A Mother and Father Overcome Questions Of Faith To Find Grace With Their Daughter

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Bella’s Gift” is a book by Rick and Karen Santorum, along with Elizabeth Santorum, who writes the introduction. Michael W. Smith writes a brief foreword.  Rick Santorum is a notable politician, ran for president in 2012, and may run again.  However, this is not a political book.  Readers will do well to become acquainted with the Santorum’s youngest child Bella, who will be seven years old this year.

Bella is in a unique category of special needs children.  She has Trisomy 18, which the authors sometimes compare with Trisomy 21 (Down’s Syndrome), but acknowledge is worse.  Children like Bella have a meager 1% statistical chance of living past one year of age.  While the Santorums have seven living children, the unique circumstances of having Bella as part of the household have forever altered their family life.

The book consists of eighteen chapters, eleven of which are attributed to Karen.  This is fortunate for the reader, because her chapters are much more compelling than those of her husband.  This is not to take anything away from her husband Rick, he does a good job communicating in the book.  However, when talking about Bella, the raw emotion conveyed by a protective and self proclaimed “Momma Bear” can not be beaten.

Karen and Rick open up in the book about the death of their infant son Gabriel, and how difficult it was to learn that the impending birth of their new daughter will bring hugely challenging genetic issues.  In fact, they were advised that the abnormalities of the new baby, Bella, were “incompatible with life,” by one of the hospital doctors.

Even after the birth, as Rick and his daughter put together a crib, Rick admits he kept his emotions guarded because he was not sure how long the new baby would be with them.  This put a strain on his relationship with his other children, which they were able to get through after some soul-searching and shedding of tears.

The Santorums open up in ways that are full of risk for public figures. (Recall how Sarah Palin has been mocked for having a special needs child.)  Karen and Rick discuss how the stress of pursuing career advancement, maintaining a household, and keeping their marriage healthy have been challenged in many ways.  In fact, they acknowledge many marriages collapse under the demands of caring for a special needs child.  They give God the glory for blessing them with a marriage that has survived this critical test, while also discussing the hard work necessary from both spouses to keep things together.

This book is emotionally challenging for any parent to contemplate.  It is almost too much to bear for parents of small children, but the inspirational tales of faith and overcoming obstacles is worth the read.

This book merits five of five stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thoughts On The Devil Of Hell’s Kitchen

"Daredevil-televison" by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Daredevil-televison.jpg#/media/File:Daredevil-televison.jpgHaving spent the past few days binge watching “Daredevil,” an original show on Netflix, I have a few thoughts to share.  This is not a review of the show, just a hodge podge of thoughts that are rambling through my skull after having viewed it.  If you intend to watch this show, please be advised that spoilers lie ahead. You have been warned.

***Spoiler Alert***

A blind man (the hero of the series) and his best friend become lawyers.  They make very good grades in school, intern at a prestigious law firm, and decline very lucrative positions at said firm in order to help the down and out people in Hell’s Kitchen, a rough neighborhood of New York City. This type of idealism probably appeals to many millennials.

The blind man character is Matt Murdock, who on occasion reads the writings of Thurgood Marshall for inspiration.  I wish Hollywood would have its heroes read some conservatives for inspiration every now and then, but at least somebody in the justice system is being portrayed honorably.

Vincent D’Onofrio plays the character of Wilson Fisk. He does a great job playing the evil man of super genius intellect and merciless will.  In his own sick and twisted way, Fisk seeks to right the perceived wrongs taking place in Hell’s Kitchen.  He and Daredevil both want what’s best for their city.

Bad guys are among us in the show.  They have penetrated the media, police force, justice system, and almost every other institution of the city. A notable exception, at least in the 13 episodes I watched in Season 1, is the Catholic Church.  The local priest is portrayed as a man of integrity and respect.  When is the last time you saw a clergyman in a TV show, much less one that is shown in a positive light?

It takes 13 episodes before Daredevil gets his suit of clothes. He ends up getting it from the same man who makes suits for bad guy Wilson Fisk. Another irony the good and bad guys share.

I thought about showing this series to my kids since it is based on a comic book hero.  Glad I didn’t.  The violence and gore is TV-MA (to put it mildly). The language is also rougher than what is standard for broadcast TV.  If this were a movie, PG-13 may be an appropriate rating. Then again, there is a scene involving Fisk and a car door that is a bit grittier than PG-13.

Lady Justice is often portrayed as being blind. Even after watching this, I can not see her being a vigilante. Is that being too idealistic? After all, she does have a sword. Have you ever seen her use it in real life? Our modern day justice system is flawed, and often times weak. This paves the way for characters like Daredevil to occupy our imaginations, and possibly bloodlust for revenge when innocents are harmed.

This series takes its time to develop its characters. Better suited for more mature audiences. If you like clear cut good guys and bad guys, this is not the show for you. Human beings have flaws, and the characters are very human in their portrayals. The character of Daredevil has some serious issues in his own right.

