Sunday, November 28, 2010

Meet Guest Photographer Paul Daniel

Today's blog is a photo sequence of a good friend of my son, Paul Daniel.  The Daniels are very good friends of mine.  In fact I consider Joyce my closest friend outside my family.  They are missionaries with Missionary Tech Team here in Longview.  Paul is fourteen years old and homeschooled by Joyce.  He took these photos while visiting Central Arkansas.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Review for Jungle Warfare: A Basic Field Manual for Christians in Sales

Jungle Warfare: A Basic Field Manual for Christians in Sales

I received the book Jungle Warfare: A Basic Field Manual for Christians in Sales by Christopher A. Cunningham, compliments of BookSneeze. At first I wasn't much interested in the book because I don't work in sales. The more I thought about its premise, however, the more intrigued I became so I requested a copy. I'm glad I did because its principals can be applied in any work situation. I would have found this book helpful when working as a teacher.

First, its appearance. The hardcover has a brown, rough textured covering, presumably to look like a “how-to” manual handed out to soldiers in the war. There's a good reason for that.

Cunningham was inspired by a warfare manual given to his grandfather when he was a soldier in World War II. He saw a correlation with the hazards and challenges the soldiers had to face during war time and the challenges and, yes, hazards one faces in our daily jobs.
The book is arranged like a daily devotional. The set up is well-organized and clear. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from his grandfather's original manual.

In chapter two, for example, it states:

Sleep off the ground to avoid dampness, reptiles, and especially insects.
If possible, travel with one or more companions.
Do not fear the jungle, for you should remember that if you keep relaxed and use your head you can live and travel alone for weeks in uninhabited country.

After that, Cunningham gives a daily scripture reading. What I like about his scripture selections is that they are not “verse blurb's”. They usually include several verses, even up to twenty-six verses at a time.

The next section is the “Battle Plan," where Cunningham applies the manual excerpt and Bible verses to an everyday situation at the office. This is followed by a section where you write down your personal thoughts in the book.

For instance, Chapter ten's Battle Plan deals with temptation and compromising situations in the office and what steps a professional Christian should take. (The scripture was John 4:1-26, the woman at the well seeking to slake her thirst.)

Day Ten: My Thoughts

In John 4:1-26, I learned that the Samaritan woman tired to satisfy her thirst with: (write in blank space provided)

I have tried satisfying my thirst with: (fill in personal answer)

Each chapter ends with blank spaces to write in personal prayer requests.
The book also includes Cunningham's definition of a follower of Jesus Christ (presumably so the reader will know where his position is) and a salesman's creed, which, as I've already mentioned, doesn't need to be limited to salespeople.

My only complaint about the book is that it is an 22-day devotional. I'd like to see a book like this as a yearly devotional.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Singing With Skillet

When I was young, I enjoyed listening to hard rock music. Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, you name it. As I grew older and matured in my Christian walk I became aware of the lyrics these musicians were actually singing. The Holy Spirit tugged on my heart and I could no longer enjoy listening to that kind of music. It was too bad in one sense because I have always like modal melodies, searing voices and strong driving beats. Nowadays, however, the nihilistic message gets in the way of the sound.

In the past ten years I've primarily listened to Christian and Classical music. Compared to songs that praise God, secular music strikes me as particularly dark and empty. I used to love listening to Jimi Hendrix, then I started listening to what he was saying.

“Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand?”

“I'm going to shoot my old lady, 'cause I caught her with another man.”

Or how about:

“I've got you under my thumb.'” by the Rolling Stones?

Not particularly uplifting, is it?

A few years back, when my son, Derek was on the brink of adolescence I attended a revival at my church. One night the guest preacher addressed the youth of the church. He said something that struck me. He told the young people, that there is no style of music they could like in the secular world that doesn't have a Christian music equivalent.

