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Stay: Discovering Grace, Freedom, and Wholeness Where You Never Imagined Looking

Stay: Discovering Grace, Freedom, and Wholeness Where You Never Imagined Looking

by Anjuli Paschall

A spiritual journey is such a personal adventure. Anjuli Paschall shares hers in the book Stay. She also reaches out to other women encouraging them to lean into God through the irritations of daily life and the times of actual trauma and to stay with the pain of hard places because you’ll find God there. She suggests that, instead of building up walls of protection and withdrawing from the fray or working harder to force things to happen, we need to stay with Jesus and “drink life-giving water.” With intriguing chapter titles like “The Guard Shack: An Invitation to Make Mistakes” and “Old Spaghetti Factory: An Invitation to Hold On,” this book is filled with anecdotes and Paschall’s descriptions of how God led her to grow spiritually.

Paschal is a good writer and very effective at drawing the reader into her frame of mind as she navigates the various circumstances in her life. I highlighted many passages and agreed with most of the things she said. I am amazed at the number of turns in her life journey. She is the mother of five, wife of a pastor, photographer, founder of a social media site that helps other moms in truly desperate straits, and a spiritual counselor. Now add writer to that list.

Realizing that I am isolating statements that come from a rich context, I feel I must point out what I perceive to be a major conflict. Towards the end of the book, the author states “My one and only purpose in life is to be loved by God.” I disagree with that and she does too as earlier in the book she states: “We all have one calling. One deep, right, true, foundational calling in life—to love God and to love others.” That philosophy is found in the Bible in Matthew 22 in the New Testament and in Exodus 20 and Leviticus 19 in the Old Testament.  Although, I have a few points of disagreement, in general I find this book to be refreshing in the author’s honesty and transparency. She doesn’t try to appear to have it all together. She shares her fears and vulnerabilities as she also shares her hopes and dreams. She encourages women to abandon shame over never being enough and stay the course resting and trusting in Jesus.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Bethany House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Christian, Self-Help

Notes: Discussion questions are included.

Publication:   March 31, 2020—Bethany House

Memorable Lines:

I’m learning to be okay with my mistakes. They don’t define me or determine my worth, but simply direct me to God.

I believe we all can be placeholders of heaven for others. We can create a seat at a table, offer a single cup of coffee, leave bread on a doorstep, or clear an hour in our schedule. God will continually bring us people who are desperately in need of home. If we can embrace each other’s differences, move toward the disabled, welcome the foreigner, laugh with a child, talk with the elderly, all kinds of heaven can burst open like a flower in bloom here on earth. Even the tiniest spaces can become a place for others to taste eternity.

No amount of getting, accomplishing, or achieving will ever satisfy the soul. The soul focused on gaining power, influence, and admiration will only grow hungrier.

Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World

Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World

by Max Lucado

anxious for nothingWritten and published three years before the Corona Virus pandemic, Anxious for Nothing reads like it was penned for these desperate times. Author Max Lucado, by his own admission, is not perfect; he has experienced many of the same problems you have. You will enjoy his writing style which is simultaneously down to earth and exquisite in his turn of phrase. This book is filled with Scriptures that will encourage you during life’s difficult times. In it you will find examples from Lucado’s life and encounters with others in the form of anecdotes that illustrate Biblical principles. There are many references to the wisdom and guidance found in  the book of Philippians in the New Testament, but Max’s wording makes them easy to remember. He shares them as practical steps that will lead to a life with more calm and less chaos.

If I had to choose one book I would encourage everyone to read this year, it would be Anxious for Nothing. I usually include in my blog posts three memorable lines from the books I review. Never have I had a harder time including only three. Having heard Lucado’s online video study of this book, I can mentally hear him patiently, enthusiastically, and with understanding encouraging his readers. I can see the twinkle in his eyes as he shares one of his “secrets”: “God’s anxiety therapy includes a large, delightful dollop of gratitude.” I am grateful for the opportunity to share this book with you. 

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction, Self-Help

Notes: Included at the end of the book are “Questions for Reflection” which could be used for individual or group study. There is also a useful guide that includes, by chapter, the Scriptures that are referenced by Lucado in the text. It would be very handy to use it to bring to mind God’s promises and truths as you are working through your personal times of chaos and daily struggles.

Publication:   September 12, 2017—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

The Lord is near! You are not alone. You may feel alone. You may think you are alone. But there is never a moment in which you face life without help. God is near.

Find a promise that fits your problem, and build your prayer around it. These prayers of faith touch the heart of God and activate the angels of heaven. Miracles are set into motion.

No more “if only.” It is the petri dish in which anxiety thrives. Replace your “if only” with “already.” Look what you already have. Treat each anxious thought with a grateful one, and prepare yourself for a new day of joy.

