Books

What Question Have You Asked Lately? by Stephanie Gray

     Recently a friend gifted me a new book, and as I’ve poured over its pages I’ve found myself experiencing the fruits of a book well-written:

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  • I feel inspired and energized.
  • I share details of what I’ve read with others.
  • I act on what I read by contemplating its content, applying it to my life, and looking further into details it references.

     The book?  It’s written by Warren Berger and is called, “A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas.”

     One of its questions, which struck me as I read more yesterday, is particularly helpful when a person is at a crossroads, deciding one thing over another: “When I look back in five years, which of these options will make the better story?”

     How great is that?

     As I sat contemplating the various ideas swirling in my mind, one thought led to another, which led to another, and prompted me to text this to my sister: 

     “Reading a great book on the power of questions.  My wandering mind led me to the revelation that Monica [my sister’s eldest] will be going to university in 8 years.  Francis [my sister’s second oldest] is 8 years old and look how quickly that has passed.  Only 8 more years with Monica under your care.  What do you want those 8 years to look like?  No need to answer me.  I’m just sharing the concept of the book.”

     Or consider this question documentary filmmaker Roko Belic once asked,

     “Why is it that people who have so little and have suffered so much seem to be happier than other people who are more fortunate?”

     He sought the answer to that question and shared it with others in his inspiring documentary, “Happy.”  I never heard of the film until it was mentioned on page 191 of Berger’s book.  But I was so intrigued by the reference that I went home and asked my roommate a question: “Want to watch the documentary ‘Happy’ tonight?”  She said yes and we both were hugely inspired. 

     “Happy” was the second movie we watched as a result of this book.  The first film we watched a couple weeks prior.  It was a small reference on page 35.  The question this time was, “What if a car windshield could blink?”  Berger answered that question by telling about Bob Kearns, the inventor of intermittent windshield wipers.  His story was featured in a 2008 film called “Flash of Genius,” about how the Big Three car companies infringed on Kearns’ patent.  Watching that film caused my roommate and me to ask, “Did the real story really happen that way?  What happened to his family?  Does there come a point where prudence should compel us to stop fighting injustice?”  These questions, provoked as a result of the film (and the subsequent Google search we did at the end to learn more), led to a very thoughtful conversation about life.

     Berger’s book is great because not only does it ask the reader questions, it inspires the reader to ask their own questions.  These questions will lead us on a journey to answers that will enrich our life—if we are willing to step into the adventure of the unknown.  So what question will you ask yourself today?

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Book Recommendations, by Stephanie Gray

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I love books.  And I have my Dad in particular to thank for instilling in me an appreciation for literature (and for helping grow my library of hundreds of books).  Since I’m sometimes asked for book recommendations, I decided to share a list of 10 in particular that stand out to me (although many, many more do):

     Created for Greatness: The Power of Magnanimity, by Alexandre Havard.  I heard about this book from a speaker, Mike Phelan, who presented before me at an event in Phoenix.  His endorsement of it was glowing, so I ordered it upon returning home.  Once I started it, I could hardly put it down.  It so energized and inspired me that I organized a book study of it which I held at my home one month later for several friends who became similarly inspired.

     Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown.  I am forever indebted to my friend Mark Harrington who sent me this book.  While it sat on my bookshelf for a year before I read it, it became the reason for me implementing multiple changes to my life.  I have since gifted it at least 8 times and have recommended it to many others.  I am on my third re-read of it.

     Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25 Year Journey from Prison to Peace, by Michael Morton.  This book left me speechless.  It’s the true story of a man unjustly imprisoned for murdering his wife—a crime he did not commit.  After more than two decades behind bars, his faith and forgiveness blew me away.

      The Holy Bible.  It’s our Creator’s word, so we should read it.  The Psalms in particular have put words to the prayers of my heart on many occasions.  And if you’re ever in a hotel room and wanting a Bible to read, just open the drawers as the Gideons have kindly provided copies in hotels around North America (and possibly the world?).

     Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza.  This woman’s account of the trauma of the Rwandan genocide, how she was hunted down, and how she survived is nothing short of incredible.

     Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl.  I read this book in 2006 in preparation for my trip to Poland where I visited Auschwitz.  For the past 11 years I have continually referenced the profound insights in this book for audiences around the world. 

     The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose, by Matthew Kelly.  This book was the impetus for me going to Romania to care for children, as well as the inspiration for me to create my famous “quote basket” that guests to my home are very familiar with (when you leave you place your hand in a basket of inspirational quotes I've collected and randomly pull one out to take with you).

     Searching for and Maintaining Peace, by Jacques Philippe.  Short and succinct, yet profoundly deep and powerful.  It’s the type of book you can read as a meditation.

     The Secret Daughter, by Shilpi Gowda.  This novel was a vacation read several years ago.  It’s about a girl adopted from India and raised in America, and it interweaves the story of her, her biological family, and her adopted family.  It moved me to tears.

    Tuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Albom.  This book came to me in a surprising way.  I had had an extensive debate with a hostile pro-abortion student on a university campus.  He eventually calmed down and became more pensive.  This encounter ultimately led to meeting him for coffee later that week to further discuss the subject, and we pledged to recommend a book to each other.  His recommendation to me was this book, and upon devouring it I was surprised—because if you ask me, it’s profoundly pro-life in how the main character, Morrie, lives with ALS.