Since that time Derek has developed a taste in music that fairly parallels my own but instead of listening to Jethro Tull, ACDC and Ozzy Osbourne, Derek enjoys TobyMac, Lecrea, Canton Jones and Skillet.

It was the harsh, throaty cries of Skillet that was emanating from our CD player as we drove our car around Loop 281. I enjoy Skillet probably as much as Derek does. The only difference is that I sing along while he just quietly listens, bobbing his head to the beat. It was a great day, zooming down the highway, Derek telling me about his day at school, Skillet blaring away from the speakers, me singing along. As I sang, I thought how nice it was that Derek, in addition to all his other wonderful qualities as a son, never minded the fact that I like the same music as him or sang along with the songs.

Then another thought occurred to me. My son is a nice guy. A very nice guy. A sweet, nice, non-confrontational kind of a guy. So I asked a question:



“Does it bother you when I sing along with your music?”

“Uh, why?”

“Well, I just remember my sister telling me how much it annoyed her when I sang along with songs she liked. Do you feel that way?”

“Well, uh, it's not that I mind, but you sing louder than the guys on the CD and well, you know, I'd really kind of like to hear them.”

“Oh. I didn't realize I was singing louder than the CD.”

“You're not even singing the same melody they are.”

“Actually, I was singing in harmony to their melody.”

“Oh. Well, I don't think the harmony should be louder than the melody.”

At this point I started laughing. I had a mental picture of Derek and I driving down the highway with “thought” bubbles over our heads, like in the comics. My bubble says, “Wow! Isn't it great that Derek doesn't mind me singing along with his music!” And Derek's bubble says, “Man! I wish she'd shut up!”

Still laughing I told Derek about my thought. He laughed too, then said, “Shut up's kind of a harsh word.”

I love my son.

   There's some great books out there that can help you through those turbulent years of childhood. For myself, I read Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson. This books starts with the early years and continues for the rest of the time you have a relationship with your son (hopefully until you die of old age). Different chapters include, the wonderful difference between boys and girls; fathers and sons; mothers and sons, single parents and grandparents.  There's an excellent chapter called, "the Essential Father" that discusses that crucial role men play in raising their sons and how our boys are in crisis today because so many fathers have dropped the ball.  There's also a great section for the single parent, how to be both a mom and a dad, whether to date and remarry or not. Another chapter deals with the origins of homosexuality that I found particulary informative and, unfortunately, relative in today's culture.
   I gave the female equivalent, Bringing Up Girls to a friend of mine who's a single dad with a thirteen year old daughter.

Since it looks like his thirteen year old daughter may become my thirteen year old stepdaughter, I should probably read that one too.
  Another really good book by Dobson is called, Hide or Seek.  This book discusses the insane pressure our youth have to base their self- worth on how others view them.  Dobson goes into detail how this differs for both girls and boys (girls must look pretty; boys must be smart and successful) and he gives tools based on Biblical precepts on how to counter these cultural attacks on our children.


          Another good book is called, Preparing Your Son for Every Man's Battle by Stephan Arterburn. This book's purpose is to bring parents to an awareness of all the challenges our sons are going to face when they discover the opposite sex. It is supposed to be a tool that will help you and your son learn how to arm against the relentless onslaught-the sexual assault I call it- of a sex-saturated society. Be advised that some of the material is graphic. I started this book when Derek was around eleven but stopped because it started delving into some things that my son, at least, wasn't ready for. Stopping wasn't my decision it was Derek's.    I'm sure there are boys that age who are ready to hear about the more disturbing aspects of teen dating, going too far, etc.. you'll need to use your own discernment. Don't push anything on your son that he's not ready for. The book itself states that “doing book” is supposed to be an enjoyable time where the two of you become close through reading together.

This book also has a female version, Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman's Battle.

       A good book to read together during book time (as suggested by the previous author) is, I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. I think your average teenager will oppose the idea of not dating but this book will plant some powerful ideas into their head. Derek, for instance, has already decided the first woman he's going to kiss is his wife (yeah, I know, very radical) and he's already informed more than one eager young lady out there who would have liked to have been that first kiss of this (have I mentioned that I love my son?).

