Bookstore Book Reviews

Book Review: Do More Better

I am always looking for ways to better structure my time. My productivity process is a beautiful, clunky work in progress.

When I came across Tim Challies website, his bio caught my eye. He was an early adopter of blogging. He is a book reviewer, an author, and a pastor.

These are all completely up my alley and I felt that he should be my role model– and thank goodness, I could learn how to be like him because he wrote a book on his productivity system– Do More Better!!

Right out of the gate, I have to say that a large portion of his productivity system was not for me.

He recommends using digital tools and focusses on task management.

Essentially, this book would be gold for a personal assistant, someone going through a career change who needs to set-up a new schedule, or someone in a job with many diverse roles– like say, a blogger, writer, reviewer, pastor.

As a mother whose preschooler is currently in the throws of needing all of mommy’s attention, I shed more technology every day.

I am not in front of my computer all day. I use a flip phone. I have an auto-reply from my email account notifying senders that I will reply to them by telephone in 24-72 hours. So, Todoist, Google Calendar, Evernote, and LastPass are tools that live far away from my toolbox.

The focus on task management is a little discouraging for me. Though, he acknowledges that productivity is not busyness; the number of tasks to manage/accomplish seems latently the measure of your “Christian character,” which is equated to productivity by Challies.

I didn’t really like that very much. Too Puritan. Overlooks the truth that sometimes even a Christian’s job is to be the weakest member.

However, by reading this thin book, I did realize that my roles and “jobs” are relationship oriented not task oriented.

My work output is by nature low– probably causing my feelings of unproductivity. Maybe rather than being unproductive, I just don’t  have much to produce right now!

But in reality, I am only truly unproductive when I spend my time trying to validate myself by churning out “work” rather than doing the invisible work of nurturing my daughter and husband.

When I do that– churn out work,– according to Challies, I am living off mission, in idolatry, and misguided in my prioritization.

Challies says that checking a bunch of minutiea off your to-do list could actually kill your productivity if your mission is the one task that you didn’t do!

This was greatly helpful to me.

I wrote out, as Challies instructed, my mission statement for each of my roles/areas of responsibility.

In doing so, I was easily able to observe that though seeing a perfect column of tick marks at the end of the day is so gratifying, it is:

  1. snuggling with my little girl and listening to her stories,
  2. tricking her into eating healthy food,
  3. going lock step with her through a tantrum,
  4. praying,
  5. singing,
  6. dancing,
  7. going for a drive with her so we can both have downtime,
  8. keeping her home when she is only “a little” sick even though I had a “to-do” list– all this is my to-do list!

And I am actually the least productive when I’ve reviewed an extra book, have done some great editing, stolen some time for cover designing, built some “content” or wrote some “copy,” but see in my family’s faces that I haven’t fulfilled the missions of my most important roles:

The mission to bring peace and health to our house. The mission to offer my child a secure love. The mission to be God-honoring in how we treat our belongings…just to name a few examples.

Undergirding it all, Tim Challies’ Do More Better is about how to do good to others and in so doing bring glory to God. 

I can’t tell you how much I don’t want it to be that my great contribution in life at 32 yrs old is cleaning my bathrooms, washing the dishes, or running to the store at 9pm for milk.

But those are my mission critical tasks every day. And acknowledging that they take priority actually frees me to do my writing, reading, and editing too.

And I can do so without feeling guilty by knowing they are second, putting them second, and entrusting my time to the Lord knowing that my “me time,” and my “passion projects” are not going to be unattended– but my very boring and important work for my family should not be stolen from.

And these are the kinds of realizations you get when pastors write books that shepherd Christians in non-ecclesiastical realms.

Challies writes about self-discipline in work as part of the spiritual work that a disciple does.

He writes using some great and recognizable coaching concepts. (I don’t know if he meant to, but he did.)

He does offer a very specific solution, which could be difficult for some people to adapt to their workflow needs.

Still, I would absolutely use this book as a coaching resource with a coaching client. His spiritual principles for productivity are great to wrestle with. His generalized organization tips are solid.

If you are willing to engage with this book, it has a lot to offer you.



Crossway Book Reviews

Book Review: Even Better Than Eden

I just completed a journey through the meta-narrative of the Bible through the lens of 9 “stories” or themes foundational to the Genesis story and consistent through to Revelation. This courtesy of Nancy Guthrie’s new book released just last month by Crossway, from whom I was able to receive a complimentary copy for review.

Even Better Than Eden by Nancy Guthrie is an accessible missional resource that is rich in storytelling and Reformed theology.

Guthrie’s work is a presentation of the gospel in a truly missional fashion: it is conversational and necessitates conversation; it is highly metaphorical and experiential; and though it is laden with heavy and unrelenting theological assertions, those assertions are expertly layered into a disarmingly vulnerable and empathetic offering.

The style of her writing is an accomplishment that would be readily accepted by the undecided, un-discipled, or estranged from faith. Her winsome approach to the Bible’s story as thematic rather than overtly theological is worshipful, and zooms out to an eternal perspective in a way that would foster great conversations on deep/hard/sensitive topics that might be otherwise difficult to broach in a church setting with a spiritually and experientially diverse group of people.

While Even Better Than Eden is written in prose that is whimsical enough to be enjoyed curled under a knit blanket with a cup of tea in the way of more frothy publications in the Spirituality/Self-Help/Christianity category for women today, it offers the benefit of true Biblical meat.

My one recommendation to the small group leader or discipleship mentor is to be aware that toward the end of the book Guthrie comes directly forward with a covenantal perspective on the Old Jerusalem where most of the book is a New Covenant Theology argument. This is obviously fine if you are of the Reformed/Calvinist tradition, but for small groups and discipleship pairs in Arminian/Wesleyan churches, a brief overview of the various covenant beliefs would be good to avoid confusion between doctrine taught from the pulpit and those explored in a study of this book.

Perhaps this theological conflict could be brought up amongst the study questions provided at the end of the book. Guthrie also provides great sources in her own appendices, providing: “Notes,” “Bibliography,” “General Index,” and “Scripture Index,” sections. She really does provide a framework for any discussion of disagreement on the book’s underlying theologies.

Here is another great resource to use for such a discussion. Written by John Piper, himself a doctrines of grace, Reformed theology subscriber, he however, does not adhere to any one covenant theology making him a good platform for an open exploration of a potentially divisive point of theology amongst denominations and traditions. Below is the link to an article where he simplistically compares the three main views on the structure of God’s relationship to man over the whole of Biblical narrative:

Overall on Even Better Than Eden: I greatly enjoyed the writing style and general argument of the book. I found it refreshing. While reading it, many of Guthrie’s insights caused me to experience not only a legitimate surge in my head knowledge of being loved by God, but also moments of genuine affection with the Lord.

Buy it here: