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The first thing we read on the “About” page is that Robert Jeffress “is senior pastor of the 13,000-member First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, and a Fox News contributor.” He has a long list of impressive interviews with Big Names, and he recently led his church in a $135 million church renovation which covers six blocks of downtown Dallas. This reviewer was disappointed that the page didn’t include Jeffress’ recent declaration that God has given the President “Authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”
In his new book, Jeffress compares an upcoming trip to London, or a job transfer, with “the ultimate journey to a distant land everyone will take.” One for which “wise travelers” should prepare. You wouldn’t think of going to London without making sure you had a passport. Nor would you move without looking into schools, the climate, or the cost of living. “Only a fool” would skip such research, according to Jeffress.
Readers will be excused for wondering: if it is possible to “discover the options for housing” in heaven, will believers have the opportunity to request a different neighborhood? Or opt out completely? “I’ve heard the singing is too loud and a bit off-key in Saint’s Rest district; I’m going to put in for Milk and Honey Lane.”
Believers should prepare because, as another gifted writer so aptly put it, “Heaven is for real.” Even Jesus tells us so. Jeffress writes: “Jesus is in heaven right now overseeing the greatest construction project in history—our heavenly home.” One asks: who are the workers that Jesus is supervising? Angels? Departed souls? And is the construction project part of the eternal bliss? Or is it punishment? As we prepare for our new home, should we look into the job market? Are all of the good construction jobs taken?
Mr. Jeffress devotes a section to assuring readers that everyone will die. His evidence comes from the Bible, other Christian writers, and natural observation. Soldiers face death. Prosperous farmers. Patriarchs. Even we face death. People have died. We all know someone who has died. This was the most convincing part of the book, as it seemed to be based upon solid observation. And why should we accept that it will happen to us? So we can prepare for heaven. We should, in fact, look forward to it. “Every minute spent alive on earth [is] a minute away from the home Jesus [has] prepared…” Or that he has supervised the preparation of.
If you are wondering what heaven is like, if you want someone to clear up the vague ideas, if you want to be sure what you are in for, this is the book for you. Jeffress answers all the questions. Is Heaven real? Who has already visited? (At least two middle class American authors.) How soon can we go? Will I know Granny when I see her? Fluffy? Who else will be there? (This may be another wise thing to look into before deciding to move.) And much more.
Jeffress writes his answers with confidence, nay—authority, while following all the contemporary Christian author rules of writing. Use lots of quotes; especially ones from your previous books. And never use a simple phrase when an awkward one will do:
“My ministry necessitates a lot of travel.”
“Every time I journey to a distant destination…”
It is indeed surprising that Jeffress can write with such certainty (he might prefer “certitude”) about a place the Bible gives us so little information on. But Jeffress makes up for the lack with thorough research, citing theologians (David Jeremiah), the dictionary, Shakespeare, Little Boys Who Have Been There, and of course his own books. Those readers who love Jeffress for his reputation of “teaching straight from the Bible” shouldn’t be disappointed at his reaching a bit outside. In this case, there wouldn’t be much to say if he didn’t.
For those interested in more information on the subject, Jeffress’ complete DVD teaching set, “Not All Roads Lead to Heaven” can be purchased. This is a must for those preparing for the journey; it would be a tragedy to start off on the wrong road. Instructions for purchasing can be found at the back of the book.
If you can’t, however, afford the DVD sets, don’t trouble yourself. In another place, Jeffress said: “Jesus clearly taught that the majority of humanity will spend eternity in hell, and only a few will find the exclusive way to salvation.” So, chances are all that research will be wasted effort. Maybe, after all, we would do well to make something of this life.
With the coming of this New Year came much reflection (I’m rolling my eyes at my pompous phrase, “’much self-reflection,’ what a dumbass!”)
I’m 42; probably passed half-way in my life. My oldest is in 8th grade. Maybe only 5 more years of having her in the same house. It’s time to make changes. In short—to be more selfish.
