Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Crusader For Justice

Senior Sixth Circuit Judge Damon Keith is described by his biographers as a Crusader For Justice. Compiled, written, and edited by Hammer and Coleman, complete with forward by Mitch Albom, this illuminating 2014 publication reveals the life of a black kid in Detroit who got a break and made good use of his life. The authors tell the very readable story of a black Baptist kid growing up on the other side of Michigan from me--in Detroit. He was not that much different from me except for his skin color, and not at all unlike another Detroit product almost my same age, who I would meet as an adult and learn to love, esteem, and value so very highly--James Earl Massey, a man who occupied the pulpit as well as the judge ruled the bench.

Combining my roots in West Michigan with my interest in civil rights issues and biographies, I re-visited early scenes from my life as I read this scintillating book. It proved quite revealing about someone I should have heard of but of whom I was totally ignorant – Federal Judge Damon J. Keith. It delights me that this young man could benefit from a family break and end up going to an all-black college in West Virginia where his uncle-by-marriage was the President.

Damon Keith eventually achieved his dream, having a law degree in one hand and a mop handle in the other hand--a janitor in downtown Detroit. That was what black people did in those days-menial labor; they didn’t sit in the seat of the judges. Later, he founded his own legal firm, was eventually elevated to the U. S. District Court of Eastern Michigan, and finally nominated by President Carter to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati.

I was out of state in 1967 and remembered little of the Detroit race riots of that year, but I know that was also the year another friend would experience he LA race riots—BIG BEN; Dr. Benjamin Reid, a former Detroit Pastor. However, I did remember the 1943 riots in Detroit when fellow white students serving in our local West Michigan National Guard were called to active duty in Detroit to quell the rioting.

This well-written book describes the life of a member of the Federal Judiciary who has been a courageous defender of constitutional rights and bringing real meaning to the promise of “equal justice under law.” I found “the Judge” a highly-honorable and admirable man, a Christian brother of Baptist faith and a man whose first act upon losing his wife was to drop to his knees and thank his Heavenly Father for fifty-four years of marriage with Dr. Rachel Boone Keith, M.D. (daughter of Liberian missionaries).

Growing up with a Michigan heritage and living in the segregated south in my young adult years, I readily understood how the Judge helped improve civil rights legislation in Michigan, while helping protect citizen’s rights in cases that went all the way to the White House, as happened in the “Keith Case” involving former President Richard Nixon. 

The following incident taken from the book captured for me “an answer” to a question still widely debated yby some. It is an issue that I view as still systemic in our culture, an infescting virus to this day. This incident describes an on-the-street encounter in Williamsburg, Virginia. Two federal judges, one white and one black, standing in front of their Conference center, where they and 350 other judges are commemorating the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. They are waiting to go to lunch.

The Confrence membership is prestigious. Damon Keith is the only African American among the group, but he is the presiding judge, following his appointment by Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. Part of their task has been the commissioning of three-hundred bronze “Bill of Rights” plaques, to be placed strategically in significant buildings around the country.

As Judge Keith and Judge Frank Altimari of the Second Circuit Court stand on the street waiting to go to lunch, a car pulls up and a hotel guest steps out of his car. This middle-aged man in a business suit assumes the shorter of the two men standing nearby on the sidewalk—the black man—is a porter. He tosses his keys to Judge Keith barking “Here, boy, park this car!”

It is a scene I have seen repeated in many versions, many times. Had that happened to me, I would probably have flung his keys into the middle of the street. Yet, when Judge Altimari rushed at the offender screaming, he was stopped by the strong arm of Judge Keith, who said, “Whom the Devil would destroy, he first makes angry.”

From Warner’s World, this is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com 
… standing or kneeling at the foot of the cross this Easter 2014, I occupy level ground. In Christ, no man exists as my superior and no man exists as my inferior, but beside whom I am ever so blessed and happy to stand-or-kneel with shoulder to shoulder. men. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014


People find suffering and pain unnerving, sometimes frightening, a canyon as deep and wide that found in Arizona. Mark Galli suggests, such experiences often make pain appear so large and God so distant as to make God a veritable speck on the horizon (A Great and Terrible Love/Baker/2009/139).

