Archive for Book Reviews

Book Review: Forgiving Fathers and Mothers

A mature adult life and healthy marriage begins with leaving home. I don’t mean simply moving out and living in a different house, paying your own bills, and maintaining your own social and vocational life. Many 16-year-old teens can do that. To truly become a mature adult who can contribute to a healthy marriage, we must leave home on a much deeper level. We must leave home emotionally. For some, the task of leaving home emotionally is relatively simple. For others–those who have experienced neglect, abuse, or abandonment–this task can prove monumental. Leaving home emotionally necessitates that we face the realities of our childhood, forgive our parents for any shortcomings they might have exhibited, and embrace the love they did share with us during our life. Forgiving our Fathers and Mothers by Leslie Leyland Fields and Dr. Jill Hubbard provides a tremendous map for doing just that. The guidance they offer in their book guides the reader out of the prison of pain, bitterness, and resentment that traps many who grew up in abusive homes. It is filled with courageous stories and insightful strategies to help lead the  reader out of the common behaviors used to run from the pain, “reclaim the past,” and enter into a “land of freedom.” The stories are inspirational yet tempered so we can all learn the lessons they offer. The insights are wise and practical. The way to freedom, though filled with ups and downs, pain and healing, struggles and victory, passes through forgiveness and into the land of peace and wholeness. If you have experienced trouble leaving a traumatic childhood behind, Forgiving our Fathers and Mothers offers hope and practical guidance. Following the strategies offered in this book will lead you into the freedom of a whole life and a fulfilling marriage.

Something Greater (sample chapter from For His Eyes Only)

“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” (Proverbs 31:10—NASB)

HisEyesCover (2)There resides within your wife something greater than an angel waiting to be set free. She holds within her person a jewel of such great value that, when you understand it, you will freely give up all other desires and completely honor her. I know it sounds like an exaggeration, but it is not. Really, it is not. What is the jewel contained within your wife? Your wife carries in her person the image of God! She is an image-bearer of the Almighty Creator of the Universe, the Lord of Lords. Think of that: God’s compassion, grace, love, and passion are part of your wife’s essence. God’s zeal to protect and nurture are also embedded in your wife’s character. Of course, she may bear His image imperfectly. We all do. Nonetheless, she is created in His image. These godly characteristics (and more) are part of who she is! And, if she has accepted Christ into her life, she also has the Indwelling Spirit of God residing in her. She is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). She is an image-bearer of the Almighty God and His temple, the dwelling place of His Spirit. That makes your wife worthy of great honor! But wait, there’s more. She is also chosen by God, a royal child of our King, and a prized possession purchased at great cost by the King’s Son (1 Peter 2:9-10). Yes, your wife possesses inestimable value. Her “worth is far above jewels…” (Proverbs 31:10). This precious woman you have the privilege of calling your wife is a treasure; a delightful gift from God (Proverbs 18:22).

When we understand the value of our wives, our prayers go beyond simple requests. Instead, we will lift our wives up before the light of God to admire and praise their great beauty and value, not to point out flaws or imperfections. When we realize the treasure inherent in our wives, our prayers will be filled with excited gratitude and delight that God has so graciously given us such a wonderful treasure. Prayer for our wife is filled with admiration for the beauty and grace with which she reveals the image of God to our family. Prayers for our wives are filled with awe as we realize their great worth…a value far above jewels. They are a treasure, a delightful gift from God.

As you pray for your wife, list ways in which her attitude, actions, and speech reveal God’s character to you, your family, and your community. To help you think about this, list times your wife has revealed herself an image-bearer of God’s:

  • Compassion:
  • Grace:
  • Zeal to Love:
  • Passion:
  • Zeal to protect:
  • Desire to nurture:
  • Other Godly characteristics your wife reveals through her words and actions:

Father, thank You for bringing my wife into my life and revealing Your character to me through her. Open my eyes to more clearly see how You reveal Yourself to me through her attitude, actions, and speech. Open my heart to know how truly valuable and precious she is as Your image-bearer. Thank You for my wife.

