BOOK REVIEW: The Mentor Leader, by Tony Dungy

In my second review of a Tony Dungy book, The Mentor Leader, takes a focused approach to the valuable attributes of a mentor leader.  Looking at eight different sides of this unique approach to leadership, Tony makes the case for a very humble style of leadership, while citing stories from various heroes of the football arena.  Most of the stories are found here, so the application takes some stretching for women, mothers or anyone not involved or interested in football.  Yet I did find it an interesting read, with valuable points to share.  The very servant-esque element of his approach is probably what I related to most, and the stories were a bonus.  For example, “If you do it right, as a mentor leader you may make it all but impossible for other people to give you credit.”  Amazing.  He even argues that character (off the field especially) matters, in contributing to your personal, leadership and team’s success.  Refreshing.

Each chapter is concluded with several thought-provoking questions, or action points to make the learning process functional.

I would recommend this book to a very-sports-oriented team player, and aspiring leader to bring Tony’s perspective home.

This review was completed with a library copy, for the Tyndale Summer Reading Program, which you can join also!

RESOURCES:

Tony Dungy website

bio

podcast

blog

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BOOK REVIEW: The Cause Within You, Finding the One Great Thing You Were Created to do in This World, by Matthew Barnett, with George Barna

I chose  The Cause Within You for it’s title in the Tyndale Summer Reading Program, and was fascinated by the stories Matthew Barnett tells of his visionary downtown Dream Center in Los Angeles.  Recounting stories of hope, healing and restoration, while reaching out to the ‘untouchables’ of our culture in south central L.A., Matthew weaves a hopeful slice of encouragement onto my plate today.  I had expected a 10-step book, or at least some practical suggestions, given the title, but that was not to be.  Rather than be discouraged, it was astounding to hear of the self-sacrifice he and many of his congregation had made to serve their community. I particularly liked the insistence he had that service to Jesus must come quickly, steadily, and solidly into the lives of others – waiting for long planning, or committee meetings is not how Jesus did it, nor should we.  He quotes Nike’s favorite slogan as an impetus to their response to ideas, and given the book, stories and web-site I reviewed, it seems to be working.  He appears to be a modern day St. Francis of Assisi – complete with Twitter feed and Facebook page.  I wouldn’t knock it – when the church gets practical, God is preached.  Many times, more effectively than any amount of theology could explain.  This book was enjoyable, easy to read and encouraging.  It inspires practical attempts to live out faith in your world, your city, your home.

This review was completed for the Tyndale Summer Reading Program – you can join also!  I found the copy at the library (no free book today!)

Resources:

Matthew Barnett bio

Dream Center 

BOOK REVIEW: Unstuck: Your Life. God’s design. Real Change, by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross

Written for the Christian whose faith seems stagnant, Unstuck, by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross attempts to reach a very select audience.  Citing extensive research, a three-step plan for breaking out of a faith rut is written by two men who are part of the Back To the Bible ministry.  Further, the endorsement of Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, is featured prominently on the cover and first pages of this book.

But even with all that, the book felt flat.  While I agreed in principle that the Bible, and engaging in study of it, is a vital means for revitalization of life, faith and relationships, this book did not inspire me in the execution of it.  Part one focused on the deadness: burnout, busyness, and the research behind suggesting the Bible was meant to combat these struggles.  I didn’t need a book to explain the research, in fact, if I had picked this up at a bookstore, it would have been because I wanted to get unstuck.  So Part two    described the process of the “Power of Four:” time with God, refreshed thru the Bible, recharged by it, and having a 2-way connection with Him.  Part three applied this process to personal experience.

The book extensively relies on, quotes from, and refers to research.  Just from my daily glance at Google news, I have become very skeptical of ‘research’ and while this may be the most researched method on the planet – it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know before I picked up the book.  While I think the authors meant to simply establish their credibility, it made the book feel like required textbook reading, rather than an encouraging walk with a friend.  After reviewing so many of this genre of books, I am partial to those who do have a plan (this one is 45 days), but am cynical about research.  I am further cynical when chapter one is titled “Confessions of a Spiritual Loser,” as that just doesnt smack of the charisma needed to get me ‘unstuck’ from my current hang-up.  While I don’t want Tammy Fay Baker to smile at me from each page, simple honesty goes far with me.  The author’s story of his return to faith was moving, yet his continual use of this title suggested a lack of insight to me.  Leaving the faith, or lonely in the faith, is not a loser – it is a lost and hurting person out of touch with his Saviour.  And no research will help.  The 45 day plan might, but I found the Scripture suggested and questions to be unconnected at best, and left me with more questions when finished.  This would be very frustrating if read alone.  In a group, it might work.  (Where’s the research on that?)

