The Better Life by Claire Diaz-Ortiz: Book Review

Have you ever wondered how you can improve on your life right now and be your best?

One of the earliest employees of  Twitter, Claire Diaz-Ortiz, has a few ideas on how you can make your life better, and she’s turned it into a book, The Better Life. This slim paperback is a quick read with each chapter being only about three pages long. Diaz-Ortiz holds an MBA and has studied at Oxford and Stanford. In The Better Life, she talks often about her experiences working in an orphanage in a foreign country.

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The suggestions listed on the back: “Say yes. Say no. Quit something…. Become a morning person…” some of these ideas are within the realm of time or energy management, but that’s not what this book is about. This is all about Diaz-Ortiz’s life, centered around her experiences as a Twitter employee, a world traveler, or as a new mother.

The chapter titles look like themes for time management or life management, themes like “Set Your Intentions”, “Learn to Rest”, “Do Something Big”, “Disconnect, and “Read More”. These titles have great potential, and they make sense for the stories the author is telling. However, the connection to the reader is either missing or very short… the emphasis is more on what the author is saying rather than on how the reader can benefit. A scan of The Better Life‘s front and back cover may lead you to believe that this a time management or life-efficiency book; it’s not. The Better Life is probably best intended for those who enjoy interesting stories, and those who appreciate a writing style that is clear, simple and organized well.

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of The Better Life from the Moody Publishers Blogger Review Program in exchange for my honest review.

 

Master Your Money by Ron Blue Book Review

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Do you feel like your money is in charge of you, instead of you being in charge of your money? Do you ever wish that you knew how you could master your money?

Entrepreneur and accountant Ron Blue has a few ideas in his new book Master Your Money. This is a re-vamped version of a previous edition published in the late 80s. This time, he’s made some updates, adding personal reflections to the end of each chapter. He’s also added a special writing partner, his son Michael Blue, to add commentary at the end of each chapter.

Master Your Money offers a decidedly  Christian perspective with a heavy emphasis on the spiritual aspect of money management. Probably the biggest takeaway from this book is the idea of stewardship: that God “owns it all” and that people don’t truly own their money or possessions, but are simply caretakers of the things they have. The second takeaway is the huge emphasis placed on giving. Blue talks about giving and goes beyond emphasizing tithing as important, but states that is is the first purpose money should be used for in a budget  (even before taxes, and states that tithing should be done from gross instead of net income). He discusses estate planning for charity and making faith pledges beyond what you think you can give (to help your city, the world, orphans, the poor).

There are some changes that could have been made to this book to make it stronger. There are two big issues that people in this country are suffering from financially that aren’t addressed at all in this book, which could have been updated: student loan debt and health care costs. Blue talks about types of debt, but leaves student loan debt completely out of the picture, which is concerning given that student loan debt cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy. This is a critical issue given that so many students have defaulted on their student loans and are overextended. Another issue that needs further addressing is rising health care costs. The sample budget given for health care costs seems low given that families are experiencing increased costs in the areas of premiums, drug costs, etc. This is not a political issue but a financial one, and to not address it doesn’t give an accurate picture of what everyday families are up against in their personal finances.

Another strange part about this book is in the sample budget, there’s a line item for “margin” – a 2 percent category for a family to help them increase their cash flow. Yet, there is no line item on the sample budget for saving money for the future. When savings is not automated or made intentional in some way, it doesn’t happen. I don’t know if this “margin” category is the author’s way of saying “savings”, but it seems odd that a financial expert wouldn’t urge people to be intentional about creating an emergency fund of some kind, when so many people probably do not have one. Furthermore, I’m not sure why the author wouldn’t encourage people to save more than two percent of their budget when he is urging them to give 10 percent to others. The Biblical mandate is to provide for your own household or you are worse than an unbeliever… how can a wise person prepare for the hard times that will inevitably come in the future without making plans?

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of Master Your Money from the publisher, Moody Publishers, in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

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Book Review: Dispensationalism & the History of Redemption

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I’m of the opinion that everyone can be a theologian.

If you think about theology and form opinions about theology, then you are doing theology. Theologians do theology. A theologian is not just the person in the pulpit preaching on a Sunday morning or the person in the university lecturing on the history of the Middle East. If you’re doing theology, you are a theologian.

I love to read books about theology, especially those that are accessible to everyone (not just the clergy). Not the ones with just a fluffy message but the ones that tackle a subject while providing Scripture to back up the author’s opinions. (One book that I’ve enjoyed that fits both of those bills – but that I still haven’t finished yet due to its complexity – is Randy Alcorn’s If God is Good.)

So it was with that in mind that I was quite excited to be offered a free copy of Dispensationalism and the History of Redemption. It sounded really interesting. Dispensationalism and the History of Redemption contains several different essays from 10 different men.

Not much into my reading, it was clear that I was over my head. While I was able to understand some of what I was reading, much of it left me feeling like I had just walked into a classroom having missed part of the lecture already. I was lost and needed a guide. This is not the kind of book you can read if you’ve never heard of dispensationalism before. You need to have some prior knowledge, or you’re going to be confused. I have no doubt that seminary students or those in the clergy will probably enjoy this book – there’s a lot packed into it – but for the person who has never even heard the term before, this is probably not the right book.

FTC Disclosure: This book was provided to me for free as part of the Moody Publishers Blogger Review Program. I was not required to provide a positive review.

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Book Review: Faith (a novel by Lyn Cote)

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Faith Cathwell, a Quaker nurse working on the Civil War battlefield, is the title character and narrator of Lyn Cote’s latest novel, Faith. Faith is a historical read, so it takes the reader back to a much different time. As a nurse, Faith is disparaged for being female, and as a Quaker, her religion goes against the practice of slavery.

There’s an element of romance to this novel as well, and it doesn’t take long to see it. Shortly after Colonel Devlin Knight shows up, it doesn’t take long to recognize the chemistry between Faith and Devlin. In a very predictable fashion, she fights her feelings, he fights his, and they are both at an impasse when you just want to say “Get together already!”

Faith is 364 pages and it could have been pruned down… some of the writing didn’t add much in terms of scenery, detail, or plot. However, Faith may be an enjoyable read for female readers who want a romantic novel that doesn’t bear all, and especially for those who enjoy reading books written set in a different era.

FTC Disclosure: Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a free copy of this book.

Book Review- Surprise the World!

https://i2.wp.com/files.tyndale.com/thpdata/images--covers/HiResJPG/978-1-63146-516-1.jpgIs there a model for living life as a Christian, but not living in a bubble, insulated away from the rest of the world?

Michael Frost has an idea, and reading from his book’s subtitle, rather than writing Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as Steven Covey did for the business world, he’s gone with Five Habits of Highly Missional People for the Christian world. The result is Surprise the World! which is a model he calls BELLS – a five-part model of how Christians can share their faith in simple, every day ways.

Frost believes that not everyone is an evangelist, but that everyone can be evangelistic. BELLS is an acronym for Bless, Eat, Listen, Learn, and Sent. These are the ways that Frost believes Christians can effectively spread their faith while being a real member of communities that don’t have just Christians in them. He gives a particularly interesting example in the “Eat” chapter :

“… a Southern Baptist minister in Portland who told me his neighbor both claimed to make the best margaritas in all of Oregon and regularly hosted margarita-and-poker nights in his garage…the Baptist pastor never accepted an invitation to join them, believing this to be a strong witness to his faith…I challenged the pastor to accept the next invitation…he ended up having more conversations about faith than he’d had in ages… It invoked questions.” (p. 54 – 55)

FTC Disclosure: Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review.