If you read this blog regularly you may know that my wife and I are leading small group for newly married couples. We finished the curriculum early, so we decided to have the group take the Flag Page test. My wife, Tami, and I first heard about the test in a Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage Conference about two years ago. It is yet another personality test, but I think it is both very easy to take and useful to discuss in a small group setting like ours.
Archives For Self-help
Takeaway: As with many other areas of life, holding grudges against the church hurts you more than the church.
Purchase Links: Hardcover, Kindle Edition
Stephen Mansfield has become well known for writing about the faith of politicians. His books on Bush, Obama, Delay, Palin and Churchhill have sold well and helped Mansfield become a regular on the talk show and speaker circuit. I have not read any of those books, so I cannot speak to them. I did read God and Guinness and thought it was decent. ReChurch is a very different book from all of those.
Stephen Mansfield before he became a writer, speaker and consultant, was a pastor. For ten years he was the pastor of a growing church until a disagreement with church elders left him without a church, job and bitter. He does not give details about the incident, but does talk frankly about the hurt.
Takeaway: Maturing is not a straight line and it does not automatically come with growing old.
Today is my birthday so I thought it appropriate to read and review a book that is primarily about how to age better. I must admit I was a bit put off of this book when I first started. Rohr is a Catholic priest and it took a while for me to sink into his vocabulary and understand how he was using his words.
After I picked it up again a week or so later. I started to see a spirituality that was formed by story in a way somewhat akin to Donald Miller. The 30 page intro is rough going no matter how you look at it. But once you get to the early chapters where Rohr uses the story of Odyssius to explain his point I was hooked.
Takeaway: If you don’t know what good satire is all about, you have not read anything by Christopher Buckley.
I hate abridged audiobooks. You never know what you really are missing, you just know something is missing. Is it a good part, a lousy part. Is it five minutes or three-quarters of the book?
But I also love Christopher Buckley. And I am running out of his books. I reserve them for reading emergencies, but that comes along about every 3 to 4 months. I am not sure what I will do when I run out. I have listened to all of the unabridged Christopher Buckley books. Now I am going to have to work through the abridged. I picked God is My Broker, both because it looked hilarious, and because it looks like it is out of print, so it is unlikely to ever get an unabridged audiobook. And it is not available on kindle.
The set up is that Brother Ty is a monk. He was an alcoholic Wall Street trader, but he got fired and ended up in a monastery. Now sober for a couple years, his monastery is facing financial problems when God starts giving him stock tips. His abbot is convinced it is the power of positive thinking from Deepak Chopra that is providing the money. But Brother Ty knows it is actually God.
As with all of Buckley’s humor, nothing is safe. This book targets self help books, Wall Street, the Catholic Church and a host of other likely targets.
In the end, what I like about Buckley, is that he know that ideas are nothing without a story. Buckley knows how to write a story with people that you care about, even those that are not the heroes.
If you care, this is one of the cleaner stories by Buckley, no sex, barely any language. A rated PG book.
This is a wide ranging and enormously interesting book on memory, retention and and self justification. The basic idea is that our brains are designed to minimize Cognitive Dissonance. Our brains will re-write memory and selectively remember details or give us other means to repress or eliminate Cognitive Dissonance.
Early in the book there are a number of examples of government, journalism and scientists that believe that they did nothing wrong while external evidence suggest otherwise. One of the most egregious, is the first study that showed a link between autism and vaccines. The lead author of the study was being paid on the side by class action lawyers (over $800,000) as an expert witness and researcher into the connection between autism and vaccines. The link was not disclosed and the research study continues to be influential even after it has been widely disproven by additional studies.
Another interesting example are the gifts given to doctors by drug companies. Drug companies know that small gifts are very effective in creating obligation to the drug companies, but large gifts, especially early in the relationship will make the doctors feel like they are being bribed. One of the important insights from this section is that often people do small things that are not wrong, but once they are a situation, end up doing many things that they would not have considered if they started with that action. For instance, Watergate did not start as a break in, but by the time all the players were in the game, it was easy to justify something that most of them would have never participated in had the idea of a break-in and cover-up been originally on the table.
