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Friday, October 25, 2013

"Sunshine and Storms" (Susan Lenzkes)

TITLE: Sunshine and Storms: Devotions to Encourage and Comfort
AUTHOR: Susan Lenzkes
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 2012, (224 pages).

Life is like the weather. There are times of sunshine and times of rain. There are also cloudy days as well as stormy days. It is a good metaphor for life at large. In this book, Susan Lenzkes, a speaker and Bible study leader shares how God leads her through personal storms and sunshine. Sixty devotions are offered, with half on the sunshine of life and the other half on the need to stand firm during the storms. Each devotion begins with a quotation to prepare readers for what is to come. Grounded in life on earth but pointed at hope in heaven, Lenzkes reflects on how everyday life with their ups and downs, is something to be lived through, appreciated, and encouraged. She wonders aloud how Jesus living in perfect glory is willing to come down to imperfect earth and to suffer with us, and died for us that we may be "a family of shining realists." Combining some of her best devotions written and published before, this book groups the devotions in two categories. The first is about life through "Shining Like the Sun." There are lots of optimism and realistic acceptance of life. One is heavenly minded and earthly grounded, surrounded by a profound sense of realism. There are thoughts about how to name a fear and to remove the masks that prevent us from facing the truth. There is a sensitively written reflection of pain and grief for victims over the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Kenzkes meanders with readers through wounds and hurts; joys and sorrows; hurts and loss. She has a sense of life not being perfect and yet at the same time offers a way of perfect hope. She understands what it means to deal with life's pressures, enduring broken and painful relationships, and many other facets of life. The thirty devotions in the first part show readers how and what it means to continue shining in hope by investing in the promises of God through the Word.

The second part of the book takes the journey deeper a few notches. Adversity can come at anytime. Even the lack of progress can bring about moments of despair. Hurts can be very personal and deeply painful. During those times, the best way is not to read a get-fixed-fast manual, but to lament through poems, songs, and prayers. That is exactly what Lenzkes has often done in the compilation of the devotional materials. There are chapters in which the brevity itself carries a deep echo of emotions that reverberate through the day and night. It helps one wonder at the earthly situation and ponder at the heavenly hope. Readers are encouraged to cry without shame, to lament without guilt, and to cling on the the Name of Jesus. It is this second part that Lenzkes shines as a comforting guide for the discouraged and heavy-ladened. I like the way she puts it: "There is no timetables on grief," as well as the way she shows us how questions may not be answered but still be lived. She shows us how to recover hope which is often the first word dropped from the bags of the discouraged.

Perceptively written with a gentle voice, Lenzkes is able to reach out to the needy heart and walks with the readers through words of encouragement and hope. Beginning with a frank assessment of life and concluding with the birth of Christ, "Sunshine and Storms" shows us that with God all things are possible. It reminds us again that in times of trouble, we need not helplessly look at the mountains of difficulties or the abysses of pain and grief. Instead, we look to the One who is able to move mountains, blow away dark clouds of gloom, sweep the abysses of darkness with the light of Jesus. For Jesus is the True and Living Light who has come and will come again. The Word declares it. The Son lives it. The Resurrection proves it.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Discovery House Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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