Monday, January 17, 2011

Top Books of 2010

Here you go! Below is a list of the books I most enjoyed reading in 2010, with a few words about each. The list is in no particular order.

* Incarnate Leadership – Bill Robinson
I know I'm one of those guys who is likely to get excited and say things like "Everybody should read this book" or "Every leader should read this book". There are several reasons for this; one is that I really love books and tend to glean something of value from just about every one I read, another is that I think most people should read a lot more than they currently do. But this time I really, really mean it: "Every Christian leader should read this book!" Don't let its small size fool you - this little book is packed with great leadership wisdom born of real-life experience. I am amazed at guys like Robinson who can glean a whole book's worth of wisdom out of ONE VERSE of scripture, plus their own life experiences. I don't know Robinson or his university, but his communication style reminded me a great deal of Leroy Lawson, one of my favorite people and an amazing leader/preacher/teacher who hails from that same part of the country. Don't miss out on a chance to really reflect on an incredibly important verse, John 1:14: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.".

* Born Standing Up – Steve Martin
This memoir about the stand-up comedy portion of Steve Martin's career was a wonderful, quick read. I've always been in awe of Steve Martin and those few other people who take humor to genius levels, but what pleasantly surprised me here is just how wonderfully Martin writes. I realized on the first page that he's a terrific writer! What a multi-talented guy - aside from the comedy, I did know that he was a great banjo player, but only after reading this book did I learn that he's also quite an accomplished author. Anyway, I recommend this book and plan on checking out some more of his writing in the future - as well as trying to get my hands on video of some of his older stand-up performances. I'll leave you with an excerpt that I feel displays just how clever, thoughtful, daring, silly, and yes, hilarious this guy is:
‘Mixed reviews continued. At the end of my closing-night show at the Troubadour, I stood onstage and took out five bananas. I peeled them, put one on my head, one in each pocket, and squeezed on in each hand. Then I read the last line of my latest bad review: “Sharing the bill with Poco this week is comedian Steve Martin … his twenty-five-minute routine failed to establish any comic identity that would make the audience remember him or the material.” Then I walked off the stage.’

* The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
Mark Twain once defined a "classic" as "a book people praise and don't read". He also said, "A classic is something that everybody wants to have read but nobody wants to read." Well, not so with me and The Brothers Karamazov. It's one of those books that I've long wanted to read, though I admit that the toughest part of reading such a huge novel is getting started, making the time commitment. (In fact, perhaps the main reason I finally got around to reading this one is that I read it on my Kindle, where it doesn't look any bigger than any other book!) Well, I finally did read it, and I'm so glad I did. The Brothers Karamazov lived up to all the hype, well worth the many hours I invested. I was drawn into the story and connected with Dostoevsky's characters and his exploration of some of the great struggles of mankind, such as doubt vs. faith, free will, and moral responsibility. For years I've heard and read references to this masterwork - now I can finally know what those authors and preachers are talking about. "Hurrah for Karamazov!"

* Orthodoxy – G.K. Chesterton
AWESOME. This is another of those books I've heard quoted and referenced for years yet never got around to reading. I picked it up this year and really, really enjoyed it. Not only is Chesterton dead-on in his theology, he strikes a wonderful balance between profound wisdom, straight talk, irreverence, and razor-sharp wit. The man is really, really funny. In fact, I've described his writing as "like C.S. Lewis, but funnier", which come to think of it is just about as highly as I could possibly imagine praising a book! No matter who you are or what you believe or don't believe about Christ, I advise you to read this book. Do it. I can't wait to read some more Chesterton in the near future - or actually I might just wait until 2012 and read this one again. Definitely worthy of "read every couple of years" status.

