Friday, February 1, 2019

Broken Pieces - A Book Review

Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them
When we walk through the valleys and storms of life, where can we find an anchor for our souls? What is our true comfort? How can we care for others who are suffering? In Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them, Simonetta Carr shares her painful journey through the unknown waters of schizophrenia and offers support and encouragement for others who are going through similar trials. Again and again, she turns her eyes and directs ours to: "...the triune God--not only as a helper and comforter of sorrows, but in all his greatness and the perfection of his attributes" (pg. 106) demonstrating that God's unchanging character (Ex. 34:6-7) is the anchor for our souls in any and every aspect of life. She writes:

"Ultimately, Christ is my only true comfort and my only anchor in this sea of uncertainty" (155).

The struggle of faith is to see God the Father rightly and then act in light of what we know to be true, rightly imaging Him. This "Faith is not defined by our feelings. What we feel doesn't change what's objective" (190). One of Simonetta's pastors, Michael Horton, encouraged her with the words of John Calvin:
"All things around us are in opposition to the promises of God: He promises immortality; we are  surrounded with mortality and corruption: He declares that he counts us just; we are covered with  sins: He testifies that he is propitious and kind to us; outward judgments threaten his wrath. What then is to be done? We must with closed eyes pass by ourselves and all things connected with us, that nothing may hinder or prevent us from believing that God is true" (191).
In response, Simonetta writes: "And so I continue, day after day, to divert my mind from all the many things that pull me away from God’s promises" (191).

Simonetta Carr
And this is exactly what Simonetta seeks to do for her readers as well. While Broken Pieces shares the Carr family story, ultimately, this book isn't centered on Simonetta and her family but on the good God who faithfully carries all believers through life's trials and the promises of the gospel that sustain us in these struggles. She shows us what it looks like for one mom to " 'to the rock that is higher than' us (Ps. 61:2) and point our loved ones in that direction" (213). Simonetta is honest and transparent about the wrestlings of her heart and illustrates how one family's relentless love of a sufferer speaks of Christ's relentless love for us when we were in no condition to love him back (83).

Broken Pieces is full of wisdom and offers lots of practical advice to support caregivers including resource recommendations. It seeks to fuel compassion and empathy, allowing us to enter someone's pain, feel deeply, and weep with those who weep. Simonetta teaches us the importance of guarding our speech and judgments as Christians and how to be a friend to sufferers. She also highlights the primacy of the gospel and the ministry of the Word in the life of the church revealing the intricate inter-relationship between what we believe about God and how we live and walk through trials. I'm very grateful that Simonetta and others have reopened their tender wounds to build up the Body of Christ and help all of us image God more closely as we care for sufferers!
"It’s only when we realize who God is in Christ that we can not only accept his sovereignty over all but welcome it with joy and relief. And this realization comes when we understand the Bible as the unified story of a loving God who is redeeming a rebellious human race. God is not just an abstract sum of his attributes. He’s a God who acts in history, and his acts constitute an integral part of his revelation of himself as an omnipotent, omniscient, all-just, all-loving, all-good, and all-wise God. No one will ever know our loved ones like he does, and no one will ever love them more than Christ, who has died on the cross for them" (272).
*Many thanks to P & R  Publishing for a complimentary digital copy of Broken Pieces! These are my honest thoughts.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Real Change - A Resource Review

Real Change
Do you ever feel like you're spinning your wheels, not making much progress in areas where you'd like to see change in your life? Often, change is difficult and slow going. It can be easy to get discouraged and abandon the effort. Real Change: Becoming More Like Jesus in Everyday Life seeks to come alongside believers as they pursue a personal change project, encouraging; instructing; and pointing people to Jesus.

Image result for dynamics of biblical change ccef
Created by CCEF. Available in Real Change.
Based on the diagram from "The Dynamics of Biblical Change" course offered by the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, Real Change unpacks "The Three Trees Diagram" in six concise lessons, offering questions for reflection, study, and discussion, as well as, an included Leader's Guide. Users will find this guide Scripture-saturated consistent with the authors' stated goal:

"This model is not intended to supersede Scripture but to summarize Scripture. Please use the model in such a way that it encourages people to run toward the Bible rather than seeing it as a stand-alone model" (53).
For those who are familiar with the CCEF materials from which this derives it's inspiration, Real Change isn't merely a re-hashing of previously published material but takes more of a small group, Bible study approach as opposed to the lecture format of previous material. It's a welcome addition to the Three Trees "family" of resources and should prove edifying as those who utilize it examine their hearts and look to Christ, the Author of all real change.

*Many thanks to New Growth Press for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book! These are my honest thoughts.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Idols of a Mother's Heart - A Book Review

Idols of a Mother’s Heart
"It had been one of those 'terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.' The kind where nothing went the way it should. I must have corrected the kids every five minutes. I refereed fights, cleaned up mess after mess, repeated instructions, and tried to create order out of chaos. I was exhausted, irritated, and impatient.
Sitting at the dinner table that evening, it was my oldest son's turn to give thanks. When I heard him say, 'And God, could you please help mommy to be patient with us?' I realized I wasn't the only one affected by our difficult day. I was part of the problem" (24). 
"Before I had children, I considered myself a patient person." Who can't relate to that? Motherhood is hard. Seeing our sinfulness exposed is harder. Applying the good news about Christ's life, death, and resurrection to our lives is glorious! Christina is a wise and relate-able companion for the journey.

In Idols of a Mother's Heart, Christina Fox begins by laying a strong, Gospel foundation which remains central throughout the book. She writes about how we were created to glorify, enjoy, worship, and image God and about how things went terribly wrong. She follows Tim Keller in defining an idol as:
"...anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would hardly feel worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought" (Tim Keller as quoted by Christina Fox, pg. 56).
Christina then moves to help her readers identify and dethrone idols. To this end, she offers heart-probing diagnostic questions and reminds us that idols fail again and again and again to deliver on the promise of ultimate happiness, pointing us to Christ who is all-satisfying.
"As much as we seek happiness in the idols we pursue, they can never give us the joy we find with Christ...the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself" (78).
While I am aware of several other books on this subject, many of them cater to a male audience and/or perspective and focus on idols like sex, money, and power. Christina has thoughtfully applied the same truths found in those excellent books to the area of motherhood, specifically addressing the common idols of: children, achievement and success, comfort, control, and approval. Idols of a Mother's Heart is a welcome addition to other works on this subject!

Idols of a Mother's Heart a Scripture saturated book that is full of sound doctrine. Each chapter closes with rich prayers, insightful questions, and Scriptures for further study and reflection. I love that Christina is humble, real, and transparent with her readers. Idols of a Mother's Heart is a useful book to encourage us daily so that we might not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. It is my joy to commend it to you!

**Many thanks to Christian Fox for sending me a complimentary copy of this book!! These are my honest thoughts!