Joshua has twin brothers who wrote another great book that has nothing to do with dating but everything to do with rising above the mediocrity that is considered normal teenage behavior. Do Hard Things byAlex and Brett Harris is a battle cry to every teenager that their age is no excuse against accomplishing huge things. Their examples of real life super acheivers tend to lean towards accomplishing things in the political arena, probably because that's where their field of interests lie but they do have some good example of teenagers that have gone beyond the norm in fund raising for good causes or needy people as well as other accomplishments. The Harris boys keep your interest by writing about actual kids from all over the world and what they've done that makes them other than the average teenager suffering from angst.

In fact, the thing that struck me the most about this book is how they boldly state there shouldn't even be such a thing as adolescence. That it is a relatively new concept. Young men and women not a hundred years ago were using their teen years to prepare for adulthood not sitting around, glued to the computer playing games. They give many real life examples of young men and women who went out on a limb and showed that their age was in no way a hindrance in accomplishing things normally expected of much older people.

Finally, a book for fun: The Dangerous Book for Boys is a book that has everything that the authors Conn and Hal Iggulden think a boy should know about. From how to's to famous historical battles to how to deal with girls (humorous!) to every book in existence that a boy should read. How to make batteries, a treehouse, timers and tripwires, not to mention the world's greatest airplane. Then there's famous battles, like Waterloo, Caesar's Invasions of Britain, the Spartan Battle of Three Hundred. Lot's of how to's on first aid, marbling paper, Navajo code talkers' dictionary, survival skills.. heck, it's just a great book!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Review of The American Patriot's Almanac

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America

I discovered a web site, where I can request a book of my choice and receive a complimentary copy on the condition that I write a review of it. They state that they want an honest review and it can be positive or negative.

I chose The American Patriot's Almanac by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb, and I can only say positive things about this book. It is simply a wonderful book. Judging from the rise in books about American History, the Constitution and Patriotism, I must conclude that Americans are waking up and searching for their roots. They want to know how a country like America happened, how it came to be great and what actually were the original intentions of its founding fathers.

If you are one such person then The American Patriot's Almanac is for you.

     I'll start with the most superficial reason for buying it: it is beautifully bound, combining both cloth and hardcover. The pages are made to look and feel like thick parchment with rough edges.

But the real reason you should buy it is for what the pages contain. This book is made up of daily readings of historical figures, events and documents of American history. What makes this book more appealing than many others of its ilk is that you don't have to find time to sit down and read it in bulk. You can browse a page a day over coffee in the morning. You'll read about well known events and figures but also learn of lesser-known historical happenings and people whose contributions also shaped the course of our country.

    For instance, January 1 states that on that day Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Underneath is a brief description of what occurred on that famous day, including some little known but interesting trivia.  January 2, however, talks about Haym Salomon: a financial hero of the Revolution. The paragraph underneath informs us that if it were not for this Polish immigrant, there would not have been a United States. (You'll have to read the book to find out why).

Other dates describe the discovery of the cure of polio (March 26) , the Burr-Hamilton Duel (July 11) and The Louisiana Purchase (October 20)

At the bottom of each page is a listing of several other events that also happened on the same day. For example, December 13 describes the history of the National Guard but underneath includes a certain Civil War battle that also took place on that date, that Woodrow Wilson became president and the U.S. Forces captured former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

In addition to the daily readings, each month includes an essay of various topics. The January section includes  facts with illustrations of Flags of the Revolutionary War.  February gives a history of the Stars and Stripes. May informs us of flag etiquette.  June-how the Declaration of Independence was written and signed et al.

Finally, if for no other reason, you should buy the book because it includes The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, The Bill of Rights, The Gettysburg Address and something I didn't even know existed, The American's Creed. Every Amercian citizen should have these documents in their possession.

