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The End of Many Books

Leadership and Emotional Sabotage

by Joe Rigney

In this book Rigney riffs on Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve and weaves in significantly more Scripture than does Friedman on the nature of leadership.

Nerve has moved into my list of top 5 books of any kind/subject/genre, and has to be the first pull from my leadership shelf when I’m looking for a boost of encouragement. That said, Friedman was not a Christian and that’s evident in his message. Rigney aims to redeem, so to speak, what Friedman sees that is true, even if Friedman doesn’t see all that is true.

I’m probably not the target audience for Rigney’s brief book. I didn’t need an introduction to the problems of chronic anxiety – in families and churches and cultures. I also didn’t need an introduction to leaders leading with strength, or to the potential of sabotage when leaders lead well. So I was hoping for more, not just an introduction or reframing, but for advancing. And with all that said, I can see myself recommending Rigney first and then possibly Friedman to others in days to come.

One thing that doesn’t affect whether or not Rigney’s work is max-edifying (which it is), is that where Friedman argues for nerve Rigney argues for biblical sober-mindedness. I think that’s interesting, but I’d argue that sober-mindedness and self-control belong more with what Friedman calls differentiation. Nerve has much more heart, much more courage. The title of Rigney’s last three chapters apply Courage to different spheres of life (Courage in the Home, Courage in the Church, Courage in the World), but he still seems to talk about nerve as sober-mindedness. The answer to problem passions is proper passions (which I’m sure Rigney would agree with, it’s just not how he describes it in these pages). We do need clarity, but some clarity is not a cause but a result of ordered affections.

Should you read this? Well, if you have not read A Failure of Nerve, you should have ordered Rigney’s book yesterday and finished it within hours of the Amazon truck driving away from your house. If you have read Nerve, you should still read Rigney, a probably a couple times.

4 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

by John Piper

Those who sow spiritual things are allowed to reap material things; making one’s living “by the gospel” is biblical (1 Cor. 9:14). A paycheck for one’s vocation means one isn’t an amateur, doing the work just for the love of it. That sounds like being a “professional.”

And there are specific and significant qualifications for being an elder/pastor. A man must not be shoddy in his ability to teach, let alone shady in his character, faithfulness, dependability. There’s a way in which you want a “professional.”

Piper isn’t arguing against money or skillfulness, but he is arguing against being a suit, against trying to accomplish supernatural things through manual effort. That is tough in pastoral ministry.

When Brothers came out in 2002 it didn’t just scratch an itch for me, it scratched a full body rash. That’s sort of disgusting, but so is being the wrong kind of professional pastor. Since then I’ve read through the book a few times, and recently read it again on Sunday mornings while on the elliptical (a time spent trying to wake up my aching body and soul before assembling with the saints to worship). It’s not novel now, of course, and if I was assigning it to younger shepherds I might not assign all the chapters (and so I’m taking back a star this time around). But this book has much solid food for a minister to become more mature.

4 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

The 12 Week Year for Writers

by A. Trevor Thrall

Writing is hard enough. I can only imagine how much more hard it is to get your writing published; so well done to Mr. Thrall. To be “reviewed” by a non-published, non-peer (like me), especially if that review is less positive, might be annoying. Here we go anyway.

I read this because I had just finished (the original) The 12 Week Year, which the author references explicitly. I also feel wrong when I don’t at least try to write, and often am encouraged by books about writing. Plus, since I started my first 12 weeks five weeks ago, I thought whatever overlap there might be would work as prods and reminders.

I did get a few of those general reminders. Chapter 13 on “The Writer’s Mindset” was the most writing-centric content. But if I knew on page one what I know having finished it, I wouldn’t have bought it. The original 12WY—which I thought was good and useful— will do you well. If you can understand the ideas and plan in general (which you can), then you can understand how to plan for writing projects specifically without reading this.

3 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Living by the Book

by Howard Hendricks

This is THE book for learning how to do Bible study. It is book number ONE, and for many, the only.

I’ve been to Bible college and seminary, been assigned lots of books, taken hermeneutics classes and Greek/Hebrew classes. I’ve loved learning how to read and meditate and apply the Word. And Hendricks is the one I keep coming back to in order to get other people going.

I’m teaching a class at our school called Cornerstone. That’s Jesus, yes, who is the embodied Word. And it’s also a reference to the inspired Word, the Bible. This year I’ve got freshmen and sophomores, and I’ve taken a few other freshmen classes through it at a previous school.

Want to read the Bible but don’t know where to start? Want to study the Bible but need some basic steps to get going? Want some recommended resources to help you study, and would prefer not just Googling or Wikipedia-ing?

Living by the Book is your book. All the stars.

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The End of Many Books

The Covenant Household

by Douglas Wilson

The Doug is in his wheelhouse talking about fathers and family. His material is like steak and potatoes, you always enjoy it as much as you still want more.

The men at our church are reading and discussing this one. I think I’ve read all his previous books on marriage and parenting and household related issues, and was still convicted, edified, reminded, and glad to have read it.

I happen to think his use of the word “covenant” is sloppy, and I won’t pick on that here because the application for our roles and responsibilities, including some of the particulars that we need to repent from, are SPOT ON.

Read it, listen to it, and then don’t walk away from his use of God’s Word as a mirror before fixing your face.

