The end of June marks the half way point in my goal to read 50 books in 2016. So far I have completed 24 books, which is almost keeping pace to finish 50 by the end of December. This past month, I enjoyed reading about procrastination, George Washington, the Solas of the Protestant Reformation, and expectations and burnout among women missionaries.
The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging, and Postponing, or, Getting Things Done by Putting Them Off
I know that procrastination is one of my weaknesses and I want to improve my ability to focus on what I should be doing, so I was intrigued by the whimsical title of this book which seems to promise to redeem my wasted time in some way. Could there be any positive aspects about procrastination?
The book is written by a philosophy teacher who found the time to write this book as a means of avoiding doing other things. His main point is that some people are structured procrastinators, meaning they avoid doing what they should be doing by doing something else which is also productive. For example, you should be writing an important email but instead you organize your files. This book is largely anecdotal and is extremely fun. My family and I listened to the audiobook version while driving to our vacation recently and were enjoying listening to it so much that we missed our turn and almost ran out of gas. If you have a procrastination problem, read (or listen) to this short book to get a new perspective on your (mis)use of time and to help you stop feeling like a useless excuse for a human being when you have trouble staying on task.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable narrative about George Washington and the Continental Army during the crucial year of 1776. The book starts after Lexington & Concord and Bunker Hill, bringing the reader into the siege of Boston, and following the seemingly hopeless "glorious cause" of the American "rebels" through the end of 1776 and Washington's victory in New Jersey after crossing the Delaware River in winter.
The narrative was engaging, and I discovered lots of about the American Revolution and Washington that I had either completely forgotten or never learned in elementary school. George Washington the man, with his strengths and weaknesses, receives special attention, and the reader gets revealing insights into his thinking and that of his British rivals. I had not realized how divided Americans were about this war, with a massive amount of Loyalists in the colonies, not just an isolated few.
The only big negative of this book is that it only narrated the events of the calendar year 1776. I got to the end of the book and was vastly disappointed that the author summarized the entire remaining course of the war from 1778 to 1783 in only a few pages. The author is a skilled storyteller and I am now looking forward to reading (or listening) to his epic biography of John Adams.
The Case for Traditional Protestantism: The Solas of the Reformation
Author Terry Johnson makes a good case in this book for the on-going importance of the five solas of the Protestant Reformation (Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria). He shows how each sola preserves an important aspect of Biblical Christianity, arguing from the Bible the necessity and value of each sola. Each sola gets one chapter, except for Soli Deo Gloria, which gets 2 chapters in which Johnson shows how we must seek the glory of God in various areas of life, both private and public.
This book is well written but it does take some concentration to read. However, it is not just for theology buffs or church history nerds who like Latin phrases. The solas of the Reformation are for the whole church and represent nothing more than a clear, concise summary of the essential parts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that are being ignored, forgotten, or denied in the modern church. This book is a call to the church to return to its first love, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is lifted up and magnified when we understand and embrace in our lives the truths summarized in the five solas.
Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission
This is a book that many missionaries would benefit from reading, especially first term missionaries and those who are experiencing frustration and discouragement.
The book started out as a graduate research project by author Sue Eenigenburg, who was trying to figure out the correlation between the expectations of women missionaries and burnout. As a result, some places in the book have an academic feel to them, but on the whole the authors' writing style is conversational and approachable. Throughout, the main points are well illustrated with lots of quotes and stories from women missionaries who completed the primary author's survey on missionary expectations. The second author, Robynn Bliss, was a missionary in South India for a number of years and eventually went through burnout and is now back in her home country with her husband and kids. Robynn's story is interwoven throughout the book, and at the end she shares how she discovered how her wrong expectations of God, herself, and her role on the mission field contributed to her burnout.
From my own observation, a lot of missionaries come to the field with vague, undefined, or unacknowledged expectations for what they will do, what God will do, and what results they will see. The major contribution of this book is to help missionaries (and aspiring missionaries) to confront their own expectations and the expectations (real or imagined) of others such as their home church(es), their supporters, and their mission agency. The authors give counsel about how to do this so to prevent burnout and frustration before it occurs, or to help missionaries (and those who care about them) to do a course correction before they end up leaving the field.
The book is specifically for women missionaries and deals with the concerns and challenges of women on the mission field. As a man, I enjoyed reading it because 1) a lot of what the authors talk about applies to missionaries of either sex, and 2) it gave me some insight into the struggles that women missionaries (single and married) have as they differ from men.