#17 The Story of My Life by Helen Keller ~ 1903

People who think that all sensations reach us through the eye and ear have expressed surprise that I should notice any difference … they forget that my whole body is alive to the conditions about me.

Who writes the story of their life at the age of 23? Helen does. There’s so much about her life that I naively assumed from the movie starring Melissa Gilbert and Patti Duke. Wrong assumptions of course. So, picking up this book that I received as a gift several years ago, was indeed eye opening.

Her family must have had immeasurable resources at their beckoning. And I can’t help but wonder if they had been poor how someone with such disabilities would live out their days. But blessed she was. She met powerful people able to assist her, and her world seemed rich with wonder. She may have been a bit spoiled as the movie portrayed her, but she took great advantage of all the assistance. And to hear her tell her story at twenty something, you’d think she’d had a glorious life. Gratitude filled her soul.

My thoughts however turn to the many children who grow up with debilitating issues but with none of the advantages that Helen had. Specifically, the Korean girls I met in my studio last week. They are perfect from all outward appearances, but the despair that creeps into their psyche is already present. You see, they are orphans, about to age out of the welfare system in Korea; about to be turned out, into a world that may seem inviting and embracing, yet potentially menacing and victimizing, apart from the intervention of God’s instruments.

And God’s instruments are intervening. I met one of them in my studio that day the girls came to play on my wheel. This dear saint, Sarah, has brought these girls to America to experience love and hope found in Christian homes, and share the hope that is found in a God who has more resources than even Helen Keller’s family could fathom. I can’t help but pray with all my might for these women to tap into the embracing and loving heavenly Father who is beckoning them to Himself. Will they choose Him? Will they come to realize the despair that awaits them apart from Him?

It reminds me of myself at their age. I chose the world. In hindsight, it felt as if I had jumped from the huge hands of God that had protected me during my childhood, and into the arms of an alluring world. A world that seemed on the surface to be much more loving than the Church. I thought I knew what was best for me, and was granted the desires of my lust-filled, selfish heart. The result of that choice: about two weeks of what felt like some kind of utopia, then two and a half years of hell. So not worth it! But the lesson of knowing that what I pick out for myself leads to a joy-less, discontented, hellish existence — priceless.

#18 New Life in the Wasteland by Douglas F. Kelly, 2003.

This book was also a gift. From the author. My beloved boss for over 25 years, and professor for a few of them. Dr. Kelly is one of those intelligent Christians I admire. I love that he is on Team-God. His life is an all-consuming passion. His focus so single-minded, there’s not a lot of room for other things. Like packing boxes. I remember helping him pack up his office the summer we both moved to North Carolina from Mississippi. Watching him struggle to tape up a box brought me to a conversation with Jesus that went something like this: Thanks Lord, you gave Dr. Kelly a brain that can expound a wealth of godly wisdom; and me, the gift of taping up boxes. I’m pretty convinced that Tom and I relocated to the same area of the country as he did, during the same summer, only because Dr. Kelly requested of the Lord that his secretary join him again in ministry. He did make me feel I had worth and value to his own calling, while also making me feel I had a calling too. Grading his systematic theology exams for years has sealed much into my brain that is in there for the duration. But back to the book at hand. I love how this book shares Dr. Kelly’s hope in Jesus! I get the feeling that he could care less what Fox News or CNN or the View are all saying about the current state of affairs. His eyes, and this book, are firmly fixed on Jesus and His Kingdom activity. Dr. Kelly actually thinks, from his wealth of historical knowledge, that when things seem to be at their worse, God is perhaps at his best. Our lives are not a result of fate or politics. And it only takes one soul that is firmly planted in the hands of the Almighty God to transform our own corners of the globe. Dr. Kelly does not minimize the depraved and decaying world that we humans have charge of. Nor does it absolve us humans from being responsible for all the depravity and decay. But more importantly and in beautiful juxtaposition to it, he maximizes the power of God. If I were to re-title or summarize the effects of a book like this on my own soul, it would be something like The Redeemed in the Hands of a Mighty God.

Let us fix our eyes not on what is seen! That is what Dr. Kelly is saying on every page and in many ways. It was a fun and wonderful book for me to read, because I could hear his voice in every paragraph. I’ve missed that voice.