Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Your Money God's Way by Amie Streater

Title: Your Money God’s Way

Author: Amie Streater

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: I received this book through the BookSneeze program. The title jumped right off the list of available books as one Dawn and I would like to read. This is my review, but I am hoping she’ll read it and provide a review as well.

Summary: Streater describes the 7 money myths she has discovered from years of serving as the pastor for financial stewardship at two churches. These myths spawn from counterfeit convictions, misunderstandings of scriptural direction about how Christian’s should handle money. The include enabling the misbehavior of others, viewing the accumulation of wealth as evil, or expecting divine providence to rescue one from oneself.

Review: This is an outstanding book. It provides sound biblical advice about how Christians should put the money God has entrusted to them to do his work, while including funny, personable, relatable stories. The stories are even jaw-dropping sometimes, but they certainly illustrate the point that a misunderstanding, or outright ignorance, of scriptural guidance can lead Christians to having a financial life much less than what God has planned for them. And, Streater includes methods to correct one’s past mistakes and infuse the true convictions into your spirit and your habits.
I highly recommend this book to any Christian who thinks their financial life might not be all that it should be, and to the fellow Christians who know and love them. It can be hard to give someone else financial advice. If that puts you off, or if your relationship with someone who is struggling isn’t close enough to share, buy this book and put it in their hands. There is a wealth of knowledge here that will help any Christian.

Other resources: www.amiestreater.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success by Scot Eblin

Another book from Thomas Nelson publishers I am interested in reading. This is about assuming a new role of leadership, with the wisdom of the insiders, what they do and how they do it. Just like an interview with a wise, experienced leader and provide years worth of insight into a brief conversation, I'm hoping this book will help an outsider like me feel more comfortable with the mantle of leadership.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

Title: Outlive Your Life
Author: Max Lucado
Rating: Good
Reason for Reading: I received this book from the BookSneeze.com book review program.

Summary: This book is a siren call to live out the principles of a Christian spiritual walk. Lucado interweaves stories of the apostles and the early church with contemporary examples of how to put your Christian faith into action. It includes inspiring accounts of individuals and groups who did more than talk the talk, they walked the walked and the effects of their live outlived them.
Review: Max has prepared another book just at the right time. At a time when so many people are out of work, Max reminds everyone that there is always an opportunity to do something that will make a difference and potentially outlive you. Lucado is highlighting the book of Acts, which is often overlooked in the study of the Bible. As the name would imply, it instructs us not how to “be” a follower of Christ, but to “do” the following.
If you feel like you are spinning your wheels, like what you do doesn’t matter, or that your faith isn’t manifest in your actions, this book will remind you, instruct you, and inspire you to do things, take actions, and make the difference God built you for.
Other resources: www.maxlucado.com
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Orange Revolution by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

The authors have posted a guest post on Michael Hyatt's blog about their new book on the power of a great team to transform an organization.

Why Great Teams Tell Great Stories

Take a look!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

100 Prayers God Loves to Hear 100 Praise Songs by Stephen Elkins

Title: 100 Prayers God Loves to Hear 100 Praise Songs
Author: Stephen Elkins
Rating: Good for you if…you need ideas or want to introduce prayer
Reason for Reading: I got this book as a part of the BookSneeze Program. As always, my opinion is completely my own and not affected by getting the book free. For more details, check out our Full Disclosure statement.
Summary: 100 Prayers is a book of prayers for children. The prayers vary from traditional prayers that most of us prayed as a child, to prayers written and prayed by famous people, to original prayers written by the author. Each prayer is accompanied by text that explains the prayer, a prayer thought, and a song on one of the two CDs.
Review: I have mixed feelings about this set. The things I like about it are that the prayers and readings are short enough to be morning or evening devotions/prayer time with small children. I like the accompanying sound tracks that are full of classic songs as well as original compositions. I like the colorful and vibrant art work.
There are things I don't really like about the book. For instance, each prayer is accompanied by a "My Little Prayer Reminder". However, these quotes and thoughts are too deep for small children to comprehend. Some of them were too intellectual for me to comprehend! I'm also confused as to who the target audience is for the book. The illustrations look to be geared toward small children (my 9 year old claimed they were "babyish"), but many of the prayers are geared toward school-age children.  This is just a personal pet peeve, but there are words highlighted in different colors…the words aren't special or important words, they're just words (sometimes the word "the" is a different color than the other words on the line).  I feel that the different colors would have added to the overall feel of the book if they highlighted important words or the theme of the prayer, instead of random words.
Each prayer has a song referenced at the top of the page. At first, I liked that. I thought it would be cute to hear all these prayers geared toward children being sung by children. However, that's not the case. Some of the songs are the prayers put to music (though not word-for-word), some of the songs are on the same theme as the prayer (America the Beautiful is paired with a prayer written by Abraham Lincoln), but some of the songs I don't understand why they were chosen to go with the prayer.
Final Thoughts: I think this is a great resource for parents who want to introduce the idea of prayer to young children. I don't know that I would read all of the words on the page to the child as some of the concepts will be very hard, if not impossible, to explain to small children. We might use it as a resource for our older child to lead devotions for the family, but I can't see this becoming a classic in our home.


