Absolutely Stunning: “Forgiven” Book-Review

(Interrupting my Write31Days just briefly to tell you about this book. When I signed up to review it for Bethany House, I really hoped I’d be selected, and they obliged by giving me a free copy.)

Terri’s autobiographical account of how a tragic school shooting rocked her family is a compelling one. She has you right from the prologue, and more than once, she’ll use a chapter’s final sentence to give a teaser about the next one. Great writing.

“Forgiven” is an apt title. This is the best book on forgiveness I’ve ever read, and if you want to learn more about Terri’s family, you can find her daughter-in-law’s story in “One Light Still Shines”. While it’s impossible to imagine how I would respond in Terri’s situation, I feel honoured that she would take readers on her own journey. Terri says, “Survival is not the only word starting with S.” She writes about surrender, but I can think of a third one: Terri shone through the pages of her story. It was an inspiration to read.

Pulling out all the Stops

I don’t know how to add photos to this blog, but if I could, I’d put one of me on my 18th birthday with Joan and Carol – 2 special people who helped me when I was at school. I attended schools for the blind for the majority of my education, but the last 2 years I spent at my local school. Joan and Carol were the ones who supported me and made sure I could access textbooks, diagrams etc. The diagrams I used in science lessons were basically black lines drawn on special paper, then put into a machine called a Ricoh Fuser, which raised the lines and made them tactile. Because Joan and Carol are both fully-sighted, I’d sometimes find the odd Braille page in a book upside-down and we’d have a laugh about it, but really they were brilliant. I’m always thankful I had the opportunity to go to my local school; I only wish I’d done it sooner.

It must be very different for children in Compassion’s centres. There was someone to make sure I had what I needed for my studies, but a Compassion-child may not even have a textbook of their own. I know how much effort went into producing my books, and I wonder if you might do something to help someone on the other side of the world have that same privilege. Will you donate to Compassion’s textbook fund?

If you’re not in a position to give financially, how about giving your time and your prayers? Compassion works in 26 countries. Why not go to their website, pick one, and pray for children in that country as they return to school? You’ll make a real difference.


“Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good” (Proverbs 19:2).

I remember when I first started school. A member of staff came to me before lunch and asked: “Would you like to say Grace?” I had no idea what this was; I thought she was talking about grapes! So I told her I didn’t like grapes, trying to imitate the way she said it. Of course, she moved on to someone else, and I soon discovered Grace was the prayer said before a meal: “For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful.” I said it regularly once I knew what it meant!

School can be a daunting time for children, whether young or much older. Maybe they’ve had bad experiences at their previous school and are frightened to go to a new place. Maybe they have to travel on public transport and it takes some getting used to. The train from where I live to the nearest city regularly fills with young teenagers going home from school at 3:30, and on Bohol in the Philippines, my Cindy does the journey on a motorcycle, probably with lots of others crammed on too (the maternal part of me doesn’t like to think about that).

When they get to school, the teachers are there to educate them in all sorts of ways. They might learn about the importance of hygiene or a good diet, as well as the more academic subjects. Compassion-sponsorship provides children with uniforms and school supplies, so they can attend classes with their peer group. Cindy says she reads books in English and Filipino (bilingual at 13 is pretty impressive), but I don’t know whether she shares with her classmates or has her own. If you’re a sponsor, why not ask your sponsored child about books? You could even send one with a letter.

Compassion are encouraging us at this time to think about children going back to school. Although back-to-school happens a couple of weeks later here, it’s never too early to start praying, and perhaps thinking what you can do for a child this year. If there are any children in your life starting back at school soon, why not share some names in the comments and we’ll pray together?

Example of a Child-Letter

I don’t often share the letters from my Compassion-kids, but today’s was such a lovely one from Jennylyn that I thought I would.  She wrote it in April and told me something she had done every month from December to March.

In December, they had a Christmas party at her school.  I think they must have chosen presents for one another because she said:  “I bought gifts like clothes and watch for the one I picked, Mary Grace.”

In January, she acted in a play at school.  Her character was an old woman, so I said in my letter back that I had played an old lady too when I was at school.

In February, she took an exam, and she thanked God that she passed.

And in March, the school-year ended.  I think they start back again in June, but I want to find out a bit more about how the school system works in the Philippines.

So that’s an example of a child-letter.  She also asked after my family and wanted me to pray for her health.

What are your thoughts on sponsoring a child?  I’d really recommend it, specially on days like today.

Friend Friday: A bit of a Plug

Let me introduce you to my friend, and fellow Compassion-sponsor, Alex Banwell.

I met Alex 20 years ago. We shared a room at boarding-school, and her family in particular have always treated us like sisters. I travelled in to school daily for the first year or so. School would finish at 4, and a taxi would pick me up from the boarding-house at about 5:15 every night. One morning, the relief houseparent asked would I take Alex over to school. I knew her name, but we’d never spent any time together. I wanted to make conversation – to say something like: “Who’s your favourite pop star?” but shyness got in the way. As we walked up the corridor, I was in a dilemma. I didn’t want to take Alex to my form room, because I was nervous of my form; I didn’t want them to randomly take a dislike to Alex and start picking on her, so what was I going to do? I thought it best she waited for me outside the chapel, but I didn’t articulate this very well. Actually, I just said: “This is the chapel” and ran off! I ran upstairs and into my form room, dumped my schoolbag, and ran back down again, but by the time I reached the chapel, Alex had been guided in by somebody else. I don’t think I was ever asked to take another person over to school!

I’m glad to say she’s forgiven me for deserting her. Hopefully I’m a loyal friend now; she’s certainly been loyal to me. Alex is a great encourager, who’ll sometimes come out with these funny quotes like: “I don’t know whether I’m coming, going or been”. She’s always keen to read my writing and give me feedback, but now it’s Alex’s turn to have a new project (this is where the plug comes in). After a live audition, which I had the privilege of hearing not so long ago, she’s just been given her own show on an online radio-station called Mushroom fm – ‘The home of the fun guys’, as they say! The station already has a southern gospel music-show, but Alex’s aim is to play a whole variety of Christian music – anything from Third Day to a male voice choir.

So, if you’re free on a Tuesday afternoon, 12-3 pm UK-time, why not give her new show a listen?

Are any of your friends involved in something you want to shout about? And, if you’re a friend of mine, let me know if you’d like to be featured one ‘Friend Friday’ in the future.