Friends! Don’t you love it when you finish a book and want to learn more about its subject? Such will be the scenario when you dive into My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love by Amanda Barratt.
I recently heard an interview with our author, Amanda Barratt, and Eric Metaxas on the Metaxas Talk Show. (www.metaxastalk.com) One could argue over which of the two knows more about Bonhoeffer given Amanda’s research for her novel and Eric’s tome…
Not having learned much about Bonhoeffer’s fiancee, Maria von Wedemeyer-Weller, I was delighted to learn of Amanda’s new novel, My Dearest Dietrich, especially since Branches Book Club will open their season with it come Monday, September 23rd. (Mark the date on your calendar! 6:30-8:00 p.m., at Middletown United Methodist Church! Load up your car with friends and come!)
Hearing the interview further fueled my desire to read Amanda’s book, promptly causing me to order it. The Living Word Bookstore currently has lots of copies for you book clubbers! Call to reserve your copy: (502) 253-8220.
The most astonishing discovery of this talented author is her age. Wait for it: Amanda is only TWENTY-THREE YEARS OLD. Huh? You’ll flip even more once you dive into her book, her words wrapping around you like a warm blanket.
Gaining a peak into Dietrich and Maria’s relationship is delightful. We readers must remind ourselves this book is a novel, yet we feel as if we are right there with them, almost afraid to disturb their privacy.
For me, seeing this side of Bonhoeffer, my eyes were opened to a much, much different man. While I’ve always respected him as a ten-talent theologian who continues to inspire thousands, I’d never considered the softer side of him. Additionally, I knew of his close ties with his family, and still didn’t ponder exactly how close they were.
Finishing Amanda’s novel only made me want to learn more. Bless her for listing suggestions for further reading at the end of her book, one book of which, I’ll be reporting on soon! (Letters and Papers from Prison by Bonhoeffer, compiled by Dietrich’s dear friend, Eberhard Bethge.)
The other kicker for me, was, since I knew the outcome of Bonhoeffer’s life (Spoiler alert: he was hung in prison the morning of April 9th, in 1945.), somehow I still hoped we’d see him freed from prison, and see them married off. Nevertheless, My Dearest Dietrich is the quintessential page-turner.
The novel opens in June of 1942. We get to see how Dietrich and Maria meet, his involvement with the Abwehr, his writing habits, along with snippets of his resume which intimidate Maria. For example: She calls him “a thoroughgoing academic, earning his doctorate in theology at the age of twenty-one, going on to pastor in Spain, complete a postdoctoral degree, study in America, lecture at Berlin’s University, and actively participate in maintaining ecumenical communication between foreign churches. He also became one of the foremost leaders in the Confessing Church—a group that fought desperately both to counter the false teachings of the Reich Church and to keep alive a church founded on Scripture’s doctrine rather than Herr Hitler’s.”
Dietrich, in his 30’s, and Maria, a mere teenager, become engaged much to the chagrin of her mother, insisting they wait a full year to date including no letters and no visits. Thankfully this changes once Dietrich becomes imprisoned. Soon letters become exchanged and Maria gets to visit him once a month. Reading about their visits is simply breathtaking. They’re also frustrating given the officers who feel compelled to be present.
We see through Maria’s eyes both a serious side of Dietrich as she recounts hearing him preach, counting sixty-eight times his use of the word, “God.” As well as a lighter side: in the same afternoon she witnesses him “trounce everyone at table tennis.”
Another element I particularly enjoyed was the musical influence over his entire family, Dietrich included. Often they play classical pieces together, everyone playing a different musical instrument, Dietrich at the piano. This was their way of life.
Their family meals seem perpetually challenging intellectually. I find this fascinating as time around the table is not a part of our way of life today, sadly. Although we can certainly aspire to such! (In a perfect world, a round table is my favorite with our family, you?)
During the frightening times of the Hitler regime, never knowing when one could potentially be arrested, the Bonhoeffer’s made the most of their time together. Maria said Dietrich’s words were always “full of purpose, clarity, and even rarer, hope.”
Dietrich shared a revelation about his faith with Maria. He told her what he enjoyed most about his visit to America was in the Abyssinian Baptist Church. He said,
As time marches on, the intensity of the war builds, the conspirators remain on edge, yet standing firm. Their ultimate goal was to assassinate Hitler. Black-out curtains are hung in all the windows. Cars begin stalking them and we readers find ourselves on edge as well. Amanda’s skill at foreshadowing is key.
