Twenty-Five Words: How the Serenity Prayer Can Save Your Life
by Barb Rogers

Red Wheel/Weiser, L.L.C., 2005. ISBN 1-59003-072-9.
Reviewed by Susan Ideus
Posted on 02/11/2008

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

Inspiring words by the author: "It may have taken me a long time and a lot of misery to get to the point of surrender, but once there the result was instantaneous. Once there, I understood that this is what I'd been moving toward my entire life. It took me every moment, every experience, every person I'd ever encountered, to bring me to that one moment on my knees. I knew there was a plan, and I was part of it. My life was forever changed."

Rogers draws examples from her personal experience and, with brutal honesty, shares her past with her readers. She came from a family of alcoholics; she was a teenage mother. She was married and divorced a number of times. Both her children died. She became penniless and homeless, and she believed she deserved every punishment meted out to her by God. She was afraid all the time and had no peace in her life.

For Barb Rogers, a broken addict at thirty-five, the Serenity Prayer became more than a rote recitation at a Twelve-Step meeting. She turned it into action, a way of life. At the very lowest point in her life, she first saw the prayer as a cruel joke about a God who couldn't possibly care about her. "Not me. I wasn't speaking to God. I wasn't asking him for anything. As far as I could see, he'd already given me more than I could stand." After all, she reasoned, she'd prayed before, telling God precisely what to do, and he hadn't done it, so how could this prayer be any different for her? Through this book, she tells her readers exactly how much difference it made to her and how it can do the same for others.

The first step, she says, is making a connection to the God of the prayer. That God may not be exactly the same one you know, but that's okay. God is bigger than anyone's imagination. Rogers says each person must come to know on intimate terms a "God of our understanding." She doesn't teach the program or dogma of any church or religion. This is personal. Most people will seek a God who embodies the traits they want in their own life—love, compassion, forgiveness, and so on. They want someone who will love without condition.

Rogers contends one next has to ask God to be in control of one's life. Not only is this a difficult task for an addict, it is contrary to the "take charge and get ahead" view of today's society. A person must be willing to give up all the drama and posturing that caused trouble in the first place. It's difficult to admit that one has been wrong; it's equally difficult to give up control. God gives the choice, but the choice must be made. God doesn't push anyone through that open door he offers.

The author's next focus is on putting the past where it belongs—in the past. It can't be denied, it can't be forgotten, but it can be used for good. According to Rogers, "...people don't wake up one day and decide who to be. They are the result of their life experiences." We can accept our part in how the past played out, or we can find someone or something else to blame—our family, our friends, our poverty, our bad luck, or even a God who must surely dislike us. For Rogers, it was a matter of acknowledging her part in her own life, and how to go forward from there. In my opinion, this was one of the most profound and meaningful teachings in the book. For women trying to find their voices, this is so important. If we cannot move beyond our pasts, how can we find our purpose, our dreams? One need not be an addict to have a less than perfect past. Indeed, imperfection comes with the human condition. Have you ever wondered, as I do, why some people triumph and live rich lives in spite of their pasts, and some only manage to barely exist, using their past as excuses? One learns from the past; the other is mired there.

Not everyone reading this small book will do so because he/she is an addict. Some will simply be curious about a prayer that shows up on coffee mugs, embroidered wall-hangings, and framed posters, with not a clue as to how it came to be so popular. Some will be looking for a way to change their lives, perhaps not from addiction, but the inherent pain and losses that are a part of life. Nowhere does Rogers claim that this prayer will save anyone from experiencing problems and/or heartbreak.

The bottom line for Rogers' premises lies in choices. Everyone makes them, good ones and bad ones, informed ones and disastrous ones. She says we must own our choices and allow those who interact with us to own theirs. We don't have to like what another person does, but we do have a choice in how we react to them. Because what another person does and how she lives is a result of her choices, we may have to decide that person has no place in our lives, even as we honor her choices. We cannot change what happened in the past, but we can choose how we interpret it. We can accept our past, make amends for hurtful actions, learn from mistakes and then move forward, more cognizant of what we do and how our choices affect us. Conversely, we can choose to play the "blame game" and never own up to our choices. We could then choose to be forever stuck in destruction and misery.

No doubt there are more intellectual offerings on the market by more learned and professional authors about ways to change one's life. Rogers is not a professional counselor, she is simply a woman who shares the lessons she has learned from a difficult life. The message seems to be that if she could do it, anyone could. She credits her success to living the Serenity Prayer. I say "success," but I am not sure Rogers would use that term. In her mind, what she has found is the courage to change, to be true to who she really is, and the freedom to live life on the basis of faith and the good choices that result. What she wants the reader to come away with, I believe, is a feeling of hope.

Barb Rogers is a sixty-something woman who is best known as a professional costume designer. She has written Costumes, Accessories, Props and Stage Illusions Made Easy, Costuming Made Easy, and Instant Period Costumes. After health issues forced her to give up costume design, she authored several inspirational books—Feng Shui in a Day, Simply Happy Every Day, and Pray for Today. She hopes to become a published novelist. Rogers lives in Arizona with her husband and two dogs.

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