Over the years, I’ve reviewed many books here on The Stretched Blog. Today, I’m reviewing my first eBook. Starting Over A Manifesto on Being Myself is a creative and challenging eBook by pastor and blogger, Michael D. Perkins. In Starting Over, Perkins challenges bloggers (and other creative persons) to break free of the formulas that govern traditional blogging (and other forms of creativity). Michael’s unique blogging style which usually appears on The Handwritten is taken to the next level in this handwritten work as he encourages readers to avoid copying others and to find ways to be ourselves.
From a personal perspective, I was challenged by every page of Starting Over. My engineering personality thrives on formulas and routines. So much of my blogging has been influenced by “big name” bloggers like Michael Hyatt, John Saddington, and Jon Acuff. I think it’s okay to be influenced, but it’s important to find our uniqueness in our on original styles and forms. Starting Over definitely STRETCHES me as I consider my Stretched Blog.
How about you? Who had influenced you as a blogger? And how have you found your unique voice through your blog? What do you need to change in order to become yourself?
It’s been a different week here at the Stretched blog. The holidays have provided a great opportunity to catch up with family, to relax, and to regroup for 2012. The traffic to the Stretched Blog was a little lower than the past few weeks, but that was expected. On the positive, December 2011 has been the best month (by far) since the blog started! Thank you!
Here’s the rundown on the posts for the week:
Friday (this actually posted Saturday do to a visit to me by the stomach flu): Ice Breaker – Resolutions
I am so thankful for your continued contribution to the blog through comments. Your comments are what makes this Stretched Community! Please remember to take the time to Subscribe to the blog, so you can have Stretched delivered daily to your e-mail inbox. Also, don’t forget to stop by the Jon Stolpe Stretched Facebook fan page. Become a fan to keep up with some additional Stretched stuff. I have started to share more blog highlights from other blogs that I read regularly. I think you’ll find some great stuff here. Thanks!
I’m really excited about this upcoming week as we roll into 2012! I’ll be guest posting on a blog or two, and I’ll have more stuff right here. Please stop back so you can see what’s going on here!
How about you? How was your week? If you’re a blogger what happened over your way this week? Did you read any great blog posts this week? Share with the rest of us!
Several months ago, I received a free copy of Rumors of God from Brandon Gilliland (Thanks, Brandon!) as a prize for reading and commenting on his blog. I love this time of the year as it gives me a chance to catch up on some reading. I finally finished reading this book this week.
Rumors of God was written by two pastors from Australia – Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson (he even spells his name correctly). It seems that this book was written as a challenge to American churches and American Christians to live like God is real – to live like the rumors of God aren’t just rumors, God is real!.
“But what about us (America)? Are we simply content to watch the American church limp into eternity? Are you ready to drift through the rest of your life, lulled and softened by our comfort and ease? We believe that deep in your soul you long to see the fame and deeds of God renewed and known in our time. We believe that you were created for a radical pursuit of Jesus and his kingdom.”
The book does an excellent job reminding readers that faith is meant to be experienced. For many Americans, our faith is generally inactive, private, and stuck in our heads. In Rumors to God, Whitehead and Tyson share stories and stories from scripture that inspire readers to make their faith active, out-loud, and alive.
I really appreciated how the authors start at the personal side of faith by challenging readers on the topics of love, grace, generosity, and abundant life. And I love how they end with challenges related to community, justice, and hope. The book definitely provided encouragement and inspiration. I would recommend it.
Have you read Rumor of God? What did you think?
What steps are you taking to experience your faith?
What are you reading right now?
“Leaders are readers.”
I’ve heard Tim Sanders quote this in several interviews on the radio and on podcasts.
It seems to me that there is a lot of truth to this statement. When we feed our minds (with good stuff), we fill it up with tools that are useful for leading and for life. With this in mind, I am beginning to assemble a list of potential books to consider reading in 2012. I should let you know that I’m generally a slow and very deliberate reader, so I’m planning to narrow the list down to twelve with a couple of alternates. Here are some of the books that I’m considering so far:
So these are a few of my ideas. I will most likely throw in a fiction book or two (or three).