One of many favorite quotes comes from November 11, 1942, in Berlin: “The time might come when Dietrich would be among those reduced to starvation rations, and as his gaze traveled the table, the faces of his parents, he committed it all to memory, storing up each scene like an art collector locking away his beloved masterpieces.”
While many of their friends become arrested, others die either from war or suicide. Dietrich learns of many soldiers suffering, “the young men who had once been his students, the lifeblood of his illegal seminary…”
Dietrich declares in a meeting of the conspiracy, “Above all, these concerns must be taken to God. His is the only authority to which we can rightfully answer. Seek Him, He will not fail you.”
Many fellow prisoners and guards, after becoming acquainted with Dietrich comment on his remarkable peace and tranquility he exhibited. His steadfast faith and trust in the Lord is wonderfully inspirational. You find yourself reading with your jaw open in astonishment over his ability to stay calm, forever seeking the Lord in prayer, day, after day, after day.
Don’t miss all the beautiful details of Dietrich and Maria’s relationship as well as their inspirational faith. More than once I asked myself, “Could I, and would I react like this? Would my faith hold true?”
Now you know what I’m going to say, “Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore and grab My Dearest Dietrich.” You’ll be so glad you did.
And don’t forget to save the date: September 23rd to join us at Branches Book Club, Middletown United Methodist Church from 6:30-8:00 p.m. when we discuss this excellent novel. You won’t want to miss this! We’re hoping to hear from Amanda via a video message (I’ll confirm this closer to our meeting) and of course, we’ll have apple strudel among other German delights!
‘Til next time!
Friends! Come one, come all to what promises to be a super fun finale for our season. Terri Blackstock’s If I Run is not only suspenseful, it’s a cliffhanger and will provide you with two more books you’ll want to read to find out what happens. Yes, it’s #1 of 3 in a series!
Nancy Tinnell was most gracious to write a teaser for us. (If you’ve not read the book yet, you’re going to want to!). Here’s Nancy:
”Terri Blackstock’s suspenseful novel, If I Run, is our final book club selection this year. We will be discussing it on Monday, April 22nd, and you are invited to join us! I apologized in advance to the group last month for the cliffhanger ending in this story. It provides an automatic summer reading suggestion for us: books two and three of the If I Run Series. Those titles are If I’m Found and If I Live.
Casey Cox, the anxious young woman at the heart of the story, is in a desperate situation. She has discovered a crime scene, knows that DNA evidence will point to her, even though she is innocent, but she doesn’t have much faith in the local authorities. She feels they let her down at the time of her father’s death thirteen years earlier. Casey is so wounded in her spirit and feels so alone in this dilemma that she chooses to run.
In this story, we follow her as she constantly changes her location, her appearance, and her identity, so she can buy time to think through the situation and decide what to do. There is a lot of suspense involved here, so be prepared to feel a bit anxious yourself.
Enter the love interest! Well, Dylan is not a love interest yet. He’s one of the authorities trying to track her. But we can see it coming. I just know it! He has a knack for analysis and can see that the details don’t add up to her guilt, even if the DNA evidence does implicate her. Also, Dylan’s back story makes him a sympathetic character.
At book club, we’ll be discussing these characters and several others, in addition to probing Casey’s suspicions about this crime and the circumstances surrounding her father’s death.
Since Casey has to live on fast food on the road, our suggested snack theme for our April meeting is “food on the run.” What do you fix when you have to fix something super-fast? Or what do you “drive through the drive-through” to pick up when you are in a hurry? Or what leftovers in the fridge can you pull together quickly? Food on the run, lots of fun! See you on the 22nd, book lovers.”
Thank you, Nancy! We will also announce our selections for our 2019-2020 season. We had a meeting last week and chose four fiction and three non-fiction books, all of which look wonderful!
The Living Word Bookstore in Southeast Christian Church is partnering with us to carry our selections for our new season. You may call them at (502) 253-8220. (Their website is: www.livingword.org ) They’ll be happy to order your books for you.
Gather up a carload of your friends! We hope to see you Monday, April 22nd, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Middletown United Methodist Church. Please RSVP to Nancy at (502) 245-8839.
Finally, since this week is Holy Week, here’s a reprise from last year should any of you have any anxiety about anything at all…our friend Max Lucado has just the help we need:
Anyone lugging around worries that are making you anxious? (I’m just realizing lug is in luggage.) Luggage denotes “inconveniently heavy baggage.” Well, take heart, I’m bringing you good news to lighten your load and bless us this Holy Week!
