pursues the treatment she believes in, she risks going under the bann. But how can she allow Eli to court her when she can't promise him a future?

Includes instructions to make the quilt block featured in the novel.

My Comments:
As a story, I enjoyed this book.  Amelia has had a hard life lately.  She's part of a culture that has clearly defined gender roles, yet she's forced to run her husband's business after he dies, in order to care for her sons.  As she adapts to that, she is stricken with Multiple Sclerosis.  She explores treatment options, deals with daily life, and struggles with conflicts between her will and what church leaders say is God's will.  Everything works  out in the end. 

I'd say one of the biggest differences between the Amish as they are portrayed in most books I read about them, and those of us in more conventional faiths, is the strong sense of group identity.  The odd clothes and the horse-drawn buggies reinforce that difference but from what I can tell, the oddities seem to be as much about maintaining the group identity as about avoiding bad things.  Otherwise, there is little sense in a rule that allows one to ride in car, but not to own or drive one.  That sense of group identity can be wonderful when it means that group members are there for you in times of crisis.  It can be a problem when what appears to be best for you is not what is best for the group.  Amelia isn't the only one who struggles with that in this book. 

Mild Spoiler:

What I didn't like about the book was that Amelia discovered she did not have MS at all; but when I Googled her problem, I learned that as described in the book, most believe it is quackery. 

This is the first of three books in a series, and in all three books, the three featured women are making a quilt.  I'm not very good at imagining such things, so I would have loved to see a photo of the quilt on the cover or even a black-line drawing of it in the book.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy of this book available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Monday Memes

Mailbox Monday is hosted this month by Amused by Books and is where book bloggers gather to share what showed up in their mailboxes this week, whether those mailboxes received email or snail mail.
Via Snail Mail:


Via NetGalley:






.

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  She asks what we read or reviewed this week and what we plan to read next week.
Read this Week:


Reviewed:  Sunrise on the Battery.


 Books Read Earlier; Reviewed last week:
You'll note that the first couple of books below are Christmas books.  This week I started a link-up to which I'd like to invite all readers and book bloggers, Christmas in September.  Bloggers are invited to add links to your reviews of Christmas books, either from this year or years past (could be a good way to get more mileage out of old posts).  Readers are invited to read the linked reviews.  Prizes are available for both readers and bloggers.  Hopefully by the end of the month Christmas in September will have a long list of Christmas-themed books for all of us to try.

My Review








For Top Ten Tuesday this week I listed the Top Ten Catholic Books I've reviewed.




Christmas In September: 1225 Christmas Tree Lane: My Review

1225 Christmas Tree Lane (Cedar Cove)

About the Book:
The people of Cedar Cove know how to celebrate Christmas. Like Grace and Olivia and everyone else, Beth Morehouse expects this Christmas to be one of her best. Her small Christmas-tree farm is prospering, her daughters and her dogs are happy and well, and her new relationship with local vet Ted Reynolds is showing plenty of romantic promise.

But...someone recently left a basket filled with puppies on her doorstep, puppies she’s determined to place in good homes. That’s complication number one. And number two is that her daughters Bailey and Sophie have invited their dad, Beth’s ex-husband, Kent, to  Cedar  Cove for  Christmas. 

The girls  have  visions  of  a  mom-and-dad reunion dancing in their heads. As always in life — and in Cedar Cove — there are surprises, too. More than one family’s going to have a puppy under the tree. More than one scheme will go awry. And more than one romance will have a happy ending!

What would the holidays be without a new Christmas story from Debbie Macomber?

My Comments:
I've been known to say that I like happy endings tied up in a bow.  In this case, Debbie Macomber gives me a big bow.  This is the final book in her long-running series about the residents of Cedar Cove and she begins the book with a letter to her readers, telling them that various couples who met throughout the course of these books do indeed live happily ever after.  Other couples get their happily ever after during the course of this book.  If you have a favorite Cedar Cove resident, I'm sure you'll enjoy the resolution to his or her story.  If you are looking for a fluffy-as-snow Christmas read, this will charm you, though if you haven't followed the series you many wonder why all these characters make appearances.  If such things are important to you, it is squeaky clean.  

At 288 pages, it is shorter than most of the Cedar Cove books, but delivers love for Christmas for more than one Cedar Cove resident.  Grade:  B.

