Posted on

Lloyd C. Douglas’s “Magnificent Obsession”





January 3, 2018

Pocket Book – 19th Printing

As we begin our new series of blogs, looking back, I notice that though “Wednesdays with Dr. Joe” began on August 31 of 2009, “Dr. Joe’s Book of the Month Club” did not begin until October 26 of 2011. Consequently, the book club series has now survived for six years. Believe me, it has not been easy to keep both series alive concurrently. The feedback we’ve received from all of you book-lovers has been so positive that it has energized us to keep the series going.

Pocket Book – 8th Printing

Because our passion is to help parents to institute and preserve the institution of daily story hours with their children, the books I have chosen have generally been skewed in the direction of those books generations of families have cherished. And the values are generally Judeo-Christian (but also relatable to other faiths and cultures–for any civilization that loses the observance of values worth living by is doomed to extinction).

* * * * *

Now, as to our 73rd book selection. When I begin a new year, I give a lot of thought to the book selection that anchors the 11 books that follow it. So I’ve been wrestling for several months, discarding one book after another that didn’t quite measure up to what I was looking for.

But finally I thought of how much Lloyd C. Douglas’s books have meant to me over the years, though I hope to revisit him again in years yet to come, I was convicted that Magnificent Obsession would be the logical successor to his Home for Christmas (November 28, 2012).

The theme of the book has to do with one of the key reasons I dedicated four years to researching and writing two biographies of St. Nicholas and have so loved Henry Van Dyke’s The Mansion. I’m saving that book for another Christmas.

Grosset & Dunlap

The book has to do with Christ’s repeated injunctions that when we give, we should not grandstand, we should not seek public recognition for what we give–in short, we should give anonymously, and thereby receive a blessing from God rather than the general public. Now I don’t know about you, but I have found such anonymous giving to be so hard to do that even now–after all these years of good intentions—, I’m nowhere near winning the battle against self, against the deeply entrenched desire to make sure my giving gets noticed on earth.

Since I know full well that others share this temptation’s siren call, I’m choosing Magnificent Obsession as this year’s anchor book. Easily one of the most beloved books of the last century.

As I re-read it once again, I was moved almost as much as I was the first time I read it during my growing-up years. Seminal books–the ones you re-read again and again–are mighty few. Most books are merely “quick reads,’ read once, and never thought of again. Not so seminal books, for imbedded in their texts are such disturbing, such insidious, thoughts and concepts that they so plague your subconscious that again and again through the years, you reach for such books and prepare to once again do battle with your soul.

This is such a book.

* * *

Lloyd C. Douglas [Cassel] Douglas (1877-1951), was born in Columbia City, Indiana. He was educated at Wittenberg College in Springfield, Ohio and Hamma Divinity School. Although ordained as a Lutheran minister, his later pastorates were in Congregational churches.

Pocket Book Giant Cardinal Edition

Douglas’s first books were entirely of a religious or inspirational nature. He was in the midst of a series of lectures on “personality expansion” when, at over 50, he suddenly wrote his first novel, Magnificent Obsession (1924). No one was more surprised than he at its immense success. It was followed by Forgive Us Our Trespasses (1932), Precious Jeopardy (1933), Green Light (1935), White Banners (1936), Home for Christmas (1937), Disputed Passage (1939), Dr. Hudson’s Secret Journal (1939), Invitation to Live (1942), The Robe (1942), The Big Fisherman (1948), A Time to Remember (1951), and The Living Faith (1955).

As for his own philosophy of writing, he wrote, “If my novels are entertaining, I’m glad, but they are not written so much for the purpose of entertainment as of inspiration. There are many people who realize their great need of ethical and spiritual counsel but are unwilling to look for it in a serious homily or didactic essay. It has been my belief that many such persons can be successfully approached by a novel, offering in a form palatable to them the inspiration they seek.”

* * *

I’ll be surprised if quite a number of you won’t go on to purchase others of his novels for your personal library.

