Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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My 2016 Favorites at Mid-Year

A Few of My Favorite ThingsAs we have the mid-year point, I want to share with you some of my favorites from 2016 in a variety of categories. Except for books, these are all items that were released or took place in 2016. For books, I include my favorite books that I’ve actually read during 2016.  Enjoy, and please let me know what you think by clicking on the ‘Comment’ link above.

MUSIC:  I enjoy music in a variety of genres. My favorites were:


Top Pick:  Church Clothes 3 – LecraeChurch Clothes 3

Other albums that I’ve enjoyed have been:

Wow to the Deadness (EP) – Steve Taylor and the Danielson Foil

Fallen Angels – Bob Dylan

Stranger to Stranger – Paul Simon

Hymns II – Michael W. Smith

Salvation’s Tide is Rising – Passion

Love Riot – Newsboys

Worship and Believe – Steven Curtis Chapman

This Time Around (EP) – Tedashjii

Facing a Task Unfinished – Keith and Kristyn Getty

I’m really looking forward to two July releases – Where the Light Shines Through by Switchfoot and Hard Love by NEEDTOBREATHE .


Top pick:  Jumped Out the Whip – Tedashii

Other songs I’ve enjoyed have been:

Float – Switchfoot

My Worth Is Not In Not In What I Own – Keith and Kristyn Getty with Fernando Ortega

Vaporized – Amos LeeJumped Out the Whip – Tedashii

That Old Black Magic – Bob Dylan

It Is What It Is – Lecrae

God and God Alone – Chris Tomlin

I Trust in Christ – Matt Redman

Wow to the Deadness – Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil

Cool Papa Bell – Paul Simon

Down to the River to Pray – Michael W. Smith

I Don’t Know Why (Jesus Loves Me) – Michael W. Smith

White Bikini – Charlie Peacock


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2015 Favorites – So Far

FavoritesAs we approach mid-year, I wanted to take a quick look back and share some of my favorite music, books, movies and a new podcast.


I enjoy music in a variety of genres. As a result, you will see in my 2015 favorites thus far music in such diverse genres as hip-hop/rap to sacred music. My favorites thus far, in order are:


  • Saints and Sinners – Matt Maher
  • Before This World – James Taylor
  • Glory to the Holy One: Sacred Music for the People of God – Jeff Lippencott and R.C. Sproul
  • Shadows in the Night – Bob Dylan
  • Tomorrow We Live – KB
  • Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship – Third Day
  • Duets: Reworking the Catalogue – Van Morrison
  • Live from Red Rocks – Amos Lee
  • Live from the Woods – NEEDTOBREATHE
  • The Wonderlands: Sunlight (EP) – Jon Foreman
  • Passion: Even So Come – Various Artists

Albums that I’m aware of being released later this year that I’m looking forward to are:

  • Unbroken Praise – Matt Redman (June 16)
  • The Wonderlands: Shadows (EP) – Jon Foreman (July 17)
  • This is Not a Test – Toby Mac (August 7)


Top choice is “Abide with Me” written and performed by Matt Maher. Matt Redman has also covered the song on his new live worship album Unbroken Praise.  Other songs I’ve enjoyed thus far this year, in no particular order are:

  • Soul on Fire – Third Day
  • Sideways – KB (featuring Lecrae)
  • Wonder – Crowder
  • Even So Come – Chris Tomlin
  • Clothed in Righteousness – Jeff Lippencott and R.C. Sproul
  • That Lucky Old Sun – Bob Dylan
  • Watchin’ Over Me –James Taylor
  • Sweet Pea (live version) – Amos Lee


In this category, while many of the books will have been released in 2015, I list those books I have actually read in 2015. My favorites thus far, in order are:

  1. Reformation Study Bible (revised and updated edition)
  2. Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression – Zack Eswine
  3. A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships – Paul Miller
  4. Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography- David Platt
  5. Rising to the Call: Discover the Ultimate Purpose of Your Life – Os Guinness
  6. John Knox: Fearless Faith – Steven Lawson
  7. Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work – Tom Nelson
  8. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert – Rosaria Butterfield
  9. The Next Story: Faith, Friends, Family, and the Digital World (revised and updated edition) – Tim Challies
  10. Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story – Trip Lee
  11. The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do – Jeff Goins
  12. Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty – Bengie Molina
  13. Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game – Mark Miller
  14. The New One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
  15. The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption – Matt Chandler

See what I’m reading now.


