BOOK REVIEW: Moving From Judgment: How to Have an Open Heart in a Close World

December 5, 2011


By Joseph & Brenda Rinehart

Book review by Donna Totey

Moving from Judgment book review on SPIRIT 105.3

 

 

Who among us hasn’t looked at someone else and judged them?  Say you’re in a grocery store and see a mom harshly reprimand her child.  Or you’re in traffic and someone pulls out in front of you, causing you to slam on your brakes.  Or you see someone sitting in church and they’re wearing tattered jeans and kind of smell funny.  We get frustrated or superior or disgusted or even pious.  I know I’ve been there.  But sometimes we don’t even know we’re doing it.  The Rineharts talk about why we do this and how to move past it in their book, Moving From Judgment.

 

The book starts out with a very real discussion amongst the elders of the church and Joseph Rinehart, the pastor.  The question causing division is, “Are we taking in just anybody?” Unfortunately, people in a lot of churches across the country are having the same conversation, with reasons summed up as “letting the wrong kind of people in” or “being a novice.”

 

The Rineharts address the reasons for people being so judgmental, starting with Personhood.  They point out that humanity was given the power of free choice, and while very valuable and precious to God, we are capable of very destructive, self-centered and shortsighted actions. That is followed by Personal Values, which we all learn from influences in our family, personal experience, popular culture, preferences and our inborn human nature. Cultural Values are also a part of why we are the way we are.  Ultimately, the Rineharts point out that when we can recognize that “all humans possess equal value that has nothing to do with work, personality, attractiveness, values, behaviors or anything else,” then we can start to “treat one another with the dignity and respect due” to them based on who we are to God.

 

What if you’ve been the one judged?  Several principles are outlined to help you to get through it, and then move past it.  Joseph Rinehart, through his personal experiences, lays out 6 principles: Acknowledge the hurt, give yourself time, don’t pick at the scabs, let the train leave the station (move on and leave it behind), understand the nature of cause and effect (hurt people…hurt people) and use your hurt to heal others.

 

The final conclusion is that we all must look to God to not only overcome hurt, but to love others with the compassion of Jesus.  None of us are exempt from being judged or from doing the judging.

 

I love the subject of this book because most of us could stand to work on our judgmental hearts.  We are yearning to be more like Christ and this is an area in which we are sometimes blind.  I like what the Rineharts state…”Since the world around us changes daily, if not hourly, we have a deep-seated need to build our priorities on something solid that does not change—the reason that Jesus emphasized the need to ‘love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.’” The Rineharts aren’t just talking about theories here; they’ve walked through some very painful personal experiences, where they had to try to understand the judgments made against them.

 

Moving from Judgment is not a book that can be read in one sitting.  The text is rich with theology and ideas that one must “chew on” to really understand the concepts. In each chapter, there’s a section titled, “Going Deeper” in which there are several scripture passages, with the background of what was happening at that time in history and “The Point,” why it’s significant in our lives today.  Then there’s a prayer, which I found very meaningful and conversational, which was helpful in expressing to God what I just learned and asking Him to change me in those specific ways.  Because of the format, the book lends itself to be used on a personal level or as a tool for a group.

Book Synopsis: Moving from Judgment by Joseph and Brenda Rinehart

December 1, 2011

It is so easy to judge another person’s motives, in essence to judge their heart, without ever considering their journey. If we are honest, all of us would admit to having some type of personal bias, and sometimes, whether we intend to or not, that bias turns to judgment.

Have you ever had the unpleasant experience of someone passing judgment on you? Most people have, but everyone has also judged someone else. So how do you balance compassion and conformity or empathy and complacency? Moving From Judgment: How to Have an Open Heart in a Closed World offers a practical approach to answer those deep-seated questions that Christians struggle with.  Authors Joe and Brenda Rinehart examine the sources of critical attitudes and outline how to see people compassionately through the eyes of Christ. Each chapter is divided into three sections: material designed for understanding the concepts discussed, a going deeper section for personal or group study, and a prayer section that is specific to the material covered in the chapter.  After reading Moving from Judgment: How to Have an Open Heart in a Closed World, you will not see other people (or even yourself) quite the same way again.

