Friday, January 30, 2009

Big Box of *History Rocks* - Drawing

Drawing time!!!

I know. You've been waiting for this one for so long you turned purple. But, remember I warned you not to hold your breath? I'm just saying.

This week's drawing is all about history. Only one book is nonfiction and I didn't finish it because I found it a bit disjointed, but that doesn't mean other readers will have trouble with it, of course. Two are advanced readers and the rest, apart from the Philippa Gregory book (which was purchased used), I would classify as "pristine" or very close to it. I handle books very gently.

The Big Box of History Rocks contains the following books:

1. A Civil General by Stinebeck & Gill (ARC)

2. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (ARC)

3. The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander

4. The Yokota Officer's Club by Sarah Bird (unread -- accidentally bought 2, oops)

5. Two Brothers: One North, One South by David H. Jones (autographed)

6. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (used, with a lined spine but in good condition)

7. Hurricane of Independence by Tony Williams (non-fiction - this was my DNF)

8. To Catch the Lightning by Alan Cheuse

I had to stop to make certain they all fit in the box and the answer is "yes". Actually, there's a tiny bit of air space, so I'll see if I can find anything else to throw in. Don't bank on it, but you never know. I'm really in the mood to get rid of things.

Here the rules to enter:

1. Leave me an email, so I can contact you if you win. This one's crucial.

2. Tell me what, if anything, you'd like to see me change on my blog. If you can't think of anything, just tell me a nice, clean joke.

3. Eat your veggies. I'm kidding, you can skip this one but I care about your health.

Once again, this drawing is open to anyone in the world because it's a thank-you for visiting me. I don't require twitters or posts about the blog, but you can share the love if you'd like. I've been kind of lonely in here, this week.

I'm not making this a sticky post, but I'll try to remember to post reminder links. The drawing will be held Friday, February 6 so that I can pop this big old box in the mail on Monday (or try to -- I have a big problem with Mondays, actually). Good luck!!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Written in Blood by Sheila Lowe

Written in Blood by Sheila Lowe
Copyright 2008
Obsidian - Mystery
306 pages
Author's website

What led you to pick up this book? I'm not a big mystery fan but I like to toss one into the mix, now and then -- the more unique, the better. I thought the idea of a mystery with a forensic handwriting analyst as the heroine sounded fun and the reviews I read were all positive.

Describe the plot without giving anything away. Paige Sorenson runs an exclusive private school and is the widow of a much older man. After his stroke, Paige says her husband, Torg, signed a new will leaving everything to her; but, his children believe she has forged their father's signature. Paige hires Claudia Rose to analyze his signature to prove her case in court and then Claudia becomes personally involved when she meets young Annabelle, a troubled student at Sorenson Academy. When Annabelle and Paige disappear, Claudia jumps in to help. Can she figure out the mysterious disappearance by looking for clues in the handwriting of those who knew Paige?

Describe a favorite scene. I liked anything and everything that had specific information about handwriting analysis. It was absolutely fascinating and made me want to read up or take a class -- and I found myself trying to analyze my own handwriting, which is probably silly but awfully fun.

What did you think about the characters? I was particularly fond of Annabelle and I liked the fact that a lot of the characters surprised me, although I did figure out who was going to cause trouble before it happened, toward the end.

What did you like most about the book? Learning about handwriting analysis as well as some fun action scenes.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book? I didn't like all the sexual references and graphic sex scenes. And, like a lot of mysteries, the writing was good but nothing to rave about or reread. There were no beautiful sentences.

Recommended? Yes, I enjoyed this book and would like to read the first book in the series, Poison Pen, someday. I would say the book is not family friendly, due to some graphic sex scenes and references.

Anything else worth mentioning? I thought the book stood alone very well. There were occasional references to a previous mystery solved by Claudia but there was never any time that I felt lost. The only reason I would read them in order, if you're a series reader, is to find out how Claudia ended up in her current relationship with a policeman.

Cover thoughts: I love the cover, which is a montage of elements from the story (poker chips and dice, Las Vegas, a pen and some writing superimposed on what appears to be a poker table).

If you've read and reviewed this book and would like me to provide a link to your review, just let me know!

Up next: My drawing for a Magnificent Box of History Rocks. I'm quite anxious to get rid of a few more books because I'm keeping a running tally of books coming in and going out of this house . . . and right now I'm on the plus side. Not good.

Finished today: The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter. I hope to review The Feast of Love and the three graphic novels I've recently finished (in brief) very soon. And, then . . .

Oh, dear, a bit over my head. I signed up for a few too many book tours in February. Every single one of the books I've agreed to review looks fabulous and if I could, I'd read them all at once. But when you juggle too many books you tend to get bonked on the head. I'm actually in desperate need of an eye doctor appointment because my eyes are protesting all the reading I've been doing, lately.

This weekend I hope to finish The Coasts of Canada and review it, before diving into my February reads. I'm so excited that tomorrow is our marathon-training rest day. Right now, my muscles are screaming. And, I'm not even walking that far!! On the plus side, I am so happy to be back to walking in the local military park. It is absolutely beautiful. Today, I spotted 4 red-tail hawks while walking. Oh, do I wish I'd had my camera!!!

On that note . . . I'll try to get out with the camera and post some wahoos, soon. It's not my intent to completely abandon wahooing.

Happy, happy Friday!

Very content Bookfool with eyestrain and mega-sore thighs

No Experts Needed by Louise Lewis

No Experts Needed: The Meaning of Life According to You!
By Louise Lewis
Copyright 2007
iUniverse - Body, Mind & Spirit
208 pages

No Experts Needed is a book that was conceived after the author was "set free" from her job of 11 years (laid off, in other words). Unsure of what she wanted to do next, Louise decided to take some time off before finding a new job and then received a message from God guiding her to write a book. The idea to ask people to spontaneously write down what they believe to be the meaning of life came to her and she set out collecting answers from friends, relatives, acquaintances and even total strangers.

The result is a surprisingly fun and enlightening little book. It's not all quotes from other people. Lewis talks about her own life experiences -- her work and travels, how she met the people she questioned, her personal losses and triumphs. She refers to God as "Spirit". I'm not sure I'd call No Experts Needed a book that singles out any particular religion, for that reason, although a good portion of the people she queried considered God a major part of their reason for being.

No Experts Needed is a sweet, often funny and very positive book -- definitely an upper. I absolutely loved reading it and I may have a little trouble parting with this one. I'll have to give myself a little lecture about not needing to keep all those books, I suppose. I'd particularly recommend reading this book when you need a little comfort about your fellow humans (like after someone has swooped in and stolen that prime parking spot just after you had a bad day at work and accidentally tripped over your pet) or need a little cheer.

I'll probably return to my old format, at least occasionally, soon. Pardon the lack of consistency at Bookfoolery & Babble. I've been experimenting a little -- sometimes working on brevity, sometimes just letting myself ramble. Not sure which I like best. Let me know if you have a strong opinion, one way or the other.

One last comment on No Experts Needed -- the cover. Ugh. If I'd seen the cover before I accepted the book, I very well might have avoided it. Again, don't let it turn you off. If you're interested in memoirs and/or looking for an upper, there is a lot to love about this book. The author's joy practically radiates off the pages. I found myself wishing she lived next door.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Grace for the Afflicted by Matthew S. Stanford, PhD

Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perpective on Mental Illness
by Matthew S. Stanford
Copyright 2008
Paternoster Nonfiction - Religion & Science/Mental Health
261 pages, incl. resource lists and recommended reading

A fifth and final reason I believe Christians tend to deny the legitimacy of mental disorders is they are concerned that the designation "mental illness" is simply another tool the world uses to dismiss or legitimize sinful behavior. Although I believe this is a legitimate concern, we need to be careful to separate sin from illness. It is not a sin to be ill, even mentally ill. On the other hand, mental illness, whether it is a learned pattern of abnormal thinking or a biological disorder, does not dismiss sinful behavior (Leviticus 5:17).

