Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence

2014 Edition

Reviewed by Tom Kennedy

This 10th Anniversary Edition of Sarah Young’s devotional book is a new, slightly expanded edition of her 2004 book with the same title.  This anniversary book is number 5 on the ECPA Christian book bestseller list.  It has been on the bestseller’s list for a long time.  The anniversary edition includes an additional introduction into how the original book profoundly altered lives of some of those who read it between 2004 and 2014. 

There is a powerful, separate devotion for each day of the year.  The devotions have not changed from the 2004 edition.  The format of the devotion begins as if God is talking to you.  In a paragraph or two you are challenged, blessed, or humbled at the feet of God.  Below that you will find two to more scriptures that reinforce the lesson/devotion. The anniversary edition is different with the addition of 150 new scriptures and all scriptures written out, not just referenced.  Young presents us with devotions and scriptures that minister in a loving, firm, and redemptive way. 

Young and her husband are former missionaries. She also has a counseling degree and as such she is familiar with the many problems of those who will read her book as well as the “normal” spiritual problems of us all (btw, the Bible has a lot of good counseling advice in it).  If you have not found a devotional guide for this year, get this one as soon as you can.  If you have the 2004 edition, buying the newer edition is not necessary.  The devotions are the same.  Click here to order the 2014 devotional guide.

Note: all emphases and errors in the quoted material below are from the book.

Quotes from the book that I liked:

  • Do not expect an easy path as you journey hand in hand with Me, but do remember that I, your very-present Helper, am omnipotent, p. 10.
  • Whatever occupies your mind the most becomes your god, p. 31.
  • Your future looks uncertain and feels flimsy—even precarious. That is how it should be.  Secret things belong to the Lord, and future things are secret things, p. 59.
  • A person who is open to My Presence is exceedingly precious to me, p. 99.
  • Do not long for the absence of problems in your life….Begin each day anticipating problems, asking Me to equip you for whatever difficulties you will encounter, p. 135.
  • The battle for the control of your mind is fierce, and years of worry have made you vulnerable to the enemy, p. 170.
  • Self-pity is a slimy, bottomless pit. Once you fall in, you tend to go deeper and deeper into the mire.  As you slide down those slippery walls, you are well on your way to depression, and the darkness is profound, p. 207.
  • Others, like you, have received the humble gift of frailty. Your fragility is not a punishment, nor does it indicate lack of faith, p. 254.
  • Anxiety is a result of envisioning the future without Me.  So the best defense against worry is staying in communication with Me, p. 304.
  • Living close to Me requires making Me your First Love—your highest priority. As you seek My Presence above all else, you experience Peace and Joy in full measure, p. 367.
  • Kennedy: this is a great devotional book.

The Road Back to You:

An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery

By Ina Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

Reviewed by Tom Kennedy

Just what are Enneagrams?  According to Cron and Stabile we are born with one of the nine Enneagram types and your type will guide your thoughts, beliefs, and actions for the rest of your life. The Enneagram is similar to the Myers-Briggs types but the two are not historically related.  

This book requires one to remember more detail and take the time to learn types that are not your own. It is to be studied, not browsed.

Somehow the Enneagram has been associated with evil forces in the past but there is no evidence of such a relationship.  It is more of an updated personality inventory that tries to help people to understand themselves.  Each of the nine types describes strengths and weaknesses of that person.  Though it has been used by millions of people, the authors acknowledge some limitations to its use.  “If its sketchy origins weren’t enough to spook the mules, there is no scientific evidence that the Enneagram is a reliable measure of personality,” p. 11.  Still many people resonate with the teachings and how they describe one’s personality.  The major strength of the Enneagram is to give you permission to act out your own personality and not try to modify it to fit other people’s expectations.  If you struggle with “who you are”, this book might help.

You can buy the book by clicking here.   I reviewed the 2016 hardback copy of the book.

Here are the basics of the nine types as found on pages 25-26.  Which one most closely matches your personality? NOTE: in the Enneagram you have access to two “wings”. That means you may occasionally blend in with one or two of the other types, depending on the situation.

  • TYPE ONE: The perfectionist. Ethical, dedicated and reliable, they are motivated by the desire to live the right way, improve the world, and avoid fault and blame.
  • TYPE TWO: The Helper. Warm, caring and giving, they are motivated by a need to be loved and needed, and to avoid acknowledging their own needs.
  • TYPE THREE: The Performer. Success-oriented, image-conscious and wired for productivity, they are motivated by a need to be (or appear to be) successful and to avoid failure.
  • TYPE FOUR: The Romantic.  Creative, sensitive and moody, they are motivated by a need to be understood, experience their oversized feelings and avoid being ordinary.
  • TYPE FIVE: The Investigator. Analytical, detached and private, they are motivated by a need to gain knowledge, conserve energy and avoid relying on others.
  • TYPE SIX: The Loyalist. Committed, practical and witty, they are worst-case -scenario thinkers who are motivated by fear and the need for security.
  • TYPE SEVEN: The Enthusiast. Fun, spontaneous and adventurous, they are motivated by a need to be happy, to plan stimulating experiences and to avoid pain.
  • TYPE EIGHT: The Challenger. Commanding, intense and confrontational, they are motivated by a need to be strong and avoid feeling weak or vulnerable.
  • TYPE NINE: The Peacemaker. Pleasant, laid back and accommodating, they are motivated by a need to keep the peace, merge with others and avoid conflict.