Giveaway of The Heart Mender

Unfortunately, no one gave us any contact information in order to receive a FREE copy of The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews. After months of trying to give away an AWESOME book on our blog, we had to realized that no one was interested in doing what it took to get this amazing book. We have donated it to a Christian Library in Indiana that serves a county in need due to the automotive crisis.

Thanks for reading and participating!


The Butterfly Effect by Andy Andrews

The Butterfly EffectAuthor: Andy AndrewsRating: Good
Reason for Reading: I received an advance copy of this book as part of the BookSneeze program through Thomas Nelson Publishers. The opinion below is my own and is not affected in any way by receiving this book for free. For more information, check out our Full Disclosure page.
Summary: The Butterfly Effect discusses the scientific theory-turned-fact that one action affects events all around the globe. Andrews starts with the scientific theory and then makes application through various figures in history. Seemingly insignificant people are involved in very important events and Andrews explains how that person's contribution helped to shape the world in which we live today.
Review:  Can a butterfly flap its wings and create a hurricane on the other side of the world? Andrews explains this thought and many associated with it in his book, The Butterfly Effect.
Andrews introduces readers to the humble beginnings of this seemingly ridiculous theory, and then shows how it rocked the scientific community. He takes the heart of the theory and, in a style completely his own, walks the reader through the annals of time and how one person at one moment "fluttered his wings" and affected the entire world. The great thing about this book isn't that we're taken down a dusty historical road and learn of one man's seemingly small contribution and how it affects us all today. The great thing about this book is how Andrews then introduces another man and how he changed the world, and how another person influenced that, and so on. Andrews draws the reader down a riveting and seemingly endless path of influential people who were only influential because they influenced another person who influenced someone else, etc.
In summary, this book is a must-read for EVERYONE. I was in tears by the end of the book. This book helped me realize that something seemingly insignificant that I do can and will affect the world for all time.
Other resources:  http://www.andyandrews.com/video/butterfly-effect/

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Boy Who Changed the World

Title: The Boy Who Changed the World
Author: Andy Andrews
Rating: Good
Reason for Reading: I received this book through the BookSneeze program of Thomas Nelson Publishers. Andrews is one of my favorite authors.

Summary: TBWCtW is actually about several persons, each of whom did something that changed the world. Andrews tells the story backwards, starting with the last boy in the chain, then to the person who affected him, then to the person who affected that person, and so on. The conclusion is that the chain could keep going back farther and farther, demonstrating that their actions had impacts that ripple through time into the future.
Review: TBWCtW is a childrens story with a powerful message about how powerful each individual is. Some of the persons highlighted are famous, with names that would be commonplace or accomplishments worthy of monuments. But others are obscure and their actions seem unimportant outside of the story Andrews has written. Andrews weaves all this together in a narrative that entertains and challenges the mind to try to grasp how today’s actions influence the future of everyone. TBWCtW is highly recommended as a great addition to any child’s library.
Other resources: http://www.andyandrews.com
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul

Title: Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul
Author: John Eldredge
Rating: Good
Reason for Reading:  This book was recommended by one of my favorite authors, Dave Ramsey, and has been on my book list for some time.  When Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program made the Revised and Expanded edition available, I jumped at the chance to get the book.

