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4.17.2009

The Good, The Bad, The Objective

Michelle's Review of "How Can I Run a Tight Ship When I'm Surrounded by Loose Cannons?" by Kathi Macias

In this book, Kathi Macias has captured the insecurity of so many women and fleshed it out in words. It’s that secret desire to discover a magic formula for perfection that hides our not-so-secret flaws. Kathi reveals what women need to know regarding the comparison game. The perfect women doesn’t exist, and those seem mature and polished aren’t as put together as others would believe! It’s a breath of fresh air to have someone give the reader permission to be who she is.


Kathi is funny and she has a gift with words. I laughed aloud when I read, “sawing logs like a beaver on steroids.” But there were a few places where the humor seemed forced. There is so much really great humor in this book to go around that the not-so-funny and cliché humor could be left out and the reader wouldn’t really miss it. I also felt that the jokes about weight or size might be offensive to some readers. Labeling Bernadine as “Big Bertha” and “clueless about her size” as well as showing shock that she would order a “diet” soda, seems harsh. In another place, the author rooms with a stranger named Marcy at a conference, she describes her as her “chubby” saying that she “outweighed me by fifty pounds, so the chances that I’d get an entire ‘side’ of the bed were definitely not good.” Again, easily misconstrued by the reader struggling with self-image.


The author has included a “making it personal” section at the end of each chapter and this is very helpful for reflecting on the content and applying it to life. Each chapter also ends with a scripture quote that underscores the concept.


I felt like there were three themes going throughout the book: 1. Living up to the Proverbs 31 image. 2. The process of maturing: crawl, walk, run, fly, lean. 3. Loose cannons. I think I lost the cohesive thread somewhere in the middle but then it came back together at the end. It was almost as if the writer couldn’t decide on the main theme or the title so she worked out a way to squeeze all of the ideas in.


This would be a great book for a group of Christian women to go through for a reading club. I would not recommend the book for someone who is not a Christian mostly because someone unfamiliar with the Bible would not understand the significance of the Proverbs 31 woman. Although the introduction helps explain a little and the passage printed from Proverbs 31 at the beginning of the book would help, the book sets a tone for a Christian audience.


Despite the critical side of my review, I think this is a book that many will enjoy and take to heart. It’s a message women can’t hear often enough.

4.15.2009

Featured Author- Kathi Macias


Author of the Week:

Kathi Macias

This week, I'm featuring author Kathi Macias. For Kathi's blog tour, her publicist from KCW Communications has offered some information about the book, about the author, and a fun interview with Kathi.

About the Book:

(Homeland, CA) - For all the Christian women in the world who dread reading Proverbs 31 and wonder who on earth could ever live up to that woman - this book is for you. Between dirty diapers, complaining children, housework, husbands and a multitude of other attention-grabbing detours women face, award-winning author and speaker, Kathi Macias finds a way to encourage and biblically instruct women of all ages and phases. Women everywhere are the glue that holds their families together. Keeping everything under control challenges even the most organized household CEO. Kathi uses humor, God's Word, as well as practical insight and instruction to lovingly encourage women to grow in this progression of grace.

Readers will find How Can I Run a Tight Ship When I'm Surrounded by Loose Cannons?: Proverbs 31 Discoveries for Yielding to the Master of the Seas, filled with scriptural explanations and journaling pages to process and write their personal feelings and prayers. With sections of the book focused on each step of the learning process to guide our ships to safe harbor, readers will be happily surprised to find the funny without the fluff. Kathi's words are the "spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down." Her vulnerable approach facilitates the teachings of Proverbs 31, making it easier for women to swallow. The truth of the scriptures is very much alive and well throughout the pages, yet the ease and charm of the author's words entice readers to press forward and embrace the plan for God's woman today.


About Kathi:

Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored 26 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. Kathi is a popular speaker at churches, women's clubs and retreats, and writers' conferences. She recently won the prestigious 2008 member of the year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) at the annual Golden Scrolls award banquet. Kathi "Easy Writer" Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al, where the two of them spend free time riding their Harley.


