My Haul: A Short Reading List.

An Estate Sale

Today I went to an Estate Sale in Mendham, NJ. The house was set back from the street, which was a sometimes one-lane road in the middle of the countryside. It was quite beautiful…and the most beautiful part where the thousands of books lining its walls.

The former resident of the house was obviously a lover of classic/contemporary literature, arts, history, and biography. I spent a solid two hours searching the shelves and finally exited with nineteen.

I know, that is a lot of books – but when there are several hundred you want to buy and you leave with less than two dozen, one feels a certain sense of accomplishment.

So here is my haul…Perhaps it will make a fun reading list for someone who shares my interests.

Photo of Bookshelf with Lots of Old Books
Image thanks to Unsplash.

Why I Chose What I Chose

Feel free to jump down to the list itself, but for those who care (anyone?) I’d like to share the reasoning behind my choices.

  1. I focused primarily on historical and biographical books because:
    1. I don’t read much contemporary fiction.
    2. When I read classical fiction I usually use an e-text and turn it into an e-book.
    3. I consider myself too much a beginner in the arts to be able to understand much of what is said in these fields and would rather focus on learning more of the basics.
  2. I chose almost exclusively books that the former owner had read in their entirety (which was obvious by the hand-written notes, underlines, and bookmarks sprinkled throughout).
  3. My primary interests in reading are to (a) understand God and (b) understand humanity. The library was sparse in the former, so I focused on the latter.
  4. Most of these books are historical or biographical, but the way in which I read them remains constant with my primary interests:
    1. Who is God? How do we relate to Him?
    2. Who is Man and Woman? How do we relate to each other?

 

The Selections

Revolutionary War Era

World War II

Other

 

  1. [1]When we record history, we interpret it. We are not objective observers. With humility we acknowledge this and attempt to be self-reflective as we write…but sometimes the reader discovers the author has in fact (or just seems to) slipped into various biases which color the facts unnecessarily.

Blinkist: Staying Current in a Break-Neck World

Overview of Blinkist

I’ve been using Blinkist for well over a year now and am quite happy with it. There are free accounts (one Blink available to read each day selected by Blinkist) but I’m a paying subscriber ($4.16/mo.), I’m a little tempted to go Premium ($6.66/mo.) just to gain the ability to export my highlights to Evernote,[1] but for now, I’m being good.

Photo of Book, Glasses, and Phone
Image thanks to Dariusz Sankowski

What Blinkist does is summarize important non-fiction books which generally take 10-20 mins. to read. It allows one to be familiar with the book without investing hours into it.

I also use it to figure out which books I really want to read. It is great to read a brief summary and quickly see whether a full reading will be productive.

Blinkist is accessible on smartphone, tablet, and via desktops/laptops. I tend to read most frequently on my smartphone.

Guide to This Post

You’ve already made it through a quick overview of Blinkist, but there is still a lot of material I’ll be covering, so here is a quick guide to what follows so you can jump around if you so desire:

  1. Blinkist Features I Love
  2. Small Things I’d Like to See in Blinkist – This main consists of inconsistencies in their user interface – features aren’t available on mobile that are on full web, and vice versa.
  3. Big Things I’d Like to See in Blinkist – I have three specific features I’d like to see in Blinkist to make it more useful.
  4. Blinks I’ve Read That Convinced Me I Should Read the Book
  5. Books I Don’t Feel the Need to Read After Reading Blinks
  6. Blinks I’m Currently Reading
  7. Blinks I’m Most Eager to Read

Blinkist Features I Love

  • Favoriting – If you like a Blink you can favorite it. I use this to keep a list of books I want to buy / read in full.
  • Highlighting – I love being able to highlight portions. I actually have OCD and my highlighting is more than a bit compulsive, but I’m still happy to have the feature.
  • Introductions – Provide a brief introduction to the book, oftentimes highlighting the books major topics, and usually including a small bio of the author.
  • Final Summaries – Sums up the main point(s) of the book, recommends a related book to read.