Experience teaches me that the most severe physical pain comes via bone damages, and at this late stage I am seldom pain free, following a relatively pain-free life. On the other hand, my most severe suffering came via the self-inflicted pains of bad judgment and other sins of humanity. At the same time, I lived a lifetime with a spouse experiencing pain many would consider unbearable. I have watched-- sometimes painfully--observing that anointed ministry of pain perform miracles within human souls and produce a transformation of body and mind.

Mark Galli describes suffering as the bridge over the chasm of despair (p. 144) and describes Jeanne Fourie’s daughter Lyndi, a victim in the 1993 Heidelberg Bombing. At the criminal trial, she attempted to shake the hands of the three men who planted the bomb. A year later she told the bombers at the Amnesty Meeting, “I forgive you because my High Command demonstrated to me how to do that by forgiving his killers.”

I avoid pain if I can and I am equally averse to creating pain for others, but I hear that voice of pain speaking soft words I know are true: (1), I have watched pain shape the contours of people’s lives and produce character of indescribable patience, charity, and optimistic joy. Such beautiful character, I have learned , (2) results from the interactions between a human being and the ultimate God who enters into their suffering. This theme plays repetitiously in our lives and throughout Scripture.

A third aspect of this truth confronts today's church (3). Ravi Zacharias is a New-Delhi-born Christian apologist who lectures on university campuses in defense of Christian thought. He suggests we have three basic positions: the theonomous; the heteronomous; and the autonmous. Theonomy finds life’s authority in God of some kind. Heteronmy justifies control of the majority by the few; Marxism is illustrates this.

Autonomous livers defend individual rights against any and all encroachments, as illustrated by post-modernism and the post-Christian era—including some Christian believers. Audiences frequently challenge Ravi to share his position. Before answering, he asks, will they allow him “his autonomy” if they reject his moral authority or will they reject his credibility as well? 

What we need to understand is - people want more than our “proclamation.” They want to know that our “practice and our proclamation” are one and the same, before they will listen. This is the issue faced by the Church of God Reformation Movement of 2014! 

Never mind D. S. Warner's proclamations about “holiness and unity.” Move beyond “the truths that made us what we are” and tell us “Truth Matters”—that obedience accompanies proclamation! Stop the debate of convening nationally in Anderson, Indiana or Timbuktu! Disregard the arguments of the wrongfulness or rightfulness of the hotly debated internet topics as “missional church” “church growth” ” ad infinitum . . 

The wprld suffers with human slavery, pornography, genocide, starvation, petty politics, forsaken morality, AND “Where is God when these people hurt?” As sure as Daniel saw four in the fiery furnace, God is “In the midst of their suffering.” Like the disciples in Matthew 25:37-40, you may ask: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?” the people ask Jesus in the famous parable. ‘And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'"  

To this, Mark Galli replies: “When we make ourselves available to those who suffer, when we come in humility to help as we can and learn what we must, we will meet Jesus. His form may not be comely—there will be times when his form is that of the crucified. But he will meet us if we’re looking for him there” (146). 

We all know people in whom we see that absolutely beautiful character of Jesus in spite of pain-filled lives, even intense, unending suffering. This week, Christians celebrate God’s taking “our suffering” upon himself via Jesus. EASTER calls us beyond proclamation - to obedience. Christ calls His body to enter into the sufferings of this world, as Paul prayed: “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10).

This could cost us our personal desires, our American dreams, our national politics, our hot button issues, our patriotism, our individualized and privatized faith; it could require us to lay ALL of it on the altar of sacrifice, as we become God’s People on mission in ministry

No longer will it be abortion, or sexuality, or deficit spending, or holy living … it might be as Mother Teresa suggested, “recognizing the one who makes himself known in comfort and sorrow, in healing and pain, in resurrection and crucifixion.”

