The Books We Read

Daws: A Man Who Trusted God


As a student at Kansas State University in the mid-1980’s I was forming my ideas about what the Christian life was all about. I suddenly found myself making decisions that previously I had no choice in the matter. For instance, where would I attend church, or for that matter will I wake up on Sunday morning and go to church anywhere? I was helped immensely by the staff and members of The Navigators. For it was in this fellowship of other believers that I learned the importance of growing in Christ. The Navigators, among other things, taught me that my personal Salvation in Christ was only the beginning of my walk, not the end.

Some thirty years later Rovonne and I spent some time at Glen Eyrie (Navigator Headquarters) and my thoughts and emotions were once again drawn back to my time in The Navigators. There in the small bookstore I came across a biography of Dawson Trotman written by Betty Lee Skinner. Within the pages were the details of the life of the man who started The Navigators.

This biography was different than any other I have read. Skinner is obsessed with detail which is helpful in giving the reader an accurate historical record of Trotman’s life. However, I found myself getting lost in names, places, and numbers. Certainly some of the information was helpful and even needed. I especially feel the names of minor players in the life of Trotman could have been eliminated. This would have helped the reader to understand who the key players in Trotman’s life really were.

As for painting a picture of who Dawson Trotman was, the book was successful. Trotman was a man of unstoppable passion. He was a man who rid his life of anything that would stifle his growth in Christ and unashamed to challenge others to do the same. His drive to memorize Scripture verses is inspiring. Trotman would often spend hours a day working on this discipline. If he wasn’t memorizing Scripture he was praying. If he wasn’t praying he was ministering to people. He wasted no time. When those he ministered to complained about not having time to prayer or memorize verses – Trotman was not sympathetic. He challenged them to change their lives in order to practice the Christian disciplines. Skinner tells of one incident where from the pulpit Trotman called out Billy Graham early in his ministry. Graham took this a challenge rather than an offense. When Graham began his evangelistic crusades it was Trotman who persuaded him on the importance of follow-up. Graham agreed and put Trotman and The Navigators in charge of it.

Trotman had a teacher’s heart. He was constantly looking to develop and improve materials that would help him communicate biblical truth and facilitate Scripture memory. His Topical Memory System filled with foundational Bible verse cards, Hand Illustration, and The Wheel are all tools still used today by Navigators and others. Skinner recounts a time when Trotman built an actual mechanical wheel to use on his trip to China and India.

An overbearing spirit was one of Trotman’s weaknesses. On more than one occasions he was charged with such by different individuals. Skinner recounts one example,

In the hearts of two or three . . .was a growing rebellion against Dawson’s leadership as dictatorial, a trait that he would have stoutly denied, pointing to his respect for each person’s wishes and leading from the Lord wherever they differed from his own. But the intensity of his burden and conviction and the velocity of his impact on those around him doubtless alienated some and stepped on toes as in early years (p. 344).

One point that Skinner unwittingly brought out is Trotman’s misuse of Scripture verses and his seemingly unwillingness to emphasize systematic thought when reading the Bible. One case in point is given when Trotman was addressing Navigator staff concerning global expansion of the organization. On page 343-344 Skinner writes that he gave “hard-hitting messages from the first chapters of Deuteronomy on commands to ‘go up and possess’ the land and to hold the ground gained ‘by little and little’ (Deut. 7:22).” As wonderful and applicable as this may sound, the Navigator expansion is not what Moses had in mind when he wrote Deuteronomy 7. THis passage of course is addressing Joshua’s future conquest into the Promise Land. One can certainly excuse some misapplied Scripture references, the Lord know I certainly have done so, but this type of use of Scripture was predominant in the life of Trotman. In my view, so much so that he used Scripture for his own advantage in some instances.

With these criticisms in mind – it is very important to also understand that Dawson Trotman was truly, A Man who Trusted God as the subtitle of the book records. I believe it could legitimately be said that Trotman’s goal in life was to inspire, challenge, and equip the lay person for ministry. Ministry was not merely for the paid professionals (i.e. pastors and such) – but it was for the people of the Church universal. I find his life and mission truly inspiring and challenging.

It is hard for me to recommend this book simply because the writing is so detailed in its treatment of numbers and people that it gets in the way of the story. But if you are looking for a biography that will make you feel like a spiritual midget – this is the one, for Daws (1906-1956) was indeed a spiritual giant.


