“The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom”

silentyearsCome to think of it, I mused as we drove home, I have never seen Tante Corrie embarrassed. She always expected that people would take her just as she was­­. And now, after her stroke she still expects it. It was the result of a deep confidence that God accepted her just as she was and it had not been shaken now that she could not speak. She was accepted, and so she could accept people just as they were.”

Corrie ten Boom of the 1970s was a worldwide traveler and speaker, telling thousands of people from all walks of life about her World War II experiences and how God had sustained her through those years. Accompanying her was her personal assistant, a younger woman who could help with the rigors of travel and constantly being on the move. It could be a draining and demanding job, combining the exhaustion of travel with the uncertainty that came with accompanying a woman who followed God’s will wherever it led—however unexpected. Two women, Connie and Ellen, had already spent a few years with “Tante” (Aunt) Corrie before moving on to get married and begin their families, and now Corrie’s third—and final—assistant would be Pamela Moore, a young British woman who had lived in The Netherlands for several years.

Corrie ten Boom left concentration camp life when she was fifty-two years old. Her family’s experiences would inspire a book and a movie, and she would eventually write over twenty-five books and travel to over 60 countries sharing her story. Corrie died on April 15, 1983, her 91st birthday.

What many people don’t know is that a series of strokes halted Corrie’s public work and ministry several years before her death. For the last two-and-a-half years of her life, the woman who had endured so much and emerged victorious was not physically able to leave her room.

It was not the story anyone expected for the strong and persevering Corrie ten Boom. But Pam was there and, as Corrie’s final personal assistant, she chronicled those last years of Corrie’s earthly life. She also shared her own spiritual wrestling as she watched her friend and mentor endure the pain and frustration of her abilities slipping away. What was the point of this pain? How can God possibly find good in it?

In The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom, Pam works through that age-old question: Why would a good and sovereign God allow His child to suffer?

“The days went slowly by. We heard the familiar whirring of the electric bed as we lowered it to change her position, the metallic clicking of the rails as we raised and lowered them to turn our patient, the ticking of the brown clock. Nine months passed. It was not easy for her or for us. It was very hard sometimes. There were days when the routine seemed endless and the hours seemed to last for days.”

It was in that suffering that Pam saw Him work. She saw lives touched and gained a front-row seat to Corrie’s own experiences through the ordeal. Could it be that God was using this, too? Just like He had used Corrie’s concentration camp experience? God had brought good from the horrors of Nazi cruelty. Could He – would He – bring good of this, too?

“Up until this time, in common with a large part of the western world, I had set great store by strength and achievement. A sense of satisfaction was gained by having a goal and employing all faculties, strength, and input from others in order to reach that goal. Particularly in America, I had found ‘self-image,’ or our view of ourselves, was related directly to what a person achieves. But what happens when a person becomes old, frail, brain-damaged, and in some eyes, apparently useless? How does God view that? How should society view that? I had been learning that our real selves can be discovered only in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that He died to save us from our sins, that we are ‘precious, holy, beloved, dear children, hidden in the hollow of His hand.’ And in that hand He also holds our times.”

People brought to her bedside were greeted with the same love and warmth (albeit quieter) that Corrie had shown to prisoners and audiences in her travels. Caretakers who spent hours with this incapacitated Corrie but had never met her before were impacted by her life—even as an invalid. Her consistent patience and kindness in the midst of suffering was not lost on the people around her.

The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom tells the last chapter of Corrie’s life on earth, how a soldier for God endured her final battle. And it reminds us that no matter where life finds us right now, our times are in His hands, too.

4 Steps to Reading Your Bible More

bible2With the onset of adulthood I have found I appreciate sleep more and more. It is harder to get out of bed than it was when I knew my early rising meant more time with Legos or Adventures in Odyssey before beginning the day. Under this new sleepiness my daily Bible study has been suffering.

Every night I intend to get up early the next morning, and I set an alarm to match. But invariably, when morning does come, I think about my day’s responsibilities or how I’ve been feeling under the weather lately, and I can always think of a rational reason to stay in bed as long as possible.

But I’ve also noticed that when I don’t read my Bible in the mornings, it doesn’t happen the rest of the day, either. And the lessening of depth and conviction that breeds in my own life isn’t something I want to continue.

The Bible is a gift. The God of the universe shared with us His thoughts and ways through a Book—have we lost that wonder?

“For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

These are the words of God. They are given to us, but we aren’t passive in this. We must take hold of His worlds and mold our lives around them.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

A Few Simple Suggestions

So in those hazy mornings when excuses seem louder than my responsibility, I am learning to just do it. And as I continue to rebuild a daily Bible study habit, here are some things that have helped me along the way. You might choose to read at another time of day, or have your own tactics to stay consistent. These are only my ideas for right now in my own life, so whether they are also helpful for you or not, please take them as simply such.

