Archive for the ‘Christian’ Category

Review of Christianity After Religion, by Diana Butler Bass

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Christianity After Religion

The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening

by Diana Butler Bass

HarperOne, 2012. 294 pages.
Starred Review

This is an important book for Christians to read, no matter how they feel about the sociological phenomena happening that the author describes, and whether they agree with her or not.

Here are some segments from her introduction:

Strange as it may seem in this time of cultural anxiety, economic near collapse, terrorist fear, political violence, environmental crisis, and partisan anger, I believe that the United States (and not only the United States) is caught up in the throes of a spiritual awakening, a period of sustained religious and political transformation during which our ways of seeing the world, understanding ourselves, and expressing faith are being, to borrow a phrase, “born again.” Indeed, the shifts around religion contribute to the anxiety, even as anxiety gives rise to new sorts of understandings of God and spiritual life. Fear and confusion signal change. This transformation is what some hope will be a “Great Turning” toward a global community based on shared human connection, dedicated to the care of our planet, committed to justice and equality, that seeks to raise hundreds of millions from poverty, violence, and oppression….

This book is concerned with religion and change — specifically how Christianity, especially Christianity in the United States, is changing and how people are questioning conventional patterns of faith and belief. At the outset, let me be perfectly clear. I do not think it is wise to adapt religions to contemporary tastes willy-nilly. As the gloomy nineteenth-century Anglican dean William Inge once said, “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widow in the next.” I do, however, think it is exceedingly wise for faithful people to intentionally engage emerging religious questions in order to reform, renew, and reimagine ancient traditions in ways that make sense to contemporary people.

The 1970s were the beginning of the end of older forms of Christianity, and now, decades later, we are witnessing the end of the beginning. What follows is a sustained reflection on how religion has changed in our lifetime — a life lived between the beginning of an end and the end of that beginning — and what that means for Christian faith and practice. Much has changed. Where Chirstianity is now vital, it is not really seen as a “religion” anymore. It is more of a spiritual thing.

She achieves this “sustained reflection.” I read it slowly, so I don’t remember everything she said, but that it all got me thinking. However a couple things stood out:

First, people of all religions and non-religions are talking about and seeking “spirituality.” It’s not so cool to be “religious.” But everyone seems to be after being “spiritual.” Here’s an interesting section about that:

But spirituality is neither vague nor meaningless. Despite a certain linguistic fuzziness, the word “spiritual” is both a critique of institutional religion and a longing for meaningful connection. In a wide variety of guises and forms, spirituality represents an important stage of awakening: the search for new gods. As the old gods (and the institutions that preached, preserved, and protected the old gods) lose credibility, people begin to cast about for new gods — and new stories, new paths, and new understandings to make sense of their new realities. In the process, the old language fails, and people reach for new words to describe the terrain of their experience. “Spirituality” is one such word, an ancient word, to be sure, but a word that is taking on fresh dimensions of meaning in a fluid and pluralistic religious context. To say that one is “spiritual but not religious” or “spiritual and religious” is often a way of saying, “I am dissatisfied with the way things are, and I want to find a new way of connecting with God, my neighbor, and my own life.” It might not be a thoughtless mantra at all — in many cases, it may well be a considered commentary on religious institutions, doctrine, and piety.

Another part I remember is where she talked about how community is more important than ever.

If you want to knit, you find someone who knits to teach you. Go to the local yarn shop and find out when there is a knitting class. Sit in a circle where others will talk to you, show you how to hold the needles, guide your hands, and share their patterns with you. The first step in becoming a knitter is forming a relationship with knitters. The next step is to learn by doing and practice. After you knit for a while, after you have made scarves and hats and mittens, then you start forming ideas about knitting. You might come to think that the experience of knitting makes you a better person, more spiritual, or able to concentrate, gives you a sense of service to others, allows you to demonstrate love and care. You think about what you are doing, how you might do it better. You develop your own way of knitting, your own theory of the craft. You might invent a dazzling new pattern, a new way to make a stitch; you might write a knitting book or become a knitting teacher. In knitting, the process is exactly the reverse of that in church: belonging to a knitting group leads to behaving as a knitter, which leads to believing things about knitting.

