"a portrait of love and courage at a time when those qualities were in short supply."
For over six decades a letter was tucked away from the world, it was sent as a desperate and final plea for help in a time when the unimaginable was taking place far from American shores.
You are surely informed about the situation of all jews in Central-Europe and this letter will not astonish you. By pure chance I got your address and as our names are the same I hope that we belong to the same family... we are seized with fright thinking of the moment when our children will leave us and we shall be left here alone. The only possibility to join our children, the dearest we have in this world, is the way to America and I beg you instantly to send us (for me and my wife) an affidavit... I beg you once more: help us follow our children, it is our last and only hope.
The recipients of this letter would, for reasons unknown, choose not to answer the letter, yet they refused to throw it away. When they passed away in the mid-1970s, it was found by their niece who felt it was too important to throw away. As she began to near the end of her life she felt someone needed to know about the letter and that is how it ended up in the hands of journalist, Faris Cassell, a woman who was driven by the question, "What happened to Alfred and Hedwig Berger?"
She would spend nearly twenty years searching for answers, travel across five countries, and talk with people who were complete strangers but would become good friends. The more Faris Cassell dug deeper into the lives of these ordinary people she uncovered an extraordinary story, one of courage, love, and deep faith.
I must confess that as soon as I read the back cover of this book I was fascinated. It completely grabbed my attention and curiosity. This couple was so desperate for help that they were willing to beg complete strangers. I will say that this book was a difficult read in many ways, there was so much sorrow and loss yet it was impossible not to be pulled into the world of this family who loved each other with such devotion. As the author begins to walk you through their life, how the couple met, their background, and the relentless effort they put forth to ensure the safety of their children, there was a quote that caught my attention.
"Sunlight over a dark landscape"
I read it over and over again, then I wrote it down though I wish I had noted the page number but the idea was that there were moments woven throughout the story when human courage and compassion shown like the sun in a dark landscape. My mind went to the verses in Matthew five:
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
We are meant to be a light not for ourselves or that others will see how great we are, but to point others to Christ. Our world is naturally a dark place, it began in darkness and only when God stepped on the scene did the darkness vanish. He who is Light pushed the darkness into the corner and only His presence eliminates it. We are called to be a light to the world, to be a reflection of God and in so doing we become a piece of sunlight over a dark landscape. Darkness is oppressive and when we spend extended periods of time under its shadow we can become a soul that is discouraged. Sunlight is the direct opposite, we delight to bathe in it's warmth and can instantly feel happier as it surrounds us. How can we make a difference in this world that seems to be nearly swallowed up by the darkness? We begin by going directly to the source of light, our God, and we do this by spending time in His Word because it is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. When we meditate on the Word of God its truths and principles will begin to penetrate our soul and influence our behavior. How can we be sunlight over a dark landscape? When we are kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, and speaking words of love. This is how we make a difference in this dark landscape, being the lights that shine forth, reminding people that kindness, mercy, and love still exist in the world because He is kind, merciful, and loving. As Christians, followers of Christ, we have a purpose and part of that includes being someone who shines the SONlight over a dark landscape.
One final thought that I took away from this book was a comment made by the author herself as she pondered how Alfred and his wife Hedwig could celebrate their religious holidays, particularly the one that required them to confess their sins to the Lord while enduring such suffering and loss. It was such a reminder to me on the lost's mentality, that they can't comprehend why anyone could ask for forgiveness for sin when the One they were confessing to was allowing such wrong to go unpunished. What they fail to see is the other side of the coin, that our life here on earth is temporary, it is not all there is, in fact, it is merely a drop in light of eternity. It was a great reminder to me, even though there is so much injustice and corruption going on in our world right now, but that does not mean I get a pass on making sinful choices or yielding to temptations. God is still just and worthy of all the honor and respect I can give Him. When I keep a correct view of eternity in mind, that this life is merely a vapor which will soon be past and a wondrous future awaits all those that call upon His name, I will seek to keep my heart pure through confession of sins. Also, confessing my sins should not be determined by my current circumstances but by the fact that it is needful for me in order to maintain a correct relationship with my Heavenly Father, the One who died to save me.
If you enjoy learning about history, you will enjoy this book. It is very real and you will find yourself pulling for this family that lived nearly ninety years ago, that held onto to hope to the very end.
This is a question that every woman asks and one that must be answered correctly? This book was a great read and I wanted to share a few highlights from it.
1. The question is mine to ask but the answer that truly will fill and give strength will only come from God. We can ask if we are beautiful but the only answer that ever can complete us is from God. He alone has the answer our soul is desperately searching for.
2. Maybe the purpose of the question is to take me by the hand and walk me into the presence of the Creator. This was an interesting point. Sometimes we wonder why there are certain questions and feelings within us that almost seem impossible to answer, perhaps it is because God wants to drive us to Him. He alone has the answer, He alone can satisfy that longing but we turn everywhere else. There comes a time when we need to be lead into His presence because it is there that all our needs are meet.
