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The Scent of Water: Grace for Every Kind of Broken

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  • Posted January 30, 2013

     This fine, poetic book by Naomi Zacharias is described best by

     This fine, poetic book by Naomi Zacharias is described best by it's subtitle. Grace for every kind of broken. 

    The title of the book comes from the Scriptures in Job,    about the tree whose stump is dead in the ground.
    "Yet at the scent of water it will bud..." The mere scent of healing and life will make a tree put forth shoots.
    What if the scent of Grace could be to the heart the scent of water?
    What if the scent of hope and healing could help a heart bud forth again?

    Sensitive is the word to describe Naomi's writing style, a sensitivity to the truth of Scripture and to the hurting human heart. This sensitivity should characterize us as Christians.

    Her love of India and other corners of the world God has made shine in this book. 
    Most of us will never see these places in our lifetime- Naomi takes us there. The people and the world they live in... the exploited streets of Amsterdam where girls with wide eyes stand behind windows for sale... the little boy selling colored scarves who trotted beside Naomi and asked her to buy him milk. 
    She tells us their stories... our stories. 
    As Naomi says, I would be the girl behind the window, if what had happened to her had happened to me. There is no difference between us.

    Once upon a time there was a  lady selling pearls. 

    She showed her customer round, common, pink pearls, all the same. Objectively beautiful pearls.

    Then the customer noticed a rare black pearl. It was not smooth, or pink. It caught the light and reflected it in a way the smooth pearls did not. The merchant saw the customers eyes on the rare pearl.
    "'Some people see them as flawed," the merchant said,"While others see them as special."
    The customer bought all four black pearls, in their uneven and unique beauty, and gifted them to friends of hers. One of those friends was Naomi Zacharias, and the little pearl became a metaphor for those whose life is not smooth, pink and flawless. Which is all of us. 
    In India there was a girl, Prema, who was burned as a child trying to make tea. She is now a reconstructive surgeon, head of the department at a Christian Medical College. She treats burn victims.  "As Prema sat across from me in a striking sari of pink and green, I was captivated by her.
    She exuded strength...something reminiscent of the architectural grace and genius of a pillar. She is a strikingly beautiful woman. It is not in spite of the scars, and not only because of them. A scar is not the source of beauty; it can only indicate the presence of of something that lies beneath its surface and guide you to its hidden depths. And in doing so, it becomes the symbol of beauty itself."
    In the Netherlands there was a girl forced into "legal" prostitution. The girl was a branded body to the men who use her and a statistic to the outside world. A statistic without a face, until Naomi met her. Then she was a wounded girl with a real name and an aching soul- sold into slavery by a man, unprotected by the government she lives under because she is now considered a legal prostitute. Her government is proud of its sadistic "sex tourism".  The government is not the one covered in bruises and demeaned every day by brutal attacks.

    The orphanage in South Africa there was a young boy was bound to a plywood board, his neck broken from being dropped as a baby. He could not move his head. But when Naomi stroked his cheek, tears rolled down his face, and his dark eyes turned to hers. He could not speak. "Words were lost in translation. But there was something that transcended limitations. It was a language, not of country or ethnicity or mental capacity, but of humanity; it was the power of human touch and the potential it carries to soothe a wound deep inside a soul."
    One upon a time a theologian prayed that God would break his heart for everything that broke God's own heart. 

    The pain and brokenness of the world certainly breaks our Father's heart. 
    This world has little time for broken people. 
    It teaches us to deny our brokenness, 
    to be ashamed of brokenness, 
    to hide from brokenness, to run from brokenness. 
    Instead the world peddles false strength, 
    false perfection, 
    and false idols. 
    But God doesn't want us to run from brokenness, to deny brokenness, to be ashamed of brokenness. "I thought I was running from something," Naomi writes, "As it turns out, I was running toward something. In the presence of things that were broken- dreams, intentions, ambitions, and human spirit-I found invaluable lessons in life in the vulnerability of Annie and her convicting questions; the integrity of greif and acceptance of Anna, the angst and perseverance of Mariam. These are present day examples of age old stories. These people have not established my belief in whom or what God uses, they were just revelations in real time of what God had already told me."
    Naomi's writing helps break our heart a little bit so that we can open up our own brokenness to His Grace. 
    I was blessed to receive my copy of Scent of Water from zondervan.