An interview with Kathi from her publicist:


I understand you sometimes refer to this book as "discipleship with a grin." What do you mean by that, and why did you choose a humor format for a discipleship book?

Actually, I chose a discipleship theme for a humor title. As much as I hate to admit it, the title came to me one day and I knew I had to do something with it--just too good to pass up! So the more I thought/prayed about it, the more I realized it described my life, both naturally and spiritually. I began to try to lay out my spiritual growth via humorous life stories, and found they produced a natural pattern. From there I developed the five stages of spiritual growth into five sections for the book, and I was off and running! Besides, I learned from a friend/mentor years ago that you can "shove a lot of truth down people's throat when their mouth is open laughing," so I figured, why not???

What are some of the funniest "loose cannons" stories included in your book?

One of my favorites is the story of my very first women's retreat as a brand new Christian back in the "Jesus freak" days of baptisms at the beach and praise-ins at the park. I shared a room with three ladies I had never met, one of whom ended up being my "bunk mate." She snored, she was quite a bit overweight (taking up much more than her side of the bed!), and she "leaked" because she was still weaning her youngest child. You'll have to read the story to see how that experience taught me a lot about "spiritual face plants."

Another favorite story is about the time I took my three sons (two pre-teens and one elementary school age at the time) to the community swimming pool. The older boys decided to use their younger brother as a human beach ball, and when they ignored my cries from the side of the pool to stop, I actually had the nerve to jump into the water and swim right up to them and order them to stop. Their level of humiliation at being seen in the pool with their mother was as close to social suicide as it gets. But we all survived and learned a lot in the process.

Your book is divided into five sections. Can you briefly explain what they are and what they have to do with discipleship and humor?

As I mentioned earlier, the five sections correspond with what I consider the five stages of spiritual growth: crawling (infants or "rugrats") on our knees; walking (toddlers who are still a bit shaky but exploring and learning); running (stronger, more mature believers who are beginning to make a difference in their world); flying or soaring (eagles with a solid foundation and maturity to share with others); resting (back on our knees and realizing that place of utter dependence on Him is really the best place to be after all). The discipleship correlation is, I believe, evident in these stages; the humor comes in simply because I'm one of those slow learners who needs God to "hit me upside the head" at times, and I haven't been bashful about explaining those times in the book.

What advice can you give to the young mom out there who is juggling two kids, a fulltime job outside the home, a husband, housework, pets and church?

Life happens in seasons! You CAN'T be all things to all people at all times. It simply doesn't work. And if you don't believe it, read about my many crash-and-burn episodes as I tried! The Proverbs 31 woman is a composite picture of many women from different walks and stages of life; when we get a grip on that, it releases us to enjoy the season we're in right now, even as we prepare for the next one.

How did raising your own children help prepare you for the parenting side of the proverbial woman? Any tips you'd like to share?

Relax and enjoy them! Yes, even the rugrats and teenagers, because "this too shall pass." There were times I thought I'd go bald from pulling out my own hair over the frustrations and failures of that season of my life, but now it's my grandchildren who are passing through those rugrat-to-teen stages, and hey, I still have my hair! You'll make it--and so will your kids--in spite of your frustrations and failures. And yes, I know there are too many of those to mention (or admit to). I'm the queen of mom-failures, and yet my kids never cease to bless me with words of love and praise. Do I deserve it? Probably not. But I love every minute of it!

Do you have a favorite part of the book or a favorite chapter?

Several, in fact, but one in particular: Chapter 26, "Back Home Again," contains the story of my precious father, a man who lived for 88 years denying God's existence and then finally turning to him in his last week of life. It's one of the more serious stories in the book, but even that one ends on a humorous note.

If the Proverbs 31 woman is alive today, what does she look like?

