Pros: Immensely-edifying book replete with encouragement from a Christian worldview.
Cons: Poorly-organized, repetitive at times.
The Bottom Line: I am a selective literary critic; therefore, my criticism of writing style may not detract from this book's liveliness. Others will doubtless be quite blessed thereby.
DIAMONDS IN THE SLOUGH OF PRISAIC PONDERINGS
Several months ago, I telephoned the Library for the Blind and requested that that noble institution provide me with at least one-fifth of their resources. Likely, I am exaggerating; however, a plethora of books that occupies an entire corner of my room does qualify as an inordinate amount. Throughout my sojourn in the lovely land of literature, I have been introduced to numerous elegantly-crafted pieces, fit for display in the most prestigious libraries. These have always proven a delight to review. Certain books, however, have been so disappointing as to forever destroy my opinion of the authors talents. Although I take no pleasure in completing these dreadful manuscripts, I can generally think of no better amusement than writing a flaming review of soggy sonnets or languishing literature.
Then, too, there are the other bookspieces so bland that they seem scarcely worth a review. Doubtless, these are generally works whose foundations are solid and whose content may even be quite informative. However, their writing style places them automatically in the swamp of literary imperfection. Barbara Johnsons SPLASHES OF JOY IN THE CESPOOLS OF LIFE is one such work. Its content, though of diamond, languishes amid the mire of repetitive writing. The books disorganization prevents me from thoroughly summarizing each chapter, but following is a valiant attempt.
Barbara Johnsons uplifting work begins with an explanation of the necessity for humor in the face of tragedy. Chapter I stipulates that, even during trying circumstances, it is important to remain optimistic. Here, Johnson suggests that one seek uplifting Scriptures and dwell upon these during routine tasks.
Subsequent chapters relate a small portion of Johnsons personal crises. As similar events are related throughout Johnsons books and are an integral part of her ministry, I do not feel that I am conveying too much by stating that two of Johnsons sons were brutally killed. Johnson was further devastated to learn that her third son was practicing an homosexual lifestyle. As this is a recurrent theme throughout SPLASHES OF JOY, you may wish to skip certain sections if you are offended by a Christian worldview of the gay lifestyle.
Johnson suggests numerous strategies for recovering from grief. Individuals must be willing to express their emotions, to accept support, and to place burdens of despondency in Gods hands. The latter, Johnson indicates, is essential to regaining joy. At one point, Johnson was forced simply to pray, Whatever, Lord! In other words, However You choose to use this situation, I will follow You. Such a position of surrender is necessary before any true peace may be obtained, for we can do nothing by continual agony and terror.
Toward the conclusion of her book, Johnson briefly discusses the medical benefits of laughing. If laughter yields physical health, she argues, God must have intended for man to enjoy life. It is crucial to remain optimistic throughout trialsnot wearing an external, synthetic smile, but allowing ones heart to trust and recover from whatever crisis may have befallen a person.
Johnson also includes two chapters intended to shed some humor on three temporal challenges that many women facedieting, aging, and parenting. These are not guides to coping with the physical aspects of such feminine vexations. One is not provided a weight-loss plan; one finds no immediate wrinkle cures, and no advice is given regarding child discipline. Rather, these chapters consist of a sympathetic treatise on various challenges. I know how you feel, Johnson seems to say. Put your trust in God, and things will work outwhether you lose weight or not. Even if you have a son or daughter who follows an objectionable lifestyle, God will take care of your family.
Johnson aptly concludes her edifying work by stating that we are Easter people, living in a Good Friday world. Here, she illustrates the dank and often desolate circumstances that surround people on earth. Eventually, however, God shall take His people to be with Him in heaven. No amount of grief is comparable to the joy that awaits us in heaven. Meanwhile, Johnson suggests various ways by which to provide others with joy.
I found Johnsons messages to be extraordinarily upliftingparticularly the final chapter. Then, I am one individual who simply cannot resist a discourse on the delights of heaven. Innumerable Scripturesmost from the Living Bibleare woven seamlessly throughout the text; each is aptly chosen and supports the subject at hand quite well.
Each chapter concludes with a small subsection entitled Splish, Slash. These generally provide short poems, insightful sayings, and brief morsels f encouragement. Johns splashes of joy are always concluded with a Scripture. I believe that this provides some cohesion to an otherwise disorganized book. The notion that Scripture, being the strongest form of encouragement, must be used to uphold the end of the chapter, is quite appealing.
Well am I aware that I am not in the target audience for this book. I am young and unmarried; though I love children, I have never been a parent. However, I have experienced a great deal of personal sufferingprimarily emotional and medical difficulties. Johnsons encouragement was aptly delivered; many of her anecdotes found a quiet place in my heart.
Although the content was excellent, it was so poorly-organized as to detract from the reading experience. Aging and dieting are placed in the same convoluted chapter. Moreover, each section consists of a confusing conglomeration of Scripture, personal anecdotes, advice, practical suggestions, and amusing excerpts (bumper snickers, etc.) There is neither rhyme nor reason to the arrangement of the material. The only portions that provide the book any cohesion are the Splish, Splash notes.
Speaking of which, I felt that Johnson ought to have extended her metaphor much farther than she did. After the first three chapters, her words became repetitive: we are pure individuals living in lifes cesspools; occasionally, we must seek Gods splashes of joy. Johnson could have gone on to explain the various types of turmoil that individuals endure, relating this to various types of muck. Moreover, she could have written for at least a chapter on the purity of Gods living wateron His redemption, His cleansing, etc. She did none of this; consequently, she was in grave danger of being declared redundant by this literary critic.
NO PAIN, NO GAIN
I had originally considered awarding this book only three stars for its weak writing and weaker organization. However, I have come to the conclusion that it is always necessary to get ones hands dirty in order to obtain any success. You may be forced to wade through some swampy territory, but put on your work clothes and face the task: a diamondor severalmay await you. Writing aside, this book is extraordinarily encouraging and has been known to touch my heart. It may be particularly helpful to grief-stricken individuals. For its overtly Christian messages, this may not be as appealing to those who are not interested in faith-based advice. However, those seeking an uplifting, Christian book that explores the subject of grief will likely not be disappointed.
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About the reviewer
I am, first and foremost, defined by my faith in Jesus Christ. All else is secondary. I am passionate about writing; this is akin to worship, and I strive daily to use this gift to glorify Him. … more
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The "Geranium Lady" strikes again with zany humor and sincere compassion to encourage millions of readers to look for the splashes of joy in their lives. Her spirit of joy and moving personal stories will inspire readers while tickling their funny bone. The popular humorist is author of the best-selling Mama, Get the Hammer!, Pack Up Your Gloomees in a Great Big Box, and Stick a Geranium in Your Hat