I've described this book a little in past posts, but in brief: Grace for the Afflicted is a book that describes some common mental illnesses, their causes and management, and what the Bible has to say about them. It's written by a psychologist who teaches at Baylor and does research on the brain.

There are loads of scripture references and the descriptions of each illness and its treatment are written with a great deal of compassion but with emphasis on the fact that mental illness is not an excuse for making conscious decisions to do wrong. He gives examples of how the various conditions have effected people and, if applicable, describes passages from the Bible in which a specific mental illness can be surmised from the descriptions of Biblical characters. The author also goes into detail about the body-mind-spirit connection, which is one thing that's a little bit beyond my descriptive abilities but absolutely fascinating.

What I loved about this book:

Just about everything. The author describes the use of medication -- when it's needed, when it's not and why some people absolutely must use medication. They may need prayer, as well, but what mentally ill people need more than anything is emotional support of their fellow Christians and help with basic needs during crisis. He suggests making meals, performing simple chores, helping pay the bills and such -- the same kind of little things that most church members are happy to provide after surgery, childbirth or a funeral -- for times that a mentally ill person is having trouble functioning.

As I was reading I thought, "This is one of those rare, special books that I think absolutely every Christian should read." In fact, I'll probably buy a handful and pass them out. I love the way the author describes the difference between demon possession (which a lot of people like to assume causes mental illness) and true illness. He says possession happens, but it's rare and gives evidence of how few actual possessions are described in the Bible. We tend to zone in on tales like the story of Legion, the demon who was (were?) chased out of a man and into the pigs nearby -- remember, the pigs that went running straight into the water and drowned? Which, by the way, is a perfect example of why the Bible is such fun reading material.

Another thing you cannot help but get out of this book is the fact that absolutely everybody is touched by mental illness, at some point. We all have acquaintances or relatives who battle addiction, depression and other problems. And, for that reason alone, it's important for every church member to understand why such things shouldn't be whispered about but faced head-on and treated in whatever way is most appropriate.

The only thing I disliked about this book

was that the parts on the body-mind-spirit connection were a tiny bit dry. Just a tiny bit -- it was still utterly fascinating. That is the beginning section of the book (you can read the first chapter, here). It would be tempting to skim that bit but it's important as it lays the groundwork for understanding of the Biblical perspective on mental illness.

Excellent, excellent book -- highly recommended

, whether you're related to someone with mental illness or just want to read up so you know how best to support mentally ill people within your church.

Tomorrow, I will be touring No Experts Needed, so my Written in Blood review will be delayed by a day. This has been one of those weeks in which I've sat down a few times and just stared at the screen, totally blank. So, I have a bit of catch-up to do. If I can ever sit still long enough, I'll churn out a few posts in one day and clog your reader. Won't that be fun?

Son and I went to the Mexican restaurant, tonight, so you get a picture of artwork painted directly onto the wall. They have some pretty talented people working in that restaurant.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Never Say Diet by Chantel Hobbs (review)

Never Say Diet by Chantel Hobbs
Copyright 2007
Waterbrook Press - Fitness/Self-help/Christian
223 pages
Author's website

It's time to refuse the scam and let it be known that diets don't work! Temporarily, yes, but not for the long haul. A 2007 Stanford University study took 311 women, who averaged forty years old and 189 pounds, and put them on one of four diets: the low-carb Atkins and Zone diets, or the low-fat Ornish and LEARN diets. After six months the Atkins dieters had lost 13 pounds, the others 6 to 8 pounds. But then all the dieters started to regain what they had lost. After a year the Atkins dieters had regained 3 pounds, the othere 3 to 8. Why the rebound? Because none of the dieters was able to stick to the plan. And even if they had, they would have trimmed only a handful of pounds.

Don't depend on a diet program to change you. You are the only one who can make the necessary decisions and then follow through to change your life. You can become as fit, toned and healthy as you want to be. It isn't easy, but if you really want it, you will make it happen.

I'm having a bit of trouble formulating my thoughts about this particular book, so let's start with the basics: Never Say Diet is part memoir and part fitness/weight-loss advice. Author Chantel Hobbs was morbidly obese and loved to eat. She developed bad habits early and was overweight even as a youngster. Eventually, she reached the point that she realized the way she lived was likely to reduce the length of her life. She made the decision to overhaul her lifestyle and lost a significant amount of weight -- nearly 200 pounds. The author began simply by going to the gym, where she forced herself to exercise for 30 minutes each day. Gradually, she began to increase her workouts, study nutrition and alter her way of eating -- and even became a marathon runner.

What I loved about this book is that in many ways I agree with her philosophy. The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to change the way you think about food and exercise. Eat good foods, build muscle and take in fewer calories than you're burning and you will lose weight. She calls altering the way you think about food and exercise making a "brain change". I don't necessarily agree with how she went about her own weight loss -- particularly the fact that she started by doing workouts that could easily lead to injury because she didn't gradually ease into exercise, instead throwing herself into 30-minute recumbent bike rides at a [probably expensive] gym, leaving her with rubbery, sore legs and drenched in sweat. She could have easily ended up with an injury and shut herself down cold.

However, the thought process is great and it's my personal opinion that just about nobody can lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off unless they're ready and have the mindset that they want to lose weight for themselves. Dieting for other people isn't motivating enough.

The book is written from a Christian perspective as the author is a Christian. She considered God and the strength she gained from praying and leaving her life in God's hands a crucial part of the process. I don't think it's necessary to be a Christian to read the book and get something out of it, but there's plenty of God between the covers. Because I'm a Christian, I liked her thoughts about turning things over to God.

There were a few things I didn't like about the book, all essentially minor. One is that she is critical of all diet plans. I do believe there are other available programs that emphasize nutrition and lifestyle changes; it's a little harsh to throw all diet plans into one bucket and fish out the word "scam" to broadly describe absolutely every diet plan in existence.

The author does have a point that a lot of diet plans are expensive and they aren't necessarily educational. You can end up spending a tremendous amount of money to have meals provided and not learn a thing about how to eat right because someone is doing the thinking for you. But gym memberships generally are pretty costly, as well, and the author began by working out in a gym. It's a little two-faced to say, "Don't choose this expensive option, but -- hey, I chose another one that hits the wallet just as hard." She does, however, make some suggestions for other ways to get going. There are some photographs and exercises, all of which are performed with a large exercise ball and may include hand-weights or a medicine ball.

The author claims that the best way to initially handle a change in perspective about eating is to make food boring -- and then she advises against eating specific foods. Pickles, in particular, surprised me. They're extremely low in calories and I personally think they're a great snack alternative for those times when you're craving something salty with crunch. I also truly believe healthy food doesn't have to be bland or boring. Taste has to be relearned if you're accustomed to high-fat, salty or sugary foods but with the right spices good food can taste amazing. Fortunately, she does list some excellent "premium fuel" alternatives.

Finding balance is the important thing. I've tried hard to introduce family times that make physical activity fun and natural. My kids like to have swimming relays, hula-hoop contests, and their own cheerleading competitions in the living room. By making exercise such as walks, bike riding, hiking, skating, or shooting hoops a family fun time, you're changing up the movie-and-ice-cream afternoons and adding a health benefit.

Oh, yeah. That I agree with. I'm all about finding balance. We don't have movie-and-ice-cream afternoons, though, and never have. I kind of hate ice cream. You wanted to know that, right?

I got this book and the accompanying Never Say Diet Personal Fitness Trainer to read for a blog tour (you can read an excerpt of Never Say Diet, here). I'm not sure what I think of the Personal Fitness Trainer, in general. It's essentially a journal with blanks for specific information -- room to list everything you eat, records of how much you've exercised and to places to describe your feelings. There's a little rehashing of her story, some encouragement, scriptures and added advice. There are a couple of brief recipes for easy, healthful protein drinks to use as breakfast substitutes or snacks and other food recommendations. I guess my overall impression is that it's not a necessity but it could be helpful for those who need added guidance. I won't personally use it . . . at least not right away. That's because I'm involved in a very nicely structured exercise program, though, and I don't want to confuse the two.