This is Warner’s World - walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com

Friday, April 11, 2014

Three Lives Held Together by Shared Prayers

I watched her transition confidently into what she thought was a Christian marriage and a career. Too soon, she discovered her marriage was little more than a façade for a bridegroom bent on living as a rebellious child focused on ignoring the restraints of monogamous marriage and anything resembling a Christian lifestyle. Her new life was totally foreign to her heritage, from the indiscretions of his sexual flirtations among the brides maids to his bar-brawling.

For fifteen years she lived in a hell of infidelities, trying to glue together a fragile relationship stretched to the limit by his indiscetions. Two ectopic pregnancies nearly killed her, leaving her struggling to survive nearly bleeding to death. Throughout those years she affirmed her mate, yearning to have her own “ball team” but never being able to complete a pregnancy. Putting her school loans on hold, she worked and paid off his debts.

When family members caught him in bed with her best friend, they forced a confrontation. As part of the divorce settlement, she accepted the heavily mortgaged house as part of the settlement. The laws of that state, however, allowed her no credit as a single woman due to his bad credit record, so her parents covered the mortgage.

With no support system, except her aging parents, she fell back on the faith with which she had grown up: achieve what you can and never give up. Tired of the politics of the small town hospital where she nursed, she launched into occupational health care, pursuing it with all the vigor she could muster. Her mom came up with funds for preparing and certifying nationally.

Preparing according to her custom, she took the test then concluded that she “blew” it. Calling her mother in desperation, she confessed her failure, and her waste of mom’s time and money, only to learn a different story when her test scores finally came back. She aced her test, passing with an exceptionally high grade. Later, she was privileged to assist that Agency in improving their program for preparing candidates for their testing.

What had begun as a very young “deep Dixie” girl’s dream - to become like “Grandpa Doc” now moved toward reality. She was certified nationally as an occupational healthcare specialist (COHNS). In time, she found herself caring for the medical-safety needs of three thousand people in a globally-connected network of highly specialized civilians and Special Forces personnel. She loved working where she could make a difference in people‘s lives.

Stories are too numerous for me to repeat here; but, she having been born to a woman that doctors said could never bear a child, following complications of a botched surgery, enjoyed the common bond she celebrated with her mother. That bond became rock solid when she was a two-year-old and her mother spent five days and four nights helping her fight for life after her heart literally ran away with itself--uncontrolled.

This bonding increased into adulthood, reaffirmed by repeated bouts of lifelong asthma, during which mom stubbornly battled to keep her baby breathing. The two women enjoyed lived under the long shadow of a Granny who prayed at 5:00 o’clock every morning of every day of every year--at the end of the path out back from her rural southern home.

In such times, our young nurse, like her mother, found strong power in the prayerful presence of Granny’s faith-driven prayers to the Almighty, nonetheless complicated by a second marriage to a deceptive alcoholic. Although Granny has now gone to be with God, mom now accompanies her grown baby in a fragile day to day existence, each life complicated by several afflictions, any one of which could be fatal on any given day.

After thirty-five years of nursing, she finds herself on disability herself, drawing strength-to-survive in knowing that no problem she faces can prevent Mom’s prayerful presence and support. When burdens become insurmountable barriers, Mom’s counsel still affirms Paul’s biblical confession that, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NIV, italics for emphasis).

Throughout her life, she has reinforced her self-doubts by watching Mom go the course, after learning the 
route from Granny. She knows she can go as far as she needs to go, because she knows the value of “can” 
when challenged by “can’t”. Can will conquer can’t every time. Living a day at a time, putting one foot 
ahead of the other, she finds frequent renewal in touching others--like the day she met a new and 
unconscious patient at the hospital.

