Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Flight Plan: Your Mission to Become a Man by Lee Burns and Braxton Brady

Lee Burns and Braxton Brady in Flight Plan: Your Mission to Become a Man welcomes boys into the adventure of becoming a man. Burns and Brady frame this adventure in word pictures of flight, using stories and examples of flight school, fighter pilots and other aviation allusions. They introduce boys to seven key virtues of manhood:
• The True Friend: Leave No Man Behind
• The Humble Hero: Develop a God Sized Vision
• The Servant Leader: I Am Third
• The Moral Motivator: Make a Difference
• The Bold Adventurer: Don’t Sit Around
• The Noble Knight: Called to Duty
• The Heart Patient: Give Up Control
This is followed by discussions of issues that boys will have to face in a virtuous way as they move into manhood. These topics including relationships, sex, drugs and alcohol, school, success and other issues boys are sure to need to address head on. Every chapter ends with a set of discussion/reflection questions that can help boys examine their own thoughts on the material.

My academic training is history. The old adage was we tell you what we are going to tell you, tell you and then tell you what we told you. Chapter 3 “Flight Pattern” seemed like a great tell them what you’re going to tell them chapter introducing the virtues of a man. Each one of those virtues deserves an in-depth examination. Instead the chapters that follow deal with issues facing boys and young men not further exploration of the seven virtues. Now the discussions of things like sex are frank and handled in a mature and non-demeaning way. But what is missing are strong ties back to the virtues like “The Noble Knight.”

How would I recommend using this book? First, it would be a good discussion piece between fathers and sons. The book would help break the ice on topics I would have loved to have discussed with my own father. I don’t remember my father in I having “the talk” or evening having a glancing conversation on issues like pornography. This book makes it so you can’t but not talk about those issues. It’s that blunt conversation that would make me questioning using the book in some settings as a small group resource. For a group of mature teens willing to engage in a serious conversation about these issues there could be benefits in going through this book in a group setting. But for younger and less mature boys, the use of the proper words for sexual organs will likely result in snickers and laughs. The authors suggest reading the book before age 12, which may work in their setting of a boys school. However, it may not work for every youth leader in their setting with that age group. And for a less mature, and maybe some mature adults, having conversations about sex, your body, or puberty with boys could be problematic.

Overall, this is a good book that outlines the issues that boys face today. The picture of the journey from boyhood to manhood as an adventure is engaging and accurate. And the use of airplane imagery will likely hook some boys reading the book. The best part of this book is it examines some difficult issues, but in a honest, Biblical and grace filled manner. And while some readers may cringe at these topics, transparency is the book’s true strength.

Review Copy Provided by The B&B Media Group, Inc.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Love & War: Find Your Way to Something Beautiful in Your Marriage by John & Stasi Eldredge

John and Stasi Eldredge in Love & War let their readers into a secret. Marriage is a battle, it’s more than a battle it’s a war and failure would be devastating. The Eldredges use their own marriage and those they have counseled to detail how this war for your marriage is taking place and strategies in order to win the day. The key principal that they teach is that a couple should include God in their relationship. Only by centering a marriage around God can a couple survive Satan’s attacks and attempts to rip the relationship apart. Additionally, it is only through God’s strength that a couple can overcome the damage caused by the hurts that each member of the partnership brings into the union. In the end, they argue that one of the most important things every marriage needs is healing, healing of the hurts done by others and by each other. They teach that healing can only come by forgiveness.

I went into this book a little apprehensive. I thought Wild at Heart very insightful but also not my typical preferred content. So I went into this book prepared not to enjoy it. Well, I was wrong. I love how the Eldredges focus on marriage as a story, but not just any story but an epic battle between good and evil for your marriage. I believe this imagery speaks to the heart of a man and is more effective in communicating truth than a 12 step self help fix your marriage book. And let’s be honest, it’s likely the husband and the wife that needs to be wooed into reading a book on marriage. Additionally, the chapters do move from topic to topic, but they don’t give us a checklist to fix a marriage but instead show how couples are attacked in different aspects of their marriage and how Jesus can be invited into that particular battle. I find their advice highly practical and realistic, feeling like advice from those that have reached a spiritually mature place in their marriage to those at the earlier steps. They are clear, your marriage will not be perfect, it will not be a fairy tale, it will have ups and down and they are not going to try to convince you otherwise just because you are a Christian. Speaking of realism, I found their discussion on sex honest, transparent and somewhat refreshing in seeing a Christian couple be honest about the need for sex and how they have been sexually disconnected at times and how they have reconnected. If asked today to recommend a book on marriage, I would wholeheartedly reach first for Love & War.

Review Copy Provided by WaterBrook Multnomah

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursing God by Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson in Wild Goose Chase attempts to guide us in chasing the Spirit of God, the Wild Goose. Batterson promises this chase is one that will be frustrating, scary but most of all an adventure that is worth it. Batterson pushes his readers to escape boring religion and replace it with an exciting journey. In order to free ourselves to chase the goose, Batterson reviews six cages that keep us from pursuing God. The cage of responsibility keeps us from chasing God because of the things we must do. The cage of routine keeps us from adventure due to habits that we have worked ourselves into. The cage of assumptions holds us back by the things we believe are true but may be false. The cage of guilt reminds us of our faults and keeps us from acting. The cage of failure keeps us from moving forward due to past mistakes and detours. And the cage of fear frustrates our need for chasing the Goose due to the terror of the chase. Once one overcomes these cages, one can live a life of adventure chasing God.

This is a book I have wanted to read for a few years. I love Batterson’s view of a relationship with God as an adventure. That language and word picture is highly attractive to me, a fan of action epics. Who doesn’t want to engage themselves in an adventure, an important adventure at that as one becomes open to the influence of God in their life? Overall, that’s an exciting proposition. And overall Wild Goose Chase is an enjoyable, easy to read book that reminds us that Christians are not called to boring mediocre lives. We were called for adventure. The only criticisms I can give are minor. I was hoping to get more from the book about the Holy Spirit, which is painted as the Wild Goose by the Celtic Christians Batterson cites. Instead, in my mind, it was best to thing of the Wild Goose for this book as a relationship with the Trinity and not the Holy Spirit alone. Additionally, some of Batterson’s stories were ones that I was familiar with. I’m assuming they were used in Primal or Soul Print which I have also read. But even if repetitive, I wish I had read this book before those two and enjoyed it more than his more recent books.