Stacy Voss

See life differently. Live courageously.

Category: Book Review

10 Prayers That Changed the World: a Book Review

Ten Prayers That Changed the World cover

“Stacy, would you consider doing a book review on Ten Prayers that Changed the World: Extraordinary Stories of Faith that Shaped the Course of History,” someone asked via e-mail.

I’m a junkie for books, all things free, and anything related to life-altering faith and so came the resounding yes.

The book arrived with a tote from National Geographic.

Um, that’s weird. What kind of connection is there between history-changing faith and National Geographic?

Yes, I’m slow. History-changing. That’s the kind of stuff National Geographic is all about. In fact, it’s also what they publish apparently since they’re the publisher of Jean-Pierre Isbouts’ newest book.

I wish I could say I gobbled the book in one sitting. The fact that I didn’t has less to do with the book and more with an overly maxed schedule that stretched even thinner as I began dabbling in real estate before my landlord could spike my rent higher. So after finishing my multiple jobs, checking MLS listings, filing taxes and caring for two kids that I adore, the minutes before bed became more of an “I made it” victory sigh as I climbed into bed rather than my usual (or theoretical, as the case may be) time to curl up and savor the words that others have penned.

 

All of that being said, I will be the first to admit that the challenge to stay awake while reading was definitely on me and has no bearing on Mr. Isbouts’ ability to craft words. I read with rapt attention (or as rapt as one can muster when much too tired), beginning with Abraham. With the skill of a historian, coupled with the ability to take the facts of years past and present them in an engaging manner, Isbouts details the life of Abram. In the voice of a storyteller, he shows the inner struggles of a man unsure of himself and even more uncertain of the call placed on him, a call including being the father of a great nation.

“Even now, looking back, Abram remembers that moment as he stood, mute and dumb, on the top of the hill while a hundred questions ran through his mind. Why? Why me? What is it that God expects of me, a lowly shepherd with a barren wife? How could I possibly become the head of a great nation? I don’t even have a son.” (pg. 23)

 

And yet, inner turmoil remaining, Abram left the only land he’d known with Sarai, his beautiful wife.

Yes, beautiful. So much so that Abram feared what would happen to him on account of her. So he told her to state a half-truth: “say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.’ Technically it was not a lie; Sarai was his half sister as well as his spouse, not uncommon in Mesopotamia” (pg. 26).

The mutated truth cause Pharaoh to believe she was a single woman, so he took her as his concubine.

“And then Abram did something that he had never done before in his life: He prayed to God. He didn’t know the proper form, how one prayed to an unseen power, unlike the deities in Mesopotamia whose idols were shaped just like human beings. …He prayed to god for forgiveness. He prayed to God for guidance. And he prayed that God save his wife, his beloved Sarai” (pg. 27).

As I re-read those words now at a time of day other than my stupor-like trance in the minutes before I drift to sleep, the words resonate and ring true, yet for whatever reason when I first read them, they startled, agitated and threatened. Yes, threatened to shatter what I believed. Not a salvation-ending kind of belief, but a belief that goes back to my young days sitting in front of the flannel graph. I sang about Father Abraham. He was one of the pillars of the faith. Surely that meant he knew how to talk to God.

I couldn’t accept Isbouts’ words, believing he was painting a picture of a faithless man rather than the one-dimensional depiction I had grown accustomed to. In fact, I didn’t want to read on because I “knew” about Abram and wasn’t sure how Isbouts’ accounts of him lined up with reality and therefore didn’t want to read narratives about people I was less familiar with and accept their stories as true. But despite my stubbornness, the words have challenged me for weeks now, stretching what I thought I knew to a different realm.

Yes, Abram was married to a barren woman yet became the father of a great nation. And yes, Abram followed God – but perhaps even more importantly, followed a God he wasn’t fully  acquainted with. Somehow, that sounds incredibly familiar.

Isbouts paints Abram with the strokes of a realist. He doesn’t don a cape and become a far-off lore, but rather shows the fears, doubts, and yes, mistakes! And along the way, a quiet nudge whispers: yes, perhaps Abram’s prayers changed the world and perhaps if the prayers of a insecure, oftentimes passive guy could have such a profound effect, well, maybe mine can, too.

Mr. Jean-Pierre Isbouts, I commend you. It is no small task to get something past this oftentimes thick head of mine, especially when sleep is in short fashion. But you did. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were said that your book helped change the world as it motivates to dig deeper into the very thing your book speaks of: prayer.

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Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Jean Pierre Isbouts APAbout Jean-Pierre Isbouts

Jean-Pierre Isbouts is a bestselling author, historian, and award-winning director of documentary and feature films. A humanities scholar and professor at Fielding Graduate University of Santa Barbara, California, he has published widely on subjects in art, history and archaeology, and directed films for Disney, ABC, Hallmark, History Channel and other studios and networks. He has also produced a broad repertoire of classical music with ensembles in New York, Los Angeles and Amsterdam.

Find out more about Jean-Pierre at his website.

Would You Love Enough to Let Go?

