Author Ruth Smith Meyer

Ruth Smith Meyer Inspirational writer, speaker

A Letter to Evan    by Roy Page with Sarah Horton

 A Letter to Evan: An Average Dad's Journey of Discovery and Discernment Through DivorceThe title and subtitle of this book attracted me because I thought it was a subject that needs to be addressed in this day and age. I could scarcely wait to begin. The introduction and the promised Letter to Evan inspired me even more.  However, the rest of the book in my opinion attempts to address too many side issues and never really get to the core of what I had been expecting.  Perhaps it would have been better for Mr. Page to write several books—a tribute to the life of his father, the strengths of and delight in his son, the difficulty of losing a business,  the agony of a breaking marriage, parenting as a divorced father.  The rabbit trails left me feeling fragmented and with a lot of questions that were never fully addressed.

  I admire the author for trying to be vulnerable and honest about a difficult subject and time in his life, but it felt as though he never did come quite clean.  It made me wonder too; about the experienced people who helped edit and critique his book.  Surely they must have realized that rearranging some of the material would have improved the flow and perhaps assisted the reader to make more sense of it.

 In no way do I wish to be negatively critical of the author— but I would like to encourage him to be more focused and honest about his feelings.  It is hard to be  vulnerable, but it will be more effective in what he was aiming at—to be beneficial to others going through the same thing.

Having said all that, I still would recommend the book if for nothing more than the letter to Evan.

 

 

 

 

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Escape  by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer

Escape lets us enter the world of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints where, at eighteen, Carolyn became the fourth wife of a fifty-year old man that she barely knew.  In the next fifteen years she gave birth to eight children—the last three at great danger to her own life.  As the leadership became more and more strict with more and more abuse toward women, she knew she had to escape with her family and was successful in doing that.  She also was the first women who left who gained custody of her children.  The hardship and demeaning acts she endured seem incredible—especially in our day and age and right in North America.

 

After having just read Why Not Women, I saw even more clearly what a slippery slope it is when men begin to believe they own women and that their wives must be subject to them without reading the rest of what Paul said regarding how they should treat their wives.

 

One cannot call this book an enjoyable read.  Much of it is distressing to the point it pains one to continue.  It is so extreme one wishes to believe that it could not be true.  However it is a heart-rending account of a life lived in the bondage of a controlling society and it is enlightening. 

 

Why Not Women?: A Fresh Look at Scripture on Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership     by Loren Cunningham, David Joel Hamilton

 

 

A refreshing and balanced look at the roles of women in the church and in church leadership and ministry. Cunningham and Hamilton bring light and understanding of the scriptures that have so often been misinterpreted to bring about the exact opposite.  It proclaims the freedom Jesus came to bring to all humans, including women. Time and time again as I read it, my heart was warmed and my spirit freed to accept what I had always known in the depth of my heart.  God can use me, work through me and call me to service for him in ways that I’ve been made to feel were not open to me. It’s a detailed study of women in scripture and exposes the reader to the background from which these were written—what a revolutionary idea Christ and even Paul was espousing in the world in which they lived.   I’d like to encourage every person in any church to read this—both men and women.  It could change the world!  

 

 

 

The 3-Minute Difference             by Wayne E. Nance

 

There is no doubt that the ideas and concepts in The 3-Minute Difference have changed many lives. When I heard about it, I was anxious to read it and see what it could do in my life and others for whom I care. Understanding how you and those with whom you live work and play are “hard-wired” can be of infinite value in learning to work together effectively avoiding conflict resulting from differing attitudes and modes of working at issues.

In reading, it didn’t take long for me to conclude that the title of the book was a misnomer! It definitely was going to take much more than three minutes just to wade through all the unnecessary material and endless examples to get to the core of useful information. Starting his book with what doesn’t work may be an acceptable method, but Mr. Nance is excessively verbose, restating the same theory many times over in slightly different form. This pattern repeats itself throughout the book. In this reader’s estimation The 3-Minute Difference would be much more effective with about 1/3 of the words.

I had to smile when I read page 41. There he informs us he is an I. He says, “I’s tend to be extravagant, have infectious optimism and take great pride in their accomplishments and don’t mind telling others about them.”

M’s (like me) are apt to tell him, "Wayne, your book better be helpful for all the people I care about. And it better make sense and be based on rock-solid facts. But don’t bore me with it, either. Keep it interesting. Use some humor. Tell some jokes, Keep me awake. ‘Cause if you don’t, I’ll set it aside.”

Maybe he tried too hard, for it seemed like too much. It took me longer to read this book than most, just because I became impatient with all his trying. I almost did set it aside. However I was also determined to finish what I had begun and am glad that I did. 

The T’s he talked about who  helped him critique the book, may have caught all the spelling mistakes, but they would have done him, and the reader, a huge favor by red penciling the unnecessary words and repeat ideas. 

