Kim Harms

Life Reconstructed


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Making Marriage Beautiful – An Interview with Author Dorothy Greco

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Though I have not yet met Dorothy in person, we have come to know each other in that crazy online fashion that happens these days. She is a fellow Christianity Today Women writer, and as a mom of three boys like me, I feel a certain kinship to her.

In the following interview, Greco speaks of her new book Making Marriage Beautiful. A book that has been ruminating and growing in her mind for 25 years of marriage. I hope you enjoy this little glimpse into the book. (And then head over to amazon to pre-order it!)

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How is your book different from other marriage books out there?

So glad you asked this question! Making Marriage Beautiful is truly unlike many other marriage books. First, it’s written by a woman to both men and women. This is almost unheard of. Adding Christopher’s words and the eight other husbands  ensures that men are well represented. Second, the book contains very vulnerable, real-life stories. Most authors who write about marriage tend not to be as honest as Christopher and I chose to be. I think readers will easily engage and trust me because I’m choosing to trust them. Finally, I refuse to depend upon cliches or formulas. There’s no chapter titled, Ten Steps to a Perfect Marriage! Marriage and transformation is a process and my goal in writing this book is to help men and women navigate that process well. For the long haul.

Why did you write this book?

Everyone who says “I do!” wants a great marriage. I truly believe that this book will help husbands and wives achieve that goal. There’s no such thing as too much support or encouragement when you’re married. We all know, creating and sustaining a great marriage requires time, intentionality, and sacrifice. After doing more than twenty years of pastoral care and being married for twenty-five years, it was obvious to me that married couples are hungry for help, hope, and wisdom. I addressed these needs as I wrote Making Marriage Beautiful.

To clarify: I did not write this book because we have a perfect marriage or because I am a marriage expert. I wrote the book because my husband and I needed it. Due to some circumstances beyond our control, life got very difficult four years ago. As we struggled to love each other, I started thinking about what differentiates a joyful, dynamic marriage from a frustrating, unhappy one. Ideas started flowing and I broached the topic with Christopher. It would have been awesome to write the book together but he works two jobs and is finishing his graduate degree so that was not going to happen. Instead, I brought his voice in for most chapters.

Who do you hope will read it? Who is the target audience?

Making Marriage Beautiful will speak to couples who have been married three weeks or thirty years. It was written with your average husband and wife who long to create and sustain a truly healthy, joyful marriage. Maybe they’re stuck, maybe they’re doing OK, and maybe they’re actually doing really well but want to be proactive. I’m confident that if newlyweds put the spiritual disciplines that I discuss into practice, they will create a solid foundation. This was not written specifically for couples who are in a full-blown crises though I do think they would benefit from it.

Because diversity is super important to me, I interviewed eight couples to make sure that our voices were not the only ones that readers would hear. This means diversity of age, race, and economics.

Finally, I don’t think you have to be a person of faith to enjoy or find encouragement from Making Marriage Beautiful but it is unabashedly written from a faith perspective.

Is this a book meant to be read by individuals? Couples? Small groups? Are there discussion questions or is there an available study guide?

I think the best case scenario would be for a wife and husband to read this together, slowly, and really go deep. Reading it out loud together and then taking the time to answer the questions at the end of each chapter would be terrific. That said, if only one of you is interested in reading it, you would still benefit and be encouraged.

At the end of each chapter, there are four or five questions. These are not simplistic or extraneous. If you spend time on them, they will bring further insight and clarity. I’ve worked as a journalist for more than thirty years and have been running long-term healing and discipleship groups for twenty. That means I know how to ask good questions!

The book would work great in the context of a small group with other married couples. There will be guidelines on my website for running small groups.

What qualifies you to write this book?

Twenty-five years of being married to the same man. Twenty-five years of growing together. Twenty-five years of learning how to love. Seriously. Additionally, I have worked15350491_1058767397567136_3445306772015741586_n as a journalist for more than thirty years. I know how to listen to people and make sense of events. Together, Christopher and I have been running long-term healing and discipleship groups in church setting for more than twenty-years. Christopher is almost done getting his graduate degree in marriage and family therapy. We understand people. We understand the struggles inherent to humanity and marriage in particular. And as you read the book, you’ll discover that we’re willing to be incredibly honest about our own struggles. I think our honesty helps folks to trust us which makes for a better read.

