Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life (book review)

Baseball was the first organized sport I learned to play and appreciate, largely due to Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey’s radio broadcast of the Detroit Tigers. I would sneak my small transistor radio under my pillow during the summer to listen to the games each night. Not only did I learn about the current Tigers, but I began to develop an appreciation for the Tigers of the bygone era. 

One of the notable names to appear on the Tigers’ scorecard for a dozen seasons was “Hammerin’” Hank Greenberg. His story is told in his autobiography Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life. 

Tigers fans lost four-plus seasons of this dominant ballplayer when Hank served in the armed forces during World War II. And then the Tigers lost out again when a rift between two-time American League MVP Greenberg and Tigers owner Walter Briggs saw Hank traded to Pittsburg for the final year of his career. 

Greenberg was not the first Jewish ballplayer in the Major Leagues, but he was the first one who was almost perpetually in the spotlight. From the moment he stepped on the field, he vaulted to the top of nearly every offense category. 

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In 1938, Hank was chasing Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record, and many feel he didn’t break it because many pitchers didn’t want to see a Jew steal The Babe’s record, so they didn’t give him anything to hit. The previous year, Hank was chasing Lou Gehrig’s RBI record and ended up knocking in 184 runs (just one shy of Gehrig’s record), again in spite of the lousy pitches he was seeing. 

Hank’s career stats are all the more amazing considering the four-plus seasons he missed during his military service. His enlistment period was actually up two days before Pearl Harbor was bombed. On hearing that news, Hank said, “That settles it for me, I am reenlisting at once,” making him the first Major Leaguer to enlist in the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Thankfully for Tigers fans, Greenberg returned to the lineup in time to help the team win the World Series in 1945. In four World Series appearances, he had a .318 batting average, with 5 homers, and 22 RBIs. 

After leaving the playing field, Hank moved into the front office with the Cleveland Indians and then the Chicago White Sox. He revolutionized the way teams used their minor league farm system, while still battling and overcoming the antisemitism that was so present even in the ranks of baseball team owners. Jackie Robinson was grateful for the encouragement and advice that Greenberg gave him while he faced very similar ugly treatment when he broke into the Major Leagues. 

If you are a Detroit Tigers fan, this is an excellent book to add to your library.

Father Sergius (book review)

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Those who regularly follow my book reviews have probably noticed that I read very few fiction books. If I do read fiction, I want it still to be something that engages my brain as well as my heart. Leo Tolstoy’s Father Sergius definitely hit those marks! 

This is a story about a spiritual journey that started out anything but spiritual. Stepan Kasatsky becomes a monk not because he wanted to pursue God, but because he wanted to run away from carnal heartache. 

Kasatsky’s journey started out just as escapism from the world. In fact, Tolstoy describes it as, “Our feet have reached the holy places, but our hearts may not have done so.” Yet somewhere along the way, Father Sergius (as Kasatsky now called himself) discovered true piety. 

Father Sergius’ spiritual “success”—if it can be called that—resulted in carnal pride. His journey that had become spiritual now became corrupted by pride. Sergius realized he had lost his way, and yet he struggled with giving up the popularity and acclaim he had now acquired. 

The book closes with Sergius rediscovering humility and true spirituality from a peasant woman he had mocked and belittled when they were both children. 

There is something in Kasatsky’s journey that can both warn and encourage all of us spiritual people on our journeys. 

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Who’s Pushing Your Buttons? (book review)

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Ever since the Boundaries book by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend came to my attention, I have always tried to get my hands on anything these psychologists write. The most recent read for me is John Townsend’s Who’s Pushing Your Buttons? 

We all have experienced button pushers in our life—those folks who seem to always know how to get us riled up. Maybe you even have a button pusher or two in your life right now. Dr. Townsend’s book is not to help us avoid these people, nor even to navigate around them, but to get to a place where our relationship with these folks can become productive and healthy. 

The book begins with an inside look at what makes button pushers button pushers. In order words, there is more below the surface than we can see, and we have to begin to understand more if we are ever going to move forward. Dr. Townsend also holds up a mirror to his readers to help us realize if our button pushers are pushing our buttons because we pushed theirs first. 

Next, Dr. Townsend helps us change our paradigm toward our button pushers. It’s likely that you have already tried to deal with this relationship. The results may have been mixed or they may have been wholly unsuccessful. Dr. Townsend wants to help us move beyond the past to get a clearer vision of what could be. 

The bulk of this book is comprised of seven resources to which we all have access, and which can help us be successful in our button-pushing relationships. This is not wishful thinking, but it is the firm belief of Dr. Townsend that God can help you employ these resources to truly turn a difficult relationship into a productive relationship. 

This book is filled with enough practical insights, actual stories from Dr. Townsend’s counseling practice, and biblical principles to fortify your prayer life and personal involvement that can lead to newfound success in these difficult relationships. 

