Out Of The Depths (book review)

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I’ve heard it reported (and I quite believe it) that “Amazing Grace” is the best-known song in the world. This song of God’s unfathomable grace was written by a pastor who was once a slave trader. Out Of The Depths is the autobiography of slave-trader-turned-pastor John Newton. 

This story is told largely through the re-printing of letters that John Newton wrote to a friend over a lengthy correspondence. The original letters were not preserved, so as Mr. Newton wrote them again, he said that he added details that he hadn’t included in the first writing. Then the book closes with some remembrances of a dear friend, and a compilation of some short maxims that Pastor Newton used in his sermons and in conversations with friends. 

One of the real benefits of Newton writing these letters so long after the actual events is his ability to look back at the lessons he learned through his various trials. Granted, many of his trials were brought on by his own stubbornness, but still the beginning of the message of grace from his memorable hymn is heard in the recounting of these stories. 

Another key aspect of his story is his relationship with his wife. She and her family were much more committed Christians than Newton was at the time he began to show an interest in his bride-to-be, but neither she nor her family allowed the courtship to proceed until Newton had entirely surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. Their marriage was a source of great strength and encouragement to Pastor Newton. 

I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy learning about the key figures of church history. 

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Book Reviews From 2021

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I love reading, and I love sharing my love of good books with others! Here is a list of the books I read and reviewed in 2021. Click on a title to be taken to that review.

24

AC/DC

Churchill’s Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible

George Whitefield

Hal Moore On Leadership

His Last Bow

Holy Sexuality And The Gospel

How Christianity Changed The World

How I Got This Way

How To Bring Men To Christ

Jesus On Trial

John Adams

Miracles Out Of Somewhere

My Lucky Life

Out Of The Silent Planet

Perelandra

Pilgrim’s Progress

Prayer

Prophet With A Pen

QB

Reading The Bible With The Founding Fathers

Secrets Of Dynamic Communication

Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully

Shepherd Leadership

Star Struck

Talking To GOATs

That Hideous Strength

The Art Of Writing And The Gift Of Writers

The Hidden Smile Of God

The Hiding Place

Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

To The Work!

Voice Of A Prophet

Washington’s Immortals

Word-For-Word Bible Comic: Jonah

Here are my book reviews for 2011.

Here are my book reviews for 2012.

Here are my book reviews for 2013.

Here are my book reviews for 2014.

Here are my book reviews for 2015.

Here are my book reviews for 2016.

Here are my book reviews for 2017.

Here are my book reviews for 2018.

       Here are my book reviews for 2019.

Here are my book reviews for 2020.

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Hal Moore On Leadership (book review) 

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Sometimes you might hear it said of someone’s leadership mettle or leadership philosophies that they are “battle-tested.” In the case of Hal Moore On Leadership, this is literally true! 

Perhaps you’ve seen the movie “We Were Soldiers Once…And Young,” which recounts the first full-scale military battle in Vietnam between Moore’s 450-man force and the 2000 soldiers of the North Vietnamese Army. Despite being completely surrounded and severely out-gunned, Moore’s First Cavalry decisively defeated the NVA. 

General Moore’s leadership principles won the day for his men in that battle. But even then, his principles had already been battle-tested under fire in the Korean War, and put to the test in the various assignments that Hal Moore faced in his highly-decorated military career. Moore was continually tasked by superior officers to re-tool underperforming units, or step in where tensions were high, or help reorganize when the Army was experiencing some growing pains. 

Moore not only excelled at every assignment, but he kept meticulous notes that are now available to any leader in this excellent book. 

Hal Moore On Leadership is partially a biography, but mostly his story is told as the backdrop for the leadership principles that were proven to be correct time and time again. 

Students of both leadership and military history will find this book enjoyable and practical. 

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QB (book review)

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I’m a huge fan of NFL football. Growing up in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s it was fascinating to watch the “changing of the guard” among the dominate NFL teams—especially the Cowboys, Steelers, and 49ers. Right in the center of all of this was a legendary quarterback battle in San Francisco between Joe Montana and Steve Young. Steve Young gives us an inside look at this era in his autobiography QB: My Life Behind the Spiral. 