Many of you know how often I quote author Max Lucado. His book, Anxious for Nothing—Finding Calm in a Chaotic World, is a current favorite, its’ many pages already highlighted and dog-eared.
I’ll share a few of many favorite quotes which I pray will ease our anxiety, perhaps even erase it altogether, blessing us with a peaceful Holy Week. In the meantime, you may wish to grab this book as it’s a resource you would return to time and time again.
Max begins with, “Anxiety is a meteor shower of what-ifs…
Anxiety is trepidation.
It’s a suspicion,
Life in a minor key with major concerns…
You’re part Chicken Little and part Eeyore. The sky is falling and it’s falling disproportionately on you.” Anyone?!!! Max not only cracks me up, he often perfectly depicts my own moods.
Flip on the news or grab a newspaper and “anxiety disorders” are usually the front runners. Epidemic proportions.Max states what we think, yet fear to admit:
“One would think Christians would be exempt from worry. But we are not. We have been taught that the Christian life is a life of peace, and when we don’t have peace, we assume the problem lies within us. Not only do we feel anxious, but we also feel guilty about our anxiety! The result is a downward spiral of worry, guilt, worry, guilt.”
What’s a person to do? Thankfully, Max gifts us with the solution straight from Scripture. Philippians 4:4-8 says:
Max shows us that these five verses include, “four admonitions that lead to ONE WONDERFUL PROMISE: ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds.’” (v. 7)
Additionally, this book blesses us throughout by equipping us with a simple acronym, the word “CALM”. Put this in your anxiety arsenal and you will have a peaceful Holy Week:
The concept of “CALM” is introduced in Chapter One, and expounded on throughout the book. You’ll never look at it again in the same way! (See page 10 for starters!)
We readers are reminded to consult the Apostle Paul’s words and actions. Max says, “Paul believed in the steady hand of a good God. He was protected by God’s strength, preserved by God’s love. He lived beneath the shadow of God’s wings.”
What does that look like for us? It translates into savoring God’s sovereignty. Clinging to His sovereignty and reminding ourselves daily that God is still on the throne. Always occupied. Always interceding for you and for me…
This Holy Week as we march toward Good Friday and Easter, may we remember the acronym “Calm”, and hear Max’ reminder: “God took the crucifixion of Friday and turned it into the celebration of Sunday.”
Max’ book also includes a Study Guide which would be great for anyone, but also super for a Small Group to work thru’.
Have a blessed Easter.
‘Til next time!
Friends! Fill your car with your best buddies and head to Middletown United Methodist Church next Monday night for what will be a super fun book club meeting. We will be discussing Angela Correll’s novel, Granted. Angela is making us a personalized video which will also add to our evening.
Angela hails from Danville, Kentucky. She and her husband, Jess currently live in Stanford. They have several businesses in Stanford. We will also be showing a video about some of these projects they’ve taken on and I know you will be impressed. They’re a fascinating couple. You may just decide to take a road trip there asap!
Several of my friends and I enjoyed the drive over to Stanford not too long ago, ate lunch at their restaurant, The Bluebird Cafe, toured some of their guest homes (Wilderness Road Guest Houses) and we managed to get into trouble (!!!) by making multiple purchases at Angela’s gift shop, Kentucky Soaps and Such. (Don’t miss the goat’s milk soap and body cream. It’s to die for.)
Since Granted often discusses good ole’ down home country cooking, we’re suggesting we bring similar treats such as country ham biscuits, etc. I couldn’t begin to count the number of pies Annie’s Grandmother Beulah made, or the fried chicken, or the multiple delicious sounding meals. Between the church suppers, Beulah’s many meals, and their gardening and farming, food plays a large role with their little community.
We readers don’t just stay in the state of Kentucky, watching Annie and Jake juggle multiple plot twists, including putting together their upcoming wedding. We get to hop the pond and travel to the lovely area of Tuscany in Italy for their wedding! Delightful!
Annie’s father proves to be one character you dislike and don’t trust. He defines narcissism while poor Annie keeps believing he will do what he says.
Faith plays a large role in the story as well. We learn many a lesson in endearing ways which are all excellent reminders. At one point when discussing her farm, Beulah tells Annie, “It all belongs to God—I’m simply a steward, here for a little while…”
While planning their wedding, Annie “recalled her favorite verse, the one she struggled with the most: ‘Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.’ She did cast her anxiety on him, but many times she picked it right back up again. That was what she had done all month. Lord help me in my unbelief, she prayed, because unbelief was the very root of it.”