Relationships lead to craft, which leads to experiential belief. That is the path to becoming and being someone different. The path of transformation.

It is also the path found in the New Testament; the Way of Jesus that leads to God. Long ago, before the last half millennium, Christians understood that faith was a matter of community first, practices second, and belief as a result of the first two. Our immediate ancestors reversed the order. Now, it is up to us to restore the original order.

As you can see, she draws some conclusions from current trends and reexamines what Christianity should be all about.

A thought-provoking and important book.

dianabutlerbass.com
harperone.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/christianity_after_religion.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Safe Journey, by Julia Cameron

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Safe Journey

Prayers and Comfort for Frightened Flyers and Other Anxious Souls

by Julia Cameron

Jeremy P. Tarcher (Penguin), 2013. 151 pages.

This is a lovely little book, in paperback and designed to easily fit in a travel bag for airplane reading. I’ve never really been afraid to fly, but Julia Cameron writes in a way that makes her feelings universal, even if you’re not dealing with that particular fear.

She approaches her fear of flying with story. She tells about a memorable flight, telling us her frightened prayers she sent to God, and then the reaction of the two frightened flyers sitting in her row. She talked with one seatmate about praying to overcome her fear — and then he ended up flying back on the same flight as she did!

Once at her destination, she got strategies from friends, like postponing worrying and acting as if. Those strategies, combined with prayer and helping someone else, healed her fear of flying, as demonstrated when she took a third flight to meet her firstborn grandbaby.

The story’s nice, but Julia Cameron’s prayers are inspiring. She tells God how it is and asks for what she needs, simply and directly. Here’s one example:

Dear God, I am frightened.
Please let us find smooth air again.
Get us out of this turbulence.
Thank you for your help.
Amen.

She also intersperses quotations from others about flying and tips for the reader to try. Even though I’m not plagued by a fear of flying, this book was a lovely reminder to trust God about things I was worried about.

juliacameronlive.com
tarcherbooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Cold Tangerines, by Shauna Niequist

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Cold Tangerines

Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

by Shauna Niequist

Zondervan, 2007. 250 pages.
Starred Review

I was surprised to see that Cold Tangerines was written in 2007. I checked it out because it was new to our library. Better late than never!

Cold Tangerines is another book of meditations on the importance of living a grateful life, on all the blessings God embeds in our everyday world.

A lot of her writing doesn’t seem momentous. But that’s fitting, since she’s talking about walking with God in the everyday.

Here’s a representative section at the end:

It’s rebellious, in a way, to choose joy, to choose to dance, to choose to love your life. It’s much easier and much more common to be miserable. But I choose to do what I can do to create hope, to celebrate life, and the act of celebrating connects me back to that life I love. We could just live our normal, day-to-day lives, saving all the good living up for someday, but I think today, just plain today, is worth it. I think it’s our job, each of us, to live each day like it’s a special occasion, because we’ve been given a gift. We get to live in this beautiful world. When I live purposefully and well, when I dance instead of sitting it out, when I let myself laugh hard, when I wear my favorite shoes on a regular Tuesday, that regular Tuesday is better.

Right now, around our house, all the leaves are falling, and there’s no reason that they have to turn electric bright red before they fall, but they do, and I want to live like that. I want to say, “What can I do today that brings more beauty, more energy, more hope?” Because it seems like that’s what God is saying to us, over and over. “What can I do today to remind you again how good this life is? You think the color of the sky is good now, wait till sunset. You think oranges are good? Try a tangerine.” He’s a crazy delightful mad scientist and keeps coming back from the lab with great, unbelievable new things, and it’s a gift. It’s a gift to be a part of it.

I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift, who will use it up and wring it out and drag it around like a favorite sweater.

If you like that one, here are more quotes I collected on Sonderquotes.

I believe this stuff with all my heart. But it’s always good to have a reminder. I recommend reading this book slowly, a chapter or so a day, and getting a daily reminder that God is good and life is full of His gifts, even during hard times.

shaunaniequist.com
zondervan.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/cold_tangerines.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of To Heaven and Back, by Mary C. Neal, M.D.

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

To Heaven and Back

A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again

by Mary C. Neal, M. D.

Waterbrook Press, 2012. 222 pages.

