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Adult fiction, Book Reviews, Teen fiction

BOOK REVIEW: The Winter King

by Christine Cohen 351 pages / 2019 15-year-old Cora lives in a time of horses, and swords, and meat pies. It's also a time of poverty, and bitter winters, and threadbare clothing, and not enough food to make it through to Spring. To make things even worse, ever since Cora’s father was killed, the village has treated her and her family as if they are cursed, and as if that curse is contagious. But no matter, Cora is resourceful, and she’ll do just about anything to ensure her family lives through the winter. But how does a young girl stand up, by her lonesome, to the village god, the tyrannical Winter King, who is taking their food? I didn’t know quite what to think of this book in the early stages. While the village other villagers were religious, Cora was not. And she was the hero. So how was this a Christian book, then, if the god in the story seemed to be the bad guy? Well, as one reviewer noted, this is a very Protestant book in that Cora rejects a false religion in favor of the true one. She rejects the false representation of the Winter King that the village’s religious authorities maintain. But then she uncovers a book that tells a very different story about this King, presenting instead, a God who loves. CAUTIONS Cora is bitter and sometimes manipulative, and so driven to keep her family fed that she does stuff that she should not. There's good reason for her desperation – death is reaching for her whole family – but that it is understandable makes it tricky ground for the younger reader to tread. This is not a heroine in a white hat, and for the pre-teen, or even younger teen reader, used to simpler morality tales, they might not have the discernment skills yet to be able to cheer on a hero whose actions are not always praiseworthy. I feel like I'm making Cora sound darker than she is. There is surely darkness in her – but there is also a darkness around her that she is fighting, futilely at first. And then hope comes. CONCLUSION From the cover to even the way the pages are laid out, this is a gorgeous book, with a deep and satisfying story. I'd recommend it for 15 and up, but I know adults will find this has real depth to it that they'll enjoy exploring.

Movie Reviews

The Wild Brothers: 8-episode DVD series (+ free vlog series)

Reality / Documentary Each episode is 28-30 min / 2015-2016 Rating: 7/10 Everyone in our family enjoyed this DVD series, from our 2-year-old all the way up to mom and dad. At series start, the Wild family lives in the deep jungles of Papua, Indonesia, where dad is a missionary to the Wanu tribe. The four Wild brothers are the sort of boys who collect pets in their pockets, and who love to explore the jungle with a butterfly net in one hand and a slingshot in the other. In their first adventure, titled Welcome to our World, we get introduced to the family, and the boys introduce us to God’s creation. We go hunting with them, we’re introduced to their best friend, a native Indonesian child named Pu, and we get to watch their facial expressions as Pu introduces them to a local delicacy, raw echidna brain. A fun extra is the boys skinning a ten-foot python that even after it has been dead for an hour is still moving! The second in the series, called Jewels of the Jungle, follows the family as they go butterfly and moth-hunting. Our girls wanted to buy butterfly nets of their own after that one. Then in the third, Paradise Lost, the family is on vacation with another missionary couple, the Browns, and their three girls. My own girls love this series even though it is all about boys, but I think they appreciated how the girl-to-boy ratio was upped for this adventure. The two families head from the inland missions to on the coast of a beautiful island. From this home base they head out each day to explore reefs and bays and check out sea turtles, manta rays, and sea snakes and so many gorgeous fish. Some misadventures also occur, some painful, like mom getting stung by a jellyfish, and some hilarious, like the boys contending with a large snake (8-12 feet long) that decided to take up residence in their cabin roof. As they do in each episode, the boys bring a solid Christian perspective to their exploration: when they come across an old bone deposit – a burial grounds where skulls are haphazardly stacked by each other – they take the opportunity to talk about how despite the beauty of this world, it is still fallen, and waiting for restoration. There are five other episodes, and each is just as interesting as the next. The only disappointment is maybe in the way the series concludes. In the last two episodes they are make preparations to sail across the ocean in a giant canoe. It is fascinating, as they carve the boat out with local help, and point out parallels to what Noah had to do. But because this is real life, and because in real life sometimes plans get upended, the finale doesn't end on the triumphant note we might have wished for. Cautions There are no cautions to note. While it isn’t clear what denominational background the family is from, the Christian reflections the boys and their parents share with viewers are thoughtful and solid. In one episode a brief shot of some human skulls is seen, and an encounter with a snake in the extra features of one episode was just a tiny bit scary for my little ones. That said, my girls, at the time 2 though 6, enjoyed this immensely – that little bit of tension didn't scare them away! Conclusion The Wild Brothers are very adventurous boys, the sort who play with bugs, and even eat the odd one now and again...at least when they are properly cooked! And they are very godly boys too, very aware of how God makes Himself evident in the creation all around us. And while they are boys, this was exciting for me girls too – I don't know that they fully appreciate bugs yet, but this did move them in that direction. I'd recommend this as great viewing for families with young kids from 10 and under. Mom and dad will enjoy it too, but there might not be enough action for the teenagers. You can buy the series on DVD or via download at AnswersInGenesis.org and as DVDs at Amazon. The trailer below is for the first episode, Welcome to our World. Addendum: free vlog series The Wild Brothers also now have a free vlog series, called "Highlands to Island" that you can find here. While you should watch the first episode, my daughters and I found the later episodes, from maybe 8 onward (there are 30 so far) more interesting than the first few. The vlog isn't quite the DVD series, but until new DVDs come out, this sure is a nice way to reconnect with this wonderful missionary family. https://assets.answersingenesis.org/vid/prod/etc/trailer/30-9-507_wild-brothers-1-trailer.mp4

