Tag: book review

Friday Five – May 5, 2017

friday five

Habit Stacking, aka Many Steps to Self-Discipline

I’ve read numerous books by author Steve Scott, so it’s no surprise that I picked up Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take 5 Minutes or Less (affiliate link, but it’s free for Kindle.) It’s sort of exhausting to read, as the habits are sort of stacked (sorry!) right on top of one another so you need to stop and breathe every so often.

I also recommend reading with a pen/notepad or, if you’re paperless, a suitable typing device nearby. You’ll want to jot down some ideas. He had me at #5, Chunk Down a Task into Manageable Steps, when I got a lightbulb moment and realized I need to do that. As many years as I’ve been writing books, I can still become overwhelmed at the thought, “I’ve got to work on my book.” According to Scott’s methodology, I need to think instead, “I need to write (or edit) this one chapter.” This is easier, and maybe I’d stay out of the craft room and do it.

The book begins by explaining what habit stacking is – interestingly, I have used the same concept for (cough cough) a few years with my violin and piano students. I called it “tying to” rather than stacking; for example, tie your practice time to another daily activity, like eating dinner. That way it always gets done. Scott’s point is twofold, stack the habits for a good routine, and keep them under 5 minutes so you can squeeze them in when you have a little down time. [Note: For me that means lots of little lists]

Anyway the book explains all that and then breaks the habits down by category, like finance, health, and so on. Much like his other books, Scott’s Habit Stacking sort of makes me grit my teeth in places; for example one habit he lists is “check your social schedule.” And he goes on about aromatherapy, then dismisses it as possibly too “woo-woo” and states that he can’t prove it works. Hello, then delete it from your book?

Yet I keep coming back. He is a good writer, and overall it’s a good read, even if much of it feels like a fast-forward roundup of other people’s similarly rehashed words of advice. He takes the time in the end to give several real-life examples of habit stacks, and spends some time discussing our universal lack of motivation in doing our daily chores/habits, which is an extremely useful section of the book (maybe the most important part). I did get a few good websites/apps from it that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. Here they are:

Rescue TimeThis is an app that promises to get the wayward writer or home-worker back on track. It runs in the background on your computer or device, and alerts you to how much time you’ve spent on an activity. It can also block distracting websites at your discretion. Awesome, no? (Not an affiliate link)

Eventful.com lists tons of concerts, festivals, movies in your area – yep even in my small town.

Only In Your StateThis site looks a little like The Enquirer of the Internet (Note to self: Stop revealing your age!) but the link will take you to River towns in my state, and they all look legit. And cool. Cool as in, not 90 degrees like down here.  I might have to go visit them.

Which reminds me, I just read a really good book set in Apalachicola, the #6 town on the list. Details below.

Friday Tip #6, or 1a: The Forgotten Coast Florida Suspense Series: Books 1-4 (affiliate link but free for Kindle). It has 4.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon, no small feat these days.

Written by Dawn Lee McKenna, who I don’t know but I’m pretty sure we’d be good friends, this is such a great depiction of the area (NW Florida). I’ve met writers who set their books in towns they’ve never visited, relying on cliché’s to build it (gag, choke). Not so with this series. McKenna is from Florida, and now lives in Tennessee – I lived in Tennessee and now write from Florida. Anyway she knows the area, and describes it well.

The books are short, but pleasant to read and full of dry humor. Suspenseful enough to keep you reading, but lacking in foul language, and there’s a little romance but not enough to keep me from recommending it to hubby. The characters are so well-developed that when a storm blows in you actually think “I hope so-and-so is okay!” (Then look over your shoulder to be sure no one actually caught you thinking that!) Check it out. I’ll be reading book 5 in the series this weekend.

Techno Free Day a Failure

I wanted to make today a gadget-free day. It’s Friday, I’m not under the gun for projects, and there’s plenty spilling off my to-do list that doesn’t involve a computer or iPad. It didn’t work. I just wanted to scan through my email quickly, but one thing led to another and three hours later, yep you guessed it, I was still online. It’s such a common problem it’s hardly worth mentioning, right?