Summary: Wild at Heart is an in-depth study and commentary on Christian masculinity, both in biblical and modern context.  Eldredge describes much in the Bible that describes man as an image bearer of God in the world, but not just the parts of God that people are often most comfortable with.  He challenges the skin deep, nice guy depiction of the Creator that can be found too easily.  He describes God as a warrior, fighting to free his chosen people from bondage in Egypt, fighting demons and rebellious angels jealous of His power and authority, and fighting to return the hearts of his children to His ways. 
Eldredge describes how the fall of man has robbed him of this glorious role to play in the universe, this drama between the forces of good and evil, right and wrong.  Despite failure and rejection, the soul of man still bears the image of the warrior God, hungry for a battle to fight, and beauty to rescue, and an adventure to have.  Eldredge rejects the call from society for men to be de-clawed or disarmed from the spiritual battle taking place in the world today.  He describes how Christ was crucified for challenging earthly power and authority, fighting the injustice present in the world, and men are called to continue this struggle in order to follow him.
Review:  I thoroughly enjoyed reading Wild at Heart, and would not be surprised if I find this in a regular rotation on my book list, reading it annually.  It is not often that one finds an author who can both describe the failure of men and the praise the spiritual masculinity God has created man to represent.  For any man struggling with doubts about his masculinity or questions about how to be what he was built to be, I strongly recommend Wild at Heart.  For the women who love these men, who wonder why Christian men are often torn between their nature and what society expects of them, or between their capacity to demonstrate the glory of God with their flawed, failing, and sinful nature, I would recommend this book as well.
Other resources:
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

You Can Be Everything God Wants You To Be by Max Lucado

Title: You Can Be Everything God Wants You To Be
Author: Max Lucado
Rating: Good

Reason for Reading:  I acquired this book through Thomas Nelson Publishers' BookSneeze program in exchange for a review of it.  The publisher has in no way influenced the content of this review, and the views expressed are solely my own.
Summary:  You Can Be Everything God Wants You To Be is a representation of the material in Max's 2005 book Cure For The Common Life, which I have also read and reviewed.  YCBEGWYTB includes most of the stories, inspirational material, and principles covered in Cure.  What is excluded is the detailed appendix at the back of Cure that lists Bible versus to read and questions about your past to answer.
Review: The sticker on my copy of YCBEGWYTB describes the book as the "perfect gift for the graduate".  Why that might be a bit of publisher hyperbole, I find that it would be an excellent gift for a recent high school or college graduate.  As the book describes, most formal educations do little to help the individual find their "sweet spot", that place Max describes as where one's strengths, one's everyday life, and God's glory all overlap.  Many graduates find them selves looking ahead at the next stage of their life wondering what's next.  A diploma or degree doesn't guarantee a job, much less a personally-satisfying one.  This book will help the recipient take a new look at themselves, their future, and what their life has prepared them for.  I recommend it for graduates, and anyone looking at their life ahead wondering what God has planned for them.
Other resources: www.thomasnelson.com

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hermie and Friends "Who Is In Charge Anyway?" by Max Lucado

Rating: Good

Link to the DVD at Amazon.com: Who Is in Charge Anyway?

Reason for Watching: We received this as a part of the BookSneeze program from Thomas Nelson Publishers. We received this DVD for free in exchange for an honest review. Our opinions are our own and are not influenced by receiving the DVD for free.

"Who Is In Charge Anyway" is about growing up with God.  Freddie the Flea hears his friends wondering what is special about fleas.  So, Freddie starts to wonder himself, all about what God has planned for him.  Freddie asks God why he is the way he is.  God reveals to Freddie that He has worked in his friends' lives to make them they way they are.  Flashbacks take the viewer along to see the other Hermie and Friends characters in childhood.  Freddie learns that God has made each of them with special gifts.  And that God has something special planned for him as well.  After Freddie learns more about how God is working in his life, he works with other fleas to tell people about God.  Freddie's special talent of evangelism is shown at the end, providing young viewers a great example of how they can share their faith through their words and actions.

  Our little one (age 8) found that "Who Is In Charge Anyway" was a great DVD.  He really enjoyed the flashbacks into the previously unseen childhoods of the Hermie characters.  This is a new look at the same Hermie characters he's grown to love.  He highly recommends this for kids of all ages.  Grownups will find that the DVD teaches a great lesson about God has made everyone with special gifts that they can share with others, and that everyone grows into who God has made them to be over time.  This DVD is everything you could want: funny, clean, and with a deep and powerful meaning.