For all of us who live or work with people who push our buttons, Who’s Pushing Your Buttons? is a wonderful resource. 

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Living In A Gray World (book review)

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So many terms in our culture seem to be taking on new definitions. Things that used to be thought of as black-and-white issues now appear to have multiple shades of gray in between. Nowhere is this more true than in the modern expressions and definitions of sexuality. So Dr. Preston Sprinkle’s book Living In A Gray World is perfectly timed to help bring us some understanding. 

Dr. Sprinkle is a professor at a Bible college, but this book is anything but academically heavy or overly theological. It is straightforward and easy to understand for anyone from a teenager on up. But don’t mistake that assessment as also meaning that this book waters down the clear teaching in the Bible on sexuality, because Dr. Sprinkle doesn’t compromise on this at all. 

Living In A Gray World will walk you through what the Bible says about marriage and homosexuality. You will get a clearer understanding of the terms used in today’s discussions about gender and sexual orientation. But most importantly you will hear Dr. Sprinkle’s impassioned call for Christians to focus on loving people with the agape love of God. 

Although the subtitle of this book is “A Christian teen’s guide to understanding homosexuality,” I believe this book would be hugely beneficial to teens, parents, and pastors. We all have a lot to learn, and I think our conversations would be much more productive when we all come from the same understanding of both cultural terms and biblical teachings. So parents and teens alike should get this book, read it together, and then start talking. 

My Patreon supporters also have access to the quotes that I compiled from this book. 

If you would like to dig even deeper into this topic, check out my book review of Dr. Christopher Yuan’s Holy Sexuality And The Gospel. 

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Links & Quotes

Ken Blanchard shared a blog post based on one of the chapters in his book Simple Truths Of Leadership (which I highly recommend to leaders!). He wrote, “When you catch yourself doing things right, everything in your life will improve—especially your relationships. Why? Because it’s fun to be around people who like themselves. After all, if you’re not your own best friend, who will be? And as my dad used to say, ‘If you don’t toot your own horn, others might use it as a spittoon!’”

For all Christians, but especially for those in leadership positions, Jon Bloom shares How to Watch for Wolves: Three Signs of False Teachers.

Fight The New Drug shares the research behind 15 Basic Facts About Human Sex Trafficking.

This is a great lesson from church history on the power of importunate prayer: The Hundred-Year Prayer Meeting.

Mary Slessor set a high bar for missionaries. John Stonestreet reminds us of this amazing woman.

Autobiography Of Calvin Coolidge (book review) 

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Calvin Coolidge is the only US president to have been born on July 4, which I think is very fitting for him, since his political philosophy found its firm foundation in our nation’s remarkable founding. In a very modest fashion, President Coolidge relates his amazing career in his autobiography. 

I’m not sure how the title “Silent Cal” ever stuck to this president. Throughout his legal and political career, his speeches—almost all of which he wrote himself—are some of the most thoughtful and enduring speeches in our nation’s history. His voice seemed to resonate across the political aisle too, because at each subsequent election, Coolidge would be elected by larger margins than before, with more Democrats crossing over to vote for him each time. 

Coolidge stood strong during a potentially disastrous Boston police strike while he was governor of Massachusetts, and he transitioned our government’s activities and expenditures from the wartime outlay of Word War I back into the peacetime activities after the war. He never wavered from his adherence to the principles in our founding documents, remaining a strong proponent of states’ rights and a smaller federal budget. 

He was quite progressive, utilizing the new media of radio to get his thoughts out to as many people as possible while championing topics like women’s suffrage, lower taxes, and a stronger working class. 

And then at the height of his political career, he chose not to run for reelection to the presidency, walking away from an almost guaranteed victory to a second term. 

Calvin Coolidge was a fascinating leader, one which both those in and out of politics should strive to emulate. As a student of leadership myself, I highly recommend this book to both American history buffs and those desiring to increase their leadership acumen. 

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Spurgeon And The Psalms (book review)

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Spurgeon And The Psalms hits a sweet spot for me: Charles Spurgeon is one of my favorite preachers and the Psalms are my go-to resource when I need encouragement, perspective, or vocabulary for my heartfelt prayers. The combination of the Prince of Preachers and the Psalter grabbed my attention before I even opened the cover.

After I opened the cover, I was not disappointed. I love the format of each chapter. For each chapter your eyes go to Charles Spurgeon’s commentary first, and then you can read the chapter itself. The reason why I like this layout is because Spurgeon has a tendency to tell us not what the psalmist says, but what we should look for as we read that psalm. This remains true to what Spurgeon himself felt about biblical commentaries.

I always make my Bibles my own. By that I mean that I underline, highlight, circle, and write margin notes throughout my Bible. The wide margins in this book make it ideal to use as a prayer companion. I believe the Bible is not a Book to be read through, but a Book to be prayed through. Nowhere is that more true than in the Psalms, where such deep emotions are poured out in God’s presence, helping us give voice to our deepest prayers.

