Wednesday, January 30, 2013

One Month to Love: review

Strangely enough, reading “One Month to Love: 30 days to Grow and Deepen your Closest Relationships” (previously published as “love at Last Sight”, Waterbrook Multnomah, 2010) by Kerry and Chris Shook reminded me of Mayberry RFD.  That may be a schmaltzy way of putting it, but it’s meant in a positive way. Sherriff Taylor used to have these heart to heart talks with Opie, talks full of homespun wisdom and truisms, with examples drawn from the Good Book, from what Opie should be learning in school, and what was happening in Mayberry at the time.
In much the same way, the Shooks draw on Scripture, media, and the realities of life according to the daily news and personal experience, to point out important lessons about relationships. Lessons like loving ‘even when’ as opposed to loving ‘until’; like be present instead of letting yourself get distracted by life, like the goal of loving others as God loves us. They talk about things like needs, and how easy, and dangerous, it can be to assume that the needs of those we love are duplicates of our own.
They point out some of the things that we probably all know already, but tend to forget, like relationships are hard work and they can be messy; they remind that if we ‘act as if’, the act, over time, becomes reality.
The book is broken into a month’s worth of lessons with an encouragement to journal about 3 close relationships, each day’s lesson closes with several questions to consider and journal about. There are also some practical action steps associated with many of the days. Especially helpful is the “Relationship Summary” found at the end of the book
I was glad to see the book is full of common sense rather than a lot of high powered, high priced theories and programs. Nothing new, nothing flashy, but an easy read with lots of potential for those motivated to stick it out for the full 30 days. All of which doesn’t mean that this is easy. In fact to do it well may be one of the more difficult things in life that some of us have done.
If the relationships are good, following the 30 day program will probably make it better, but if there are serious issues, a lot of hard work will be required, probably more than miserable people are willing to invest.
4/5 stars
I received an ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Les Misérables, my review of Focus on the Family’s Radio Theater version.

Les Misérables, my review of Focus on the Family’s Radio Theater version.
I first read Les Misérables about 40 years ago in a college French class. It was the time of the Kent State riots – students vs. National Guard, (May 1970) and the next few years would see students in Paris revolting against the educational regime, so in a sense this was ‘life imitating art’. The ‘radicals’ among you will enjoy the fight for right, for equality, and the obvious struggles against the haves and the have-nots. There are differences of opinion between the establishment which makes the rules that maintain their elitist status, and those who fight each day to provide for their basic needs often giving up on following the laws in favor of doing what they need to do to feed their families.  Our socio-economic conditions in the US today bear a startling resemblance: the very rich versus the very poor.
But this is also a story of two men: Inspector Javert whose life is spent adhering to the law, and Jean Valjean, a convict (His crime? He stole some bread to feed his sister’s starving children), paroled after 19 years in prison, who experiences grace and experiences a transformation that can only come of God – and he determines to be the instrument by which others can experience the same grace. And for the rest of his life he would pay. He makes difficult choices, choices that put his life in danger, but which are required if he is finally able to truly escape his past, rather than to perpetuate the lie that he is trying to escape.
 Older now, and more mature in years and in my faith, I see this story as one of redemption, of grace, of God's love and His transforming powers. I still root for the underdog, but am not as quick to champion causes which involve violence and needless bloodshed. But this story paints a picture of the human condition, a world that wants to do for ourselves what only God can do, a fact that Javert finally realizes and tragically is unable to accept.
Although I love this classic French novel, and enjoyed listening to it as I drove around from one appointment to another, I cannot give this the rave review that I would like to. I frequently found myself driving distracted: not because I was so caught up in the story, which I was, but because of the sound. Most of the time I had the volume at ‘maximum’ in order to hear the dialogue, then the musical interludes would occur between the scenes: just like television commercials that are considerable louder than the programming. As I drove I had to lower the volume frequently to avoid being blasted out of the car, and then raise it again to be able to hear the story.
The story gets 5 stars, the audio gets 3, overall rating of 4.5stars.
I received a copy of this product from Tyndale House for the purpose of this review. They did not require a favorable review, only an honest one.