Better Off Not Dead: a book review

I Fully Alive: A Journey that Will Change Your Life by Ken Davis

I’ve been a fan of Ken Davis for a while. I don’t mean I have really followed his career or anything, but years ago I picked up a cassette tape (remember those?) of a message he gave off the bargain rack at my local Christian bookstore. The message was called Super Sheep  and despite not having heard it in years I remember the things Ken said, his depth and his humor. Okay, so I got one of those minds that actually remembers sermons (I’m a freak of nature) but you can ask my wife, she’s heard the tape and she remembers it too and she doesn’t have one of those minds.  Later I found I video of his called A Wimpy Prophet, A Butane Bush and No Exuses  on VHS (remember those?) which was also really funny and inspiring.

So when the opportunity to review this book came up I jumped at the chance and had them send me a print copy (remember those?) My previous experience with Ken Davis was with him as a speaker and he was dynamic with impeccable comedic timing.  I wanted to see what kind of author he was and found this book inspiring. However I read the book way too fast so his comedic timing was all off.  Well not totally, but this book seems to be a different animal than my previous exposure to Davis.

The book begins with the tale of a camping trip with his wife and grandchildren where his granddaughter Jaydn gets lost in the wilderness. Davis panics and the hunt for Jaydn begins. When a couple of hikers find Jaydn, her words to them is “My grandpa is lost.” This becomes a metaphor for Davis of the ways he’s let his life drift off purpose. When he sees a picture of himself at 240+ lbs with his granddaughter at the beach, he exclaims, “Nooooo! Walking Manatee!!!” and begins the process of taking hold of his life and really living.

This is a book about not wasting your life by walking around like you are half dead. Davis encourages his readers to lose weight, get in shape, take risks, make deep friendships and care for your family and attend to spiritual health and our relationship with Jesus.  What I liked about this book is Davis’s vulnerability with his own struggles through depression, struggle and self-doubt. He opens up about the struggles he has had to accept himself, but also shares the  ‘stakes in the ground’ in his life which have revealed to him all that he was meant to be.

I am a several years younger than Davis  but I have had my own “Noooo! Manatee!” moment. When I graduated with my M.Div from Regent College it was the biggest academic and personal achievement of my adult life.  I was proud of myself for finishing, but when I saw pictures of myself kneeling to receive my graduate hood, I saw that I weighed more than I ever have. And I felt terrible. I was slow, sluggish and had no energy. Within six months of that picture I had lost 50 lbs by running, swimming and watching my food intake. I have since gained some of that weight back (but no where near all), but some lifestyle changes I made were permanent and I have felt better for it.

Still, some of Davis’s exhortation to take risks and live life to the fullest speak to me. I have, as of yet, to find a ministry position (what I went to school for, and the calling and deep passion of my life). I am currently working at a hardware/animal supply store to pay the bills and provide for my family, but I am still feeling like my life is stuck and I am not doing what I was put on the earth to do. As I read Davis’s book I am encouraged and hunger for more out of life, and more of what God has for me.

I would describe this book as inspirational self-help. If you are in need of a gentle (but firm) swift kick in the rear, this might be a good book for you.  If you feel like you are living life to the fullest, you might want to pass this by. When I mentioned Fully Alive’s contents to my wife she said, “I think we are already pretty much fully alive.” This is not a book for her. But if you look in the mirror and feel like you look dead and . . .well, manatee-ish, this may be the book for you. Or if you feel like you can’t do anything of value anymore because you are too old, Davis has lots to say to the old folks. 

Thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of this book via Booksneeze in exchange for this fair and exceptional review.

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