There is an extended section on child abuse and recovered memories. You may remember the string of abuse cases in the 1980s, especially in day care settings, where children started remembering ritualistic and sexual abuse. These cases helped start the wide spread fear of child abuse (especially stranger abuse) in the United States. The authors use these cases to show the weakness of memory and the dangers of psychology and social work that is not backed up by strong clinical evaluation and research. Virtually all of the cases in the 1980s were later disproved but there are still some people in jail with only recovered memory statements as evidence. These recovered memory episodes were contrasted with studies of Holocaust victims that were able to recall in vivid detail their abuse 40 and 50 years after it occurred. One of the unintended consequences of these recovered memory episodes is a huge distortion in the perception of how prevalent sexual abuse of children is. The US Department of Human Services reports that 1.3 to 1.7 (boys and girls) per 1000 children are sexually abused each year and that over their childhood it is likely about 10 percent of children are sexually abused. While this is far too many children being abused, many people believe that 1 in 3 or even more children are actually abused. This difference between documented and assumed cases leads to many protective behaviors that are really not warranted by the actual danger. (Similar to fears of terrorism and the TSA.)
The authors use the cases of social workers and psychologists continuing to push their cases of abuse in the face of mounting evidence as an example of Cognitive Dissonance. We do what it takes to eliminate Cognitive Dissonance. So a social worker removes a child from a family solely on the basis that the mother had been abused as a child. The social worker has experience with multi-generational cases of abuse, but has not submitted her practice to broader research which would show that more than 70 percent of children abused by parents do not repeat abuse to their children. Subsequent to the 1980s cases, many studies have looked at how to properly interview children without inserting memories or giving leading questions. (Using the transcripts of the actual interviews with one of the day care abuse cases a study showed 70 percent of children ages 4-6 would implicate an adult man that visited a day care for just 10 minutes one time a week before the interview of abuse and torture within 10 minutes of first being interviewed.) Several states now have research based guidelines for gathering evidence from children. But not all states have adopted these guidelines and people continue to be jailed as a result of questionable interview techniques and little or no additional evidence.
There are more chapters with great examples of self justification, Self Justification in Marriage, another on disagreement and feuds, one on law enforcement, one on prejudice. But the last chapter is about what to do with all of this information.
There are a wide range of thoughts that I have about this book. One is that it inspires me to really try to admit to my mistakes and take responsibility. But also I see all kinds of implications for the Christian life. Not discussed, but I think it is interesting, is how Catholics might be different in regard to self justification. Confession is part of the regular Catholic liturgy, but not a part of most Protestants’ regular activities. Based on the research that has been done, it would seem that anyone that participates in regular confession, should be better at not self justifying. There are also some real implications for evangelism. Much traditional evangelism has been based around making people feel remorse for their sins. That makes sense if their is a cultural understanding of everyone being sinful creatures. But I think that culture has moved away from the traditional understanding of sin. I am not sure what that means, but I think it does mean we need a better theology and practice around evangelism and the concept of sin in light of research like what is presented in this book.
This review is already too long, but I very interested in reading more around this subject. If you have any book suggestions let me know.
I saw an article on Wednesday about a Doctor that profiled his mistake in the New England Journal of medicine in order to help doctors understand mistakes and how to properly take responsibility for them. It is a great real world example of the suggestions at the end of the book. Boston Globe article.
Takeaway: Our plans for ourselves do not always work out. God can still work in our lives for his own glory, even we do not have the answers to our why questions.
I have been meaning to read Plan B for quite a while. I recieved a copy as part of my Catalyst Experience pack earlier this year and it was put into my To Be Read pile. I knew that when the book originally came out, instead of having time to promote the book Pastor Pete Wilson was dealing with an historic flood in his hometown of Nashville. During the week that the book came out 40 families in the church and hundreds of other families in the community had significant flood damage. Cross Point Church helped clean 400 homes and mobilize more than 2000 separate volunteers during the first week after the flood.
While I think it is unlikely that he would have chosen the flood as a publicity tool, the fact that he had scraped his plans for book promotion and worked on the flood, probably ended up with more promotion than he would have had originally.
I thought the book started a bit slow. It over and over showed how people do not get what they originally wanted for themselves. Intrinsically, we all know that. As much as we make plans, we know people that did everything right, made the plans, did the work and still had things go badly.
