Archive for Book Reviews

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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Book Review: 10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage

Remember the joys of dating…the spark, the excitement, the anticipation? After marriage the pressure of paying bills, running kids from activity to activity, meeting the demands of work, and the rush of life can all creep in to rob us of that spark. In 10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage, authors David & Claudia Arp aim to help you rekindle that spark, reconnect with your spouse, and make new memories…and, it’s loads of fun!

10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage
provides you with topics to discuss with your spouse while enjoying a date; in fact, 10 topics for 10 dates. Topics include communication, conflict resolution, building unity based on individual strengths, sharing responsibilities, developing an exciting and fulfilling sexual relationship, balancing marriage with parenting, and developing spiritual intimacy. Each partner prepares for the date by reading a short chapter and answering a few discussion starters/exercises to help you think about the lessons of the chapter. Then the fun begins–take your spouse on a date. Enjoy the time together. Be creative…or romantic…as you plan your date. While enjoying your date, discuss your relationship in light of the chapter you read. Keep it positive and discuss how you can create the marriage you both desire. Most importantly, have fun, celebrate your love, and energize your marriage while enjoying the joy and excitement of dating again.
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Book Review: Fighting for Your Marriage

I’m really not very competitive and much too passive to make a good fighter; but, I do believe some things really are worth fighting for! A happy marriage is one of those things. So, why do most couples fight more vigorously for the perfect wedding dress than the perfect communication skill? Or, put more painstaking effort into planning the ideal wedding ceremony than in learning the relational skills necessary to sustain a long-term marriage? I’m not sure I have the answer to that question; but I do know that Fighting for Your Marriage definitely offers an alternative. In Fighting for Your Marriage, the authors presents the skills, “old school style,” needed to give your marriage more than a “fighting chance”…more than enough techniques to knock out the enemies that want to rob you of a joyful, intimate marriage. The material in this user’s guide for married couples is based on the objective research that undergirds the PREP (Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Program) approach. Even though it is based on research, Fighting for Your Marriage is easily understood, humorous, and filled with examples that support the key skills and attitudes associated with good relationships. Practical skills and exercises give the reader the awareness and knowledge necessary to avoid four communication patterns that can harm relationships.

Even with this knowledge, problems, disagreements, and conflict may arise. In order to limit the potential nuclear disaster of marital conflict, the authors present a structure (control rods, if you will) that can limit the uncontrolled reactions of each person and allows them to direct their energy toward solving the conflict and enhancing their relationship. Just learning this structure to manage conflict makes this book worth reading. However, the authors go on to present ideas that can help couples deal with core issues (such as acceptance and power struggles), put expectations to work for their marriage, and protect their long-term commitment to a happy marriage.

The final section of the book is my favorite. In this section, the authors offer practical advice for enhancing friendship within the marriage relationship, bringing fun into marriage, and enhancing sexual intimacy (“woo-hoo”).

All in all, this book is a practical “user’s guide for one of life’s greatest adventures.” If you believe that your happy marriage is worth fighting for, you will want to add this book to your fighting strategy and put each skill into practice with gusto.

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Book Review: How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk

They say that “love is blind” and that we “lose our mind” in the early stages of love. In How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk, John Van Epp offers practical solutions to recover from that blindness and keep hold of our minds while going through the process of falling in love. Realizing that relationships are notoriously complex, he does not give pollyanish solutions. Instead, he offers a comprehensive road map to relationship development that is readable, practical, and humorous. He calls this road map the “Relationship Attachment Model” (RAM). The RAM model describes five relationship dynamics–know, trust, rely, commit, and intimacy–road signs, if you will, that guide a person into healthy relationships. The first road sign reads “SLOW DOWN.” Do not travel too fast down the highway toward intimacy. Slow the pace of the relationship so the heart does not outrun the head. Practically speaking, the author offers the three-month rule—“it takes three months for many subtle but serious patterns to begin to surface.” So, follow the speed limit and take time to know the person. Learn how your potential partner interacts with friends and family. Find out if they make you a “better person” when you are with them. Discover their values and beliefs.