We love going to the movies, but frankly it’s been a very disappointing year so far. My favorites thus far, in order are:

  1. Avengers: The Age of Ultron
  2. Cinderella
  3. McFarland USA
  4. Woman in Gold
  5. The Drop Box
  6. Far From the Madding Crowd

New Podcast

Over the past few years Eric Metaxas has become one of my favorite authors. I was excited to hear about his radio show and even more excited when it became available in podcast.

 What are some of your favorites thus far this year?

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Bill’s 2014 Favorites

Here are my favorites from 2014 in a variety of categories along with some input from friends and family. I’d be interested in what you think, and what some of your favorites were. Enjoy!

Television Programs
#1 – St. Louis Cardinal Baseball on Fox Sports Midwest (of course)
#2 – The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
#3 – Duck Dynasty
#4 – Blacklist
#5 – Downton Abbey
#6 – Castle
#7 – The Profit

Radio Station
Hot 95.9 (Orlando, Florida) You can listen online!

Books These are my favorite books I read this year, some of which were published prior to 2014.
1. Everyone’s a Theologian – R.C. Sproul
2. What’s Best Next – Matt Perman
3. The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen – Sinclair Ferguson
4. John: The Gospel of Wisdom – Michael Card
5. Taking God at His Word – Kevin DeYoung
6. Ordinary – Michael Horton
7. Romans for You Chapters 1-7 – Tim Keller
8. 41: A Portrait of My Father – George W. Bush
9. The Gospel at Work – Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert
10. Visions of Vocation – Steven Garber

Other books I enjoyed this year:
Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In – Louis Zamperini
God Took Me by the Hand – Jerry Bridges
Killing Patton – Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
Not By Sight – Jon Bloom
The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield – Steven Lawson
Good Leaders Ask Great Questions – John Maxwell
You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity – Francis Chan and Lisa Chan
Quiet – Susan Cain
How then Should We Work? – Hugh Whelchel
The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman
A Godward Heart – John Piper
Michael Jordan: The Life – Roland Lazenby
The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams – Ben Bradlee Jr.
Wooden: A Coach’s Life – Seth Davis
God at Work – Gene Veith
The Noticer – Andy Andrews
God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines. – Edited by R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig – Jonathan Eig
Good Call – Jase Robertson
Recovering Redemption – Matt Chandler
One Nation – Ben Carson
Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love by Richard Sheridan
Miracles – Eric Metaxas


We usually see at least one movie a week. Here are my top ten and then a few others in no particular order:

1. The Good Lie
2. Unbroken
3. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
4. Whiplash
5. Edge of Tomorrow: Live, Die, Repeat
6. St. Vincent
7. Chef
8. Into the Woods
9. Guardians of the Galaxy
10. The Judge

Other movies I enjoyed were (in no particular order):
Big Hero 6
Ernest and Celestine
The Hundred Foot Journey
The Railway Man
The Amazing Spider Man

Mom’s Night Out
Magic in the Moonlight
And So It Goes
Ride Along


Artist of the Year: Lecrae – Anomaly and Owner of Reach Records (KB, Andy Mineo, Trip Lee and Tedasi Releases)

Many of my favorite artists released albums this year. Here are my top ten and then a several others I enjoyed in no particular order:
#1 – Songs of Innocence Deluxe Edition – U2
#2 – Anomaly – Lecrae
#3 – Goliath – Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil
#4 – Rise – Trip Lee
#5 – Love Ran Red – Chris Tomlin
#6 – Neon Steeple – Crowder
#7 – Fading West/The Edge of the Earth – Switchfoot
#8 – Rivers in the Wasteland – NEEDTOBREATHE
#9 – John: The Misunderstood Gospel – Michael Card
#10 – The Spirit of Christmas – Michael W. Smith and Friends

Other music I enjoyed (in no particular order):
20 – Jars of Clay
The Greengrass Sessions – Keith and Kristyn Getty (EP)
High Hopes – Bruce Springsteen
Peter Furler Christmas featuring David Ian
Terms of My Surrender – John Hiatt
All the People Said Amen – Matt Maher
Sovereign – Michael W. Smith
Hymns – Michael W. Smith
Never Land – Andy Mineo (EP)
Sun and Shield – Peter Furler Band
Crimson Cord – Propadanda
Below Paradise – Tedashii
Obsession – Jim Gaffigan