Have you ever read the Biblical story of “The Good Samaritan?” Wilson Fisk has. Although in contrast to Daredevil, he flat out says he is not a man of faith. Chances are most younger people don’t know the story, since religious writings are forbidden in most public schools. It is a pity that a show wrestling with issues of morals, legal ethics, and philanthropy has to painstakingly explain such stories to its viewers, lest they stay totally lost. Such is the state of our education system; producing religious illiterates. The makers of the show just have to explain it before they can move on, and they do.

This show is dark, serious, violent, and has high production values. Looking forward to more from Netflix in the future.

NIV Proclamation Bible Is Good, Not Great

NIV Proclamation Bible_240_360_Book.1496.coverThe recently released NIV Proclamation Bible is not the best Study Bible available, and that needs to be understood upfront.  It is a good, but not great Study Bible.  A big point, from a marketing perspective, is a quote from Tim Keller prominently displayed across the top of the front cover: “There are many Study Bibles, but none better.”  While the Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York is widely known and respected, I have to respectfully disagree with him on this point.

The Bible itself comes in hardcover, with two ribbon markers, with text in the updated New International Translation.  While some may debate the merits of the NIV in its current form, this review is strictly concerned with the Study Bible’s unique material.  Increasingly, publishing and other product sourcing is taking place overseas, and this Study Bible is printed in China. Zondervan is not the only imprint doing this, (I own an ESV Bible from Crossway also printed in China), and this practice does not seem particularly controversial in the business community, but the irony did stick in the back of my mind as the government there typically does not allow its own people to read the Bible in their own language.

A reader of this Bible will receive a number of introductory essays by an array of respected theologians.  While numerous, they are also intentionally brief, with 68 total pages of essay material.  In addition, each book of the Bible includes a brief (usually one page) introduction with some suggested commentaries for further reading.

What a reader of this Bible will not get is a detailed verse by verse breakdown with additional information.  If you are seeking verse by verse explanatory notes, I recommend the ESV Study Bible, or the NIV Study Bible as two good ones.  However, the Proclamation Bible is designed for readers that will be leading small groups, Bible Studies, or perhaps even preaching.  The introductory material and further reading suggestions all point the reader in a direction for detailed further study that will assist a serious student to maximize their learning.

In short, the Proclamation Bible is a good, but not great Study Bible due to its minimalist study material.  It earns three of five stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Elections Don’t Change Culture

Just a quick note on a topic rattling around in my brain this week. Who you elect will not change the culture of the community, state, or country.  Society at large will dictate what values are enforced.

By way of example, members of a community may ask “Why does the city not do more to make the downtown look nice?”

The city council may, in this purely hypothetical example, spend $3-4 million dollars on improving infrastructure in a compact and highly trafficked part of its downtown area.  Despite the improvements to sidewalks, street lighting, and landscaping, it is up to the business owners and citizens to take it to the next level.

As ridiculous as it might seem, a business owner could paint the front of their establishment a hideous shade of purple.  People of discriminating taste will complain to their elected leaders, but it is really the owner of said business and property that they should take issue with.

A couple of months later, another business owner could paint a business sign on the side of their building with hand scrawled lettering.  Can you imagine how that might look to those trying to improve the downtown area?  It is so silly we don’t need to worry about that actually happening, right?

If this were to happen, you could quite well expect some concerned people to petition the government for restrictive codes, sign ordinances, and more.  Even small government minded political conservatives could enter the fray, asking for code enforcement officers and police to go after the graffiti “vandalism” occurring on the businesses.

For those with a more libertarian point of view, I am reminded of the famous quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who when asked what came out of the long meetings at Independence Hall, is supposed to have said, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Is it really the role of government to tell property owners what color to paint their buildings? Or to dictate a type of signage that is deemed “tasteful?”

The local schools ask students to respect others. (Junking up the neighborhood’s appearance is a failure to do this.) They also ask students to make good decisions. (Purple storefronts and hand lettering on the side of your business sound like good decisions?)  They also ask students to solve problems. Well, if large numbers of people are complaining about you, you might reflect on how the problem solving is going.

Just hypothetically speaking of course.  This is only a thought experiment.

Sharp Legal Analysis Of Expanding Presidential Powers

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Judge Andrew Napolitano’s new book “Suicide Pact, The Radical Expansion of Presidential Powers and the Lethal Threat to American Liberty” analyzes legal and historical treatment of individual liberty under a Natural Law philosophy.  Much of the book is devoted to wartime society’s balance of security concerns with respect to the rights of the individual.

Going back to the Revolutionary War era, Napolitano explains that soldiers accused of treason were given a chance to defend themselves in court before being punished, and gives examples to support his claims.  As the book progresses, he gives his perspective on major legislation and changing views of society with excellent analysis of The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, The Espionage Act of 1917, The Sedition Act of 1918, World War II internment of Japanese, Cold War conflicts, and concludes with the Global War on Terror.