Small Things I’d Like to See in Blinkist

  • The ability to take notes like one can on the Amazon Kindle.
  • Consistent features across devices, e.g.
    • Web App Lacks:
      • Ability to add to one’s To Read list.
      • Ability to add tags to a blink.
      • Ability to add Blink to favorites.
      • Ability to delete book from Currently Reading.
      • Ability to listen to audio.
    • Mobile App Lacks
      • Ability to add via the wish list items for Blinkist to create Blinks of.
      • Ability to buy book from currently reading list.
      • Finished List of Blinks completed.
    •  from the web app.
  • The introductory material (especially the blurb about the author), quotes, and heading sentences for each “page” to be highlightable.
  • When highlighting on the mobile app, sometimes the arrows allowing one to expand or contract the selection never appear (I find this inconsistently happens when selected the first [or last?] word in a line).

Big Things I’d Like to See in Blinkist

There are several rather large changes I’d like to see Blinkist bring about. All three have to do with making the Blinks more productive and useful.

First, there is the need for page references. Right now one knows the Blink is about the book, but not the particular pages or even chapters being referred to. Ideally, there should be chapter and/or page references for all the major points the Blink summarizes so one can pick up the actual book and quickly read the specific section one wants to read more deeply, rather than needing to browse the entire book.

Second, it would be great if there were quotes from the book summarizing each of the major points the book makes. These could be footnotes included in the Blink. They’d allow us to read controversial viewpoints in the author’s own words.

Finally, it would be great to be given resources to see what the critics of the book say. For example, Noam Chomsky criticizes American Foreign Policy in Rogue States, but how would his opponents rebut his arguments?

Another, even more important example is those books dealing with health and psychology. Authors make statements but it is unclear their sources or whether this is the author’s own opinion of scientific consensus.

Blinks I’ve Read That Convinced Me I Should Read the Book

  • (3) Jennifer Kahnweiler. The Introverted Leader.
  • (1) Dr. Eric Berne. Games People Play.
  • (3) William James. The Varieties of Religious Experience.
  • (5) Dr. David Perlmutter. Grain Brain.
  • (5) Dr. William E. Paul.
  • (4) Noam Chomsky. Rogue States.
  • (4) Leonard Mlodinow. Subliminal.
  • (5) Atif Mian and Amir Sufi. House of Debt.
  • (5) Giula Enders. Gut.
  • (4) Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth.
  • (3) C.L.R. James. The Black Jacobins.
  • (2) Stephen R. Covey. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
  • (4) Tim Spector. The Diet Myth.
  • (3) Roy F. Baumeister and John Tiernye. Willpower.
  • (4) Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson. Why Nations Fail.
  • (3) Susan Cain. Quiet.

Books I Don’t Feel the Need to Read After Reading Blinks

  • Dr. David Perlmutter with Kristin Loberg. Brain Maker.
  • Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull. The Peter Principle.
  • James Rickards. The Death of Money.
  • Carl Zimmer. A Planet of Viruses.
  • Michael Alvear. Make a Killing on Kindle.
  • Timothy Snyder. Bloodlands.
  • Tim Ferris. The 4-Hour Workweek.
  • Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. What’s Mine Is Yours.
  • Walter Isaacson. Einstein.
  • Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller. Attached.
  • Margaret Cheney. Tesla.
  • Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold. Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming.
  • Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter. Triggers.
  • Jon Ronson. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.
  • Alex Epstein. The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.
  • Christopher Hitchens. The Trial of Henry Kissinger.
  • Christopher Clark. The Sleepwalkers.
  • Chris Brogan. The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth.
  • John Lanchester. I.O.U.
  • Benjamin Graham and comments by… The Intelligent Investor.
  • Philip Zimbardo. The Lucifer Effect.
  • Gary Taubes. Why We Get Fat.
  • Suki Kim. Without You There Is No Us.
  • Thomas Paine. Common Sense.
  • Edward W. Said. Orientalism.
  • Phillip Coggan. Paper Promises.
  • Edward D. Kleinbard. We Are Better Than This.
  • Kevin Roose. Young Money.
  • Ha-Joon Chang. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism.
  • Kabir Sehgal. Coined.
  • Ha-Joon Change. Economics: The User’s Guide.
  • Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky. How Much is Enough?
  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto.
  • Eric D. Beinhocker. The Origin of Wealth.
  • Karl Pillemer. 30 Lessons for Loving.
  • Niall Ferguson. The Ascent of Money.
  • Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. Sex at Dawn.
  • Masha Gessen. The Man Without a Face.
  • Niccolo Machiavelli. The Prince.

