Thinking Out Loud

April 29, 2014

Book Review: Your Divine Fingerprint

Because of the readership this blog has gained over the years, review books now arrive unsolicited, many of which sit on my living room coffee table waiting for a break in my reading schedule. Such was the case with Your Divine Fingerprint: The Force That Makes You Unstoppable by Keith Craft which released on HarperOne back on October 1st in hardcover, and will release again in paperback on October 7th of this year.

Your Divine FingerprintSimply put, it was the right book at the right time. I started it midday yesterday and had consumed all 252 pages in record time.

Your Divine Fingerprint is first and foremost a motivational title. The author, Keith Craft is co-lead pastor with his wife Sheila of the non-denominational, but Charismatic-flavored Elevate Life Church in Frisco, Texas with a weekly attendance of 7,000; and was mentored by another motivational writer, Zig Ziglar and considers Joel Osteen a friend. The book walks a tightrope between the self-help genre and the business-leadership genre; though despite the use of scripture, there’s nothing expressly here that would fit the church-leadership category.

The premise of the book is that people are ultimately 99% the same and that the key to an effective life lies in finding that 1% that makes you unique and then exploiting that, according to this formula: Discover, develop and deploy.

This is a book which brings a Christian perspective to personal development but in such a way that you could be very comfortable sharing this book with a non-churched friend, relative, neighbor or co-worker who will benefit from the practical suggestions on every page.

November 15, 2010

The Effect of Pornography

Back in April 2008, when I posted a then-somewhat-current version of  The Pornography Effect online, I would make a point of promoting this resource on the blog on a monthly basis.

But then the blog took on a life of its own, and I got away from doing that, and in the meantime, we have many new readers here.

So here’s the deal:  The book is called The Pornography Effect: Understanding For the Wives, Mothers, Daughers, Sisters and Girlfriends. It’s a book for women — though it gets lots of male readers — who have some man in their life who is either internet-pornography-addicted or internet-pornography-affected.

It offers somewhat of a description of the kinds of things people are seeing online for people who don’t want to have to experience it firsthand.   It’s intended as a crisis resource; the original publisher we dealt with suggested it be sold shrink-wrapped in packages of four or five, and left on pastors’ desks to hand out to people dealing with the wake of addiction.

Three years since its writing, and two years since its posting online, I believe this resource is needed more now than ever.   I believe it says things that nobody else is saying on this particular topic.    And while I would re-write the entire thing today, it grieves me deeply that this book never found a publisher.   A real publisher.   Who could put the book in stores.   Real stores.

Two years ago, to make the material available, we took a blog, but posted the chapters in reverse order so that it would read more like a regular website.   The last shall be first in order that first shall be first.   Or something like that.     It gets hits daily — which is amazing —  but hasn’t been mentioned here at all for at least a year.

So if this topic is of interest to you, or someone you know, here is the first of two options:

The other option, if you don’t have 55 minutes; or aren’t dealing with this issue right now, but want to read more:

So often we hear of marriages ruined by one spouse’s internet addiction.   We heard about another one last week.   I believe this resource is simply one of many that can offer help and information.     Feel free to forward the link to the book, or copy and past the link to this very blog post.

January 29, 2010

Leaving Room in Your Schedule versus Just Saying No

The title of this post really highlights the difference in approach between two very popular books of the last decade, Margin by Richard Swenson and Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.    The former’s premise was that you needed to leave some ‘headroom’ or margin in your life, you can’t over commit or over schedule or overtax your energies.    The latter took the more bottom line “just say ‘no'” approach.

Boundaries totally outstripped Margin in sales, but this month, Richard Swenson is back with In Search of Balance:  Keys to a Stable Life (Navpress).    Since Nav doesn’t exactly do the book review thing with bloggers, here’s what their own marketing states about the title:

Most of us live lives of “quiet desperation,” as Henry David Thoreau put it, except we’re no longer so quiet about it. When exactly did “all stress, all the time” replace the “green pastures and still waters”? And what can we do about it? We try to manage all the details thrown our way, but we lack a sense of calm and steadiness at the center. Richard A. Swenson, MD, author of the best-selling book Margin, helps us understand the dangers of living in a post-balance world and gives us hope for recovering a foundational sense of equilibrium.

Dr. Swenson offers not only important organizing principles for making sense of our priorities but also scores of practical tips for finding rest and contentment in a world that emphasizes materialism and busyness. His advice is grounded in the daily realities we all experience, but his wisdom has been honed by the big-picture perspective of an exhaustive study of the stresses of modern life.

December 23, 2009

Regrets? I Have a Few

I never thought Frank Sinatra lyrics were cool until a youth ministry friend of ours decided to open each session of a retreat weekend with “Regrets?  I have a few.”     I can’t remember how he related this to the topic, but as 2009 draws to a close, I know that I have regrets, and it would be nice to live regret-free in 2010.   How about you?   Anything from this year you’d like to be able to do over?   Rewind the tape and play out a particular scene differently?

I don’t spend a lot of time in the self-help section of bookstores.   (I can just hear my acquaintances saying, “Ah! That explains it…”)    I haven’t read Boundaries and my bookmark is still firmly set somewhere in the middle of Purpose Driven Life.   But I was drawn to the title of Stephen Arterburn’s Regret Free Living.

My only previous experience with Arterburn’s writing was a very cursory reading of Every Man’s Battle, which was — typical of books in the broader psychology genre — very much based on anecdotal accounts.  Regret Free uses stories as well, but I felt that these were used as a springboard for a larger discussion, and I can’t think of a better word than ‘discussion’ to describe the nature and tone of this book.

