Recreational Reading

September is a special time of year for our family. For thirteen years now (wow!), we have escaped to the Jersey Shore for a weeklong respite. While there a good-many things we look forward to—beach, pool, board games, and the boardwalk—high on everyone’s list is a time set aside for recreational reading.

Books are ‘eyed-up’ throughout the year. Purchased and placed aside. “I’m going to save this one for our vacation,” is a common phrase heard in our home.

Here are the five I took with me last week:

1. The Endurance Diet: Discover the World’s Greatest Athletes’ 5 Core Habits to Look, Feel, and Perform Better, Matt Fitzgerald

The author has spent countless hours researching what various elite athletes around the world eat. This book explains some of their remarkable similarities (which makes for a fascinating read) and then follows with five recommendations.

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People generally think getting nutrition right is complicated, technical, and difficult to achieve. There is an overload of information and often contradicting advice. Today the general trend is to remove specific foods from the diet and focus on eating a smaller number of so-called healthy foods (current popular examples are the meat-free diet, the low-carb diet, the paleo diet, and many other variations).

If foods with little nutritional value are removed and replaced by other more nutritionous foods, that may be a good choice. But if the result is that the diet is less diverse, the outcome may not be that positive. Additionally, there are commercial interests, sensationalism, and everyone who writes a blog about nutrition seems to be an expert. It is therefore not surprising that athletes are confused. (foreword, xiii-xiv)

I loved this book and plan to read everything the author has written. My health and performance have already improved as a result.

2. Five Days in November, Clint Hill

Mr. Hill is the United States Secret Service agent that is most remembered for climbing up on the back of the 1961 convertible Lincoln Continental during the assassination of President JFK. I felt as if the author invited me into his living-room for a slideshow presentation of his  experiences.

61RqGEuZ6yL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_The motorcade in Dallas, Texas, began like countless others I had worked with President and Mrs. Kennedy. There were dense crowds and screams of adoration all along the route. Then, five minutes from our destination, the crowds dwindled, and out of nowhere, three shots rang out in Dealey Plaza.

Time stopped.

It was almost incomprehensible—the President of the United States was dead. In this new age of television, the news spread like nothing ever had before; Americans and people all over the world experienced this tragedy together. It felt like you’d lost a member of your own family. (233)

Here’s what happened: I couldn’t put the book down. It was an emotional reading journey. My wife read it after me in a single sitting! Now I want his other book, Mrs. Kennedy and Me.

3. Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men WholeEric Mason

I remember hearing a podcast featuring Eric Mason, lead pastor out at Epiphany Fellowship in Philly. He was defining what it looks like for a man to be a follower of Jesus and made the point that every man is being conformed to something. It was then that I placed his book on my wishlist.

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Every man has another man they see as an inspiration. We hold these men in high esteem because their image, in our minds and hearts, is exceptionally compelling. It may be a businessman, a professional athlete, a man of power in the community—it could be anyone. But whoever that person is, and whatever gravitas he may possess, he pales in true comparison to the true Jesus.

The more we recognize the biblical Jesus, His image becomes more compelling and we will want to be like Him. Unfortunately, the more we recognize the biblical Jesus, the more we also see how dramatically short of His example we actually fall. A clear picture of Jesus leaves no room for congratulations. But the amazingly good news is that God the Father through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross has custom fit our lives to reach the attainable image of Jesus. (73)

Mason in his book explains the scope of manhood, the problems in manhood, and the redemption of manhood. This was used as my devotional for the week.

4. The Disappearance of God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness, Albert Mohler

Let’s just say that Dr. Mohler never-ever-never disappoints:

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Has God disappeared?  The tragic reality is that we are living in an age that is marked by so much spiritual and theological confusion that the God of the Bible has largely disappeared from view — replaced by less imposing deities that are more amenable to the modern mind.

In one sense, we are witnessing the result of secularization and the evaporation of biblical theism from our public life.  To this we must add the privatization of truth and the fact that millions of Americans claim a divine right to their own spiritual cocoon and belief system.  As the song suggests, Americans now lay claim to “their own personal Jesus.”  This personal vision of Jesus Christ may well bear little or no resemblance to Jesus as he is revealed in the Bible.

Indeed, the abdication of biblical faith is one of the hallmarks of our age – whether you prefer to call it postmodern, hypermodern, or post-postmodern.  Yet, once the faith is severed from biblical authority, Christianity becomes essentially plastic; a malleable and changeable belief system that just begs for transformation into some other shape and substance. (preface, xii)

5. Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius, Bill Pennington

With every turn of a page, I found myself wanting to tell others about what I had just read. “Hey, listen to this baseball story!” One of the endorsements on the flyleaf describes it well:

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Billy Martin has been dead for 25 years? Wow.

That means there’s a generation or two that know nothing about this character of baseball characters, this incandescent ballplayer/manager/jerk/sweetheart, this irrepressible brawler with a grand mind for the game. Bill Pennington cures all that with ‘Billy Martin, Baseball’s Flawed Genius.’

This is a terrific tale about a roller coaster life.

The descriptions of the fistfights alone are worth the price of admission.

And then. Just like that. It is all over. Vacation has ended—and with it my recreational reading. It always, always comes oh-so-quickly. Goodbye summer of 2017.