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Friday, March 4, 2011

Iris: Trophy of Grace

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review!  

If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!

Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

CrossHouse Publishing (September 15, 2010)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Nelson, PR Specialist, Hannibal Books for
sending me a review copy.***


CAFE LILY'S REVIEW:
Ron Owens writes the remarkable testimony of Iris Blue, a woman who has experienced God’s grace and mercy in abundant measure.  Although for many years Iris resisted God, He eventually won her over and the story of her transformation is incredible.  Iris is a woman with a tenacious spirit and the things she was able to accomplish, even though she had little formal education or training, inspired me.  Iris Blue and her husband are beautiful examples of God working through one to reach many.  The doors that God has opened for them because they are obedient and willing to go really touched my heart.

Order a copy here!



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Ron Owens--born in Canada, son of missionary parents to Europe--has multifaceted ministries. These include teaching, preaching, and music ministry in North America and beyond. He has authored other books and articles and has composed, recorded, and had published many songs in collaboration with his wife, Patricia. The Owens have one son, Jeff, a daughter-in-law, Jessica, and two grandson, Ethan and Evan.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Iris Urrey was raised in a middle-class Christian home, but she was rebellious almost from the start. Running away at the age of thirteen, she became involved with drugs and prostitution, and at seventeen was arrested for armed robbery. Once released from prison, she continued down a path of self-destruction. From numerous abortions to using heroin, to managing a topless bar, Iris turned from God's calling again and again.

But God, who in eternity past had devised a plan for this "incorrigible" rebel, didn't give up on Iris. He had work for her to do, and would one day turn this "incorrigible" rebel into one of His beautiful trophies of grace.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 194 pages
Publisher: CrossHouse Publishing (September 15, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934749915
ISBN-13: 978-1934749913

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Introduction


This is the story of one of God’s children who truly understands the meaning of what John Newton wrote many years ago, “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” Though reared in a Christian home and being expected to do all the things that a “church family” child should do, rebellion was simmering just below the surface. At the age of thirteen it erupted—Iris Urrey ran away from home. This was but the beginning of a life that would become increasingly involved in drugs, prostitution and other criminal activities. Being arrested, jailed and released, had become routine for this teenager until, at the age of seventeen, she was arrested for armed robbery. With her history of drugs and crime, the authorities worked the system and were able to hold her over until her 18th birthday so she could be tried as an adult.


“So what,” was her attitude. “If this is to be part of the life I’ve chosen to live—no big deal.” Iris found herself heading down the wide road that leads to destruction and she couldn’t get off. She was unable to resist temptation, she was living only for the moment, without any thought of her future. A casual observer would have written her off. “No hope for that girl.” But God was not a casual observer. He had already written the future chapters of Iris’ life; chapters that she would never have thought to write herself; chapters she would never have even dared to dream.


Years in prison, solitary confinements, released back into society to immediately return to the lifestyle that had led to her incarceration, she was headed toward the same tragic ending so many of her friends would meet. But this was not to be for Iris Urrey. Pursuing her, every step of the way, in and out of prison, in the middle of heroine highs and robberies, was her Creator, who in eternity past had devised a plan that would eventually turn this “incorrigible rebel” into one of His beautiful trophies of grace. As hard as she tried, she could not hide from Him. He was always there.


But this is not only a story of grace and redemption, it is the story of a world-wide ministry that has found this longest serving Mission Service Corps Volunteer with the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, sitting beside top military brass at a NATO function one day, then serving tea and cookies to German prostitutes on a cold wintry afternoon, the next. It is the story of perseverance in the face of obstacles placed in her way by well-meaning fellow believers who sometimes had difficulty in accepting her non-traditional approaches to reaching the disenfranchised. Through discouragements and failures, through losses and gains, this unconventional “saint” pressed on, and still presses on, by faith, toward the prize of her high calling in Christ Jesus.


Finally, this book is more than a history of Iris, it addresses many of life’s issues that are common to us all, and in her unique way, Iris provides answers out of her own personal experiences. The impact she has had on countless lives over the years is affirmed in the tributes and testimonies recorded in these pages.

—Ron Owens

January, 2010










Prelude


My life’s message is faith. That’s why I am excited to have my story follow Bro. Manley Beasley’s biography because he is the person God brought into my life when I was a very young believer, to teach me and show me by his life what living by faith really is.


A lot of people talk and preach the faith life but they don’t practice it because it’s a lot easier to just talk about it. The walk of faith is a choice. There are times that I get in the flesh and begin worrying about tomorrow, especially when we are facing major financial challenges. All I know to do then is to confess it to the Lord and go back to trusting Him with tomorrow.


If God can take someone like us—me and Blue—not educated and not smart like a lot of people think is important or necessary to accomplish anything, and use us however He’s been able to, it has to be Him doing it. When you look at our lives there is absolutely no explanation for how far we’ve come. When it comes to finances, which is so much a part of life, you can’t say we’ve been good managers or that we’ve figured out how to do things, or that we’ve made good investments. I admit that we’ve tried several “tent-making” things on the side, in order to help our ministry, and though that may be alright for others to do, we found that while everyone else was making money, we were going in the hole. So, we’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, that the Lord is going to honor our faith and nothing else. It hasn’t been easy because we’ve been led through some very deep valleys and we’ve had to climb some high mountains, but we can testify that He has never failed to see us through.


