Best children’s Christmas story book

Jesus' Christmas PartyOne of my favourite resources for the Christmas season is Jesus’ Christmas Party by Nicholas Allan.

Nicholas Allan writes and illustrates the nativity through the eyes of a grumpy inn keeper who is unexpectedly at the centre of Jesus’ birth.  The story follows him as he is woken up repeatedly by Mary and Joseph and guests visiting the newborn.

I first heard of the book when I was a child and it was used for a Sunday School drama to present the Christmas narrative to the whole church.  As a children’s and youth worker I’ve used it numerous times, be it with young pre-school children, older teenagers, or non-Christian adults.  The book is easy for people to follow and join in, and yet still allows for profounds truths to be taught.

It can be bought in a number of sizes – from A6 just to fit in the pocket and use to tell a large group of people, to a large A4 size which a class of children can crowd around and look at the pictures.

Crowdsource new Bibles for your church, school or youth ministry with GivingBibles.com

GivingBibles.com looks a brilliant new website designed by Hodder Faith especially for churches or other organisations that need Bibles but can’t afford them. Perhaps your church needs to replenish its stock of pew Bibles, or maybe there’s a growing youth group you’d like to give youth Bibles to? There are 30 different packs and individual Bibles to choose from, from individual gospels to packs of 20 church Bibles.

Whether you need Bibles for your church or school, or even for an Alpha or Christianity Explored course, Foodbank, Street Pastors’ group or for a local mission, GivingBibles.com is the place to come.

Anyone can set up an appeal, and it takes less than 5 minutes – just select the Bibles you need and write a short pitch as you might on JustGiving if you were running a marathon. Then share your appeal with your friends via email or social media.

GivingBibles.com from NIV Bibles on Vimeo.

Books I have read: Call the Midlife

Last night I finished Call the Midlife by Chris Evans. The more I read of Chris the more I enjoy. This book is a mixture of reflections from the last couple of years, including his fab Breakfast Show on Radio 2, running a marathon without telling anyone until the last minute, bringing back TFI Friday and last but not least being offered a job on Top Gear.

 

Call the Midlife - Chris EvansThe first part is the most random part of the book. Chris does a series of interviews with professionals on areas linked to the male menopause including drinking, marriage, religion, sleep, work and happiness. Some of the interviews were brilliant, others were less so, and it came across as slightly random material for Chris Evans to be writing about.

 

As someone who is currently training for a 67 mile cycle ride this weekend it was inspiring to read how Chris was training for his marathon effort. Especially given how hard he worked to keep it under wraps until the last moment.

 

The last section was the most interesting section as the story as to how Chris was picked to be the lead host and creative for the new Top Gear line up happened alongside TFI Friday coming back after so many years. Chris has moved past the egotistical years and so this relatively humble and humorous look at the television industry is fascinating.

 

As someone who is a bit of a fan of Chris Evans, with his entrepreneurial side alongside his interest in music, showbiz and cars I enjoyed this book.

Books I have read: The Entitlement Cure

 

The Entitlement Cure

I’d heard many good things about Dr. John Townsend and his work with Dr. Henry Cloud, so I was keen to read The Entitlement Cure when offered by the Book Sneeze Bloggers scheme. Townsend has a background as a psychologist, counsellor and leadership consultant often working with broken families and Fortune 500 companies in the same week.

 

The book takes as its concept that people need to learn to live life the hard way. Too many people focus on the idea that life should be nice to us. We live in an age of entitlement: “the belief that I am exempt from responsibility and I am owed special treatment.” We see it everywhere, from employees who don’t feel the need to work, to self-centred children, to narcissists to prima donnas in leadership – and in ourselves.

 

The Entitlement Cure equips both those of us who can see a sense of entitlement within our own life – what Townsend describes as “pocket entitlement” but also those who are dealing with someone who acts entitled. The various chapters discuss motivation, discipline and structure, creating a helpful self-image, assuming responsibility, doing hard things first, keeping inconvenient commitments, respecting the future, admitting errors, facing up to pain, and taking meaningful risks. Each chapter finishes with a number of skills to live life the hard way, and some reflective questions to take time to ask yourself.

 

This is certainly in my Top 5 books so far of 2015. It contains huge amounts of wisdom that anyone can benefit from.

 

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Books I have read: Fairness Is Overrated

Fairness is Overrated

Reading Fairness is Overrated and 51 other leadership principles you feel like you’re receiving great wisdom on leadership from someone who has been in the trenches – they know what they are talking about.

 

The book is divided into four parts and reflects the four pillars that Stevens believes effective leadership is built on.

