Ragged Hope recounts 25 true stories of individuals and families who have survived the fallout of other people's choices. Their struggles run counter to the glamorized infotainment that permeates our news. Matching story with scripture Cynthia Ruchti concludes each story with Reflections and If you know_
The Reflections include comments about the story and raise thought-provoking questions. For example, in the "Thousand Bad Decisions" story the author comments and asks:
But many sorrows are a reflection of a much longer history than a single choice. In your own situation, can you trace back to
"So, that's where it all started"?
The section If you know someone like the person in the story relates follow up information and advice. For example, in the "Thousand Bad Decisions" story Cynthia reports that after 17 years in prison Max found Christ through the visitation and encouragement of a caring Christian, not a jail minister. She asks:
Is someone's turning point waiting for you to abandon your hesitation?
She concludes the story with this verse:
Follow my example, just like I follow Christ's. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (Common English Bible)
Ruchti's counselor-teacher approach (a result of 33 years of leading retreats and hosting a radio program) is applied Christianity. Her book can be an understanding friend for those going through similar struggles. For old and new Christians her book can be an invaluable training tool. For high school and college young people, her book is a window on the real world, a troubled world but with "Hope that glows in the dark".
And hope does not disappoint. Romans 5:5 (New American Standard Bible)
John Donne's profound line, "No man is an island," has become an almost trite acknowledgement that human beings' actions affect each other. In Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People's Choices, Cynthia Ruchti, with masterful storytelling style, relates true examples of those who assume island-like autonomy. Often their lives erupt like volcanoes, spewing choking consequences that explode their loved ones' worlds as well. With characteristic compassion and insight, Ruchti relates how God heals resulting wounds as His people cling to tattered but indestructible hope.
A multi-published author and popular speaker, Ruchti not only has shared in these stories with friendship, counseling, and prayer, but has herself held fast to ragged hope in the face of personal tragedy and struggle. Her chapters ring with the authenticity of experience.
As readers turn the pages of this book, they will not only apply its truths to their own challenges, but think of at least a dozen people who should read it.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but my opinions are my own.
A gurney lumbered down the neighbor's sidewalk with a body bag. Though my brain screamed at me to cross the street, feet remained froze on the hardwood floor by the living room window. Fear of not knowing what to say to lend comfort and support immobilized me.
Cynthia Ruchti's book Ragged Hope addresses moments like this. Cynthia listened to and recorded the stories of lives forever changed in a instant of time. Each story, interesting enough to stand alone as a book, tells about the ripple effect of choices other people make on the lives of those around them.
This book stands as a banner of hope rising to wave above shattering circumstances. At the end of each story Cynthia invites the reader into a time of reflection and decision of how to respond to the needs of those around us or even make a personal application if we have similar circumstances in our lives. Each chapter concludes with scriptural wisdom to meditate on.
Eventually I overcame the fear that kept me from crossing the street to listen and offer a hand to hold as my neighbor took her first wobbly steps into the world of widowhood. I've never regretted being there for her. I applaud this book for encouraging and giving direction to readers as to why it is important to step forward and offer understanding as well as hope to those on a difficult journey.
We have had it happen to us - suffering consequences because of someone else's choices. And we have seen others suffer because of the choices we've made. We cling to hope, a hope made ragged by wear, signs of heavy use.
Cynthia tells the stories of people walking through the aftermath of other people's choices. There is the family of the father and husband who left on Christmas Eve to be with the other woman. There is the family whose house burned to the ground. There are the parents who are reeling from their child's suicide. The elderly woman shocked that her trusted financial adviser swindled her out of her retirement fund. The man let go in downsizing just months from retirement. The woman whose husband, suddenly dead from an undiagnosed aneurysm, failed to send in the life insurance policy they had agreed on.
These are stories of tested faith. There are encouraging stories of people who refused to let the irresponsible actions of others define them. People who cling to the hope that God hears and cares. Ragged hope. Some of the stories don't have happy endings - just like life. Some of the pain has no cure this side of heaven.
Though the stories are fictionalized accounts, they are based on people Cynthia knows or stories people have told her.
Cynthia has included thoughtful comments and questions after each story. She also includes practical suggestions for helping others, should you know someone in a situation similar to the one in the story.
Cynthia has a way of crafting beautiful prose. She writes of a man who put retribution on God's to-do list and erased it off his own. And, "The maintenance costs for regret upkeep can bankrupt a person's spirit." (112) One talks about "getting" the extravagance of Jesus. "Knowing what they'd done, He made a decision to keep loving people who caused His pain, undeserved pain, friends who wrote His death sentence." (167) And writing about a woman whose husband had given her AIDS, "The morning he deserted her, she heard a rooster crow." (168) Here's another: "The speedboat of his moral failure - a.k.a. sin - resulted in several capsizes and drownings." (110)
We will never be free from the fallout of other people's destructive choices. This is a beautifully written book of encouragement, a testimony of people recovering and getting back to trusting and worshiping Jesus. Read it. Give it to a friend. Be encouraged.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
The book is filled with short vignettes -- 26 stories of the way life disappoints, doesn't live up to expectations -- and ways people have found hope in those terrible turns of destiny. Each story is written with an emotion and immediacy that took me deep into its folds. Then each ends with questions to reflect on and best of all suggestions for how to minister to those we may know walking each jagged, ragged journey. As someone who often wants to help, but frequently isn't sure how to do so meaningfully, this was worth the book on its own.
This is a book that will whisper hope to the broken. It will restore hope to the bruised. It will renew hope in those who long to sip its refreshing waters.