Search Results for: label/Harpeth River Ride

My 100 Mile Bike Ride – Made It!

The Harpeth River Ride south of Nashville, is one of the two premier biking events in Middle Tennessee each year.

The 100-mile Route of the Harpeth River Ride

Last year I did the 62-mile loop for the Harpeth River Ride that starts in the parking lot of Nissan’s North American headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, and winds through some beautiful scenic roads. I had just got back into riding a couple of months earlier and the ride was just about more than I could handle. I started off strong but then hit Pulltight Hill for the first time and struggled the rest of the way to the finish line.

I’ve been on the bike at least once a week and usually twice since then – so I’ve “let” my neighbor talk me into the 100-mile loop – which goes 101 miles. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be just about more than I can handle – but I can do it! So if you see a triumphant update on my ride on Monday – you’ll know I made it – even if my pace doesn’t break any land speed records.

If I am unusually quiet next week you might be right when you assume I switched to the 62-mile loop mid-course. But I’m not even going to think that way. 101 miles here I come. Prayers and best wishes are welcome!

ADDENDUM

I made it! In fact, I took a wrong turn and added 4 miles, so I made 105 miles. I wasn’t the last rider in – but I was definitely near the back of the pack. I expected that knowing that the majority of the 100-mile participants would be the better riders and I didn’t think I could catch any of the stragglers riding the 62-mile or 44-mile loops. Next year? Might return to the 62-mile loop!

Harpeth River Bike Ride

Nissan’s Official Harpeth River Ride Vehicle

 

“The Necessary Compulsion of Exercise”

I will be riding my bike this Saturday with Lance Armstrong and other friends.

On Saturday morning I take off on my bicycle with a couple thousand of my closest friends – including Lance Armstrong and some of his Team RadioShack teammates – on the Harpeth River Ride. I am doing the 62-mile course with mixed emotions. (Not sure how far Lance is riding or how long we are going to hang together.)

On one hand I love riding my bike and I see the benefit – or more accurately the necessity – of riding to get in better shape (another way of saying, “I need to lose 20 pounds … again”). On the other hand, after a long winter hibernation and then an early spring surgery, I’m not in the best shape of my life, a condition that both motivates and discourages the obvious cure. So I know full well that not all of the 62 miles promise to be fun. In the short time I’ve had to get ready for this modest ride I’ve discovered that after riding about 25 miles the gentle rolling hills of Middle Tennessee, the hills are not always so gentle.

I was sifting through some excerpts from Albert Schweitzer’s Africa Notebooks and stumbled on this relevant observation the great missionary and humanitarian made as he conversed with the natives of Africa. They were curious as to the differences between themselves and the people of Europe where Schweitzer was born.

So I go on to tell them that in Europe people row for pleasure, a statement followed by uncontrollable laughter. … I don’t attempt to make clear to them what sport is. The conditions under which they live in so many ways compel them to use their physical forces and take exercise to a greater extent than they like, that they cannot understand at all how people can do so except under compulsion.

We may have a choice whether to exercise or not, but in our corner of the world where food is abundant and many of us ply a trade that is sedentary, it’s not surprising we put on jogging shoes or head to the gym or hop on a bike under a certain compulsion, too.

So will I ride for pleasure or compulsion on Saturday? I’m telling myself it is for pleasure. But halfway through I may not be able to fool myself any longer. As is so often the case in life, the answer is a definite and resounding, yes.

Imagine Tat! What Do Tattoos Tell Us About a Person?

Do tattoos matter?

Do tattoos tell us anything about a person?

A friend in my age range – let’s not get too specific and just say somewhere between age 49 and 51 – just got a major tattoo.

I was at one of my 14-year-old’s AAU basketball games a couple Saturday’s ago and the mom of one of the players from the other team had also recently got ‘tatted’ up; a shoulder to wrist floral arrangement on both arms. Naive as I am, I kept thinking she had some sort of arm-nylons on under her sleeveless t-shirt. That’s what I explained to Amy who elbowed me because she thought I was looking over there too much.

Imagine tat!

Of course head for the local high school or even middle school and you’ll see a large number of young people with low ride jeans, high-rise shirts, and lots of tattooed skin. And then there’s the girls.

What do tattoos tell us about a person? Anything? (Is there an age limit on when you can get your first tattoo?)

The old adage claimed that “clothes make the man,” which seems way too superficial, just as getting worked up about tattoos seems judgmental, turning a matter of taste into a moral issue. Right?

