Monday, September 29, 2014

The Daring Heart of David Livingstone, by Jay Milbrandt



This is a biography about is historical figure who "wore many hats." David Livingstone was a missionary, an abolitionist of East African slavery, a scientific explorer, and an exile. Told in chronological order, each chapter contains maps charting where Livingstone was at the given time. Each chapter also starts out with a David Livingstone quote, a brief summary of that chapter plus statistics of slaves sold annually during the time period and the total victims of that trade. The biography ends with study guide questions based on the chapters and contains research footnotes.

Since this book is set in a different culture and time from my own, this affected my ability to follow its narrative. I reread parts of it to comprehend its content. Clearly, the author wanted to make sure that Livingstone is not unrealistically as a "super-holy" saint and missionary whose feet never touched the ground. In so many biographies, authors caricaturize their subjects, making us wonder if their subject was really that "perfect" in life, without any dark side or struggles that show their humanity. The author shows us Livingstone's passion for his mission of abolishing the East African slave trade and his deep love of God. He also reveals Livingstone's struggles with discouragement and depression. This book is realistic. The author's practice of using charts, timelines and maps made it easier for me to read it in its historical context. I won't give any details away but clearly Livingstone did not have an easy life.

I recommend this book for adults 18 and over. The content will probably be too hard to comprehend or appreciate by youth. When I had to do required reading of any historical material in school, it made little sense to me. Any history buff will enjoy this book, as will people who have a heart for missions, especially those in Africa. I recommend it for anyone who is considering becoming a missionary. Christian universities offering courses in church history may consider making this book required reading for their students.

I received a complimentary copy of this book by Booklook Bloggers. I was not required to give this book a positive review.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Another Case for Why Federal Funds for Autism Services Are Needed



Early last week, I learned of a case that tore at my heart.

I watched this mom speak to the TV Psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw on TV, both on Monday but mostly on Tuesday. I could see only parts of this interview on Monday because my daughter was in the room and the show could be disturbing to her. Yes, the situation around the world is grim, but this sad story of this mom and her daughter reminded me that grim situations continue right here at home and must continue to be addressed even as we address the dire ISIS situation.

Even here in the West, we all pay the price when people's major needs are unmet, as this mom's story proves.

The young mom I'm talking about is Kelli Stapleton. Early last week, Dr. Phil interviewed her in a two-part interview. Obviously broken and remorseful, she recounted how she utterly despaired of life. Isabel, nicknamed "Issy," presenting with severe and nonverbal autism, was also violent. Her autistic "meltdowns" took an extreme, violent expression. In reading this post, please keep in mind that few autistic people, even nonverbal, classic autistic persons, are violent near to the degree that this mom reports that her daughter, Issy, has been.

As Dr.Phil interviewed Kelli, I was wanting to get into the story but we had to cut it off, as my daughter came home from school. The next day, I was able to hear the rest of the interview. Kelli was tearfully and remorsefully recounting how she drove herself and her daughter, Issy, in her van on the way to Elberta, Michigan. She told how she attempted to kill her daughter and herself. "Why?" she was asked. Kelli detailed how Issy had, during meltdowns, two separate times attacked her so badly that she had to be treated in the hospital emergency room. Also, Issy also attacked her sister; Kelli feared for their lives. Their dad, her husband, had divorced her, leaving her alone to deal with all this stress. While I in no way support Kelli's actions in this instance, I can see clearly how she had "snapped" because she saw no other options and had no support to draw upon. "Why not place her in a residential setting?" she was asked. She stated that because she lacked proper insurance, the residential home she placed Issy in would not keep the girl. Also, they saw it as their mission to "re-integrate Issy back into family life."

This mom was arrested, charged with attempted murder and now sits in jail awaiting trial. I was glad that Dr. Phil offered to help this entire family. I was sad and rather angry, however, that almost right away, many in the autism community used Kelli's and Issy's stories as a springboard to protest "autism caregiver murderer" and is calling on Dr. Phil to withdraw all efforts to show any support for Kelli's defense. Autism advocates wasted no time setting up a Facebook "event" for this purpose, as well as to "support all victims and call for justice for them." "Justice for Issy! Justice for Issy!" and "Lock her murderer up for life!" and "Bring this killer mom to justice!" were rallying cries.

Frankly, when I learned that Issy, her sister and Issy's dad are now making their lives together and "and are happy" according to the father, I frankly was annoyed though glad that Issy and her sister seem to be doing better. Tempted to judge this dad for leaving his family to cope alone prior to Kelli's desperate act, I'm a bit angry. Why do men and fathers get off responsibility?

I get it. I get it, autism community. To a point I can see why you are so mad at Kelli and want to see her pay in full. Many of these autism advocates see Kelli's desperate act as an insult to autism and that those with autism "are unfit to live." As many autistic adults, who are involved in this community, have "theory of mind" issues that make it hard for them to have empathy for this mom in pain, they are unable to see the situation from her perspective and to grasp how she could grow so desperate. . They see this case solely from Issy's perspective. But the self-righteousness of typical parents of autistic children is more difficult to understand. Maybe these parents have access to services that enable them to cope with their stresses of raising their autistic children? Am I missing something here?

