• Jacob's Ladder Book Reviews

    JL Book Review: “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom

    “You are my hiding place and my shield;
        I hope in your word. “

    Psalm 119:114 (NRSV)

    In choosing which book to review for our theme “Trusting God when He’s silent”,  The Hiding Place  seemed the ideal choice for me.  

    The Hiding Place was written in 1971 by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. It is Corrie’s personal memoir of her life growing up in Holland and her family’s involvement in helping persecuted Jews find refuge from the tyranny of the Nazis, who had occupied her country during the Second World War.

    Corrie’s personal account of trusting and relying on God through the horror of the Nazi occupation, as well as the brutality and despair of imprisonment and a German concentration camp, is a true reflection of the power of God to shine a light in even the darkest places of human suffering. It is a testimony that God is with us in the silence and does not fail us nor forsake us. 

    The plot of The Hiding Place

    Cornelia, otherwise known as Corrie, begins her true account in January 1937 in Haarlem, Holland, in the childhood home she shares with her sister Betsie and their elderly father, Casper.  The mood is festive, as the family watchmaking business is celebrating its 100th birthday. The entire village is participating in the festivities that will take place in the little in-house watch shop.  

    The birthday party takes a rather somber turn however, when Corrie’s brother Willem brings a Jewish man, who has recently fled from Germany after being attacked on a street corner in Munich.

    Corrie continues her narration by reminiscing on past incidents she had experienced while growing up in the narrow house that the family nicknamed the Beje.  One such memory she shares is of her trepidation of her first day of school. Understanding her fears, her father read aloud Psalm 119, where God provides a hiding place for His children (Psalm 119:114).  

    Corrie and her sister Betsie reach adulthood and lead a quiet but happy life as spinsters in their childhood home under the loving guidance of their father. The daily routine of the three occupants of the Beje provide them with the same comfort as the familiar ticking of the many clocks that surround them. However, their tranquil regularity is forever disturbed when the Nazis invade Holland in May 1940.  

    Life in occupied Holland takes on a sinister turn. However, the most alarming element of the Nazi occupation is the persecution of the Jews. After witnessing the Nazis ransacking a Jewish shop across from the Beje, the ten Booms begin to offer persecuted Jews asylum in their home, until they can be safely re-located to the countryside.   

    Thus, begins the family’s involvement in the Underground movement, an illegal resistance network system that helps Jews escape the tyranny of Nazi persecution.   Corrie becomes the head of the Beje branch.  

    However, on February 28th 1944, the ten Boom’s participation in the Underground movement comes to an abrupt end. Exposed as national traitors, the family faces extreme peril at the hands of the Gestapo.

    As they enter the darkest chapter of their lives, the ten Booms need to rely on the goodness of God and seek refuge in the spiritual hiding place He offers them.

    The meaning behind the title The Hiding Place

    Casper ten Boom’s reading of Psalm 119 provides an eloquent introduction to the meaning behind the title of this epic book. God is our spiritual hiding place, our refuge in times of trouble.

    Corrie is confronted with this during her time in a German concentration camp, in particular through her sister Betsie, who always chooses to keep her eyes on God, regardless of how appalling their circumstances are.

    Additionally, the hiding place refers to the safe house of the Beje that the ten Booms create for persecuted Jews; in particular, the secret room they use to hide their jewish contemporaries in during Gestapo raids.

    My reaction to reading The Hiding Place

    This book is admittedly a somber read, but it entails important information that every Christian, or anyone seeking Christ, should be aware of. 

    We live in a world that is just as broken and unjust as the Nazi occupied Holland described in this true account. Acts that transgress the decency of humanity occur unfortunately every day.  

    The Hiding Place is a necessary reminder that God is at work even in the darkest of situations, though we may not see it. He is with us as we fight the things that threaten to hurt us; He will never fail us nor forsake us.  

    However, on our part, we need to believe that God can make a way where we see no way. We need to put our faith and trust in Him and keep our eyes on Him, and not on our circumstances. We too, can take refuge in God as our own hiding place. By doing so, we can experience hope and encouragement under even the worst circumstances.  

    This book also encourages us to show compassion for those who seek to hurt and destroy us, especially when they do not know the love and mercy of Christ. Knowing that we cannot reach this level of love on our own, The Hiding Place describes how God meets us where we are; He bring us to a place of peace and ultimately, forgiveness – the latter of which is a constant theme of this book.  

    While reading The Hiding Place, your faith is tested – how can God have allowed such travesties to occur? And yet it shows such wondrous examples of God’s love for His children.  If you didn’t believe in signs, wonders, and miracles before reading this book, you will by the time you turn the last page. 

    Would l recommend The Hiding Place?