Along those lines my grandpa insisted you could tell everything you needed to know about a potential job candidate from his shoes: “you don’t have to be rich to have your shoes shined.” He obviously hadn’t anticipated casual Fridays and Ecco comfort shoes.

But back to tattoos. Just in case you were wondering –

* 15% of Americans have been tattooed – about 40 million people
* 38% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 40 have been tattooed
* Democrats(18%) are more tattooed than Republicans (14%) and Independents (12%)
* Geographically the West (20%) outpaces the East (14%), Midwest (14%), and South (15%) among adults with tattoos
* About 20% of those who have been tattooed regret it, with the number one cause of regret being the person’s name in the tattoo (16%); 11% admit “it was stupid”
* Of those with tattoos 26% feel more attractive, while 5% feel more intelligent; 29% feel more rebellious and 57% of those without a tattoo agree that those with tattoos look more rebellious
* On google searches, more people are interested in Angelina’s tattoos than any other celebrity

I think the numbers speak for themselves. Besides proving that Democrats have a higher propensity toward rebelliousness, that Brad may or may not find tattoos attractive depending on which news source you take most seriously in the grocery store checkout line, and that the 5% of those who are tattooed may not be smart enough to know that ink on skin didn’t make them more intelligent, the conclusion really is quite evident and irrefutable … kids, the answer is still no … under no circumstance are you to get a tattoo!

Not even if you want a heart with Mom and Dad inside it.

Contact Page

Snail Mail:

2000 Mallory Lane, Suite 130-229, Franklin, Tennessee 37067

The Pillars of the Earth – Building a Cathedral to God’s Glory

Ken Follett. Penguin. Published in 1989.

My first exposure to Follett was in the early 80s with a trio of spy thrillers, Eye of the Needle, Triple, and The Key to Rebecca. I like the spy genre and though I didn’t think Follett had the nuanced political and psychological depth of a LeCarre or Deighton, he delivered intrigue, twists, and turns at a Frederick Forsythe (Day of the Jackel) level. Smart, action-packed escapist reading!

Follett wrote The Pillars of the Earth in 1989 and I completely missed it. For 20 years. Once I’ve read an author a couple times and like him or her that usually doesn’t happen. But it should have come as no surprise. In Pillars, Follett switched genres from international political thrillers to historical fiction with this 973 page tome. I’m sure his publisher was aghast when he brought the proposal to the table. Follett was undoubtedly told that this was a bad “self-branding” move for any author, that he would confuse and lose his core audience. I’m Exhibit One that his publisher was probably right in a business sense. But if Follett had listened, we would have missed out on a literary treat. It hasn’t turned out too bad for Follett either, as Pillars is his backlist title that continues to sell the most copies every year.

So what prompted Follett to write a book that features a devout and godly monk who dreamed of building a cathedral to God’s glory; the ups and downs of a couple of stone masons and their families; and some really rotten earls, barons, sheriffs, bishops and priests? Was it Follett’s own act of devotion and religious fervor? In his preface he claims to be an atheist despite a Plymouth Brethren upbringing. But he did have what can be described as a near religious experience on a business trip to Peterborough for the London Times. He had recently read a book on European architecture and was fascinated with Nikolaus Pevsner’s description of all that went into the building of Gothic cathedrals. With an hour to spare before his train left for London, Follett took a tour of the Peterborough Cathedral and says he was instantly “enraptured.” This began a personal hobby of visiting and studying cathedrals all over England and Europe.

Follett may have left modern politics behind in Pillars but not the politics of 12th Century Europe. With the death of King Henry, Stephen and Maude wage a civil war for the throne spanning decades, with a constant and ensuing political fallout for earls, cities, and counties. Even the building of a castle or cathedral became a political roller coast ride with access to lumber, stone or labor determined by which combatant won the last battle of the season and which barons and earls had the right allegiance to be rewarded or punished.

Follett shows Medieval churchmen at their superstitious and barbaric worst – and their enlightened, progressive, spiritual, and charitable best. I think he is very fair to represent the true spirituality of the Medieval – and modern – believer. He doesn’t succumb to the temptation to paint crude caricatures. My own reading of Medieval history is cursory but from what little I know, Follett actually helps dispel the myth that these were simply “Dark Ages.” Watching Jack – a stone mason and master builder – wrestle with how to make his cathedral roof taller but still safe and finally discover the pointed arch is a marvelous glimpse into the technological developments of the day.

