3 out of 4 stars
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Centered In Christ, compiled by Dr. Annette West, is a collection of Christian witness accounts by nine women. At the start, in the ‘How to Use This Book’ section, Dr. West writes: ‘Prior to beginning the book, take the time to pray to the Lord to reveal what He would have you get from this anthology.’ That's a strong indication that the book is aimed primarily at those of the Christian faith.
At just 122 pages, this is not a long read. It consists of eight testimonies, each followed by an affirmation, a prayer, some questions for the reader to ponder, and a space for reflection. Towards the back of the book, there are five poems contributed by one of the women. The final pages are taken up with biographies of each of the individual writers, followed by some further scriptural quotations. The themes of the stories and poems are consistent. They mostly center on the idea of a life incomplete or in difficulty, with true peace and completeness found only in God. Christ is depicted as the refuge of the pilgrim. We are shown Christ as a shelter from the storms of life, Christ as the soul’s anchor, Christ as someone to lean on, and Christ as protection against the battering waves of life.
The book is concise and well structured. I liked the fact that it focuses very much on the personal experiences of the writers rather than on dogma or theology. Everyone enjoys a human-interest story, so this feature of the book may be enough to hold the attention of readers who aren’t particularly religious. The way the stories are written may also keep readers turning the pages. They come in a light, conversational style that draws the reader in. What jumps out from the accounts is the simple and sincere faith of the storytellers. The reality of the difficulties faced by the individual writers is also written convincingly. Christians who like to build some self-reflection into their spiritual reading will enjoy the space given over to this at the end of each chapter.
While the testimonies are honest and raw, there is something of a homogeneity about them that can become a bit stifling. All the writers are women for a start, something which itself points to a common experience. This is reinforced by the thematic similarity of each story. Each describes a life that is tested or incomplete, with true peace only being found in God. Four of the eight testimonies recount stories of marital problems and the trials that these brought to the women and their families, while other subjects are the death or serious illness of a loved one. Each story represents a real-life crisis for the individual concerned, but some of the power to generate empathy and understanding is lost from the testimonies because of their similarity. While I think the book has been professionally edited, I think it would certainly benefit from another session with the editor. As it stands, there are too many grammatical errors and typos dotted about to distract the reader.
I am awarding this book 3 out of 4 stars, deducting one star for the errors. I recommend it to Christians who feel supported by hearing or reading the testimony of those who share their faith. While the book is most certainly aimed at Christians, the focus on the personal experience of the writers may be enough to interest people of other faiths or none.
Centered in Chrisst
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