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Monday, October 31, 2016

"Home" (Elyse Fitzpatrick)

TITLE: Home: How Heaven and the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longings
AUTHOR: Elyse Fitzpatrick
PUBLISHER: Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016, (240 pages).

Recently, there has been a spate of books about miracles and near-death-experience about what heaven is like. One was involved in a road accident. Another with an incurable illness was badly injured but experienced a miraculous healing. Still another claimed to have been to heaven and came back alive! All of them have this common theme: Heaven is real from the perspective of those who have been there (or claimed to be). Looking it from the perspective of people longing for home, theologians have spent countless hours coming the Bible and examining historical evidence about the place Jesus had prepared for believers. Some stayed with the scholarly and more academic theological treatment. Others tried to make it more palatable for popular reading. This book is one of the latter but unique in several ways. The most significant way is how the author puts into words our true longings for something far better than what earth can provide. It is way more desirable than any bucket list we could ever put together. Beginning with a personal description of tragedy and loss, Elyse Fitzpatrick helps us ponder upon the following questions:

  • What will heaven be like?
  • What about the biblical New Earth?
  • What happens when we die?
  • How will I spend eternity?
  • What about our loved ones who had died?

Friday, October 28, 2016

"Discipline That Connects With Your Child's Heart" (Jim & Lynne Jackson)

TITLE: Discipline That Connects With Your Child's Heart: Building Faith, Wisdom, and Character in the Messes of Daily Life
AUTHOR: Jim & Lynne Jackson
PUBLISHER: Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016, (320 pages).

Parenting is tough. Dealing with kids with particular challenges can increase this difficulty a couple of notches. How can overwhelmed parents cope with the flurry of active growing children? Recognizing the challenges and frustrations of modern parenting, authors Jim and Lynne Jackson shares out of their over twenty years of experience that discipline can be wise and gentle. This is made better if we can indeed connect with the heart of the child. The way to do this is to remember and to practice the four actions and four messages.
  1. Foundation: "You are SAFE with me,"
  2. Connect: "You are LOVED no matter what."
  3. Coach: "You are CALLED and CAPABLE."
  4. Correct:  "You are RESPONSIBLE for your actions."
The foundational message is important for the entire book, that the child feels safe with the parents. In order to reach the heart, parenting must be based on love, that engaging the misbehavior must also be accompanied by affirmation of the child's identity. Putting it another way, discipline not out to control but out to condition a child. Discipline a child not out of our own baggage of problems. Recognize our own weaknesses and emotional struggles and not let that become reasons to take out our frustrations on our kids. Learn to be a calmer parent through trust in God's Word and obedience even to instructions that we don't like. "Slow, low, and listen" are some practical steps to take when preparing to discipline a child. Learn to parent out of a relationship with God and God's love.

Following these foundational chapters, we move on to the three stages of Connecting; Coaching; and Correcting. In "Connecting," we affirm the child with our love regardless of what the child had done. See misbehavior as moments for affirming our unconditional love. This calls for appropriate timing for any form of discipline. Loving a child cannot be done only when in good times. It needs to be demonstrated at ALL times. This is how unconditional love can be powerfully shown. Recognize the connection between fear and anger and replace it with self-control and a gentle trust in God.

In "Coaching," we are encouraged to find opportunities to build positives at all times. This means learning to look beyond the surface of any misbehavior. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solutions. Aim for long-term goals and motivation, and align that with God's kingdom focus. Recognize the hidden gifts of children and help them discover and develop them. By identifying the use of proper words, planning a discipline strategy, considering the natural impacts, and delaying gratification, and learning how to deal with the twelve common misbehaviors like (talking back; yelling; stubbornness; strong-willed; lying; stealing; irritable; insecure; impulsive; whining; complaining; and defensive). There is a suggested response to each of these misbehaviors which parents in general would find helpful.