If you choose to read the book and adopt the author's methods, I'd caution you to ease into exercise rather than following her example of throwing yourself into a vigorous routine right off the bat. I don't think she advises mimicking her early choices, but it's still worth mentioning. In general, I think Never Say Diet is a very good book that is easy to read and offers some good advice.

Coming up next: Reviews of Grace for the Afflicted by Matthew Stanford and Written in Blood by Sheila Lowe, as well as my next giveaway. I can't predict when I'll get to those posts, but I'm shooting for As Soon As Possible.

Just walked in: Voices Under Berlin by T.H.E. Hill and The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey. Plus, a half-dozen pairs of double-layer running socks for my husband. I was so relieved when I discovered the postman didn't merely come to my door because I was weighing down his truck with books (again). He likes to rib me about that.

Cat and I sat on the porch and read, again, today. Our high was somewhere around 70. Lest you turn green with envy, be aware that any time it gets into the 60's in Mississippi we end up swatting away mosquitoes. Still . . . it was darn near perfect. I wish those of you who are dealing with icy weather a very safe week!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Katie and Kimble: A Ghost Story (Book 1) by Linda Thieman

Katie & Kimble: A Ghost Story (Book 1)
by Linda Thieman
Copyright 2007
Pale Silver Rainplop Press - Children's Paranormal
(3rd grade level)
107 pages
Author's website

Katie and Kimble: A Ghost Story

is (as you can tell from the parenthetical bit) the first in a series of books geared specifically to young readers at the third-grade level. I chose to read it because "ghost" is another one of those key words that piques my interest. Regardless of age level, I love to read ghost stories.

Katie is a 9-year-old girl who moves into a large house after her mother gets a new job and the family relocates. The house has a resident ghost, Kimble, a young girl who died at the age of 10.

Warning: Spoiler alert! Since this book is directed at youngsters, I've gone ahead and described some details, assuming there probably aren't too many 9-year-olds reading my blog. Skip this next part if you want the contents of the book to be a surprise.

Shortly after her arrival, Katie's dog Twinkle leads her to an empty log, where she discovers a beautiful and very old hair bow. As she's unpacking and moving things within the house, Katie hears laughter several times and eventually she finds two more "gifts" from the ghost of a young girl who desires to be Katie's friend. As Katie investigates, she determines that the ghost is named Kimble and she died in the flu epidemic of 1918. Kimble occasionally materializes and is even able to touch Katie. They play dreidel together, check out a secret room and go on an adventure to discover what happened to Kimble's mother.

End of spoilers!!

I no longer have young children, since my youngest is 17 years old, but I still love reading children's stories and I thought Katie & Kimble was nicely written for its intended audience. If you've got an advanced reader or are interested in reading the book aloud, rest assured that Katie and Kimble is not particularly frightening and I don't think younger children who can read at 3rd-grade level will find it at all disturbing. Kimble is a good ghost. The story of how she died is sad, but she saves Katie from several mishaps and it's a very positive book, overall. I think my children and I would all have enjoyed it at the early-reading stage. I particularly enjoyed learning about the Jewish Hanukkah game, dreidel.

The cover of this book turned me off a little. Don't let it. It pertains to the story; and, the drawings inside are equally relevant. You can download the first 6 chapters of the book at Linda Thieman's website (see link in book description, above).

Other reviews (let me know if you've reviewed this book and would like to have a link added):

Cafe of Dreams

Up next:

Reviews of Never Say Diet and Grace for the Afflicted. And, a giveaway post of history and historical fiction. Please be patient with me, as I've fallen a bit behind on posting and we're still busy going through piles of things that were buried behind the canned foods for years, before our pantry shelf collapsed. Soon we'll be working on the countertop for the new cabinets and tiling the backsplash. Between fix-it jobs, nudging the kiddo to do his schoolwork (man, that job can be a real bear) and training for a marathon, we're awfully busy, around here, but I'll do my best to catch up when I have a spare minute.

Just Walked In (with a little help -- okay, I confess, I just felt like buying a few books):

Victoria Victorious: The Story of Queen Victoria by Jean Plaidy
The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder (entirely Care's fault)
Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Grace (Eventually) has a wonderful Prelude. I read the first paragraph aloud to my husband at the bookstore and I'll share that along with a few other quotes that have thrilled my little heart recently, later in the week. I'm still loving absolutely everything that I'm reading, although I've realized lately that maybe 5 or 6 books at a time is a bit too much for me. I'm finding that I'll set one or two aside for as long as 2 or 3 weeks and then eventually focus on a single title till I complete it. If a cover image stays in my sidebar forever, it doesn't mean I'm not enjoying it. It's just that I'm overdoing. We're still working on that whole balance concept. Actually, I think it's going quite well -- the balance thing -- and that is possibly why I'm finding less time to blog and to visit other bloggers. I haven't forgotten about you, though, and I will visit when I can!!

Bookfool, still all full of bloggy love

We're in This Boat Together (sneak peek)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

We’re in This Boat Together

Authentic (August 14, 2008)


In her thirty-year teaching career, Dr. Camille Bishop’s love for students and her penchant for adventure have taken her to classrooms all over the world. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a degree in math, Dr. Bishop began her career in the trenches as a secondary mathematics instructor in the North Carolina public school system. This first taste of teaching convinced her that she had found her calling, so she enrolled in graduate school, earning a master’s degree in education at North Carolina State University. Since 1988, she has been on the faculty of the University of the Nations, a non-profit educational institution with a global network of locations.

Through her work with the University of the Nations, Dr. Bishop has visited sixty nations of the world, interacting with educators, government officials, and other non-profit agencies. While leading an educational development project in Albania, Dr. Bishop sensed the need for more training. She returned to the U.S. and received her Ph.D. in education from Trinity International University, where she wrote her doctoral dissertation on leadership transition between the generations. This research became the focus of her unique new book, We’re in This Boat Together.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Authentic (August 14, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934068373
ISBN-13: 978-1934068373



Raging, white-foamed water surrounded our black rubber craft. The raft seemed like a bathtub toy compared to the expanse of the river. The noise was deafening. My stomach lurched as we sank into another unexpected drop. Menacing boulders poked up through the water. Why had I selected Class IV and Class V rapids for my first white-water experience?

My first white-water rafting expedition was with a group on the New River in West Virginia, with rapids that have special names attached to them. Paddling the tranquil water before the first rapid, I found it hard to believe that we would hit rough waters. But the rafting guide’s instructions kept pounding in my head: “Don’t lose your cookies.” She had informed us that we should navigate that rapid before lunch! I was nervous. Suddenly the raft several hundred feet ahead of me disappeared. It simply dropped out of sight. All my senses came to attention.

Fear seized me. My stomach churned. I clutched the oar tightly, preparing myself for the precipitous drop just ahead of me. There was no turning back. We had miles to go and numerous rapids to ford before the adventure would end. I wondered if I would survive. Hours later, exhausted from all the adrenalin that had pumped through my body, we arrived at the end of our journey. I had lived to tell the tale. And I even had a photo to prove it!

Similar thoughts, feelings, and reactions emerge when people are faced with transition in an organization, especially when the change involves leadership. And let’s face it—in the life of an organization the time to transfer leadership will come if the group hopes to continue. The first question becomes What will the transition look like? Is it possible to prepare for transition in ways that allow for tranquil waters or at least smaller rapids? Does transition have to be tumultuous, wrenching, and as terrifying as Class IV and Class V rapids? How can we pull together to make leadership succession work between generations?

In today’s workforce no one is exempt from the fact that four generations are currently represented. From the worlds of business and education to nonprofit organizations and churches, a similar scenario exists. One might find in the same company a seventy-year-old working alongside a twenty-two year- old. Down the hall, a Gen Xer might be consulting with a Baby Boomer. What are the defining qualities of each of these generations? Many questions come to the surface:

• Are there generational differences in work ethic—and if so, what are they?

• How does each generation relate and respond to authority figures?

• How does each generation perceive women in leadership?

• What are their expectations in the workplace?

• How do they balance the demands of work and home?

• What are their views about money and fiscal responsibility?

