Monday, June 19, 2017

God in the Killing Fields

As Donald Trump’s presidency continues, I hear more and more things from the left about how Trump and the Republicans are a danger to democracy.  I hear how Mr. Trump or a Republican Congress will take away our rights and our freedoms.  I believe it is wise to diligently guard those rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution.  At the same time, there is a sense that the people complaining about our rights and freedoms, from both the left and the right, should get some much needed perspective.

I say this, having just read Intended for Evil:  A Survivor’s Story of Love, Faith and Courage in the Cambodian Killing Fields.  The book, written by a college acquaintance of mine, Les Sillars, gives our current discussion that perspective.  While we carefully guard our rights and freedoms, Sillars tells the powerful story of Radha and the Cambodian people whose rights and freedoms were taken away completely by the Khmer Rouge Communists.  What may or may not be happening in our country is nothing compared to the horror visited on this Asian nation.

Sillars’ story is based on extensive interviews and, it appears, a friendship with, Radha Manickam, an Indian citizen living in Cambodia at the time of the Khmer Rouge takeover in the 1970’s.  From a wealthy Hindu family, Radha became a Christian as a young man.  Soon after his conversion, the country was taken over by the Communists.

Interweaving Radha’s personal story with a birds-eye view of what was going on in Cambodia on a national and international level, Sillars tells a story of lost rights, powerlessness and random murder.  The Khmer Rouge evacuated the Cambodian people from their cities, forcibly settled them in the country to grow rice, and starved and worked them to death.  Radha’s story is depressing at times and hard to stomach.  The reader wonders how one man, and ultimately how a whole country, could endure that much brutality.

And yet, God’s hand shines through over and over in the story.  God is a work protecting Radha, providing food for him, overseeing the circumstances of his marriage and ultimately helping him escape to the United States.  While Radha’s story is one of profound loss at times – most of his immediate family died in the killing fields of Cambodia - it is also one of hope, since God never lets go of one of his own.

Sillars tell the story of both the rise and the fall of the Khmer Rouge.  Interestingly enough, a recent issue of Christianity Today chronicles the amazing opportunity for ministry that exists in Cambodia at the present time.  Christians are at work in many areas, from standing against the sex trade to planting churches among Cambodian national.  As Intended for Evil makes clear, God is able to take situations and circumstances that are brutal and redeem them for His glorious purposes.

So, by all means, stand up for the rights and freedoms we enjoy in our country.  Thank God for them on a regular basis.  Make yourself aware of the places where those rights are being eroded.  At the same time, always remember we may not have those freedoms forever.  But if they go away, it does not mean God is no longer at work.  In fact, it may be that God has even more opportunities to work, redeeming painful situations and bringing hope in places where, humanly speaking, it should not exist.



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book Review: Clouds of Glory by Michael Korda

In May, the city of New Orleans removed the last of its Civil War monuments, a statue of General Robert E. Lee.  There has been great outcry by both sides of the political spectrum over the removal of these monuments.  The left is pleased to see them go, decrying them as continual reminders of the national sin of slavery and a debunking of the “lost cause” Civil War mythos.  The right, while agreeing with the evils of slavery, wondered out loud about forgetting our history as a nation and wondered whether the founders of our country, many of them slave-holders as well, would also soon be “removed” from public view.
 
In the midst of this discussion, I had the privilege of reading Michael Korda’s biography of Robert E. Lee entitled Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee.  I have read and heard much in recent months about this man from many sources, from media reports to Facebook memes.  Who was this man and how much of our perception of him, 150 years later, is accurate?

Korda’s book is massive – almost 700 pages of text, not counting footnotes – and his story is told well.  Except for a few instances of irritating repetition and a few factual errors, such as errors in dates that a good editor should have caught, Korda’s portrait of Lee is well painted.  Beginning with his early life in a prestigious but impoverished Virginia family, Korda follows Lee through West Point, marriage and the Mexican-American War, where Lee first made his mark on the national stage.  Many of Lee’s years in the Army, either as an engineer or cavalry commander, were years of boredom, drudgery and a lack of promotion.  That said, as a result of Mexican War heroics, he entered the Civil War with a rank of Colonel. After the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, both sides, Union and Confederate, sought Lee’s services as a commander of their armies in the field.  Only when Virginia seceded from the Union did Lee make up his mind, following his home state into the arms of the rebellion. 

