Book Review: Unbridled Grace

Fresh out of medical school, Dr. Michael Norman answered a 2-line ad for a part-time job three days a week in a medical clinic to supplement his fledging private chiropractic practice in Carrollton. He managed all the medical clients and paperwork and his two bosses handled the office management and business accounts.

After less than two years this young husband and father received a subpoena to testify in a civil lawsuit brought by an insurance company against the two owners who were Taiwanese and Russian. Michael soon discovered their connection with the Russian Mafia. Shockingly, the network of multinational and multimillion dollar illegal businesses of check cashing, money laundering, staged auto accidents and insurance fraud involved hundreds of lawyers, businessmen and criminals. Michael’s signature was not only on all the medical documents but appeared on corporate documents as part owner.

He obediently testified against his employers at the deposition with the insurance company.  He agreed to gather evidence and testify against his employers to help clear his name.  For his cooperation he received a federal subpoena to testify in the hearing of a member of the Russian Mafia. This put him in great danger with the Mafia, but not as great as with the federal agents who soon framed him with a discovery of $300,000 stashed in a self-storage unit close to his own unit and near his private practice. He was further deceived into helping the friendly Secret Service and IRS agents allegedly on his side. They slanted his deposition as a full confession of his involvement in the Mafia crimes and warned him of a forthcoming criminal indictment: The U. S. vs. Michael Norman!

His whole life, family relationships, medical practice, finances, future and emotional stability were in limbo for 28 months in a paralysis of waiting for the indictment. He struggled with confusing choices from self-destruction to fighting back. He explored the spectrum of spirituality from New Age to a multitude of Christian organizations. He purposely avoided the Catholicism of his youth, dismissing it as outdated.  At the urging of his wife Laura, he finally chose to visit a Catholic priest. When he did, “Something immediately felt different. A persuasive peacefulness seemed to draw me in.”

During bi-weekly spiritual direction he learned the Catholic theology of suffering and how to accept and carry his cross with courage, strength and dignity. “I learned that through the carrying of one’s cross and the ensuing transmission of grace, it is possible that a heroin addict on the other side of the world will suddenly find the strength to put down the needle and seek help. Similarly, a young woman across town tonight may suddenly find the courage to turn around from the abortion clinic and seek other options.”

He describes his confession after so many years as like that of the prodigal son. His Father ran to meet him halfway home. He found great consolation in daily Eucharist and developed strength, wisdom and guidance in the comfort of God’s presence as he sought to conform his life to God’s will. Once while he prayed the Rosary alone, his wife peeked into the room and saw him surrounded by angels. He clearly realized the thin distinction between good and evil. He faced the world of atheistic humanism, finding it darker than the world of the Russian Mafia. “I was finally entrenched on the side of good with truth and justice as my companions, in opposition to this world of human power complete with its repulsive emptiness.” Although certain he would soon be painfully crushed under the tentacles of the government’s power, he surrendered to the inevitable, if it was God’s will, ready for the persecution to come.

Even through his arrest and detention in jail for three he experienced an unexplainable gift of ever-increasing strength and peace that would permeate his life. This extraordinary gift steadily grew from his “plunge into the sacramental life of Catholicism.”

The hardest struggle was with his choices between accepting a plea bargain with 6 months of prison or fighting the charges and risking ten years in jail. It finally came to decision between, “ten years of honor versus a lifetime of regret.” He asserts that as you surrender even deeper to God’s will – get ready for you life to change dramatically.

The $40,000 in civil lawsuits from insurance companies required legal fees and lawyers brought financial disaster to his family. When he faltered in fighting back Laura would teach him how to stand up for himself. He experienced recurring dreams of courtroom scenes where he testified on his own behalf and calmly spoke all the right answers, resulting in his acquittal. This gave him hope, as very few people in his life were not urging him to take the plea for the sake of his family and his future. He wondered how he could he ever live up to the Michael Norman in those recurring dreams. After five years he had become the person in those dreams.

Clear evidence of divine intervention followed, as God’s grace overflowed through the open door of his life choices to seek and surrender to God’s will.  His trial revealed this in everyone in the courtroom from the bailiff, court reporter, judge, jury to the prosecutor who finally threw up his hands in resignation, and in the verdict: “Not guilty” on nine counts with the tenth charge dismissed. “I learned, despite the well-orchestrated and concerted efforts of evil, that light, whenå we choose it and stand up for it, shall always overwhelm the darkness. As one person stands up for the light, others are encouraged to stand up and join the battle.”

He wrote “Unbridled Grace: the True Story about the Power of Choice” about how God unleashed his power in the life choices Michael faced. Deliberate bad choices did not cause his suffering. Not recognizing the evil in the world did. He then triumphed over evil in his good choices made through soul-wrenching anguish and deep surrender to God’s will.

