The battle of the sexes today is the battle to find them at all.
In a culture that blurs males and females into a blob of humanity, it’s helpful to ask: “What distinguishes a man as a man—without being sexist or patriarchal?” If we toss aside Webster, the definition of masculinity falls to a matter of opinion.
Or does it?
Stephen Mansfield’s book, Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men, explains the author’s purpose up front.
I want to identify what a genuine man does—the virtues, the habits, the disciplines, the duties, the actions of true manhood—and then call men to do it. I mean exactly these words. This book is about doing.
At first, this book felt hard to read. Short sentences. Choppy phrases. At times, random-sounding thoughts strung together like Pascal’s Pensees. Profound but disjointed. Like reading poetry. Not an easy speed-read.
The book has more periods per square inch than most books I’ve read. As a person in a hurry, the many periods of punctuation came like speed bumps, forcing me to slow down. When I did, I found a gift.
Writers do their best thinking with a pen, and One Thousand Gifts reveals Ann Voskamp as a deep thinker. She writes her book around the theme gleaned from Greek verb, euchartiseo, a term that means “to give thanks.” She introduces the theme early and repeats it in every chapter—so much so that you can open the book anywhere and be blessed. The book could be half as long and still as profound.
Every breath’s a battle between grudgery and gratitude and we must keep thanks on the lips so we can sip from the holy grail of joy. —Ann Voskamp
One Thousand Gifts reminds us that contentment begins and continues by giving thanks for the blessings right in front of you. Ann did this by writing a list of 1000 “gifts” from daily life for which she is thankful.
Writing the list is a wonderful idea because it causes you to constantly look for new additions for the list. This daily assignment shapes a renewed mind, habitually searching life for reasons to thank God instead of for excuses to complain.
From the everyday context of mothering, Ann gives us the simple principle that the life we’re looking for is right in front of us—right where we are.
There are thousands of gifts from God if we will only insert many more periods in the sentences of each day.
“America is not Rome—yet.”
The highly original book, Humility, elevates a quality of American character that few pursue and yet everyone admires. David Bobb introduces readers to what made America great by providing, as its subtitle states, An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue.
True to the wishes of America’s founding fathers, the young country prospered through understanding that greatness and humility weren’t mutually exclusive—something ancient Rome missed. Bobb traces the thread of humility in a select individuals:
- George Washington—who twice declined the opportunity to have ultimate power
- James Madison—who pushed for a realistic—not idealistic—view of human nature in politics
- Abigail Adams—who chose devotion to home and husband rather than to socialites and helped shape America
- Abraham Lincoln—who could have abandoned the constitution and become a dictator
- Fredrick Douglas—who remained appropriately humble of his accomplishments
The book’s premise, of course, is outstanding and convincing.
However, the volume reads as simple history and philosophy—and honestly, pretty dry. With personalities as colorful as Fredrick Douglas and Abigail Adams in the mix, Humility would have been a more inspiring read if it included humility’s companion characteristics of joy or humor.
Cradle My Heart: Finding God’s Love After Abortion reaches its hands into the secret places of your heart—feeling around in the crags and cracks so deep, hidden, and dark you didn’t even know they’re there. But the probing creates a surprising result.
Kim Ketola’s authentic voice and gifted pen guide readers through the difficult journey of an honest appraisal at what abortion causes—and more importantly—at what it doesn’t have to cause: lasting and debilitating guilt.
Kim interweaves her personal story with countless others—both biblical and modern—people who have found the relief that comes from no other place.
Your worst failure can be God’s greatest redemption. —Kim Ketola
The message of hope that flows from each chapter of Cradle My Heart is that God offers genuine hope and true healing. It’s there for the taking.
This book shows you how you can have it.
Exploring Christian Theology (Bethany House Publishers, 2014)
Most theological texts seem to use doctrine as a sleep aid. Dull and dry, these books hide the truth behind the reader’s yawn.
How refreshing to read Exploring Christian Theology! With an appropriate balance of readability, clarity, and humor, Drs. Holsteen and Svigel have made the key doctrines of our Christian faith accessible—without compromising orthodoxy.
Truth should never leave us yawning. This book makes me want more.
In a world of get-rich-quick schemes and scams, it’s refreshing to read some common sense about money.
Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover walked me, a skeptic, step by step, from reluctant reader to Dave Ramsay fan. It’s easy to see how so many people have come to sing Dave’s praises. His method for financial freedom is simple, but it isn’t easy. Each chapter contains testimonies from those who have used the system and benefitted from it.
The “makeover” includes these steps, which I’ve paraphrased:
When Jesus traveled the hills of Galilee in the early days of His ministry, He had one primary message: “Repent, for the King of Heaven is at hand.” The Sermon on the Mount provided His unequivocal standard for entering the kingdom He offered: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). He then showed Himself as the only means of entry (7:13-14).
Tucked away in that sermon is a model prayer of humility and dependence that comes in the context of trusting God to meet true needs. The prayer stands as a complete opposite of the showy prayers of the scribes and Pharisees.
Mary DeMuth takes the prayer a step further by writing on the topic of each phrase of Jesus’ prayer and applying the principles of these topics to relationships—particularly to ones that have hurt us.
