Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day 2011 - Wherever you are...

Louis (l) and Dad (r)
I will not be able to see Dad on Father's Day. While I'll be staying in his house after meeting #1 daughter on her return from Italy, Dad will not be there. I'm not absolutely sure where he's going to be. See, he's on a road-trip of his own...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan - A Summaview

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless GodCrazy Love is a book I've had on my "to read" list for quite some time. I wish I had gotten to it a lot sooner. Published in 2008 when Chan was serving as pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA, this book is not unlike David Platt's Radical in calling Christians to a lifestyle of total, sold-out obedience to a soverign God. Today, Chan's ministry is one of full-time writing and speaking and I'm greatly anticipating his next book, Erasing Hell: What God says about eternity and the things we made up, which releases in July.

I read this book because I am not immune to creeping staleness in my walk with God. There, I said it.

Let It Rain

photo © Michael Jastremski
There were thunderstorms overnight. Given our extreme drought, they were very welcomed. As I drove to the office this morning, a flood of reflections washed through my mind. Without a great deal of polish, I present them here.
  • As soon as the lightning and thunder began, I saw the light across the hall come on. I knew #1 son would soon make his way to our room. Sure enough, he crawled over us and snuggled in for the rest of the night. When storms come in our lives, it's good to have a place of comfort and people who we trust to reassure us that all is well. He went back to sleep. I did too - well, sort of.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reflections on 50 Years of Life - Part 4: The Bucket List

Well, here it is. The last of the series of posts from reflections on 50 years of life. Bobb Biehl has encouraged me in my ministry for a number of years. Bobb uses a series of questions to help one focus on their dreams, aspirations and goals. These are: 
  1. Who do I want to be? 
  2. What do I want to do? 
  3. What do I want to have? 
  4. Who do I want to help? 
So rather than listing only the things I want to do, I'll expand the list to be, do, have, and help.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Walk by Shaun Alexander - A Summaview

The Walk: Clear Direction and Spiritual Power for Your LifeThe Walk: Clear Direction and Spiritual Power for Your Life by Shaun Alexander

Shaun Alexander was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks out of the University of Alabama. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, he set NFL and team records in 2005 while leading his team to the Super Bowl. After career changing injuries, Alexander continued to seek after God and today speaks to a variety of audiences, encouraging others to align their lives to God's perfect will.

The Walk examines a progressive pattern of discipleship. Through each of the five stages of Christian maturity, God shapes our lives and guides us through the trials, traps and victories of each stage. Alexander uses Peter as an example of each stage.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reflections on 50 Years of Life - Part 3: Experiences.

Part 3 of reflections and journal scribbling on my life as I celebrated my 50th birthday.

In post 1, I reflected on the spiritual, personal and family areas of my life. Post 2 addressed the social, professional and financial priorities of my life.

Today: I'll focus on experiences.

A friend and colleague once introduced me as someone who had "packed a lot of living into my life." I like that. I do enjoy life. And I enjoy variety. One of the nicest comments ever made on a peer evaluation is that "Neal is a true renaissance man." As I continue reflections on my 50th birthday, here is a "top-of-mind" list of experiences that have contributed to who I am.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Reflections on 50 Years of Life - Part 2

This is Part 2 of reflections and journal scribbling on my life as I celebrated my 50th birthday.

In post 1, I reflected on the spiritual, personal and family areas of my life.

Today: Who am I? Reflections on the social, professional and financial priority areas of my life.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Reflections on 50 Years of Life - Part 1

I celebrated my 50th birthday this week. It was a celebration for I don't buy all the fuss about "getting older, over the hill, aches and pains," etc. I'm as optimistic as @Traceyy, the "glass half-full girl" and see this milestone as just that: a marker on the journey of life that gives pause to where one is and where one is going.
As such, I've spent some time reflecting and journaling on my life this week and will share these thoughts in the days to come.
Today: Who am I? Reflections on the spiritual, personal and family priority areas of my life.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Corruptible by Mark Mynheir - a Summaview

The Corruptible: A Ray Quinn MysteryThe Corruptible is the second Ray Quinn mystery by Mark Mynheir. Ray Quinn, former homicide detective now private investigator is on the trail of the killer of cop-gone-bad Logan Ramsey. From board room to biker hangout to the seedy side of Orlando, Quinn, with his partner Crevis Creighton follow the clues with enough twists to keep the pace of the novel flowing.