(© 2012 Nancy H C Ward)

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About Nancy Ward

Nancy HC Ward is a journalist, author, and speaker who blogs about Catholicism, her conversion, and Christian community at,
 7 websites and 7 magazines. She loves to share her faith story and help others share theirs through her Sharing Your Faith Stories seminars, also available on DVD. She contributed four chapters to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. She facilitates the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers and a critique group for the Catholic Writers Guild, where she serves as a board member.
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14 Responses to Book Review: Unbridled Grace

  1. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run
    into any issues of plagorism or copyright violation? My blog
    has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my agreement. Do you know any techniques to help reduce content from being ripped off? I’d
    truly appreciate it.

  2. Pingback: The Next Big Thing: Joy Stories | JOY Alive in our hearts

    • Nancy Ward says:

      Your content is sales-oriented and perhaps more vulnerable than my posts. Any original writing can be safeguarded from the honest folks by copyrighted each piece. This may not be practical for you, but for me, it is since I publish in more than one venue. If there is an egregious violation I can pursue legal action if I choose. To discover plagiarism of your work, you can use software programs that search the internet for exact phrases. 

  3. Yuriko says:

    I truly wish you the best in all your future endeavors. Whenever I was at a crossroad and trying to make a decision, my very wise grandmother would say: You can stay back in ease and comfort or move forward to growth. Although we will miss seeing you, I am so happy you have chosen to move forward. A year and a half ago, I left my job of nine years to accept a more challenging position. At first I worried that I had made the wrong decision after all this new position was much more difficult and required me to learn new things. However, this challenge was just the thing I needed to inject new passion into my career.I commend you for taking that leap of faith. It is not easy to leave a comfortable position, especially in a difficult job market and sluggish economy. Best of luck with all of your future projects. I hope to meet you at your book signing.

  4. Jessica says:

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  5. George says:

    I want to finish my thought here. If God treated us fairly Jesus would have never died on the cross, and we would have never been offered salvation. I praise God that He loves me, He never fails me and He goes to plan B and on. Look how He blessed Israel, they sinned and went away from God countless times, but He was faithful and loved them any way. Romans 5:8 But God commended His love toward us, in that while we were sinners Christ died for us. Praise be to God!

  6. Mohamed says:

    I often believe that I have been such a disappointment. But, know that when God sees me he sees Jesus. But, here is what I often think about. If God sees Jesus who died for all of our sins, what does Jesus see when he looks down on earth. I try so very hard to be a good person and when I try really hard, I fail. But, when I run to Jesus to say I am sorry, he holds out his arms takes me into a tight hug and tells me it is okay. Go try again but, let me help you. Each day is better than the day before.

  7. Ohmigod says:

    A few years ago, my college-age son developed some alarming physical symptoms for which he needed a series of neurological tests and MRI. It was the scariest time of my life. After a couple weeks of prayer the soul wrenching intense kind of prayer, I realized I needed to surrender my son's health and his future to God. I could not hang on to what I believed his life and health should be like. It was a turning point in my spiritual life that brought me closer to God than I could ever imagine. Miraculously, his symptoms disappeared. He is healthy and happy today. He just graduated from college and will be married in August!!!

  8. Isaiah says:

    Marsha, I am telling you now that I don't believe I could be as strong as you have been. I have thought about how I would react if I had lost one of my children. I think I would have been angry with God. That is shameful for me to say, but true. I am in awe of your faith and love you for it. You make me want to be closer to God and have that kind of faith. I have often cried with your posts and have prayed for you often. But, I also prayed I would never face a similar situation. Thank you so much for being my friend, and for sharing your thoughts and feelings so honestly with us. You truly do touch us and make a difference.Donna Scott

  9. Ody says:

    Surrender is an ongoing process for me. There are some things that I easily surrender and leave with God and others that I worry over and feel distressed about. My marriage, my children, our finances these are the ones I have a hard time LEAVING with God. They are everyday concerns every day things I feel and experience. I'm always in the middle of them and they are harder to leave alone. Of course that means more turmoil because I wrestle with things that aren't even MY battle I want answers now, and these relationships and situations require TIME and God's Time at that. My impatience brings me more problems than I like, but knowing that doesn't make it easier to surrender, necessarily. This is one of those things that God has to complete His work in me and I have to be willing to wait on him.

  10. Kim says:

    Sometimes I wonder if Letting Go is something we just do or is it a process, a process of surrendering more and more. I find in my own life that I surrender more as I go, as I go deeper with Jesus and come to know Him more and learn more of His great unconditional mad love for me, I am able to let go more, to trust him more and surrender more. Have I surrendered all? No. I know I haven't. I know exactly the part of my life right now that He is speaking to and whispering and wooing me and guiding me — making a way where there seems to be no way until I finally exhale and with an open heart fully surrender, yet again, more and more. In spirit and in truth. Just sharing. I believe the Lord and Creator of us, meets us right where we are and deals us intimately and uniquely and that is an exquisite thought. It makes me joyful. I believe there is still hope for me In Christ, My only hope of glory.

  11. Charlotte says:

    This is an amazing book- would highly recommend it for anyone 🙂

  12. Diane Roe says:

    We had the pleasure of hearing him at OLOL during CCW this past fall. Amazing story of God’s grace indeed!

  13. Hi, Nancy. Sounds like Michael has a fascinating story. It’s hard to believe such things are going on in “real life” — sounds like a fictional thriller!

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