The bulk of Korda’s book focuses on Lee’s years as a Civil War commander.  He was, without a doubt, the most brilliant of all the commanders on both sides of the war.  He took risks no other commander would take, and often he pulled them off.  Korda does a good job analyzing Lee’s strategical and tactical choices, marveling at his willingness to divine his forces in the face of the enemy.  At the same time, Clouds of Glory is not hagiography.  Korda criticizes Lee for the risks he took that did not turn out well.  He especially is concerned about Lee’s unwillingness to be forceful with his sub-commanders, all too often trusting them too much and leaving too much in their hands, which at times led to movement and attacks that were made too late to garner even greater victories.

Throughout the book, Korda addresses the glorification of Lee that is the product of historians like Douglas Southall Freeman and others of the “Lost Cause” persuasion.  While Korda considers Lee to be a brilliant general, he has little time of day for Lee’s most zealous apologists.  One area where those apologists focus their interest is on Lee and his slavery views.  While Lee did hate slavery, he also considered, as many Americans on both sides of the rebellion did in those day, that black Americans were inferior.  While Lee did not participate in the slave trade, he did own 200 slaves, all inherited through his wife’s family at the death of his father-in-law.  Despite his revulsion of slavery, Lee was unable to free his slaves prior to the Civil War due to the stipulations of his father-in-law’s will.

One of the things I appreciated most about Korda’s book was its emphasis on Lee’s religious faith.  While he does not make it a major part of the book, he does not shy away from matters of faith like many modern biographers do.  He is very clear that Lee is what he calls an evangelical Christian and that his faith in God’s will guided and directed his life to the end.   His mentions of Lee’s faith in God are woven throughout the book, as I believe they should be.


The book, while excellent, produced mixed feelings in me.  While I share Robert E. Lee’s faith, I cannot relate to his views of African Americans or his tolerance of slavery.  I don’t know how he mixed those views; that concept is foreign to me.  Like a number of Civil War icons, Lee is an enigma to those of us who see the world in a different way.  At the same time, Korda’s portrait is still eminently worth reading.  We cannot forget our history, especially the parts that make us uncomfortable, even while we forge ahead, committed to not repeating the mistakes of the past.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Scarlett Johansson, Monogamy and the Bible

In a recent interview, actress Scarlett Johansson admitted that she is not sure that people are designed to be monogamous in relationships.  “I think the idea of marriage is very romantic.  It’s a beautiful idea, and the practice of it can be a very beautiful thing,” said the twice married actress, “I don’t think it’s natural to be a monogamous person.”  Johansson considers marriage a “legally binding contract that has weight to it,” and a “beautiful responsibility,” but also remarks that marriage is a lot of work.

Ms. Johansson, I completely agree.  Marriage is a beautiful responsibility.  It is a lot of work.  And it is more assuredly NOT natural to be a monogamous person.  It is not natural for sinful human beings to commit themselves – ideally for life – to one partner in marriage.  But the fact that, until relatively recently, that has been the standard, accepted pattern in the western world is tribute to the foundational impact the truths of the Bible has had on our society.

I came across Ms. Johansson’s words while I was in the midst of reading a book about the very thing she is indirectly addressing – the profound yet often unseen and unnoticed impact the Bible has had in shaping western culture and society.  The book in question was The Book that Made your World:  How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi. 
            
Mangalwadi is a social reformer, political columnist and Christian philosopher who was born and raised in India.  His eastern roots give Mangalwadi a unique perspective on the whole question of how our society has been shaped by the Bible.  With numerous examples from India, Mangalwadi presents a stark contrast between a culture like India’s that has only relatively recently been affected by the Bible and our own culture.
            