Blinks I’m Currently Reading

  • Stephanie Coontz. Marriage, a History.
  • Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo. Poor Economics.
  • Ha-Joon Chang. Kicking Away the Ladder.
  • Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener. The Upside of Your Dark Side.
  • Karen Piper. The Price of Thirst.
  • Jeffrey A. Leberman, Ogi Ogas. Shrinks.
  • Steven Pinker. The Better Angels of Our Nature.
  • Adam Braun. The Promise of a Pencil.
  • Seth Godin. Tribes.
  • Lawrence Lessig. Free Culture.

Blinks I Am Most Eager to Read

  • Tom Rath. StrengthsFinder 2.0.
  • David Richo. Daring to Trust.
  • Oliver Sacks. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales.
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin. Team of Rivals.
  • Mark Goulston. Talking to Crazy.
  • Donella H. Meadows. Thinking in Systems.
  • Dr. Richard Bandler, Alessio Roberti and… The Ultimate Introduction to NLP.
  • Noam Chomsky. Failed States.
  • Jeremy Rifkin. The Zero Marginal Cost Society.
  • Ori Brafman. Sway.
  • Walter Mischel. The Marshmallow Test.
  • Helen Fisher. Why We Love.
  • Robert Karen. Becoming Attached.
  • Brene Brown. Rising Strong.
  • Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon. A General Theory of Love.
  • Ray Kurzweil. The Singularity Is Near.
  • Josh Kaufman. The Personal MBA.
  • Richard Koch. Living the 80/20 Way.
  • Brian Tracy. Eat That Frog!
  • Donna Jackson Nakazawa. Childhood Disrupted.
  • Laura Putnam. Workplace Wellness That Works.
  • Patrick M. Lencioni. The Advantage.
  • Ron Friedman. The Best Place to Work.
  • Daniel Goleman. Emotional Intelligence.
  • Dr. Frank Luntz. Words That Work.

I Make Money

I try to write only was is worth reading and to only recommend products I believe in,still I figure you deserve to know that I will get paid if you sign up for Blinkist through one of the links on this page.

  1. [1]Honestly, I have a love/hate relationship with Evernote. I wish there was something else that worked better than it did, but I haven’t found it. Microsoft OneNote seems significantly clunkier.

Vyrso: My Selection of On Sale Books.

Book Cover of Ed Dobson's Seeing Through the FogVyrso is part of Faithlife, formerly known as Logos Bible Software. It provides e-books focused on general rather than professional/academic audiences. I occasionally browse the site to see if there are any deals worth taking advantage of and I found a few this time around I thought I’d share with you:

  • Ed Underwood. Reborn to Be Wild: Reviving Our Radical Pursuit of Jesus. David C. Cook. $0.99.
    • I don’t know anything about Underwood, but this line from Vyrso caught my eye, “A long-time pastor ponders why the Jesus Movement stopped moving …” This parallels my more general interest in what exactly happened to the hippies…
  • J.I. Packer, Paul Helm, Bruce Ware, Roger Olson, John Sanders. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God. B&H. $2.99.
    • I love these books that provide multiple views on a subject. Some really great authors attached to this particular volume. A number of other volumes are on sale in this series for a similar price, this is the one that most interested me.
  • Ed Dobson. Seeing Through the Fog: Hope When Your World Falls Apart. David C. Cook. $1.99.
    • Dobson recently passed away after a ten year battle with a debilitating and progressively worsening illness.
  • John C. Thomas and Lisa Sosin. Therapeutic Expedition: Equipping the Christian Counselor for the Journey. $2.99.
    • I’m not familiar with Thomas or Sosin, but their extensive experience and the practical nature of the book attracted my attention.
  • William Yount. Created to Learn: A Christian Teacher’s Introduction to Educational Psychology, 2nd edition. B&H. $0.99.




A List of Lists of Books Recommended by Famous (and Somewhat Famous) People

Introduction

A Photo of a Stack of Books
This image was generously licensed under the Creative Commons by Alexandre Dulaunoy.

In 2011 I wrote a list of lists of books and it has remained a perennial favorite till the present. I figured it was time to revisit the list. The revamped list has expanded far beyond the original and as such needs to be broken down into sections. This section consists of lists of books recommended by famous (or semi-famous) individuals.

If you know of other recommended reading lists written by the famous, let me know and I just may add them to this article and give you a little hat tip (HT).
Thanks to Margaret Mackey for assisting with the research for this post.
This is the first in a series of lists of lists. Follow the blog to receive updates as each new post is released. You can follow the blog by entering your email on the left or by liking the Facebook page or by following the Twitter account. Or by my favorite method, subscribing to the RSS feed.