Read reviews of For His Eyes Only by John Salmon on Amazon.com

Prayer Changes Things—sample chapter from “For His Eyes Only”

(Help spread the news: retweet the tweets embedded in this blog and send this sample chapter to other men who want to become the husband God designed and the one their wives desire!)

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b—NIV)

I learned an important lesson about prayer during my early twenties. A friend asked for a ride to church. How could I say “no”? Who refuses to give someone a ride to church? I felt obliged to agree. The problem was (well, this is kind of embarrassing now) I found her somewhat irritating. My irritation grew stronger because I felt obligated. I have no idea why she irritated me. I can only attribute it to the immaturity of my emotions and Christian life at the time. I mean, who gets irritated about taking a friend to worship? I decided I would pray for her. “God answers prayer,” I reasoned. “Surely He will answer my prayer and respond to my sacrificial gesture by making her less irritating.” (I know, you can probably hear the immaturity in that line of reasoning. What can I say? I was young.) So, I began to pray for her…and she never changed! Something did happen though; something I didn’t foresee. When I began to pray, I became less irritated. I began to enjoy her companionship.

One day she said, “You know, you have gotten a lot nicer lately.”

“Really?” I replied.

“Yes. You were a little mean and rude. Now you are much nicer.”

God drove those words into my heart like a stake. Sheepishly, I apologized. Graciously, she accepted my apology and we continued on our way to worship.

No, we did not fall in love and get married. We did remain friends until she moved to another state and we lost touch. Now, we follow one another on Facebook. I remember her as someone who taught me a very important lesson about prayer. She taught me that prayer changes things. Most importantly, prayer changes the person praying! As I prayed for my friend, God graciously changed me. He softened my heart. He opened my eyes. He clarified my thoughts. He led me to accept my friend, acknowledge her strengths, and recognize her beauty.


As you begin this journey praying for your wife and your role as a husband, remember God does answer prayers.  More specifically, He will answer your prayers. He will initiate changes in response to your honest and sincere prayers. But, the biggest change will most likely occur in your heart and your life. So, as you begin this journey of prayer, I offer you a word of caution: do not think of prayer as another tool to change your wife into the person you want her to become. Instead, think of prayer as…

  • Your opportunity to humbly approach and commune with God. He longs to spend time with you. Prayer is an opportunity to intimacy with Him, a time to deepen your understanding of His love. Further, we tend to become like those with whom we associate. This is an added incentive to spend time with God. Commune with God and you become more like God.

          • A time to open your heart to God’s gentle healing. We each encounter insults and disappointments. Those disappointments and harsh experiences can leave us bruised and scarred. Our Father will heal those injuries as we spend time with Him. And, when God heals, He heals miraculously and abundantly.

 

 

          • A time to invite spiritual surgery. For whatever reason, bitterness, resentment, anger, arrogance, insecurity, and defensiveness may have taken root in your life. These roots will interfere with—and even sabotage—your marriage if they are not removed. In prayer, we open our hearts to God’s holy scalpel, allowing Him to carefully remove those roots and freeing us to love in the way He loves us.

 

 

  • A time to allow Him to change you. God does change things when we pray and He begins with you!

Click here to learn more about my newest book, For His Eyes Only.

Book Review: How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm

how eskimos keep babies warmI just finished reading How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm, an excellent book written by Mei-Ling Hopgood and published in 2012.  Mei-Ling Hopgood, a new mother herself, takes the readers on a journey around the world to look at various parenting styles and practices. Each stop offers insights into parenting that we often overlook when raising our children in the zealous child-centered practices of the United States. Her travels take us to meet parents in Argentina, China, Kenya, France, a Mayan village, Tibet, and more. She delves into topics as varied as play, eating, sleep, peer conflict, strollers and potty training. We meet the “best fathers” in the world when visiting an AKA pygmies village and some of the closest extended families in the United States when visiting the Lebanese Americans. Ms. Hopgood, a journalist by trade, uses an easy-to-read style to compile information from sources as varied as anthropology, sociology studies, first hand interviews with people around the world, and personal anecdotes from her own family. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Ms. Hopgood does not judge but opens up possibilities for parents. She helps us realize that parents around the world utilize varied, yet effective and loving methods to raise their children. In fact, we might learn a thing or two from some of the practices she discusses. For instance, we can gain insight into developing parent-child relationships from the AKA pygmy fathers. We might learn how to increase the variety of foods our children eat from the French. Polynesians might teach us how to encourage our children to play without their parents and the Japanese how to teach our children moral reasoning. The list goes on: Mayans teaching us about children and work, Asians how to encourage academic excellence, and Tibetans how to cherish pregnancy. If you are a parent, check this book out. You will enjoy reading it…and learn lots of ideas you might want to try.