• How does each generation view the role of leadership in an organization?

These questions reflect the need to better understand the values and behaviors of each of these four generations. Research indicates that our perception of leadership is linked to the particular generation in which we grew up. Without that knowledge, transitions in leadership can be very messy. Insight and appreciation of generational differences can prepare a workplace for a much smoother changeover.

The Silent Generation consists of those born between 1925 and 1942. They are the children born during the Great Depression and the generation sandwiched between the first and second world wars. Boomers followed the Silent Generation (1943–1960) and were raised in an era of opportunity, progress, and optimism. They also experienced a radically changing society marked by rebellion, shifting social norms, and outward challenges of authority. Growing up in the shadow of the Boomers, Gen Xers were born between 1961 and 1981. They are technologically savvy and were raised in the age of dual-career families. Finally, Millennials, some of the newest members of the workforce, were born between 1982 and twenty years thereafter. A “plugged-in” generation, they have been around technology since birth. The Internet world of blogs, wikis, podcasts, and ever-present e-mail is as natural to them as breathing.

Each of these distinct groups of people see life differently because of the times in which they grew up. Just consider the differences that might exist in financial matters between those who grew up during the Great Depression and those who were raised in the “instant credit, no-payment-until-next year” society.

Might there be a clash between Henry, a member of the Silent Generation who sees leadership as the general who goes to the helm, and Jason, an Xer who is distrustful of leaders and prefers collaboration? You can almost feel the white water forming.

How can we navigate the rapids of transition? The answer to that question is the reason for this book. So grab your oar, don’t forget your life jacket, and push off into the white water. It is going to be quite a ride!


Meet the Rafting Team

Rumbling down the dirt path to the launch site, the aging yellow bus that once served public schools came to a creaking halt. Daniella, the guide, stood stoically on the riverbank to meet the latest group, their company having paid good money for a white-water adventure. Medium height, bronzed from the sun, and rippling muscles, she has encountered all types. Nothing would surprise her.

The bus door opened. Only four brave souls stepped off—a small band of rafters today. They are a departmental task force from Handover Corp., (* Handover Corp. and all of its “employees” are fictitious.) a medium-sized company that was founded in the 1950s in the local area. The company rep told her this was a team-building exercise. Daniella, a Swiss-German, sized them up.

Nate, a tall and lean young man in his early twenties, appears to be in his own world. His black special-edition iPod matches his long dark shorts and is blaring tunes into his ears. A plain white tank shirt exposes a solid tan and well-etched muscles. A simple, black, lattice-looking tattoo circles his right bicep. His head is shaved. Nate hung out at Starbucks last night, researching this rafting expedition. The GPS software on his laptop allowed him a virtual tour of the river, with close-ups of each rapid. He Skyped a buddy of his in the Ukraine who had gone white-water rafting a few months ago, and then he eased into a chatroom to get some more input. He can hardly wait to blog the experience. Hired fresh out of college with a degree in computer security, Nate has been with Handover only a year. He blocks the hackers.

Nate has no idea how long he will be with Handover. Maybe he will start his own business in a few years.

Brianna, a blond who just turned thirty-two, looks distracted. She barely made it to the bus on time after dropping off her only child, Abby, at preschool. Her husband, Kyle, owns his own business, and they both work hard, juggling the demands of home and work. At least they share the load equally and have some flextime in their schedules. Handover even allows her to work from home one day a week. She designs webpages and has been with the company for five years. Brianna is short and a little thick in the hips. Too much fast food. But her turquoise-blue tank suit with matching sarong covers most of the overindulgence.

She IM’ed a bunch of friends the day before to talk about this trip and was feeling better about it. A team-building experience would look good on her resume. Who knows how long she will be at Handover? Opportunities abound, and experienced webpage designers are in demand.

Brad is in his late forties and wonders if he can actually do this. Although stocky and athletic, he has suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome and a frozen shoulder in the past year. Besides that, his desk is piled with a backlog of work. He really doesn’t have time for this. He sincerely hopes that extra compensation is coming his way for his participation and that he will survive it unscathed. Brad designs software and works extra hours, trying hard to please. Handover is going through some transitions, and he wants to avoid any downsizing. He has twenty years with the firm; but software design could be outsourced. He would like to retire early, at age fifty-five, with a solid pension and then explore other options—like the local golf course. He is expecting a sizeable inheritance. At least he looks good in his Eddie Bauer rafting outfit and Ray-Ban sunglasses. A Nike baseball cap covers his head.

George, though the oldest member, is spunky. At sixtyeight his wrinkled face reflects his years, but he stands tall and confident. He could stand to lose a few pounds, but they are mostly concentrated in his paunch. A pork-pie hat sits squarely on his balding head. A navy blue T-shirt hangs loosely over his torso, with the white Handover Corp. logo squarely over his chest. He has worked at Handover his entire career and is proud to be part of the organization. He maintains the computer hardware. George wants to keep working as long as he can. Handover hadn’t focused much on team building in the past. But times—they are a-changin’. He can adapt. He is a survivor.

“Good morning,” Daniella said rather flatly to the foursome. How many times have I given this spiel? “Welcome to the Black River Rafting Expedition. Everyone needs a life jacket, oar, and helmet. Please suit up.”

As she observed the foursome rummaging through the bin of life jackets and helmets, a question jogged through her mind: How do these four folks work together in the same department?

A totally different question ran through the minds of the Handover group: Can this tough lady get us safely down the river?

“Where do you want us to sit in the raft?” asked George, his comment dragging her back to the present. “I’d like to sit in the front, if you don’t mind,” he said.

Brad rolled his eyes and shot a quick glance at Brianna, who mouthed, “What’s new?” Nate was just unplugging his iPod.

Daniella rasped, “Just get in. We’ll sort it out in a few minutes. I’ve got the rudder position.”

As the raft slid into the river, George was perched in the front, Brad was on the right side, Brianna was on the left side, and Nate was in the back with Daniella. The inky water was like glass, smooth and tranquil.

“Okay, let’s review a few things,” said Daniella. “First, I’m guiding this raft. If you don’t listen to me, you could put all of us at risk. Until it gets rough, you are free to sit on the sides of the raft. But when I say to get down and sit low, do it. At some places in the rapids we’ll have to pull strongly to one side or the other. And sometimes the roar of the water will be deafening. You’ll have to strain to hear me. Everyone needs to repeat my instructions out loud so we are all on the same page. Questions, anyone?”

“Got it,” replied George. Just follow the directions.

“Sounds logical to me,” said Brad. Let’s get this show on the road; I’ve got work to do. Sure hope my shoulder doesn’t flare up again.

“I’m with the team,” responded Brianna, her voice a little shaky. This could be riskier than I thought. I have Abby to think about.

“Yo, I’m in,” chimed Nate. This looked awesome on the GPS.

“All right, let’s practice a few maneuvers,” commanded Daniella. “Nate, take a position behind Brianna. And George, move back in front of Brad.”

“Okay, we’ve got two on the right and two on the left. When I say ‘Paddle left,’ George and Brad stop paddling; and Brianna and Nate, you guys paddle like your lives depended on it. Reverse it for ‘Paddle right.’”

“Paddle right,” shouted Daniella. “And remember to repeat the command.”

“Paddle right,” Nate, Brad, Brianna, and George said in unison. It was a little anemic.

“Shout it loud!” yelled Daniella from the back of the raft.

“PADDLE RIGHT!” screamed the foursome. George and Brad paddled furiously, moving the rubber raft significantly to the right.

“Low in the boat,” commanded Daniella.

“Low in the boat!” came the reply, and all four of them slid off the sides and sat down.

“Okay, one last maneuver,” said Daniella. “All of you need to be able to get back in the boat if you go overboard. Brianna, let’s start with you. Slide out, and I’ll show you how to get back in.”

Before she could protest, Daniella gave Brianna a little nudge, and over she went with a splash.

“Dang, it’s cold!” Brianna exclaimed, trying to catch her breath from the shock of the chill. Grabbing the side of the raft, she tried to pull herself up; but her legs slid under the boat, and she looked helpless.