Pillars is set around the building of the Kingsbridge Cathedral, but Follett takes us on a historically plausible side journey through France, over the Pyrenees, and into the Iberian Peninsula, where Medieval monks traveled to the library of Toledo, Spain, and were introduced to Euclid (his algebra and geometry play a role in the building of cathedrals), Plato, and other great writings from antiquity. Throughout the story Follett introduces the historical seeds that blossomed into the modern political mind and arena, from worker’s and women’s rights to the question of whether kings and nobility must answer to the law.

Toward the end of the book, Prior Philip, the stern, austere, kind, hard nosed, fair, loving hero of the story witnesses the assassination of Thomas Becket at Canterbury – carried out under the urging of his nemesis, Waleran, a bishop who made Machiavelli seem like an author of positive thinking and encouragement titles. Philip faces his ultimate test of faith, namely whether he will keep his faith in God and whether that faith in God has the efficacy to make the world a better place. As a reader, we have followed his life as orphan, monk, reformer, and builder for sixty years up to the year 1174 A.D. But the question he must face in the closing pages of Pillars is just as relevant today!

Bestselling Books of 2012

2012 was a good year to sell books as an author if your last name was James or Collins.

The January 4, 2012, online of edition of Publishers Weekly provided a chart with three bestseller lists, all dominated at the top by Fifty Shades of Grey (E.L. James) and The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins).

Bestselling Books of 2012
Nielsen Bookscan Top 20
Amazon Kindle Top 20
Amazon Print Top 20
1. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (Vintage)
1. Fifty Shades of Greyby E.L. James (Vintage)
1. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (Vintage)
2. Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James (Vintage)
2. Fifty Shades Darkerby E.L. James (Vintage)
2. Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James (Vintage)
3. Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James (Vintage)
3. Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James (Vintage)
3. Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James (Vintage)
4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)1
4. The Hunger Gamesby Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
5. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
5. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
5. StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath (Gallup Press)
6. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
6. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
6. Fifty Shades Trilogy Box Set by E.L. James (Vintage)
7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney (Amulet Books)
7. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Crown)
7. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
8. No Easy Day by Mark Owen (Dutton)
8. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
8. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
9. Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly (Henry Holt)
9. Bared to You by Sylvia Day (Berkley)
9. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney (Amulet Books)
10. Fifty Shades Trilogy Box Set by E.L. James (Vintage)
10. The Racketeer by John Grisham (Doubleday)
10. No Easy Day by Mark Owen (Dutton)
11. Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly (Henry Holt)
11. Reflected in You by Sylvia Day (Berkley)
11. The Hunger Games Trilogy Box Set by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
12. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (Thomas Nelson)
12. The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central)
12. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Crown)
13. The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan (Hyperion)
13. Defending Jacob by William Landay (Delacorte)
13. The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan (Hyperion)
14. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Crown)
14. War Brides by Helen Bryan (AmazonEncore)
14. The Official SAT Study Guide, 2nd Edition by the College Board (The College Board)
15. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)2
15. A Game of Thronesby George R.R. Martin (Bantam)
15. A Song of Fire and Ice, Books 1–4 by George R.R. Martin (Bantam)
16. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)3
16. The Innocent by David Baldacci (Grand Central)
16. Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly (Henry Holt)
17. The Hunger Games Triology Box Set by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
17. No Easy Day by Mark Owen (Dutton)
17. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (Amer. Psychological Assn.)
18. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (Little, Brown)
18. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin (Bantam)
18. Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly (Henry Holt)
19. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney (Amulet Books)
19. 11/22/63 by Stephen King (Scribner)
19. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (Random House)
20. The Racketeer by John Grisham (Doubleday)
20. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Berkley)
20. Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander (Simon & Schuster)
Nielsen/BookScan (week ending Dec. 30, 2012)
Amazon Kindle (as of Dec. 31, 2012)
Amazon (as of Dec. 31, 2012)

RIP Stan Musial: Just a Few of His Incredible Numbers

Stan Musial died at age 92 - he was married 71 years.

Hall of Fame baseball player Stan Musial died on Saturday, January 19, 2013, at age 92.

