Posted in Books and E-Books

The Silence of the Girls

Back in April, I found that my nephew and niece, who had very kindly come over to help me start packing things for the move to Tennessee, had accidently packed all the books I was reading – in unmarked boxes! So off to Barnes & Noble in Moorestown!

I bought a new Ellery Adams cozy mystery at Storyton Hall, something called The Book Charmer and something else that I can’t remember. Walking to the checkout, I saw a display of books all wrapped in brown paper and twine. All you got to see was the recap: “Fiction/ -retelling, Trojan War, Greek Mythology” and the number with the price. “Why not,” I figured?

So this is the book: The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.

The story begins just before the events in Homer’s Iliad, and is mainly told from the point of view of Briseis, captured and enslaved by the invading Greeks. Briseis becomes the property of Achilles, the Greek champion. But, she then becomes a pawn between the Greek general, Agamemnon, and Achilles, in their ruthless struggle for supremacy.

Ms Barker has a gift for drawing her characters as multi-faceted, making them so much more than words on a page. Each character becomes a real human being in her hands. Even minor characters are portrayed as well-rounded individuals. This makes the book interesting to read. However, since this is a book occurring during the final days of the Trojan War, it is at times brutal in its descriptions of the scenes of the takeover of the city and the battlefield. The horrors experienced by the women, men, and children on the losing side are vivid and haunting.

I did like the book. And I know that many will really enjoy it – it is worth the read. However, it is not one that I will be rereading, mainly because of that haunting brutality. I understand that this is to be the beginning of a series to be continued, and I hope it does well. For me, I think I’ll go reread some Jane Austen for a while – I’ve had enough of war for now.

Posted in Books and E-Books, The Way, Thoughts & Musings



1. O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  2. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  3. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  4. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.  5. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,  6. when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;  7. for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  8. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.  9. But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth;  10.they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals.  11. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped. 

Psalm 63:1-‬11 ESV ‬‬

“Self quarantining has had many unexpected consequences, including feelings of isolation, abandonment, fear, loneliness, and despondency.”  (Shelter in God, pg 108, David Jeremiah)

Here is the backstory for this psalm of David’s, written in a desert place in his life, at a time when David was also “self-quarantining.”  He was on the run for his life from his own son, Absalom.  Absalom had been creating what might be seen as one of the first “political smear campaigns.”  He sat at the city gates (where the elders and leaders gathered) and dropped subtle hints about the King’s age and fitness to rule, implying that “things would be different if I were king.”  He played to emotions and fears, stirring up bitterness and dissent, and ultimately rallied enough support to stage a real coup, setting up a rival kingdom in Hebron.

David was aware of the plots around him, but hesitated, because this was his son, his Absalom.  In hesitating, he lost the moment to act, and was forced to run.  In the wilderness east of Jerusalem, surrounded by desert and only a few faithful friends, David quarantined, and not by choice. But he, like us this year, still had some choices to make about his reaction to the situation.

First of all, Dr. Jeremiah points out the first words that come from David’s heart:  Elohim Eli, or “O Creator God, my God.” David was in a desert, but he knew who not only created the desert but also the way out of it. David sought God. “The expression ‘To seek’ in Hebrew is related to the Hebrew word for dawn.” (Shelter in God, page 113) God was David’s FIRST goal, before all else, because nothing comes before dawn, the first moment of the day, the very beginning.  He didn’t wait for anything else to stand between himself and God.  

And in a desert, thirst becomes of paramount concern. David saw the dry landscape, barren of apparent water. Yes, he thirsted for water, but he also thirsted for the kind of refreshment that only comes from God. And this metaphor, as Dr. Jeremiah points out, is the best way to understand the deep-seated desire in the human soul for God and what only He can give us.

David also longed for God. His flesh yearned for, longed for God. The words used speak of physical weakness, fainting, collapse. So David illustrates for us the unity of being is his longing: his body, soul, mind longed for, sought, thirsted for his God. When one part of our being is ill, hurt, sick, every aspect of our being is affected. So we know that David longed with all his being for his God; for his healing, help, guidance, refreshment. David sought the JOY of fellowship with his God. And as the Psalm continues, we see that played out. 

