Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Hidden Figures – This video is the remarkable true story of women who crossed racial and gender lines to contribute important work to NASA.

Katherine Goble. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson are some of the many forgotten women, especially black women, who achieved amazing things in spite of the prejudice and road blocks thrown at them. All extremely brilliant women, they were the brains behind the launch of John Glenn into space in the 1960’s space race. Their work helped our country to put a man on the moon.

The movie is great and I hope you will see it. It does a pretty good job of telling what the women went through – early childhood and education, what they suffered in order to be accepted in society, and obstacles they encountered at work. The extras in the special Blu-Ray edition relate more of the many achievements of these incredible women. Here are a few highlights (some of the information obtained through my further research):

Katherine Goble Johnson

Katherine was a math prodigy who graduated from West Virginia State College summa cum laude at only age 18. She married and had three children. Sadly, Mr. Goble died of a brain tumor. Later she remarried.

Katherine was an aerospace technologist. She verified the computer’s numbers for John Glenn’s orbit around the earth in 1962, calculated the historic Apollo 11 trip to the moon, and worked on the calculations that helped bring Apollo 13 safely back to earth after it malfunctioned in 1970.

Dorothy Johnson Vaughan

Dorothy received her training at Wilberforce University in Ohio in 1929. She married Howard Vaughan and they had six children. In 1943, Dorothy went to work at Langley as one of the African-American women who were hired due to President Roosevelt’s executive order forbidding racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination in the defense industry as he sought to fill the jobs needed for the war effort. Dorothy was one of the countless female human “computers” who did the math for the space industry.

Later when IBM introduced digital computers to replace the human computers, Dorothy was smart enough to figure a way to keep her job and the jobs of all of the other women. She taught herself and them the Fortran programming Language for the IBM 704 mainframe computers that NASA was installing. (Just look at that room full of machines in the movie and realize that your cell phone has more computing power than all of that!!)

Mary Jackson

Mary graduated from Hampton Institute with bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and physical science. Frustrated and unhappy about the discrimination against her in the work place, Mary almost resigned. However, her supervisor, Kazimierz Czarnecki encouraged her to train as an engineer. Mary had to fight racial prejudice but she successfully finished the course and was promoted to aerospace engineer in 1958 at the age of 37. She wrote many papers and studied data that helped to improve US planes. Mary achieved the most senior rank in the engineering department, but took a demotion to become a human resources administrator until her retirement in 1985. She spent her time helping other women and minorities to advance their careers.

One of the things that is downplayed a bit in the movies is the tremendous religious faith of these three wonderful women. They all just wanted to succeed and were willing to put up with the prejudice against them. In that era, blacks were often just happy to have a job. Their gratitude for what they had should put those of us who have never encountered their obstacles to shame. They are an inspiration!

It is finally time after 55 years that Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary are recognized for their achievements. Though things have changed a lot since the 1940’s and 50’s, there is still a struggle for full racial and gender equality. The stories of these women will go a long way to erase the idea that women, especially black women are inferior.

Here is a trailer to the movie:




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OUR PEOPLE: The remarkable story of William and Catherine Booth and the Salvation Army

William Booth started out as a traveling evangelist. The Booths were very poor and seldom had a home of their own. Then one night as William was coming home from a meeting he passed the doors of a gin palace in East London. This was the part of London where unfortunate people lived – alcoholics, criminals, and prostitutes. William had been preaching in places like West London, where upper class people lived – people who could put enough money in the hat when it was passed to put at least some food on the table at the Booth household.


On that fateful night, William thought he heard an urgent voice speaking to him, a voice that would ask a great sacrifice from him and Catherine. The voice asked, “Where can you go and find such heathen as these, and where is there so great a need for your labours?” William knew the answer, “These will be our people.”

Catherine believed that they should answer this call, though she knew that they would never be able to ask the East-Enders for money as they had been able to before from their “respectable” audiences. This was huge step of faith and William and Catherine trusted the Lord to take care of them.

