Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Review - Every Day a Friday

  I got this book for my birthday, not because somebody thought to give it to me, but because I thought to ask Kathy for it. I’ve seen Joel Osteen’s grinning face on his books at the Marshalltown Wal-Mart and other book stores for years and never gave any thought to buying or even looking at one. Then one day while tuning into the USA Network early on a Sunday Morning years ago hoping to catch an episode of Law & Order : SVU I’d maybe seen only a couple of hundred times, there was Joel Osteen on my TV. I had no idea he was even on TV and I watched it and I liked it and now I look forward to it. Osteen’s weekly messages are very upbeat and positive, kind of like a 21st century Norman Vincent Peale (best known for ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’).

  Osteen’s shows and books focus on the premise that God created us, loves us, and wants what’s best for us. This doesn’t seem to be a far-fetched premise to me, so it is easy for me to accept the idea that I should accept that God is working in my favor and if I just take care of the things I can take care of, I can let God take care of the things I can’t handle and not worry about it. People I discuss this with tend to find this to be a very simplistic viewpoint, but that simplicity is what attracts me to this message. Since all these books end up being New York Times best sellers, I’m probably not alone in my attraction.

  The book title comes from noting that people are happier on Fridays because they are looking forward to the weekend, so why not choose to be happy as if every day was Friday? ‘Every Day a Friday’ is themed like Osteen’s other books (‘Be a Better You’, ’Your Best Life Now’, It’s Your Time’). There are 7 main parts, with each part broken into chapters. The parts are titled ‘Don’t Give Away Your Power’, ’Know What to Ignore’, ‘Live Without Crutches’, Travel Light’, ‘Laugh Often’, ‘Be a Dream Releaser’, and ‘Celebrate Yourself’.

  There are plenty of self-help books that could have these same chapters without the religious bent, but when an author is trying to drive home a point about being grateful for what you have or not letting negative people steal your happiness or seeing a setback as a stepping stone to greater accomplishments, I think these types of points come across clearer when approached from a more ‘Godly’ perspective. I especially like how Osteen can talk about being happy with what you have without getting into an ‘it could be worse’ type of mentality and that it’s OK to want even more than what you have as long as you go about getting it the right way.

  One of my favorite Osteen themes is how a setback is only a setback if you look at it that way. That theme always gets me thinking about how I worked at a company for 13 years and when my boss wanted to sell the company, I got lied to about my future with the company so I would outline all the functions of the software I spend a quarter of my life writing when they knew I was going to be out of a job since their programmers in Indianapolis could write it. There were a lot of bumps in the road, but now I can see that I needed to be forced out so I could learn new skills and now 4 years later, I have an even better job. Another theme is how what looks like a setback may be so you can be a blessing for someone else. I was very sad when my dogs both passed away last year, but because of that we were in the right place at the right time to get Baxter, who had a bad foot and needed a good home. Even when I’m having a chess tournament that looks like it’s going to have a thin crowd, I get to thinking about how my late friend Ed at the Salvation Army told me that he thought my chess activities is going to keep some kid away from the wrong place at the wrong time because they were playing chess. Books like ‘Every Day a Friday’ get me thinking about times where everything looked to be running against me but in retrospect couldn’t have been planned better FOR me and people who were trying to stick it to me ended up doing me favors by making me more self-reliant and inventive. Just like chess players forget about the times we are handed victories and focus on the times we did the ‘giving’, it is easy to lose perspective when in the heat of contentious situations and books like this help me to regain that sense of perspective.

  Of course, people who don’t believe in God or think of God as some collective power and not a single being or are still waiting to be convinced there is a God aren’t likely to enjoy this book, but I enjoyed it and think I got a lot out of it. Having read 4 of Osteen’s books, the illustrative anecdotes start to repeat themselves, but as a person who will watch the same episode of Law & Order over and over that’s not such a big issue to me. One thing I noticed in this book was that Osteen mentions in at least 2 places how his critics call him the ‘smiling preacher’ and a practitioner of ‘Christianity Lite’. He points out (and rightly so) that he is going along the path he feels drawn to follow and there are plenty of other preachers that go the fire and brimstone route. I don’t know Joel Osteen, but I’m sure he has as many flaws as anyone else, including all the people I get inspiration from daily. I need all the inspiration and encouragement I can get and I get a lot of inspiration from his TV show and books and I think a lot of people would also if they gave Joel Osteen a look or read.