Monday, May 31, 2010

The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews

Title: The Heart Mender

Author: Andy Andrews

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: We received this as a part of the BookSneeze program from Thomas Nelson Publishers. I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and are not influenced by receiving the book for free.

Summary: The Heart Mender is a story within a story. As such, there are many layers and levels to the book and the lessons to be learned from the book. At the beginning of the book, the author discovers a mysterious object buried in his yard. While trying to unravel the mystery of the object, Andrews takes the readers on a journey through time in which the main characters of the story learn to overcome their intense grief and disappointment by discovering the beauty and healing power of second chances.

Review:  The Heart Mender is a beautiful and poignant story about the miraculous power of forgiveness and second chances. While fans of The Traveler's Gift might feel bereft because of the lack of an in-your-face, step-by-step guide to the moral of the story, they can be reassured that the lessons typical of an "Andy" book are all still there. These lessons are cleverly and seamlessly woven into the dialogue and the plot of this tale. The author assists readers in uncovering the deeper meanings and lessons of the book by providing a reader's guide in the back. Andrews truly is a master storyteller and The Heart Mender is a wonderful story.

This book is a definite must-read.


Other resources:

 BookSneeze gave us a SECOND copy of The Heart Mender with the express instructions that we give it away on this blog! So, we'll be having a contest.  To enter, read the following rules and then answer the question: When has a second chance (or the lack of a second chance) drastically changed your life?


1.     Answer the question in about 100 words using the comment feature of the blog.

2.     Do not include any personally identifying information.

3.     All entries must be received by midnight June 30, 2010.

4.     Be honest. We prefer integrity over entertainment.


Devon and Dawn will choose a winner from the entries that follow the above guidelines. Winner will be notified via email and posted on the blog. Odds of winning will depend on number of entries submitted. Devon and Dawn reserve the right to use all entries in future blog posts. Only one book will be given away. Book was provided by Thomas Nelson Publishers and the BookSneeze program. Our review was not influenced by the free book, nor the number of books given to us. Devon and Dawn created the rules of the contest and these rules were not a part of the BookSneeze program.

Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul by John & Stasi Eldredge

TITLE:  Captivating:  Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul

AUTHOR:  John & Stasi Eldredge


REASON FOR READING:  I acquired this book through Thomas Nelson Publishers' BookSneeze program in exchange for a review of it.  The publisher has in no way influenced the content of this review, and the views expressed are solely my own.  This is a book I've had on my wish list for sometime, so the opportunity to acquire it through the BookSneeze program was seredipity.  This book was also recommended by Dave Ramsey, along with many other authors I am reading at present.

SUMMARY:  Captivating is all about the soul of woman as created by God.  Starting with Eve, the authors describe the heart and soul of women, including the fictional characters found in age-old and modern day stories, and the author's themselves.  Weaving in references from Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Sound of Music and Cinderella, John & Stasi describe how every woman is built to be romanced, to be an irreplaceable role in an adventure, and to be beautiful.  The authors also describe how these qualities affect a woman's relationships with their husbands, parents, siblings, and children.

REVIEW:  This book is intense, full of material both scriptural, personal, and pop-cultural.  It will challenge your view of yourself and how you relate to the women in your life.  The few pages the authors use to translate ezer kenegdo  from the Old Testament have already improved my relationship with Dawn.  As with the other Edlredge book I've read [Epic], Captivating is full of drama, describing modern day, earthly experiences as taking place within a larger context on the spiritual plane.  The book is full of adventure and romance as Satan has a particular hatred for woman, God's image bearer for relationships and closeness, and God seeks to return the hearts of His fallen daughters to Him.  This book is challenging and eye-opening, but comforting and healing as well.  I highly recommend Captivating.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rating System

Welcome to our book reviewing blog. Devon and I are avid readers. As such, we find that books tend to fall into three distinct categories: good, bad, or right for you if...

Good: A book with the rating "good" is a great read for anyone. Everyone can learn from its principles and applying them to life. We definitely recommend checking out a copy of the book from your local library or picking it up at a used book store. This book will be a treasure.

Bad: Some books are just bad and not fit for anyone to read. They may be written poorly, not researched well enough, or even contradictory to its own advice. Sometimes the book's "value" just isn't worth the time invested. We don't suggest the book is worth reading from cover to cover; however, you may want to skim it or use it to make your wobbly table less wobbly.

