It's been a long time since a book made me weep as I did in the final pages of S2017 Reading Challenge — Book 37: A book about race or racial issues
It's been a long time since a book made me weep as I did in the final pages of Steal Away Home. There is so much beauty in this story, in the writing of it, and—most of all—in the Gospel which saturates it, that there really was no other way to respond but through tears of joy for God's victory over sin and death, mingled with tears of sorrow for the brokenness which still mars our world until Christ returns to consummate that victory.
I have read a lot of books by and about Charles Haddon Spurgeon. But I can truthfully say I've never encountered anything like this book, both in its scope and style.
The book's authors, Matt Carter & Aaron Ivey, are two of the elders at The Austin Stone Community Church, a church whose ministry has often encouraged and inspired me. While visiting the Stone last May for a Worship Pastor Intensive, Aaron shared with us about how co-writing this book had been such a blessing in his life; I pre-ordered it on the spot.
While the book is somewhat biographical, its genre is difficult to identify due to its unique nature. In the introduction, Carter states that the book's style was inspired by Michael Shaara's excellent book The Killer Angels, a novelized story of the Civil War focusing on the lives of several historical figures. Steal Away Home is written as a novel in which the main characters are the 19th century preachers Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson.
If you're like me, you're reading that second name and saying, "Who?"
The fact that Johnson's name is relatively unknown is a real tragedy! His story is truly fascinating, and the impact he had on the Kingdom of God is immense, both as a missionary to Cameroon and as a much-needed encourager and friend to the "prince of preachers."
Thomas Johnson had been a slave for 28 years in Virginia when the end of the Civil War brought about his emancipation. Though he had heard the name "Charles Haddon Spurgeon" (when he was forced to accompany his master and a Baptist preacher to a book burning in which the works of Spurgeon—an outspoken abolitionist who openly challenged slave-holding "Christians" in the American South—were read to slaves before being thrown into the fire), he never dreamed he would have the opportunity to meet with him, much less become his friend.
Providentially, God allowed Johnson to be sponsored to attend Spurgeon's Pastor's College in London, to be trained and commissioned as a missionary to Africa. During his time in London, and for decades later, Johnson became one of Spurgeon's closest friends and confidants. Spurgeon's lifelong struggle with depression and physical ailments are well known. But the way Johnson spoke truth into Spurgeon's life, teaching him about true freedom in Christ, has remained mostly obscured from history until now. I'm so grateful to Carter & Ivey for telling his story!
While the narrative and much of the dialogue for this book required some "artistic license" from the authors, as often as possible the words and "voice" of the characters come from their own writing, primarily their frequent correspondence (Spurgeon kept all of Johnson's letters in the desk in his study), and from Johnson's own autobiography, Twenty-Eight Years a Slave. The book was thoroughly researched at the Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the fact that so many prominent Spurgeon scholars have endorsed the book lends a lot of credibility to the historicity of the story.
I can't imagine more capable hands for the telling of this story than Carter and Ivey. I know of no other ministry so invested in story-telling as Austin Stone (learning more about their Story Team is one of the main reasons I attended the Intensive in the Spring). The story is beautifully told, and I wholeheartedly commend it to you. Get your copy here....more
I honestly don't have a whole lot to say about this book, which was technical2017 Reading Challenge — Book 36: A book recommended by a family member
I honestly don't have a whole lot to say about this book, which was technically not recommended by a family member, though its author was recommended. This is just the one I found at the library.
Wallace was a gifted writer, no doubt. He made topics that I would otherwise have zero interest in (e.g., the Maine Lobster Festival and hardcore pornography) interesting. His talent as a journalist to draw out stories and ask good questions is apparent in each essay, seen most poignantly in "The View From Mrs. Thompson's" as he describes his recollection of the events of 9/11.