Just a few numbers to consider:

  • 22 seasons in the major leagues (1941-1963), all with Saint Louis
  • 3,630 hits – 4th all time
  • 1815 hits at home
  • 1815 hits on road
  • 3,026 games – 6th all time
  • 6,134 total bases – 2nd all time
  • 20 straight years as an all star
  • 3 NL MVPS
  • 3 World Series championships as a player
But perhaps the most impressive number and the true measure of his greatness.
71 years married to the same woman.
A tip of the hat and shout out to the legend known by his fans as “Stan the Man”!

Devotionals

As a publisher I have had the blessing and privilege of acquiring-developing-managing-publishing-selling several phenomena in the devotional category, including Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, God’s Little Devotional Book Series, and Grace for the Moment by Max Lucado. The first two series have each sold more than 10 million units and touched countless lives.

I like contemporary and classic devotions and list some of my favorites on Pinterest board dedicated to devotional classics.

Here are a few devotionals I have written and compiled.

 

A Year of Devotions to Draw You Near to the Heart of God

Fall River Press

 

Inspired Faith 365 written by Mark Gilroy

Simple Truths
A Division of SourceBooks

 

How Great Is Our God developed and compiled by Mark Gilroy

Worthy Publishing



We Need Daily Grace

A Year of Devotions to Draw You Near to the Heart of God

The new Fall River edition of Daybook of Grace

I wrote and compiled most of A Daybook of Grace a couple years ago and “packaged” it for Fall River Press (an imprint of Sterling Publishing, owned by Barnes & Noble) as part of their exclusive in-store value line. After three years in the market, the publishing team at Falls River recently updated and upgraded it with an exquisite new cover for the trade. (Thanks Stefan and Betsy.)

This project will always be near and dear to my heart for a couple of reasons. Of course I like (and really need) a daily devotional book to help me focus spiritually and emotionally each morning. I also like the title and the theme of daily grace. There are certainly some mad-dash sprints in life, but overall it is a marathon that takes daily endurance.

But what really makes the project special to me is how many problems I had during the process of preparing it for publication. I can’t go into details, but one of my vendors had a personal crisis that spilled over into the development and timeline, which meant unplanned late night and early morning writing sessions, and a couple rounds of re-budgeting. (What I dealt with paled in comparison to what my friend had to go through.)

My wife likes to remind me that when strange, idiopathic challenges arise, “something good is about to happen.” And as Daybook went to press that was indeed the case. The new release is another good thing to happen. It is even better that it happened a couple years later – that means the book has done well.

Daybook of Grace is my lovely reminder that grace really is a daily need and blessing.

Daybook of Grace is available at all Barnes and Noble stores and B&N.com, Amazon.com, and other fine booksellers.

 

I Need to Lose Some Weight

Atkins. South Beach. The Zone. Vegan. Weight Watchers. Raw Food. Mediterranean. Paleo. Raspberry Ketone. Michael Phelps. Adrianna Lima. Feeding Tube. How many diets are there? Which ones work? Which will hurt more than they help? Like a lot of you reading these words, my weight has been on a roller coaster ride for much of my adult life. My roller coaster doesn’t have as many hills as some – I’ve kept weight off for years and on for years. But it’s time once again to say enough is enough and lose some pounds. What’s my secret?

The Four Queens of Crime – When Women Ruled Murder Mysteries

Ngaio Marsh was one of the Four Queens of Murder.While growing up I consumed a lot of Agatha Christie novels – I even solved one of the murders before the ending. (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.) I met another of my favorite “locked room mystery” authors – almost as popular as Christie – when I was a junior or senior in high school – Ngaio Marsh.

Marsh was born in New Zealand and split time between there and London. She wrote 32 crime novels and was considered along with Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and Margery Allingham one of the “Queens of Crime.” Women novelists dominated the genre in the 20s and 30s – and they don’t do too bad today either.

Marsh’s most famous character was Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Alleyn was smart and witty but didn’t have the noir edge of a Spade and Marlowe – two detectives “across the pond” as mysteries and all genres became more “modern” and heroes were shown with all their flaws.

Circling back to read A Man Lay Dead took me back to a different era of entertainment, when even murder was polite, civilized, and almost wholesome!

I highlighted Ngaio Marsh from a Pinterest board I keep with book covers that feature my favorite spies, detectives, hit men, and vigilantes.

 

A Daybook of Grace

A Year of Devotions to Draw You Near to the Heart of God

A Daybook of Grace
(c) Mark Gilroy Creative
Fall River Press

Grace for Each Day

Spend time with God each day, in His Word and through prayer.

Reflect on His love for you and the wonderful plans He has for your life.