The very soul of western civilization, Mangalwadi argues, has been shaped by the Bible.  Our idea of humanity and basic human dignity comes from the Bible.  It is based in our understanding of the incarnation – the fact that Jesus became man meant that human beings are and continue to be objects of dignity and great value.  Our emphasis on rationality and thinking through things comes from the Bible.  Our minds have been understood as one of God’s great gifts to us.  They enable us to seek to understand a rational God and drive us to create a thinking civilization.  Even our emphasis on technology has its roots in Scripture.  The Bible portrays God as a Creator, the architect of the cosmos, not as a dreamer or a dancer as others faiths do.  When we create and invent ourselves, we follow a divine example.  And much of what the west has created over the years has brought liberty and freedom and the betterment of human existence.
            
Mangalwadi continues his argument, suggesting that many of the underlying concepts that we accept as a society come from Scripture.  Our idea of a hero, someone who refuses to bow before evil and falsehood, is biblical.  The godly pursuit of translating the Scripture from Latin into common languages brought revolution, freedom and other biblical ideas to many nations.  The idea of educating your subjects, as opposed to just simply ruling over ignorant people, is biblical.  Our quest for truth in science has its roots in our quest for the truth about the biblical God and how he created our universe.  Biblical morality, even though we are moving away from it, still has its affect.  Countries where the Bible has had influence for centuries are notably less corrupt.  The Bible’s emphasis on family, gender roles and marriage has raised the status of women, especially compared to many other places in the world.  The ideas of medical compassion and stewardship of wealth come ultimately from the Bible.
            
Now of course, people can argue that the world the Bible created is not all roses and sunshine.  I agree.  Anything and everything can be used for hurtful, ugly, self-centered purposes.  But is that the fault of the Bible, or is that the fault of sinful, corrupt human beings who take advantage of the freedom or scientific advancement the Bible set in place in our society?


The fact is, as Ms. Johansson’s interview reminds us, we are quickly moving away from being a culture influenced and shaped by the Bible.  Society is quickly laying aside the foundational ideas that the Bible has ingrained in us.  Unfortunately, what society is blind to is that the freedoms we enjoy, or the wealth we are privileged to have, or the responsible, democratic government we take for granted all exist primarily because of the Bible.  When we take that foundation away, what will be the result?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Best Books of 2016 – Fiction

My forays into fiction this year were a bit disappointing.  I did read some very good books. I read some fun books.  I discovered a few new authors and I finished a longtime series from one particular author, but very little that I read was truly outstanding.

Here are the best:

The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson.  Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite writers at the present time.  This book is the conclusion of a spin-off series set in the same world as his best-selling Mistborn books.  A good story driven by great characters who have an awesome, often hilarious, interplay with each other.

Lamentation by C. J. Sansom.  A year with a new C. J. Sansom book is a good year.  Lamentation stars Sansom’s long time hero, hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake, who seems to get into some of the murkiest corners of King Henry the 8th’s England.  As usual, great historical research and a fine story make this one of the best fiction books I read this year.

Fever Dream, Cold Vengeance, and Two Graves by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  Preston and Child write fun mystery/adventure stories.  There is nothing too deep here, just lots of action and great story-telling.  Of course, it does not hurt that the stories center on FBI Agent Pendergast, a quirky, wonderful main character.  This trilogy of books focuses on Pendergast’s hunt to find the truth about his wife Helen.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  Probably the best fiction book I read this year.  This is classic, epic fantasy with a twist – the legendary hero of the story does not appear to be what everyone thinks he is.  Book 2 – The Wise Man’s Fear - is almost as good.  I am eagerly awaiting book 3.

Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher.  Book 1 of the Codex Alera series, Butcher has created an intriguing world and interesting characters.  I hope to read more of this series in 2017 and I am curious as to where he will take his story.

2nd Tier Reads – very good, recommended (in no particular order):
Ordermaster  by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Recluse series)
Cemetery Dance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan
The Rose and the Thorn by Michael J. Sullivan
The Revenant:  A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke
Cyador’s Heirs by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Recluse series)
Heritage of Cyador by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Recluse series)
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger
The Death of Chaos by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Recluse series)

3rd Tier Reads – okay, but somewhat disappointing:
The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler
The Lincoln Letter by William Martin








Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Best Books of 2016 - History/Biography

I enjoy history and good biography – I have a book like this going all the time.  As you can see, I had a strange fascination with the books of Ken McGoogan and the history of the American West this year.  We will see what next year brings.

Here the books that stood out this year.