The reader is truly able to "get inside his head" through his writing, and it was good for me to be able to do that with someone whose worldview is so different from my own. That said, I can't say I necessarily enjoyed this book, though I'm not sure that was the point. Thought-provoking? Sure. Life-changing? Not a bit. Recommended reading? Probably not....more
I am passionate about raising up worship leaders from the generations to follow, discipling2017 Reading Challenge — Book 35: A book about the Church
I am passionate about raising up worship leaders from the generations to follow, discipling them, developing their skills, and providing them with opportunities to lead. Unfortunately, this is an area in which the Church (speaking generally, not of any specific local church) does not have a strong recent track record. The lack of competent, pastoral worship leaders is reaching crisis proportions, which, while great for job security, is very bad for the Kingdom.
So when I see a church that is excelling in passing on their vision to a new generation of leaders, I want to hear more about how they're doing it.
Let's get a few things out of the way here: I have some theological differences—some of which are major—with Hillsong Church, and with their former Worship Pastor Darlene Zschech. My personal views on the extent to which their music ought to be a part of our worship services at FBC Powell are far too nuanced to get into here, but this discussion (of which I was a part last November) pretty well reflects my take on the matter.
That said, there are an awful lot of ways in which I know I can benefit from their ministry, not least of which are their approach to artistic excellence and multigenerational worship leadership. I would think that even their most ardent critics should be able to recognize Hillsong's organizational strength in these areas, and be able to learn from their experience and teaching. And so it is that this book was predictably a mixed bag, though I found far more positives that I can use than I did things which I can simply discard due to differences in theology & practice.
In particular, Zschech's chapters (though she doesn't call them "chapters") on fostering excellence through "the squeeze" (i.e., perseverance in adversity) and on discipling and leading "geniuses" were especially helpful. The latter because I undoubtedly have geniuses in my ministry whose talents I want to develop and whose souls I want to nurture; the former because the day I become satisfied as an artist is the day I need to find a new line of work.
Here's an area where everyone I know (even especially Baptists!) can learn from Zschech: she is passionately, relentlessly optimistic about the coming generation, about the future of worship music, and about the triumph of Christ through the Church. We need more of that! The way Scripture rolls from her tongue and from her pen is both encouraging and instructive (Romans 15:4), as well as convicting, when I contrast that with my own speech and writing.
All in all, this is a worthwhile read for those who desire to raise up leaders from the next generations, particularly those serving in worship ministry. You may not agree with everything, but the good bits are really good, and it's an easy enough read that you won't have to spend much time on the rest. Get your copy here....more
This was a total guilty pleasure read for this weekend's quick trip up to northern Kentucky f2017 Reading Challenge — Book 34: A book of your choice
This was a total guilty pleasure read for this weekend's quick trip up to northern Kentucky for my cousin's wedding. Our whole family loves The Princess Bride, and I also love Cary Elwes' accent. Checking out the audiobook (read by Elwes himself) seemed like a great choice for a road trip read.
Nearly every living cast member, along with the writer, director, and producer of the film, contributed some of their thoughts to the writing of this book, and most of them also lent their voices to the audiobook. Laurie and I were cracking up nearly the entire time hearing about some of the hijinks that went on behind the scenes (particularly the often ridiculous stories about dealing with the size of Andre the Giant), and now can't wait to watch the movie again!
Definitely a great one to check out for yourself. Get it here....more
If there's ever a week I needed to read the memoir of a comedian, this was it! In the midst of one2017 Reading Challenge — Book 32: A humorous book
If there's ever a week I needed to read the memoir of a comedian, this was it! In the midst of one of the hardest weeks I've endured in quite a while (including nearly electrocuting myself... long story), laughter was truly the best medicine.
Jim Gaffigan has been a favorite of mine and Laurie's for several years now. His clean, self-deprecating humor is always appreciated, particularly when he talks about his family. And I love that, while he does include his wife and children in his jokes, he never speaks ill of them. Quite the contrary: it's rare (and refreshing!) to find a man so obviously in love with his wife and children as Gaffigan is.
In Dad Is Fat, his first book, Gaffigan's entire focus is on the travails of parenting 5 young children in New York City. For those who've seen his hour-long comedy specials on Netflix and elsewhere, it's predictably hilarious. And while his storytelling is often outrageous, it never seems contrived. In fact, he's quite relatable, as I think any Dad will find.