What’s the difference between a happy marriage and a joyful marriage?

Chapter 9 is devoted to this topic. I see happy as dependent upon circumstances and more prone to wild fluctuations. Joy runs deep. It’s transcendent because it’s a gift from God. Being joyful does not mean that we are in denial or refuse to grieve. In fact, as one of the couples noted, joy and grief are the same muscle. Happiness is often a high priority for many Americans. I think God calls us to go deeper. And we’ll be better people when we do.

How can readers best connect with you: your blog, Facebook, Twitter?

I can be reached through the contact form on my website: dorothygreco.com. I’m also on Twitter: @dorothygreco and I have a professional FB page: Words & Images by Dorothy Greco.

 


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Leslie Leyland Fields Interview – Crossing the Waters

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Leslie Leyland Fields graciously granted me an interview about Crossing the Waters, and I’m excited to share it it with you.
I quoted this book in my previous post, when I talked about how powerful the image of water has been to me this year. Crossing the Waters was really a gift at the end of a storm.
Leyland’s life as an Alaskan fisherwoman allows her to come at scripture from a unique perspective. And her story-telling brings new life to well-loved passages of the Bible.
Enjoy this short conversation with Leslie Leyland Fields, and then go buy her book. 🙂

 

 

1.Tell me briefly about yourself. (Your family, profession, hobbies…)

Here’s my rundown: I’ve got 6 kids, a daughter and 5 sons, from ages 28 down to 13!  I’ve been married longer than I want to tell you all—because I still want you to think I’m young. I don’t want my last two teenage boys to hear a rumor that their mother isn’t so young anymore!  I’m living my own dream—I’m working full time as a writer, teacher and editor. In my spare time, I love to hike and kayak.

2.You have been a commercial fisherwoman for four decades. That life experience has given you insight into scripture stories many of us couldn’t have seen without your guiding words. How did this book idea come about? Did it brew inside your head for years? Or did it just hit you one day that it needed to be written?

I did indeed brew and stew over this for some time, years actually, before I committed to writing it. I knew it would be tough to write, and yet I was so anxious for that crucible of finding words for the life I had experienced and sending it on to others.

3.You spent time at the Sea of Galilee in preparation for this book. How did being in the place where Jesus and his disciples spent so much time affect your perspective on the scriptural texts that take place on and around the sea?

You know, here’s what struck me most—how utterly ordinary that place that Jesus chose. I had been there  three times before over the years, but this time, hiking the trail around the Sea and going out with commercial fisherman really engaged me in a deeper way. And I saw—the mud on my boots there was like the mud on my boots here. I wasn’t blown away by the beauty there. It’s really quite ordinary looking. It struck me how from the beginning God chose the ordinary, the weak, the foolish, (the fishermen!) to display his own magnificence and power.

4. One of my favorite quotes from your book is “I have found over the years that the gospel does not always simplify my life or the lives of any of his followers. If we are listening well, it rends us first. It shatters us. This new life with the Holy Spirit pummels my heart as much as it soothes it.” You share some examples of this in the book, but can you give an example here for the readers?

When we hear about people suffering, whether it’s our neighbor or Christians overseas fleeing for their lives, because we ARE the body of Christ, connected and jointed together, when one suffers, we all suffer. This is the weight we bear as Christians, that we cannot turn away. But it also means in our times of need, we are surrounded by brothers and sisters lifting us up. We are rent, shattered and healed together. We live a thousand lives instead of just one. There is no better way to live.

5. What is your favorite part of the Alaskan fishing life?

Living out in the lap of creation, surrounded by whales, sea lions, sea otters, deer and the ocean, which beats on our island like God’s own heart.

6.Least favorite?

When the waters are stormy and the nets are full of kelp, which means hours and hours of nausea in a pitching skiff bent over picking out every piece of kelp. Yuck. Hate it.

7. When your reader finishes the last page of this book, what is one thing you hope sticks in their mind?

That Jesus is calling you to this incredible life of following after him, living like him. And if you think you can’t do it, that you’re too weak, too imperfect, listen. Your love is enough. Your tiny limited human love is enough to accomplish all that God asks of you. Peter’s love was enough. This is Peter, who abandoned his dearest Jesus in his greatest hour of need! But his small human love for Jesus was enough for God to establish his church on earth. Your love is enough for Jesus to do mighty things through you. Go, follow Him! Do not be afraid!