  • Part one focuses on becoming a leader worth following. The lessons deal with the topics of integrity, family, being fully present, and margin.
  • Part two gives instructions on finding the right people. It addresses issues such as when to ignore resumes and when to pay attention to them, using social media in checking a person’s background and character, how to ask questions in interviews, and much more.
  • Part three addresses the topic of building a healthy culture within your organization. It talks about agendas, building teams, having fun together, and dealing with silos.
  • Part four touches on the topic of leading confidently through a crisis. The chapters deal with resignations, layoffs, firings, conflict resolution, and the importance of communication throughout.

 

The book is split into 52 small chapters – which give the feeling of Tim and you sat at a coffee shop having a discussion on a particular facet of leadership. At the end of each chapter, there are a couple of discussion or application questions. The book’s success will hang on how you engage with these as there is nothing revolutionary in the book – it is all about how you apply the wisdom into your context of leadership. A few of the chapters are specifically focused on those leading churches, but the vast majority are applicable to churches, businesses and voluntary sector organisations alike.

 

I found the book practical and encouraging. It was worth reading and referring to again later but not one I’d say is a must read.

 

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Books I have read: The Quants

The QuantsHaving worked in The City doing recruitment of financial traders, and specifically quantitative traders I was interested to read Scott Patterson’s take on quant trading.

Patterson traces the history of quant trading by starting with Ed Thorp, the maths professor who applied his theories in the gambling world. Having successfully taken on the Las Vegas tables he then took his models into the financial trading sphere in the 1950s.

He goes on to trace the development of quantitative trading from blackjack to black swans. Patterson is able to simply explain the complex ideas underpinning our financial system through an extraordinary and insightful story.

The second half of the book focuses on the crisis of 2007-2008 where a number of quant hedge funds and groups in investment banks almost collapsed. It highlights the issues of greed and conceit amongst the financial trading institutions – a character-rich tale of how brilliant mathematicians and technologists ignored the human element of trading.

It is definitely worth reading this book for an in-depth analysis of one of the points in recent financial history where things started to go awry – leading to the situation we find ourselves in 2015.

Books I have read: Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples

Multiply Francis Chan

I’ve always enjoyed reading Francis Chan’s writings, a few years ago I was inspired by his book Crazy Love, so I was looking forward to reading Multiply: Disciples making disciples.  As a youth minister I’m incredibly passionate to resource young people to share their faith with their friends – they do such a better job than I every could do.  Not because I can’t share faith, or because I can’t answer the tough questions, but because I don’t have the shared context that they have.

The book can be used for personal devotions, but works well for a group to look through together.  It is split into five sections:

  1. Living as a Disciple Maker
  2. Living as the Church
  3. How to Study the Bible
  4. Understanding the Old Testament
  5. Understanding the New Testament

This book would work well as a post Alpha or other evangelistic course for those who wanted to develop a stronger foundation to their new-found faith.

We used the first section themed around what is a disciple and what does it mean to share our faith with our group of 11-14 year olds who really enjoyed looking at the material.

I thoroughly recommend taking the time to read this book and the additional resources developed for it.

Books I have read: Passion: The Bright Light Of Glory by Louie Giglio

Passion book

The Passion movement, led by Louie Giglio, was designed for 18-25 year olds who want to follow Jesus and share their faith with others, and based on Isaiah 26:8 which says, “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your truth, we wait eagerly for You, for Your name and Your renown are the desire of our souls.”.  Passion: The Bright Light of Glory is a compilation of messages from many who have spoke at the conference such as John Piper, Francis Chan, Beth Moore, Christine Caine, Judah Smith, to name a few.

The book starts with an introduction by Louie Giglio on how the Passion conferences came into existence and what the journey has been over the last few years.  Following this each chapter is a different message from one of the above speakers – all with very different themes and styles – some obviously clicked much better for me than others whereas other people might find that different chapters connect for them.

The theme that kept coming up was the concept of life changing encounters with Jesus, and the need to share that with others.  Beth Moore summed it up well:

You have been set on this earth, at this hour, and in this generation to bring fame to the Lord Jesus Christ in your sphere of influence.

The book was thought provoking and full of truth I needed to hear. I encourage anyone to read this book.

3 lessons we can learn from Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is a fascinating character – he’s seen as one of the most influential people of the last three decades. He’s changed the way that computing and technology intersects with the liberal arts street as he so often used to put it.

I love to read good biographies and I am fascinated by people’s stories. Not even necessarily famous people or key world leaders, I just love the story of someone’s life. Walter Isaacson does a fantastic job of truly getting underneath the surface of Steve Jobs – sharing the story, the values, the highs and the lows.

