Monthly Archives: July 2010


Joe’s #7: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

I have a man crush on John Gottman and I actually have no idea what he looks like. Hold on, I’m going to go and google his image. John Gottman’s research and writings have changed the way I counsel, they’ve changed the way I am a husband to my wife. Having said that, a lot of his writings are dry. This book is no exception. His seven principles are not earth shattering, although I’d encourage to google his 5:1 ratio or use it in all of your relationships.

Gottman’s seven principles in this book are fairly straightforward (my thoughts are in parenthesis:

1. Enhance your love maps
2. Nurture your fondness and admiration
3. Turn toward each other instead of Away
4. Let your partner influence you

-The two kinds of marital conflict (this isn’t actually a principle but understanding this is important

5. Solve your solvable problems (does that mean there are unsolvable problems?)
6. Overcome gridlock
7. Create shared meaning

All in all, I think everyone will find this book to be a satisfying read and for almost everyone there will be at least one “ah-ha” moment where it speaks directly to something going on in their relationship. Even if you are thinking that your relationship is on solid footing I encourage you to read this book.

Marriages are something we do and something we have. As something we have, they are fragile and need constant attention and care.


Summer 2010 Book Purchases


Ron’s #31: The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

Let me begin with what I think is Nicholas Carr’s main statement in this book:

“What can science tell us about the actual effects that Internet use is having on the way our minds work?…Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, educators, and Web designers point to the same conclusion: when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. It’s possible to think deeply while surfing the Net, just as it’s possible to think shallowly while reading a book, but that’s not the type of thinking the technology encourages and rewards” (115-116).

Carr has written an engaging book that explores how our Internet habits are changing how we think. He tells how he noticed a shift in his concentration levels after his immersion in the Internet world of links, clicks, and tweets. This English literature major found that he had trouble concentrating on a novel beyond a few pages. After years of training his mind to follow links and read news blasts, he was troubled that he could no longer read deeply. This led him to write an article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” which he expanded into this book.

The bottom line of his findings is that our brains are malleable, and they will change to fit the environment. When we “feed” our brain a diet of short bursts of information with no contemplation, the neurons and synapses change. In essence, we teach our brains to be distracted. We become shallow thinkers.

This is a matter I have thought about as a teacher. I look out into a sea of brains that have been raised on digital distractions and see that they cannot sustain attention for a short story without pictures and accompanying videos, never mind a longer work of fiction. While many in education hail the Internet as a wealth of information and a Promethean gift from the gods, I do not see that teaching journals are addressing what this bombardment of information is doing to how we think and, in turn, how we behave in and about the world around us.

In my estimation, this book focuses on three main parts. The first is about neurology and the Internet. At times, it was too technical for me, but I was able to enjoy the idea of the “plasticity” of our brains. This section grounds Carr’s premise in scientific testing and research. The second part of the book addresses the history of written text and computer science. As an English teacher and a computer enthusiast, this was my favorite section. The third section discusses the effects of the intertwining of our lives with the Internet. The chapter titled, “The Church of Google” is worth the price of the book, as it gives us a side of Google that causes me to question its company motto, “Do no harm.”

Aside from the intriguing topic, I also enjoyed Carr’s writing style. This book is filled with excellent quotations and stories about books and reading. One story that is particularly vivid is his recounting of Nathaniel Hawthorne enjoying a peaceful time of contemplation in Sleepy Hollow when the noisy locomotive arrives in town. The juxtaposition of these two worlds powerfully captures how we are distracted by the Internet “railroad.” My copy of the book is marked up, and I intend to return to it for these reminders.

This book has given me an impetus to make some changes in my Internet usage. I am online far more than I want to be. Like Nicholas Carr, I have a difficult time concentrating on longer novels or books, due to my constant checking email, Facebook, Twitter, and IMDB. Writing pieces like this are often punctuated with non-stop searches for other distractions and procrastinations. Because of reading many small headlines or articles, I do not have time to process them so I don’t really “know” them. All I have at the end of a surfing session is three fewer hours in my life.

This is not the life I want to lead. In Mark 12:30, Jesus tells us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Not only do I want to redeem the time to worship Him rather than wasting it on Facebook, but I also want every neuron and synapse to glorify Him as much as it is possible. If I am shrinking those connections that shorten my thinking, something must change. How can I love God with my mind if I am short-circuiting my brain with distractions and interferences?