For William and Catherine their work was all about the glory of God and the salvation of souls. And so the little Whitechapel mission would turn into the Christian Mission and eventually into what we know today as the Salvation Army.

The video: OUR PEOPLE: The remarkable story of William and Catherine Booth and the Salvation Army, tells the story of how William and Catherine Booth took God’s love to the poor. This is a very inspirational documentary.

It is not a live action production. The story is told using over 500 images and interviews with 11 historians and storytellers. The many beautiful pictures of 1800’s London makes the story very interesting. There is beautiful background music of familiar hymns. There are live interviews with two of the Booths’ grandchildren.

I really appreciated the account of the now forgotten social work of William and Catherine Booth. Today ‘human trafficking’ is much talked about. Many do not realize however that girls as young as 13 years of age were being trafficked in Britain in the 1800’s because the age of consent was 13. The Booths and Catherine’s friend Josephine Butler worked for many years to get the age of consent raised even to 16. William and Catherine rescued 100’s of young girls and women out of prostitution. They opened homes for them and helped them get other employment. The ‘Army’ was to make caring for the poor their main ministry even to this day.

There is so much more and I think you will really be blessed when you watch this video. It is easily found on the internet. It also features some bonus material – interviews with historians.

Remember how much good those cheerful bell ringers have done over the last 150 years when you see them next Christmas!!!



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Nearly 500 years ago, October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. This began the start of the period in Church History known as the Reformation.

In honor of this anniversary, many books on Luther and Calvin and other Reformers are hitting the bookshelves this year. But did you know that these great men had wives? Yes, and both men would thank God publicly for the blessing of their wives. The video I recommend this week will tell the story of one of the humblest, yet loved women of the Reformation.

This month is Women in History month. Many women have come to love the story of Katherine Luther as an example of courage and the meaning of the sacredness of everyday living. I highly recommend a video that documents Katie’s life from early childhood until her untimely death. The video – “The Morning Star of Wittenberg: The Life of Katie Luther” – was produced by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is distributed by Vision Video. (easily found on the internet)

It was often thought that only vocations in the church were sacred – being a priest or a nun. But Martin and Katie became heroes of everyday people when they showed the holiness and godliness of a beautiful, loving marriage and home life. Today many pastor’s wives model their lives after Katherine von Bora Luther.



This video features the insights of Dr. Kirsi Stjerna, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, and author of “Women and the Reformation”.



German theologian Dr. Martin Treu, Curator of the Luther Museum in Wittenberg, gives us interesting historical background to the places and events in Katie’s life. The production is beautifully done and the story leaves you wanting to hear more about Katherine. I would suggest Dr. Stjerna’ book.


Katherine contributed much to her husband’s ministry.  She certainly helped with his understanding of marriage, love, and family life. By doing this, she contributed much to the spread of the Gospel. She modeled the ideal Christian woman.  By being a Proverbs 31 woman, her husband’s ministry was expanded further. Because she could manage everything on the home front, including the Black Cloister, Luther was able to be away on long journeys, preaching and teaching, knowing that he could come home to a restful, well-ordered, spiritually invigorating home – even one that had some of the best beer around!!


Katherine loved Christ. She lived her life to the fullest. She showed us how to live the Christian life in our marriages, families, and communities. It takes a lot of courage to face the daily mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, and mending. As we contemplate on the life of Katherine von Bora Luther, I hope it will give us renewed strength to find joy in whatever calling God has given us.


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This week I would like to recommend a beautifully done video:

“Francis & Clare of Assisi”

It is an ‘Oriente Occidente Production’ distributed by Vision Video.  You can find it easily on the web. It is 30 minutes long.

This video is not a re-enactment. Instead it relates the story of Francis and Clare of Assisi through narration. The photography is beautiful! The producers take you to the places that were frequented by Clare and Francis. The music is original and fits the medieval times. I especially loved all of the visuals of the medieval art. You will find it warm and inspiring.