While I agree with many of his views, and much of what he has to say regarding the Patriot Act, I disagree that all of those accused of terrorism should be tried in civilian courts.  However, there is no denying the lack of justice in the security state, where people like Edward Snowden have disclosed the complete lack of respect the government is showing to the rights of individual citizens.

Given the abuses that are possible when Presidents are given near dictatorial power, it is no surprise that shameful things are being done in the name of “protecting” Americans. For these reasons, Napolitano makes an excellent case for judicial proceedings that are as open to the public as possible, with appropriate checks and balances on the various branches of government.

This book will surprise you with its modern and historical examples, and leave you second guessing the current crop of those in the political class.  Restoring the values enshrined in the Bill of Rights is of vital importance if our American way of life is to continue for future generations.

A solid five of five stars for this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

No Greater Valor, A Review of a Book on The Siege of Bastogne

No Greater Valor_225_350_Book.1402.coverNo Greater Valor, The Siege of Bastogne and the Miracle that Sealed Allied Victory,” by Jerome Corsi, Ph.D., focuses on how the faith of the men involved in this key battle of World War II factored into their fight for survival and ultimate victory.  This key nexus point became the center of attention for the Allies and the Nazis during the Battle of the Bulge, resulting in the 101st Airborne Division and others being completely cut off and surrounded by enemy troops.

Soldiers in the battle became known as the “Battered Bastards of Bastogne,” and are admired for their resolve in harsh conditions with long odds.  When the Germans sent a group under the white flag of truce to negotiate terms of surrender for the U.S. troops, Acting Division Commander General McAuliffe gave his famous one word response to the German military commander: “Nuts!”

What makes this a fascinating read, is Corsi’s exploration of the faith backgrounds of famous commanders and key leaders.  The fact that McAuliffe became the acting division commander could be chalked up to fortunate chance, or as some believe, to Providence.  In accounts of the battle following the war, McAuliffe himself attributes the hand of God to the successful placement of units around the town. When they were emplaced, McAuliffe did not even have the guidance of a map when making initial decisions on where to place his assets.

Patton’s Third Army eventually broke through the German siege, and the author describes the military and spiritual components of that side of the action as well. Patton’s chaplain was awarded the Bronze Star medal for offering what the general deemed to be a successfully written prayer.

Prayer for Good Weather to Kill More Germans

General Patton ordered his chaplain to produce a prayer in December 1944, just as the Third Army began its turn North to rescue the beleaguered men in Bastogne. 250,000 copies were distributed to soldiers, with the prayer on one side and a Christmas greeting on the other.

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.”

On the reverse, Patton’s Christmas greeting:

“To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army, I wish a Merry Christmas. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We march in our might to complete victory. May God’s blessings rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day.

G.S. Patton

Lieutenant General

Commanding, Third United States Army

The story behind these developments makes for a great read, and honors the memories of America’s brave heroes who sacrificed so much to defeat the Nazis.

This book earns a solid four stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Veterans will like “Killing Patton”

Killing Patton

A book about General George S. Patton? Of course I am interested in reading it! The author, Bill O’reilly, even suggests (in a humble and selfless fashion of course) that you rush out and buy it in order to gift it to a veteran on Veteran’s Day. In my case, I checked out the eBook from the local library. Regardless, all veterans will indeed like this book if given the chance to read it.

This is the latest installment in the “Killing” series of books coauthored by Bill O’reilly and Martin Dugard. Other titles in the series are “Killing Lincoln,” “Killing Kennedy,” and “Killing Jesus.”

Killing Patton” is subtitled “The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General.” The authors put forth a theory that Patton did not die as the result of the official story of an unfortunate automobile accident, but instead, was deliberately killed.  At the end of the book, they ask that the government reopen the case, and conduct a full investigation to research the possibility of the death being a murder.

The authors do not express with any certainty that the official explanation of Patton’s death is incorrect, but instead, lay out facts, and suggest there is enough uncertainty that authorities should research the matter further.

Most of the book is devoted to telling the story of Patton’s leadership of the Third Army in the European Theater of World War II. It summarizes some key battles and other moments in the last half of the war, with profiles of other high level leaders during the period. The authors also discuss relationships these men had with women outside of the bounds of marriage.

Although Nazis have few fans, it is annoying to have some of them described with pejoratives like “despicable” without any context or explanation.  In the aftermath of the war, Patton’s decision to use low-level former Nazis to help run post offices and keep trains rolling drew criticism from many in America.  While Patton did not consider the totality of the German people to be “despicable,” it is not clear where the authors themselves come down on this issue.  Many of the Nazis were indeed “despicable,” but where terms like this are used, additional explanatory information should be included.

Overall, this is a solid work, and is recommended reading for anyone interested in World War II history, and Patton in particular.  It presents a well rounded view of the man, to include faults and deficiencies in his character too.  The U.S. Army’s most effective combat leader certainly had no shortage of enemies, and the authors make a good case for continuing an investigation into the circumstances of his early demise.

This book earns four out of five stars.


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