Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Living the 7 Habits: Stories of Courage and Inspiration

You may recall the publication of a book titled The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey in the early 90s. I know it was a long time ago, but the book continues to inspire people, and better their lives, and their relationships with others.
For those who need a memory jog, the 7 Habits are as follows: Be Proactive
  • Put First Things First
  • Begin With the End in Mind
  • Be Proactive
  • Think Win-Win
  • Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  • Synergize
  • Sharpen the Saw
Living the 7 Habits is a collection of success stories and testimonials from people who have taken the 7 Habits and put them into practice. There are stories from individuals who turned over a new leaf with the Habits, and changed their lives. Using the tools provided by the 7 Habits, people found courage to change. One got an education she thought was beyond her reach, and another moved out of a successful job into doing something that made him smile. Others found balance in their lives, and gave up the need to be control freaks.

There are beautiful family stories about raising young children, and providing the structure they need in their lives using the 7 Habits. Others found the Habits helped them build communication with their teens, and by modeling the Habits for their teens helped their teens to lead purposeful lives. Stories of people building their marriages by valuing the differences between them, and their spouse instead of criticizing.

Another section is about Community and Education. Teachers who learned to live the Habits were able to inspire students and parents alike, and grew a culture of learning in their classrooms. It didn't happen by catering to the students, but by helping them learn to take responsibility for themselves.

Do you wish that it was a better place where you work? The testimonials in this are incredible about the changes in their workplace which flowed from individuals changing how they dealt with each day's challenges.

You don't have to have read, or even be familiar with the original 7 Habits book to read this one. And, you don't have to read it all in one sitting. In fact, I recommend reading only a couple of stories at a sitting. Do consider reading it, though. It's thoroughly enjoyable, and inspiring.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What Are You Doing for Your 89th Birthday?

Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year
by Doris Haddock with Dennis Burke

I admire people who know how to live their lives fully right up to the end. Grandma Moses began painting in her latter years. George Mueller accomplished more in the latter part of his life (which ended at age 88) than he did in the earlier years. Charlotte Mason,19th century educator continued to write about her sound educational principles (though she was in poor health) until she died at age 81. Recently, I added "Granny D" to my list of elder heroes.

Doris Haddock had seen a lot by the time she became a octogenarian. A significant string of accomplishments marked her travels through life. You'd think that she'd earned a peaceful retirement in her late eighties. But, not Doris. Doris set out on an adventure that would have boggled people half her age. This book is her journal - of her journey, certainly - but also of a life lived, but not for herself alone.

The problem was campaign finance abuses

Granny D had lived through, and participated in a time when people could petition their legislators, and they could reasonably expect a response, and maybe even a change. It bothered her that people in office could be bought by the highest campaign contributors, and real needs of real people could be blown off like to much dandelion fluff. As she thought about it, she decided that she would walk across America to help pinpoint this problem, and to educate Americans along the way about campaign finance reform.

The walk took 14 months

Doris first had to get into shape. Her son told her that she had to be able to walk ten miles a day carrying her loaded back pack. To his surprise, she got there.

She began her journey by walking along the path of the Rose Bowl Parade on January first. Then, she walked across mountains, desert, the hot, humid deep south, and over the mountains during a bad snowstorm in West Virginia. People joined her for parts of her walk along the way, and she met some wonderful people all along the route. There were young people, old people, and all ages in between. They wanted to know why she was walking, what campaign finance reform means, and what manner of person Granny D was.

What kind of person would take a walk like that?

One of the important things that she packed was her sense of humor. It peeks out in some of the least funny parts of the walk. Her dry, self-deprecating funny bone will make you smile, and may make you laugh outright. For instance:
  • (about her son, Jim when she told him what she wanted to do) "Poor Jim. Here is a sixty-four-year old man driving his eighty-eight-year-old, arthritic mother, and she says something like that."
  • (about a home where she was offered hospitality) "This little ranch is set in a beautiful desert pass. To keep out rattlesnakes, they have a low wall around the ranch house guarded by a good number of cat sentries. The cats are sometimes dragged away by coyotes, who I suspect are in cahoots with the rattlesnakes."
As she chronicles her walk, she adds in lessons from a lifetime. She talks about her sore feet, her disappointments, and her joys. Likewise, she adds a bit of wisdom about dealing with the aches and pains of old age: turn your focus onto helping others rather than on your own problems, and you won't notice your own pain.

If you're looking for a good read, try this one! There are a lot of hidden "gold" nuggets in the pages of this journal.

--Susan Price

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wounded: a love story by Claudia Mair Burney

Wounded: a love story by Claudia Mair Burney

Some stories continue to haunt me long after I've closed the book and put it down. Wounded is one of them. I had no idea what to expect, though the author told me it had been a difficult book to write. It's part mystery (in both senses of the word), part detective story, and definitely about healing. This book left me changed in my understanding of the pain to which we are all heir to in one way or another.

The story began at an Ash Wednesday service with Gina who described her fibromyalgia and bipolar self like this: "One day I'd lay my pain-filled body down, along with my bipolar brain that stuttered between dancing and lying in sackcloth and ashes. I'd take off the cheap polyester dress of corruption and put on glittering incorruptible couture. Best of all, I'd be with Jesus face-to-face. That's all I wanted - all I wanted in the whole wide world."

Seated next to Gina in the church was Anthony Priest. Illegitimate son and drug addict, he lived for the next fix of his combination of heroin and cocaine--he called it "getting medicated." He went to church that night driven by desperation. "Perhaps the wounded kid deep down inside of me needed some sign of grace...Maybe I thought I'd find a hint of absolution."

