Beyond the Closure Myth by Glen Schmucker (Faithful Rendition Press)
"I'm so glad God didn't give me the life I first dreamed of having. I would have completely missed the one I'm living now … in a place of redemption I never knew existed," Glen Schmucker writes in Beyond the Closure Myth.
Readers will join Schmucker in that gladness, because if he had not endured loss and disappointment, they would not hold this book, brimming with hope.
Schmucker, a longtime Texas Baptist pastor, writes with generosity and poignancy. He's generous, because he's willing to strip off ministerial armor to reveal the pain of divorce and the agony of struggling to find identity and vocation. He's poignant, because although his circumstances are unique, his suffering is all too common.
Schmucker pokes holes in the theory that wounded people can find "closure" for their loss. But through those holes, he provides glimpses of God at work, bringing about possibilities and a future beyond mere imagination.
This is a Romans 8:28 book. In all things, God is working to bring about good in the lives of those who love him.
Marv Knox, editor
The Commands of Christ: What It Really Means to Follow Jesus by Tom Blackaby (Broadman & Holman Books)
Tom Blackaby wrote The Man God Uses with his dad, Henry, and wrote The Family God Uses with his wife, Kim. As the sole author of The Commands of Christ, he focuses on what Christians can do to demonstrate love for the Lord, concentrating on obedience to the commands of Christ.
According to Blackaby, Christ wants the same healthy and vibrant relationship with Christians— God's children—as he experiences with his Father (John 15-17).
Christ's first command calls for repentance, and at the end of each chapter or section, there is an application paragraph for the reader.
From loving God, to loving others, to loving your enemies and "turning the other cheek," Blackaby extracts the commands within all those categories, as well as others.
The same is true about godly character. Claiming God always will match his assignment with a Christian's character, the book emphasizes various areas of obedience to his commands.
This book is not dealing with the "Ten Commandments" but Christ's commands to and for his followers. It is thought-provoking on many levels.
Skip Holman, minister of discipleship
Northeast Baptist Church
You've Got to Be Kidding by Cookie Leonardelli (Author House)
In You've Got to be Kidding, Pastor Cookie Leonardelli reflects on the experiences of her walk with God and the up-and-down experiences of her life. She uses a conversational approach to her story, so you feel her emotions, and it gives flavor to what she writes.
Leonardelli was the youth director of her church when she took her youth to Lone Tree Bible Ranch for a spiritual retreat. God used that retreat and the speaker to call her to write this book.
Her story includes both joys and sorrows. She tells about the death of one daughter, the struggle of another with drugs and other problems. Leonardelli reveals her own struggle in becoming the pastor of her church. In all of this, she sees the hand of God and realizes he is in control. Thus, the book's title grows out of the things she faced, causing her to say, "You've got to be kidding."
Readers will find plenty of good material here, but be prepared to wade through a lot of rambling. Overall, it's interesting reading.
Leo Smith, retired executive director
Texas Baptist Men