Thursday, April 28, 2011

To Be Perfectly Honest: One Man’s Year of Almost Living Truthfully Could Change Your Life. No Lie by Phil Callaway

Phil Callaway in To Be Perfectly Honest documents a year of his life and his attempt to avoid lying. The book is a journal of his life for a year, day by day, in his attempt to live entirely truthfully. He records his daily happenings and feelings about the activities of his days. He is “honest” with his readers on his views of faith, relationships and Pac-Man. The journal is a chronicle of a year in which Callaway interacted with Christians and non-Christians, dealt with financial scams, and experienced the death of his mother. At the end of each chapter Callaway presents an honest confession based on his observations for the last month. The book concludes with a discussion guide for use with small groups.

When I agreed to review this book, I was looking for something different than what I typically read. I honestly was trying to seek out a humorous book. And Callaway has plenty of amusing stories and observations, though I honestly, okay I’m going to use honest and truth as much as possible in this review, never had a full out belly laugh. Callaway is very truthful with his reader about how situations made him feel and his opinions on what occurred. He does not hide that he would rather be playing and reaching new high scores in Pac-Man instead of reading his Bible, as a good man of God should. He provides us honest impressions of his interactions with other Christians and how we have failed, he is a reformed Pharisee in his own words. So I do believe this is a very transparent reflection of a man of faith and provides us a window to Callaway’s mind a man honestly seeking to follow Jesus. However, I don’t believe it delivers as a summary of an experiment of truth. Callaway does mention his truth project, but he is not always 100% truthful. For example he has an email exchange with Nigerian scammers where he gives the impression that he wishes to participate in the scammers request. He provides an explanation of why this allowable, but he is not 100 percent truthful. Also when reading the summary of the book I was thinking of a text along the lines of A.J. Jacobs The Year of Living Biblically a book where Jacobs documents his own extreme social experiment. That book delivers due to Jacobs’ review of what his year did to him. It’s especially highly engaging since Jacobs is not a man of faith. Basically I was hoping there was a more in-depth explanation of what his experiment meant to him than the five pages provided from a position closer to my own worldview. I could have taken from this text the same lessons and reflections on a Christian life without the addition of a year of living in truth. And that’s my honest take on this book. I wouldn’t lie to you.

Review Copy Provided by WaterBrook Multnomah

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Daddy Dates: Four Daughters, One Clueless Dad, and His Quest to Win Their Hearts by Greg Wright

Greg Wright has been asked by lots of other dads, how did you get such a good relationship with your daughters? Wright explains his journey to better relating to his four daughters in Daddy Dates. As a father of four girls, Wright came to the realization that he was struggling as a dad. In reflecting, and trying to be logical and planful, to overcome this problem, Wright developed a mission statement, “Don’t Screw Up.” He realized as he considered his relationships that as a teenager he was an expert dater and that in dating a man, or boy, seeks to know more about the female he is pursuing. So Wright, relying on past successes decided to date his daughters. He outlines his rules for daddy dates, the rationale behind some of his choices around daddy dates and how daddy dates have changed as his daughters have grown older. One of the keys to daddy dates is Wright teaching his daughters how they should be treated by the young men that eventually will pursue them romantically. Wright calls his daughters on the phone to make dates, which they can refuse, picks them up at home and shows them the courtesies that any father would want a young man to give their daughter. He is even know to dress up for their time together. In the end, Wright does not claim to have all the answers, in fact he notes he is still learning. Wright makes it clear that daddy dates are about interacting with his daughters so he can learn more about them while also sharing life lessons. A daddy date where no conversation has occurred is a failure.

This book is short and easy to read. As a father of a young girl the topic instantly had me hooked. What dad doesn’t want to get advice from another dad, especially one that has established solid relationships with his girls. Additionally, the book has led to discussion within my house. My wife and I have discussed daddy dates in detail as I read the book. These conversations went beyond the daddy date concept but grew to include how we would like our daughter to learn self respect and what she should expect from boys. Not everything Wright proposes may be for every family. In Wright’s house romantic dating is not allowed, it is daddy’s turn to date his girls others can date his daughters later. For my family that is an issue that we have not made a decision on. But again, it’s very beneficial to see another couple’s rationale for that decision and how they have implemented it in their own home. Regardless your opinion of daddy dating, this book definitely sparks discussion amongst parents.

Review Copy Provided by Thomas Nelson

Monday, April 18, 2011

Max on Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions by Max Lucado

Max Lucado in Max on Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions answers the tough questions that many seeking and those who have found God struggle with. Lucado answers 172 questions in one to two page responses in seven thematic sections that include, “Hope”, “Hurt” and “Hereafter.” The questions are a wide range including forgiving others, grief, salvation, parenting and the afterlife. The topics are as diverse as the questions that pastors receive in their day to day work.