 

Check it out at Our Favorite Picks & Resources

Book Review: Raising Happiness

Dr. Christine Carter is a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. She has made a living studying happiness. Fortunately for you and me, she has taken her scientific expertise on happiness and applied it to the art of raising children. In her book Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, she gives practical advice to parents who want to raise happy kids. Don’t get the wrong idea. She’s not talking about a simple gushy, feel-good emotion. No, happiness is “a set of skills, habits, and mind-sets that set the stage for a wide range of positive emotions” that will last a lifetime. Notice the emphasis on skills, habits and mind-sets that a person can learn and teach. As parents, we have a responsibility to model these skills and teach them to our children…and this book offers practical advice for doing just that! Not convinced teaching happiness will help your child succeed in this “dog-eat-dog world”? Consider this: happy people have higher incomes, greater academic achievement, more job satisfaction, and more friends. Happiness contributes to healthy lasting marriages; and, it helps us persevere through, and successfully cope with, hardships and difficulties. As you can see, raising happy children is a pretty good goal. In her book Raising Happiness, Dr. Carter offers practical advice that ranges from teaching gratitude and self-discipline, helping our children build a healthy support group, taking care of yourself, teaching optimism and more…all of which contributes to happy, resilient children! Each chapter explains the benefits of a particular skill that will enhance happiness (such as forgiveness) in a straight forward, easy-to-read manner and gives practical advice to build that skill in yourself as a parent and in your children.  She even includes several “try this” sections with tips, scripts and strategies distilled from the research that you can implement with your family. This book is not just about pie-in-the-sky research either. Dr. Carter has personally implemented these strategies in her own family life as a single, working mother who co-parents with her children’s father! She has field practiced it.  Overall, this is a great book with great advice for raising healthy, happy children who have all the skills necessary for a lifetime of success. You can read more about this book on Dr. Carter’s Website Raising Happiness or purchase it from Amazon through Our Favorite Picks under More Parenting Resources.

Book Review: “The Blessing of a B-” by Wendy Mogel, PhD

Wendy Mogel, author of The Blessing of a B-, looked ahead with confidence to the time she would parent her own adolescent children. After all, she had successfully navigated the challenges of parenting through the childhood years. In addition, she was a clinical psychologist who specialized in parenting and had worked with families for over 30 years. She had the knowledge and the expertise…she had even written a book on parenting children (The Blessing of a Skinned Knee). However, as her children became teens, she experienced “unrelenting power struggles over every conceivable topic,” monosyllabic responses rather than conversations, battles over neatness, confusion over which battles to fight, and grief that her adolescents were posting signs to “keep her out” of their rooms and choosing to spend to time with friends rather than family. Dr. Mogel discovered that parenting teens is hard work. She discovered that parenting teens is very different than parenting children. She turned to her Jewish traditions and rabbinic teaching for help in navigating the challenges of parenting teens. Fortunately for us, she has shared her insights in this book.
The Blessings of a B- offers excellent advice to any parent who is about to experience, or is currently experiencing, the years of parenting a teen. With a candor that can only come from someone who has been there and wisdom that combines her beliefs about God, expert parenting knowledge, and developmental research, Dr. Mogel shares lessons on how to survive the wilderness of adolescence and make it to the “promise land.”  Dr. Mogel encourages parents to accept their teens as “gloriously ordinary” by protecting them from society’s performance-oriented definition of success.  Chapters cover such topics as how to set your teen free, how to live graciously with the “chronically rude,” the true lesson of homework, guiding teens “out of the wilderness” of materialism and entitlement, and making time for rest and fun. Perhaps my favorite chapter deals with letting teens learn from bad judgment and stressful situations. Overall, Dr. Mogel acknowledges the challenges of parenting a teen…and offers personal testimony to that challenge. She also offers excellent advice for navigating those challenging years and a bright light of hope at the end of the tunnel…a confident expectation that the promise land awaits us at the end of our journey through the wilderness of parenting a teen.
Click here to view Dr. Mogel’s website and more information about her.