But when it carries over to everything else in your life…nearly half of people in this survey reported being phubbed [phone snubbed] by their partners – and higher levels of phubbing create higher levels of relationship conflict. Ouch!

Hubby and I use the excuse that we live/work/play together. We even share an office. So if we play on are completely absorbed in our smartphones while waiting in a restaurant, that’s okay. But is it? You tell me.

One of the suggestions in this article suggested practicing phone etiquette, as if having etiquette is a new and unpracticed habit. Is it? Maybe so; I googled and found hundreds of articles with titles likeDon’t be Rude: 5 Tips for Proper Phone Etiquette”.

Being present means being where we are, which is not on the phone but rather face-to-face (with not only our loved ones but the cashier, the wait staff, etc.). A great Zen teach said that we must be as observers, seeing what we are doing but not clinging to it lest we become trapped by it. Maybe somehow he was predicting, decades ahead of time, our love affair with smartphones.


Do statins and other medications really cause cancer?

Yesterday I spoke with a friend who mentioned taking herself off statins. “They are said to cause Alzheimer’s,” she explained.

Another friend had done the same a few weeks ago because they cause cancer. I decided to do a little research, as I am not on statins but I want to be ready lest I be prescribed one someday.

After fairly extensive reading, I found that there are hundreds of article showing putative results from taking statin drugs. Studies suggest an increase in: acidosis, Alzheimer’s, anemia, cancer, chronic fatigue, diabetes… need I continue?

I have said since the beginning of the cholesterol craze that I didn’t believe in the hype. Cholesterol is found in every cell in the human body. In some instances it actually prevents disease. It supports the myelin sheath, the immune system, and protects skin from certain bacterial and fungal infections. Again, I am not a doctor or any sort of medical professional, but reason would say cholesterol is present in the body for a reason.

So it sounds like the doctors in Forks Over Knives were spot on. I believe I’ve mentioned this film before; two physicians literally dedicated their careers to finding scientific reasons for changing our diets – the real culprit in diabetes and all the other health issues.

Check it out – watch the video, then read the plan (affiliate links) that will help transition you to a healthier diet. And don’t go off any medication without speaking to your doctor first.

Handmade Eye Candy

If you love browsing quality handmade items, take a look at Custommade.com. I stumbled upon it while hunting for artsy business cards. Here’s one business logo stencil ideas! Maybe I’ll hand make my business cards! (This is why I never get anything done). I have cards for my art website, cards for my Facebook page, and author cards. But now I have this. Need. More. Cards.

Crafty Homemade Napkins

You know what a craftaholic I am! I got excited over this Watermelon painted napkins project over at Ann’s Entitled Life. They’re perfect for summer, and picnics, and July 4. I think I’ll give it a try; anyone else want to try it with me?

Book Review – One Thing: How to Keep your Faith in a World of Chaos

I’m a voracious reader. I read constantly, and many of those books fall in the Christian Living category. So I’ve decided to write book reviews more regularly, in hopes that it will help my readers decide whether they want to read them. Or not—maybe I’ll save you money by helping you decide not to read it!

I’ll be reviewing new and old works; it isn’t uncommon for me to order something with a copyright date of 1987 if I think it is interesting. I also frequent used book aisles, and I love reading classic works. If you’d like to see a review of a particular book, drop me a line; I’ve probably read it.

Today’s review is on One Thing: How to Keep your Faith in a World of Chaos by Chuck and Pamela Pierce

There are 13 chapters. Each chapter revolves around one principle for living a better life. Every one of those principles is God-centered, and the entire book is full of anecdotes from their lives that serve to give the reader ‘nuggets’ to use in their own experience.

In chapter one, “Letting Go: Trusting God to be an Excellent Father,” Pamela shares a lot of their struggle with pregnancy and adoption. This helps the reader get to know a little bit about the couple and how strong their faith is.