Right for you if...: The books that fall into this category are books that are good for some people, but pointless for others. If we give a book the "right for you if..." rating, you can look at the end of the review to see under which circumstances we feel the book is "right for you".

Please understand that these are our personal views/ratings of the books. This blog is for informational purposes only and we do not wish to ruin the careers of authors. We are simply offering a you a way to guide your reading.

If you disagree with a rating we give a book, feel free to leave a comment. Please make sure that the comment is well written and not accusatory, inflaming, or combative. We reserve the right to refuse to publish a comment.

The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews

Title: The Traveler's Gift

Author: Andy Andrews

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: This book was recommended by Dawn as one I would enjoy. She was certainly right on three fronts. First, it's fun to read. It plays like an action-adventure novel or mystery at times. Second, it is educational. The wisdom contained within is impossible to miss as one reads through the narrative. And third, the traveler visits different moments in history, and I am a history buff (but that quality is not necessary to enjoy and learn from the book). This book was purchased, and no compensation was provided for this review.

Summary: The Traveler's Gift is the description of Andy Andrews' Seven Decisions that determine personal success. Andy read 200-300 biographies of successful persons. From this, he identified seven principles at work int heir lives. The decisions they made led to their successes and revealed these principles. The book introduces the reader to each decision by taking the traveler, David Ponder, on a journey to meet an historical figure. These seven people of great influence each teach him a gift. Written like a novel or historical fiction, the narrative the author has composed teaches while it entertains.

Review: Not a self-help in the traditional sense of diagnosing the reader's problem and then providing the authors prescription, The Traveler's Gift instead walks the reader through the decisions with the protagonist, David Ponder. Unemployed and struggling, he begins to wonder if he can find success in life, or if he's just cursed. Through his travels, figures like Harry S. Truman, Christopher Columbus, and Anne Frank give him the decisions that determine personal success. Their advice to him is the author's advice to the reader, though you won't feel preached to. The advice is more like the Maltese Falcon or Holy Grail of a suspense movie or a mystery novel. You won't find the author suffering from a superiority complex. Nor will you find these solutions too shallow to be followed in real life. No "visualize" or "think outside the box" directives that go nowhere in 3-dimensional life. The reader can appreciate how real these principles are to the individuals David meets. Andrew's descriptions of them and their circumstances are compelling, even to a non-history buff. As you read, you'll find parallels to your own life and challenges, even if they don't compare to the Battle of Gettysburg in historical importance. Andrews asserts that everything you do matters, and therefore, are valuable when done well.

Reading like a novel, but educating like a self-help book, The Traveler's Gift is a must-read for all. Brief, compelling, and insightful enough to read every year, put it in your library, or that of a friend.


Other resources: www.andyandrews.com

Why Seek Out Wisdom?

One of my favorite quotes is from Sam Levinson, "You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself." This makes seeking out wisdom seem so logical. Compare two people, one who learns only from his own mistakes, and one who learns from both his and those of others. Which would you prefer as a counselor? Which would you prefer to have your life in his hands? Which would you prefer to be? Whether you are selecting a book to read, a friend to ask for advice, a class to take, or a leader to follow, seeking wisdom is a key step to your success. No one really is a self-made man. Everyone has learned from what they have been exposed to. So, expose yourself to that which improve your likelihood of success.

Another quote from Albert Einstein states that we can't solve problems with the same kind of thinking that created them. Makes sense, doesn't it? Doing the best we could so far got us here. Want to go someplace else? That will require doing better. How can we do better in the future than what was our best was in the past? It requires greater thinking. Not necessarily bigger, but better. Think that you are as good now as you'll ever be? Think again. You mind, your emotional awareness, your spirit can grow, be strengthened, and find hope. You are right now growing and changing into what you will become. You can determine what you'll become by deciding how you'll change. We believe reading to be a key ingredient in this process.

We recommend you look through our blog for books that speak to you, that sound like they have some wisdom to impart. Then read them, actively. Dig into them with focus. Take notes. Highlight. Find a friend to share them with. You don't have to purchase them. There are good libraries all over the place where you can get these books for free, or next to nothing on inter-library loan. Some you may want to purchase, so you can keep them in your library, or pass them along to a friend. Request them as gifts from those people who ask you what you want. Find a used bookstore where you can get a dogeared copy that someone else has already highlighted. One of the books I'll blog about cost me just 10 cents at a used book store, honestly. There is no correlation between what a book costs and how valuable you'll find it. Some will pay rich rewards, no matter what you pay for them.