So, do I recommend The 3-Minute Difference? Yes, I do. It indeed could make positive changes in your life.

I advise you though, to have a highlighter or pencil handy to underline the parts or pages you find helpful, and jot down the page numbers on the inside back cover so you can easily find those parts without wading through it all again. I reckon there may be 70 – 80 pages at the most that contain the information you want to remember. I hope those who could benefit from the ALTER plan will not miss it because of the difficulty in reading.

 

 

The Tender Heart of a Beast   by Michael Bull Roberts

Three years ago at a literary awards ceremony, I sat beside a large man covered with tattoos.  At first glance I was a little startled, but almost immediately I sensed in him a high level of discomfort and a longing for those close to him to look past the superficial to the inside.  As the evening wore on, I felt a kinship and compassion.  I still didn’t really know him, but already I wanted to get to know him better. 

Now I have read—The Tender Heart of a Beast by Michael Bull Roberts.  The picture on the front of the book may be startling to you too, but look at the eyes for a moment, then begin reading.  From the first page, I read more between the lines than what was in them. My heart cried for the little boy who wasn’t given a chance to feel love, acceptance and affirmation.  I wished I or someone could have rescued him when he was just a youngster. It doesn’t seem fair that any child should experience what young Michael did.  

 So often an abused child who is in such dire need of someone to believe in them, to be a safe place for them, instead seem to be a magnet that attract harsh and violent response from other sources--sources that should turn the tide of evil that has already been perpetuated.  Time after time, when young Michael senses that he needs to change his ways and honestly tries, he is knocked down by another tragic occurrence or a let-down that would discourage anyone.   

Mr. Roberts appears to deliberately stay away from dramatizing or even dwelling on the violence, the betrayal and the constant disappointments in his life.  He states it clearly but without much vivid description of the emotional toll it exacted.  That kind of abuse he suffered sets a child up for vulnerability to being taken advantage of by disreputable elements in society.  As usual, the life of sin and crime is much easier to get into than out of.  People who have had such slim opportunity in life, are easily sucked into the underworld of corruption. So it was with Michael. He becomes what he calls himself at that stage, “a big shot drug dealer and addict.”  Again, he doesn’t glorify that part or dwell on it in prolonged narrative. Enough is said, though, that when Michael is finally left broken, bruised and at the end of his own resources, the heart of the reader aches.  He is left without anyone to turn to except the Lord, and he does that.  One is left in awe and amazement at the transformation. No one but God could have accomplished that.  I was left in tears.

In Michael’s own words, “The moral of the story is it doesn’t matter how evil a man is or how much your life seems in shambles, the hand of God is so powerful and great and merciful that when you merely acknowledge his very existence your life begins to change and the healing starts.”  

Michael now spends his days painting, working with those in jails and with teenagers bringing hope and pointing the way to the risen Saviour. 

Read his book and be prepared to see beyond the obvious to the tender heart that dwells within the author.  Thank you Michael for telling your story. Next time we sit beside each other we'll talk more. 

 

Destiny's Hands                          by Violet Nesdoly

Violet Nesdoly has done it again for me.   I’ve never yet read a story based on incidents in the Bible without coming away with a better understanding of the human experience in those familiar tales. Destiny’s Hands is such a story.  I first heard the story of Moses’ confrontation with a burning bush and the subsequent journey of leading the children of Israel from captivity from my mother as she read to us at bed time.  In my child’s mind, I wondered about the fear of  change those far-away children would have known as they left their familiar world for wandering through the desert.  Ms. Nesdoly has brought those imaginings to life in a way that touches us in our modern day world. In the life of Bezalel, the young man with gift of working with gold, we see parallels in our own lives.    The uncertainty of changes we face, the struggle to know if our leaders are who they say they are, the conviction that slowly sinks into our hearts regarding the changes we need to make, the temptations that try to distract us from our true desires, the opposition from those threatened by our actions—although perhaps in different form, are all here with us in our present world.  As readers, we are challenged to seek for our own purpose in life and to stay true to our calling. 

A delightful and thought-provoking read parceled in a fascinating story!  

 

Confessions of a Farmer's Wife  by Caroline Way 

 

Caroline Way’s first novel is a riveting story that’s not easy to put down.  Her well-developed characters draw the reader in to live in the story.  For anyone who grew up in the 1930s and 40s, the story transports you back to those times.  Even if you were born long after that, the childhood of Job and Jessie and their friends are universal enough to find resonance in a modern mind.  The turmoil and angst of their teen years as they test out relationships and tenuously move toward finding life-partners Is graphic in its portrayal. 

Finally, the reader is treated to the culmination of Job and Jessie moving together.  Happily ever after seems inevitable. Then in swift progression tragedy strikes and strikes again.  Job-in-the-Bible becomes a haunting reality in their here and now. 