The Shallows is one of the best books I’ve read on this list of so far. Nicholas Carr has written a powerful book that I’ll think about every time I’m tempted to check my email or Facebook “real quick.” He has also, perhaps inadvertently, offered some spiritual advice to help in my improvement as a Christian. I see that even reading Christian blogs or religious news or even Bible study tools can, in effect, act as a stumbling block in our faith if they are distractions interrupting our mediation or contemplation of deeper things.

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Nicholas Carr
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Ron’s #30: Radical by David Platt

My friend Mark put it best: Radical is Crazy Love with more theology.” As much as I liked Crazy Love, David Platt’s Radical addresses similar themes better.

The subtitle for this book is “Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.” We as American Christians are so quick to settle into our comforts of success, society, and stuff that we forget that we are not our own and that we belong to another. We are nestled deep into this world that we forget that we are to live for the next one. David Platt reminds us that we are to live radical lives as Jesus was Himself a true radical. We should be willing to sacrifice our money, status, and time to be kingdom-obsessed.  He makes an important distinction between giving and sacrificing. Anyone can give a few bucks or an hour, but to sacrifice means something completely different.

Three parts of this book are especially worth reading.

  1. The chapter titled How Much is Enough? American Wealth and a World of Poverty shows how much excess we have as Americans. 26,000 children will die today of starvation or other preventable illness. Two billion people live on under two dollars a day. Jesus says, “Go and sell everything you have an give it to the poor.”
  2. Chapter 7 titled Why Going is Urgent, Not Optional outlines seven truths from the book of Romans that illustrates our sin and guilt before a holy God, and His provision of salvation. These seven truths provide one of the clearest depictions of the Gospel I’ve read.
  3. Chapter 9 discusses “The Radical Experiment.” Platt challenges readers to live a one-year radical lifestyle marked by the following principles:
  • Pray for the entire world
  • Read through the entire Word
  • Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose
  • Spend your time in another context
  • Commit your life to a multiplying community

This is one of those must-read books for Christians. For non-Christians, I encourage you to read it to see what Christianity should look like.

I think that this book can change individual lives, churches, and the world.

See Mark’s review of this book here.


Ron’s #29: The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis

It’s hard to believe that C. S. Lewis is only now making the list at #29. He has been my favorite author for years now. Sorry, Jack!

The Abolition of Man is a treaty on the importance of Natural law, –an objective truth or a moral code– that transcends time and culture. Lewis refers to this as the Tao, a system of truth that is embedded in all cultures throughout history. It is not an American or British truth, or even a western one. There are objective truths that all recognize, whether they follow them or not. As he states, he does not like the company of children, but he recognizes that as a default in him, not in children. This is similar to the color-blind man; my inability to see color says something about me, not about the existence of color.

When we stop teaching children to look for ideas and truths larger than themselves, “we have cut out of his soul, long before he is old enough to choose, the possibility of having certain experiences which thinkers of more authority than they have held to be generous, fruitful, and humane…That is their day’s lesson in English, though of English they have learned nothing. Another little portion of the human heritage has been quietly taken from them before they were old enough to understand” (9). This vivisection causes society to produce “men without chests,” and we somehow are surprised when people behave poorly, criminally, or, even worse, immorally. As Lewis states, “we remove the organ and demand the function.”

We avoid feelings and beliefs as contradictory to the mind, to nature, to science. We seek to conquer nature in the name of progress. However, “man’s conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature’s conquest of Man” (68). It is interesting that these talks were given during World War II, at the time when Hitler and his cronies were focused on conquering nature via eugenics and other human experimentations. How, Lewis would ask, could you say that he was wrong if there is no overarching moral standard in which torturing humans and killing the innocent are counted as wrong? Conquering nature results in conquering ourselves. The abolition of Man.

Lewis states that this book is not an argument for the existence of a theistic God, but I think it is a clear apologetic for one. How can we have moral laws and objective truths without a lawgiver and one who exists above the laws? While it is not a defense for a Christian God per se, it does point to a designer of a coherent and morally good universe.

This is a difficult work in spite of its 81 pages, but well worth the effort.

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