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.

My Unique History

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I had a great time on the 200churches podcast with Jeff Keady. 

Jeff and I talked about my unique background and how that contributed to not only the book I wrote but also to the activities in which I am presently involved.

God took me on a long journey before I came to be a shepherd in Cedar Springs, MI. There were times in my younger life when I questioned why my path didn’t look like a straight line that was heading toward a career or vocation, but God showed me the truthfulness of the promise in Romans 8:28—He is using ALL THINGS to accomplish what He needs for me and for His Kingdom. (Check out the short video below where I share a bit of my autobiography.)

I hope this is a word of encouragement for you too. God IS directing every single one of your steps, He IS using all of your education and experiences to accomplish His purpose. Don’t bail out of this process, and don’t ever get discouraged that your path seems different than those around you. God is being as unique with you as He is with everyone else. 

If you are a church leader, I encourage you to pick up a copy of my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. I believe you will find many more encouraging thoughts that will keep you engaged in the work to which God has called you.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this 200churches interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

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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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Links & Quotes

Doug Clay, the General Superintendent of the Assembly of God wrote, “Our nation needs revival! 

“Culture may well be at a deeply dark moment, but that’s when the Church can shine the brightest as Christ’s witness to the world. I’m reminded of Romans 8:19 (Message), ‘The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next.’ 

“A.W. Tozer once said, ‘The world is waiting to hear an authentic voice, a voice from God—not an echo of what others are saying, but an authentic voice.’ Let’s rise and be that authentic voice to a generation that is desperately in need.”

“What satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” —C.S. Lewis

Meet Piper. She was abandoned with her mother and one other sibling. The mother then left the two kittens behind, who were hiding in a storm pipe. We were able to rescue this little calico and named her Piper as a reminder of where she was rescued from.

John Stonestreet asks, “Why are pro-abortion activists so committed? Because of lies built upon centuries of bad ideas….” Check out some of those bad ideas that have such devastating consequences.

Physicist Brian Cox discusses where God fits into scientists’ understanding of the universe. Two statements that are interesting to me—“we don’t know all the laws of science” (at 1:17), and “science is only an observational framework” (at 2:40). Both of these statements fit well with my biblical creationist paradigm.

Crucifixion Events

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The death of Jesus may be the most attested execution in all of history. It’s certainly the most meaningful execution, as the death of Jesus brought a fulfillment to prophecy that was made in the immediate aftermath of humanity’s first sin. 

I have frequently written about the historicity of the Bible. The crucifixion of Jesus is not a “once upon a time” or “in the make-believe land of Israel” story, but an actual event, which involved actual people, at an actual moment in history. Even the way the four Gospel writers record the crucifixion of Jesus attests to the historicity of this event.

Check out this chart of the events that show how Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record this historical moment. 

When did this moment in history occur? Consider this scholarly insight from The Archeological Study Bible

“In what year was Jesus born, and when was He crucified? These are long-standing historical questions. The seemingly obvious answer to the first—that He was born in A.D. 1 (there is no year 0)—is incorrect, however, since the calculations on which our modern calendar is based were faulty. …

“The chronology of Jesus’ life, though clear in outline, cannot be fixed with absolute precision. Matthew and Luke both inform us that Jesus was born before the death of Herod (4 B.C.), though it would appear that His birth occurred toward the final years of Herod’s reign, suggesting an approximate date of 6-4 B.C. The next chronological marker comes from Luke 3:1, where we learn that John the Baptist’s ministry began during the fifteenth year of the reign of the emperor Tiberius. Since A.D. 14 is the generally accepted date for Tiberius’ accession to the throne, John’s ministry would have commenced between August A.D. 28 and December of 29. Jesus began His own ministry shortly after John had embarked on his, at some point in A.D. 28 or 29, making Jesus about 32 or 33 years old at the time. This fits well with Luke’s statement that Jesus was ‘about 30 years old’ (Luke 3:23).

“The duration of Jesus’ public ministry was approximately three years. While the exact chronology of this period is difficult to ascertain, the final phase of His ministry allows for closer scrutiny. It is clear that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, who governed Judea from A.D. 26-36. …

“Taking Friday, Nisan 14, as the day of the crucifixion, astronomical data informs us that the only years from A.D. 29-36 that could have seen Nisan 14 on a Friday are A.D. 30, 33 and 36. A.D. 36 is easily dismissed as too late, while A.D. 30 seems too early (although some who begin Jesus’ ministry in A.D. 28 and shorten His public ministry find it acceptable). This leaves A.D. 33 as the most likely date for the year of Jesus’ death and resurrection.” 

As you celebrate the victory over sin and death that Jesus won by His sacrificial death on the Cross, rejoice also that this is an actual historical event that bought your freedom from your sin. It is indeed miraculous, but it is also historic. Let’s never lose sight of either of those facets. 

