Review- Grace for the Race

Grace for the Race is a book intended for busy mothers. Andrea just so happens to be a busy mother, whereas I fail quite badly in one part of that qualification. So I had her review this one.

Grace for the Race: Meditations for Busy Moms
by Dena Dyer

Grace for the Race, by Dena Dyer is first-person accounts of life stories as seen through her faith. She draws from her childhood experiences, friendships, courtship, marriage, and motherhood. As stated in her subtitle, she wrote this intending to minister to busy moms. I am a busy mom, so my husband gave this book to me to read and review. Certainly, this does not tax the brain or require long stretches of time for devoted reading. Each reading is two pages long with one page of verses, cutely titled “Notes from the Coach”.

My immediate reaction upon seeing the cover of this book was irritation. The cover is a pretty pink color with a cutsie drawing of a mom jumping a hurdle–baby, cell phone, and brief case in her arms. The cover implied to me that the target market was to moms, you know those women who aren’t concerned with big ideas and serious thinking. A cartoon character implies to me frivolity. I tried to set my first impression aside and began reading. Mrs. Dyer’s stated goals in her introduction were promising. Yes, I do want to be encouraged to view my childhood, “even the unsavory parts–through the lens of God’s grace.” I want to accept my weaknesses and my children’s weaknesses as gifts from God. These are among the lofty goals she has for this book.

I admire Mrs. Dyer’s bravery in examining very personal events about herself. Her stories are humorous and it is apparent she is drawing from rich relationships with family and friends. While I enjoyed her writing style, I was disappointed at her poor theology. For example, in an essay titled “Sowing in Tears,” she quotes writer Ken Gire: “In each tear is distilled something of eternity, something of love and compassion and tenderness, all things that originate in heaven and come to earth as a sacrament to my soul, if only I am willing to take and eat.” She then applies it to her own life thus, “So whether I weep at a wedding, sob during a funeral, or tear up with joy while listening to a friend’s good fortune, I’m no longer ashamed. In fact, during this pregnancy, I’m crying with abandon–content in the knowledge that I’m touching both heaven and earth at the same time.” Gire has a very appealing way of stating this view of tears, but to refer to them as a sacrament is extra-biblical. There is so much more real instruction in the actual texts of the Bible on tears than the gnostic statement by Gire. One of my favorite passages on tears is Ecclesiastes 7:2&3, “ Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better.” I know what to do with this, but what does it really mean to “touch heaven and earth at the same time”?

My biggest irritation with the book, however, is the use of Scripture. Mrs. Dyer tells a story and then gives verses that are supposed to apply. In “Journaling for the Soul,” she writes of how valuable journaling has been in her own experience, which I can see. There’s nothing wrong with journaling, but then she tacks on Ex 34:27, Jeremiah 30:1-2, etc, quoting verses where God commands specific people to write a specific message to a specific audience. . When the Ruler of the universe says something, it should hold authority with the intended audience. Further, God inspired the content of the writing He commanded. This is not something we could apply to our human journaling. To use this in the context of journaling either elevates journaling to a place of importance where it doesn’t rightfully belong, or it cheapens God’s word. In addition to this, she uses multiple translations. It grieves my soul to read “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are–no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” Matthew 5:5 (MSG). Compare that to “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5 (New King James). I did not recognize the voice of my dear heavenly Father in some of the passages attributed to Him. It’s ironic to me that a writer would be so cavalier with the translations she chooses to use. Certainly, she would be angered if I quoted her, taking out carefully chosen words, and represented her writing as flat and uninteresting. How much more important are the words of God, in which we find our life?

If I were reading Grace for the Race as merely a collection of stories, I would have enjoyed it. She is a good story teller. When looking for “grace for the race,” however, I think I will look elsewhere.

–Andrea Powell

For Mind and Media

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