Posted on

Blessed Be Our Cherished Readers




December 27, 2017

We’ve now come to the end of the sixth year of Dr. Joe’s Book of the Month Club. As all you book-lovers who have stayed with me over the years would know: the series does not represent 72 literary classics, but rather 72 books I have either loved or consider significant enough to be on a short-list in my own library.

Only once a year, since there is no way of my knowing for sure how many readers are staying with us year after year, purchasing our book selections and adding them to your personal library, do I feature a master listing of all the books and ask you to weigh in (by email or personal letter) and let me know your thoughts about prior book selections. Following is a list of all 72 books; you’ll note that this year we featured the following authors:

Frances Hodgson Burnett

Daniel Defoe

Valentine Davies

Charles Dickens

Alexandre Dumas

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Elizabeth Goudge

C. S. Lewis

Jack London

Catherine Marshall

Slavomir Rawicz

P. R. Reid

David Wyss

Now once more, I’d appreciate all of you book club “members”–even if you only recently joined us–to weigh in and let me know:

1. Which of this year’s books resonated best with you, and why?

2. Which of the 72 books are your all-time favorites, and why?

3. What authors or books would you most like me to include in the future?

4. General thoughts on the impact of the book club on your life?

Just to make it easier, here is an updated list of all 72 books.


Alcott, Louisa May                 Little Men                                            July 7, 2015

                                              Little Women                                      June 3, 2015

Aldrich, Beth Streeter            A Lantern in Her Hand              November 4, 2015

Barr, Robert                           A Prince of Good Fellows                    April 1, 2015

                                             The Swordmaker                                  May 6, 2015

Bergreen, Lawrence              Over the Edge of the World               May 28, 2014

Bronte, Charlotte                  Jane Eyre                                             June 8, 2014

Brown, Abbie Farwell           The Christmas Angel                November 23, 2011

Buck, Pearl                           Christmas Day in the Morning    December 2, 2015

Burnett, Frances Hodgson   Little Lord Fauntleroy                  February 29, 2012

                                            The Secret Garden                           January 4, 2017

Cervantes, Miguel de          Don Quixote                               September 9, 2016

Dana, Richard Henry          Two Years Before the Mast                March 26, 2014

Davies, Valentine                Miracle on 34th Street                   December 6, 2017

Defoe, Daniel                     Robinson Crusoe                                 March 1, 2017

                                          The Farther Adventures of

                                                 Robinson Crusoe                           March 1, 2017

Dickens, Charles                A Christmas Carol                       November 23, 2011

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor        Brothers Karamazov                          October 4, 2017

Douglas, Lloyd C.             Home for Christmas                     November 28, 2012

Doyle, Arthur Conan        The White Company                              April 30, 2014

Dumas, Alexandre            The Count of Monte Cristo                  January 6, 2016

                                         The Three Musketeers                    September 6, 2017

Duncan, Dayton; and Ken Burns  The National Parks:

                                         America’s Best Idea                               June 27, 2012

Eaton, Walter                    Prichard The Man Who

                                                    Found Christmas                 December 7, 2016

Exupery, Antoine de         Wind, Sand, Stars                              February 3, 2016

Gilbreth, Frank and Ernestine Cheaper by the Dozen                    March 2, 2016

Goudge, Elizabeth            City of Bells                                 September 26, 2012

                                         Pilgrim’s Inn                                            June 7, 2017

Grey, Zane                        Heritage of the Desert                  December 28. 2011

                                         Rider’s of the Purple Sage                        June 5, 2013

                                         The Vanishing American                       June 30, 2014

                                         Wanderer of the Wasteland                March 28, 2012

Hale, Edward Everett, Sr.  The Man Without a Country             February 6, 2013

Hill, Grace Livingston        Happiness Hill                                   August 21, 2013

Hilton, James                    Lost Horizan                                      October 7, 2015

Hope, Anthony                 The Prisoner of Zenda                       October 5, 2016

Hugo, Victor                     Las Miserables                             September 25, 2013

