17 April, 2013

Ollie Chandler Collection

The Ollie Chandler Collection, consisting of “Deadline,” “Dominion,” and “Deception” by Randy Alcorn present three good reads for any lover of mystery/detective stories.
Along with the twists and turns of a detective novel, Alcorn also intertwines a Christian perspective toward life. He touches on a number of issues: racial reconciliation, the search for a spiritual meaning to life, what comes next, and others.
I highly recommend this series to any reader of fiction.
I was provided this collection by Waterbrook-Multnomah in return for an unbiased review of same.

16 April, 2013

Weighted Blanket

As many readers may know, my son Christopher has Asperger's.
There are a number of things which he has to deal with in relation to this and for the most part deals with it well.
Kaitlyn also has sensory issues.
Weighted blankets are used with these types of issues to provide comfort when sleeping and other trying times.
If you have a child with sensory issues, go to this website and enter to win a weighted blanket.

01 January, 2013

Book Review - A Christmas Home

A Christmas Home 
by Greg Kincaid

Todd McCray, hero of A Dog Named Christmas, is now twenty-four years old and working at a local animal shelter, where he meets and quickly becomes best friends with Laura, a young volunteer. Laura, like Todd, has disabilities of her own, but her struggles are more physical than developmental. Their friendship is sealed when Todd—with the help of his trusted companion, the tenacious Labrador retriever named Christmas—trains a beautiful dog named Gracie to help Laura with the day-to-day life tasks that are difficult for her.

Author Greg Kincaid has crafted another “feel-good” story with “A Christmas Home.” He manages to fit just about every heart-tugging element into this one which is not just a Christmas time of the year book.
You have the developmentally challenged “hero,” the girl he falls in love with (who also has challenges), a town struggling with the downturn in the economy, and animals. Our family fosters rescue dogs so the dog aspect of the book hit very close to home.
I wouldn’t say that this tale is one for everyone, it was difficult for me to become wholly engaged in the story, but it is a good book and many will enjoy it.
I would suggest reading the first novel before tackling this on. I felt a little lost for the first few chapters.
It’s a definite recommend for dog-lovers and romantics.
I was provided this copy of “A Christmas Home” by Waterbrook-Multnomah without charge in return for an unbiased review of it. 

14 December, 2012

Where Ornaments Go To Die

For a number of years now I have been collecting Christmas ornaments that either move or make sounds or talk. I started prior to being married, and Stacey and the kids have begun getting me ornaments nearly every year.
Stacey has gotten a table-top tree and puts the ornaments out each year. Last year we didn't have enough room for the tree, but this year we reclaimed the extra room from the foster dogs and placed it in there.
The tree was looking good and everything going swimmingly.
Then Anna Belle decided that she needed some Indiana Jones. She managed to get the Indiana Jones figure into 5 different pieces and the base with gold idol on it received some gnawing. With liberal amounts of superglue Indiana is now back in one piece (mostly) somewhat worse for wear.
Next on the hit list was the Hulk. Hulk was part of an Avengers set that had bases that fit together to make one huge ornament or a number of small ones. Anna Belle and Nala did what Loki couldn't and trashed the Hulk - he's no longer the strongest one there is.
The next to fall was Darth Vader. He was on the platform at the Bespin cloud city, hand outstretched summoning the Force. However, the Force was strong with the two dogs and Darth ended up worse than when he fell into the lava. His head was unmarked, but that was about all that was unmarked.
And today another cultural icon went down to defeat. Robby the Robot made it through the ID monster, but found that two dogs trumps one monster made of rampant physic energy.

23 October, 2012

Book Review

The Blessed Church by Robert Morris

I had never heard of Robert Morris or Gateway Church prior to reading this book. While some of the “keys” that are shared are very simple and well known, how often is it that we neglect the things that we “know?”

Morris begins the story of Gateway with his call to ministry by God and the further call led to Gateway coming to open on Easter Sunday in 2000.
The first part of the book focuses on the beginnings of Gateway and then on the topic of church growth. Morris comments, “Any kingdom ruled by Jesus would be healthy. And healthy things grow.” Now just because Morris is the pastor of a “mega” church, don’t tune him out – his list is one that can be used by churches of any size.

While writing about the vision given by God, Morris also articulates how to share the vision and to write the vision down to make sharing and understanding easier.
Now parts of this book are able to be utilized by any church member, but the main focus of the book is on the pastor of the church – the vision, the shepherding, and the example.

