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What They Meant for Evil: How a Lost Girl of Sudan Found Healing, Peace, and Purpose in the Midst of Suffering

What They Meant for Evil: How a Lost Girl of Sudan Found Healing, Peace, and Purpose in the Midst of Suffering

by Rebecca Deng with Ginger Kolbaba

What They Meant for EvilWe hear reports on the news of massacres of innocents in various countries around the globe and stories of displaced men, women, and children who become refugees and try to survive in crowded refugee camps. Those stories are usually sound bites, quickly discarded for the next big story. Rebecca Deng, a survivor of the horrific Bor Massacre of 1991 in Sudan, gives us the perspective of a six year old girl in What They Meant for Evil. We see her confusion as she flees with family walking through the wilds. She becomes an orphan as those she loves most are killed and grows up in a refugee camp. The UN provides a small amount of maize, without seasoning, to sustain the population. The bathroom is an open area on the other side of a dry riverbed with nothing to provide privacy. I had always imagined a refugee camp as a temporary facility, but Rebecca lived in Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya for eight years before she benefited from a special program that relocated her to the U.S. and placed her with an adoptive family. Many of her Sudanese relatives remained in the camp long after that.

In the latter part of the book, we learn of Rebecca’s life as an adult and her spiritual growth as she comes to terms with her identity and the trauma of her past. She uses her education, her experiences, and her faith in God to help other refugees recover as she sees God’s plan unfold to bring good out of what others intended for evil.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Faith Words for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:  4/5

Category: Christian, Memoir, Nonfiction

Publication:   September 8, 2020—Faith Words

Memorable Lines:

That was what the war did to the tens of thousands of innocent children who lost everything—it took their childhood, their innocence, their families, their homes, even their lives.

More crowds meant less food for everybody. And less food meant more violence. Crime seemed to be everywhere. People began bullying other people, stealing their food, and beating and raping them. These things were unheard of for my people before coming here. My language doesn’t even have a word for rape.

…I had learned that God doesn’t always keep us from experiencing trauma, but his unseen presence is with us, strengthening us.

But there’s another aspect of forgiveness that we too often forget or neglect, and that is forgiving ourselves. If we want true forgiveness, we must forgive ourselves for the ways in which we have failed ourselves. We do more damage to ourselves when we believe the lies others have said about us and the lies the enemy whispers into our minds—the lies that tell us we are no good, we are worthless, we can never experience true freedom or true love.

Tell Me No Secrets–missing delivery man

Tell Me No Secrets

by Lynn Chandler Willis

Tell Me No SecretsI’m gong to work hard at sharing Tell Me No Secrets by Lynn Chandler Willis without giving away a very important theme that emerges and defines the rest of the book. Ava Logan, publisher of a small-town weekly, has her own difficult childhood history but was rescued and raised by her foster mother Doretha, who is also a preacher. Later she escapes from an abusive marriage when her policeman husband is killed on the job. She has three children and is in a relationship with the county sheriff Grayson Ridge who is the complete opposite of her deceased husband.

Trouble starts when Ava spies a backpack in the river during her daughter’s baptism. It belongs to Scott, an employee of the paper who has gone missing. The rest of this page turner is devoted to an investigation to discover what happened to Scott and why. Setting is extremely important in this book as much of it relates to customs of the backwoods of the Appalachians where there are “granny witches” who don’t really practice witchcraft; they treat people with herbal remedies. Religion has different flavors there, and dousing rods are not uncommon.

You’ll enjoy meeting the regular characters that populate this book. Not everyone is painted with the same brush, but they are all depicted realistically. There are also characters to feel ambivalent about and those that are downright evil. Social problems both in and out of the “holler” are addressed as well. Just when you think the book has drawn to a satisfactory conclusion, the investigation takes a turn and everyone is presented with a surprise ending.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: This is #2 in the Ava Logan Mystery Series but works well as a standalone. We jump right into the current mystery with the first lines of the book: “People don’t just disappear. Unless they do.” The author, however, does an excellent job in the first chapter of putting the new mystery in the context of what we need to know of the characters’ backgrounds.

Publication:   June 11, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Praying for the best, expecting the worst. Sooner or later, the two collide and you’re left numb to both.