Osama Bin Laden

36 Books: Brian Ries. Here Are the Books Osama Bin Laden Was Reading. Mashable, May 20, 2015.

Bin Laden was a serious reader – of serious literature. Check out this fascinating list that includes titles such as Checking Iran’s Nuclear AmbitionsChristianity and Islam in Spain 756-1031 A.D., Handbook of International Law, and Obama’s Wars. It seems Bin Laden took seriously the adage to know one’s enemy.

David Bowie

75 Books: Maria Popova. David Bowie’s Formative Reading List of 75 Favorite Books. Brain Pickings, Nov. 3, 2013.

All but two of Bowie’s recommended books were published during his lifetime, and the two that weren’t were published within 2 years of his birth.  They span a wide variety of topics, from poetry to fiction to history.

Stewart Brand

76 Books: Maria Popova. Stewart Brand’s Reading List: 76 Books to Sustain and Rebuild Humanity. Brain Pickings, March 7, 2014.

American author, co-founder of Long Now and editor of The Whole Earth catalog, gives us his list of must-read books.

Carl Sagan

 10 Books: Maria Popova. Carl Sagan’s Reading List. Brain Pickings, July 11, 2012.

A small sample of Carl Sagan’s reading list.

Brian Eno

20 Books: Maria Popova. Brian Eno’s Reading List. Brain Pickings, March 3, 2014.

Wikipedia says he is a musician, composer, record producer, singer, visual artist, and one of the principal innovators of ambient music.

Clifton Fadiman (and John S. Major)

133 Books: Clifton Fadiman and John S. Major. The New Lifetime Reading Plan, 4th ed, Interleaves, 1997.

American intellectual, author, editor and radio and television personality Clifton Fadiman gives us his “lifetime reading plan.” The original was authored solely by Clifton, but this later edition was co-written with John S. Major.

Joel Gascoigne

50 Books: Joel Gascoigne. 50 Books That Transformed My Business and Life. Entrepreneur, March 13, 2015.

Co-founder and CEO at Buffer.

Bill Gates

6 Books: Viktor Reklaitis. 6 Books Bill Gates Says You Should Read. MarketWatch, October 30, 2014.

Includes a book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, surprising, not Teams of Rivals.

190+ Books: Bill Gates. Book Reviews. Gates Notes, ongoing.

These aren’t necessarily Bill Gates favorite books, but they are books he has reviewed on his blog. This is an ongoing blog series by him, so the number will grow.

Sam Harris

12 Books: Maria Popova. Neuroscientist Sam Harris Selects 12 Books Everyone Should Read. Brain Pickings, July 21, 2015.

Sam Harris is a neuroscientist also known for his vocal atheism.

Will Hatton

45 Books: Will Hatton. The Forty-Five Best Books To Read On The Road. Matador Network, June 19, 2015.

Will Hatton has compiled an excellent list of captivating stories of travelers far and wide – stories guaranteed to captivate and inspire you.

Mark Manson

7 Books: Mark Manson. Mark Manson’s 7 Books That Will Change How You See the World. April 2, 2015.

Manson is an author and blogger. Really great list that includes a summary of each work but Manson is heavy on the profane language.

Barack Obama

6 Books: Brittany Levine Beckman. Barack Obama’s Summer Reading List. Mashable, Aug. 14, 2015.

Leo Tolstoy

45+ Books: Maria Popova. Leo Tolstoy’s Reading List. Brain Pickings, Sept. 30, 2014.

Tolstoy himself penned this list of recommended reading.  He divided his recommendations into age groups, from childhood to age 63,  and then further subdivided the list into books recommended as “great”, “very great”, and “enormous.”

Alan Turing

5 Books: Maria Popova. Alan Turing’s Reading List. Brain Pickings, March 12, 2012.

16 Books: John Graham Cumming. Alan Turing’s Reading List (with readable links). Feb. 2012.

Alan Turing was a British pioneering computer scientist, mathematician, logician, crypt-analyst and theoretical biologist.  This is a list of the books he borrowed from his school library.

Both of these posts reference the same list. Unfortunately I have been unable to find the original list by Alex Bellos. I suppose I could take a jaunt over to The Wayback Machine.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

8 Books: Maria Popova. Neil deGrasse Tyson Selects the Eight Books Every Intelligent Person on the Planet Should Read.  Brain Pickings, Dec. 29, 2014.

