Code Name: Lise

By Larry Loftis

This is the true story of the most decorated spy in World War II, a woman from England, born and raised in France.  Odette Sansom moved to England as a young woman and married a British man.  She has three children when World War II breaks out.  Her father had been killed at the very end of World War I, and her grandfather had encouraged her to do their duty if the time came.  She is recruited by the new British spy agency, SOE, to serve as a spy in World War II.  Even though she felt very ordinary, and she had three young kids, she decides to go as a spy.  She is a woman small of stature, but fierce in her spirit.  She is fearless and loyal.

 After six months of spy activity in southern France, she is arrested by the Gestapo.  For the next two years, until the end of the war, she is in various German prisons.  It is miraculous that she survives.  She is tortured.  She is near death on more than one occasion.  She inspires other prisoners, and even German guards.  But she ends up surviving, as does her boss, a man whom she also fell in love with and later married.

 This is a superb, riveting story of espionage and resistance in World War II France.  It was hard to put down.

Into the Lion’s Mouth The True Story of Dusko Popov: World War II Spy, Patriot and the Real Life Inspiration for James Bond


By Larry Loftis

Dusko Popov was a wealthy, educated young man who lived in Yugoslavia at the outset of World War II.  Yugoslavia was neutral at the time, and he became a British double agent, that is, he became a spy for Germany, but his actual loyalty was as a spy for Britain.  He hated Nazism and Hitlerism and risked his life, and even his family’s lives, to oppose Nazism.  He is normally regarded as the greatest British double agent in history and perhaps the greatest spy in history.

He was often in danger during the war, and seemed to thrive on it.  He played a key role in the Allied victory, including deceiving the Germans about the timing and place of the Normandy invasion.

Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond novels that were later made into movies, was also a spy with MI6 during World War II.  He later created the James bond character and based it on Popov.  Like Bond, Popov was a charming, good-looking playboy, who was also a deadly spy.

Popov would survive the war and go on to be a highly successful international businessman.  Because his home country of Yugoslavia became Communist he was left without a country.  He lived mostly in France, but he became a British citizen.

This is the well-told story of Dusko Popov, written by the spy biographer, Larry Loftis.

When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

In March 2015, Paul Kalanithi died at age 36.  He was married to Lucy, another physician, and they had one eight-month-old daughter.  He was a brilliant neurosurgeon at Stanford University, having done his education at Stanford, Cambridge, Yale Medical School and then neurosurgical residency at Stanford.

As a neurosurgeon he dealt with life and death continually and he thought deeply about issues of death.  Then, when he neared finishing his residency in neurosurgery, he was diagnosed with severe lung cancer.  In the final two years of his life he continues for a time in neurosurgery while he battles cancer, but he also writes this book about his battle.

He is a superb writer – he had been an English major at Stanford.  He was a deep thinker and a good man.

In the book he talks about how the cancer helped save his marriage because they had been drifting beforehand.

This is a poignant, though powerful, book.  Highly recommended.


Brant Hansen

This book is built around a simple point:  Do not be offended.  Choose not to be offended by anyone.  Instead, choose to overlook the offense or, choose to forgive the offense.  But do not be offended.

When you are overwhelmed by the grace of God for you, it is much easier for you to forgive others.  When you walk in humility, it is much easier for you to forgive others.  This is what love looks like.

The writer has a winsome, upbeat, humorous writing style.  Full of stories.  He is entertaining.  However, he is not deep.  The book did not need to be nearly so long as 200 pages.  You get the basic point in the first chapter.  Still, the point is very important!

Simple Church

Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger

Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger has had wide readership in the U.S. and wide influence among pastors.

The basic point is this:  Design a simple discipleship process and eliminate everything else.

Churches drift toward complexity and clutter.  You can accomplish more if you do fewer things.  By doing fewer activities and fewer ministries, you can do the vital ministries with more excellence and you can free up your people for relationships with lost people. 

There are four basic steps in the simplify process:

1.     Clarity.  Give clarity on your simple disciple-making process.

2.     Movement.  People must be moved along a pathway of discipleship.

3.     Alignment.  All the staff and ministries must be aligned around this simple process.

4.     Focus.  Say no to anything outside this simple process.

For us, ideally we would get rid of special one-time events whenever possible.  Over time, we would eliminate regular ministries that are not as vital for our mission.  All the staff and elders must buy into our simple discipleship process.

We already have a three-fold mission, which summarizes our discipleship process:  Love Jesus.  Journey together.  Bring hope to the world.  To achieve this we want all of our people to do three things:  Attend a worship service.  Get in a home church.  Find a place of ministry.  And live on mission in your neighborhood.

Over time, we need to decide if we will keep other ministries, including men’s ministries, women’s ministries, The Edge, sports teams, Sunday morning classes and our preschool.

Also, we should seek the Lord about simplifying all of our outside the walls ministries.  What are some of the basic things that God has called us to.

We will be a more effective church as we simplify.  But we do need to avoid hasty moves.  We should proceed prayerfully, deliberately, wisely, at the pace that our church needs.  We need God to lead us in every step.