Daniella chuckled. “Okay, good try. Grab onto the raft, and put one leg over. The rest of us will help you roll back inside.”

Brianna placed her short, hefty leg on the side of the raft; and, sure enough, it worked—Brad and Nate pulled her in.

George, Brad, and Nate all took turns getting into the water and maneuvering back into the boat. Nate was the only one with enough upper body strength to pull himself in without assistance.

“One final thing,” said Daniella. She reached beneath her life jacket, unsnapped a sheath, and pulled out a menacing six inch hunting knife. “If someone goes overboard and gets trapped under the raft, I have to act quickly. I’ll slash the raft and try to pull the person up. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I’ve had to do it before. Questions, anyone?”

Brianna’s face was ashen. All of this for a team-building exercise?

“All right, let’s go!”

Daniella dug her oar strongly in the water and pushed out to the center of the river. What a motley crew. Oh well, we’re in this boat together. Time to experience the real thing.

Not too far ahead lay the first rapid, “Big Mama,” a steep drop and blazing ride through white water, shifting currents, and a challenging obstacle. The team would soon be tested.

You can read my review of We're in This Boat Together, here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Excuses, Excuses

Reasons/excuses why I haven't caught up on blog-hopping, posting awards, memes, reviews and the latest giveaway:

1. It was in the 70's in Mississippi, today -- sunny, breezy and mostly perfect, if a bit noisy. I spent part of my day on the porch, reading. I'm really curious where the local rooster is located. Seriously, I've been hearing "cock-a-doodle-doo" noises for months. We're on the edge of a rural area, but it's pretty well built up so the sound of a rooster is definitely surprising.

2. The cat needed me. When I woke up, she was comfortably curled up on my legs. Mustn't disturb the feline, so I read for a while in bed, also. I finished Grace for the Afflicted by Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D. It is awesome. More on that later. Whenever I get around to catching up, that is.

3. When I finally got on the computer (and that took quite a while), the internet went kaput. That, my friends, is a valid excuse.

4. I'm still working on filling up our new utility-room cabinets. The husband made one heck of a mess, piling things willy-nilly into -- and essentially burying -- the breakfast nook. First order of the day was forging a path to the window because I simply do not function in a cave; I had to open the blinds.

5. Errands. Chores. Bills. Blah.

6. Because.

The kitty pictured above is Mamasita, the resident cat at Off-Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. Isn't she lovely?

I'm thinking maybe the next drawing will be for A Big Box of History Rocks (fiction and non-fiction). What do you think?

Happy Weekend!

Bookfool, aka Excuse-Generating Machine

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Recovering Me, Discovering Joy by Vivian Eisenecher

Recovering Me, Discovering Joy by Vivian Eisenecher
Copyright 2008
KTW publishing - Self-help/Christian
191 pages, incl. appendix, bibliography and index

Subtitled "Uplifting Wisdom for Everyday Greatness," Recovering Me, Discovering Joy tells about the author's experience with depression, social anxiety and alcoholism and reveals what she has learned both from her personal challenges and the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

What led you to pick up this book? I'm a sucker for anything that claims to be uplifting, inspirational or has the word "joy" in the title, somewhere. And, I like reading about how people have succeeded in spite of hefty challenges.

A little bit more about the book. The author grew up with social anxiety and mild depression (dysthymia) but was not diagnosed until she failed several times to succeed in recovering with the help of AA. Social anxiety and group therapy, she says, do not mix. It was only after she was finally diagnosed correctly and found the right medication that she was able to recover and find joy in life. Recovering Me, Discovering Joy describes the various conditions that she has dealt with, how they are linked and what she's learned from facing alcoholism and mental illness as well as her husband's stroke. I don't know a whole lot about how AA works, but acceptance of God and letting go of your worries is apparently a big part of the whole 12-step shebang, so she dedicates a portion of the book to her beliefs.

What did you like most about the book? I thought the author made some interesting comments about staying positive. I particularly like the chapter sub-heading, "Did I have a Bad Day or did I have a Bad Five Minutes that I Milked All Day?"

What did you didn't like about the book? I wouldn't say there's anything I disliked, but I guess because it didn't apply to me specifically in any way, I occasionally found myself zoning out. And, I thought it was a bit disjointed; there were times I thought her philosophy would have made more sense if she'd given it better context -- there was not enough detail about her own experience, in my opinion. There's some good advice, but it's probably a better fit for those who are struggling with the combination of conditions that the author has dealt with.

Recommended? I'd recommend it for alcoholics -- recovering or otherwise -- in need of support and encouragement. For me, this was an average read, well-written but not right for me.

Anything else worth mentioning? The author has a rather fascinating perspective on Christianity.

If nothing else, believe as a precaution. Pascal looked at believing in God very logically. He suggested that we place our bet that He exists. If He does, we win it all. If He doesn't, we don't lose a thing, but have gained a joyous way to live. Believe without hesitation, because if nothing else it's the smart thing to do.

The author of Grace for the Afflicted (which I'm currently reading) spoke of this kind of belief as "holding on to some kind of faith-based fire insurance." Since I'd marked the passage about placing bets on God's existence this morning and then moved on to Grace for the Afflicted in the afternoon, that little connection jumped out at me. Doesn't the idea of believing for the sake of making sure you don't burn in Hell sound like a great discussion topic?

Cover thoughts: I really, really, really dislike covers with just a photo of the author. So, it's not a favorite. But, it's a pretty common type of cover for self-help books and I think the whole self-help industry could stand to work on cover creativity.

Up next: A review of Never Say Diet by Chantel Hobbs and the next 100,000-hit drawing. I'm not sure what I'm giving away next, but hang in there. I'll get back to you. I've still got a good-sized pile in the hallway. I just haven't looked at them, lately.

I'm pretty sure this was the third day in a row that I haven't found time to look at my Google Reader and now I'm shivering with fright at the thought of the number of posts I've missed. Someone give me a pep talk.

Also, I wrote that today was cross-training day on my Runfoolery blog, posted a photo taken in the military park (my favorite place in Vicksburg) and then . . . didn't exercise. Uh. Oopsie. I meant well. I guess my "rest day" will be shifted, this week. Fortunately, I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter how strictly you hold to the schedule at this level, as long as you get in 6 days of exercise. I could be wrong about that, but we'll see if I'm the first to hit the wall when marathon time rolls around.

Confession: What I really long for is that sensation that I no longer have a butt that could squash Alaska. I'm not so sure I have an inner longing to run 26.2 miles. I was happy with my 10K experience.

I have not taken a single photo in two weeks. Can you believe that? I think next time I have a cross-training day, I'll dance through the living room and then grab my camera and go to the park. Nudge me if I forget. I'm sure you guys are in desperate need of a photo, right? Right? Am I making your life duller by not posting photos? Here, have an older photo:

See the little birdy living in the Rite-Aid letter "e"? Awww, how sweet. We'll call him a Wahoo Birdy. Okay, you may go back to your regularly scheduled reading. Happy Wednesday!

Grace for the Afflicted by Dr. Matthew S. Stanford (sneak peek)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness

Paternoster (September 5, 2008)


Dr. Matthew S. Stanford is professor of psychology, neuroscience, and biomedical studies at Baylor University, where he also serves as the director of the Psychology Doctoral Program. He received his Ph.D. in neuroscience from Baylor in 1992. After graduating from Baylor he completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Prior to returning to Baylor as a member of the staff in 2003, he was a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Orleans.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Paternoster (September 5, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934068446
ISBN-13: 978-1934068441


Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

The church we were involved with at the onset of my son’s [mental] illness did not respond to us when we requested that a team come out and pray over him. . . . We were looking for support and comfort, and the churches we encountered were

not equipped to give that to us because they did not seem to have a complete handle on what we were dealing with. We have fallen away from the church, but not from God. —Laurie, mother of a son diagnosed with schizophrenia

“The Scriptures tell us that in Christ we have everything we need for life and godliness, correct? So can you explain to me why Anna’s bipolar disorder and her dependence on medication is not an issue of weak faith or sin?”