Custer’s Trials:  A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T. J. Stiles.  I always look forward to a new T. J. Stiles book.  In this book, Stiles portrays George Armstrong Custer, the Civil War hero slain at the battle of Little Bighorn.  Custer is portrayed as a man out of a place in the developing United States.  The only thing he does well is fight, which is what ultimately killed him.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.  While I realize the Hamilton is a Broadway sensation, I read this book to learn more about a man who is at times vilified, at other times forgotten as a founding father of America.  Chernow is an excellent biographer – his portrait is exhaustive, highlighting Hamilton’s brilliance as well as his failings.

A Time for Trumpets:  The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge by Charles B. MacDonald.  Written in the 1980’s, MacDonald’s book may have been superseded by newer research, but very few books do as well communicating the storyline of the grimmest battle on the Western Front during World War 2.  MacDonald was a participant, serving as a company commander in the midst of the fighting in Belgium.

One Day In August:  The Untold Story Behind Canada’s Tragedy at Dieppe by David O’Keefe.  The raid on Dieppe during World War 2 is part of the Canadian identity, and one of its tragedies.  Part of the reason for the tragedy is that no one really knows why so many lives were wasted for an operation that seemed to have no purpose.  O’Keefe, using new research, seeks to shed light on the hidden purpose for the costly raid.

Fatal Passage:  The Untold Story of John Rae, the Arctic Adventurer who Discovered the Fate of Franklin by Ken McGoogan.  Easily the best history/biography book I read this past year.  I am fascinated by Arctic exploration, and John Rae is one of the unsung heroes of it.  His accomplishments are many, including the first to find evidence of the lost Franklin expedition, even though today he is virtually unknown.
 
Gettysburg:  The Last Invasion by Allen C. Guelzo.  The second best history/biography book I read this year.  Many people have written many pages about the battle of Gettysburg, few have done it with such an excellent blend of writing and research.  I am looking forward to reading more of Guelzo’s books – I already have Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President on my short list.

The Earth is Weeping:  The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West by Peter Cozzens.  The story of the Indian wars in the west has been told many times, most famously from the perspective of the Indian in books like Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.  Cozzens’ portrayal of this period of American history is brilliant, well-written and profoundly balanced.

Those are the best, here are the rest (in no particular order):

2nd Tier books – very good, recommended.
Double Cross:  The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre
Fierce Patriot:  The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman by Robert L. O’Connell (honorable mention)
Grant’s Final Victory:  Ulysses S. Grant’s Heroic Last Year by Charles Bracelen Flood
Strangers on a Bridge:  The Case of Colonel Abel and Francis Gary Powers by James B. Donovan (the true story behind the movie)
Last Stand:  George Bird Grinnell, the Battle to Save the Buffalo, and the Birth of the New West by Michael Punke
The Black Count:  Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
Geronimo by Robert M. Utley
Escape from Davao:  The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War by John D. Lukacs
The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens who made England by Dan Jones
The Wilderness Warrior:  Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America by Douglas Brinkley
The Immortal Irishman:  The Irish Revolutionary who became an American Hero by Timothy Egan (Montana’s first governor)
A Decent, Orderly Lynching:  The Montana Vigilantes by Frederik Allen
Astoria:  Astor and Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire by Peter Stark
Tragedy at Dieppe:  Operation Jubilee, August 19, 1942 by Mark Zuehlke
How the Scots Invented Canada by Ken McGoogan
Wrecked in Yellowstone:  Greed, Obsession and the untold Story of Yellowstone’s Most Infamous Shipwreck by Mike Stark
The Wars of the Roses:  The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones 
The General:  Charles De Gaulle and the France He Saved by Jonathon Fenby
Ancient Mariner:  The Arctic Adventures of Samuel Hearne, the Sailor who Inspired Coleridge’s Masterpiece by Ken McGoogan
If You Can Keep it:  The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty by Eric Metaxas
Valour Road by John Nadler (3 World War 1 heroes from the same Winnipeg street)
The Norman Conquest:  The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England by Marc Morris
Empire of the Summer Moon by S.  C. Gwynne
Augustus:  First Emperor of Rome by Adrian Goldsworthy (honorable mention)
Brilliant Disaster:  JFK, Castro and America’s Doomed Invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs by Jim Rasenberger
Lady Franklin’s Revenge:  A True Story of Ambition, Obsessions and the Remaking of Arctic History by Ken McGoogan (honorable mention)
MacArthur at War:  World War 2 in the Pacific by Walter Borneman
The Greatest Knight by Thomas Asbridge

