Stay-at-Home Book Club: Upstream

*I changed it to “Stay-at-Home” since it has a bit more neutral connotation than “Stuck-at-Home.” 🙂

Today I’d like to recommend a work of narrative nonfiction. Narrative nonfiction is sometimes called “fact-based storytelling,” “long-form journalism,” or “creative journalism” and it is one of my favorite genres. Malcolm Gladwell’s work would fall into this category, as does the work of the Heath brothers, who have brought us books like Made to Stick, Switch, Decisive, and The Power of Moments

If you’re looking for recommendations for SIP reading, I recommend all of their books!

upstream

Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen is the newest book by Dan Heath. He wrote this one solo, as Chip is focusing on working with people on “Power of Moments” trainings.

The book follows their effective formula – if it ain’t broke and all… Heath’s thesis is that for effective problem solving, we need to go “upstream” to the root cause, rather than waiting to “put out fires,” just to mix some metaphors. He features examples from a wide range of domains, such as education, healthcare, the criminal justice system, business, inter-personal relationships. And so the applications for the upstream method of problem-solving are wide as well.

I found the book to be relatable, even painfully so. It’s a great book to spark thoughts about relationships, health, work, ministry, raising children, changing some habits, and more.

Since I’m a teacher by trade and I work with youth, I was intrigued by the account of the Chicago Public School system, as well as the drastic decrease in teenaged drug and alcohol use in Iceland. But there were so many other cool stories that I am continuing to think about.

As is the case, now that I’m aware of upstreaming, I’m seeing it everywhere (see: Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or frequency illusion – like when you learn a new word and then “all of a sudden” see it everywhere). For example, in the memorable section on ripple effects and unintended consequences, I thought of how Covid-19 is effecting California’s ability to prepare for our upcoming wildfire season.  Some states have made the decision not to conduct controlled burns, as the smoke may exacerbate respiratory issues. But we’ve also had a super dry winter season, so our attempt to help in one way is rippling out to another issue. And with the need to social distance, fighting wildfires is going to be another challenge. I’m not criticizing the decision regarding controlled burns, but trying to appreciate how living out the upstreaming way of problem-solving is challenging but also necessary. (It also ties in nicely with the “putting out fires” metaphor…sorry, had to go there!)

The audiobook is great for this book as well, so I hope you’ll find a way to read it. Imagine a world in which we all upstreamed!

Have you read Upstream yet? Any other books you’ve been reading that you recommend?

Recommended Read: I Can Only Imagine

If you’re like most of us at Gracepoint Berkeley church, you saw the movie I Can Only Imagine this past spring, and either cried a lot or cried a lot “inside.” I think I sat next to the person who wins the “Most Tears Shed” prize — you know who you are! 🙂

i can only imagineBUT did you know there’s a book? It came out a month before the movie, and I confess at first I was like…nah, even though I’m a sucker for memoirs. But I both read the book and listened to the audiobook (read by the author himself, which I always love) and recommend it for youth and adults alike! It is a quick read, written in a down-to-earth voice, but like the movie, it is a tear-jerker.

It is Millard’s fuller memoir and includes a lot more than what the movie could portray in 2 hours. It includes significant relationships in his life — for example, with his older brother (were you one of the people confused by the other guy in the family picture at the end of the movie?), as well as Kent, the friend from Glorietta Camp, who played a much more prominent role in his life than the movie was able to show.

And as can be expected, it goes into more depth of each person’s back story. Most notably, you get a fuller picture of Millard’s dad and how and why it is that he became the way he had been towards Bart and his brother. This book is excellent for developing empathy as you get a glimpse into each person’s story.

The movie played with the timeline of events, perhaps to create a more cohesive storyline, but Millard’s father fell ill while he was still in high school, so it was actually in his senior year that he was his father’s primary caretaker, and that they reconciled their relationship only to lose him so soon after.

I was reminded of this coming off of the Youth Ministry Training Retreat, where one of the big lessons we came away with was the power of listening and just being there and being with our youth, each of whom has a story, a world of struggles and realities beneath the surface. And actually, Millard’s youth group was instrumental in providing safety, stability, acceptance, and love amidst his tumultuous life. His youth group became a stable family for him, when he felt so unwanted, unloved, and unworthy. And they were there with him as he dealt with the loss of his father.

After reading the book, I felt like Millard was my friend. He was so vulnerable and real in sharing his struggles with self-worth and how he continues to build up his self-worth as a redeemed child of God. As I found out about his life story, I understood why MercyMe’s songs are often about these themes, and I could appreciate how his songs are born from the lessons and seasons of his own faith journey.

Anyway, wanted to add yet another book to your “to be read” list. This is a perfect one for bedtime reading, but be warned, you might stay up all night in order to finish!

 

 

 

 

Recommended Read: A Practical Guide to Culture

This past weekend, some of us across our Gracepoint Ministries gathered at Gracepoint Berkeley church for a Youth Ministry Training Retreat. It was a powerful time of raising our awareness of the world we and our youth are living in, as well as recognizing the role of the local church and youth ministry in bringing the love of Jesus Christ to the next generation.

practical guide to cultureOne book I want to recommend, not just for people involved in youth ministry, but any Christian living in the 21st century is called A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet (of Breakpoint) and Brett Kunkle (of Maven). It is, like the title states, a practical guide to culture. 🙂

I read a lot of books on Christian Worldview and Gen Z, but what I appreciate about this book is that it is even-handed in its treatment of culture. The authors aren’t overly alarmist nor naively “let’s just go with the flow” either. Before getting into the hot topics we might anticipate in a book about today’s culture, they provide an entire framework for understanding what culture is and how it is we got to where are currently.  And one of their main points is that living in a post-Christian world, we need to go back to the Bible, the inspired word of God, as our authority on all the big questions of who we are, what our purpose is, and more. The authors point us to the Bible to reclaim the narrative, to the real story told in four chapters: Creation, The Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. And they get practical, focusing on 8 “cultural waves” of today — Pornography, The Hookup Culture, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Affluence and Consumerism, Addiction, Entertainment, and Racial Tension — all in the context of God’s grand story. So while much of what we learn about our world leaves us heavy-hearted and burdened, they keep coming back to “hopecasting” that is possible only because of the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I look forward to discussing some of the issues with many of you, whether you’re a parent, a youth or children’s worker, or just someone who wants to think Christianly about our culture. You can find physical copies of the book at the GP Berkeley bookstore now!