Joe Rinehart is the religion columnist for the Federal Way Mirror, inFederal Way,Washington, as well as a former pastor. Brenda Rinehart is Director of Medical Imaging at a hospital in theSeattle area, as well as an instructor atBellevueCollege.  Together Joe and Brenda are actively involved atBrooklakeCommunityChurch inFederal Way,Washington.  They support local ministries to the homeless and lead in- home groups.

Book Review: The Shack by William P. Young

March 24, 2011

Book Review by Donna Totey

I must be one of the last people to read The Shack.  Written in 2007 by William Paul Young, this book quickly swept across the country and has on the New York Times Bestseller List for well over two years.  Since being published, over 10 million copies have been printed.  And now I see why.

The Shack is the story of Mackenzie Allen Phillip, better known as Mac, and the process he went through after the abduction and murder of his youngest daughter, Missy.  Unable to successfully deal with her death, years later Mac is still going through what he calls, “The Great Sadness” which penetrates his daily life.  One day, he receives a mysterious note from “Papa” that invites to the shack.  The same shack where evidence of Missy’s murder was found.  Mac is at first horrified, but then considers the offer and eventually makes plans to spend a weekend there.

After Mac arrives at the shack, it becomes transformed before his eyes, apparently due to the presence of “Papa,” an outgoing African-American woman, who also happens to be God.  Now stay with me…God appears to Mac in this form because this is apparently how Mac needs to see Him.  Along with Papa are a flannel-wearing Jesus and a small woman named Sarayu, who is the Holy Spirit.

I know it all sounds weird…it did to me, too.  But what follows is actually very beautiful.  Mac learns how to really have relationship with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Because of his weekend with them, the barriers that Mac always held up between himself and God are torn down.  The three also help him to heal and cope with Missy’s death, bringing Mac closure and peace.  Mac learns to put his trust in God fully and completely, even to the point of choosing to forgive Missy’s killer.

I think what has attracted millions of people to this book is the very real, very personal relationship Mac has with Papa, Jesus & Sarayu.  Papa delights in Mac, whom she is “especially fond of.” What I see is that God isn’t someone who is ethereal and far away.  Or someone who is sitting on a giant throne, ready to squash us if we make the wrong move. God is someone who we can sit at the table and enjoy a meal with.  Jesus is someone we can lay on the grass with and look at the clouds with.  The Holy Spirit is someone we can go fishing with.  We can be honest with God and share our most personal thoughts with Him.  And He’s someone who cares so much about each one of us.  I love how God’s delight in us is shown in such a real way in The Shack.  Mac, like many of us, didn’t have a good relationship with his earthly father and needed to see what a loving Father was like.

I know The Shack has been controversial, due in part to the portrayal of God as a woman.  To me, this is explained sufficiently in the book.  But this book is meant to be taken allegorically, not literally.  If you can read it in that spirit, I think you’ll find a few life-changing lessons in The Shack.

Book Synopsis: The Shack by William P. Young

March 24, 2011

The Shack by William P. Young

Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant “The Shack” wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!

Book Review: Book of Days by James L. Rubart

January 28, 2011

Book Review by Donna Totey

“… in Your book all my days were recorded, even those which were purposed before they had come into being.”

—Psalm 139:16

Do you know anyone who is struggling with the existence of God?  Anyone who believes that He exists but doesn’t know what to do with that knowledge?  They have a lot in common with Cameron Vaux, the central character in Book of Days by James L. Rubart.

After his father dies from apparent Alzheimer’s disease, and his wife dies in a plane accident, Cameron starts to find that some of his memories are slipping away and he fears he’s suffering the same fate as his dad.  He recalls his father, in a more coherent moment, telling him about a book, written by God, which has all of one’s days recorded in it, past, present and future.  His wife also refers to the same book shortly before her death.  Cameron feels that finding the book is the key to fixing his memory problems.
 
