BOOK REVIEW: Help for the Fractured Soul, by Candyce Roberts

Thinking I was about to read a typical book on emotional healing, I picked up Help for the Fractured Soul: Experiencing Healing and Deliverance from Deep Trauma, by Candyce Roberts.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The book is a gutsy advocate for therapeutic intervention of those who have experienced trauma at the hands of others – often thru ritual and repeated abuse.  It speaks to those dealing with multiple personalities, and related disorders caused by such abuse.  This book is not for the faint of heart, although I thought the author’s portrayal of such true scenarios was gracious and tender.  A simple approach of prayer, coupled with quiet compassion and the expression of trust, are key elements of this author’s healing process. I ended the book in respect for the humility and love this author has shown to some really tough patients/clients.  I would highly recommend it to any pastor seeking knowledge and hope in this area of ministry to a small but tortured (and often hidden) set of members of any congregation.

This review was in return for my receipt of an advance copy of this book from Chosen, a division of Baker Publishing Group, thru Bethany House Publishers. My thoughts are my own.

 

Resources:

Candyce Roberts

BOOK REVIEW: Short-Straw Bride, by Karen Witemeyer

An enjoyable addition to the Christian chick-lit category, Short-Straw Bride, by Karen Witemeyer, brings a gentle romance into life.  Meredith Hayes finds herself in a marriage to save her propriety, in a houseful of angry Archer men.  Despite an earlier encounter with her trumped-up husband Travis, for whom she has had childhood fancies, she discovers that a new marriage, especially under duress, will put her faith to the test.  Travis is honorable, yet fiercely protective of his property – will he allow her to truly be his helpmeet?

Karen Witemeyer has written her fourth novel, and I enjoyed every page of it.  Sure, the typical farm setting was in place, and the drama of a trumped-up marriage to put doubt and sizzle into everyday encounters, but yet Karen infuses it with humor, strength and drama.  The characters are all believable, likeable, and some are memorable.  The plot is simple yet drew me in, and the Biblical references seemed appropriate, not pat.

I enjoyed this book, and would read more by this author.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers, for the receipt of my copy of this book, which is my only remittance for my candid review.

Resources:

Karen Witemeyer

video for book trailer

freedmen’s schoolhouse (an interesting detail of the story…I wondered how accurate)

BOOK REVIEW: Unstuck: Your Life. God’s design. Real Change, by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross

Written for the Christian whose faith seems stagnant, Unstuck, by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross attempts to reach a very select audience.  Citing extensive research, a three-step plan for breaking out of a faith rut is written by two men who are part of the Back To the Bible ministry.  Further, the endorsement of Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, is featured prominently on the cover and first pages of this book.

But even with all that, the book felt flat.  While I agreed in principle that the Bible, and engaging in study of it, is a vital means for revitalization of life, faith and relationships, this book did not inspire me in the execution of it.  Part one focused on the deadness: burnout, busyness, and the research behind suggesting the Bible was meant to combat these struggles.  I didn’t need a book to explain the research, in fact, if I had picked this up at a bookstore, it would have been because I wanted to get unstuck.  So Part two    described the process of the “Power of Four:” time with God, refreshed thru the Bible, recharged by it, and having a 2-way connection with Him.  Part three applied this process to personal experience.

The book extensively relies on, quotes from, and refers to research.  Just from my daily glance at Google news, I have become very skeptical of ‘research’ and while this may be the most researched method on the planet – it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know before I picked up the book.  While I think the authors meant to simply establish their credibility, it made the book feel like required textbook reading, rather than an encouraging walk with a friend.  After reviewing so many of this genre of books, I am partial to those who do have a plan (this one is 45 days), but am cynical about research.  I am further cynical when chapter one is titled “Confessions of a Spiritual Loser,” as that just doesnt smack of the charisma needed to get me ‘unstuck’ from my current hang-up.  While I don’t want Tammy Fay Baker to smile at me from each page, simple honesty goes far with me.  The author’s story of his return to faith was moving, yet his continual use of this title suggested a lack of insight to me.  Leaving the faith, or lonely in the faith, is not a loser – it is a lost and hurting person out of touch with his Saviour.  And no research will help.  The 45 day plan might, but I found the Scripture suggested and questions to be unconnected at best, and left me with more questions when finished.  This would be very frustrating if read alone.  In a group, it might work.  (Where’s the research on that?)