As Gina approached the front of the church for the imposition of ashes, she kept asking Jesus to share His suffering with her. Anthony was right behind her hoping to find grace and peace. In an ecstasy, Gina had a vision that Jesus was in front of her, and that He kissed her hand.

Anthony, lost in thought, heard Gina scream, and through his haze of drugs, he noted the scent of roses in the air, and saw blood falling from Gina's hand. He reached out and took her hand, and described what happened next like this: "Some kind of holy high held fast to me and killed my other buzz inn an instant."

That was just the beginning of a captivating, action-filled story. The lives of Anthony and Gina are intertwined with so many other people whose lives are in turn touched by Gina's stigmata and each has a different response. There are a lot of unpredictable twists and turns, no easy answers, and some heavy themes in Wounded. This fiction book touched my heart.

Claudia Mair Burney is "The Ragamuffin Diva." Gina's life reflects much of what Burney has lived through herself. You can find her on Facebook, and she keeps a blog called "Ragamuffin Diva." She currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky where she continues to write.

Wounded can be checked out of the Marion County Library.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Cure by Athol Dickson

I love books that stir my soul, and challenge my thinking; stories with no easy answers, and that are difficult to put down make me smile. The Cure is that sort of book.

The story began with Riley Keep "returning to the scene of his disgrace in the back of a northbound pickup truck." Keep, a former pastor, missionary, teacher...and a homeless alcoholic--was taking his dying alcoholic friend, Brice, from Florida to his hometown Dublin, Maine. They had heard rumors by way of the homeless network of a cure for alcoholics.

Keep arrived in the town of Dublin which was overcrowded with homeless alcoholics looking for the cure they had heard about. Keep's long gray hair and beard rendered him unidentifiable to anyone who knew him seven years before when he left Dublin full of shame. He's happy to keep it that way while he looks for the cure of which he has heard. The crowds of people were certain the cure existed, and Riley crossed paths with some who said they had taken the cure and no longer wanted to drink.

Brice and Keep stayed at the local homeless shelter on the Saturday night they arrived. During the night, Brice managed to get a bottle of rubbing alcohol, drank it, and died. Keep was devastated, and on Sunday morning, he saw a bumper sticker that said "Jesus Loves You." He thought that if God really loved him, He'd do something to make him happy. So he asked God for something good to drink. Shortly afterward he found a brown paper bag in the park with "a complete quart of the finest single-malt Scotch whiskey."

After a few swallows, Keep headed to church believing he should thank God for the "gift." When the offering plate came around, however, he tried to filch money out of it. He ended up with an envelope containing a small amount of white powder, and a piece of paper with a note, and a chemical equation written on it.

Riley's journey has a lot of twists, turns, and hair raising moments. Dickson says of his stories, "I write novels. The genre is hard to describe. Some people think of them as 'suspense' or 'mystery' but they also have a strong sense of 'magical realism' and spiritual themes." The Cure explores a number of the difficulties with which many believers struggle.

If you'd like to read more about Dickson, you can find him on FaceBook, and at these web sites: http://www.atholdickson.com/ and http://www.atholdickson.com/bio_reviews.html . The Marion County Public Library has a number of his books on the shelves.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Straight Up

At what point does God stop working with you to conform you to the image of Christ? To bring you healing? When a person is in a coma, how much of what is going on around them can they know? What is the capacity of the spirit of a person who is unconscious to the physical world? How far does God's mercy pursue us? How deep is the well of His grace from which he pours it out on His children? How do our choices affect our friends and families? These are some of the questions that Lisa Samson explores in her book, Straight Up.

The book meanders around the lives of cousins Georgia, a jazz musician, and Fairly, a creative interior designer. It is evident from the beginning of the story that God has a plan for both of these women, and they can't see what He has for them. Both are running away from genuine living and loving, and each has her drug of choice.

This is not a book with easy answers, but God's faithfulness is the scarlet thread that runs through the story of each of the people in the book. Samson's narrative moves from person to person, and weaves the story on the loom of God's purposes among the children of men. It doesn't have all of the answers, but Samson asks some good questions, and makes some interesting suggestions.

Straight Up by Lisa Samson; published by Waterbrook Press Copyright 2006

Monday, August 17, 2009

Enough: Contentment in an Age of Excess


Contentment in an Age of Excess

by Will Samson

Beware: this book will make you think and evaluate. It may make you wonder how we got to the place of excess, and if there is a way out of this prison. Samson asks some hard questions about consumerism in America. Some of his answers are hard to hear. He touches on some sacred American cows, and, he manages to do all of this without a side serving of condemnation.

What does it mean to have enough? Samson points out that we live in a consumer culture. No matter which way you may turn, someone is trying to sell you something. They hope to convince you that, without it, you will not experience the abundant American life to which sales people will try to convince you that you are entitled.

In the book, Samson explores the results of a consumer culture. He points out the “lifestyle diseases,” and connects them with American consumerism: “We are not well physically and we are not well mentally. Our wealth, status, and privilege have not translated into a culture that is whole.” Samson suggests, among many other things, that we think about where we are investing our time, money, and resources. He asks us to study the Bible and see how our priorities align with God’s—to “re-imagine the way we live.”

Will Samson and his wife, Lisa, have done more than just evaluate and think. They left a comfortable suburban lifestyle in Baltimore, Maryland for a run-down neighborhood located in urban Lexington, Kentucky. Their goal is to move from consumption to being consumed with living out the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in practical, tangible ways.