I'd like thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  I was not  obligated to provide a positive review.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival

I'd like to welcome everyone to Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival.  We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other.  To particpate, go to your blog and create an entry titled Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival.  In it, highlight one or more of your posts from the past week that you believe would be of interest to Catholic bloggers---whether they are posts reflecting on spiritual matters or posts about antics of Catholic kids, or anything in between.  Come back here and enter the URL of that post below.  Finally, go visit other participants, and leave comments!  If you want a weekly reminder to post, join our yahoogroup.

This week continues Christmas in September, in which I'm promoting Christmas books.  It includes a contest, and one of the prizes is Kathleen Basi's Joy to the World..

This week I reviewed Sunrise on the Battery--a Christian novel about conversion, a novel I thought felt flat. I read Gabby, God's Little Angel, which was a cute kids' book and which is one of the prizes in Christmas in September.  Megan's Secret was by the father of a mentally handicapped child.  Finally, my entry for Top Ten Tuesday was a list of the 10 Best Catholic Books I've Reviewed.

What about your blogging week?


Review: The Traitor's Wife

The Traitor's Wife: A Novel

About the Book:
In the harsh wilderness of colonial Massachusetts, Martha Allen works as a servant in her cousin's household, taking charge and locking wills with everyone. Thomas Carrier labors for the family and is known both for his immense strength and size and mysterious past. The two begin a courtship that suits their independent natures, with Thomas slowly revealing the story of his part in the English Civil War. But in the rugged new world they inhabit, danger is ever present, whether it be from the assassins sent from London to kill the executioner of Charles I or the wolves-in many forms-who hunt for blood. A love story and a tale of courage,The Wolves of Andover confirms Kathleen Kent's ability to craft powerful stories of family from colonial history.

My Comments:
Have you ever read one of those books you just knew you were supposed to like?  One of those books rich on historical detail with a plot that was anything but stock?  A book with many complex characters acting out of varying and sometimes conflicting motivations?  A "good" book of the type you could imagine discussing at a book group or even studying in school--but a book you had no desire to finish?  Well, that's this one for me.  I can list all sorts of good qualities of the book, but the bottom line is that I didn't like Martha and I've had this book in my "finish later" stack for some time, and I just haven't wanted to go back to it. 

Thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  I really think there are a lot of people who will enjoy it more than I did.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Seven Quick Takes

    1.  I'm taking my Girl Scout Brownies to camp for the day tomorrow.  We have twenty-one girls in the troop and eighteen are joining us tomorrow.  We'll go up there, make a fire and cook lunch and let the kids play in the river (less than knee deep).  My little one can hardly wait.

    2.  My high school junior is looking at colleges.  There is a big college fair here Monday night, so hopefully she'll be able to find someplace that catches her eye.  Realistically speaking  I think she'll end up at a state university; I just can't see spending the money for a private school and while she is bright and at a good school, her grades haven't been in the neighborhood to make folks want to throw lots of money at her.

    3.  My son has been driving himself to school for a couple of weeks now.  He likes the independence.  The only trouble is, he takes my mini-van, which leaves me at work without a car.

    4.  My husband's alma mater, The University of New Orleans, is having their first Homecoming football game.  He's excited.

    5.   I'm one of the many who doesn't care for all the changes to facebook.  I'd like options, but I'd like to be able to turn them off, kwim?

    6.  Since my son can drive, and since my husband has been taking the wrecked car to work to have folks in the area look at it, leaving a car at home, I've been able to send him to run errands.  Teenagers aren't all bad.

    7.  My little one wants to have a friend spend the night.  I guess that day will come soon...

      Thursday, September 22, 2011

      Book Review: Sunrise on the Battery



      About the Book:
      At last, Mary Lynn and Jackson Scoville are living the life they've dreamed of. Two self-described "small town bumpkins" from Round O, South Carolina, they made a small fortune selling the little gems of lowcountry real estate Jackson inherited and now they are living in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina, carefully working their way up the social ladder in hopes of meeting their ultimate goal: to give their three daughters the life they themselves never had. 