Here’s another Near Death Experience book. I grant you that if you don’t believe in heaven, you can probably find ways to explain these away. But for those of us who believe in heaven, stories like these are magnificently encouraging. At the very least, it’s hard to deny that Dr. Neal should have died in the accident she describes. And once you admit that her very survival was miraculous, it’s hard to ignore her description of talking with angels and her sense of mission in her life afterward.

This book isn’t as focused and polished as some of the similar books I’ve been reading. But an interesting aspect is that she felt she was given a mission to help her family through some hard times. And then her son died. So as if a near death experience weren’t enough, this is also a book about a family dealing with the grief of losing a son, and doing so with grace.

As with every other similar book I’ve read, one of her main descriptions of heaven was a place of love:

My arrival was joyously celebrated and a feeling of absolute love was palpable as these spiritual beings and I hugged, danced, and greeted each other. The intensity, depth, and purity of these feelings and sensations were far greater than I could ever describe with words and far greater than anything I have experienced on earth.

This book tells a dramatic story. It also gives us a glimpse of the hand of God in someone’s life. And I find that encouraging.

waterbrookmultnomah.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/to_heaven_and_back.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Falling Upward, by Richard Rohr

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Falling Upward

A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

by Richard Rohr

Jossey-Bass (Wiley), 2011. 198 pages.

This is a book about spirituality by a Franciscan teacher, and about how our focus changes in the second half of life.

I’d like to think that I’m young for this book, but I also think that my divorce was a huge crisis right at midlife, so in some aspects, I’m on the other side, and it’s fitting for me to read about the “second journey.”

Here’s what Richard Rohr has to say in his “Invitation to a Further Journey”:

A journey into the second half of our own lives awaits us all. Not everybody goes there, even though all of us get older, and some of us get older than others. A “further journey” is a well-kept secret, for some reason. Many people do not even know there is one. There are too few who are aware of it, tell us about it, or know that it is different from the journey of the first half of life. . . .

I find that many, if not most, people and institutions remain stymied in the preoccupations of the first half of life. By that I mean that most people’s concerns remain those of establishing their personal (or superior) identity, creating various boundary markers for themselves, seeking security, and perhaps linking to what seem like significant people or projects. These tasks are good to some degree and even necessary. . . .

But, in my opinion, this first-half-of-life task is no more than finding the starting gate. It is merely the warm-up act, not the full journey. It is the raft but not the shore. If you realize that there is a further journey, you might do the warm-up act quite differently, which would better prepare you for what follows. People at any age must know about the whole arc of their life and where it is tending and leading.

We know about this further journey from the clear and inviting voices of others who have been there, from the sacred and secular texts that invite us there, from our own observations of people who have entered this new territory, and also, sadly, from those who never seem to move on. The further journey usually appears like a seductive invitation and a kind of promise or hope. We are summoned to it, not commanded to go, perhaps because each of us has to go on this path freely, with all the messy and raw material of our own unique lives. But we don’t have to do it, nor do we have to do it alone. There are guideposts, some common patterns, utterly new kinds of goals, a few warnings, and even personal guides on this further journey. I hope I can serve you in offering a bit of each of these in this book.

There’s a lot of wisdom in this book. A lot of it doesn’t exactly fit the doctrine I was taught growing up. I’d like to think that the fact that doesn’t bother me, that I can see the wisdom, might be a sign I’m beginning the path of the further journey.

I did pull out many quotations from this book at Sonderquotes, which will give you an sampling of some of the writer’s wisdom.

Here’s how he finishes his “Invitation to a Further Journey”:

So get ready for a great adventure, the one you were really born for. If we never get to our little bit of heaven, our life does not make much sense, and we have created our own “hell.” So get ready for some new freedom, some dangerous permission, some hope from nowhere, some unexpected happiness, some stumbling stones, some radical grace, and some new and pressing responsibility for yourself and for our suffering world.

josseybass.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/falling_upward.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Proof of Heaven, by Eben Alexander, MD

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Proof of Heaven

A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife

by Eben Alexander, M.D.

Simon & Schuster, New York, 2012. 196 pages.
Starred Review

Let me say right up front that for skeptics, it will take more than one person’s personal experience, even a neurosurgeon’s personal experience to convince them that heaven is real. For someone who already believes it, though, Eben Alexander’s story is wonderful confirmation. And it’s clear that his experience convinced him.

