In probably one of the best books that I have read, Matt Redmond, addresses an issue that is almost entirely overlooked by Pastors and writers alike. He asks “Is there a God of the mundane?” His goal was to “comfort Christians where they were – to help people believe the mundane stuff matters and that goal he achieves superbly.
He writes for the “stay-at-home mom. She does the same chores every day. She fixes meals not always appreciated ………” He also writes for “A man, stuck. Stuck in a job that feels small – a job making him feel small. He is not embarrassed of his job so much as just miserable. … Actually, if we want to be specific about it, he is a banker.” and there is the strength of the book as it would appear that during the writing of the book something happened and Matt Redmond found himself in the very job he dreaded. But it is clear that God had a use not only for his gifts in the bank but also to bring an extra level of realism to this book.
As his whole life has been churched he has heard thousands of sermons but never one on living quietly which is strange as Paul urges his hearers to “aspire to live quietly” (1Thes 4:11), to do their work quietly, (2Thes 3:12) and even urges Timothy to tell his people to do the same.
A classic demonstration of this book is acted out by George Bailey (google him or ask any American). So if you are not a latter day Gladys Aylward or Billy Graham then like the rest of us “Be Nobody Special” and maybe this book is for you. “This little book is not a call to do nothing. It is a call to be faithful right where you are, regardless of how mundane that place is.”
Philip Howard sets out to show how “freedom diminishes as government loudly grinds towards paralysis” and that as “daunting as the prospect maybe, we must rebuild modern government.” To prove his point, his book is full of supporting tales of a government that is in paralysis and the book is richly littered with excellent quotations.
That is the good.
The poor is that the book needs a good editor as it is overly long for the points made and is, at times repetitive. Also, Howard seems to be a supporter of big powerful central government, as a way to overcome paralysis, plus states’ rights hardly get a mention. As an outsider, it has always struck me that one of the strengths of the US culture, is that states have a large degree of independence which acts as an automatic balancing of power when one state goes to extremes of debt or anything else. People will vote with their feet and relocate.
I find myself disagreeing with some of his solutions as they will give the US government even more power at the centre and will give the President too much power, power that seems to be being abused already (2015), without granting more. That is the path to dictatorship.
In his appendix, Howard lists a “Bill of Responsibilities” in the nature of 5 proposed amendments to the Constitution. They make interesting reading, and could improve government, but I feel certain that his:
1. Amendment XXIX “… the President may: reorganize executive agencies and departments; veto line items in proposed budgets; refuse to spend budgeted funds for any program in order to avoid waste or inefficiency ….”
2. Amendment XXX “The President shall have authority over personnel decisions in the executive branch, including authority to terminate public employees, within budgetary guidelines and neutral hiring protocols established by Congress.”
At the minimum, his amendment ideas should start a healthy discussion.
Howard’s comparison of the US government with Jonathan Swift’s “Lagado” is both funny and sadly accurate. As he writes: “Modern American government is also organized to put theory above reality. Public choices, we believe, should be made pursuant to clear rules, set in advance, whatever the consequences. The consequences, as in Lagado, are wholly predictable: Nothing much works. Government staggers towards insolvency because no one is able to adjust unaffordable programs. An official lacks the authority to pull a tree out of a “class C-1” creek.”
A curate’s egg of a book. The good is very good, and the bad, worrying.
Philip Howard is the Chairman of Common Good. For further details of his reform agenda, go to. http://www.commongood.org.
A tightly written thriller that, once again, takes our hero, Jack Mawgan, though several countries and many threats on his life, as he is swept along by events, beyond his control as part of a wide ranging plot of corruption in the highest places.
It is clear that Geoff Newman has considerable expertise in the management of the UK police helicopter and air ambulance field fleets and uses that with his dislike of a developing UK kleptocracy to write a complex yet thoroughly engrossing and wide ranging plot. The Mark is difficult to put down as you are always left wanting to know what is going to happen next in events that take the reader into some complex and diverse scenarios. You will enjoy this, the last in the Jack Mawgan trilogy.
A shrill attack on Democrats, prior to the 2004 election, Hannity’s book could have been titled “Deliver us from Evil Democrats”. His aim, in writing the book was to write, in some detail, why Americans shouldn’t choose any of the potential democrat candidates as President of the USA, but the sub aim was to remind us of the real existence of evil; an evil with which negotiation is impossible. As he states:
“I believe it is our responsibility to recognize and confront evil in the world – and because I’m convinced that if we fail in that mission it will lead us to disaster.”
“Still, we cannot prevail tomorrow without courageous leadership today. Our leaders will choose how we meet the challenges of the future – with strength and conviction, or with cowardice and accommodation. We, in turn, will choose those leaders. In doing so, we must remember, we are choosing our future.”
Once you have got over its deliberate aim, looking back from 2015, this proves to be a useful history book as it is full of quotations and context. The chapter on the Clintons alone makes this a valuable book, as so little has changed in their methods in their approaches to both the 2016 election and to continuing scandal revelations. Hannity at his prophetic best, about a future Hillary Clinton presidency:
“Whenever that should occur, it seems likely that the Clintons will play a significant role, and have considerable influence over, Democratic policy – including their attitude toward national security – for years to come. All of which should be a matter of grave concern for Americans who understand the importance of vigilance in the face of evil.”
Don’t miss some great quotes from Solzhenitsyn, a reminder of the numbers involved in the genocide in the USSR, China, N. Korea, Cambodia and others; and sadly, the quotes that show the flip flopping politics of a number of individuals.
The chapter on possible democrat candidates is mainly of historic interest only as most, but not all, have since disappeared from the political scene.
