Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, M.D.

The lecturer in my Post-Graduate Certificate in Specific Learning Differences course recommended this book to us in one of the lectures. It seemed really interesting so I promptly snapped a picture of it with my iPhone and posted it up on Facebook, asking if any of my friends had it. Turns out one of my colleague did.

She kindly loaned it to me and I finished the book within 3 weeks as I have been tremendously busy.

It's a most fascinating read. From Chapter 1, the author explains how the brain is plastic and is able to adapt and change to accommodate various situations and circumstances. In Chapter 2, a lady who is born "retarded" but gifted with a photographic memory managed to make it to university and then after she developed cognitive exercises to improve her abstract thinking skills, the other parts of her brain demonstrated significant improvement as well. Now at 50, she is the successful founder of the Arrowsmith School in Toronto and is a person who is "sharp and funny" according to the author.


In Chapter 4, the author delves into "what neuroplasticity teaches us about sexual attraction and love" which is very interesting. This is followed by an incredible Chapter 5 that shows us how "stroke victims lean to move and speak again". Have you ever heard of anything like this?

Absolutely mind-blowing.

The rest of the book expounds on the concept of neuroplasticity and emphasizes the fact that "neurons that fire together wire together", meaning that the more one does something, the more ingrained the habit will become. On a side note, the Bible has taught this concept a long time back, telling us that we need to transform ourselves by the renewing of our minds.

I would recommend this book to EVERYONE, yes you, because when you are able to understand and tap on the concept of neuroplasticity, the potential is boundless! After reading this book, I decided that if I had a choice, I would do a PhD in neuroscience. But first, I'll do my Masters in NUS, that is, if I can get in, but this is a story for another day.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Called Out by Janet Boynes

I was pleasantly surprised by my cell group leader who presented this book to me last Friday before the cell group meeting started. She had just attended the Arise and Soar conference in Singapore and saw this book on sale there.

Anyway, it is an easy read and I completed the book within 2 days. The titled, "Called Out" refers to God calling Janet Boynes out of homosexuality. Whereas homosexuals refer to a "coming out" experience, Janet has been "called out" of the same lifestyle by God. It is also a reference to the passage in 1 Peter 2:9,

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light

The author separated the book into two clear portions, the first, her life-story, and the second, a advice/FAQ section. 

I must say that compressing 40 years of your life into 6 chapters must not be an easy task. But she has done a great job in doing so. I must probably give credit to her editor (if she had one) because the text flows smoothly and within the blink of an eye, I've finished 6 chapters.

I would have preferred if she'd fleshed out her life-story a little more and tell us in more detail how God and the people around her transformed her life but I suppose she had more pressing things to talk about. The second half of the book, consisting of 5 chapters, addresses the various stakeholders involved when a person chooses the homosexual lifestyle. It was kinda trying reading through these chapters but I can see that she is trying to cover as much ground as she can within a single book. So this is definitely a book for everyone to read.

Chapter 7 - For those who struggle
Chapter 8 - For the Church
Chapter 9 - For parents
Chapter 10 - For friends and family
Chapter 11 - What can we do?

She then devotes a lengthy 70 pages to a Question and Answer section. I must say I'm pretty impressed with her and it is true that the church has been too quiet about LGBT issues in the community. Instead of letting them set the tone, as a church, we ought to lovingly yet firmly put forth our stand.

All in all, it's an interesting read, but I must say that as good as her intentions were, I don't really consider the book as solving my needs. Labels are too past-tense. In any case, a good read nonetheless. I'd recommend this for all, Christians and non-Christians alike, SSA-strugglers, parents, friends and family and church members and leaders as well.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen

I received this book as a Christmas gift from my counsellor Mabel. It's a slim volume comprising several journal entries by the late Henri Nouwen. For the uninitiated, he is a Catholic priest who authored many books on spirituality.

This was a book born out of great anguish and prayer, a fantastic combination if you ask me, yet a difficult process to endure. Anyway, this book came at a great time. I am going through a period of great anguish and his entries resonate deeply within my spirit. I even wrote a half-baked sonnet cos I was so touched one day.

The foreword did mention that it is a book to be read slowly because it was written so. Flying through the book will diminish its impact and one would fail to truly tap into the brilliant, Spirit-inspired insights that the author intended it to be. (I've only read through half the book but it's so good I decided to write a book review today.)

So, here's the sonnet, and here's to all who are experiencing great anguish and for those who are into books, this is one for you.

On Reading Henri Nouwen
by Rachel Tan

I am reading Henri Nouwen's great work
It is titled, 'The Inner Voice of Love'.
The book was his secret journal. God lurks
Within. Extreme anguish - set free like doves.

I've gleaned so much through his many pages
So much wisdom; such great sorrow he felt
So relevant to all groups and ages.
Freedom, so close, yet so far, this he smelt.

"Every time you do something that comes from 
Your needs for affection, affirmation
Doing something that makes these needs grow, um,
You know you aren't with God," this he mentions.

This was such incredible insight that
I took days to digest. God I thus met.