We will always cite why we decided to read the books we review, and where we acquired a copy. Some books are from our personal library, some we've checked out of our local library, some we've gotten for free in exchange for an honest review of the material. We'll always let you know. Our comments belong to us, and will not be influenced by how we got the material. We request your comments about the books we review, whether you agree with us or don't. We also welcome your recommendations if there is something you think we'd like to read.

Happy reading!

Tithing by Douglas LeBlanc

Title: Tithing Test Me in This

Author: Douglas Leblanc

Rating: Good for you if...

Reason for Reading: I received this book as a part of the BookSneeze program by Thomas Nelson publishers. I chose it over other books, because I'm a person who tithes and I wanted to read others' views of tithing.

Summary: The book Tithing is a religious journalist's view of the ancient practice of tithing. Through the stories of many people across the country, Leblanc tells the benefits of tithing. He uses real-life examples of people associated (or formerly associated) with the Episcopal Church to bring a face to tithing.

Leblanc uses the stories of these people to encourage the reader to return to the "ancient practice of tithing." The concepts of living simply and being generous are thoroughly discussed as well.

Review: As a practicing tither, I was excited by the possibilities presented in a book dedicated to the subject.

Though the book is interesting and fairly easy to read, it deals more with the politics of the Episcopal Church than tithing. Many of the biographies and anecdotes in the book don't even mention tithe or giving.

Unfortunately, I was bogged down enough by the church politics and so distracted by the numerous off-topic anecdotes that after 3 hours of reading over half of the book, I couldn't finish. The author gave a good effort, but the result fell far short of my hopes.

This book is good for you if...you are interested in Episcopal views of tithing, or just want to read various random people's thoughts on tithing and giving.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Living Life in the Zone

Title: Living Life in the Zone

Author: Kyle Rote Jr. and Dr. Joe Pettigrew

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: This book was provided to me free of charge by Thomas Nelson, Inc. through the BookSneeze program in exchange for preparing a book review and posting it to this blog.  The content of this review is solely my own words and not influenced by receiving the book as compensation.

Summary: The book is a 40-day study for men.  The book provides a short chapter for each of the 40 days.  Each chapter includes citations of relevant bible verses, a profile of a sports or business figure and how they have applied that life principle in their life, three self-assessment questions, and an assignment to put the lesson into practice that day.

The subjects discussed include a man's relationship to God, improving your relationship with your wife, being a more effective father, you role as friend to your fellow man, and being a Christian man in your workplace.

Review: The lives up to its description as a spiritual game plan for men.  While many self-improvement books provide only limited spiritual content, Living Life in the Zone is replete with spiritual discussions and biblical references.  The book describes "the zone" it is teaching men to live in as not just a period of higher productivity, but higher effectiveness.  It encourages self-examination to help men redefine their role as husband, father, friend, employee, manager, and spiritual leader.

The part of the book I found most helpful is the biographical sketch included in each day's reading.  Under the subtitle Playmaker, this section uses a notable man's real life experience to illustrate the spiritual principle being at work in real life.  Most of the men profiled are notable in the world of sports, like Tom Landry or Kurt Warner.  Some of them are notable from the world of business, like David Green of Hobby Lobby or Mike Glenn of FedEx.  Not all the examples are those of men who used the spiritual principle to succeed, nor are any of the stories too Pollyanna or unrealistic.  Even though I was familiar with many of the men profiled, I learn something new from each Playmaker section.  The authors have described their lives with details not covered in typical media coverage of athletes and coaches.

If you want to know more about these notable men from sports and business, something that reflects how their spirit and their relationship with God affected their lives, this book is a must read.  You want to explore how you can have a deeper understanding of spiritual issues, if you are looking for a guide familiar with sports, business, and politics in the modern world, this book will deliver.  This book is a fun read while providing a meaningful message.  It is enjoyable and educational.  I highly recommend this book for any man with a wife, a child, a job, and a relationship with God.


Other resources: http://www.inthezone.org

The Present

Title: The Present

Author: Spencer Johnson, MD

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: This book is from our personal library, purchased many years ago.