Only two of us stayed after the church meeting that morning, talking over coffee. I was a deacon in the church at the time, and the man who asked the question was a friend and respected elder. The question took me by surprise, and initially I was speechless (a condition for which I am, unfortunately, not known). If you have a loved one with a mental illness—or you yourself struggle with the debilitating symptoms—your first reaction to such a question may have been more along the lines of sadness, disgust, or anger.

But in my friend’s defense, he sincerely wanted to understand something he saw as alien and frightening. Was Anna sick, or was she spiritually weak? We know from 2 Peter 1:3 that we do have “everything we need for life and godliness.” Yet, even though Anna professed Christ as Savior, her life was a mixture of family problems, shame, suffering, and strange behavior. How should the church respond?

Science and faith have had a long and tense relationship. A dangerous and damaging battle—a battle between faith and psychiatry/psychology—is being waged daily in churches throughout the world. And lives are being destroyed. Men and women with diagnosed mental illnesses are told they need to pray more and turn from their sin. Mental illness is equated with demon-possession, weak faith, and generational sin. The underlying cause of this stain on the church is a lack of knowledge, both of basic brain function and of scriptural truth.

Mental illness is a frightening experience, not only for the afflicted but also for those who witness an individual struggling with strange thoughts and behaviors. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages eighteen and older (one in four adults) suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.1 Centuries of tension between the church and the scientific community have made pastors and laypeople alike wary of adopting scientific explanations for behaviors and thoughts that, on the surface, may appear sinful (e.g., suicidal ideations).

Again, I believe that the lack of understanding in the church related to mental illness is rooted in spiritual ignorance and fear. So, let’s look first to God’s Holy Word to gain a better understanding of how we were created, what effects the Fall has had on our physical bodies and minds, and who we are in Christ.

How Are We Created?

We have been created in the very image of God (Genesis 1:26). We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). We are complex beings, unlike any other living creature: the union of a physical body with an immaterial mind and spirit. While each aspect is separate, in some sense, they are connected and affect one another. The Scriptures attest to this truth.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. (Psalm 84:2)

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23) (all emphases, author’s)

The Body

At one level we exist in a physical body so that we can interact with the physical world around us. Our heart pumps; our stomach and intestines digest; our muscles relax and contract; our lungs inhale and exhale; our brain cells fire. We are God’s creative masterpiece: a miracle of skin, bone, and blood formed from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). But at the same time we are so much more. We perceive. We think and reason. We pray.

There is also an immaterial, nonphysical aspect to our being—what some call our mind or soul.

The Mind

What is the mind? This question has baffled philosophers and scientists alike for thousands of years. Are our thoughts and perceptions merely the product of neurochemical changes and electrical discharges in our brain? Or is our mind something more—something immaterial, more than the sum of our parts? I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. The functioning of our brain is integral to the existence of our mind, but that alone is not sufficient to explain it. Likewise, to imagine our mind as completely separate and unrelated to the physical does not seem correct either. Body and mind are intimately connected, each affecting the other. We retrieve a past memory of a fearful event in our mind, and our physiology reacts. Our sensory receptors are activated by familiar stimuli in the environment, and past thoughts and feelings rush to consciousness.

The Scriptures often speak of the mind. It is here that we . . .

Plan our actions

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Choose to sin

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so. (Romans 8:6–7)


What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing

with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. (1 Corinthians 14:15)

Receive revelation and understanding from God

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:45)

Meditate on the truths of God

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)

Are transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

(all emphases, author’s)

It is with our mind that we think and choose. It is our mind that controls our actions. And it is our mind that God wants to change through the process of sanctification, conforming us ever closer to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). A physical body formed by the hands of the Maker in union with an immaterial mind that controls and plans our behavior is a truly miraculous concept, though a difficult one to grasp. And the Scriptures teach us that we also have a third and even more amazing level of being, a spirit.

The Spirit

It is not uncommon for neuroscientists to talk and debate about the mind. We might use fancier words like consciousness or self-awareness to make it sound more “scientific,” but we are still talking about an immaterial, invisible aspect of our being. Things that can’t be seen make scientists uncomfortable. We don’t like to say that something is beyond our understanding or that it can’t be measured. We may admit that we don’t understand something presently but qualify our admission by saying that with enough study and the continued advancement of science we will one day. So to describe us as having a spirit, in addition to a mind and a body, seems almost heretical from a scientific perspective. But here is where we scientists must understand that Scripture is our ultimate authority and that it precisely describes our created being in the context of our relationship with God and our fellow human beings.

God created us as a unity of three parts, much like Himself. In our inmost being we are spirit, the very breath of God placed into a shell of dust (Genesis 2:7). That is how we differ from the other living creatures: both were created from the ground (Genesis 2:7, 19), but only humanity is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). I like the way Paul Brand and Philip Yancey describe it in their book In His Image:

“And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (2:7).

When I heard that verse as a child, I imagined Adam lying on the ground, perfectly formed but not yet alive, with God leaning over him and performing a sort of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Now I picture that scene differently. I assume that Adam was already biologically alive—the other animals needed no special puff of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide to start them breathing, so why should man? The breath of God now symbolizes for me a spiritual reality. I see Adam as alive, but possessing only an animal vitality. Then God breathes into him a new spirit, and infills him with His own image. Adam becomes a living soul, not just a living body. God’s image is not an arrangement of skin cells or a physical shape, but rather an inbreathed spirit.2

Our body, while we see it as our true identity, is little more than a container for our true essence, which is spirit (2 Corinthians 5:1). It is in our spirit that we have the opportunity to be in union with the very God of the universe (Proverbs 20:27; Romans 8:16).

Bringing It All Together

So how does all this work together—body, mind, and spirit? Let’s look at a simple visual representation. Figure 1 shows three concentric circles, each separate but interacting with the one above and/or below. The outermost circle represents the body, which is in contact with the earthly environment (outside) and the mind. The middle circle is the mind, which is connected to the body through the functions of the brain and nervous system but also in contact with our immaterial spirit (the innermost circle). The body senses and reacts to the external environment; and the mind uses that information to perceive, understand, and interpret our surroundings. The mind also forms our thoughts and plans our actions. The spirit, when connected to God, works to transform the mind into the very image of Christ, which results in an ever-increasing display of godly behaviors through the body.

We are an amazing creation! The physical (body) interacting with the immaterial (mind/spirit). Physical beings designed to be in an intimate communion with the very Creator of the universe, who is spirit (John 4:24). That is how we were created, and that is how it was supposed to be. But humanity fell (sinned), and the consequences of our disobedience are felt every day, both spiritually and physically.

How Have We Been Affected by the Fall?

After the shock had worn off, I thought for a minute about how to respond to my friend’s question about Anna. I asked him, “Do you know anyone who has heart disease and regularly takes medication?”

He said that he did, but before I could continue, he asked me if I was trying to say that Anna’s bipolar disorder and heart disease were somehow the same. Throughout this book, I will try to answer that question. How are they the same? How do they differ? But first we need to answer a more foundational question: What are the results of man’s sin?

When a follower of Jesus Christ is asked that question, he or she will often quote Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Such a response correctly points out that spiritual death, or separation from God, is the result of sin. As children of Adam, we are sinful by nature and therefore spiritually dead and separated from God at birth (Romans 5:12).

I have always thought it strange, however, that the answer to the question rarely goes beyond the spiritual. Clearly, spiritual death resulted from our sin. But what about the other aspects of our being, our mind and body? How were they affected by the Fall? I have suggested that the Scriptures describe us as a three-part being, with each part interacting with and affecting the others. If that is true, then our sin must have also adversely affected our mind and body. I’m not saying that this truth is completely unknown in the church today. Plainly, the Bible teaches us that we are fully defiled by sin (body, mind, and spirit)—caught in what some theologians call “total depravity” (see Romans 3:12). Yet the church emphasizes the spiritual effects of sin while minimizing or disregarding the mental and physical effects. As I stated above, I think this results from a misunderstanding of what the Scriptures teach about how we have been created.


