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Have you ever met a person who seems incredibly attuned to others? This person notices everyone, listens intently, recognizes others’ moods and adapts accordingly, and generally seems to be in good spirits.

Then there’s the high school kid who didn’t seem all that serious about his studies but attended every dance, painted himself blue for football games, and had a wide network of buddies. He and people like him turned out to be the most effective and caring pastors, the best salespeople in the company, or the most popular teachers in the school.

Many of these people might post average scores on an IQ test, but they would excel on a test of social and emotional intelligence.

Emotionally and socially intelligent people show great empathy toward others. They smile, they remember details about others’ lives, and they ask how things are going. They treat every person they encounter as a “you,” not an “it.” These are the people you want as your family doctor, your child’s principal, and, of course, your pastor.

Two books that have rewired my own thinking about my role as a father, husband, community member, and school administrator are Daniel Goleman’s Social Intelligence (Bantam) and Steven Stein’s The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success (Jossey-Bass).

In The EQ Edge, Stein, along with coauthor Howard Book, MD, explains emotional intelligence’s primary components, some of which include self-awareness, empathy, and problem-solving. The authors provide “self assessments” and “self assignments” to reveal your own strengths and areas of improvement. They also examine their own research on salespeople, educators, and even professional hockey players to see what qualities of emotional intelligence make someone happy and successful.

Goleman, a Harvard alumnus and writer on brain research for The New York Times, provides a more heady examination of the brain in Social Intelligence. Through anecdote and brain research he shows how our success and happiness on the job, in our marriages and families, and within our communities depend crucially on how we work with others, how we build relationships, how we choose to solve problems, and how attuned and empathetic we are to others in every context.  

You probably know that person at work or at church about whom everyone resignedly says, “Oh that’s just John—he’ll never change.” The truth is that John can change how he interacts with others and faces life’s challenges.

And so can you if you’re willing to learn more about your own emotional and social intelligence.

Something to Say

by Matthew West
reviewed by Paul Delger

Matthew West’s Something to Say CD speaks loudly of opportunity, challenge, and God’s grace. West experienced all of the above when he lost his voice during the writing process and didn’t speak for two months. The project has a fun pop sound with catchy lyrics that tackle life issues such as losing a friend, pregnancy outside of marriage, and life as a spouse. West encourages listeners to make wise choices and ponder the wonders of God’s grace. (Sparrow)

Culture Making

by Andy Crouch
reviewed by Phil Christman Jr.

Reformed folks love books about how the church should participate in culture, and this is one of the very best. After a century of discussions often dominated by platitudes about “engaging,” “critiquing,” or “condemning” culture, Crouch reminds us that our primary relationship to culture is much more proactive—starting from the Garden of Eden and working forward from there. The book sustains a strong central argument that Christians need to make and tend culture, not just consume or critique it. It also offers fascinating side notes. (InterVarsity)

A Wheel Within a Wheel

by Southeast Engine
reviewed by Robert N. Hosack

Out of Athens, Ohio, comes the artsy, alt-country, indie, Americana sound of Southeast Engine with their first internationally distributed album. A Wheel Within a Wheel could be described as “early Wilco meets the prophet Ezekiel.” That prophet’s wild wheel vision spins throughout the disc with echoes and allusions in several songs. From the record’s opening “Taking the Fall” to the concluding amen, “Let It Be So,” melancholy love songs interspersed with Augustinian apocalyptic messages wrestle with the tension of seeking redemption in an already-but-not-yet world. (Misra)

The Valley

by Gayle Friesen
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

When 38-year-old Gloria returns to her native Mennonite community, she confronts the past she had longed to escape from. The strength of Friesen’s novel, which contains some profanity, lies not so much in its plot, but in the way Gloria struggles with faith issues. Readers with a balanced knowledge of the two sides of God’s character—love and justice—will be able to discern how Gloria misunderstood the Bible and suffered because of it. (Key Porter)

Who Stole My Church?

by Gordon MacDonald
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

MacDonald’s unique blend of fiction, church history, and social commentary explores how people face change when it threatens their comfort zone. Drawing from 40 years of ministry experience, MacDonald creates a fictional New England church in which only he and his wife enter in as they really are. When MacDonald gathers a small band of disgruntled parishioners into a “discovery group,” they learn that “their church” is really God’s church, and, in order for it to thrive, they must remain open to God’s leading. (Thomas Nelson)

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