Were it not for a similar year in my own life, I would have felt Ms. Way laid it on too thick.   But it does happened that sometimes a family is asked to endure more than one would think possible.

I really like a few lines in the epilogue that sums up the story and my own feelings on the subject.

Jess says, “Grief cannot be removed, and in this world death cannot be undone…I conceded that the answers I sought so badly, I would probably never attain, and that maybe having them was not as important as I believed. It was how I chose to live without them that would matter more. I understood answers only matter in this life.  In the next, if it is as promised, they will not matter at all.”

I would add, what matters is that you grow by them rather than let them make you stumble and fall.

I loved the book and hope you will find one and add it to your repertoire

 

Winter Garden                                by Kristin Hannah

What a fascinating story!  The interaction between parents, Evan and Anya Whitson and grown daughters, Meredith and Nina and the different effect the family dynamics had on each of the daughters would make a good story in itself, but the way Ms. Hannah lets the story of their mother slowly emerge after the death of her husband, keeps one riveted to the story.  The character of each daughter is so well portrayed, their feelings and struggles so vividly depicted as they cope with the death of their father and the fragility of their mother.  The character of the mother, Anya, emerges more slowly, arousing concern and curiosity with growing tension until toward the end of the book.  The reader begins to feel resolution and understanding as their mother’s story is revealed during a trip to Alaska that Nina and Meredith have planned.  Then comes the big twist and the revelation that is the crowning moment.

A most mesmerizing and captivating story that will make it hard to leave until it’s final moment.

 

City of Tranquil Light           by Bo Caldwell

At the center of the novel City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell, are Will and Katherine, two Mennonite missionaries from the heartland of the United States who have come to China because they feel called by God to serve the poor and spread the Good News. But this is more than a missionary story; it is really the portrait of a marriage set against the backdrop of a radically shifting nation that is plunging into revolution.

 A novel based on her grandparents wasn’t Caldwell’s idea. “I’m embarrassed to say that before I had dismissed my grandparents’ lives as too dull and simplistic. But as I reread my grandfather’s memoir and began to ask my mom about my grandparents, I learned how wrong I’d been.”

As she began to see her grandparents as her mother had seen them, and to read the biographies and autobiographies of other American missionaries in China, Caldwell found similar stories.

“I saw a pattern emerge in the later lives of many of these men and women. Most eventually returned to the United States, usually to be near their children (now grown) and grandchildren, but also because of illness or frailty. I was moved by the contrast between their lives in China and their later lives in the U.S. After enduring decades of war, famine, illness, personal danger, and great hostility toward their work, these people settled safely in the suburbs where they walked in rose gardens and played with their grandchildren and lived out their days. I was struck by the sacrifice that must have been involved in leaving the people and work that had been at the center of their lives, even with the reward of the comforts of modern life. I also began to feel that missionaries often get a bad rap in fiction. While there were certainly those who exploited the people they had come to serve, there were also many who poured out their lives for strangers and for their faith. And I wanted to tell their story.”

 

That story is one of marriage, of leaving one home and finding another, and of faith. “When I began the novel, I tried to understand my grandfather’s faith and to present it accurately,” says Caldwell. “I tried to see the world through his eyes.” Then life intervened, including a battle to quit drinking followed shortly after with a diagnosis of breast cancer. Once Caldwell returned to writing two years later, she returned as a different person. The combination of sobriety and a serious illness had affected her faith deeply, and she was no longer writing about her grandparents’ faith. She was writing about her own.

City of Tranquil Light isn’t the easiest read, but if you pursue, it is a rewarding in the lessons one learns. 

 

The Grandfathers

To one whose teen-age life was changed by Betty Elliott’s books, Through Gates of Splendor Shadow of the Almighty, The Dayuma Story,and subsequent stories this film was inspiring and incredibly satisfying.  Although Nate Saint was not a personal acquaintance, my reading and re-reading of those books made them feel like family.  His son Steve’s book End of the Spear brought me up to date with the next generation and the continuing influence on the people for whom they died to bring the Good News. Now I feel privileged to be able to have a glimpse into the influence of Nate and his friends extended to another generation. 

The film is well worth watching for anyone, but for those who remember the first news of the death of those five young men, it will be of special interest.  I highly recommend it. 

 

Rescued                                                  by Donna Dawson

ISBN# 978-1-77069-129-2                     Word Alive Press

Rescued by Donna Dawson embodies a crucial social issue in the palatable form of a novel.    For both those who find it unacceptable that a woman should be forced to see an unwanted pregnancy to full term and for those whose hearts grieve over the large scale snuffing out of the lives of those who cannot fight for themselves, Ms. Dawson presents a possible alternative. 

