- G.K. Chesterton
You don’t have to look far to find articles about how and why the pastor’s job is uniquely difficult. Having been a pastor for a number of years now (in both paid, full-time and unpaid, part-time capacities) I can attest there are ways in which it is unlike any other vocation. It really does come with unique challenges, though it certainly provides unique blessings as well. There is one realization about pastoring that came to me slowly but which finally arrived like a breath of fresh, cool air on a hot summer’s day. I found it freeing because it counters an expectation church members can have toward their pastors and, even more so, an expectation pastors can have toward themselves. Here is what I realized: The pastor’s job isn’t to fix things.
Many people first begin to attend church when they are hoping to find a solution to a troubling circumstance. They want to have an easy and joyful marriage instead of a difficult and grievous one. They want to have polite and obedient children instead of troublesome and disobedient ones. They want to overcome an addiction or beat a bad habit. Low points like these often provide fertile ground for the gospel and many people come to faith only after they have reached the end of their own strength, their own abilities. In this way church is the place they find meaning by finding Jesus Christ. But they enter the Christian life bearing so much pain and grief.
Likewise, many genuine believers first begin to attend new churches during troubled times. Perhaps conflict in a former congregation nudged them out or perhaps a great trauma was mishandled or overlooked, and their pain has led them to look for a place to heal. In this way church often serves as a kind of refuge in their times of trouble.
And then, of course, the mature and committed members of a local church encounter difficulties of their own and go through challenging experiences. Their children grow up and reject the faith, their friends turn on them, they experience the horror of abuse, those spouses they were sure were going to come to faith stop accompanying them to church. This life is full of sorrows for the godly and ungodly unlike.
All these people, and many more, turn to their pastors. They turn to their pastors for guidance, for counsel, for wisdom. And as often as not, even if they don’t state it explicitly, their great hope is that the pastor will be able to fix things. They hope he will be able to provide the key that will make the pain go away, that will ease the sorrow, that will restore the separation. And for his part, the pastor really hopes to be able to do all of this. He places the expectation on himself. He gauges his success by his ability to deliver the solution.
Yet the pastor’s role is not to fix, but to minister. It’s not to repair what has been broken, to restore what has been separated, to heal what has been wounded. Rather, the pastor’s job—and his great delight—is to minister. “To minister” is “to tend to” or “to provide.” A father who cuddles his hurting daughter is ministering comfort, a doctor who tends to a wound is ministering healing, and a pastor who carries out his calling well is ministering truth. His unique role is not to solve problems but to minister the Word to the people under his care. He ministers the Word because it has power, because it is communication from God. He ministers the Word because it is pure and good and true. He ministers the Word because it brings comfort, hope, and meaning even when there is no fix in sight.
This doesn’t mean the pastor cannot offer practical counsel. It doesn’t mean he can’t use his God-given wisdom to make suggestions or to take action. It doesn’t mean he can’t use the authority of his position to rebuke the disobedient or to call sinners to repentance. Yet through it all he needs to remember that success is not measured in fixing the issue but in ministering the truth. His foremost task is to lead people to the Word of God and to carefully, pastorally minister to them the words they need to hear in their highest highs or lowest lows.
It has been a great joy to be at the pastors’ conference for Fiel Ministries here in Brazil, but my part in it is just about done and I’ll be driving back to São Paulo today, then flying home tonight.
Westminster Books has a deal on what they’re calling their “Small Group Book of the Year.”
(Yesterday on the blog: How We Worshipped on a Sunday Evening)
“A new study says Calvinists are prone to believe ‘myths’ that may lead them to justify domestic violence. But is there evidence to support this claim?” Joe Carter takes a close look at it.
We are all thankful we don’t see the worst of human depravity on Facebook. Yet part of the reason we don’t is that Facebook employs an army of people to look at that stuff and remove it before we see it. That raises a host of really difficult moral issues.
