A Review of Coming Clean: A Memoir by Kimberly Rae Miller

I found out about this wonderful book through a Kindle offer but ended up checking it out of my local library. I like to read memoirs and this one did not disappoint.

I have great respect for the author, Kimberly Rae Miller, as she told the poignant tale of growing up with two parents who had a compulsive hoarding problem. It was not just a case of a cluttered house, but filth and shame as she tried to keep others from knowing her secret. The thing about it is that her love for her parents shines the whole way through the book. Miller adhered to a Biblical principle, “honor thy father and mother,” and her outcome was blessed because she did so.

Kim grew up in the New York City area as an only child. Her mother was Jewish and her Dad was Catholic. Trauma in his own childhood with alcoholic parents led her Dad into an insatiable need to hang onto all kinds of papers. He loved to gather information as well and constantly listened to NPR. Though the papers were mostly not going to be used or needed, nevertheless he felt a compunction to hang onto them, along with all kinds of other junk. Her mother did not have a happy childhood either, and ended up cut off by her mother, who always favored her sister. In spite of her anger over her husband’s hoarding, Kim’s Mom comforted her pain by ordering lots and lots of things online. It grew to the point that her mother only had just a tiny space for where she slept on her mattress each night.

Kim told of how they got burned out of one house and ended up moving from one apartment to another as she grew up, running from chaos and filth. She made some great friends in school in spite of it. These friends helped and did not abandon her when her “secret” got out. In spite of the mess and confusion, Kim was a go-getter and pushed herself to make it to prestigious Emerson College in New England. After her freshman year, she lost her financial aid package through a technicality and became desperate. During Kim’s own lowest point, her Mom sacrificed in helping her find a way to continue there.

Once she left her parents’ home, Kim was overcome by the horror of what she had gone through as a child. But she never abandoned her parents. Instead, she came time and time again to help them clean out, and try to make a fresh start. Each time she did it drained her, but she pushed through it anyway. Her mother suffered severe health problems and nearly died, but Kim let her mother know that she must keep on fighting to get well because she needed her. Her mother needed a clean place to come home to recuperate. Kim realized her parents needed help, and in compassion she shelved her pride and secret to even more people in asking help from them to clean her parents home.

The hoarding lifestyle she was surrounded by gave Miller an almost obsessive need to keep her own home neat and tidy. Part of her own therapy was writing down her story, and it was one which her parents fully supported. When her Dad read the manuscript, he tearfully apologized for all she suffered growing up in utter chaos. The best part of this memoir is that she still loves and supports her parents. At the end, they made tremendous strides in cleaning up their act. Kim found happiness also, but I won’t say more on that.

It was like a breath of fresh air to find someone who was not willing to jump on the wagon to blame someone else for their problems, to find someone who actually was grateful for their parents even if her parents were not perfect people. I commend the author for her bravery in telling this story in a way that could make the reader feel good about honoring and respecting their parents. I really enjoyed this book and maybe now you will also. You can find out more about Kimberly Rae Miller at her blog: http://thekimchallenge.com/

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Review of Take Me with You, Kindle Edition, by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Just finished this satisfying story which I read on my Kindle, based on the life of a recovering alcoholic and his “chance” encounter with two sons of an alcoholic mechanic. August Shroeder, a divorced high school science teacher who lost his only child, is on his way west in his RV when it breaks down. He stops at a mechanic’s shop, and finds that the mechanic also has a problem. The owner of the auto repair shop is facing jail time for DUI’s and has nowhere for his two sons (Seth and Henry) to go, except foster care. He strikes up a conversation with August and told him that he had a question that August would think he was crazy for asking.

The mechanic believes, and rightly so, that August is a good guy, and asks him to take his boys with him on his trip out West. Henry has not talked since he came from foster care the last time his Dad was in jail. Seth is a caretaker, typical of children of alcoholics. The rest of the story details their trip and the years that subsequently follow.

I don’t want to give the ending away but will just say I wish it had ended a bit differently. I was happy for August but wasn’t completely satisfied that it ended the way it should have. But that being said, it was a sweet story, clean, and it taught lessons about “being in the moment,” and coming to reconcile with the events that happen in our lives. I felt myself really pulling especially for Henry, who was an underdog in the story. I also liked reading about August’s pet dog Woody and his immediate affection for the boys when the RV broke down.