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The End of Many Books

The Improvement of the Mind

by Isaac Watts

I’ve wanted to read this book since 2017 when I heard George Grant talk about it at the ACCS National Conference.

The backbone of the book is: we don’t know all the things, so we should learn some more things. Improve the mind. There are a variety of ways, but the surest way NOT to improve is acting as if it’s not unnecessary.

Most of the modern man’s way is to find his strengths/likes, and quadruple down on those. Weaknesses? Let others compensate; someone else must be strong where you are weak. And to some extent, this is obvious. But it also seems to be a regular excuse.

I’ve started tweeting through some quotes and thoughts, and I do plan to continue, for my own improvement. There’s good words about learning languages, about how to read, how to take notes, how to argue (and when to stop arguing), and how to listen and learn in conversations.

Make a plan to improve your mind.

Highly recommended, even if it’s getting close to 300 years old.

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The End of Many Books

The Sinking City

by Christine Cohen

The Sinking City is a cross between Peace Like a River and Pirates of The Caribbean and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, IF the main character in any of those stories had been a teenage girl. And with all that, I enjoyed it VERY much.

This is Christine Cohen’s second novel. I liked the first one (The Winter King) and I liked this one even more. Mrs. Cohen will be speaking at our Fiction Festival about world-building as a writer, and I definitely felt like I was in the spell of her city. There were similarities to The Matrix but it was magic (not code) holding so much together, and only some, the childlike, could see it.

One thing I’d like to ask her is: what do YOU think is the climax of the story? Without maybe as many surprises as there are in Peace Like a River, resolution of one problem did not mean the END; multiple frayed ends required attention.

I usually give FIVES to books that I’d really like to start rereading immediately, so this should be more 4.7 of 5, but that rounds up, ha!

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The End of Many Books

The 12 Week Year

by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington

Zero people care how many productivity books you’ve read. And based on how many productivity books keep being written and purchased, as a society we clearly want to think about doing something more than DO something itself. Some of us need more encouragement I guess.

I’ve read another one. A couple friends of mine have read, and have implemented some things from, The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington. The “gimmick” here is that in order to FOCUS on what’s important and MOVE on it every day, we need to move the finish line closer. Individuals and businesses can let themselves off the hook by waiting until the year is almost over before they get serious. If you reframe your “year” as only being 12 weeks (hence the title), you might realize that there’s not much time to waste.

The rest of the book is full of good reminders, and fine. Lack of knowledge is not as much of a problem as our lack of execution on what we already know. We always do what we most want to do, our results show it, and often that shows that what we most wanted was comfort rather than our stated goal which would have required changes. We don’t commit to what we say we want, we assume time will “show up” rather than block/schedule time on our calendar. We don’t break down our work into specifics, nor follow a system to make progress.

Today begins my first 12 week year. I chose today, not only because I finished reading the book a couple days ago, but mostly because when this first twelve weeks are complete it will be two days before my 50th birthday. I have some things I WANT to be done by then.

The book also recommends that you go public with your goals. So, you don’t have to care at all, but I’ve got two. 1) Weigh 195 pounds (currently at 211). 2) Have our church website up, usable, and answering the questions that I otherwise have been answering again and again in other ways for multiple years. I’ve made a scorecard, and can earn points each day as lead indicators, and then obviously the scale and url will be lag indicators.

I liked the book as much as I like any kick in the pants and recommend it for those who know they’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.

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The End of Many Books

The Winter King

by Christine Cohen

My first story by Cohen. How did I like it? Well I started her second book (The Sinking City) as soon as I finished.

Why did I read it? Mrs. Cohen is the keynote speaker for our upcoming Raggant Fiction Festival. I mean, I should read her stuff, right?

Why did I like it?

I enjoyed being repeatedly surprised that the heroine, Cora, chose the wrong thing. It’s not that she was mistaken and bumbled into bad things (like a young, female Inspector Clouseau), she consistently did the unrighteous thing. Turns out that her final wrong action was the right wrong action, which really did bring light after darkness, but most of her wrongs were bad.

I also enjoyed the power of “the Book,” and the foreshadowed twist in the ruined feast to the healing medicine. The truth will set you free.

If you haven’t read it, I don’t really think I’ve given too much away. What I really hope to have done is give you a reason to read it. Start before the winter’s over.

4 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Till We Have Faces

by C.S. Lewis

This was my second read-through, bumped up in my queue in preparation for our next Raggant Fiction Festival. As is usual for me with good books, my delight increased. Or maybe rather than delight, my gratitude grew. I’m raising my rating, adding it to my Fives.

The guy can write. Ha!

I’ve heard it argued that Lewis was not big on introspection. It may be true. But even if he wouldn’t encourage a man to look into his heart for too long, Lewis makes you look into someone else’s ugly heart. Mirrors hang on every page of this myth retold.

One guy said Lewis encouraged “imaginative glimpses” rather than a self-examination that bogs a man down in the slough of despond. We ought to hate proud self-love when we see it, yes, and then we ought to get into serving others for sake of the joy in obedience.

Till We Have Faces puts a face on that sort of narrative arc, for those who have ears to hear that they may not be the victim after all. Great story, and brutal, to the final page.

Should you read this? The better question is, why haven’t you already read this?!

5 of 5 stars