This is a quirky story. “Think a teenager can’t build a nuclear breeder reactor without getting caught? Think again. David Hahn, aka the Radioactive Boy Scout, was able to easily collect radioactive and highly dangerous materials to experiment with nuclear energy. Just when you think the story can’t get crazier, it does.”
Here are different photos of seven square miles from across the world. Fascinating!
It probably is just about this simple. “At the end of the day, notifications exploit our curiosity to get us to pick up our devices—even when it’s against our better judgment. Disabling them is another step toward getting technology working for you, rather than the other way around.”
“This is the famous don’t skip church verse but listen, we must remember that if we are going to enter into the Sunday morning assembly together, we must bring our encouragement hat with us. That’s what the people around us need, and that’s what we need. What’s fascinating about this verse is that our encouragement should increase as time goes on. The writer says that it should increase all the more as the day of the Lord’s return nears.”
It’s the key combination we all know. Here’s how it came to be. “We’ve only got one life to live, but thanks to three simple keystrokes, at least we can restart our PCs! This is the story of how one clever man created Control-Alt-Delete: a relatively tiny engineering tweak that changed IBM computers, and mortal existence as we know it.”
In a world that is broken and burning, it is important to lay aside every possible hindrance, to do it for the good of your own soul and the good of those around you.
The seed of every sin known to man is in my heart. —Robert Murray McCheyne
Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship
By John Polkinghorne (Part 3d) — Lessons from History
We are reviewing the book, “Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship” by John Polkinghorne. Today we will look at the fourth part of Chapter 3- Lessons from History. John continues his comparative study of science and Christian theology with some additional historical examples of how the discovery of further truth proceeds in these two disciplines. Last time we looked at: (3) Tides of fashion. This week we look at:
(4) The role of genius. Advance in understanding owes much to the insights of small number of exceptional people.
(a) The founders of quantum theory. Certainly a great deal of development in science stems from the labors of the honest toilers in research and Polkinghorne would never fail to acknowledge that. Still in the case of quantum theory, especially in the formative years of the mid-1920s the exceptional insights of Heisenberg, Schrodinger, and Dirac laid the foundation of modern quantum theoretical understanding. Of course the name Einstein is now synonymous with the word genius, although poor Niels Bohr doesn’t get the credit he deserves except by actual physicists.
(b) Apostolic insight. Polkinghorne asserts that the writings of the New Testament are dominated by the profound insights of three particular authors, Paul, John, and the unknown person who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews. He believes that the depth of theological reflection found in their writings has meant that all subsequent generations of theologians had to engage with them. He says their brilliant insights have shaped the form of Christian theology in a manner that the believer will see as the result of providential inspiration by the Holy Spirit, guiding the use of individual human gifts. However, I’m not sure how that squares with Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
And Polkinghorne doesn’t mention Jesus here. Was Jesus a genius? This section makes me think about how history seems to be a celebration of great men (and rarely great women—which may be telling in itself). Is this an all too human propensity to hero-worship? Is the Enlightenment/Modern Project notion of “the progress of humanity” a real increase in human flourishing? To a certain extent it is, of course; I love me some modern sanitation, I have a stent in my left circumflex heart artery—otherwise I’d be dead, slavery is universally condemned in theory if not always in practice, and so on.
Is the story of the Church one of progress? It certainly does not seem to be a progress that can be measured by worldly standards. Father Stephen Freeman said:
I often see examples of what I would describe as “comparative denominationalism.” It is the comparison of one Church to another (yes, I know that Orthodoxy is not a denomination). Indeed, the drive for a “better Church,” a “more authentic Church,” the “true Church,” the “New Testament Church,” is little more than a game invented in America during the 19th century. It is post-Reformation and represents the rise of Christian consumerism… Particularly after the Reformation, the notion that correct doctrine would produce a correct Church gained increasing acceptance. However, history has repeatedly proven this to be a false idea. No matter the corrective measures, Christianity, as Church, remains flawed. Apparently, allowing sinful people to be part of the Church ruins its excellence, and, even the most excellent people are revealed to be broken.
