Monday, May 12, 2008

The Story of Ferdinand

by Munro Leaf

There aren’t a lot of story books I remember from my childhood. Neither because my dear mother didn’t read to me, nor because she didn’t drive me to the library faithfully every two weeks so this bookgirl could check out her weight in books, but simply because I have such a faulty memory.

There were plenty of books which came back to me over the years as I read to my own daughters and other children. The Story of Ferdinand is one of the few stories I never forgot; I think that's because of what the story is about.

When I was teaching religious education a few years back and searching for books to teach morality to children I ran across it again. The distributor advertized the book as teaching mildness, peacefulness and how to get along well with others. ‘Ah! Just the book I’m looking for’, I thought, ‘it will be perfect for my class lesson on charity and love.’

Then I reread Ferdinand at the Library—after maybe forty years? I remembered why I liked it so much and I knew why it was one of the few books from my childhood I’d remembered. Ferdinand is a bull—a bull who doesn’t like to fight.

On the surface, Ferdinand is about peacefulness. But more importantly, I think it’s about different-ness. As I read the story, it seemed more to tell a story about someone who dared to be different, regardless of social norms.

So long as Ferdinand was safe at home, his eccentricities were protected by his compassionate mama, but when an act of nature led him away from his home environment, Ferdinand found himself in a predicament.

It’s an incredibly sweet story with a simplistic ending. And yet, its winsome appeal still charms me today. It can be read to a child as young as 2, but will be treasured by this booklady (God willing) for years to come .


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To

From The Desk of Marian Hammaren

Tomorrow is the National Day of Prayer.

This is such an important day for our country and for all of us who believe in God. But to be honest with you, this is really the first time I will be observing this event in a serious, faith-filled way. Last year, I didn't know much about it. And to tell the truth, I probably wouldn't have cared if I did. I was in too much of a grief-stricken daze to care about anything.

You see, my daughter, Caitlin Hammaren, was a much-loved 19-year-old sophomore at Virginia Tech. On April 16, 2007 – one year ago – a deranged young man shot and killed her ... along with 31 other innocent people.

When one of his bullets took my Caity's life, it might as well have taken mine, too.

I've sent you this email because I truly believe that what happened to me in the days and weeks after I lost my Caity can benefit you.

"How," you ask? Because our loving God alwaysand I mean ALWAYS – brings good out of evil. You have probably experienced troubles in your life. Troubles you couldn't explain. Troubles that tore at your heart. Troubles that rent you in two. Troubles that made you question whether or not there really is a God in heaven Who loves you as much as you've been told He does.

Well, I'm writing to you today to assure you that, not only does He love you as much as you've been told, but to promise you that He is with you at every moment of your life ... and most especially when you are hurting and feeling completely alone.

He was there for me. And I am now certain that He chose my little girl – my Caitlin – to be the instrument through which He will bring you and countless numbers of other just like you closer to Himself ... and nearer to your eternal home.

And here's how.

A moment ago I told you that when the gunman killed Caity, he all but killed me, too.

It's true. I wasn't suicidal. But my purpose for living had died with Caity. And I truly believe it would have remained dead and buried ... except for a book that gave me hope and a reason to live. That book is Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To by Anthony DeStefano.

Since reading his book, I've spoken with Anthony many times. We have become good friends. And when I told him I'd like to send you this email, he objected. He felt it would be exploiting my tragedy in the worst way and he wouldn't hear of it. He didn't want me to be "pitching" any products. But I told him, "Anthony, you're being selfish. Look at how your book changed my life! I wouldn't be the person I am today had it not been for you and 'Ten Prayers.' How many other hurting people are there in the world who God wants to heal using your book? Why do you think God inspired you to write it? So it could collect dust in a bookstore? Nonsense. People need to know about the treasure you've written. And there's no one better to tell them than me. I'm not 'pitching' your book. I'm trying to help people." Reluctantly, he agreed.

And thank goodness for you he did.

Because if you can only read one book in the next week, then read Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To I promise you it will change your life! Literally.

It changed mine. And to show you how, let me take you back to that terrible day a year ago.

My husband Chris and I live in Upstate New York. Caitlin was our only child. As you can imagine, our lives revolved around Caity ... but especially mine. When we drove her down to Virginia Tech for her freshman year and dropped her off at her dorm, I thought my heart was breaking. But she sent me a text message within an hour of our heading north ... and we texted each other every day thereafter.

So on that fateful day, as news began to filter out about the shootings ... and as no calming text messages were appearing on my phone ... I feared the worst. Chris and I got in the car around ten that morning and began the slow, 10-hour drive to Blacksburg. Every few minutes I tried texting my daughter. I was frantic. I clutched my phone in my hand desperately waiting for a text message back from Caity: "I'm OK." But nothing.

