Tag Archives: Faith

Book Review: “Jesus Wept; Where Faith and Depression Meet” authored by Barbara C. Crafton

As shown on Amazon.ca: Like all human experience, no two courses of depression and healing are the same. Religious belief can make depression easier, but it can also make it harder. It calls our beliefs about ourselves and about God’s presence in our lives into painful question. Barbara Crafton’s beautiful and candid book addresses these questions head on, reminding her readers that God does not ordain our suffering but instead meets us in our darkest days to compassionately call us toward the light.

To begin to reach an understanding of depression, choose a book like “Jesus Wept; When Faith and Depression Meet” by Barbara Cawthorne Crafton. Crafton is herself a survivor of depression and as such speaks with intimate knowledge of the insights associated with depression. The title drew me to this book; one of my favourite bible verses, found in John 11:35. As a sufferer of depression, and a person with a strong faith, I was curious how Crafton reconciled the two. Rather than dwell on the differences between faith and depression, Crafton reaches for where the two cross over.

For example: what is normal faith, what is normal depression? There are no lists answering either of these questions, but within this book Crafton highlights both situations. An aspect of depression that Crafton speaks of is that it is a mistrust of self. If one does not have faith, there exists a mistrust of God.

Depression is a dark time. Feeling one is searching for God has been identified as a spiritual darkness. I believe that Crafton’s book will help you sort through both of these difficult conditions. Weaving through faith and depression, Crafton assists us, the reader, in choosing where with both we are situated and how we can help ourselves move forward.

My blog is titled: “The Joy of the Written Word”. Where is the Joy in Barbara Crafton’s book “Jesus Wept”? The Joy is found in our hearts and minds when we reach through a faith struggle, and climb out of depression, to see Joy on the other side. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton will assist us in doing just that.

Choose Joy!

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Book Review: ““A Marked Heart”” by David George Ball

David George Ball (portrait taken 2006, copied from the author’s Facebook page)

The son of a missionary and a Baptist minister, seventeen-year-old immigrant David George Ball was following his destiny to become a pastor. He had always dreamed of making a difference in people’s lives. But when he met the then relatively unknown Martin Luther King Jr., the course of Ball’s life changed forever. In this memoir, “A Marked Heart”, Ball narrates his journey: beginning with growing up in wartime England; immigrating to the United States in 1954 to take the pastor’s course at Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute; attending Yale University as a scholarship student; and, most importantly, meeting King. Later, he worked on Wall Street as a lawyer, started a family, championed the 401(k) plan, and served as assistant secretary of labor. “A Marked Heart” describes how Ball’s encounter with King inspired the rest of his life’s work, and it provides a multifaceted look at his immigration, education, family relationships, career, and his commitment to public service. Though Ball never became a minister, his story communicates how his commitment to God and prayer guided his life. (from Goodreads) 

This book was a total surprise!  It really was!  I was deceived by the book cover; or rather I caught myself pre-judging this book, based on the three colour book cover.  Isn’t there an old saying:  “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? 

Well, when I received this book from Bostick Communications, (in exchange for an impartial review), I had second thoughts about whether or not I would enjoy reading it.  And I will admit to putting it to the side of my TBR book stack.  It just looked to be more of a reference book, than a story book.  

I could not have been more wrong. 

A short time ago, while checking my TBR books, “A Marked Heart”, caught my attention.  And after some review of the front and back covers, and recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. pictured on the front cover with the author, I decided I would begin this read. 

Unexpectedly, “A Marked Heart” by David George Ball, was soon to display so much more than its simple cover implied.  By the end of the first chapter, it was not a question of being caught up in the story; it was a matter of needing to know everything I could about the author and those around him.  David George Ball.  I would hazard a guess that most of us have never heard the name, let alone know what his life was all about.  And part of that I would suggest, was by plan – David George Ball’s plan.  In “A Marked Heart”, David George comes through the pages as a humble man, a quiet man, definitely a family man, a very intelligent man, a man filled with compassion for family and friends, and a man filled with pride of his birth country, England, and his country of residence, the United States. 