Ask Him for wisdom and strength to face any challenges before you.

Ask God to search your heart. Listen for His voice. Follow whatever He asks you to do with trust and joy.

As you draw near to the heart of God, you will discover and experience His grace and blessings – His Presence – in a deeper, more profound, life-changing way than ever before.

 

Come close to God

and God will come close to you.

James 4:8

A Daybook of Grace contains a full year of daily devotions

978-1454910749 | 384 pages | Hardcover | $14.99

 

PURCHASE

Amazon: Hardcover

Barnes & Noble: Hardcover

CBD: Hardcover

 

Don’t Eat That Frog First

Eat that frog?

Eat that frog?

In his bestselling book, Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy tackles the issue of personal productivity with 21 ways to conquer procrastination, beginning with his classic breakfast recipe :

If the first thing you do when you wake up each morning is eat a live frog, nothing worse can happen the rest of the day!

If you’ve ever met Brian, read one of his books or heard him speak, you know what a disciplined, talented, savvy communicator – and person – he is. I have a lot of admiration for him. Better to listen to him than me! I’ve been known to procrastinate at times.

But I would humbly suggest that there are some days you will get more done by foregoing the frog for breakfast – it tastes nothing like chicken – and enjoying your Cheerios, oatmeal or bacon and eggs. [Read more…]

Christmas Reminds Us That Angels Watch Over Us

Christmas reminds us that angels watch over us.

Angels Watch Over Us

Believers, look up—take courage. The angels are nearer than you think. - Billy Graham

 Christmas reminds us that Angels watch over us.

Angels play a leading role in the story of Jesus’ birth. They appear to Joseph in a dream and tell him of the coming child. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary to tell her she has been chosen by God. And then a heavenly choir proclaims the message of the Christ child to a group of terrified shepherds.

But I wonder if angels played a behind-the-scenes role in other events surrounding Jesus’ birth as well. Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem would have been difficult and dangerous—doesn’t it make sense to think that angels helped them find their way safely and arrive at just the right time?

Mary gave birth in a barn full of animals, her first birth, with no midwives, no family except her new husband, no sterile medical conditions, no place to put the baby other than the manger. Under those circumstances, it seems that Providence was watching out for the young family—through the care of angels, perhaps? [Read more…]

Financial Analysis for Publishing

Mark Gilroy teams up with Brian Henson to provide a quantitative-qualitative financial analysis for publishing that will give executives and their full publishing team the tools to maximize strengths and mitigate weaknesses.

  • Industry variances in budgets and results – with recommendations
  • Author performance and recommendations
  • Category performance and recommendations
  • Major deal risk analysis with recommendation
  • Inventory management and recommendations
  • Backlist evaluation and “product mining”
  • Data management – we have experience and tools to extract and organize data (no matter what software plan) to give you and your publishing team the reports needed to enhance decision-making – and fine tune the process

Brian Henson is a 20-year publishing veteran.

Brian Henson has nearly twenty years’ experience in financial management and analysis in the publishing industry. Most recently, he managed all business and financial aspects for the Nashville division of the Hachette Book Group, the second largest book publisher worldwide, where he created budgets and forecasts, performed financial analyses, initiated and contributed to strategic plans, and revamped inventory management. He created many models that were adopted company wide, including new ways to evaluate—and some cases monetize—the company’s author portfolio and overall backlist. He considers his biggest accomplishment that of cutting inventories in half. The various contributions added millions of dollars to the bottom line. Brian played a big part in Hachette’s reacquisition of Joel Osteen, as well as recent deals with Joyce Meyer, T. D. Jakes, John Maxwell, and Joseph Prince.

 At Thomas Nelson, Henson filled similar roles, creating a “company first” dynamic budgeting system from the bottom up for more than $270 million in annual revenues in a complex, matrix style organization. He developed forecasting methodologies and monthly financial packages that are still used today. He also contributed to product development, having several of his ideas published. Henson served as the primary advisor to the Chief Publishing Officer and as liaison between publishers and sales executives – an acute need in most publishing companies. He created tools to help publishers and editors evaluate new product proposals prior to decisions meetings. He was a key analyst and performed due diligence on various company acquisitions.

Henson earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton in marketing and marketing management, and the MBA from Wright State University with emphasis in accounting and finance.

 

Jerusalem: A Biography – Montefiore’s History of the Holy City

Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore

A look at 3500 year history of the Holy City – from King David to today.