3rd Tier reads – good, but somewhat disappointing:
The Romanovs 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore






Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Best Books of 2016 – Christian and Pastoral

It has come to that time of year again when I look back at the books I have read in the past year, and highlight the best ones.  As I have done in the past, I have grouped them into three broad categories – Christian/Pastoral, History/Biography and Fiction.

I had the privilege of reading a number of very good Christian books this year.  The best of them had a profound impact on me personally, which has filtered down to have a profound impact on my ministry and church life.  (That is how it should work, isn’t it?)  Here are 7 I consider the best, followed by a list of the rest.

AWE:  Why is Matters for Everything We Think, Say and Do by Paul David Tripp. Wow – what can I say?  Easily the best book I read this year.  When I read it, Tripp’s biblical teaching coincided with a difficult time in my life, and what that intersection produced was a realization that my eyes, which had been almost exclusively on my difficulties, needed to be almost exclusively on the glories and work of God.

Gospel Treason:  Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols by Brad Bigney.  Probably the second best book I read last year.  Bigney’s practical, hard-hitting teaching, combined with self-examination, let to some recognition of some of the idols that tend to rule in my life.  I spun off a Sunday School class using Bigney’s sermons, which has impacted many who have attended.

The Unquenchable Flame:  Discovering the Heart of the Reformation by Michael Reeves.  I have read 4 Michael Reeves’ books and he is currently one of my favorite authors.  The Unquenchable Flame is a history book filled with great insights and fascinating characters.  I have read much on the Reformation and he taught me some lessons I had not known.

Engendered:  God’s Gift of Gender Difference in Relationship by Sam A. Andreades.  Every pastor needs to be aware of the whole issue of sexual identity and gender in our current society.  Andreades’ book is a remarkable study of the blessing of gender differences.  Yes, those gender differences our spouse displays are meant to bless our marriages and families!  Highly recommended!

The Compelling Community:  Where God’s Power Makes a Church Attractive by Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop.  This is a book, obviously, about community in the church. In many churches, community merely means having others similar to you to fellowship with.  Dever and Dunlop suggest that God would like to see much more than that in the church He placed on earth to display his love for the world.

Finishing Well in Life and Ministry by Bill Mills and Craig Parro.  This was a book suggested to me by my associate Chuck.  Bill Mills is a personal friend and a fine Bible teacher.  I was not sure what to expect from this book about ministry burnout.  After finishing it, I would say that anyone who finds themselves tired and frustrated in life and ministry can gain some great insights from this study of how the characters in Scripture finished well.

The Vine Project:  Shaping your Ministry Culture around Disciple-making by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne.  This book is the sequel to The Trellis and the Vine, another book I read this year.  The goal of this book is to give church leaders insight into nurturing a culture of disciple-making in their church.  The book is both encouraging and somewhat overwhelming at the same time, and the path it lays down will likely affect our church for years to come.

Those were the best, here are the rest (in no particular order):

2nd Tier Reads – very good reads I would recommend to anyone:
Side by Side:  Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Edward T. Welch
Recovering Redemption:  A Gospel Saturated Perspective on How to Change by Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer
The Intolerance of Tolerance by D. A. Carson
The Secret of Spiritual Joy by William P. Farley (honorable mention, almost made the best of list)
Justification Reconsidered:  Rethinking a Pauline Theme by Stephen Westerhold
Acts: Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament by Edward J. Schnabel
Acts:  Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament by Darrell Bock
The Acts of the Apostles:  The Pillar New Testament Commentary by David G. Peterson
Acts:  The Church Afire by R. Kent Hughes
After Acts:  Exploring the Lives and Legends of the Apostles by Bryan Litfin
Think:  The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper
Good Faith:  Being a Christian when Society thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
Rejoicing in Christ by Michael Reeves (another honorable mention)
The All-Sufficient God:  Sermons on Isaiah 40 by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The Imperfect Pastor:  Discovering Joy in our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus by Zach Eswine
The Prodigal Church:  A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo by Jared C. Wilson
The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges
Is God Anti-Gay?  by Sam Allberry
The Trellis and the Vine:  The Ministry Mind-Shift that changes Everything by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
Preaching the Cross by Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan, R. Albert Mohler and C. J. Mahaney
For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr by Duncan Hamilton
Killing Calvinism:  How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside by Greg Dutcher
Zeal without Burnout:  Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice by Christopher Ash
Hidden in the Gospel by William P. Farley
Theologians You Should Know:  An Introduction From the Apostolic Fathers to the 21st Century by Michael Reeves
The Crescent through the Eyes of the Cross by Dr. Nabeel T. Jabbour

