Monday, February 27, 2017

Werts writes about the ‘Heart’ from the ‘heart’ and her message is crucial to Love

Lies And Love:
Cleansing the heart to make room for radical love
Author: Vanessa D. Werts
Publisher: Higher Realm Publishing, Ashburn, VA, 2016                                                                     


I must admit that when I agreed to review this book, I did not realize what it was.  I figured a title like “Lies and Love” for a non-fiction work would be most interesting.  It was only when I started reading it that I realized this book was about having a clean heart and how to get one. More specifically it presents the need for a spiritual 30-day cleanse to achieve the desired state. Finally, it was written for women but it doesn’t take rocket science to see how many men could benefit from such an exercise too.
Author Vanessa Werts has weathered the storms of rejection, mistreatment, disappointment, discouragement, ill-spoken words towards her, and the like. As a single mom who no longer trusted men, she tried keeping her life together for her two children as best she knew how. She had it down pat. Except that the emptiness that was deep down inside would never leave her alone.
After turning 39, God used a friend to send Vanessa a message that floored her: “God said to tell you that you don’t love yourself.” After getting up, her batteries were now charged and she was ready to address the accusation.
The result was a 30-day biblically sound process for getting a clean heart through forgiving, pursuing love, celebrating your life, and living on purpose. But on the way, as she shares her own experience with the various steps that she suggests, we get some wonderful truths and observations to ponder ourselves.
One of my favorites was when she asked the question, “Does it irritate you when you meet someone for the first time and they treat you like you did something to them? . . . what you’re encountering are their heart issues. It could be insecurity, jealousy, envy, whatever. Something about ‘your type’ represents and reminds them of a painful or unfavorable experience in their life, so you’re treated accordingly. . .. When you meet someone who treats you badly, it’s not the true person you’re encountering but rather their brokenness.”
She also refers us to some scriptural gems that when viewed in this context, take on a whole new perspective.  One of my favorites in this regard is I John 4:18 about fear. She quotes it in the AMP version, “. . . the one who is afraid [of God’s judgment] is not perfected in love [has not grown into a sufficient understanding of God’s love.” Werts then states, “God doesn’t want us tormented with questions like ‘how will I make it?’ and ‘what will happen next?’” Basically put, the author’s point is that you can’t, nor need you fear and love at the same time.
Another of her recommended pursuits is the combination of ‘wisdom and understanding’. Using Proverbs 2:10-11, which reads, “When wisdom enters the heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you she gave this reader an insight into God’s role in his own life. When God gives us discretion and understanding it is not just to make us smart, or even to use it as a gift for others (a good thing), but Werts points out, it is to “preserve and keep us” safe throughout our lives.
I did find one area where I might disagree with the author and that is with respect to her view of “tough love”.  She’s against it arguing that she’s thankful God didn’t use that with her. I think however she may be a) assuming “tough love” is the withdrawal of love (on the contrary, it’s the maintaining of love but not overlooking the natural consequences of sin – they still must be addressed) and b) forgetting that God did that for us – our sins were addressed by His Son.
Around the middle of the book, she introduces as to Bobbi Farqua the main character of her fictional work called, Lies: Even love has its casualties.  And through that we get some more gems for us when she writes, “But what Bobbi didn’t realize is that the heart will become tied to what you invest your time in whether the relationship is labeled as casual or committed.  And once the tie is formed, the heart will seek to be accepted, considered, and honored in that relationship.”  Bottom line, Werts seems to be saying is, “be careful where you lead your heart.”
Another gem, and please remember she is writing to women, is this:
“Consider this: When a woman is successful and winning in her professional life but hasn’t found a way to win in her personal life with men, she will adjust (her heart) in a way that makes her feel like she’s at least not losing. Losing is not in her DNA.  So, she will amend the rules of the game to keep playing, telling herself that she holds all the cards, convincing herself that casual sex is perfectly fine as long as she decides who and when. And though everything seems to be under her control at first, her value system is compromised, because secretly, her heart’s goal is marriage.”
And then she delivers her zinger, “Compromising your values will never position you to win. Even if you get the prize [the man], you don’t get the victory since you didn’t play the game based on your own [heart] rules – your values.”
She then takes us into the nitty-gritty details of her 30-day cleanse for the heart process. She tells her audience that the key is to see and acknowledge that whatever happened to them, no matter how painful it was, didn’t end their life.  They are a survivor.  They are still here.  The four weeks and two days are designed with a daily activity which is doable and very reasonable – one does not have to go through hoops to do them.
One of the key benefits of the program as she herself states is, “But oh, how sweet it is not to compromise what I value anymore. Now I can see myself as a gift to a man – his present – a reward for him being in the will of God.”
Her last question must not be ignored and if it helps one person, then all of Werts’ efforts in writing this book are more than worthwhile. She asks,
“Is there a situation in your life right now that you’re working on and have solicited the help of others, but you haven’t asked Jesus for help?”
This is a book I recommend to the women in my family, to any women’s ministry pastor, and to any woman who doesn’t yet love herself as God intended her to do, so that she may live without fear and with a purpose!