“Just cause you ain’t the enemy don’t mean you’re our friend. Right, Momma?” Such wisdom from someone deemed simple.

You could set your clock by the depth of Nola’s southern accent. Up until lunchtime, she worked to keep it in check, careful with her pronunciations. After lunch, tire became tar and fire became far.

You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times

You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times

by Max Lucado

you'll get through thisI have always been fascinated by the Biblical story of Joseph, from the coat of many colors to saving Egypt and his people from famine. The story includes pride and arrogance, bad parenting, attempted fratricide, slavery, temptations, false accusations, jail, forgotten promises, a rise to power, revenge, and forgiveness. Joseph’s life was a roller coaster ride. There had to be a lot of times when Joseph could have questioned God, “Why me?”

Max Lucado uses Joseph’s story to speak to those who are hurting, who find themselves in a pit of despair. In You’ll Get Through This, Lucado offers the hope found in the Bible that what was intended for evil can be used by God for good. Lucado is the ultimate storyteller, and he brings in stories of people he knows and those he has met to demonstrate his points. With chapters like “Stupid Won’t Fix Stupid” and “Is God Good When Life Isn’t?”,  Lucado’s book is Biblical, practical, and inspirational. I read it at the pace of a chapter a day with more than a few sneak peeks ahead, and I plan on rereading it. There is so much help and understanding rooted in its pages for both men and women who are facing life’s challenges. 

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction, Self-Help

Notes: To aid readers who want to use You’ll Get Through This for book or Bible study, there are added “Questions for Reflection” at the end of the book to accompany each chapter.

Publication:   September 10, 2013—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

You’ll get through this.

It won’t be painless.

It won’t be quick.

But God will use this mess for good.

Don’t be foolish or naive.

But don’t despair either.

With God’s help, you’ll get through this.

Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse God’s accomplishments is to discover his heart. To discover his heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread. It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up.

God is plotting for our good. In all the setbacks and slip-ups, he is ordaining the best for our future. Every event of our days is designed to draw us toward our God and our destiny.

Hospitality and Homicide–does evil exist?

Hospitality and Homicide

by Lynn Cahoon

Hospitality and HomicideHospitality and Homicide is the eighth book in the Tourist Trap Mysteries. I have not read any others in the series, but the number of characters are limited and it was easy to jump into the story. The plot is fairly simple; too much emphasis is on the characters’ everyday lives, rather than on the mystery. Halfway into the book the reader knows with certainty Jill’s daily activities, her favorite dessert, her relationship issues, etc. Despite that, the author details them over and over throughout the book. There are undoubtedly some tense moments and some twists, but no cliffhangers. Another issue was the disappearance of a boy. It was unclear how long he had been missing, making that thread somewhat unbelievable. I did enjoy the book and was curious as to how the mysteries would be resolved, but it was not outstanding.

This book has two main plot threads—a brutal murder and a disappearance. One of them involves a psychic who communes with spirits. As a Christian, I usually avoid books with paranormal aspects, but this one slipped under my radar. Initially the theme seemed mild. At the end there was an unresolved issue as to why the psychic was successful in one case and not in another. Holding even more impact for me, however, was the statement made by police detective Greg about someone who committed a horrific, sadistic murder: “I don’t believe in evil, but if I did, this guy would be the picture next to the dictionary definition.” The Bible makes it clear that evil exists, and I would think that anyone who reads news reports would be convinced of that as well. Regardless, I want to clarify that the viewpoint of this book is not a reflection of my beliefs, nor is it a Biblical viewpoint. In looking at teasers of other books in this series, I did not see evidence that the other books in the series contain paranormal elements.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #8 in the Tourist Trap Mystery series. Contains paranormal elements.

Publication:   May 16, 2017—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Honey, I don’t have to make you sound like a wimp. When it comes to other people, you are a pushover. Everyone in town knows that.”

I know, I own a bookstore and I should be anti-e-readers. But honestly, I’m more concerned that people read than exactly how they read.

A readers’s pride and joy is having an author personally sign their copies of well-loved stories. That’s the reason bookstores will never be replaced by the e-reader. People need their keeper shelves.

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