Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of RUN THE RACE

Run the Race, rated PG
***

Run the Race is a sports-themed faith-based film, for which Tim Tebow and his brother Robby served as executive producers. The brothers appear briefly in the film. The film is directed by Chris Dowling (Priceless), who wrote the film with Jake McEntire and Jason Baumgardner (Samson).
Dave Truett, played by Evan Hofer and his brother Zach, played by Tanner Stine (Indivisible), are high school seniors in Bessemer, Florida. Their mother died from cancer two years ago.  After that, their father Mike played by Kristoffer Polaha (Get Shorty, Castle) abandoned the boys and turned to alcohol to deal with his pain. The boys are very close and deeply care for each other. They live alone in a rundown home in their depressed town, but are cared for by their godmother Nanny, played by Frances Fischer (Unforgiven, Titanic).
Dave is recovering from a bad football injury, though still experiencing occasional seizures, and is a strong Christian. We see him going to church on a few occasions, where Mario Van Peebles (Heartbreak Ridge), portrays Pastor Baker.
Zach is a popular and good-looking All-State running back on the football team.  He is hoping for a college scholarship to the University of Florida (where Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy and was a two-time national champion), and take Dave with him to get out of Bessemer. Former Tennessee Titans star Eddie George plays a small role as a recruiter from the University of Florida. Continue reading

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed My Life by Rick Ankiel and Tim Brown.  Public Affairs. 307 pages. 2017
****

Many baseball fans will be aware of Rick Ankiel who was a top pitching prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals. In his rookie season at the age of 21, he started a playoff game for the Cardinals with great anticipation. His career had such promise. As a left-hander, he was being called the “next Sandy Koufax”. Then it happened. He writes that on a day when he asked his arm to be more special than ever, it deserted him. And for the next five years he chased the life he wanted, the one he believed he owed to himself, and the one he probably believed the world owed to him.
I was familiar with his story, but not the details that this honest book will give you. I came away with a new compassion for what he went through as he tried to understand what had happened to him and possible cures so that he could get back to being an elite pitcher with a great future. What happened to Ankiel is called “the Thing” because there’s no diagnosis and no cure. It is also called the monster, the yips and the phenomenon.
But there is much more to his story than what happened on the pitching mound in St. Louis on that fall afternoon.  He writes of his volatile father, who was often drunk, in trouble with the law and abusive to Ankiel’s mother. They were never married and he never acted as though they were, which Ankiel writes explains his half-sister— a whole other family—across town as he was growing up.
He writes about the nightmares, awake in the dead of night, waiting for his heart to settle, cursing the thing that would not leave him alone, not even in his sleep. He tried to drink and medicate those nights away. He tried to pitch them away in the minor leagues for the better part of four years. But four and a half years after “the pitch”, a pitch that even all that time later seemed so innocent, he retired at age twenty-five. His career was over almost before it had started, and yet he was not at all unhappy about it.  But within three hours of retiring as a pitcher, the Cardinals wanted him back – as an outfielder.
Ankiel returned to the major leagues as an outfielder on August 9, 2007, a game I remember watching. Incredibly, he hit a three-run home run in that game. Cardinal manager Tony La Russa stood by the dugout steps, applauding and smiling. Nobody could ever recall seeing that before. Years later, La Russa would recall it as one of the happiest days of his life. As a hitter, Ankiel was soon called “the Natural.”
Ankiel writes of Dr. Harvey Dorfman, a sports psychologist, who played a very important part of his life. They met in the spring of 2000, and Harvey became one of his best friends, in many ways replacing the real father he despised. Ankiel writes that Harvey saved careers, that he probably saved lives, or at least made them exceedingly more livable. He became what Ankiel had hoped for in a father and what his two boys should’ve had in a grandfather.
Ankiel retired for good after the summer of ’13, when the New York Mets released him. All in all, he played for six teams in six cities—St. Louis, Kansas City, Atlanta, Washington, Houston, and finally New York. Seven years a pitcher, seven years not. He then took a job with the Washington Nationals as their Life Skills Coordinator.
He states that he has written this book about his story for his two sons so that when they are old enough and curious enough they will hear it from his perspective. The book does include a fair amount of adult language and is certainly hard to read at times. Ankiel’s story is sad, tragic and ultimately triumphant. He is a survivor; his life story would make a great movie.
Sadly, he does not speak of having any faith. One wonders how that would have helped him in his times of darkness. Continue reading


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Graduation Weekend!