A few things jumped out at me:

FOCUS

Steve Jobs consistently developed news ideas, but it seems that very few of the ideas that and the brilliant Jony Ive (his main designer) came up with made it to even board level, let alone a product for consumers.

Too often I think in the church we try to use every idea for fear of missing an opportunity – we sometimes need to be pickier about the quality of those ideas. Equally, don’t be afraid of the radical ideas – the iPhone, the iPad, Pixar and Apple Stores were all ideas that were revolutionary in their own way – pushing the edge of our normal understanding.

TEAMS WORKING TOGETHER

Jobs didn’t organize Apple into separate divisions like, for example, Sony or Philips, instead he pushed his teams to work together under the one profit and loss line. My experience of working in the church is that we’re very quick to adopt a business model of silos: children’s and youth, worship, pastoral care, teaching, work with older people all have separate teams.

Instead, we need to be clear that whilst there are experts working in their own field that people must contribute to the one profit and loss for the company – we must contribute and work together for the vision and goals of the organization. Jobs uses to use phrases such as “deep collaboration” and “concurrent engineering” to describe the process. I’m deeply passionate that we need to see more of this in the 21st century church.

HAVE CONFIDENCE IN WHAT YOU’RE DEVELOPING

In today’s consumeristic world there’s a lot of focus on giving the customers what they want. Jobs challenged that. He took a quote from Henry Ford: “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’”. Jobs believed that people don’t know what they want until you show it to them and that’s why he didn’t place a large emphasis on market research.

Too often in youth ministry we’re tempted to swing from one iniative to the next trying to find the magic formula to get lots of young people to come to Christ and then grow in discipleship. Instead, Jobs believes that our task is to read things that are not yet on the page and that’s what youth ministry needs to be for the church – the prophetic voice that shows what the church should look like.

Leaders in business and politics have lots of to teach us, and we shouldn’t be afraid to learn from these leaders, but we also need to be clear that church isn’t an organization that can be run in the way a business or government can. Church has very different priorities, especially around values, in comparison with those organisations.

If you haven’t read Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson then do get a copy – it’s a fascinating insight into the change in technology and the arts that’s happened in the last 30 years.

Books I have read: Branding (Design Directories)

Branding Directories

I am fascinated with how stories and companies are marketed, so I was interested to borrow Branding (Design Directories) by Helen Vaid from my local library.

Helen Vaid at the time of writing was Sales and Marketing Director at Tornado Productions Ltd., having been involved in branding for Vodafone, 3M, British Telecom, American Express and many other leading global organisations.

The first half of the book looked at how brands are created, and how the process of development works – for example the differences between branding a specific product and branding a service business.  Vaid then goes onto look in more detail at the main styles of branding through broadcast media, billboards, newspapers and magazines, sales promotions and the internet.

The second half of the book looks at a number of case studies.  Some of these are examined from a historical aspect – looking at how a particular brand has developed over time – for example, the development of the Shell, Apple, Coca Cola and others.  Others she looks at how particular areas are branded, e.g. news, fast food, coffee shops, and more.  These are helpful to see the changes, especially in the 1990s and early 2000s.

This is a helpful book, where the main disadvantage is that the book is quite dated, having been written in 2003 so misses out a decade’s worth of brand development, especially through the use of social media and viral adverts.

Books I have read: How to save an hour every day

How to save an hour every day

I recently borrowed How to save an hour every day by Michael Heppell from my local library.

In a nutshell his book presents a variety of different ideas to help you be more effective and save time, with the aim that eventually you can save an hour each day, every day.  Heppell is so convinced that he boasts on the back of the book:

“I’m so certain this book will help you save an hour every day, I guarantee it.  If you’ve read the book, put the ideas into action and yet somehow haven’t saved that vital hour, I’ll personally give you your money back.”

The book has a range of smaller ideas that might buy you 5-15 minutes each day, up to bigger ideas or models which affect more than just one task. It must be said however, that as I flicked through the different ideas, none of them were especially original or revolutionary, but they do work, and that’s the important thing.

If you’re struggling with time management or procrastinating then this is a good book to flick through to change up the way you organise your life.

Books I have read: Who do you think you are

Who do you think you are

Mark Driscoll is known as a controversial author and preacher, but I hadn’t ever read anything by him and so wanted to read him for myself.  He is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, among the fastest growing churches in the country, the creator of Resurgence (a Christian leadership website), and cofounder of the Acts 29 Network.

Who Do You Think You Are? focuses on the area of self-identity, something that is one of the biggest struggles in the UK.  The book attempts to answer how a Christian’s identity comes from a different perspective, and how that can influence the way we live.  To do this Driscoll uses the book of Ephesians.

The book is straightforward if a little boring – it certainly didn’t capture me and leave me wanting to read more.