Looking for salvation and avoiding disaster

“God Stories: Inspiring Encounters with the Divine,” Edited by Jennifer Skiff

The strangest thing happened the other day and you’re still thinking about it. You bought an old book somewhere and when you got it home, a photo fell out. It was a school picture of a close childhood friend. You hadn’t thought about him in years. But then, the weird thing happened. The phone rang. It was your friend. He had been looking for you, wanting to reconnect.

Coincidence, or more than that? In the new book “God Stories,” edited by Jennifer Skiff, you’ll read stories of people who have been touched by miraculous events too strange to believe.

In her introduction, Skiff says that we humans want what we can’t always have; specifically, we want irrefutable evidence that a Higher Power exists. “I’m certainly not an expert on the subject of God or religion,” she says, but her interest was piqued when a minister asked if she had a “God Story” (a miracle-like experience that proves God exists). Skiff began to collect such stories, seeing more and more similar proofs, not only in her own life, but in the lives of others. In this book, she presents some of them.

An office manager prayed for a guardian angel to protect her comatose father. When she was finally able to visit her dad in the hospital, her eyes were drawn to a small angel, pinned to the bulletin board over his bed.

If you’ve ever had a bad day, you’ll sympathize with an administrative assistant who, after a challenging morning, loudly asked God to talk to her. Immediately, she noticed the clouds in the sky in front of her vehicle. They spelled out the letters G-O-D.

A retired federal agent recalls that, as a young man riding with friends in a car, a voice told him to get out of the vehicle immediately. Later that night, another friend called to say there had been a car accident.

When emergency sirens woke a napping real estate appraiser, she remembers thinking that the vehicles seemed to stop right outside her door. When she looked outside, there was nothing there, but as she turned around, she saw that a kitchen appliance had malfunctioned and started a fire.

Skiff says of these stories that, “A chill may overwhelm you,” when reading them. That’s true – to a point.

Some of the tales in “God Stories” definitely stretch the meaning of “miraculous.” While I’m sure the storytellers were touched, I couldn’t help but think that Skiff could have replaced some of these tales with more powerful ones that were closer related to the themes in her book.

On the other hand, there are, indeed, some tales that will raise the hair on your arms: things that are too strong to be waved away as mere coincidence and can’t be easily explained. Those are the stories that make this quick-to-read, gentle book worth looking for.

If you’ve ever been touched by something that’s too wonderful to dismiss as “one of those things,” pick up “God Stories.” For you, this book is divine.

“The Survivors Club," by Ben Sherwood

What would you have done if you’d been on the plane that recently landed in the Hudson River? Would you have panicked and hoped someone took charge? Or, would you sit frozen, positive you were going to die? Or, perhaps you’d be one of those people – the slim minority – who sees crisis, assesses options and acts quickly.

In the new book, “The Survivor’s Club,” by Ben Sherwood, find out how humans cope with tragedy, how to plan ahead to live longer, what your personal survivability factor is and how you can learn to land on your feet.

Is there anyone on Earth who hasn’t faced adversity? Sherwood says no. We’ve all had our share of trauma; we just differ in the ways we deal with it. But, how do we know who will be calm in the face of adversity and who will fold? Experts call it the Theory of 10-80-10.

Ten percent of us handle crisis in a calm manner. Those are, by the way, the people that airline attendants are trained to identify when they greet us as we’re boarding a plane.

The middle 80 percent – most of us – will freeze and become confused. We’ll hyperventilate. We’ll feel sick. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as we can shake the fear and react before the crisis becomes fatal.

The latter 10 percent, says Sherwood, are the ones “you definitely want to avoid in an emergency.” They do everything wrong and they can’t seem to get a grip. Those are the people likely to die when things go horribly wrong.

So, back to the Hudson River. How can you make sure you survive a plane crash, or any critical situation? First, stop worrying about minutiae and take reasonable precautions to thwart disaster in an emergency. Don’t be overly optimistic, but do keep the faith and learn to assess situations with common sense. Face your fears, develop acceptance and mental flexibility, and stay physically fit. Remember that you’re stronger than you realize.

From a New Mexican church, where mud is holy, to the hometown of an Oklahoma acid attack victim and a laboratory where Holocaust survivors are compared to PTSD-suffering veterans, “The Survivors Club” will teach you the Rule of Three, introduce you to Dr. Popsicle, test your survivability and show you why the best place to have a heart attack is in Las Vegas.

Not a book to be reading on an airplane? Oh, I don’t know… I did, and I loved it.

In an un-put-downable, gee-whiz fashion, Sherwood introduces his readers to researchers, survivors (some, of horrifying events), psychologists and scientists, who look at why some survive a crisis when others don’t. This is one of those useful, lively, fun books that tells you something new and totally fascinating on every page, and I simply couldn’t stop reading it.

Want to live to a ripe old (happy) age? Pick up a copy of “The Survivors Club” and enjoy. Which you will, because this is a book you won’t be dying to read.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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