A huge sense of community comforts us readers and in the Author’s Note, Angela tells us, “While I’m certainly an advocate of small-town life, I also realize this same type of community can be experienced in New York, Los Angeles, and other major cities through the local neighborhoods, which seem like small towns within big cities.”
Angela closes with this quote: “President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, ‘It’s nice to live in a place where people know when you are sick, love you while you are alive, and miss you when you die.’” Amen!
Grab your friends and come join us next Monday night, March 25th from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Middletown United Methodist Church. Please rsvp to Nancy Tinnell at (502) 345-8839 and bring your favorite down-home-delight if time allows.
We look forward to seeing you and hearing what will prove to be a great discussion as well as enjoying the two videos.
‘Til next time!
Friends! You and your friends and neighbors are invited to our next Branches Book Club meeting, on Monday, February 25th, at Middletown United Methodist Church, where we’ll discuss Francine Rivers’ compelling and page-turner of a novel, The Masterpiece. (We meet from 6:30-8:00 p.m.)
While it’s a tome, I read it in no time, quickly loaning it to a friend so she could enjoy it. Fast forward to this week when I called on our faithful friend and fearless leader, Nancy Tinnell to come up with a “teaser” to get you to book club. Let’s learn a little more about The Masterpiece…
“Francine Rivers has done it again. She creates characters that compel us to lean in to them. We are drawn to them like flies to honey, and, if you’re like me, you can’t wait to finish the book to see how the story will end.
The Masterpiece has that wonderful element of bad boy/good girl that we so often love in our novels, but this one has a twist. The bad boy is somewhat reformed from his juvenile “tagging” days, but he has some distance yet to travel. Our good girl does not feel truly good because of her past. I got so caught up in Grace and Roman’s story that I wished I could climb into the pages and counsel both of them.
The bonus in the book is the cast of characters surrounding our primary duo. I even got drawn into their stories! Thank you, Francine. This book does not disappoint. If they ever make a movie based on it, I could see Antonio Banderas playing Roman. But I’m not sure about the actress to play Grace. Reese Witherspoon, maybe?
We are giving a nod to the book’s location (California coast) by making healthy, coastal snacks our food theme. When we get together for book club, I’m dying to ask your opinion on something in the book, but it will have to wait. I have to leave you with that teaser for now.”
Thank you, Nancy!
So, girls, you can tell we will have quite a discussion. If time allows, please bring a California Coastal treat per Nancy’s suggestion and RSVP to her at (502) 245-3839. We look forward to seeing you next Monday night!
’Til next time!
Friends! Have we ever got a double-header for you next Monday night, January 28th from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. You do not want to miss this! Grab several buddies and hustle over to Middletown United Methodist Church for what promises to be an eye-opening evening…
We will be discussing Michelle Ule’s fascinating non-fiction book, Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman Behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional. While Michelle lives in California, she’s promised to send us a video sharing highlights and tidbits of Biddy’s life, how the book came to be, etc. This is very exciting and generous of Michelle to share her time with us.
I first learned of Michelle and her book via an Eric Metaxas interview (www.metaxastalk.com ). It was so compelling, I quickly ordered and devoured the book and have given several friends copies of it. It reads like a novel even tho’ it’s all true! (You may read more from my post about it from 12/13/17.)
Not only will we be blessed by words from Michelle Ule, we are also having a local author, Sherry Leavell, come and share snippets from her new and inspiring devotional, Grateful Living. You will also hear the uncanny story of how she came to write this lovely book. (Spoiler alert: Liz Curtis Higgs had something to do with it!)
Finally I’ll be sharing a couple of teasers from Michelle’s new novel, which has lovely appearances and pearls of their faith from Biddy and Oswald, called A Poppy in Remembrance. To read more about it, here’s the link from when I wrote about it: 10/24/18.
Believe me, this will be an exciting evening and your brain will be bursting forth with wisdom afresh, challenging you and your walk with the Lord.
Since Biddy served tea at a moment’s notice, we will also be serving tea Monday night and little snacks to go along with it. We may even have a wild card of some cake. Let’s just say I’m doing some “research.” Hey, someone’s gotta do it! Stay tuned…
We look forward to seeing you Monday night, January 28th, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. Bring a car load of book buddies by all means! Please RSVP to Nancy Tinnell @ (502) 245-8839.
‘Til next time!