3rd Tier Reads – good, but somewhat disappointing:
The Power of Loving your Church:  Leading through Acceptance and Grace by David Hansen
Acts:  NIV Application Commentary by Ajith Fernando
The Forgotten Awakening:  How the Second Great Awakening Spread West of the Rockies by Douglas McMurry

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review: The Forgotten Awakening by Douglas McMurry

Back in the middle of October, I had the privilege of attending the Montana Bible College Pastors and Leaders Conference. The focus of the conference was worship. The main speaker, Bruce Gore from Moody NW in Spokane, spent one of his sessions speaking about the theme of worship. He spoke on how worship is good for us, good for the rest of the world, and how the power of God’s word is not dependent on us, but on God’s grace.

The bulk of his session was filled by a story he told about how the Native Americans of the northwest anticipated and later received the gospel at it was brought to them first by fur traders, and second by some of their own people. The story is told in full in a book entitled The Forgotten Awakening: How the Second Great Awakening spread West of the Rockies by Douglas McMurry.

McMurry’s story, based on the witness of early fur traders and missionaries, is a fascinating one. Around the turn of the 18th century, a number of Indian tribes in the inland northwest recieved visions that anticipated the coming of the gospel among them. One tribe was given the symbol of the cross. Another was warned of the arrival of men with pale skin. Still another tribe was informed that men would come with “leaves bound together” that would be a source of life and mercy for the tribe. These tribes lived with these hopes for a number of decades until the first white explorers and fur traders came among them.

The book is filled with stories of the original Caucasian pioneers of the inland northwest: the mapmaker David Thompson, the fur trapper Jedidiah Smith, and the powerful George Simpson, chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Each of these men and more contributed to the fulfillment of the vision received by the native tribes, introducing them to the white man’s world, but also, more importantly, to the white man’s God, a God they anticipated knowing.

All of this culminated in a decision by the Church Missionary Society and the Hudson’s Bay Company to take 2 local Indian teens back to the Red River Colony (modern Winnipeg) to be educated. Spokan Garry and Kootenai Pelly, which were the names given them by the whites, were chosen. They made the 1000+ mile journey up the Columbia River, over the Rocky Mountains near Jasper, Alberta, and then down the Saskatchewan and Red Rivers to the Red River Colony. Their education, directed by local pastors, taught them much about the world, but more importantly introduced them to Jesus Christ, who became their Savior. Filled with this new knowledge, they returned to their people and shared the true fulfillment of their people’s visions - the Savior Jesus Christ.

The story McMurry tells is fascinating and much of it was new to me. Having grown up in Winnipeg, it was interesting to read the descriptions of the perilous life of the settlers in the Red River Colony. I have personally visited many of the locations described in the story, which made it especially fascinating. Unfortunately, my thoughts on this book are not overwhelmingly positive. The writing is fine, but not exceptional. The book is somewhat disjointed. There are rabbit trails the author takes (such as following Jedediah Smith after his encounters with the Spokane tribe) that are not really necessary and do not really propel what to me was the most fascinating part of the story, the Indian visions and their fulfillment.. I would have also loved to see the last days of Spokan Garry’s life fleshed out more.

That said, this is a good book on a truly fascinating subject. If you are interested in the history of the inland Northwest, or in a portrait of God’s faithfulness and creativity, or merely like a good, true to life story, pick up a copy of The Forgotten Awakening. It will be worth your time.