(photo credit Heather Fraser)

The author speaks of his growing up years with fond memories, and some not so fond. He brings us through his university years, as he earns multiple degrees.  David Ball’s style of storytelling is one that engages the reader, to a desire to learn more.  Ball’s meeting with Martin Luther King Jr., is a turning point in his career, and his personal creed for life.  I found it fascinating to read of M.L. King before his rise within the culture of the day, and his impact on the world.   Although King was a great influence on David Ball, this book is not about King.  We simply see how King affected individuals who became part of his life, and vice versa.  

“A Marked Heart” reaches all parts of the life of David George Ball.  We are with him through his marital happiness and struggles, his desire to serve God, the love he is given by his family, and at times the hard life he was forced to live.  I found myself on life’s journey with the author, through his highs and lows, through his two marriages, and the lives of his children, as they grew and started families of their own.   

(photo credit Heather Fraser)

To be truthful, I do not think that my words do justice to Ball’s life, to his great mind, and kind heart.   I would suggest this book be added to your library, as part of history.  Although not given real credit for this, Ball was the originator of the 401K plan, designed to secure quality of life for individuals, once they retire.  I am not an American, so do not pretend to understand the 401K plan, but in Canada we have Registered Retirement Plans, which would be comparable.  So, I do understand the need to plan for the future.  And I was quite impressed with Ball’s quiet, yet powerful, contribution to American lifestyle.  And the telling of this story was not a mundane presentation, but a story that I felt part of, a story that held joy.  Such is the style of Ball’s writing. I encourage readers of this blog to seek out this book,  “A Marked Heart”,  add it to your library,  and set aside time to read and learn, about events that impact your life, through the life of David George Ball. 

“The Joy of the Written Word” – where do we find joy in the words of my review or in the words of “A Marked Heart”?  Where I see Joy through “A Marked Heart”, is David George Ball’s unending faith in his God, his faith in knowing that, no matter what, God was with him.  He chose Joy!

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Choose Joy!  

Patricia

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Book Review: “The Nature of God: 50 Christian Devotions About God’s Love and Acceptance” by Mona Hanna

The Nature of God contains 50 Christian devotions, focusing on God’s true love and acceptance of us. The devotions portray God’s kindness, sweetness, grace, mercy and forgiveness. These devotions break down the notion that God judges us, and has strict requirements for how we should think, feel and behave. Mona’s stance is that God loves us like a parent loves their child, with the same intimacy and compassion that a loving parent would have. Immerse yourself in heart-warming declarations of God’s love, and remind yourself of the true nature of God. (from amazon.com) 

Before I was a few pages into this devotional book, it was clear to me that the author herself has a real and heartwarming relationship with her God.  Mona Hanna is right up front with her Christian faith, and through the 50 Christian Devotions in this book, shares her faith openly with her readers.  

Mona shares how she experiences the many characteristics of God, and gives the reader a look into her own perception of God’s personality.  This is done through short daily devotions.  But rather than 365 devotions, the 50 devotions in the book are each given a title, which the reader can view in order to choose the devotion that aligns with their present need.  Alternatively, the reader can open the book, turn to a random page, and read how that particular page can be actively applied to their current life place.  This is one of the positive characteristics of this devotional. 

“The Nature of God” gives us the author’s perspective of God: as being less judgmental and less of a rule enforcer, than may have been implied in the reader’s previous life descriptions of God.  Mona Hanna sees God as all loving, all giving, and all protecting of His children; and would like her readers to walk away with the same feelings, or similar feelings to her own, that which is expressed in this book.  Mona reinforces this as what she believes is the true nature of God.

The author uses everyday language in each devotion, which brings the reader close to the heart of the meaning in that particular day’s words.  But, at the same time, Mona’s language is not too simplistic, and therefore can reach a level of shared experience.   

The writing style allows for “The Nature of God” to be used in many settings, and over repeated time frames.  Basically, the book may be used as the reader sees fit.  This is a wonderful asset, when people are learning and growing in their faith environment. 