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  • Posted April 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Must Read!

    As Naomi walks us into brothels, prisons, and devastation around the world, she reveals that life is not a fairy tale. What we all long for in life, as women, is the fairy tale ending of "Happily Ever After", however, life sometimes only involves an "ever after".
    Naomi Zacharias shares her own story of finding grace in the brokenness of her own life, as well in the lives of others as she travels around the world to look into the devastation and broken hopes of lives that long for the "Happily Ever After"
    The question that arose in my heart while reading the stories of the women in the brothels, the displacement camps where men begged for vegetables and children homes where babies were left while their mothers worked the streets was "Is God's grace sufficient?"
    Can God's grace cover such tragedy? Such heartache? Such hopelessness?
    The answer I struggle with is "Yes".
    I don't truly think American's know the utter, deep, despair that the world faces. We tend to close our eyes to such things.because we have been fed the "Happily Ever After" fairy tale for far too long.
    Naomi presents to us a challenge. It is a challenge to see the world in the light of the grace that God offers to those who are broken, imprisoned, and wanting to die. It is a challenge to offer that grace to those who do not know the scent of water.a living water, that is offered in God's Son, Jesus.
    I have received this complimentary book in exchange for my honest review from Zondervan. The opinions and view are my own

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  • Posted April 18, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    "The Scent of Water, Grace for Every Kind of Broken" by Naomi Zacharias This book was a very eye opening journey for me, the reader, while the author tells us her story of traveling around the world trying to help women and children where she can. This book is full of places from around the world, right to what is inside of us. I will say my review of this book does not even touch the surface of what she did, where she went, and what she, personally, got out of her travels and portrays as she tells us her story. The only way to get the true understanding of what she went completely and what she has to teach us from her experience is to read this book for yourself. This is a story of truth. It is a story of life and lives. It is of sadness, happiness, of learning, of doing. It is reaching out to others when no one else would even consider it, and people reaching out to us. Naomi goes through life learning her own lessons of life, and helps to teach us what she has learned. Naomi Zacharias has written a work of Non-Fiction, telling us about her life experiences starting at the young age of 23 when she went to work for Wellspring International, an outreach of RZIM. From the book, their foundation bases their values on Rescue, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Re-entry; helping individuals in need and existing organizations serving women and children at risk. Knowing that, you understand why she traveled and did some of the things she did. She has been all over the world to such extreme places, such as in Pakistan riding in a car with outside temperatures of 125 degrees, wrapped up, hidden in the dress of the area so the Taliban would not kidnap and take her hostage if they knew she was American, all in the name of helping people. She went to Amsterdam, Asia, India, and other countries visiting the Red Light Districts, trying to help the women who had become sex slaves of prostitution to try to help themselves get out. It is not something you can force these women to do, she says, as they must make their own choices to get out. It was not most of their choices to become sex slaves, but by the time Naomi would come across them, most of them could not get out or had children, and this occupation paid well. They had no friends or relatives to rely on for help, and could not return home as they had this title of "Prostitute" hanging over their heads, by no fault of their own. They had become a shame to their families. If only these families knew they had sent their daughters to this life by blessing them. This was amazingly eye opening to me. I knew of the sex slave industry, but I had no knowledge or the circumstances surrounding it. This part is not in the book, but, when Natalie Holloway disappeared, there was speculation that possibly she had been kidnapped into the sex slave industry. When I heard that, I thought no way. I was wrong. I now can see why people thought that. I did not know this happened so often, and to so many women, nor did I know how easily this can happen to any woman. I did not understand the extent of this problem until reading this book. One of Naomi's descriptions of how women are kidnapped or even fooled into the sex slave industry will never leave my mind. It was of an airline attendant who was romanced by a man who traveled often on the airlines she worked for. He brought her gifts every time he flew and was so nice to her. He eventually expressed his wishes to marry her and her fam

