Book Review: Wherever I Wind Up

R.A. Dickey is a name you probably wouldn’t have given much thought until a couple years ago when the aging veteran pitcher came virtually out of nowhere to become one of the more consistent pitchers in baseball, albeit with baseball’s most inconsistent and unpredictable pitch.

The journey of how he got there, from a hard-throwing phenom pitcher to a career minor leaguer whose mastery of the knuckleball gave him an unlikely second shot at a career in the big leagues is detailed in a book even Phillies fans can appreciate. Save for the redemption story of Josh Hamilton, sports biographies tend to be dime a dozen books you could easily interchange with different star names. Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball is anything but interchangeable.

For starters, Dickey doesn’t hold back on the gritty details of his story or the mistakes he’s made along the way. From a childhood marred by sexual abuse and a career of dramatic ups and downs to a marriage he almost ruined with infidelity and a personal battle with depression, Dickey shoots straight and weaves a narrative that is as much about a struggle for acceptance, contentment, forgiveness and grace as it is about striking hitters out.

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Book Review: Average Joe

It’s really easy to read the biographies or books of accomplished Christian pastors, teachers and leaders and think that following Christ is all about doing something big and successful that’s measurable by large numbers, big crowds, fame and a bulky bottom line. But where does that leave the rest of us who are more or less average Joes?

Troy Meeder’s book Average Joe: God’s Extraordinary Calling to Ordinary Men is for men who don’t have profiles written about them in Christian magazines, don’t get up every Sunday morning to preach in front of thousands and aren’t currently or ever the Top 40 under 40 in their community. It’s for guys who mow lawns – like the guy Troy encountered at college who made a tremendous impact on his walk with Christ, work 9 to 5 jobs without much fanfare and raise families on average salaries. In other words, it’s a book for almost all men (somewhere there’s a joke referencing Occupy Wall Street in there).

Through personal stories, profiles of average Joes and insights on scripture, Meeder hammers home the point that living an average life is okay and that being an average Joe doesn’t mean God doesn’t want to use you or that he doesn’t have a unique and as the book title suggests “extraordinary” call for your life.

In a culture that’s obsessed with numbers, salaries and performance – how often do you hear the phrase go big or go home and believe it? – Meeder’s message is a welcome breath of fresh air. In my teenage years I remember praying many times at the altar at Delanco Camp asking God to use me in a mighty way and picturing that this meant something that would land me in magazine and newspaper profiles (though my byline has appeared in both as a writer) and make me some kind of Christian celebrity.

Sometimes when I look at my life now and compare it to what I thought it would be when I was a teenager I feel like I’ve fallen short of what God had planned for me, but as Meeder reminds me it’s not what I do that determines whether my life is extraordinary by God’s standards – it’s what I allow God to do through me.

Meeder writes:

“there is no need to strive to be anything more than a servant of our Creator. We expend ourselves, our precious life, and our very existence in pursuit of significance, prestige, wealth, and fame. I believe that these pursuits are meaningless, never ending, and often offer only hollowness, hunger, and pain. We seek to be something our Creator never intended us to be: self-important, shortsighted, and earthly minded.
I believe that every man – yes, even an average Joe – can and will be used greatly by God if he allows himself to be broken, refined, and shaped more into His image.”

If you’re an average Joe like me, definitely check out this book either for personal study or for a men’s small group. If you aren’t in a men’s small group, this might be just the right book to use as an excuse to start one.

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Book Review: Reggie

Whether at a school assembly, youth rally or large Christian music festival, you may have encountered Reggie Dabbs before. One of the most sought after school and youth speakers in the nation, Dabbs is an incredibly dynamic communicator who has a knack for connecting with young people who dread assembly speakers.

I’ve had the privilege of hearing Dabbs speak on a number of occasions both in Christian conference and public school settings. While the setting dictates how in-depth he can go about the source for his strength and purpose, he is consistent in telling young people and adults the truth of who they are – somebody loved.

His new book, Reggie: You Can’t Change Your Past, But You Can Change Your Future, which he wrote with John Driver, details the moving story of how Reggie himself overcame the tragic true story of his birth and the repeated lies he was told growing up of how he was worthless and would never amount to anything.

While he slowly unfolds the complicated warts-and-all story of his past and the sordid details of the two ten dollar bills that resulted in his conception, Reggie also tells the story of his present and how God has used him and continues to use him (of all people!) to reach thousands of hurting people around the world.

Like one of his speeches or sermons, you’ll find yourself engaged from the get-go, hanging on his words, laughing at his anecdotes and brought to tears when he gets to the biblical heart of the matter.

Though he’s best known for his ability to speak to teenagers – in one particularly moving passage he shares how he was led by the Holy Spirit to reach out to a young man in the audience who it turns out had a gun and was planning on killing himself – Reggie’s story is one that people of all ages can appreciate and gain insight and inspiration from. We all, after all, have a past and we’re all in need of the same loving touch of the savior that rescued Reggie from a life of sin and brokenness and brought him into the light and fullness of a life committed to sharing Christ with others.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided by its publisher, Thomas Nelson

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