Fierce Faith–the making of a battle plan

Fierce Faith

by Alli Worthington

Fierce FaithAlthough we all know how to put on our “Sunday” faces for those who don’t know us intimately, we all have struggles of one kind or another. In her book Fierce Faith, Alli Worthington gets real with Christian women. She gives us a “battle plan against the fear, worry, and anxiety” that want to pull you down. She uses anecdotes to illustrate the kinds of battles that we face and identifies that the attack usually comes from the spiritual realm. She offers Scriptural promises and practical applications and ways of fighting back with a “fierce faith.”

Worthington addresses issues you may not even know you have because you avoid confronting them by strategies such as staying busy, bingeing on a variety of things, or becoming numb. I don’t consider myself a fearful person, but I got zinged a number of times as she addressed fear of betrayal, rejection, and an uncertain future. Some might identify with FOMO (the fear of missing out) which began with Adam and Eve but is put on steroids by social media. Fear of failure and not measuring up are other common forms of attack.

Alli Worthington offers practical help for common problems. She encourages the reader to trust God and explains how to do that. I recommend this book for all Christians regardless of where you are in your faith walk.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Zondervan for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian

Notes: The end of the book has workbook like pages to help the reader develop a person battle plan.

Publication:  January 23, 2018—Zondervan

Memorable Lines:

Fear doesn’t have to stem from some catastrophic event that cripples us. Everyday worries can be as crippling as catastrophes. Fear often stems from small worries and anxiety that build up over time, eventually shutting us down or causing us to explode.

Sometimes the illness or disability isn’t cured, the financial hardships aren’t resolved, the bad news doesn’t change, but when we throw ourselves at Jesus’s feet, he gives us what we need to walk through our difficult seasons and to fight against the storms that darken our skies.

You can choose to believe the truth that Jesus has a purpose for you beyond your failures and allow him to rewrite your story. Our futures are already claimed by God; we don’t have to stay stuck in a cycle of fear and failure. Failure doesn’t have to be your story. He is still writing your story.

Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection

Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection

by John E. Sarno, M.D.

Healing Back PainDr. Sarno, through many years of treating patients with back pain, has discovered what he considers an epidemic of back pain in the U.S. and states that usually the cause is not an accident or a degenerative disease. He attributes it to repressed emotions, usually anger or anxiety, and says that the stressful situation that causes the Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) does not always have to be resolved for the pain to go away. The patient just needs to recognize the mind-body connection that he is experiencing.

I have not tried to apply Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection’s seemingly simple techniques; I have only read the book. Dr. Sarno’s detailed discussion of the failure of traditional medicine’s handling of back pain does make sense. He advises someone with back pain to consult with a doctor to get that perspective, but then evaluate their symptoms in the light of his thesis. He also says many other conditions such as eczema, headaches, and irritable bowl syndrome may be attributable to repressed emotions also.

Dr. Sarno cites a lot of anecdotal evidence as well as data gained from surveys of patients to support his theory. He does not claim to understand how the brain can exert such powerful control over the body, but reminds the reader that there are many things about the way the brain works that are not completely understood yet. Dr. Sarno is a medical doctor, not a salesman, not a slick businessman ready to perform on morning TV. His background is displayed in his writing style, and my 4 star rating reflects that. His bold stance against the traditional and unsuccessful medical view of back pain and his obvious enthusiasm for helping those with back pain rates 5 stars.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Health

Notes:

  1. Much of the book is technical. The chapter about his technique is vague, maybe because it is so simple and we expect more bells and whistles from modern medicine. Because of these factors, I found the Appendix particularly valuable. It is comprised of “Letters from Patients” and shows concretely how various patients have applied his theory and their results.
  2. Having finished this book on the mind/body connection, which deals primarily with the power of repressed emotions, I was amazed as I started a fictional book to discover at least four prominent references in the first chapter to how the characters realistically reacted viscerally in various ways to stress inducing moments. I reflected that if people instantaneously respond physically (tightening muscles, a sinking feeling in the gut) to anxiety, then Dr. Sarno’s connection of repressed emotions and body pain seems rational even if ignored by the medical community.

Publication:   Original 1991, Kindle 2001—Hachette Book Group

Memorable Lines:

Though the low back is the most common location for an acute attack, it can occur anywhere in the neck, shoulders, or upper and lower back. Wherever it occurs, it is the most painful thing I know of in clinical medicine, which is ironic because it is completely harmless.

It is not the occasion itself but the degree of anxiety or anger that it generates that determines if there will be a physical reaction. The important thing is the emotion generated and repressed, for we have a built-in tendency to repress unpleasant, painful, or embarrassing emotions. These repressed feelings are the stimulus for TMS and other disorders like it. Anxiety and anger are two of those undesirable emotions that we would rather not be aware of, and so the mind keeps them in the subterranean precincts of the subconscious if it possibly can.

Traditional medical diagnoses focus on the machine, the body, while the real problem seems to relate to what makes the machine work—the mind. TMS is characterized by physical pain, but that acute discomfort is induced by the psychological phenomena rather than structural abnormalities or muscle deficiency.

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