 It seems fashionable for  media figures and people on certain sides of the political spectrum to mock patriotism.  I'll close with a quote that is included in the front of the book:
Actor James Cagney, playing Broadway legend George M. Cohan, summed it up in the 1942 movie, Yankee Doodle Dandy:  "It seems it always happens.  Whenever we get too high-hat and too sophisticated for flag-waving, some thug nation decides we're a pushover all ready to be blackjacked.  And it isn't long before we're looking up, mighty anxiously, to be sure the flag's still waving over us."

I recommend that all shameless patriot's buy this book.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Prospero's Books

210 N. Washington Marshall, TX
Open Monday-Saturday 8am-5pm


One day while cruising through downtown Marshall, Texas, a sign caught my eye. It said, "Prospero's Books." I can never resist a bookstore, especially a small, privately owned one. As I walked in, I was immediately greeted by Damon Falke, the son of the proprietor. He talked amiably to me about himself ( he has a Master's degree in English literature. I found out later from his father that he's also a published author and playwright), his wife (she got her Ph.D at York University. Her dissertation on autodidacts-self taught readers and writers of the last century- is getting published), and the different books they were selling- all the while bottle feeding his baby son. While he talked, I browsed. This was not your typical best seller book store. The books here were in great condition, both used and new and reasonably priced. It also held the sort of books that I am mainly interested in: good, substantial literature that have endured the test of time, well written and enjoyable.

 The bookstore contains both fiction and non fiction, contemporary and classic. A couple of weeks later I returned to take photos of the store. I was disappointed that Damon was absent, but not for long. This time I met the actual owner of the store, Don Falke, Damon's father. I found Don in the back room sitting at a table with some ladies sharing coffee and visiting. I got the impression that this was a regular practice with him. After the ladies left, he moved to a sofa and comfortably stretched out across it, with his arms crossed behind his head and proceeded to tell me a little about himself and how he came to be owner of a bookstore.

“I was raised in Port Arthur. When I graduated from high school, I could barely read and write. When I became a Christian, God called me to preach but in order to do that, I had to learn to read. So I did. In the process I fell in love with books.”

This started another kind of calling for Don. “I love to put a good book in people's lives.”
When asked why he came to Marshall,  Don told me that he attended East Texas Baptist University and saw that the town of Marshall was trying to save their downtown. Don wholeheartedly agreed with that. He believes that towns need the centers to be alive and active in order to keep the community alive. So, two years ago he began Prospero's Books.

Don hopes that he can influence people in a positive way by attracting them to books that are worth reading. Books that are rich in vocabulary, strong sentence structure, and, I personally add, imagination as well as information. He hopes to steer both young and old to many of the classics that have endured for so long.

He also thought that with three colleges Marshall would have a good number of kids who  love to read, but that hasn't turned out to be the case. We discussed at length the different reasons why young people today don't read- largely because of the media and technology.  Then what little they do read isn't worth reading. Don had a lot to say about the lack of literary taste in the majority of people. He believes it's because publishers care only about selling books and they give people very poor selections to choose from.

Then the preacher surfaced and Don said something provocative. He asserted that filling your mind with mediocre reading is just as ungodly as any other sin. I believe he was saying that it is our Christian obligation to use and exercise our minds. Stop giving the rest of the world the impression that Christians are anti-intellectual. God gave us a brain, we need to use it. One of the ways to do that is by filling it with quality reading and not pop-culture -saturated, flash in the pan, best sellers (my words, not his, but I believe that's what he meant.)

Prospero's books is one of the most inviting bookstores I've ever been in. The rooms are basically how my dream house would be structured, comfortable chairs, tables and sofas, the walls lined with book cases simply packed with books. He also provides delicious coffee, tea and friendly conversation. If you ever get to Marshall, Texas be sure to stop by and browse (and buy!)