By chapter 10 there was a turning point for me. The book became more cross focused. Wilson used the example of his kids’ love of fruit snacks. We all know that fruit snacks are a treat, not a food group. God wants for us what is healthy, not just the snack. In Exodus, God offered Moses success leading the people. But during and exchange in Exodus 33, Moses resists success if it means that he does not have God. That for me is the turning point. If we are after our plan A instead of God, then we will never be satisfied.
Later in the book Wilson quotes Mark Batterson: “I tend to live the way I drive. I want to get from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time and by the easiest rout possible. But I’ve come to realize that getting where God wants me to go isn’t nearly as important as becoming who God wants me to be in the process. And God seems to be far less concerned with where I’m going than who I’m becoming.” This really is the point of the book. Wilson wants us to understand that we all feel hurt when things do not go according to plan. And we may not ever be able to explain why something happened the way it did, but God’s focus in on moving us through the process, not on the goals that we are focused on.
I am increasingly concerned that we as a Christian church are more interested in right belief than in transformation. The importance of this book is that Pete Wilson does not think that right belief will solve our problems. Only trusting in God and learning to depend on him in our weakness will really lead to transformation.
This is not a 5 steps to dealing with your problems book. Much like Anne Jackson’s Permission to Speak Freely (my review), it ends without a nice little bow. We will not always get what we want, that does not mean God does not love us. God loves us, so he will walk with us through the disappointment.
Here is the video trailer to get a good idea of the focus of the book.
I am not sure when I stumbled across Anne Jackson‘s blog. It has been several years now. And while I am not an every day reader, it is in my Google Reader and I usually at least glance at it. As much as Anne’s writing, her sense of purpose and her desire to do something with her writer’s platform (other than sell books) has keep me reading.
Anne rode a bike across the country to raise money for Clean Water this past summer (less than a year after having heart surgery). In November, she is leading a second trip back to Haiti to work and raise awareness of the continuing need there. What really shows me how much her vision for serving people has made a difference is that an Atheist blogger has issued a challenge that he (and other Atheists) can raise more money to help Haiti than the Christians on her blog. All in good fun, the fact that she can have fun with an Atheist to see who can raise more money for relief in Haiti shows that she is really about reaching out to people. I can respect that.
Permission to Speak Freely is a short book (less than 200 pages and only 3 hours on audio.) But it has real heart to bring healing to the people that have been hurt by the church’s attempt at prettying itself up. This is Anne’s second book. Her first, on overcoming burnout in ministry (was among my top 11 non-fiction books last year.)
The first half of Permission to Speak Freely is Anne’s story. It is not a pretty story. She is a pastor’s kid who’s family was was brutalized by the church, she was later molested by a youth pastor and then rolled over by churches (and church staff) that did not have time for dealing with the hurts of real people. It is a gripping and tragic story.
The second part of the book essentially deals with topical treatments of the things that the church does not like to deal with. Again primarily, but not completely, told through Anne’s story. Significant areas are porn, sex and other addictions, depression, abuse at the hands of others, etc. Each of these areas are dealt with honestly, but without the flashiness that sometimes accompanies “tell all” salvation stories.
The focus is not on the sin, but on the working through those areas of sin in order to heal.
What I like about the focus is that Anne is primarily about helping both the person that is in need of healing and the church. This is not about condemnation of the church (although there is frustration) but about helping the church see that its role is about loving the other, because in the end we are all the other. (Our sin makes us “the other” from God.)
I grew up in a good home, was not abused, did not dabble in drugs or alcohol, have sex before marriage, etc. So by many estimations, I am on the right track in my Christianity. Anne counters this idea by saying that we all have our issues at some point in time. If we do not create church to be a safe place for hurt people to come, then we are not being the church that Christ wants us to be. If I only want to deal with people from nice suburban homes that have it together, I will miss out of the strength of the church, its ability to heal and change people through the power of Christ.
An important idea is that the church, and we as individuals, need to give others the benefit of going second. Being first is hard, but when you see someone else go first, it make going second (and third and fourth) easier. If church is a place where we can safely confess our sins (and the sins done against us) then it makes it easier for others to come forward later. Which not only helps us fulfill the role of the church in the world, but also makes it easier for us to come forward in the future when we later have another issue. Anne is clear that issues do not die quickly. Sin is still in our lives because we are sinful people. But in community sin looses much of its power to shame and harm.