I’ve spent years being a people pleaser. I’ve been inauthentic (aka fake), censored myself, spent time doing things I’ve felt obligated to do but haven’t wanted to. Church, for instance.
Do I really want to “do” the community service business during my free time? No. I don’t want to serve on boards. I do not want to speak at the Rotary club; it’s not even worth the lunch, which isn’t free. It costs an hour of my life, which is more valuable than $9.99.
Do I want to coach my children’s youth sports teams so that I can deal with little Suzie’s mother who wants her to pitch even though she doesn’t know how to throw or catch, while neglecting my own kids? No.
Do I want to sit in church and listen to the very well-rehearsed yet horrible choir presentation? Well, maybe just to steal a quick glimpse of my two youngest trying not to laugh, wink at them, and cause them to lose it and bust out in real laughter, earning the disapproval of my poor wife. But otherwise, no.
I will not spend the next year putting a fake smile on my face and turning to meet those around me, whom I do not want to meet, whether in or out of church.
I will not spend the next year listening to pious talk from anyone. I don’t want to hear the mayor praise the hospital board, or the new softball president praise the past softball president, or the crazy old lady down the street praise the lord. I don’t care if you hate liberals and love Fox news, or hate the President and love skinny jeans. Your politics bore me, and I’m not interested, and I’m not listening.
If you invite me to lunch and I want to go, I will go. If, however, you are not someone I would not like to have lunch with, I will say, “No, thank you.”
If I want to walk the dog at 11:15 on Sunday morning, I will no longer take the back road to avoid being seen by the faithful Baptists on their way to or from church. Instead, I will walk the damn dog when and where I want.
I will no longer hide my Shiner Bock under a loaf of bread when I see the Church of Christ pastor in HEB, but if I’m feeling generous I may offer him one.
I will no longer revert to the 12-year-old boy who is ashamed of his naughty self when confronted by a self-righteous 60 something choir lady who is disappointed in my not shaving, having a beer, not tucking in my shirt, skipping church, saying damn, or not forcing my daughter to not clean her plate.
I will not write something, and then delete it, and then repost it, and then delete it because it may offend someone who thinks highly of my family who doesn’t even know or care that I write and would never happen to read this anyway and then if they did would never know who the hell wrote it nor would they understand it. Nor will I edit that last sentence to earn the approval of the imaginary, intelligent and good-looking young lady wearing sexy glasses and reading this post. (She’s always pestering the hell out of me when I try to write.)
I will read what I want. Sinclair Lewis. Or Hemingway, and anyone else who writes well about exploits with foreign women and good liquor and adventures on land and sea. And I will not read anything that I do not want to read; especially if the author is or has been the president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
What else will I do? I will love my family and spend as much quality time with them as I can. I will cultivate the few good friendships that I choose to have and reconnect with those whom I never should have lost touch with. I will exercise because I like to, and I won’t apologize for it or downplay it or act like I only lift weights to keep from whatever ailments middle-aged people try to keep from. I’ll enjoy good food, good beer, and good books, and maybe I’ll write a little more—if I feel like it.
My new world view does not fill me with despair. Instead, I see life as much more fleeting, precious, and important. And I am now, more than ever, determined not to waste it.
Writing reviews on Amazon can be fun. And, if written honestly, your reviews can help others make better decisions. I’ve written a few; I was even a top 1,000 reviewer for a year or so. Here are some tips for those who care. I’ll focus on book reviews—that’s primarily what I’ve written—but you can apply the concepts to reviews of any products.
1. Only review books that you’ve read.
This seems too obvious. But every day someone posts a review that starts off with something like, “I can’t wait to start reading this book,” or, “I haven’t read this book, but judging from this idiot’s talk show…” These reviews are useless, unfair, and dishonest.
2. Review the product itself.
Don’t give a book a one-star review because it arrived on your doorstep late or banged up, or because the seller was rude or you saw someone with purple hair and a nose-ring reading it at Starbucks. None of these things have to do with the book itself.