As a neurosurgeon, Dr. Alexander believed that our consciousness and existence is rooted in our brain and neurochemical impulses. So when he was attacked with meningitis that completely disabled his neocortex, he shouldn’t have been conscious of anything. Instead, he experienced heaven and talked with God.

At the very least a miracle happened that he survived six days in a coma and recovered full brain function afterward. Dr. Alexander goes into the medical details of his case, and it’s clear that at the very least his experience convinced him that heaven is real and our consciousness can exist apart from our brain.

I’ve read a few of these books about near death experiences now. It does strike me that the details are different for each one, and for each one it suits what the person knows and expects (though all would say it’s much grander than what they expect). But at least one message is common to all of them: God loves you. So much.

Here’s how Dr. Alexander explains in the Prologue that his story is important:

During my coma my brain wasn’t working improperly — it wasn’t working at all. . . . In my case, the neocortex was out of the picture. I was encountering the reality of a world of consciousness that existed completely free of the limitations of my physical brain.

Mine was in some ways a perfect storm of near-death experiences. As a practicing neurosurgeon with decades of research and hands-on work in the operating room behind me, I was in a better-than-average position to judge not only the reality but also the implications of what happened to me.

Those implications are tremendous beyond description. My experience showed me that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness, that human experience continues beyond the grave. More important, it continues under the gaze of a God who loves and cares about each one of us and about where the universe itself and all the beings within it are ultimately going.

The place I went was real. real in a way that makes the life we’re living here and now completely dreamlike by comparison. This doesn’t mean I don’t value the life I’m living now, however. In fact, I value it more than I ever did before. I do so because I now see it in its true context.

Perhaps Proof of Heaven is an overly optimistic title for some. But if you do believe in heaven, reading this book will bolster your faith and remind you that some important things in life can’t be seen with our physical eyes. And God loves you.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/proof_of_heaven.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Beautiful Outlaw, by John Eldredge

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Beautiful Outlaw

Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus

by John Eldredge

Faith Words, New York, 2011. 219 pages.
Starred Review

In Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldredge looks at the personality of Jesus. He points out that Jesus was not the sort of person who didn’t make waves. He does an amazing job of causing the reader to take a fresh look.

What is missing in our Gospel reading — and in our attempts to “read” what Jesus is saying and doing in our own lives right now, this week — is his personality, undraped by religion. Let’s see if we can find it.

Now, I’m well-versed in the Gospel story. I’ve read about Jesus over and over again. But John Eldredge was able to make even me see Jesus in a fresh light. I felt like he was saying, Remember? This is what Jesus is like. Here’s his take on the Gospel story:

Any way you look at it, it is a beautiful story. Playful, funny, so human, so hopeful, so unreligious. And it is that particular quality that gives the passage its true character and gives us an essential for knowing Jesus as he really is. The man is not religious. If he were, the story would have taken place in a religious setting — the temple, perhaps, or at least a synagogue — and Jesus would have gathered them for a Bible study or prayer meeting. Jesus doesn’t even show up at the temple after his resurrection. He’s at the beach, catching his boys fishing, filling their empty nets and then having them to breakfast.

The subtitle talks about the aspects of Jesus’ personality the author focuses on: He’s playful, disruptive, and extravagant. But all of this talk about Jesus’ personality is to tell us it’s worth it to let Jesus’ life fill our lives. He’s talking about Christ living in us.

As we love him, experience him, allow his life to fill ours, the personality of Jesus transforms our personalities. The timid become bold and the bold become patient and the patient become fierce and the uptight become free and the religious become scandalously good. “They looked to Him and were radiant” (Psalm 34:5 NASB). They looked to Jesus and became like him. Loving Jesus helps us to become what human beings were meant to be. As Athanasius said, “He became what we are that we might become what he is.”

In short, this book is about looking hard at who Jesus really is, and then letting Him change who we really are.

beautifuloutlaw.net
ransomedheart.com
faithwords.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/beautiful_outlaw.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Praying for Strangers, by River Jordan

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

Praying for Strangers

An Adventure of the Human Spirit

by River Jordan

Berkley Books, New York, 2011. 322 pages.

