David Wilkerson (review)

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David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man Who BelievedDavid Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man Who Believed by Zondervan Publishing

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

God always makes a way for a praying man. You may never be able to get a college degree, you may never get rich, but God always has and always will make a way for a praying man – David Wilkerson, Kindle Location 903.

If there is one secret to the success and impact of David Wilkerson’s life, prayer is probably it, at least according to his son Gary. In David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade and the Man Who Believed, Gary Wilkerson lays it all out for us: his dad’s early years as the oldest son in the home of a strict Pentecostal preacher, his first pastorate where he supplemented his salary by selling cars, his change of focus from what people thought to what God thought, his move to New York to work amongst gang members and addicts founding what is now known as Teen Challenge, the writing of The Cross and the Switchblade, his move to California in the 60s, then to Texas, and eventually back to New York. The story takes us to Wilkerson Sr.’s death in 2011.

In a way the book is like a modern book of Acts, replete with stories of how Wilkerson Sr. used his gifts of prophecy and healing, introduced thousands to Jesus in crusades, then taught, scolded and encouraged them through his newsletter. And like the stories in Acts, there are also tales of ministry bumps, broken relationships, physical illnesses, the need to adjust to the challenges of a changing society and a changing church culture.

I appreciated the writer’s frank but always respectful tone. He loved and idolized his dad, but still makes us privy to his shortcomings. The text and the acknowledgements tell us that he went to great lengths to get all sides of the story. There are numerous quotes from ministry colleagues, students, family members, friends, and neighbors, giving us a well-rounded look at the man.

David Wilkerson’s story is exciting and inspiring, but I also found it challenging because of the high standard that he held for himself and those that worked with and for him. Some of the bits from the book I highlighted:

Always he saw the world and those around him through the lens of eternity – KL 28l.

Quoting John Sherrill about the success of The Cross and the Switchblade:

“I don’t think books take off and do well or don’t do well depending just on the quality of the writing. I think it depends on catching something that’s in the air, something that people need” – KL 1959.

Speaking of how his dad chose singer Dallas Holm and other ministry partners:

Throughout his life, Dad would speak of a certain ‘sound’ he heard in preachers, something that spoke to him of God’s holiness – KL 2065.

Ralph Wilkerson (1960s youth leader who worked with David Wilkerson)says:

“He was like some of the old revivalists. There was so much prayer behind his sermons that there was a powerful anointing on the reading and people were converted” – KL 2177.

(David Wilkerson’s preaching style was to write out his sermons in longhand, then read rather than orate them.)

And two more random quotes:

Every event was a sacred moment ordained by God, with nothing less than eternity at stake for everyone present. For that reason alone, he could never judge a sermon based on people’s reaction to it. He had to judge himself on how faithful he was to speak the message God had impressed on him – KL 2968.

When Dad spent time in the Scriptures, he wasn’t looking to gain breadth of knowledge; he was searching to know the ways of God – KL 3817.

If you want to be challenged and convicted to pray more, care more about what God thinks of you than what people do, love your fellow-man more, read this book. One thing is sure: you won’t read it with an open heart and come away unchanged.

David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade and the Man Who Believed releases from Zondervan on September 2nd. I received it as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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My favorite genre

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fictional landscape

Though I enjoy being swept away in a good biography and love the way poetry transports to realms of emotion, sometimes evokes a belly-laugh, and even the urge to toe-tap along,  my biggest pleasure as a reader is to get lost in great adult fiction.

Adult fiction is also my biggest challenge as a writer. In a way that makes it my most unfavourite writing genre. I find it hard. But when I have, at various times, decided to stop trying to write it, I’ve felt like a quitter. I’m sure that’s because since I relish living in the alternate universes others have created, hope springs eternal that maybe, if I work at it enough, I’ll be able to create a believable story world populated by fascinating characters of my own.

Writing Destiny’s Hands was what helped me realize this was important to me. The story lived inside me for a long time but I never thought I’d be able to get it out in a way that I, let alone others, would want to read. So when I wrote it, re-read what I’d written, and got caught up in the story—captured by my own words like the writing of other authors had captured me—I was shocked. You mean I might be able do this?