·      Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, February 27, 2017. www.accordconsulting.com

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Sometimes the Results Don’t Match the Effort

Love and Terror In The Middle East
Author: Frank Romano, PhD
Publisher: AB Film Publishing, New York, NY, 2014                                                                     


As an avid observer of events in the Middle East, this book promised to give me better insight into what was going on there, and what was possible, outside of the political systems at play.  I learned much about everyday life in both the Jewish part of Israel and the West Bank. I learned about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. I learned how the police worked, how the authorities functioned, and what happens at checkpoints.
This is Frank Romano’s second book and it builds on his first one, Storm Over Morocco, published in 2007. This first book covers his personal desire to get to the Middle East, sharing how he got detained while travelling through Morocco and being mistaken for a spy and Zionist.  It was there he learned much about Islam, rounding out his religious experiences, after having already had some experience with both Christianity and Judaism.
It is with this background that Frank Romano, lawyer, law professor, and lover spends every moment of his spare time, flying between Paris (his home) and the U.S. (for author events), and Tel Aviv trying to bring peace to the Middle East by organizing inter-faith peace and freedom marches. The book gives us a very personal glimpse into the life of a passionate man with a cause born during WWII.
Romano tells us about all his encounters with an incredible amount of detail. But it’s not all about the challenges to peace that Romano shares – it’s also his personal life – broken relationship after broken relationship because of unmatched dreams between himself and his partner.  His loss of his wife and three children through divorce hurt him the most and many times something in his travels would stop him dead in his tracks and bring him to tears as he passionately wanted to see all of them again.  None of his amorous distractions could help him overcome that loss. And yet he trod on with his mission, his craving, of seeing more and more people get involved in his peace and freedom marches.
By my count, the book has seven chapters and fifty-five pages of introduction. Romano takes that long to introduce us to his student days, the various types of dances he enjoyed and some of his early loves.  All before we get into the Middle East. The entire book intertwined his mission with his personal life and this reader got the feeling at times that it was more about the latter than about bringing peace to the Middle East. Here was a man struggling to find himself for much of his life. He seemed conflicted between his desires for the love of a wife and children and his passion for believing he could make a difference in the Middle East.  And each time the Middle East won.  Yet peace in that Holy Land was elusive and remains so today. Romano’s determination however remains undaunted. He seems convinced that doing the same thing repeatedly will eventually change the whole culture of the Middle East and end the conflict.
The book contains some great lessons for all of us.  One is the impact of surprises on our lives. An early example is his move to France, only to end up living among Jews there which ultimately leads to his discovery of his ancestral identity.
As I read the book, published in 2014, I knew, keeping up with world news, that peace and freedom for both Jews and Palestinians has not come to the Middle East. Yet, I marveled at this man’s belief that it can.  And in so doing, I wondered what clues he unintentionally gave his readers as to where he may have gone wrong in his approach.
For starters, he believes that although Israel “seems to be the epicenter of the world and holds the key for world peace or perpetual world conflict . . . it has nothing to do with [the fact] that is the land of the prophets and all the events that happened in the past.” Many would disagree with him.
Secondly, while no Jew, Christian, or Muslim would refer to their deity as simply “Spirit” without even an article in front of the term, as the Christians say, “the Spirit” referring to the third person of the Trinity, Romano in a desperate effort to unite the three religions in peace, uses that term for the source of his strength, suggesting to me that he has missed the essence of each of those religions.
Later he reverts to the use of “channeling” or someone putting themselves into a “semi-trance and [becoming] the medium through which the spirit of God communicated with us.”  I am not so sure that fits well with any of the three religions he was trying to unite.
And then there’s the fact that even though he seems to come down hard on the Israeli government, especially in their use of settlements, time and time again, he admits he himself does not know who to believe in the conflict – the Israelis or the Palestinians – especially with respect to what happened when specific events which led to people being killed took place.
These approaches to his thinking and work, raised my suspicion as to his having any likelihood of success in his mission – unless of course, one is satisfied “doing” without seeing great results.
He did, however, lose me when approximately half way through the book he retells his meditative encounter where he envisaged a path in which he was first led by Muhammad who later changed into Jesus, then back to Muhammad, who passed him on to Buddha, who in turn turned him over to Moses and then to Krishna, until eventually he “basked in their [collective] love shared by the Supreme Consciousness, who was neither man nor woman, but transcending all things, reigned within and without, melding pure love together into one good, pure force.”
The last straw for me was when one of his friends, in a desperate attempt to get through a checkpoint armed with Israeli soldiers at the entrance to a mosque, said, when being accused by the soldier as “You not Muslim” replied, “But I am; I believe. Let me go in. I’m a Christian but that does not exclude my belief in Islam.”  That just does not work for any valid Christian.  Just as saying, “I’m Jewish, but that does not exclude me from believing in Jesus Christ being the Messiah” would work for any true Jew.
With ideologies like that, one can see why Romano’s efforts did not yield the fruit he sought. It is next to impossible to bring peace and freedom to the Middle East with them, assuming peace or freedom could ever be established.  To adopt this type of ideology would require the denunciation of several key tenets of each of the three main religions involved in the conflict – Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.  And none of the ultimate deities involved in each of these is willing to do such a thing.  Perhaps the only solution that Romano and his team-mates or follow activists fail to allow for is that one of these religions may indeed be right and the others wrong, and if so, only a full-out Armageddon would settle the matter. 
If one reads this book, one would find a most interesting account of a young man’s thinking about love and life, freedom and injustice, and what can and perhaps cannot be done about it. But one will also find a story line that is difficult to follow at times as the author keeps intertwining his thoughts, experiences, and feelings of the past with his present – and many times doesn’t let you know he’s about to do so, leaving you wondering where you are and needing to retrace what you read to find out.
As a reader, I found the book was a contest between the author’s life and the author’s work or mission.  Neither, on its own, was strong enough to motivate the reader to keep reading.  But together, Romano makes it work, although do not look for a happy ending to either thread.
I am glad I read it as it gave me a different glimpse of what is going on in the Middle East – but I believe strongly it is only one perspective of a very not only complicated, but also, complex, situation.
·    --   Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, February 26, 2017. www.accordconsulting.com


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