Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


What’s It Gonna Take? by Van Morrison
*** ½

This is Van Morrison’s 43rd studio album, following 2021’s Latest Record Project Vol. 1. See my review of that album here. With the fourteen new songs here, Morrison has now released an amazing forty-two songs over the past year.
The album cover features a couple running away from the city on puppet strings with “Wake Up” in the background. Many of the songs on the album are about Morrison’s reaction to the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. I write this review from the perspective of living in a state that had some of the strongest COVID restrictions in the U.S. I’m also writing from the perspective of someone who nearly lost his brother to the virus.
My wife and I saw Morrison in concert two weeks before this album’s release. His voice is still an incredible instrument at age 76, as he leads his incredible band, showcased on this album. Morrison did not perform any of the songs on this new album in the concert.
Although some may disagree with some of the lyrics on the album, few will disagree that Morrison and his band deliver excellent performances here. Themes on the album are the impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions (depression, misery and strife), the need to fight back, freedom, government lies, the media/fake news, free speech and celebrity.
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

BOOK REVIEW:

Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar by Alan Shipnuck. Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster. 256 pages. 2022
***

Alan Shipnuck conducted nearly two hundred interviews for this book (players, caddies, swing coaches, etc.). He only spoke to Phil Mickelson once for the book, and that one call has caused all sorts of problems for Mickelson (his comments about Saudi Arabia and the PGA Tour), which continue to this day.
The author writes that Mickelson, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, winner of six major championships and 45 PGA Tour wins, tied for eighth all-time, is an enigma. His fans adore “Lefty”, who responds to their cheers with a grin and a “thumbs up”. But his longtime caddy, Jim “Bones” Mackay (who Mickelson owed $900,000), stated “Nobody knows Phil Mickelson. Nobody. I spent twenty-five years standing next to the guy and he’s still a total mystery to me.”
In this book, the author shares both positives (how he has helped other players, his philanthropic work, his generosity with those in the service industry, and his random acts of kindness), and negatives (his ties with men of ill repute, his huge gambling debts – he had gambling losses totaling more than $40 million in the four-year period 2010–14) – and becoming involved in a messy insider-trading case) about Mickelson.3 The author tells us that the book is an attempt to reconcile the multitudes within Mickelson, and help us understand who the real Phil Mickelson is.

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BOOK REVIEW ~ More of this review…
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BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
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THIS & THAT: A Roundup of Favorite Articles and Quotes

  • Speeding in Opposite Directions: Lightyear and Maverick. Brett McCracken writes “Yet for all these similarities, the two summer blockbusters that bear their names could not be more different. And the differences between Maverick and Lightyear reveal subtle but important cultural divisions in how we view the past, the future, and the nature of progress.”
  • 2 Films Explore a Volatile Question: ‘What Is a Woman?’ Brett McCracken writes “Two recent documentaries have spoken up, offering rarely heard pushback on the sexual revolution’s party line. While you won’t find these films in theaters or on major streaming sites—no corporate entity could survive association with them—they are worth seeking out and discussing.”
  • Roe v. Wade Has Ended – Our Pro-Life Work Has Not. On this special episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper responds to the question “As the work continues, what has been your answer to the question “What should I do?” How have you answered that question in your own life and ministry?”
  • Roe v. Wade Has Been Overturned…What Now? Scott Sauls writes “The answer to what it means to be consistently pro-life includes laying down our own lives for others, just as Christ has done for us.”
  • The FAQs: SCOTUS Upholds Religious Freedom in Praying Coach Case. Joe Carter writes “The Supreme Court issued its ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton, a religious liberty case involving a Washington State high school football coach who lost his job because he prayed silently on the 50-yard line after a football game. The decision states, “The Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect an individual engaging in a personal religious observance from government reprisal; the Constitution neither mandates nor permits the government to suppress such religious expression.””
  • Praying Football Coach Wins at Supreme Court. Daniel Silliman writes “Joseph Kennedy’s prayers are protected by the First Amendment’s right to free speech and free exercise of religion, the court decided. The coach didn’t coerce any Bremerton, Washington, high school players into praying, so the school district was wrong to try to stop him from practicing his Christian faith.”

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • A Conversation with Tim Keller. This interview with Tim Keller by Mike Cosper is an excellent bonus episode on The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill
  • Abram Van Engen, Professor: Origin Stories. On this episode of the Working with Dan Doriani podcast, Dan talks to Abram Van Engen, professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis, Executive Director of the Carver Project, and the author of two books. The second and most well-known is titled City on a Hill, a History of American Exceptionalism.
  • Managing Tension. On this episode of the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, Stanley discusses why a certain amount of tension is necessary for a healthy organization. Leaders must learn to recognize the difference between “conflicts that need to be resolved” versus “tensions that need to be managed.
  • “You Are An Agent of Flourishing” Featuring Amy Sherman. On this episode of the Denver Institute for Faith & Work Faith & Work Podcast, join Joanna Meyer and Amy Sherman, author of Kingdom Calling and the new book Agents of Flourishing, as they discuss community, shalom, and the Church.
  • Called to Lead. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace is available in both a paperback and Kindle edition. Read a free sample (Introduction through Chapter 2).
  • On this episode of the Minute with Maxwell podcast, John Maxwell tells us that a career is what you get paid for, while a calling is what you’re made for. You can quit a career at any time, but a calling stays with you throughout your life.
  • Examining Our Aspirations & Worship in the Great Resignation. Judy Allen writes “The impact of the Great Resignation will not be fully understood for years, but Christians can take immediate advantage of it by asking ourselves two important questions: To what do we aspire? Who, or what, do we worship?”