* Rediscovering God in America – Newt Gingrich
This is basically a guided tour in book form. (In fact, there is a walking tour, as well as a film, based on this same info.) Very short, but packed with fascinating historical information, I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in American history and/or government and/or religion and/or the ever-present debates about church and state, Christianity's role in the founding of the USA, etc. Gingrich, as he is adept at doing, seeks here to cut through the rhetoric and look directly at the evidence of the faith-based historical and governmental foundations of the United States. Rather than stand on a soapbox and preach, he mostly just points toward the various engravings and quotations and artwork at the monuments and government buildings in Washington D.C. and leaves the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. I really appreciated this approach, as well as the interesting facts confirming the obvious Christian, pseudo-Christian, and Deist roots of the Founding Fathers and the US government that they so engeniously (and many would argue providentially) created those many years ago.

* Working Together – Michael Eisner
In this book the long-time leader of Disney studies and comments on several wildly successful recent and current partnerships from many different fields and walks of life, including himself and Frank Wells, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, Bill and Melinda Gates, Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus, and Joe Torre and Don Zimmer. It's a very interesting read about some fascinating people, with some great insight into what makes some partnerships succeed and others fail. I like the following quote as a summary of what I consider one of the book's main teaching points: "Does the partnership cause the success, or does the success sustain the partnership? The answer is that both are true." In addition to imparting some great wisdom, this book also caused me to stop and thank God for all of the wonderful people with whom I've been blessed to work and minister and "do life" over the years, including my current teammates, whom I love dearly.

* The Christian Atheist – Craig Groeschel
Craig Groeschel is one of the most popular young preachers/teachers out there these days. He's a straight talker who writes in a very conversational style. In other words reading his books is a lot like listening to his sermons, and that's a good thing. This book takes a look at the nominal Christianity that pervades American society and basically calls people out for claiming to be Christians yet living like atheists. Groeschel would argue - and I would agree - and so would the biblical authors! - that the proof is in the pudding when it comes to faith. But he makes his argument with a heaping helping of grace and the heart of a pastor, which is the only way that such a book and such a message can ever have real value. The chapter titles really give us a clear picture of what this book is all about:
1. When You Believe in God but Don't Really Know Him
2. When You Believe in God but Are Ashamed of Your Past
3. When You Believe in God but Aren't Sure He Loves You
4. When You Believe in God but Not in Prayer
5. When You Believe in God but Don't Think He's Fair
6. When You Believe in God but Won't Forgive
7. When You Believe in God but Don't Think You Can Change
8. When You Believe in God but Still Worry All the Time
9. When You Believe in God but Pursue Happiness at Any Cost
10. When You Believe in God but Trust More in Money
11. When You Believe in God but Don't Share Your Faith
12. When You Believe in God but Not in His Church

Sounds like the outline for a great small group study to me! Check it out.

* Grace Notes – Philip Yancey
Last but definitely not least I want to mention this treasure of a book that is actually a 365-day collection of excerpts from Yancey's many writings over the years. This book is WONDERFUL. Recommended to me by multiple mentors/pastors/friends, this book has helped me to transform my daily devotional time into a much more solid and consistent experience. Yancey is brilliant and wise, but down-to-earth and without pretense. I've been reading this book daily since I picked it up in August, and plan on going through the whole year. It's the only devo book I've ever stuck with for more than a few weeks. It's what Erin and I chose to give our parents and siblings for Christmas this year. 'Nuff said.

In closing I want to again give a shout-out to WIRED Magazine. I love reading it and learn something useful every month.

And I have to mention the Kindle! I'm LOVING my Kindle, and we're about to get Erin one, too. It was a little tough to "go digital" with my books, and yes I agree with those who say that "It's just not the same as holding a book in your hands", BUT the pros just annihilated the cons for me. The three great advantages that caused me to make the switch are: 1. I can get books whenever I need them without having to wait until my next trip to the USA, or someone coming down to visit. 2. It eliminates boxes and boxes worth of STUFF. Anything that helps me to get rid of weighty boxes and simplify my life is always welcome. 3. When I travel - instead of taking a big stack of books I might need, the several books I'm currently reading, my Bible, my journal, and my calendar - now I only have to take my Kindle, journal, and calendar. It's awesome. Traveling lighter? Always a plus. Throw in the "Wye Huxford, the greatest lover of books I've ever met, made the switch" argument, plus saving some trees (at least I think so - I've not seen actual numbers comparing the environmental impact of paper books vs. ebooks), and saving some $$$ (the Kindle version is usually several dollars cheaper than the paper version, plus many classics are free or just a dollar) and it was really a no-brainer. Ebooks are the future, and I'm glad I made the switch. Plus I'm kind of a collector of knick-knacks from my travels, so it's not like we'll ever be lacking for colorful, interesting things with which to fill our shelves.