I know Destiny’s Hands is, by many standards, a novice effort. Can I do better? I’m trying. Come back on March 24th when I’ll talk about my current work in progress.

Blog hop for writers - logoWhat’s your favorite genre as a reader? As a writer? Tell us about it in the comments.

See what other Blog Hoppers like to write HERE.

Eyes to See (review)

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Eyes to See by Becky Keep (with Tim Keep)It was an afterthought that prompted Becky Keep to ask the nurse practitioner to check five-week-old Jesse’s eyes. An observant grandma had commented that those baby eyes didn’t seem to be following normally. That last-minute request set the Keeps on a four-year journey that they never dreamed they’d be taking. Eyes to See: Glimpses of God in the Dark by Becky and Tim Keep is the story of that journey.

Through the book we experience the hills and valleys of their Jesse’s battle with retinoblastoma—cancer of the eyes. We ride the ups and downs of the many times the Keeps were told that the latest treatment seemed to be working only to discover that the cancer was back. We live with them through their on-again, off-again plans to return to the Philippines, where they were missionaries. But this book is much more than a riveting story. For in it we wrestle, along with Becky and Tim, with the mysteries of God’s dealings with people. Some of the things that I took from this story:

– The amazing way circumstances fell into place so that Jesse’s condition was discovered as early as it was. The chain of events was set in motion long before Jesse was even conceived.

– The goodness of God to the Keeps through family, friends and their church home, wherever it was.

– God’s way of providing an answer, e.g. a place to live, a job, often in the nick of time.

– The discussion of divine healing.

If there is one issue that people who believe that God’s healing power is available today grapple with it’s how do we explain when physical healing doesn’t happen. The Keeps went through the wringer here as people recommended a multitude of remedies, berated them for their lack of faith and scolded them for praying for healing “according to the will of God” insisting that this kind of prayer was “symptomatic of wavering faith, faith which should never expect to receive what it asks for” – p. 58.

This brought them to a realization of what seems to me the gem takeaway from the book, expressed in what Tim heard from God as he meditated on the story of Jesus who delayed coming to Bethany so that He was too late to heal His friend Lazarus (from John 11: 40):

“’My Son, I don’t want you to worry about my intentions toward Jesse or My will for your family. Nor do I want you to keep measuring your faith. What I want you to pray for right now, and the only thing I want you to pray for, is for My glory …. I want you to pray that through this difficult trial, men and women will see the embodiment of My life, My peace, My joy and My enabling grace” – P. 71.

Becky Keep tells the story with the skill of a seasoned storyteller, drawing us into their family’s life and experience through personal memories and anecdotes. There is also a section of black-and-white photos.

The story has a happy ending, or maybe I should say ‘continuation.’ Jesse appeared with his mom (along with the Collingsworth Family: Kim Collingsworth, mom of that musical clan, is Becky’s sister) at this year’s Gospel Music Celebration in Red Deer Alberta (July 13th). Jesse, now 15 years old, played to thousands, talked about his musical ambitions, and later signed copies of Eyes to See.

This is a book anyone, young or old, could read and enjoy. It would be especially meaningful for people struggling with health issues, particularly in their youngsters. It is a story of hope in God who gives the best healing of all—the healing of hearts.

Eyes to See: Glimpses of God in the Dark is available at Amazon.com

Collingsworth Family - 2013

The Collingsworth Family smile encouragement …

Jesse Keep - 2013

…as Jesse Keep plays piano. His mother, Becky Keep (author of Eyes to See) and weekend organizer Wayne Dyck look on.

Jesse Keep - 2013

Jesse Keep – up close (via the crowd monitor)

Eyes to See endorsement from Kim Collingsworth

Eyes to See endorsement from Kim Collingsworth

Grandma’s Fingerprint (review)

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Grandma's FingerprintGrandma’s Fingerprint by Ann Griffiths

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Grandma’s Fingerprint Ann Griffiths tells the story of her Grandma Mabel and how she impacted and influenced her life.

The story begins when Ann was six. She recalls her mother driving her and her siblings away from their father one night and how frightening that felt until they reached their destination and she discovered it was Grandma’s house. Then she knew everything would be okay.