 

  1. Plan for success. Get your things—any notebook, highlighter, or coffee cup you may be looking for while you’re still half-asleep. Know where in the Bible you will be reading in tomorrow. Go to bed on time—or earlier, especially while still cementing the habit. Having a plan will not guarantee you will carry it out, but not having a plan pretty much ensures you won’t.

 

  1. Pray for strength over sleepiness. A wise older woman (and a giant in the area of Bible study and memorization, no less) once told me to get one leg out of bed and God will get the other one. Some days it’s the other way around. But without the sustaining hand of God we would not even be breathing right now, so why not ask for His assistance in rising early to spend time with Him? He wants to help us. He will.

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  1. Hold yourself to it. As teenagers, some friends of mine started an e-mail group they called The 6:00 Club, and every day they told each other what time they got up that morning. Find that measure of accountability that works for you, and pursue it. Tell a friend, write it down, join a Facebook community. Or tell the Internet about it.

 

  1. Remember grace. Jesus died to make us forever perfect in His Father’s eyes, not to give us the ability to act perfect this side of forever. You will miss a day, just like I have missed so many days. Don’t give up and don’t guilt yourself. Just keep going tomorrow.

“I’m tired.” If we’re looking for an excuse, that’ll work as well as any. But it’s just an excuse—an attempt to justify ignoring our responsibility to know the words of our Father. A reason, on the other hand, is a firm and constant truth which stands whether we want it to or not. The God of the Universe wrote a Book and gave it to us. We can find an excuse for every day if the week, but can we seriously think of a solid reason to not study the Word of God on a consistent basis?

“In My Father’s House: The Years Before ‘The Hiding Place'”

fathershouseI’ve found a book I love almost as much as The Hiding Place. Almost.

Which is saying a lot. I read The Hiding Place from cover to cover in just a few hours and have revisited its pages many times since. I jumped at the chance to tour the Corrie ten Boom house in the Netherlands last summer. It was an unforgettable hour in the Beje, but I would so love to have been able to visit when Father, Betsie, Corrie, and the rest of the family were there.

In My Father’s House lets us peek through the window at what it must have been like. The Ten Booms were examples of faithful obedience and unwavering faith in a time that seemed impossible. Corrie worked to save people hunted by the Nazis in a time of constant uncertainty, but her hope in God was just as real.

But World War II was not the beginning of her story. As Corrie points out, people don’t just come into existence at fifty years old, but instead are shaped from the very start into who they will become. In My Father’s House shares vignettes from Corrie’s childhood and younger adult life with little “teasers” tracing the connecting lines between her earlier life and her World War II experiences.

We hear more of Corrie’s family and their unmistakable personalities that sometimes didn’t seem to go together. Corrie shares about the growing tension before the Nazis actually invaded Holland and tells WWII stories not included in The Hiding Place. She writes of her work with teenage girls and the mentally handicapped.

“I remembered…what Father had often said to me. ‘Corrie, what you do among these people [the mentally handicapped] is of little importance in the eyes of men, but I’m sure in God’s eyes it’s the most valuable work of all.’”

Corrie’s rambling, motherly voice feels as if she is sitting right beside us and sharing her heart. The stories flow together into a patchwork piece of art, illustrating God’s leading in life that can often only be seen when looking back. She writes of learning English and German through family Bible study, when each family member would read the same verse in a different language.

“Father would begin by asking what John 3:16 was in English. I would answer from my English Bible, Mother from her Dutch Bible, and Betsie would reply in German. When I was so young, it didn’t seem possible that Betsie would ever have a chance to use a Bible verse in German. We didn’t know any Germans then! However, God uses such seemingly insignificant ways to prepare us for the plan He has for our lives. Over forty years later, in a concentration camp in Germany, Betsie was able to use that verse—and many more—to speak to the prisoners and the guards about God’s love.”

God orchestrated Corrie’s life at every moment, whether during a Nazi invasion or on a church trip with middle school girls. In My Father’s House reminds us that He does no less for us.

“[One of our foster daughters] was married by then and had two children, and another one on the way. Her husband was a teacher, and they lived in Rotterdam during that terrible bombardment. They fled to a small suburb of Rotterdam, where her third baby was born in a cellar. For a year they lived in that cellar, which formed a bomb shelter. [She] told me in later years that over and over again she repeated to her children, ‘Opa taught us, “When Jesus takes your hand, He keeps you tight. When Jesus keeps you tight, He leads you through your whole life. When Jesus leads you through your life, He brings you safely home.”’”