River Jordan was facing a rough year. Both of her sons were active duty military. One was being deployed to Afghanistan and the other to Iraq. A crazy resolution came into her head, and it ended up being the only resolution she ever carried out, all year long. She began praying for a stranger every day.

This book is the story of that resolution and the way it transformed her year and her life.

The chapters are short. This makes a lovely inspirational book to read a chapter a day during your quiet time. Some of the chapters tell about strangers she met and felt compelled to pray for. Some told their stories to her and why they desperately needed prayer when she offered it. Some she never told she was praying. But what a thought, what a challenge: To pray for a stranger every day.

She reflects on what she learned in the amazing year, and why she’s going to keep going:

But what I am learning when I pray for strangers is that I fully expect those prayers to be answered for the simple reason that this act is carried out from one soul to another without any personal agenda attached. The faith attached to those prayers is tangible, sometimes more than others. When I pray for those closest to me, all those prayers are a part of my selfish heart. Yes, I pray out of love for them but also for my need for that love to continue. For them to be well, happy, successful. For them to thrive in their lives that I might find happiness.

I’m beginning to see that the part of me that reaches out to the homeless and the well-to-do, the young and the aged, the broken and lost, is the one that matters most. My heart has opened up so much further than I ever dreamed possible. These strangers, this adventure, are making me a better person in spite of myself. Once an internal recluse, I’m more open to not only meeting people, but opening myself up to truly caring what happens in their lives. . . .

That’s the way it is now: These people and their stories are no longer shadowy extras, character walk-ons cruising the periphery of my life. Their stories have become integrated into the fabric of my own. Perhaps the poets and prophets were right all along. We don’t come into this world separate, or belonging to a select few, but we’re a part of the human race. All of us amazingly the same in spite of our differences. This is the real thing. We belong to each other. We always have. And in the process of my understanding this, of walking out this resolution, I’ve lost my regret and instead have counted it lost if I don’t touch a life, offer a smile, a prayer, a pause along the way. So every day I continue to do this one tiny thing. This one tiny, incredible thing.

I recommend taking a walk with River Jordan on her surprising journey. You will be inspired and you will be challenged. And your eyes will be opened.

riverjordan.us

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/praying_for_strangers.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Always True, by James MacDonald

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

Always True

God’s 5 Promises When Life Is Hard

by James MacDonald

Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2011. 151 pages.

This is one of those bread-and-butter good spiritual reminders books. James MacDonald goes over five promises from God that you can always count on.

This makes good reading to slowly go through in your devotional times, and that’s how I was approaching it. The first four promises were nice steadying, comforting, encouraging reading.

Promise #1: God Is Always With Me.
I Will Not Fear.

Promise #2: God Is Always in Control.
I Will Not Doubt.

Promise #3: God Is Always Good.
I Will Not Despair.

Promise #4: God Is Always Watching.
I Will Not Falter.

Those were great, they were uplifting, and it encouraged me to read about them. But the fifth promise blew me away.

Here’s the deal. Back in 2006, when I first learned that my husband had filed for divorce, and I was completely devastated, God gave me this verse:

“If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you. . . .
No weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.

— Isaiah 54:15, 17 (NIV)

Now, over the years that followed, whenever my husband would mention the word lawyer or threaten me with legal action, this verse would come up, somehow or other. It happened over and over and over again.

Eventually we did get divorced, but last April there was one part of the agreement my ex-husband had not complied with. I didn’t want to do it, but I felt I had to take him to court. My lawyer filed a motion for him to comply and it went to court in April, and things got taken care of, and I was awarded court costs.

The next morning, I opened up this book to read a devotional chapter. Here’s what jumped out at me, in a highlighted box as the chapter heading:

Promise #5: GOD IS ALWAYS VICTORIOUS
(I will not fail)

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the Lord. Isaiah 54:17 (NKJV)

Yes, in that moment, I felt very loved, very protected, very cared for, and very noticed.

James MacDonald sums it up in a heading for this chapter:

Jesus Christ the Lord, who is Himself all the Promises of God, will be forever victorious. I’ve read to the end of the Book, and God wins.

