Blogging for Books, Culture, Faith

Book Review: Out of a Far Country (and a giveaway)

I recently read Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan.  It is an inspiring, heartbreaking, thought-provoking and remarkable memoir of a son’s struggle with homosexuality and a mother’s transformation from unyielding to a place of surrender.  Out of a Far Country is a modern, culturally relevant story of a prodigal son who finds his way through brokenness to his Savior.  It is a story both controversial and pregnant with the hope and all consuming love God has for us.

Christopher Yuan, the son of Chinese immigrants, discovered in his teen years that he was attracted to other boys.  His very controlling mother, upon her son’s announcement as an adult that he was a homosexual and her subsequent rejection of him, felt her world was falling apart.   Her loss of how to relate to her son combined with her own issues led her to try to opt out of her pain by planning to commit suicide.

Before she can carry out her plan, however, the woman who had always been an avid atheist comes to Christ.  Her desperation is replaced with hope, and as she realizes the terrible way she responded to her Christopher, one of the first things she does is reach out to her son and let him know that she loves him.

The book is written from the alternating viewpoints of both mother and son.  It follows Christopher as he becomes a fixture in the gay community, as he falls heavily into drug addiction and dealing, and ultimately, into prison.  It follows his mother’s growing determination to love him and to learn how to be there for him despite their differences, as well as her move away from self-righteousness to her ardent desire to care for her son no matter what.  Their story is a story of the power of Christ’s love to transform and to heal.

Out of a Far Country also documents both the terrible job the faith community has done in reaching out and dialoguing with the homosexual community as well as providing examples of those who have gotten it right.  The examples of those that got it right left me with tears of gratitude in seeing how they reached out in love.  The examples of those who lashed out in hate left me in tears as well; they made me long for God to work on their hearts so that they could respond in a manner that reflects Christ rather than misrepresenting Him to the world.

Christopher describes, at the end, his view of holy sexuality, describing how he didn’t suddenly become a heterosexual, nor is he likely to.  He didn’t know how to answer the question of who he was apart from his sexuality.  Christopher states, “My identity was not “gay” or “homosexual,” or even “heterosexual,” for that matter.  But my identity as a child of the living God must be in Jesus Christ alone.”  Therefore, he determines that he must choose God over his desires, thus pursuing a holy sexuality.  It is one thing we all, homosexual and heterosexual alike, are called to do.

I received this book as part of WaterBrook’s Blogging for Books program, and they happened to send me two copies by mistake.  I would love to give one away so if you are interested, leave me a comment.  I’ll ask my daughter to randomly pick a number and will send it your way if you win!

*Forgot to add that the giveaway will end Sunday evening (August 14) at 8pm EST. And comments left on Facebook (it posts there as well) also count towards the giveaway.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Culture, Faith

Modern Day Molech

Have you ever read the passage in Exodus where it talks about Pharaoh ordering that all firstborn Hebrew male children be thrown into the Nile river?  Exodus 1:22, to be exact.  It states, “Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”  This chilling order was due to the Pharaoh’s notice that the Hebrew people were growing rapidly in number, and this threatened him (and of course they were growing greatly, as God had promised Abraham that “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:17-18).

As a child and young adult, I always remembered that the Pharaoh had sentenced all those babies to death, but it never struck me that they were to be thrown into the river.  I thought then of how terrible that must have been for all those parents.  The grieving, the anguish, the sheer desperation and despair.  Now, as a mother, the horror of it overwhelms me.  It also hit me that, despite the fact that it was Pharaoh’s order, it was oftentimes the Hebrew parents who were putting their children in the river, not always the Egyptian guards or the Egyptian people.

There are other parts of the Bible that can almost read like something from the horror genre.  Mentions of Molech, for example.  Molech was a “god” that was worshiped by the Ammonites primarily, but also by other groups such as the Canaanites, which is why the Israelites are warned to stay away from this practice when they enter the Promise Land.  Worship of Molech involved sacrificing children to fire.  This practice is also mentioned in accounts written by Latin and Greek writers, which describe the image of a human figure with a bull’s head and outstretched arms.  The children were placed in the arms of the idol and were then allowed to roll off the arms into a fiery pit below the statue, thereby serving as burnt offerings to this false god.  Children, babies, were burnt alive.  Again, by their own parents.  This time without being ordered from an outside entity. As an act of worship or to appease the anger of this “god”.

Or there was the practice of infanticide in ancient Greece, where parents could simply leave an infant on the side of the road of they so chose.  Of course, this practice ran rampant through many ancient cultures.

It is horrifying.  It is disgusting.  It is rage-inducing, tear-producing, and heartbreak-invoking.   And it continues today.

We have a modern day Molech.  We as a society not only allow, but encourage, child sacrifice.  Please, stay with me here– I may surprise you with what I am going to say.  Of course, I am talking about abortion.  While many claim that the baby isn’t really a baby yet, that a woman has the right to choose, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is a baby.  I know this because first and foremost, God says that it is life in His word.  Psalm 139:13-16 says “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Jeremiah 1:5 states that God knew Jeremiah before he was formed in the womb.

That substance that society argues is just a mass of cells is a life.  It is not an “it”, it is a baby.  And women are being lied to by the monster that is the abortion industry.