If you have never read anything from Charles Spurgeon, this is an excellent place to get started. After you have read his insights here, I’m confident that you will want to read more. Even if you are familiar with Spurgeon’s sermons and books, this book is going to be an excellent addition to your library.

I am a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid and I reviewed this book at their invitation 

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Simple Truths Of Leadership (book review)

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Kenneth Blanchard cranks out the leadership books! What I love about his writing style is how he makes his leadership principles so accessible in just a few words. Most of his books contain an overarching concept that’s easy to grasp and immediately applicable. But Simple Truths Of Leadership, which he co-wrote with Randy Conely, is a slight departure from this predictable style. 

Simple Truths—as its title implies—still presents easy-to-grasp principles, but this book has a different feel to it. I think the best way I can describe this book is as an index to Blanchard’s earlier leadership books. 

The overall emphasis of this book is servant leadership, with all of these simple truths being presented to us in 52 snippets. Each snippet gives the reader more than enough information to get to work, but then there is a reference given to a book previously written or co-written by Kenneth Blanchard to allow for a deeper study of that principle. This is why the overall feel of this book is as an index to the other books. 

Whether you’ve read Kenneth Blanchard’s leadership books before, or if this is your first time picking up something he’s written, Simple Truths is a great book to add to your leadership library. 

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The Holy War (book review)

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Many of the principles taught in the Bible are conveyed to us through graphic stories. Think about some of the imagery the prophets of the Old Testament used or even the parables Jesus used in the New Testament. In fact, even the Hebrew language of the Old Testament and the Greek language of the New Testament are very picturesque languages. John Bunyan takes full advantage of this in his book The Holy War. 

If you have ever read a John Bunyan book or sermon, it is quite obvious that the Bible is his Source Book. In fact, Charles Spurgeon said of him, “Why, this man is a living Bible! Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God.” Much like The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Holy War is steeped in biblical imagery that makes the story so engaging. 

The title and subtitle of the book alone tell you the essence of the story: The holy war made by Shaddai upon Diabolus for the regaining of the metropolis of the world, or the losing and taking again of the town of Mansoul. With the assault taking place on Ear-gate and Eye-gate of Mansoul by such combatants as Lord Incredulity or Mr. Forget-Good, and the servants of King Shaddai such as Captain Conviction, Mr. Justice, and Mr. True-Man drawing up battle lines against the town, you can quickly see how picturesque the language truly is. 

Much in the vein of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, Bunyan also lets us hear the correspondence and war counsels of Lucifer and his minions, as well as the conversation between King Shaddai and His Son Emmanuel. 

As with anything I’ve ever read from John Bunyan, The Holy War is entertaining and insightful. If you have read and enjoyed The Pilgrim’s Progress, I think you will thoroughly enjoy this book as well. 

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Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? (book review)

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Just as I was beginning my business career, Louis Gerstner was at the top of his career. Mr. Gerstner stepped in as the CEO of IBM when Big Blue was at a perilous time: This massive company was on the brink of either crumbling or soaring. Gerstner unpacks the impressive turnaround story in his book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? 

When I was in my teenage years, several family members were encouraging me to consider IBM for my career path. They explained that a job at IBM would become a lucrative, influential, and lifelong position. Indeed, since its founding in the early twentieth century, it had grown into a worldwide behemoth of technology. You could tell IBM employees by their distinct dress, confidence, and loyalty to Big Blue. 

But adhering to the rigid principles that both Thomas Watson Sr. and Thomas Watson Jr. had preached turned into inflexible practices that were losing the true soul of this once-great company. By the early 1990s, IBM was floundering, hemorrhaging cash, and about to experience one of the most epic collapses any organization had ever seen. 

Enter Louis Gerstner. He had developed a stellar reputation at American Express and RJR Nabisco, and was highly sought as the CEO of IBM. Except Mr. Gerstner initially didn’t want to take on this challenge. He knew how difficult it would be to lead change in an organization that was so entrenched in its nearly 100-year-old ways. 

Eventually, he did agree to step into this role, and over the next decade led one of the most comprehensive and impressive turnarounds in business history. IBM shook off stodgy practices while returning to its founding principles, refocused on customers’ needs, and as a result, regained its dominance in the technology field. 

Any organization—whether for-profit or non-profit—can get stuck in a rut. Its once-beneficial principles can morph into practices which are merely attempting to keep the machinery running, but are no longer meaningful for either team members or other stakeholders. 

Mr. Gerstner’s refocusing of the elephant-sized IBM will give any leader some invaluable insights into how to keep their organization from sliding into ineffectiveness and irrelevance. I would highly recommend this book to all leaders. 

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