Grandma providing a refuge for Ann, her mom, and siblings wasn’t the only way she helped. Her unconditional love soon had Ann in a tug-of-war as she found herself preferring Grandma’s peaceful, well-ordered home to the chaotic, stormy home of her parents. Grandma believed in her and challenged her to be her best self. She influenced her to attend church and modeled a life of service and hard work that made a lasting impression. She passed on to her granddaughter a rich legacy: a strong work ethic, a spirit of perseverance, the habit of putting her all into every task no matter how small, compassion, consideration and care for others, contentment in serving her family, and more.

Griffiths tells the story in first person. She fills in Grandma’s history as needed and supplements her own memories with material from letters, diaries, journals, newspaper clippings, and interviews. Her keen eye for sensory details adds interest and color to the telling. Here, for example, is her description of what met her each time she entered her parents’ home:

“To enter the house, we didn’t use the front door that usually was blocked by boxes or a piece of furniture. Instead, we walked through the carport … Once in the house, we walked through the laundry room to the kitchen.

Finding our way through the laundry room was like maneuvering a maze or obstacle course. The first hurdle was a Doberman dog named Whiskey, who often was scratching himself and complained when he was rousted from his spot on the outside step or just inside the door. When we made it inside, we had to choose carefully where to step on the gritty plywood floor, while a myriad of smells assaulted our senses—the powerful odors of wet dog, piles of stinking laundry that hopelessly waited to be washed, and the overpowering stench of sweat-ridden shoes and socks that my mom used to say could stand in the corner by themselves” – Grandma’s Fingerprint, p. 82.

A special feature of the book for me was its setting. It takes place in the area where now I live, so it was interesting to read about life here in earlier times–things like Grandma making a weekly three-hour one-way trek to clean house for relatives in West Vancouver, Ann’s involvement as a drummer in the Surrey School Band, the founding of Johnston Heights Church, and other local events and places to which I could relate.

The author begins and ends the book with letter-like chapters to her own granddaughter, so that we almost get the feeling we’re eavesdropping on a special conversation between her and her own family. But this is definitely more than a family keepsake and memoir. It has takeaway value for all grandmas (in the way it shows how the life of one simple woman continues to ripple through generations) and would be especially encouraging to grandmothers (and grandfathers) tasked with raising their grandkids for whatever reason.

The “Introduction” contains a list of people and the milestone dates of their lives (births, deaths, marriages, moves) so it’s easy to keep track of who everyone is. There are also four sections of black-and-white photographs that help bring Grandma, Ann, and the story’s other characters to life.

I first found out about this book when Griffiths gave a talk about the influence of grandparents and specifically her grandmother at a seniors’ lunch. She speaks often on that topic as well as the topic of mentoring, and has co-written A Mentor’s Fingerprint (with Donna Inglis). Check out their website Fingerprint Ministries.

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Joni & Ken (review)

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Joni & Ken: An Untold Love StoryJoni & Ken: An Untold Love Story by Ken Tada

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Joni & Ken is the story of the relationship of Joni Eareckson Tada, the famous author, quadriplegic, and champion of the disabled, and her husband of 30 years, Ken Tada. Based on primary documents (articles, messages, blogs, interview, emails, radio transcript, out-of-print books of Joni’s are all listed in the “Acknowledgments” chapter) the story is told in third person, orchestrated by co-author Larry Libby. The telling goes back and forth between Ken’s and Joni’s points of view, making us privy to aspects of the events that the other person would not necessarily have been aware of at the time they happened.

The book skips around a bit chronologically but there’s no danger of confusion because each section is dated. The ten chapters deal with different periods in Joni and Ken’s relationship, and are titled descriptively (e.g. “At the Altar,” “The Testing Years,” “Reflecting on the Journey”). There is a middle section of colored photos.

This is a frank and touching love story. It shows this public couple who, from outward appearances may seem to live above the fray, to be human, vulnerable, brave, and above all committed and obedient Christ-followers.

The challenges Ken faced in caring for his quadriplegic wife while teaching school full-time (though he had help), are not glossed over. In the course of the book we see both him and Joni grow in maturity and love for each other.