A fairly standard list of books – The Bible, Newton’s The System of the World, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, and so on.

Logos Offering 24 Free Books for Theological Studies

I just want to throw this out there, Logos is doing an advent giveaway in which they are giving away twenty-four different biblical resources that can be utilized in their Logos software.A drawing of books standing next to each other

You don’t have Logos? Good news, you can get the base install for free.

You don’t have to worry about having missed any of the free volumes either, each volume is unveiled on a separate day but the past volumes are also available (till the end of advent).

Note: Logos focuses on academic resources, I wouldn’t recommend these books to those beginning biblical studies (whether as a lay person or academically) with the exception of the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary.

Thus far the selection has included:

  • Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews – Based on the New Living Translation. This is a good commentary to have.
  • N.T. Wright’s Scripture and the Authority of God. – Wright is one of the most controversial and well-known contemporary theologians.
  • Calvin’s Calvinism (2 Volumes) – John Calvin was one of the most famous theologians of the Protestant Reformation and his thought has been integral to much of present-day theology.
  • Tabletalk Magazine Bundle: Christian History (11 Issues) – Covers the second to twelfth centuries of Christian history.

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s offers will be!

P.S. There are also a few other books Logos offers for free. Of these I’d most highly recommend :

  • Faithlife Study Bible – A constantly growing digital study bible. A great resource, fairly friendly for any reader.
  • Lexham Bible Dictionary – An awesome, constantly growing dictionary of the Bible. You don’t need to throw away those old, old print dictionaries you may have, but refer to the Lexham Bible Dictionary first to ensure you are learning about the latest studies. I find developments in understanding the Greek language and archaeological studies especially fascinating!
  • Crucial Questions Series (20 Volumes) by R.C. Sproul – I haven’t read these volumes myself, but Sproul has a solid reputation. His thought is from the Reformed school, which means an emphasis on predestination over free-will.
  • The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition – The Society for Biblical Languages (SBL) is well-known for its quality resources. If you want to read the New Testament in Greek, this can be a great Greek version to read.

What Are the Most Popular Books of All Time? (Infographic)

Here is a nifty infographic courtesy of Lovereading that shows visually the most popular books of all time.

The titles are: Odyssey (Homer), Quran, Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare), Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes), King James Bible, Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe), Dream of the Red Chamber (Cao Xueqin), Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austin), A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens), Andersen’s Fairy Tales (Hans Christian Andersen), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain), She: A History of Adventure (H. Rider Haggard), The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle), The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell), Dracula (Bram Stoker), And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie), The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery), The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien), The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis), The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger), Nineteen Eighty Four (George Orwell), The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien), To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), Watership Down (Richard Adams), Quotations from Chairman Mao (Mao Zedong), The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle), Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling), The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown), Millennium Trilogy (Stieg Larsson).

The Most Popular Books Infographic

Cairn University Church Leader’s Conference.

Overview

Cairn University held its second annual Church Leaders’ Conference today and I attended along with two parishioners – John Broglin and Kiki Mackey (my sister-in-law). We left together from CCC at 8:45 am and arrived a few minutes later at Cairn. The conference was being held in Chatlos Chapel, a few Biblical Learning Center classrooms, and the lobby outside of the chapel. I attended the conference last year as well and you can see my thoughts on that conference here.

Synopsis

Morning

Once again the process of registration was speedy – taking only a few seconds. We picked up lanyard name tags, a Cairn bag with a few items (pen, program, index card, and a brochure for Cairn’s MAR, MDIV, and THM degree offerings). Then it was off to a second table where we were offered our choice of Cairn coffee or travel mug and a book (Does Grace Grow Best in Winter? by Ligon Duncan with J. Nicholas Reid).

Then it was over to the continental breakfast – which again included donuts, mixed fruits, danishes, and so on along with a number of hot/cold beverages. I’m a pretty simple guy and enjoy a good continental breakfast – and this satisfied me fully. They also opened Chatlos Chapel for us so we could sit down while eating (which was a step up from last year I  appreciated).

By 9 am everyone had filed into Chatlos Chapel and Benjamin Harding along with a string quartet[1] (consisting of Cairn students) led us in musical worship. We stood together and sang Bless the Lord (Matt Redman) followed by a hymn (the title of which I cannot recall) and then Bob Kauflin’s O Great God.