Book excerpts

The Reformation comes to Strasbourg

This past year we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and with the focus on Luther, but also other big names like Calvin, Knox and Zwingli. But there were countless others used by God and in this excerpt from Christine Farenhorst’s novel “Katharina, Katharina” (which is reviewed here) we learn of the Reformation as it happened in the city of Strasbourg, 400 miles from Wittenberg, and as it happened in the life of Katharina Schütz Zell. The following is an excerpt from chapter 23.   In the early fall of 1518, when the heat was beginning to ease off just a breath, and trees were setting up their easels of autumn colors, Matthis Zell, a new priest, took charge of the cathedral parish of St. Lawrence.

****

It was Katharina’s friend, Annalein, who first informed her that St. Lawrence had acquired a new parish priest. "What does he look like?" Katharina asked, her curiosity piqued. They were sequestered in the Schütz sitting room, side by side, heads drawn close in conversation. She poked Annalein, who was dreamily staring out at the rectangular-shaped windowpanes through which the afternoon sun was shining. "What does he look like?" she repeated impatiently. "Who?" Annalein asked, almost as if she were waking up, "Whom does who look like?" "The new parish priest," Katharina said, resisting an urge to shake Annalein. "You just told me that St. Lawrence had a new parish priest." Annalein had always been rather absent with her thoughts. But Katharina knew that there was not a kinder girl in the whole of Strasbourg. "Oh, the new priest," Annalein responded, a slow smile appearing at the corners of her mouth, "He seems quite nice, actually. But Katharina, you will never guess whom I saw at Mass this morning. Herr Burrman and his wife and ...." "I didn't ask if the new priest was nice, Annalein," Katharina patiently replied, "but I asked what he looked like. You know as in: Was he tall? Did he have dark features….?" "Oh," Annalein said, "is that what you meant?" "Yes, it was." "Well, I only saw him from a distance and could not make out his features very well. He was of medium height – neither short nor tall. And whether or not he had a dark complexion...." She stopped, shrugging a little helplessly and then went on, animation lighting her pale face. "But Herr and Frau Burrman had their son with them. He is quite tall and rather good-looking, I think. They remembered me and stopped to speak with me. The son was very kind also. He asked after my health." During the somewhat rapid flow of words cascading down from Annalein's lips, Katharina observed her friend carefully. As far as she could recall, she had never heard her speak of anyone of the male gender with such praise. "What is his name? What is the son's name?" "It is Reinhart." "Reinhart," Katharina repeated, adding, "a very noble name." "Yes, indeed," Annalein agreed, "I did think so as well." Katharina smiled indulgently, before adding, "So might you see him again?" Annalein blushed most becomingly. "Well, he did say that he might call on my Mother, just," she added innocently, "to ask about some particular matters with regard to her tapestry work. He was thinking of buying something for the church because he is so thankful about his mother's complete recovery." "Oh, I see," Katharina said, "a devoted son. And that is," she added, "the way it should be." "Indeed," Annalein agreed demurely, hands folded in her lap, "he appears to be very devoted." Then the girls caught one another's eyes and they both began to laugh – first softly, but their peals of laughter increased by the moment. It was at that moment that Katharina’s sister Margaret walked in. "What are you laughing at?" she demanded, almost beginning to laugh herself because the merry sound that met her was so contagious. "Oh, nothing," Katharina spoke with difficulty, heaving a big sigh to control the mirth that kept bubbling up. "Nothing?" Margaret said disbelievingly. "Well, actually we were speaking of... of the new parish priest at St. Laurence," Annalein added, trying hard to speak seriously. "Well, what is so humorous about him?" Margaret asked, "I have heard him preach a few times and he is quite...." She stopped. In spite of herself, Katharina was intrigued. "He is quite what, Margaret?" "Well, I would say, he is quite stern." "Stern?" "His eyes," Margaret said, sitting herself down on a chair opposite the two girls, "his eyes are quite piercing and when he speaks, you must listen for you cannot look away." "You have not spoken of him before," Katharina observed, "but it seems that he has made quite an impression on you." "He carries himself," Margaret went on, "with a quiet dignity and not at all like many of the priests we are wont to see who...." She stopped, rather at a loss. "Yes," Katharina encouraged. "I would not," her sister said softly, "I would not malign those of the church and thus incur... incur...." "I know," Annalein finished her hesitating words, "you are not eager to incur a lot of disapproval, especially when you will feel bound to confess in the booth to your local priest what you have just said. For he is likely to fine you and give you a week's worth of 'Hail Mary's' to boot." "Annalein!" Both of the Schütz girls gasped at her audacity. Annalein placidly stared at them. "It is true what I said, is it not? I think I am not the only one to scoff at those who preach good works but who steal from the poor." As the sisters continued to stare at her, she added, "And, from what Margaret has just said, I would like to hear brother Zell preach, and not," and here she poked Katharina in the side, "just look at him." It was Katharina's turn to blush. "I merely wanted to know what he looked like, so that I would recognize him on the pulpit," she responded with what dignity she could muster. "As I said, I have heard him," Margaret repeated, noting her sister's blush with interest, "and I do learn from what he says." "How old," Katharina asked, "is he?" "I think that he would be in his late thirties, maybe about forty years of age," Margaret said, "quite old really. But not so old as Father. And," she added as a non sequitur, "he has a rather large, longish nose."