This is not a __ step book. She does not give four steps to confessing our sin, or five steps to forgiving those that hurt us. Instead this book is about giving stories of how others are moving forward so that we can be encouraged to move forward under the grace of God as well.
I am adding this to my list of Read Again books. As much as it may sound like a self help book, it is primarily a story that can be used to help us work on our own story. Again, Permission to Speak Freely meets my desire to find books that do more than give knowledge. This book prods me to action, to use the knowledge I already have to move closer to Christ and to help others move closer too.
I listened to this on audiobook (the book was provided free from christianaudio for review) and Anne narrated. I have said many times I like listening to authors read their books. This is an example of why I think it is so important. No one else could have read this like she did.
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- Can You Help People Going to Haiti? (friendlyatheist.com)
- Permission to Speak Freely (momblognetwork.com)
Takeaway: Statistics are important. And if you are a Christian that believes in truth, you need to be even more careful with numbers.
I like numbers. My day job is being a nanny, but my part time consulting job is evaluating an after school program. I track grades, school attendance, program attendance, home and school visits, behavior, test scores, and a variety of other statistics. In a previous life, one of my jobs was demographic research for church plants and I was statistician for a local Baptist association. I was a sociology major as an undergrad and event went to a sociology paper competition (and came in 3rd) for a sociology paper about the relationship between believe in rape myths and matriculation in a Christian college campus.
If you know me in real life, then you have probably heard me quote a stat (or 50) about something or other. So I should have jumped at this book. But I did not. Frankly, I am a bit negative about a lot of Christian’s use of numbers. A couple weeks ago two different times in the same Sunday, from the pulpit and in a private meeting I heard a similar statistic about divorce that I knew was wrong. My church is about 60 percent single adults. So when people talk about marriage, I want it presented in a fairly positive light, not to be fake, but to not compound the negative feelings that many in my church have toward marriage. So when I hear the same statistic about divorce rising, I get frustrated. I did not say anything, but I was frustrated. You see, divorce is not rising. In fact it is dropping. In part because many people are just choosing to not get married, or at least get married much later. And divorce among highly educated, upper income people (like most everyone in my church) has fallen off a cliff. So when we talk about divorce as being a major and increasing issue among Christians, we are actually wrong. We should be providing support for marriages, that is why my wife and lead a small group for newly married couples. And we should be providing support for those that facing or recently completed a divorce. But in my church, telling people (most of whom are single) that divorce is increasing, does not really address either reality, or the issue most in the congregation are facing.
Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media is a very good remedy to the many poorly presented statistics that are floating around in and outside the Christian world. Dr Wright, spends a significant amount of time addressing why so many bad statistics are being used. And really it comes down to two major areas, attention and authority. We are trying to get people’s attention, so pastors (and many others) troll around for the worst statistics to try to prove their point. (This is also why we get so many topical sermons that do not seem to fit the broader context of the passage.) It is not that pastors (or others) are trying to mislead, but rather, they start from the end and find support instead. The second major issue is that many people are misled because they saw something in print. If it was printed, it must be true. Christians, as people of the book, may be more influenced by the authority of something being in print.
Free Range Kids: How to raise safe, self-reliant children (without going nuts with worry) is the best parenting book I have ever read. Ok, it is the only parenting book I have ever read. I am not a parent (I am a nanny, but not a parent.)
I have had this (in audiobook) for a while. I found it free somewhere and just never listened to it. It was the last audiobook I had on my kindle and I was driving around, so I started listening.
It is good, it is funny, it is well researched and it is non-guilt inducing. (Or mostly non-guilt inducing.) I am not a worrier. I am fairly critical of the hovering parents I see at the park. I play with my nieces (they are only 1 and 2) but I let them fall and I let them walk away from me. So I am already on my way. But this is a great book to show that the unintended consequence of trying to protect children is preventing children from growing into the type of adults we want them to be.
The format of the book is a chapter for 14 “rules”. These are chapters like “know when to worry”, “turn off the news”, “avoid experts”, “don’t think like a lawyer”, “make them play”, “let them fail”. Then part two of the book is an A to Z guide of everything you might be worried about.