Summary: The book is a practical parable.  Formatted as a story within a story, the prologue has Liz seeking advice from former co-worker Bill.  She notices that Bill is doing much better now than when they worked together, while Liz is struggling at work and home.  Bill says that his improved performance and greater enjoyment of life began when heard the story of The Present, and began applying its lessons.  He is at first hesitant to tell Liz the story, knowing her skeptical nature, but Liz confirms she will give the story a fair chance, no matter how simplistic is seems.

The story is that of a young man's journey to maturity, guided by occasional visits to the old man who lives in his neighborhood.  The old man knows The Present and gives it to the young man in small segments at different moments in his life.  Not surprisingly, the segments are The Present, The Past, and The Future.

The epilogue has Liz meeting with Bill again after some time has passed.  She has learned and applied the lessons from the story.  She has shared the story with others, just has Bill shared it with her.  The skeptic is now a believer in the simple truths contained within the parable.

Review: This book contains such profound truth in such simple words, it is striking in value.  It is a quick read.  I can go through the whole book in about two hours.  This is a great book to keep in your library and read every year.  It won't last through a New York to Los Angeles flight, probably not even between when you get through security and receive clearance to takeoff.

The story is compelling.  It is easy to relate to the young man as he learns about The Present from the old man.  His circumstances are easy to identify with for any reader.  The language is so simple that the lessons are easy to digest, surprisingly so given their great value.  If you are interested in simple truths to be found in a quick, easy read, find a copy of The Present.


Other resources: http://www.whomovedmycheese.com

Mastering The Seven Decisions by Andy Andrews

Title: Mastering the Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success, an Owner's Manual to the New York Times Bestseller The Traveler's Gift

Author: Andy Andrews

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: After reading and thoroughly enjoying The Traveler's Gift (TTG), this book is the logical next step. Even a casual reader of TTG can tell Andrews has more to say than could be squeezed into the book. Mastering the Seven Decisions (Mt7D) provides the context and commentary to flesh out the lessons. This book was purchased and given to me as a gift, and no compensation was provided for this review.

Summary: While TTG is told as a narrative (in fact, some booksellers and reviewers categorized it as fiction!), this book is solidly in the non-fiction, self-help category. Andrews provides a chapter on each of the 7 Decisions, providing examples and insight. Each decision is also described in a letter to Andrews from a famous person, including General Norman Schwarzkopf and Amy Grant. Peppered throughout the book are exercises where Andrews prompts the reader to write down thoughts, feelings, fears, and affirmations. The exercises help the reader find the specific connection between the principles he describes and how work in their life.

Review: Andrews lives up to the promise in the books title that this is an owners manual to TTG. The expanded descriptions of the 7 Decisions help the reader understand how they have been at work in their life. And, perhaps most importantly, how the reader can use a greater understanding of them to be more successful in the future. The exercises are tough, but quite valuable. Have a notebook and pen nearby as you read the book. Completing the exercises will take time and lots of lined notebook paper, but the rewards are worth it. The reader will be facing their fears and failures, evaluating their past, dreaming about their future, and finding resources and actions to be more and do more. The reader's past will become a wonderful education in the principles behind personal success. The reader's looming challenges will become the ingredients in a successful life.

Unlike a lot of self-help books, reading Mt7D and completing the enclosed exercises will produce something personal and tangible. The reader will finish the book with specific steps they can take to make different choices, and consequently find the destiny of their dreams.


Other resources: www.andyandrews.com

Related book reviews: The Traveler's Gift

The Richest Man in Babylon

Title: The Richest Man In Babylon

Author: George S. Clason

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: This is from our personal library.  I purchased this book for just 10 cents at a used book store.

Summary: The book is a compilation of separate writings the author prepared for banks and financial institutions in the early 20th Century.  Each chapter is a story all unto itself, but some of the characters appear in more than one or are referred to by other characters.

As the title indicates, the stories are set in ancient Babylon, which is described as a city of great wealth and knowledge.  Many of the chapters revolve around Arkad, who is described as the richest man in the community, as he shares his knowledge of money with others.

The language used is similar to what you might read from the King James Version of the Bible, or from Shakespeare.  Don't let that worry you.  There isn't anything here you can't understand.  Money is often referred to as "coins", banks as "moneylenders", and those in debt are sometimes slaves.

The author is using a historical setting to teach simple truths about money and finances that have survived the test of time.  The parallels to modern life are not hard for the reader to draw.