The next sign reads “CAUTION–winding road ahead” and informs the reader to never trust a person more than you know them, never rely on a person more than you trust them, and never commit to a person more than you rely on them. Along the winding road, the author encourages the reader to stop at various scenic overlooks. One scenic overlook gives a lovely view of the “date-mate profile” to help assess and develop an appropriate level of trust. Around the next bend, a second scenic overlook gives a panoramic view of the relational “Investment-Reciprocity-Accumulation” (IRA) Account to assess a partner’s level of reliability. Another overlook offers a scenic view of the three strands of commitment–the “want-to,” the “have-to,” and the “reluctant-to” strands. Each of these scenic overlooks offers the reader a glimpse of the road ahead before they cautiously travel further down the road toward a healthy relationship. Taking the scenic drive toward relationship at a slow pace and taking advantage of the scenic overlooks to learn about one another’s nuances, the couple arrives safely at the beautiful villa of intimacy.

John Van Epp’s five dynamics-know, trust, rely, commit, and intimacy-offers an excellent road map for anyone seeking to develop a healthy relationship. I highly recommend this book to anyone currently involved in a dating relationship or anyone thinking about starting a dating relationship. In fact, I actually did recommended this book to at least three people this month…and I guess this recommendation makes four.

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Book Review: Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married

Gary Chapman, author of the 5 Love Languages series, hit another homerun for relationship success with his book Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married. In this book, Chapman shares lessons he learned while helping couples for over 35 years as well as from his own experience. Written for those who are dating or engaged, Things I Wish I’d Known explores 12 relationship facts that every couple needs to know in order to find marital happiness. Unfortunately, many young or engaged couples misunderstand these 12 relationship facts and this misunderstanding leads to marital conflict and stress. Gary Chapman candidly explores each of these 12 relationship facts and how to respond in a way that will promote marital happiness. Some of the facts explored include: “Being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage,” “how to solve disagreements without arguing,” “mutual sexual fulfillment is not automatic,” “I was marrying into a family,” and “personality profoundly influences behavior.” Two of my personal favorites include “toilets are not self-cleaning” and “apologizing is a sign of strength.”

In an age where we spend months and thousands of dollars preparing for our wedding, this book offers a great investment in preparing for a lifetime of marriage. Each chapter has practical tips you can discuss with your date or spouse-to-be in an effort to truly prepare for marriage. Truly, I would have found this book helpful in preparing for my own marriage. I hope you will take the opportunity to read and discuss this book with your future spouse in preparation for a truly happy marriage. Find this book and others like it at Favorite Picks & Resources.

Book Review: Why Marriages Succeed or Fail

Why Marriages Succeed or Fail…And How You Can Make Yours Last by John Gottman, PhD

John Gottman, professor and researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, began studying couples and relationships in the 1970s. In this book, he shares what he has learned over years of research in the “love lab.” He brings couples into the “love lab” and observes their heart rate, pulse, blood flow, sweat, facial expressions, and the emotional content of their words as they have a disagreement. From this research, he has learned what leads to success or failure in relationships. In Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, Gottman identifies the four horsemen of the apocalypse that can disrupt a marriage as well as four keys to strengthen a marriage. He also reviews three types of relationships and myths about them, how thoughts impact marriage, and the difference between men and women in relationship. Gottman notes that the “magic ratio” of five positive experiences to every one negative experience is crucial to establishing a successful marriage. In other words, successful marriages honor one another fives times more often than they dishonor one another. Why Marriages Succeed or Fail is filled with questionnaires to help each person assess their marriage and practical ideas to promote stronger marriages. An excellent resource to help strengthen your marriage. Available through Favorite Picks & Resources.

Book Review

The Attachment Connection: Parenting a Secure & Confident Child Using the Science of Attachment Theory  by Ruth P. Newton, PH.D

Ruth Newton, PHD, offers a excellent parenting advice for those who have children from birth through four years of age. In The Attachment Connection, she provides a wonderful and understandable overview of attachment and parent-child bonding as well the role of both the mother and the father, the importance of non-verbal communications, and how all this impacts the child’s overall development. She then offers practical ideas to help parents build secure relationships with their children from birth to four-years-old, giving specific information for newborns, two-months-olds, four-months-olds, six-months-olds, nine-months-olds, twelve-months-olds, eighteen-months-olds, two-years-olds, three-years-olds, and four-years-olds. For each age group, she presents the reader with tables that point out developmental expectations, new skills to watch for, and games to promote development. Dr. Newton presents all this information in a fun to read format and offers practical examples to further explain each idea she presents. This is one of my personal favorites when it comes to parenting books and books about attachment. An excellent and very practical book.

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