Why I Started Reading Again

 

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As a preteen I spent hours in other worlds. When Dad came home from work, he always knew where to find me. I devoured countless Boxcar Kids or Mandie adventures and read more than a few books from historical fiction series while I was totally oblivious to anything else going on in the house. I traveled the world with homeschooler Hope Brown and solved mysteries with the renowned (but unrelated) Encyclopedia Brown.

While in high school and college I read for schoolwork but less and less for my own interests. When I did choose a book for my personal reading, it was usually a book I thought I *should* read but didn’t necessarily enjoy, and eventually it was too obvious to deny: I had lost my love for reading.

Once I graduated, my lack of reading habits continued until I realized how much of my “reading” was done on social media. Which doesn’t really count, if you’re wondering.

So I started again. Slowly at first, but my habits have grown stronger and more entrenched. I have a couple of books going at the same time, and more than once recently I’ve stayed up late because the words on the page won out over sleep. Some books are still more educational and less thrilling than others, but that’s okay. Some books are like that.

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Why do we read? Why is it important to have an established pattern of reading? Books have been written on that. But I haven’t read them yet, so I can’t give you the official answers.

What I can do is tell you my reasons for reading again, and how books have persuaded me to spend time on them. Your reasons are probably different, and that’s okay, too. There are lots of reasons. Comment and tell me yours!

I need encouragement for the issues and struggles I face.

I know I have a problem with seeking after the approval of others. But I’m not the only one. So do Edward Welch (When People are Big and God is Small) and Lecrae (Unashamed). Maybe someone struggles with idolizing entertainment. So did Brian Ivie (The Drop Box). As humans, we will probably be able to identify with many different struggles and problems on different levels, and even if a particular story doesn’t mirror our own at all, we can still glean truth from it. And that truth will be ready and available when we need to apply it to our own lives or guide us in the way we relate to others who may have similar struggles.

I don’t have enough time.

Life is short. Our years go by so quickly and are full of responsibilities and tasks we can’t leave off, which means many things maybe we’d like to do have to go undone. I don’t have time to do it all, but I can live vicariously through others who have done things I haven’t, like Eric Alexander, who climbed Mt. Everest (The Summit).

I can sort through textbooks and college-level classes to form my own opinions on big issues, or I can read the book of someone who already did that and recorded their own experiences in a way I understand. Most political figures have written their memoirs, and many in other professions have as well. Excuse me while I go visit Laura Bush in Spoken from the Heart.

 

Okay, I’m back now. But seriously, life is too busy for me to do all the things I’d like to, and FOMO may be all the rage but it is frustrating, too.

I can’t do it all myself. I shouldn’t even try.

I have a limited perspective.

While there are some things I can’t do for lack of time, there are plenty more I literally can’t experience, because I wasn’t raised in Islam (Hiding in the Light, Rifqa Bary), confronted by Nazi soldiers (The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom), or born with a severe disability (Life Without Limits, Nic Vujicic). By reading others’ unique stories, I gain an insight into my own that I wouldn’t have had without their perspectives.

I have been given so much–and I forget to appreciate it.

I used to misunderstand fiction. I read in a biography (back when I was still reading the first time) about a missionary who disdained fiction because she didn’t want to tell children in her charge anything untrue. That resonated with me, and I held it as my unofficial position for years.

But do we really want to do away with stories? No more movies or those read-alouds I loved growing up? What about The Chronicles of Narnia?

There is power in stories. Good stories show us beauty and specialness in life, and bring us to a deeper understanding of ourselves by watching characters we love.

Again, fiction is powerful, and it can be negative just as easily as positive. Even easier, probably. I think we need more discernment in fiction books over nonfiction due to their power and the freedom authors have in creating their fictional worlds. But with that said, I have come back to loving stories again—both true and untrue. And one of these days I’m going to attempt LOTR.

So there you go. We are busy. We have much to do, and reading can be hard to fit into already overflowing schedules. But there’s one more thing I’ve learned about that.

Time can be found and redeemed.

We may be surprised how much time we spend doing not really anything at all, and reading can give greater return for that time than scrolling Facebook or even catching up on the headlines (really, there is some news that just doesn’t even deserve to be reported). How often are you simply waiting? Maybe you ride public transportation or rock kids to sleep or have a job with lots of “free” down time. Any time you find yourself on social media can typically be turned into time with books, especially through the new e-reader availability.

Reading isn’t everything. But as we choose our books tastefully and spend our time on it wisely, may we find greater returns than we ever expected.