Some of Morris’ keys are listed below:
Get God’s counsel
Don’t succumb to discouragement
It’s okay to want to grow
Growth without health is unsustainable
You can’t communicate vision unless you have received vision from the Lord
Righting a spiritual injustice is a key to your vision of ministry
If a vision doesn’t seem impossible to accomplish with your natural ability, it’s probably not from God
If you are called to Pastor, you are called to lead

This is an excellent book; I can say there is something in there for every pastor that wants to be the pastor the Lord intends.
I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing at no charge in return for an honest review.

03 October, 2012

Greater - Book Review

Greater – Steven Furtick
This has been a difficult book to read. Not having read his previous book, and not really knowing who Steven Furtick is (pastor of a church is all I initially knew) I decided to do some research into the author.
 As with many of this type of book, it starts off slow and picks up from there. There are many points that are made which are valid and helpful as there are some that I found falling flat.
I guess my biggest issue with the book is that I find it hard to reconcile with the authors pasturing style and actions.
I may have a shallow view on greater theological discussions, but Pastor Furtick’s disregard for the opinions of others, his disdain for those wishing to delve deeper into the Word, and how he treats others have left me uninterested in his views or opinions.
I am sure that there a readers who will take a delighted view in this book, but I can’t really recommend it .
This book was provided to me by Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishing in return for an honest review. 

28 August, 2012

Belief or Faith? Yes

Real Church in a Social-Network World (From Facebook to Face-to-Face Faith
by Leonard Sweet

I received this latest offering by Mr. Sweet from Waterbrook/Multnomah Press at no charge in return for an honest review.

I found the premise of the book (that the church may have lost its way in the promotion of a relationship with God) to be very interesting. Having just read another of Mr. Sweet's books I was much more ready to engage in this book.

The difference between belief and faith is put into a very stark contrast, leaving a very stark decision. Sweet's bottom line explanation is this: "Belief is Plato, Faith is Jesus." You can'[t get much more basic than that.

Sweet also says it like this: "Most Christians use the words belief and faith interchangeably. But to admit (believe) falls far short to commit (faith)... Admitting is useless without committing... The purpose of Christianity is to help people come to faith, which means to establish a relationship with God."

The book concentrates on helping one to figure out how to relate with God and to use that relationship to bring others to that same relationship. A shift in our thinking and actions is a necessary part of this endeavor.

Sweet's exploration of the term 'God is Love' is also a very needed point that many people need to realize and come to grips with. Society hasn't grasped the significance of the underlying bedrock of the statement, 'God is Love,' the concept that God is synonymous with Love is hard for people to grasp.

Sweet finally shows us how to tell a "better story." Instead of just telling, we need to become what we are telling to draw another person into the story - to communicate the story on a personal basis.

This was an excellent book and I highly recommend that anyone pick it up.

14 August, 2012

What Matters Most: How We Got the Point but Missed the Person (Paperback)

Author: Leonard Sweet

When books get re-printed with a new title it seems as if the author is looking for a do-over, or trying to capitalize on the different name and make some extra cash. I’m all for capitalism, book it does seem a little disingenuous. And I’m not the world’s most effusive when it comes to self-help, or let-me-tell-you-how-to-be-better books.
Previously published as “Out of the Question … Into the Mystery,” nothing is lost or overdone in the re-issue. A great read which raises some very good points and makes some very keen observations.
Mr. Sweet’s exploration of our relationship with God, starting with faith and working through to our relationship to the spiritual world hits every note needed for this topic.
The author’s major points can really be found in the introduction. His assertion that we have transformed the Gospel into “a casual doctrinal assent that exists independent of a changed life,” is an indictment and warning to every believer.
This is an excellent book that needs to be in every home and every pastor’s office.
I was provided this book by Waterbrook/Multnomah publishing in return for an honest review.

06 July, 2012

Fearless - the story of one SEAL amongst many Heroes

When Navy SEAL Adam Brown woke up on March 17, 2010, he didn’t know he would die that night in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan—but he was ready: In a letter to his children, not meant to be seen unless the worst happened, he wrote, “I’m not afraid of anything that might happen to me on this earth, because I know no matter what, nothing can take my spirit from me.”
The story of Adam Brown recounted in “Fearless” is one, at least superficially, that resembles many of those surrounding other members of our armed forces. Small town boy, in trouble with the law, hits the straight-and-narrow, joins the service, and makes a difference.
In a nutshell that would be the story. If you stop there, however, you miss the true impact of this hero’s life and actions. From reading his story, Adam Brown lived a very full life and lived going wide-open. The story of his childhood, his battle with drugs and his coming to the realization that Christ was the answer are just the opening acts for a life spent being an example and, again, making a lasting difference.
While it would have been easy to write this book and relate Adam’s mission’s with SEAL Team Six – that would have made for a full book in itself, Eric Blehm has the less obvious choice and has given us a full picture of a true hero.
This is an excellent book which could nearly be required reading for young men in high school and college.
I was provided this book by WaterBrook/Multnomah in return for an honest review.


