Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of ELVIS

Elvis, rated PG-13
***

This film looks at the relationship between Elvis Presley and his long-time manager Colonel Tom Parker, told from Parker’s perspective. The movie condenses Elvis’ life into a 159-minute somewhat fictionalized biopic. The film is well-made and features solid performances by the two leads actors – Austin Butler as Elvis and two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Philadelphia), as Colonel Tom Parker. The film was directed by Oscar nominee Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!), and written by Luhrmann, Sam Bromell, and Craig Pearce (Moulin Rouge!).
As the film opens, we see Presley as a boy being influenced by both Blues music and Gospel music. Parker calls himself a “snowman” because he likes to “snow” or con people. He works with carnivals, and manages the country music artist Hank Snow, played by David Wenham (Lord of the Rings trilogy).
We find out later that Parker was born in the Netherlands and was in the U.S. illegally. He meets Presley, a White man who sounds Black, at the Hayride, just as Presley’s first single “That’s All Right Mama” is taking over radio. His live show is filled with sexuality, as he blends Black Blues music and White rock and roll. When Presley’s popularity exceeds that of Snow, Parker dumps Snow and focuses all of his attention on Presley. Continue reading


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My 2022 Mid-Year Favorites


As I have done for several years now, I’m going share my favorites in a variety of categories for the first half of 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced this list once again, as we have not been to a conference and have seen very few movies. All items listed were released in 2022, with the exception of books, which reflect books that I read in 2022, regardless of publication date. I hope you enjoy this list!

Movies

Top Pick: Top Gun: Maverick. Here’s my review.

Other films that I have enjoyed, in order, were:

  • Belfast
  • King Richard
  • CODA
  • Jurassic World: Dominion
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

Books

Top Pick: Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution by Carl Trueman. Here’s my review.

Other books I have enjoyed, in order, have been:

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More Favorite Books, Music, Television, Blogs, Podcasts, Apps, Concerts, Conferences and Recommended Resources

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My Review of Jurassic World: Dominion

Jurassic World: Dominion, rated PG-13
***

The film Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg, was released 29 years ago in 1993. Jurassic World: Dominion is the sixth film in the series. The film brings back some characters from the first film. Despite multiple plotlines and locations – very little of which had to do with dinosaurs – and being overly long, I still enjoyed the film.
The film was directed by Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) and written by Trevorrow, Emily Carmichael and Derek Connolloy, based on characters created by Michael Crichton. The film had a budget of approximately $185 million.
The film opens four years after a volcano destroyed the Jurassic Park Island where the dinosaurs were first cloned. The dinosaurs now live and hunt alongside humans all over the world. A large biotech corporation, Biosyn, has established a sanctuary for dinosaurs in an isolated valley in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy. Continue reading


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My Summer Reading Plans

Summer is a great time for reading, whether it is on the backyard patio as the birds feast at the feeder or on a family vacation. This summer, I have several books, in a variety of genres (sports, leadership, culture, theology), that I plan to be reading. Here they are:

Bible Reading. My wife Tammy and I are reading through the Bible, a chapter at a time. As of this writing, we are in the book of Leviticus, using the Reformation Study Bible (English Standard Version).

Devotional Reading. This year, I’m using two resources for my daily devotional reading:

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Stomping Ground – Dion
****

I first became interested in Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dion (DiMucci), now 82, when he recorded five Contemporary Christian Music albums between 1980 and 1986. I’ve enjoyed his music ever since.
Dion follows up his 2020 album Blues with Friends (one of my favorites that year), with Stomping Ground, a blues album that again finds him collaborating with music greats with whom he shares mutual admiration. Most of the album’s fourteen songs were written by Dion and his songwriting partner Mike Aquilina. The sole non-original is “Red House,” the Jimi Hendrix song that has become a blues standard.
The album was produced by Wayne Hood with Dion, and features guests Boz Scaggs, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, Patti Scialfa, Bruce Springsteen, Billy F Gibbons, Keb’ Mo’, Sonny Landreth, Joe Menza, Mike Menza, Marcia Ball, Jimmy Vivino, Rickie Lee Jones, Wayne Wood, Joe Bonamassa, and G.E. Smith. The liner notes were written by Pete Townshend.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More of this review
  • Music News
  • Song of the Week Lyrics ~ Always by Chris Tomlin

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Babylon Bee Guide to Wokeness. Salem Books. 214 pages. 2021
****

If you are tired of all of the wokeness in our culture, this hilarious new book from the folks at The Babylon Bee is for you. On the other hand, if you want to be woke, and thus be on the right side of history, this book is also be for you.
I’ve been a fan of the Christian satire site The Babylon Bee for several years. The book is creative and extremely funny as it looks at wokeness in America (and it doesn’t even touch on our military (perhaps in volume 2), and uses stick figure illustrations throughout.
To give you a flavor of the book, here is their definition of what being woke means:
“Realizing the problems in your life are not your fault. In fact, when you really think about it, nothing is your fault. Blame everyone else for your problems. This is the first step to being woke.”