At birth, we are physically alive but spiritually dead. We are born with an imperfect body, scarred as the result of generations of sin. On the day that Adam and Eve fell, they forfeited their intimate relationship with God, and they became mortal. And we were placed at the mercy of the environment and natural biological processes that wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. But as Jesus teaches in the story of the man born blind, each time we struggle with illness and physical weakness is an opportunity for “the works of God” to be “displayed” (John 9:1–3).


When Adam and Eve fell, we were forced to fend for ourselves in a hostile and fallen world. Look at figure 2 to get a better idea of how and why we think and act the way we do. As we grow and mature, our body and mind learn to interact with and react to our fallen environment, all the while spiritually separated from God by our sin. The body, physically affected by the Fall, gathers sensations and stimuli from the earthly environment (small black arrows). Our mind, knowing only sin because of our separation from God, chooses to satisfy itself by the “If it feels good, do it” lifestyle, or what we in psychology call the pleasure principle. In doing so, it associates normal physiological reactions and sensations with lustful desires and wants, causing impure thoughts to come to mind almost instantly in common, everyday situations (James 1:14–15). It is in our mind that we choose to sin (2 Corinthians 10:5); and it is with our body (Ephesians 2:3), or “members” (Romans 7:23), that we act out our sinful thoughts (large black arrows). This process is altered only in the individual who comes to a saving faith in Christ Jesus, and even then that believer continues to struggle with a sinfully programmed mind and body (Romans 7:14–25).

In addition to the sinful desires that attempt to control us, another result of sin is physical death and decay.

Physical Death

God told Adam that in the day he ate from the forbidden tree he would surely die (Genesis 2:16–17); and while He certainly meant this in the spiritual sense, He also meant it in the physical sense. The moment that Adam disobeyed he began to age and decay (Genesis 3:19). Physical death came a little closer each day of his life, and so it continues for us. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that the whole of the physical creation was affected by our sin and longs for the day of redemption (Romans 8:19–22). Our bodies are damaged because of sin. We age. We get sick. We suffer physically and die because the physical creation has been affected by the Fall.

However, while we were all born “dead in sin,” which affected our body, mind, and spirit, there is an amazing truth for those who have been “born again”: we are new creations in Christ; the old things have passed away; the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

Our Identity in Christ

Have you ever thought about what it means that you are a “new creation”? It means that you have been fundamentally changed; what you were before becoming a Christian no longer exists. That is not how I used to see myself. I lived Sunday to Sunday, holding on to some kind of faith-based fire insurance that I could turn in at my death in order to get into heaven. I certainly didn’t see myself as Paul describes the believer in Ephesians 1, having every spiritual blessing. I now recognize that as a believer in Jesus Christ I was chosen before the foundation of the world; predestined for adoption as a son of the living God; purchased out of slavery to sin and death; forgiven of all my sins—past, present, and future; given spiritual wisdom and revelation; and marked as such until the day that I stand before Him holy and blameless.

Do you see yourself that way? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then that is exactly how God sees you—whether you accept it or not. It doesn’t matter if you are struggling with mental illness. You are a new creation in Christ if you have received Him by faith. And we who minister to those who struggle with mental illness should remember that they are His chosen children, if they are in Christ, and they should be treated as such.

A Transformed Life

We were born with a fallen nature, which we received from our ancestral father Adam. But when a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ, he or she is “crucified”! The “old self” is nailed to the cross with Christ, never to return (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20). God gives us His Spirit; Christ’s very life takes up residence in us (Colossians 3:1–3). We have His righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9) and a new, Christlike nature (Ephesians 4:24). Spiritually, we sit at the very right hand of God Almighty (Ephesians 2:6).

So, just like my friend said, as believers we are complete in Christ, having everything we need for life and godliness in Him (2 Peter 1:3). That is true in the spiritual realm, but remember that we are a unity of three parts. What happens to our body and mind after we are transformed in the spirit?

Being Conformed to the Image of Christ

You were born affected by sin, and you lived some period of time before coming to Christ. Consequently, you have habits, thought patterns, and biological predispositions that are the result of your old self. This “sinful flesh” does not disappear because you have been given a new life. But change is now possible, whereas before it was not.

Let’s look at figure 3 to help understand our new life. We now see, in the inner circle, the very life of Christ within us. The Scriptures teach us that we are to submit ourselves to Christ, allowing Him to transform our minds (Romans 12:1–2). In the diagram this is represented by the small white arrowheads. As our minds are transformed and our thoughts are taken captive to Christ, He begins to take control of the “members” of our body (symbolized by the three large, black-and-white arrows), and our behaviors change (Colossians 3:5–10).

Why Write This Book?

At this point you may be saying to yourself, I thought this book was about mental illness and Christianity. When are you going to talk about my son’s disorder? I need to know what to do! Why am I having these thoughts and feelings? I don’t want to be like this!

Those emotional responses, and many more like them, are why this book has been written. But beyond that, I have seen the limitations of psychiatry and psychology firsthand.

As a research scientist studying human aggression, I see the results of the Fall every day—broken men and women who want to behave differently but feel as if they have lost control of themselves, wives who fear their husbands, children who seem destined to repeat the sins of their fathers. In my laboratory, we test the effectiveness of different medications on aggressive behavior. In many instances the treatments are successful: the patient’s aggressive behavior is reduced in intensity and frequency. But is that enough if the person still does not know Christ? The medication treats only the physical effects of the Fall. The mental effects often remain; and if the patient does not know Christ, so does his or her spiritual separation from God.

I hope this chapter has shown you that we have been affected by sin at all three levels of our being. Both believers and nonbelievers carry the physical and mental effects of sinful programming. Fortunately, believers have been transformed in their inner being and are righteous before their Maker. But that does not instantaneously remove the sinful “flesh” we still carry around. Sanctification is a process by which our minds are transformed through submission to Christ. Biological defects and weaknesses do not go away by themselves, no matter how much we want them to or have faith that they will. God can certainly choose to heal us supernaturally, and in some cases He does so. But we should see our weaknesses as an opportunity to grow in our faith (2 Corinthians 12:7–10; James 1:2–4). Like the man born blind, we are flawed so that “the works of God might be displayed” in us (John 9:3).

1. Ronald C. Kessler et al., “Prevalence, Severity, and Comorbidity of Twelve-Month DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), Archives of General Psychiatry 62 (2005): 617–27.

2. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, In His Image (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), 22.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winner of the YA drawing

Bookfool just tripped over to and Mr. Random pulled #2 out of the hat. The winner of three YA books is:

Debs (Debi in New Jersey)

Congratulations, Debi! I'll email you shortly.

In other news:

I haven't finished any books. I'm tired and sore from walking and doing those ucky squat things. The cat is sleeping on my bed (I'm pretty sure she has the right idea) and I'm sort of behind on a couple of tour books. But, I hope to finish them soon.

I'm halfway through Never Say Diet by Chantel Hobbs. It's part memoir, part "how-to" and I'm finding it a pretty quick, enjoyable read. I just need more reading time. I hope to finish Never Say Diet before the end of the week.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) will be a First Wild free chapter day. The featured book is Grace for the Afflicted by Dr. Matthew S. Stanford. The moment it arrived, I sat down and read a portion of the book that I'd call the most relevant to me because of an acquaintance, and it was soooo good. Grace for the Afflicted describes different mental illnesses and what the Bible says about them. The section I read is absolutely perfect. The author outlines the symptoms of the condition and how it's treated, shares a couple of examples from his experience with patients who have that illness, and then tells the story of a character in the Bible who suffered from the condition. The chapter is written with compassion and is extremely encouraging. The author even tells you how best to behave around someone with that particular illness. Wow. Excellent, excellent book. I'll do a full review when I finish it.

Thursday, I'll review Recovering Me, Discovering Joy by Vivian Eisenecher, another book that has a bookmark sticking out of its mid-section, which just means I need to shut up and focus.