08 June, 2012

Mr. Cousins and the Left Don't Get it

In the latest issue of the Independent News (June 8, 2012) Mr. Farron Cousins has shared his viewpoint that "Paying Taxes IS Patriotic." Mr. Cousins is a local lawyer (I think) and is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine. He has also worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Mike Papantonio since August 2004, and is currently the producer of the program. 

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Needless to say I don't agree with him.  

So, according to Mr. Cousins we should all “shut up,” bend over and say, “Thank you sir, may I have another.”

Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way in this country, maybe somewhere like Syria, Iran, Egypt or Russia, but not here. We have all been given the right to redress our grievances with the government in the first amendment. It seems like there are a number of lawyers around Pensacola that would like to limit the freedom of speech. But that’s a topic for another day. Mr. Cousins topic was paying taxes and patriotism and the link between the two. In my opinion Americans don’t mind paying taxes as much as they mind their hard-earned dollars being wasted by a government that increasingly wants to have its hand in every pie.

Mr. Cousins begins his article by speaking toward corporate tax rates. His statement that the effective tax rate on corporations is 12.1% is correct, if you stop there and don’t explore the statement any further. 

According to Time.com,  
“Those on the left countered that the effective corporate tax rate, or taxes paid after loopholes are factored in, is actually much lower than 39.2%. Indeed, by one measure, corporations only paid an effective rate of 12.1% in 2011, although that phenomenon was a product of temporary tax credits for investment.
So are corporate taxes in America relatively burdensome, or does big business not pay its fair share? A quick Google search on the subject will produce such a broad and conflicting array of statements and figures to make even the most dedicated policy wonk’s head spin. The unfortunate truth is that tax policy is so nuanced that it’s difficult to make clear-cut statements as to the relative onerousness of tax policy between countries. Indeed, even the corporate tax figure used in the media to report this story is a rough estimate. The 39.2% headline rate being reported in the press is the federal rate of 35% plus the average corporate tax rate of the individual states, which vary widely. Effective rates for individual corporations will differ greatly depending on a company’s industry and home state, among other factors.”

I’ve emphasized the portion of the article that Mr. Cousins has neglected to mention. It’s mentioned in the Viewpoint article that U.S. businesses aren’t going to pack up and run off overseas. Ignoring the fact that many businesses have found greener pastures overseas, many businesses have offices in other countries which gives them an out when reporting income, they simply send the profits overseas to pay a lower tax rate there.
Mr. Cousins uses the effective tax rate when mentioning corporations, but average tax rate when mentioning the average American citizen. There is a difference.  

According to CNN.com, “the average effective federal tax rate for people making between $40,000 and $50,000 was 12% last year, according to estimates from the Tax Policy Center, an independent research group.
By contrast, the rate for those making more than $1 million was 20.1%.
The difference is even starker if you strip out the payroll tax and look just at income tax liability. Those in the middle-income group had an effective rate of just 3.2%. Millionaires paid 18.9%. In both of those scenarios, the Tax Policy Center counted gross income plus less obvious sources of compensation, such as the employer share of a workers' payroll taxes.”  - http://money.cnn.com/2012/04/12/pf/taxes/buffett-rule/index.htm

It is fashionable to attack Republicans and conservatives for wanting lower taxes and less government interference. It’s also fashionable to say that those who don’t agree with the “left” or the current administration as being less informed. A convenient but specious argument.
It’s inflammatory to equate paying lower taxes or availing oneself of following the rules of the tax code as being treasonous. When looking at the definitions of treason, I think that there are those that are possibly guilty of the third  definition concerning breach of trust or confidence, but again that’s another topic. Corporations owe allegiance to stockholders (many of whom are regular Americans) and their employees, not the government.
Here in Pensacola, our taxes aren’t paying for a better education (look at the FCAT) for our children – and I don’t fault the teachers in most cases – they’re sitting in the bank gathering interest.
While a applaud Mr. Cousins for speaking boldly on his opinion, and am glad that he can, I can also disagree with his opinion and his statement to “shut up.”

