Tag Archives: Book

QFBR: Measure of a Man

Person: Martin Greenfield; Maximilian Grunfeld
Thing: This book—Measure of a Man; a well made suit
Place: Pavlovo, Czechoslovakia; Concentration camps—Auschwitz, Buna, Buchenwald, Baltimore, Brooklyn… Various locales.
Idea: Grace makes an improbable life wonderfully possible.

Martin’s life started in Czechoslovakia. He was raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, but Martin says their faith wasn’t especially zealous. Life was good. They worked their own farm, took care of their livestock and even employed workers.

Then the trains arrived… and scuttled Martin’s family away. His mom, baby brother, younger sister and grandparents were sent in one direction. His other sister—taken away as well.

And then there were two. Martin and his dad. But they, too, were separated.

Martin never saw them again.

He survived Auschwitz, brutal marches through the snow, and Buchenwald, which is where Americans liberated them.

Martin’s main question through the succession of atrocities: “Where was God?”

His life took a few twists and turns after liberation–a stint in the Czech army, making a living as a cigarette runner, and meeting young ladies and having fun.

Martin was working as an auto mechanic when a letter arrived from the United States. He got someone to translate it, and learned he had extended family across the Atlantic.

Eventually, he settled in Brooklyn, worked for the suit maker GGG, a company with a client roster that included many high-profile Hollywood names.

Martin married, worked his way up the GGG ladder, and eventually purchased the company and re-named it.

Some have said Martin’s top-notch, made to measure suits are the best in the world. Repeat clients include U.S. presidents, Hollywood stars, athletes, and late night TV hosts.

Martin, whose family was almost decimated by hate, now runs the business with his sons. He notes how grace afforded the opportunity to create another family to love and nurture. Though there were MANY opportunities for death to smother him during World War II, it wasn’t able to snuff his existence.

After decades of hard work, opportunity, and success, and a bar mitzvah at age 80, Martin says he’s “left with nothing but gratitude for my life. Some things, it turns out, are beyond measure.”

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Quick-Fast Book Review: Quitting Church

Person: Julia Duin
Thing: Book—Quitting Church
Place: Various
Idea: Once adherent congregants are ditching their churches. Whether they’re fleeing in droves or trickling one member at a time, the attrition is noticeable. But those who leave aren’t necessarily ditching their faith. So what’s the deal?

In this book, Duin breaks down some reasons God-fearing and God-loving folks are finding a more comfortable home outside church structures and strictures.

In short, the faithful pack their belief and find spiritual solace elsewhere because the church is:
• Irrelevant and not addressing 21st century needs.
• Not a teeming and supportive community that folks need.
• Not concerned about singles over 35 years of age outside of how those unattached individuals can serve the church.
• The teaching is too basic and doesn’t stretch the mind. Some need basic biblical teaching, but that doesn’t encompass everyone’s needs. And what about tough areas of ambiguity? What about questions with no easy, pithy answers?
• Some churches are strangled by controlling pastors.
• And although women make large, large swaths of church membership, their leadership presence is glaringly absent… and in some cases, glaringly stifled into second-class status.
• Some can’t find that passionate spirit they so long for within a church body.

I think this book brings up some interesting points. Some I relate to more than others, as a once-weekly attendee who now finds a growing comfort with regular, but decreased frequency.

I recommend this book for anyone who is frustrated with the church experience and anyone who just wants to know they’re not alone. As for help fixing what’s broken, that’s an individual decision. Maybe you’ll find solace in leaving your church, or inspiration to tinker about and repair what’s broken in your local congregation—or even your denomination. If you’re not religious at all, ignore this recommendation and continue being kind to your neighbor… Amen.

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QFBR: Why Certainty is Sometimes Certainly Wrong

Person:  Peter Enns
Place: The mind
Thing: Book – The Sin of Certainty
Idea: A bunch of Christians might get sad reading this book.  Maybe they’ll weep or get steaming mad and gnash their teeth. According to Enns, the rock-solid certainty many segments of Christianity seek—is a sin.  Clutch your church pearls, your beads and your prayer cloths folks, and I’ll explain what he says:

Faith has nothing to do with knowing rules and tenets of what you believe. Faith is about actual trust in God. It’s also about distinguishing between knowing doctrine and trusting the God of whatever denomination to which you adhere. Enns says separating the two is key to a deeper, abiding Christian faith experience.