On the flip side, the web site (gotandem.com)suggested in each chapter as a resource for further follow up, seemed well-done, engaging, and clear: daily Scripture delivered at your specified times, for the purpose of continual growth.  The authors did not cite the research involved in the creation of the web-site’s name, a story I would be curious to hear.  I would simply skip the entire book, and go to the site: the author’s stated purpose would be fulfilled (you would be getting into a lot of Scripture, in timely doses), and not have to wade thru pages of research and ineffective counsel on the very deep woes that bog down believers.

From personal experience, in the addictions, hangups and sins that enslave, being told to ‘read more Scripture’ or ‘go to church more’ simply angers – because it shows a lack of understanding of the enslavement.  A slave is not free to simply do those easy things: it is foreign, untrusted and means nothing.  Only when the enslaved reaches bottom, cries out to the Saviour, and has counsel and accountability is change possible.  No amount of reading or attending works when internally, the message can’t change, and the reader cant ‘hear’ what is being said.  That’s where this book misses the mark: it is written without concern for the audience.  Stuck people don’t want research, they want help.  Coating the help in statistics makes it that much more ineffective.  This would be the equivalent of a researcher extolling the numbers of hungry, the value of a sandwich to a homeless man on the street: just give him a sandwich for crying out loud, and keep your research!  Give him a hug, a shower, a smile – anything but this tome of boring (if well-meaning)facts.

In comparison, it is no surprise to me that The Purpose-Driven Life is a bestseller.  Read it instead, and the resources there are far more apt.

This review is in return for the copy of the book Bethany House provided me.  My opinions are my own.  No surprise there!

Resources:

Arnie Cole

Michael Ross

Back to the Bible

BOOK REVIEW: Chasing the Sun, by Tracie Peterson

Tracie Peterson’s latest novel (of more than 90), Chasing the Sun, is based on a remote Texas ranch during the Civil War.  Beautiful Hannah Dandridge is orphaned on a large ranch with two younger siblings to care for, when she discovers that the ranch may not legally be hers.  Conveniently, the guaranteed-handsome William, (son of the previous owner) returns, and initiates flying sparks and fluttering lashes, and a generous slap of Baptist belief and pat Scripture application.  Complete with Comanche warriors, a smattering of Spanish phrases, and a growling geezer as William’s rival, it competes with a Pop-Tart for my attention.

If this is as good as it gets after writing 90-plus novels, it proves that anyone can write.  Thank you, Tracie, for dispelling my fears.

The plot was predictable, the characters uninspired, (yet quoting Scripture right and left), and the ending so pat I expected to hear the echo of “Ole’!” in the background.

One scene gave me the desire to respond with a “ROTFL”: Hannah has just approached  a Comanche warrior to make the gesture of peace, which is granted due to her recent display of excellent nursing skills on the son of the Chief, when William interrupts her.

“She tried not to notice how his rather disheveled appearance only served to draw her attention.  His brown hair seemed a little more wavy than usual, and the top of his bib shirt was unbuttoned and folded back to reveal a hint of dark chest hair.  She looked away quickly, lest her thoughts betray her.”

The few women I have known who would have been capable of presenting the Gospel to a Comanche warrior in full battle dress (Mother Theresa?  Corrie Ten Boom?), would not have had the slightest interest in chest hairs, attached or otherwise.  I also found it irritating that Hannah is not the least bit attracted to the son of the Chief, but perhaps he was lacking in chest hair.

I give this paperback one star: for being written in passable English, and assisting in bonfire-production (the cover makes pretty colors!)  If this is what sentimental Christian women are choosing to read, then the Enemy has already won.  On a more serious note: for a commendable alternative, with edgy plot and insightful characters, I would suggest any work by Francine Rivers, or Lois Henderson.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers, for kindling: I enjoyed my roast.  (Translation: my  unvarnished, uninhibited and generally negative review is in trade for the receipt of this book).

Resources:

Tracie Peterson

Tracie’s writing tips (oh, goody!)

Texas (just thought you might need a little of the real thing)

BOOK REVIEW: As One Devil to Another, Richard Platt with giveaway!