How to Keep Those New Year’s Resolutions

By Dr. Tom Kennedy

According to research, most of us make New Year’s resolutions but over 90% will break the resolution, usually in a few weeks. Let me give you some encouragement that may help you be successful in the long run.

Usually we set our goals too high.  I suggest you have a low bar and a high bar for each goal.  Set a minimum level that you will do every day, no matter what happens, but try to exceed it when you can.

For example, if you need exercise you may plan to start walking around the block five times a day.  However, I encourage you to set a low bar for crisis times.  In this case, walk around the block one time a day.  If there is a time crunch or the weather’s bad, do the minimum one time without fail.

Why is this important?  It keeps us in the routine even if it is very little effort.  Developing and keeping the routine is probably the most important pathway to long term success.  A regular routine will emerge into a powerful habit.  Keep in mind that making a habit stronger is easier than developing one in the first place. 

Another example may be related to Bible reading.  I communicate with people who struggle with Bible reading.  In the beginning for these folks I suggest they read only one scripture a day, BUT I encourage them to think about the meaning of that one scripture for at least 30 seconds.  Usually the most BRADD (Bible reading attention deficit disorder) of us will read one scripture a day and think about it for 30 seconds.  Thirty seconds may not seem to be a long time, but, with focus, it is easy to be inspired in less than 30 seconds.  I recommend they get a scripture emailed to them from www.biblegateway.com   That site will send a daily scripture to an email address for free.  (I am not endorsing this site, just giving it as an example.)

Others may read from a devotional book.  For example, I use the best seller, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence, by Sarah Young for my devotions for 2019 (click here for review).  It has very short but powerful devotions with two to three scriptures at the bottom of each page.  Most people with BRADD can do a day’s devotion. I do caution that reading quickly does not allow it to sink in.  Once again, I suggest that a person think about the message of the devotion or verse for at least 30 seconds after reading it. 

In prayer I always suggest that people start with praise.  Praise will change one’s mood for the better (I am a psychologist) and help PADD (prayer attention deficit disorder) people to focus on God.  There are more steps to prayer, but I ask the PADD people I work with to at least accomplish the low bar of singing a short praise song every day and think about the words as they sing.  Thinking about the words focuses one on God even if the music doesn’t.  When they have more time, they can expand their prayer to include other areas.  Singing out loud is best and can be done in the car.

What is your New Year’s resolution?  Set a high and low bar.  Achieve the high bar when you can, but always complete the low bar when you don’t have time.  Soon you will have a powerful, positive habit in your life.

May you have a very blessed 2019!!

Click on the Christian books titles and one secular book below for inspiration and guidance that may change your life. 

Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence, Young (Best-selling Christian devotional).

Celebration of Discipline, Foster (Christian: spiritual activities that will truly deepen your spiritual life)

Girl, Wash Your Face, Hollis  (Best selling Christian Inspirational Book) 

NO Excuses, Tracy (secular best-seller on how to get your life focused and stay strong.  I require this book for my counseling students)

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace

By Gary Chapman and Paul White

A Review by Tom Kennedy

If you are interested in a communication method to improve your employee productivity and relationships, this book might have the solution. Moving from his bestselling book on how to express appreciation among couples, Chapman has applied that successful method into the field of business.  I use his appreciation languages in counseling and I think this approach will work as well in business.  In Chapman’s view there are 5 languages which best communicate appreciation.  Each person has one or two preferred ways they want to receive it.  Unfortunately, most of us only express appreciation the way we want it, not the way the other person wants to receive it.  This book guides us to overcome our bias of using an appreciation style we like and instead use a style that will be best appreciated by the recipient.   At this review time my hardback copy is #23 on the ECPA bestseller list.  Chapman’s original couples’ bestseller has risen to #2 on the current bestseller list.  You can tell appreciation “languages” are popular and very useful to relationships. Chapman developed an inventory to use in business thus giving the manager an idea of what style of appreciation to use with each employee. After you implement this method, you should see some significantly positive changes in attitude for most, if not all of them. This book is an easy but important read and if you manage people, I recommend you immerse yourself in a copy.