The Rebel League

The Rebel League

The Rebel League

In the same way that Baseball owes some of its success to the Negro Leagues, the NFL owes a debt to the AFL, and the NBA now looks more like the ABA of old, so too does the NHL owe a huge debt to the World Hockey Association.  Interestingly enough, the ABA and WHA were both the brain child of the same group of guys: Dennis Murphy, Gary Davidson, and Don Regan.  As documented in Ed Willes book, The Rebel League,  this “wild west” version of hockey changed the game forever.  In the same way that the culture and style of play in the ABA would forever change basketball, and the wide open passing attacks of the AFL changed football, the way the game was played in the WHA changed the way the game of hockey was played in America.

As any league that operated in the 70’s, the games were entertaining but the stories surrounding the players kept your attention.  The WHA (very reminiscent of “Bull Durham”) was comprised of hockey journeymen, up and coming stars, and a few proven stars whose contracts were outrageous compared to the NHL and the others on their teams.  Teams were comprised of mostly skill players, or mostly goons (think the Burmingham Bulls late in the WHA).  There were instances where they snuck players with warrents out of town hidden in equipment carts, coaches had to dress for pregame skates to have the minimum number of players, dads played on the same line with their sons (Gordie Howe, with Mark and Marty), and teamates would get into brawls with fans and each other (they didn’t know if they could penalize teamates for getting into fights with each other).

This is the league that promoted a blue puck, a hill at center ice in on rink, a three tiered bench, slushie ice because the machines didn’t work, and the inspiration for the movie “Slap Shot”. They were financially unstable, with teams folding left and right and zamboni’s being parked behind busses not to be moved until payment arrived.  They were inventive in marketing, taking hockey to the sunbelt with franchises in LA, Pheonix, Birmingham, Miami, and Houston.

They were survivors in a time when the NHL ruled hockey.  Because of the WHA, the way hockey contracts were structured changed, players were given rights for the first time, kids no longer had to wait until they were 20 to get a contract, and they were paid like other professional athletes.  The WHA changed the way the players were treated.

But ultimately it ended with the 4 team merger in 1979.   Edmonton, Winnipeg, Quebec, and Hartford all joined the NHL…but in the only way the WHA could.  The WHA and NHL had been in negations to merge for a time when a vote came up short for the merger.  When the media released that it was Vancouver and Montreal that had stopped the merger with their vote, Canadians became incensed.  Montreal was owned by Molson Beer and Vancouver sold Molson products.  The people of Quebec, Winnipeg, and Edmonton marched on the Molson breweries and plants in their cities, called in bomb threats, and even shot out a window in protest of the dissenting voters.   The NHL became the NHL of today partially because of some beer riots.  Fascinating.

The league that gave us Gordie Howe’s twilight, Wayne Gretzkey’s first and second teams (Indianapolis Racers and Edmonton Oilers), the first Eastern Europeans in American Hockey, the finesse game, and 18 year old stars, hockey in the Sun Belt, and the last team to beat the USSR before the 1980 Olympics, was now part of the establishment.  And this book tells all the stories.  A great read for any hockey fan.

The Gospel and the Greeks

DownloadedFileThe books of the Bible were written within a specific context, at a specific time, in common language.  The New Testament was written in Koine (common) greek language, to a people under Roman Rule, living in a hellenized/greek culture.  Ronald H. Nash wrote his book, The Gospel and the Greeks, to look at whether the Bible (the New Testament in particular) depended upon the culture for its composition.  Nash looked at the influence of Greek philosophy, the influence of mystery religions, and the presence of gnosticism in the New Testament.  Nash completely demolishes the hypothesis that the New Testament is any way syncretistic literature and dependent upon greek thought.

One major area of strength in his book was the delineation he makes between dependence, influence, and contemporaneous (my word not his).  Nash is  quick to point out that just because an author may have been familiar with an idea or notion, does not mean that it effected the ideals of the autor.  In the same voice, just because an author uses similar language as a mystery religion or philosopher, does not indicate that he was dependent upon the teaching or understanding of the culture.  Nash takes great care to show that common language does not prove dependence.