      But the long-forgotten God of Mary Lynn's childhood seems to be trying to get her attention in clear and unusual ways. So clear and strange she can no longer deny it. When Mary Lynn prays for Jackson to open his mind and heart to God, her prayers are answered beyond her wildest imaginings. Now Jackson's dramatic conversion (which includes street witnessing, giving away a lot of money, and inviting poor, desperate and marginalized people into their home) is threatening their social status as well as their family mission statement. Is she willing to go along with him?

      What would it be like to go "all out" for God? Jackson, a sharp and focused Type A man, is unafraid and willing to go all the way. Mary Lynn has her doubts.

      My Comments:
      What is the difference in a Christian and a non-Christian who is a good person?  What difference should someone be able to see in our lives after we become Christian?  Can we be too religious?  Should we be "Jesus Freaks"?  I think most committed Christians have considered those questions and I guess in reality, they should make us a little uncomfortable.  We all know the person at church who can't hold a conversation that doesn't invoke His name, and we also know people that it seems have little reason to be in church since they disagree with all the beliefs (as they will be glad to tell you) and don't, at least where you can see, act in a Christ-like manner.  Sunrise on the Battery is about a wealthy (but relatively new money) couple who live in Charleston South Carolina.  They weren't born wealthy but through smart real estate investments, they have become wealthy and are just about to make their way into the upper-crust of Charleston society.  Their girls go to the "right" school, make good grades and are almost sure to be invited to participate in a debutante ball.  

      First, Mary Lynn starts going to a Bible study with a neighbor.  She finds faith for the first time in a long time, but other than occupying her time for a few hours a week, it makes little difference in her daily life.  Still, she wants her husband to believe and prays for this.  Her prayer is answered, but not the way she wanted.  He becomes one of those overly enthusiastic Christians that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.  

      Jackson's conversion made me squirm a little, and I suspect it would have that effect on many Christians; however, after having set up this big conflict, Beth Webb Hart resolves it quickly, without ever really addressing the issue of how Christians should be different from others.  It is your basic find Jesus and everything in life that was broken will be fixed.  Maybe the family isn't part of "society" anymore but everyone is happier because of it.  In short, I found the ending of the book to be unrealistic and unsatisfying.  Grade:  C+  

      I'd like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  I was not obligated to provide any review, much less a positive one.

      Tuesday, September 20, 2011

      Blog Tour: Gabby, God's Little Angel

      Gabby, God's Little Angel

      About the Book:
      What little girl wouldn't love her very own guardian angel? Parents and children alike will be won over by this humorous tale of Gabby, a guardian angel in training who has much to learn about taking care of God's little ones. Her new assignment is to protect a young girl named Sophie, but Gabby soon realizes that watching after Sophie is a bigger challenge than she had expected! After a close call while riding her pony, Sophie learns what the Bible says about guardian angels: "He will put his angels in charge of you. They will watch over you wherever you go" (Psalm 91:11 ICB).

      My Comments:
      This is a cute book that my seven year old enjoyed.  It would make a good introduction to a lesson on your Guardian Angel. I liked the way the book ended with Sophie saying her prayers and Mom teaching her about her Guardian Angel.  In short, a cute kids' book.  

      If you'd like a chance to win a copy of Gabby, God's Little Angel, enter the contest on my Christmas in September page.  Other bloggers also have giveaway copies available.  A complete list of blog tour stops is available here.

      Sheila Walsh is excited to announce her new series for little girls and she is celebrating Gabby’s arrival with a fun KINDLE Giveaway and an Angel FB party on October 4th!


      Meet Gabby for yourself here. Help Sheila introduce Gabby - be sure to check out her video trailer promotion here!

      In Gabby, God’s Little Angel, Gigi fans will fall in love with Gabby and learn about God’s love and provision and a little about His invisible creation, the angels.

      Read what people are saying here.

      Enter today - Sheila and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have put together an “Angel” prize package worth over $150.00!



      One lucky winner will receive:
      • A brand new KINDLE with Wi-Fi
      • Gabby, God’s Little Angel 
      But wait! There’s more …
      On October 4th join Sheila at her Author Page on FB for the Gabby, God’s Little Angel Party! She will announce the winner of the KINDLE, host a chat and give away a ton of fun products from the Gigi and Gabby line! RSVP today and then be sure to stop by on October 4th at 5:00 PM PST (6 PM MST, 7 PM CST, & 8 PM EST).

      Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

      First Wildcard: Megan's Secret

      It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

      You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


      Today's Wild Card author is:


      and the book:

      Leafwood Publishers (June 14, 2011)
      ***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

      ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



      Mike Cope is an author, blogger, professor, minister and magazine editor. He has written four books, including What Would Jesus Do Today? and One Holy Hunger. He was a minister for many years at the Highland Church in Abilene and now works with Heartbeat Ministries. He and his wife, Diane, live in Abilene, Texas, and have two surviving children: Matt, a resident in internal medicine at Duke University, and Chris, a junior in high school.



      SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

      Mike Cope’s best teacher was his mentally disabled daughter—Megan. In her ten years of life, she taught her father secrets more profound than anything he’d learned in college or seminary. In his moving remembrance, Megan’s Secrets: What My Mentally Disabled Daughter Taught Me about Life, Cope shares those secrets in a way that will make readers laugh, cry and find new hope.
      Megan was a beautiful pint-sized girl whose only spoken words were “I’m Megan!” Although a child of few words, the best scholars in the world could not teach what she did in her brief life. Her life exposed some of the insanities of the world and revealed some life-giving secrets such as:

      We are often fascinated with things that are impressive from the outside but which may not be that important to God.
      What really matters has to do with the heart: keeping promises, seeking justice in a brutal world, learning to see those in greatest need and living with courage, joy and unconditional love.
      God uses our brokenness to His glory.

      This unique inspirational book wraps these secrets and more into stories that will restore hope to those grieving. All readers who long to see modern-day examples of the “little ones” Jesus held on his lap and loved will be inspired and moved to exult in God’s incredible wisdom. What Mike discovers is that life with Megan, who slept only three hours a night, was exhausting, challenging, and even disappointing but also filled with joy and truths.
      Max Lucado, best-selling author and minister, says, “The world would look at Megan Cope and her brief little life and see limitations. Imperfections. Inabilities. Her dad, just like her heavenly Father, saw something else entirely. Joy. Big heart. Love. Wisdom. Raising a disabled daughter, and then saying goodbye after a brief ten years of life, Mike knows the struggles, triumphs, pain, everyday miracles. . . and the secrets. Secrets God shares with those who care for the least among us. In Megan’s Secrets, my friend Mike shares the wisdom he learned from loving Megan.”




      Product Details:

      List Price: $14.99
      Paperback: 224 pages
      Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (June 14, 2011)
      Language: English
      ISBN-10: 0891122869
      ISBN-13: 978-0891122869

      AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

      Looking for a Few Good Eggs

      I gave this mite a gift I denied to all of you—eternal innocence. . . . She will never offend me, as all of you have done. She will never pervert or destroy the works of my Father’s hands. She is necessary to you. She will evoke the kindness that will keep you human. . . . This little one is my sign to you. Treasure her!1

      MR. ATHA (the returned Christ) speaking of a child with Down Syndrome in Morris West’s The Clowns of God
      A while back, I read an essay in Atlantic Monthly by Jessica Cohen, a Yale University student. She told about spotting a classified ad in the Yale Daily News: EGG DONOR NEEDED.
      The couple placing the ad was looking for an egg from just the right donor, and they were willing to pay big bucks, to the tune of twenty-five thousand dollars. She learned that they wanted an Ivy League university student who was over 5 feet 5 inches tall, of Jewish heritage, athletic, and attractive and who had a minimum combined SAT score of 1500.

      Being a bit short on cash, Cohen thought she might follow the lead. Cohen began corresponding with the anonymous couple. And as she did, she was introduced to a whole world of online ads by such desperate couples. She found one website with five hundred classifieds posted. An eBay for genetic material, she thought. Plus, there were ads like the following from young women wanting to sell their eggs:

      Hi! My name is Kimberly. I am 24 years old, 5’11” with

      blonde hair and green eyes. I previously donated eggs and

      the couple was blessed with BIG twin boys! The doctor told

      me I have perky ovaries! . . . The doctor told me I had the

      most perfect eggs he had ever seen.