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of 27 published and forthcoming books, and she is highly rated in her Amazon reviews. I would give this book 4 stars. In the future, I probably will read another one of her books, most likely “When I Found You” which has a 4 1/2 star rating overall. I got the book on a special rate from Kindle, but it is only $4.99 now to download.

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A Review of The Veritas Conflict by Shaunti Feldhahn

100_0963 Did you ever wonder about the behind the scenes struggle that causes us to think what we think, say what we say, and do what we do? The Apostle Paul said that our battles in this world are not with flesh and blood, that is, other people, but with principalities and powers in Ephesians 6:12. Principalities and powers are high-ranking demons who surround the air on planet earth. That is why our enemy is known as the prince of the power of the air. The air surrounding planet earth is his domain, and he uses it to stir the battle between his fallen angels and Christ and His followers. In Psalm 2:1 we read that the nations rage and the people plot a vain thing. In verse 2 it says that mankind plots against the Lord and His Annointed. Why? Our enemy still thinks he will win although his doom was sealed when Christ rose up from the grave victorious (see John 19:30).

What does that have to with this book The Veritas Conflict? Well, in this fictional work we behold a battle raging for the souls of men and women right on college campuses. In particular, this book is about one of the historic Christian colleges in America: Harvard. In the prologue, we see the Christian foundations of the college assaulted right from its beginning and carry on all the way through the book.

The story is told through the life of key characters: a smart young freshman named Claire Rivers. Her believing parents worry for her well-being on the liberal campus. Also are many other characters, some Christian and some evil that conspire to cause great harm to the Christian cause. There is a secret conspiracy as old as the school itself, and Claire finds herself right in the middle of it all. But also given names are principalities and powers that are influencing Claire and her room-mate, professors and board members. The story portrays the influence that these beings have over the people and the disastrous results of their lies.

I checked this book out from my local library because I wanted to read more about spiritual warfare. The author wrote from experience, having experienced the spiritual climate at Harvard when she earned her master’s there. Though some parts of the plot seemed a bit contrived, I was drawn right into the story. It held my attention through this long work of 457 pages. This book was published by Multnomah Press in 2000. One thing I took away from this story was the power of prayer, our only offensive weapon against the enemy (Ephesians 6:18). God desires us to pray for our children out on their own for the first time. For insight into the battle that rages especially in the minds of our young people on campuses across this country, I highly recommend this book. Also, to see how great the battle is just to have an honest debate between evolution and creation,and for a professor to even mention “Intelligent Design.” the documentary “Expelled” by Ben Stein is also highly recommended.

There is a spiritual battle that is raging all around us, and this book will open your eyes to just that.

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Review of The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer with Susan Divorkin

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I was riveted reading the autobiography The Nazi Officer’s Wife. It is the true story of a Jewish woman who hid her identity during World War II and pretended to be an Aryan. Edith Hahn ends up marrying a Nazi, but her identity was concealed. By a series of kindnesses shown by numerous people, some even Nazis, throughout the nightmare of the Holocaust, Edith Hahn escaped the death camps.

Edith grew up in Vienna, Austria and tells how easily her fellow Austrians accepted the Nazi takeover of their country during the Anschlusse. Suddenly, to be a Jew was a criminal offense and met with giving up personal belongings, one’s home, losing businesses and being forced to wear a yellow armband. Ready to complete her doctorate at the university, Edith was expelled for her Jewish ethnicity. With the help of her half- Jewish boyfriend, Pepi, she went to labor on a farm in Germany with the promise this would keep her mother from the concentration camp. She worked in asparagus fields with backbreaking effort to spare her beloved mother.

Woven in to Edith’s story are her romances, which either helped or hindered in her quest to be removed from danger. (You need to read for yourself to find out who helped and who hindered.) The hardships of just being able to get food or clothing are described, with sickness and weight loss. Yet, compared to most of her fellow Jews, Edith was blessed.

Of course, there is much more to the story of what happens with her mother, her boyfriend and what happened while she lived as a Nazi. But I don’t want to give the story away.