Now I’d like to hear your thoughts. What would you add to the list? What’s on your “To Read List”? What have you read recently that you think I should consider? I can’t wait to see what you’ve got!
Brian Jones‘ third book, Hell Is Real (But I Hate To Admit It), came out a few weeks ago. In Hell Is Real, Brian takes a different look at the topic of hell than other recent books that have raised some eyebrows like Love Wins by Rob Bell and responses to Bell’s book like Francis Chan‘s Erasing Hell.
Brian opens the book by explaining his own four-year period following seminary when he didn’t believe in hell. From here, Brian goes on to explain that not only is hell real, but many people are heading there if they don’t find Christ and decide to follow Him. He also shares his belief that many Christ followers lack what he calls apocalyptic urgency – an all-consuming urgency that hell is real and Christ’s message must be shared. The real motive behind Brian’s latest book is to provide encouragement and practical tools for Christ followers to share their faith with others and to help save them from the eternal wrath of hell.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t crazy about the title of this book when I first picked it up. The titles of Brian’s first two books, Second Guessing God and Getting Rid of the Gorilla, made more sense to me initially. But after reading Hell Is Real, I get it now. Hell Is Real is a quick read as Brian uses his story telling skills to weave stories in with his overall message. But Hell Is Real is also very challenging. I finished the book pondering and challenged to examine my relationships and to be strategic in sharing the message of Christ.
I definitely recommend Hell Is Real (But I Hate To Admit It). I think it will change the way you think about sharing your faith.
How would you change the way you live if you really grasped the fact that your time left on earth was fading quickly?
(If you’re interested in getting small group discussion guides for Hell Is Real or other materials for making the most of your read, go to the website for the book by clicking here. My small group is using the small group questions found at this site to discuss this topic.)
I was blessed as a kid with parents who spoke clearly and appropriately about sex. The summer before I went into sixth grade, I remember my dad taking me camping to Lake Atsion. It was here that we spent time camping and cooking. And it was here that my dad gave me “the talk” about sex. I’m sure it was somewhat awkward for both of us, but this was clearly an important conversation.
From what I’ve heard, most kids don’t learn about the birds and the bees from this type of candid discussion from their parents. Most kids learn from their peers, from pornographic magazines and websites, and from experimentation.
Leanne and I decided early on in our parenting that we didn’t want our kids learn first about sex from others. Several years ago at a Family Life Marriage Conference, we picked up a four book series called “God’s Design for Sex.” Each book is written for a different age group to give parents the tools to talk to their kids about sex with age appropriate material. Leanne read through these books with Hannah already, and I’ve been reading the books with our son. As Isaac is in the first weeks of sixth grade, we are finishing up the third book in the series. There’s been a little awkwardness as we’ve talked about things like periods, AIDS, and about some of the “mechanics” of sex. (I’m an engineer, I couldn’t help it.) But our conversation has also been good.
I’m thankful for the example of my parents, for helpful tools like these books, and for the chance to teach our kids about a subject that matters.
How did you learn about sex? How have you handled this subject with your own kids?
Last night, I finished reading The Seed (Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work) by Jon Gordon. I received the book through Michael Hyatt‘s blog. While I’m feeling pretty content with my life and work, this book offered some valuable reminders for pursuing purpose in both.
Gordon uses a story of a man who finds himself caught in the doldrums of going to work every day. The main character, Joshua, runs into several different people as he travels around for two weeks with his dog, Dharma. At the beginning of the story, Joshua is given a seed by an old farmer, and he’s told to plant his seed where he finds his purpose. By the end of the story, Joshua discovers the four levels of purpose and he discovers his purpose. He plants his seed, and he sees growth and a harvest that has lasting impact.
I didn’t have any major expectations when I opened the book for the first time, but I was pleasantly surprised. The Seed is a quick read, and I think it’s worth the time to be reminded about the importance of living with purpose. I would recommend this book.
(Jon Gordon has written several books designed to inspire passion and purpose. I am most looking forward to picking up a copy of The No Complaining Rule – Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work.)
What are your reading right now? What’s on your reading list for the rest of the summer?