And that's what makes him so good at what he does. While his circumstances and mine bear very few similarities, his writing expresses perfectly what it means to be a loving and devoted husband and father in a culture that doesn't often honor those things, in such a way that I found myself often identifying myself with even his most ridiculous tales.
Like all the greatest comedians, Gaffigan is funny without being merely goofy. His wit is disarming but sharp, and often cuts to the heart of our personal and societal failures and blind spots in a way that forces us to acknowledge just how ridiculous we truly are. We need that. I need that.
You can grab a copy of Dad Is Fathere. Personally, I listened to the audiobook, read by the author, and highly recommend you do the same!...more
I picked up this book a couple months ago when I visited The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. They had a kiosk in the foyer with recommended reading relating to the topic of that morning's sermon (which was excellent, by the way), and this was one of them.
I'd never read a book on neighboring. I don't know that I'd ever heard of a book on neighboring. And honestly, I'd never considered "neighboring" to be a verb. So I bought it. I'm glad I did!
Pathak & Runyon are both pastors based in Denver, Colorado. This book grew out of an initiative in which their churches—along with eighteen others—joined forces to encourage their congregants to become better neighbors, at the encouragement of local elected officials. Their goal: mobilizing every church member to be intentional about reaching out to those who live close to them, and to build and foster relationships that lead to stronger, more caring neighborhoods all over their city.
"But why do we need a book about this? Shouldn't the Bible be enough to convince us to love our neighbor as ourselves?"
Sure. Maybe. But do you intentionally reach out to your neighbors to the extent that you probably should? I know I don't. So maybe I needed something like this after all.
One of their main points is a great one: We often misinterpret (or at least misapply) Luke 10:25-37. When a lawyer,seeking to justify himself, asked Jesus "who is my neighbor," Jesus responded by telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The takeaway is that everyone is my neighbor. Who am I called to love as I love myself? Everyone!
Well, that's all true, so far as it goes. But the argument Pathak & Runyon make is that if "everyone" is my neighbor, it can be easy to overlook those who are my actual neighbors, living in close proximity to me. And while Jesus' commandment to love "everyone" stands, the fact remains that I can't love "everyone" specifically; I can only demonstrate love to those I actually encounter. Since God has providentially placed me in a certain place and time, the authors argue compellingly that I have a special calling to love those He has placed near me in a specific, tangible, sacrificial way.
That's an important point, to be sure, and they build their case effectively, but it doesn't require a whole book to get that point across. The Art of Neighboring spends a couple short chapters establishing the "why" of being a good neighbor, but the bulk of this book is very practical. Pathak & Runyon lay out a very specific strategy for building relationships with your neighbors, and developing unity in your community.
One challenging concept which struck me as odd at first, but which I later grew to accept, is that "good neighboring" does not need to be—and sometimes definitely ought not to be—explicitly evangelical. That is, building genuine, loving, long term relationships with our neighbors does not require us to draw every conversation back to the Gospel. It's not that we should avoid talking about Jesus... more that we should trust that, as we build trust and camaraderie with someone, the Spirit will open doors to share the Gospel at times when our neighbors will be ready to receive it. I know I've turned people off in the past by hitting them so hard with the Gospel that I forgot to love them (that is the point of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, after all!), resulting in doors that became closed for building any kind of relationship.
Each chapter is genuinely helpful, though I often found myself skimming large sections. The biggest drawback is that this good book would have been a great book if it were about 80 pages shorter. The concept and the content are excellent, but the authors obviously had a word count quota that caused them to restate their points more often than necessary.
