The Wide Open Spaces of God, by Beth Booram

Wide_open_spacesThe Wide Open Spaces of God is an excellent book.  The author uses the metaphor of landscapes to describe the various stages and scenarios of life.  But it's not the analogies that make this such a wonderful book, it's the prescriptive advice the author provides which help make this a fantastic read and an even better, lasting reference.

For example, one of the landscapes is called "The Valley of Darkness."  It's just what you'd expect, namely, a period of deep turmoil or unexpected/unexplained difficulty.  Beth talks about our knee-jerk tendencies where we want to "light our own torches" and move away from the darkness; without giving away too much of the story here, the author advises against moving away from the darkness and her argument is quite compelling.

I read this book on a recent cross-country flight and found myself stopping and thinking about the various stages of my own life, how I reacted then and how the author's insights challenged me to react and respond differently going forward.  I learned a lot about myself along the way and I'll bet you will too.  Highly recommended.

The Janitor, by Todd Hopkins and Ray Hilbert

JanitorWe used to have a janitor in our office named Ed who always had a smile on his face.  No matter how bad your day was going, if you bumped into Ed walking down the hall he always had something cheerful to say.  I never got to know Ed that well before he (apparently) left for a new job, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear that he was the inspiration behind The Janitor, by Todd Hopkins and Ray Hilbert.

This book presents six important life and business guidelines in the form of a fable.  As I read it I couldn't help thinking of some of the various Patrick Lencioni books I've read, which are also written as fables.  This format makes for an enjoyable read, especially as you start relating to the characters that develop throughout the story.  It also helps make the lessons that much more memorable as the character images in my head will last much longer than the narrative of a dry business book.  The model works quite well for this book as I unfortunately found myself relating to the lead character, Roger Kimbrough, and his various issues way too often.

I won't spoil the story and reveal all of the six key teachings, but I will say that I put a summary of each of them into a memo file on my Blackberry so that I can refer to them from time to time.  In fact, as I spent some time with my wife and youngest daughter last night I kept thinking about one in particular; it has to do with family as a responsibility vs. a blessing and it really rang true for me this week!

Do yourself a big favor and read this book.  There's a good reason why it's already sold over 400K copies worldwide.  And unlike that awful misguided book The Secret, there are several very meaningful, sound principles presented in this one.

Quiet Strength, by Tony Dungy

Dungy_2Two words sum up my review of Tony Dungy's book, Quiet Strength: Deeply inspirational.  It doesn't matter what your background and interests are, everyone should read this book.  You don't have to be a Colts fan.  You don't have to even be a sports fan.  You don't have to be a Christian, although Dungy's Christ-centric lifestyle is quite an inspiring model, especially when compared to the lifestyles of others in the game.

This isn't a football book.  If you're looking for the X's and O's of how the Colts won the Super Bowl you'll need to look elsewhere.  This is a remarkable story about a remarkable man and his journey up to now.  Although it's easy for all of us to look at the positives in Dungy's life, especially since it's only been about 5 months since the Colts won the Lombardi trophy, this book outlines the many, many challenges and setbacks he's had along the way; but it's how he's responded to each and every one of those situations that make him an excellent role model.

I had often wondered why a search of "Tony Dungy" on Amazon yielded nothing until this book came out.  The reason behind that is explained in the Introduction: as a very quiet, private man, Dungy didn't see the need to hype is career/life in a book.  Or he didn't until he realized it could be used to help others, and that's precisely his goal with Quiet Strength.  Much has been written about his outreach to teens in trouble after his own son committed suicide in 2005.  Seeing this man in action and hearing him speak recently, I have no doubt these reports only scratch the surface.  Dungy is a remarkable person who impacts everyone around him.

Dungy isn't one to operate with a bunch of smoke and mirrors.  Even his advice on building a solid team would be considered pretty dull by today's standards.  It's mostly "do what we do, whatever it takes", etc.  No fire and brimstone, which is one of the reasons he probably looked like less of a winner after Jon Gruden was able to replace him in Tampa and win it all in his first year.  Fortunately for good guys everywhere, Dungy proved once and for all that Leo Durocher was wrong and they can finish first!  Further, the Colts success in 2006/2007 can be directly attributed to Dungy's stick-to-it attitude and approach.

This book caused me to look at Colts owner Jim Irsay differently.  I've always assumed he was a cold mercenary, just like his dad.  You remember Bob Irsay...he's the guy who moved the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis without telling anyone.  Not that Jim wouldn't consider pulling up stakes as well, but it was interesting to read Dungy's story of how Jim first contacted him.  It was immediately after Tampa let Dungy go and Irsay presented a vision for the team that reminded me of the old Art Rooney days in Pittsburgh.  Irsay even went on to tell Dungy that money wouldn't be an issue and to make sure "your agent doesn't screw up the deal"!

Read this book and you too will discover that football is just one small but important piece of Tony Dungy's life.  It's how he's dealt with all the other aspects of his life though that truly make this a outstanding book.  Just when I thought there were no players/coaches in professional sports worthy of having your child look up to, Tony Dungy proved me wrong.

Angel Tree

At2_1I just spent the better part of today coordinating and delivering Christmas gifts for 53 kids I never met before, and I can't wait to do it again next year.  Children of prisoners are often some of the most overlooked victims of crime in our country.  Angel Tree is a way to get involved and help make an otherwise sad and lonely holiday season a little brighter for one of these kids.  I've had the benefit of being involved in my church's Angel Tree program for the past three years.  I'm not posting about it here to brag about my involvement; believe me when I say I'm only one of dozens of people that make this happen in my tiny church.  Rather, I mention it so that you can look into the program and maybe get involved as well.  I promise you it's an investment of time and money that pays huge emotional dividends.

The Science of God

Regardless of your beliefs, you owe it yourself to read Gerald Schroeder’s The Science of God. My son (the science buff) recommended it to me, saying it’s one of his favorite books; in fact, the copy I just finished reading was a gift he gave me a few months ago. I was intrigued to see how Schroeder went about tying the Bible to science.

I wasn’t disappointed. You often hear about how science has exposed flaws in many of the stories that appear in the Bible. Schroeder goes into detail to show how many of these events can actually be explained with science. For example, he uses Einstein’s theory of relativity to support the creation of and age of the universe. Those two chapters alone were worth the price of this one.

Although this book may not cause you to change your beliefs, it will undoubtedly get you thinking differently about creationism, the origins of life, evolution, free will and much more.