****

It was not until several of months later, not until the spring of the new year of 1519, that Katharina finally met the new pastor of St. Lawrence in person. She had gone visit a woman whose only son, an eight-year old, had become ill with a severely swollen stomach. Steadfast at the boy's bedside, the mother had barely had any sleep. The child's stomach was so distended he continually screamed with pain. Purgatives had been administered, but the boy repeatedly vomited them up. Just prior to Katharina's visit, the doctor had concocted a powder which the child had kept down, soon afterwards passing a great many worms in his stool. "May Almighty God," the mother whispered, "still grant His grace in letting Kristoff live." Katharina patted her hand, then guided her towards a small cot made up in the corner of the boy's bedroom and made sure she lay down. Satisfied when both mother and child appeared to be sleeping, she went outside into the small yard with a bucket of sudsy water to clean the soiled sheets and blankets. She was thus occupied when she saw a priest approach the dwelling. Because she was aware that both child and mother were trying to sleep, she quickly ran to intercept the man. "Pardon me," she called, crying out just as he was lifting his hand to knock on the door, "but have you come to visit Frau Freiburg?" He stopped, hand in mid-air, and nodded. Somewhat shyly, she went on to explain that she was helping the family, putting her own soapy hands which held an old towel behind her back. "They were sleeping, both she and her child, when I left them some fifteen minutes ago," she finished. The priest had a rather longish nose and remembering her sister Margaret's comment, Katharina suspected that it might be the new priest of St. Lawrence parish and bit back a smile. "Truth be told," she went on, as the man did not respond but simply gazed at her, "the sleep will do both mother and child a world of good as the boy has been, and still is very, ill. But you are undoubtedly aware of his illness." While she spoke, she dried her hands on the towel. "So I take it," he spoke, and his voice was a rich, deep baritone, "that you suggest I not come in." "Far be it from me," she replied, "to tell you what to do. But, yes, given the severity of the boy's affliction and that he has been but a foot from the grave, I would deem it wise that you not awaken them." "You are quite right," he smiled, "and I think they have a fine neighbor in you, for you are a good Samaritan. Would that all the people in Strasbourg were so blessed." She blushed and he regarded her deeply for a long moment without speaking. "My name is Matthis Zell," he finally spoke. "Yes," she responded, "so I thought." There was another quiet. "And what might your name be, if I may be so bold as to ask?" "Katharina - Katharina Schütz." "Ah," he responded, regarding her with his great brown eyes, eyes which reminded Katharina of a faithful dog. She experienced a certain amount of regret that she had not worn a better gown, one with, perhaps, elaborately cuffed sleeves. But this man, this priest, did not seem the type of fellow to whom a matter such as dress would be important. Nevertheless, she felt a strange desire to appear pleasing to him, to appear neat, with a hair net hiding the ever-rambunctious hair strands that always escaped from beneath her cap. "Well, I must...." Katharina eventually said, blushing as he chose that same moment to also speak. They both left off words again and Katharina was quietly contemplating a return to her labors on the sheets and blankets, when they heard an agonized cry come from within the house. "I think," the priest said, "that we... that you, at any rate...." Katharina lost no time and bolted past Master Matthis Zell, who stepped aside to let her enter the front door. The wailing that met their ears, as soon as the door opened, was heart-rending. Katharina ran towards the bedroom. Although she had left both the mother and the boy in slumber, a state of turmoil and disorder met her eyes when she entered the bedchamber. Frau Freiberg was attempting to hold Kristoff, her son, down. But he, talking constantly, although not in such a way that one could understand him, was frantically trying to get out of bed. His breathing was labored and difficult and his eyes were bulging. Katharina knelt down on the opposite side of the bed and attempted to help Frau Freiberg get Kristoff to lie down again. Matthis Zell stood in the doorway, but then also drew near to the bedside. "Let me help," he said, "I am stronger. Perhaps if I lift him up and carry him about, he will be more comfortable." The two women immediately stood up and Matthis bent over the child, easily lifting the lad up in his strong arms. Initially Kristoff quieted in the priest's embrace, but just as Katharina was about to heave a sigh of relief that a crisis had been averted, the child began to convulse. Within a few minutes, the boy was dead – dead in the priest's arms. Gently he laid the boy back on the bed, closing the wide-open eyes. Then turning to the bereft mother who had fallen down on her knees by the edge of the bed, tightly gripping the blanket in her hands as if by doing that she might hold on to the life of her little one, he laid one hand on her head. "May God keep Kristoff safe until we come to him!" "Indeed," Katharina echoed, even as she, coming around the bed, put her arms about Frau Freiberg. A little cowhide-covered horse stood in the corner of the room. Herr Freiberg, a merchant, had brought it back for Kristoff from one of his business trips the last time he had been home. A brown jerkin and some skin-colored stockings hung over the toy's side. How long ago had it been since the boy had worn them? How long since he had played with the horse? How vain life was! Soon this child, Katharina fleetingly mused even as she patted Frau Freiberg's shoulder, would be buried to the tune of clergy's chanting and the sound of bells would carry his memory away. For who would remember him in the long run? Who would?