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AC/DC (book review)

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A few weeks ago a storm had knocked power out to our house, and yet I still automatically flipped on a light switch every time I walked into a room. We have become so accustomed today to the consistent flow of electricity everywhere, but that wasn’t always the case. Tom McNichol recounts the history of the epic battle that brought electricity to our homes and offices in his book AC/DC.

I think most people would call Thomas Edison the pioneer of the flow of electricity to homes that lit up the lightbulbs he created. This is true in a certain respect, and yet it is only a fraction of the story. Edison did perfect a lightbulb for the express purpose of enticing people to bring electricity into their homes or businesses, and he did create a power station to generate that electrical flow. 

But power can flow through either direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC), and Edison steadfastly—some might even say stubbornly—stuck to his conviction that DC power was the way to go. In the meantime, other inventors, especially George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla, were perfecting and promoting the superior advantages of AC power. The battle between these forces was vicious, unrelenting, and at times gruesome! 

Interestingly, it took the unique talents and prodigious minds of all three of these inventors to bring us the electrical systems we now rely upon so heavily to power our homes, businesses, cars, computers, and smart phones. From AC wired power to DC battery-stored power, we are daily grateful for these inventors’ creativity. 

I will add a slight footnote to this review that I found the bookend chapters of this book—that is the first and last chapters—to detract from the overall fascinating history. The opening chapter talks about man’s fear and fascination of lightning, and the last chapter talks about a modern-day technology battle that I found incongruous with the history of the AC/DC battle. But despite those somewhat awkward chapters, I found the balance of the book to be quite entertaining and educational. 

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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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24 (book review)

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Whether you are a Major League baseball fan or not, there is so much to love about 24: Life Stories and Lessons from the Say Hey Kid by John Shey. 

Willie Mays is arguably the best all-around player in baseball history. There’s only a few that surpass him in individual statistics like home runs, stolen bases, and fielding prowess, but combining all of his stats puts the Say Hey Kid into a rarefied category! 

Willie overcame such huge obstacles and racism, took time away from baseball to serve his country during the Korean War and still racked up mind-boggling statistics, and exhibited a loyalty to both teammates and opposing players that make hardly anyone a comparable peer. He played the game competitively, seldom took a day off, always had time for the fans (especially the kids), and has remained an integral part of his beloved San Francisco Giants for more years in retirement than he even did as a player. 

He accomplished all of this with class and professionalism. 

John Shey compiled twenty-four life lessons from Willie Mays’ life, to match his iconic jersey number. Each chapter tells the story of his life before, during, and after baseball while elaborating on that particular leadership lesson. This book is extremely well written. 

Both baseball fans and students of leadership will find many rich lessons in 24, all presented in a very enjoyable format. 

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From Malachi To Jesus

I just finished a series looking at the minor prophets. After Malachi, there is about 400 years of silence as far as what is recorded in the Bible for us. That doesn’t mean nothing is happening on the pages of history. In actuality, there is so much happening on the world scene.

This chart is in both the Quest Study Bible and The Life In The Spirit Study Bible. Always remember: All of history is His story! 

Washington’s Immortals (book review)

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There’s an old proverb that says,

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
for want of a shoe the horse was lost,
for want of a horse the knight was lost,
for want of a knight the battle was lost,
for want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
So a kingdom was lost—all for want of a nail.

I thought of this proverb as I began reading Washington’s Immortals by Patrick K. O’Donnell, which recounts the history of a regiment from Maryland that not only turned the tide of a crucial battle in the American Revolutionary War, but who were at the center of nearly every vital battle throughout the war. 

At the outset of the war, the British army and navy nearly overwhelmed George Washington’s forces in New York. One regiment from Maryland stood their ground, keeping the British bottled up for just one hour. But that one hour allowed General Washington precious time to get his retreating army to safety. Without the bravery and tenacity of these Marylanders, the war could have been over almost before it started. So to paraphrase the old proverb above, for want of the brave stand of the Marylanders, the American cause could have been lost! 

As General Washington watched those brave men not only stand their ground, but repeatedly counterattack the far superior British forces, he said, “Good God! What brave fellows I must this day lose!” 

If that were the only service to the American colonies that this elite group had supplied, it would have been enough. But time and time again, General Washington and General Nathaniel Green placed the Marylanders in the most vulnerable or the most crucial places on the battlefield, knowing that these men would not fail to come through. 

O’Donnell follows the movements of the Marylanders from the beginning of the war all the way through to its conclusion in a very readable manner. He shares just enough of the details of the battle for us to get a feel for the gravity of the situation, but not so many details that it becomes laborious reading. 

Any students of American history, military history, or leadership-under-fire will appreciate reading Washington’s Immortals. 

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