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APC Forum Resource Reviews May 2019

APC Forum, May 2019, Vol. 21 No. 3

Transforming Fear with Love: Trusting the Gift of Grace
J. Claude Huguley (Chicago: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016, 170 pages, softcover)
In Transforming Fear with Love, J. Claude Huguley BCC gently guides readers through his central point that we can examine our fears to free ourselves to enter into “a dance of giving, receiving, and then giving again with trust” (25) where God’s love can liberate us to love. The intended audience is Christians looking to engage in reflective practice to grow in love. He discusses what hinders us from entering fully into the dance. Avoidance of vulnerability, objectifying and using others, tearing down others and exploiting their vulnerabilities are some of the challenges preventing us from dancing. He leads readers through these hurdles to help them enter the dance floor of love.
Huguley, a chaplain in Nashville, TN, uses scriptures extensively as the linchpin connecting with the various ways in which fear takes root. He doesn’t leave them there; instead, he opens the doors through love. Through recognizing gratitude, using the imagination and knowledge we can face fears to learn a new dance of acceptance, trust, and willingness. A new dance involves trusting love experienced as grace and forgiveness to redefine love as we serve in love.
Huguley’s grounds Transforming Fear with Love in the Christian scriptures, making it an excellent resource to increase the self-awareness of Christian chaplains, pastoral counselors, clergy, and laypersons alike. A strength is his ease with integrating scriptures in ways that speak to Christians. Transforming Fear with Love is readily adaptable for use as a text for Bible study and a discussion group. The overtly Christian context may challenge those of other faith traditions. The commonality of looking at fear, however, makes it a worthy source for anyone interested in their potential transformation to love, something familiar to other religions. The dance of giving, receiving and giving again explored in Transforming Fear with Love offers readers a way of transformation to love.
One work of possible comparison is The Dark Night of the Soul, in which Gerald G. May guides readers through exploring their deeper selves. May notes how transformation is freeing love from various attachments to experience God’s love. The freedom to love ultimately leads us to participate in God’s love active in the world.    
Reviewed by Robert A. Renix MDiv BCC, ACPE Certified Educator, Director of Chaplaincy Services, Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, DC.

When Breath Becomes air
Paul Kalanithi (New York: Random House, 228 pages, hardcover, paperback, audiobook, ebook)
Paul Kalanithi lived and thrived in two worlds—the world of literature and the world of medicine—and theorized that there must be a connection between the two: “I had come to see language as an almost supernatural force, existing between people, bringing our brains…into communion…There must be a way…that the language of life as experienced—of passion, of hunger, of love—bore some relationship, however, convoluted, to the language of neurons, digestive tracts, and heartbeats” (39). His book explores his journey between these two passions of literature and medicine: “Science may provide the most useful way to organize empirical, reproducible data, but its power to do so is predicated on its inability to grasp the most central aspects of human life: hope, fear, love, hate, beauty, envy, honor, weakness, striving, suffering, virtue” (170). His journey was cut short by cancer, but his writing is a significant contribution to cancer literature.
Kalanithi wrote this book for anyone interested in coping with serious illness and those providing care for them. This book would be of interest to chaplains—particularly those serving in the cancer services area. Other chaplains would draw inspiration from it as well.
There are many strengths of this book:
  • Kalanithi writes with a depth, power, and beauty that I have never experienced in a book in this genre.
  • Despite the tragic circumstance of his situation, the author remains focused on his patients and his family. He tried to finish his book and nearly succeeded. Although he did not complete his writing, the book was completed. I will leave it up to the reader to discover the special conclusion.
  • Kalanithi writes with authenticity that is at times deeply moving and at other times wrenchingly sad.
I could not find any shortcomings in this book. That is the simple truth.
The author met his objectives. He wrote about his life, even though his life took a drastic turn in the midst of his writing project. He wanted to include his love of literature as well as his thoughts about his practice of medicine, doing both well, and then included his journey through cancer.
It feels appropriate to conclude this review with words from Dr. Paul Kalanithi: “As a resident, my highest ideal was not saving lives—everyone dies eventually—but guiding a patient or family to an understanding of death or illness. When a patient comes in with a fatal head bleed, that first conversation with a neurosurgeon may forever color how the family remembers the death, from a peaceful letting go (‘Maybe it was his time’) to an open sore of regret (‘Those doctors didn’t listen! They didn’t even try to save him!’) When there’s no place for the scalpel, words are the surgeon’s only tool” (86-87).
Reviewed by Marcia Marino DMin BCC, Online Instructor, Church of the Larger Fellowship (Unitarian Universalist).

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