Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers

Grady is an orphan that has no idea of who he is or where he came from. He is also the narrator of Jonathan Roger's new book, The Charlatan's Boy:
"I don't remember one thing about the day I was born. It hasn't been for lack of trying either...I only know one man who might be able to tell me where I come from, and that man is a liar and a fraud."
That liar is Floyd, a flim-flammer just looking for his next big "act" that will rake in the copper coins. His on-going act is in the feechie trade; this act focuses on Grady playing the role of a for-real in the flesh feechie. Everyone in the frontier of Corenwald has heard of the feechies, but no one has ever seen one.
Grady plays one and Floyd cashes in on it. When the civilizers tire of talk of feechies, Floyd and Grady revive interest by creating a feechie scare across the land. The plan works and so business booms again.
Jonathan Rogers has created a world that hints of the American Deep South, with its tales that weave truth and legend. Being a native Georgian like Rogers, I appreciate his yarn-spinning and had to laugh at times thinking of similar type stories I had heard growing up...not of feechies, but of other mysterious entities just waiting to gobble you up in the night (or if they are daring, in broad daylight). Humor and sadness are quilted into satisfying quest for belonging and self discovery. I applaud Rogers for this contribution to Southern literature which is great for children and adults alike.
I received this book for free from Waterbrook Mutnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tired of Trying to Measure Up by Jeff VanVonderen

I wasn't sure what to expect when I began reading this book. I only know that my spirit resonated with the title because I was, without question, tired of trying to measure up. VanVonderen has broken his book into two parts: Part 1: Wounded by Shame and Part 2: Healed by Grace.

Part 1 works toward revealing what is at the core of the feeling of not measuring up to what the world or specific people expect. It explores a fascinating model of how one gets caught in a cycle of give up/try hard. This cycle is one of defeat and a continual drive to "perform" better. VanVonderen details how this cycle works as one caught in it filters everything through a lens he calls the "shame-based grid", a view that clouds all of life with failure and shame. A person living in this grid will remain tired because nothing will ever be enough and yet will continue to try to do better and work a little harder to measure up and be acceptable. It is a futile effort with destructive results, not only to the one "trying harder" but to all relationships and people in their path. Reading this first section, I had more than a few "a-ha" moments as I saw myself in the illustration and model he presented. I was relieved to move to part 2 for some help in the cycle.

Part 2: Healed by Grace begins with an introduction stating that "it is God's grace, not our striving, that makes us accepted and acceptable. It is His performance in Christ, not our trying to perform, that eradicates our shame...we can be loved, accepted, capable, and worthwhile for free-because, in love, God purchased our eternal state of 'acceptedness' with the blood of His own Son, Jesus Christ...That's the real Good News of the gospel." This section introduces the "rest cycle" to replace the "give up/try hard cycle" and focuses on the grace grid which is replacing the shame-based grid. The goal of the grace grid is to be alive, where the goal of the shame based grid is to perform better and be acceptable. In Christ, the work has already been accomplished on the Cross by Christ and because of that, I am accepted and acceptable to Him, the only one I need to be accepted by. VanVonderen provides a lot of scripture to point out the grace grid that he is presenting, which is basically our identity in Christ.

This book helped to bring some clarity to areas of my life that I found to be helpful. Seeing some of his points played out in my life wasn't easy to take and accept, but overall it was beneficial to understanding why I do certain things and think certain ways. I recommend this book to anyone that battles feelings of inadequacy and struggles with being "good enough" in anyone's eyes. If you have wondered where all of these feelings come from and want to move to freedom in Christ, this is a good read for you.