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  • Posted April 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Scent of Water by Naomi Zacharias, will rock you to your core if you allow it. The thread throughout the stories is a testimony of lives refusing

    "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." - Dr. Martin L. King Jr

    It's no coincidence that The Scent of Water by Naomi Zacharias opens with the above quote. How aptly Naomi Zacharias reveals that we live in a world that harmfully perpetuates labels defining individuals by their flaws.

    "We do this to each other. We sentence someone who is already wounded to prison, forever defined and bound by a label we slap on them, one they can never remove or replace in our eyes."

    Our own sufferings can instill in us compassion to see that people do not become disqualified because of their life experiences rather released, into the grace and redemption of their story. This book reveals the transformative power of storytelling. Through Naomi's stories, we follow her down paths of brokenness all too familiar to our own lives, from the loneliness of singlehood to the shame of divorce. Yet as she wrestles through her own pain and questions, her eyes are opened to how her heartache fits into the greater picture of the suffering humanity endures, whether it be an orphan child, women in prostitution, oppression and exploitation of a woman or the man who lights himself on fire in order to escape what has become a hopeless world to him.

    She does not shy away from the challenges that one in this type of ministry faces and speaks humble wisdom when it comes to stewarding lives which have already been robbed of so much. Making sure that they do not go from one form of violence to another form of exploitation which may be "less dramatic but equally harmful". "What of carelessness, where the essence and spirit of a human being are compromised and manipulated for our own purposes? . It is what we do to another in romantic love, when we try to make them into something they are not, when we love them for our own sake and not their sake.. It also happens in the name of ministry when we try to shape someone into God's calling on our lives, into what we think she should be and because of what we have done for her."

    The Scent of Water by Naomi Zacharias, will rock you to your core if you allow it. The thread throughout the stories is a testimony of lives refusing to be labelled by their pain instead they proclaim a hope and a endurance which does not give up until God's glory is revealed.

    "Deep in the marble of myself I know
    A Prisoned statue waits. O dream and deed
    Yet unaccomplished! Take Thy chisel,
    Strike stone into statue, free me from myself.
    Until Thy scuplture makes me what I am."
    - E. Merrill Root

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  • Posted April 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Strong Woman with a Stronger Message

    This is not the kind of book that I normally enjoy reading; but then again, I am fairly certain that this book was not written with me in mind. In The Scent of Water (a phrase lifted from the book of Job), Naomi Zacharias has bound a compilation of essays developed from first-hand, real-life experience, and has graced each chapter with the wisdom and insight of one who has dedicated her life to support initiatives working to provide for at-risk women and children. She takes her readers on an intimate tour of tsunami-torn Indonesia, brother-ridden Amsterdam, and bride-burning India. But throughout each chapter she reveals so much more than the devastation of the world and the mistreatment of women everywhere: she reveals her own story and the development of her own calling. Zacharias shares honesty and insight like that of her father as she displays her own struggles of growing up and facing both the good and evil that makes up our world. While this book does not strike a chord with me as a man, it does speak to me as a human being---as a citizen of this world replete with suffering and chaos. It shows me that despite all the troubles in this world, I was brought here to my place for a reason. God has chosen me for a purpose, and I cannot sit back and let that purpose go unattained. The Scent of Water is a book written for women, and I would never suggest otherwise. But the message that Zacharias shares is one that is fitting for all: God offers "grace for every kind of broken."

    [I received this book free for review from Zondervan Press.]

    © 2011 E.T.

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