Katie and Addie with J.D. Love Washington, DC

Katie and Addie, with J.D., Love Washington, D.C.!
by Michele Wetteland with illustrations by John Rose
Published by Bridge Logos Foundation (2012)

This charming children's book is the second in a series by Michele Wetteland and features a tour through the nation's capitol. It is scheduled for release October 3, 2012.

Michele Wetteland is married to American Major League Baseball pitcher John Wetteland. John Wetteland played major league baseball from 1989-2000. He was the 1996 World Series MVP of the New York Yankees. He played for the Texas Rangers from 1997-2000, and in 2005 he was inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.

Michele Wetteland is an author and speaker in her own right. Her first children's book, Katie and Addie, with J.D., Love Christmas, was one of the Top 20 Books for the Bridge Logos Foundation Publishing House in 2011, earning recognition in both fiction and nonfiction genres.

This new book follows the adventures of twins Katie and Addie as they travel with their parents and younger brother J.D. to visit important landmarks in Washington D.C. Two mischievous tabby cats go along for the ride and join in the fun. As they tour the sites, the family learns the importance of faith in the history of the United States.

John Rose has done a beautiful job of filling the book with colorful, full page illustrations. Children will be drawn to its playful enthusiasm. Even a child who doesn't read yet can flip the pages and follow the action. This is going to be one of those "Read to me, Mommy," books that will be well worth the price and a great addition to your child's library.

You can pre-order the book at for $9.99.

A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty [Hardcover]

A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty
by Joni Eareckson Tada
Published by David C. Cook (2010)

I must confess to a certain curiosity when I first heard about her - a person in a wheelchair who painted beautiful pictures with a paintbrush in her mouth. She was interesting because of her disability and inspiring because of her faith. The young woman  known to millions simply as Joni burst on the scene in 1976 with a best seller chronicling the story of her diving accident and resulting spinal cord injury. Her book was followed in 1979 with the movie Joni.

Joni played herself in the movie, and I remember being struck by her courage in re-living the agony for film audiences. I also remember walking out the of the theater with a profound sense of relief that I had never experienced such a terrible tragedy.

Eighteen years later, I would encounter Joni's name once again. This time, it would be in a desperate search for more information on spinal cord injury.

This time, it was my own son living the story.

Since Kevin became quadriplegic in 1997, Joni's ministry, Joni & Friends, has been a source of encouragement for me in our own long fight for faith and meaning to carry us through the daily battles. Though she has often addressed the subject of suffering, this book's title immediately caught my attention - particularly the subtitle:  Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty. Since I do a lot of wrestling with the mysteries,  I just had to read it.

A Place of Healing was written by Joni in the midst of acute pain. The degenerative process associated with spinal cord injury has presented her with a new and unexpected challenge long after she made peace with her paralysis and lived many fruitful years in a wheelchair.

In this book Joni reports on her current physical status. She relates how the constant assault on her faith has brought her to a new place of despair and ignited a fresh search for answers. She brings the reader along as she asks such questions as "What benefit is there to my pain?" and "How do I regain my perspective?".

Most of Joni's books over the year radiate with the theme of victory over trial. In fact, Joni is much beloved for her testimony to the keeping power and grace of the Lord. But this time, Joni has chosen to chronicle her struggle before the experience has been emotionally and spiritually processed for perspective.

It's that very edge that gives this book power. As someone who has watched a dearly loved son suffer for fifteen years from the effects of a devastating spinal cord injury, I  hunger for an honest search for God by someone else whose soul is still raw. I need to hear from another who's been there. She did not disappoint.

We all struggle with pain and loss on some level in our lives. We all ask the question "why?" when the unthinkable happens. Joni takes us on a refreshing and reverent trip through the possibilities, as discovered by a weary traveler who has walked far down that road.

The book is satisfying. There are no pat answers. Neither condescension nor condemnation is offered to those trying to make sense out of senseless tragedy. Instead, she shares the insights revealed to her as she seeks out her Deliverer through the hard places in her own life. Chapter Five (How Can I Go on Like This?) brought me to a place of revelation that was profound and answered a question that had hounded me since Kevin's accident in 1997. For me, the book was worth reading for this chapter alone.

