Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Book Review: Rick & Bubba's Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage

This book purports to help you appreciate your marriage. The authors aim for a light touch, revealing their imperfections, funny moments, and pleasant memories, while providing “insight into matrimony.”

I wanted to like this book, because I like books about marriage, especially ones with a good dose of humor. This book, however, did not hold my interest, as it was really, almost without exception, anecdote after anecdote with a skinny point near or at the end of each chapter.

Stories go on sometimes for pages with what seemed to me a fairly contrived, at times painful, attempt to be funny. There are plenty of naturally funny turns of phrases throughout the book, but some stories seemed intended to serve the purpose of providing an opportunity for doggedly determined wittiness, as in the chapter called “Lost”, an almost six-page narration of Rick's wife's refusal to accept help while driving. This story went on and on, the point of which was to “prove” that women can be equal in the flaw of not accepting help with directions.

Other chapters, such as “Last-Minute Shopping” are spot on with good suggestions about gift giving in marriage.

Still other chapters seem to have as their goal stories in defense of husbands, sort of “Why We Are the Way We Are”.

All in all, this struck me as a disjointed, uneven, and at times annoying, book, almost as if its goal was never chosen, with the result being that sometimes the authors were heroes, sometimes victims, and sometimes almost lost, as in the chapter named “United We Stand, Divided We Blame Dad.”

This book is certainly misnamed, as it is not a guide; there is little guidance unless you count the multitude of illustrations as cautionary tales. This book would have been more aptly named, “Rick & Bubba's Warning Against the Very Imperfect Marriage.”

There are few references to the Bible and, to the best of my recollection, no citations to any biblical passages.

The “Bonus! The Best of the Book of Blame” included at the end of the book consists of 50 articles (as in the Constitution), the majority of which contain these words: “the husband's fault.” If a female had written this book, it would be called male bashing. I'm not convinced it's not, just because two guys wrote this.

I would not recommend this book to others, unless someone just wanted to laugh about how men and women are different.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Hole in Our Gospel - Book Review

Warning: Only read this book if you are prepared to consider drastic changes in your thinking and in your life. Richard Stearns, who heads World Vision, presents both an interesting story and a compelling challenge in this well-crafted work, The Hole in Our Gospel. It was a book I could not put down.

Parts 1 and 2, "the Hole in My Gospel--and Maybe Yours" and "The Hole Gets Deeper" interweaves the biblical injunctions for God's people to make a difference in their world by working for His kingdom with Stearns' own story of coming to faith in Christ in his young adult years, his subsequent career success at Parker Bros. and Lenox, and the moving story of his transition, almost kicking and screaming, to World Vision, a change founded exclusively on obedience to God.

Part 3, "A Hole in the World," addresses the crippling needs of much of the world's people, resulting in the deaths of more than 26,000 children a day because of preventable disease. The stark contrast between the haves and have nots of the world is carefully documented.

Part 4, "A Hole in the Church," draws a picture of the difference between the church in developed and undeveloped countries, with an emphasis on 2 Cor. 8, which encourages equality between churches. The application to today's church would be that churches with enough, and more than enough, bring tangible help to the needs of the world. Stearns emphasizes the fact that until the last 100 years, the gospel had theological AND social implications, but with the division of denominations, Christians tend to fall into "social gospel" and "evangelical" camps. These are not biblical distinctions, and Stearns calls for a reconciliation of the two mindsets.

Stearns issues a call to the American church, comprised of the wealthiest people who have ever lived, to meet its responsibility to minister to "the least of these."

Part 5, "Repairing the Hole," challenges each person to bring his time, treasure and talents to bear on the world's pressing problems. "No one can do everything, but everyone can do something," is the message here. Stearns gives moving and inspiring examples of folks who have found a personal way to minister.

At my house, we are making drastic changes to answer the call, determined to live simply so others may simply live. Rarely have I read a book with so much impact, and undoubtedly I will revisit it regularly to evaluate my priorities.