Thursday, June 18, 2015

Book Review of Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse

Steven R. Tracy has made an excellent contribution to the growing collection of biblical counseling literature possessed by the Church. He writes with three assets that serve him well: a broad knowledge of psychological studies of abusers and their victims, a deep well of experience in counseling victims of abuse and molestation, and a rich foundation of training in handling the Scriptures accurately.

The book is divided into three parts: the nature of abuse, the effects of abuse, and the healing path. He delivers, resoundingly, what each part promises. Mixing insights from psychological studies, careful exegesis of Scripture, and case studies, Tracy fully explores the horrific damage that abusers and abusive families perpetrate on victims. But he does not fall into the trap of ennobling and white-washing the victims. He also explores the (understandable) sinful responses of victims to their abuse, and he’s not afraid to label those responses as sin.

In a word, this is gentle pastoral care of souls ravaged by abuse, wrapped into an insightful, honest volume. Whether you are coming from the “Christian counseling” side of the aisle, or the “Biblical counseling” side, you’ll find much that’s useful. Tracy does a good job of staying true to Scripture while fully employing the observations and statistics of the world of psychology.

The chapters on "Facing the Brokenness" and "Rebuilding Intimacy with God" are outstanding. Here is real hope and practical guidance for counselors who are working with victims of abuse and molestation.

As a sidelight, those who are helping combat veterans dealing with PTSD might find useful insights in this volume. Tracy does a good job of showing the relationships between various kinds of high-stress high-trauma experiences.

The weakest part of the book, in my estimation, is his chapter on forgiveness. While I find myself in agreement of most of what he has to say, I think there are better treatments elsewhere. It’s a niggling, quibbling point, though, when you consider the overall excellence of the book.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Wagon

You know that wagon you keep falling off? Maybe it's some part of personal or spiritual discipline. Maybe it's reading your Bible or doing a study or working on your anger or your tongue. Maybe it's an attempt to lose weight or change your eating habits. Maybe it's establishing a consistent prayer time, or talking to that neighbor about Christ.

Yeah, that's the wagon I'm talking about - the one you and I keep falling off.

Well, there's something really encouraging about that wagon maybe you hadn't noticed. It keeps coming back every morning so that you can climb back on.

Failure is just a bump in the road; it's not the end of the road. Failure is an opportunity to remember that we live in the grace of God, and that we will always, desparately need His grace. Failure is an opportunity to rebuke my pride, to remember who I am, and who He is, and that He is transforming me, ever so slowly into His image.

Failure is never an opportunity to quit, it's an opportunity to get up and get back on the wagon.

"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." (Jude 24-25)

[Picture Credit: Doris Cobb]

Friday, June 12, 2015

Book Review: Allegiance: Fort Sumpter, Charleston, and the beginning of the Civil War, by David Detzer

This is a good book. I started it wondering whether or not a 320 page book about one tiny battle would be able to hold my attention. It did. Detzer's writing is excellent, highly readable, and free from academic jargon. His research on the topic is exhaustive: he knows what he is talking about.

Detzer provides a fine snapshot of antebellum Charleston, its commerce and society, its colorful characters and politicians, and its slaves. He does a good job of pointing out the sad ironies of slavery amidst a free people: he's not preachy but at times very cutting.

Detzer sugar-coats no one, although he comes close in his portrayal of Major Robert Anderson, who is presented as a man of high character and leadership skills, who is blessed with equal but contradictory doses of pacifism and duty to country.

The final chapter was outstanding, and presented a very sensitive and appropriate retrospective on the later lives of some of the major characters as well as Charleston and Fort Sumpter.

It's an excellent book. There are a few weaknesses, all relatively minor. Dezter is a professional historian, but he gets pretty snarky in places. I'm still trying to decide whether it's endearing or irritating. He does a good bit of editorializing, as well. Usually in just a sentence, never more than a paragraph or two at a time, but liberally sprinkled through the book.

One example is his almost-gratuitous passage on the meaning of the flag, on pages 127-128, claiming that there is no true meaning of a flag. In fine postmodern fashion, Detzer intimates that the flag means whatever its wielder wishes it to mean. He then goes on to complete the book demonstrating (unconsciously, perhaps?) that it stands for the sovereignty of the nation whose emblem it bears. There seems to be no confusion about the meaning of the flag for either the soldiers in Sumpter or the civilians in Charleston--and they both seem to ascribe to it the same significance.

Another weakness in his writing is his tendency to skip around in chronology from one paragraph to the next without giving the reader due warning. I found on repeated occasions, well into the paragraph, that the matter being expounded happened before the matter in previous paragraph. I'm no fan of slavish chronology, but I would appreciate a warning when the time of the scene shifts backwards, otherwise it can be (and was) a little confusing.

All these petty gripes are minor in view of the excellence of the account Detzer has created. I recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in Civil War era history.