Oh, no. There's more! I am also still yearning to spend some time with The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter . . . thinking maybe I should work on writing shorter sentences if I want to hunker down with Charlie. Not to mention that awesome Canadian book, The Coasts of Canada by Lesley Choyce, which I haven't managed to touch since the day my son had his wisdom teeth extracted. I keep thinking, "I need a very long, very quiet stretch." Snort. Like that's going to ever happen.

I took a walk in our National Military Park after the Inauguration, today. The photo above was snapped in the park last year, but it seems apropos for Inauguration Day.

Since I'm rather booked, this week, my current plan is to post about my next 100,000-hit drawing on Friday.

All of this meticulous planning strikes me as somewhat surprising. If you'd told me a year ago that I would have my life so carefully scheduled in January of 2009, I'd have called you something akin to "nuts". I'm actually relishing the sensation of knowing what's coming up next. Weird. I mean, that is just so not me. I guess it just goes to show you that my college speech teacher was correct when she described Irrational Assumption #4: Things Don't Change.

Off to read because even scheduled reading has not dampened the joy of bibliophilia.

Bookfool with calendar and pen

Monday, January 19, 2009

Alpine Americas by Olaf Sööt and Don Mellor and a new blog

Alpine Americas by Olaf Sööt and Don Mellor
Copyright 2008
Horizon Editions, LLC.- photo/mountaineering
Dimensions: 13.7 x 12 x 1 inches
256 pages
Book website (take a peek at both photos and text)

In faraway cities, gridded by patterns rectangular and unnatural, there are people with pencils who concern themselves with measuring mountains. Up in the Brooks Range, however, the cities are too far away. The ticking of clocks and the beeping of phones are replaced by a remarkable quiet as the oblique summer light filters into soft pastels. With the rest of the world so brutally quantified, it's nice to be in such a place whose components don't wear fixed numeric labels. It's enough work to keep the mosquitoes out of your pot when you lift the lid to see if the noodles have boiled.

Alpine Americas appears to be what one traditionally would refer to as a "coffee table" book -- heavy on photos, bought by most folks for the sake of setting it out on a table where people can flip through it whilst drinking coffee and admire the photos without really thinking. And, yes, you could set it out on your table and people will sigh at the awesome photography. But, stop right there. This is not a book meant to be idly dismissed as just another photo book to set on the table. Alpine Americas is for reading and savoring not only the beautiful panoramas, but also the stunningly crafted and sometimes very opinionated text.

The photos, taken by Olaf Sööt over a 40-year stretch of exploration and discovery on the North and South American continents is, according to publicity material, "a mountaineer's tour of the 10,000-mile range of peaks from the Arctic to Patagonia through the lens of renowned outdoor photographer Olaf Sööt and in the words of writer and climber Don Mellor".

What is a "mountaineer's tour", exactly? It's photography taken in places that not just anyone is willing or able to travel, along with descriptions of geography and history along the mountain ranges in this lengthy stretch, how one arrives at certain peaks, what kind of climbing challenge a mountaineer will find, how it feels to walk or climb certain stretches of the earth's stunning topography and what it's like to face the dangers of falling into a crevasse or facing a mountain that tends to crumble beneath your fingertips. It's a book that is crammed with the senses, written with a philosophical bent and a poetic beauty. It's also got some really terrific stories that you'll find yourself repeating to the nearest willing listener.

In 1916, the same summer that roped climbing began in the United States, Austrian guide Conrad Kain was for a moment stymied by a fifty-poot pinnacle blocking the way along the ridge of unclimbed Bugaboo Spire. Outfitted in the manner of the day -- nailed boots, long alpenstock, a feeble hemp rope -- he didn't see any way around. The drop off either side of the ridge was huge. He took his rudimentary ice axe and hooked it on the rock, pulling himself up just high enough to reach a hold in the crack above, while his nailed boot soles scraped against hard granite. Gadgets and guts.

I still think climbers have to be a little bit on the crazy side, but after reading this book I suddenly feel like I "get it", why they risk their lives to conquer a peak. Here's one quote (a photo caption) that gives you an idea:

The highest peaks in North America describe an arc across southern Alaska and down the western coast of Canada. This is a land of scale, where huge mountains wear thick cloaks of snow and ice. Climbing here is both arduous and dangerous -- and that's the allure that finds this climbing team making its way up the Kahiltna Glacier under Mount Hunter's west ridge toward Denali, in search of the joy of feeling so small in a world so grand.

Ah. That, I understand. And, this made me laugh:

In the Arctic kind of cold, a rubber band doesn't want to retract when stretched. It just stays all out of shape until things warm up. In such cold, a camper's foam sleeping pad stiffens and cracks and breaks into a hundred pieces, and it's no fun trying to arrange all those little synthetic taco chips into a mat to keep the body off the snow.

I had that problem when I left a foam rubber pillow in my car during freezing weather, while I was in Oklahoma during the Christmas of 2007. "Synthetic taco chips" is right. Not the kind of thing a princess easily disturbed by little peas under a stack of mattresses can tolerate. But, these guys are tough.

Alpine Americas is the first book that has given me a real sense of why climbers take risks. And, the photos are, of course, spectacular. Definitely a book worth putting out on your coffee table, but it's also a great way to read and learn a little bit more about our Earth and the small group of people who are willing to hike into territory where whiskers freeze and block walls must be built from snow to protect a campsite.

An amazing, breathtaking book, highly recommended.

Other reviews:

If you've read this book and would like me to link to your review, let me know!

Coming up:

Not sure. I'm currently juggling the usual number of books -- four or five, maybe six. I just added the latest to my sidebar and, yep, looks like six. Last night I was sitting in our plush leather chair in the room I like to call the "reading room" (hubby refers to it as "my office and get out of my chair"). I didn't have one of my current reads handy because I'm always getting kicked out of that room before I manage to settle in and read, but dear huzzybuns was away for a time. There are books everywhere in the reading room, and I do mean everywhere. An entire wall is dedicated to shelves and cabinets, and then there's this other wall with a dresser that's actually stuffed full of books and topped with a couple of crate-type shelves full of them. I'll have to take a photo, sometime when we've cleaned it out a bit.

My eyes settled on The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter. It's one of those books that I've owned for several years and occasionally look at longingly or move from shelf to shelf, but hadn't ever bothered to open it. And, I can just tell you right now that it is one of the most perfectly-crafted novels I've read in a long time. I'm only on about page 80 out of around 340, but Mr. Baxter is totally blowing me away. Expect a gushy review of that one in less than a week. I can imagine long stretches of sneaked-in reading time with the cat, for the next few days.

On the home front, I think I mentioned that the husband and I joined a program called Marathon Makeover, right? It's a program that was begun by a couple in Mississippi and is slowly spreading. Their slogan is, "Turning couch potatoes into marathoners!" They've got everything all nicely scheduled and we'll allegedly be able to run a half-marathon by June, a full marathon by the date of the Chicago Marathon (although the group is hosting its own marathon in Jackson, this year, instead of flying to Chicago). They have their own "blog" site, but it's more of a forum than a blog and being a veteran blogger . . . of course, that's just not good enough. So I started a blog called Runfoolery and there you can follow our journey to running a marathon if you're interested. The first entry is dull as paste, but I hope it won't be all boring. I'll tell stories about our experiences and chatter about how it's going.

Apologies for what may seem to some like my disappearance from the blogging world. I'm still learning how to fit in the exercise time in between fixing up various bits of the house (today, we're working on putting cabinets in the utility room -- which is just a horrendous mess -- because one of the pantry shelves collapsed), reading, reviewing, responding to emails, being a wife and mother. How do you working people fit in all that has to be done? I'm doing my best to keep up with other blogs, but sometimes I don't even open the reader for a couple of days. I'll keep trying. I fell behind a bit on my Bible reading, but I'm close to being caught up and have been reminded that the entire tale of Joseph is one of my favorite Bible stories. What a great attitude he had!

I'm off to see if I can reach my dryer to pull out the clothing I loaded last night. Don't forget, I'm doing a drawing for three Young Adult books, tomorrow. You still have time to sign up here.

Happy Reading!

Bookfool, still a little unbalanced but working on it