Walking the Hard Road: a book review

Alzheimer’s is a hard road to travel, for both the afflicted and their loved ones. When Martha Maddux was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of fifty (in Sept. 1997), her and her husband Carlen Maddux were both heart broken. Martha, up to that point, had been a spirited mother and civic activist, passionate and confident. The disease would take its toll on her; yet Carlen was determined to be her anchor and uphold her through this new and trying season of their time together. A Path Revealed shares Carlen’s story, of walking alongside Martha, the spiritual resources that sustained them and the healing they both experienced as a consequence of her long illness (Martha passed away in June, 2014).

a-path-revealedThis is a spiritual memoir. We hear about how God met Martha and Carlen in the land of Alzheimer’s. Their path is both contemplative and the charismatic, and they are supported by a web of friends and mentors along the way. Early on in their journey, a Presbyterian pastor/mentor suggests Carlen and Martha go to a Catholic retreat center. There, Carlen learns the comfort that comes from meeting God through contemplative prayer. Slong the way he also hears God and experiences his presence at healing conferences, retreat centers, Thomas Merton’s old cabin, nursing homes, hospital rooms, and on a trip to Australia. Martha and Carlen both are healed of bitterness and resentment harbored toward their fathers. For Carlen this came through an experience of inner healing of past memories through prayer.  He also forgives Martha’s father for past abuse.  His healing and contemplative life clears the way for Carlen to experience a deeper sense of God’s presence and love. Martha too experiences the affirmation of God’s presence to her through  a prophetic word of an Episcopalian healing minister.

Carlen shares his journey as encouragement for others who likewise find themselves navigating difficult paths because of sickness or crisis.  There is no formula here. Carlen and Martha’s story is not mappable on anyone elses, but there is a gracious wisdom hard one. He shares the resources, and faithful confidence that comes from one who has walked the hard road and can now help others on their way.

Carlen and Martha’s story made me think of another couple I know who are facing down Alzheimer’s. Like Carlen and Martha, their story is marked by small victories, good friends and God’s presence with them. I give this book four stars and recommend it especially for those who are navigating Alzheimer’s or other difficult experiences.

Note: I recieved a copy of this book from Paraclete Press in exchange for my honest review.

Broken Souls Made Whole: a book review.

Help for the Fractured Soul by Candyce Roberts

When a person has suffered severe abuse they are damaged socially and emotionally and physically. They also bear spiritual scars and need healing. Author Candyce Roberts has walked with many survivors of abuse as a minister of inner healing to those who are traumatized. This book describes some of the issues that sufferers of abuse face and the wisdom that Roberts has accumulated from ministering to them.

The ministry of inner healing involves inviting Jesus into the wounded areas of our heart and allowing him to bring healing to our past memories and broken parts.  In focusing on sufferers of abuse, Roberts has often met those who have a ‘fractured personality’ (like Dissociative Identity Disorder but she cautions non-mental health professionals against diagnosing anyone). Often in sessions of prayer ministry, survivors of abuse will manifest different personalities. These are parts of the self that need healing and integration.

Throughout this book Roberts gives advice to prayer ministers on: confronting fear and denial, inviting Christ in the picture to minister to the person, helping the person work toward forgiveness, addressing false beliefs, ministering to children, learning wholeness, the role of community in bringing healing to the abused and cultivating intimacy.  Roberts brings a lot of wisdom and experience to bear on the issues and is a trustworthy guide on how to minister to broken people. While the focus of this book is survivors of abuse, much of what she has to say applies to prayers for inner healing in general.

But while I affirm inner healing and Roberts general approach to it, I remain skeptical about pieces of this. Roberts (and Neil T. Anderson who writes the forward) speak of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA).  Her rhetoric about SRA is not the goat/human sacrifice hysteria of the late 1980’s, but she does posit that there are victims of abuse perpetuated by members pf cults(Satanists or otherwise) who intentionally fragment the personality of a child through ritual abuse. This is a bold and controversial claim, not least because trauma memories are not universally accepted as particularly reliable. Wounded people may ‘remember’ traumas in therapy when primed by a therapist, whether or not the events actually occurred. It seems to me a similar phenomenon may also happen in inner healing ministry, so I skeptical about the more fanciful tales (though I would concede that the world really has people that evil who cause wounds that deep). However whether abuse is real or imagined by someone, they still need the healing Jesus offers and Roberts method of prayer seems effective to me.  My heart goes out to the victims and I don’t want to seem insensitive about the parts I disagree with Roberts on.

So I give this book a middle of the road endorsement (3/5). There was a lot in here I found helpful and I think Roberts offers some helpful advice for praying for inner healing with the wounded, but I am unsure that everything that happened to the survivors she describes, really happened the way they described it.

Thank you to Chosen books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this honest review.