The patient had been unconscious--comatose for three days, when she took up her new duties. Searching to find something especially meaningful to the patient, Lyn entered the room on the third day softly singing a medley of old hymns she had sung in church from her childhood. Shortly, the eyelids of the ninety-three year-old fluttered--opened slowly--and began mouthing the words Lyn was softly singing.

Soon, they were singing together and strong faith suddenly linked two strangers who needed each other. The patient; a lonely widow, and the hurting nurse found each other in that hospital room and God affirmed his purpose for each of them. She was the lonely widow of a minister in the same church as her preacher-parents. Each found new awareness of God that day as each understood where the other was in life.

The aged widow ministered wonderfully to her young private duty nurse, so filled with hurt and bitterness. Each gave the other the unique attention needed at this specific time of their lives. The young nurse accompanied her aged patient in her final steps through the valley of death and into the beyond. She felt privileged to further serve the needs of the patient’s family as they celebrated their faith in their loss. 

Death left a thankful family that felt no doubt whatsoever that God brought into their lives this young nurse from their own faith community; they gratefully praised God for the extraordinary companionship of their patient and her nurse, and the nurse quietly thanked the God of her parents for the refreshing shower of Godly awareness she had experienced throughout her young life.

Deteriorated lungs from life-long asthma now leave her with greatly reduced breathing capacity—disabled from nursing; but she presses forward with but one assurance: prayer empowers “can” to overcome “can‘t” when God is in it. 

Observing this three-some revealed a priceless display of God's wonders amid broken lives bonded by the powerful wonders of prayer among three of God's choice creations.          

From Warner’s World – walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com

Monday, April 7, 2014

Memories of Mose

I grew up in a small town, the only boy in a family of three children, a family blessed with two girls—my younger sisters. When I married, I was absorbed into a large family of eight siblings, one deceased child, and six step-children. I married into the younger half of the family, which meant I related most easily to the two youngest boys who became like brothers to me. I became better acquainted with the older children and their families at a slower pace.

I never ventured more than sixty miles from home until I was sixteen years old and rode the bus to Anderson, IN., 180 miles south. My in-laws lived in the country, fourteen miles out of town, near a Pecan bottom adjacent to the Deep Fork. I had never seen such red-clay mud-holes as I drove through the first time I visited Welty, OK. It still had a Post Office and a General Store along with a few houses. Yet, I joined a post-WWII global family that was already spread into trendy places like San Antonio, TX, and as far away as Stockholm, Sweden.

The one time I ever hunted squirrels was a late forties trip into Oklahoma. My two younger brothers (in law), probably two and four years younger than me, took their Yankee inheritance over into the Bottom on Deep Fork for that hunt. As luck would have it, we turned up one squirrel that day. They, being polite southern gentlemen, let me take the first shot--something I'd never done. I carefully followed their instructions, aimed the shotgun straight up through the bottom of the nest, and slowly pulled the trigger.

The net result of our hunt was one squirrel, which they faithfully cleaned and then generously insisted that I eat my kill, which Mother Stiles tastily prepared. My only memory of that meal is sorting out the buckshot as I ate that poor innocent squirrel. That was probably sixty-seven years ago and in the early hours of this morning the younger of those two boys took his celestial journey into the Everlasting, following his older brother Ben who passed several years ago after a massive coronary.

If our faith is anywhere near right, I can assume Mose was graciously welcomed by the mother who prayed for her children every day of their lives into her eighty-ninth year. In the early hours of this morning, retired pastor Maurice Warren Stiles bid adieu to a world he no longer enjoyed, following the loss of his beloved “Erm.”

Finding that his six-foot  five and a half inch frame was driven by a none-too-dependable motor,  “Mose” gave himself to libertine living until the prayers of his mother, his sister, and “Erm” resulted in his coming to Christ. His conversion was an instantaneous transformation and before long his heart turned toward ministry. It was not long before he started preaching at the country church where he had grown up with his family, before his military fling.