Though Joni writes about her own struggle with pain, the journey is a relevant one for anyone suffering hardship or loss. The truth discovered and shared is universal. You may even find your own place of healing.

Road of the Tinkling Bell
by Tomihiro Hoshino with Gavin Bantock and Kyoko Oshima

In April of 1970 a young Japanese man named Tomihiro Hoshino, an expert in gymnastics, had just taken a job as a junior high school physical education teacher. Two months later, he was fighting for his life after suffering a high spinal cord injury. Paralyzed from the neck down, he spent nine years in a hospital before finally being discharged home. During those long years in the hospital, he became a Christian and learned to paint with a brush in his mouth. Today he has produced hundreds of works,  shown them in exhibitions around the world, been the subject of film, and had his poetry set to music.

Road of the Tinkling Bell is a collection of paintings, essays, and poetry compiled by Hoshino and translated by Gavin Bantock and Kyoko Oshima. The book's title comes from a little bell someone gave him and which he had tied to his wheelchair. Because it makes more sound when he is rolling along rough roads, for him it has come to symbolize the fight of the soul to sound more clearly through the obstacles of life.

Hoshino's special love is flowering plants. His paintings are soothing and delicate; they are all the more so when it is considered he paints lying on his side with a brush in his mouth. His observations are similarly insightful, born of the discipline of stillness and infused with the frankness that comes from years of living with loss.

For those of us unfamiliar with Japanese culture, the editors have included a short appendix of explanations. Take the time to refer to these along the way. For me, this mini-educational tour added to my enjoyment of the book. His writing is simple, but don't let that fool you. His insights are powerful - and all the more so for their simplicity. Having been stripped of most of life's pleasures, his senses seem all the more honed. He has the time to notice those breathtaking details of God's grace which we, the able-bodied, mindlessly sprint by in our race for the finish line. Road of the Tinkling Bell was a refreshing rest stop for me and a great reminder to take the time to enjoy the life we have been given.

For more on Tomihiro Hoshino's works, go to:

Choosing to SEE 
by Mary Beth Chapman
Published by Revell (2010)

Five time Grammy winner Steven Curtis Chapman has been a beloved icon of the contemporary music scene for decades. His songs reflect an upbeat, effervescent style that I always imagined mirrored his personality.  His larger-than-life, holy-to-the-core man of God image made him, in my eyes, somehow impervious to the slings and arrows of sorrow that wound us slightly lesser children of faith.

So it was with shock that I and millions of other fans read the news of the tragic death of his daughter Maria in May of 2008. Suddenly a door had opened and exposed an entire family to the eyes of the world at a time of very deep and very public suffering. As we hurt for them and grieved with them, we were given no less than a glimpse into the rarefied air of faith tested by fire. We have heard the story in the songs of Steven Curtis Chapman; his wife, Mary Beth Chapman, has given us a gritty account of the pain that lies behind the inspiration.

Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman is as real as it gets. A private person and self-described control freak, Mary Beth details with breathtaking frankness her struggles with God's work in her life. The book obviously revolves around losing Maria, but Mary Beth expands it into an autobiography/family story. The early chapters talk about her growing up days, meeting Steven, and their early years together. Along the way, the reader is led through Mary Beth's journey to learn to trust God despite heartbreak and trial. For Steven Curtis Chapman fans, it is generously sprinkled with lyrics from Chapman's hits and a behind-the-scene view of his rise to the top of the charts.

The book is alternately scandalous, heartwrenching, and hope-filled. There were definitely times for me that could only be described as Too Much Information, such as parts of Chapter 5 - "When the Puppy Eats Your Birth Control Pills" and a very unnecessary and personal story she told at Maria's memorial service. The reader would have definitely benefited from more editorial oversight of the project. But while her no-holds-barred approach to story-telling may not wind up on a Steven Curtis Chapman album, for me it was a good reminder that God is God and we are all humans in need of a Savior.