Even if you do not feel a shred of compassion for Kelli, surely you should agree that all families with autistic loved ones need to have autism services accessible, regardless of their ability to pay.

Please sign this autism petition at SignOn.org.

Please sign this autism petition at Change.org.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Palace of Darkness, by Tracy L. Higley



This book is a work of historical fiction. It is set in ancient Rome, AD 106. Located in the ancient Roman Palace during the times of the brutal persecution, the central character is a young slave and single mom. She faces heart-wrenching separation from her small son and encounters people known as Christians. Why do they show such faith in the face of danger and such selfless love for her? From them she learns about the freedom, reality and power that is found in following the One they call Jesus.

I found myself challenged by this book, as it is set in a time of brutal persecution. The Christ-followers in this novel found their faith purified by their fear of this persecution; we know that persecution thins out the ranks and purifies the genuine. I found myself confused by the characters and story-line of the first part of the book, especially as it is set in a culture far removed from modern America as can be. This book was part suspense, part romance, and was rather frightening in places. The author helps us get into the minds of the main characters and emphasize with them. The story was entertaining but clearly it is more than that. It encourages and challenges Christian faith. I saw that persecution clearly purifies Christians and attracts genuine new believers, and is not a thing to be avoided at all costs.

I recommend this book for everyone who likes to read. I recommend it for Christians for not only entertainment but to be challenged in faith and to apply its lessons to modern hardships. I recommend this book for non-Christians because it is a good read and fast-paced. Non-Christians will find encouragement in finding new life in following Jesus and knowing Him. Happy reading!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review at Booklook Bloggers.com but I was not required to give a positive review of this book.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Islamophopia, ISIS & Terrorists



Just this day, a Facebook post of an article streamed into my Newsfeed. According to the headlines of the shared article, "911 Families" are being praised for their "anti-hate" in speaking out against a sin that is known as Islamophobia.

I get it. I get the concern.

The persons who express concern about a fear of Muslims that stirs up hate and prejudice of all Muslims as a people group, mean very well. They value tolerance. They want all people groups to be respected and accepted. They may not realize that, when it comes to tolerance of people regardless of religion, that in each major world religion (Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism) there exist radical elements of co-adherents who are "totally sold out" to that religion. Or if they realize that fact, they may see their atrocities and violent acts as isolated incidents, and speaking out against them as tarring these world religions with the same broad brush. Why do they fear that, even if this means forgetting about their unfortunate victims?

The persons who are concerned about Islamophobia may be quick to point one fact out. They may not pay attention to the current ISIS inhumanity against mostly Christians, because they may blame Christians for many of the world's problems. These persons no doubt are aware of the shameful times in Church history, when professing Christians engaged in acts of violence. These persons may be fully aware of professing Christians who may engage in shameful acts against the LGBT community, holding up hate-filled signs. These persons may point out all the acts of violence against abortion clinics and even those inside them. I get that.

There is absolutely no excuse for any of these shameful acts. None.

But there is one thing about Christianity that sets it apart from other religions. Its Founder, Jesus, teaches that His followers are to be peaceful and nonviolent even to our enemies. Does any other world religion teach love and nonviolence even toward one's enemies? Does any other religion teach that, in instances of persecution, even death, that its followers are to refuse to deny their Founder? Does any other religion have so many millions of adherents, even today, who choose death than denying their Founder?

Guess who persecutes religious minorities? The religious! The religious majority, that is.

What about all those extremists who have killed in the Name of Jesus? It's safe to say that these so-called Christians either had totally misinterpreted the teachings of Jesus, or may not be Christ followers in reality. While we in the West may not suffer severe persecution for adhering to any religion, including Christianity, many religious minorities are suffering all over the world! Studies tell us that over 70 percent of these persecuted are Christians. This is because Biblical Christianity calls on its followers to stand for their Jesus even when this means "imposing one's religion or morality on others," coming off as "narrow and intolerant" and breaking with cultural trends. Does any other religion, including Islam, ask for such extreme yet peaceful, nonviolent, devotion of its followers? Last time I checked, I have not seen it.

This concern for Islamophobia seems to have crept into many local churches, if much silence of the global persecution of Christians and other religious minorities is any indication.

What about the victims of ISIS, Boko Haram, Hamas and other terrorists? Do you think that they appreciate our concern about being Islamophobes and remain silent about their plight because of it or any other reason? Do you think those on the ground serving these victims and witnessing their beheadings, crucifixions, hangings, rapes, and other atrocities, appreciate silence in the name of tolerance or anything else? Really?

Is there any religion other than Christianity, whose Founder built His Kingdom by dying for His subjects, and returned to life again?

If you simply need to educate yourself about this, let me direct you to an authority about Middle East issues. Find him at RaymondIbrahim.com.

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