Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Alphabet of Grief by Andrea Raynor

This 144-page book consists of 26 chapters, each starting with a letter of the alphabet, addressing topics designed to help one move forward in the grieving process. I found it to be full of suggestions and insights ranging from the practical to the profound. The author is a long-time chaplain, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and a United Methodist minister. Knowing that she served as chaplain to the morgue at Ground Zero after September 11 will tell you that her experience in confronting death and providing comfort has been deep and wide. Her writing reflects her skill. Each brief chapter is followed by a meditation and an affirmation, all of which will provide comfort and encouragement to anyone who is grieving. An example of how Raynor “gets it” is the chapter entitled “Everyone Else,” in which she tells of her father, riding in a car on the way to bury his mother: “Beyond the window was a world he did not know, one populated by a people called everyone else.” That captures how isolating a shocking death is. Some chapters are unusual, such as “Violence”, in which Raynor says, “When [death] is sudden and violent, it can tear us to pieces. The horror we feel, combined with the loss itself, can send us into a pit of despair from which it feels there is no returning.” I would recommend this book to everyone. If you are not grieving, this will give you helpful thoughts to tuck away until you or someone you love needs them. If you are grieving, you will find much to help you. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Gift of Heaven - Charles F. Stanley

While this book is just over 150 pages, the text itself probably comprises fewer than 40 pages, due to the fact that almost every page has a nature photo against which text is superimposed, and half of the pages consist of a short quote, usually taken from the text on the opposite page. This is the second Stanley book I’ve read with this much photography, which I found detracts from rather than enhances the writing. The text itself consists of basic biblical teaching about heaven--what it is, who will be there and how to get there. It covers the bases adequately but is by no means a scholarly work. One might consider this an introductory look at the topic. It would be a nice gift for someone if one wanted to open a conversation about heaven; it does not aim to answer deep questions. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn This revised and updated edition of the 2000 classic was well worth the reread. An important chapter--“Was Jesus Really Talking About Financial Giving”--has been added. Alcorn’s writing is clear, concise and persuasive. He builds on what he calls Treasure Principle Keys: “God owns everything. I’m his money manager; My heart always goes where I put God’s money; Heaven and the future New Earth, not this fallen one, is my home; I should live not for the dot but for the line; Giving is the only antidote to materialism; and God prospers me not to raise my standard of living but to raise my standard of giving.” Alcorn’s writing supports these principles nicely with Scripture. I found nothing to argue with, and much to be persuaded by, in this small book. Because its teachings are so diametrically opposed to the prevailing culture, it may take several readings for everything Alcorn mentions to truly sink in. I recommend this book highly to all, as it clearly teaches what the Bible says about money, a subject Jesus mentioned more often than He mentioned heaven and hell combined. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

At long last, someone has written a book about a truth I realized many years ago: one cannot be more spiritually mature than one is emotionally mature because our emotionally stuck places become our spiritually stuck places. Scazzero does a fine job describing the process by which we get stuck, and while he proposes processes to help us become unstuck, some of his proposals were too general. For example, the author outlined the effects of his childhood, which led him to overfunction, overperform, have cultural expectations for marriage and family, resolve conflict poorly, and not let himself feel. But in the crucial chapter about enlarging your soul through grief and loss, Scazzero often talked about what not to do but not what to do, saying that grief is often dealt with by being practical, freezing in time, becoming addicted, and denying and minimizing wounds. He advocated “dropping our defensive shields” and turning toward pain, with common defenses by paying attention, waiting in the confusing in-between, embracing the gift of limits and “climbing the ladder of honesty”, all of which strike me as being more cerebral than emotional. The author encouraged a couple of habits to help the reader become more aware of God’s presence, including keeping “the daily office” and the Sabbath. New skills proposed to overcome emotional immaturity include embracing conflict, speaking and listening well, and clarifying expectations. While I think this book provides a good start toward emotional maturity, I would not recommend it wholeheartedly because it was lacking, both in methods to work with oneself--by learning to recognize and admit truth--and others. It is vital to associate with emotionally mature adults in order to become one, and this was not emphasized. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.