~ THIS AND THAT ~

EVENTS:

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A FEW REMINDERS:

  • $5 Friday: Each Friday Ligonier Ministries offers trustworthy resources on sale for $5. The weekly sale runs 12:01 a.m. — 11:59 p.m. Friday ET. Find out more each Friday at www.ligonier.org.
  • Blogger Tim Challies highlights Kindle deals of interest each day at www.challies.com
  • Christianaudio offers a free audiobook each month, announcing it the first day of the month at www.christianaudio.com
  • A new podcast that I’m excited about is Radical with David Platt (Platt wrote the popular book Radical. You can download the podcast on iTunes.
  • Search over 1,000 sermons from John Piper to listen to or download free here: http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons

ARTICLES:

  • Liberty University has recently been connected with faith healer Benny Hinn and Mormon Glenn Beck. Read this story from World Magazine titled “Strange Bedfellows”: http://www.worldmag.com/2014/05/strange_bedfellows
  • Recently, blogger Tim Challies began a series of articles through which he is scanning the history of the church—from its earliest days all the way to the present time—to examine some of Christianity’s most notable false teachers and to examine the false doctrine each of them represents. Check out the articles that have been published thus far: http://www.challies.com/topics/false-teachers
  • Emily Letts is a 25 year-old abortion counselor who decided to make a video about her own abortion, and the result is one of the most disturbing video messages ever presented to public view. Read Albert Mohler’s article here: http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/05/08/i-feel-super-great-about-having-an-abortion-the-culture-of-death-goes-viral/
  • Perhaps you’ve seen the story about two brothers who are believers losing their HGTV show because of statements they made. Read more here.

VIDEOS:

BOOKS:ravi

  • Ravi Zacharias’s next book, written with Vince Vitale is Why Suffering: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense. The book will be published October 21.  
  • Through the end of May, Reformation Trust Publishing is giving away the eBook edition of Douglas Bond’s The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts. In this addition to the A Long Line of Godly Men Profile series, Bond introduces us to Isaac Watts, “the father of English hymnody.” Read more and download your copy here: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/poetic-wonder-isaac-watts-free-ebook/

MUSIC:

  • “Daywalkers” by Propaganda and featuring Lecrae from Propaganda’s new album Crimson Cord is one of my favorite songs of the year. Below are the lyrics to the song:

Could we just get three minutes of your time, give or take a second or two? See, when they ask you about the culture, tell them I know it well This what you get when you mix Tony Hawk with Ice Cube, NWA, and the Bones Brigade Let me talk to them

Propaganda: Catch me copping nag Champa north corner of Santee or Twenty minutes east of South Central, that’s West Covi Broken families imposter, black rocking white Rasta Jimi Hendrix, Courtland Urbano mocking all your preconceived The narrative fight great, the heritage makes a man stand with his spine straight The ground that grew Kendrick, Anthony Kiedis, Incubus Music that speaks to the Jim Morris in each of us Shared the same nutrients, except mine got laced with divine DNA The child of a freedom fighter, trialed like graffiti writers Wild like the Freedom Riders We are all daywalkers, hybrids, bilingual, bicultural Flowing in the King’s tongue, Elohim and human one Rosetta Stone with a mic and some Chucks on All things to all men, so all men say “Amen!”

Hook:When you’re the product of a Panther and mama’s prayers answered You don’t even think twice You be like “Let’s go!” When they ask you about the culture, say “I know it well”

Lecrae:  Hey look, my homies told me back when I was playing my Nintendo To stay away from windows, cause bullets, they tend to hit those My mama told when I got the PS one To skip the BS and lead us or be as numb As every other brother throwing up colors in my community I knew better, but couldn’t do better but then I grew to be The same dude reading Wayne Grudem even though I grew up Listening to Snoop and Ice Cube, be amused Had the musac we used that to bruise cat’s egos Nowadays you might find me under the steeple Preaching to the people or making me a sequel To mixtapes, get shin scrapes at skate parks I’m everything in one; I’m a product of great art I’m a product of Descartes, Tim Keller, and Outkast Iconoclast the glass ceiling that they put above me The reason that they hate me, the same reason they love me

leadercast

Leadercast 2015 – Beyond You

I’ve been attending the Leadercast event (which has gone under different names – Maximum Impact Simulcast, Chick Fil-A Leadercast and now Leadercast) over the years. Originally it was John Maxwell’s event, and he has been a speaker each year I’ve attended until this year. Each year the event has been well hosted at Second Presbyterian Church in downtown Bloomington. Attendance this year was down almost 75% from last year due to a decision from a local employer not to support the event. However, my experience was that the 125 people who did attend found it to be a wonderful day of learning, inspiration and networking.

This year’s theme was “Beyond You”. That resonated with me because it is what servant leadership is all about.

Andy Stanley opened the event, and it was his job to tell us what it means to be a “Beyond You” leader, and to create a “Beyond You” culture in your organization. He stated:

  • “Beyond You” leaders fearlessly and selflessly empower leaders around them as well as those coming alongside them.
  • Fearlessly. Leaders who are not afraid of the 25 year-old kid who is smarter than you. “Beyond You” leaders will pour themselves these leaders even though they may take their place someday.
  • Empower. Every leader has power. What leaders need to learn is how to leverage your power/influence for the sake of those around you.
  • Andy stated that the Big Idea is: The value of a life is always measured by how much of it was given away. He said that this is often apparent when we hear about the impact someone has had on others at their funeral.
  • “Beyond You” leaders celebrate generosity and selflessness. We celebrate generosity, but sometimes envy accumulation.
  • We should spend more time on leveraging influence for the sake of others rather than accumulation.
  • He gave us three things to begin doing:
  • Make as few decisions as possible. Refuse to make decisions that other people can make. This is empowering. We need to say: “You decide”. As your organizational authority increases, your organizational IQ decreases. As you go up, you’ll know less and less about more and more things because you are responsible for more. You have authority, but not competency. Just because I have the authority, I don’t have to use it. Give it to others.
  • Work for your team. “Beyond Leaders” ask: “What can I do to help?” How can I leverage my influence/power/position to help you do what I’ve hired you to do? How can I work for you? I want to loan you my influence/power/position. Ask for 1-3 things you can do to assist your team members.
  • Empty your cup. “Beyond Leaders” should ask: “What can I do to fill their cup”? Some object and say that they will do this when they’re the boss. No, start now.