Book Review: The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work

John Gottman, PhD, revolutionized the study of marriage with his Seattle “Love Lab,” an apartment designed with one-way mirrors, cameras, and sensors for heart rate, pulse, and other stress markers. Couples volunteered to spend time in the “Love Lab” to interact with one another, argue with one another, and even resolve arguments under the eyes of scientific observers. After years of research, Dr. Gottman was able to accurately predict the success or failure of a marriage observed in the “Love Lab” 91% of the time. Dr. Gottman found four key predictors of success or failure in marriage. One, how the couple initiates conversations, especially disagreements, predicts marital success or failure. If they begin with a harsh start up, it generally ends badly. Second, if a couple uses the “four horsemen” during their discussion, the interactions goes from bad to worse. The “four horsemen” include criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. When these “four horsemen” run wild during an interaction, the relationship will get trampled under a stampede. Third, if one partner consistently feels overwhelmed by the negativity of their spouse and emotionally disengages from the relationship to protect themselves, the relationship falters. Fourth, if the couple is unable to repair their emotional connection during and after a disagreement, they damage their relationship and create an unhappy future for themselves. If a couple experiences each of these difficulties on a consistent basis, they create bad memories, a negative history that distorts our perception of our partner. So, what is a couple to do? How can a couple prevent these factors from entering into and destroying their marriage? Read the rest of this book to find out! You will discover ways to develop, sustain, and revive the friendship inherent in a successful marriage. Chapters three through eleven reveal 7 principles that create marital success. Dr. Gottman discusses everything from “enhancing your love map” to “allowing your partner to influence you” to “solving problems.” Each chapter ends with several practical exercises to help couples master the skill of each principle and enhance their relationship. After all, marriages are not strengthened and saved by avoiding the markers of divorce, but by building a healthy friendship and connection between marital partners. This book will give every couple the tools necessary to build their friendship, enhance their intimacy, and enjoy a truly successful marriage.

Book Review: Sex Begins in the Kitchen

Sex Begins in the Kitchen. What? Sex begins where? That’s right…sex begins in the kitchen…and in the living room, the back yard, the bathroom, and…. Now, before you get the wrong idea let me just say, “sex is the culmination of honoring and loving interactions shared throughout the day.” In that sense, “taking out the trash without being asked becomes foreplay.” In Sex Begins in the Kitchen, Dr. Kevin Leman expands on the idea of daily actions building relationships that culminate in sexual intimacy for married couples. He addresses issues such as the impact of birth order, emotional expression, male-female differences, love banking, and gender understanding on intimacy in general and, ultimately, sexual intimacy in particular. A couple of chapters that I found most beneficial included “Games Couples Play,” addressing some of the “dangerous and destructive games married men and women play.” In this chapter, Dr. Leman explains games like “children are the enemy,” “kill the umpire,” “take that you rat,” and “dump truck.” These are not fun games. They are games that can destroy a family and Dr. Leman helps us learn to identify and change them. Overall, this book is full of humor and insightful information that can enhance your love life and give you a more fulfilling, intimate sexual relationship.

Book Review: Family by God’s Design

Family by God’s Design was written by John Salmon, PHD, and published in 2011. Since its publication I have had the privilege and joy of talking about its content with various Christian camps and churches. If you have not had the opportunity to review Family by God’s Design yourself, here is a brief summary.
 
God designed the family to reflect His relationship to His people—a relationship of honor, grace, and celebration. Unfortunately, society pulls families away from this ideal and downstream from the beauty of God’s design. As a result, families find themselves adrift in a culture that emphasizes individualism, entitlement, and performance. Even families within the church find themselves caught in this cultural drift. As a result, family members become disconnected and isolated from one another. They find themselves living in the same house while behaving like contestants on an episode of Survivor. This is not God’s design for the family. It does not reflect His love for His Church.
 
