Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Dance by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley

Cover Art
Walsh, Dan and Gary Smalley. The Dance (The Restoration Series #1) Grand Rapids: Revell, 2013.

ISBN 978-0-8007-2148-0 (pbk)

Marilyn Anderson leaves her husband after twenty-seven years of Christian marriage. She moves from her large beautiful home in an immaculate residential area of River Oaks. Marilyn now lives in a small two-bedroom apartment with a new friend. She has taken a job in a small specialty gift shop in the quaint downtown area. She feels freedom and is happier than she has been since she and Jim have begun to experience an empty nest.

For the first time in their married life, her husband, Jim, comes home from work to find no dinner waiting, no wife to greet him, and no clue there was ever a problem. Jim calls their high-school son Doug, and then their married son Tom. Neither son has any idea where his mother is nor that anything is wrong. Even his daughter Michele, who is to be married in a month, will tell him anything more than there is a note from her mother on his dresser. 

What is Marilyn's problem? She has never had to work. She has a beautiful home in an upscale neighborhood. Her husband is prosperous enough to provide all that and more. All he has ever asked is that meals be served on time, she accompany him to an upscale church where he can make business connections, provide parties for his clients... He is clueless.

Marilyn meets with her daughter to discuss the wedding guest list over lunch. Marilyn shows Michele a gift she has bought just for herself. They meet Audrey Windsor who admires Marilyn’s new music box with a dancer on the top. Audrey extends a business card with an invitation to stop by her  dance studio and to sign up for a dance class. One more thing Marilyn never thought she would do. Marilyn realizes her unhappiness may have started when Jim refused to dance with her on their wedding night. 

The dance becomes the metaphor. Both Jim and Marilyn need to waltz with one another in such away  that they create a place of safety for one another. Each of them always must treat their relationship as partners in a dance that overcomes each of their core fears.

How will God heal Jim’s and Marilyn’s broken lives? Whom will God choose to help mend Marilyn’s shattered dreams? Is their family broken beyond repair? Where did the love in Jim and Marilyn’s marriage go? Can it be renewed, or does that only happen in a new relationship like Michele and Allan’s.

Dan WalshOnce again Dan Walsh creates a tender romance in which God sets in motion a plan to redeem lives and restore hearts. Walsh’s newest novel The Dance introduces The Restoration Series. The Dance is based largely on Gary Smalley’s best-selling book on marriage relationships, The DNA of Relationships (Smalley Franchise Products), by Gary Smalley, Greg Smalley, Michael Smalley and Robert S. Paul (Sep 1, 2007).

Gary SmalleyReaders will be looking forward to other books in this series by two godly men who believe and live God’s plans for their marriages in spite of themselves, and share them with each other and with us, as pastors, counselors, and gifted writers.

I thank the authors and Revell Publishing for providing a free copy of this book for my unbiased opinion.

5 stars

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bound Together : How We Are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Choices by Chris Brauns

Chris Brauns. Bound Together: How We Are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Choices. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

Brauns’ goal is to persuade readers of Bound Together  “to investigate carefully the reality that we are deeply connected to one another… and that the decisions of one person affect the future of other persons, as though they are figuratively roped together…. We must think more like Christians and less like Americans.”

Bound Together explores the “truth that is fundamental to all joy, however dark it may seem at the beginning. Without the truth that we are bout together, there is no joy…. Our lives, choices, and actions are linked to the lives, choices, and action of other people.”

This is the solidarity seen often in the Bible.  In the great flood,  God destroyed all the people on the earth except the family of Noah. That “everyone” included infants and children. Young children died in the flood because they were “roped together with their parents and their culture.” God was not dealing with individuals; he was “treating them as people corporately accountable to him.”

The ultimate negative example of the principle of the rope, the simple fact that we are not strictly autonomous, but bound together in our choices is the Doctrine of Original Sin.

Brauns builds his case one story and one mandate at a time, showing that we as human beings are corporately bound with Adam and Eve as they are sent from the garden. The rope may chafe and be uncomfortable, but it is only possible to partake in solidarity with Christ, to receive salvation we must be bound to Him. Braun builds his case one story, one example at a time, leading his readers to the cusp of the biblical command to be joyful. Joy that can only come when we are bound by the principle of the rope in solidarity with Christ.

Accessible to any reader, the unpacking of the doctrines of Original Sin and Union with Christ, helps us understand how we are bound together not only to scripture, but to the failings of our own families. It brings the reader to an understanding that the “individualism” of our culture is contrary to biblical truth that every choice we make can affect others.

Image of Chris BraunsWhen all is said and done, our salvation through Christ is stronger than our condemnation with Adam.

Brauns is the pastor at the Red Brick Congregational Church of Stillman Valley, IL. He leans strongly to the Calvinist reformed tradition in the books and articles included in his end notes and choices for further reading.

I thank Zondervan and Cross Focused Reviews for providing a free copy for my unbiased review.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Help, Thanks, Wow : The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is the best-selling author of Some Assembly Required, Grace (Eventually), Plan B and Traveling Mercies.
Anne Lamott

Lamotte, Ann. Help, Thanks, Wow : The Three Essential Prayers. New York: Riverhead Books a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 11/13/12.
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-59463-129-0, 102 pages.  $17.95.
Digital ASIN: B008EKMBDM, (from ISBN: 1594631298, 113 pages) 386 KB. $14.95
Audiobook. $11.95
Genre: Christian Living
Tags: Spirituality, Prayer
      Lamott encourages her readers to “not get bogged down on whom or what we pray to.” Rather one should identify prayer as communication from our hearts to “something unimaginably huge and not us.” Her slightly irreverent humor allows one to experience the distillation of anything one says “to the amazing energy of love we are sometimes bold enough to believe in” regardless of the name we attach.

            In Help, Thanks, Wow, Lamott has identified the content and context of prayer that asks for assistance, that appreciates the good we witness, and that expresses one’s awe at the world. These are the words that get us through the day, and show us the way forward. Through anecdotes and stories she puts skin on those times one can be in motion, and stillness, and energy – all at the same time. All three prayers are the beginnings of a conversation with God about anything – barely, honestly, bitterly, insanely or brokenly – “probably the best possible conditions under which to pray.”

            Whether a beginner or veteran user of the spiritual discipline of prayer, Lamott, once again leads us to breathe, to slow down, to pay attention so no opportunity to love and help God’s children, including learning “to love our depressing, hilarious, mostly decent selves.” 

To Order
            The simplicity of theses three prayers opens the complexity of our lives, our relationships, and our world into our messiest places and our greatest needs. Like flossing one’s teeth prayer must be repeated until it becomes habit, not because we can get our way, or can change God, but so God can change us, so we can “pray constantly between bouts of trying to live life on life’s terms.”
            Although most of the formative pieces of Lamott’s personality, sense of humor, descent into and ascent from addiction, deep spirituality, and intentional writing are mostly caught in the reader’s peripheral vision. This is one book I want to take up space on a shelf, because she speaks to my meaning through her meaning formed by words seemingly strung along, but intentionally placed.