Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review: When Lions Roar

Title: When Lions Roar By Thomas Maier When Lions Roar is a comprehensive history of the entwined lives of two major families of the 20th Century, the Churchills and the Kennedys, and how their relationship impacted the two countries they eventually led. The author begins in the mid-1930s at Chartwell, Winston Churchill's country estate, with new revelations surrounding a secret business deal orchestrated by Joseph P. Kennedy, the soon-to-be American ambassador to Great Britain and the father of future American president John F. Kennedy. From there, the author unfolds the story of these two powerful families, focusing on topics such as; World War II, spying, sexual infidelity, and the tragic deaths of JFK's sister Kathleen and his older brother Joe Jr, and Joe Kennedy’s influence on the legacy of both families. The author also explores the impact of Winston Churchill on JFK and American policy, and the historic significance this relationship has on both families and nations, especially American politics. This book is 724 pages with notes, so it is not a short read, but it keeps you engaged throughout. I enjoyed reading it. I would give it an “Excellent Read” and highly recommend it. It is a must for all history lovers.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Soul Keeping, by John Ortberg

Book review: Soul Keeping, by John Ortberg, thesis is that we are not the captains of our souls, we are only the keepers. The soul belongs to God, and we need to look after it. It is a gift – a loan. What is the soul? The soul encompasses all of us – body, mind, will. And, John Ortberg says that to have a healthy soul is to have an integrated soul where all these components work together. He reminds us that sin disintegrates us, which means the soul needs tending, caring for – not ignoring. It needs us to maintain a connection with God. The problem is that the culture and society we live in starves our souls of this connection. We are driven by hurry, the busyness, and the cares of the world, so much so that don’t want to face that deep, wounded part of us for which these are no balm. This is an excellent book. There are many thoughts within its pages which deserve mulling over. Flashes of honesty, vulnerability and humor. I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dataclysm: Who We Are*

Christian Rudder’s “Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking)” claims that, in order to understand racism, sexism and bias, we must look to the patterns in large numbers of individual instances. In this sense, the subtitle’s “We” is almost literal. For the first time, data about how individuals’ biases play out in spontaneous interactions is available for analysis on a massive scale. OkCupid, the online dating site of which Mr. Rudder is co-founder and president, alone has some five million users. This opens up all sorts of possibilities. Instead of asking people survey questions, he goes and looks at what actually happens when 100,000 white men and 100,000 black women interact in private.” Mr. Rudder used this evidence to explore the mathematics of human attraction, publishing the results on the site’s often provocative OkTrends blog. How many years does the camera flash add? Seven—compared with natural lighting, flash-lit photos causes the same drop in attractiveness rating as being seven years older. Do OkCupid users with higher average attractiveness ratings get more dates than users with lower average ratings but with more variance in the individual ratings they receive? OkCupid users whose photos got wildly different attractiveness ratings from different suitors went on just as many dates as those judged more uniformly appealing. In fact, Mr. Rudder found, the best strategy for getting dates was to play up one’s most polarizing feature (tattoos, odd hair), which produces more enthusiastic responses. “Dataclysm” emerges from the OkTrends blog as a more comprehensive discussion of the provocative results that Mr. Rudder and like-minded researchers in the social sciences and in tech are producing from this sort of data. The book is divided into three broad topics: sex and relationships; culture and politics; and the ways in which individuals identify themselves. Tidy questions about some of the most hotly debated topics are given straightforward answers that range from amusing to unsurprising to unpleasant. As a researcher, Mr. Rudder clearly possesses the statistical acumen to answer the questions he has posed so well. As a writer, he keeps the book moving while fully exploring each topic, revealing his graphs and charts with both explanatory and narrative skill. He offers explanations of what the data can and cannot tell us, why it is sufficient or insufficient to answer some question we may have and, if the latter is the case, what sufficient data would look like. He shows you, in short, how to think about data. He closes with a section reflecting on the risks and rewards that come with companies having free and open access to their users’ data. While “Dataclysm” aligns itself with user research, Mr. Rudder himself is associated, in the eyes of many users, with a more worrisome kind of user experimentation and commercialism. OkCupid is an ad-supported business, after all. “Dataclysm” may make an excellent case for the necessity of user data in social-science research, but it does little to justify experimentation on users. Interestingly, many questions addressed in the book didn’t require such experimentation to answer. The answers were already in the data; for better or worse, it was just a matter of looking.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Review, Satisfied by Jeff Manion

Satisfied by Jeff Manion In Satisfied, Jeff Manion address an issue prevalent in Western Society and one that plagues Christians, especially in North America, who either through growing salaries or growing credit card debt have made the accumulation of stuff the focus of their lives. Manion talks about the reality of the old saying, “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go,” and it’s destructive results. He starts with this quote, "We live in a consumer-driven, debt-ridden, advertisement saturated culture, and it will require nothing short of total transformation to adopt the heart and brain of Jesus." Manion spends the first part of the book talking about the concept of contentment and how we must learn to admire without having to acquire. To Manion, contentment is "the discipline of being fully alive to God and to others." Yes, it is easy to get caught up in the desire for more, but "if our goal is more, then whatever we have is not enough. He says, “It is like running a race where a finish line doesn't exist." It is easy to fall into this trap, where I fail to enjoy what I have because I obsess over what I lack and others have. This is a book on giving and finances, yet Manion doesn't focus on money-saving tips, choosing instead on helping us change our focus from ourselves and our money and things to enjoying God and serving others. I enjoyed the book, and its easy to read style.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Book Review: “One God, One Plan, One Life” by Max Lucado