Apparently, the author (who also had a co-author) kept this all inside her for half a century before its revelation. After escaping Germany, she lived in England for a while, then went to Israel, but health problems forced her to return to England at the end of her life. She died a few years ago at the age of 95. The realities of what happened in a civilized society like Vienna are sober reminders of what can happen in the breakdown of law and order in a free society. I highly recommend this story for adult audiences. I found a copy at our local library and when I did an internet search, I found they made a documentary about Edith Hahn Beer’s life.

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Review of The British Josiah “Edward VI the Most Godly King of England” by N. A. Woychuck, M.A., Th.D.

As I have learned bits of British history as an adult I have found that truth can be just as exciting as fiction. In fact, I prefer non-fiction.Here is a book that is great for the homeschooling crowd. You can learn about how the Protestant Reformation began to change the nation of England. I wish I would have known about it when I was homeschooling my kids. It is the fascinating biography of the Protestant King Edward VI, son of Henry VIII, who lived from 1537 to 1553. In his short life, Edward took a stand for the truth of God’s Word, making it available to the people, and salvation by faith in Christ.

Edward did not live a long life, nor did he reign long as England’s monarch, but he was a child prodigy. He was compared to the Old Testament King Josiah, the boy from Judah who reigned hundreds of years earlier. Henry, his father, provided the best Protestant tutors for his son even though he was Catholic. Henry died when his young heir was just nine years old. Edward made a special request on the day of his coronation for an additional sword, representing the “Sword of the Spirit.” Edward soaked in the Bible teaching from his tutor and at age 11, wrote a “Treatise against the Primacy of the Pope.” The entire treatise is printed in the back of the book as an appendix. I was amazed at Edward’s reasoning and logic in writing this hefty pamphlet against the established religion of his day . Also included in an appendix are prayers from an excerpt from the Edward VI Primer.

The author of this biography viewed Edward in a favorable light, especially with regard to his faith, in comparison with secular biographers. Surrounding young Edward were those who decidedly took advantage of him and because of his age, Edward was limited in what he was able to accomplish in his reign.

I will not give away how Edward’s reign was cut short, but it has some mystery surrounding it.Upon Edward’s death, another (tragic) short-lived reign followed, by Edward’s Protestant cousin the Lady Jane Grey. (Lady Jane Grey’s story is also quite interesting to read.) Grey’s reign was brought to an abrupt end by Bloody Mary, Edward’s oldest half sister, who seized power. After Bloody Mary’s reign ended, Edward’s other half sister, Elizabeth, continued the reforms that Edward started. It is fascinating history.

This book could be read by junior high age students or be used as a read aloud. The author also includes an extensive bibliography at the end of the book. It was published in 2001 by SMF Press.

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Review of Running Away: A Memoir by Robert Andrew Powell

It is amazing the impact of a father’s love, or lack thereof, can bear on a person’s life. I just completed reading a poignant chronicle about one year of an unsettled man’s life in middle class America. Robert Powell attempts to find himself living in the shadow of his father’s giant footsteps. In sharing his painful journey, we can appreciate his brutal honesty regarding his own faults and failures, and by the end of the year, see how far he has come in his emotional journey.

Powell’s memoir details the year 2007-2008, when he sold all his possessions and took off from Miami to the city of Boulder, Colorado to begin training to run in a marathon. All his life, he had been dogged by his own underachievement in the light of his father’s great success, both as a runner and as a businessman. Looming large in his mind always is his father’s successful attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon in one try and the big newspaper story that followed.

Powell did a great job pulling at emotional heartstrings, drawing me into the story as I read about his multitude of mis-steps, and how this seemed to be his last chance at finding self-esteem. For anyone who may have struggled in a shaky relationship with their father, chances are good that you would be able to relate to him in some way.Kudos to him for sticking with his running program when he plain out admits that he got no pleasure from running. He meets new friends in Boulder, and acquires a trainer, whom he really thought cared about him.

The climax of the story occurs when Robert and his running partner, Carl, travel to Florida for running their own marathon. I will not give away what happens there but to me, was the highlight of the book and made the reading worthwhile. Also woven into the story is how the author met the famous Olympic marathon gold medalist Frank Shorter, and interviewed him while in Boulder.

I would not mind reading a follow up book just to find out what happened to him since.There is some foul language and talk about marital infidelity, which the author regretted in the long run.