Forgive me if my anger comes out here.  When I said rage-inducing, I meant it.  But let me be clear.  I am not raging at the mothers that make this choice.  I am angry at the lies they are told.  And I am angry at the ones telling the lies.  Angry at a society, including our Supreme Court, that says “women have the right…” out of one side of their mouth but then turn around and say that women can’t handle being told the entire truth about the life they carry inside of them out of the other side.  I’m raging at a society that tells women that it will be okay, that it only hurts a little but then it is done.  That there are no lasting effects.  Women that have had an abortion (as a whole), can tell you that there are certainly effects, and the hurt is never done.  That having an abortion can affect future fertility, and that it leaves a scar on the very soul.

I recently read a book called The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers.  Amazing book.  And out of all the moments in the story that are captivating, there are a few sentences that remain with me.  Upon learning of the pain her mother still experiences from an abortion she had years and years ago, the main character (who became pregnant through being raped) has the realization that her mother, and so many other women out there battered by the abortion experience, are in a sort of holding pattern.  How, this character wonders, can these women mourn and grieve, how can they experience the flood of emotion they are experiencing, when the world is telling them that there is nothing to grieve?  That there has been no loss.  That their very feelings are not valid.

Does this sound good for women?  Is this something we should be celebrating?  This idea of a woman’s right to choose?  Not only is the life of a child being ended, but women are being traumatized.  They are being used.  Their feelings, their sense of well-being, are being aborted right along with their baby.  And our society applauds this.

Abortion advocates are against ultrasounds being offered for women who are leaning towards abortion.  They often claim it will unnecessarily traumatize the mother.  That is a bunch of manure.  If we are going to offer the right to choose, then shouldn’t women be given all the facts?  Are they children that need someone to shield their eyes from truth?  Why are abortion advocates so afraid for women to see that the “mass of cells” they are carrying are a living, breathing life?  So that the woman doesn’t change her mind and actually have the child?  How dare a woman have the right to change her mind.  Choice is only allowed when it involves removing the “problem”.

My anger also burns at pro-life advocates that are so judgmental towards these women that they scare them away from the truth of the lives they carry inside them.  I have been there myself, feeling anger in particular towards women that get abortion after abortion, sacrificing their children to the idols of convenience and cost-effectiveness.  But then Jesus whispers to me that while these women are making their choices, and a horrible, heart-breaking choice it is, I am not their judge.  I am called to love them.  They need to be ministered to.  They need someone to come alongside them after they make their life-changing decision and show them that nothing, no decision, is outside of the reach of Christ’s love.  And therefore, no decision is out of the reach of mine.  As Christ works on my heart, my heart breaks for these women.

Yes, we have a modern day Molech.  And we need to do something about it.  Pray.  Get involved.  Speak up.  Minister to these women who were told that it would only hurt for a minute.  Work on behalf of our children.  Find a way to change our society so that the value of children is no longer diminished and destroyed.   Fight the lie that it isn’t really a life.

Pray for me as I seek how I am to be involved.


Faith, Family

The Card

Eila has a new thing she likes to do.  And like many toddlers, she likes to do it over and over again.

It started this past week.  She brought me a card she found in a stack of papers and other things that needed to be sorted.  It happened to be the Valentine’s Day card that Will and I gave her this year, one with a little cat holding a basket (she loves cats- all animals, really).  Anyway, she asked me to read it to her, so I did.  Then she asked me to read it to her again, and then again.  It honestly got a little frustrating to read it over and over, but then I noticed something.  As I read the personal little messages from her father and I, her smile grew increasingly wider.  Both Will and I had written how sweet she is and how much we love her and value her.  She couldn’t get enough of it, and after I would read each message, Eila would say “Mommy wrote “you” that” and “Daddy wrote “you” that” (you=me).  And then she would ask for it to be read aloud again, with little giggles and eyes twinkling.

She has been doing that the past few days now.

I was thinking about this the other day, as I watched her face light up yet again as we looked at the card, and I had a sudden realization.  I realized how, like that card, God has a message for us that He wants us to delight in hearing.   A message that is also full of love and of how valuable He finds us.  A message that is sealed into His Word.  Why I initially found it slightly irritating to hear “again”, “again” from my child, God wants us, His children, to cry out that very thing.  Because He delights in telling us of His love.  He wants us to seek Him, to read the words He has for us.  And not only that, but He wants us to know that His message left the perfection of heaven and became flesh and dwelt among us.  And loved us so much that that same Message died for us, for all the bad things we have ever done and will ever do, and rose again. And in dying and rising again that third day, our sin was defeated.  Death was defeated, because the penalty for our sins was death.  For God’s word isn’t only found in the Bible, but also in the person of Jesus.  But we have to accept Jesus as our Savior.  He already is…He saved us.  The gift has been offered. We have to choose to accept it, and invite Him to be the Lord of our life.

God our Father delights in seeing our eyes light up with pleasure and our faces break into wide smiles as the truth of His love is realized.  Like the delight in seeing the face of a child learning each day of her parents’ love.

May you all be hit with the beautiful realization of His love for you today– Happy Easter!

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”  ~Psalm 13:5