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEW ~ More of this review…
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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A PRAYER FOR SUMMER


Father in Heaven,
Thank you for the season of summer, my favorite. Here in the Midwest, we get to experience all four seasons, which my wife loves. We had a hard, and sometimes brutal winter. Spring was very slow in coming. We’ve had a lot of rain and the farmers are struggling to get their crops planted – and it’s June already!  The corn won’t be knee-high by the fourth of July.  But You are faithful, and morning by morning I see new mercies coming from You. And finally, summer is here.
Summer brings to mind so many memories – of school ending (what a great feeling that was!), playing kick the can/ghost in the graveyard outside until the street lights came on, staying up late, warm temperatures, daylight until 9:00 pm, baseball, golf, family vacations, time at lakes, reading outside, gardening, canoeing, long walks, and so much more.
As we move into summer, Father, what will you teach me this season? I don’t want to waste my summer. I know I’m not guaranteed the next minute. I want to live each day with purpose. With retirement, you have given me time to focus on those things that are most important. When asked, Jesus said that the great and first commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He said that the second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” I want to take that to heart – to love You with all of my heart, soul and mind and love my neighbor as myself.
Are there relationships you want me to focus on this summer? Relationships that need to be mended, or relationships that have lapsed that need to be rekindled. How can I be a better husband, brother, son and friend? What is it from your Word that you want to teach me this summer? What books should I read to grow in areas that I need to grow in?  Help me to use the skills, talents and experiences you have provided me to serve you and others in any teaching or mentoring opportunities that will be pleasing to you.
Father, I look forward to a few vacations with family this summer. Some of these family members we now only see a few times each year. Thank you for the blessing of these vacations. May our time together be precious. May relationships be strengthened. May we grow closer and closer and may our travels be safe.
Help me be a blessing to others this summer. Help me to serve others in Your name. Help me to encourage others to know You better.  Father, I look forward to this summer and your continual guidance of my life.

In Jesus precious name I pray,
Amen


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13 New and Upcoming Books You Might Be Interested In 

As we do from time to time, let’s take a brief look at new and upcoming books that you might be interested in. Here are 13 of them, in a variety of genres, from authors such as Bono, Tim Keller, Albert Mohler, Jordan Raynor, Paul Tripp, Bob Dylan, Dane Ortlund and more:

Retiring Well: Strategies for Finding Balance, Setting Priorities, and Glorifying God by John Dunlop MD
Here is the Amazon description for the book:
“What Should Retirement Look Like for a Christian?
Preparation for retirement requires more than just financial planning. For most people, and especially for Christians, it comes with a host of other considerations—when to retire, where to live, and how to spend one’s time. Many find themselves asking, Is there a right way to retire?
Drawing from his work with geriatric patients and his own retirement experience, Dr. John Dunlop shares practical strategies for Christians as they approach their retirement years. With Scripture as his guide, he promotes balance between rest and activity—encouraging intimacy with God, service to churches and communities, time with friends and family, and care for one’s health. Among the uncertainties of major life change, readers will be equipped to make decisions for their future as they seek to glorify God in their retirement. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEW: “The Postmodern Pilgrim’s Progress: An Allegorical Tale” by Kyle Mann and Joel Berry

The Postmodern Pilgrim’s Progress: An Allegorical Tale by Kyle Mann and Joel Berry. Salem Books. 224 pages. 2022
***

This book is inspired by the classic The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Written by two of the editors of the satire site The Babylon Bee, the book is filled with wit and humor, including many nods to current culture, including films and perhaps even a prosperity preacher that you might recognize.
Our guide is “The Narrator”, described as an “essentially immortal being”. The Narrator was created by the First Being, who tasked him with chronicling the dream of a thirty-three-year-old Earth-dwelling image-bearer agnostic named Ryan. Ryan’s younger brother Matthew had died of brain cancer two weeks earlier. On the day of Matthew’s death, he had asked Ryan to go to church again, at least once. Ryan promised that he would, so he soon finds himself at the Ignite Christian Collective megachurch. The only seat he can find is right in the front. After the preacher says, “God will NEVER give you more than you can handle!”, Ryan screams out “LIAR!” Not long after that, the projector on which the worship song lyrics were projected, fell and hit Ryan on the head.
Ryan felt himself falling, eventually waking up in a bed. Ryan, or perhaps his name is Christian, notices how calm and peaceful The City of Destruction within the Dying Lands is, with happy townspeople. He also notices a flaming meteorite hurtling toward the house he has providentially left moments before. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEW:  “Strange New World” by Carl R. Trueman

Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution by Carl R. Trueman. Crossway. 198 pages. 2022
****

In 2020, the author published The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution, a 434-page book, to wide acclaim. Trueman was encouraged by Ryan T. Anderson (who wrote the Foreword to this book) to write this condensed version of the original book, making it more accessible to a wider audience, but still a bit of a challenge to read. My wife and I read and discussed this important new book – using the helpful study questions at the end of each chapter – which we found to be excellent.
Trueman tells us that for many people, the Western world in which we now live has a profoundly confusing, and often disturbing, quality to it. Things once regarded as obvious and unassailable virtues have in recent years been subject to vigorous criticism and even in some cases come to be seen by many as more akin to vices. He welcomes us to this strange new world and states that we may not like it, but it is where we live, and therefore it is important that we try to understand it. To respond to our times, we must first understand our times. That is Trueman’s goal in this book.
Trueman offers much to take in and ponder in this book. In this brief review, I’ll try to share some of the main takeaways my wife and I had from the book, which we recommend that you read and discuss with others.
Trueman addresses the modern self early in the book. He writes:
“The modern self assumes the authority of inner feelings and sees authenticity as defined by the ability to give social expression to the same. The modern self also assumes that society at large will recognize and affirm this behavior. Such a self is defined by what is called expressive individualism.”
He adds that the modern self is one where authenticity is achieved by acting outwardly in accordance with one’s inward feelings. Continue reading