On the flip side, the web site (gotandem.com)suggested in each chapter as a resource for further follow up, seemed well-done, engaging, and clear: daily Scripture delivered at your specified times, for the purpose of continual growth.  The authors did not cite the research involved in the creation of the web-site’s name, a story I would be curious to hear.  I would simply skip the entire book, and go to the site: the author’s stated purpose would be fulfilled (you would be getting into a lot of Scripture, in timely doses), and not have to wade thru pages of research and ineffective counsel on the very deep woes that bog down believers.

From personal experience, in the addictions, hangups and sins that enslave, being told to ‘read more Scripture’ or ‘go to church more’ simply angers – because it shows a lack of understanding of the enslavement.  A slave is not free to simply do those easy things: it is foreign, untrusted and means nothing.  Only when the enslaved reaches bottom, cries out to the Saviour, and has counsel and accountability is change possible.  No amount of reading or attending works when internally, the message can’t change, and the reader cant ‘hear’ what is being said.  That’s where this book misses the mark: it is written without concern for the audience.  Stuck people don’t want research, they want help.  Coating the help in statistics makes it that much more ineffective.  This would be the equivalent of a researcher extolling the numbers of hungry, the value of a sandwich to a homeless man on the street: just give him a sandwich for crying out loud, and keep your research!  Give him a hug, a shower, a smile – anything but this tome of boring (if well-meaning)facts.

In comparison, it is no surprise to me that The Purpose-Driven Life is a bestseller.  Read it instead, and the resources there are far more apt.

This review is in return for the copy of the book Bethany House provided me.  My opinions are my own.  No surprise there!

Resources:

Arnie Cole

Michael Ross

Back to the Bible

BOOK REVIEW: The Exceptional Life, by Stephen Arterburn

In sync with my glowing review of Stephen Arterbur’s previous work, Healing is a Choice, his current book  The Exceptional Life felt like a natural extension of the message: change is possible for anyone.

I was anticipating a continuation of healing principles thoroughly explained, and was not disappointed.  Stephen asks “Want to upgrade to the Exceptional Life?” and it would be a moldy person who did not answer in the affirmative.  In each of his 8 chapters, he gives practical help for recovery from guilt, shame, resentment, fear, anger, instant gratification, learned helplessness, isolation, and addiction, in order to gain the exceptional life, of God’s design.

Stephen doesn’t candy-coat our issues, nor the work needed to regain God’s best for us.  In each chapter, stories are woven to bring into focus each trait – of need for change, and the steps that will accomplish it.  In stark contrast to the superficial life advertised everywhere we look, Arterburn’s book will delve into the pain of alcoholism, overeating, adultery, and less-notable traits like shame and anger.  Few Christian authors dare to say clearly that there is more work to living the life of Christ after reading and praying, but Arterburn is one, and I thank him for his continual stand for growth and change.  Still fewer will stud their theories with personal stories and humility, but Stephen is also of this camp.

If you are looking for change, but do not want the hubris of an Oprah book, I encourage this read – it will become a journey into life!

This review was written for Bethany House Publishers, in return for my advance copy.  You are welcome to join also!

Resources:

Stephen Arterburn’s online radio presence : New Life Live Show

Christianbook.com’s listing of his written works

Amazon’s page: Stephen Arterburn

BOOK REVIEW: Healing is a Choice, by Stephen Arterburn

Despite my misgivings of the title, Healing is a Choice  is not a quick-fix manual, in the style of certain tele-evangelists.  Stephen Arterburn writes his most current tome in a conversational manner, workbook style.  I was pleased to find a wealth of thoughtful material, presented for normal, hurting Christians, about topics that the mainstream Christian church typically shies away from.

Presented in a 10-chapter format, where healing choices contrast with the lies that have been sold to us, Mr. Arterburn does not avoid the painful elements of life when discussing either his own story or those of others he has counseled on his daily radio show.  The version I reviewed contained workbook pages with each chapter – an essential part of this book.  Not for gift-giving, (unless you are a counselor), but personal growth in subjects like “The Choice to Feel Your Life,” in chapter 2, contrasted with the lie that “Real Christians should have a real peace in all circumstances.”  This hit home: while going through my own painful journey, I heard this lie – usually from smiling people without the depth of a healing process.  In contrast, the knowledge that my emotional pain was valid became liberating, and brought me (slowly) to peace and forgiveness.  With every chapter, I sensed a need for deeper study, which is why this review has taken so long (I am still not finished, but I hope you get the gist: excellent stuff here!).