A final word from Hannity:
“It’s not just that liberals fail to see history in the making; they also ignore the lessons of history – even those that should be fresh in our minds. Why? Because their approach toward world events is based on ideology, not on logic – on politics, stalling, and hairsplitting, not on moral judgment.”
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A good and encouraging read that flows well. In Japan The Crickets Cry is about the life of Steve Metcalf who was brought up in China then interned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, for 6 years. Later, he returned to Japan to bring the gospel to a culture so different to ours that he describes so well. Written near the end of his life and authored by Ronald Clements, Steve’s story opens our eyes to the Chinese culture of the pre-war years and that of Japan with some gripping chapters, each a tale in itself. The book would be worth reading just for the insights into the influence of the runner Eric Liddell and the amazing way that God intervened in Steve’s courtship, but there is so much more within its 224 pages.
I notice that some didn’t enjoy the book. Maybe I came to it with no preconceptions.
Read it for encouragement and for sheer enjoyment.
If you are concerned about the survival of America, under a cadre of professional politicians, who appear to be more concerned with manipulating the electorate than responding to it, then Hank Sims’ book is for you. He includes an informed analysis of the issues that should be concerning all American citizens, put in context by a chapter on the Historical Perspective, as he sees it. He spends over 120 pages in an informative analysis of the many divisive issues that are endangering America’s chances for survival covering many issues such as Tax Structure, The Supreme Court, Health Care and the Media, before covering the plan that he proposes. As he says, “We Americans must get over the divisive issues and vote for people who will do what we need to save America. We must cut the budget, reduce and eventually eliminate the National Debt, cut waste, fraud, duplicative functions, ensure individual liberties, restore limited government and our Constitutional Republic.”
As an Englishman, I realise that most of the issues that Sims covers also ail the Untied Kingdom, but in different ways. We have our own, but complementary, plan in the Harrogate Agenda, but both plans need to be put into action by “We the People.” The next step is to implement these plans, first by becoming informed, secondly by working out how to bring about the changes, but without a clear understanding of the problems and a clear plan, change will not happen. Therefore I would encourage everyone to read Sims’ book.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Informative, repetitive, thorough, overly long, and at times, weird.
Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations is an in depth survey into the evolution of organisational theory. He describes how organisations have evolved,over time, from the street gang, mafia type, impulsive, organisations, which he refers to as Red organisations, through conformist organisations, with strong rules, structure and a rigid hierarchy, which he calls Amber; then on to Orange, green and finally teal. He describes Orange as typified by companies such as Walmart, Nike and Coca-Cola where individual and collective greed seem to dominate as does a small circle of CEOs granting themselves higher salaries, lobbying governments and gaining more and more power. Here strategy and execution are king. As cultures have evolved, so some organisational structures have evolved into “Green” organisations, typified by Southwest Airlines, Ben and Jerry’s and The Container Store. Unlike Orange, where materialistic obsession dominate, and there is social inequality and a loss of community, green seeks fairness, equality, harmony, cooperation, consensus and community involvement. A simple description is, Red – wolfpack, Amber – army type organisations, Orange – a machine and green – a family.
The strength of the book is in the investigations into so called Teal organisations, that Laloux sees as the new evolutionary state. He has spent considerable time interviewing and examining several organisations, how they work, their strengths and the applicability of the teal structure to existing organisations. In simple terms, a Teal organisation is one that pushes authority downwards, and is run by the decisions made by the workforce. The reality is more complex as are the difficulties. Laloux feels that a founder of a Teal organisation should see such an organisation as having a life and purpose of its own, distinct from his own wishes and desires. His supporting examples make for fascinating study.
This is not a book that one would pick up to get a general feel for the evolution of organisational theory as it appears to be aimed at the text book market where it makes few assumptions about its readers. Therefore it gives considerable background to the theories. Unfortunately this tends to make the book long and, at times, repetitive.
It’s major weakness is the incorporation of the writers personal prejudices as he seems to have embraced New Age and Gaia philosophies. “We need the consciousness of Green and Teal organizations to start healing the world of the wounds of modernity” seems reasonable as does “Teal organizations make peace with a complex world” but describing “The Evolutionary Teal” organisation “no longer as property, not even shared property in service of its different stakeholders. The organization is viewed as an energy field, emerging potential, a form of life that transcends its stakeholders, pursuing its own unique evolutionary purpose.” seems to be stretching language a bit far. He takes us further though with “Spiritual Re-enchantment” when he describes Teal people as seeking “unity and transcendence through personal experience and practices. This offers the perspective of teal societies that heal previous religious divisions and re-enchant the materialistic world of modernity through non-religious spirituality.” Laloux then goes on to promote something that he calls “Transcendent consciousness” whereby people seek “wholeness, to integrate all parts of the self, big and small. Sometimes, through meditative practices, or sheer luck, they have a peak experience beyond even the big self; they merge an become one with the absolute, with nature, with God. … People who transition to transcendent consciousness start to actively seek such experiences. … [personal development techniques] help to access non-ordinary states of consciousness – to experience, beyond separateness, beyond time and space, the oneness with all of manifestation.” He then describes some Buddhist types of transcendent consciousness leading to “oneness with nature, divinity, and the Absolute.” He proposes creating organisational “practices that work directly with the world of energy and spirit to help manifest an organization’s evolutionary purpose with less effort and more grace.” Anyone who is captivated by this needs to contact the SCP (Spiritual Counterfeits Project) straight away.
This book is a “Curate’s Egg”. The good is very good, but the bad seriously detracts from that good. Don’t be put off. Just don’t read it through rose tinted spectacles (to mix my metaphors.)