#1 – At the Cross (Love Ran Red) – Chris Tomlin

Other songs that I enjoyed this year:
Shweet – Trip Lee
A Life Preserved – Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil
Because He Lives – Matt Maher
Detroit Made – Bob Seger
Coulda Been Me – Trip Lee
Say I Won’t – Lecrae featuring Andy Mineo
Invisible – U2
Every Breaking Wave (Acoustic Sessions version) – U2
Almost There – Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant
All is Well – Michael W. Smith and Carrie Underwood
Something in the Water – Carrie Underwood
100 – KB
Daywalkers – Propaganda with Lecrae
I Am – Crowder
Come as You Are – Crowder
All I’ve Ever Done – Michael Card (vocal by Ginny Owens)
The One that Really Matters – Michael W. Smith and Kari Jobe
Christ Be All Around Me – Michael W. Smith
Terms of My Surrender – John Hiatt
If You Love Her – Jars of Clay

We saw more concerts this year than we have for several years. Here are my top two and then the others are not in any particular order:
1. Paul McCartney at the United Center in Chicago
2. James Taylor at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park
Fernando Ortega at First Baptist Church in Pekin
Chris Tomlin and Brandon Heath at US Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington
Michael Card at East White Oak Church in Carlock
Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis
Toby Mac and Matt Maher at Braden Auditorium at Illinois State University
Keith and Kristyn Getty at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria

#1 – The Briefing (Albert Mohler) – essential listening every morning.
#2 – The Andy Stanley Leadership podcast

Informing the Reforming (Tim Challies) – essential reading every morning.

Teaching Series
1. Lessons from the Upper Room – Sinclair Ferguson
2. The Pilgrim’s Progress: A Guided Tour – Derek Thomas
3. A New Identity: The Gospel of Matthew – Michael Card

#1 – 2014 Ligonier Ministries National Conference in Orlando
#2 – Mathew: The Gospel of Identity (Biblical Imagination Conference) at Christ Church in Normal, Illinois

And Just for Fun…

• Home Run Inn – Chicago
• Tobin’s – Bloomington, Illinois
• Agatucci’s – Peoria
• Imo’s – St. Louis
• Giordano’s – multiple locations, favorite being just outside Downtown Disney in Orlando

Ice Cream
• Ted Drewe’s – St. Louis
• Wilson’s – Ephraim, Wisconsin (Door County)
• Kilwin’s – multiple locations, favorite being Celebration, Florida

Fast Food
• Chick Fil-A
• Five Guys Burgers and Fries

• Original Pancake House – multiple locations, favorite being Chesterfield, Missouri

Place to Visit
• Orlando
• St. Louis

Date Night
• Dinner and a good movie

2014 Favorites of Family and Friends


Tammy Pence (my bride and founding member of the Friday Night Movie Club)
The Good Lie
Edge of Tomorrow

Mom’s Night Out

Mike Pence (Brother)
Magic in the Moonlight
The Judge
Big Hero 6
That Awkward Moment

Julie Pence (Sister in Law)
1. Guardians of the Galaxy
2. The Judge
3. Gone Girl
4. Chef
5. Begin Again

Al Williams (brother in law)
Movies He’s Glad He Saw:
A Most Wanted Man
Begin Again
The Hundred Foot Journey

Teri Williams (Sister in Law)
Begin Again
The Equalizer

Jason Halm (long-time work colleague and a huge movie fan)
1. Snowpiercer (favorite script and execution of the script this year)
2. Grand Budapest Hotel (Ralph Fiennes was my favorite performance of the year)
3. Whiplash
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
5. Birdman
6. Interstellar (favorite special effects)
7. Boyhood
8. The Theory of Everything
9. X-men: Days of Future Past
10. Life Itself

Honorable Mention: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – this is a great tie-in to Marvel movies. Look for Netflix TV shows that will supplement the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Worst TV show and Movie:
1. The Following: Season 2. I watched the whole thing after feeling lukewarm about Season 1. I’ll not be watching Season 3.
2. The Other Woman (simply horrible – worst movie that I’ve seen all year)

Jeff Haab (friend)
Best Comedy Record:
Mandatory Fun by Weird Al Yankovic