J. Ligon Duncan III, Chancellor & CEO, John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary.
J. Ligon Duncan III, Chancellor & CEO, John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary.

Jonathan Master briefly introduced our speaker, Dr. J. Ligon Duncan, a well-known pastor, professor, and author. I wasn’t as familiar with him as last year’s speaker – R. Kent Hughes – but having been so pleased with the previous year’s conference, I decided to attend again (and am glad I did).

Duncan gave an hour long sermon on Ministry in the Midst of Suffering utilizing a number of passages throughout the Old and New Testaments (such as Nehemiah 9:27, Job 2:13, Ephesians 3:13, 2 Tim. 1:8-9, 2:3, 4:5; Hebrews 2:10; James 5:10,13; 1 Peter 2:19-21, 5:9-10).

We had a brief break from 10:30 am to 10:45 am and I scooted off to one of the lesser-known bathrooms at Cairn to skip the lines. We now had the opportunity to choose between several different parallel sessions. The options were “Discipling Your Family Through Personal Suffering” (Pastor Rob Burns), “Bouncing Back from Burnout” (Pastor John Stange), “No Graven Image: Suffering and How We Think of God” (Curtis Hill)[2], or “Suffering as God’s Discipline” (Dr. Jonathan Master).

I chose to attend Stange’s Bouncing Back from Burnout, first b/c Stange is a local pastor and I don’t get the opportunity to hear others speak frequently – so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. Secondly, b/c I’ve been through some suffering in my life which is conducive to burnout along with being the sort of personality that tends towards burnout.

Stange’s session was informative. Stange is a light-hearted speaker who manages to intertwine humor with the ‘serious stuff.’ He used ample illustrations from his own life and stories from Luke 9 and 10 to anchor his thesis – that burnout usually occurs when we become more invested in doing for Christ than delighting in Christ. My favorite quote from the session was, “You don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to…when you argue with a baby, both you and the baby look stupid.” While humorous, it also portrays some frequently forgotten truths…I’ll let you figure out what they are.

Kiki attended the session with Stange while John attended Rob Burns’ session – which he enjoyed and shared his notes with me – and I found them useful and encouraging as well.

Afternoon

Lunch was cold hoagies, fruit and vegetable salads, chips, pretzels, brownies, cookies, hot/cold beverages, and so on. A satisfying meal and a great opportunity to discuss with other attendees.

Dr. Todd Williams dropped in briefly to greet us and encourage us that Cairn deeply believes in its role as support to rather than replacement of the church and that it encourages all its students – whether pastoral or business (or education, social work, counseling, and so on) majors to be actively engaged with the church throughout their lifetimes.

Benjamin Harding again led us in musical worship – this time we sang Bancroft’s Before the Throne of God Above and Keith Getty and Stuart Townend’s In Christ Alone – two of my favorite songs.

Dr. Duncan spoke from perhaps 1:15-1:20 till 2:15-2:30 pm. There was a ten minute period in which everyone was encouraged to pray with those at their table for one another and the sufferings we are/will encounter and strength to glorify God in the midst of them.

Then Dr. Master asked attendee submitted questions of Dr. Duncan from 2:30 to 3:00 pm. I had almost skipped out on this part – but am glad I didn’t. Duncan addressed quite thoroughly several important topics including pastoral responses to clinical depression and whether leaders should continue in leadership in the midst of struggles at home.

When it was all over we made our way back out and were greeted with another book (I got two, as I missed picking up the second around lunch time) – Thomas Watson’s  (17th century) All Things For Good which he wrote as a pastor during a significant period of suffering and Preaching the Cross, a compilation by Mark Dever, Duncan, R. Albert Mohler Jr.,  C.J. Mahaney, John MacArthur, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul.

The new Director of Advancement (whose name I have unfortunately already forgotten) grabbed me on the way out and offered me a Cairn t-shirt – which I gladly accepted and look forward to wearing proudly and frequently.

Overall

Once again, I was greatly satisfied with the conference. It cost $25 again this year – but $25 for at least four or five hours of solid teaching, two meals, and three books (plus Cairn memorabilia) – I say that is a pretty sweet deal.

I think this is a very intelligent move on Cairn’s part to reach out to church leaders. It brings scores of leaders onto the Cairn campus where they have the opportunity to interact with faculty and staff from the University. The light touch Cairn demonstrated again this year in self-promotion again reinforced the feel that Cairn was and is sincerely interested in being a resource for church leaders and not simply in using church leaders as a recruitment tool.