The tension of teen-ager, Daphne Barrie’s life in danger because of pregnancy, Charlene McTaggarts desperate longing for a child and Dr. Jason Stedman opportunity to implement the embryo micro-manipulation he has discovered the consequential emotional upheaval, with all the strain and apprehension could have provided enough heartrending friction to make a good story.  Because Dawson’s specialty is crime mystery stories, the added dimension of a fanatic who brings added threat to the course of action makes the book fit well into her genre. 

It is to be hoped that the former will not detract from the main thrust of the book which, if investigated and implemented could possibly bless the world with many gifted people whose lives would otherwise never see the light of day. 

I would encourage anyone to read Rescued, but I hope many in the medical profession and especially those in obstetrics will read and consider the possibilities this book presents.

Through Tears to Triumph         by John Wallace Stephenson

ISBN # 0-87227-189-7  Regular Baptist Press

 In Through Tears to Triumph John Wallace Stephenson presents exactly what the subtitle says it will.  It makes clear to us God’s gracious help through grief and sorrow. By his honesty and clarity about  the reality of grief, he will educate many about what it is like to walk that valley.  Those who have also experienced the loss of loved ones, especially a spouse will find a resonance in his candid  and straightforward accounts of the ups and downs and the recurring waves of the grief journey 

Having walked that path myself, all through the book, I kept saying “Yes, yes!” as time after time he echoed my very thoughts and experiences.  Although his wife and daughter were gone in an instant with no warning and my husband and I had eight months to prepare, the waves of grief, the fog of unreality, the struggle to accept the total revolution of life caused by one’s partner of so many years is much the same.  I had the privilege of preparing for the letting go, but it still didn’t ease the adjustment to a totally different life of singleness.  It’s hard to understand how much of life that can change unless you’ve been through it.I liked, especially, the inclusion of suggestions how to help a friend through the grief journey.  So many of us want to help but don’t know what to say and do.  Stephenson gives good ideas and guidance in that area.  The study questions are excellent starters for personal reflection but would probably be especially effective in a group study—especially if the group included a few who have experienced loss in their lives. 

Please do find a copy for your personal reading and if possible introduce it as a group study.  Everyone at some time in their lives will face it for themselves and we all have friends from time to time who need our support at the time of their own grief.  Being prepared ahead of time can only be an advantage. 

Passport Through Darkness: A True Story of Danger and Second Chances              by Kimberly Smith 

 

In our world today, scarcely is there a newscast that does not contain one story of human tragedy and suffering. If you are a caring person, it becomes overwhelming to recognize the pain and injury that each of those bits of news thrusts on countless individuals.

Passport Through Darkness: A True Story of Danger and Second Chances by author Kimberly Smith is an account of what one family can do by giving up their successful, self-centered lives and allowing God to use them to begin an international effort to save thousands from modern-day slavery, persecution, disease and genocide.

That transformation also led the author deep into the darkness of her own heart—a long journey through the broken places in her life, the fears that collided with her faith and the risks to her own marriage relationship before finding the liberty and freedom that honesty and openness brings. 

This book tells of the difference that can be made for orphans in Eastern Europe and Africa though they worked again and again in impossible situations.  The reader will face along with the writer, living through the heart-ache of seeing people die because a lack of the proper equipment or medication to help;   the power of tradition almost causing the loss, for the second time, a little baby rescued from certain death; the abysmal lack of respect for women and children in the ongoing conflict between tribes and the cruel use of rape as a weapon of warfare.

It left me with the stark question:  If one couple could make that much difference, what would happen if even half of the followers of Christ would lay there life on the line as did the Smiths?   

Kimberly Smith is the president and cofounder (along with here husband Milton) of Make Way Partners, a mission organization committed to ending human trafficking.  She is currently leading Make Your Way Partners to build the only private and indigo enously based anti-trafficking network in Africa and Eastern Europe. 

I would heartily recommend this book. 

 

A Million Ways to Die: the only way to live by Rick James

A Million Ways to Die: The Only Way to Live  -              By: Rick James      When I saw the title of this book, I could hardly wait to get my hands on the book.  It seemed to put into plain words a concept that has been growing on me since I was a teen.  That makes it quite a few years.  Rick James examines the idea that when “Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him, He is describing a path of death, not a path to death.”  The trials along the way, the submitting our will to God’s will are little deaths that enable us to experience resurrections from each of those circumstances—life with a capital L.

            I read with a pencil in hand to underline the portions to which I wanted to refer to again.  Chapter after chapter shows the reader that being willing to die these deaths along the way leads to a string of resurrections that can make living a greater life and deeper intimacy with God.  It will energize and truly release us to let Christ live through us. 

Unfortunately at times in the book, his ideas became encumbered with words that even this reader of dictionaries found unwieldy and distracting.  It would be too bad if this tendency would keep readers from getting the important message Mr. James has to share.  I would highly recommend it for personal reading or for discussing in a Sunday school class, bible study or book club. 