In "Correcting," we come back to the biblical principle of discipline, which is to restore the person. Help children to learn from the natural process, to enable them to find solutions to their own problems instead of parents giving them all the answers. Being safe is not only about physical but very much emotional and spiritual. Through rebuilding, reconciliation, and restoration, the path of correction will be more helpful for the child in the long run.

So What?
This book powerfully structures the key thesis of enabling children to feel safe with their parents, regardless of what happens. Through the processes of connecting, coaching, and correcting, the relationship between parents and children is anchored on a firm and strong foundation of love. The Jacksons make it a constant effort to point readers back to the Source of Love: God. Every chapter is written with a practical application in mind. Explanations are kept simple and vibrant through many real-life examples of parenting difficulties. They encourage readers to do a personal response at the end of each chapter so that the concepts can be internalized and applied where possible. I enjoy the part about "Kid Connection" which offers case examples and illustrations that would encourage parents to do something.

As the book is written from a Western or North American perspective, we should not be too quick to assume that it can be applied to all cultures. Readers will still have to contextualize their own understanding of their cultures using the book as a guide. The key motivation is to be connected with our children. This means learning to connect as parents to God, our Spiritual Parent. As we enjoy the way God loves us, we can take a leaf of God's attributes of benevolence, love, patience, and self-sacrifice, and to bless our children accordingly. This book indeed is a gift to help us do more of that.

Authors Jim and Lynne Jackson are founders of "Connected Families" ministry based in Minnesota. They coach parents, conduct seminars, and engage online regularly. They are parents to three children and ministers out of their over twenty years of experience and knowledge.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Reading Your Life's Story" (Keith R. Anderson)

TITLE: Reading Your Life's Story: An Invitation to Spiritual Mentoring
AUTHOR: Keith R. Anderson
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2016, (224 pages).

We are relational people. We grow best in a nourishing environment of friendship and honesty. Friendly and open with others; honest and bold about ourselves. We cannot grow on our own. We need others to guide us. We need spiritual direction. We need to be mentored in our own journey of life. Learning to read our life story remains one of the most crucial things we need to do. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most neglected. Some of the most important questions are often either not asked or ignored. This book attempts to boldly ask and to gently illuminate. It is an introductory book on the art of spiritual direction. It tells us about the importance of mentoring, what it is, what it looks like, and how we can go about establishing a mentor-mentee relationship. It shows us ways to:

  • start and sustain a dialogue
  • cultivate an honest and healthy curiosity about life stories
  • appreciating human relationships
  • desiring to deepen intimacy with God and others
  • learning to tell one another’s stories
  • being authentic through honest discovery

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"NKJV Word Study Bible" (Thomas-Nelson)

TITLE: NKJV Word Study Bible, Hardcover: 1,700 Key Words that Unlock the Meaning of the Bible
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2016, (1760 pages).

There is a lot of study Bibles out there in the market. Not only are publishers trying to promote their Bible translations, they are constantly finding ways to encourage more to read and to study the Bible. Even with the advancement in computer software, nothing beats the feel and experience of having a printed study Bible. This particular study Bible focuses on word studies while at the same time maintaining a fluent and smooth reading of the Bible. It throws light on more than 1700 Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek words in the Bible to enable readers to dig deeper into the meaning not just of the words but the contexts as well. Using the New King James Version translation, the English words to be studied are first underlined to help us pause for a word study or for a reference to be aware of in the following verses. Here are some other features of the Bible.

There are indexes that help one to locate the specific words alphabetically; in chronological order according to the Bible books; according to Strong's numbering system, first in the Hebrew and then in the Greek. There is a concordance that lists key passages by English words plus helpful introductions of all 66 books of the Bible. There are colour maps, NKJV translators' notes, as well as cross-references to enlarge our understanding of the contexts of the passage. The publisher has also listed several resources for students to dig into. The translation used is the New King James Version that updates the English language for modern readers while maintaining a faithfulness to the beauty and style of the classic King James Bible. The translators are all scholars who subscribed to their belief in the "verbal and plenary inspiration of Scripture" plus the "inerrancy of the original autographs." While the old words like "Thou, Thy, Thee, and Thine" were once used for references to the Divine, it has been replaced by the more common "You, Your, and Yours" while maintaining the capitalized when referring to God. Translation can also be difficult with regard to deciding between contextual vs literal meaning. With regard to the New Testament manuscript, the translators have opted to retain the use of the Textus Receptus, while keeping an eye on the Critical and Majority Text. About 85% of the New Testament texts are similar and where there are variant readings, full explanations are given to give readers an appreciation of the decision making process.