Most of us know that in 1493 Christopher Columbus sailed the “deep blue sea.” But one of his key motivations for sailing west to secure the riches of India never made it to our childhood textbooks. It can be found in a section of his letter to Ferdinand and Isabella that is often redacted: “before the end of the world all prophecies have to be fulfilled – and the Holy City has to be given back to the Christian Church.” It is usually taught that the Spanish monarchs commissioned Columbus to beat the Portuguese in the search for the west route to India. But what is left out is that the drive behind the commissioning was they felt exactly the same way as Columbus – they needed more gold to fund a new Crusade to the Holy Land.

That is just one small glimpse into the unique, amazing, incredible, and fascinating history of Jerusalem – from King David to the Six Day War; from the birth of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to the concurrent rise of Jewish and Arab nationalism to the Israel-Palestine conflict – woven throughout Montefiore’s exquisite narrative on the history of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem has seemingly always been at the center of international politics and intrigue. In the 3000 years of Jerusalem’s known history, it was exclusively Jewish for 1000 years, Pagan for 300 years, Christian for 400 years, and Muslim for 1300 years. In all that time no group has secured or held the Holy City without bloodshed. Today it is the capital of two peoples and revered among three faiths. It is a never-ending clash of faith and civilization – and for many Muslims and Christians the place of the ultimate battle and of Judgment Day.

I picked up Jerusalem because I wanted a comprehensive history of the Holy City, particularly due to the fact that Jerusalem is such a focal point for contemporary international political debate. I thoroughly enjoy every minute of this 700-page book that is filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly – and a surprising amount of humor. I might not have agreed with all of Montefiore’s biblical exegesis during the history I am more familiar with due to my Old Testament and New Testament studies, but it didn’t matter because what I wanted was a sweep of the history and got it – three thousand years of faith and compromise, beauty and slaughter, and hatred and coexistence.

Jerusalem was filled with surprises – and not just Christopher Columbus’s fascination with the Holy City. For example, toward the end of the biblical era, I was taken back to learn how influential Herod was in Roman politics – he was close to Antony and Cleopatra, Tiberius, and a major reason Nero made it to the throne. Reading through the Crusader centuries was like reading a novel. I didn’t think it could get any more interesting but then I got to the 19th and 20th centuries when Rasputin, Lawrence of Arabia, Churchill, Tsar Alexander, Hitler, and so many other characters show up – every historical period was fascinating because of the people who kept popping in and out of the story of Jerusalem.

I’m not a historian, but I feel confident in asserting that whatever world history you do know will be enriched by reading this book.

In the Epilogue, Montefiore sketches out the parameters of a peaceful solution to the current political impasse, but does not seem overly optimistic it will be achieved: “Jerusalem may continue in its present state for decades, but whenever, if ever, a peace is signed, there will be two states, which is essential for Israel as a state and as a democracy, and justice and respect for the Palestinians.” That is, of course, the point where readers will agree and disagree for a variety of reasons, politically and religiously.

In closing, I’ll state the obvious. This is not a biblical, religious, spiritual book. Nor is it a political science book. It is a history book, though Montefiore is mostly careful about religious matters and sensitivities and at the end he does give his point of view on achieving peace. You will be disappointed in Jerusalem if you read this to confirm a political or religious interpretation.

I almost forgot to mention. I read this on my Kindle. I wish I had bought the paper and ink edition because of the maps and illustrations.

Montefiore’s own family is part of Jerusalem’s 19th and 20th Century history – and a section of the city still bears his family name. He has also written biographies on Potemkin and Stalin.

Holidays Are for Games: 3 Recommendations

The online video gaming industry is huge and getting huger every year – almost as big as Hollywood and on a growth trajectory that will continue to cut into the TV audience for sports. But for all the realism and sophistication found in the new product launches and annual updates, video games lack something important that can still be found in playing old school board games: face-to-face human interaction and intimacy.

It’s almost Christmas. A lot of people will be off work with vacation time and a lot of families and friends will gather to celebrate and catch up. Tis the season when classic board games like Life, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly. Clue, and Scrabble will be lifted down from top closet shelves and dusted off. Holidays are for games.

Here are three holiday game ideas that you might want to try or adapt with your friends and family members.

Settlers of Catan

Up to 6 can play.