 

You COULD Life a Long Time: Are You Ready                           by Lindsay Green

 

 This week I was handed You COULD Live a Long Time: Are You Ready by Lyndsay Green, a Canadian writer.  I wasn't very far into the book when I knew it was going to make a change in my life.  In fact, Aunt Jean's proactive ways and enthusiasm for life had me hooked in the introduction and kept me in her grasp right through to the end!

I haven't been afraid of aging--in fact I've been too busy to think about it very much.  Oh, I know I can't get as much accomplished in a day as I used to, but I think I have adjusted to what is and just go on with life.  However, this book brought me fresh enthusiasm for planning ahead, whether I live to carry out those plans or not.  Having planned gives one a sense of accomplishment and peace.

About the book--Peter Mansbridge says in his endorsement, "We're not just living longer, but we're dying longer and that fact is the basis for Lyndsay Green's important new book.  If you're betting you are going to be part of the live-longer and live-better crowd, and let's be frank, we all want to be, then whether you're twenty, sixty or anywhere in between you better read this.  It's full of advice, really good advice, that you'll be grateful you took when you hit those golden plus years."

Reading You COULD Live a Long Time made me aware of several areas that I still hadn't faced becasue of niggling fears.   However, Ms Green didn't just raise my awareness, she gave ideas for positive attitudes that can make all the difference. 

Ms. Green begins with a list of myths about aging.  The one that stood out to me was "I will die a 'good death' which means living a long life in which I am vigorously firing on all cylinders,  and then suddenly flame out, preferabley in my sleep "  (I think I'm more prepared to die that to live with the effects of a stroke or blindness, for instance.) Perhaps other myths will ring true to you.

The author worked with 40 elders from across Canada in her research for the book.  The chapter headings show how comprehensive her observations and applications are. 

Our Emotional Circle--The most valuable part of your Retirement Savings Plan is your emotional circle, and it can't be bought.                                                      Self--It may be too late to change, but now is the time to become who you are.   Civic Engagement--By giving to others you receive.                                            Work--To retire successfully, forget about retiring.                                         Home--To keep a home, consider leavbing your house.  Body--If you're lucky enough to lilve a long life, you won't be healthy.  Brain--To continue to act smart, you need to accept you are not as swift.  Finances--Money matters, but it can't buy everything you need in Elderland.  Legacy--As you near the end, it's important to record the beginning.  The Future and Embracing Old Age.  

If you haven't read this book yet, go get yourself a copy--expecially if you are--hmmmm--let's say 40 or older.  It's never too early to prepare!

There's quite a wave of people on the verge of the elder years, and far fewer in the group right behind us.  We would be wise to make plans for ouorselves and prepare not only our homes and finances, but our emotions and attitudes, so we can indeed live well in our dying years. 

Good books help--and this is one!

That's Where God Is         by Dan and Ali Morrow 

The life of a pre--school child is one filled with wonder and a thousand questions!  Sometimes those quesetions turn toward spiritual ideas, and it can be a real challenge to supply sarisying answers to their many questions. 

This delightful book begins with a little boy asking his Grandpa "Where is God?"  It then takes the reader through the days of a week, finding God in the everyday life and places a little boy goes.  Each day is also accompanied with a scripture verse that speaks to the discovery of the day. 

The interaction with people, especially his grandpa provides and inviting way to share the truth of God's Word and the constant presence of Christ.  This story will also open the doors for meaningful discussions and teaching opportunities between children and parents, Sunday School teachers or other ministries with children.  Another book in the series is on its way and should be a valuable addition to the first one. 

God Knows My Name          by Beth Redman

This book came in the mail and I could hardly wait to start reading.

The promotion had told me hat "In a society that defines worth by material possessions, professional success, and physical beauty, it is often difficult to feel worthy of god's love and forgiveness.  Sometimes, those who are closest to us, even parents and siblings, can deeply damage our hearts by rejecting the person God has created us to be in Him."

The second paragraph really drew me in.  "Redman readily recognizes that no matter how good and whole we are, there are days when we all feel misunderstood, blamed, forgotten and rejected...God bestows great worth and significance upon His children, and "In this powerfull and deeply vulnerable book, (italics mine) Beth Redman writes to pass along a message that changed her lilfe--that God who made us also understands us intimately and proclaims our worth by naming us and calling our name."

Several times in th  first pages, the author asserts that she wants to share her story to help others.  While as J. John says in his forward that it isn't profitable to "wallow in misery and pain she has known" or to "keep sawing sawdust." a page and half to briefly tell the "story" hardly makes herself vunerable and isn't enough to allow the reader to make a connection with her pain.  To a hurting heart, to mention the wound so briefly then move quickly to the "solution," gives the impression there is immediate and lasting relief--a done deal and leaves the reader cold and disengaged.