Still, this book is very unique, and very much worth your time. Grab your copy here....more
There is a lot to like about this book. The short (2-3 pages each) biographies of so ma2017 Reading Challenge - Book 31: A book about church history
There is a lot to like about this book. The short (2-3 pages each) biographies of so many different people makes each entry a quick easy read... pretty much an ideal "bathroom book". The timeline in the front of the book helps to place each historical figure in context. I learned a lot of interesting facts about some of the more obscure figures, and even a few new things about some men and women about whom I've read and studied much before. But that also leads to the book's weaknesses. It sometimes makes me nervous to "learn" new things about people I've studied before, particularly when nothing in the book has citations which would allow me to verify and learn more about those things which most interested me. Still, despite some shortcomings, this book will be a good reference book and introduction to history, and will come in handy in the homeschooling of our children, particularly as the Classical Conversations method which we use is so heavily dependent on timelines. It's no substitute for more scholarly and detailed works of Christian history, but is a great introductory book....more
I've always been a lover of Twain's writing. Years ago I gobbled up all his novels I coul2017 Reading Challenge - Book 30: A memoir or autobiography
I've always been a lover of Twain's writing. Years ago I gobbled up all his novels I could get my hands on, and later learned to love his satirical writing as well. But I'd never before read this account of his early life spent as a steamboat pilot navigating up and down the Mississippi River, which became the source material for a lot of what he wrote in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. While the writing is perhaps not as polished as his later work, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable read on a hot summer's day. ...more
Chalk this up as a book I definitely would have never read had it not been for my goal of reading m2017 Reading Challenge - Book 29: A graphic novel
Chalk this up as a book I definitely would have never read had it not been for my goal of reading more broadly by using the categories provided by Tim Challies in this year's reading challenge. Having never read (or even though about reading) a graphic novel, I didn't even know where to begin. When I googled "best graphic novels of all time", this one was near the top of every list I saw. I also learned it was the only graphic novel to have been included in TIME's 100 best novels of all time. When the blurb/endorsement on the cover from a prominent reviewer read "if you've never read a graphic novel, start here" I figured that was me, so I did. And while I can see why this book is so well regarded—Moore's character development is truly brilliant, and the story is very unique and well told—I can't say that I really enjoyed it. Not to take anything away from the enjoyment of others... it's just not my cup of tea. If this is the "best" the genre has to offer, I probably won't be spending much more time in the Graphic Novels section at McKay's....more
Nate and I are continuing to work our way through the Chronicles of Narnia this summer2017 Reading Challenge - Book 27: A book for children or teens
Nate and I are continuing to work our way through the Chronicles of Narnia this summer. It's such a joy to watch him learn to love these books that I've enjoyed so much over the years. Thus far, this has been his favorite book of the series, as it remains mine.
By the way, though the edition we're reading together (we LOVE this complete collection illustrated by Pauline Baynes) has the stories in chronological order (with The Magician's Nephew first), we're reading them in the order of publication, which I still stubbornly insist is the proper way to read them. ...more
Though I purchased this book more to be a resource volume on my shelf than anything else,2017 Reading Challenge — Book 24: A book by a female author
Though I purchased this book more to be a resource volume on my shelf than anything else, I did find it an enjoyable read. Cherry's opening chapter about what it means to be a "pastoral musician" was very good, and I appreciate very much the priority she gives to corporate singing throughout, as she lays out her "blueprints" for congregational engagement.
I found myself skimming this book far more than reading it closely, for a couple reasons. For one, it's very similar to a lot of other things in my library, and being familiar already with the concepts she was presenting as well as with most of the sources she was quoting meant there wasn't much new to process. Also, I often felt like chapters continued on long after she'd gotten her point across.
Still, the sections about the history and development of different types of songs used in worship services, and the appendix at the end designed to evaluate your church's "canon of songs" are the reason I bought the book, and will serve well as a resource, so I'm glad I added it to the collection. If you'd like to do the same, you can grab a copy here.
BONUS POINTS! I don't usually read a book's "Acknowledgements" section, but for some reason I glanced at that page in this one. Imagine my surprise seeing some folks in there from my little home town of Huntington, Indiana! Turns out Dr. Cherry is from Huntington, too. Small world!...more
This was an easy call for me. First of all, not knowing what the "ECPA bestselle2017 Reading Challenge — Book 22: A book on the ECPA bestseller list
This was an easy call for me. First of all, not knowing what the "ECPA bestseller list" was until I looked it up, I realized quickly that there wasn't much on that list that appealed to me at all. But my wife and I both enjoy watching "Fixer Upper" together, and since we were taking a trip down to central Texas, I thought this would serve as a fitting audiobook for our hours on the road.