Huxley, Aldous                 Brave New World and

                                         Brave New World Reed                            May 8, 2013

Knight, Eric                       Lassie Come Home                        November 6, 2012

Lewis, C. S.                       Mere Christianity                                  August 2, 2017

London, Jack                   The Call of the Wild                                   July 5, 2017

Lorenzini, Carlos              Pinocchio                                     September 24, 2014

Lowry, Lois                      The Giver                                            August 27, 2014

Marshall, Catherine         A Man Called Peter                         November 1, 2017

Moody, Ralph                 Little Britches                                     October 29, 2014

Munthe, Alex                  The Secret of San Michele                      August 5, 2015

Porter, Gene Stratton      Freckles                                                    July 27, 2013

                                        Keeper of the Bees                                August 3, 2016

Porter, Jane                     The Scottish Chiefs                                    April 6, 2016

Rawicz, Slavomir             The Long Walk                                   February 1, 2017

Reed, Myrtle                   The Master’s Violin                                    April 3, 2013

Reid, P. R.                        The Colditz Story                                       May 3, 2017

Richmond, Grace            Foursquare                                           January 2, 2013

                                       The Twenty-Fourth of June                      May 23, 2012

Sabatini, Rafael               Scaramouche                                   February 26, 2014

Scott, Sir Walter             Quentin Durward                            September 2, 2015

Sheldon, Charles            In His Steps                                          August 22, 2012

Sienkiewicz, Henryk       Quo Vadis                                           January 28, 2014

Spyri, Johanna               Heidi                                                          July 30, 2014

Tarkington, Booth         Penrod                                                October 31, 2012

Tennyson, Alfred Lord   Enoch Arden                                               May 2, 2012

Thoreau, Henry David    Walden                                               January 25, 2012

Tolstoy, Leo                   War and Peace                                    February 4, 2015

Twain, Mark                  Tom Sawyer                                                  July 8, 2015

Van Dyke, Henry           The Other Wise Man                          December 4, 2013

Wallace, Lew                 Ben-Hur                                                      May 4, 2016

Wiggin, Kate Douglas   The Birds’ Christmas Carol              November 26, 2014

                                      Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm           November 2, 2016

Williamson, C.M. and A.M. My Friend the Chauffeur                October 26, 2011

Wright, Harold Bell       The Calling of Dan Matthews              October 26, 2011

                                      That Printer of Udel’s                           January 14, 2015

Wyss, David                   Swiss Family Robinson                               April 5, 2017

You may use my email: – or write to me by snail mail:

Joe Wheeler, P.O. Box 1246, Conifer, Colorado 80433.

I look forward to hearing back from each of you!

And Blessings for the New Year!


Posted on

Three Weeks in British Columbia #8, Tofino

 BLOG #51, SERIES #8




December 20, 2017

And now we come to the beach town of Tofino itself, the hub of life at the terminus of Highway 4. Interesting, isn’t it? Lund, Port Hardy, and Tofino–each one is situated at an end of a road. I find such ends of roads to be intriguing. Perhaps because there are, in comparison, so few of them in the U.S.

One of the miracles of this wild Pacific Coast is that it has not yet been blighted by towering high-rise condos, such as is all too true of much of the U.S. coastline. British Columbians obviously have made some tough decisions where it comes to what to preserve intact and what to prevent.

Of it, Andrew Hempstead (in his Moon British Columbia handbook) notes, “The bustling tourist town of Tofino sits at the end of a long narrow peninsula, with the only road access to the outside world being winding Highway 4. In winter, it’s a quiet, friendly community with a population of fewer than 2,000. In summer, the population swells to several times that size, and the village springs to life. Fishing boats pick up supplies and deposit salmon, cod, prawns, crabs, halibut, and other delicacies of the sea, and cruising, whale watching, and fishing boats, along with seaplanes, do a roaring business introducing visitors to the natural wonders of the West Coast.” Speaking of seaplanes, Byron, whose day job is keeping Alaska Airlines pilots updated on aviational technological changes, has a sideline passion: flying seaplanes all over this region.