Monday, October 24, 2016

"All Creation Waits" (Gayle Boss)

TITLE: All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings
AUTHOR: Gayle Boss
PUBLISHER: Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2016, (112 pages).

The season of Advent will be upon us very soon. While there are many themes based on the gospel narratives and the stories of nativity, this book is unique as it offers 25 meditations based on animal woodcuttings. Each chapter offers a description of a winter creature, its lifestyle, eating habits, habitat, unique behaviours, and special characteristics. The turtle prepares to go into hibernation in what is one of nature's wonderful survival strategies. The Muskrat knows exactly where the fresh food are when the ice cold winter freezes up. The Chickadee tweets happily amid the solemn winds of winter. The whitetail deer and her bucks huddle together for warmth. Honeybees survive by choreographing their wing movements to generate heat enough for the whole colony. Other animals include the frog, the racoon, the chipmunk, the black bear, the opossum, bat, turkey, and many more. There is something common in all of these animals. They prepare for the coming harsh winter. Waiting is not simply a virtue but a necessary survival tactic. With wild nature as their habitat, they are able to adjust their bodies to tackle the freezing weather. It is a mystery of how creation waits and sleeps out the dark and gloomy winter. Activities are reduced to the minimum so as to conserve heat. It is a time to hibernate.

Gayle Boss is a lifelong lover of animals and nature. She is a poet, a writer, and an avid naturalist. Graphic artist David Klein contributes one illustration for each chapter, bringing to life the very creature written about. The red fox on the front cover is from the chapter on the red fox, elegant and beautiful. I am amazed at the powers of observation by the author which really demonstrates her love for animals and nature. With great understanding of the animal and powers of observation, she is able to make the woodcuttings come alive with literary movement and imagination. Readers will find in each chapter a very insightful look about the nature of the animal, its eating habits, how it moves, its survival instincts, how it takes care of the young, and so on. After 24 chapters of descriptions of the wonders of each winter creature, the last chapter is what we happen to be waiting for: Christmas! It is a vivid display of all creation waiting for the revelation of God in Christ.

I must say that this is a very unique book to prepare ourselves for the advent. It gives me a fresh appreciation of the winter animals that exist in our backyard of backcountry. Some of them I have not even aware they exist! Yet, God knows each and every one of them.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Paraclete Press without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

"Humble Roots" (Hannah Anderson)

TITLE: Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul
AUTHOR: Hannah Anderson
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (208 pages).

We live in a world where stress is commonly felt; anxiety evident in the faces of many; and restlessness driving our efforts every where we go. We try to perform well because we want to keep our jobs. We want to prove ourselves worthy for various reasons. We are trapped in the non-stop spiral of expectations that never seem to back down. With a competitive environment, many of us have felt the pressure of having to maintain a step ahead of our closest rivals. What if there is a way to nourish our inner soul without being tarnished by outer expectations? What if we are not driven by that need to perform but led by a quiet confidence and trust? What if the way ahead is not arrogance and pride but restfulness and humility? In this book, author Hannah Anderson explores the roots of restfulness and finds that in the promise of Jesus in Matthew 11:28 which says: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"The Rewired Brain" (Dr Ski Chilton)

TITLE: The ReWired Brain: Free Yourself of Negative Behaviors and Release Your Best Self
AUTHOR: Dr Ski Chilton (with Dr Margaret Rukstalis and A.J. Gregory)
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016, (288 pages).

