#817 In The Presence of my Enemies by Gracia Burnham

In The Presence of my Enemies by Gracia BurnhamIn The Presence of my Enemies by Gracia Burnham

Many of us probably don’t remember a lot that happened in 2011, besides the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, but more did happen that year. In that same year, Muslim extremists also kidnapped a large group of people from a resort in the Philippines. In that group was a married missionary couple, Martin and Gracia Burnham.

The Burnhams had lived in the Philipines for many years serving as missionaries. Martin was a pilot who would fly supplies and people from mission to mission and Gracia raised their children and manned the communications to Martin while he was in flight. They had decided to go on a trip for their honeymoon to a resort, but the resort did not end up being a relaxing get away that the Burnhams had planned.

They were rounded up from sleep and held at gunpoint. Martin didn’t even have a shirt. They were put on a boat, then another boat. They finally made it to land, but were marched, mercilessly, and fed little. They would move locations very frequently. Illness was a common thing for the Burnhams. The captors, who identified with a Muslim extremist group, wanted ransom from all their captives. They went down the list of captives asking who could come up with what money. When the Burnhams told their captors they were American missionaries, who were rather poor, the captors told them that they would be last. They would be political prisoners.

The months went on and on. Some people were ransomed, but not Gracia and Martin. They were fed poorly. Martin was without his glasses and often saw everything blurry. Fellow captives were beheaded, some of the girls were taken as mistresses to the captors.

Over a year after the Burnhams were kidnapped, one other woman and the couple remained. Ultimately, Gracia got out alive, but without her beloved Martin.

What I liked

Gracia’s story is harrowing. I cannot imagine being taken captive like that and then having to live like an animal for over a year. They were treated poorly and their captors believed what they did was right according to Islam. It just goes to show you that not everyone interprets religion correctly.

Gracia is much stronger in the situation than I would have been, I think. I’m stubborn, but I don’t know if I would have made it out alive. It’s so silly that someone would take another person.

What I didn’t like

I tried to find out more information about what happened to Gracia afterwards. I know she does some speaking events and there is a mission set up in honor of Gracia and her husband, Martin, but I don’t know a lot more than that. I really wanted to know how Gracia fared after all of this. The book seems to end rather abruptly. In biographies and memoirs, I like to have a little bit of a follow-up.


Gracia is certainly an admirable woman.

Weigh In

Would you have survived being captive for over a year in the jungle?

What do you think about groups who interpret religion to the detriment of anyone who isn’t as “devout” as they are?

#815 Answering the Call by Ken Gire

Answering the Call by Ken GireAnswering the Call by Ken Gire

Most of us have probably never heard of Albert Schweitzer, including me. So who was Albert? Well, Albert was a doctor who spent most of his life in Africa doctoring people. He was also an accomplished organist. In addition to all of this, he also gave lectures.

When Albert and his wife married, they were off to Africa pretty soon. Albert had been told that there would be a hospital in the small African village he was going to, but there wasn’t. There was nothing. There was Albert’s house and a chicken coop that someone had abandoned. These were his only spaces to treat patients. He did just that. He saw patients on the porch.

He soon found out many quirks of natives. They wouldn’t eat food provided by Albert and his wife because they were afraid of poisoning. They also considered certain things fetishes. The cardboard name tags that they had to carry around as patients were never lost, because the people looked upon them as a fetish.

Eventually a hospital was built. Albert even helped design it. Albert and his wife were back and forth between Europe and Africa. They had a daughters. Life was okay, until the war came. The war brought short supplies to the hospital. At one point, Albert and his wife were even prisoners of war for some time.

Even after Albert’s wife died, Albert went right on doctoring people up. He received a Nobel Peace Prize for some of his work.

What I liked

I never knew Albert existed. So it’s nice to learn about someone like Albert. He was a man who devoted most of his life to other people. He was  good guy. It’s refreshing to hear about people with such dedication. He lived away from his family for years and years, in order to provide healthcare to people who really needed it. He saved all kinds of lives.

What I didn’t like

I liked the book, although, I do feel like I breezed through it much too fast.


Here’s to Albert, being a doctor, where doctors are needed.

Weigh In

Could you go live away from your family solely to help others?

Could you live helping others, and without the normal things we have in life–money, house, etc.?

#802 The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Any Hollingsworth

The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Any HollingsworthThe Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Any Hollingsworth

Mister Rogers didn’t generally do interviews, but he decided to grant Any one. Maybe Amy expected a personality that differed from Mister Rogers’ television personality, but what she got was the same Mister Rogers everyone grew up with. A friendship continued after the interview and Amy learned how great Mister Rogers really was.

Letters followed and so did stories. Mister Rogers never wrote a memoir himself, so Amy hopes that this book will serve as something of a biography for him.

Mister Rogers was always a spiritual and sensitive man. He wanted children to know it was ok to feel emotions. He wanted kids to know they were worth something. He took the time to take each child’s request seriously. When a blind girl asked if he fed the fish everyday, because he didn’t always say he fed the fish, he started saying he was going to feed the fish.