Okay, I have to admit it. In the past I have not been a fan of Lucado’s “recycled” writings. Most of this has been due to poor editing or the clear reuse of past material. Lucado informs his reader that some of the responses do in fact come from past writings, though it is only explicitly called out twice that the response came from a past book. However, in Max on Life, the editing works well. The responses really do read like responses to questions. It does not feel like you are reading a copy and paste from other writings. You can easily see Lucado sitting down and writing these out at his desk as a reply to real letters. As always Lucado’s writing is highly accessible and easy to read. If anything, I find myself chuckling as I read some of the responses on heaven and hell, which includes Lucado stating that we would find in heaven many who had not heard the name of Jesus until they awoke to eternity and that people put themselves in hell through their own choices. Though I agree with these responses and see them as highly orthodox, I wonder if this book had been named Rob Bell on Life if Lucado’s views on heaven and hell would have been more heavily debated and criticized. Overall Max on Life is a decent read filled with solid advice and spiritual guidance. Review Copy Provided by Thomas Nelson

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Final Summit: A Quest to Find the One Principle that Will Save Humanity by Andy Andrews

Andy Andrews in The Final Summit continues the story of Traveler David Ponder from The Traveler’s Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success. Ponder has used the wisdom he gathered as a Traveler well. He has built a successful business, loved well and is loved by those who work for him. He used the seven decisions to not only put his life on track but to overcome a business failure later in life. But Ponder is depressed and alone. In this moment of sadness the Archangel Gabriel returns to Ponder calling him to the Final Summit, a gathering of all the Travelers across history. Ponder as the final and the only Traveler from this time leads the summit in which they must use their collective wisdom to provide the two word answer that would return humanity to the pathway that will allow us to be a successful civilization. If Ponder and the Travelers assigned to aid him are unable to provide the answer, humankind will be destroyed. To find the answer, the Travelers discuss and debate the attributes of mankind that need to be developed in order to return to the proper pathway.

Once again Andrews shows himself to be a master storyteller. At times The Final Summit makes one think they are reading a light science fiction book and not a self-help offering. Andrews also does a great job uncovering overlooked historical events and figures. In this case one of the five Travelers assigned to struggle over the answer with Ponder is a completely unknown World War II figure whose wartime actions really should be celebrated and studied more in history books then we currently do. The Travelers appearing in the book include old friends from The Traveler’s Gift but also new historical figures. The reader begins to speculate who is “in the room” at the final summit. A personal favorite of mine was Fred Rogers! The Travelers work through several answers to the question and discuss in depth how each would personally and collectively benefit mankind. Some of those responses do seem to parallel the Seven Decisions. Overall this is good book which Andrews’ fans will be very satisfied with. The only complaint I have is at the beginning of the book Andrews introduces us to characters who have been impacted by Ponder’s life. It would have more satisfying conclusion if those characters could have been revisited so we could observe how they were impacted by the summit. Review Copy Provided by Thomas Nelson

Friday, April 1, 2011

Best Parenting Advice Ever?

Recently I asked “what is the best advice you have ever received about parenting?”

I got some great answers,

  • Listen to your kids, but don’t listen to their words. Instead, learn what they need by how they act and respond to you.
  • You better have a good reason to say NO. Because if you don’t, then you can say YES.
  • Say what you mean, mean what you say.

I love seeing that parents I know are attentive, realistic and let their kids make choices so they can learn from them. Anyone of these pieces of advice could easily be one of the best pieces of parenting advice I’ve ever received. In fact, I may steal them…I mean recycle.

For my family the best parenting advice I ever received was, “Enjoy your kids where they are at.” When I first got this advice during my wife’s pregnancy it really did not make a lot of sense to me. Then my little baby girl began to grow, become more independent, became at times purposely defiant, basically she changed. I don’t sing to her the same songs now that I did when she was two. And, I’m never going to get that back, no matter how I try. At this point I have pictures, videos and at time hazy memories but that little girl is never coming back. She will never need me to carry her around, she will never coo at the simplest things again, she will never again be completely dependent on her mother and me. Luckily, since I was given this piece of advice, I made sure to enjoy my little girl as a newborn, age 2, age 5, today and hopefully tomorrow.

When our second child came, we were really aware of enjoy them where they are at. But will still have to remind ourselves to follow this advice. With a second child and knowing what is to come, often we project him to where he will be and not where he is at. Sometimes I ask, how much easier will life without (cups, diapers, strollers and etc) be? In the end, I have to remember to not run past one time of his life into the next. I need to enjoy him where he is at. Today is not going to get a repeat in the future.

In 1965, the band The Byrds reminded us of the fact that things change in their song “Turn, Turn, Turn” and that there is a season for all things. Or actually, this advice can be found in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. “The teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem,” in this wisdom book doesn’t mince words and brings forth some hard realities. The fact that things change is somewhat the teacher makes very clear.

“There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace (NIV, Ecc 3:1-8)”.

Please allow me to rephrase the teacher for today’s parents.

There is a time for diapers and a time for undies.

There is a time for bottles and a time for silverware.

There is a time for dependence and a time for independence.

There is a time for VeggieTales and a time for Star Wars (disclaimer, it is possible to make these occur in the same season.)

There is a time for every stage of your child’s development from birth until they move out.

So, make sure to enjoy them where they are at. Tasks and errands will probably wait, your kids will not.