Many of us have heard about the left brain and right brain distinction when it comes to understanding the brain. Others look to the use of neurological concepts and scientific tests to determine how the brain functions. Some would use the different ways namely: brain, mind, experience, learning, and memory. Still, others would segregate the brain into forebrain, midbrain, and the hindbrain. Then there is the outer brain and the inner brain, and so on. In this book, Dr Ski Chilton, a Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine has come together with an addiction psychiatrist, Dr Margaret Rukstalis, to propose two systems of thought within our brains: a "System 1" and a "System 2" brain.

  • System 1: Limbic and Reptilian systems that deal with human emotions, survival instincts, memory that deals with protection, and base functions like breathing, heartbeat, and main physiological functions of the body. This resides in the inner brain regions.
  • System 2: Neocortex: executive oversight, thinking, planning, visualizing, and decision making that matures around 25 years of age. This resides in the outer brain regions.

The key thesis in this book is that when both systems are balanced and optimal, we will be able to manage our negative behaviors and grow our best selves. The author believes that our brains can be rewired and we can become better people as long as we are conscious of our two systems. Using scientific data and research evidence, readers learn about the way the two systems work; how they interact; how they need each other; and how complex the brain is despite the simplified explanations. It is written in three parts, namely: Reflect; Reframe; and Rewire.

In "Reflect," we are asked to think about how we regularly let our emotions get the better of our decision making. We are reminded about over 25% of the American population having some form of mental illness. Before we can do any change, we need to be first convinced that something is wrong in the first place. We learn the importance of "differentiated parts of the brain" that enable us to maintain some self-control. We learn about the dangers of letting fear dictate our actions. Due to plasticity of brain functioning, both genetics and the environment can play crucial roles in rewiring the brain.

In "Reframe," we learn about what it means to be human; the biblical and the scientific perspectives of human behaviour; and how feelings can render us hopeless and helpless. Chilton also tackles the difficult topic of morality and the roots of what right and wrong means. He believes that morality breeds positive change. Tragedy can be very crippling to one's emotional development. Sharing about his own broken marriage and relationship struggles, he argues for the need to come to terms with our situations and ourselves. Acceptance may very well be the hardest but most necessary stage to arrive at. Apart from that, parenting may very well be the most difficult challenge one would encounter. He applies the System 1 and 2 paradigm to the parenting equation, arguing that parenting by guilt and over-parenting are essentially over-stimulations of System 1 brain functions. A well-differentiated person will be one who knows oneself; able to express appropriate emotions; and manages emotional dysfunctions at a timely and proper manner. He allocates a chapter on sex and intimacy to describe how our brain functions can impact our sexuality and our most intimate relationships. Practiced well, it is a gift. Abuse it and it becomes a liability.

In "Rewire," we have some self-discovery and self-exploratory exercises to stretch our understanding, our learning, and our self-awareness. The question of our own identity helps us to remember our most significant positive and negative moments of our lives. We are challenged to get others to share about their opinions of us. We learn that surrender is a healthy emotion and acknowledgement that we are not always in control. Gradually, we are encouraged to seek forgiveness for our weaknesses, and to find freedom in acceptance.

So What?
The single biggest takeaway for me is how Chilton describes the world of two minds. While admitting that the brain is a complex structure that cannot be hemmed down by any one theory or concept, he argues convincingly that we can still try to understand in broad strokes. These broad strokes cover only a small fraction of the potential of the brain and yet can bring about powerful and beneficial changes. If the brain is changeable, why not change it for the better? Why let ourselves be enslaved by reptilian behavior that can easily unravel our base emotions? Why not learn about positive ways to be a better person?