28 May, 2012

Firestorm by Lisa Tawn Bergren

Firestorm by Lisa Tawn Bergren would not have been my first choice as a book to read – it was actually my only choice (here’s a plug for people to help me get my Klout up).
Firestorm is Book 6 in the Full Circle series. Within the series each book is somewhat tied to the other through the relationships of characters. Firestorm follows Reyne Oldre a few years after her being involved in a tragic accident while fighting a forest fire. No longer on the frontlines of fighting forest fires, Reyne is making a presentation as part of her US Forest Service job for a research project to help save more firefighter lives. Just as she begins to wind up her presentation, she’s interrupted by the obligatory entrance of a loud, brash, handsome (wink,wink) man who steals the attention of the board and the funding for her project.
A week later this same man parachutes in to her home while she has company and tells her that they will be working together on his project. Needless to say, this encounter doesn’t end well.
From there on out, while not being too formulaic the inevitable happens. Arguing, testiness and love. True love. It is refreshing that the characters are Christians and actually pray for guidance and help.
The book is well written and I am sure that the others in the series are as well. I have to be candid in saying that romance novels are not my cup of tea. Same goes with girl movies. I can leave them to the girls. But I will recommend that if you do like romance novels this is a series for you.
As always, Waterbrook/Multnomah provided this book to me in return for an honest, unbiased review.

13 May, 2012

Quiet - Reviewing the Book

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams.
Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Susan Cain draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.

Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts--from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions.

This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.

I wasn’t quite sure what caused me to select this book; possibly to be a change from what I usually read. Whatever the cause, I’m glad I did select it. After reading the first few chapters, I remarked to my wife that I thought I might be an introvert. Her exact word in response was, “Duh!”
Ms. Cain has written a book that would be beneficial for nearly everyone to read – well maybe not extrovert types, but certainly parents in regards to their children and even employers to give insight on some of their employees. From the research indicating that high-reactive children are more prone to be introverts to the phenomenon of high-sensitivity to free trait theory, Cain gives us a fairly thorough look at introversion, one that you might be more prone to find in a very thick and very hard to read text.
The book itself is full of little nuggets that that are like matchbox cars finding your feet in the dark of your child’s room – a painful surprise that lends itself to an often pleasant discovery. In Chapter 11, “On Cobblers and Generals,” Ms. Cain touches on bringing out the most of a “quiet” child. We get introduced to Isabel and her mother. A mother worried about her daughter wanting to spend time alone, a daughter who deals with her needs as an introvert. We also meet teacher LouAnne Johnson (played by Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie Dangerous Minds) who is skilled at working with shy children. She gives some advice that many teachers would do well to take to heart when dealing with shy (introverted) children.
·         Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.
·         Balance teaching methods.
·         Many introverts have one or two deep interests – praise them for those interests.
·         Group work is beneficial, but should be done in pairs or groups of three.
·         Teach kids to work independently.
And there are others as well as advice for parents.
Chapter Two (The Myth of Charismatic Leadership) hit home with me in the section of the chapter titled, “Does God Love Introverts? An Evangelical’s Dilemma.”
Cain recounts her meeting with a pastor dealing with being an introvert in a calling that seems to be tailor made for an extrovert. The pastor related that while he felt god about making time for himself, being active in evangelicalism began to make him believe that God disapproved of his choices and of him. His explanation is that the culture of the evangelical church ties faithfulness to extroversion, emphasizing community and participating more and more in programs and events.
Cain meets this pastor at Saddleback Church (he isn’t on staff there), and relates how the service is typical of most evangelical services, focusing on greeting, talking and singing, not so much on quiet or contemplation.
This next paragraph from the book essentially sums up some of my issues, many of which I struggled with while working at a church. Cain writes, “Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme, McHugh is telling us. If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love. It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine, it must be displayed publicly. Is it any wonder that introverts like Pastor McHugh start to question their own hearts?”
My dilemma exactly. I’ve been questioned by my wife about the depth of my walk with Christ because I’m not demonstrative enough. Needless to say, she’s an extrovert.
This book is an excellent look at the subject of introversion and I would recommend it wholeheartedly. I’ve learned a number of things about myself and from reading the book I made myself take a Myers-Briggs personality test and found that I am an INTJ. I was heartened when I saw the list of famous individuals who have the same profile:
Susan B. Anthony
Lance Armstrong
Arthur Ashe, tennis champion
Augustus Caesar (Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus)
Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)
Dan Aykroyd (The Blues Brothers)
William J. Bennett, "drug czar"
William F. Buckley, Jr.
Raymond Burr (Perry Mason, Ironsides)
Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor
Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights
Angela Lansbury (Murder, She Wrote)
Charles Everett Koop
C. S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia)
Edwin Moses, U.S. Olympian (hurdles)
Martina Navratilova
Michelle Obama
General Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State
Donald Rumsfeld, former US Secretary of Defense
Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State
U.S. Presidents:
Chester A. Arthur
Calvin Coolidge
Thomas Jefferson
John F. Kennedy
James K. Polk
Woodrow Wilson

I was provided this book by Waterbrook-Multnomah free of charge in return for an unbiased and honest review. I normally donate these books to my church library, but this one is a keeper to read again and find more of those nuggets sticking into my bare feet.