I'm currently in the middle of some really good books, but they will just have to wait until the 2011 list!

Happy Reading! Some fun quotes for the road:

“It could not be that people should grow in grace unless they give themselves to reading.” – John Wesley

"Why pay a dollar for a bookmark? Why not use the dollar for a bookmark?" - Fred Stoller

"Wear the old coat and buy the new book." - Austin Phelps

"I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book." - Groucho Marx

"Outside a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx

"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing." - Harper Lee

"You've really got to start hitting the books, because it's no joke out here." - Spike Lee

"To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting." - Edmund Burke

"Not all readers lead, but all leaders read." - Anonymous

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Elsa Update - 16 January 2011

Happy New Year! Below are several months' worth of photos to get the grandparents and other interested loved ones caught up on the life and times of Miss Elsa Lynne McDade.

Later this month she will turn one year, five months old. Fastest 17 months of my life! She is growing and changing so rapidly! I know you parents out there know what I'm talking about.

Elsa loves to talk, and while a large portion of what she says still comes out in a special language known only to her and the Holy Spirit, the proportion of actual English and Spanish words is rapidly rising. She speaks a lot more English than Spanish, since that's what we speak at home, but she definitely has certain words that she prefers to say in Spanish, for example "agua", "gracias", and "te quiero" (I love you).

As I type, she's running around the house screaming "LUUUUUUUUU-CHO!" (Lucho is our cat.) Other than "Jesus" and "Dada" and "Mama", for obvious reasons, my favorite words to hear her say are "purple" and "turtle". Sounds soooooo cute the ways she says those. I also love how she says "please", which goes something like this: "BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYZ!!!!!!" Always full throttle on the "please". Pretty funny.

Mixed in with the "Lucho" screams is the occasional "MAAAAAAAAAAAW!!!", which is Elsa's version of the cat sound. She also does dog ("woo-woo-woo"), monkey ("AH! AH! AH!"), cow ("mooo" or "woo" or "booo" or anything ending in "-ooo"), tiger ("Aaaaaaaaarrrrrr!"), sheep ("baaa"), bird ("teee! teee!"), and, my personal favorite, pig, where she puts her finger on her nose and goes "khhh, khhh, khhh!".

She says "men-a" instead of "amen" and nails some word perfectly while totally changing around others, but what should I expect? When I was little I'm told that I spoke early and mostly with freakish clarity, but I also pronounced "grandma" as "beebo" and "goldilocks" as "socksolly".

We traveled to the USA - in car!!! - for the month of December, and Elsa was a real trooper. She mostly slept or just sat quietly in her seat, and then when she started to get restless Erin would get back there with her and play games or watch movies. We're reeeeeeeeally thankful she's a good traveller. I think she's already been on eight airline flights, which for me probably happened in my mid-20s.

We LOVED watching Elsa spend time with her grandparents over the break. She has developed very sweet - and very unique - relationships with each of the six of them. It's also fun to watch THEM act silly and roll around on the floor and fall more deeply in love with their granddaughter.

It was also fun for Elsa to meet her two little cousins, Hamp and Levi. Since they were born almost exactly one year after her, we're planning to arrange a birthday bash every August. Who knows, maybe our next one will be born in August of 2011? That would be cool.*

Elsa continues to be largely fearless of physical harm, which of course is a blessing and a curse. She's always climbing on stuff ("Up! UP!!!"), not always remembering to hold on - thankfully, she has great balance and thick legs like both of her parents to hold her steady. She knocks her head on something about a dozen times a day, so she stays bruised and scratched up, but she doesn't slow down. Mostly, we like this quality. Fear is not welcome around here, so we'll just have to figure out how to instill a healthy sense of caution and she'll be good to go!