Chapter 2 is called ”Chaos versus Simplicity: Understanding How to Function in Faith.” Through more of their own trials, we see how we can live by faith. One particularly transparent moment is when they had a discussion over the raising of hands in worship—something my own husband and I have discussed. “I recognized later that the enemy was trying to distract me from what God was about to do, but as we drove along the interstate highway I just wanted to pick a fight,” Pam admits.

Chuck (who did not believe in raising hands, in general) said, “You get desperate enough in all of your circumstances and you will raise your hands, stand on your head, or do whatever, to sense the lord’s presence.”

Can’t we all relate to that?

Chapter 3 “Don’t Be So Complex! Just Do the One Thing He Tells You” is relevant to every believer. On page 35 it says,

‘Many things around us exist to conform us into a way of thinking that negates simple faith and action. Reality is something not imagined or pretended, but the quality of something being true to life.’

I love this. It made me think about what the things are that exist merely to conform us. Consider all the ads that hit us from every side: TV commercials, half the daily newspaper, and ads on every side as well as popping up on the computer. We can’t get away from them.

Chapter 4 is “Lost and Found: Recovering Hidden Treasures” and is very short. It’s about finding lost items through God’s perfect timing.

Chapter 5 is “Out of the Mouth of Babes: How Faith can become Simple”. Pierce explains that faith comes through hearing God, and we tend not to do so because of the chaos in our lives. He shares many stories demonstrating the way we can hear God’s voice is we listen correctly. He relates how the Lord spoke to his heart and said, “Your borders are too narrow. But I can cross your borders, I can bring the supply that’s needed.”

Chapter 6, “Her Name is Maggie: The Power of Adoption” begins with a story about adopting a dog. It goes on to explain how God knows your name, your capabilities, and where you should be positioned.

Chapter 7 is “Please Pass the Biscuits: Finding Your Way Through Discipline.” It is a heartrending story of Pamela’s early life as her family moved from one place to the next, then she was sent to live with an aunt and uncle who eventually adopted her and her sister.  Pamela describes herself as a child who was not easy to love, but who learned it is valuable to do one thing well. She wisely comments that her adoption by this family made it easier to experience spiritual adoption later.

Chapters 8, 9 and 10 are longer and “meatier.” They could have stood alone as a book. They detail how to find security and, places of refuge, and how to adapt to change.

Chapter 11, “Pills and Bills,” discusses being in debt, freedom from debt, poverty, and giving. Chuck gives several points about giving, like “we give when we worship” and “we give when we respond to authority with generosity and blessing.”

Chapter 12 is about boundaries and our futures, and 13 reminds us not to repeat old patterns over and over. “The enemy,” Chuck says, “has another plan: to get us going in cycles.”

There are many helpful bulleted lists and helpful hints in the book besides the many faith-filled anecdotes. It is not a book of theology, but if you enjoy reading about others go through or if you want to read about how Christianity looks when the world isn’t perfect, read the book. Three butterflies.


Book Review: Faith Dare

I finished `The Faith Dare: 30 Days to Live Your Life to the Fullest’ by Debbie Alsdorf only a couple of days late. Not bad for me, I usually fall way behind. This was supposed to be read Aug. 1-30 and I finished Sept. 2.

Here is a slightly-longer-than-usual review of the book:

What Would Happen If You Lived Out Your Faith Every Day, In Every Situation? Jesus came to give us abundant life, to give us freedom from worry, fear, and the constant search for significance.

In the Introduction, the author says,

“Trusting God is a spiritual lifestyle to be learned. Walking out that faith takes a lifetime of baby steps in the direction of spiritual trust. As we grow, we learn how to trust God. We develop new habits of looking to him, new habits of processing and digesting the Word of God, new habits of living our faith, and new habits of relating to other people in our lives. New habits don’t happen overnight; they happen over time.” (p. 10)

So creating or rebuilding these new habits usually involves overcoming deeply ingrained wrong habits and beliefs. Most of us put our faith in human wisdom/human understanding. We’ve allowed the world to infiltrate our thought patterns, living habits—to a point that we miss out on God’s best for us. This author is trying to get us away from our worldly selves and into a godly thinking frame of mind.

