Books contain Christian application

Published May 1, 1999

A mother of five shares how she feeds her family on $200 (US) per month, and other tips on saving money, in Shop, Save, and Share.

THIS MONTH, we have a collection of books about lifestyle, terminal illness, and what might be called “deathstyle,” all with Christian application.

Shop, Save, and Share is the experience of a mother of five who feeds her family on $200 (US) a month. The author, a service spouse, tells how she does it at seminars on U.S. Air Force bases worldwide and here offers it to a wider audience.

This is a “how to save” book with a difference: you save so you can share. The first item on the sample budgets provided is 10 per cent off the top of their gross income to their local church. “Some call this practice a tithe,” says the author, “others call it foolish, but we call it Christianity in practice.” Beyond that, part of the money saved on shopping becomes available for other forms of help through the church or charitable groups.

Shop, Save, and Shareby Ellie Kay$15.99 (paper)Bethany House0-7642-2083-7

This book is also fun to read, witty, anecdotal, built on the premise that "every mom is a working mom" – in or out of the home. The common sense suggestions for saving are little different from those given in most books or articles of its kind: shop sales of all kinds, use coupons and refund offers, avoid impulse buying, but with the added reminder that "God will give you the wisdom you need, that’s a promise."

The author puts her message across without the earnest sanctimony of so much “Christian stewardship” material. But in the end, this book is less about buying or saving than about giving.

Reflections and Prayers from the Valley of the Shadow of Cancer

“Cancer,” says the author, “has the notorious reputation of rendering its victims helpless and hopeless as it seeks to destroy their bodies.” This is one Christian’s defiant response.

It is the spiritual notebook of a Canadian woman who lives literally on borrowed time. First diagnosed in 1989, told she had six months left in 1995, she is still alive to share hope, faith, and lifestyle ideas with those in similar situations.

One key to survival is her “box for today” – living one day at a time – together with the 23rd Psalm: “He restores my soul.” Another is that Ms. Bouwman is clearly in charge of her own treatment, whether it be conventional medicine or alternative protocols such as exercise, diet and other supplements, chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. Each test or therapy proposed is her decision. Perhaps she is also fortunate that her professional caregivers are prepared to work with a patient who is under no illusions about their infallibility: “Doctors do make mistakes and God is able to intervene miraculously!”

Reflections and Prayers from the Valley of the Shadow of Cancerby Eleanor M. Bouwman$16.95 (paper)Creative Bound0-921165-50-1

This is a book for "dipping" as need arises to handle each situation, rather than for reading at one sitting. The author shares 50 reflections on various topics with which cancer patients can identify, each followed by relevant Bible verses and a prayer pulling the insights together, along with blank lines for one’s own spiritual response.

One such topic is unavoidable: healing, “the burning desire and dream of most cancer patients ? also one of the most soulsearching faith issues.” On this, she says “I have come to the conclusion that God will heal me in his own time and manner ? I need not fear death ? for the believer, death truly is the ultimate healing!”

Living Well, Staying Well is a joint effort of the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, recognizing that basically the same strategies help protect against both heart disease and cancer.

These include all the things we hear about in the media: no smoking, exercise, diet, and working with prevention-minded health care practitioners. The chapter “eating well to discourage disease” sounds in places like some of the alternative diet regimens mentioned by Ms. Bouwman in her book.

Living Well, Staying Welled. American Heart Association & American Cancer Society$19.50 (paper)Random House0-8129-3067-3

Believing as Christians that the body needs to be cared for as the temple of the Holy Spirit, we could profitably read this book for ideas about how to do it.

There is a good index, and a very helpful glossary of medical terms. There is also a directory of regional and state cancer and heart organizations in the United States. It is a pity that in a book widely beneficial to all North America, the addresses of the Canadian Heart Fund and Cancer Society were not included; even better, they should have been co-sponsors.

Language of the Heart addresses the truth of the old Arab proverb “death is the dark camel that kneels at the tent of every man.” It is for people contemplating the prospect of their own death, or those preparing to deal with the death of another.

It combines spiritual insights with practical advice, drawing on the experiences of people who have dealt creatively with different kinds of deaths.

For Anglicans, probably the least useful chapters of this book are those with ideas for the funeral ceremonies themselves. We have come a long way from the starkly impersonal Burial Office in the Book of Common Prayer of which people could and did say, “you Anglicans can’t even tell who you’re burying,” but we still want an Anglican “feel” to our service. The forms in the Book of Alternative Services show that it is possible to include the personal in our funerals while retaining an appropriate liturgical focus – and this in turn has encouraged embellishment of the BCP service, which sensitive (and sensible) officiants have done for years anyhow.

Language of the HeartRituals, Stories and Information about Deathby Carolyn Pogue$17.95 (paper)Northstone1-896836-17-8

That said, the personal stories and the insights they share are helpful as people work toward spiritual answers.

On the practical side, the author offers reliable information about financial and legal matters, wills, advance health care directives (living wills), transplants and organ donation. There is a good index of printed resources, support groups, donations of money and/or organs, and memorial societies.

There is good coverage of matters directly concerned with arranging the funeral. The reader discovers what it’s like to use a funeral home – without the kind of “undertaker-bashing” to which some books like this are prone – and other options are also explored. The information is simple and accurate. Here, as with any major purchase, the consumer needs to shop around because prices do vary, even among different funeral homes owned by the same chain.

This book encourages people dealing with death – their own or another’s – to do what seems right for them, rather than what others expect. There is also the message that people need to provide written directions about their funeral for their survivors – who will want to “do the right thing” but far too often don’t know what that is.

Family Documents is a 50-page, easy-to-use summary of information survivors need to deal with personal, business, and financial matters when someone has died or can no longer look after their own affairs. This, for Christians, is part of their stewardship of life and possessions, but one often neglected until too late.

Family DocumentsWhat They Are, Where They Areby Carolyn Pogue$9.95 (paper)Waterside House0-96826828-0-5

Even though banks or insurance companies may offer similar material free, this book has the advantage of having everything inside one set of covers, from biography to bank accounts, wills to credit cards, and most important, where to find it. Helpfully, the line spacing leaves plenty of room to write in the information in a "large hand." Its greatest usefulness probably is just identifying the records and documents required.

As the authors say, “In every family there comes a time when the right information must go to the right people. This information should be kept safe – not secret.”

William Portman is book reviews editor for the Anglican Journal.


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