Beauty for Ashes (The Isaiah Cadre) by Alyce-Kay Ruckelshaus
How do you maintain your faith in times of unexpected trouble or trauma? Especially when it hits you out of nowhere. And what if the trauma has long-lasting effects—perhaps for the rest of your life? Would you still be able to trust God?
Beauty For Ashes: Isaiah Cadre, Book 1 (Isaiah Cadre Series) is the first of a series by my friend, Alyce-Kay Ruckelshaus. It chronicles the story of Kelly, a student at Westmont College in Santa Barbara in 1981. She is an MK (missionary kid) and in love with Matt, a PK (preacher’s kid). She is also part of the Isaiah Cadre, a group of dorm mates who have committed themselves to God and one another.
The book starts off a little slowly, but sets the stage well for an idyllic college experience, deep friendships, and young romance. It gives context that will be important later. And then the unthinkable happens and in a moment, Kelly’s world is shattered. Her faith is tested. Her love is tested. Even her friendships are tested.
The book offers a realistic portrayal of the way many people handle sudden trauma. It especially demonstrates how trauma affects a normally logical person, and how shame can distort one’s thinking.
I highly recommend this book. I loved it even though it’s not my demographic. It’s well written, fast moving, and thoughtful. The author offers discussion questions for personal use or better yet, for a book group. Or even for a cadre. And best of all, it’s free on Kindle!
Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart by Steve Brown
You wear a mask. I wear a mask. We all wear masks. But it should not be so. And Steve Brown is determined that we know every possible way we adopt hidden agendas.
No one can argue with his premise. It’s human nature to hide our true selves. We fear authenticity. We may abhor phonies, but when it comes right down to it, we’re all about as phony as they come. And then we pretend no one notices.
Brown’s style pulls no punches. He’s clear, concise, and in your face. He writes with the humor of an excellent speaker, punctuating truth with a dash of absurdity. The book reads like a spoken sermon, laced with phrases cleverly turned and fingers pointed.
As well written as the book is, I found it rather tedious. It seemed that he made his point well in the first couple of chapters. Then he made it again and again and again. It reminded me of the speakers’ mantra: “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them.” Except that he put several more “tell them’s” in the middle. And yet, perhaps this is a new concept to some readers. Perhaps some are blinded to their hidden agendas and need them pointed out in several different ways before they get it.
Brown redeemed himself in the last couple of chapters when brought it home and applied the concepts to the church where he advocates “a new kind of family.” The book includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter, making the book useful for small groups or personal journaling.
I’m so excited to share that my small group website, WhyDidntYouWarnMe?, linked to my book Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members, turns seven on February 12. To celebrate, I’m giving away copies of my book, and also lowering the price of the book for the month of February. Please check out the blog for contest details and new pricing details.
Some of my new readers might not be familiar with this book. Why Didn’t You Warn Me? addresses 18 common problems that well-meaning people create in small groups and it give s you step-by-step suggestions for dealing with them with grace and sensitivity. It has provided a unique resource for small group leaders since 2007. If you aren’t familiar with it, check it out. I think you’ll like it.