“The Drop Box: How 500 Abandoned Babies, An Act of Compassion, and A Movie Changed My Life Forever”

In 2011, the Los Angeles Times ran an article on a South Koreanivie_dropbox pastor grieved over the number of abandoned babies in his country. Families would leave their babies—often born with special needs—in the harsh winter elements. Many didn’t survive. As he wondered how he could help people in desperate situations, he decided to build a baby box that he installed in a wall in his house. Parents could anonymously leave their baby in the box where he or she would be safe. Through this box the pastor and his wife rescued disabled orphans and adopted several of them. They embraced the same children that others discarded. And people noticed.

A Californian film student read the article and immediately saw the possibility of the story. He contacted the pastor to ask about doing a documentary, and a few years later, The Drop Box was completed.

But there is more to making a movie than what we see onscreen. In this case, there was much more.

In The Drop Box (talking about the book now), director Brian Ivie begins by telling about his childhood interest in films and filmmaking. Growing up he watched multiple movies every weekend, and he often roped in the neighbor kids (and even his dad) to make home movies he directed. Throughout the book Brian also reveals relational strains between him and his family and his eventual pornography habit.

But then, during his junior year in college, Brian read about the South Korean pastor. Here was a real story—he knew that from his years of watching stories. This would be the movie he would make. Maybe he would take it to a festival. Maybe he would win an award.

So Brian and a team he gathered traveled to South Korea to meet a pastor. Very quickly Ivie recognized the differences in their goals for this movie. “‘I don’t want it to be about me,’” Pastor Lee told him. “‘It needs to be about saving lives.’”

Soon Brian met an unexpected character in the story, the Lees’ biological adult son, Eun-man. Due to a medical condition, Eun-man lives in a dark room of the house, unable to do anything for himself. His parents and other caretakers feed, clothe, and bathe him, as well as provide routine, nauseating medical care on a daily basis.

Brian came home with hours upon hours of footage—and continued bondage to his sin.

Who bought what?

“When people would ask me why God existed, I had answers in the chamber…I knew about the plans of God and the beautiful purposes God has for our lives. I knew about the goodness of God and the provision of God. I knew that God cared about me personally and that He was real. But when people would ask me about the cross, that’s when I had to repeat somebody else’s words. On the first trip, I really flaunted my wooden cross necklace, you know, the one I bought on Amazon for eight dollars…But at some point, the cross can’t just be something you buy on Amazon. It has to be what bought you.”

God continued to work on Brian’s heart. One day he listened to a sermon by Mark Driscoll that grabbed him from the first point. He realized not only that he was a sinner and that God could rescue him, but also that God provided the love of a father he hadn’t known he needed.

“It was the first time I realized why God wanted me to meet Eun-man, the child who couldn’t offer anything to anybody except problems. For the first time in my life, I realized I was just one of those kids too, with nothing to offer a perfect God except my sin. I was a broken child, bound up in the dark and then suddenly pulled out through the laundry room, by a Father, into the light.”

The Baby in the Box

He pulled out his footage and notes again. The movie would go a new direction. But he needed to see Pastor Lee again.

Brian and his team were once again welcomed into Pastor’s Lee’s home, this time with all the excitement as if he were a returning family member. And with his recent conversion, he was.

During their visit, as they were playing with the children, the alarm sounded. Pastor Lee and his wife weren’t there, but everyone else leapt into action. There was a baby in the box.

Before his salvation, when Brian directed movies with his friends, he saw the people around him as props instead of souls. When he first visited South Korea, he carried the same attitude. But this time, as a child of God, watching the rescue of a baby, Brian saw things—and people—differently.

“I did know he and I weren’t that different. Because I was an orphan once. Even with nice parents and a nice house, I was an orphan in my heart. I was begging for people to love me, to approve of me, to want me. And what I learned is that when you’re an orphan, even just in your heart, you can love only those who will love you back…But as a child of God, you can be completely alone and still love people who have abandoned you…[W]e’re all orphans until we know how much we’re loved.”

Amazing

Brian’s life kept changing. His family life, his goals, his dating relationships. He shares his journey with openness, and his tongue-in-cheek humor coupled with countless movie references makes for a leisurely read. The movie did go to a festival, but I’ll let Brian tell you about that.

The Drop Box (the movie) tells an inspiring story of a man loved by God who spends his strength and time loving others. The Drop Box (the book) shows us how those stories can inspire new stories. Stories just as amazing.

“So, yeah, I became a Christian while making a movie. And that’s funny to me because before that, movies were God to me. They were everything. Just like success or fame or security is to other people…If I’m honest, I have to admit that when I went to meet this man in South Korea, I thought I was there to save a bunch of helpless kids. But the funny thing about God is He is always the Savior. Because when it comes down to it, we’re all the ones who need to be saved.”