She looks like me--and you--and every woman whose heart longs to please God and to raise her children according to the Scriptures, even though she knows she's doing well just to make sure they all have their sack lunches before they leave for school in the morning. She's thin, overweight, short, tall, black, white, brown, red, yellow, and polka dot when she catches her kids' chicken pox. And she's absolutely beautiful!!!

Are there some specific lessons you hope readers will learn and apply to their lives after reading your book?

I want them to learn to relax and laugh and enjoy this voyage called "life," and to trust the Captain of our souls to take us home safely when our trip is over, rather than struggling to "man the oars" ourselves.

What makes your book different than other books similar to yours that are in circulation today?

There are countless books written for "control freak" women who want to do it all and be it all--perfectly and completely at all times. This one, however, is not only written with a humorous tone, but it also takes the reader through what I call the five steps of spiritual growth: crawling, walking, running, flying--and back on our knees, totally dependent once again. I do this by exposing many of the sometimes humorous--and sometimes not so humorous--events in my own life as I progressed through the five stages.

Are there any authors that either influenced you personally or influenced your style of writing? Who are they and how did they influence you?

Brennan Manning, Henri J. M. Nouwen, and Max Lucado have to be right at the top of my favorite nonfiction authors list, simply because they call me back to the heart of worship, to a fresh appreciation of grace and a clarion call to rely totally upon God and not myself. I need those reminders on a regular basis. In addition, I love their writing styles. Their words "sing," and it is my goal to do the same with the words I write.

When you are not writing, what do you like to do? Do you have any hobbies?

Okay, now I have to 'fess up to how nearly one-dimensional I am. If I'm not writing, I'm...well, reading someone else's writing. That's at the top of my "what I like to do" list. However, I also spend time riding on the back of my husband's 2003 Harley Davidson Road King motorcycle. He's been riding HD's since 1970 and says he will never outgrow that youthful passion. On the road we are known as "Big Al" and "Easy Writer..."



4.13.2009

FREE Book Give-Away Drawing

From time to time, I offer free books. This time, I'm giving away a copy of "The Deuteronomy Project" by Richard R. Couser. I mentioned this book on the blog a little while back.
This book offers the most unique method for studying a book of the Bible that I have ever seen. Couser has taken the entire book of Deuteronomy and explained it by using dialogue between two main characters and several other characters within the book. Much of it is a conversation between Hal, a retired pastor, and Chris, a lawyer who persuades Hal to be his mentor.

Narrated by Chris, the book isn't a dry commentary on a book of the Bible, even though the entire book of Deuteronomy is quoted in the text. Instead, it's a creative way of teaching the reader about scripture without lecturing. There is enough dialogue and description to make the book read like a work of fiction and all of the interaction between the characters is fiction. However, there is no doubt that what Hal teaches to Chris is pure truth. Hal gives Chris reading assignments and then they discuss those passages in their next encounter. The reader participates as an observer of every discussion and every scripture that Chris reads with Hal. It's easy to imagine how beneficial it would be if we each had our own Hal, a mature Christian to explain difficult passages of scripture! For the reader who doesn't have a spiritual mentor, Hal will become one through Couser's work. The reader will walk away understanding use of repetition in scripture, carefully constructed patterns in the text, and the cultural backgrounds that flow throughout the passages.

The reader who is looking for a deeper understanding of Deuteronomy minus the sermon or dry theological commentary will love this book. It's long, and it's an in-depth analysis, so it isn't for the reader who has just ten minutes to read before bed each night. It's a work to be tackled by the brave reader who is up for a good thought-provoking read. The author obviously studied and knew scripture well. This review is a tribute to Couser's life, a life cut short by cancer, but a life that continues to bless many others through words that live on.

To enter the drawing, send an e-mail to michelle@michellerayburn.com along with your name and mailing address. Winner will be drawn on April 22, 2009. (Names and addresses will not be used for purposes other than this drawing and will not be distributed in any way).

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