It was a perfect choice. I love when books are read by the authors, and hearing Chip & Joanna tell their story in their own words and their own voices really made it come alive. It's a relatively short read, but a very enjoyable look into the lives of some genuinely good people. Get it here....more
This is a pretty tiny book (the cup of coffee I poured when I started reading was st2017 Reading Challenge — Book 23: A book recommended by a friend
This is a pretty tiny book (the cup of coffee I poured when I started reading was still warm when I finished), but may end up being my favorite of everything I read this year. It'll almost certainly be one of the few that I'll come back to over and over.
Austin Kleon is an artist from Austin, TX, and in Steal Like An Artist he asserts that what good artists do—that is, "stealing" as much as possible from as many influences as possible to shape one's own unique style—is a concept that can carry over into virtually any line of work. And while there are a number of people out there who have made the case that we are all a product of our influences, few have communicated this truth so compelling and creatively as Kleon.
The reality is that someone can "know" that's true, yet still feel bound by a desire to be "original" than can have a debilitating effect on creativity. I know, because I'm that guy. And that's why I'm so thankful to have been told to read this book, because it's definitely a game changer for me!
Kleon's 10 short chapters each present a different principle for developing creativity, and though it's a numbered list, it manages not to come across as a "how to" manual. Rather, it's a testimonial borne from experience, and an encouragement that these timeless principles (e.g., "Be Nice") really do work in the real world, and they really are things that don't apply only to artists. It's a book which manages to be both artistic and pragmatic... not an easy combination!
Anyway, I've already written a review that will take you half as long to read as the book itself, so stop reading this and go get the book!
"If we're free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and embrace influence instead of running away from it." ~ Austin Kleon...more
As I've been reading The Chronicles of Narnia with my oldest son, I thought it was the ri2017 Reading Challenge —Book 21: A biography of a Christian
As I've been reading The Chronicles of Narnia with my oldest son, I thought it was the right time to pick up a book that, to my shame, has been languishing on my to-read pile for far too long. The last several times I've read through either the Chronicles or The Lord of the Rings, I've tried to also read a book about the author to help provide familiar stories with new depth. Each time, I've gained greater insight and a greater love for these books.
This time was no different. Or rather, it was different, but in the sense that Leconte's approach comes from a very different direction than other materials I've read about either author, providing a perspective that has made an even greater impact on my enjoyment than I've encountered in the past.
From previous biographical material, I already knew that both Lewis and Tolkien had served in the trenches of the Great War. But Leconte, a descendant of a World War I combatant himself, does a masterful job of showing the great impact that their wartime experiences—in which each saw brutal combat, lost close friends, and spent time in military hospitals recuperating from serious illness (which killed far more people than weapons during the War)—had on their writing as well as on their friendship, which has been described by many as arguably the most important friendship of the 20th century.
The literature produced following the war was largely cynical, which was perhaps understandable given the fact that, astoundingly, about 5% of the world's population had died, thanks in large part to the 1918 outbreak of Spanish flu, which spread rapidly in the trenches and crossed oceans on troop ships. The Great War was seen not as a product of the philosophical and political climate—it was the age of progressive optimism in which eugenics and socialism were in; religion and social mores were out—which led to its inception and its mind-numbing disregard for the value of human life, but as one of the final nails in the coffin of Christianity, which claimed that a Good and Just God reigned over all Creation. After all, who could believe that there could be a loving Father in heaven after the carnage of those years?
Yet these two great friends and Oxford professors encouraged one another to counter this trend by writing stories of virtue and heroism, and of the ultimate triumph of good over evil, though it come at great—and often ultimate—cost. Because, remarkably, where nearly everyone else saw only violence and despair, these men saw exemples of integrity and courage, revealing a "deeper magic from before the dawn of time" that pointed to One far greater than the conflict in which they had found themselves.
