Stopping Words That Hurt (review)

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Stopping Words That Hurt: Positive Words in a World Gone NegativeStopping Words That Hurt: Positive Words in a World Gone Negative by Michael D. Sedler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We all know it’s not a good thing to gossip. But have we ever considered that listening to gossip, negative talk or an “evil report’ about an individual or situation might be just as bad? That’s the premise of Stopping Words that Hurt: Positive Words in a World Gone Negative by Michael D. Sedler.

“It’s the purpose of this book to define and emphasize the magnitude of injury that takes place when we are involved in negative conversation,” says Sedler early in the book.

“Just listening to an evil report can do tremendous damage to your perspective, viewpoint and overall spirit” – Stopping Words that Hurt, Kindle Location (KL) 39 & 150.

Sedler, a trained counselor, social worker, educator, and pastor builds his case with lots of practical insights. In one of the first chapters he lists eight ways that speakers let us know they are about to give us what he calls “defiling information.” These include:
– Looks for support from you for beliefs, attitudes, and actions.
– Attempts to create disunity and division.
– Flatters and praises the listener.
– Exaggerates a situation to make it worse than it is.

In a chapter titled “Why do we gossip?” (Chapter 5) he likens an evil report to a locomotive “barreling down certain ‘tracks.’” One of these tracks is confusion. This can flesh itself out in us taking up another person’s offense and being overly concerned about the acceptance of those around us.

Confusion can shunt us onto the track of contamination (Chapter 7) where we are tempted to join in the negative conversation of backbiters, busybodies, complainers, slanderers, gossipers etc.

In other chapters Sedler unveils the cleansing process, the benefits of speaking healing words, and how to deal biblically with negative talk in various settings, including the church. In the final chapter he discusses the impact of our attitudes, words, and actions on our children and those who look up to us.

Sedler’s style is clear and easy to read. I enjoyed the illustrations he gives from his life. He quotes many Bible passages in their entirety and retells many Bible stories at length so sometimes I felt like I was reading sermons.

Though in the main I appreciated Sedler’s argument and the way he made his case, one of his tendencies bothered me. More than once when using a Bible example, he built his argument on a part of the story that he imagined or embellished from the Bible account. For example in the chapter “When Fear Talks” (Chapter 9), he retells the story of Mary and Martha and their response to Jesus not coming to heal Lazarus. Sedler interprets Martha’s conversation with Jesus as showing a lack of faith. He maintains this has been brought about through listening to the negative talk of neighbours:

“My impression is that Martha and Mary had been polluted by the words of those around them …. Mary and Martha were not able to seize upon their active faith because they had been polluted by discouragement and confusion …. Where did this ‘pollution and fear’ come from? The words spoken to Martha and Mary had indeed penetrated deeply. John 11:19 speaks of how people gathered around to ‘comfort’ them …. Was godly solace for the bereaved really taking place? More likely the comforters gave in to the temptation to speak negative comments about Jesus and his ‘unwillingness’ to come when He knew that His friends desperately wanted him” (KL 1422 and on).

These things may have been so but they really aren’t in the Bible. I take exception to writers spinning the Bible account to undergird their theories in such a way.

Aside from such quibbles, I would say that this is a book Christians young and old, new and mature, would do well to read. It contains practical wisdom that reveals how our negative attitudes and talk affect others and carries on to show how we can be contaminated by even listening to gossip, hearsay, complaining, and all kinds of “evil reports.” I would recommend this book for all those serious about safeguarding their spiritual health and the health of those whose lives they touch.

I received this book as a gift from the publisher (Bethany House – Chosen Books) for the purpose of writing a review.

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Dynamic duo by Laura J. Davis (review)

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Come to Me

Come to Me by Laura J. DavisFictionalizing the story of any Bible character is tricky, but Laura J. Davis chose some of the most sensitive characters when she set out to write Come to Me—the story of Jesus’ life as seen through the eyes of His mother.

Mary’s narrative begins with her betrothal to Joseph, and ends after Jesus’ resurrection. Her attentive audience includes Matthew and Luke, who intend to write her story, as well as fictional characters who accompany her on travels to join John the Beloved (who, in Davis’s tale, is Jesus’s cousin).

Davis, aware of the sensitivity of the characters she is fictionalizing (“With some works of fiction, a writer is free to do what he or she pleases. However, when it is about the Son of God that freedom is somewhat limited” –  from the Foreword) sticks pretty close to the Bible account. Thus don’t expect to find extra-scriptural scandals or controversial “what ifs” in Come to Me.

What you will find is a warm, caring mother who struggles, as mothers do, with letting their kids go, seeing them make mistakes (as Mary interprets some of the things Jesus does), and watching them suffer and die. She comes across as deep, wise, with the odd glint of mischief and humor, but above all a woman worthy of respect.

The experience of seeing Jesus’ life through a mother’s eyes was one of the things I enjoyed most about the book. Another moving aspect was the heart-rending portrayal of Jesus’ passion, recalling scenes of Mel Gibson’s film Passion of the Christ.

This book would be a great addition to any home, church or Christian school library.

Title: Come to Me

Author: Laura J. Davis

Publisher: Word Alive Press, October 21, 2010, 338 pages, paperback & Kindle versions

  • ISBN-10: 1435705564
  • ISBN-13: 978-1435705562

Learning From the Master

Learning From the Master by Laura J. DavisDavis has also written a twelve-week study guide, Learning from the Master, to accompany Come to Me.  This workbook assigns chapters from Come to Me to read, then introduces discussion topics pulled from the chapters (over twenty topics in all), and poses questions with space left in the book to write the answers.

The study guide underlines and reinforces the novel’s themes of surrender, trust, and how to translate principles from the life of Jesus and His mother into modern living.  Learning From the Master also includes word studies, explanations of the history and setting of the times, lists, and a timeline of the Passion Week. Each lesson ends with a prayer

Davis’s friendly conversational style is sure to make this a popular study. It deals with many Bible themes, refers to lots of Scripture, and I can only think that twelve weeks spent in this kind of study would encourage the best kind of spiritual growth. The study guide could be used independently from the novel, however the two together would make an excellent resource for use in Bible studies or book clubs.

Title: Learning From the Master

Author: Laura J. Davis

Publisher: Word Alive Press, March 22, 2012, 124 pages, paperback & Kindle versions available

  • ISBN-10: 1770695125
  • ISBN-13: 978-1770695122