I was four or five chapters into the book before I realized I was missing powerful teaching because I was still waiting for the connection to happen.  Much of that golden instruction would have far more impact if Ms. Redman could have linked it to her own struggle to overcome the rejection--if she could have told us how these scriptures helped her through her own battles--if she could have let  herself be more vulnerable, exposing her own feelings in the struggle. Without that, the very depth of he teaching comes across as pat answers and immediate calming of the storms of emotion.  Being honest about the struggle part would make it more honest and real.  Even sticking to "we" in her insights instead of so readily slipping into "you" language would be helpful.  The little bit more of her personal experience with her father that comes out in the last pages of the book would have been better shared at the beginning or at least throughout her chapters. 

The wealth of scripture references and encouragement to look to Jesus are well worth the reading, though.  If the reader begins to read it as a book of instruction it will be more helpful than expecting to hear Mx. Redman's personal struggle and ultimate growth. 

I had to read it a second time to get the full benefit.

Used as a group study, the leader could overcome many of the deterrents.  God Knows My Name could be really helpful to women who have experienced rejedtion from family members and even to those who, for other reasons, suffer from low self-esteem.

Beyond the Brady Bunch     by Ray and Debbie Alsdorf 

 

The only personal experience I have encountered with blended families has been with adult children.  Our children and their own families were entirely supportive when my husband and I, after the deaths of our own spouses, married five years ago and they get along well.  Of course, they don't need to live with each other on a daily basis!

In today's society, this book is a welcome help in negotiating a way of living when two families are thrust together by the death of a spouse, or marriage break-up and remarriage.  Beyond the Brady Bunch offers practical information to others  who are trying to figure out how to keep their spirituality and sanity within this ever-growing family dynamic. 

These blended families can be the results of a variety of different dimensions which can include not only divorce, but death of a spouse, adoption or the need to raise someone else's children. Ray and Debbie have negotiated this path and know both the hardships and joys of persevering. 

They point out the need to look to God for strength and step-by-step direction.  They also give a lot of practical hints and suggestions for sensitive areas and inevitable differences.  Anyone facing these circumstances will find understanding and will come away encouraged and with idea they can put to work in their own situations.

the sections at the end of each chapter entitled Let's Take a Closer Look with the subtitles of The Problem, The Path, The Promise and The Plan put each chapter's teaching in a nutshell.  Bringing it Home could be an easy way to post the main points on a bulletin board or stick in your Bible for referral as you attempt to put the wisdom to work in your own situation.

Church librarians also would do well to make Beyond the Brady Bunch available to their readers.

 

From Shattered Dreams          by Dorothy R. Ruhwald  

 

Mental illness, although more understood in our age, still strikes discomfort and fear in many of us.  Alzheimer’s for the same reason is dreaded.  That reason is the idea of losing control over our own mind and sense of reality. 

Dorothy Ruhwald takes us on a vivid journey through her postpartum psychosis.  Her own memories, interspersed with notes from the nursing staff in the facility where she stayed for several months tells the story from two sides.  At the end, her husband, Kurt, briefly tells the agony of how it looked from his side. 

The progression of the multi-faceted emotions experienced—the fear of the institution and different individuals there, the perceptions of ordinary and spiritual life skewed by the psychosis, the longing to return home and the developing feeling of security in the institution, relationship with other patients and the trepidation about returning to her former life brings fuller understanding to the reader.  Those who have walked the same journey, those who have watched a family member suffer from mental illness and those of us who haven’t been personally touched by it will all benefit from the deeper insight gained by reading this book.

The fact that Dorothy was able to recover and go on with her life, have courage to bear more children and turn her encounter with mental illness into helping others should give hope to others experiencing the same. From Shattered Dreams should also ease the fears of mental illness and inspire us to be supportive of those enduring such times. To this person who values the release and healing that comes from talking about our struggles, I was keenly impressed at how often Dorothy was denied that opportunity because others subconsciously declined her the privilege of sharing simply because they would rather have thought her completely healed rather than still struggling to make sense of it all.  Most often this opinion wasn’t verbalized but the feeling was so intense it was plain to Dorothy.  Those whose loved ones have died, sense that same reluctance to talk about it a short period after death has occurred.

From Shattered Dreams should be found in every church library.  I would highly recommend it to everyone.

Glaen                                  by Fred R. Lybrand

 

In Glaen, Fred Lybrand has chosen a unique way to present his knowledge of human relationships and romance by bringing it to life in a story. Right at the beginning, just as she begins college, Annie Hughes suffers the disruption of a foundational relationship when her parents announce their intention to divorce.

Annie’s life is set upon a path of both self-discovery and the exploration of what makes romantic relationships fail or succeed.  She begins a class on Original Non-fiction with the intention to help others but quickly learns that she must first develop a teachable spirit, and her own faith proves to be the pivotal starting point for her journey.   