Many of the characters in their stories are drawn from attributes they saw in the common British soldier during the Great War, and in some instances are based on specific men they had encountered (Sam Gamgee, for instance, was based on a particularly faithful batman Tolkien had met in the trenches). But the greatest influence that their battle experiences had on their writing was in the "big picture" themes present in their works: the corruption of world systems and powers; the failures of even the most noble characters, and the reliance of those characters on a Power outside themselves to overcome their own weaknesses; the idea that greatest real strength lies in the least likely, whether it be children, Hobbits, or hard-working, faithful, lower-class peasants fighting in the trenches in a truly senseless conflict.
Lewis once wrote that "any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people’s minds under cover of romance," and I know he was right. Literature, and particularly the fantasy genre in which both he and Tolkien excelled, provides a great vehicle for understanding the deep things of God which cannot be grasped from mere academic study. After all, God is the greatest storyteller of all, and has revealed Himself to us in a Story!
But after reading A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War, I have found that there are even greater riches to be found in these authors' fictional stories when those stories are placed within the context of the real story in which Lewis and Tolkien themselves took part, which is in turn a part of the great Story of God's redemption of the world, which is being written even now, and in which each of us plays a part. For truly, "all the world's a stage..."
I highly recommend this book, particularly for those who, like me, love to plumb the depths of Middle Earth and Narnia on a regular basis. You can get it here....more
Dr. Moore is a truly prophetic voice in our generation, and this is among his best w2017 Reading Challenge -- Book 25: A book about Christian living
Dr. Moore is a truly prophetic voice in our generation, and this is among his best work. As usual, his writing both challenges and convicts as he calls Christians to engage the culture winsomely but effectively. To do this, we must "keep Christianity strange," avoiding the temptation to become conformed to a world that is increasingly antagonistic toward our faith. But we must also avoid the opposite error of conflating the gospel with either social justice or political action. For many, the first introduction to the leader of our denomination's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission was his outspoken criticism of then-candidate Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. His rhetoric is often biting, and certainly a departure from that of the "Moral Majority" that defined conservative evangelical political activism for a generation. Yet every word he said during the campaign is consistent with what he had written in this book about the importance of character, integrity, and gospel clarity trumping (no pun intended) whatever social/political goals we may have. I, for one, believe that the trail Moore is blazing for the future of evangelical cultural engagement is exactly what we need to succeed in post-Christian America, despite the toes which may be stepped on along the way, and I highly recommend this book for all believers. Pick up your copy here....more
The first time I encountered the name Louis Zamperini was several years ago while2017 Reading Challenge - Book 26: A book about the second world war
The first time I encountered the name Louis Zamperini was several years ago while reading George Beverly Shea's 1968 autobiography Then Sings My Soul, in a list of notable converts from early Billy Graham crusades. This biography of the former Olympic athlete and Army Air Force veteran is one of the greatest stories I've ever read. Zamperini's life contained more than enough tragedy and suffering to break nearly anyone. He truly endured some of the worst depths of depravity of which mankind is capable, and yet emerged "unbroken" though not unscathed. While his sufferings took him to the brink of sanity, his encounter with the Gospel bought his redemption, and led to a long life, lived well. I understand the movie based on this book is excellent, though I've heard it downplays the religious elements of his story. I'll be checking that out soon, I hope. And I hope you'll check out this former #1 New York Times Bestseller here....more
This "inside account of what really happened in Benghazi" is a fascinating and excelle2017 Reading Challenge - Book 28: A book based on a true story
This "inside account of what really happened in Benghazi" is a fascinating and excellently written retelling of the events of September 11, 2012, at the U.S. diplomatic consulate and CIA Annex in northeastern Libya. While the CIA, the Obama administration, and the Hillary Clinton campaign have vehemently denied the veracity of this book, it definitely seems to have the ring of truth. Zuckoff cites many sources, nearly all of whom are decorated heroes who have gone on record stating their name and reputation on the testimony contained in this book, as well as in Congressional hearings. Their detractors don't exactly have the best track record when it comes to telling the truth, either... Regardless, it was an enjoyable read. I watched the movie as well, after finishing the book. As usual, I greatly preferred the book, though I did appreciate the visual reference of the appearance and layout of the compounds....more
I'm really torn on how to review this book. On the one hand, I found it an enjoyable read,2017 Reading Challenge — Book 19: A self-improvement book
I'm really torn on how to review this book. On the one hand, I found it an enjoyable read, full of fascinating anecdotes and interesting observations. On the other hand, I had hoped—based on its subtitle—the book would provide insight into how to increase in my ability to "think without thinking." Perhaps it's my fault for expecting something the author never really claims the book offers, or perhaps it's because I listened to an audiobook version of the book (which doesn't allow me to interact with the book in the margins), but I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed at the end.