The way Joni handled her quadriplegia, combined with her continuing siege of excruciating pain, then topped with a fight against cancer had me speechless. I’m glad God knows what He’s doing with lives that seem so unfairly burdened with tragedy. However through it all Joni is a glowing testimony first to Ken, and then to those whose lives she touches personally, in ministry, and now as readers of this book, of God’s sufficient grace.

Ken was a rock. Even through the hardest times, he was determined to keep his marriage vow. The part of the story that tells of his deepening relationship with God and how his heightened spiritual sensitivity became crucial during Joni’s fight against cancer is a heads-up to all of us. We never know when the next trial will come. If we press into God during the ordinary times (though I don’t know if you could label any of this couple’s experiences ‘ordinary’), He will prepare us for the challenges beyond.

Joni & Ken is not only an interesting and well-told story but a great unofficial guidebook for any couple. Let me leave you with some wise words from Joni herself:

“Thirty years have passed since Ken and I began our journey together, and God has used every trial—every hurt and heartache—to entwine us far more intimately than we ever dreamed on the day we married.

… nowhere else—and with no one else—will you have quite the chance to experience union with Christ than through a heard-fought-for, hard-won union with your spouse.

… If I were sitting next to you … I would say ‘Oh, please pray for your partner.’”

… It’s trials that really press you into the breast of your Savior” – Joni & Ken, pp. 177-179.

I received this book as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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Signs, Wonders and a Baptist Preacher by Chad Norris (review)

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Signs, Wonders and a Baptist Preacher: How Jesus Flipped My World Upside DownSigns, Wonders and a Baptist Preacher: How Jesus Flipped My World Upside Down by Chad Norris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The night Chad Norris and his friends held their first healing service, this Baptist pastor, who had become dissatisfied with his ministry and how little it resembled the ministry of Jesus, was as nervous as anyone. When a blind woman came up for prayer and left seeing, they were all thrilled—and not a little shocked. Norris writes about that night:

“Until that moment I had never thought I could pray and see someone get better …. But then I began to consider, why don’t we see more things like this?” (Kindle Location 169).

Signs, Wonders and a Baptist Preacher—How Jesus Flipped My World Upside Down is Norris’s first-person account of how he went from that tentative prayer service to regularly seeing people touched by God in miraculous ways. His hope is that others will be challenged by his experience, reassured by his regular-guy image, and inspired to step out in faith to do the things Jesus told us we could do:

“I simply want to explore whether or not it is possible to operate on this planet in the way Jesus commanded His disciples to operate …. Actions we consider abnormal are really quite normal to the One who spoke the world out of nothing. I want my normal to match Jesus’ normal” – (Kindle Location 143).

There is much to like in this book. Norris’s enthusiasm and love for Jesus are on every page. He gives God, not himself, the credit for the miraculous phenomenon he reports, and stresses it’s not the eloquent prayers or showy actions of the messenger but the power of God that performs these miracles.

As a story it takes him a while to get into it. It isn’t until about a third of the way through the book that he stops preaching and begins to deliver on the promise of the promotional blurb: “recounting his own history of depression and panic attacks …” That story is delivered piecemeal, along with more explanation and defense.

His writing style is folksy. He often anticipates the objections readers will throw at him and meets those with humor and hyperbole.

One idea he brings up often though, troubles me. It is the thought that God is not glorified in our sicknesses and therefore we are justified in insisting on and expecting healing. He acknowledges that healing doesn’t always follow our requests, though, and offers this (to me unsatisfactory) response: “… they (the person doing the praying) empathize with the person, acknowledging that though Jesus never caused any physical, mental or emotional pain, this situation is still not yet changing. Sometimes the deepest thing you can do is weep with someone and say, ‘I am so sorry’” (Kindle Location 550). Perhaps he is not familiar with 2 Corinthians 12:7-10?

All in all, though, Norris’s is an inspiring story—one that challenges leaders and lay folks alike to pray: “Jesus, I’m all yours. Show me what You want me to see—even if it ruins my life” – (Kindle Location 203) and then to hang on for what will happen next.

I received this book as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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