Things I liked in the book:

  • The number one factor in job satisfaction is not the amount of pay but whether or not the individual feels appreciated and valued for the work they do, p. 11.
  • For recognition and appreciation to be effective, they must be individualized and delivered personally, p. 21
  • It is well-documented that global praise (“Good job”, “you’re a good student”) does very little to encourage the recipient, and doesn’t increase the positive behaviors desired, p. 49.
  • Chapman lists 4 styles of praise: Personal one-on-one, praise in front of others, written affirmation, and public affirmation that is a fine-tuned way to praise an employee, pp. 53-55.
  • Quality time means that listening to what the employee has to say can be the most important form of appreciation to them.  Chapman lists 4 dialects of quality time. It does not always mean just good listening, pp. 63-69.
  • Acts of Service: “Is there anything I could do for you that would make your work easier?”, p. 85.
  • The Power of Tangible Gifts: Chapman gives two requirements for this appreciation language to work effectively, pp. 91-93.
  • Additional field testing …revealed that not one person was found to have Physical Touch as their primary language of appreciation in the workplace, p. 103.
  • [Accepted touching] A pat on the back, a quick handshake, or a high five are example of implicit touches and are common expressions of physical touch in some work settings, p. 105.
  • Chapman developed the Motivated by Appreciation (MBA) inventory to help managers test for the types of appreciation her/his employees would prefer, Chapter 8.
  • The language we value least can become our “blind spot” in effectively communicating appreciation to colleagues for whom that language is highly significant, p. 135.
  • Chapman spends the rest of the chapters talking about applying the languages or how they are applied in specific industries.

Capital Gaines: Smart Things I learned Doing Stupid Stuff

By Chip Gaines

A Review by Tom Kennedy

If you have watched the TV show Fixer Upper, you know Chip and Joanna Gaines.  They are a Christian couple who fix and modernize old houses for other people. Based out of Waco, Texas, they are somewhat opposites. Joanna thinks through things, Chip is much more impulsive.  He also doesn’t like to lose a bet. On one show I saw him eat a dead cockroach in order to win a 50-dollar bet.  That is impulsive and totally repulsive and showcases part of Chip Gaines’ personality.  In this book you will see that his life is one of learning from mistakes and due to his impulsivity, he has made a lot of mistakes.  Yet he has made a success out of failure.  Accompanied by a positive attitude and a huge heart for others, Chip Gaines is a man you want to be your friend.  Beware, he shares some mistakes in the book, but not a lot. It includes some life stories and some Chip Gaines philosophy added in. This is an enjoyable read and at the time of this review was #30 (down from #20) on the ECPA bestseller’s list.

What I liked in this hardback book:

  • “I knew it wasn’t “normal” that I couldn’t read yet, but it never occurred to me that it was something to be embarrassed about….My positive outlook has blinded me to plenty of things over the years.  Maybe it also protected me at times from the things I didn’t need to see”, p. 4.
  • “The only reason I even tried in school was so that I could make the grades to play baseball.  Education was simply a means to an end”, pp. 8-9.
  • [After being cut from the college baseball team] “Apparently there’s a cap to the amount of self-pity time a person gets, because one morning I woke up and realized it was time to snap out of it.  The time had come for me to get on with my life,” p. 12.
  • He heads to Mexico to learn Spanish leaving Joanna with taking care of his haphazard businesses (this is before they are married).  You must also read about the Brahma bull incident. Chapter 3.
  • “Jo and I have always believed that it is us against the world.  It’s not that we think everyone is out to get us. But we know that in all the world there is this one singular human who will be on our team every time.  Understanding this and protecting it at all costs has become bedrock for our marriage,” p. 41.
  • Chip tells about how he got that big scar on his forehead clowning around on a four-wheeler.  Risk takers should read the paragraphs after his words, “Normal was the complete opposite of what I’d always wanted to be,” p. 48.
  • “I don’t sit around and allow the what-ifs and worst-case scenarios to control me,” p, 65.
  • You need to read how Chip pulled off a red-carpet event for Joanna with little money in the bank.  Chapter 7.
  • [Buying the silos] “The thing is, Jo had gotten behind every crazy dream I’d come up with over the years.  Now she was the crazy dreamer….And I was gonna do everything in my power to help her do it,” p. 98.
  • “We pride ourselves in on-the-job training and solving problems.  I like people who work first and ask questions later,” p. 114
  • “But even after all of that manual labor, making a TV show is the most exhausting job I’ve ever done…. The irony is that on camera it appears that I’m just goofing off, playing really, when in reality it is the hardest work I do,” p. 125.
  • HGTV also provided us with a platform to share our perspective and we are grateful for that too. In an industry that doesn’t often show authentically happy marriages, we have loved getting to go in front of the camera and laugh, hug, argue, collaborate, and cheer each other on,” p. 138
  • [Current political conflicts] I want to live in a world where we are all considered each other’s neighbor, where every person’s voice matters,” p. 148.
  • “It is truly my life’s mission to empower people to relentlessly chase after their dreams, no natter the cost,” p. 158.