****

Later, after Frau Freiberg's relatives had come to be with her, Katharina and the black-robed Matthis Zell went home, walking together side by side for a considerable length of streets. Katharina was somewhat lost in thought, her mind overly occupied with the loss that Frau Freiberg had to sustain. Why did such things happen? It was true, all men had to die - but such little ones?! Hard put to keep up with Katharina's quick steps, Matthis was uneasy. He was impressed by the girl's gentle and yet decisive manner, by her way of helping the family they had just left, but she seemed so far-off with her thoughts now. He studied her profile as she paced next to him. It almost seemed as if she had forgotten that he was there. "Which church," he began in a low tone, curious but also genuinely interested in the young woman that providence had placed on his path, "do you attend, Fraulein Schütz?" She began walking slower, suddenly realizing that he was still there, and turned her large blue eyes towards him. They were troubled, he noted. "Which church?" she repeated slowly, "Well we, that is to say, my family and I, always attended Dr. Geiler's church. After he died his nephew, Peter Wickram, took over the pulpit but Peter Wickram is not his equal in preaching, I am afraid." He inclined his head to show that he had heard this, but did not say anything else, as he believed it was in bad taste to criticize a colleague. "You are at St. Lawrence?" Katharina asked him. He nodded again. "Yes, I am and I have been given comfortable quarters on the Bruderhof Strasse just behind the Cathedral." He did not know himself why he volunteered this information. Surely the girl was not interested in knowing where his place of residence was. She smiled, slowing her pace even more, "I am glad for you. It must be difficult to come to live in a new place where you know very few people." "The ones I have come to know have been kind," he rejoined. "Where," she hesitatingly went on, not wishing to appear nosy, "are you from?" "From Kaysersberg." "Oh, that is where Dr. Geiler was from. It was his home town." Her face shone now and he remarked within himself that the smile which transformed her face exposed a sweetness that was very pleasant to behold. "Yes, I have heard that he was." "And did you know," Katharina went on eagerly, "that forty years ago Dr. Geiler was on his way to a preaching post at Wȕrzberg when he was waylaid by Peter Schott, who was one of the chief magistrates of Strasbourg, and was persuaded by him to come here instead?" "I have heard the story," Matthis Zell replied. "And Peter Schott, who was also curator of the Cathedral, had the magnificent stone pulpit built for Dr. Geiler, with its nearly fifty saints, from which he preached for some thirty years to us here in Strasbourg. Perhaps you will also...." Matthis Zell nodded and smiled as she halted her account. "I had indeed heard." Katharina had stopped because she was suddenly embarrassed. Here she was again, dominating a conversation and comparing this man to Dr. Geiler. Perhaps he was intimidated by her words. Indeed, it was perhaps most unkind. Katharina herself did not like to be compared to others. It was sometimes humiliating and oppressing. She began another topic, trying to cover up her enthusiastic endorsement of Dr. Geiler. "And your parents live there - in Kaysersberg? And have you brothers and sisters whom you will surely miss?" She stopped again. She was such a waterfall of words and knew herself to be speaking overly much, something her mother was always warning her not to do. "I," she continued, suddenly shy and withdrawing her smile, "do apologize for talking too much and for asking such questions as are not really mine to ask. I surely over speak." "No, indeed," he responded quickly, "too few people are interested. They think a priest is made only of black robes and has not a background of flesh and blood and is not interested in stories and such." This made Katharina grin in spite of herself, for she knew that there were indeed a great many priests who were very much made of flesh and blood, priests consisting mainly of bellies and greed. "Why do you smile now?" Matthis Zell's curiosity was piqued. "It is just," and she spoke slowly now, not certain as to what she should reveal of her thoughts, "that I have known a great many priests who hid money pouches and slack flesh underneath their robes." He was quiet for a great many steps and she was afraid that she had been too bold once more and that she had offended him. "I am sorry," she began, "I did not...." But he interrupted. "No, you need not apologize. I am only too well aware of the iniquities of a great many men of the cloth." He sighed deeply at he made this statement. "I am sure that you," she began