He heads to Three Peaks, Oregon to find clues to the book’s whereabouts.  What he finds is a very tight, small community who, for the most part, won’t discuss the book.  He meets the fanatical Jason Judah, who seems to worship the idea of the book. Through several enigmatic clues, the path leads to Taylor Stone, who seems to hold the key to finding the book.  The question is whether the book is real or just a legend.  Also, enter Ann Bannister, Cameron’s late wife’s friend and foster sister, who is on a search of her own.

Book of Days was written while Rubart’s own father was dying of Alzheimer’s.  Rubart writes a lovely note at the end of the book about his father (don’t miss it.) The question arose for Rubart as to what happens to his father’s memories.  He says that God gave him Psalm 139:16.  Thus, the idea for Book of Days was born.
Book of Days, not only was an intriguing mystery, but also a good allegory for those who are seeking God.  Cameron was surrounded by people who had deep relationships with God, but failed to see Him until his own memory loss prompted him to seek out the Book of Days.  Maybe some of us are still seeking God, while others have had circumstances, much like Cameron’s, that sent us running to find God.

Taylor and Cameron both are paralyzed by events of the past.  Taylor, in particular, can’t let go of past mistakes and past hurts.  There’s a strong message of forgiveness, both of others and ourselves, that frees the person who forgives.

Jason Judah is the perfect example of someone who worships the creation and forgets to worship the Creator.  He takes this “religion” so far that it becomes a cult, neither relying on the truth in the Bible, nor on God. 

I found the book intriguing and I really didn’t anticipate the outcome until the very end.  There are tender moments, very suspenseful moments and I really didn’t want to put the book down!  I couldn’t wait to figure out whether the Book of Days was, indeed, real or not. I especially like how we find out about Cameron’s life a little at a time through flashbacks. 

There are many themes running through this book and a lot of smaller storylines. The twists and turns in the plot will ensure that you’ll be on the edge of your seat. Cameron’s journey to find a real Book of Days, like a lot of us, is about a journey to find out if God is real.  Anyone who’s longing for connection, with God and with others, will relate to some part of this book.  Because we’re all seekers, in one way or another.

Book Synopsis: Book of Days by James L. Rubart

January 28, 2011

Book of Days by James L. Rubart

“… in Your book all my days were recorded, even those which were purposed before they had come into being.”

—Psalm 139:16

Young Cameron Vaux’s mind is slipping. Memories of his wife, killed two years earlier in a car accident, are vanishing just as his dad predicted they would. Memories he knows he has to remember.

His father tells Cameron that to save his mind he must find “the book with all days in it” —the past and future record of every soul on earth.

When an obscure clue leads Cameron to a small central Oregon town, he meets enigmatic Taylor Stone, a possible guide to finding the book who seems to carry secrets far deeper than anyone imagines. Local hotshot TV personality Ann Bannister thinks the legend of the book is a farce, but she has her reasons to join Cameron’s search anyway. Finally, there is fanatical New Age guru Jason Judah, who will stop at nothing to find the book of days before Cameron does.

Gotta Have It!

July 19, 2010

Review by Donna Totey

By Gregory L. Jantz, PhD

with Ann McMurray

Book Review by Donna Totey

I love the line on the back of this book, “Tame your inner two-year-old.” To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to pick up this book and tame that inner two-year-old! I somehow knew that this book would change the way I look at my habits. Especially when I read the subtitle, Freedom from wanting everything right here, right now. There’s a kind of comfort in holding onto our emotional security blankets and I was reluctant to give mine up.

Dr. Jantz describes all the things that we never get enough of–an activity, food, behavior–as “excessities.” As a reward for ourselves, these things make us feel better, at least temporarily. For many of us, life can be hard and excessities can surely ease the discomforts of a rough day or a strained relationship. But the problem is that it masks our real need, the true comfort of a close relationship with God.

