Book Reviews

Comfort for the Day & 500 Years of Protest and Liberty

Living Through the Seasons of Grief | From Martin Luther to Modern Civil Rights

Gerald Klingbeil & Lael Caesar

Comfort for the Day

Steve and Karen Nicola, Comfort for the Day: Living Through the Seasons of Grief, 3rd edition (Bloomington, Ind.: Westbow Press, 2016), $16.95 at Reviewed by Gerald A. Klingbeil, Adventist Review.

In Comfort for the Day author, presenter, and grief coach Karen Nicola and her husband, Steve, share their own grief journey following the death of their 3-year-old son from leukemia. The updated third edition, published more than 30 years after that experience, includes more insights, offered from the distance of the experience of past loss.

Comfort for the Day does not only contain helpful insights and good counsel. It represents, in itself, a journey toward healing, as it is designed as a personal journal with ample space to jot down impressions, emotions, questions, and personal insights. Following a brief introduction (pp. 1-4), highlighting the key elements of the volume, the authors include two short chapters focusing on the nature of grief and elements of the healing process (pp. 5-13), as well as the physical impact of grief (pp. 14-20). Each chapter contains very practical suggestions for overcoming grief.

The authors make a strong case for journaling. “Having an outlet to express your thoughts and emotions is part of the therapy for heart healing. It can be painful, but it will lead you towards healthy grieving” (p. 14), they suggest, even though they acknowledge that this exercise is often difficult and heart-wrenching. Writing a goodbye letter to their son was one of their most painful writing tasks.

Understanding the physical dimensions of grief was helpful to me. Our immune system is weakened when we grieve, and we often sense a mental cloud. We feel physically worn and uncreative. The authors adapt the eight health remedies found in the writings of Ellen White as suggestions for regaining physical health (p. 18), and also include a list of questions (pp. 21, 22) a grieving person often asks, together with references to answers contained in the journal, the main section of the volume. Finally, the book includes a section highlighting pertinent texts from Scripture (pp. 148, 149), involving God’s constant presence, His forgiveness, hope, healing, rest and peace, and victory over death, to mention a few.

Each of the 43 journaling sections begins with a pertinent Scripture, followed by a paragraph that develops the main concept and a section, titled “From Heart to Hand,” containing a number of questions meant to guide the journaling process. Most parts of the journaling section are one-pagers, even though there are some longer sections (e.g., the section “Forgiveness Begins the Healing,” on pp. 36-42).

Comfort for the Day is a helpful resource for those who mourn and find themselves grieving. Since we all face the reality of death at one point or another, it’s a good volume to give away and keep a copy handy on the shelf.

500 Years of Protest and Liberty

500 Years of Protest and Liberty: From Martin Luther to Modern Civil Rights, by Nicholas P. Miller (Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 2017), 192 pages, paperback; $24.99. Reviewed by Lael Caesar, Adventist Review.

In 500 Years of Protest and Liberty Nicholas Miller has given us a book on the intersection of Christian religious history and American political and civic success. Four sections of varying length concern themselves, successively, with (1) European backgrounds of Protestant liberty, (2) early-American experience of such liberty, (3) a Protestantism consistent with its name, and finally, (4) a look at other church and state legal issues in current American conversation such as homeschooling, tuition vouchers, tax-tutored theologians, new variations on marriage, and the contrasting consciences of legislators, employers and employees in relation to affordable health care. The sections are embraced by 11 pages of important preliminary material and a nine-page conclusion.

The introductory and concluding pages, along with Miller’s introduction to each of the four sections, together constitute most of the book’s new material. Seventeen of the book’s 26 chapters are reprints of articles first encountered in the pages of Liberty magazine between the years 1995 and 2016. Two more are due to appear there soon. Longtime Liberty editor Lincoln Steed makes explicit his approval of Miller’s reuse of material by writing the book’s foreword, in which he warns of the forces of revisionist Reformation history that are actively looking for “the next steps toward Christian unity” between inheritors of the Reformation and the very institution they separated from half a millennium ago (p. 12).

The seven chapters that are not Liberty reprints are from blogs (two), online Compass Magazine [two from 2015], an adaptation from the Journal of Church and State (Spring 2000), a reproduction of a National Press Club discussion from the year 2002, and an Adventist Review article, “Religious Freedom in America” (Jan. 18, 2013), reprinted under the title “Religious Freedom and Modern American Politics.” Variations in title between the Adventist Review article and the book are small pointers to a larger truth: that Miller’s chapters are not verbatim transfers from earlier articles to the new book. He has tweaked his previously published material where appropriate, to augment its relevance to North America and the world of 2017.

Miller argues that making America great again—an aptly borrowed phrase from current political rhetoric—requires clear explanation of how the nation first became great. For him, America’s Protestant backgrounds and its commitment to representative government and respect for individual freedom of conscience are the sine qua non of the nation’s political success. However bitterly opposed, however tragically long delayed, slave liberation, Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights victories, and continuing respect for individual human rights are natural consequences of America’s founding principles.

But to the extent that the courts’ interpretations of constitutional freedoms favor groups—churches, businesses, etc.—above individuals and minorities, America faces the very threat to religious freedom from which its founders fled 400 years ago. And Miller urges the broadest promotion possible of “the dissenting Protestant view of the importance of the individual conscience” (p. 124).

I voice one regret: the title of Miller’s conclusion should have been the title of his book: “From Martin Luther to Donald Trump?” Isn’t that a definite best seller formula? Whether or not, every American should get a copy. Quickly.

Gerald Klingbeil & Lael Caesar