again, "especially from what I have heard of you...." He cut off her words. "Do not listen to what others say, Katharina. It is often only exaggeration and this often leads to disappointment." Katharina blushed. She knew herself rebuked and stared pointedly at her shoes before reverting the conversation back to the question she had asked him before. "Do have you have family?" This seemed a safe topic, and one that would not lead to controversy. Besides that, inside herself she was for some inexplicable reason so very glad that Matthew Zell came from the very same city in which her beloved Dr. Geiler had made his home and she wished to hear him speak of it. "Well, I have a housekeeper, Mey-Babelli, who was cook to my aunt in Freiburg. When my aunt died, Babelli came to live with me and she takes care of me. So she is like family. But, yes, I also have one sister and one brother. My sister's name is Odile." "Odile," Katharina softly repeated, "that is a very nice name. I know no one by that name. Perhaps some day I will meet her." "Yes, perhaps you shall," Matthis Zell nodded as he spoke. "As for me, I did not stay in Kaysersberg, and have not been back for a number of years except briefly to visit my brother who still resides there." "Where have you lived then?" "Well, I served in the army for a short time. And this was the time during which I moved away from Kaysersberg and lived neither here nor there as the regiment I was with moved about quite a bit. And after serving in the army, I went on to enroll in the university of Freiburg in Breisgau. When I received my master of arts there, I continued with theological studies." "Why?" Katharina knew it was another rather impertinent question and she looked back down at her shoes even as it flew out of her mouth. But Matthis Zell did not appear to be put off by it. "Because I did so love to study and the more I studied the more I loved it." "You felt not that you ought to study, in order to....? You only did it for the sake of the pleasure of studying? That is to say, you were not motivated by an inward call....?" She stopped here abruptly. Her speech had consisted of unfinished phrases, and she knew quite well that her words sounded muddled, probably making very little sense to him. "Motivated by an inward call from God?" he finished her last phrase, noting that her face was clouded. "Yes," she looked up at him now as she spoke, her blue eyes bright with interest, "for it seems to me that God has a purpose for all people and it also seems to me that if priests were to take such a purpose seriously we would not see all the vice that is so rampant in Strasbourg today." A voice within her, a voice that sounded remarkably like her mother, warned her that once more she had overstepped her oral bounds and had spoken too much and too quickly. After all, she had only just met this man. After all, her words accused the priesthood and the man walking next to her was a priest. She glanced at his face. In profile his nose seemed longer than it actually was. That nose was now pointing at the ground. It was almost as if the nose was sad. "I'm sorry," she murmured, truly repentant of perhaps having caused him discomfort. He had been a source of easement to Frau Freiberg and Kristoff and the fact remained that she had only heard good things about him. He put her worries to rest by smiling, revealing even, white teeth. [caption id="attachment_4920" align="alignright" width="560"] Luther posting his 95 theses in 1517, by Ferdinand Pauwels[/caption] "No need to feel sorry. I'm glad you feel that you can speak your mind to me," he replied. "What think you of Luther and his views?" she said, blurting the words out rather quickly, for this indeed was a matter which nagged at her often, nagged her at night and in the daytime as well. "Luther?" "Yes, Herr Luther. You surely know of the priest in Wittenberg who has written at length about indulgences and who posted, just this last year, some points on the church door of that city." He smiled. "Yes, I am acquainted with Herr Luther. I am, and have for some time, been reading a number of things that he has written. My parishioners obviously read him, and I ought to be aware of what they are reading." He smiled as he said this, but she did not smile in return. "I would know what you think of his charter, of his theses," she said, "for his words do touch my soul." "As they do mine," brother Zell immediately rejoined, "as they do mine." "Do you think he speaks the truth?" Katharina asked. "He is a very courageous man, in any case, to speak as he does. As you may know, he appeared before Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg last October. They spoke for three solid days. Initially, I understand, Luther prostrated himself on the floor in a