That said, I do find the concept of "thin-slicing" to be quite intriguing. Quickly drawing accurate conclusions based on limited data is a skill I try to cultivate. And so it was with great interest that I listened to many stories about times when people have been able to do just that. Of particular relevance to me was Gladwell's exploration of the work of John Gottman, a renowned psychologist and therapist who specializes in relationship counseling. Gottman used thin-slicing to build a model with which he predict the long-term stability of a marriage after only a few minutes of observing a newly married couple. Skills like that have obvious applicability in the ministry, as in most walks of life.
But there are also inherent dangers in making snap judgments, something to which Gladwell devotes half the book. More often than not, decisions made quickly are decisions made rashly, and can lead to disastrous consequences. This point is made most poignantly in the recounting of the death of a man named Amadou Diallo, who was shot 41 times by police officers who believed him to be armed, dangerous, and pulling a gun on them. In reality, he was unarmed and terrified.
Most decisions we make are not literally life & death choices, but the point remains that "go with your gut" is rarely wise counsel. Gladwell offers many insights into the reasons that our gut instincts can be deceived, though again, this is accomplished through story-telling, without necessarily arriving at much of a "take away" for those seeking personal improvement.
Of course, that storytelling is quite engaging, and in this regard the audiobook (read by the author) particularly shines. If you approach this book from a standpoint of learning from a gifted researcher and storyteller, rather than as a "self-improvement" book, you're likely to be quite satisfied with Blink. Grab your copy here....more
First of all, let me comment on how grateful I am that Tim Ch2017 Reading Challenge — Book 20: A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with
First of all, let me comment on how grateful I am that Tim Challies has included this category on his reading challenge list. I know how important it is to read books that I know will challenge my own views, but I'm not always disciplined enough to actually do it. And as usual, I find that I have been sharpened in this pursuit as I read Aslan's biography of "Jesus of Nazareth" (who is contrasted throughout the book with "Jesus Christ, the Son of God"). Which, by the way, I do indeed disagree with, and strongly so.
But first, let me share what is commendable. The first of three sections in Zealot is devoted to the historical and religious context of the world in which Jesus lived. This section really is rather good, particularly his depiction of temple worship. This is an area of study in which scholars of many stripes—secular, Jewish, and Christian historians of both the theological right and left—are largely in agreement, and while this section reviews ground that's been thoroughly covered before, Aslan is a very gifted storyteller, and I found the way he "sets the stage" to be quite enjoyable, particularly in the audiobook version, read by the author himself.
Beyond that, however... I found his arguments to be both unoriginal and uncompelling. For the most part, he simply rehashes many of the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar, albeit in a more narrative fashion, sure to appeal far more to lay readers than the more academic writing of many mainstream biblical scholars. And though admittedly I approached the book skeptically from the beginning, I found his depiction of Jesus as a "zealous Galilean peasant and Jewish nationalist who donned the mantle of messiah and launched a foolhardy rebellion against the corrupt Temple priesthood and the vicious Roman occupation" to be based on a mountain of flawed premises and poor scholarship.
Typically, after firing shots like that, I'd back them up with supporting evidence, but sadly, time prohibits my doing that at this time. Perhaps at some later date when life slows down I can write a more thoughtful review, but for now let me point you toward some others who have done the heavy lifting already, and whose conclusions I echo:
2017 Reading Challenge — Book 16: A book on the current New York Times bestsellers list
This is a perfect example of a book making the bestseller list2017 Reading Challenge — Book 16: A book on the current New York Times bestsellers list
This is a perfect example of a book making the bestseller list based on an author's past history, rather than being there on its own merits. I haven't read all 31 of his novels, but this easily ranks as my least favorite of the dozen or so I have read.