Review: For me, this is a classic, a must read, and on my list of books to read at least once a year.  It is a quick and easy pick up to have in your pocket while you are heading out to a place where you might read for a few minutes here or there.  If you sit down to read it from front to back, it won't take you long.  And because each chapter is a separate story, don't worry about losing your place.

The truths contained within are simple and common sense, but you won't be bored in reading it.  The setting, the phraseology, the characters are rich with colors and flavors that will make learning fun.  And the truths will help you with everything from day-to-day tasks like the importance of budgeting your expenses, to long term goals like purchasing a home or preparing for leaving your estate to your family.

I highly recommend The Richest Man in Babylon to everyone who wants to know how money works and how the decisions they make will affect their financial destiny.


Other resources: None

Everyone Communicates Few Connect

Title: Everyone Communicates Few Connect

Author: John C. Maxwell

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: This book was provided by Thomas Nelson publishers through their BookSneeze program in exchange for a review.  The publisher has had no influence over the content of this review.  The thoughts are solely my own.

Summary: Maxwell is a well-known leadership expert and speaker.  He has prepared numerous books about leading an organization and the principles of personal success.  This book specifically focuses on one important aspect of communication, that being how to develop a connection between speaker and listener.

Maxwell divides the book into two parts.  The first describes the principles behind connection.  Maxwell defines a connection as the quality of communication that increases the impact of the speaker on the listener.  It operates at an emotional level between the persons involved.  These principles are not the practical steps of public speaking, the kind of things one learns from speech class or Toastmasters International.  Maxwell is describing the difference between those who speak, present, and write with little effect on their audience, and those who make a connection with the audience that makes their communication highly effective.  It is the difference between those boring presentations and unnecessary meetings everyone has endured, and those speakers or presenters that have hit you right in the gut.  Maxwell describes this ability to make a connection as a skill that can be learned, not just an inherent quality that some speakers naturally have.

The second part describes what connectors do, the preparations they make, the attitude they assume, and the focus they adopt.  This includes finding common ground with the audience, making the experience enjoyable, and choosing inspirational messages.

Review: Maxwell uses humorous and insightful stories about himself and his career as a pastor, speaker, and teacher.  He describes how he failed to connect early in his career, learned to connect, and is now teaching others to do so.  Just the anecdotes about him are well worth the cost of the book.  I found lots of situations to which I could relate, either as a speaker or a listener.  The lessons gave me a new appreciation for how a leader can use these principles to increase the success of their team.

If you are a leader, you have to communicate.  Whether you embrace this aspect of serving as a leader or cringe at it, this book will help you do it better.  It is personable, funny, brief, and easy to read.  You'll feel like you sat down with Maxwell as he personally told you how he does what he does.  And that of course is the whole point!  He connects with the reader, providing an example of what he is espousing.


Other resources: www.johnmaxwell.com

Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God by Sheila Walsh

Title: Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God

Author: Sheila Walsh

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: I received this as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze program.

Summary: Beautiful Things is a book about Sheila Walsh's personal journey from stardom, through her breakdown, and finding her faith again. Sheila profiles people in the Bible who have trusted God through various circumstances.

Review: Beautiful Things is not what I expected. I fully expected a book more like Sandi Patti's Layers, where it chronicles a famous woman's journey through a difficult period of her life. However, Beautiful Things…is more like a Bible study than an autobiography. Sheila profiles lives of Biblical characters who have learned how to trust God in very unique circumstances. She chronicles the (first) death of Lazarus and the following resurrection. Through it, I learned a host of new details…things I either forgot or didn't pick up in Bible College. And while the book walks the reader through all these great little facts and details that aren't always readily present within the context of the Bible passage, it doesn't feel as if you're reading a college text or sitting in a lecture hall. Sheila's writing style is lively and engaging. Each chapter starts off with a personal anecdote, and then walks the reader through a historical account found in the Bible. Finally, each chapter ends with Sheila bringing her point home and explaining what the reader should learn from the passage, how the reader can apply the passage to his or her own life.

Be prepared to have your thinking and faith stretched. I was unable to sit and read the book cover to cover simply because it made me face my hidden faults and insecurities. If you're looking for a book to help you grow your faith and at the same time make you feel as if you're not alone in learning to trust God, then this book is for you.