      Cohen’s e-mails with the husband were strange. He and his wife were concerned about her scores in science and math. Then she sent a few pictures they had requested. The husband responded: “I showed the pictures to [my wife] this a.m. Personally, I think you look great. She said ho-hum.”
      After that, Cohen’s correspondence with the couple abruptly ended.2
      What kind of bizarre world is this? Our culture is fascinated with the “accidents” of birth: looks, athletic ability, and IQ. What if volcanic ash suddenly covered the United States, and it wasn’t until centuries later that archaeologists dug down to uncover our civilization, but the only written material they could locate were magazines from the checkout counters of grocery stores? What would those archaeologists assume about us? Maybe that we were the most shallow group of people ever?

      This world of genetic engineering would favor my sons. But who—in our success-driven world—would want my daughter’s genetic makeup? She was, after all, mentally disabled. She would never take the SAT test, she wasn’t headed toward an Ivy League school, and chances were really good she wasn’t going to be over 5’5”! She couldn’t produce anything, had no fame to be proud of, and couldn’t brag of any trophies. We have classes in schools for “gifted and talented” students. By that standard, my daughter

      wasn’t very successful.
      And yet she was the most radical witness to the love of God I’ve ever met. She changed our world. I wonder: What if our society awarded friendliness, forgiveness, endurance, joyfulness, and unconditional love?

      Megan was a quiet, loving witness to the gospel. She was an incarnation of God’s love. She received whatever gifts of service we offered to her without expecting more. She embodied the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

      Let the world search for “the perfect egg.” But our eyes have been opened by the breaking through of the kingdom in Jesus Christ. We’ve heard him say, “God bless you—you who are poor in spirit. God bless you—you who mourn. And God bless you—you who are meek.”

      One of Megan’s much older friends was inspired by her life and wrote the following about her:

      Megan proclaimed her message in her life. She was a

      walking icon of Christ’s admonition to take no thought for

      tomorrow, but simply, in faith, to let each day unfold on

      its own. I doubt it ever occurred to Megan to make long-range

      plans or to fear what the next five minutes might

      bring. Megan, like the birds of the air and the lilies of the

      field, trusted in the Creator, through his human agents,

      to supply whatever requirements she might have. She

      knew no other way to live. And in that respect, she sits in

      judgment on us all, and leads us toward a more primitive

      and perfect trust.

      So many people were drawn to Megan. I think many college students in particular were drawn to her because they were being constantly bombarded everywhere else with messages about who they were supposed to be in order to be successful in this life. And the powerful reminder they always received from being with Megan was that success has more to do with internal qualities of the heart than with external circumstances and accidents of birth.
      A society reveals a lot about itself by what it esteems and rewards. Apparently, we tend to value accidents of birth that we chisel and hone into perfection, then put on display—and even then we airbrush out the imperfections: how you look in a swimsuit, what you score on your SAT, how fast you can run a forty-yard dash.

      No wonder so many people end up feeling bad about themselves. Some express this in self-loathing, others in arrogance. We watch anorexic models on television who’ve had surgical assistance with their shape, and we start feeling bad about ourselves. We often feel we’re too short, too tall, too wide, too skinny, hips too big, hips too small, curve too much, don’t curve enough. No wonder plastic surgery is such a booming business. Convince enough people that they are a mess as they are now, and you have an endless supply of business.

      Megan had a way of exposing the insanity of all this craziness. As my friend Thom Lemmons said:

      Megan was a flesh-and-blood display of the topsyturvy

      economy of the kingdom of heaven. She was one

      of the least of us, yet she occupied the apex of our care,

      absorbing all the loving service we could offer, and able

      to absorb still more. Without any thank you, without any

      false reticence, without even seeming to notice, she took all

      that we could give her, and still we were left with the sense

      that it was not enough.

      And yet, to anyone who held her down for a breathing

      treatment, or marched with her through the church

      parking lot, singing, “I’m in the Lord’s army. Yes, sir!” or

      changed her soiled undergarments, or tried in vain to

      rescue some semi-edible artifact from her unbelievably

      quick hands, or held her as she gasped for breath—to

      anyone who ever poured a minute’s worth of love down

      the bottomless pit that was Megan, the blessing that

      followed beggared any other reward.

      Megan taught us all the difference in value between

      receiving and giving. We only wished we could have done

      more: there was no question of doing less. And all the

      while, we were the ones being made over—by her innocent

      carelessness and her shattering need—into a closer

      imitation of the One who poured out his life as a ransom

      for many.

