When I go into someone's house or apartment for the first time, I find myself especially drawn to their bookshelves. I want to see the books that they read and the ones they have on display. I like to know which ones have mattered enough to keep, which ones are dogeared and worn, and which are on the stack to be read next.
The Miracle of Father Kapaun: Priest, Soldier, and Korean War Hero by Roy Wenzl. Father Kapaun was a Roman Catholic priest who volunteered to be an Army Chaplain in the Korean War. When his company was overrun he risked his life to save his soldiers. He was captured and is credited with saving hundreds of lives during his period of imprisonment before dying in the camp. The book recounts the stories that surround his life and death, interviews with soldiers he served with, and information about the case to get Father Kapaun both the Medal of Honor from the United States Army and declared a Saint by the Vatican.
The book was originally a series of newspaper articles and that shows. The writing is a bit mediocre and the book could have really used a better editor. Some of the formatting in the ebook version is also a little wonky. But the story was interesting and so was the information about the quest for sainthood and the medal of honor. The author details the miracles that are said to have occurred because of Father Kapaun’s intercession as well as all of the work former soldiers have done trying to get his case to move through all of the hoops for the medal.
The strongest part of the book is the stories of his time in the camp; that’s where you really see his character shine through. From preaching sermons about resurrection in the midst of hostile captors, to asking soldiers to forgive the people who were mistreating them, to the impact he had on the lives of those he was imprisoned with. He was a remarkable person.
Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez. This book is THE guide to learning how to use Scrivener. I read it straight through and will definitely have it next to me as I continue to learn all of the ins and outs of the program. Scrivener does so much more than I thought it could do and I have barely scratched the surface in my own use of the program. I would recommend reading the book while also experimenting with a Scrivener file. It all starts to blur together when you just read it without also putting what you’re learning into practice. This is a really great reference book and I highly recommend it to people who want to learn more about using Scrivener.
The Eye of God by James Rollins is a totally silly religious thriller and I loved it. A comet is headed toward earth and could destroy everything and a team has to figure out a way to stop it. Included in the mystery are the remains of one of the apostles and other clues involving Ghengis Khan. I love books like this because they are quick reads, raise interesting theological questions, and are just plain fun.
Finding Our Focus: A History of the Grace Brethren Church by David R. Plaster. This is a book about the history of the church that I grew up in. It’s definitely a broad overview and written by someone who was involved in the leadership of the denomination, so there is some bias here, but as I had never been able to find any other record of where the denomination came from I found this helpful. The beginning of the book outlines the history of the Brethren movement, first in Germany, and then as it migrated to the United States, landing in William Penn’s Pennsylvania. There was some good information about the different Protestant streams that formed the Brethren distinctiveness. Then Plaster tackled the growth of the Brethren movement and it’s first split. One of the groups wanted to be more conservative and keep to traditional dress and ways of being, the other group was concerned with “progressive” though which included more missionary work and Sunday School programs. Grace Brethren came out of the more progressive stream (of that split). Then the next split occurred in the 1930’s and was over liberal vs. conservative theology. The Grace Brethren movement was finally born.
The book details some of the growing pains of the new movement (including another schism as a small group broke off because they wanted to be even more conservative, especially around what type of baptism was allowed).
The final section of the book was basically a rundown of all of the different ministries of the denomination and with a short description of their history and what they do.
The book has some glaring gaps: Plaster talks positively about the Brethren movement being staunchly pacifist and Brethren’s refusing the swear oaths and hold office. He never explains why or how the Grace Brethren church made the decision to abandon both of those principles. There is a passing mention that says they have many military chaplains which is of note because of their pacifist roots, but that’s about it. The church I grew up in had plenty of people who served in the military and my college (which is a Grace Brethren school) often brought elected officials to campus.
There are several conversations about statements of faith in the same breath as being a non-creedal church which makes no sense to me (especially when affirmation of the statement of faith is a condition of membership).
This book definitely helped me to understand a little bit more about where some of the theological streams of my upbringing came from, but there was a lot left out. I would love to find a book by an outside historian, but I think the movement is so small that no one will be doing that any time soon.