How to Read a Non-Fiction Book

Michael Hyatt, a communications and leadership specialist, offers ten ways to read a book.  Stop by Michael’s site to see the full post and to keep up with his wisdom.Reading Materials

  1. Don’t feel that you need to finish.
  2. Start with the author bio.
  3. Read the table of contents.
  4. Quickly scan the whole book.
  5. Highlight important passages.
  6. Take notes in front or in the margin.
  7. Use a set of note-taking symbols.
  8. Dog-ear (or bookmark) pages you want to revisit.
  9. Review the book and transfer actions to a to-do list.
  10. Share the book’s message.

Before They Leave Us

We should start eulogizing those who mean the most to us before they leave us.

Michael Smith said this over here at Michael Hyatt’s blog.  It holds loads of material, this quote, for how we live, doesn’t it?

As a pastor, I’ve conducted a lot of funerals, not as many of some of my friends, but enough.  And every funeral has the same quality.  At some point during or after the service, perhaps leading up to the memorial when loved ones are most open and fragile and honest, I’ll hear somebody tell the family or the crowd something along the lines of “Let’s not let this be the only time we come together.”  Or “We should talk more.”  Or “I didn’t know that about him, what you said.”  Or “I wish I could have said this one thing to…”

It dawns on me every time I participate in the ritual of death–be it at a funeral or, oddly, when I wrestle to fall asleep at night–that at death, for some amount of time at least, words are silenced.  Gratitude as we understand it can no longer be expressed.  Praise is said but goes unheard by the one about whom we speak.

Have you ever thought about the fragility of the moment that is death?  Writers may live close to that fragility, artists and pastors too.  But there is a healthy reminder in fragility or in, simply, change.  Seeing a loved one, once strong, lean under the slow and heavy hand of age.  Cleaning up a relative’s work space, boxing up his things, after he’s left it there.  Fainting when nothing like fainting was expected because who faints for anything other than some bad reason.  Listening to your kid babble in now semi-understandable words when, just moments ago, he couldn’t even roll over in a crib.  Turning away from a person who has just said goodbye.

I think a sensitivity to endings changes how you look at life.  Endings, like death, change how we live life because, well, we just won’t live forever.  Sometimes that alone is a reason to linger.  In a conversation, over somebody’s house, perhaps even in the congestion of rush hour trying to make it home.  Sometimes that is a reason to say something that a person can hear, write something they can read, draw a picture they can stick on a wall, or snatch his or her attention in some way before they leave us.

Sacrifice Something & Read

I made an unofficial goal to read a book a week.  That was two years ago.  I’m still building to it.  Who knew that making that goal would be incompatible with raising a child?  I thought about that goal when I read a post today.

As I’ve said before on Intersections, I read Michael Hyatt’s blog, and he consistently offers helpful posts in several areas, including leadership, publishing, and social media.  Yesterday he had a guest post by Robert Bruce who’s reading through Time magazine’s 100 top English-speaking novels.

Robert, a new father, who’s employed full-time and who trains for marathons, offers five way to make more time to read.  They are:

  1. Sacrifice something.
  2. Make a routine.
  3. Set a goal.
  4. Have fun.
  5. Mix it up.
If you’d like to see the post, and it’s a quick one–after all, Robert has little time to blog because he’s readingtake a look here.  It’ll help you see a few ways you can actually find time to read.  I’m still reading stories once a week from All Hagar’s Children, a book at the office about emotional systems called How Your Church Family Works, and daily at home The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  What about you?  Reading anything these days?

Never Compare Your Beginning…

Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.  Jon Acuff wrote those words in this post over on Michael Hyatt’s blog a couple weeks ago.  It’s a great sentence to capture a temptation and a truth about the spiritual life.

It’s easy to look at other people and judge ourselves.  It’s even easier to look at people we respect and admire and pull their current state into ours.  But we are different from those we respect.  Their lives were crafted and shaped from unique experiences which made them who they are.  We can’t compare some part of their lives with the parts of our lives that are in front of us.  When we do that, we rob them of the history and suffering and movement that we see as strength.  And we take from ourselves a more basic truth: we are different, and we can’t pull someone else’s experience and own it as ours.

It takes courage to examine yourself.  To look inside–not for the purpose of adding to the list of failures, but for the purpose of becoming better, stronger, sturdier, and more aware of God-in-you–is a job that most of us fear.  I read that confession was the ground of authentic reconciliation and transformation.  Saying what’s wrong, owning it, was a key to becoming whole and becoming different.