Recommendations for Improvement

Some of the small items that I thought could be improved last year where improved to my delight, but there is always the opportunity for further improvement, so here are my recommendations for next year’s conference:

  1. Last year I had commented on the feel I had that it was “Pastor’s Conference” as opposed to a “Church Leaders’ Conference” – despite the latter being the name. In one small way, this front took a step backward as some of the signage spoke of the “Pastor’s Forum” – which reinforces the idea that the conference is for pastors exclusively.[3]
    1. Overall, I felt the general session and breakout sessions (at least the one I attended) where more open to general audiences than last years had been, so this was a step forward.
    2. Another item I had mentioned on this front was the lack of female attendees – last year I saw two. This year there was a small leap forward to perhaps five or eight – but the conference continued to be male dominated. I think this is unfortunate and would love to see the diversity increase significantly.[4]
  2. I still think that adding some vendors and giving us some time to walk through displays, etc. would be a worthwhile endeavor. Not only could Cairn charge vendors for this privilege, but more importantly, it would provide church leaders’ the opportunity to interact with vendors – and even in an internet age, finding vendors for specific products/services (especially related to ministry) is not always the easiest task and there is something to be said for face-to-face interaction and hands-on product demonstration.
  3. Last year I had suggested more opportunity for individuals to interact with one another and share their experiences. I think a bit more of this occurred around the meals, in the breakout sessions, and so on – though I’m not sure that anything was altered. I’d still love to interact with others more, but also felt the conference was pretty packed and that it might not be feasible to jam another opportunity into the already full day.
  4. While last year I wasn’t too excited about the main speaker going on for 2.5 hrs. throughout the day, this year I felt the length much less. The length of the speaking could perhaps be reduced to 1.75 hrs. and then points 2 and/or 3 might be implemented during that time.

Conclusion

If you are in church ministry and anywhere near Cairn University, I highly recommend making the Cairn Church Leaders’ Conference part of your annual schedule. It is a relaxing, edifying, and educational experience at a price one can’t beat.

  1. [1]Excuse my music terminology, I’m not sure I am using the right term here.
  2. [2]I’m guessing a pastor as well, but I haven’t personally interacted with Mr. Hill and the program didn’t say.
  3. [3]I assume that Cairn is attempting to bring in a wide circle of ministry leaders, but if I’m incorrect and they desire to reach almost exclusively pastors with this conference, I’d suggest that a change of name to something like “Pastor’s Conference” would make sense.
  4. [4]Perhaps I was just more aware this year, but I did notice several ethnic minorities present – which I also see as a positive move towards diversity. I know Cairn has made great steps in diversifying the student body and I’d love to see the conference reflect that diversity as well.

What You Didn’t Know About Your Local Library.

Growing up I went to a tiny local library. Its hours were sporadic and it sprawled over the first floor of an 1800’s residential home that had been retrofitted for that use. It was a very, very small library – but I loved it.

© Icyimage | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
© Icyimage | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

We’d make forays into Greenville to visit what became their much bigger library after they added a beautiful new addition and which also offered computers – which we could use to play games, etc. (I’m not sure the internet was an option for the first few years). Once in a while we’d even travel all the way down to Bethlehem to the monster library (which actually is decent sized, but not all that large).

Libraries where a second home for me. My mom would drop me off at one and I would stay for hours and hours. The library was a source of almost infinite knowledge – especially in those pre-internet days…and I loved knowledge.

I don’t go to libraries nearly as much these days – mainly because most of the information is now at my fingertips (and I don’t read fiction much)…but libraries aren’t relegated to irrelevance. They still house numerous books that provide deeper insights into a topic, they can get their hands on almost any book you could want (but don’t want to buy), and they offer a number of programs for children and adults – usually with an educational twist.

My local library is now the Langhorne branch. They’ve really done a beautiful job refurbishing the library – giving it a more coffeehouse/relaxing aesthetic. They have 10-20 computers that are available for public use and meeting rooms for special activities. Its a nice library – and if you want to make a trip out of the house – the library is an enjoyable (and free) place to go.