Each chapter ends with a set of questions for readers to reflect and to discover oneself more. At times, the book does appear to over-simplify aspects of the brain. This is a necessary step because not all of us are neurosurgeons or brain scientists. Neither are we trained to psychoanalyze ourselves. This System 1/2 manner of thinking helps us in ensuring we do not become imbalanced in the use of our brains. Only through practice can we improve and rewire our brains. As relational people, we need others to help us along this journey. Thus, the way forward with regard to practicing the principles of this book is to read it together with someone else. Whether it is one's spouse, friend, or colleague, it has to be done in an environment of trust. I can think of no better place than a community of faith where members are committed to help one another grow and flourish.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting" (Sam Serio)

TITLE: Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting
AUTHOR: Sam Serio
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2016, (208 pages).

It has been said that preachers generally have two tasks in their preaching. They need to speak in a way that afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. The Holy Spirit often uses powerful preaching to do wonders and convicts the complacent. With regard to gentle care, encouragement, and comfort, it calls for sensitive preaching. In this book, the focus is on recognizing the presence of hurt and pain in the congregation gathered each week and to work on three stages of preparation:
  1. The Heart of the Preacher
  2. The Message
  3. The Future
First and foremost, it is about the heart of the preacher. This means opening one'e eyes to the reality of hurting and to establish empathy with the people sitting at the pews. No empathy, no connection. No connection, no relevance in the preaching. One key area is sexuality. While it is good to talk about the ideals and the perfection God requires, truth is, many are sexually hurting in many different ways. There are those who felt guilt because of casual sex, abortion, or some past sexual assaults. There are those who had suffered rape, same-sex attraction, and unnatural sexual feelings. There are also victims of abuse and addicts to pornography and prostitution. Most worrying of all, these remain hidden from others, to the point that one often hurts or suffers alone. How can the minister speak into all of these? It begins with realization that this world is far more broken than we think. Author Sam Serio notes that preachers are often preach in a "negligent or negative" way. Instead, they are to open their eyes not only to the harvest but also to the personal "wreckage" for the person(s) sitting at the pews. It is a tough balancing act to convict at times and to comfort at other times. The key question Serio poses is:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Calling in Today's World" (Kathleen A. Cahalan & Douglas J. Schuurman)

TITLE: Calling in Today's World: Voices from Eight Faith Perspectives
EDITORS:  Kathleen A. Cahalan & Douglas J. Schuurman
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2016, (238 pages).

What do people in generally think about calling? Is it only something that Christians ask? Surely, the Buddhists, the Muslims, and the secularists in society would have their own perspectives too. In fact, according to the editors of this book, many students and colleagues have been asking the same question: "What do other people think about calling?" or "Is there an equivalent concept in your religion or belief?" So they went forth to ask various individuals whether they can contribute to the overall understanding of what calling means according their faith perspective. They found eight! According to Cahalan and Schuurman, their purpose for this book is to help "build a better, more humane world" by establishing bridges of understanding of one another's beliefs. Apart from that, Christians reading this book would be able to revisit their own understanding of what calling means in their own tradition. They can dispel any notion that calling is merely for the ministry or church related endeavors. They can avoid limiting calling to only supernatural matters, but to be inclusive of all matters. They can look at calling more in terms of freedom of choice rather than some strict "blueprint" we have to adhere to. In a conversational approach, each of the eight contributors are given an opportunity to talk about what calling means.

Friday, October 14, 2016

"Mentor For Life" (Natasha Sistrunk Robinson)

TITLE: Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose through Intentional Discipleship
AUTHOR: Natasha Sistrunk Robinson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (272 pages).

Every transformed Christian has had some form of mentoring relationship. They are beneficiaries of mentoring. In fact, one of the biggest weaknesses of the Church is due to the lack of mentoring. One reason is the lack of knowhow. This book is written to address that. All mentoring is intentional. It includes those invitations that we accept or not accept. Mentoring is a trusted relationship. Many biblical examples exist. Mentoring is also closely connected with discipleship which is why Robinson has defined mentoring as "intentional discipleship." The key thesis in this book is that once we embark on such intentional discipleship (aka mentoring), our purpose in life will be gradually made clear. This is even more critical as many live muddled lives. They dichotomize evangelism from discipleship in an already pluralistic culture. They allow worldly culture to influence them instead of the other way round. They let short term gains take priority over long term investments. They might even let the distractions of life de-sensitive them from the reality of two kingdoms: Of God and of others. Forgetting this makes one vulnerable to evil influences.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"A Preacher's Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series" (Multiple contributors)

TITLE: A Preacher's Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series: Thematic Plans for Years A, B, and C
AUTHOR: Multiple contributors
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016, (320 pages).