I’m inclined to agree with Father Freeman here, but I wonder if there is a counter-argument? Polkinghorne’s final comparison is:
(5) Living with unresolved perplexities. While the ultimate aim is a coherent and fully integrated scheme of understanding, it may be necessary to tolerate living with not all problems fully solved.
(a) Quantum problems. John asks, how does it come about that the apparently reliable Newtonian world of everyday experience emerges from its fitful quantum substrate? Almost a hundred years after the initial discovery of modern quantum theory, it is embarrassing to physicists to have to admit that there is no comprehensive and universally agreed answer to that reasonable question. The theory enables us to calculate with impressive accuracy the probabilities of obtaining these different answers, but it is unable to explain how it comes about that a specific answer is obtained on a specific occasion. John says:
No one rejoices at these perplexities in physics, and all physicists hope for their eventual resolution. Meanwhile the subject is not paralyzed in its search for understanding. Scientists can live with partial knowledge and a degree of intellectual uncertainty.
(b) The problem of evil. Polkinghorne asserts the most perplexing problem that theology faces is the problem of evil and suffering. If God is both good and almighty, whence come the disease and disaster, the cruelty and neglect that we observe in creation? If God is good, surely these ills would have been eliminated. If God is almighty, there is surely divine power to do so. Polkinghorne believes a partial answer can be held to lie, not in qualifying divine goodness, but in a careful analysis of what is meant by ‘almighty’. Almighty means that God can do whatever God wills, but God can only will that which is in accordance with the divine nature. Christians believe that nature to be love. He says the God of love could not be a cosmic tyrant, whose creation was simply a divine puppet-theater manipulated solely by the divine Puppet-Master. The gift of love is always the gift of some kind of due independence to the object of love. This is basically the Free Will Defense of Alvin Plantinga.
The bigger problem is physical evil, disease, and disaster that seems to be much more the direct responsibility of the Creator. Chaplain Mike has called this “surd evil”, and revisited the subject again this Monday with Richard Beck’s essay.
Riffing off of Plantinga, Polkinghorne suggests there is a kind of “free-process defense” paralleling the free-will defense:
All parts of the created order are allowed to act according to their varied natures, being themselves and—through the evolutionary exploration of the potency with which the universe has been endowed—making themselves. In a non-magic world (and the world is not magic because its Creator is not a capricious magician), there will be an inevitable shadow side to fruitful process. Genetic mutation will produce new forms of life, but other mutations will induce malignancy. Tectonic plates will enable mineral resources to well up at their edges to replenish the surface of the Earth, but they will also slip and induce earthquakes and tsunamis.
Although I provisionally accept answers like Polkinghorne’s and Beck’s as probably the best we can do, as I get older, I have left off expecting easy answers anymore—or any answer at all. The Christian God is the crucified God, truly a fellow sufferer who understands. As Dorothy Sayers said:
“For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is— limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.”
I really think this insight touches the problem of suffering at the deepest level at which it can be met. In fact, I no longer conceive of God as anything other than “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). John 1:18 says, “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” That word “declared” in Greek is where we get the word “exegete”. So “The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has exegeted Him”. Christ is how we “read” God. We cannot get behind Christ to speak about God as though we knew anything of God apart from Christ. Therefore, the crucifixion and the resurrection are the answer and there is no answer apart from them.
Sorry I didn’t post last night.
I’m living my life right now like a… I don’t know. I need a good metaphor. Like a duck hunter? I don’t know when a job is coming in, but I try to have my shotgun ready and my eye on the sky. The email arrives – “Can you get this episode done before the end of the business day tomorrow?” (8 hours ahead in Norway) – and I clear the decks for action. An episode revision takes about a day to do, but it can vary. I don’t plan on doing much of anything else that day.
I live a life of action, like a TV hero.