Joining them in the chase is Pam Winters, former client, now turned office assistant and tutor for Crevis who is overcoming dyslexia and preparing for the police entrance exam. Pam is the a lady of faith who bears a quiet and not-so-quiet witness for Christ to Ray. Of course, as Ray puts it, "I'm glad someone was praying for me, because I wasn't inclined to do it for myself. Prayer, to me, was like surrender. And I'd rather be knocked out cold any day than quit."

Monday, February 28, 2011

Soulprint by Mark Batterson - A Summaview

Soulprint: Discovering Your Divine DestinySoulprint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny by Mark Batterson (lead pastor of National Community Church who blogs here.)

In a world where we're seeking to overcome our past, seek meaning in our present and significance in our future, Batterson's quote "It's never too late to be who you might have been" really hits home. Discovering your divine destiny is a journey on which it is never too late to start. Like a fingerprint - a unique collections of whirls and swirls that distinguish you from others - Batterson explores the idea of a soulprint - the perspectives and experiences that set you apart. Understanding your soul print helps you understand who God has created and shaped you to be.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain - a Summaview

The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind
The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind by Barbara Strauch

Barbara Strach, author of The Primal Teen: What the New Discoveries about the Teenage Brain Tell Us about Our Kids and deputy science editor and health and Medical science editor at the New York Times. A fifty-six year old baby boomer at the time of writing the book, Strach seeks to understand what exactly does middle-age mean, especially for the brain.

If you've ever been confronted with questions like "Why can't I remember why I can into this room? I know you, but who are you again? or Am I fated to fade into the gray haze of alzheimers or dementia?" you'll find the parts one and two of this book especially fascinating. (Part three: healthier brains is also interesting, but somewhat tedious with the citing of research studies, etc.)

Both my mom and grandmother were affected by diminished mental capabilities in their final years. I read this book in part to understand what is ahead for me and how I might stave off what I thought was inevitable. Stauch suggests that the middle age brain is incredibly resilient, functional and adaptable, and that it is entirely possible to put off the effects of aging. If you would like that kind of encouragement, read this book.

Contents, key questions and concepts from the book:

Part One: The Powers that Be
  1. Am I Losing My Mind? Sometimes, But the Gains Beat the Losses. What should I expect as I age? Can I get smarter as I get older? Hint: Evidence suggests that our cognitive abilities continue to grow as we age.
  2. The Best Brains of Our Lives: A Bit Slower, but So Much Better - Am I really getting better, not older? Hint: Our ability to handle complex mental challenges is at it's prime.
  3. A Brighter Place: I'm So Glad I'm not Young Anymore - Half-full or half-empty? In middle age, we tend to focus on the good rather than the bad.
  4. Experience. Judgement. Wisdom: Do We Really Know What We're Talking About? We can certainly get the gist of the issues.
  5. The Middle in Motion: The Midlife Crisis Conspiracy. Midlife crisis? I'll pass, thankyouverymuch.
Part Two: The Inner Workings
  1. What Changes with Time: Glitches the Brain Learns to Deal With. What's in a name? Hint: It's a problem of retrieval, not of storage.Why can't I remember what I started, read, was looking for, etc.? Hint: In middle age, your brains are tempted to go to default mode and are easily distracted. 
  2. Two Brains Are Better Than One: Especially Inside One Head. What happens when my left and right brain work together? 
  3. Extra Brainpower: A Reservoir to Tap When Needed. Can I store some brainpower for the future? Hint: Yes, and there are some practical ways to do so.
Part Three: Healthier Brains
    1. Keep Moving and Keep Your Wits: Exercise Builds Brains. So, the brain is a muscle? Hint: No, but it can be worked out.
    2. Food for Thought: And a Few Other Substances, as Well. Brain food? Hint: yes, and it's dark in color.
    3. The Brain Gym: Toning Up Your Circuits. Can I strengthen my weaknesses? Hint: you'll have to do something other than what you're doing now.
    Epilogue: A New Place for Better, Longer Lives.

    The epilogue sums up the entire reason for reading this book for me: if you expect to live longer physically, wouldn't you want to live longer mentally? Yes, I would.