Christians seem certain about everything. What happens when people die, how the world developed, how the world will end. But with so many denominations and interpretations of scripture, someone’s certainty is certainly faulty. Doubt is cast as an enemy to be avoided… and vanquished if it pops up anywhere. Peter Enns writes that doubt isn’t the enemy a Christian should fear. Doubt is something to be faced head on… not as a warrior, but an explorer. Doubt’s pain and uncertainty, if explored, can be a means to develop trust. (I imagine trusting God is the entire point of being a Christian…)

Ditching certainty at all costs can unsettle and challenge faith…  It’s a lack of certainty that can make a person cut and run or stand firm (or curl up in a writhing ball) and insist “ I’m going to trust God anyway.”  THAT seems more demonstrative of faith than running down a list of creeds.  It’s certainly more Christian than shafting and bad-mouthing fellow believers who dare rethink faith as something bigger than reciting fundamental beliefs.  But maybe that’s too much of a challenge to some Christian communities. Knowing what you believe is nice (Enns insists knowing those beliefs is not a sin) but it’s never, ever better than trusting God in all matters… even the ones that seem counterintuitive, stupid and senseless. Doubt forces us to look deeper then our tenets  and find, define, and refine a relationship with the divine through difficult moments.

Ends insists God is still God, even if and when we get pissed off at Him… or Her… (or Him/Her).  Enns challenges readers not to fake like all is good when we’re mad at God. Just be mad, but work through the mess to find a closer, trusting connection with God. Trust is a habit you won’t find in a doctrine book. Folks just have to live it because (as the books subtitle says) “God desires our trust more than our beliefs.”

This is a highly recommended book because:

  1. It’s controversial… I imagine this might ruffle some stuffy fundamentalist feathers (and I say this as a Christian).
  2. It’s also a fun and thought-provoking read that might make someone reconsider another aspect of what it means to “have faith.”

 

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Quick-Fast Book Review: Think Like a Man; Act Like a Lady

Person: Steve Harvey
Thing: Book—Think Like a Man; Act Like a Lady
Place:  The dating world
Idea:   When it comes to dating, heterosexual women just need to give up. Not on men, but give up on hoping and praying men will “act right.” Often times, “acting right” means men should start acting like the dudes in a woman’s fantasy land.. which can be her mind.

Ain’t. Gonna. Happen. That’s the word according to Steve Harvey.

In this book, which is an easy and pleasant read, Harvey insists men are simple creatures. If women learned about and accepted what drives men, and how their ways of expressing love are different from the ways women tend to show love, things could be better in that arena.

But women need to accept the differences.

This book, when distilled to its essence, is a handy checklist of things to remember while navigating  romantic relationships.

If a man loves you, he’ll profess it, provide for you, and protect you. And Harvey says a man only needs three things from a woman he loves: Your support, loyalty, and “the cookie” (yet another way to say “good lovin’” or sexual healing).

Just don’t expect him to engage you like your girlfriends do.

He ain’t them.

If you want one man’s perspective, and a funny one at that, pick up this book. Take or leave his advice, but (IMHO) there’s something to be said about taking advice about men… from a man.

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Don’t get jacked! How to: Fall, stay and renew on love’s pathway

Person: Joe Beam
Thing: Book—The Art of Falling in Love: Four Steps to Falling in Love, Staying in Love, Renewing Lost Love
Place:  Your life, my life, and the mind of anyone looking to find or maintain a love relationship.
Idea:   Love isn’t a willy-nilly concept for the weak-minded or faint of heart. In my humble opinion, love is a state of mind, state of being, and there are practical steps to fall, stay, and renew lost love—at any stage of the love cycle.

We’re continuing our sappy love salute with books that could be categorized as “How not to jack up your relationship.”

For those folks lookin’ for love—some suggestions that may help you—while decreasing the likelihood of you losing your mind in the process.

This week’s book–“The Art of Falling in Love” is for anyone who wants to know how not to get emotionally jacked up while seeking a relationship.

There’s one chapter that really resonates with me—the one called “Craving for Caring.” Beam breaks down the ways to satisfy that craving on what he calls the “Pathway to Love.” Those four steps are:

  • Attraction
  • Acceptance
  • Attachment
  • Aspiration

Everyone wants someone with appeal—emotional, physical, intellectual—and from that attraction, we then accept the person as they are. But in order to find acceptance from another, you must accept yourself first. Not the picture you want to be, but the person you actually are. By accepting you, hopefully those attracted to you will actually like you, and not a snapshot of your highlighted best angles… that that carefully constructed persona meant for public consumption.

However, we still have no control over the picture of us someone else may paint in his or her own mind. It is up to that person to ask him/herself if they are attracted to the real person or who they perceive this person should be.