The Whistler began with a lot of promise. A female lead character working for a little-known investigative entity called the Board of Judicial Conduct (which processes complaints filed against judges) was a premise that seemed to be a refreshing new approach to the genre of legal thrillers where Grisham has thrived best.
Unfortunately, this story lacked both the "thrill" that has been present in his best legal work, and the level of character development which has made his best non-thrillers equally riveting. While this may merit a trip to the library (where I reserved the copy I read) for hard-core Grisham fans, most everyone else will want to pass on this forgettable book....more
A friend of mine who runs a very successful Chik-Fil-A franchise has recommended this book fo2017 Reading Challenge — Book 15: A book about business
A friend of mine who runs a very successful Chik-Fil-A franchise has recommended this book for years as a way to revolutionize customer service. I'm glad I finally took the time to read it! I love Blanchard's notion that "satisfied customers" aren't enough (because, as C.S. Lewis agrees, we are far too easily satisfied). Raving fans—those who not only offer repeat business, but "rave" about a service or product to others—are what we ought to pursue.
The relatively short book is divided into three sections, clearly outlining a philosophy and process for establishing a culture of customer service which produces such fans. The book is widely applicable in business (examples in the book itself range from grocery markets to taxi drivers to giant corporations), but is also broadly relevant in my own "business" of church ministry.
While pastors and church leaders aren't marketing a product or service to consumers, we are working with people all the time, and so strategies for better serving, communicating with, and casting vision for customers often are also successful ministry strategies. I've been reading & researching a lot lately about guest relations/experience at churches, and found this book to be as helpful as anything I've read that is explicitly "ministry"-oriented. Grab your copy here....more
2017 Reading Challenge -- Book 14: A novel by an author you have never read before
Having seen and enjoyed several movies based on Crichton's books, I2017 Reading Challenge -- Book 14: A novel by an author you have never read before
Having seen and enjoyed several movies based on Crichton's books, I thought I might as well try out one of his novels. This one sounded intriguing, particularly the author's statement that it's the book he least wanted to write, and one which he felt could actually put his life in danger.
While I'm not sure about that last part, I can definitely see how he could face a lot of opposition because of the content of this novel. The characters (and Crichton himself, in an appendix that is well worth reading by itself) in this thriller challenge the status quo of "settled science" in the debate on global climate change. He writes a compelling and plausible story in which scientists and educators who dare to push back against the notion that man-caused global warming is a grave threat requiring massive government regulation & investment are ostracized and persecuted by peers, press, politicians, and celebrities.
While I wouldn't call it a great work of literature, the audiobook was an enjoyable distraction over a few weeks' worth of driving....more
2017 Reading Challenge - Book 12: A book of your choice
The Chronicles of Narnia are books I’ve read many times, but I’m more excited than ever to be r2017 Reading Challenge - Book 12: A book of your choice
The Chronicles of Narnia are books I’ve read many times, but I’m more excited than ever to be reading them now with my 7-year-old son. His eagerness to devour these books (he’s asked to start going to bed earlier so he can wake up earlier and read with me before his sisters wake up) makes my heart so glad! I love seeing my children learn to love the things I love, and having the opportunity to introduce such beloved characters and stories to him—seeing them for the “first time” again through his eyes—is a great blessing.
By the way, though the edition we're reading together (we LOVE this complete collection illustrated by Pauline Baynes) has the stories in chronological order (with The Magician's Nephew first), we're reading them in the order of publication, which I still stubbornly insist is the proper way to read them....more
2017 Reading Challenge -- Book 10: A book more than 100 years old
I’m a bit ashamed I hadn’t read this book before! I’ve seen several different movie a2017 Reading Challenge -- Book 10: A book more than 100 years old
I’m a bit ashamed I hadn’t read this book before! I’ve seen several different movie and stage adaptations, and read an abridged version many years ago, but this was my first time tackling the “real deal.” It’s so, so good! Not that I expected anything else. It’s one of the greatest stories ever told, and hopefully one I’ll have the opportunity to re-read several times in the future....more