Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Matters Most

Did we believe in God in order for Him to serve us?
Or for us to serve Him?
When life takes a sharp left turn and one is in the midst of tragedy, heartbreak, and disappointment, the above questions are ones which strip our faith down to the bare bones. Gilbert Ahrens is one man who wrestled with this, and the result is his book Shattered, Shaken, and Stirred.

Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX-—In the blink of an eye, life can change forever. Hopes and dreams of what we’ve envisioned our lives would be can disappear in a moment. Tragedy and heartache can instantly pierce the veil that once separated the world we knew and the one we could never have imagined. In his new book, Shattered, Shaken, and Stirred: Reconnecting with What Matters Most After Loss and Adversity, author Gilbert Ahrens recounts his own personal story of conflict, struggle, and suffering in an intimate letter to his young daughter. His story offers strength, suggestions, and encouragement to others who find themselves on the solitary journey of loss that—sooner or later—is the one thing that we all have in common.

On a beautifully clear, crisp autumn evening in 2002, while traveling outside Denver, Colorado, Gil’s car was hit head-on by a drunk driver traveling 95 miles per hour. Gil, his wife Kim, sister Margot, and three-week-old daughter Olivia had been going 60 miles per hour. The driver of the other car was only 18, and the passenger in his car was killed instantly. Gil’s family survived but just barely. Among many other serious injuries, the worst was that his wife, Kim, suffered a broken neck that paralyzed her—sentencing her to a wheelchair. Their baby daughter, however, emerged miraculously unscathed.

In a split second, the lives of this seemingly ordinary family were upended, disrupted, and derailed—just as they were beginning to learn the ropes of parenting a newborn. They were instantly transported to a new world of “survival”, which then over time transcended to the less dramatic but still unknown world of “coping.” But, in the wake of devastation and anguish is where recovery and, ultimately, redemption are found. In Shattered, Shaken, and Stirred, Gil explores and embraces the process of struggle, brokenness, and healing in a way that is honest, heartfelt, and yet at times, reassuringly humorous.

Suffering has no purpose unless it draws us closer to God, which I think is why He allows it and created it in the first place,” writes Gil. “It is very difficult to connect with God when we feel able, strong, and self-reliant. But it is often only in our weakness, need, and insufficiency that we allow ourselves to be open enough to let God in.

In Shattered, Shaken, and Stirred, Gil tenderly encourages readers with an eternal truth he has learned through personal trial and affliction: When there is hardship, it is for a reason. “Any valuable tool or piece of equipment needs to be tested and pushed to its limits in the laboratory before it can be ready for service in the field. God is not testing us to see if we are worthy; He is preparing us for something greater than we can imagine. The key to everything—to surviving, coping with loss, adapting to changed realities, and managing to get by—is Faith, Hope, and Love; that is how we find and reconnect with joy.”

Born in Suffield, Connecticut, Gil was born to parents both of whose families played significant roles during democratic turning points in the history of both the United States and Germany. From his father’s side, he is a direct descendant of Israel Bissell, who has been credited with performing the real midnight ride (while Paul Revere slept) that warned American Revolutionaries of the British invasion. From his mother’s side, his great uncles, Fritz-Dietlof Graf von der Schulenburg and Friedrich Werner Graf von der Schulenburg, and his grandfather Maximillian Graf von der Schulenburg were executed due to their involvement in the July 20, 1944 assassination plot against Adolf Hitler.

Gil holds degrees from New York University and Boston University and briefly studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music. Early in his business career, he co-founded a consumer electronics start-up and worked in Japan in strategic planning for a large global manufacturing company. Subsequently, Gil was an investment banker for several years, most recently as Managing Director at J.P. Morgan. He has also been an elder at Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco and is currently on the board of directors at Abilities United, a non-profit in Palo Alto, California, that helps champion those with developmental or physical challenges.

Gil now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is married to Kim, an amazing woman with whom he shares the joy of raising a charming, brilliant, and utterly wonderful daughter. Together, they all succumb to the whims of Sparky, their domineering Jack Russell Terrier, and Bella, a demur Scottish Terrier determined to dominate every inanimate object. Passionate about ice hockey, Formula 1 racing, University of Texas football, and cigars (a vice he acknowledges freely), Gil often wishes that he could be more Italian in mind, matter, or the spoken hand.

Find out more about him at his website.

When life takes a sharp left turn, the faith we so assuredly proclaimed in good times is suddenly tested. Gil Ahrens shares the process he went through after a devastating car accident left him injured and his wife paralyzed. Written in first person as a letter to his daughter, Shattered, Shaken and Stirred is interspersed with entries from the author's journal as he grapples with the tragedy that he and his family experienced. These glimpses, along with the narrative of the book itself, will resonate with anyone who has experienced heartbreak. From recognizing that much of his struggle is with The Dragon/Tormentor (as he describes his spiritual enemy) to wrestling with what consequences the young driver who hit them should experience as a result of the accident, to the frustrating experiences with the health care system (the one place the book was a bit laborious to read) to the practical aspects of recovery and rehabilitation, the book is honest and authentic. It is also full of hope and victory, as he "tells" his young daughter that "the most important thing is that your hardship is really a means for you to grow closer to God.".

Shattered Shaken and Stirred may be purchased here.

Thanks to The B&B Media Group for providing a copy of this book for my review.


View blog reactions


quilly said...

This one sounds like hard reading -- the soul tearing kind. However since it is faith-based, I know it will also build and reaffirm.

sara said...

wow. I'm with quilly, this sounds like a hard read, but good.

this was good:

"Suffering has no purpose unless it draws us closer to God, which I think is why He allows it and created it in the first place,”

I am so glad you review these here. my book pile is pretty high right now, but I know I can just come back and find the ones I want to read later! thx.

WILL SMITH said...

Books like these, based on true events, always touch me. The trials people go through and still come out with strong faith and a decent attitude amaze me. It also helps to put things in our own lives in perspective.

BTW, don't know if I ever told you this, but you are very good at doing these book reviews!

My ADHD Me said...

The definition of frustration- leaving comments on multiple blogs before realizing that your son was already logged onto Blogger!


aka Will Smith!

Beverlydru said...

Hi Linda! I've been reading on fly bys without commenting but it's tinme to say "I appreicate you and your blog!". Great reviews and solid friendship. And a laugh at our friend ADHD's comments! May 2010bring more than we hope for.