While we all struggle in different areas of relational dynamics — some of us more than others — the book’s forté has to do with the interpersonal dynamics of marriage and family life.   I’m not sure however that a single person would find as much benefit, or someone thinking the book might deal with the relational dynamics in the workplace, or even regrets caused by poor decision making.

The more I read, the more I realized how foreign this type of Christian prose is to my reading experience.    Still there were some things that really stood out.    Here’s a snapshot:

When you’re thinking about regrets, just remember:  You’re guilty and not guilty.  Guilty for making whatever bad decision you did, not guilty for the factors that influenced you to make that bad decision.

And never forget that, in the final analysis, you don’t have to feel guilty at all.   None of us ever does, once we’ve been completely forgiven — and Jesus Christ offers full forgiveness to any and all who come to him with a truly repentant heart.   (p. 175)

As this passage suggests, the book is solidly aimed at the Christian market or those who are investigating the Christian faith.    Each chapter contains relevant scripture citations that could make this easily the basis for a 13-week small group study.   Small group questions are not provided however, nor are there any footnotes or bibliographic notes; copyright info on any quotations are embedded right in the text.  I think that’s an attempt to make the book less intimidating.

Some of the ideas that stuck with me from the later chapters included the idea of having a “Life Check” which would work like “Spell Check” on your computer.    (Sounds good.  Where do I sign up for that?)   Or introducing  the different aspects to what we call “time;”  chronos and kairos.  (You know the first one every time you check the time in the corner of the computer you’re reading this on.   You want to get to know the second better; the experience of being in the moment.)

However, I’ve got to say that at times I felt like the book was a little slow in moving on to the next point.   Like maybe someone handed in a 40,000 word essay but the professor demanded 10,000 words more, so they filled it out.      I think part of that may be my fault, because I wasn’t reading the book out of direct need, but merely as a book to review.   For someone going through the pain of regret, some of the counsel of this book may be just what the doctor ordered.

Regrets?  I have a few.   I read books like this one and always remember that there will always be someone for whom this will be the first Christian book they have ever read. I then try to assess the book on that basis, and in this case, the joining of recognizable  stories,  logical analysis, solid advice and related scriptures passes that first book test with flying colors.

The full title is Regret Free Living:  Hope for Past Mistakes and Freedom from Unhealthy Patterns by Stephen Arterburn with John Shore.  (Bethany House Publishers, 2009; 231 pages, hardcover $17.99 US) Also available on Oasis Audio CDs read by the author ($25.99 US).

April 14, 2009

The Traveler’s Gift: A Gift to Our Economic Climate

travelers-giftAlthough written in 2002, The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews begins with a story that seems to be pulled from last week’s evening newscasts.    The man in the story is unemployed, their daughter needs surgery, they’re not covered by a medical plan.    This story seems so much more 2008-2009.    Is that prophetic?

Also, although written in 2002, the book bears a resemblance to last year’s Christian bestseller, where again, a fictional premise is used as a premise to introduce a large quantity of teaching; what could be termed Socratic dialog.  In other words, this is a self-help book written as fiction, and as such very similar to David Gregory’s Dinner With a Perfect Stranger.

And like the Gregory title, this book is a prime prospect for men — both in terms of length and content — a characteristic probably shared with the new Andy Andrews book The Noticer, releasing at the end of the month.

The book revolves around David Ponder, a husband and father who finds himself as a traveler on a time-travel adventure which includes seven stops.   Each one involves interaction with a historical character who teaches him one of seven principles.    Unfortunately for my British, Australian and Canadian readers, I have to mention that three of these are figures from American history.   Perhaps that was unavoidable, or maybe it’s just my need to reconcile with the fact that the Christian book market is the U.S. market.

The principles are good, solid, self-help principles that you can expect to find in the psychology section of any bookstore.    They are however, not solely Christian principles, to the point where it begs the question, ‘Is this a Christian book at all?’   (Those with longer memories will sense the echo of the question from the ’70s and ’80s, ‘What makes a CD or a cassette Christian?’)

The result reminds me of what one might come to expect from a book by Robert Schuller — either Jr. or Sr. — and certainly those who criticize the lack of Christology in some Christian publishing would have sufficient ammunition with this title, should it ever cross their path at all.

I read it in preparation for reviewing The Noticer, which a number of bloggers are all reviewing on the same day, April 27th.   That book just arrived yesterday.    It will be interesting to see if the Christian connection or Biblical connection in that title, published some seven years later, is more or less apparent.

If you know someone for whom the present economy has truly taken the wind out of their sails, this is a good bet.    If you’re looking for something that takes an albeit contrived fictional premise and uses it to stimulate theological thought, then consider the David Gregory title or that bestseller from the last year that everybody’s talking about.

Note: If we mention that “other book” by name, it will be picked up in the web crawl, and so strong are opinions on it that we’ll have to close comments on this post. So we just didn’t mention it.

December 3, 2008

The Total Money Makeover Scam

Filed under: Christianity, economics — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:03 pm

dave-ramsey1Each day, I access data from Ingram International which tells me which books did the best in their Spring Arbor division, the Christian book side of the company.   On Tuesday (12/2) the book Total Money Makeover finished 5th for the day; one if its better showings.

It just occurred to me that in today’s economy, at $24.95 hardcover, the only financial crisis this book is aiding might be the author’s own.  Though published in 2003, there is still no scheduled paperback

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