We’ve traveled around the world without any visible means of income. We have never had our way paid for any of our overseas trips. All the times we worked with Bro. Manley we had to trust the Lord for our own finances. One of my early learning experiences was when he said he would like me to go on a mission trip to Alaska. I had not been saved that long and was still crawling in the kind of faith walk Bro. Manley taught, but I thought I’d try to trust the Lord for the money to make the trip.


I was directing the girl’s home in Houston, Texas at that time, and with all I was having to trust the Lord for there, I began wondering if I would really get to go to Alaska. Then one day a lady brought me a pair of “long-handles” (thermal underwear) with little pink bows on them. If they had been “long-handles” for men I wouldn’t have thought anything about it, but those pink bows? It suddenly dawned on me that I would never wear “long-handles” in Houston, so I called Bro. Manley immediately and shouted into the phone, “I’m going to Alaska.” He asked: “How do you know, sister?” He probably thought I was going to say, “I’m really hoping to go,” like I had told him at other times. He would always answer, “Well, you’re not going because it’s going to take more than hope.” This time I said: “Bro. Manley, I don’t need ‘long-handles’ in Houston!” I went to Alaska.


I pray that this book will be a help and encouragement to you in your own walk of faith and that, as you read about my early years when I was running away from God, you will see how faithful He was, even then, to not let me destroy myself. Most people had given up on me, but God didn’t. I am living proof that, “…He who hath begun a good work in you (and in me) will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). Amen!

—Iris Blue

January, 2010











Part One


The

Rebellious

Years



“Those who rebel against the light;

They do not know its ways

or abide in its paths.”

(Job 24:13)






1

Texas Department of Corrections,

Goree Unit, Huntsville


“But Mama’s not going to be able to come way up here to Goree”


It’s about a ninety minute drive north on Interstate 45 from the south side of Houston to Huntsville, Texas—ninety minutes from the Harris County Courthouse to the Goree Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections. She had just been sentenced, shackled by handcuffs and leg irons and pushed into a paddy wagon. Now, convicted felon, Iris Urrey, would have 90 minutes to reflect on what had been happening during the nine months since her arrest for armed robbery. There was one thing for certain; she was glad the Harris County Jail experience was behind her.


From the time they’d locked her up to the time she heard the judge sentence her to seven more years, Iris had had a running battle with the jail guards who tried to control her. She was constantly fighting. The truth was, she never backed down from a good fight, she looked for fights, and in her own words, “was so ornery that it was not long before they began putting me in the “hole.”


“This next place can’t be as bad as where I’ve been,” she thought, as the paddy wagon drove north on Interstate 45. She remembered how hard it had been to sleep in “the hole,” curling her 6' 3" body around the 4' square space that had no mat, no blanket and no pillow. Now, as they approached Huntsville and were turning on to Hwy 75 where the Goree women’s prison unit was located, Iris began wondering how often her Daddy would be willing to make the 150 mile roundtrip to visit her. The last thing he had said as he watched his daughter being led off in shackles, was; “I’ll be coming to see you as soon as I get the visitation schedule.” She figured he would at least try. He had never missed a visitation day during the nine months she’d been in the Harris County jail, though on many of those visits, when she was in segregation, he was not able to see her. That had not deterred him, however. Every week on visitation day Pat Urrey had been there with the exact items he was permitted to bring his daughter, including $18.00 every second visit. “But now…will he…?


Iris thought of her mother and how badly she had treated her. When she was in the Harris County jail, her mother, Mama, would ride the bus all the way across town to often be told that her daughter was in segregation and could not be seen. One time, as her mother was walking toward the jail, she heard Iris shouting through the bars of her 4th floor cell window asking her to go to Foleys to buy some crazy game and to pick up as many Edgar Casey books as she could find. Her mother walked 16 blocks, each way, to do what Iris had asked her to do. “But Mama’s not going to be able to come way up here to Goree.”


Her father had not let Iris’ mother attend the sentencing. He felt it would be too hard on her. He did, however, take her younger sister, Punkin,1 with him, hoping it would put a scare into his youngest daughter who was already following in her big sister’s footsteps. What Iris didn’t know was that her mother would live in denial for the next seven years, doing her best to keep what was happening to Iris a secret from her friends, her church, and even relatives. When asked what Iris was doing, she’d tell people that she had moved to San Antonio to work in the Coca Cola Bottling Company. They would not press her for more information as they all knew the truth. They had read about it in the newspapers.


Goree was at that time an all-female unit, originally established in the early 1900’s. Twenty years prior to Iris’ arrival it had become famous, from coast to coast, when eight women inmates, all under the age of thirty, put together a Country Western singing group that became known as The Goree Girls. Fort Worth radio station, WBAP, heard about them and arranged to use them on a public service program called, Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls. The Goree Girls2 became an overnight sensation as they were broadcast on the Ft. Worth clear channel station all across America. For the next three years, every Wednesday night from ten to ten-thirty, central time, the program averaged a weekly radio audience of over 7 million listeners, while in excess of 100,000 letters a year poured into the Goree prison office.


Who knows but that Iris might have fit in with the Goree Girls back then. She was born with a strong, beautiful, God-given singing voice, but now, as she was about to drive through the prison gate, she had no song to sing. She would not find the song she was born to sing for another nine years, and Goree was to become anything but a place of music for her.

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