Families that become celebrating communities of honor and grace reflect God’s family design. Becoming a celebrating community of honor and grace demands thoughtful action and intentional effort. Family by God’s Design guides families through the Biblical basis of the intentional family and explores practical ways for families to become celebrating communities of honor and grace.
 
Family by God’s Design is divided into three sections. Section one focuses on honor in the family and offers practical advice on how to make deposits into the family bank of honor. Chapters focus on treating one another as precious, using speech that honors, keeping one another “in mind,” and accepting one another’s influence. The section on honor also explores practical ways to remain honorable in the midst of conflict and the importance of honor in discipline.
 
Section two focuses on grace. In this section, Family by God’s Design explores how families can become grace receivers and grace givers. Topics include practical ways of giving one another unconditional acceptance, remaining available, attentive and emotionally connected, “giving up” for one another, and forgiving one another. A final chapter explores how to discipline in grace.
 
Section three focuses on how to shape your family into a celebrating community. Chapters in this section develop a Biblical perspective on playfulness, celebration, and the importance of discipline for celebration in the Christian family. The reader will also discover practical suggestions for implementing rituals of celebration in this section. Family by God’s Design explores the celebration of marital intimacy as well.
 
Overall, Family by God’s Design invites families to become a celebrating community of honor and grace that will witness of God’s love for His people. It is an excellent resource for those entering into marriage or parenthood. In addition, it can be easily used as a guide in a Bible Study focusing on the Christian family. 
 
Here are a few comments from readers of Family by God’s Design:
“If you would like to establish a healthy and biblical family environment, read John Salmon’s book Family by God’s Design. He gives you practical, concrete ways to develop honor and grace while living everyday life. Implement these ideas and watch your family blossom!” -Tim, husband, father, & attorney
 
“Dr. Salmon has done a wonderful job of surveying much of the relevant material available in reference to marriage and family. Beginning with the introduction, there are numerous analogies and metaphors to help the reader grasp his ideas. Throughout Family by God’s Design, he introduces information from the best authors today to assist the reader in understanding how a healthy God-honoring family operates. You clearly see his belief in the importance of marriage and family as a part of God’s design.” -Rev. Dr. Terry L. Mann–Executive Director, TWOgether Pittsburgh
 
Family by God’s Design elevates the importance of family relationships by demonstrating ways for kindness and love to permeate day-to-day behaviors. The helpful hints presented are easy to implement and make good sense. This book reminds us why cherishing our families is such a blessing.” -Nancy, wife, mother, & child/adolescent mental health worker
If Family By God’s Design sounds like a book that could help your family, click here to purchase it through our website.

Book Review: Generation to Generation

Family is the ideal environment in which to teach a child right from wrong and the value of relationship. Unfortunately, many families seem to abdicate this responsibility to churches, schools, and various clubs. Wayne Rice, youth worker, ministry consultant, and parent, calls families back to their role as leader in teaching values to our children. In Generation to Generation, he challenges parents to accept their unique position as spiritual leaders in their family, restoring their role as spiritual guide for their children. The material in the book was originally designed for a workshop presented by HomeWord, making it fast paced and easily digested.I appreciate several key aspects of this book. First, the author emphasizes the unique role and position of parents to “train up their child.” No other person or institution carries the same relationship, has the same invested interest, or spends the same time with a child as that child’s parents. Parents stand in a unique position, with unprecedented opportunities, to train their children in a manner no one else can even compare. Taking advantage of this opportunity demands that parents make a long-term commitment to connect with their family. Although this investment takes time and effort, the dividends are compelling and eternal–you don’t want to miss out on the results of this investment.

Generation to Generation offers a look at potential long-term family goals as well practical ways to connect with your children on a daily basis. This book also includes an excellent chapter on communicating family values to your children. Throughout Generation to Generation, Mr. Rice offers dozens of practical ways to connect with your children and instill family values into their lives. Overall, any parent who desires to raise children who “know and love God” will find this book an excellent and practical addition to their parenting toolbox, one they will constantly pull out to reference and use.


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