When God Makes Lemonade: True Stories That Amaze And Encourage, created by Don Jacobson
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Booksneeze/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
When I first read this book, especially once I saw the fact that the book had been created by Don Jacobson (who has made his career, very successfully, I might add, in the publishing business representing both authors and publishers), when he was only the author of one story, not even the editor of the work (at least according to the attribution), and that several of the early stories were from his own family, I was a little cynical about the project. However, as I read story after story from fairly ordinary people (none of them were well known to me), many of whom had stories similar to my own, I began to feel a lot less cynical about the work as a whole and quite moved and inspired by the stories of divine providence in seemingly ordinary and insignificant lives.
This book is full of a lot of mostly short and true stories, some of them with notes afterwards by Mr. Jacobson. These stories deal with a wide variety of stories, some of them involving subjects I have some awareness of, including stories about prison (or the threat of prison), health problems, the death or near-death of loved ones, divorce, rape and child abuse, struggling with poverty and depression, and other suffering. One of the stories even included a story of a traumatic move to Portland. Many of the stories are touching and sometimes ironic or darkly humorous. In fact, as I read many of these stories, I thought to myself that I could have written quite a few of these stories myself. Helpfully, at the end of the book, there is a link included to the website for this book (GodMakesLemonade.com) where people can add their own stories for future volumes of this book, as future volumes are planned.
Among the more helpful elements of this book are the short biographical sketches that are included at the end of most stories (except for one anonymously provided story about a woman whose momentary courage in calling 911 as her drunk husband was beating her led to his arrest, and another story about a man and woman who marry each other after bonding over their shared feelings of shame about the imprisonment of their children, where the names and location details of the people in the story are changed to protect the innocent). Several shared themes run through this immensely inspiring book: among them are that bad things happen to good and bad people, and that whether God appears directly responsible for events or merely allows the mand uses them as opportunities to show His grace and love, the suffering of our lives leads both to our own betterment as well as inspiration and grace in the lives of others. This book may be taken as an effort to share that grace with others for encouragement, and to remind us that our sufferings are universal, and so is the comfort that we can take from knowing that all things work together for good for God’s people, no matter how grim matters may seem.
Speaking somewhat personally, it struck me (and somewhat saddened me at the same time), that a huge amoung of these stories involved family members and that quite a few of them involved judgmental congregations that made serious and mistaken judgments about others, including condemnatory judgments about a young woman who had kept her baby after being impregnated through a rape, and basically disfellowshipping a family because they had a terminally ill daughter that could have died at any time and were unwilling to welcome the family and child because of fear of the harm that it would cause for others, not particularly caring about what their exclusion of the family said about them, or caring how the family felt about their little girl. A few stories involve tragic hunting accidents, and a striking number of them directly state or strongly imply dark family histories of alcoholism and abuse. Suffice it to say that there was much I could relate to in here. Perhaps, God willing, some future volume(s) of this work may contain some stories of my own from my rather dramatic lemonade-filled life.