Now, David knew from experience that true joy and pleasure was something that he could only find in God, and in His presence. So when he discovered (2 Samuel 15:24-25) that 2 of the priests that fled with him had taken the Ark of the Covenant from the sanctuary without seeking his or God’s approval, David knew that it had to be returned. You see, David didn’t need or want just a symbol of God’s presence: he wanted God himself. He would find his joy in God and not earthly or created things. Someone has said that Satan know nothing at all about pleasure; his specialty is amusement.” Do we, like the 2 priests, seek our joy in things or amusements, instead of in God? I think we all can relate to this, especially in this past year with its mandated isolation and separation, as we tried to keep our selves amused. 

We can also relate to David’s desire to worship his God in fellowship with His people, and not in isolation.  Verse 2: So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. One of the hardest things this year for most Christians is being separated from worshipping God together. And while it is true that God is everywhere and can be worshipped everywhere, I think we all experience something more when we worship in community. And so David here expressed what we may be feeling through this time of separation. 

We have seen the situation that David was in, seen the pain and distress that he was in. But what did he actually DO? 

  1. He praised God
  2. He pictured God
  3. And finally, he prayed to God

How did David praise God? 

  • Verse 3: with his lips. my lips will praise you.
  • Verse 4: with his tongue. So I will bless you
  • Verse 4: with his hands. in your name I will lift up my hands.
  • Verse 5: with his will. My soul will be satisfied
  • Verse 5: with his mouth. my mouth will praise you
  • Verse 6: with his memory. when I remember you upon my bed
  • Verse 6: with his intellect. (I) meditate on you in the watches of the night;

These are the weapons we have to defeat the enemy: Worship and Praise! We can choose to use these weapons whenever we are confronted by the lies of Satan and his lies. God has equipped his people with weapons more powerful than anything Satan has in his arsenal.

Now, picturing God. What does that look like, in David’s life, or in our own? Well, we can see that picture in verses 6 and 7: As David remembers all God has done, and meditates on Him at night, he imagines that God’s protection is like being under God’s wings. Here he can sing for joy, instead of worrying and tossing all night ling. By remembering the faithfulness of God, and thinking about that, David and we are able to rest easy, knowing who God is and what He is capable of

And finally, David prayed to God. According to Dr. Jeremiah, the closest translation for verse 8 is: “My soul clings to You, God.” Clinging is a natural reaction that we have as human beings when we find ourselves in a crisis situation. David turned to his God, and buried himself in God’s arms. And we can do the same. Hanging on tight to God is sometimes the best, indeed, the only, response to impossible circumstances.

We have all been forced into strange circumstances this past year, and have experienced things that many of us have not seen in our lifetimes, or thought we’d never see again.  But through it all, we can follow David’s example in this, the desert psalm.  First, PRAISE God, for He is God through it all.  Second, PICTURE God, the things He has done in your life, imagine what it would look like if Jesus was there in the room with you and you threw yourself into His arms.  And finally, PRAY to God, trusting Him to shelter and protect, love and provide.  

Posted in Books and E-Books

Christmas Miracles

No, I’m not going to write about miracles, at Christmas or at any time. Except maybe the miracle of God’s gifts to individuals. Some people are gifted as artists, or preachers, or teachers. The list goes on and on. But the gift I am writing about today is the gift of communication, and I’m focusing on one man. Joseph S. Bonsall.

Now some of you know that name, but others may not. So, brief bio: Joseph (or as he is better known, Joe) Bonsall is from Philadelphia, PA, but has been a resident in the Nashville, Tennessee, area since 1973. He is a tenor with the Oak Ridge Boys (aha! Now that’s where you know the name!) As such, he is the “front-man” who introduces the songs, the band, and interacts with the audience the most. But Joe is also a writer. (Check out a complete list here )

I have already written about his book, G. I. Joe and Lillie in another article. Today, I want to share with you a little about an older book of Joe’s called Christmas Miracles. While this is out of print, used copies are still to be found – I found mine on Amazon. This book is a series of short stories some of which Joe says he has written while the Oak Ridge Boys are on their annual Christmas tours (which, if you have never been to one, or to an Oaks concert at all, you simply must go see! Best. Christmas. Show. Ever. I promise!)

Anyway, back to the book. This was a hard read for me, simply because I found myself sobbing through some of the stories. Joe has an image of the happy go lucky smart-aleck due to his stage persona, who (dare I say it?) often doesn’t duck fast enough when 2 other Oaks who shall remain nameless decide it’s time for a prank. But he is also a very tender-hearted, loving man who loves Jesus, his lovely wife Mary, their family, and their cats. So these stories are tender, faith-filled, and very emotional. They also, not surprisingly, center mainly around service men and women, as both his parents were World War II veterans.