He created a world of himself inside The Land of Make-believe. Each puppet seemed to be a different facet of himself.

He taught the author that it was ok to be sad and that it was ok to be quiet. Some of the best things can come from silence.

Ultimately, Mister Rogers had to quit his show and he did for, but several decades of children grew up to his even-toned voice. They learned about emotions and they learned to be better people.

What I liked

I, like seemingly everyone else who got PBS on their bunny ears, admire Mister Rogers. He was a great man. He made an impact on the world in a way that so many people can’t. There are preachers and ministers galore, but it was Mister Rogers, who spoke with a gentle voice, that made an impression on children. Children learned that their feelings mattered. It was ok to be sad. It was ok to be angry. This might be a lesson some people could take to heart these days. We are not ever-cheerful automatons.

This man brought a voice of reason and sanity to more than one generation of children. When crazy was all they knew otherwise, Mister Rogers was a constant. He always put on those shoes and that sweater. He always fed those fish.

What I didn’t like

I really would have liked if this book had been more strictly a biography. I like Any, but it would have been nice to know even more about his life.


Won’t you be my neighbor?

Weigh in

What impact, if any, has Mister Rogers had in your life?

Is Mister Rogers an example of how television can impact our lives positively, in your opinion?

#754 Good Health Good Life by Joyce Meyer

Good Health Good Life by Joyce MeyerGood Health Good Life by Joyce Meyer

In this book Joyce Meyer outlines 12 keys for being a healthier person. She advises to start small and always remember that God can help you through any changes you’re trying to make in your life. She also outlines good goals procedures. It’s better to make easily definable goals and build on them.

What I liked

Unfortunately, I can’t get into a huge summary without really going into Joyce’s keys. Ultimately, it’s pretty simple, make a choice to be healthier and make small manageable goals remembering that God is on your side.

Joyce is religious and it definitely comes across in this book, but it’s not annoying. Joyce is able to be religious in a book without sounding patronizing or “holier than thou.” I haven’t read anything of Joyce’s before, and, yes, I do know who she is, and I was pleasantly surprised with her book. I even had to get up and go fill up my water bottle during the part of the book about drinking water. I feel like Joyce is a good motivational person, one that doesn’t make a person feel bad for themselves. I feel like Joyce has an eye on improvement that builds on a person, rather than trying to guilt a person into changing.

I feel like Joyce is more of an encouraging grandmother and that’s not a bad thing.

What I didn’t like

Joyce says never to get fries when you’re eating out in order to reduce refined carbohydrates. As if, Joyce. I mean, I try to eat healthy, but if I’m out, I’ll get fries. Fries are my favorite fast food. Wendy’s and McDonald’s have the best fries. I will almost always get fries when I’m out, unless I’m just particularly feeling a salad, actually, there are lots of times when I pick a steamed vegetable, or coleslaw, or green beans. There is only so much bland steamed broccoli a person can take though, at least season the stuff. Sometimes I’ll get a fry and a side salad at a restaurant and that will be my meal. In all honesty, if you do eat out a lot, it’s probably better to get something other than fries when you’re out. Get the dollar burger and the side salad, whatever.

You’re not going to find anything revelatory in this book. If you’ve read any self-help health improvement books, you will have heard many things like Joyce’s advice, but like I said, I do think Joyce is a little more encouraging in the manner that she presents her ideas.


Let’s all go eat an apple and drink more water.

Weigh In

Do you like Joyce Meyer?

Would you skip the fries?

#752 On Becoming Fearless by Arianna Huffington

‚ÄčOn Becoming Fearless by Arianna HuffingtonOn Becoming Fearless by Arianna Huffington

Arianna realized that her daughters were governing their lives by fear and realized that her daughters’ fears were some of the same fears she had dealt with at their age. She wanted her daughters to be fearless, so she wrote this book. 

Women have had fears about a lot of things, some of those things don’t even matter in the end. 

Arianna’s fighting back against these fears. She wants women to do what’s best for them, and their children. Women should not be afraid of the unknown; something will happen. Women should not be afraid to desire things in life. Women should not be afraid to make their own decisions. Women should not be afraid of their bodies. Arianna also gives strategies for turning those fears off. 

What I liked

I like her. I like Arianna. I think she’s got a lot of spunk and, yes, she is certainly fearless. I like that she’s gone out and done all these things. She really does seem like the kind of woman you’d want to be your role model. 

I like this idea of not being fearful–this is coming from someone who has been shy and has had anxiety, which is just a lot of fear. 

What I didn’t like

I don’t know how sincere Arianna is. Is she the kind of person that would back-bite another woman, calling her fat behind her back, or openly to her face? 

While I love a lot of the things Arianna wrote, it’s not so easy to turn off fear. If you’ve been scared of something your whole life, how are you just supposed to quit being afraid of it? It’s hard to turn off such a strong emotion and the connection that goes with it. I like Arianna’s ideas, but it’s not so easy as flipping a switch.


Try to be a little less fearful in your life. 

Weigh in

Do you have fears you’ve carried with you your entire life?

Do you think women have more fears than men?