The biggest take away for me is that worry creates worry. Parents worry about things because other parents are worried about things, which causes the kids to worry about what the parents are worried about. So when you worry about things that you do not really have control over, you cause your kids to fear, which inhibits their own growth. Worry is really about control. This is not a Christian focused book at all, but as a Christian, worry about things we have no control over is called sin. And we are encouraging our children to sin when we worry. What is an example? Child abduction has not increased, it has in fact decreased. Your child has a 1 in 1.5 million chance of being abducted by a stranger. That is not a high chance. When we worry about something that has a very, very low chance of happening, and something that really we do not have any control over, we have ceased trusting in God. That does not mean that God will protect us, and no child will ever be abducted if you just stop worrying, but it does mean, that worrying does not actually make your child safer. It probably makes them less safe. Without the ability to think on their own, children cannot evaluate risk on their own. One quoted parent said that she was not going to talk to her children about how to interact appropriately with strangers because “she would never be in a position where she would be with strangers without her.” That is just wrong on its face.
And it is not just fear that is a problem. We also just assume kids can’t do things, because we have lowered expectations. The author surveyed Moms. Almost all of them began baby sitting around 12 or 13, sometimes even overnight. But now most think their 12 or 13 year old is not mature enough to stay at home by themselves for an hour or two.
One anecdotes about an 8th grade class that was assigned an ‘independence project’ (something that they had to do on their own, plan on their own and then write up) told of an 8th grade student that took her dog to the vet. The vet insisted on calling her Mom before talking to her. Then the vet wrote out the instructions, then after giving the instructions to the girl (who would be around 14 or so) asked “you can read, can’t you.”
Many other kids did fairly normal things, walk to soccer practice, make dinner, bake a cake, etc. Many of the kids said they were scared to do their project because they had never done anything on their own like that before. When I was 14 I was riding 10 to 20 miles a day on my bike, pretty much every day all summer long. I am only 37, it was not that long ago.
It seems that kids not are not allowed to do anything, they are not even asked to do anything. Most parents did not ask kids to do chores. And there are almost no jobs someone under 18 can do any more. Kids don’t babysit or deliver papers. Kids do not learn to appreciate accomplishment because they have no expectations placed on them. So I have started asking my 15 month old niece to throw away her own diapers. She is incredibly proud of herself. And she can do it just fine.
If you are a parent, or thinking about being a parent, you should read this book.
What I liked about The Noticer
The Noticer was the first book that Thomas Nelson Publishers tried in their NelsonFree program. NelsonFree was an attempt at encouraging the purchase of hardback books. With the purchase of a hardback you would get a code to receive the ebook and the mp3 audiobook free for download. Here is Michael Hyatt’s announcement. I think it was a great concept. It is the reason I bought this book. I would have never purchased this book, but I knew that my brother in law and mother in law had enjoyed the previous book by Andy Andrews. So when I saw the program and that this book would give me a copy, I immediately bought it. I gave the hardback to my brother in law and he passed it on to my mother in law and I downloaded the ebook. I never did download the audiobook. But I loved the concept of NelsonFree. Unfortunately, I think the program must not have done that well because there is no mention of it on Thomas Nelson’s website. There is a NelsonFree page, but it is just where you go to get the free ebook and/or audiobook. There is not a list of NelsonFree books that I have been able to find and no current description of the program that I could find. I do appreciate that Thomas Nelson seems to try to change, but it seems NelsonFree has gone away.
What I did not like about The Noticer
What I did not like was the book. Obviously I am not like most people. I couldn’t finish The Noticer. I know a lot of people liked it. I am glad they did. It has some decent advice in it. Getting people to think about others instead of themselves, getting them to take responsibility for themselves, getting them to think about how to learn from their past, not to worry, be thankful for what they have, etc., are all great things. But it feels like the Noticer is just recycled advice from half the best self help books of the last decade. Five Love Languages was completely ripped off, although he only used four love languages and gave them animal names to throw you off, but it was just Five Love Languages. I admit I stopped at half way. I was just getting irritated and not getting anything out of it. Maybe I am just in a bad reading place, but I gave up.