A Cure For The Common Busy Life (Book Reviews)

Aside

Kevin DeYoung begins his book, Crazy Busy: A “Mercifully) Short Book on a (Really) Big Problem, with the declaration that he is 17152690“not an expert” in living an unhurried life. As you read his book, you get the sense that he hasn’t really captured what he preaches, that he is in the process of figuring out what a life less busy really looks like. In comparison, Alan Fadling begins his book, An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Ryhthym of Work and Rest, with the declaration that he is “a recovering speed addict.” By these two descriptions, the reader begins to understand that DeYoung is new to the topic while Fadling has wrestled with it for a while.

I am a sucker for lists and for some reason I decided to read the majority of the books on Christianity Today’s 2014 Book Award’s list. I could bore you with the details of how and when I choose the books from the list but by happenstance (though that could be questioned) I was reading both of these books at around the same time (I try to only read two books at a time). Yes, two books on living a life less busy at the same time. God, what are you telling me? Though there are few recurring vocabulary and ideas (acedia anyone?), the two books aren’t really that similar and that is a good thing.

DeYoung’s book is like discovering that your friend just got into kayaking but was a novice and hadn’t practiced enough to really demonstrate anything to you. He is really excited and eager to become an experienced kayaker but at this point he can only share important truths and practical steps for you, who might be interested in joining him. Fadling’s book is like discovering your uncle is a really good kayaker and has years of experience and knows what is really important. You are excited about the introduction and you share your friends enthusiasm but you are so grateful for your uncle’s experience, wisdom, and instructional care. In other words, DeYoung is on the right track in ending the trouble of busyness and wants to bring others along with him, but Fadling has been there and is doing many things right and his experience makes a world of difference.

16211574The authors do touch on a few things exclusive to their own work. DeYoung has a chapter on time and parenting. He talks about studies that have been done that demonstrate the harm to kids caused by second-hand stress from overworked and overscheduled parents. Yes, one gift we could give our kids is fewer things to do.

Fadling has a chapter on suffering as a means to forced slowness. I had never thought about suffering in this way but looking back on my own life, I realized the truth in such an insight. So much of living an unhurried life is learning to trust God. It is the same with suffering, when I have suffered, I have also had to trust God the most.

So, the tendency for some readers would be to choose one book over the other depending on your preferences, reading capacity, and familiarity with the topic. I would suggest that instead you read both. DeYoung for an introduction, and Fadling for a more fleshed out approach. You will be glad you did.

 

Book Review: Humilitas: The Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership – John Dickson

One year into his (reign? tenure? service?), Pope Francis has easily become one of the most popular figures in the world of religion and outside of religion. The guy is everywhere – cover of magazines, on 60 Minutes, all over the web. Despite what you might hear from one of these articles or pieces on Francis, his popularity is not due to his presence on Twitter or his embracing of modernity but largely due to one thing – humility.pope_apartment.jpg.size.xxlarge.promo

From the first day on the job as Pope, Francis has expressed humility. He dismissed the lavish luxuries of the Papal residency for what amounts to a hotel room. During Holy Week, instead of ceremoniously washing the feet of his subjected Cardinals, as many before him had done, Francis washed the feet of inmates in prison. There are many photos of him kissing disease ridden or unpleasant individuals. He has demonstrated a truth that few would ever consider – leadership and influence is possible through humility. Where did Francis learn this truth? From the person who introduced the world to the power of humility – Jesus Christ.

John Dickson, in his book Humilitas, accurately and effectively makes the historical point that before Jesus the idea of humility (“being made low”) was something to be avoided and not honored. The Jesus revolution brought about a people and a mindset that sought out humility and saw it as a way to not only emulate their Master but as a way to a better life, a more rewarding and loving life.humilitas

Dickson’s main focus, though, is to present humility as a key trait to effective leadership. He frequently mentions Level 5 leaders made famous by Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great. These leaders, as Collins mentions, and Dickson emphasizes, have a “paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” He makes the point that humility is persuasive and can be very influential on followers. The idea being that brash, attention grabbing, and egotistical leaders may force their will and way on others but only humble leaders create followers and have deep influence.

Dickson’s book came out in  2011, well before Pope Francis became Pope in 2013. But I can think of no better poster child for the power of humility, as expressed by Dickson. I am sure that Dickson would agree. What is so surprising about the virtues of humility is how much they make sense as a way of life. Jesus showed us the common sense aspect of humility and now Pope Francis and others, are putting it into action. Lets hope that this brings about a rise in humility for our time.