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George Mueller of Bristol: His Life of Prayer and Faith by A. T. Pierson

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If you want a challenge in your faith walk, I recommend reading the biography of a remarkable man, Mr. George Mueller, the founder of homes that housed thousands of orphans in the 1800s in Bristol, England. This book gives a detailed look at the life of Mr. Mueller from one who was greatly influenced by Mueller in his spiritual life. This pastor from America, Arthur. T. Pierson, was a personal friend of George Mueller.

The story is outstanding not because of George Mueller in and of himself, but that he proved in his life and ministry that God was a prayer hearing and answering God. He sought first of all that God might be glorified in answering his fervent prayers for the many needs of his ministry. In fact, everything Mueller accomplished for his ministry (which grew steadily from humble beginnings) was not from going to people as a source but instead was accomplished through fervent prayer.

Mueller chose never to broadcast a need for his orphanages to anyone, however, but only to God. Even all his helpers were not allowed to broadcast any need, but only to petition heaven for their needs. How different this is than the approach used today with ministries having telethons and begging for money. Many times Mueller, his wife and his helpers were sorely tested and lived in poverty themselves as they gave just about everything they had for the sake of the work. Reading these testimonies, it really put me to shame, to be honest. These workers sold all they had for the sake of the work and did not count their lives dear unto themselves,just like the Apostle Paul said of himself in the book of Acts.

After a youth filled with thievery and rebellion, George Mueller became a believer while studying Divinity at the University of Halle, without any interest in God. A friend invited him to a Bible study and the sight of people praying on their knees that night drew Mueller into seeking his own personal relationship with Christ. He functioned as a pastor for over sixty years. In his retirement years, he took on an evangelistic outreach that took him all over the world. Yet his principles remained the same: the needs were always placed before God and God alone to provide. Mueller kept a Narrative of the Lord’s dealings with him, after being influenced reading the autobiographical narrative of the Lord’s dealings with John Newton, a pastor he admired, who is famous for writing the hymn Amazing Grace. In Mueller’s own narrative, great detail is given to showing how the Lord answered specific prayers in His own timing, and by reading about the details of this Narrative, it imparted great incentive for me to continue in my prayers like the persistent widow in Luke 18. George Mueller prayed for two people’s conversions for over 60 years, and even did not see the answer before his death, but stated: “I have not a doubt that I shall meet them both in heaven; for my Heavenly Father would not lay upon my heart a burden of prayer for them for over threescore years, if He had not concerning them purposes of mercy.” (page 302)

Another important takeaway from this biography is to learn George Mueller’s Bible reading habit and of making himself happy in the Lord as the first order of each day. What a beautiful idea, to start each day making sure that one is happy and content in their relationship with Christ as the most important thing. He read the Bible through two hundred times during his lifetime.

This book is long, 375 pages, but is edifying and worth the read. I should not compare myself to George Mueller, for Scripture says that is unwise, and I fall way short. But, I can glean great encouragement to petition God like George Mueller did, for Mr. Pierson stated:

“While men are asking whether prayer can accomplish similar wonders as of old, here is a man who answers the question by the indisputable logic of facts. Powerlesssnes always means prayerlessness, It is not necessary for us to be sinlessly perfect … but it is necessary that we be men and women of prayer–habitual, believing, importunate prayer.” (pages 371-372)

George Mueller lived like the faith heroes of Hebrews 11, therefore his faith and life of prayer is worth imitating today.

This book was published by Kregel Publications in 1999.

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One of my baby book faves: Disney’s Pooh’s Early-to-Bed and Early-to-Rise Hum

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Wouldn’t it be nice if life was as easy as following the advice in this precious board book, tested and approved by my grandson to bring delight to little eyes?
While I prefer the original A.A. Milne Winnie the Pooh books to the Disney ones, I take an exception with this book. I have to admit I have as much fun reading it as (hopefully) the little guy enjoys hearing it. He hasn’t started fussing yet so I think he likes it. ( I will test it on my other grandson too, who is a bit further away, on my upcoming visit.)