The Wall Around Your Heart speaks to the separation we’ve all encountered and the walls we have erected around our hearts to protect us from the pain of people. Although the Lord’s Prayer didn’t have relational pain as its primary purpose, the prayer covers areas of need in our lives that certainly apply to relationships. In fact, the part of the prayer that asks our Father for forgiveness is one that Jesus elaborates on immediately after the prayer (5:14-15). The Lord’s Prayer usually causes us to zero in on the forgiveness element of dealing with others, but there is more to the Lord’s Prayer than forgiveness—though that’s a great takeaway.
Each phrase is coupled with a relational principle to apply. Can you guess which part of the Lord’s Prayer goes with what principle?
- Pray first
- Live in Your Father’s Affection
- Allow God to be God
- Walk in the Great Right Now
- Respond Like Jesus
- Let Heaven Frame Your Relationships
- Ask Jesus for Help
- Be Repentant
- Defy Bitterness
- Dare to Engage Anyway
- Be Fully Alive
DeMuth points us to understand and embrace God’s love for us so that we can reach out and love others. We can’t love from an empty place. We give others what God has given us.
My favorite quote from the book:
Everything that hurts us on earth has the potential, when we let God put His hands in the conflict, to bless the world. In short, we hurt, and God heals, which makes us an agent of healing. (p. 116)
Mary is a gifted writer. Her new book describes how God heals the pain in our relationships through the very community that caused it.
When I first picked up this book, I assumed it would be a lighthearted look at rejection. (Though, I’m not sure how.) It wasn’t.
Instead, Downside Up connected with the ugly reality we face in relationships. In some way, rejection has cut us all—leaving scars of all sizes—and some of us still bleed every day in our work, marriages, friends, churches, and even written correspondence.
Sometimes others’ rejection of us is intentional, but occasionally, it also represents our own inflated sensitivity. Regardless, the rejection we feel is real. By the way, I guess I could feel rejected as a man that the book seems to address women primarily (as does the promo video above), but there’s a lot here for men too.
Tracey Mitchell’s book does more than examine rejection from these various avenues of entry. Each chapter concludes with elements that I found the most helpful parts of the book:
- Chapter Principles—if you read nothing but these, you’d get a good, general sense of the chapter’s contents as well as some great takeaways for application and renewing the mind against the raw feelings that rejection often brings. Super, super stuff here. These little nuggets are the best part of the book.
- Words of Wisdom—offers a simple Bible verse that relates to the chapter’s theme. Good for memorization and even better for meditation.
- Power Quote—a quote from various individuals that says in a few words something worth thinking about.
- Plan of Action—offers a direct application to do what the book’s title says we should do with rejection: turn it upside-down.
My opinion was turned upside down after I read Downside Up.
If rejection is something that’s eating you, you’ll find encouragement here.
By the way, I received this book from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. The review is my honest opinion. The FTC requires I tell you. See 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
This colorful book has more than great photographs. It carries with it inspiration for its reader.
Following the stories of how 21 very different people chose to step out beyond mediocrity and make their mark, Make Your Mark reveals that normal people can be used by God to make a difference. From well-known individuals like Mark Burnett and Roma Downey and Lecrae to lesser-knowns like Katie Davis and Gary Haugen, the believable takeaway from this softcover inspiration is that no matter who you are, you can make a difference.
The foreword by Jeremy Cowart says it well:
“This isn’t a book to celebrate the best in others as much as it is a book meant to call out the best in you. . . . It doesn’t matter who you are, how big your audience or your bank account, you can make a mark.”
Cowart is a photographer who captured each person’s portrait with him or her holding a frame of the “mark” they have made—and are making.
Stories of extreme sacrifice and love surface page after page. In between each mini-biography is woven the entire text from the Book of Mark—a nice touch. Especially since the key verse for the gospel mirrors the lives of those featured in What’s Your Mark?
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
The book urges readers to visit www.shareyourmark.com and leave how they are leaving their mark.
For me, the book’s purpose seems to have helped me take the first step. After reading the little volume, I prayed: “God, how would you have me make a mark for your glory in my life?”
You can read the book in one sitting, but I doubt you’ll be the same if you do.
The only horror in Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is that he preaches hard work as the foundation to good writing.
With a steady dose of encouragement, King challenges writers of all levels to employ discipline as the key to developing one’s craft.
He also affirms his disdain of the passive voice and sings the praises of standard writing volumes like Strunk and Whites’ The Elements of Style and William Zinsser’s On Writing Well.
If you skip the first 100 pages and head straight to the “Tools” section of the book, you will find distilled guidance on writing fiction. With the exception of his advice to just let the plot happen (something only buffoons or geniuses like King should attempt), the book offers useful principles anyone can use. For example:
- “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time (or the tools) to write.”
- “Until you get [a place of your own to write] you’ll find your new resolution to write a lot hard to take seriously.”
- Set a daily writing goal and don’t quit until it’s done.
- Write what you know, but use imagination. Describe what you see, but then get back to the story.
- Never tell the reader a thing if you can show it.
- Good dialogue comes from listening to real people talk—and to how they talk.
The book would get five stars if not for a couple of gripes.
King used the first 100 pages to recount his life story and—in justification for doing so—his development as a writer. Granted, the memoir offers occasional kernels of wisdom on the craft of writing. But for the most part, the story of King’s life betrays the fact that successful horror novelists have little opportunity to publish an autobiography. (So squeeze it in wherever you can.)
Also, a writer as gifted as King doesn’t need to use profanity to make me laugh (that’s too easy). But hey, you write what you know.
In short, if you don’t mind spitting out a few bones, On Writing has some great stuff to chew on.