Francis of Assisi turned away a wealthy inheritance and went to live among the poor. He took a vow of poverty. He also strove to reform the church. He and his followers spent their time caring for the poor and sick. He believed that he was following more faithfully in Jesus’ footsteps. A time-honored saying that is attributed to him goes, “Preach the Gospel always, and if you must, use words.” His message of reform spread all across Europe and the East. St. Francis is still honored today for his example of love and care to even the lowest, most forgotten people.

Clare was a beautiful Italian woman born into nobility. Even as a young girl she was known for her piety and her kindness. A story is told that she used to hide the food from her plate so that she could later give it to the poor.

When she was sixteen years old, Clare heard Francis of Assisi preach. She had been promised in marriage to a wealthy man but she refused a life of ease. Instead she put on sackcloth and went out to care for the poor.

Other women began to follow Clare including her mother and sister. Francis of Assisi built a little cloister for them near the Church of St. Damian. In 1215 Clare founded the order of Poor Clares. They devoted themselves to prayer, penance and service. The Poor Clares also took vows of poverty and renounced property ownership.

Clare never left her cloister but did maintain her friendship with Francis of Assisi and many others. In spite of being bedridden for the last twenty-eight years of her life (probably due to severe fasting) her influence was great. She and the group of women serving with her were responsible for extending the reforms started by St. Francis to the church and to society.

The Poor Clares spread beyond Assisi to other towns in Italy, England, France, Germany, and Bohemia. Today the Poor Clares number over 20,000 sisters in 70 countries.

Clare died on August 11, 1253 of natural causes. In 1255 Clare was canonized as St. Clare by Pope Alexander IV.

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“How in the world could I have lived such a helpful life as I have lived had I not been blind?”        Frances Jane “Fanny” Crosby Alstyne

crosbyov2In her life­time, Fanny Crosby was one of the best known Christian women in the United States. Today, most American hymnals contain some of the over 9000 hymns that she wrote. There probably isn’t anyone who goes to church who hasn’t sung one of her hymns.

Frances Jane “Fanny” Crosby was born in 1820 and died in 1915. Though blind ever since a quack doctor ruined her eyesight while treating an eye infection when she was a baby, she never let her blindness make her feel sorry for herself. She turned her blindness into a blessing for millions around the whole world who enjoy her many hymns to this day.

Recently I watched a video production of her story. It is part of a “Testimony” series of videos that fanny-crosby-videoyou can easily find online and is titled, “The Fanny Crosby Story”. The video is only 46 minutes long and could be shown at church or any small group meetings for study and worship. Though it is not the best production of a documentary I have ever seen, it is very inspiring.


fanny-and-husbandThe video relates her story from birth until death. People often wonder if a blind person can marry and have children. Well, Fanny married a blind man and they had a child. Tragically, the child died. Still Fanny led a full and happy life. She helped others until the day of her death.




Darlene Neptune, author of “Fanny Crosby Still Lives”, is one of the narrators. Darlene Neptunedarlene-neptune-crosby is considered the world’s leading authority on Fanny Crosby and frequently presents dramatizations of Fanny’s life to audiences around the country. I would highly recommend her book.

fanny-autobiographyI have also read “Fanny J. Crosby: An Autobiography”. If you enjoy watching a movie and reading the book as much as I do, you will be very inspired by both of these books.



There were a couple of things about this video production that were disappointing. The other narrators were very amateurish in comparison to Darlene Neptune. Also some of the music in the background was from other composers. I would have thought that with over 9000 hymns to choose from the background music would have all been familiar Fanny Crosby hymns.

Nevertheless, at the end of the video, choirs sing one of Fanny Crosby’s most famous and favorite hymns “Blessed Assurance” and you will feel like joining in and praising the Lord!

Once a preacher sympathetically remarked, “I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when He showered so many other gifts upon you.” Fanny replied quickly, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I should be born blind?” “Why?” asked the surprised minister. “Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!”

Some day the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing.
But, O, the joy when I shall wake
Within the palace of the King!
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story — saved by grace.