I'm trying to figure out if Elsa will end up being more introverted or extroverted. She definitely displays some tendencies from each side of that equation. She loves books and really concentrates on things, but never for too long, and she also loves people. Who knows? We shall see.

She loves to give kisses and has started giving some pretty wonderful hugs. Mama is still ranked #1, but Elsa loves her Dada a lot, too.

I know I'm probably forgetting some great stories and fun facts ... but oh well - on to the photos!

Hanging out with her good buddy Sawyer.

Eating with Mommy.

Back when she still needed help on the slide. Seems like so long ago!

Goofing off with Daddy.

Always wants to climb up the slides.

This is when I asked her to show me the letters needed to spell "duct tape". Just kidding.

Playing in the park.

We're really thankful for the great park in our neighborhood.



Checking out the goal. Will she be a soccer player? If so, will she play offense like Daddy or defense like Mommy?


My gals.

"Oh yeah, I got this."

Slightly more do-able, with a boost.


Loves the swing.

Pure joy.

On the neighbor's four-wheeler. She's great at hitting the gas. Turning, not so much.

Bath time hairstyles by Daddy.

A good look, no?

This is one of my favorite things she does; just walks up to a couch and leans back and lets out a big sigh. Then 2.7 seconds later she's going full speed again.

Looking both ways.

Asking for help down the curb.

Walking with Daddy.

I LOVE this.


"A BIRD!!!" She has always loved birds.

Checking out our massive back yard.


...with Lucho's help, of course.








Learning to use the spoon!

Always holds it upside down.

Upside down but got it to the mouth. Not bad!

So cool.

Instant classic photo, one of my faves.

Extreme close-up!

This is the kind of thing we see when we take our eyes off of her for 30 seconds and then turn back around.


GOT MILK? Another instant classic.

More climbing.

Full speed, all the time.

With Mommy at our Fall retreat.

With Mommy and Carter. Elsa loooooooves Carter.

McTrio at Malinche.

More bath time hairstyles by Daddy.

Family shot at Chignahuapan centro. A GREAT weekend trip with the in-laws and the Coopers.

At the waterfall called "La Olla" in Apulco.

This photo makes it look like she was way closer to the edge than she actually was!

Sweet kisses.

Hiking with Mama, 'Manda, and Sawyer.

Good times.

Seriously, she tries to climb EVERYTHING.

Headed out on a short hike to another waterfall.

Best buds.



Ready to get down and play with some rocks.

Family shot at "La Gloria" waterfall, also in Apulco.


Amazing. Maybe my favorite shot of her ever. At least top 50, hehe.


Isn't our Creator amazing?

Girls' club. Taking a rest (and snack) break on the streets of Cuetzalan.

Morning silly time.

The smile that melts me.

Moving in...

...and making a grab at the camera.


What a way to start the day!


Bath time with Nana. Prepare to be soaked.

The random, simple toys are the best. E.g. spatula.





Family shot in the front yard.

With Nana and Papa.

Gotta love the jean jacket.


"Who, me?"

Finger painting / snacking.

Homemade green slime by Mommy.

More spoon practice.



Check out those eyelashes.

Time to color, a.k.a. time to try to eat crayons.

Mama and Elsa having a ball.

Dada and Elsa, taking a load off.

Hanging with the other Elsa and helping Mama run the face-painting booth at Emerson's birthday party.

Watching and learning.

Making friends.


Hanging out at the Casa Verde.

With Lulis on the day of her baptism at the beach in Veracruz.

In the ocean for the first time, with Daddy and Sawyer.



LOVED the ocean. Kept trying to run deeper and deeper.

Have you ever seen anything or anyone cuter than this???

Great sand.

Not afraid to get her hands dirty.

She was upset when we had to leave.


Telling me all about it.


Halloween with Grandma while Mommy and Daddy were in Chile.

She's dressed as a piniata, in case you couldn't tell. Hand-made costume by Nana.