As for Lonely Planet editors, here is their introductory take on the town: “Transforming from resource outpost to hippie enclave and now a resort town, Tofino is Vancouver Island’s favorite outdoorsy retreat. It’s not surprising that surf fans, families, and city-escaping Vancouverites keep coming: packed with activities and blessed with spectacular local beaches, it sits on Clayoquot Sound, where forested mounds rise from roiling, ever dramatic waves.”


We wandered through the town, savoring its uniqueness. Of course, I had to find another coffee mug to haul home to my museum-size collection of other coffee cups: one of Connie’s crosses that she bears [not quietly, I might add] for being married to a collector. We also tried out a number of eateries (the most popular one being a truck called “Tacofino” where we joined hundreds of others waiting for their Mexican food fix). We had to wait for over an hour just to reach the front of the line.

Our first night’s stay was in a condo called “Raven’s Retreat,” set on the water. It was hard to leave it. We also spent quite a bit of time down by the harbor watching seaplanes flying in and out. The second night we spent in Rain Forest Inn, itself positioned in a rain forest.

We’ll conclude this B.C. sojourn story in mid-January.

Posted on

Three Weeks in British Columbia #7, Clayoquot Sound Rain Forest





December 13, 2017

The Tofino area encompasses many natural wonders–so many that, to really do justice to it, one ought to stay there for at least a week. Unfortunately, we’d only been able to book reservations for two days.

In the U.S., we fight so many environmental battles that we have little time to listen in on such battles in other countries. This is the reason I’d never heard of Clayoquot Sound. Shame on me! For environmentalists around the world have been fascinated by the titanic war being fought by lumber barons and environmentally conscious residents of British Columbia over the world’s largest remaining coastal temperate forest (contains 494,000 acres of Old Growth Forest). It took over 20 years before the Clayoquot Sound Land Use Decision was hammered out.

But John Muir was correct when he declared of the world’s remaining natural wonders: “Nothing dollarable is ever safe.” Each generation has to fight again for the preservation of parks, forests, monuments, etc. that the previous generation assumed were safe forever. When we were there, locals told us that Prime Minister Trudeau was extremely unpopular in B.C. because he’d been among those who failed to value such places as the Tofino Coast. Reminds me of similar battles being waged in the U.S. today.

Within this area are a number of parks: Clayoquot Arm Provincial Park, Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park, Hesquiat Provincial Park, Flores Island Provincial Park, and Maquinna Marine Provincial Park. We only had time to immerse ourselves in one of these. What an experience! Miles of elevated boardwalks–needed because so much rain falls here that otherwise visitors would have a tough time making it through. Sadly, B.C. had already had two months without a drop of rain–and the terrible drought continued long after we were gone, so pretty much all the rain forest streams had dried up before we got there.

Nevertheless, if you’ve never been privileged to see what it’s like to walk beneath Old Growth forest, by all means remedy that soon while such pristine pockets yet remain! As we wended our way through the trees two hundred to a thousand years old, we were almost too awestruck to talk! Just as is true of the pitifully small groves of redwoods and sequoias that yet remain in California, one can only imagine what it would have been like to journey through before lumbermen cut down so many millions of acres of trees that had stood for millenniums!

These wonderful stands of trees grow clear down to the beaches. One of those, Long Beach, we walked on long enough to get a beach-fix. The Tofino coast alternates between rugged rocky and flat sandy beaches.

Posted on

Dr. Joe’s Book of the Month Club #49,Valentine Davies’ “Miracle on 34th Street”





December 6, 2017

Once again, it’s time for our Christmas book of the year. Some of you Christmasaholics no doubt already have your Christmas shelf. But just in case you do not, here are the selections we’ve already featured:


  • The Christmas Angel, by Abbie Farwell Brown – November 23, 2011
  •  The Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens – November 23, 2011
  • Home for Christmas, by Lloyd C. Douglas, November 28, 2012
  • The Other Wise Man, by Henry Van Dyke, December 4, 2013
  • The Birds’ Christmas Carol, by Kate Douglas Wiggin, November 26, 2014
  • Christmas Day in the Morning, by Pearl Buck, December 2, 2015
  • The Man Who Found Christmas, by Walter Prichard Eaton, December 7, 2016

So now we come to our eighth selection.