Some day my earthly house will fall,
I cannot tell how soon ‘twill be,
But this I know — my All in All
Has now in heaven a place for me,
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story — saved by grace.



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Medieval Women Saints

There is very little teaching done on women who lived during the Middle Ages. This is not only true in general society but also in church. It is a shame because the women who lived 5 to 10 centuries ago did wonderful work in the Kingdom of God. They served the poor, comforted the mourning, raised godly families, and much more. Many even left us written accounts of their activities. If we did not have these stories we would not know as much about everyday life during Medieval times.

The material in the books covered in these reviews spans about ten centuries – from 500 AD to 1500 AD. Three of the books contain biographies. One book, Crown & Veil, gives us the background to life in the female monasteries. If you ever wondered what God’s saints were doing during this thousand-year time period, these books will fascinate and enlighten you.


—  Hamburger, Jeffrey F., and Marti, Susan, Editors, Crown & Veil: Female Monasticism from the Fifth to the Fifteenth Centuries, (Columbia University Press, New York, 2008).

crown-and-veilWhen most people picture a convent the image they get is a quiet, secluded, austere building far away from civilization. While some convents were purposefully more secluded, most were communities of women who were able to engage in activities otherwise denied them both inside and outside of the cloister.

Convents were not the bleak places we often imagine them to be. Women went to convents to get an education as well as to fellowship and pray with other women. Many “nuns” wrote books, poetry, and music. Others painted and engaged in other facets of art. Most did not reside like hermits in their cloisters but moved out into the surrounding community with food and clothing and medicine and love for the poor and needy. Some abbesses were renowned for their Biblical knowledge and wisdom and their spiritual care of others in the convent and in the surrounding community.

This book is a series of articles by different authors, each telling of the different aspects of female monastic life. It is thrilling to see what sort of life Christian women lived during the Middle Ages. You won’t be disappointed!


—  Dronke, Peter, Women Writers of the Middle Ages, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1984).

This book actually covers from 300 AD to around 1300 AD. That is because Perpetuadronke-book is included (see my post on this site – August, 2010). Perpetua is considered one of the earliest women Christian writers. Perpetua and her slave Felicitas were martyred on March 7, 203 AD. Perpetua wrote an account of her life that has been preserved for us. Peter Dronke continues moving through the Middle Ages telling the stories of Dhuoda, Hrotsvitha, Heloise, Hildegard of Bingen and Marguerite Porete, focusing on their writings. He also includes the poetry by women of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

The book is written from a technical standpoint, but it is still fascinating because Dronke emphasizes the women’s personal testimonies. Peter Dronke has shown what skilled writers women are. It is too bad that their stories are so neglected. Though a little on the “dry” side I think you will be amazed and uplifted by these accounts.


—  Mayeski, Marie Anne, Dhuoda: Ninth Century Mother and Theologian, (The University of Scranton Press, Scranton, 1996).

One of the women mentioned in Peter Dronke’s book as an exceptional female writer dhuodaof the Middle Ages was Dhuoda. Dhuoda is very well known among scholars of literature. Marie Anne Mayeski has given the world a gift in her book about Dhuoda’s life. We know so little about women in the Middle Ages. This book whets our appetites for more.

Admittedly, not much is known about Dhuoda except through her writings, but we do have the history of her times and her family. Through her writing we can deduce what a dedicated mother Dhuoda was. One of her books (published in 843 AD) was copied for many years and is in print today – Liber Manualis. Dhuoda intended this book to be a manual for the personal growth and edification of her son William.

Dhuoda’s book contains teaching from the Scriptures. Her Bible knowledge and wisdom, coming from years of study, proves that Dhuoda was a lay theologian.

We can be thankful that Dhuoda left us her writings. Her advice to her son on moral behavior is timeless. Dhuoda is a shining example of a woman who loved God above all and spent her time studying about Him to get to know Him better and to pass on that knowledge to others.

Marie Anne Mayeski is a good story teller. You will not find this book dry! You will appreciate how Mayeski weaves Dhuoda’s learning and writing with history and biography. For me, it was a book hard to put down. I think you will enjoy it.


