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Heaven in the Midst of Hell: A Quaker Chaplain's View of the War in Iraq, Stories and Photographs

by Commander Sheri Snively, D. Min., CHC, USNR
reviewed by Gloria Joyce, Spring 2012

This book has about as many full-page color photographs as pages with full text. Each picture is a story in itself. It seems to me to be more of a personal journal than a descriptive narrative. She expresses her own spiritual growth, amid physical horrors, but even more, her wonder at the resilience, courage, and holiness of those warriers whom she served, whose daily task might be to kill or be killed. They were mostly U.S. Marines. However, she mentions the heroism of Iraqi citizens and others as well.

She finds wisdom in the intermingling of her own family interactions and those of her military associates. Probably each chapter could be perused independently of the preceding or following chapters. A few characters are mentioned in more than one chapter.

Chaplain Snively chose her photos carefully. There is blood, but mostly on artifacts, clothing, etc. There are no depictions of mangled or dead bodies, although she does write a few vivid descriptions of such. she was able to find and pictorially capture beauty in otherwise bleak locations. I was particularly impressed with the image on page 158: A wide-winged butterfly resting on the hard, dried tire tracks left in Iraq mud. There are many smiling faces.

This book is heavy, mostly because all 293 pages are printed on thick glossy paper, which reflects glare. Best to examine it indoors with natural light, or outdoors in the shade. I wondered if I could find a single "message" in this book, and came to think that it is an expression of "That of God in every person -- and thing," although I did not see that phrase.

The Five People You Meet In Heaven

by Mitch Albom
reviewed by Rachel Hobbs, Spring 2012

I was drawn to this book because I had heard great things about it from a friend, and I felt at the time that I needed a new perspective on things. In some ways, I was in a bit of a spiritual rut and I wanted to jump out of it. If it weren't for the recommendation from my friend, I probably never would have picked up this book. When I read the description, it did not sound at all like a very pleasant book. However, I have to say that this book, despite its description, is not, to me, depressing. In fact, I would say it's the opposite, or if not the opposite, inspirational. Using a series of flashbacks, the book puts things in perspective and gives the reader new insight into life, purpose, and time. After having read it once last year, I have re-read it at least four times. I would claim it is a must-read for everyone.

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