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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Book Reviews
a-life-well-playedA Life Well Played: My Stories by Arnold Palmer. St. Martin’s Press. 272 pages. 2016

This was Arnold Palmer’s 13th book, and the sequel to his 1999 autobiography A Golfer’s Life. The book, which was published shortly after his death on September 25 at age 87, features 75 short stories on a wide range of topics under the headings of Golf, Life and Business.  As a bonus on the audiobook version of the book Arnie reads the beginning section of the book, be it in a very weak voice.

Arnie writes that the biggest influence in golf and life was his father, “Paps”. He taught him to be a sportsman along with good sportsmanship. He rode him hard and rarely complimented him.  His parents taught him manners and respect. Other major influences on him were his first wife Winnie, agent Mark McCormack, and the game of golf.

Of the 75 stories Palmer includes here, I had many favorites. Among them were:

  • His love of Latrobe Country Club (he considered Latrobe, PA to be home), Bay Hill, and Pebble Beach
  • His thoughts about Jack Nicklaus
  • Playing boldly, charging and going for broke
  • Arnie’s Army
  • His thoughts on civility, trust (sealing some of his most important business deals with just a handshake), and listening well
  • Signing autographs (and doing a good job of it too)
  • His love and devotion to first wife Winnie
  • His love of flying. He wrote that had he not made a career of playing golf, he would have most likely been an airline pilot
  • His heroes (his father, Bryon Nelson, Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones)
  • His charity efforts, especially those related to children
  • His relationship to Ike (Dwight D. Eisenhower)
  • Golf course design. He still had plans to design the “ultimate course”
  • The Golf Channel, which he co-founded
  • The Arnold Palmer drink (iced tea and lemonade)

Arnie admits that he never really liked the nickname “The King”. As far as his legacy, he would like to be remembered as the caretaker of the game of golf and its integrity. He writes that he is the most thankful person because he got to live out his dream of playing golf for a living.

I enjoyed these stories from Arnie a great deal. There was no one that had a bigger impact on the game of golf than Arnie. I had the pleasure of seeing him at several tournaments, including many times at his tournament at Bay Hill, as well as when he played an opening round at a local course he designed. I highly recommend this book to all golf fans.

i-am-brian-wilsonI Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir by Brian Wilson. Da Capo Press. 336 pages. 2016

Brian Wilson is the 74 year-old genius behind the Beach Boys. Although much has been written and said about him and the band, this is his long-awaited autobiography. It’s a warm and transparent book about his music, and the pain of mental illness and key relationships in his life.

I most enjoyed what he wrote about writing and recording his classic songs, especially the Beach Boys’ 1966 Pet Sounds album, widely considered one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded.  Also the planned follow-up album Smile, which was eventually completed and released in 2004, but shelved for many years as Wilson dealt with mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, spending large amounts of time in bed, etc. that began with an incident at the Houston airport in 1964.

Wilson is open about his mental illness and the voices in his head that say they are going to kill him. He tries to explain his difficult relationship with his father Murry. He states that the story of his father is connected to his entire life. Murry introduced Brian and his brothers Carl and Dennis to music, but who was also abusive.  Brian would eventually take over producer responsibilities from him and the band fired him as their manager. Despite the pain, Brian would collaborate with his father later on the song “Breakaway”.

He also gives his side of the well-publicized relationship with Dr. Eugene Landy, who completely controlled and abused Wilson for years with 24-hour therapy and 100% dependency which was depicted in the 2014 film Love and Mercy.

He writes about missing his brothers Carl (who died of lung cancer) and Dennis (who drowned while drinking). He wonders why they died and where they went. He writes of his drug and alcohol use, weight gain, years of minimal involvement with the Beach Boys and his regrets about not being a good father to his two daughters from his first marriage to Marilyn. He states that his songs have helped him with his pain.

If there is one complaint I have with this book, which overall I enjoyed a great deal, is that it jumps around a lot chronologically. Wilson may be talking about the time he is living near the Chicago area in the 1990’s one minute and then it’s back to growing up in Hawthorne, California and then back again.

Wilson is now married to second wife Melinda and they have five children. He seems happy and optimistic. The creative juices are flowing again and he loves being back out in front of audiences performing his music, including the entire Pet Sounds album on the 50th anniversary of its release.

I was interested to see what he would say about cousin and fellow Beach Boy Mike Love, who he states was like a fourth Wilson brother. Overall, Wilson devotes little time to his relationship to Love, briefly mentioning his lawsuits and ego, or his disagreements with the band.

Wilson writes about the people he has collaborated with over the years, such as Carole King, and those he would like to in the future, such as Paul McCartney, who told him that “God Only Knows” (from Pet Sounds), was one of his favorite songs. He was greatly influenced by Phil Spector and his song “Be My Baby” and the Four Freshman. His next album may be one of songs that have influenced him, and he is also continuing to write new songs.

Wilson writes a lot about songs that are spiritual, which is a word that can be used in many ways. The one that he describes that I most appreciated along those lines is his song “Walking Down the Path of Life”, in which he sings “Touch me, heal me, wash my sins away”, but he doesn’t elaborate on any spiritual/religious beliefs he might have. He states that it is the doctors, medications and the people he has around him that is important.

Despite all that he has been through, the book finishes on an optimistic note. He misses those who are gone, mostly brothers Dennis and Carl, but he is a survivor, and greatly enjoys performing his music for his fans and spending time with his wife Melinda and his children.