    I would highly recommend The Hiding Place for anyone, who is struggling with adversity and feels like God is not hearing their pleading and their prayers. This book will assure you that not only does God hear you, He is right there with you in your situation and is guiding you through it. 

    Put your faith and trust in God, and let Him be your refuge – your hiding place – while He works everything out for your good. 

    Where can l purchase The Hiding Place?

    You can purchase The Hiding Place through Amazon.com,  Goodreads, Christianbook.com, or inquire at your local book store. 

    What else has Corrie ten Boom written?

    Corrie ten Boom has written several faith-inspiring books such as Tramp for the Lord , In my Father’s House,  and  Marching Orders for the End Battle: Getting Ready for Christ’s Return

    I have also read Defeated Enemies, which l particularly enjoyed and can highly recommend. 

    Where can l learn more about Corrie ten Boom and her family?

    It is possible to visit the ten Boom house in the Netherlands, which has been transformed into a museum. For more information on guided tours, visit the museum’s website at Corre ten Boom House

  • Jacob's Ladder Book Reviews

    JL Book review: “He Heard Me” written by Brenda Vargas

    In choosing which book l wanted to review for this month’s theme “Who l am in Christ”, the choice was easy –  He Heard Me, written by Canadian writer and poet, Brenda Vargas. 

    I first met Brenda through PresbyCan Devotionals, where she wrote me an encouraging comment to a devotional l had submitted to the website.  

    From that initial contact, a wonderful friendship has ensued. I am thankful to God every day for bringing this kind-hearted, generous person into my life, and l am grateful to learn more about myself and my own faith walk from her passionate love for Christ and her ability to see the good in all people. 

    He Heard Me is a tangible extension of Brenda’s intimate relationship with God. It is a loving testimony to the blessings, mercy, and miracles that God has given to her through the power of His infinite grace and mercy.  

    After reading this book, you will be filled with renewed faith, be grateful for God’s favor and blessings over your life, and be ignited with hope in experiencing the same miracles and revelation that Brenda has experienced.  Furthermore, Brenda’s words will rekindle your desire to discover a deeper relationship with God. 

    Brenda shares her inspiring spiritual journey through a compilation of personal testimonies and self-composed poetry. 

    Her introduction to the book begins with her testimony of salvation. The successive 11 themed chapters highlight situations in Brenda’s life where God has revealed Himself to her. Each chapter is complemented with Scripture.

    One favorite testimony of mine is to be found in the chapter “Trust and Obey”, where God gave Brenda favor with her bank by replacing a sum of money that had been owed to her.  

    Brenda also provides testimonial accounts of her friends and loved ones. One such account is given by a lady named Karen, whose testimony of recovery from lymphoma cancer, despite negative doctor’s reports, is just a beautiful confirmation of the power of God to heal and restore.  

    Within each chapter are self-composed poems, which supplement the chapter themes with their moving declarations of revelation and praise of God’s goodness. 

    What l also love about this book is Brenda’s attention for details. What first caught my eye about this book is the glorious sunset portrayed on the cover. The wash of golden, amber, and bronze hues evoked a feeling of peace and happiness in me.  

    When l asked Brenda about her inspiration behind choosing this photo, she informed me that the photo was taken on Pico in the Azores Islands, from a local photographer. Pico holds a special place in Brenda’s heart and is where she and her family spend a few months of the year to escape the harsh Canadian winters.  

    Inside my book l also found a bookmark, with the same beautiful sunset photo depicted on it, as well as the book’s title and author.  

    Brenda’s keenest desire is that people who read her book will have their eyes opened to see how God’s hand is present in every part of their daily lives. She has certainly achieved this! 

    I highly recommend reading He Heard Me. It is a book that will revive the spiritually fatigued, motivate the new believer in Christ, and give hope to those who are yearning for a meaningful relationship with God but just don’t know how to connect with Him 

    You can buy Brenda’s book on Amazon.com. Brenda also stocks her books in selected bookstores. To find out more, you can connect with her on Facebook.  

    About the author: 

    Brenda Vargas started writing poetry at a young age for special occasions and to communicate the things on her heart.  She has continued to write since that point, with encouragement from friends and family. Brenda currently lives in Ontario with her family and escapes the Canadian winters in Pico in the Azores Islands. 

    Blog banner credit:  Ben White on Unsplash

  • Jacob's Ladder Book Reviews

    JL Book Review: “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young

    General information about The Shack

    The Shack is a Christian-themed novel by Canadian writer William Paul Young (often referred to as Wm. Paul Young or Paul Young). The book portrays theological topics and explores themes such as redemption and forgiveness through Mack, the protagonist, who spends the weekend with God in an abandoned shack, the crime scene of his youngest daughter’s murder. 