In Mr. Arterburn’s words: “Your healing may be physical or it may be emotional and it could be spiritual.  I don’t know what God has for you. I am confident, however, that if you make the healing choices presented here and counter the lies you need to stop living, you will experience some level of healing to a new degree.” (intro,p.15)  In every page, every chapter and especially in the workbook pages, you are encouraged to make this a spiritual healing, by interacting with our grace-filled Saviour.

My hope is that this book is the fuel for your joyful living!

I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review, as part of the Booksneeze review blogger group.  You can join also!  Just click on the button at your right.

Resources:

Stephen Arterburn’s online radio presence : New Life Live Show

Christianbook.com’s listing of his written works

Amazon’s page: Stephen Arterburn

BOOK REVIEW: Pattern of Wounds, by J. Mark Bertrand

In his second novel about the homicide detective Roland March, author Mark Bertrand brings the oxymoronic Christian murder-mystery to life in Pattern of Wounds.  Rushing through the Christmas season in a noose-tightening suspense and breakneck pace, the detective hardly pauses for sleep.  The gentle process of his spiritual questioning fits the few moments allotted for reflection.  Bertrand winds the story through gritty patches of current crime scene investigations, a deepening trail that looks suspicious for serial murder, and his past experiences with an unsolved family crime.

There was no putting this book down: it had all the raw detail of a CSI episode, while improving plot variations and character development, and minimizing repetitive visual trauma.  The crime remained reprehensible, but no nightmares resulted.  I found Bertrand’s alliterations clever: (describing a walk in downtown Houston), “…passing one, two, three abstract sculptures nestled in among the corporate logo, I feel like an ant in a redwood forest, awed by the imbalance of scale.”  His character sketches bring into piercing detail their subjects and solidify his detective’s evaluating eye:  “…a familiar looking stranger with a Fu Manchu mustache and a nickel-plated barbecue gun on his hip,” or my favorite: “Tammy stands there in a glittering red short-sleeved jacket, a cheap sequined wrapper for the squarish lump of her body.  She holds her hands toward me, her knuckles concealed behind a row of mismatched cocktail rings.”  I can just see her shopping at Ross.  And fitting in the word “zydeco“?  Pure vocabulary brilliance. Yes, you will have to look it up yourself.

While I revelled in the tight pace, authentic prose, I will note that those looking for an Amish romance or ‘Christianese‘ conversion will be disappointed.  This is simply well-written fiction about a tough work environment, with a heady pace.  God is mentioned briefly, faith is touched on gently, but no great leaps of change are made.

I was pleased to complete this book review for Bethany House Publishers, in return for my complimentary copy (which I will be keeping, though it deviates from my usual fare).  I give it 5 stars, and look forward to Mr. Bertrand’s next work.

Further Resources:

prior book, Back on Murder

 

J. Mark Bertrand

 

Book Review: Now I walk on Death Row, by Dale S. Recinella

As gripping as the title Now I Walk on Death Row, the contents do not disappoint.  Dale Recinella writes a compelling case for active faith in his gritty account of finding Jesus in the midst of mindless wealth as a finance lawyer, and subsequent progress towards a benevolent life.  With his legal penchant for detail, he leads the reader in a manner similar to John Grisham, thru the flippant reality of mega-deals to the crux of soul in which Jesus calls him away from his ‘full-barn-focus'(Luke 12:13-22), to a true walk with his Maker.

I found Dale’s development of faith from the heights of pride to the simplicity of humbling family detail and culmination as chaplain to Florida’s death row prisoners gripping, to say the least.  This section found me laughing out loud: his ‘drastic’ budgeting cuts,

 “The economic consequences of my letting go of my part-time work are stiff, to say the least.  They (his children) would have to pay for their own clothes, car, gas, insurance, yearbooks, prom, college, trips, even most of their own wedding costs.”

are very normal measures for nearly everyone I know, parents and grandparents included!

I applaud Dale for actually living out the faith he is given, despite handicaps (wealth, ignorance, fear, etc), and puzzled opposition from mainstream Catholics and Christians.  It was this very fortitude which encouraged me, and will provide some powerful reading for you.

This review was written in trade for the free copy of this engaging book, thru Bethany House Book Reviewers
and Chosen Publishers.