When we finally reached the campus, we were ushered to a large room filled with other anxious parents. And that's when it happened. Two men – a policeman and a minister – were walking toward Chris and me. I'll never forget that moment. I wanted to run out of that room. I didn't want to hear what I knew they were going to tell me. But I couldn't move.

With tremendous compassion and sympathy, the officer asked: "Mr. and Mrs. Hammaren?" When I nodded, he continued: "I'm sorry. Your daughter was pronounced dead at five minutes after ten this morning."

And with that, my world had ended. Or so I thought. The next week was a blur. And the days home in New York are fuzzy.

But one thing I remember very clearly is opening Caity's laptop after we were given her belongings. Just above the screen was taped a short message that read: "God, I know that today nothing can happen that you and I can't handle together." Unfortunately, it would be several months ...and a lot of tears ... not to mention some real angry shouts at God ... before my daughter's message penetrated my heart and soul.

And I'm writing to you today to tell you that the instrument God – and my Caity – used to break through and open the eyes of this stubborn, know-it-all, never-trusting, cynical woman was Anthony's book, Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To.

Looking back on it, it was a series of co-incidences – and by the way, I've learned that there are no "co-incidences" in life ... only God-incidences. Anyway, it was an incredible series of events that brought "Ten Prayers" into my life at precisely the moment I needed it.

Once Caity had died, I avoided shopping malls like the plague. Caity and I loved to shop together. But now, every store ... every item ... every sight ... every sound ... they all reminded me of her and re-opened wounds I was trying to heal. Of course, that was one of my problems. I was trying to play the role of spiritual physician when there is only one Person Who can handle those duties: GOD!!!

But when my husband needed me to pick him up at an auto repair shop while the car was being worked on, I said sure. Little did I know the service shop was at a mall. To make matters worse, when I got there, the car wasn't ready and I had to wait ... at the shopping mall. The only place that offered me any hope of solitude was a bookstore. So I ducked inside.

Nervously I walked around until I found myself in the religious books section. I glanced at titles and snickered at all the "self help" pop psychology. I knew there was nothing here that could help me. I'd read a title and think, "Give me a break." One book, however, intrigued me. It wasn't the title so much as the cover. There was something about its texture that caught my eye. When I pulled it off the shelf and read the title: Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To, the angry, cynical Marian kicked in and said: "Yeah. Right. Well, He didn't answer my prayer."

With my smug smile on my face, I flipped it open to see what was on the inside jacket cover. Well, I was taken aback when I realized that the very first sentence could have been written about me. Here's what Anthony wrote: "There have been thousands of books written about prayer and millions of sermons preached about it, yet people continue to wonder: Why doesn't God answer me when I cry out to him?"

"Exactly!" I said to myself. "And are you going to tell me, Mr. DeStefano?"

So I read through the contents and saw chapter titles that talked directly to me:

Chapter Four – "I Can't Take it Anymore"
Chapter Six – "This Stress Is Killing Me"
Chapter Nine – "Will I Ever Be Happy Again?"
Chapter Ten – "Why Am I Here Anyway?"

Needless to say, I bought the book ... and devoured it within a couple hours after I got home. I couldn't put it down. Anthony put things in a way that was easy for me to read ... and even easier to understand. His was a language I could appreciate.

And because of Anthony's book, I began to understand how God works through people and events – even gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, spirit-crushing events like my Caity's senseless death – to bring souls closer to Himself.

Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To opened my mind and my heart to God. What's more, it gave me HOPE when I was filled with despair! And that, my friend, is why I've sent you this email.

Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To is for you ... no matter how painful or joyful your current situation may be. If painful, "Ten Prayers" will help bring you comfort. If joyful, "Ten Prayers" will help you increase that joy.

After I finished the book, I immediately purchased a bunch of them to give away to other parents who had lost their children in the Virginia Tech shooting. I can't tell you how many grateful comments I've received as a result. One mom told me that she keeps Ten Prayers next to her bed, so that when she finds herself crying in the middle of the night—which happens a lot—she just turns on the light and reads one or two of the chapters.

Lately I've taken to giving the book to all kinds of people I know who are experiencing problems in their life.

I gave one to a young man with an alcohol problem. He needed to understand his addiction and what it was doing to his spirit as well as his body. Again, because the language of Anthony's book isn't threatening and overly theological- - it changed his life.
I gave a copy to a woman whose husband smokes and drinks excessively. His behavior really troubled her and it was rapidly destroying their marriage. After reading "Ten Prayers" she told me it literally saved her marriage.

Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To is for anybody who wants to get to know God better ... on a new level ... on an intimate level.

Each chapter will speak to you about some portion of your everyday life. I know you will learn valuable lessons from the book ... just like I did. Even if you only read the one chapter that pertains to you, you'll benefit from it. I know you will because I did.

In fact, you'll probably end up doing what I did. I read the one chapter I thought applied to me directly. That was Chapter Nine: "Will I Ever Be Happy Again?" After I read that, I read another chapter, Chapter Four: "I Can't Take it Anymore." After that, I went to the beginning and read it straight through. To this day I keep the "Yes" prayer that Anthony added at the end of the book pinned to the bulletin board in my office. All I have to do is look at it to find solace and comfort.

That's what I'm sure will happen to you, too, when you read Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To.

And that's why I've sent you this email. A year ago I thought my life had ended. But thanks to God and His orchestrating events so that I found myself in that bookstore with Anthony's Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To book in my hand, I now realize that my life was really only just beginning.

God gave Caitlin to Chris and me. She was His special gift to us. And for nineteen precious years, we enjoyed His gift.

Today, in a very real sense, I am giving her to you. Caitlin had absolute trust in God. She knew that He would take care of her ... no matter what. And Anthony DeStefano's book – Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To– will help you find that same level of trust. Thanks to "Ten Prayers", God was able to use Caity's tragic and unexpected death to bring me out of my old world and into His new one.

If God could use Anthony's book to do that for me, I know He can do it for you, too ... and He will if you trust Him like Caity did! Remember the note she kept on her laptop: "God, I know that today nothing can happen that you and I can't handle together." Let's all resolve once and for all to have that same kind of faith in the Lord! What a wonderful way for to celebrate and participate in this year's National Day of Prayer!

God bless you,
Marian Hammaren

PS: Just click here to find out more about ordering a copy of Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To It may well be the single greatest life-changing decision you will ever make. Not only that, but as God uses "Ten Prayers" to bring you closer to Himself – as He did with me – then your life will be one more way that He continues to bring good out of the terrible evil of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. And by the way, when you go to this link, you'll also see Anthony's first book, "A Travel Guide to Heaven." I could have spent this entire email telling you about this incredible book, but I wanted to stay focused on "Ten Prayers." Let me assure you, though, I have given Anthony's "Travel Guide" to dozens of grieving parents, too, and they have all commented to me on how much it has helped them. Both these books are truly wonderful.PPS: One more thing. Just in case you're a bit hesitant to take my word for the way "Ten Prayers" can change your life, here's what a few others have said about Anthony's book ... and these are some giants in the religious field:

"Anthony DeStefano has once again drawn his readers into the mystery of God's love and invited us to reflect more deeply on our relationship with Him. In a simple yet profound way, Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To offers insights, and indeed a practical wisdom, that will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled with personal prayer. I recommend this book to any and all who are searching for a fresh perspective on the meaning and value of a life of prayer, and, ultimately, for a more fulsome encounter w the Living God."- Cardinal Ranato Raffaele Martino, President, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

"Why are some of our prayers answered while some are not? How do we get God's attention? How do we get the divine 'Yes'? In a simple, straightforward style, Anthony DeStefano takes on the mysteries of prayer. He casts a wide net to appeal to all Christians everywhere without compromising the gospel one iota. The title alone, Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To, will attract even people who aren't believers but who cry out for help in the night. For them, the first prayer, 'God, show me that you exist,' can be a life-changer. But don't stop there. Read it all. It could revolutionize your prayer life."- Pastor Jack Hayford, President, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and Founding Pastor, The Church on the Way

"Polls tell us that most Americans believe in prayer. However, most admit they don't spend much time praying, nor do they think it is very important. This remarkable book can make a difference for anyone who wants to pray with results. Anthony DeStefano shares insights on prayer that are practical, workable, and attainable. Everyone can profit from reading this book!" - Dr. Paul Cedar, Chairman and CEO, Mission America Coalition

"Do we really need another book on prayer? We certainly need this one! Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To is remarkably different and refreshingly direct. It takes the reader straight to the heart of the issue of answered prayer and leaves him or her there wanting more – of God, of course. This book will go on my shelf beside the great classics on prayer."- Dr. Dick Eastman, President, Every Home for Christ and President, America's National Prayer Committee

Pretty impressive, huh? And if those endorsements aren't enough to convince you, try this. The folks who organize and run the National Day of Prayer chose "Ten Prayers" to be one of its featured books this year ... and they only endorse a couple books each year.

If Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To received the National Day of Prayers good seal of approval, then surely it's a book that can help you ... no matter where you are in your walk with the Lord.-- Marian