My word of caution pertains to readers, who may choose this book as an introduction to Christian faith.  The reason for this caution is that some of Mona’s comments could be perceived as theologically true, when in fact they are strictly from Mona’s life experience.  To be clear, the author does not claim anything other than offering devotional prayer.  However, given the writer’s style, thoughts may be construed as theological fact.  For that reason, I would recommend this book be used by a strong Christian, who is versed in some elements of theology, as related to their own doctrine of practice.  This critique may be remedied by the author’s use of a theological or doctrinal editor. 

On the whole, Mona Hanna has done what she set out to do: provide the reader with a closer look at God’s love and acceptance of humankind.  A job well done! 

I asked myself where I found Joy in this book, or in my book review.  I would say that I found Joy in both places.  But, primarily, I found Joy that someone, Mona Hanna, cares enough about her faith, to want to share her faith with others.  And I thank Mona for doing just that. 

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Choose Joy! 

Patricia

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Book Review: “Finding Felicity” by Monica Marlowe

When Madeline O’Connor learns that her estranged sister is gravely ill, she leaves behind her life in Manhattan to be at her sister’s side in Italy. There, she discovers an ancient Benedictine monastery that accommodates travelers, and she decides to stay there, among the monks. Everything in her life turns upside down when she falls for Brother Anthony Lamberti, a soft-spoken Italian completely different from the men she knows in New York. Together Madeline and Anthony find love for the first time, and learn that life and love always find a way. When her sister dies, a new life for Madeline begins. A new life that she would never have imagined and yet is perfect for her in every way. (from Goodreads)

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Beginning a book review can sometimes present a challenge.  The urge is to jump right in with both feet, forgetting that the person reading your review has most likely not read the book yet!   

But in some ways this book is about jumping in with both feet.   

As read in the book description from Goodreads, the main character of this book – Madeline O’Connor – leaves her life in Manhattan and flies to Italy to be with her estranged sister, Carrie, who is dying.  Madeline is the Founder and CEO of Felicity International, whose business is high fashion lingerie.  What started as one store has grown worldwide and includes a mail-order division.  Felicity International has become Madeline’s family, her world, her one single interest in life.   

Within the first ten pages, we find that Madeline’s nephew Jonathan has written Madeline a letter, catching her up on family life, the news of his mother’s cancer, and asking Madeline to come to Italy.  So Madeline jumps in with both feet, and heads for Italy, and leaves her empire temporarily behind. 

Early in the book we learn the reason for the sisters’ estrangement: Jonathan’s father is David, Madeline’s ex-husband.  The truth is that Carrie and David had an affair, while David was ‘happily’ married to Madeline, and Carrie became pregnant with Jonathan.  Although his role in the novel is confined to only a few pages, it is important to note that Carrie was married, to Bobby, at the time of her affair with David.   It becomes quickly apparent why the sisters were estranged. 

While originally living in New York, once Carrie and David are married, they take Jonathan and move to Italy.  They were not married long when they divorced, and David moved away.   Carrie and Jonathan remained in Italy. 

It seems that within a couple of days, after receiving the letter from Jonathan, Madeline is in Italy, preparing to meet with her sister. 

While this may sound a little convoluted as I write this very brief synopsis here, the author of “Finding Felicity” – Monica Marlowe – accomplishes the telling of this story with a skill that is to be admired.

Vineyard - Italy

While we are getting involved in Madeline’s life, there is a shift in the time frame of the novel.  We find ourselves in 1943, during World War II, reading another story; reading the story of a young man who is on his way to becoming a priest, and falls in love with a beautiful young woman.  The young man finds himself at a crossroads, and must decide whether to continue to the priesthood, or change his world and find a way to marry this woman. 

As the book progresses the story of the young man is interwoven with the story of Madeline.  The time of the novel alternates between the present day and 1943.  Both stories capture our hearts and our minds.  The author seems to know just when to make the time shift.  While most of the book is dedicated to Madeline, and focus is on her life, it always seemed good timing when the story switched to 1943. 