My favorite, and one of the two with the most tears, is the first, “Eric and Emily,” about a young couple, a secret mission in the Mideast, and God’s protection. Without giving away the storyline, let it just be said that you will at least begin to wonder about the power of prayer and love after reading it. The second one, “Big Grin,” hit close to home. It is about a vital, energetic man with Alzheimer’s. My dad succumbed to that, too, so I almost skipped over this one. But in the end, I’m glad I didn’t, because it shows how we never know how much someone in the throes of that awful disease is aware of.

I know that I have not given you very many firm story lines, or specifics, and that has been deliberately done, gentle readers. Because these are only short stories, much would be lost if too many details were given you. I believe that I will better serve you by tantalizing you so that you go read them for yourselves.

As I said at the start, this article is about the miracle of God’s gift of communication. God has blessed Joe Bonsall with that gift, both as a singer who pours his heart out in his music, and as a writer, who can write about the big things in life – faith, love, hope, joy – in a deceptively simple style that allows Joe’s heart to shine through the words on the page, and right into your heart.

I have two more of Joe’s books making their way to me thanks to used booksellers on Amazon, so stay tuned! And go find one of Joe’s books and listen to some Oak Ridge Boys while you are at it!.

Posted in Books and E-Books

G.I. Joe & Lillie

Over the weekend, I read the book, G. I. Joe & Lillie by Joseph S. Bonsall. I will confess that the main reason I bought the book was because of the author. He is one of my favorite singers. Yes, singer. Joe Bonsall is the tenor with the wonderful Oak Ridge Boys, and I have enjoyed hearing him (and all the Boys) sing since 1977. There is a second reason that I bought this book and that is the same-titled song Joe wrote about this story. This story really moved me, and I want to share some thoughts with all of you.

This is essentially the story of a generation of men and women. They came from all walks of life, all parts of the USA, from all sorts of families and home situations. They lived through some of the roughest times this country has faced – the Great Depression, World War II, and the aftermath of that war. They were our fathers, mothers, grandparents. They were to put it simply – patriots.

The book recounts the lives of two of these people. One is a boy from an alley next to the train tracks in North Philadelphia, growing up in a, sad to say, very dysfunctional family. The other is a girl who grew up on a cotton farm in North Carolina. In its own way, this family too was not the picture-perfest American Dream family. But G.I. Joe and Lillie shared some extraordinary qualities: determination, focus, a desire for more than what their circumstances seemed to have in store for them.

G.I. Joe dropped out of school and went to work. But in 1943, he enlisted in the Army. His decision to serve his country nwas met with scorn by his father and seeming indifference by his mother. But he went nevertheless. Mr. Bonsall describes G.I.Joe’s journey from basic training in Maryland to the 359th Regiment of the 90th Infantry Division – the “Tough Ombres.” And G.I. Joe turned out to be tough. From Texas to California to the beaches of Normandy, he toughed it out.

In the meantime, Lillie also dropped out of school and left North Carolina in 1943 at age 16, walking away alone, and apparently missed only by her mother. She ended up in Baltimore, and went then Detroit to learn how to make airplanes for the war effort. After a while, Lillie heard about the Women’s Army Corp, the WACs, and decided to join up – “It just couldn’t be any harder…and besides, I would get to travel.” Quite the adventuress, our Lillie!

Many twists and turns, battle scars and wounds, G.I. Joe and Lillie met. In Hempstead, New York, at the Mitchell Field which served by now as a clearing and processing center for the many wounded returning from the European theater now that the war was over. “Hello, Doll,” was his greeting to Lillie. Pretty standard fare, but in this case the results were spectacular! Six days later, they were married! And they remained married and devoted to each other all their lives.

This book is a beautiful tribute to this special bond these two amazing people shared. Their lives were not the easiest ever, but their love for and commitment to God and each other saw them through it all. They raised 2 children and had a lasting impact on the lives of many, including readers of their story. I admit that I found myself sobbing at the end of the book just because of this wonderful love they shared

I highly recommend this to anyone who likes people stories, or love stories, or true grit stories. Oh, and spoiler alert: It was written by their son!