Yesterday I actually did have something else going on – one of those rare occasions when a family member drops in to crash on my sofa for a night. It went fine. I was able to go out to dinner with him and still get the work done by about 9:00 p.m. I wasn’t able to make much conversation with my guest, but hey, that was a plus for him.
I know I should be looking for something more to do than this intermittent translation stuff. What it’s doing is to eke out my social security and savings, making it possible to postpone for a while the moment when I have to think seriously about finding grownup work. In my delusional moments, I compare myself to Travis McGee, the old paperback detective hero, who “took his retirement in installments.” He’d live the life of a beach bum until his money ran out, then take a job solving crime. He, however, made a lot more money through his occasional jobs than I do.
Also, he was taller. I’m sure that matters.
What it works out to is that I feel tremendously productive on my busy days, and guilty on free days (like today).
Well, reality has a way of bringing us all down to earth, if you give it time.
But I keep hoping my translation labors will bring a sudden windfall in the glamorous world of motion pictures.
A world I hate, I keep reminding myself.
I have often shared examples of our Sunday morning services at Grace Fellowship Church. Yet are one of those rare churches that also has an evening service, so I thought you might be interested in seeing an example of how we structure them.
First, the answer to the question I know you’re asking: Do people actually come to your evening services? The answer: Yes, though in lower numbers. We get perhaps half as many people in the evening as we do in the mornings. The great majority tend to be members (rather than visitors or regular attenders) and for this reason we scale back the formality a little and place greater emphasis on serving the church community. We try to have a “family feel” in the evenings. These services are 90 minutes in length and divided into two sections (30 minutes and 60 minutes respectively).
Section 1: Children & Adults
The first 30 minutes of the service is structured to include both children and adults. After 30 minutes we dismiss the children to age-appropriate classes that to up to eighth grade. Once the children go to their classes, the adults focus on prayer. But first our services go something like this.
Book giveaway. We begin by giving away some books. We try to mix these up so some are for a broad audience, some are for women, some are for children, and so on. Often we will give them away in twos or threes to encourage people to read together.
Song. “Lost Is Found.” Early in the service we sing a couple of songs geared toward children. This one is drawn from a Sovereign Grace children’s album.
Catechism. We are working through the New City Catechism as a church. We first review last week’s question and answer, then have a church member teach the current week’s Q&A through a 5-minute explanation. The teaching is very much geared to children (though we know the adults benefit just as much).
Song. “Psalm 19.” We like to sing songs a few times in our evening service before introducing them in a morning service, so this is often where we begin to learn new ones. That was the case with this setting of Psalm 19.
Testimony. We will often have a member of the church tell about a recent event or experience in 5 minutes or less. So, for example, a person who participated in a Bible study may relay her experience or a person who has been to a conference may describe what he saw and learned there. We recently had a group of people read through Knowing God together, so this Sunday Jola explained what he learned from it and why he thinks others should read the book as well.
Pray. We pray for the children and dismiss them to their GraceKids classes (where they do activities and study curriculum based on The Gospel Project).
Section 2: Adults
Now the teens and adults remain and begin to turn the focus to prayer.
Scripture reading. One of our Scripture readers reads a passage from the Bible.
Sermon. We have a brief (15-minute) sermon. It may be expository (based on the text that was just read) or topical. This is often where we begin to allow young men to get their first experience of preaching.
Song. “The God of Abraham Praise.”
Prayer. We pray for approximately 45 minutes. An elder always facilitates this time and the format varies week by week. Sometimes it will be left wide open so anyone can pray for whatever they wish, while other times it will be more organized and we will pray for specific nations, people, ministries, and so on. Sometimes we pray as one large group, sometimes as several small groups, and sometimes as men and women. Anyone who attends is welcome to pray and every week there is a wide variety of people who choose to do so.
Benediction. We close with a benediction. “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
I am very much enjoying my time in Brazil at the Fiel Pastors’ Conference. It has been a joy to meet so many people and to both see and hear how the Lord is at work in Brazil.
