Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Book Review: Angry Conversations With God by Susan E. Isaacs

Relationship Therapy for the Believer
By Jerry Starks
Dozens of books have been written to address the issue of a believers frustrations with their lives and with their relationships with Jesus. The bible does describe this relationship as a marriage, but setting up marriage counseling between a human and God? It almost sounds too flippant, too cutesy, too post-modern American.

That was the only way Susan E. Isaacs, writer and performer, could deal with her situation, however, so she did it. “Angry Conversations With God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir” (Faith Words, 2009) is the memoir of this experience. Isaacs approaches this situation from a solid biblical background, and while she is often startling, she is never disrespectful.

She chronicles her growing up as full of contradictions and confusions. None of her Christian community (family, friends, church) supported her talents for performance and comedy. She was the stereotypical black sheep of her family, always compared with her sister. No one seemed to make any effort to meet her where she was except her non-Christian friends and teachers.

College led to her first relationship, first break-up, and depression. Eventually this developed into anorexia which lasted for years. Over the years she attended several extremely different styles of churches. Reading her story, I was amazed that she didn’t just drop Christianity altogether.

All this history comes as “back story” between her counseling sessions. These sessions are recorded as if she, the counselor, and God were in a room together. Isaacs is completely aware that she is playing the role of God as well as being herself, yet her characterization of God in this situation is reasonable: human enough to communicate to us humans, yet inscrutable enough to be… Other. Her characterization of God is also quite orthodox: you never get the feeling that this Being pretends to be God with Isaacs, and pretends to be Buddha with others or Allah with others or Vishnu with others. Isaacs is quite clear about who she’s arguing with, and that He is the God who is revealed in the bible. Yet, as a humorist, she manages to startle and delight the reader while remaining within the Biblical framework.

The resolution of her counseling process also is reasonable. She finally learns to recognize that her problems have stemmed from her off-balance desires and expectations, and that conforming to God’s pattern really does produce satisfaction. This is a lesson we all need to learn, and sometimes it’s helpful to watch someone else go through the process. That is the major benefit of this book: watching an artist wrestle with God.

You can purchase the book here.

Jerry Starks is associate director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and has numerous acting and directing credits in both secular and Christian productions. He resides in Essex Junction, VT where he is active in the arts ministry at his church.

A review copy of the book was provided by the publisher.

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Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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