What should I be preaching next week? How do I plan out the sermon series for the year? Should I do a Bible book or should I go topical? These questions often plague preachers all over the world. Sometimes, there is an inspiration toward certain themes of the Bible, or a random toggling between an Old Testament book followed by a New Testament letter. Other times, people just base their choices on pet topics. Enters the use of the lectionary that combines the thematic structures as well as covering the entire Bible over three years. It guides the Church not only in observing the Church seasons of the year, it helps preachers to plan their worship themes. With the lectionary as a common guide, other preachers can easily follow along. That includes guest preachers. In the Foreword, Amy Butler lists reasons for using the lectionary:

  • Preaching is not about the preacher but about truth of God
  • There is no fear in going back to the same texts because the Word of God is infinitely insightful
  • It enables one to connect and communicate with other preachers
  • Using the lectionary helps one avoid preaching on the basis of what people want but on what the Word of God directs
  • There is a consistency in format and structure to bring out the best in seasonal and series-based preaching
  • .... and several more.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

"Return to Justice" (Soong-Chan Rah and Gary VanderPol)

TITLE: Return to Justice: Six Movements That Reignited Our Contemporary Evangelical Conscience
AUTHOR: Soong-Chan Rah and Gary VanderPol
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2016, (228 pages).

Some Christians go way out to fight for social justice. Others simply swing to other direction to talk a lot but end up nothing pretty much nothing. Om 1947, the late Carl F. Henry's book The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism pretty much sums up the situation, where the general mood is distancing from the world and preserving the Church's fundamental images. Henry's conviction was moot, that the Church must walk the talk. They must engage the world in the manner that lives as salt and light to the world. Against a backdrop of a Church that tends to be apathetic to social justice matters, Henry placed much hope on an up and coming generation called "the evangelicals." Since that call, the evangelicals of then require a new wake up call. This is where this book comes in to highlight not just one but six movements to update, to renew, and to revitalize the evangelical conscience toward social justice and biblical responsibility.

The first is the Power of Personal Story. Rah laments the divorce of social action and evangelism as white churches fled the city to the suburban neighbourhoods. There is a need to re-integrate personal evangelism and social justice. John Perkins is an example of one who had done just that. Perkins has the unique position of growing up as a minority African-American community and also connected to a larger white community. He straddles both sides of the divide and is able to see the needs and nuances of both groups. He grew up without privilege and was able to understand in a very unique way the people who are marginalized in various ways.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

"Losing Susan" (Victor Lee Austin)

TITLE: Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God Who Gives and Takes Away
AUTHOR: Victor Lee Austin
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2016, (160 pages).

Losing someone is painful. Watching a loved one deteriorate and suffer is beyond words. Yet, Episcopal Priest Victor Lee Austin had done not only that but to write this book journaling his experience while seeing his wife struggle with brain cancer and its after-effects. It is painful. It is truthful. It is also insightful.

Austin invites us to follow his journey from beginning to end. He shares about how he and his wife met at school, and how her Episcopalian background rubbed with his Presbyterian upbringing. They got to know each other through walking to and from Church. They soon got married, Austin at 22.5 years and Susan at 21 years of age. For fifteen years, they had that beautiful marriage until that fateful day when they discovered Susan's tumor. He shares about his family's levels of faith; that despite the regular issues with the faith of children of clergy, his children Michael and Emily did not lose their faith. Susan was a passionate writer. She also loves children. Austin has a way of describing her love for children.