The book does include some adult language and abuses of God’s name.

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BOOK CLUBS – Won’t you read along with us?

Jesus Outside the LinesJesus Outside the Lines BOOK CLUB

Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides by Scott Sauls

This is a book I’ve been wanting – and not wanting – to read for a while. I’ve wanted to read it because I enjoy Scott Sauls’ blog posts and I’ve heard a lot of good things about the book. He’s a pastor in the same denomination I serve in, he served with Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, graduated from Covenant Seminary and is a St. Louis Cardinals fan. What’s not to like about the guy?

I’ve not wanted to read the book because I think it’s going to challenge me to get out of my comfortable box. How about reading along with Tammy and I?

This week we look at highlights from Chapter 6: Accountability or Compassion? 

* The subject of judgment can be uncomfortable and disorienting. Additionally, damage can be done when well-intentioned but deeply misguided Christians hold forth on judgment, leaving others afraid to discuss this subject in any context at all.

* Jesus taught more about hell than he did other, more popular subjects such as heaven and love.  He warned repeatedly that this judgment awaits everyone who refuses his free offer of salvation by grace through faith.

* We feel threatened when we are under the scrutiny, real or perceived, of others.

* Success can work like an addiction—the more successes we have, the more successes we feel we must accumulate in order to keep feeling valuable—that we are, in Madonna’s words, “a Somebody.”

* We are always one breath away from failure in our own eyes.

* As part of our human nature, we act and feel as if we must convince the world and ourselves that there is nothing in us that deserves condemning.

* Our human craving to be free from scrutiny, criticism, and judgment is really an echo of where history began and where history will eventually end. Both the origin of all humanity and the destiny of redeemed humanity are worlds in which there is no judgment because there is no imperfection in them.

* All of us are quick to embrace the biblical doctrine of heaven but are inclined to damn the biblical doctrine of damnation. It is difficult biblical teachings like judgment that help us discern the degree to which we really do (or do not) stand with Jesus. But damn anything that Jesus said is to damn ourselves.

* If a judging God were removed from the universe, it would create more problems than it would solve.

* To accept that God is a lover but not a judge is a luxury that only the privileged and protected can enjoy.

* We need a God who gets angry.

* Jesus said so much about hell and judgment for two main reasons that I can surmise. First, he wants us to remember that God is holy and that even the most lovely, kindhearted people among us will never measure up to that holiness.

* For those who believe in Jesus, the Cross moves their Judgment Day from the future to the past. How? Jesus already died the death that they deserved to die.

* The second reason why Jesus said so much about hell and judgment is that he is eager to spare us from both.

* Are there times in which it is not only appropriate, but also right and good, for Christians to tell others about the judgment of God? We must conclude that it is not the least compassionate, but the most compassionate Christians who will do so.

* The more distanced a friend is from God, the more direct a loving Christian will be in conversations about eternal realities.

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London.

This week we look at Chapter Eight from Volume Two, “God or Mammon”

* We are dealing here with the subject of worldliness, or worldly-mindedness, and the whole problem of the world; but we must cease to think of it in terms of people who are in the world outside. This is the peculiar danger of Christian people.

* Worldliness is an attitude towards life. It is a general outlook, and it is so subtle that it can come into the most holy things of all.

* Our Lord is saying that worldly treasures do not last; that they are transitory, passing, and ephemeral.

* Not only is there an element of decay in these things; it is also true that we always tend to tire of them. That is why we are always talking about new things and seeking them.

* The last fact, therefore, about these things is that they inevitably perish.

* So our Lord appeals to our common sense, and reminds us that these worldly treasures never last.

* These heavenly things are imperishable and the thieves cannot break through and steal. Why? Because God Himself is reserving them for us. There is no enemy that can ever rob us of them, or can ever enter in. It is impossible because God Himself is the Guardian.

* His second argument is based upon the terrible spiritual danger involved in laying up treasures on earth and not in heaven.

* The first thing against which He warns us in this spiritual sense is the awful grip and power of these earthly things upon us.

* He tells us that this terrible thing that grips us tends to affect the entire personality; not merely part of us, but the whole man. And the first thing He mentions is the `heart’.

* The next thing about them is a little more subtle. They not only grip the heart, they grip the mind.

* Having shown that where the treasure is, the heart will be also, He says that it is not only the heart but the mind as well. These are the things that control man.

* This blurring of the vision by love of earthly treasures tends to affect us morally also! How clever we all are at explaining that a particular thing we do is not really dishonest.

* But lastly, these things not only grip the heart and mind, they also affect the will.

* What we do is the result of what we think; so what is going to determine our lives and the exercise of our wills is what we think, and that in turn is determined by where our treasure is-our heart.

* These earthly treasures are so powerful that they grip the entire personality. They grip a man’s heart, his mind and his will; they tend to affect his spirit, his soul and his whole being. Whatever realm of life we may be looking at, or thinking about, we shall find these things are there. Everyone is affected by them; they are a terrible danger.

* We must remember that the way in which we look at these things ultimately determines our relationship to God.

* The man who thinks he is godly because he talks about God, and says he believes in God, and goes to a place of worship occasionally, but is really living for certain earthly things-how great is that man’s darkness!

* There is nothing in the last analysis that is so insulting to God as to take His name upon us and yet to show clearly that we are serving mammon in some shape or form. That is the most terrible thing of all. It is the greatest insult to God; and how easily and unconsciously we can all become guilty of this.

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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