mourning

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Book Review: “Learning to Jump Again” by Anthony Weber

Anthony Weber’s work, Learning to Jump Again, is part memoir of a lost father, part philosophical treatise on the problem of suffering. The focus throughout is Weber’s father and the issues with mourning, suffering, and heroism his life and death brought up.

The book starts with “the Journal”–a series of entries from Weber’s journal during the time surrounding the death of his father. As one who is very close to his father, these entries truly struck home. There were many moments where this reader just lost it in tears. Weber does not hold back, at all. His father was suffering from jaundice due to cancer. He writes, “A friend stopped by that weekend to borrow some tools, and I stammered through an explanation of why my visiting father was yellow… He [the friend] knew that after the fall comes winter, and after the chill comes the cold, and he was mercifully silent” (2).

Weber does not restrict the period of mourning or the discussion thereof to the months immediately surrounding his father’s death; rather, the Journal contains entries as far as eight years (and later) after his father’s death. Christians reading the book are forced to the realization that it is not easy to struggle through these issues. When a beloved father dies, it is not something that passes with the seasons. Even eight years later, he wrote of his withholding himself from his wife and children, and the realization that came with it that he must trust in God, “even if I don’t always understand him” (76-78).

Yet the journal section is not merely a reflection. Weber shares lessons and thoughts he has on mourning, God, and the reality of pain in the world throughout his memoirs. He notes that too many people know about God without knowing God (72-73); refers to the experiences of wrestling God (45); and contrasts the ways and beliefs of “the flesh” with that of reality (33). Throughout this section, there is much for readers to take away.

The second part of the book focuses on the issues behind suffering and the Christian worldview. Weber’s discussion is an admirably easy-to-read introduction to many of the philosophical issues surrounding the problem of evil and other issues. In particular, his discussions of emotions, dreams, and prayer in particular offered a number of insights that readers will be interested in reading more about. Weber included a lot of resources for interested readers to explore, so the book serves as a valuable resource in that regard as well. His discussion of the problem of pain does an excellent job introducing difficult notions like distinguishing between types of the problem of evil (122ff). His discussion of the various possible routes theists can take to discuss the problem of evil is also brief but informative.

Throughout the book there are numerous quotes from various authors. Many of these are novelists such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Dean Koontz, Shakespeare, and C.S. Lewis. Others are from people like Helen Keller, Phillip Yancey, and Scripture. These quotes are often profound and fit the context perfectly. As a reader, this reviewer admits to frequently skimming past quotes when I see them in texts, particularly when they are out of context, but with Learning to Jump Again, the quotes all draw out new emotions, thoughts, and ideas very well. They add to, rather than distract from, the text.

Learning to Jump Again was a bit of a surprise for me. The section of the book that was a memoir served poignantly to draw readers into the heart of a mourning man. But it did not leave readers with that; rather, Weber constantly struggled with issues that Christians at all stages must deal with. Further, the philosophical section which encompassed the latter part of the book is an excellent survey of a number of issues. Many will benefit from the insights Weber provides. The book tugs at the heart strings and gets the mind working. Readers who have already extensively explored the issues of the latter part of the book will benefit from viewing the issues in the context of a memoir. Those who have not will benefit greatly from the discussion throughout the book. I recommend it very highly.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Contest: “How My Savior Leads Me” by Terri Stellrecht

Recently, I reviewed How My Savior Leads Me by Terri Stellrecht. I now have the opportunity to host a free book giveaway in which one winner will be selected to receive a copy of the book. I highly encourage readers to check out the book and Terri’s site, How My Savior Leads Me.

Rules:

Those who wish to participate need only to post a question for the author of the book. The author and I will select a few questions for her to answer, and we will select the winning entry randomly from the total pool of questions selected. (All valid entries will have a chance to win, including those with questions not selected.)You Must Provide a Valid E-Mail Address To Be Selected As A Winner. Please note that only entries that ship to addresses within the Continental United States are eligible. Only one entry per person is allowed, but entrants can choose to enter more than one question should they desire.

“How am I supposed to know what to ask, if I haven’t read the book?”

Well, read the review to get some insight into the book, or check out the handy “look inside” feature on Amazon! Or, if you’re feeling particularly lazy: it’s a book which beautifully reflects on the passing of Trent, Terri’s son. She focuses upon God’s sovereignty and his plan throughout it all and rejoices in the fact that Trent is saved in heaven. So, questions can be asked on anything from divine sovereignty to Christianity generally to personal questions about coping with the loss of a child. But for more, I’d suggest reading the review.

The questions chosen to be answered will be featured following the contest in a follow up post, “Q and A with Terri Stellrecht.”

Any entry deemed offensive will be deleted. The contest will be open through midnight, central time, on February 19th, 2012. The winner will be selected by February 26, 2012.