gesture of humility before the Cardinal, and the Cardinal raised him up as a gesture of goodwill. But Luther refused to take back anything that he said." "Yes," Katharina very nearly stood still, turning her body towards him, her feet moving at a snail's pace, "so I have heard." They had almost arrived at an intersection. "He has said," she cautiously went on, "that the person who truly repents has full forgiveness both of punishment and guilt, even without letters of indulgence." Matthis Zell looked at her rather quizzically. "So I have read also," he responded. "And what thought you?" "I think that the trafficking in indulgences is shameful," Matthis replied, his eyes serious, "and it grieves me deeply." She heard that he meant his words and, although she knew the truth of them, was rather shocked by the sentences that followed. "The public perception of the priesthood is appalling. Nearly all people disrespect the priests. There are so many examples of gluttony, of ambition, of lives of lasciviousness, of harlots being allowed into monasteries...." He stopped rather abruptly. It was almost as if he had forgotten that she was there. She wished to reply; to say something intelligent, or, at any rate, something comforting, for she gauged that he was lonely. But there was nothing that came to mind. And his voice, almost metallic now, continued. "They say that the nearer people live to Rome, the less religious they are. How incredibly strange and despairing is that thought! And I have heard tell that there are those who care not what evil they do, for they say they can always get a plenary remission of all guilt and penalty by absolution and indulgence granted by the Pope for four or six or ... or whatever sum of money they carry." The metallic tone in his voice had given way to a tremendous sadness - a sadness which distressed Katharina and which made her want to hold his hand to guide him away from such black thoughts. This she could do with little Jacob, but with a priest? No, of course not. But he did appear so mournful. She swallowed and was about to say something about the weather, when he went on again. "Rome has become a harlot. The church has become blind to all but that which brings monetary gain. And we have so many poor, so many who stand in need of love and help." He stopped, seeming suddenly to remember that he was speaking with someone and was not alone. "I am sorry," he said. "I do indeed apologize for speaking so freely." She shook her head, cautiously replying, "I speak too much and too hastily myself. And what you say is true." She forgot that but a few moments ago she had sincerely worried about her hair coming undone, about a few stray strands flying about her face, for truly there were so many more important things to worry about. "I have to turn off here at this corner," she swallowed as she spoke, regretting that they were now close to the Johanngasse, "and you will have to keep on straight to reach the Bruderhof Strasse." "I know," he said and she bit her lip yet once more for appearing to know the way better than he did. "Well, Katharina," and he spoke softly, as if to guide her into humility, "I have very much enjoyed speaking with you and hope we can do so again. I think I can tell you a story, perhaps the next time we meet, of an encounter I had with Dr. Geiler when I was but a small boy." Her eyes widened at this. He had stopped - stopped walking and stopped talking. She did too. "You met Dr. Geiler when you were a little boy?" "Yes, indeed. It was only a small encounter, but I should like to tell you about it as I gather you really loved him, this great preacher of Strasbourg. I also hope," he then added warmly, "that you feel you might want to hear me preach some time."   She vigorously pumped her head up and down, feeling several more hair strands escaping her hair net. In spite of herself, her hands flew up to smooth out and tuck in the rebellious curls. "I would very much like to hear the story of your meeting with Dr. Geiler. And, yes, I would also like to hear you preach and I thank you for helping Frau Freiberg," she ended the conversation rather lamely, sensing innately she had used a great deal too many 'I's' in these sentences, yet adding, "and I bid you good-day, brother Zell." He smiled at her and the corners of his mouth, as well as the corners of his eyes, crinkled with the many laugh lines that the years had placed there. She was glad of it, for some of the weariness and sadness that had lined his face but a few short moments ago, disappeared. Looking into his friendly face, she flushed even deeper before she turned and walked towards the Johanngasse. After staring at her retreating figure for a few moments, Matthis Zell also turned and walked towards the Bruderhof Strasse.