1. Settlers of Catan. My soon to be son-in-law brought this to our family Christmas gathering last year and the award-winning game was an instant hit. Think of Risk on steroids without the cannons and destroyed troops. The board comes in about 30 pieces and can be set up different every time. Up to six can play. The goal is to get 10 ‘victory points’, which are gained by building roads, settlements, cities, and armies. Players have to accumulate wood, bricks, ore, sheep, and grain through strategically building settlements in the right spots – and through good old-fashioned barter with other players. Sounds complicated but it only takes 15 to 30 minutes to learn. There are game extensions in the Catan family that can take you on the ocean or to outer space or into particular historical epochs, like the Roman Empire.

2. Fast Scrabble. I like regular Scrabble just fine but if you want an interesting variation try ‘fast scrabble.’ All tiles are placed in the middle of the table face down. The first player turns over a tile. If it’s a one-letter word like ‘I’ or ‘A’ then the first player to call out the word gets to keep the tile, face up, in front of him or her. If it’s not a word, the tile remains with the person who turned it over as a free letter. The second player turns over a tile and again, whoever calls out a word, made from that letter or that letter and any other letters that are face up, gets all the tiles to make a new word. If ‘A’ came up first and then ‘M’ came up second, player three can call out ‘Am’ and keeps that word in front of him. If the third letter pulled up is ‘C’ then the first player can call ‘Cam’ and all letters come back to him or her. If the next letter is an ‘E’ then someone can yell ‘Came’ and the tiles are now all theirs. Once a word is formed the letters must stay intact and in that order but can switch to different players throughout the game. ‘Oven’ can become ‘Coven’ can become ‘Covens’ and so on. When all tiles have been turned over, each player adds up the points on their tiles that are formed into words and subtracts any letters that are sitting free. Loud. Fast. Fun.

3. Team Hybrid Game Night. One of our favorite activities during the holidays is a family and/or friend game night where we divide into teams and play a combination of popular games, a new one each round. This works best with four or five teams going four to five rounds. We like to use Trivial Pursuit (each team is asked every question on a single card per round and is awarded 10 to 20 points per correct answer), Pictionary (50 points for identifying the picture), Tabu (20 points per correct word), Outburst (10 points per correct word), Scene-It (all teams compete at once in an ‘All Play’), but you can come up with a myriad of other options, like Charades or Family Feud, by adapting your favorite games into the process. One of the nice things about the team approach is that you can enjoy competition but no one gets singled out as not being good at something like Trivial Pursuit. I like to do a final round where points are doubled and each team gets to choose which of the previous games played they want to try.

Whether you’re gearing up to drive to Grandma’s or are hosting a group of friends on Christmas afternoon, don’t get stuck in the rut of staring at the TV screen and missing out on the people around you. Games or no games, find ways to interact face-to-face.

What Makes a House a Home?

when does a house become a home?A home is a house with a heart inside.

Author Unknown

 

She was a single mother with a five-year-old son and a ton of bills. Just to stay afloat, she rented a musty, cramped camper at a local RV park. She was embarrassed and discouraged by her surroundings. She cringed one day as she overheard someone ask her little boy if he wished they had a real home.

But her grimace was replaced with a tear and a smile when she heard him give this reply: “We do have a real home; we just don’t have a house to put it in.”

Maybe you’re not happy where you are and want more. But no matter how bad things look or how long the journey to get where you want to be is, don’t get so focused on the future that you miss the good things you have right now.

God has a good plan for your future—but He has also sprinkled gifts and blessings in the life you have now.  Make sure your eyes—and heart—are open to see them.

Even if his house was only a trailer, the little boy saw what was real and what mattered. His faith, love, and optimism created something that was real in the here and now.

God sets the lonely in families.

Psalm 68:6

A Year of Devotions to Draw You Near to the Heart of GodExcerpted from A Daybook of Grace (published by Fall River Press, 2014). Created by Mark Gilroy. Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – A Review

review of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

First things first. The title has nothing to do with IQ. The first character is the number 1 so the title is a play on George Orwell’s 1984. Just in case you were wondering if I selected the title because of a possible correlation in title and my intellect!

If you aren’t familiar with Japanese author Murakami, his novels are critically acclaimed – he has been awarded the Franz Kafka Prize, the Jerusalem Prize and many others – and are a fantastical mix of surrealism and a rich (sometimes dense) detailing of everyday life. He consistently deals with themes of loneliness and alienation, the self and reality (and especially perception/imagination and reality). 1Q84 tackles all that and adds acute questions of the-ends-justify-the-means murder, religion and cults, destiny, sexual abuse, revenge, and parallel realities. Oh, it takes a while to catch on, but first and foremost, it is a love story. Really.