In a great compliment of imitation, Richard Platt has written the satirical As One Devil To Another.  C.S. Lewis would be pleased, I believe, to see the continuation of his ‘devilish’ style, in which more modern allusions are presented as instruments of evil towards “the humans,” and the hierarchy of fiends is set in academia.

Written from the perspective of Uncle and Mentor, Slashreap, in friendly letters to his newly graduated nephew Scardagger, instructing him in the arts of “acquiring the soul of your first client for His Infernal Majesty,” it follows the various methods and tools used to turn the heart of a young agnostic away from faith.  Following her growth is a secondary theme, while the first (that of guiding Scardagger in the use of his recently aquired training at Temptation University) brings up many examples of twisted thinking.  For example:

“Lassitude is a kind of Hellish Inertia.  We convince our clients that the Way of the Adversary is too hard, or better still, impossible, without ever allowing them to try it.  Hard it certainly is.  The Adversary makes no secret of it.  But the dangerous truth is that He promises to help them.”

In such a manner, all sorts of topics are reviewed for the nephew’s training & instruction in fiendishness, while the young client continues her path, blissfully unaware of the Heavenly battle raging around her.  A twist in the final plot gave me delight, while the entire book was so compelling I finished it in one sitting.  I will keep the copy though – it begs to be re-read, shared and quoted.  I found it stimulated my thinking, providing a fresh warning (against lassitude, among other temptations!), and clever reminders of the seriousness of our walk here on earth.  While the book is fiction, and has no resemblance to the frantic pace of Peretti’s book, Piercing the Darkness, it is a strong guard against insipid faith.

I highly recommend this book, and am grateful for the opportunity of writing this review for Tyndale in return for my copy.

GIVEAWAY:

Simply write a comment, and I will send you a certificate for a free copy of this excellent book!  Thank you for reading!

Further Resources:

Richard Platt

C. S. Lewis

Screwtape Letters

BOOK REVIEW: God Loves Broken People, (and those who pretend they’re not), by Sheila Walsh

Sheila Walsh, who needs little introduction, begins this engaging book with the statement: “If I could write one book in my lifetime, I would ask God to make it this one, the very book you hold in your hands.”   The book is not only available, it is written with the best in her.  She writes real encouragement for life’s trials, in embracing the love He offers us in and through them.

Offering healing from life’s very real hurts, her stories span from the 2 Theresa’s: Mother Theresa and Theresa of Avelioux, Bonhoeffer, and other assorted saints and Biblical figures – some expected, some surprising in their offerings, as well as stories from her friends.  The mingling of story and Scripture brings refreshing glimpses of hope into old tales, making them applicable and comforting.  Her recurring themes of love, forgiveness, hope and grace resound.

An example from chapter 6: “What can I know for sure?  Three rock-solid truths to keep you standing, whatever happens,” she offers first, Nothing surprises God, second, therefore, you can trust Him in your pain, and thirdly, Nothing separates you from God’s love.

I appreciated her breezy, yet truthful style; the fact the study guide is at the back, not interrupting my read with boxed questions, and her vulnerability in sharing her own personal story thru this book.  Thank you, Sheila, for writing your book of a lifetime.  It seems God took you at your word.

Resources for further study:

Sheila Walsh, bio

other works

blog

My thanks to Booksneeze, for allowing me an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.  It was a pleasure, as always to review new content: and you can join too!  Click the Booksneeze button on your right…

BOOK REVIEW: My Own Worst Enemy: How to Stop Holding Yourself Back, by Janet Davis

Weaving a vulnerable re-telling of her personal story with ancient Biblical examples, Janet Davis brings a fresh and optimistic perspective to the struggle of self-sabotage.  My Own Worst Enemy is a daring look into our darker areas of shame, unworth, sadness, and fear, while exuding hope on each page.  Such a juxtaposition deserves praise, but the writer is not self-seeking, one rather senses she would be just as happy to have you sit down for coffee with her, and tell your story of growth and healing.  I love stories, and the successful weaving of old favorites with new provides much to glean from.  Janet summarizes the need for this book: “the dynamic of being our own worst enemies carries with it an inherent self-containment and great temptation for isolation.”  This, I easily resonated with.  Each chapter (and even the titles cause one to ponder) begins with a “consideration question,” which stirs the thoughts well before she has delved into her topic.  Loosely arranged around 3 examples of self-sabotage: the unimagined life, the unworthy life, and the unlived life, she follows quickly with our phases of healing and our choices to obtain wholeness.   This book is meant for savoring, for slow-growth, and is excellently suited for a deep Bible study or personal growth exercises.  From the title, I would not have thought this book would have so much to offer me, but any woman struggling with worth, worthiness, or place will find wisdom to draw from.