    Wm. Paul Young never actually intended The Shack to be published publicly; he originally printed 15 copies of his book for his friends and family at an Office Depot. When he did make the decision to broaden his reading audience, Young was rejected by Christian and secular publishers alike, until two former pastors formed Windblown Media and self-published the book in 2007.  

    One year after its publication, The Shack sold 1 million copies and made the USA Today Bestseller list.  It was also No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list from 2008-2010. The book even received “The Diamond Award” by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association after it reached sales of over 10 million copies. 

    Since then, The Shack has sold over 20 million copies and has been published in 41 languages. The novel was adapted into a film in 2017. 

    What audience was The Shack originally targetted for?

    Wm. Paul Young originally wrote The Shack as a Christmas present for his 6 children as an expression of his journey of atonement, healing, and transformation through his relationship with God. He once quoted, “I didn’t want my kids growing up with the God that I did—white, distant, unreachable, unknowable, the darkness behind Jesus that needs to be appeased.” 

    Young chose the title The Shack as “a metaphor for the house you build out of your pain.” This makes sense when you consider the plot of the book.  

    The plot of The Shack

    Mackenzie Allen Philip or “Mack” is living under what he calls “The Great Sadness”. Four years previously, his youngest daughter Missy was abducted by a serial killer at a camping site during a family holiday.  

    Though the killer left his signature ladybug pin at the scene of the crime, Missy’s body was never found. However, when the authorities found a blood-stained dress in an abandoned shack in the heart of the Oregon wilderness, Mack identified the dress as belonging to his daughter. 

    One day, to Mack’s surprise, he receives a letter in the mail from God, inviting him to spend the weekend with Him in the same shack where Missy had been brutally murdered.  

    Full of skepticism, and yet curious, Mack makes a trip up to the shack expecting to confront his deepest, darkest pain. Instead, he encounters God and leaves the shack at the end of that weekend filled with peace, forgiveness, and hope for a better future for himself and his family. 

    The core theme of this book is one which all Christians grapple with: Where is God when we experience pain, loss, and suffering? Why do we struggle to feel His presence in this world that is dictated by evil? A second important theme is forgiveness and redemption. 

    The book does challenge the reader from the offset. The topic of child murder is not an easy one to stomach, however William Paul Young continues to keep his readers on their toes with his portrayal of God as an African-American woman named Elousia but who is referred to as Papa, the Holy Spirit as a wiry-built Asian woman named Sarayu, and Jesus as a Middle Eastern labourer.  

    Wm. Paul Young also meets theological topics head-on through pages of dialogue between Mack and the Triune, which are not only relevant to Mack, but affects both Christians and non-believers, such as free will, the Church, and forgiveness. 

    Reader’s reactions to The Shack

    Readers of The Shack appear to be rather polarized in their opinion of the book. Some are touched and uplifted by the message of God’s love, while others are convinced that the book is theologically misrepresented and borders on heresy.   

    Though it may be true that certain topics do raise question marks, what stands out for me is Young’s message that God is inherently good, He loves us and is always with us. He is our Father, our Papa.  

    Yes, the world is full of evil, pain, and suffering. I am no stranger to that, and neither are you, precious reader. However, if we can believe in the goodness of God in a broken world, then we can trust Him no matter what comes upon us.  

    What else has William Paul Young written?

    Other books that Wm. Paul Young has written are Cross Roads and Eve.

    Would l recommend The Shack?

    I read this book ten years ago, when l first gave my life to Christ. A friend of mine, who was strong in her Christian faith, gave it to me to help me understand God’s love, mercy, and grace. It was on her heart for me to know that God seeks a relationship with me and that l can trust Him as my Father.  

    My friend was absolutely right (Thank you, Goose!). Until l read The Shack, l hadn’t experienced what it was like to have a parent-child relationship of love, security, and absolute trust. Reading The Shack opened my eyes to the revelation that God loves me, l am His child and that He is my Father. Since reading this book, l call God Papa.  

    l didn’t get caught up in the theological correctness or lack thereof that has been discussed amongst readers and critics alike when l read The Shack: l approached the storyline from an emotional level. After reading the last page, not only had l found that emotional connection l was looking for, but the book’s message of God’s love had embedded itself deep in my heart that l feel to this day.  

    If you are looking for a reason to trust  God, if you are seeking a relationship with Him,  then l highly recommend this book. It will touch you and enlighten you, and you will receive such a wonderful revelation of the goodness, grace, and love of our Father.  

    Ok, you’ve convinced me to read The Shack. Now, where can l buy it?

    If you would like to purchase the book or any other products related to The Shack, then visit the official Windblown Media website theshackbook.com or Wm. Paul Young’s own website wmpaulyoung.com

    Alternatively, you can purchase The Shack through Amazon.com or Goodreads

    Blog banner photo credit: Image by David Mark from Pixabay 

    Book cover photo credit: Goodreads