Gleaning from Review

As I look back upon this last year, I do not look with regret, but rather I look to see what I learned, and what I can do differently in this New Year. One of the things that I do not seem to do nearly enough of is read. Growing up, reading was one of my passions and if I found a book that I really enjoyed, I would read it over and over, and it seemed to distract me from many other things. But since then I have grown older, with more responsibilities and many things that desire my attention and time. And so it is not that I do not have time to read, but rather I do not make time to read and so I fill my time with work, activities, and other hobbies. That being said, a leader is a reader, so I have been striving to do more and more of it every year. But since I have been gazing upon 2010, to see what can be gleaned from the events and experiences, I decided to list some of the books that I read, what the basic idea was behind the book and also my take on each one.  You may have read some of them, and I would love to hear your ideas and feedback on what you thought of them. So here it goes.

1.     Getting Things Done, By David Allen

a.     This book has brought a huge change in the way I think about project management, and accomplishing the ever growing list of tasks that seem so prevalent in our lives. I actually got the book in audio form, in 2009, (thanks to a great friend Caleb Brown), and had begun to listen to it and apply it that year, but it was good enough that I listened to it a few more times in 2010, just to get reacquainted and back on track. The basis of the book is approaching a way to get things done by always evaluating what the next action is to move the project forward. The system it uses to manage this process has been widely used with many software programs designed to help you get organized and accomplish tasks. The book talks about how to get things off your mind, and collecting everything into a trusted location so as to not have unfinished items floating in your mind. So many times when making to do lists, we focus on what the main things are that we need to do, without taking the time to outline exactly what actions those things require and the steps it takes to accomplish them. There are many things attached to accomplishing actions, such as filing, keeping an inbox of incoming items that require attention, and handling time, which are all covered in this book.

b.     What I got out of this book was a different mindset when it came to managing tasks, and to do lists. We have to focus on the small things within the tasks that require action and outlining what that actually is so we can then do it. I have also been able to go into business meetings, with a better understanding of what to point out and clarify,  making sure that everyone leaves with clear “next actions” to move forward. Meetings tend to accomplish a lot more when they are clear and aimed at equipping those involved to take action and gain needed information from the meeting. I think that a lot of the practices and methods listed in this book are important and can be applied into almost any situation. I highly recommend it.

2.     The Mulligan, Nathan Jorgenson

a.     I received this book from one of my clients that I had the pleasure of guiding successfully on a Dall Sheep hunt in the Brooks Range. The author of the book and the client i guided were both from the Midwest and since I had relatives in the Minnesota area, he figured that connection, combined with the theme of fishing, would be a recipe for me enjoying the book. It took me a good while to “make the time” to read the book, but once I did, I could not put it down. The book tells the story of a dentist who hates his job, and the life that he lives, and decides to leave it all behind in search of the life that he missed out on. Along the way he makes many friends, and ends up traveling west, and working for a big cattle ranch and a fly fishing guide company. All along he finds that the more he is out of his element and in new experiences, the happier he is. He was able to see success that comes from growing and learning and not just financial wealth. Since the character was big into golfing, the book compares the story to a “Mulligan” in golfing where he is given second a chance to redo his life.

b.     I was not really sure that I would enjoy the book at first, since it started out so depressing, with a sad story of a broken marriage and despair at work. But the journey that he embarks on changed all of that and brought hope and life in the midst of difficulty. It really shows how the determination of one man can change the course of his life, and allow for growth through trials. Although I do not agree with his view about religion and the need to have to find oneself in material things, the ideas and concepts behind his journey were thought provoking. The part I enjoyed the most about the story was the fact that the main character works as a fishing guide and talks about the enjoyment and challenges that come with that position. I could relate and it made the story that much more believable. It is a serious story, filled with comedy, despair and adventure. I was pleasantly surprised and look forward to reading the other book by Nathan Jorgenson called “Waiting for White Horses”.

3.     In the Presence of Mine Enemies, By Gracia Burnham

a.     Having lived in the Alaskan Bush for a few years, I have become accustomed to doing without certain luxuries that some people take for granted, such as constant electricity, unlimited amounts of hot water, and driving down to the store to purchase food. However, after reading this book, I realized how much I had it easy compared to most missionaries around the world. Not only that, but also how safe we are in the US, and how many things we have the freedom to do, without any threat to our well being. Not so for this family.  Martin and Gracia and their 3 children were stationed with a missionary organization in the Philippines. Not only did they give up the easy life for the life of missionaries in a foreign country, but Martin and Gracia went through some of the worst experiences imaginable after they were captured and held hostage by Islamic Terrorists for a whole year. Gracia tells their story, not only about being captured and their near death experiences, but also how they managed to keep faith and hope during the hardships and struggles. Martin was killed in the raid that lead to the release of Gracia, although she was also wounded in the leg, but they survived through many gun fights and hunger to demonstrate what people can do with God’s help and the miraculous power of prayer. This other blog also has a great review of the book.

b.     This book was so intense that it was difficult to put down, and kept me on the edge the whole way through. You feel their pain and see their hurt through Gracia’s words, and you get to see the experience through their eyes. Every time I think that I have it rough or begin to doubt God’s sovereignty, I remember this book and what the Burnham’s endured and experienced. I try to remind myself of the reality out there, beyond our borders and even within, where people are going through much more than I can even know. This book was not just heart felt and moving, it was inspirational, and challenged me to rethink my priorities and also to remember to pray for those that are going through so much, sacrificing their lives to see those around them changed. An eye opener for sure and a great read.

4.     The Shack, William P. Young

a.     I was a bit late to the big shake up in the Christian and non Christian realm about this controversial book, so I did not get around to reading it until this last year. Since It is a fairly small book, I read it over a few days, and was glad that I did. The basis of the book follows the main character, written as a narrative, through his experiences with God over a week end, at a shack. His daughter had been abducted and had been followed to the run down shack in the middle of the woods, where there were signs of his daughter’s death. The book discusses many current topics within Christian circles that are controversial, and even the portrayal of the trinity has gotten people talking. The book is fiction, but is written from the aspect of fact, and is referred to as the modern day Pilgrims Progress, which was deemed heresy in that day. This book has also been claimed as such, on the basis of doctrine.

b.     Although I have not seen all of the opinions and arguments about this book, Creating Home Journal Blog seems to do a very good job of stating my input on the whole subject. However, I will say that although I agree that if you take the book as fact and apply it as doctrine then it is false, I still think it is a good book to read and enjoy as fiction. I think some of the parts that talk about love and God’s love for us is done with great analogies. However, it is still difficult when so many things are in it that can change one’s thinking in the wrong direction if it is allowed to. So I think it is great if you would like to read it, and yes, it does challenge you to think differently, but I would filter it with the Bible before changing your belief system because of it.

So those were a few of the books that I was able to divulge in this last year, and I am planning to continue and expand that list to even more this year. I encourage you to pick up a book and read, because when you read, your knowledge grows, your thinking is stretched, and your creativity can expand. And remember, you may not have time to do it, but you can “make time”.

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