The Opposite of Certainty by Janine Urbaniak Reid– Book Review

Janine Reid is a self-described control freak — at least until her life begins to spiral out of control. Her son, Mason, is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Although it is slow growing, he eventually needs surgery, and then months of rehab learning to talk and walk again. Even after his recovery, he continues to have problems with his short term memory. Later Janine requires cancer surgery of her own — a double mastectomy.

The Opposite of Certainty: Fear, Faith, and Life in Between by [Janine Urbaniak Reid, Anne Lamott]

These devastating health issues have an effect on the rest of the family, putting pressure on Janine’s marriage and relationships with her other two children. She slowly learns to let go of her expectation that she can be a perfect wife and mother, or that by being “good” she can guarantee the safety of her family members.

The book is well written and easy to read. Any parent will sympathize with Janine’s feelings and dilemmas. However, for me, at least, her spiritual struggles seem a bit distant. She sometimes refers to God as a “higher power” (probably because she is the child of an alcoholic) and there are few, if any references to Jesus or the Bible. She does speak about the mystery of God’s ways, and our inability to ever completely understand them — instead we must learn to accept and experience grace whenever it is offered. However, it’s more a book about navigating serious health issues than growing spiritually.

VERDICT: 3 STARS. It will resonate with anyone going through difficult health issues.

For other spiritual memoirs see these posts:

Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey–Book Review

Suffer Strong by Katherine & Jay Wolf–Book Review

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken–Book Review

Unspoken Prayers

Years ago I was at a Christian gathering which ended in a prayer circle.  People were lifting up prayers for a variety of people and reasons.  I had a special prayer request.  A friend, who was there, had recently been diagnosed with cancer.  I wanted to pray for her, but I am shy and don’t speak up easily in larger groups.  Plus, I wondered if she wanted everyone there to know about her illness.  I wanted to pray for her, but I was paralyzed.  I couldn’t seem to get it out.  I was afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing.

Then a man started praying:  he said he knew that many of us had unspoken prayers–things we wanted others to pray for but couldn’t express for one reason or another –too personal, too complicated to explain, too painful.  He lifted up all our unspoken prayers, trusting God to know what was in our hearts and minds but couldn’t or wouldn’t speak out loud.  Afterwards I went and told my friend, “that prayer was for you!”(probably for lots of others, too). Months later we were able to tell the man who prayed for unspoken prayers how meaningful that had been for both of us.  We were touched deeply by his prayer.

I’ve never forgotten that experience.  Now in church, or in other situations of  group intercession, I often add a prayer for all those that are going “unspoken.”  It may be because I have an unspoken prayer of my own;  it may be just because I know there are others out there who need that prayer as much as I once did.

How about you? Have you had an experience like mine? Do you, or your church routinely pray for all our “unspoken” prayers?

 

A Sacrificial Example

He (Job) said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there;  the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;  blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Job 1:21

 

My friend, Paul, was a good man and he was dying. After retiring from a successful career, he spent much of his time volunteering at the local rescue mission, working with alcoholics and addicts.  He was a faithful, generous member of our congregation and an example of Christian living to all who knew him. 

 

The rare and aggressive form of leukemia which Paul contracted did not respond to treatment.  Yet he did not rail against his fate or question God’s goodness. He simply continued to use the time God had given him.  Each time he was hospitalized he pushed his IV pole through the wards, handing out Bibles and telling others about Jesus. 

 

Paul knew that everything he had belonged to God:  his time, his money, even his life.  He spent it all wisely.  His life was a “living sacrifice.”

 

Gracious God, teach us to remember that everything comes from your hand.  Help us to use all our circumstances as an opportunity to praise and thank you.  Amen 

 

For further reading check out Lamentations 3:1-24; Philippians 1:12-30; Matthew 26:36-42; Psalm 23

Who has been an example of living sacrifice to you?