The first section of Gotta Have It! describes the “Power of Wants.” In most of us, we often confuse needs with wants. Dr. Jantz states that “once a desire has been categorized as a need, we’re pretty resourceful at finding a way to fill it–even when our methods are addictive, damaging, or hurtful.” We also feel we have a “right” to fill that need.

Dr. Jantz lists some things in our lives that can be “excessities.” The list surprised me. Of course I expected things like alcohol and drugs, maybe even food to be on the list. But caffeine! Then there’s electronics (ouch!), shopping, work, hobbies, among others.

Just when I was about to lose heart, Section Two lists what our real needs are. Dr. Jantz gently leads the reader through some of our major needs–comfort, reassurance, security, validation and control. I think anyone can identify with one or more of these needs. To pinpoint your specific needs is the first step in overcoming your love of and reliance on your excessities.

Then he finishes by pointing to God and all the things He can provide for us that help us lean on Him and not on excessities. Things like patience, endurance, contentment and many others. Dr. Jantz explains that our true fulfilment can only come from our relationship with God. We need to seek him to fill our true needs.

Possibly the best parts of this book are the “Planting Seeds” sections at the end of each chapter. The questions in these sections help the reader look at his or her own life and work through the principles described in each chapter. I felt that these sections led me through the process of examining my excessities, my needs and the different personal ways God can provide for me.

When I finished the book, I realized that the whole process wasn’t painful like I thought it would be! Instead of reluctantly letting go of my emotional security blankets, I felt excited to embrace the freedom God provides for us from our excessities. Dr. Jantz is so gentle and understanding in his explanations that he made it really easy to look at myself.

Book Synopsis: Gotta Have It

July 16, 2010

by Dr. Gregg Jantz

Are you spending so much time trying to get what you want that you have no energy left to get what you need? each of us has a “never enough” activity, food, or behavior – and we’re ready to throw a grown up tantrum when we don’t get it.

Dr. Gregory L. Jantz calls this phenomenon excessity – when our excesses become “necessities.” Excessities are our reward, our coping mechanism, and the illusory answer to pain. We feel we need their pleasure to insulate us from a difficult world. Yet the more we starve, what we really need – such as purpose, hope, and security – the greater our hunger grows for what will never satisfy.

In “Gotta Have It!” you are invited to discover the truth that is hiding behind your secret desires. With real life stories and sections for self reflection “Gotta Have It!” will help you see your life as never before – and delight in the ways god is longing to fulfill your true needs.

What people are saying about the book:

“Gregg Jantz’s coined word, excessity, pushes readers to examine what drives them to real-but-extreme wants and yearnings. As he points out, if we don’t have our true needs met, the drug of excessities deadens our pain in our failed attempts to find happiness.”
Cecil Murphy, speaker and co-author of the New York Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven

“This book will help just about anyone identify three core life issues—what you want, what you really need, and what God provides. When these three compass points are aligned, it’s easier to live a life full of contentment, peace, and satisfaction.”
Dr. Tim Clinton, president of the America Association of Christian Counselors

“Are you burdened, discouraged and worn down? Are you tired of the neve-ending crusade to aspire, struggle to achieve and strain to attain? Dr. Gregg Jantz masterfully exposes the subtle lure of life’s ‘excessities,’ their corrosive impact on mind, body and spirit, and provides a simple yet effectual guide to freedom, health and peace!
Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., Christian psychiatrist, speaker, radio personality, and author of Could It Be This Simple?: A Biblical Model for Healing the Mind

“This is a very helpful book that exposes our excessities (when excesses become necessities) in areas such as food, alcohol, caffeine, electronics, shopping, exercise, hobbies, gambling, sex, relationships, and money. It also provides biblically-based solutions for overcoming excessities, centered in God and what He provides: patience, endurance, contentment, wisdom, hope, help, and answers.”
Rev. Dr. Siang-Yang Tan, professor of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary, and senior pastor, First Evangelical Church Glendale

Book Review: Rooms by James L. Rubart

April 18, 2010

Book review by Donna Totey

The cover of Rooms touts that this book is “Part The Screwtape Letters and part The Shack.”  That’s a perfect description of this great allegory.  But it’s so much more than that.