Pick up your copy of Christine Farenhorst’s “Katharina, Katharina” at Sola-Scriptura.ca/store/shop.

Book excerpts, Book Reviews, People we should know, Teen non-fiction

Edith Cavell: a brave guide

Some 150 years ago, on December 4, 1865, English woman Edith Cavell was born. And 100 years ago, on October 12, 1915, during the First World War, she was executed. Instilled with a desire to please her Creator God, Edith Cavell became a nurse; she lived what she professed, and died bravely at the hands of German soldiers. Her crime? Assisting Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium. In a seemingly hopeless situation, she persevered and did not shun the victor's crown. She was a gift given by God to His Son Jesus Christ and, as such, saved for eternal life. Throughout the fifty years of Edith Cavell's life, she was content to work hard and live humbly. She was a godly woman and, therefore, a godly historical example. The Bible instructs us to teach our children about such historical examples. Psalm 78:4 reads: "We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord and His might, and the wonders that He has done." At a time in history when examples of godly women are few and far between, much needed strength and encouragement can be drawn from the life of this lady who put all her trust in Jesus Christ, her Savior. 
 The following is an excerpt from the Christine Farenhorst historical fiction novel of Edith Cavell’s life, called A Cup of Cold Water, (P&R Publishing, 2007). At this point Edith has been helping many Allied soldiers escape out of German territory.

***

December 4, 1914 - Brussels, Belgium Breakfast was generally served at an early hour in the L’Ecole Belge d’Infirmieres Diplomees, the Belgian School of Lay Nurses. Too early some of the nurses said. “It is actually 7 o’clock, you know,” José said at 6 o’clock one morning, as he bit into a thin piece of toast. Puzzled, everyone stared at him and he went on. “The Germans changed our time yesterday. We are now on German time and no longer on Belgian time. All the public clocks have been put ahead.” “Well, I’m not going to pay the slightest bit of attention,” Gracie said, glancing at her wristwatch, “That’s just plain silly.” “Well maybe,” Pauline added hopefully, “we should get up later.” She eyed Edith but Edith was looking at cook in the doorway. “Excuse me, Madame,” the cook said, “there is someone to see you in the kitchen.” Edith got up, wiped her mouth on a napkin and left the dining room quietly after glancing at Elisabeth Wilkins. Elisabeth nodded to her, indicating that she would supervise while Edith was gone. Two more Louise Thuliez, one of the resistance workers Edith had come to know, was waiting in the kitchen. She had come in through the back entrance. Brown hair hidden under a kerchief, the young woman was obviously relieved when Edith walked in. Ushering her through the hall towards her own office, Edith could feel the woman’s tenseness. As soon as the door closed behind them, Louise spoke. There was urgency in her tone. “I have two men waiting to come to the clinic.” Edith nodded. “Fine. Direct them here. I’ll see to them.” Louise nodded, brusquely put out her hand, which Edith shook, and disappeared. Left alone in her small office, Edith passed her right hand over her forehead in a gesture of weariness. Running a hospital in peacetime was not easy, but running it in wartime, with mounting bills for food and medicines which would never be paid by the patients, was next to impossible. She had received some money from Reginald de Cröy and Monsieur Capiau but the men who had been sent to her regularly since Monsieur Capiau’s first appearance all had hearty appetites. Resources were at the breaking point. With a glance at the calendar, she saw it was her birthday and with a pang she realized that it would be the first year she had not received letters from Mother, Flo, Lil, Jack and cousin Eddie. She swallowed. Jack growled softly and she looked out the window. Two men were approaching the walkway. Bracing herself, she smoothed her hair, patted the dog and went out into the hall to await their knock. Although most of the men sent to the school only stayed one or two nights, some of them stayed a longer. As Edith awaited the arrival of the new refugees, she wondered how long she would need to provide them with shelter. If they were ill, they would be nursed right alongside German patients. Many of the nurses in the school were unaware of what was going on. All they saw were extra patients — bandaged, limping and joking patients. The Café Chez Jules was situated right next to the school. To recuperating soldiers, as well as to idle men with nothing to do for a few days, it became a favorite gathering place. The Café served watered-down wine and at its tables the men played cards, chatted and lounged about. But even if the Germans were not yet suspicious, word quickly spread around the Belgian neighborhood that Allied soldiers were hiding in the nursing school. Once again, as she had done so often, Edith opened the door. A short, thickset man looked Edith full in the face. “My name is Captain Tunmore, sole survivor of the First Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment.” He spoke with a heavy English accent. “And this,” Captain Tunmore went on, indicating the man at his side, “is Private Lewis of the Cheshire Regiment. Password is yorc. We’re both looking to get across to border.” Edith shook their hands. They were a little nonplused that this small, frail-looking lady whose hand totally disappeared in their grasp, was rumored to be so tough. Captain Tunmore, noting a picture on the wall, remarked, “Hey, that’s Norwich Cathedral!” “Do you know Norwich?” Edith asked. “It’s my home. I was born on its outskirts.” Edith took another look at the man. The fact that he said that he was Norfolk born, gave her, for just a small moment, the feeling that she was home, that she was looking into her mother’s face. “Well, gentlemen,” she smiled, “I’m afraid you’ll have to spend Christmas here with us as there is no guide to take you until after the twenty-fifth.”