Purchase the book on Amazon –  Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus Through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas 


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Crossing the Waters

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When you pass through the waters I will be with you. Isaiah 43:2

The image of water has been a big deal to me this year. The power. The tranquility. The danger. The beauty.

Cancer was my water. Fear-inspiring, yet fused with the beautiful. So hard, yet covered by a peace I cannot explain. The water was rough, but Jesus was constant.

One night long ago on the stormy Sea of Galilee, Peter jumped out of a boat and began walking to Jesus. He sees a man walking toward him on the water and says “Lord if it’s you, tell me to come to you.”

In her new book, Crossing the Waters, Leslie Leyland Fields describes Peter’s walk like this.

“He walks atop the waves anyway for a few steps, but fear opens his eyes and ears too wide. He hears the wind; he feels the water at his ankles. He knows this is impossible-and he sinks.”

Whatever it is that got him out of that boat, he did it, and the most dynamic personality among the disciples took his first steps on water. But then his circumstances got the better of him.

Leyland’s word pictures throughout Crossing the Waters swing on a pendulum between 21st century Alaskan commercial fishing and seafaring and first century fishing on the Sea of Galilee. She brings new life to texts my five-year-old self was introduced to in flannel graphs and coloring pages.

And her stories reminded me over and over of my rough waters turned serene.

I didn’t jump out of the boat into the storm like Peter.

I was pushed.

I didn’t say, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to walk out on that crazy, stormy sea, and I will hop right out of this boat.”

I was more like, “Oh dear Lord, someone pushed me overboard and I can’t breathe and the salt water is burning my eyes.”

When I listened to the screams of the tumor that pushed against my bra-line, I began to sink. But when I grabbed for Jesus, he kept me afloat.

When he held out his figurative hand to me like he did his physical hand for Peter, I knew him.  “It is you Jesus. It is really you.”

Jesus knows, like Peter, my faith will waver. And he knows, like Peter, my fears will at times make me irrational. But still he holds out his hand. Because he is creating in me something new. A faith strengthened by a stormy sea.

And maybe that is what this whole tumor thing was about anyway. Maybe it wasn’t about me making it through cancer. Or not making it. Maybe it was about increasing in faith. Maybe it was about me speaking my raw emotions to my Savior, “I don’t want to die now. Please don’t let me die. But if that is what you have for me, you need to walk with me and show me how.”

Fields says,

“How many boats have gone down in just this corner of the sea…Yes so many saved, but so many lost. Even those who knew Jesus. I know he told it straight and often. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” I know take up their cross means be ready to die. But who can do this?…Jesus, this God-man, can command every element of creation with just a word, but he does not always take away the winds. Jesus can sit in the boat with us, and that boat still might sink.”

I cannot think of a word in the English language that is emotionally charged enough to express my gratitude that my boat did not sink. That the waves did not overtake me.

But someday it will sink, because this life has no choice but to end in death. And when it does, I want everyone to see that Jesus was sitting with me in the boat the whole time, preparing to take me home.

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Leslie Leyland Fields book Crossing the Waters is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Her story-telling will take you into well-loved Bible stories in a new and deeper way, and quite possibly teach you something new about yourself. Crossing the Waters is worth a few of your dollars and a few hours of your time. 


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Mary & Me Book Review and Giveaway

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Mary and Me, A Lasting Link Through Ink chronicles the lives of Mary Potter Kenyon and Mary Jedlicka Humston. The two have been pen-pals for more than three decades, and their friendship quite literally grew on pieces of paper.

Having had a few pen-pals when I was young, none of whom I have stayed in touch with as an adult, I am impressed that their relationship lasted and grew as they lived through phase after phase of life.

This is my first time reading anything by Humston, but I’ve read two of Kenyon’s other 3 books. She writes with such flow and ease, that as a reader, I easily enter into her world. Even when that world is somewhat foreign to me.