Rooms begins with Micah Taylor finding out that his late great-uncle has given him a house in Cannon Beach, Oregon…one that was recently built just for Micah.  The catch? Micah has never met his great-uncle.

Micah decides to leave his multi-million dollar company and his girlfriend in Seattle to visit the house.  He soon discovers that this is no ordinary house.  In the huge house are many rooms, each apparently serving a different purpose.  Some rooms even appear where none were there before.  His great-uncle also leaves behind a stack of letters, written to Micah, which are to help him on his journey. The letters are filled with advice, wisdom about God and Bible verses.

In town, Micah meets Rick, the owner of the local garage, and they strike up an instant friendship.  Rick talks to Micah about God and seems to have some knowledge of the house.  Micah finds himself drawn to the house and starts to spend a lot more time there and a lot less time in Seattle.  His two lives become very separate from each other.

As Micah explores the house, he starts to discover things about himself and is forced to confront past hurts.  With each experience, he draws closer and closer to God.  And his life in Seattle, which is filled with all the world has to offer, figuratively and literally, starts to slip away.  Micah must then chose between his old life and his new life.

In one of the rooms, a mysterious voice appears that says he and Micah are the same.  Micah visits that room frequently, receiving advice that is, at times, contrary to the advice from his uncle and Rick.

When reading Rooms, one can’t help but compare Micah’s rooms with all the “rooms” in each of our lives.  As the author states, this book is about freedom.  Each room brings Micah a little more freedom as he confronts some things and lets other things go.  This is the freedom that we, as Christians, experience in some way when we choose God.  But it also confronts the areas of our lives in which we aren’t free…those “rooms” that we haven’t yet entered, for whatever reason.

While Micah is working through his hurts and struggles, the reader has the opportunity to look inside his own heart and see which “rooms” need to be explored.  As Micah experiences true freedom in God, one longs for that total freedom as well.  In one way or another, there’s an opportunity for the reader to relate to Micah’s situation.

In the back of the book are some discussion questions to help the reader get the most out of the book.  The questions are written so that they can be used in a group or alone.  As I read the questions, I felt that the lessons of the book became more solidified in my mind. 

Rooms is an amazing book in which Christians, new and old alike, can find the path to greater freedom in Christ and can experience more of His love and the joy one has in following Him.  This is the kind of book that sticks with you long after you’ve read the last page.

…And just footnote for us Northwesterners, it’s fun to read about all the familiar places, both in Seattle and in Cannon Beach.  The author has personal knowledge of these locations, being a Northwesterner himself.

Book Synopsis: Rooms by James L. Rubart

April 18, 2010

Book Review: RoomsOn a rainy spring day in Seattle, young software tycoon Micah Taylor receives a cryptic, twenty-five-year-old letter from a great uncle he never knew. It claims a home awaits him on the Oregon coast that will turn his world inside out. Suspecting a prank, Micah arrives at Cannon Beach to discover a stunning brand new nine-thousand square foot house. And after meeting Sarah Sabin at a nearby ice cream shop, he has two reasons to visit the beach every weekend.

When bizarre things start happening in the rooms of the home, Micah suspects they have some connection to his enigmatic new friend, Rick, the town mechanic. But Rick will only say the house is spiritual. This unnerves Micah because his faith slipped away like the tide years ago, and he wants to keep it that way. But as he slowly discovers, the home isn’t just spiritual, it’s a physical manifestation of his soul, which God uses to heal Micah’s darkest wounds and lead him into an astonishing new destiny.