Leadercast is about creating leaders who are worth following. They announced that in addition to the annual one-day event, they are launching new experiences (Leadercast Nights, LeadercastNow.com, etc.). Though the cost to subscribe to LeadercastNow is $299 annually, you can sign up for a free two-week trial subscription at www.LeadercastNow.com).

Leadercast is partnering with the Barna Group on a research initiative on leadership. A few findings: Only one in five say their leader is a good leader. Two in five say their leader is a bad leader. A good (or bad) leader makes a big difference. Bad leadership holds us back.

Here are a few other take-aways from the event:

Dr. Henry Cloud

  • Cloud recently spoke at the organization I work at. His latest book is Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge.
  • He talked about the middle space between leadership and human dynamics.
  • Human dynamics drive your influence. You leave a wake (like a boat).
  • Results and relationships. Some leaders get results, but damage people in the process and lose influence.
  • How do you get influence? You need to build influence on a foundation of trust.
  • The human heart wants to be known and understood. Do the people you lead know that you understand them?
  • It’s good to have something past yourself. Is it just about the work? What is the big reason you do what you do? Do the people you lead know this?
  • An opportunity comes when your passion meets a need.
  • Does your work have meaning?
  • Having your influence go past you is vital.
  • Are you able to give up the one thing that is hardest for you to give up (control)? Human beings are control freaks.
  • If you want to empower people you’ve got to let go and give them control. Then, connect them to the work that will help them get results and have passion for.
  • People need to know that you are there for them.
  • Show your people that you are willing to do whatever it takes for them.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

  • He spoke live at the Cape Town, South Africa Leadercast site.
  • He spoke about Nelson Mandela, his selflessness and servant leadership.
  • He had an incredible distinctive laugh, and seemed to really enjoy speaking to the group.
  • He included current events, mentioning the girls were recently abducted, hearing that they had been sold as child brides for $12 in neighboring countries.
  • He said that good leaders listen and consider the opinions of all.
  • Good leaders are accountable. They serve those they lead.
  • Good leaders are there to lead because they know the way.
  • He humorously ended by saying that good leaders know when to retire, and then walked off the platform.

Laura Schroff

  • Told a moving story about helping a hungry 11 year old boy (Maurice) on the streets of NYC in 1986. That has resulted in a long-term relationship with Maurice, who is now married with seven children. Schroff wrote about her relationship with Maurice in her book An Invisible Thread.

Malcolm Gladwell

  • Gladwell talked about Ian Freeland, a General in the British forces in Northern Ireland who made a major mistake. Note: this account is from Gladwell’s latest book, the excellent David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. See my review here: David and Goliath https://coramdeotheblog.com/leadership/leadership-book-reviews/david-and-goliath-by-malcolm-gladwell/
  • Freeland thought a leader’s role was to set a clear set of rules. Violate those and there will be consequences.
  • Gladwell introduced the topic of deterrence and the consequences of not obeying a leader or the law. What is a leader to do to maintain their authority?
  • He used the example of paying taxes. The level of honesty on tax day varies significantly from county to country. Why so? Americans pay taxes because the perceived cost is so high for cheating. But do we have serious penalties in the U.S.? Not really.
  • Is deterrence the reason people obey or follow law/leaders? No, it’s legitimacy.
  • He talked about the components of legitimacy. It is legitimate if we are being treated with respect.
  • It is legitimate if we are treated with fairness.
  • It is legitimate if it is not arbitrary.
  • What does effective leadership look like? It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. You must be respectful of people. Even if you disagree.
  • You must have a trustworthy system.
  • When we look at people who disobey leaders, we shouldn’t ask what’s wrong with the people, but what’s wrong with the leaders.
  • Another illustration used was education in low-income neighborhoods. It is a system that can’t be trusted.
  • As a leader, we must ask what we can do to make this whole enterprise legitimate.
  • Freeland never understood about establishing legitimacy.
  • The people (Catholics) were not treated fairly. The police were Protestants.
  • The system wasn’t fair or trustworthy.
  • Freeland’s mistake lead to 30 years of fighting that didn’t end until the 1990’s. It started with a leader who did not understand the full obligations of leadership.

The 2015 Leadercast will be held on May 8.

~ UPDATED PAGES ON THE BLOG ~

Book Reviews:

  • The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson
  • God Took Me by the Hand: A Story of God’s Unusual Providence by Jerry Bridges
  • Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball by John Feinstein

Music Review: The Essential James Taylor

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