Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Convicted – Jameel McGee & Andrew Collins (with Mark Tabb)

©2017  Waterbrook Press, New York

The caveat on the cover of this book reads: “A Crooked Cop, an Innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship.” When I saw the title and the cover of the book, I was intrigued. Since I usually turn to mysteries or suspense novels (with a western thrown in for good measure) for my leisure reading, and concentrate on mostly ministerial books as a general rule for work, I find that the “True Crime” genre rarely catches my attention. But this one looked like it might be worth a minute or two.

I received the book in the mail about two days before leaving the country on a personal trip that wouldn’t allow time to read (even on the plane—which I don’t read well on planes anyway). So, I socked it away with the hope of getting into it upon my return. I was pleasantly surprised by my reaction to the book. From the first page of the prologue (don’t skip the opening “Author’s Note” for background, but the story doesn’t start until the prologue) I was hooked. I almost wished that I hadn’t read the descriptor on the cover, though, because from the very outset my reader’s mind was set against the cop (one of the book’s voices).

The story is exactly as advertised: an innocent man gets caught in the cross-hairs of a policeman doing whatever he can to put criminals away—which includes fudging with the truth to a certain extent. After all, in the neighborhood where he works, most of these people are drug users or dealers anyway, right? Within these pages you will read the sad state of corruption that plagues police departments (and is, one must say the exception rather than the rule). The outcome of the story is that once the cop (Collins) was caught in his web of deception, he had to come clean with details of all the arrests he had made that had been compromised by corrupt practices. All of which were overturned. Meaning that a lot of guilty criminals went free because one dirty cop wanted to cut a corner or two—in the service of justice.

At the same time the story is about a man just about to embark on a promising future (especially coming from the neighborhood in which he lived), who gets caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, by the wrong policeman, with the wrong friend. It is a case of mistaken identity, misused power, and misplaced trust. And the result is a three-year federal incarceration for an innocent man.

The final outcome of the story is not such a depressing thing though. With all of the ill-will, all of the bad blood, and all of the system abuse, Convicted is the story of how God uses unusual circumstances to bring sinners into relationship with Him. Even more, it is the story of how two men who start out as mortal enemies—and according to all conventional wisdom should remain so until they reach the grave (maybe at each other’s hand)—become friends through forgiveness only available through Christ and knowing Him.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It has action, suspense, and an unusually unexpected happy ending. It’s in stores or online today. And read this 5-reading glass treasure about forgiveness.

—Benjamin Potter September 20, 2017

[Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.]

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Choosing to SEE – Mary Beth Chapman with Ellen Vaughn

©2010 Revell, Grand Rapids

Maybe you haven’t heard of Mary Beth Chapman, but if you have listened to music (especially that with a Christian message) you may well be acquainted with her husband, Steven. She is the one who wrote this story. He states in the Foreward to the book, “For many years I’ve been known as ‘the writer’ of the Steven Curtis/Mary Beth Chapman duo. And while I’ve been known to pen a song or two, and maybe even a book (with a whole lot of help, believe me!), here’s the real, honest to goodness truth: Mary Beth Chapman is a way better writer than Steven Curtis . . .” Whether you agree with the famous husband or not, the book is well worth your read on a variety of levels.

Several years ago (shortly after it was published), my wife picked up this book with the intention to read. It was written and subsequently published not too many months after the tragedy that spurred the writing invaded the Chapman household, so we knew it would contain some heart-breaking, tear-producing passages (note: you will want to bring a case or two of facial tissue with you when you embark on this reading—you have been warned). So, the book sat unread on our shelves.

Fast forward to 2017. We decided to clear out our bookshelves for the purpose of selling off some of the books (we have a mountain) to help fund, of all things, our adoption process. While clearing the shelves, I came across, and dusted off this book. I decided to keep and read it—a decision that I both love and regret. I love because it is book that speaks to the very core of your being, challenging and healing you at the same time. Regret because it is a book that touches you to the core of your being, coaxing even the hard-heartest of us to weep tears (don’t tell your manly side).

Here’s the low-down on this book: in the very opening pages the author recounts a tragedy of loss that no one should ever go through. I’ll not repeat the story, although many who are reading this review would remember the horrifying accident that has colored the lives of the Chapman family from that day to this (and onward).

The book is not about tragedy and grief though. It is a book about hope. Within the pages the author gives some biographical background that gives insight into her life and her life with Steven Curtis Chapman, award-winning musical artist. Her writing is engaging, funny, real, and touching. You won’t want to put the book down, even though you have to get another box of tissues.

I picked up the book, because I wanted to read it as we raised money and waited for the call to travel to Vietnam to meet and bring home our little girl. That call came in the midst of the reading and (because of the amount of crying I was doing) I decided to put it down until after the journey ended. The tears I shed during the reading were not sympathy or even empathy tears for what happened in the Chapmans’ lives. No, reading of their struggles in the journey of life and their hope found at the end of long, dark tunnels brought to the surface of my own heart struggles, pain, as well as laughter and joy that had been a part of my own story. My story is not her story, but her story evokes mine. I don’t know whether that means she’s the great writer Steven claims her to be, her emotional roller-coaster is one that all of us can relate to on some sort of level, or I am just a sentimental sap. What I do know is that you will want to read this book for the stories of triumph, the stories of forgiveness, the stories of adoption, and the stories of heartbreak. Bring those tissues with you, but cry away, the tears will be cleansing. I know they were for me.

BTW, if you stop reading before the end (for adoption travel, or life-happening, or whatever reason) you will still be glad that you picked up this book. It has the full complement of 5 reading glasses from this reader.

—Benjamin Potter, September 12, 2017

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