In her journal Annie notes popular lies about romantic relationships and counters these with the truths she discovers. Annie’s discoveries are both simple and profound.  She finds that truth itself proves to be the foundation upon which all relationships hinge.  She ascertains that truth can only operate effectively within a relationship when people relate to one another without pretense and unrealistic expectations, and relationships thrive when each partner accepts the other as they are, rather trying to make them over to what they wish they would be.

The end seemed somewhat abrupt. I believe it could have been more satisfying if Annie’s own relationship with its learning could have been documented more fully.  Many times throughout the book I wished the pages would have been more efficiently used by utilizing the space with a fuller story line.  The extra details about other parts of her life and emotions would also have eased the sense that the prime purpose for the book was to advance the teaching—although the teaching has excellent advice for those entering the age for decisions about life partners as well as for those already in a relationship.  Having presented Marriage Encounter Weekends for many years, I recognized many of the same principles in slightly different language.

I recommend this book as a good read for anyone, but especially as a great teaching tool for Sunday School teachers, Youth Group leaders, and parents to use with young people.  Lybrand offers a study guide and other resources for teachers and small group leaders of the powerful principles found in Glaen at www.glaen.com

You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes       by Lisa McKay

 

You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes by Lisa McKay, Pastor's WifeYou Can Still Wear Cute Shoes by Lisa McKay should be required reading for any partner of a minister!  I’d even go further and say in fact that everyone should read it.  The best part of this “assignment” is that you will have a whale of a time reading it! 

For a minister or minister’s wife, it will serve as a guide book, reassurance and most of all will impart a sense of humour when the going gets rough. 

For lay people this book will give an understanding of the pressures felt by the wife and family of a minister and hopefully give them a way of supporting rather than discouraging those important people in the church. 

I grew up in such a family and although I didn’t chafe under the expectations for the most part, just reading this book made me realize that  in many ways, I am still living with those expectations—maybe mostly my ingrained notion that I need to be a little more “perfect” or  principled than the average church member.  Now that might be a goal for which to strive, but it can be discouraging when you face inevitable failure to live up to that expectation.  Being very human, I am all too often in the latter category! Reading You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes figuratively sent me shoe shopping with a clear conscience!

Lisa McKay’s approach of being entirely human, sorting out the necessities of pastoral life, giving permission to say no and still encouraging a godly life are refreshing, freeing  and enabling. Pick up a copy and see for yourself!

 

US!    by Daniel L. Tocchini

 

 

US!, a new book by Daniel Tocchini, isn’t about improving marriages. It’s about transforming them. Drawing on personal experience and stories from couples he has coached, Tocchini offers practical guidance to move couples beyond communication tricks and gimmicks to help them truly understand "Us" for the first time—talking honestly, listening generously, tackling tricky issues, breaking out of ruts, and abandoning self-centered “consumer thinking.” The good news, according to Tocchini, is that personalities don’t need to change in order for marriage to work. What needs to change is how we view ourselves, our spouses, and our marriages.

I found this book to be a refreshing change from many because of the decided male perspective.  Although women will find much to help make the most of their marriage bond, I somehow think it may be an book to which men can more easily relate and make a connection with what makes a relationship work. Having worked with Marriage Encounter for many years. I applauded the emphasis on first understanding yourself, then learning to listen generously--or as we say in Marriage Encounter, listening with the heart.  

Couples will find a new richness in their marriage if they read Mr. Tocchini's book and find out the it indeed "is not about you, it's not about me, it's about US!  In turn, they will experience being more fulfilled personally as a bonus.  For they will find a transformation as they learn to: 

·       Expect less—and infinitely more—of their life partner and themselves

·       Actually talk to each other instead of making assumptions (and     accusations)

·       Break free of those recurring, unresolved arguments

·       Manage the impact of difficult (but necessary) conversations on their relationship

·       Defuse conflict without sweeping it under a rug

·       Open the broken places in their marriage (the ones they hesitate even to talk about) to God’s kind of reconciliation 

 I highly recommend this book.

 

The Little Ones by M.D.Meyer

 

What a journey The Little Ones took me on!  I've had my author-signed copy since June but when I started in a few days ago, I could hardly leave it alone.  Heart-rending but an oh so honest look at the effects, the wide-ranging and long-lasting effects abuse can have on children and their subsequent relationships and feelings of self-worth.

Dorene Meyer doesn't spare us the agony of memories or the devastating flood of emotions that can wash away precious gain when confronted with like circumstances.  I was especially glad that she pointed out the different reactions to abuse as exemplified especially in Verena and Emmeline.  Yet one was just as vulnerable and wounded as the other.  

This story can bring understanding to people who are dealing with those who need support and healing to those who have experienced the pain of abuse.  Foster parents dealing with children of abuse would do well to read this and learn. Doreen Meyer takes it one step further and points out in a dramatic way how Jesus can help both victim and abuser find new life, release and forgiveness.  What a powerful story!  