The novel reader will know early on if this type of time shift is something they like, or something they dislike.   For me, I enjoy novels that switch time frames, as this one does.  Especially as I try to figure out how the two stories are connected.  It stirs up my brain a little bit more!  But, for some readers, transitioning back and forth between different decades and centuries can be a little bit more than they bargained for – everyone is different. 

In this case, I guessed very early on in the book what the connection was between the two interwoven stories.  But how it was going to play out was to be a surprise.  

An Abbey – Italy

As we know from the back cover of the book, Madeline meets a monk in Italy, who turns her world and her heart upside down.  Their love story is played out with a bit of a twist, which I found very enjoyable.  Theirs was not the black and white world of boy meets girl.  Monica Marlowe’s writing style came to the forefront with the story of Madeline and Brother Anthony.  Marlowe’s writing captured me completely and I became totally enraptured with the love story.  When another love interest was added for Madeline, this twist meant I could not put the book down until the last page!  I was so caught up with this book that my tears were flowing freely, by the time the path of every character’s life was laid out. 

Not that I completely liked the way the story turned out – I did not.   The journey of Madeline’s nephew Jonathan is also a very big part of the storyline.  Jonathan’s life is deeply connected with Madeline, and of course with his mother, Carrie.  And throughout the novel I was right there with Jonathan.  However, I was quite disappointed with the way his storyline ended, and also with the speed with which the author ended it.   I felt a little deserted by that part of the novel.  Almost as though the author suddenly realized she needed an ending for Jonathan’s storyline, and created one.  As I mentioned, that part of the book disappointed me. 

An Italian Landscape

 But, that was a small price to pay for the balance of the book, the bulk of the book, being well written and creatively capturing my heart!  For me, “Finding Felicity” was a wonderful wild ride, thoroughly enjoyable, and romantic.

Beyond the basic story, this book is so much more than a love story.  It is a story of life, of real life.   It is a story of choice, faith, decision, interpersonal relationships, discernment, moral values, the value of friendships, and the value of family.  “Finding Felicity” is jam-packed with human emotions, human struggles, and human kindness.  And Monica Marlowe captures and holds our attention through it all.

Monica Marlowe

Would I recommend this novel?  You can probably guess the answer, but just to clarify, yes, I would highly recommend this novel.  Read it and enjoy!

Outside of the storyline, I would like to briefly comment on the front cover of “Finding Felicity”.  I thought the colours, fonts, layout, and design, were beautifully chosen.  I even enjoyed the colour of the back cover and spine, (a shade of purple – my personal favourite colour).  My only negative reaction was the young woman pictured on the front cover.  To me, she does not look strong enough to be ‘Madeline O’Connor’.  Yes, during the course of the novel, we saw a softer side of business woman Madeline, but even so her strong personality held through the entire book.  For me, the young woman on the front cover did not match the woman depicted in the storyline. 

When I received “Finding Felicity” from the author, Monica Marlowe, Monica kindly autographed the book, including a few words.  The inscription reads:  “Patricia, to your Felicity!”  I was thrilled with Monica’s autograph and inscription. But I kept going back to it:  “to your Felicity”.  I felt that must mean something, and during my reading of the book, I thought it referred to ‘Felicity’ as my dream, the ‘thing’ that made me as proud as Madeline O’Connor was about Felicity International.  And maybe that is what Monica meant.  But, somehow, I just felt there was more.  So, tonight, as I finished up this review, I looked ‘Felicity’ up on a “What Does Your Name Mean” website.  ‘Felicity’ means ‘Happiness’, ‘Happy’, ‘Great Happiness’!    

“Patricia, to your Felicity!”    

To YOUR Felicity.

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Seeing Double??

Did you ever notice this similarity??!  It took me by surprise!

Compare the titles as well as the pictures.

Compare the content of the nests.

Does the hatched bird signify anything about us?

Intriguing, don’t you think???

As always, your comments are most welcome.

Photo Credit: Heather Fraser

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