      One day, Thom and Cheryl Lemmons were taking care of Megan at a time when she needed oxygen to survive. Thom describes how he thought he’d figured out a secret to Megan’s care.

      The trick was to keep Megan within a short enough

      radius of her oxygen tank to permit the tubes to stay in

      her nostrils and simultaneously remain connected to the

      hose. She was also prone to seizures then, but I didn’t

      know that. At one point, I remember having her in my lap

      on the floor of the living room, and I may have even been

      singing to her. For a few moments, the ceaseless thrashing

      stopped, the grasping fingers were still, and she stared up

      into my face with what appeared to me as a beatific half smile.

      Then, after a minute or two, we resumed the Greco-

      Roman wrestling match. “What a wonderful, peaceful,

      very brief interlude,” I thought, as I put her oxygen tubes

      back in place for the 5,357th time, “no doubt, made

      possible by my instinctive gentleness and boundless

      patience. Surely, even Megan is not immune to my gifts.”

      Later, over lunch, I was relating to the Copes and

      Cheryl my moment of epiphany with Megan, there on the

      living room floor. Diane got a slightly embarrassed look

      as I described the scene. Cheryl leaned over to me and

      whispered, “Thom, she wasn’t listening to you sing; she

      was having a seizure.”

      Classic Megan: if ever your sense of “Christian duty”

      became self-congratulatory or the least bit inflated by

      a sense of its own worth, Megan would simply leave you

      holding the punctured bag, and allow you to deal with

      your own deflated ego. Megan, how could we ever repay

      all that you taught us?

      Megan’s simple-yet-profound life reminded us that God is a heart specialist who looks deeper than accidents of birth.

      On the day she died, Diane and I were leaning over her praying for her, telling her we loved her, and assuring her it was all right to go. We almost forgot that anyone else was in the room. But the moment she took her last breath in the pediatric intensive care unit, my mother stood up from her chair behind us and began singing Megan’s favorite song:

      I may never march in the infantry,

      ride in the cavalry,

      shoot the artillery.

      I may never fly o’er the enemy,

      but I’m in the Lord’s army.

      Later it hit me: Megan had been preparing us her whole life with her simple little song. It’s like she’d been telling us that there were many things she’d never do, but we shouldn’t worry, because she’s in the Lord’s army. There’s a little grave just outside Abilene that bears her name, the dates of her abbreviated life, and then the words “I’m in the Lord’s army.”

      This tiny minister taught me more than I learned in ninety hours of graduate school. She taught me that God will use my brokenness to his glory. She reminded me that the power is God’s, not mine. She made me remember we are often fascinated with things that are impressive from the outside but which may not be that important to God. She taught me that what really matters has to do with the heart: keeping promises, seeking justice in a brutal world, learning to see those in greatest need, and living with courage, joy, and unconditional love.

      Now, years later, my diminutive instructor-daughter is still guiding me.

      My Comments:
      While I enjoyed this book, it was not what I was expecting.  I was expecting a book about life with Megan--how does having mentally disabled and/or physically fragile child affect daily life in an American  household.  I got the reflections of a father who, while he has moved on, while he has come to terms with her death, is still deeply affected by his late daughter's life.  While the book contains scattered anecdotes about Megan, mostly it is the reflection of a Christian minister on life, death, and our purpose here on earth.

      I'll leave you with one though that really struck me when reading this book.  He said that as Christians, we need to realize that today is Saturday, not Friday or Sunday.  Friday is the day on which Christ died.  We are past that.  We are not to be people of sorrow.  Sunday is Easter, but those of us on earth haven't gotten there yet--we still have sorrow and darkness in our lives.  "We have already but not yet fully been saved.  We have already but not yet fully received eternal life."

      Mike Cope and his wife are not the only ones in their family to lose a child.  His brother and sister-in-law also suffered this tragedy and she wrote about it in Jansten's Gift, a book a reviewed here.

      Grade:  B.

      Monday, September 19, 2011

      Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Catholic Books I've Reviewed

      Top Ten {Tuesday}

      I'm mostly a book review blogger so most of my top 10 lists are going to be bookish.  This week I'm listing the top 10 Catholic books I've reviewed.  These are in no particular order:












      Go to Amanda's blog and read other folk's Top Ten lists for the week.






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