This is an easy-read kind of a book. Not really a stay-up-all-night-and-finish-it book, but one of those you pick up to read a bit of here and there. It kind of made me want to write my best friend a letter (but texting is more our gig – and we can put some deeply moving, deeply disturbing and deeply funny things in little bite-sized text pieces. In fact, I’ve often had the thought that if I died and someone went through my texts to Marti, they might wonder what in the world went on inside my pretty little head.)

But back to Mary and Me.

The book is split into topics with an essay by each of the Marys followed by a guest essay. I wasn’t a big fan of the guest essays and skimmed through many of them because they made the book feel a little disjointed to me.

Both Mary’s are good writers, and I wouldn’t hesitate to read more of their work.

If you’d like to win a copy of this book, leave me a message in the comment section and tell me if you’ve ever had a pen-pal and whether or not you still stay in touch.

If you are interested in reading more of Mary’s books check out the links below.

ChemoTherapist

Check out my ChemoTherapist review here.

Coupon Crazy

Check out my Coupon Crazy Review.

Refined By Fire

I have yet to read this one.


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I Take It Back – The Oprah’s Book Club Book I Won’t Read

I enjoy fiction. But when it’s fiction passed off as truth? Not so much.

A big thanks to a blog reader who pointed out that A Million Little Pieces is a fake. The author promoted the book as his life story, but it is filled with lies.

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When I did a little research, I realized this was quite a big story in 2006. So big that Oprah kicked it out of her book club and had some choice words to say about the author. You can read about that in this New York Times article.

Author Kicked Out of Oprah’s Book Club

Maybe I should be impressed that this dude wrote a lie as truth and passed it off so darn well that his book made more money in 2005 than any other book in the US except for whatever Harry Potter book came out that year. Or maybe I should be disappointed in the publishing industry. How is it that somewhere along the line one of the many pairs of eyes that looks at a book before it goes into print didn’t catch this colossal lie?

The more I read about it, the more I wondered how I missed this when it was news.

Then it hit me. In those early years of the 2000s, I was reading books like this

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and this.

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Books with many words and few pictures were not a part of my toddler-mommy repertoire. My shelves were void of Oprah’s Book Club books.

Go ahead and read it if you want, but I’m removing it from my Summer Reading List. I’m gonna put my 50-cent garage sale copy in the kindling box. It should make a great fire starter.


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Chemo Therapist: How Cancer Saved A Marriage Book Review

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“While we had developed an extraordinary relationship, we had never been extraordinary people. We were just two flawed humans, who eventually discovered what it was to put the other first.” – Mary Potter Kenyon, Chemo-Therapist, How Cancer Saved a Marriage.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Discovering how to put the other first? Two flawed people committing their lives to each other and then hopping into life full-force, sometimes completely missing the planks in our own eyes while trying to dig the sawdust out of our mate’s. Anyone can have an ordinary-survival-mode type of marriage. It is only when we successfully grasp the idea of putting the other first that our relationship becomes extraordinary.

This 167-page book is a beautifully woven story of the move from ordinary to extraordinary.

I knew bits and pieces of Mary’s story before picking up this book. I knew that she watched her mother die too young of cancer. I knew that she herself has struggled with many physical ailments. I knew she buried her precious grandson Jacob at the tender age of eight. And I knew that she lost her husband.

I don’t intend to ruin the book by sharing David’s death (in fact I think she shares that pretty early on.) I share it because it shaped the way I read this book and I think may be the reason that I had to keep kleenex close by as I read.  David didn’t die of cancer. In fact, he lived cancer free for 5 years before complications after a heart attack took him from Mary.

But as I read their struggle and their beautiful story of finding a renewed love in the midst of the ugliness of oral cancer, I kept thinking, “Why was he taken from her? Why, after they made it through so much, did their time get cut short?” But I know that God’s ways are not man’s ways, and sometimes you have to trust him even when your this-world-focused mind thinks he might have made a mistake.

Never having been intimately involved in a cancer journey, I don’t know if I can give a completely accurate assessment of how this book can be helpful to someone going down that road. But I can say Mary does not shy away from showing a true picture of what goes on behind closed doors in a home where cancer lives, and if my family was forced to go through similar circumstances, I would want someone like Mary to be real with me.