—  McNamara, Jo Ann, Editor and Translator, Halborg, John E. and Whatley, E. Gordon, Editors, Sainted Women of the Dark Ages, (Duke University Press, London, 1992).

The book contains the stories of 18 Frankish women (12 abbesses, 3 queens, and othersaints-dark-ages devout widows and wise women) who lived during the so-called Dark Ages – the time period of the sixth and seventh centuries. This time period covers from the fall of the Roman Empire until the rise of Charlemagne’s family.

When the stories begin, we find the women living in the land that was known as Roman Gaul. The Christians were the survivors of the wars. Gradually they formed their own kingdoms of Neustria, Burgundy, and Austrasia. The people in this land would come to be called the “Franks”.

Each chapter in the book gives the historical background of the saint. Then the editors include information gained from historical documents. Many of the stories will contain information that is strange sounding if you are not a Roman Catholic. I grew up with stories of the miracles that surrounded women saints. The editors of this book put their own commentary in the footnotes for you. How much is myth or legend? I believe that God does do miracles and heal people. I am sure that the prayers of these saintly women had some effect. Even if some of the legends are just that – legends – they are interesting stories. Every legend contains a kernel of truth.

I think you will still enjoy reading this book. Again, it is proof that God was at work in the so-called Dark Ages!


—  Deen, Edith, Great Women of the Christian Faith, (Christian Herald Books, Chappaqua, New York, 1959).

deen-women-bibleEdith Deen has also written a companion book that I think you will enjoy, All of the Women of the Bible.

In this book on great Christian women in history, you will encounter the stories of 45 spiritual leaders and 76 other women from around the world. The stories include women from many denominations. deen-women-faithTheological controversies are put aside. The important thing about each woman is that she loves Jesus and that her life shows how she served God faithfully.

You will be inspired as you read the stories of martyrs, mothers, wives, and even political leaders. The stories span the last twenty centuries (at least up until the writing of the book in 1959).

Of special interest for this review is the fact that Edith Deen relates the stories of more than a dozen women from the Middle Ages. Edith Deen has a great gift as a storyteller and I think you will not find this book to be as “dry” as the others in this review. It is a great book to share with your daughters and other Christian women who are interested in stories.

Both of Edith Deen’s books could be used to good effect in a Bible Study or Sunday School. Women will love the stories!

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Dear Readers,

I am going to be taking a short break from the weekly posts. I am going to study for a Doctor of Ministry degree. The track is called, “Leadership in Global Perspectives”. I am really excited about this opportunity.

My doctoral dissertation will be about women in ministry. I would like to write a book – a devotional – that includes stories of women that God has used in Kingdom work. God has called His daughters to serve in the Kingdom all through history and from all parts of the globe – hence the appropriateness of the Global Perspectives’ track.

My blog posts include over 200 women now. I would like to research the stories of 165(6) more from Africa, Asia, South America, Australia, the Islands, and other minority ethnic groups in Europe and North America. This devotional should be a daily encouragement to women to answer their call from God as so many others have done before them.

An important reason for writing the book is to show that God does indeed use women in ministry. But equally important is a list of resources for women to use. I have been blessed by each and every book or article I have read. An important part of the devotional will be a bibliography in the back containing a list of the many books available. Other women will be blessed too as they read these inspiring stories.


So, I am off to London for 10 days with my colleagues. We will be studying global issues and how to minister more effectively to all cultures.   Christianity has always been a global religion, but now that the world has “shrunk” we have the opportunity to reach every nation with the Gospel.

There is only one place in the Scriptures that gives us an indication of when Christ will return. “The gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) Now with technology, GPS, easy travel, more cooperation between some countries, and the many new Mission Organizations I believe that we can reach every nation. This is exciting for all of us who look for and love His appearing.

When I return, we will pick up with fourteenth-century Christian mystics. In the meantime, check out some of the books listed in the Reviews. They will give you much to think about.



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