You can’t yank that out of somebody else’s experience.  You have to live through that examination, through those hard words turned into prayers, through the hard decisions of acting differently by God’s help.  And when you do that, when you look like that, when you pay attention to you that way, you don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.

Links to Interesting Posts

I’m recovering from my reflection on civil unions and from a long weekend that included a beautiful wedding, the Printers Row Literary Festival where I met one of my favorite writers, and an equally long and fun day with my son on Monday.  That said, I need a moment to recharge and get into my next posts.

In the meantime, take a look at these posts and articles from “friends-through-the-blog-world”:

  • David Swanson opens again his sermon preparation process and reflects on something called Roadside Sabbath.

Giveaway Winner & Leaders Leaving

Thank you all who participated in the WENCH giveaway.  Anicka Land is the winner!  She posted J. California Cooper’s novel, Life Is Short But Wide, in the comments, a quality book that both me and Dawn have read.

I hope all of you will pick up a copy of WENCH and follow Dolen Perkins-Valdez going forward.

For today, I’d like to point to two interesting posts by two practitioners whose work I follow and my thoughts about them.  The first person is Skye Jethani.  Skye wrote a compelling and inspiring post on his blog a week or so back about perpetuity and leadership.  The second person is Michael Hyatt.  Michael has transitioned from the role of CEO of Thomas Nelson, and he’s blogged about that decision.

A couple things stand out as I reflect upon the thoughts of these two leaders and their insights.  Note that Michael Hyatt has a great and necessary post here that any leader will benefit from addressing “Advice to a New CEO (or to any leader)”.  Please read it if you believe you’re remotely interested.  Now, my reflections on their two posts.

  • Leaders know when to leave even if they choose to stay.  I grew up hearing of pastors leaving their churches.  It’s still true that countless pastors resign from their churches each year because of a long list of reasons, including things like inadequate self-care, bad economics, conflicts within the congregation, failure of some kind, and so on.  I also grew up with some grand models of faithfulness where pastors stayed where they were called.  My mentors have many years behind them in one place for lengths of time.  But Skye points to how leaders lose sight of ever leaving by connecting perpetuity with success or fruitfulness.  When success is tied to a person staying, it’s a setup for the leader’s loss of her or his essential value.
  • Focusing on the external is as important as attending to the internal.  It takes a severe tension to serve in a church or a company or an organization while being able to see inside and outside.  Usually you can’t see both clearly without extreme patience and effort.  It takes help and intentionality to attend to the life of a company or (and these two are very different) a congregation.  Looking ahead and looking at the immediate isn’t easy.  But both are vital.  Doing both ensure that we aren’t setting ourselves and our people up for some surprising something that took us off guard.
  • Leaving well and at a good time sets new leaders up for fruitfulness and success.  Good leaders don’t leave at just any time.  They choose to leave.  They choose when to leave.  I think how we leave–even how we decide to–is an indicator of our relationship to the place we serve.  Michael Hyatt says in his post, “I feel that this is the perfect time to make this transition.”  Then he goes into a small list of reasons.  I think that language is so revealing.  It’s not a requirement that a leader sense a “perfect time” to leave, but when he can, it sings many songs about planning, carefulness, and vision.
  • Creativity is important.  Both of these men are writers, communicators.  One thing I value about Michael Hyatt’s change is that it is, in part, based in his desire to be more creative.  His role as a CEO didn’t allow for that.  Though he’ll still be the Chairman at TN, he’ll have time and energy to create.  I don’t think most leaders are looking for ways to create.  We’re often swamped with what’s in front of us.  Marking space for creativity is exceptional more than anything.
  • Good leaders point to accomplishments.  Leaders also know that accomplishments are always communal.  No pastor or leader or executive works alone.  That means that when we list accomplishments, we are also acknowledging the hard work and efforts of others.  People who serve a church or in a company because of that place’s vision don’t need gratitude, but they appreciate it.  I hope this is something I can learn to do and do well.
  • Life is a story.  That comes directly from Michael Hyatt.  Putting these two posts in dialogue makes me question the stories that church leaders, primarily pastors, tell when we don’t think about the future, when we pretend that we are the “heads” of the church(es).  The story that we tell always has another central character.  Our lives are stories and we should notice those narratives, attend to them well, and write those stories well.

What do you think?