True confession. I know Carrie’s story (you’ll hear part of it in her guest post below). It’s wrought with pain, heartache, selflessness, love and rebirth yet I’d never considered it to be an Easter story, but that’s exactly what it is. The quickest summary is that Carrie and her husband adopted an older child. They loved him with all of their might, but his many years of not being loved made it hard for him to accept that which they lavished on him.

He couldn’t bond with their family. Try as they might, he just couldn’t. Reactive Attachment Disorder. That’s what the pros called it. Me? I probably would wager it was just sheer exhaustion, heartache, disappointment and self-doubt.

But amidst the many emotions, one prevailed: love. As their adopted son finally began bonding years later–to another family!–they had to ask themselves the unthinkable question:

Will You Love Enough to Let Go?

This weekend we celebrate how that question was answered on our behalf years ago. And now you get to hear how Carrie answered.

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So many things have been written about Easter! We all have memories of Easter’s past.
Here’s a video retelling of Easter 2009 from my kitchen to yours:

I wrote my story three years ago, as therapy for my broken heart and exhausted spirit. After hearing, “Memoirs don’t sell” countless times, I put the book away and tried to write a self-help book. During this time, I wrestled with my confidence and thoughts of not wanting to write a book, just for the sake of writing a book. I could not ignore the burning in my soul about writing my story.

I believe God resurrected this book, because my story is powerful! I decided to sit down and write it again, the book practically birthed itself!

As time passed and my wounds healed, I realized my story isn’t just a memoir. It’s a MEMOIR with a MESSAGE. A message that needs to be heard by…

*foster, step, and adoptive parents-you will feel understood, heard, and find strength.

*those who have been adopted-you may relate to the feelings you’ve always struggled to understand.

*family and friends of foster, step, and adoptive families-they need you to understand what’s happening in their homes without judgment. They need support.

*counselors, doctors, teachers, pastors, judicial workers, social workers, and those in the system-please learn about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Please understand what happens at home is not what you see in public. Please give support to these parents, especially the moms. They are trying so hard, and can’t seem to figure this out. They are giving to the point of exhaustion, and they need help, not criticism.

*those who have or are currently struggling with infertility or miscarriage-you are not alone, and your grief is real.

*struggling parents-it’s such a tough job! Things don’t always go the way we hoped, but you will get get through it.

Easter…the time of death and resurrection.

God has given me a new life. I hope my book will inspire many to continue even when it feels like life is over, even when you don’t think you can take one more breath. Keep going. God has a plan. It may not look like YOUR plan, but he has a plan. It will be good again. It will even be great!

You can pre-order Relinquished: When Love Means Letting Go here:

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole, M.A.

Craving Grace

They say not to judge a book by it’s cover, but how can you not when the cover has a drop of luscious chocolate?

Craving Grace by Ruthie Delk

 

There are few things I long for more than a piece of dark chocolate sprinkled with some nuts. Grace is one of three things that make the list.

So I grabbed the rather small book entitled Craving Grace: Experience the Richness of the Gospel. I figured I’d ingest it as quickly as a milk chocolate bar.

But I couldn’t.

Some things, like dark chocolate, are meant to be savored.

I hadn’t even made it through the introduction when Ruthie Delk’s words put the brakes on. She explained when she felt dead inside even though she fully believed in God (been there, too?). She described her pattern like this:

When confronted by failure or inadequacy, I minimized my sin, which led to . . .

Minimizing the holiness of God, which led to . . .

Believing in a small God, a small Jesus, a small cross, and a big self” (pg. 13).

Her book has diagrams, primarily one she dubs Gospel Eight. It is a profound way to look at our choices, beliefs and relationship with God, yet her most poignant diagram is the one I just quoted. With nothing more than a more radical view of who we are in relation to who God is, all else fades away.

So I put my “Hershey bar” down and let it soak in for a few days before continuing on. I didn’t make it far before another sentence leapt off the page and into my heart. Ruthie was talking about sin and asked how you or I would define it. Easy. Sin is anything that makes me miss the mark with God, I thought as I regurgitated the definition I learned long ago.

But she uses Romans 14:23 to define sin:

Everything that does not come by faith is sin.”

Then, the challenge to consider all of the arenas where unbelief shows up in our lives such as “when I

  • listen to lies that say that I’m not lovable
  • believe that a promotion will solve my problems
  • live for the approval of others
  • am critical of others
  • need others to ‘need me’ in order to feel loved
  • work harder to earn God’s favor” (pg 29).

Her list continues, as does ours, but she sums it up best this way: “Getting your identity right is absolutely crucial to really getting the gospel.”

So I’ll give you the warning I didn’t have the luxury of knowing before starting this book. You won’t make it through it in a single sitting, or if you do, you’ll want to read it again. And again. But by the time you make it to the end, your life will be filled with the richness of the gospel.

I’m giving away a copy of Craving Grace. To enter, all you need to do is answer why you’d like to receive a copy of the book. A winner will randomly be chosen on February 20th. Good luck!

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© 2017 Stacy Voss