Nash also takes initiative to point out that most of the similarities found in philosophy and other religions and Christianity are either misunderstands or oversimplification.  Whether it is the cult of Mithras, Isis and Osiris from Egypt, or other ancient supposed “resurrection” stories, Nash patiently and deliberatly points out the oversimplifications and the problems contained within the similarities of the accounts.  In the same way, Nash deals with the supposed dependence of Christianity on the sacraments (the Lord’s supper and Baptism) of the mystery religions.  He thoroughly debunks these as well.

His largest argument for the independence of the NT from the philosophies and religions of the ANE is chronology.  For most of the religions of the ANE, the forms  , the beliefs, and the teachings and sacraments, come from the 3rd or 4th century.  Most would argue that at the time of the writing of the NT these religions and philosophies were taught and lived out much differently.  Nash takes great pains to show that these thoughts were actually dependent upon the teachings of the NT to form their own beliefs.

This book was a great read; however, a basic understanding of philosophy would have been helpful in understanding some of Nash’s arguments.  But all in all I really enjoyed this book.  It was a through demolishing of biblical dependence on pagan religion and philosophy.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Tipping Point
by Malcolm Gladwell

How quickly things change in a split second.  In an instant, life is altered, the momentum of a game, or the success of a product, is determined.  What brings about those instances and events?  What are the determining factors of the outcome?

Malcolm Gladwell in his book, The Tipping Point, attempts to explain the rules that determine the success or failure of a movement or message.  His book, composed mostly of history lessons and social science experiments, argues that the success or failure of an entity is largely defined by three rules, which he spends a chapter on.

The first rule is the Law of the Few.  Using the story of Paul Revere’s ride as a case study, Gladwell compares the success of the message “the British are coming” was dependent largely upon the man carrying it.  William Dawes carried the same message, but the towns he alerted were not “set afire” like those that Revere went too.  The difference was in the type of men that they were.  Revere was what Gladwell called a connector, someone who knows everyone they’ve ever met and can remember their names.  Revere was involved in everything that pertained to the colonies prior to his ride; which is what lent itself to success.  Revere was also a Maven, which is a fancy word for a collector and dispenser of knowledge.  Mavens are the people who know everything about a product and a situation.  They are the type of people you call when you are wanting to buy a TV and they rattle on about pixels, ambient lighting, and led’s.  These people not only know everything but want to make suggestions.  The last type of person needed for a tipping point to happen is the salesman, who persuade people.  Kind of anti climactic huh?  Still these three type of people show that is not the the number of people needed to start a revolution but the type of people.

The second factor is the stickiness factor.  Tracing the teaching of Seasame Street and Blues Clues, Gladwell points out that a message must be both enticing and clear for it to be sticky.   As he traced the studies of sociologists, who studied both kids and adults, Gladwell put together the research to show both the ability of a person to grasp a message and to understand a message.  The stickiness factor is the difference between a movement that takes off and one that doesn’t.  To be sticky ideas must be memorable an to be acted upon…how clear these two factors are is how stick the movement is.

The final factor was the Power of Context.  The point of this section was that “epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur.”  Gladwell notes how replacing broken windows on city blocks will decrease crime and eliminating graffiti on subway cars had the same effect.  Habits, movements, and messages, are fragile things.  They are sensitive to their surroundings.  Like bacteria in a petrie dish, the culture in which a message is given is vital to the success.

Gladwell’s book was rife with statistics and studies.  One thing is for sure, this book was extremely well researched.  His points, structure, and outline was well developed and he moved his thesis along throughout.  The book was a bit wordy at times and hard to follow during some of the more obscure studies, but it was a solid read.

Ship Breaker

Lone Tree Ranch Ministries

6a85addc76024a5da1419c7e5f1732f6I have a limp when I run, just like him. Many say that I resemble his looks. Some say I sound like him. There is a lot of my father in me. How much really is still to be determined.

I have a buddy whose father made some serious mistakes over the last 20 some odd years. It cost him his family, his house, and his marriage. The life that he was supposed to be reaping the harvest of, was thrown away, day by day, with his decisions. Every time the issue comes up, my friend wants to know if he will turn out like his dad. “How do I know that I wont end up just like him?”

