Perspective Challenging Books

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I love to read, and usually alternate between business books and what I call “Nancy” books. Nancy books are fun—authors like Baldacci and Grisham—but rarely enlightening.   About 3 months into 2015, I realized a theme was emerging in the books I chose. The vast majority of the books gave me a glimpse into a world I knew almost nothing about. They challenged my perspective and increased my understanding of others. So, here are my favorite reads of 2015. I hope you find they challenge your perspective and deepen your respect for others.

Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny, by Zainab Salbi

Zainab Salbi is the daughter of the man chosen to be Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot. Her story of growing up under Saddam’s tyranny and her attempt to escape that tyranny in America—only to find another form here—is heart wrenching and eye opening. Her courage in speaking out through this book is deeply moving and inspiring.

Slave Hunter: Freeing Victims of Human Trafficking, by Aaron Cohen and Christine Buckley

Aaron Cohen goes to some of the darkest places on our planet to expose traffickers and to free men and women who have been sold into sex slavery. How he went from rock star to slave hunter is an enthralling and painful story of perseverance and commitment.

Crossing the Tracks for Love: What to Do When You and Your Partner Grew Up in Different Worlds, by Ruby K. Payne

This is one of the most practical books that I read. Payne’s insights into the mindsets of economic class differences in the United States (poverty, middle class, wealthy) were fascinating—and ones I was able to apply. While written for someone who is contemplating marrying into another class, the principles and perspectives are applicable for teachers, coaches, business people, and others whose daily interactions cross economic classes.

The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust, by Edith H. Beer and Susan Dworkin

Edith Beer’s peaceful early years were smashed to pieces when she was shipped to a slave labor camp as the Nazi’s rolled into her beloved Austria. From a hated Jewess, this story of her engagement and marriage to a Nazi officer in Munich is one of paralyzing fear, submission, and determination. You will be both repelled by the evil she was subjected to and drawn to this strong woman of courage.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, by Nabeel Quereshi

This beautifully written book is a powerful glimpse into a devout, loving Muslim home and the foundations of the Muslim faith. Quereshi grew up challenging the faith of Christians and finding no one who could answer his challenges. When he joined the debate team at Georgetown University, he met a fellow debate team student who could answer his challenges and engage in lively, deep theological discussions. This book will challenge your perspectives of both Islam and Christianity.

The Devil in Pew Number Seven, by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, with Bob DeMoss

This is an amazing story of hatred, terror, love, and forgiveness. Rebecca Nichols’ father accepted a position as pastor of a small church in North Carolina, only to encounter a man who wanted complete control of the church. When the man couldn’t get the power and control he desired, he terrorized the Nichols family in unimaginable ways. Despite the violence and hatred they endured, as well as the fear and dread they were constantly under, her parents chose to stay and love the community. And, although Rebecca’s life was shattered by the devil in Pew No. 7, her story of healing, forgiveness, and courage will bring tears to your eyes.

Avoiding Soul Insanity

Monday, October 29th found me in Nyack, NY waiting for the arrival of Hurricane  Sandy.  As the day went on, the wind picked up, the chimney in the old brick house I was in along the Hudson River rumbled, and the trees swayed.  Power went off twice that afternoon and each time came back on within 20 minutes.  At 6 pm the power went off – the wind started screaming and howling, the trees bent to the ground, and Sandy was here.  I taught the group in a circle of candlelight.  When a power substation or transformer would blow, we’d watch through the windows as blue balls of flame and light illuminated the dark and stormy skies.  Only then could we see the ferocious wind bending  trees to the ground.  The light show over, we would turn back to the discussion.  At 10 pm, I slid into a bed in the third story of the house as the hurricane roared.  Tuesday morning we woke to trees downed on power lines, uprooted along the river, and I found myself grateful for the protection God had provided.   When I was able to get out to the Newark airport on Thursday, the power was still off at the house on the river.

This was one of those years in our lives when the trials and struggles felt much like a hurricane.  As the winds of the storm batter our lives, we find the grace of God in the midst of it all.  In April my father went home to be with Jesus and we spent the summer helping my mother, who has dementia, move into assisted living.  Our daughter’s inoperable brain tumor spawned side effects around the same time, and the force of the hurricane winds seemed unending.  But God was faithful in the midst of it all, with many answered prayers.

Over this year, we have felt our priorities shifting.  Dan Webster, founder of Authentic Leadership, has been a strong influence in my life and and he says:  A lack of quiet in a man or woman’s life slowly leads to a condition of soul insanity.  There are things that God does in the heart of a leader that only get done in quiet.  So I have decided to take a “sabbatical” from December 14th –January 9th.   In order for me to be able to slow down, reflect, and relax, I will not be checking work email during that time period, nor answering any phone calls.  In fact, because I anticipate over 2500 emails when I return, I’ll simple delete them all and start over.  I suspect that making that commitment is the only way I’ll not be tempted to check email.