After a lengthy introduction, we get down to business with 3 sections of ten days each. Each day’s reading is about 5 pages. Each day includes Today’s Praise/Prayer, Today’s Truth, Today’s Dare, a Journal section, Today’s Prayer, and Today I Believe. (It’s not as much as it sounds like! You can do this in maybe 15 minutes)
The sections are:
* Live Up! In Relationship to God
* Live In! In Surrender of Self
* Live Out! In Relationship to Others

Day 10, which I already blogged about here, spoke to me more than any other. Near the end of the book it seemed as if the author had run out of dares; somehow the words felt more hurried.
From the conclusion:

“Your life is no longer your own. Your life is not random. It is hidden in Christ. You are protected, shielded, care for, provided for…by Christ. You are covered by his faithfulness and power. To look up, focus your attention on what is biblically true rather than on what you are feeling.” (p. 228)

The book was a pleasure to read with my online Bible study friends. We discussed it once a week, pushing one another for deeper meaning and insight. Personally, I wished that the dares could have had more than one day, more time to soak in and live in them and ruminate on them. But of course, we can’t have a 30-week dare, can we? 4 stars.

Book Review The Merchant’s Daughter

The Merchant's DaughterThe Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this book! The Merchant’s Daughter is a new take on an old story, Beauty and the Beast. However it’s set in the 1300s. Annabel is the daughter of a wealthy merchant, but due to unthinkable circumstances she becomes an indentured servant to Lord Ranulf. He’s been injured in an accident and carries his scarred left hand against his body; his scarred face wears an eye patch. His manner is gruff and frightening to those beneath him.
Yet Annabel sees only the good in him….
I won’t give away the rest, but this was a pleasurable read. The best part is, although this is a Christianity-based story, the faith was skillfully woven in. It never feels forced or pushed upon the reader the way many Christian novels do. Part of that is the setting, a time when faith and life went hand-in-hand; much of it, though, is the skill of the author.
I will be looking for more books from Melanie Dickerson. 🙂

View all my reviews

Book Review: The Blessed Church, Robert Morris

Robert Morris is the founding senior pastor at Gateway Church in Texas, which in twelve years has grown from a living room to a megachurch with 24,000 members. Many people have asked him how he’s built such a church. In response, his latest book, The Blessed Church (Waterbrook Multnomah 2012), is a discussion of the principles for building a godly, growing church; he calls these nuggets “Keys to a Blessed Church.”

The book is aimed mainly at pastors, but it would be a useful read for any leader or elder who is interested in applying a different strategy to church leadership. Usually, churches apply one of two models for leadership; Morris has successfully created a third. Having been a church staff member myself for some years, I was eager to see what he had to say.

At the beginning I found the book a difficult read; the writing is choppy. He states that he’s not a writer and, well, he’s right! Too, the beginning of the book was a summary of the early days, so part of my problem may have been that I was eager to get to the meat: what are the secrets to building a strong, cohesive, godly church?

Morris is remarkably open, honest, and humble about the church he leads. He shares insight as a man of vast experience, knowledge, and vision. Again and again, he reminds the reader that this is God’s story, not his own. Every key statement is backed by Scripture passages. By the middle of the book, I was dying to go hear him preach.

Some of Morris’ Keys are:
•You can’t communicate vision unless the vision is from the Lord.
•If you are called to pastor, you are called to lead.
•The true shepherd models where he wants the sheep to go. He leads by example.
•Power doesn’t lie in the office of pastor or in the office of elder. Power in the church lies with Jesus.

Morris states: “True and lasting unity comes from valuing relationship above corporate accomplishment, personal fulfillment, and mere policy preferences. Remember: “Relationships above issues.””

This, I believe, is why his church has grown. It’s not about the numbers, or growth. It’s about feeding the sheep and maintaining relationship. He believes that growth without church health is not sustainable.

I recommend this book to anyone who is considering revamping their church’s organizational structure, or who is starting a new church. It would also be a fascinating read to those who are curious about the inner workings of a church.

I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah for free in exchange for creating this review.

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