Kisses for 'Manda. We call this particular kiss "the face-eater".

New Chilean wool slippers. Didn't fit her for long!

Bath time with Grandma.

"Whatchutalkinbout, Willis?"

Playing chase - Mommy is "base".

Having fun.

Explaining to me why I should open the door. Clearly.

Green Monkey is a solid #2 (still well behind Sherbet the bear) in the stuffed animal rankings. What a great hug!

Traveling in style.

In the Mexico City airport, headed to the ATL for a week with the grandparents.

Explaining to Mommy the safety procedures...

...and how to use the headphones.

Monkeys and bananas.

Meeting her cousins Hamp and Levi for the first time!

Wanting so badly to wake them up with a friendly slap to the forehead.

With Grand 'Lene and Hamp (I think).

Fall family foto.


Learning the fine art of eating tater chips with Daddy.

Yum yum.

Thanksgiving with teammates and other friends.

The crew.

Always fun when these four are together.

Awesome huggy time with Emerson.

Gymnastics. This photo is from Dec. 6th - her feet touch the ground when she does this now, so it's not as fun.

Best way to watch TV, obviously.

Here we go on a 5,000-plus-mile trip to Atlanta and back for the holidays.

At the beach in south Florida.

With fake turtles at the West Palm zoo with her Aunt Andrea. There were real turtles, too.


I love this shot.

Hanging with Romeo the cat.

Loving the doggy couch. Thanks to Freddy for sharing it with her for a few days.

And check out that baby mullet!!! The only socially acceptable form of mullet, or so I'm told.

On a boat tour of the Intercoastal Waterway.

Seeing the sights.

Almost busted in a nose pick.

Breakin' the law, breakin' the law.

Two people with equal knowledge of the piano.

Putting on a silly show before bedtime.



Check out the look on her face here.

Being SILLY at Henry's restaurant (our favorite).

Not sure if this was peek-a-boo or blowing kisses.

Goofing of with Jabbo.

Did you know that shaking your head back and forth rapidly is HILARIOUS?


First night in the new house!

Perfect fit.

New wheels, serious look.

New wheels, smile.




"Wait... are all of a sudden telling me that it's OKAY to rip things?"

"Don't confuse me!"

New shades.

Yay for Christmas time.

The loot.

Nana likes her present!

"HOT!" Pronounced more like "HATHHH!"


Ready to roll ... even though she can't reach the pedals yet.

Mommy's improvised snow shoes on the first white Christmas since 1882 (at least in terms of measurable accumulation in the city of Atlanta).

The Oakley crew on Christmas night.

"Again we have to do this?"

In their Mexican hats.

Christmas lights.

I can play Mary Had A Little Lamb but that's all.

FINALLY somebody who actually knows how to work this thing.

Spinning 'round...

...and 'round...

...and crashing...

...and spinning some more.

Cracking herself - and the rest of us - up in the process.

The just woke up face. And hair.

Assuming the position on a very long road trip.

Reunited after a month away.

At the Motel 6 in Laredo.

Usually we have to tiptoe around her in the morning, but this time she was...

...OUT. We had to wake her up.

Extreme close up.


Quite a pair.

Amazing bed head.

Morning priorities. 1A = "BOT-tuuuuuul!" 1B = "MAMA!" Daddy is chopped liver for at least a half hour, sometimes all day.

Up and down the slide all by herself now.

Big girl swing!

She has to concentrate but she loves it.


So in love.

Fun on the see-saw.

With her buddy Nat from across the street...

...and Nat's Chihuahua, Rocky.

The more Elsa...

...the better, that's what I say!

* In case you haven't already heard, Erin is pregnant again! McBaby #2 due August 8th, 2011! We covet your prayers as we enter this new stage. Parents of TWO! Wow. Here's the ultrasound photo from January 12th:

We hope everyone out there is doing well - let us know what's new! So sorry we didn't get to see many of you while we were in the USA; hopefully we can catch up soon! Please pray for our ministry! Come see us! We are so thankful for our many loved ones and wish you all a wonderful 2011!

Hasta pronto,