We are thankful for God’s real and loving presence in the midst of this year and are grateful for all we have experienced and been given.  We pray that you will trust God for holy courage as you experience the storms of life.  He is faithful.

Tough Sloggins

Years ago, my husband and I spent 3 weeks canoeing in Canada’s Quetico Park.  There were 5 of us, and we portaged 24 miles and paddled 150.  We went in to the park before it officially opened, so the ice had just melted.  It rained constantly for the first 10 days.  I would wake up each the morning, praying for sun.  By day five, the only way to cook supper was with our little cook stove since it was too wet to start a campfire.  On day eight, we arrived at a portage called Tough Sloggins.  In normal condition, it was a path of muck and goo that made the portage difficult.  With all the rain, we paddled through the portage, found a beaver slide to ride the canoes on, and went on our merry way.

Sometimes life seems like tough sloggins.  For us, the month of April was so.  Bill’s uncle passed, then my father graduated to glory.  He was the care giver for my mother who has dementia, so I spent a lot of time getting home health care lined up for her until she can get into an assisted living apartment. Our daughter has an inoperable brain tumor, and side effects from her medicine became apparent in April.  Driving home from my father’s funeral, I recalled the tough sloggins portage.  April was feeling like the muck and goo – except for the prayers and encouragement of our friends.  Those prayers saw us through.  Like the days of rain that filled the portage, the prayers made our way through April, and now May, easier.

So this is a thank you for your prayers, notes, flowers, and words of encouragement over the last several weeks. They have brought our entire family great comfort. Thank you for walking with us on this journey and for making this walk much easier.  In both word and deed you are Christ to us.


What Do Tim Tebow and the Indy 500 Have in Common?

I grew up in Indiana.  Every Memorial Day my parents washed the windows on the house and listened to the Indy 500 on the radio.  We wanted to know who would win.    The “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” was more exciting when cars, wall, and drivers collided.  Who was it? Was anyone seriously hurt? 

There’s a whole army of people out there just waiting for Tim Tebow to crash and burn.   Tebow is that rare person who is publicly living his life with integrity.  He lifts up his faith in Jesus, he thanks God for his blessings, he shares his wealth with others, and he helps those in need.  For many of us, he is an inspiration.  For others, he is “the greatest spectacle in football”.  They are waiting, like vultures, for the first mistake he makes so they can say “I told you so.  He’s a hypocrite like the rest of us.” 

The reality is – Tim Tebow will make poor choices.  He’s human, after all – we all make mistakes.  It will be in those moments that his character and integrity will be tested, refined, and strengthened. Will he be sincerely regretful and make amends as quickly as possible?  That is the mark of an ‘Integrity Fanatic’.  We don’t do everything right, we’re not perfect – in fact we screw up a lot.  But my prayer for Tim Tebow, myself, and fellow fanatics is that when we do, we’ll repent, sincerely apologize, and make amends. 

It’s the crashes of life that build character, integrity, and faith.

Churches aren’t sanctuaries for saints – they are hospitals for sinners.

Take This Christmas Story Quiz


As children, we hear the story of Jesus birth told.  Over the years we continue to hear different versions,  so I was surprised when I first took this quiz years ago to realize how distorted my view of the story was from Scripture.  Here are a few of the questions – see how you do.  Answers are at the bottom.

1) What did the innkeeper tell Mary and Joseph?

a) no room in the inn  b) you can use a stable  c) both a & b  d) none of the above

 2) Jesus was delivered in a

a) barn   b) manger  c) cave   d) unknown


3) The wise men found Jesus in a:

a) manger   b) stable   c)  house   d) none of the above


4) Who told Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem?

a) the angel    b) Mary’s mother   c) Herod    d) Caesar Augustus


5) Who saw the star in the east?

a) shepherd    b) Mary and Joseph   c) three kings   d) none of the above



1) D  Luke 2:7                      2) D –Luke 2: 7 –  possible a cave since stables were usually in one, but unknown

 3) C – Matthew 2:11                       4) D – Luke 2:1,4               5) E – Matthew 2:1-2


Merry Christmas

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will toward men.”   

 Luke 2:14


Savvy & Skill vs. Character & Integrity

Setting for the Sermon on the Mount

As I mentioned in my last blog, one of my favorite thought leaders is Dan Webster.  Dan has a workbook called The Real Deal – Becoming More Authentic and Life and Leadership.  I’ve lead teams through it and done it personally 3 times over a twelve year period.  It has had a deep and profound effect on how I lead and who I am.  One of my favorite thoughts from Dan is this one:

“Am I impacting people because they admire my leadership savvy and skills or are they impacted by my character and the beauty of my soul?”