As a student of leadership, I love reading biographies and autobiographies with an eye toward understanding what goes into the making of a leader: Is it genetics? Temperament? Hard work? Lucky breaks? The answer is a resounding “yes” to all of the above. In the case of Steve Young, his football-playing father played a factor, as well as Steve’s relentless drive to play quarterback in the NFL. His work ethic made his lucky breaks happen. 

But what often is missed in the lives of overcoming leaders is the role challenges or limitations play. In Steve’s case, his lifelong battle against anxiety propelled him to many of his exceptional achievements. Steve is quite candid about the pull between his anxiety over failing and his nonstop pursuit of being the absolute best quarterback ever. The source of his anxiety was unknown to him for most of his career, until a counselor finally was able to help Steve both diagnose and address the underlying causes. It was after this discovery that Steve could finally find a place of satisfaction in his football pursuits. 

QB is a very enjoyable read for football fans and students of leadership, but I think those who grew up watching these epic battles on the football field at such a pivotal time in the NFL’s history will really appreciate this front-row view from Steve Young. 

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My Lucky Life (book review)

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Dick Van Dyke has always been one of my favorite on-screen personalities. Of course, what goes on off-screen to allow someone to get on screen is often a long journey. Mr. Van Dyke recounts his journey in his memoir My Lucky Life In And Out Of Show Business. 

I actually listened to the audiobook for this one, and it was nice to hear Dick read his own remembrances of his small-town upbringing, the way he developed his comedy routines, the people who opened doors for him, his perseverance through some thin times, and—as the title suggests—the breaks that came his way. 

It was also a lot of fun hearing about things that didn’t end up in movies like “Mary Poppins” or in TV shows like “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Getting to go behind the scenes to hear what goes into making a hit show that lasts through the generations was very eye-opening. 

The only sad note from this memoir is one I have, unfortunately, noticed in the lives of many who have been so devoted to their show business careers: the toll on their family and personal lives. This reminds me of Solomon’s haunting conclusion in the book of Ecclesiastes that things “under the sun” turn out to be meaningless, but only what lasts for eternity has any value. 

Despite the few minor keys, My Lucky Life is an informative read, especially for those who grew up watching the TV shows and movies that featured Dick Van Dyke.  

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How I Got This Way (book review)

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Who doesn’t love Regis Philbin? Even if a morning talk show wasn’t your thing, the personality and professionalism that Regis demonstrated for over 50 years put him in a category all by himself. How did he get this way? He tells us in his entertaining memoir How I Got This Way. 

I purchased the audiobook for this one because I love hearing Regis speaking so passionately about those things that fire him up. Although he was mostly subdued in his recording, there were moments that his Irish was up! 

This book is presented in a very interesting format, with each chapter being named after a person who had a huge impact on fashioning Regis into the television icon that he became. Some names are readily recognizable, while others would be names known to only a handful of people. Since Regis would stick with this person through all of the years that he knew them, as the book progresses you will begin to see these strands intersecting with other people and forming a comprehensive picture. 

This was a delightful book! If you want a behind-the-scenes look at the television industry almost from its very beginning stages, this memoir will more than fit that bill. 

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The Hiding Place (book review)

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In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis writes, “Suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, her submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads.” This sentiment was never more fully displayed than in the lives of the ten Boom family. Corrie ten Boom relates her story in The Hiding Place. 

The ten Boom family had lived in Holland for a couple of generations at the time the Germans occupied their country during World War II. Immediately, their family home and watch repair shop became a hub for underground resistance activity. But the start of this war was not the start of their compassionate activity in their city. The ten Booms lived out their Christian faith in tangible, compassionate ways every single day, and their neighbors reaped the benefits. 

The entire ten Boom family was actively involved in the efforts to protect at-risk people during the Nazi oppression of their country, including the elderly and sick, their Jewish neighbors, the mentally disabled, and the young men that were being pressed into duties to support the German war effort. As The Hiding Place progresses, the story begins to zoom-in on two sisters: Betsie and Corrie, especially their activities inside the German prisons and concentration camps in which they were imprisoned. 