(Yesterday on the blog: Why We Chose a Christian College)
David French updates an important story. “A good man’s legal ordeal is at an end. Yesterday, my friends and former colleagues at the Alliance Defending Freedom announced that former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran had reached a $1.2 million settlement, ending a case he brought after the city fired him for writing — and distributing to a select few city employees — a self-published book that articulated an entirely orthodox Christian view of sex and marriage.”
I found this article from the new TGC Africa fascinating. “The common African worldview is built on two spiritual codes that cannot be flouted: The first is that one’s health and life depends on the happiness of the Supreme Being, lesser divinities, the ancestors and spirits. The second code affirms that the ancestors and magic protect us against evil powers, witchcraft and sorcerers.”
“At certain moments, it appears that a society inches its way right up to the edge of a cliff. At other times, however, you see an argument that sprints towards the edge and leaps right off.” Read Dr. Mohler’s analysis of another step towards cultural insanity.
“May all pastors have the reputation in their neighborhood as a place of refuge, a place of being real, a place of sincerity and God-centeredness where Christ is taught and all are included in family devotions. For an elder to be an elder, some basic characteristics must be present. Does the elder show interest in people? Does he labor to make people feel welcomed and loved in his house, too?”
Yes to this one! “Old men. We need you. And we need you to live your life in such a way that evokes admiration and respect. You don’t have to be a great orator. You don’t have to write books on theology. We just need you to be godly. That is your calling, and it should be the aspiration of every man. Set the pace for us. Your family, church, and community need this from you more than anything else.”
There is some wisdom here. “Peer pressure is always terrible, and social media are a megaphone for peer pressure. And when you use that megaphone all the time you tend to forget that it’s possible to speak at a normal volume: thus [the common and] genuinely held view that if you’re not talking to peers on Twitter you can’t possibly be talking to peers at all.”
Stephen Nichols provides some analysis on the new State of Theology survey.
Christianity did not simply represent an alternate system of morality but one that condemned the existing system—the system that was foundational to Roman identity and stability.
If Christ’s glory doesn’t cause you to tremble, it most likely will not cause you to trust. —Kevin Dibbley
Royal Rabbits suffers from being somewhat cliche-ridden, with Hallmark greeting card dialog being thrown around like popcorn, but it definitely has its moments. For instance, the Queen’s corgi dogs aka The Pack, who are the Royal Rabbits’ rivals and nemeses, are named for infamous women of the past: Agrippina, Messalina, Livia, Lucrezia, Imelda, Lady Macbeth, Jezebel, Moll, and Helmsley. (Why are they all females?) And the rats are named Baz, Grimbo, and Splodge. Good naming, huh?
Caught between The Pack and the Ratzis, their other ancient enemies, the Royal Rabbits must protect the Queen of England and her royal family at all costs. Can Shylo, a small, simple country bunny, help the Royal Rabbits protect their queen from the evil machinations of the paparazzi Ratzis? This story reads like a Disney romp, complete with a chase scene, greasy rat villains, a small but brave hero (Shylo), and even a Disney-esque pep talk for Shylo at about midpoint in the story:
“Shylo, you found your way here, didn’t you? I don’t see the weary little rabbit who stands before me, but the brave Knight you may one day rise to be. My brother saw something in you, otherwise he would not have sent you on the dangerous journey to find us. I see it, too. Courage, my dear bunkin, courage. You’re braver than you know.”
Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore are husband and wife, parents to two children for whom they made up the stories of the rabbits who lived under Buckingham Palace. Simon is a well-known historian and novelist. I can definitely see this book made into an animated feature film. So, it’s a perfect match for fans of Disney and Disney-esque storytelling. And for real fans, there are three more Royal Rabbits books: Escape from the Tower, The Great Diamond Chase, and Escape from the Palace (January, 2019).
Two of our children are still in the public school system, yet our son is attending a Christian college. A reader wrote and asked us about that decision. Here is my answer.
