One day, Matthew West went to a cabin in the woods. He took with him 10,000 stories. It is no wonder that he admits being changed through that time. He read pain and praise and brokenness and healing tales of truth from the people who lived them. From the experience, he has already written some incredible songs that fill an album (and I am sure there will be more to follow).
Now, with Angela Thomas (a Lifeway speaker and experienced author) Matthew has turned some of these stories, including many from the album, and turned them into an incredible book that has not only the stories, but a short response from either Angela or Matthew that underscores the Biblical lessons that can be derived from the story.
The most compelling part of this book is the fact that ordinary lives are portrayed, women and men who have lived through tragedy and triumph, and who are seeking God through their moments. Single moms who have struggled, broken homes that have been restored, illnesses healed either in this life or through the journey to Glory - all are told by the people who lived them, and in the telling and re-telling it is so amazing to see all the ways our mysterious, majestic Creator carves his glory from the minutes and days we live.
I think of the tale of Aspen, who wasn't supposed to make it to her 1-month birthday, but at 6 years old, her continued existence as the "best-looking vegetable I know," has been a persistent gift to her mother, despite recognizing that she may not have more than today with her daughter. There's the story of the mom who prays for her son to come back to his family, to "come to his senses" like the prodigal in the Bible, and the young man who was so caught up in rules and regulations that he missed grace, until he realized he was behaving like the same Biblical prodigal's brother! I could recount example after example of real life experiences that bring laughter and tears to the reader, and I think, tidbits of the wonder that will be Testimony Night in Heaven!
There are fifty-two stories retold in this book, and each has a powerful message. Meant to be read as a weekly devotional, the stories are followed by scripture, and the insights into God that Angela and Matthew share. I will be recommending this book (and probably buying copies as Christmas gifts, come to think of it) to family and friends, not because it is so well-written as to be a classic masterpiece in the tradition of Dickens or Poe, but because it is NOT that kind of book at all, instead it is the memoir of all of us - broken people restored, redeemed, and pursued by a powerful God who wants only for us to know him and his grace.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255
The first time I heard Matthew West's "The Story of Your Life" CD, I was awed by the emotions portrayed in each of the songs. His music touched me. So much so that I felt compelled to look up his website and find out more about the artist and his album. When I found out that songs on the album had been written in response to stories Matthew had heard from friends, family and fans over the course of his career, I found myself wondering what the details of those stories were.
This book gives fans of the album the opportunity to delve deeper into those stories. To find out how Matthew was affected by his experience of using real world stories as the basis for those songs. However, readers do not have to be Matthew West fans in order to enjoy this book. The real story here is the evidence presented by Matthew and his co-author, Angela Thomas, that God is working in our lives, through good times and bad, whether we realize it or not at the time. Even more important is the message that God loves us through it all.
In West's song, "Family Tree," he sings, "This is not your legacy. This is not your destiny. Yesterday does not define you...I (God) can break the chains that bind you."
Thomas and West share stories of joyous occasions and also ones filled with pain. Each story is meant to provide the reader with the inspiration to find the good in all circumstances and to use that good to live life to the fullest, to find meaning in tragedy, and to grow in our relationship with the Lord.
This book is a great companion to the CD. However, those who are not musically inclined should still enjoy the book strictly on its own merit as a stand alone devotional.