3. He (God) is the only one who will ever be enough. His love promises to make you whole. Satan is good at convincing us that the world has what we need, that if we just keep looking around down here we will find that one thing more that promises to make us whole, complete and content. But all it does it lead to more holes than wholeness. Only the one who created us, the one who loves us more than anything else, is the one who can fulfill that promise. Only He can make us whole so that we are no longer wandering around lost, empty, and broken. In His presence there is healing and contentment.
4.We look into the mirror with our eyes. That is the problem. God does not see us as we see. I loved this. Every time I look in the mirror I am discontent, but that is because I see through my eyes, I see all my faults, imperfections, and failures. God looks down at me and sees a very different reflection. He sees someone who was made in His image, one who was meant to reflect Him to a dark world. He sees what I can become if I simply trust Him and let Him have control. This requires me to stop looking in the mirror as a person but instead look at it as He does, a work in progress.
5. Maturity in Christ is not about finally attaining some level of pseudo-perfection. It is about remaining in the arms of God. Abiding and staying even in my weakness, even in my failures. This was a great reminder for me. A mature Christian is not one that can withstand anything, or one that has "arrived". They are the ones who realize they can do nothing without Christ. They are the ones who have realized that they need to stay in the arms of God. When I am weak, or have failed my God again, I tend to want to run and hide, but those are the times I need to run to Him. He is there, waiting for me to come to Him. In His arms I will find healing, comfort and grace. It is here that I must abide because without Him I am nothing.
This book was a great reminder and help to me, I am something not because of who I am but because of whose I am. I am a child of God and that makes me beautiful, but this is not a beauty that is mine, it only comes when I abide in Him, when I spend time in the presence of my Creator and let Him work in and through me. In order to stand I must learn how to kneel and realize that He is my everything. Without Him I would be nothing at all, but because of Him I am beautiful and so are you!
I enjoyed reading this book last June by Elizabeth George. There were several things that stood out to me but first let me give you the description from the back of the book.
Letting God shine through life's hard moments. How does it feel to be hurt by another person or treated unfairly? What about when we suffer for doing what is right? These experiences often cause feelings of frustrations, bitterness, and even anger. But God calls His women to respond in a different way - a way that those around us don't expect. He desires for us to put on a gentle and quiet spirit, one that puts our Heavenly Father on display to a watching world....and brings greater glory to Him. Discover how to:
1. Let others see God in your life even in the difficult times
2. Successfully handle life's challenges
3. Rest completely, in God's strength
There were so many good thoughts and points made in this book. One quote from the book was that "Gentle means not creating disturbances and Quiet means bearing with tranquility the disturbances caused by others." I found that such an interesting statement. We are to not cause disturbances or disruptions around us, but should be able to handle, with grace and a sense of calm, those caused by others. So often I let myself get pulled into the heat of the moment and dragged down to the level of those raising a fuss. Instead my attitude should be to try and calm the situation down or have the ability to simply walk away.
Here is another quote, "We should live life in utter reverence and awe and worship of God...reverential fear is the attitude of mind in the person who is always aware that she is in the presence of God". I am never alone, this should guide my choices each and every day. I should always keep this in the forefront of my mind and I go about my day. How I live life in front of those around me shows them my view of God.
This quote ties into the one above but I felt it was worth mentioning on its own, "We're to live a good life filled with good deeds on a daily basis". To me this implied the idea of choosing to do good on a regular basis because a lost world is watching. We should be characterized by a helpful and caring attitude especially to other believers. The world will only take notice if we have love for one another and that love is manifested in the deeds we do each day. Doing good deeds should become a common practice not a once in a while activity.
Lastly, "When it comes to mistreatment, you and I will have to choose whether to react or to respond. Rather than hate our enemies and retaliate against them and fear them, we must quietly - with a gentle and quiet spirit - trust in the Lord". This was such a good thought. So often it is easier to respond in the flesh than to react in the Spirit. Our flesh wants to avenge when we have been wronged or hurt but that will not aide in the spreading of the gospel. When people see that we have been wronged and we don't react as they would we can make a statement for Christ. Choosing to trust that He will make things right in His time will be a far better choice than reacting and losing our testimony for Christ.
I hope you get a copy of this book and read it for yourself. There are discussion questions that make this a great book for your own quiet time. We are to always seek to grow more into the image of Christ and I believe this book will be a great help.
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I am just an ordinary girl who is loved by an extraordinary God and I seek to love others the same way. I love to bake, read, do puzzles, watch Hallmark movies, and go shopping with my mom! This blog was created as a place where I could share some thoughts that the Lord has shown me and to be an encouragement to others who desire to know Him in a deeper way. My prayer is to learn to sit still and trust God with my future.