Living the Quaker Way - Book Review

When I think of living the Quaker Way, I think of a religion that is rooted on faith in Jesus Christ with high values of peace, simplicity, and worship.  When the opportunity to review Living the Quaker Way: Timeless Wisdom for a Better Life Today, by Philip Gulley, I was intrigued, hoping to read some Quaker ideas to deepen my own spiritual life.

Philip Gulley begins the book by discussing whether Quakerism is a religion or a way of life (without belief in Jesus Christ).  He then dissects what he thinks that Quakers believe and what he believes about simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality.  At the end of the book, he has chosen 30 queries to ponder daily.

I’m not sure if this was a book about the Quaker way of life or if it was the Gulley way of life.  He portrays Jesus only as a great spiritual teacher who provides "the sign post pointing to peace but does not magically speak it into being".  He lectures from his personal soap box about war, violence, and firearms in a way that is overly simplistic.   When I finished the book, I did not feel like I really knew more about Quakers.  However, looking at titles of other books he has written and at his website, they may be a better source for learning more about the Quakers and their way of life. 
This is my first book review for Convergent publishing, aimed at people who are spiritually curious but religiously unaffiliated.  While I am spiritually curious, as a Christian, I am not the target audience for this publishing company.  Perhaps those who are seeking will find it interesting; however, don’t expect to find the Truth.

For more information, check out the following:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Surviving the Unthinkable - "Christian" Resilience

“Trauma, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.” – George Everly Jr., John Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness

Bombings, shootings, car accidents, freak accidents, tornadoes, hurricanes, mudslides – in a single moment of time, the journey on the path of life suddenly plunges us over the cliff into a dark abyss of timelessness where we have split-second choices that occur in slow-motion and affect the future course. 

At first, we feel helpless, out-of-control.  Some of us panic, others go into denial, some take action and give orders, and others are paralyzed.  These reactions can be normal, even good, to get us through the crisis.  Or they can bring us to our demise. 

After the crisis, we may be flooded with emotions or become catatonic, not wanting to feel at all.  Bouncing back is a process.  Resiliency is the ability to cope, to adapt to the trauma or stress, and to become stronger as a result.

According to Amanda Ripley, award-winning journalist for Time magazine, people who have resilience tend to also have three underlying advantages:
  1. A belief that they can influence life events
  2. A tendency to find meaningful purpose in life’s turmoil
  3. A conviction that they can learn from both positive and negative experiences.1
She claims that these beliefs act as a sort of buffer, cushioning the blow of any given disaster.  Dangers seem more manageable to these types of people, and they perform better during a crisis as a result.

If this worldview leads to resilience, what leads to the worldview?  Ripley points out that it is not an easy answer.  It’s not necessarily the yoga-practicing Buddhists.  Rather, it is people who have an abundance of confidence.    It is people who have a sense of purpose.  Surprisingly, it is people who might be perceived as annoying, self-absorbed or arrogant.

As a follower of Christ, God gives us a built-in sense of resiliency that grows with our faith: 
  1.  We know that God works through us to influence life events.  God hears our prayers, and we can trust the outcome to Him regardless of how it pans out.
  2.  Life’s turmoils may seem random, cruel, and senseless, but God can turn something apparently senseless into something meaningful, to fulfill something bigger that we currently cannot see or understand.
  3. Because we know that God works all things together for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), we know with conviction that God teaches us through both positive and negative experiences to transform us to become more like Jesus . 
Our resiliency may look different from the world’s resiliency.  It’s not arrogance.  It’s recognition of our weakness and our need for Jesus for every breath that we can live the life He purposes for us. We are God-absorbed, not self-absorbed.  

Our resiliency comes through faith, not through our inner strength.   Our resilience comes from leaning hard on God, depending on Him, seeking Him, relying on Him for strength, because we know that in our weakness, He makes us strong.

1Amanda Ripley, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why, Crown Publishers: New York, 2008, pages 91-92.

Raw Faith - Book Review

Life was good.  Kasey Van Norman felt her sense of purpose and calling in ministry to encourage women during personal crisis and pursued it.  Just as her ministry was growing to new heights, in a moment, it all was shaken.  It started with an ache in her back.  It ended up being cancer.

While chronicling her journey with cancer, Kasey speaks to women who feel like God has “picked a fight” with them in her book Raw Faith.  She alternates between her story and Bible stories to show how God is working now like He did then.  Her goal in the book is not to tell her story, but to encourage her reader to know God and trust Him regardless of our circumstances.

I would have loved to have read more about her raw emotion and her journey in wrestling with God rather than her attempt to weave in Bible stories and surficial Sunday School lessons.  However, her objective was not to write a memoir, but to show that real faith is raw faith.  Real faith isn’t grounded in circumstances, but rather, is “built on the bedrock that God is who he says he is…”   She accomplishes this well for any woman who may be enduring any type of personal crisis, not just cancer.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

God Is Working All Things Together for Good - Lessons Learned from a Ski Accident

Six weeks ago, my 17-year-old baby girl was seriously injured in a snow ski accident while we were celebrating my son’s 14th birthday at a nearby ski slope in Weston, Missouri.  Her recovery from shattering and fracturing multiple vertebrae in her back has been slow but remarkable.  It has not been an easy six weeks, especially in this season when she was about to stretch her wings and fly from the nest, now slowed by a broken wing with a long recovery process. 

We cannot understand or interpret all the bad events and tragedies that happen, but we can know that God is at work in them, whether or not we can understand on this side of heaven.  God has been working incredibly behind the scenes, maybe in more ways than I’ll ever know, but here are a few things I see:

1.  My relationship with my daughter has grown tighter, closer, forever altered, even if only for a short season.  A new bond has been forged and sealed.
2.  Her eyes are opened to the difficulties of others.  She is sensitive to others in wheelchairs or using walkers or dealing with physical handicaps.  She notices the things now that make it difficult for access with a walker or wheelchair, things many of us would never thing about, like grooves in a tile floor. She knows how it feels to be stared at and to experience the furtive glances.
3.  She has re-considered her degree plan for college, realizing that God may want her to do something different with her life than she had originally planned.  Rather than majoring in business and opening her own fitness center, she is now looking into social work with an emphasis in victim/trauma services.  Her heart is tender toward those who hurt due to circumstances beyond their control.  She is prioritizing meaning over money.

4.  I am stronger than I thought I was. I learned this in my husband’s heart attack a year ago today, but several events since then have reinforced it.  God helps me to think clearly in a crisis situation, to put aside my emotion and to deal with the next steps at hand that must be taken rather than falling into an emotional puddle.  I still melt into an emotional puddle, but only when it’s over.  God lets me melt, and then He puts me back together.
5.  God turns wounds into scars.  He is working His redemptive story in us.  As she works through the emotions of her life temporarily changed, Emily’s focus on her future goals has sharpened with a changed purpose, and her motivation to achieve them has kicked into gear.  God is using this to shape her character.  She will have a story to tell, and it will be a beautiful tale of redemption.