It starts out with, as you can see, “Bees buzz in the morn to tell a bear to rise.” This is time for Grandma to act rather foolishly and pretend she is a bee and tickle little grandson under his chin, making bee noises. The next lines in the book become rather Ben Franklin-ish, saying that a bear who stays in bed will never be wise. The next page encourages Pooh bear to enjoy his day, and not to dawdle on the way. The kicker is on the following page, the Pooh Bear is to hum and not act glum. When I get to the word “hum” I start humming vociferously. Then, by humming and not acting glum, he will have lots of friends and things will work out in the end. The last page says the old Ben Franklin proverb of early to bed and early to rise can make a bear be successful in his endeavors.

Doesn’t it you make you wish a happy life could be obtained as simply as that? Getting up early, enjoying your day, humming and not acting glum? These are all good suggestions for little ears to hear. Maybe I should try them all more often!

The way this little board book rhymes makes for lots of fun using lots of inflection. When I put the book up close to my grandson’s face, he seemed to light up. I read to my own kids a lot when they were little, but it seems I even enjoy it more as a grandma. And it is never too early to start reading to babies, IMO.

I found this book at a library book sale, it is copyrighted 1999 by The Pooh Properties Trust.

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Review of The Boy Who Said No by Patti Sheehy

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This book is an exciting true to life fiction story of a man named Frankie Mederos, and is a real page turner. I did not want to put it down! Frankie lived in Cuba when Fidel Castro suddenly seized power, thereby making life extremely difficult for the people who lived there. Mederos recalled watching with his grandfather Castro and his soldiers parade down the streets with their guns, while most Cubans applauded. But his grandfather was not fooled, and taught his favorite grandson about the evil that descended upon their island with this so called government “reform.”

Without giving too much away, the action gets hot as Frankie grows up and his multiple talents are realized by the Communists. Frankie also falls in love with a beauty named Magda and it is their relationship which will determine the painful choice Frankie must make which will affect his family and life forever.

The people of Cuba previously suffered in the corrupt regime of Batiste, but this was nothing compared to the suffering under Castro. Horror stories abounded of people tortured in prisons. A friend of Frankie’s humbly supported his impoverished mother and siblings by shining shoes. One day, he was accosted by a Communist soldier, his goods confiscated and ordered to never operate his business again. The boy was absolutely heartbroken, knowing he could not give his mother anything to help feed and clothe their starving family. Such was the life when everything was either given up for the collectivist state or destroyed.

This book made me thank God for my American freedom, even though it is teetering on a precipice right now. There is a sequel to this book that is due out in September, 2014 called Stalked: The Boy Who Said No. I can’t wait to read it!

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A Review of Captive to Conqueror by Harold Wildish

Captive to ConquerorSomewhere or other, I found a copy of a rather unknown book by a Plymouth Brethren missionary named Harold Wildish who died in the early 1980’s. His story is remarkable. This is an English book and its contents are from a meeting at Filey of the Christian Holiday Crusade put on by the Movement for World Evangelization. The speaker, Mr. Wildish, had a topic of Romans 5-8 and Romans 12: 1-11 and that is the content of this book. Each chapter began with the exact Scripture reading and then his exhortations from each passage. He reminds us that the battle of sin and death has already been won by Jesus Christ and of the great truths we need to appropriate from Romans 6 and 7 about being dead to sin, alive to God, and married not to the law, but to Christ. These are teachings we need to sink our teeth down into. For we can’t appreciate the victory that Romans 8 describes without knowing what Christ has done, once and for all, with our sin.

One part of the book particularly moved me. Wildish described being away from his wife and preaching in a hot, “sin soaked village” in South America. He said at the time it was one of the hottest spots in the world, and he lived at the time in the back of a building where the mosquitoes buzzed all night and oily food nauseated his stomach. He went down to the muddy Demerara coast that evening, and the slightest breeze refreshed him in his spirit, and gave him the fulness to preach to sweaty, sin filled souls.

Somehow, although he felt like quitting, the Spirit touched the hearts of all those who attended his message that night. After he dismissed the group, everyone stayed in their seat, they all wanted to get right with God that night. Two years later, people were still talking how he ministered to them mightily through the Spirit of God. Lives were changed because he persisted through adversity.

I love finding books like these! I consider them little gems among the many voices of Christianity today. This man ministered in Africa and Jamaica and in the Amazon area. His messages are still available to listen to today at sermonindex.net. http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/mydownloads/viewcat.php?cid=1408

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