My thanks to Janet for writing such a tender book, and to Bethany House, for providing the advance copy in return for my review.

For Further Reading:

Janet Davis

bio

website

other works:  The Feminine Soul; Sacred Healing

BOOK REVIEW: Angels are for real, Inspiring True Stories and Biblical Answers; by Judith MacNutt

The title had potential, but rarely lived up to it.  Judith MacNutt combines a multitude of personal stories (some questionable in their relation to the topic) with Biblical references in her latest work, Angels Are For Real.  While I firmly believe in angelic presence, and their vital role in the Word and world,  her examples left me wondering at times if the narrator had taken a few too many pharmaceuticals.  There are valid angelic experiences (a few seem to be in this book), but it was the questionable ones she includes that made me doubt the whole.  For example:  page 50 cites a story in which a grandmother feels her back rubbed and concludes it must be an angel; p.51 while in church, having communion, a parishoner ‘feels’ the presence of her ‘guardian angel’ next to her at the rail, p117 child asking for more room for his angel before  bed.  Each of these, in my opinion, belittles the form and function of the mighty angel of God: whose purpose, as the author does point out, is to protect, warn and guide us.  My caution would be from Colossians 2:18 rather.

Give this book a wide berth, and focus on growth: God will make His messengers known to you without this book, if He needs to.

further reading on Judith MacNutt:

ministry started by Judith and husband Francis: Christian Healing Ministries  (note this quote from the site:”Francis MacNutt was perhaps the first Catholic priest to become actively involved in the ministry of praying with the sick for their healing.”  Presumption!  Even a Protestant can be skeptical…)

other works:

YouTube video

Amazon listing

 

This uncensored review is in return for my free advance copy of the title; for Bethany House Publishers.

TEASER: Frank Peretti is coming out with a new book!

Frank has titled his new book Illusions, and the first few chapters are available here:
http://www.illusionthebook.com/

Frank is the author of New York Times bestsellers This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, both of which I enjoyed when younger.

Look for the full version March 6th!

author’s website:  Frank Peretti

BOOK REVIEW: Daily Gifts of Grace, Devotions for each day of your year Compiled by Sue Ann Jones, Published by Thomas Nelson

This devotional so neatly fit into my morning routine that I procrastinated the publication of this post to enjoy it more.  Daily Gifts of Grace – devotions for each day of your year, was compiled by Sue Ann Jones of a wonderful selection of writings of the Women of Faith speakers and authors.  Lana Bateman, Jenna Lucado Bishop, Patsy Clairmont, Mary Graham, Natalie Grant, Lisa Harper, Barbara Johnson, Carol Kent, Marilyn Meberg, Sandi Patty, Lori Robertson, Luci Swindoll, Kim Tate, Joni Eareckson Tada, Donna VanLiere, Shiela Walsh, and Lisa Whelchel write daily portions of stories, encouragement, and faith-building thoughts to bring your faith into action each day.

The design of the devotional is simple: daily pages, a verse, and the writer’s thoughts.  A pretty vintage floral motif flows through, and the page-marking ribbon keeps my place.  There is no space to include your own thoughts, so this must be an adjunct if you like to write as well.

Given the collective weight of these women’s testimonies, (see resources below), it feels as though a room-full of friends are handing out hugs and cheer for your everyday challenges.

I recommend this devotional happily, and note that my own copy was sent in return for this review, by Thomas Nelson Publishers’ Booksneeze program.  You are welcome to join the reviewers!

RESOURCES:

http://www.womenoffaith.com/

Lana Bateman: Philippian ministries

Jenna Lucado Bishop: the Revolve Tour, author page

 Patsy Clairmont

Mary Graham: president of Women of Faith, blog

Natalie Grant and a great video

 Lisa Harper

Barbara Johnson

Carol Kent

Marilyn Meberg

Sandi Patty: website, CNN review of one of her books; music list on Amazon.

Lori Robertson (couldn’t find a website), serves as director of programming for WOF events, and emcee.

Luci Swindoll, also video

Kim Tate: interview, book, website

Joni Eareckson Tada, story

Donna VanLiere

Shiela Walsh

Lisa Whelchel