***

Captain Tunmore and Private Lewis had come without identity cards. Edith, consequently, took photographs of the men herself and had contacts make identity cards for them. After Christmas, she arranged to have them travel towards Antwerp in a wagon but they were discovered and barely made it back safely to the clinic a few days later. Edith, therefore, prepared to guide them out of Brussels herself. “Gentlemen, be ready at dawn tomorrow. I’ll take you to the Louvain road. From there you’re on your own.” “I was thirsty…” At daybreak, Edith taking the lead and the men following her at a discreet distance, the trio made their way to a road outside of Brussels. Once there, Edith passed the soldiers a packet of food as well as an envelope of money. “In case you need to bribe someone – or in case you get a chance to use the railway,” she said. Shaking their hands once again, she turned and disappeared into the mist. On the walk back, Edith reminisced about how she had walked these very paths as a young governess with her young charges. It now seemed ages ago that they had frolicked about her, collecting insects, drawing, running and pulling at her arm to come and see some plant which they had found. Now she understood that God, in His infinite wisdom, had used that time to intimately acquaint her with this area. How very strange providence was! At the time she had sometimes felt, although she loved the children dearly, that her task as a governess was unimportant – trivial perhaps. Yet it had equipped her for the role she now played. Smiling to herself she thought, “Why am I surprised? After all, does not the Bible say that it is important to be faithful over a few things. A noise to her left interrupted her reverie and she slowed down. A German guard suddenly loomed next to her. “Halt! Papieren, bitte — Stop! Papers, please.” Silently she took them out and waited. He waved her on after a moment and she resumed her way. What would her father have thought about these activities, she wondered? “Out so early, my Edith?” she imagined him asking. “Yes, father. Just a little matter of helping some soldiers escape to the front lines. If they are found, you see, they’ll be sent to an internment camp somewhere, or they might be shot.” “What about you, my Edith?” “Oh, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. And besides, what else can I do? These men, these refugee soldiers, father, they just come to me. They arrive on my doorstep and look so helpless, so afraid that I will turn them away.” “Well, my Edith, you are doing right. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, child: “I was thirsty and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in.” “I remember, father. I remember.” “And in the end ... in the end, Edith, He will say ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” “I know, father.” No time for childhood Throughout the spring of that new year, 1915, Edith continued to rise early on the mornings that soldiers were to leave for the frontier. English, French, and Belgians – they were all men eager to leave so that they could help the Allies. Between five and seven in the morning, she would accompany the men to the planned rendezvous point with the next guide, generally a tramway terminus or a point in some street. Arriving back after one such venture, in the early days of March, she found Elisabeth waiting for her in her office with a very guilty-looking Pauline and José at her side. “What is the trouble?” Edith asked as she took off her coat. “Would you like me to tell her, or shall I?” Elisabeth’s voice was angry. José shuffled his feet but he met Edith’s gaze head-on. Then he spoke. “I encouraged all the families on Rue Darwin to set their alarm clocks at the same time. I told them to set it for six o’clock in the morning, the time I knew a single patrol would be passing.” He stopped. Edith sighed. “And,” she encouraged, “what happened?” “Well, when all the alarms went off at the same time, the soldier jumped a mile into the air. You should have seen– ” “Was anyone hurt?” Edith interrupted him. “No, no one,” Pauline took over, “everyone only let their alarms ring for five seconds exactly. After that they shut them off at the same time. It was deathly quiet in the streets and all the people watched the silly soldier through their curtains as he looked behind him and around corners and pointed his silly rifle at nothing. We laughed so hard.” Edith sat down. “Do you have any idea what could have happened if that soldier had shot up at a window? Or if he had kicked open a door and ...” She paused. They really had no idea about the seriousness of the times in which they were living. She sighed again and went on. Pauline looked down at the floor and José appeared fascinated with the wall. “You ought to know better than anyone, José, how dangerous it was what you did. After all, you have come with me many times to help soldiers find their way through and out of Brussels so that they can escape to safety. War is not a game.”

***

After they left her office, thoroughly chastened, Edith sat down at her desk, put her head into her hands and wept. Childhood seemed such a long way off and the Germans were stealing much more than blackberry pie. [caption id="attachment_11944" align="alignleft" width="1280"] Edith Cavell's death was memorialized on propaganda posters like this one.[/caption]

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