3. Be honest.
Don’t be afraid to criticize a book; just be fair. If someone has done a horrible job of writing a book, even if you agree with their premise, don’t give it 5 stars. On the other hand, if someone has written a book you disagree with, but done an outstanding job, be fair:
“Although I disagree with this author’s belief that all men are idiots, she has written a compelling book.”
4. Proof-read and edit your review.
Please take the time to capitalize and use punctuation. Please do not use all caps. And please do not bang out a few sentences and then hit “publish” without reading what you’ve written.
5. Don’t overstate.
You can get your point across without going crazy. If you want to be taken seriously, don’t write, “This is The Best Book I’ve Ever Read. Seriously.” Or, “Stunning, breathtaking, riveting. THE MOST EXCELLENT BOOK EVER!!!” Or, “The worst piece of crap ever written,” (which was actually written about one of my reviews.)
6. Make the review as long as it needs to be.
My review with the most helpful votes happens to be one of the longest I’ve written. But I’ve also found some very short reviews to be very helpful. In general, shorter reviews are more likely to be read. Just make sure you follow rule 7.
7. Give specific examples.
Instead of just saying, “Hated it,” tell us why you hated it. Do you hate the book about dogs because you hate dogs, or because it was obvious to you that the author hates dogs? Was it poorly written? Was it unfair? Or, why was it great? The fact that you gave it 5 stars tells us that you loved it; the review is where you tell us why.
8. Remember the meaning of the stars.
Five stars means, “loved it.” Do you really love every book you read? If you have some criticism of the book, even if it’s written by your favorite author, maybe you should give it four stars (“liked it”). One star means “hated it.” Don’t give it one star and then say, “This author really had some great things to say, but I found a spelling error on page 329.”
9. Be fair when you criticize.
I’ve already mentioned this above. But it’s worth a little more space. Don’t attack the author or make fun of them or the people who are likely to agree with them. Try not to get too sarcastic. If you truly hate a book, you can still write a helpful review if you tell prospective buyers why they might be better off choosing another.
Here’s an example of one of my most negative reviews that some readers still found helpful.
Also, don’t be surprised when you get an unhelpful vote on a negative review. Authors don’t like being told that their book is not The Best Book in the World.
10. Keep the buyer in mind.
Imagine that you are writing to your friend or mother. Or, tell the reader what you would have wanted someone to tell you before you bought the book.
11. Have fun.
By Dave Draper
In this age where everyone is an instant expert, and self-publishing has become easier and more popular than ever, buying a book can be risky business. Especially when it comes to books on weight training. I’ve bought my share of books that claim to hold the secrets to getting ripped and huge all at once—“secrets” that could easily be read in Men’s Health, but written by someone who apparently never made it through high school English. Recently, I knew I was in trouble when I flipped to the table of contents of a muscle building book to see, “Intorduction.”
Maybe I’m old and cranky, but I’m not interested in what some dude’s “five years of personal training experience” through the internet has taught them. Nor can I tolerate horrible writing. So, I’m suspicious of most new books on strength training or fitness.
Dave Draper’s new book is an exception, in every way.
If you are looking for a book full of training plans (Draper prefers “schemes”), this isn’t it. While there are plenty valuable tips with some schemes thrown in, Draper’s book is not a how-to, unless you want to call it a “how-to” for life.
And, regarding secrets, Draper says, “The secret is there are no secrets.”
Draper writes about his long history with the iron (over 6 decades)—his beginning, his progression, the gyms he trained in (the original Gold’s, for one) and the people he knew. And, though he’s appeared on TV shows, hung out with beautiful TV stars, and trained with the likes of Arnold, you never get the impression that he thinks much of himself; he writes with wisdom and humility.
He tells some stories from the good old days, like the time he and a training partner trapped six local drug dealers in a basement, duct taped them together, and burned their drugs in front of them before letting the local police know where they could find them.
