Your Life. God’s Design. Real Change.
Arnie Cole + Michael Ross
Bethany House Publishers, 2012, 265 pages
I was looking forward to getting this book to read. Then I got it. My first impression was not good. The authors stated that their approach to getting unstuck was not found in a quick fix or formula, but they proceeded to describe steps for the process. The steps initially felt like a veiled formula. I decided to keep reading, and I’m glad I did. It became very clear that the authors were emphasizing process and relationship. I was also reminded that most of us don’t get stuck overnight, so we should realize that getting unstuck will indeed take time.
Each section of the book began with a list of concise goals that the authors intended to accomplish. I found this very helpful. The good news is that they did a good job of meeting their goals. Perhaps this is just a personal pet peeve of mine, but I have always disliked going to a workshop and having the leader identify goals, but never come close to meeting them. To the authors’ credit they demonstrated integrity in this issue.
One of my concerns at the outset was that the book, because of its foundation being based in a survey that was taken by the authors, was going be too statistically focused for my liking. What I found to the contrary was a nice balance between head oriented material referring to the study, and personal stories. This balance is such that it would result in the book appealing to either mindset. There is also a nice assortment of quotes to support their findings and their stories. Many of the names are recognizable, lending a sense of credibility and connection both to and beyond the material.
Another strength that I found in this book was that it was plainly written, without a lot of Christianeze or assumed common religious language. While this would be appealing to either unchurched folks, unbelievers, or those new to faith, there wasn’t a sense that the material was dumbed down, so it would still make sense and get the point across to believers who found themselves stuck in one way or another. With that in mind this book would be good for the new believer just starting their faith journey and wanting to understand the Word. It would be great from the perspective of preventative material so that they might be sparred some of the frustration of being potentially stuck in the future. There is still enough impact of the material for the stuck, static, and status quo believer.
The third part of the book puts the ball in the reader’s hand. It invites the reader to plot his/her own course toward a spiritual breakthrough. While the steps described sound like a formula, it is presented in such a personal way that the relational component came through very clearly. By including pages that resemble a workbook, the authors’ remove some of the natural tendency to put off doing the suggested work and reflection and instead create the opportunity for the reader to get right to work. It should probably also be noted that the book is formatted to be read (and digested) on a daily basis (each chapter gives a daily scripture reading and question). The chapters also close with a statement about what their research revealed and an encouraging nudge.
I think the thing that really sold me on the book was the way they seemed to tie everything up at the end. They have been emphasizing the importance of improving one’s relationship with God, especially as it is related to the Word. They share at the minimum we need to be reading and engaging the Word at least four times a week as the foundational component of getting and staying unstuck. They finish by describing the four critical elements of spiritual growth: knowledge; prayer, faith and action. I believe that these parallel the things that God himself requires of us, loving Him with all our heart (faith), soul (prayer), mind (knowledge) and strength (action) (see Deuteronomy 6:5). Anything that helps us understand and move deeper into relationship with Him is a good thing. This book does that in a very clear manner. I’m really glad I kept reading.
I recommend this book. Read it. Share it.
(I received a free copy of this book to review from Bethany House Publishers.)