I recently finished reading Jeremie Kubicek’s new book, Leadership is Dead – How Influence Is Revising It, and I would definitely recommend this book to leaders who want to leave a legacy that out lives themselves. Kubicek contrasts the leadership of those who are self-preserving and those who are self-fulfilling. He outlines very clearly how a leader can have a much more positive and significant impact on others by giving themselves away to serve others.
It seems fairly basic, but these are concepts that every leader needs to hear again. I know that I was challenged in my leadership at work, at church, and at home to be intentional and purposeful in serving others and providing positive influence. I was also challenged with the fact that I need to make sure I’m plugging into people who can have a positive influence on me as a leader, husband, parent, friend, and Christ-follower.
Who is influencing you in a positive way? Who are you investing in to be a positive influence?
As a kid, I was never a huge reader. I mean, I could read, but it wasn’t my first choice for spending my free time. Over the past few years, I’ve actually learned to enjoy reading some when I have some down time. (You may have figured that out with some of my previous book review blog posts.)
At any rate, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into what I’ve been reading lately.
For fun, I’ve been reading John Grisham‘s latest suspense, The Confession. I won’t give it away, but the general story is about an innocent man who’s about to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit while the real killer comes forward to confess his actions. I’ve read several Grisham books, and this one as always has kept me on the edge of my seat. I’m about half way through, so I’m excited to see how it ends.
For personal growth and challenge, I’ve been reading two books by Dave Ramsey, The Total Money Makeover and The Money Answer Book. In both these books, Ramsey shares tips for helping people to “live like nobody else now, so you can live like nobody else” in the future. He shares financial tips that he says came from this Bible and from your grandmother. He dispels the myths about debt and get rich quick schemes. Both of these books are great tools for anyone who is trying to figure out how to handle their money, how to get rid of debt, and how to save for the future.
Finally, I’m reading a book by Randy Alcorn, If God is Good. This book addresses questions that many have about evil and suffering in the world. ”If God is good, how could He allow evil and suffering?” This book is pretty deep, and it’s been a challenge to make consistent progress in this book. I think it’s extremely relevant to anyone – especially those who have experienced pain in their lives caused by evil or suffering. I have found the book helpful as I am sorting through my own thoughts, feelings, doubts, and experiences. I am convinced that God is good, but Alcorn’s book has been helpful in my processing.
Oh yeah, I usually have a few Runner’s World magazines by the bedside as well for quick reference and lighter reading.
So…what are you reading?
I’m a big sports fan. My favorite teams are the Eagles, the Bears, the Cubs, the Phillies, and the Bulls (I guess I’d throw the Flyers in there as my hockey team). My favorite players of all time are probably Walter Payton (football), Julius Erving and Michael Jordan (basketball), and Mike Schmidt (baseball). So when Leanne gave me Clearing the Bases by Mike Schmidt as part of my birthday gift, I was clearly looking forward to hearing what Michael Jack Schmidt had to say about his playing career and about his thoughts about the current state of the game of baseball.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Schmidt talks about the ups and downs of his playing days from his insecurities to his 3 MVPs and World Series Championship. Schmidt also shares about his feelings about the Steroid area, free agency, and Pete Rose. (The book was written in 2006, so I would be curious to know if Schmidt’s views on the Steroid era have changed as more information has been disclosed since then.) It was interesting to get his perspectives and each of these, but this wasn’t my biggest takeaway.
I was first of all surprised by Schmidt’s expression of his faith. Growing up, I can’t remember hearing anything about his faith, so it was refreshing to hear this. I’d love to sit down over a cup of coffee or lunch with the legend and talk more about our common bond.
The other thing that had a big impact on me was Schmidt’s discussion about managing. Obviously, he was talking about managing baseball, but one paragraph in particular spoke to me as a manager and leader:
“The sixth and most important attribute of a good manager – and this one’s a straight fastball right down the middle – is the ability to communicate. To be a good manager, you must be a good communicator. That means being able to talk to your players, not at them. You need to work at relating to them, but at the same time, you need to keep a respectful distance. Show you care about them personally. You can’t just stroll out of your office into the clubhouse one day a week and fake it; you have to have a consistent presence.”
I’ll be hanging this one up in my office.
If you’re a baseball plan, I’d recommend this book.