We drove in frequently from Mississippi and Texas in those years, taking care of Granny, and we finally buried Doc. We were pastoring in Fort Worth, Texas when called  to Paul’s Valley, OK and my wife spent the better part of a week assisting the hospital staff with her stubborn brother who insisted on wise-cracking with the doctor, sending him word that he was sitting on the side of his  bed eating “parched peanuts.”

He survived that initial crisis, and ignoring his vulnerability, Mose continued to serve in Paul’s Valley several more years before accepting a demanding call to Moore, OK, on the fringes of the city. There, he eventually became the anonymous prayer partner of MACU President John Conley, after John relocated that Bible College to OK City.

In Moore, Mose led the charge for a fast-growing congregation while leading a intensive building program. By the time he retired from that pulpit, the Moore church was one of our larger churches in OK, until internal stresses developed with a later successor.

Giving unstintingly, Mose gave many additional years to Oklahoma Church of God Ministries, as well as being a popular Chaplain for the OK State Hiway Patrol, and a member of the Moore Police Department.  His police work deeply involved him in the OK City bombing and gave him some unique experiences mostly unknown outside of family members, and remain without being repeated. When he could no longer serve, he quietly occupied a pew at Shartel Church of God in OK City, where he and mutual friend Jim Curtis became the life of their Sunday school class.

That was how it was when last I visited with him at Shartel in December 2005, when a business trip required my presence. He lost “Erm”  after that, which proved to be the extinguishing of that spark by which everyone remembered him. He spent his remaining years quietly awaiting his reunion with his beloved “Erm.”

Mose was a common man’s man although he grew up the son of a Medical Doctor. He made thoughtful sense with the brightest minds in church and out of church. He feared no man, made friends with anyone appreciating a little humor. He read people like I read books and it was a gift that served him well throughout his decades of ministry.People found him someone they could trust with the innermost secrets of their souls.

Mose is the second brother in law I have lost this year and I thank God for their Godly influences, hopeful that I can leave a light as bright as theirs. “Brother Mo” as some called him, left in his wake a life of service that needs no apology. He touched people transformationally,  leaving people better and richer for crossing paths with him. His departure leaves a multitude of church friends and none-churched friends, former parishioners, older sisters Awana--who will soon follow, and my bride of sixty-seven years. Others include his two children, with the Lee/Stiles grandsons who will carry in their hearts a picture of the man they knew as a man of The Book

Warner’s World at walkingwithwarner.blogspot,com 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Perplexities of Parenthood

Can words express the joy a tiny "preemie" brought into our home so long ago? Now ill and disabled, I don’t know how much she can heal. Some indications suggest she may not. She was not our first conception; she followed several spontaneous abortions--including twins. When natural birth seemed impossible, God in his infinite wisdom gave a child to a woman the doctor’s said would never bear her own child.

She survived infancy, contrary to medical proclamations. She lived a difficult childhood struggling  for adulthood as a lifelong asthmatic. One day she returned from her College campus and began helping us at church while attending college locally. Her joy was teaching pre-
schoolers and she became immersed in Preschool and Sunday school. She became especially involved when we restructured our Sunday services in an effort to win new families--we offered extended (free) preschool sessions as part of our Sunday worship experience.

We did not consider Norm when we made our decision--not his real name. He was very real, very warm and congenial, a dear personal friend. I appreciated him deeply during the years I knew him. He faithfully attended church, dearly loved his wife, and zealously guarded his family, but he had not accepted Christ. He brought her to church whenever the doors opened. He supported her financially and emotionally. He faithfully kept his grandchildren in attendance, but, he loved football more than church. He was a “Cornhusker”, a “Big Red” loyalist--fanatic.

When Autumn rolled came, you would might see him coming to Sunday School lugging a small portable TV under his arm. He didn’t hide it, nor was he offensive with it. We all knew he would quietly retire into an out-of-the-way corner in the adjoining Nursery School during worship and lose himself in the game of the day. East Coast scheduling often interfered with our Pacific Coast Sunday schedules, which meant that his favorite football game might come during church hours—PST.

