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!