Beam says one thing that seems to contradict prior information I have read about keeping relationships alive—the idea that communication is the most important element in a relationship. Not so, says Beam. Respect is. Without respect, there can be no path to love.

He also discusses a concept called Limerence—which is that almost obsessive, emotionally charged high over—not a joint—but over a person, or the limerent object. And limerence is powerful. It’s only based on passion and perfection. Passionate feelings and a blemish-free view of the object. Sometimes limerence happens when two people are single. Beware though—because a limerent may also be married—and if this passion is not held in check, a man or woman in limerence may destroy a long-standing union in favor of the temporary high this infatuation brings.

Another discussion:  The bonds needed to form long-term attachments. Beam  addresses the need to understand a partner’s differences in order to meet his or her needs, and what happens if those needs are not met. Equally important, is a discussion of what sends people back down the love path—in reverse—away from love. Beam contends that any couple along the love path can restore a fractured relationship by revisiting what sent them on the path to begin with.

There’s even a chapter on productive anger, how to process it without weakening a relationship—and the role forgiveness plays in a working relationship. Follow the steps on Beam’s love path and you might find yourself aspiring together, dreaming, planning, and working to meet each other’s needs. That intimacy is where some say they want to be, but Beam says—and I agree—It. Is. Work. It’s totally intentional.

Another highly recommend read!

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Quick-Fast Book Review: Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

Issa Rae and I seem like two peas in a pod… Except she’s famous and I’m not.

And her dad’s a doctor, and she went to school in Brentwood and to Stanford… And my dad isn’t, and I didn’t attend a snazzy Brentwood school or Stanford.

At my high school, we held assembly programs called “Chapel.” We  sang songs about Jesus.

We also had folks who could rap like nobody’s business.

I was NOT one of them.

But I was plenty awkward. And though some folks thought me cute and told me so, it wasn’t enough to get anyone to ask me out in high school. So even thought I didn’t THINK I was ugly, I assumed folks didn’t find me attractive.  Honey, there were no boys  beating a path to my door, or keeping my parent’s phone line busy trying to hear my voice.

By reading The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, I felt somewhat at home within the awkward experiences of Issa Diop, also known as Issa Rae.

Socially awkward? I so got that as a kid.

Heck, I get that as an adult.  I still occasionally say things that elicit uncomfortable silences.

Bad dancing? Jury’s out on that. I just move to the rhythm and don’t try too hard. Nothing inspiring.  Let’s move on.

Trying hard to impress? When I was younger, occasionally. I can’t recall the moment I realized how stupid that was and stopped. I can only be me.

I enjoyed the escapades and familiar landscapes of the Awkward Black Girl web series. Also enjoyable, reading about some of Issa Rae’s defining moments.

Here’s the joy of this book: It seems so incomplete. And that’s awesome! Her story’s still in progress. I’m looking forward to more from Issa Rae, whether via web series, book, TV, radio or if packaged in podcast or comic book forms.

She’s a talent with a unique voice that can speak to everyday nerdy awkward black girls—and anyone who dares to just BE.

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Book Review #5 | Quiet Strength

This week’s Review is a memoir by Tony Dungy—called Quiet Strength.

This book chronicles Tony Dungy’s journey—from his formative years in Jackson, Michigan, to the coach of the 2007 Superbowl champion Indianapolis Colts. The backbone of Dungy’s belief is that all should strive for excellence—and resolute strength in whatever sphere we may occupy—through disappointment, tragedy and happy times. This book was published in 2007, and though not exactly a new release, it contains timeless advice.

I like this book because it is a nice read for one, and it is a reminder that no one is alone in his or her journey. Dungy also shares about the suicide of his son. If there is anything I can imagine would send a parent into a depressive spiral, that is one of the things I can imagine. However, Dungy decided to follow the counsel he had given others through the years—including football players… And trust God through the pain—and keep their minds on God—no matter what. So no cursing or cussing God and shaking fists to the sky. Instead of asking “why” Dungy asked what he could learn from the situation—what could he do for God—and to help others.

Another recommended read—mainly because of its inspirational and uplifting value.

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Richard Smallwood | Creator of Timeless Gospel Classics


What’s amazing about Richard Smallwood, is the fact that people told him that his music wouldn’t sell.  Planet Noun’s Liz Anderson found that almost unbelievable—because she’s been a fan for years—and one of the key features of his music—is its timeless, classic sound.

Liz had an opportunity to talk with Smallwood for a few minutes about his latest projects, including an autobiography that’s in the works—complete with information about his genealogy!

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