Top Five Books – I Didn’t Read – For 2011

In the spirit of the season, with everyone and his brother making “Top This” and “Top That” lists of new and notable items in the past twelve months, I humbly offer my own list. Here are the five books I didn’t read in 2011 – but wish I would have. Don’t misunderstand – I like books, have a lot of them, and seem to receive new ones almost daily from publishers and friends. I cannot read every book on my shelves, and at times feel guilty for having so many unread books. Still, there are many good books I intend to read…some day.

So, the following are the starting point for a “Top Books of 2012 – Which I Actually Read” list…which I’ll try to post in about twelve months.

  1. All is Grace, Brennan Manning  – Memoirs of a fascinating man who found God’s grace…everywhere. I am eager to get to know Manning better.
  2. Prayer, Philip Yancey – Started, just need to finish this fine book. Philip has been a favorite writer since I started reading his columns in Campus Life magazine during high school. That’s quite a long time!
  3. The New Testament – Various (human) authors. Chuck Swindoll has challenged believers to read through the New Testament this year. I think that’s a great idea – and plan to add in the Psalms and Proverbs, as well (see this reading plan). Why not join me?
  4. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy’s epic. If three of my kids have read it, why haven’t I?
  5. The Meaning Of Marriage, Tim Keller – We’ll be interviewing Tim and his wife Kathy for a Focus broadcast soon, and I am always glad for an opportunity to read this wise man’s perspective on life.

I’ll try to gather up the best books I’ve read this past year in a future post. Meantime, what books are on your “didn’t read – yet” list?

ADDENDUM: Just today Danny Heitman writes in the Wall Street Journal (subscribers only, sorry) about this very matter. I appreciated his perspective, which affords some comfort:

The truly cultured, (author Gabriel Zaid) says, “are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or desire for more.”

Further, Heitman adds,

Unread books…can be noble evidence of aspirations not yet met but still worth embracing.

Somehow, such thinking gives me permission to go through those stacks of books which I have not yet cracked open, or which was started but never finished, on bookshelves both at home and at work, and dare to pick one up…and read.

Here’s to a growing collection of unread books, and to a year ahead of great reading!

Radio Is Reaching Our Military

If you’ve ever supported the work of Focus on the Family, through prayer and/or a financial contribution, you are a part of a dynamic outreach to those who need a good word! The following note was encouraging for us, and I hope it’ll be so for you, too:

I just wanted to say how great it is to be able to listen to Focus on the Family’s daily broadcasts online.  I’m in the military, and…most of the people I work with are not Christians, which is apparent in their lifestyles and vocabulary.  I listen to your programs at work.  Sometimes people aren’t quite sure what to say when they ask what I’m listening to and I tell them ‘Focus on the Family.’  However, it is a good way to spread the word about the Lord and tell people about your ministry.  It’s always nice to know that I can hop online and gain encouragement from your broadcasts (it is especially helpful on deployments when my surroundings are strange and scary).
We’re privileged to be used by God to speak into the lives of those serving in the military. I hope that you’ll consider a gift of $10 or $20 today to help us continue reaching out through radio, websites and more. In fact, right now you can effectively double your donation, thanks to a matching grant from some special friends of Focus on the Family. Find out more here.

Advice For First Time Dads

I’m very pleased that the Focus on the Family radio program about my book, First Time Dad, re-airs today as part of the “Best of 2011″ series. What a privilege to share from my own experiences with new fathers. Here’s a reflection on some early memories as we anticipated the arrival of our first child.

If you visit the Amtrak level of New York City’s Penn Station, you’ll notice a large schedule board that hangs from the ceiling. At rush hour, crowds gather there, sometimes several people deep, to await their train’s track assignment. People are eager to make a beeline for the train to get a good seat. Just prior to the boarding announcement, a voice bellows from the speakers: “Ready! Ready! Ready! Ready!” The passengers grab their bags and brace themselves for the sprint downstairs.

That’s a lot how we felt in those days leading up to Dakota’s arrival. We were ready. Our bags were packed, and we had one in each hand.

If having a child is akin to a college final, we were prepared to ace the exam. Within months we were set to take on the biggest responsibility we’d ever known, the most significant work a person can do. We knew that raising a child is a fearful and wonderful job, one that never really ends, but one for which we were as prepared as we could be.

Or so we thought.

Simply thinking, reading, and talking about our new roles of dad and mom wasn’t enough. Looking back, I realize just how little I really knew about being a dad when our firstborn entered the world.

If you’re feeling confident, or even if you have some reservations, about becoming a new parent, I’ll encourage you to listen to the conversation, download the free materials (over there on the right side of this page) and maybe even get a copy of my book.

And maybe you can share a story from your early parenting experiences here in the comments section? Thanks!

Your Kid Needs A Cell Phone

Having lunch with a friend the other day, we came across a problem common to many parents. Cell phones. More specifically, kids and cell phones.

“He wants a smart phone. But I’m not sure I want him watching movies unsupervised. And I certainly don’t want him playing games online.”

“I understand those concerns,” I replied.

“Well, we also have to figure out how to deal with the texting minutes. He routinely goes way past the allowable texts every month.”

“Why not let HIM bear the cost of the plan? I think he’ll see that it is too expensive for him to have a smart phone.”

“And,” I continued,

“Why even pay for him to have a phone at all?”

His response was expected, and I can’t really argue with the reason.

“His mother and I think it is a good thing for him to have a phone, especially if we want to reach him.”

Bottom line: How do you handle your teen’s request for a phone? For a smart phone?

On this I am surely in the minority. Of our six children, only two have their own cell phone. And they are adults paying the entire cost of the phone and plan. My 17 year-old wants a phone, but “no dice.” Our 16 year-old would surely love a phone. But we aren’t acquiescing.

“All your friends have phones. Just ask to use one of theirs if you need to call us.”

That’s my wife’s response to a teen’s”need” to have a cell phone.  And I think it is appropriate. Well, appropriate, at least, to suggest that if my kids want a phone they can…buy one.

“And give me a number or two of folks you’ll be with. Write it on the kitchen white board, please.”

That’s my request as one of our daughters leaves the house. If I need to reach her, I should be able to do so through a friend’s cell phone.

Now, to be clear, I don’t have any argument with a parent who has reasons for providing their teen with a phone.  I’m just too cheap to do that! And, I’d prefer to avoid an early dependence on technology like phones – which lead to other things (like texting, movies and games).

So, I’m pretty much a grump about cell phones for kids. Summing up our family rules:

I am not alone in this. Here’s an article from the Wall Street Journal capturing a similar perspective from another parent. Liz Moyer writes,

My girls are both responsible, reliable kids who wouldn’t lose their phones (they haven’t misplaced so much as a mitten since kindergarten) and wouldn’t use them at inappropriate times like during school (too afraid of getting in trouble). But I’m going to take the un-cool route and say no to the phone, at least for now. I’d like the girls to have a few more years of talking to their friends and building relationships the old-fashioned way.

Have to hand it to Liz: The unpopular route is definitely the way to go on this.

So, about teens and ‘tweens and phones: What do you think? Does your kid really need a cell phone?