She was not only forthright with daily life during that time period, but also with physical intimacy. A couple times I thought “TMI, Mary. TMI.” 😉 But then again, wouldn’t I want to know how cancer can affect the libido, if cancer were to hit home?

One of the things I most appreciated in this book was the little instances of God’s provision and how Mary recognized them as such. Over and over, this financially strapped family of 10 (yes 10, that’s not a typo) was blessed in some small way (and sometimes big way) that allowed them to get through something they were not capable of getting through on their own.

Lastly, I found my breath caught in my throat as I read Mary’s struggle with prayer.

“I couldn’t even pray. What would I pray for?…I felt awful not being able to do something as simple as praying…”

Having just studied Romans chapter eight where Paul speaks of the Spirit interceding for us in our weakness, I thought, “this is a picture of that.” Mary felt inadequate for not being able to pray, but I am confident that in her weakness, the Spirit was doing what she couldn’t.

So there you have it. I could say more. Or maybe I should have said less 😉 But this is an excellent book. It’s a cancer story. It’s a love story. It’s a struggling-to-get-by story. But what I saw weaved through every piece is that overwhelmingly it is a God story. One well worth getting comfortable in your favorite chair and reading over a cup of coffee (probably with a box of kleenex).

This book will be available for purchase on April 8, but I have a signed copy to give away before you can buy it. Just leave a comment, and you’ll be in the drawing. It can be as short as “hey, I’d like that book.” In the past, not a lot of people have signed up for my book giveaways, so your odds of winning are probably very good 🙂

If you are not yet convinced to read this book, check out the trailer on youtube.

Chemo Therapist: How Cancer Saved a Marriage

If you don’t win it, you can head on over to Amazon and pre-order it.


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Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids? How Moralism Suffocates Grace: A Brief Review

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I happened upon Samuel Williamson’s blog, Beliefs of the Heart several months ago. I don’t read every entry, but I can say the ones I have read have been well-written, thought-provoking and Biblically-sound.

Williamson recently published a book. I generally stick to reading books published by traditional publishers, because I figure if a reputable publishing house is willing to put their name and some of their money behind it, chances are it’s an okay book. But because Williamson had proven himself to me through his website, I knew Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids? would be worth a read.

Though the title is very catchy, the subtitle of the book, How Moralism Suffocates Grace, definitely more accurately describes most of the contents of the 80-page piece. If you are looking for a lot of insight into the culture of Sunday School; specific examples of it’s failures, stats from generations of Sunday School attenders, a step-by-step plan for how to best teach Sunday School, you will not find it here. Though he does delve into the issue of moralism and Sunday School in the beginning pages of the book.

The things he says we often leave out when teaching our children Bible stories resonated with me. Essentially we often tell  our kids to be brave, to be faith-filled, and to be obedient to God as the patriarchs were, but we neglect to show them how badly those chosen ones of God screwed up.

I remember studying Genesis in a women’s study a number of years ago, and feeling such a sense of relief over the failings of the fathers of the faith. Most of them messed up big-time at some point in their lives. And God still loved them. And God still pursued them. Now that is grace. I agree with Williamson that when we fail to tell the whole story, we err on the side of moralism and we begin to lose grace all together. And when we lose grace, we lose our kids to the world because they “can’t distinguish it from mere morality.”

Willamson says, (and I love love love this quote) “The wonder of the gospel is not the love of the beautiful; it’s that the Beauty kisses the Beast. The Beast isn’t loved because he has changed; the Beast is changed when he is loved. Joy doesn’t come when he is loved for his beauty; joy overwhelms him when he is loved in his hideousness.”

Much of the book is focused on what happens when we “assume the gospel.” Willamson quotes Mack Stiles from Marks of the Messenger on how the gospel is lost.

1. The gospel is accepted.

2. The gospel is assumed.

3. The gospel is confused.

4. The gospel is lost.

Williamsons says, “Strong moral behavior apart from the gospel can lead us – ever so slowly- to feel good about ourselves, which can lead us – ever so slowly – to self-righteousness. Which is the enemy of the gospel.”

Many interesting points are made in this book. Some I readily agreed with. Some I’m not sure about and I’m still chewing on. But it is worth putting on your reading list. Plus it’s short, about the size of a novella, so even if it’s not your favorite, you’ll get through it quickly. 😉