 

Shame   by Greg Garrett  

   

What a delight to read a love story from a man’s viewpoint!  But it’s more than a love story!  Garret weaves a wonderful tale as he takes the reader into John Tilden’s present life then feeds us little bits of his past that helps us understand his current struggles. 

Sometimes and places in the book, it felt to me as though it was a play-by-play manual of basketball or football, but then, fans of the games may think those the best parts of the book!  I thought there could have been a little less of that aspect.  It seemed to stray from the story line and interrupt the flow.

I wondered most of the way through the book, from where the title “Shame” stemmed.  But there it was—shame in the racism that was such an accepted part of the community,  shame at some unwritten rules that devalued others and perhaps the greatest shame of all, hanging on to the past so tightly that the blessings of the present are missed until they almost slip out of our fingers.

The honesty of feelings and struggles must arise from personal experience, for it rings true throughout its pages.  The read was enjoyable enough that I will look up more titles by Greg Garrett.

...

God Never Failed Me, But He's Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times by Stan Toler

 

 What a refreshing read!  This book holds down-to-earth teaching with heart-warming and humorous vignettes that drive the lesson to its mark-right to the garage of our own hearts and lives. There those lessons will remain at the ready to transport us through the next difficulty or faith-challenging episode that crosses our path.  

My husband and I enjoyed reading a chapter each day after our breakfast. Those chapters gave us life-sustaining nutrients to face our days with a smile and trust in God.  

We're anxious to get on with Stan's other book The Buzzards are Circling, But God's Not Finished With Me Yet.  Don't  you think that even the titles are enough to make you want to get reading! 

Talking to the Dead   by Bonnie Grove

 

 Bonnie Grove has a unique way of dealing with dark and troubling issues by throwing in her inimitable humour—you know, the “little bit of sugar…” that transforms the book into a good read and keeps it from getting too heavy.

 The first pages of Talking to the Dead grab the attention of any readers, but especially those who have experienced the sudden death of a spouse. The sense of unreality, the scattered bits of detail intruding into the consciousness—even feeling the presence and hearing the voice of the departed are realistically depicted.  The loss of memory is familiar too. Although Kate’s mind has more pain to hide than most, I liked the way Grove accurately portrayed the phenomena of the mind allowing only as much as a grieving person can handle after a traumatic experience. Grove has also truthfully and candidly included the risk involved in finding help when people are at their most vulnerable. Kate’s story brings into focus that just listening and being with the sorrowing would be much more helpful than jumping in to “fix’ a person’s grief which often brings more devastation—certainly the case in Talking to the Dead

 Although the story grabs your attention from the start, as it progresses, the reader’s captivation increases.  With each incredible turn—misunderstanding, mistreatment, manipulation, abuse, finally the revelation of the contributing factors in Kate’s grief journey and eventual release to live again, time ceases to exist until the last page is turned.

 I would recommend Talking to the Dead!

 

 

Mohammed's Moon by Keith Clemons

I know I can always depend on not only a good read but education about a current issue when I read one of Keith Clemons’ books. I like getting my education that way, because it comes in the context of how it effects real live people. Keith’s latest book continues the tradition in a most satisfying way. 

The story begins on the banks of the Nile, but we soon find there is much  more to the story.  Two brothers separated at birth grow up worlds apart. Outwardly, they’re exactly alike, but inwardly one is a devotee of fundamentalist Islam; the other a Christian. In this modern-day story, the lines are drawn not just over whose God is right, but also over the fact that they’re both in love with the same girl. Mohammed loved her as a young girl, but has lost contact with her.  Michael meets her as an American and falls in love with the mature woman.

But Mohammed’s Moon is about much more than a tangled romance.  In his award-winning style, author Keith Clemons delivers a profound comparison between Christianity and Islam. Mohamed’s Moon will plunge you into a world where hatred and heinous acts are justified. But in the end we see if hatred is potent, it pales in comparison to the power of God’s love.

 I like the way Keith Clemons picks up the challenge of wrestling with current issues and turns them into intriguing and gripping novels which also inform and challenge the reader to greater understanding. His stories always show intense research that makes the tale ring true.

Clemons brings to light the mind-set of militant Islam in a way that enlightens the North American mind, while at the same time shining a light on the extravagance and misplaced values of our society.  Mohamed’s Moon can help any open-minded person to a better understanding of both the sincerity and zeal that causes Muslims to give their all and what it means to follow Christ and his teachings.

 If you read this book, you’ll probably want to find his others, if you haven’t read them yet. Look for Angel in the Alley, These Little Ones, Above the Stars and If I Should Die.

Find them at bookstores across Canada and the States or at  Strang Book Group, ChristianBooks.com  or Amazon

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