 When I first read that question, it had a huge impact on me – making me think and reflect on whether I had substituted image for character and integrity.  While I certainly want my teaching, coaching and consulting to have an impact, I realize that I want my character and integrity to be at the forefront.  I want the larger impact of my life to be because I truly loved and respected others, valuing the dignity of all – because I lived, loved and Lead Like Jesus.

Should We Rejoice over Bin Laden’s death?


I hesitate to write this blog as I know it will be taken wrong by someone, but here goes.   I watched the new coverage this morning of Osama Bin Laden’s death – people climbing light poles, waving flags, dancing in the streets.  In a flashback, I saw Muslims dancing in the streets, waving flags, and rejoicing on 9/11.   Don’t get me wrong, Osama Bin Laden was brought to justice and paid for his hatred and murder of innocent people.  But it saddens me to see Americans rejoicing at the death of a human being, however evil he may have been.   I understand their reaction, I just think it moves us one step further away from being a people of compassion.

 Osama Bin Laden believed on his death he would go to heaven.  My faith and walk with Jesus Christ teach me that his fate will be very different.  But my walk with Jesus also teaches me to feel extreme sadness that any human suffers his fate.  Charles Spurgeon said it best:    “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”  Why do we pray and implore them to stay?  Because Jesus taught us to love our neighbor and our enemies.  Many brave men and women have fought to keep us safe, to protect our homeland and to save the lives of those on 9/11.  They deserve the ability to find satisfaction in the justice served this day.  I just pray that satisfaction is tinged with sadness that another human being was lost, truly lost. 

 I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – please share.

What I Learned Serving the Homeless

Our company last week spent an evening volunteering at the Nashville Rescue Mission, which serves the homeless men and women of Nashville.  We worked the serving line, prepping 560 trays of food for men who were searching for food, warmth, and a little caring on a very cold night.  While we had fun as a team in serving, several insights have had an impact for me.

1) Mr. Darrell, an employee of the mission, said he enjoyed our being there because we enjoyed doing it.  He commented that several groups come in and serve in silence and look like they are struggling.  So I want to do all I with joy and smiles– bringing smiles to the faces of those we serve.

2) A colleague told us later that her father died in a homeless shelter – and she never knew he was there.  She was looking for his face in the faces of the men we served – and it was a hard night for her.  It reminded me to see the world from other’s perspective.  

4) The Rescue Mission sees lots of volunteers this time of year – and very few the rest of the year.  I want to make a commitment to serve when I am most needed.

 3) As another colleague Jamie said, on Sunday we worship a homeless man and on Monday we forget the homeless.   I don’t want to forget or ignore those in need – I want to love like Jesus loved.

See you had no choice which day you would be born

Or the color of your skin or what planet you’d be on

Would your mind be strong or your eyes be blue or born

Whether daddy would be rich or if mama stuck around at all

So, if you find yourself in a better place

You can’t look down with a frown on the other guy’s face

You’ve gotta stoop down low – look him square in the eye

And get the funny feeling  you  just might be dealing with the face of Christ.

Chris Rice – lyrics from The Face of Christ


Why do we cry at weddings?

 I’ve been to a lot of weddings, but none have touched me as deeply as the wedding of Michael and Merrill. A simple, beautiful wedding, held down by the river at Grace Chapel, it was deeply moving. Under an archway built of branches and with the sun setting at their backs, the couple exchanged beautiful vows they had written -“You have captured my heart.” And it was so evident that the Michael had captured Merrill’s heart. Her face was lit from within as the excitement about marrying the man she loved was reflected in every movement, facial expression and word. She couldn’t wait. Michael choked up over his vows. Their love was evident to all who attended and, of course, I cried.

Thirty years ago Bill and I exchanged our wedding vows – til death do us part. It’s been an adventure, a delight, and a blessing to be married to my spiritual warrior. It’s also been hard work – learning to truly listen, to respect and to give. The years have melded, molded, moved, and made us into a couple who cherish our time together. At our wedding, my grandmother gave me her best advice: Never go to bed angry. I didn’t know at the time that her advice came from the Bible – “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”(Eph 4:26) Jesus stood with Michael and Merrill at their wedding as they asked him to bless their marriage. He entered our marriage two years after we said our vows and captured our hearts. I think that’s why I cried at their wedding – it foreshadowed a future reunion of even greater excitement and beauty – with Jesus.

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. – Song of Songs 8:6