I resemble my father in a lot of ways. By the time he was my age, he had an 8-year-old and 5-year-old. I cant possibly hold against him the mistakes that…

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Men’s Relational Tool Box

DownloadedFileOn the way home from a rodeo the other day, we came across a friend with a blown out tire.  I slammed on the brakes as we skidded to a halt on the shoulder 30 yards ahead of them.  As Ethan and I were walking back to give our assistance, they shouted from the rear of the trailer: “You gotta 4-way?”  A four-way is easily the best tool for changing a tire, especially roadside, but I don’t carry one in the truck.  We tried connecting wrenches, deep sockets, and few other things, but the lug wouldn’t break loose.  They had to limp their trailer to the next exit and get a hand from a service shop.  But had we had the right tools, the job would have got done!

Gary Smalley writes his book, Men’s Relational Tool Box, using a similar story as his premise.  Most of us have started a project or repair job only to find out you were missing the proper tool or equipment to do the job.  According to Smalley, the same holds true for men and relationships.  Often times the tools we carry with us, the tools that are significant and necessary for work, leadership, and competition, are not the tools that forge solid, strong relationships with our wives and families.  When it comes to work our problem-solving tool and our take charge tool are a necessity for success and accomplishment.  But in our time with our wives and kids, often a solution is not needed or wanted and when we take charge we often run-over people.

Smalley challenges us men to learn to use some tools that have rusted from disuse in our lives.  He encourages men not to reach for the first tool in the tool box, but the best tool.  Men like facts, but our fact-finding tool, when our wives are telling us intimate details, is not the best tool for the job.  She is not looking to share facts of life, but inviting us to share as well, so the proper tool is the first one he gives: the open-sharing tool. This tool helps us share personal details of our lives…something I personally struggle with.  Alongside this tool, Smalley gives 5 other tools that will help us in our relationships: patient-listening tool; win-win tool; selfless-honor tool; tender-touch tool; time-and-energy tool.  Most of these tools are self explanatory and Smalley fully illustrates each one in his book.  When the last chapter rolls around, Smalley gives one tool to save relationships: forgiveness.  He does a great job of bringing out the things that keep us from forgiveness.

This was a sold book, especially for the newly married.  His illustrations were often the things that are faced by young couples, his advice is pertinent, and he is well experienced.  The book lacked much scripture, but was still biblically founded.  It was a fairly short read, but worth it.

188 pages

Unleashing Courageous Faith: The Hidden Power of A Man’s Soul

Unleashing Courageous Faith by Paul Coughlin

Unleashing Courageous Faith
by Paul Coughlin

Men today are lacking a fundamental quality according to Paul Coughlin: courage. In his book, Unleashing Courageous Faith, Paul Coughlin, argues for a recommitment to the development of courage in the life of a Christian man. The greeks divided the soul into three parts: the logos (the head and logic); the eros (the heart and emotions); and the thumos (the courageous spirit, animating life). Coughlin’s book focuses on the thumos as a necessary and central tenant of the Christian walk. The problem is that for years it has been grounded and squashed by good willed Christians and Churches.

Thumos is a classical greek word that conveys “spiritual fervor”. It’s the righteous indignation that you feel towards homelessness, human exploitation, divorce, abandonment, or slavery. Thumos is the rage that fills you when you look at injustices, corruption, and lethargy. Thumos is what is missing in our homes, churches, and work places. In this book, Coughlin attempts to arise our Thumos, challenge how we think about it, and give opportunities to exercise it.

Coughlin spends the first six chapters of the book explaining the need for a return of Thumos. He writes about how the Church has stolen it from men, how the world needs men to find it. This is a perfect example of how this book is written. In 140 pages, Coughlin says what could have been said in 30. His style is very wordy and very repetatitve. But do not let the first part of the book ruin the rest.

In the last few chapters he explores how spiritual abuse spills our thumos (chap 7) and how lethargy ruins our thumos. He looks at how our thumos becomes numb as we dive into materialism (chap 8). His best chapter of the book, Cynicism: Thumos-freezing, is one that shows how cynicism destroys our thumos. I am a cynic towards the church a lot of the time. I have seen the most cold and destructive people within churches. I have seen lethargy and laziness and corruption within the walls of the church. Now I look towards the future with little hope for the church at times. But this is a façade that I use to hide.   It takes a vision and heart to grow thumos…and these are two things that I refuse because of fear. This chapter changed the way I need to think about church and about my heart.

Overall, this book was a struggle to get through because Coughlin is not as direct and economical in his writing as I would have liked. He takes a needed subject and does well with it. But he does struggle with exploring thumos within a biblical framework. I felt at times that he missed some opportunities to arise our thumos and give practical goals for growing it.