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  • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
  • My Review of The Road to J.O.Y. Leading with Faith, Playing with Purpose, Leaving a Legacy by Scott Drew
  • Quotes from the book You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News by Kelly Kapic

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My Review of Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing, rated PG-13
***

Where the Crawdads Sing, based on the bestselling novel by Delia Owens, is a well-made and acted film that has some content concerns. For those who have not read the book (as myself), the film includes a few surprising twists.
The film is directed by Olivia Newman and the screenplay is written by Oscar nominee Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild).
The film, primarily set in the 1950’s and 1960’a, is about Kya Clark, played well by Daisy Edgar-Jones. Daisy and her family live in the marshes of Barkley Cove, North Carolina. When she is young (the young Kya is played by Jojo Regina), she meets a boy on the marshes named Tate Walker. Kya’s father (played by Garrett Dillahunt), is an alcoholic with a bad temper. He eventually drives Kya’s siblings and then her mother to leave the home, leaving Kya with her father, who eventually abandons her as well.
Kya has to survive on her own, and becomes known as the “Marsh Girl”. She is helped by the friendly Christian couple – Michael Hyatt as Mabel and Sterling Macer Jr. as Jumpin’ – that run the country grocery store.
When Kya is older, she meets Tate again, played by Taylor John Smith, and he teaches her to read and write. Kya has a real talent for drawing the animals, insects and trees she encounters in the marsh. Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


New Creation – Mac Powell
****

I’ve long enjoyed Mac Powell’s music, mostly from his time as lead singer of four-time Grammy winners Third Day. I also enjoyed his 2019 album Back Again with Mac Powell and the Family Reunion. In fact, my wife Tammy and I saw Powell with his band the Family Reunion in November 2019, which was the last concert we saw before concerts were shut down due to the pandemic.

Me and Mac

Powell has also released two country music solo albums, but this is his first solo album of Christian music, and it’s a good one. He brings his distinctive baritone voice – one of the best in music – to these songs with a bit of a country/southern flavor. The album is produced by Jonathan Smith, Hank Bentley, Jeff Pardo, Seth Mosely, Colby Wedgeworth, and Ed Cash. Powell co-wrote each song, collaborating with Jonathan Smith, Ethan Hulse, Seth Mosley, Jeff Pardo, Brenton Brown, Hank Bentley, Matt Maher, Benji Cowart, Casey Beathard and Tommy Iceland.
Below are a few comments about each song:

 

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Unguarded by Scottie Pippen with Michael Arkush. Atria Books. 303 pages. 2021  
***

Scottie Pippen is one of the greatest players in the history of the National Basketball Association. He is a six-time world champion with the Chicago Bulls and a member of the Hall of Fame. He also won two Gold Medals as a member of the U.S. Olympic Basketball team. I, along with my family, was blessed to see the Bulls play in person many times during their incredible run, even though tickets were incredibly hard to get. It was a very special time in sports, one that I doubt I will ever see again.
Until now, Pippen has not written his autobiography, though his career was certainly worthy of one. After watching the acclaimed 2020 ESPN documentary The Last Dance, (for which teammate Michael Jordan was paid $10 million and no other Bull was paid anything), Pippen decided it was time to tell his story. He writes that there is a great deal in the ESPN documentary that has no business being in there, and also that a great deal that should have been included has been left out. Pippen writes that the documentary failed to give his Hall of Fame career the treatment it deserves. He states that The Last Dance was Jordan’s chance to tell his story, and Unguarded is Pippen’s.

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BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
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My Review of Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, rated PG
****

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a delightful film that we thoroughly enjoyed, starring Oscar nominee Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread). The film was directed by Anthony Fabian, and the screenplay was written by Fabian, Carroll Cartwright, Keith Thompson and Olivia Hatreed, based on a 1958 novel by Paul Gallico.
The film is set in London in the 1950’s. Ada Harris, played by Manville, is a hard-working and good-hearted cleaning lady who has not heard from her Air Force husband who has been missing in action for twelve years. Vi Butterfield, played by Ellen Thomas, is a fellow cleaning lady and Ada’s good friend. Ada still holds out hope that her husband will one day walk back into her life. But then that hope is shattered when she receives a package containing his ring in the mail.
Ada sees a Dior dress that has been purchased by one of clients, and immediately falls in love with it. She decides to save up for a Dior dress of her own. She takes on sewing work to help raise the money for the trip to Dior in Paris and the dress.


SPOILER ALERT: After foolishly losing a good amount at the dog races, despite being encouraged against the bet by the kind-hearted Archie, played by Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter films), and not being paid by one of her customers, she loses hope that she will ever get her dream dress.
But then Ada receives a surprise visit indicating that she should have been receiving a widow’s pension all of these years. That unexpected money will help her get to Paris where she can buy her dream dress.
In Paris she is looked down upon and invisible by Dior’s manager, Claudine Colbert, played by Oscar nominee Isabelle Huppert (Elle), but befriended by Marquis de Chassagne, played by Lambert Wilson, who lets her attend the exclusive by invitation only fashion show as his guest. Ada is overjoyed by the dresses she sees. She falls in love with a red dress named “Temptation”.
It will take a few days for her dress to be fitted and made, so the young accountant Andre Fauvel, played by Lucas Bravo, lets her stay at his home as his sister is away. The “Face of Dior”, model, Natasha, played by Alba Baptista, gives her a ride to the man’s home. Marquis de Chassagne also begins taking a liking to Ada. Ada will build a friendship with the two during her short time in Paris.


The film features beautiful costumes, a bit of romance, scenes of Paris and a very good cast, all led by a wonderful performance by Manville.
In a time in which woke film studios are adding as many “messages” into their films as possible, it was a joy to watch this film, which was heart-warming and had no content concerns.


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THIS & THAT: A Roundup of Favorite Articles and Quotes

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