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!)


Matthew Barnett bio

Dream Center 


BOOK REVIEW: The Book of Man, Readings on the Path to Manhood, by William J. Bennett


Into the deep charge of raising men, comes The Book of Man, latest work of William J. Bennett, a man known for his compilations of encouraging literature selections.  Whereas his prior books were mainly for families, this speaks to the heart of boys and men everywhere in America, calling forth the highest elements of their character.  His preface states that these “readings define what a man should be, how he should live and the things to which he should aspire.”  Sections are dedicated to the Man in war, work, sports & leisure, the polis, with women and children, in prayer and reflection, and even in death.  Throughout, the tone is encouraging, the examples thought-provoking.  I read this as a mother, desiring the best for my ‘men-in-training’, but also as a member of a culture bent on disparaging males in the media.  I found this refreshing, uplifting, and a resource to bring into my training time (daily life!).  Reading this made the character of an admirable man clearer, the goal of my training better defined.  Particularly, I enjoyed the inclusions of current admirable men of our culture in each section.

I recommend this book highly, for general reading, as an adjunct to parental training, and an encouraging gift for growing young men (of any age, really).  My thanks to Mr. Bennett, for his deep work into a topic that needs further exploration.

I was grateful to receive an advance copy of this book for my unbiased review, for Booksneeze, a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Further resources:

William J. Bennett

BOOK REVIEW: Up, Down, or Sideways by Mark Sanborn

If you are looking for a gift-book on the subject of success despite circumstances, summarizing a number of better resources, then Up, Down or Sideways was written by Mark Sanborn just for you.  If you actually want to delve deep into the subject, or need a specific method to follow, please see the list of resources at the end of this review, or your local library.  Needless to say, I was disappointed by this book’s promising title, given the economy and my own drama.  Everyone could use a little pick-me-up these days, but Mark would rather assimilate the concepts from a host of talented authors than come up with his own ideas.  From the section titles, “See”, “Think,” and “Do” you can gather the depth to which Sanborn digs.  About a quarter inch.

Save your cash and your time, buy a classic 7Habits of Highly Effective People, or the highly enjoyable and insightful Little Red Book of Wisdom, which I recently reviewed.

As always, this review thanks Tyndale House Publishers, for the advance copy in return for my opinions expressed here.

Book Review: The Skin Map, A Bright Empires Novel, by Stephen R. Lawhead

Breaking into sci-fi layers of history, with gripping action and a web of characters, Stephen R. Lawhead‘s first book of the Bright Empires series, The Skin Map, promises a fast read.  Young Kit Livingstone is astounded when his great-grandfather appears alive before him, and draws him into a tightening race-against-time for the Skin Map – fantastic symbols marking pathways to alternate histories- before the evil Burley Men discover it.  Several story-lines, and time-elements intermingle the characters of Kit, his great-grandfather, his girlfriend Wilhelmina (my favorite), and the instigator of the Skin Map himself, Arthur.  Action, intrigue, and gripping layers of historical events are each woven into a race to the finish.

Stephen Lawhead’s site has a gripping trailer about the book, here.

Having read former works of Lawhead’s, I was pleased to find the intermingling of history, faith and action I expected.
One drawback was the flatness of the individuals – I simply could not drudge up emotion for them (which would have made this more of a page-turner).  The exception for me was Wilhelmina, who is drawn into this astounding alternate history-in-progress, and manages to create her own success.  She exhibits determination and cheerful gumption, while Kit seems to simply float between events.  In all, I give it 3 stars for readability, plot and creativity, but dock it for dull characterization.

Thanks to Booksneeze, for the opportunity of reading and reviewing this new book.  You can too!  Click the link to your right.