Valentine Davies was born in August 1905, in New York City. After first studying at the University of Michigan and Yale, he became an actor. It was while serving in the Coast Guard during World War II that he became disillusioned with the commercialization of Christmas, and the idea for this film came to him. Unlike the normal sequence, the story became a movie first and a book second. Davies wrote in his “Author Note,” “Mr. Kringle’s personality and the chain reaction which it started originally took shape in my mind as a motion picture story. It was only after he had come to life on the screen that he was invited to appear within the covers of this book.”

Besides Miracle on 34th Street, Davies’ film credits include Chicken Every Sunday, It Happens Every Spring, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, The Benny Goodman Story, and The Glenn Miller Story. He also served as President of the Screen Actors Guild.

Derek Elley, in his Variety Movie Guild, of the 1947 20th Century Fox film, wrote, “So you don’t believe in Santa Claus? If you want to stay a non-believer, don’t see Miracle. Film is an actor’s holiday, providing any number of choice roles that are played to the hilt. Edmund Gwenn’s Santa Claus performance proves the best of his career…. Straight romantic roles handed Maureen O’Hara and John Payne as co-stars display the pair to advantage…. Gene Lockhart’s performance as judge is a gem, as is Porter Hall’s portrayal as a neurotic personnel director for Macy’s. Surprise moppet performance is turned in by little Natalie Wood as O’Hara’s non-believing daughter who finally accepts Santy. It’s a standout, natural portrayal. Gwenn won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor. Also starring was Thelma Ritter. The film was honored for Best Original Story and Screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Picture.

The 1994, 20th Century Fox re-filmed it with new actors. Richard Attenborough proved to be a superb Santa. Also starring were Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott, Mara Wilson, Robert Prosky, and J. T. Walsh. Producer John Hughes muddied the waters a bit by setting the story in the 1990s but doing way too little to contemporize the earlier screen treatment. The 1947 film remains the classic of the two.

* * * * *

By the way, Davies’ Harcourt, Brace and Company’s print text is a splendid read!

My advice to you is to read the book first–then see the 1947 movie. Not without reason was the movie dubbed “A Twentieth Century Christmas Carol.”

Posted on

Three Weeks in British Columbia #6 – Ucluelet and Pacific Rim National Park





November 29, 2017

From Chris Cheadle’s book, “Canada’s West Coast” (Victoria, Vancouver: Heritage House publishing, 2008)

Almost, we didn’t stop here–reason being, Tofino sucks up most of the hype. That would have been a big mistake!

Ucluelet is a small town of 1,650 people on the northern edge of Barkley Bay. But what we’d have missed most if we hadn’t driven off Highway 4 to see it, would be this particular section of Pacific Rim National Park (a most ambitious provincial project that eventually will stretch far down the island’s West Coast).

The first thing you see when you leave your car and head down the trail is a squat unlovely lighthouse whose foghorn mournfully complains every 20 or so seconds–being it was a foggy day. We had to laugh at the British Columbia Moon Handbook’s understated description of it: “The lighthouse here is not the world’s most photogenic, but it gets the job done–keeping ships from running ashore along this stretch of particularly treacherous coastline.”

Feeling the need to exercise after sitting so many hours in Byron’s Acura SUV, we decided to test what’s called the Wild Pacific Trail. We were on the undulating circular Wild Pacific Trail for several hours. The sitka spruces reminded me so much of the cypress trees on the Monterey and Carmel coasts of California. Had the sun been out, I’m sure the scenery would have been beyond spectacular. We had no idea this stretch of the Wild Pacific Trail could contain this much grandeur and crashing waves.