Draper goes from no nonsense to philosophical in the same paragraph, with a good dose of humor thrown in:
“I’m not the type to smile broadly and offer assistance. I’ve practiced that routine in the past and received a frosty reception, total rejection or abysmal defeat. I tried my best. I recall the gals looking at me like I was a creep (Hey, babe, you train here often?) or the guys ignoring me like I was a jerk (Hey, fathead, you’re doing that exercise wrong!). Kids, I could tell, wanted to be left alone (Hey, runt, if you’re going to lift weights, do it in the corner).
No, thank you. No more Mister Nice Guy. I’m looking out for numero uno.”
Regardless of our age, any of us can learn from someone who has as much experience as Draper, and his solid advice is scattered through every chapter.
On working out:
“The lifter who foregoes workouts is a loser,” and, “Rushing workouts is for children.”
“It has recently occurred to me that I’m not as young as I used to be…Well, it’s about time. Youth gets to be old after a while.”
“We don’t lose our health and strength; we throw it away. We don’t slide out of condition; we’re tossed out for lack of participation. Fitness is not lost; it’s squandered like thankless treasure.”
“Muscles are the fool’s gold crown of false glory.”
With all of today’s complicated training advice, diet plans, fitness gadgets, and gym selfies on Facebook, reading Draper is a great reminder of what it’s really about. Go to the gym, work hard, eat right, love life. Be strong and look great, but remember that nobody else cares; this is for you. So stay humble.
My only criticism of this book is that, since it is a collection of columns, there is some repetition. But that’s not necessarily bad—we learn through repetition, after all.
I could go on trying to convince you that reading Draper is worth your time, but Dan John sums it up nicely in the forward:
“No one else writes like this. No one else has the life experience, the insights and the intuition. Trust him.”
If Iron in My Hands doesn’t make you want to go to the gym, nothing will.
By George Sheehan
Edited by Andrew Sheehan
Dr. George Sheehan was a cardiologist, runner, writer, and philosopher. Yet no label is sufficient for him. And of all that’s been written about him, I wasn’t truly impressed until I read this book and heard from Dr. Sheehan himself.
There is something in his writing that makes this book hard to put down. It’s honest and insightful, direct and inspiring. Sheehan’s voice is like Thoreau’s (whom he often quotes): calm and wise, inviting us to walk along with him. In the process, he stirs our deepest desire to be great. This is the kind of writing I always look for, but seldom find.
Sheehan loved running. He loved running in every season, and in any condition. He loved the soul cleansing affect it had on him, he loved the agony of pushing himself to the limit in every race, and he loved both the solitude and the camaraderie he found in running. And he wanted others to share that love.
Sheehan believed that life should be simple, that people needed to free themselves from the things that squash creativity and play. Play, he believed, was serious business, and people should make time for it:
“Certainly, a case can be made that the true object of life is play.”
For Sheehan, running was play.
Throughout these writings, we hear the importance of becoming the best we can physically, mentally, and spiritually. Sheehan urges readers to be heroic, something he believed could happen through running:
“This stage on which we can be bigger than life is a place where we can exhibit all that is good in us. Courage and determination, discipline and willpower, the purging of all negative impulses–we see that we are indeed whole and holy.”
The Essential Sheehan is a treasure for runners, especially those of us who are getting older. Here’s a man who ran competitively into his 70’s, who could break a five minute mile when most men his age wouldn’t walk a mile, who ran a 3:01:10 marathon when he was 61. We want to hear everything he has to say. But his wisdom can be applied to any sport, or art, or even life.
The writings are taken mostly from the 70’s and 80’s, so some of the descriptions of shoes and clothes are dated. I don’t see many runners in turtle necks or leather tennis shoes today. But the writing is timeless. As David Willey writes in the introduction:
“There are things from the past–even forgotten, old-school things–that still matter today….In our over-digitized and under-exercised culture, George’s writing may be more urgently needed now than when it was originally published.”