The Porn Myth in Under 6 Hours

This past weekend I spoke at a conference in El Paso alongside my friend Matt Fradd.  I was delighted when he gave me a copy of his new book, The Porn MythThe next day, between time in the United lounge, time at an altitude of 39,000 feet in the sky, and time back home, I finished reading his book—in under 6 hours.  And I can’t say it enough: Please buy this book.  Do not delay.  You can order it here.  Then, please share it.  If there is only one book you will read that makes the secular case against pornography, make it this one.  Why?  I think the best way to answer that is to share with you my list of the “Top 12 Best Quotes from Matt’s Book”:

 

1. “This book rests on one fundamental presupposition: if you want something to flourish, you need to use it in accordance with its nature.  Don’t plant tomatoes in a dark closet and water them with soda and expect to have vibrant tomato plants.  To do so would be to act contrary to the nature of tomatoes.  Similarly, don’t rip sex out of its obvious relational context, turn it into a commodity, and then expect individuals, families, and society to flourish.”

 

2. “Which activity sounds more ‘mature’ and grown-up: making love for a lifetime to one real flesh-and-blood woman whom you are eagerly serving and cherishing, despite all her faults and blemishes (and despite your own), or sneaking away at night to troll the Internet, flipping from image to image, from one thirty-second teaser to another, for hours on end, pleasuring yourself as you bond to pixels on a screen?”

 

3. “In a letter to a friend, Oxford scholar C.S. Lewis offered some insights about masturbation.  He said that a man’s sexual appetite is meant to lead him out of himself, to lead him into being a self-gift that both completes and corrects his personality—first by sharing whole-life oneness with a lover and second by procreating children.  With masturbation, however, the appetite is turned in on itself and ‘sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides’.”

 

4. “Whatever we might say about the exact relationship of porn to sexual violence, it should be clear that in order for men to violate a woman’s body, some part of them must first believe she is an object to be used rather than a person to be respected—and porn is quite possibly the most powerful means of delivering that belief.”

 

5. “Sex and porn addictions are realities, and just as with alcoholism or drug addiction, the label ‘addict’ does not excuse a person for his actions.  Addiction is slavery, to be sure, but it is a chosen slavery.  Addicts find freedom not by denying the power that porn has over them, not by denying that their addiction is real, but by admitting it to others and asking for help.

 

6. With the increasing availability of pornography has come an increase in the number of cases of sexual performance issues, such as erectile dysfunction (ED), among young men…A 2012 Swiss study found that 30 percent of males ages eighteen to twenty-four have some form of ED, and a Canadian study published a couple of years later reported that 27 percent of sixteen- to twenty-one-year-olds have this problem.”

 

7.Married life no more cures a porn addiction than winning the lottery cures a gambling addiction.  A person so trained on the pornographic experience isn’t merely after a good orgasm.  He is hooked on the anticipation of what comes next, the rush of moving from one object of desire to the next, one body to the next, always looking to trade the one in front of his eyes for what he hopes will be the ultimate sexual experience.…In gambling, the addiction is not to the money but to the high that results from chasing the money.  Giving a gambling addict money only fuels the habit, because he is addicted to the feeling that gambling gives him…Porn addicts are hooked on the high they get from chasing after sexual fantasies.  The unrealistic expectations that are fed by porn are what carry over into and destroy relationships, because no person can live up to the on-demand, anything-goes sex depicted in movies.  When faced with the inevitable difficulties of establishing and maintaining a human relationship, it is much easier for a porn addict to opt for the instant relief of virtual sex.  Marriage will not fix a pornography habit, but a pornography habit will likely destroy a marriage.”

 

8. “Izabella St. James, one of [Hugh Hefner’s] former girlfriends, lived with him in the [Playboy] mansion for two years and shares in explicit detail the day-in, day-out happenings of Hef’s lifestyle in her book, Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors of the Playboy Mansion.  Her description of Hef’s orgies is telling.  The icon of sexual liberation needed Viagra, multiple women, and finally pornography in order to experience a sexual climax.  If a harem of real-life porn stars isn’t enough to satisfy a porn-imbued libido, what makes us think an average woman can compete?

 

9. “But what if the mechanics of arousal and pleasure are not the essence of better sex?  What if the Big O of sex is not orgasm, but oneness?  What if the best sex is about bonding and connecting to another person?”

 

10.To help our children to grow up in a pornified world, we must take the double-pronged strategy of both protecting their minds and preparing their character…A child who never suffers the consequences of his bad choices will soon learn that he can get away with anything.  A child who never learns to respect authority will soon come to believe that all rules and guidelines are nothing but arbitrary standards that can be discarded for any momentary pleasure.  Such a child is ripe for porn when he stumbles upon it.  This is why children should grow up in homes where there are clear rules and expectations.”

 

11. “One of the reasons many people find it difficult to break free from porn and remain free is that they confuse sexual desire with a craving for pornography.  Whatever protocols you put in place to distance yourself from pornography, remember: the goal is not the long-term squelching of sexual desire.  The goal is the healing of your sexual cravings so that you can pursue them in a manner that pushes you toward a healthy and satisfying marital relationship.”

 

12. “French novelist Virginie Despentes has reportedly said that consuming pornography does not lead to more sex; it leads to more porn…Porn promises freedom, but it enslaves us.  It promises excitement, but it ends up boring us.  It promises us ‘adult’ entertainment, yet it makes us increasingly juvenile.  It promises intimacy, but leads to isolation.  The good news is that freedom is possible and something so much better awaits us on the other side.”

Once again, you can order the book here.