Mary Beth gives an honest and refreshing account of what it is like to walk through the valley of the shadow. As someone who has lived through a similar tragedy, I could not have been satisfied with anything less than complete honesty.  I was moved by her vulnerability and genuine description of the brokenness the Chapman family has endured. No one would have faulted her if she had conveniently left out some of the questions she has had for God, the bewilderment at His ways, and -yes- the anger she battled toward God as she grieved. But I'm glad she didn't. It's a powerful reminder of how we need to see the battle others are facing and to share as fellow sufferers in the struggle and the victory. I could relate in a very real way with her questions, in her search for meaning in the midst of suffering, in the endless "whys" and the ever-unfolding sense of loss as life brings new reminders.

But she is just as generous with offering hope to others. She shares the ways God has led her and her family in healing. One of my favorite quotes was near the end of the book: "I really hesitate sometimes to write these truest of true thoughts down. I find myself thinking, 'Whoever is reading this probably thinks I need to just get over it and move on. I want you all to know that I am making progress. The waves roll in a little less frequently, but they still roll in. And as far as getting over it, I won't. I'll get through it, not over it."

Amen, Mary Beth Chapman. Amen.

October Baby 
Produced by Jon and Andy Erwin

It's ironic that a movie portraying the story of an abortion survivor nearly died itself before reaching theaters nationwide. I had never heard of "October Baby" before I happened upon a cable news article touting a new blockbuster movie that no studio in Hollywood would finance. "October Baby" opened at number eight in the top ten box office movies in its first week, earning 1.7 million in ticket sales - despite opening in only 390 theaters across the country. It ranked 3rd highest in per-screen-average sales and was the number one limited release film.

"October Baby" is the first feature length film produced by the brother duo of Jon and Andy Erwin. The two have spent the last ten years making music videos and documentaries. Together they have five Dove nominations to their credit but, by their own admission, had never before tackled a project of such intensity.

It was an introduction to abortion survivor Gianna Jessen that compelled the brothers to do something to address this subject on the screen. Like many people, they had not known that abortion survivors do actually exist. But convincing the entertainment establishment of the film's value proved an insurmountable challenge. The subject matter was considered so controversial by Hollywood that the movie was rejected by every major studio. The brothers had to raise the money by themselves for a limited release.

It took a bit of sleuthing myself to find the nearest theater showing the movie, about forty-five minutes away. It was worth the effort. The movie stars Rachel Hendrix as a young woman who discovers her true past when a medical condition forces her parents (played by Jasmine Guy and John Schneider) to reveal its cause - a botched abortion nineteen years earlier. She learns then she is adopted and feels betrayed by the only parents she has known for never telling her the truth.

Her adoptive parents are reluctant to reveal the details of her birth, so her childhood buddy (played by Jason Burkey) invites her along on a roadtrip with his friends. He plans on dropping her off in the city in which she was born to do some investigating while the rest of the group continue their travels. A series of misadventures changes their plans and leads her to discover more than she bargained for.

Movies with a Christian theme, though well-meaning, often are disappointing in quality. I can see why this movie has been an unexpected blockbuster. The photography is beautiful; the scenes are smoothly produced. The characters were generally well-played. I appreciated the fact that the characters were given depth; no pat answers were spoon-fed to the audience. The facts surrounding abortion were neither over-dramatized nor sugar-coated. As the story unfolded, I finally let the tears come and found myself fighting to keep from actually just sobbing right there in my seat. I could hear others around me in the same struggle for composure.

You need to see this movie. Its message is twofold and transformational:

Every life is beautiful. 
There is always forgiveness. 

This is a movie a person who is pro-life can go to with a friend who has had an abortion. There will be no condemnation nor preaching. The truth is sobering, but the grace is abundant. Be sure to watch through the credits. The best part of the movie is the surprise at the very end.

Ten percent of profits from "October Baby" go to the Every Life is Beautiful Fund to be distributed to organizations helping women in crisis pregnancies, adoption agencies, and caregivers of orphans. Check for availability in your town; its success has opened up more venues across the country. 

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