Disclaimer:

This contest is being held at the sole discretion of J.W. Wartick and Terri Stellrecht. They reserve the right to cancel or amend the details of the contest in any way at any time. Specifically, they will not be held accountable if the book is lost in the mail; if an entry is missed; etc. In other words, this contest is in no way legally binding for any who participate. By submitting an entry, you agree to the stipulations and rules provided in this post.

Book Review: “How My Savior Leads Me” by Terri Stellrecht

It is with great rejoicing that we release our son, Trent Lee Stellrecht, age 12, to our Heavenly Father. Dance before your King, my son (xiii).

“How My Savior Leads Me” by Terri Stellrecht is a beautiful work of theological reflection.

Terri’s son, Trent, passed away at age 12. The first part of the book reflects upon the incident. Everything is set against the background of Terri’s faith. She describes Tren’s life from birth to death, and throughout focuses on the joys of a son and his coming to faith. The reality of sin in the life Trent is acknowledged, even from a young age (10-11). But Trent eventually repented, telling Terri, “I’m not right with God” and repenting, turning to Bible study, and glorying in the Lord (12ff).

But Trent’s life was cut short in a skiing accident. Terri describes the heart-rending scenes. The whole family saw his body, and Terri noted that “There was my son, but it was so clearly not Trent anymore. It was truly just a shell. A beautiful, young, 12-year-old shell of a body… It was so evident that there was no soul left” (32). The family took comfort in the last verses Trent had read, Isaiah 65:17-25, which starts, “See I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” Terri’s description of the funeral and other events surrounding Trent’s death is stirring and easily draws readers in. This is a Christian sister in mourning, and it rends the heart, even as readers rejoice with her that her son is in heaven.

The book continues with several chapters on sovereignty, mourning, and other topics. It concludes with a series of edited blog posts Terri wrote during the period shortly before and after Trent’s death. The blog posts are all worth reading. Readers will delight in Terri’s joy in her son and also weep with her in the times of sorrow. Her exhortations to fellow Christians to “wake up” reflect an intimate knowledge of one’s own standing with God that Christians would do well to remember (132ff).

Theology is found throughout “How My Savior Leads Me.” Terri is consistently affirming of God’s sovereignty.  The book makes it very apparent how comforting a strong view of sovereignty can be in times of mourning. Terri writes, “When we are weak, God is strong/ He empowered us to walk through those church doors, and promised to be with us for it all… We acknowledged God’s goodness in His perfect plan…” (40). Later, she writes, “If God ordained the beginning, the middle, and every detail until the end of Joseph’s life, [see the Joseph narrative Genesis chapters 37-50] then isn’t it easy to conclude that He has ordained every detail in our lives as well?” (59). Clearly, the comfort is found in acknowledging that all things are part of God’s plan.

She turns also to the important question “Why has God ordained all things?” The answer Terri provides, on the basis of Ephesians 1:11-12 and Isaiah 43:7 is that it is for God’s glory to show through all things (59ff). “God’s sovereign hand” is found in suffering (61). It is part of a process of sanctification by which we are made holy (62ff).

Now, within the Christian tradition there are those who definitely do not agree that God “ordained” every detail of Joseph’s life, if the sense of “ordained” is “caused.” Here, this reader’s own philosophy of religion may be peeking through, but it does seem that, at times, “How My Savior Leads Me” is advancing theological determinism. That may indeed be the view Terri holds, but it seems to me that such a position is inconsistent with some other propositions she makes. For example, she clearly does seem to hold that Trent willingly came to the faith after being a willing rebel against God’s will earlier in his life. Further, Terri writes, “In God’s sovereign plan, man had to fall so that the glory of God would be revealed to it’s [sic] fullest” (65, emphasis mine). Now, this assertion is highly contentious and doesn’t receive any argument [there are verses on either side of it, but they are used to support propositions in conjunction with them… the quoted statement has no cited verses]. I realize this is a position most in the various Reformed schools hold, but it does require some kind of argument to support it. Many Christians–myself included–certainly do not agree that man “had to fall” in order to reveal God’s glory. Also, Terri briefly admits chagrin at the female chaplain presented to her at the hospital, noting “How many times… have I gone on about women pastors and what I believe about the churches embracing of a practice and position that the Bible clearly lays out as a man’s role?” (31). Again, no argument is made to support this position. It should be noted that these criticisms mostly come from treating the book as something it’s not. The book itself is a book of mourning and theological reflection; it is not a defense of a position. Readers like me who may disagree with some of Terri’s points, but can still laugh, cry, and jump for joy with Terri as we follow her reflective journey in this book.

Ultimately, “How My Savior Leads Me” deserves a read by anyone. I must use the word “beauty” to describe much of the book. It is beautiful to see a mother mourning her son while affirming the Lord. It is beautiful to weep with our fellow Christian as they endure suffering. It is beautiful to look ahead, and to marvel at how our savior leads us.

Terri Stellrecht, How My Savior Leads Me (Bloomington, IN: WestBow, 2011).

Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of this book by the author. My thanks to Terri for the opportunity to review her book.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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