“One God, One Plan, One Life” by Max Lucado “One God, One Plan, One Life” is a devotional for teens written by best selling author and pastor Max Lucado. Pastor Max’s premise is that life is hard, and today’s teens could use daily guidance and reassurance that God is with them. In this devotional book, Pastor Max offers teens a simple way to connect with God every day, through daily devotions. Each devotional addresses topics like; faith, love, and obedience, but also offer wisdom on topics that teens deal with, such as purity, alcohol and drug use, and self-image. Each day includes a short thought, an accompanying scripture, and a take-away application. Max stresses teens to trust in God and His plans for them and reminds the reader that God has and always will be faithful.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Steven Furtick's New Book

Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God’s Voice Above All Others Do you struggle with temptation? Do you struggle with weakness? In Crash the Chatterbox, Pastor Steven Furtick reminds us we don’t have to listen to the lies our society tells us. Truth is available to all who will listen. It is up to us to press ahead and pursue God’s will, even as we are bombarded with thoughts, feelings, and even facts about why you shouldn’t. Furtick believes we all can access the power of God’s promises to constantly crash the teachings our culture promotes. Furtick says that inside your head and heart is a chatterbox, and that its lies are keeping you from realizing your God-given potential. But what can you do about them? Furtick says the voice you listen to will determine the future you experience. For the rest of the book, Furtick lays out four areas in which negative thoughts are most debilitating: insecurity, fear, condemnation, and discouragement. He asks, “What great deeds are in danger of remaining undone in your life because of lies that were planted in your past or fears that are looming in your future?” and how to overcome them. Crash of the Chatterbox is only 219 pages long and is an easy, fun read, filled with personal stories, inspiring illustrations, and practical strategies that can lead you to a fulfilling life with God. I recommend it!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book Review: The Total Money Makeover

I just finished reading The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness, by Dave Ramsey. Ramsey is a well-known financial planner, who broadcasts his financial advice to millions each week on his radio program, The Dave Ramsey Show. His hook sounds something like this: “If you're making payments on your car, your furniture, your house and your credit cards, you're a typical American...and you're in trouble. If you're behind on your payments and see no earthly way to dig your way out of your miserable pit. You need help.” If you've never heard Dave on the radio or read his works, be prepared for his direct talk. He doesn't sugar coat his advice. He'll tell you what's smart and what's stupid. He won't tell you that the road out of debt is always easy. Read his book and you'll know very clearly where he stands. Ramsey gives a step-by-step approach to getting out of debt, saving and investing for the future. I have always gained something from Dave Ramsey’s books, and this one is no exception. Dave very clearly outlines a financial plan that is worth consideration. It can be summarized into five steps: Step 1: Save $1,000 as a Starter Emergency Fund. Add to it when possible to have 3-six months living expenses as your emergency fund. Step 2: Get rid of debt. Start the Debt Snowball until only mortgage remains. Step 3: Invest 15% of your Gross Income for Retirement (401K, Roth, and Traditional IRA). Step 4: Payoff Home Mortgage. Step 5: Save, save, save Do it and your financial life will be healthier!

Friday, July 26, 2013

New Post

For those of you who have not heard, I have relocated to the Midwest. My wife and I are now living in Illinois, in the Chicagoland area. I am now serving as the Vice-President for Administration for the Illinois Conference. Although we officially began July first, we are still in the midst of transition. ...and even though we are in transition still, I have spent this week at Camp Akita, the Illinois Conference camp. The first part of the week at pastors meetings, meeting and getting acquainted with many of the fabulous pastors here in Illinois. The second part of the week, family Camp Meeting. That's the update. Every week, I hope to share something that might be of help to you. Blessings!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Best Question Ever, by Andy Stanley

Book Review: “The Best Question Ever,” by Andy Stanley

What drew me to this book? One, I am a book lover, and two, I was intrigued by what could possibly be the best question ever. Was I disappointed? In a word, “Yes”.

The primary argument Stanley makes is that asking yourself this question will help you in making decisions, avoiding financial ruin, saving your marriage, sparing yourself from painful emotional scars, help you to never get caught up in addictive sin, and guide you toward the fulfillment of your dreams.

The problem is that all the answer were short clich├ęs and redundant platitudes. It couldn’t have taken him very long to write it, because he didn’t have much to say. In his defense, Stanley is usually a very good communicator. Not in this case. Another frustration is that it took Stanley until the third chapter to actually get to the question and it took three more chapters to develop the question to its final form.

My advice? Save your money…I’ll tell you the question… “What is the wise thing for me to do?” That’s it? Yep. So, it’s up to you to decide whether this is the BEST question ever. My feeling is that most of us know enough about the Bible and life to know what we ought to do. But so often we do otherwise. Maybe a better question is “What does it take for us to apply the things we know to do into our lives?”

Grace, by Max Lucado

Book review: Grace, by Max Lucado
I just finished reading the book, “Grace,” by Max Lucado. This is the 16th book I have read by Max Lucado and I have to rank it in the top three.

One of the things I appreciate most about Lucado’s books is his ability to teach, inspire, and uplift. His writing style is easy to read and follow, and is full of practical, everyday life stories that make sense to the average reader. If you are looking for a deep theological study of grace, this is not the book for you, but if you are looking for a devotional book, I would highly recommend this book.

Grace is the kind of book many people are interested in learning about and this book makes it easy to do so. I thought each chapter was packed full of things I could apply to my life.

This book would also serve well as a book for a small group study. At the end of each chapter, you will find a readers guide with weekly in depth study of the scriptures.. This is also a great book for giving as a gift to a friend who is searching for answers or open to the good News of Jesus and what he has done for us.

I hope this is helpful.

Revelation, part 4, "Open the Door"

Revelation, Part 4, "Open the Door" from Santa Rosa SDA on Vimeo.