This book is, plain and simple, a book of encouragement; a book to cheer you on as you overcome. Here’s another statement he makes that I love:

If we have to think hard to come up with God’s blessings, we must be walking around with our eyes firmly shut, our ears closed, and our hearts hard.

Read this book if you can use some encouragement and some reminders of God’s faithfulness.

JamesMacDonald.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/always_true.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased through Crossings Book Club.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt, by Christi Paul

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt

A Memoir

by Christi Paul

Tyndale House Publishers, 2012. 280 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #7 Nonfiction: Personal Stories

This powerful story had me transfixed until I finished it. Christi Paul tells about her four years of marriage to a man who abused her emotionally and the repercussions of that in her life. She deeply wanted to stay. She’d made a vow. She tried hard to be able to take it. But ultimately, her faith in God helped her see that she needed to leave and helped her recover.

This book is good on many levels. In the first place, it’s a mesmerizing story. Christi Paul tells about how she fell in love with Justin and decided to marry him. Looking back, she can see she made a bad decision, but reading the book, it’s easy to understand how it happened, and why it was hard for her to leave.

Second, this book provides a window into emotional abuse. It can help people understand how women get into a hurtful situation, and why it’s so hard to get out. It can help you see one form emotional abuse takes and give you compassion for women in that situation. Christi Paul doesn’t write to make you feel sorry for her, but she does help you understand her. She also tells the hard questions she asked herself that helped her to heal.

Third, this book is all the more compelling for women who’ve been in some kind of abusive relationship. I appreciated that she took her vows before God seriously, and was in no hurry to divorce. I think the parts that most resonated probably say a lot about the reader. (Perhaps I still need to work through feeling guilty about my own divorce?) It’s so easy to see in someone else’s life that it does not glorify God to live in such a hurtful relationship.

Now, Christi’s ex-husband was more overtly abusive than many. And she also was able to see that she’d made a mistake marrying him in the first place. It’s perhaps harder when the emotional abuse is more covert than name-calling, taking forms like blaming or defining your reality. In those cases, it’s all the harder to see clearly that this is emotional abuse and this is wrong. So I still strongly recommend Dr. Patricia Evans’ books on verbal abuse, because they are so crucial to understanding the many different forms abuse can take.

It’s also perhaps harder when the abuse starts in a mid-life crisis situation, rather than at the start of the marriage. You can’t tell yourself that you simply shouldn’t have married him. But that still doesn’t mean it glorifies God to stay in that situation.

Still, as she said:

People often think holding on is what makes you strong, but sometimes it’s letting go. I was committed to releasing all that haunted me from this relationship. I wanted to learn from it, yes, but I was no longer willing to be chained to the memories that made me feel inadequate, insecure, and fearful.

Or in another place:

Each of us has a different story. Not everyone needs to leave her partner. We don’t want to abandon people who need help. Your answer might not be to get out — only you know what’s right in your situation. And my purpose isn’t to demonize people who are abusive. They’re wounded and hurting in their own way. But please hear this: until someone is healthy enough to treat you with civility, dignity, and respect, that person isn’t healthy enough to be in your life.

The part on healing during and after abuse is especially powerful. I strongly believe that one part of healing is coming to a place of forgiveness, and that is much much easier when you can begin to see the many ways good has come into your life through the abuse. Not that abuse is good, but that as you come through it, you grow. Christi Paul shows much of her process of thinking this through, and it’s helpful and healing and thought-provoking.

I loved the way she showed that living through the abuse helped her become a stronger person in many, many different ways. I feel the same way. I like the person I am after coming through the end of my marriage, and it resonated to see Christi Paul write the same thing.

This book is strongly rooted in the author’s Christian beliefs, as you can see in this paragraph:

Hear this loud and clear, my friends: you weren’t put here to be abused. God’s will isn’t for us to wake up each day mired in fear, self-doubt, and condemnation. He wants us to see ourselves the way he sees us — wounded but worthy. To view ourselves and each other with forgiveness and grace. To trust and believe in Him despite where we’ve been, what we’ve done, or what someone told us we are.

This book is a beautiful story of hope and God’s grace, and it gives the reader plenty to think about. I know I’ll be thinking about Christi Paul’s words for a long time to come.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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