As you know, I get lots of questions in and love to answer some of the ones that come from people who read my articles or who watch my videos. I got one recently I thought was actually quite interesting. Someone was saying, why is it that you’ve enrolled your son in Christian college? There’s a little background to the question, I’ll give that to you just as soon as we roll the intro.
The question today is, why did we enroll our son in Christian college? So let me back up a little bit. Over the years I’ve made it pretty clear, pretty public that our kids have been in public schools up to this point. And so, we’ve got one child right now who’s finished school, in college. We’ve got one who’s in high school, one who’s still in primary school. All three have been in public schools from the get-go. That’s a decision we made as a family. I don’t want to talk about that now, I’ve talked about it many times in the past. And the decision, we think, has been right for our family based on who we are and where we are, our location, all of those good things. We think it’s been a good decision for our family. Now we’ve got a son who’s gone off to college and somebody was asking, why did you enroll him in Christian college if you believe in public schooling?
Well, there’s quite a bit wrapped up in this, but let me see if I can approach it from a couple of different angles. The first angle would be, we didn’t choose, he did. Or at least, we didn’t choose independently of him. Put it this way, if your child is in first grade and making his own decisions about education, you know, you’re probably not parenting your child awful well if at that young age they’re making these big decisions. On the other hand, if your child is going off to college and hasn’t made that decision, you’ve made it on his behalf, again, you’re probably not doing a great job of teaching and training your children in an appropriate way. So when it came to college, we really made that decision with our son, based on what he wanted, where he wanted to go and why. So, there’s one thing. It wasn’t our decision, it was his as well.
Second, it fit what he wanted to study. And so, he wasn’t interested in studying engineering or advanced biology or those sorts of things. He had an interest in theology, in topics related to the Christian faith. And so in that sense, well of course then, he had to go to a Christian school. But there’s something else I think, was I think really, possibly the most important factor of all. Which is, we had talked to some friends, they have a daughter who’s a little bit older than our oldest child. She also had gone through public schools and they had said to her when she was about to graduate, they said, next year we want to give you two options. If you want to go to a mainstream, a non-Christian university that’s fine, but we’d like you first to take a year of Christian college. We’ll support you in that, we’ll help you with that, but that would be very important to us and we think it would be very wise to you. Or, you can go off to a Christian college right away.
So those were the options they wanted her to think through. We thought that sounded really, really good. As happy as we’ve been with our children in public schooling, we do think there’s value in having that year of, what really comes down to worldview training. That year of being in an environment that’s a little bit safer, a little bit contentious than we’ll experience in public school and public college and of course in the wider world as we graduate out and enter into a vocation. So we wanted to help our son think through that and they had sent their daughter to Boyce College and so that was on our list of places to check out.
So, my son wasn’t really that interested in it, he didn’t love the idea of doing a one year gap year kind of program. But we thought, let’s just go to Boyce, we’ll just take a look. You can come down with us and we’ll give it a fair shot and he was up for that. And really we went for their preview weekend and I think that for all three of us, for Aileen, for myself, and for our son, we just came away from that thinking, now this is the right place for him. He was very convinced of that. In fact, he was so convinced, he said, let’s forget the one year, I want to enroll here as a full-time student to get a degree. And so he’s entered into a full four-year program there.
So, that was a decision we made as a family. Our next child is two years away from deciding and we’re going to offer those same options, go off to a Christian college or at least take that one year of Christian training that will hopefully set you, set you straight in life and really be a good experience for you, a time for you to be, just kind of step back and get some Christian training and meet some Christian kids. So, that’s the decision we made for our family. By no means am I saying that’s the decision you ought to make, by no means am I saying it’s the only decision to make, but that’s at least how we thought this through. So far my son’s been doing great at Boyce, he’s thriving there. We really believe that so far, through one term, or not even quite one full term yet, it’s proven to be a good decision. Hope that’s helpful, talk to you again soon.