Was it listening to Janacek’s Sinfonietta that sent Aomame (“sweet pea”) into another world with two moons? Did Tengo see the same two moons when he rewrote Fuka-eri’s crude draft of Air Chrysalis? (And by the way, was that a story from the fevered imagination of a 17-year-old girl or was she describing things that actually happened?) Will either of them survive the revenge of a cult group called Sakigake and the brilliant and relentless pursuit of Ushikawa – a man with a large misshapen head that shouldn’t be able to follow anyone without being noticed? And what of the “Little People” – who seem to hold special powers in 1Q84 and that seem to be looking for a bridge to 1984 – are they neutral or as malevolent as we suspect? And the big question: did Aomame and Tengo have to enter 1Q84 to find each other after 20 excruciating years of separation from each other and disconnect from the world around them? I don’t think it’s a spoiler alert to say that they became soul mates at age 10.

Enough. You’re with me or not. If I’ve scared you off completely, don’t run away before reading the last sentence of this paragraph. If you’ve read other reviews I’ve written what you might have already discovered is I don’t actually review books – I recommend books. Sometimes quite different books.  I know Murakami is not for everyone – though 1Q84 sold a million copies in Japan alone – and I’ll have to admit, it’s not my usual fare. But I recommend this book for its dense, other-worldly beauty – reading it creates that curious sensation of wanting (even needing and willing) it to be done and to never end.

The original Japanese version was published in 2010 and the English translation was introduced in 2011. I read the lovely boxed set (very reasonably priced on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and others) that was given to me as a gift by my son Merrick.

Dog Days of Summer: How I Lost That Loving Feeling for Baseball

Too many strikes, too much free agency - baseball is dead to me.

I have fallen out of love with baseball.

Yes, the dog days of summer are here. That means basketball, a winter sport indigenous to the U.S., is just starting their championship series. And that hockey, another winter sport, but this one transplanted to frigid regions of the U.S. like Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta, and LA, just crowned a new champion. But as the seconds tick off on the NBA Series between the Lakers and the Celtics, what it really means is that we’re officially entering the dead period before football season starts.

Some sports purists just sat up a little straighter. Say what? Don’t you know it’s baseball season!

True. Baseball is still America’s pastime, particularly if you live in Boston or NYC and can outspend the rest of the league (combined) in the quest for tactical superiority and garnering every spot on the All Star team. But football is America’s passion. And so for the rest of us, excluding St. Louis fans who support their Cards no matter what, Chicago some years (or for certain proud masochistic Cubs fans, every year), and one Cinderella-story elsewhere in America, we just don’t care. Sure, we’ll watch a game or two before the season is over, but the second game depends on whether women’s bowling or billiards (or some combination of those two sports) is in reruns yet.

Just for context, I didn’t grow up with anything but love for baseball. I was born in Dayton, Ohio, about 45 miles north of Cincinnati, and was there when the Big Red Machine terrorized opposing pitchers. (My rookie year as a 5-year-old fan at old Crosley Field was Pete Rose’s rookie year as a player.) I was in Kansas City for most of the George Brett era and attended a minimum of 20-something games a year.

But something happened. It’s not just that the clubs I like started losing. You expect success to be cyclical in sports, unless you’re a Cubs fan, of course. (Sorry for that second gratuitous shot at the Cubbies in one article.) With the explosion of free agency, I discovered I didn’t know half the guys on “my team” from one season to the next. I could have lived with some rebuilding years with a young exciting roster of “our guys”, but once-proud franchises like the Royals and Reds became development squads for the deep pocketed coastal teams. Throw in a couple of strikes, including one that accomplished something that not even Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany could pull off – shutting down a World Series – and I was gone as a fan. I think forever.

So you’re pretty mad at baseball? You probably think I’m a hater. Nope. The problem is not that I got mad at baseball but that I simply stopped caring a decade ago. And despite publicity gimmicks like the Red Sox winning the World Series and biannual Congressional Steroids hearings, I’ve lost that loving feeling.

It might be Kevin Garnett with a follow up monster jam or Kobe Bryant with an acrobatic mid-air spin move with a reverse lay up that ends the NBA Finals. But whoever does it sometime in the next 10 days or so, all I can say is it’s almost time for football!