We changed our scheduling with high hopes, and got more than we bargained for. Those extended hours for the Nursery School children began interrupting  Grandpa’s unobtrusive game-watching over in his formerly- quiet corner of silently following his game. He bothered no one with his game, but it soon became obvious that he absorbed as much Sunday school as he did football. Noting his awareness, our teacher-daughter kept her lesson plans simple and flexible, intentionally leaving room for creative interaction between her loving preschoolers and a  doting Grandpa. 

Eventually, he began asking occasional questions. He stayed in his game, but soon found new applications for old truths never internalized. Casually, cautiously, and relationally, teacher and children incorporated Grandpa into their learning experience rather than allowing it to hinder. He became more comfortable and slowly ventured onto a new path of personal growth. The cross-generational sharing exposed his limited faith to new growth and benefited everyone. 

She allowed her children to love him into their learning circle rather than treat his unsought presence as intrusive.  He eventually surrendered his life to Christ.  What could have discouraged her, and become an issue for church leaders, became her sharing of her vision, expanding her abilities, and enhancing her faith while advancing toward her nursing career.

Following his conversion, he lived as zealous for church as he had been for football, serving God and church until his death. The young teacher is now retired--disabled from 35+ years of nursing she loved more than life. As a dad, I’ve anguished as Life threw her some “unspeakable curveballs” that warped her sense of self-worth as a person. She still encounters former patients and co-workers who bless her for helping save some family member, but some some experiences indelibly scar one's psyche.

I long for her to recall the pleasure she had knowing that she played a pivotal role in bringing to Christ a person whose friendship she valued and respected. As I approach life’s sunset, I am more convinced than ever that whatever it is we are doing, we must never lose sight of where we are going. If I could somehow help her offload her “demons” and internalize that truth that guided her years—William Barclay said it but she practiced it--

“More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world, and more people have been driven from the church by the hardness and ugliness of so-called Christianity than by all the doubts in the world.

Barclay's words prompt me to ask myself: isn’t that what Christian witnessing is all about? From Warner’s World, this is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Some Recommended Reading

Bill C. Konstantopoulos has written a modest but compelling 125-page topical exposition of Romans 8:1-39. Bill’s ministry has taken him to communities as contrasting as the urbanization of Kankakee, adjacent to Chicago; to Appalachian VA, TN, and Kentucky; yet, as global as Costa Rica, Kenya, and Argentina. The ability of this native-born Greek to master speaking in English, while also ministering equally well in Spanish, Portuguese, and Greek, only further recommends his competence.

Konstantopoulos is well-fortified by years of loving pastoral relationships as well as of serious study. His writings are further enhanced by his native Greek language. In twenty-one brief vignettes in easy to read English, Bill juxtaposes humanity versus holiness while exploring a range of doctrinal concerns varying from predestination to his baker’s dozen “ingredients for victorious and fruitful living.”

He transitions from Romans eight to Romans twelve to make his final ascent up the peak of personal transformation (RO. 12:1-2. His concluding “Biblical Foundations” offers a fitting closure to this significant subject of Freedom From Condemnation.

Having frequently observed “Brother Bill”  both in and out of the pulpit, experiencing him as a “man of the cloth,” a very human pastor, and a much-beloved friend, I suggest that his best-known characteristic is his steady and consistent faith by which he walks a very human walk. That walk has nonetheless created an extraordinary human being who deserves our attention whether he speaks his message or writes it. What gets my attention is the fact that he lives his subject as well as anyone I know.

This newest one is one of three new books currently coming available from Bill Konstantopoulos (none pictured here since my cover picture is a pdf that will not transfer via blogspot). Since I cannot picture it, I have pictured here several earlier writings. I also suggest that you do not criticize your pastor if he does not preach doctrine to suit you if you will not make the effort to check out what is being written of doctrinal interest.

