May 18, 2012

Book Review {The Prodigal God, Ten Habits of Happy Mothers, Shift}

The Prodigal God is the provocative title of Tim Keller's latest best-selling book.  To be honest, I was a bit skeptical of a "spiritual" book that made the best-seller list.  Within the first chapter, my skepticism faded into anticipation.  This book brings a fresh application of the parable of the prodigal son as the story of two types of wayward people.   His focus on God the Father's love and grace is reassuring.  Mr. Keller defines the word prodigal as extravagant and shows just how fitly it describes the Father's love for us.  Beginning with the younger son, he delves into the text, culture and time period to flesh out the gravity of the younger brother's initial decision and eventual return.  He compares him to the irreligious of today who seek out the lust of the flesh and eyes to fulfill their lack of fellowship with the Father. Mr. Keller then focuses on the older brother as the real castaway.  The nuances of mannerism and conversation are captured and expounded in an unmistakable description of  today's religious.  The religious are ardent and faithful in their duties and practices, but their motives are as skewed as the younger brother.  Through the elder brother's angry answers, he shows how his true purpose of service was not fellowship with the Father but manipulation and expectation of favor. The parable's abrupt end leaves the elder brother's fate in obvious question.  I would recommend this book.  It reminded me of God's amazing love for me and his desire for fellowship with me.  It convicted me of my motives in service and my judgments of others.

Ten Habits of Happy Mothers by Meg Meeker is exactly what the title implies.  Dr. Meeker, a pediatrician, systematically shares ten habits that she has consistently seen in those mothers who find true fulfillment in their role. I love the order of this book.  She shares each habit, describes it, gives a real-life illustration, then provides practical suggestions for making the habit stick.  Dr. Meeker writes from a Christian perspective but attempts to appeal to a broad audience.  Two areas were especially helpful for me; the subject of hope--she reminds us that life is beyond our control, and when we release our efforts to take control, we can relax and trust the One who truly does control our life.  The other area that helped me was her description of anxiety and overcoming.  I realized I had succumbed to some of the mindset that leads to poor mental health, so I have been waging war on those thoughts.  To be honest, parts of the book dragged a little for me, but I think it was mostly due to the season of life that I'm currently experiencing.  I enjoyed this book, and I'm glad I read it.

Shift: How to Change Things When Change is Hard is the joint brainchild of brothers Chip and Dan Heath.  I LOVED this book.  This book was engaging, funny, and yet packed full of research studies to support their claims.  Their premise is that our minds are split by our rational thinking and our emotional feelings. Any changes that a person makes requires the cooperation of both of these forces in order for change to stick.  They describe this dichotomy of the mind as a elephant and its rider.  The rational side of the mind is the rider, who can see the direction that needs to be taken, but without the cooperation of the elephant, will have little success in getting there.  The elephant is the emotional part of our mind, which when motivated, has incredible strength, but lacks direction and fortitude. This book covers how to concisely direct the Rider and provide motivation for the Elephant.  They also discuss a third aspect of the puzzle, the Path.  They show how both Rider and Elephant are aided when the Path is clear and straight.  If you enjoy reading about how the mind works or amazing change successes, you will want to read this book.  I have second-guessed many of my prior conceptions about change.

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