Ohh, and don’t forget about wireless internet access. Most libraries now offer free wireless internet access…and as the “Resources” page on the Bucks County Libraries’ website informs me – you can get access 24/7 by being just outside the library. Haha, this was kind of surprising – it sounds like they are inviting folks to come sit in the parking lot at all hours of the night? My guess is that in practicality, you might have a police officer visiting you one or more times during the night to see what you were up to…

In any case, what I really want to talk about is the digital resources that libraries make available. I can’t tell you exactly what resources are available at your library – but I will share with you some of the resources available through my library and I’d suggest that many (most?) libraries have similar offerings available…and they can be accessed directly from the comfort of your home (usually).

Magazines

Via Zinio my library offers access to a vast array of magazines in digital format. Here is a list of a few representative titles (but there are many, many more): AppleMagazine, Astronomy, Backpacker, Country Home, Bicycling, Billboard Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, Car and Driver, Consumer Reports, Cosmopolitan, Discover, Elle, Esquire, Field & Stream, Forbes, Fortean Times, Harvard’s Business Review, Ladies Home Journal, Men’s Health, National Geographic, Newsweek, O, PC Gamer, PC Magazine, PCWorld, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Redbook, Rolling Stone, The Economist, Us Weekly…oh boy, excuse me while I go lose myself permanently in the vast amount of quality reading material available!

Auto Repair

The libraries offer a number of resources called the “POWER Library” – this is probably available at most Pennsylvania libraries. One of these resources is an “Auto Repair Reference Center.” This is a treasure trove of information. Look up your specific vehicle’s model and see detailed instructions with images of how to perform various repairs and maintenance on your vehicle – or watch videos that explain how different components of vehicles work! Need to get an idea of what a repair is going to cost you? This can help on that front as well.

eBooks and Audio Books

The selection is much more limited than is available in the physical library – but that doesn’t keep there from being some excellent options available – you can’t argue with the convenience of never having to leave your home, wait in a line, or worry about late fees.

You’ll find books by Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code), John Grisham (the all-star of legal thrillers), Lee Child, George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones), J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), Mitch Albom (The Five People You Meet in Heaven), J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame), and Ted Dekker (Christian thriller author) amongst the many fiction titles available.

And what about for us non-fiction buffs? How about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, David Perlmutter’s Grain Brain, Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson, Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live (I recommend), Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Body,  and so on.

Tutoring

Need help with a school subject? There is plenty of free tutoring available – including through Brainfuse – for K through College covering Science, English, Math, Social Studies, and Writing. Instead of guessing at your homework – or your child’s homework – here is a chance to improve your understanding and grades.

So Much More…

And there are all sorts of other resources as well as you can see here. Legal, research, film, continuing education. So go check out your local library’s website and see what vast resources have been sitting untapped at your fingertips!

Free Book from Ted Dekker.

Cover of "Adam"
Cover of Adam

Ted Dekker is giving away free copies of an upcoming novel to be released on Dec. 28th, part of a four-book series. No gimmicks and no hoops to jump through – Dekker is just hoping that you’ll be so hooked by the first book you will have to buy the next three.

For those who haven’t read Dekker before, he writes books in the thriller genre, oftentimes from a Christian perspective. I find his books to be hit or miss – some are really good and some are pretty boring – and I don’t find a lot in-between.

Dekker’s novel Adam is a masterpiece – frightening in its delving into the nature of evil. Thr3e is an enjoyable thriller, but lacks much depth.

On the other hand, I found the Paradise Series somewhat miserable. Skin and Boneman’s Daughters were just-another-thriller, Obsessed I never even finished.

The Bride Collector found itself somewhere in-between – the storyline was blahh-blahh another-thriller, but the commentary on mental illness was quite powerful and moving at times.

House was a tremendous disappointment – especially since it combined the talents of two gifted authors (Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker)…

But, hey, maybe this one will be another winner – and you can’t argue with the price tag!

Target Room Essentials Bookcase (On Sale)

This evening I swung by Target to go shopping. No, I don’t usually like shopping – but in this case I made an exception. Target currently has on sale their Room Essentials 3-Shelf Bookcase – $17! I bought three and for any other book addicts, I think they are a good deal at a reasonable price and the construction is fairly solid (you assemble them yourself).

I found that the shelves where far enough spaced apart (I spaced them fairly evenly) that even my larger, awkward books fit onto the shelves comfortably…and the tops of the shelves also make a good extra shelf for those who have books yet overflowing (I thought three additional bookshelves would be enough…I was wrong).

BTW, I usually do all my shopping online – but even Amazon didn’t seem to have anything to match this deal!