The miracles that God performed for these women are too many to recount here, but it seems like hardly a page in the story passes before another miracle is seen. These Christian women took full advantage of each miracle and used them to continue to bring light and love into one of the most dark and hateful times in human history. Even after the war has ended and Corrie has returned to her Holland home, the ministry of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation continued unabated through her tirelessly loving activities. 

The Hiding Place is truly a heroic tale! I highly recommend parents and grandparents reading it aloud to their children and grandchildren. May all Christians follow the example of the ten Boom family in finding ways to daily share the love of Jesus to their neighbors-in-need. 

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Talking To GOATs (book review)

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I’m a student of leadership, so I love to learn about what makes leaders “tick,” how they overcome obstacles and deal with adversity, and watch how they prepare themselves to be the best they can be. Broadcaster Jim Gray has had a front-row seat (literally!) to some of the most outstanding athletes in recent history, and he unpacks his stories about these leaders in his book Talking To GOATs. 

For those of you wondering, GOAT stands for “greatest of all time.” We’re talking about people who stand out from their peers over a long period of time, those who set the standard for everyone else, those who have so excelled that their sport has had to change things up to try to accommodate them! Superstars like Muhammad Ali, Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Mike Tyson, Hank Aaron, and Michael Phelps. 

Jim Gray’s book is a behind-the-scenes look at not only the hard work he put in to produce and present interviews with these GOATs, but also insights rarely seen of the intense work these athletes put in to become the GOATs of their particular sport. Jim shows us how both he and these athletes deal with setbacks, criticism, the challenges that come with success, and their own internal drive to keep being the best. 

This book isn’t all about athletes, but it’s a bit of a memoir of Jim’s life too. I really enjoyed learning about the role that Jim’s parents, and especially his dad, played in helping Jim get into these “front row seats” to cover these amazing athletes. Jim is also very candid about how he has processed the inevitable criticism that comes from interviewing a certain athlete in a way that not every fan appreciated. It was a very enjoyable read. 

The sports fans in your life will almost certainly know who Jim Gray is, and they will love hearing what went into some of the more memorable moments in sports broadcasting. My son gave me this book as a gift and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I know that the sports fans that you love will also give you kudos if you send Talking To GOATs their way.

Miracles Out Of Somewhere (book review)

Fans of the band Kansas will recognize that the title of Kerry Livgren’s book is just a slight variation from one of the band’s well-known songs. Miracles Out Of Somewhere recognizes both the miracles and the Source of those miraculous encounters. 

For my listening enjoyment, I am always quick to pull up anything written by Kerry Livgren—his solo work, Kansas, AD, or Proto-Kaw are musical masterpieces and lyrically enriching. One of Kerry’s songs was entitled “Miracles out of nowhere,” in which we are surprised by the serendipitous occurrences that cross our paths. But in this book, Kerry makes it clear that he sees God at work in his life. 

Miracles Out Of Somewhere is a memoir spanning all of Kerry’s life. He takes us back to his boyhood home, to the pre-Kansas days, to the heyday of Kansas, and to his life since leaving the popular rock band. The book is not written in chronological order, but almost as if Kerry were sitting on the front porch and reminiscing with you. 

I have always found Kerry (and all his Kansas bandmates) to be very down-to-earth guys. They enjoyed their success without letting it go to their head. This book has that same accessible, guy-next-door feel to it, which makes it extremely engaging and enjoyable. Kerry simply shares his stories and lets the reader come to their own conclusion of what sort of miracle may (or may not) have happened. 

If you enjoy the music of Kerry Livgren, I think you will appreciate the messages in his songs even more after taking this behind-the-scenes tour with him. 

ADDED BONUS REVIEW: The band Kansas has a rockumentary about the band’s beginnings and its “miracles” that put them on top of Billboard’s greatest hits. This Miracles Out Of Nowhere DVD is very enjoyable and well worth the time of any Kansas fan. 

Book Reviews From 2020

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