Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Alternative media. This summer’s crop of Hollywood extravaganzas just not doing it for you? Summer’s so-called “reality shows” not ringing all that real?  Had your fill of YouTube videos?  I’m personally pleased to find that books are still around for those of us seeking pleasant diversions and/or a usable insight or two.  Here are a few I’ve read and highly recommend that you consider sinking your mind into:

1. The Three Keys That Open The Door To Great Success: 20 Principles of Success That You Can Use Right Away by Harold Finch
An accomplished scientist, entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Harold Finch shares his Christian-based secrets of success in a short book that’s an easy read. But don’t be fooled by the brevity. There’s loads of wisdom packed inside its 58 pages. I read it, endeavored to follow its actionable advice.  Though my discipline has hardly been perfect, I do believe my imperfect efforts are bearing fruit.  I can honestly tell you that this summer has yielded from very positive development that I thank God for. With His help, I hope to be able to elaborate shortly.

I first met Dr. Finch, BTW, on the El Paso set of Unlimited, the faith-based suspense film he’s executive producing which is due out next year.  I must say. I’ve found the man to be totally sincere and the real deal. Plus, he’s got great advice. FYI, I understand a longer version of his book is in the works.

2. Magnetic Christianity: Using Your God-Given Gifts to Build the Kingdom by Gus Lloyd
Also on the “usable insight” front is this one from the host of Seize the Day on SiriusXM’s Catholic Channel. Morning guy Gus Lloyd’s guide to accentuating the positive lists 11 God-given attributes that we’d all be wise to develop to the best of our ability. I don’t think a spoiler alert is necessary to report them as consisting of Positivity, Enthusiasm, Friendliness, Confidence, Humility, Honesty, Kindness, Compassion, Approachability, Generosity and Encouragement.

Gus says most of us are strong in some of them but weak in others. I, of course, am extremely strong in all of them — especially that humility thing. 😉

Seriously though, Gus’ gift — as he demonstrates on his daily program — is his ability to confidently elaborate on such topics in a positively approachable, enthusiastic and encouraging way. What’s that? Like five magnetic attributes right there!

As anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows, I’m big on each of us doing what we can to create a kinder culture. Gus (while talking about the value of Enthusiasm) addresses that subject directly in one of my favorite excerpts from his book: “The culture, he writes, “tells us it is okay to tears others down…Many people are under the  mistaken notion that by tearing others down,  they somehow build themselves up. By gossiping, bullying and making fund of others, we not only degrade others, we degrade ourselves. This kind of attitude is the antithesis of encouragement. Encouragement is about lifting others up.”

Good insight. Good book.

FYI, I’ll be posting an interview with Gus sometime next week. It was the first time we talked since I left SiriusXM in 2008. I actually used to produce his radio show which is now in the capable of hands of my friend Adam Hamway.

3. Sinner: The Catholic Guy’s Funny, Feeble Attempts to be Faithful Catholic by Lino Rulli
Straying a little off the direct advice path a bit is Lino Rulli’s humorous autobiographical ode to path straying.  Lino, like Gus, is the host of a popular show SiriusXM’s Catholic Channel and here he recounts his circuitous road to success –a road that included a stint as an assistant to his organ grinder dad and residing at a monastery located in, of all places, the Bahamas.  A truly funny book which actually does contain some usable insight.

4. The Summer of Hammers & Angels by Shannon Wiersbitzky
Moving into the fiction real, this first novel by Shannon Wierbitzky is a heartfelt story of a small-town girl desperately trying to keep herself together while, at the same time, keeping her house from being condemned after a serious storm sends her mother to the hospital in a coma.  The resulting events speak to the importance of friendships, community and faith.

Sentimental? Yeah — but not falsely so. The characters of the fictional Tucker’s Ferry, West Virginia ring true to me. And the story is told with a deft combination of wit and heart.

FYI, I’ll also be posting an interview with Shannon Wiersbitzky sometime during the week ahead.

5. October Baby: A Novel by Eric Wilson and Theresa Preston
The novelization of the surprise-hit movie about a young abortion survivor (played by Rachel Hendrix) isn’t due out until September 1 (just ten days ahead of its anticipated DVD/Blu-Ray release). I haven’t actually read the book but I did see the film — which was very good in focusing attention on an aspect of the abortion issue that rarely gets any attention at all.  An emotional — yet, in places, surprisingly humorous — story, the movie may just be the most intelligent dramatic treatment of the abortion debate I’ve yet seen. The book promises to provide more background and insight into the compelling and, essentially, very human and likable main characters.

Note: I’ll be posting an interview with co-director Andrew Erwin in advance of the film’s DVD/Blu-ray release on Sept. 11.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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