 For further information, contact the author at 1-423-328-7112 or                    billck@comcast.com. I am at Warner’s World - walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com,
adding my two-cents worth to steer you toward some good reading.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

12 Years A Slave by Solomon Northup

12 Years a Slave—Ed. by Henry Louis Gates Jr, 2013, published by Penguin Books, New York, 2013. This beautifully –written story describes the fascinating journey of Solomon Northup. First written by Solomon himself in 1853, following his recovery of his freedom, and published by Derby and Miller.

Steve McQueen  and company first dug this old volume  from out of the middle 1800s history and made it into a movie. Penguin then published it under the their copyright, complete with introduction by Professor Ira Berlin and the general essay written by the popular black author-editor, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I have read many black biographies and autobiographies over the past twenty years ranging from Sojourner Truth of Battle Creek and Martin Luther King, who moved into Montgomery while I was still a young pastor in Bainbridge, GA. Solomon Northup was a new name to me, but I quickly noted the resemblance on the front cover to Steve McQueen, whose name appeared below as the author of the foreword. 

Further observation also revealed Steve McQueen’s part in producing the major motion picture under this same title, “12 Years A Slave,” a Twentieth Century Fox Film production. Being somewhat addicted to reading biographies involving social issues such as slavery, I quickly checked the book out of the library and began reading.

I wholeheartedly agreed with Ira Berlin’s introductory statement, “For sheer drama, few accounts of slavery match Solomon Northup’s tale of abduction from freedom and forcible enslavement.” Solomon’s true story provides the exciting adventure of an extraordinary black man who endured forced kidnapping under fraudulent circumstances, was sold into slavery and transported to a distant part of the country where he endured more than a decade of slavery in a region considered among the worst possible of all slave experiences.

I found the book amazingly full of detail – places, people, and perspectives--a good read. Solomon was a “free black” whose family went back at least half a century as free citizens. I’m not quite sure about the literary quality of his original account, but it appears to be well organized, thoughtfully (if not purposefully) written; yet produced by one who had no journalistic training of any kind. Although Solomon was not a highly educated man, his writing was well organized and well written - compelling reading.

Solomon’s writing did not reflect the obvious lack of literary skills found in the very elementary writing of Sojourner Truth’s original narrative. As a fan of Sojourner TRuth and one who found her story compelling, I found some of her original writings suggestive of her lack of education and writing skills, as one would normally expect. Not so with Solomon Northup.

Be that as it may; I found a very readable book, of excellent literary quality, highly adventurous, and thoroughly descriptive of a vicious and inhumane subject [slavery]. Surprisingly enough, it was also totally devoid of anything sounding resentful, hateful, or vindictive. From a Christian perspective, I was surprised at times with his frequent grace-filled approach to situations that I found in the best sense of the Christian word “grace”.

Having lived part of my life in the segregated south, I found Solomon inspirational in character without professing any special outward piety. As a result of that part of my life, I could identify with the times he described. At the same time, I admired his tenacity as a fellow human being. I responded to his sometimes naïve or innocent refusal to become warped by his inhumane treatment and his rejection of being metamorphosed into a hate-machine of a mind-boggling system that accepted his treatment as a racial, economic, and social privilege. Under similar circumstances, I can’t quite wrap myself around just how I would have responded.   

For the reader who appreciates a happy conclusion to the story, this book offers a highly satisfying conclusion of a family being restored to its rightful place in society. As one reader, I deeply appreciated the man Bass, who became the needed link in Solomon’s restoration to freedom. I could personally identify with him out of some of my past associations in the early Civil Rights days in the old South.

I recommend the book. It makes me appreciate my Christian values. It also enhances my appreciation for the social progress our country has made, while further sensitizing me to the social burden carried by many people of color in our still rather racist culture. It only enriches my love and appreciation for my many black friends, not all of whom are American, but whom I deeply esteem and highly value as an enrichment of my own life. Books like this also make me appreciate my local publc library even more than I already did . . . From Warner’s World, I am walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com