Today’s Kindle deals include some Christians classics you’ll want to check out.
(Yesterday on the blog: Please Do & Please Don’t Assume Motives)
“It’s a worship service at church, so of course it celebrates Jesus… right? Or does it?” There are some good reflections on liturgy here (and don’t say your church doesn’t have a liturgy–every church does).
I think there’s lots of wisdom and self-understanding on display here. “On social media, why does John Piper mostly avoid talking about politics and breaking news and hot trends?” Here he explains why that is.
“God has not called us to love the bodies we want to have, but the bodies we do have. He has not called us to desire the marriages we do not have, but to be faithful within the marriage we do have. He has not called us to stock up for the bills we might someday have, but to steward the finances we do have. He has not called us to settle for a 10-step plan to anything, but to abide in Christ as He abides in us.”
Brittany Allen: “We’ve been taught to believe lust is a man’s issue, but truly, it’s a human issue. Lust can make you feel hopeless. Like a worn down beast of burden, we carry the weight of it upon our backs, tarrying further into darkness. Who will save us from this body of death?”
“What do Americans believe about God, salvation, ethics, and the Bible? Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research partnered to find out. These are the fundamental convictions that shape our society.”
Clint Archer answers in 500 words or less and includes this great quote. “Every benefit, relief, enjoyment, safety, pleasure, provision, and all other such undeserved blessings, are a manifestation of God’s grace, goodness, and mercy to believers and unbelievers alike.”
Jared Wilson points out that “we cannot really enjoy the good gifts God gives us until he as their Giver is our greatest joy. Until he as their Giver is our greatest joy, we will be left trying to enjoy his gifts for things they are not, rather than the things they are.”
The latest and greatest wisdom on our eating habits is constantly changing. But this seems to make some sense.
Don’t call upon unbelievers to stop sinning until you first call them to turn to Christ in repentance and faith.
Praying and sinning will never live together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke prayer. —J.C. Ryle
John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers novels take a different approach from his more famous “Prey” novels starring Lucas Davenport. Virgil investigates in small town and rural Minnesota, and he generally handles less horrific crimes than Davenport. But that makes the stories no less interesting, and the puzzles in Holy Ghost are plenty challenging for any reader, I’d say.
Wheatfield, Minnesota was a moribund little town until the young mayor and a friend come up with a questionable scheme for reviving the economy. It involves a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the local Catholic church. They mean no harm, though they certainly profit from the situation. Pretty much everyone is happy with how things are going (including a skeptical visiting priest), until somebody starts shooting at visitors.
Virgil Flowers, former lady’s man (he’s now in an exclusive – though unmarried – relationship), and part-time outdoor writer, goes to Wheatfield in his capacity as an agent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He meets a series of colorful characters (described pretty much without condescension), and pokes into everybody’s business in his low-key style. These are simple people, but the mystery is not simple at all.
I liked Holy Ghost the best, perhaps, of any of the books in this series. And that’s in spite of the depiction of a religious hoax, which is handled more casually than I approve of. But I liked the treatment of small-town people, and the dialogue was often quite funny.
Cautions for language, dirty jokes, violence, sexual references, and lighthearted handling of religious matters.
Or else you won’t get to nominate your favorites this year!
1. Make a list of the books you loved that were published in the past 12 months. Books for children and teens published in the U.S. or Canada between October 16, 2017 and October 15, 2018 are eligible. If a book will be published after October 15, 2018, it will be eligible next year.
2. Separate the books on your list into categories. The Cybils categories are:
– Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books
– Elementary/Middle-Grade Nonfiction
– Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction
– Fiction Picture Books/Board Books
– Graphic Novels
– Junior/Senior High Nonfiction
– Middle-Grade Fiction
– Young Adult Fiction
– Young Adult Speculative Fiction
If you’re not sure which category a book falls into, you can read the category descriptions. If you’re still not sure, just make the nomination in the category you think best fits the book. The Cybils folks will go through the nominations on their list and move books from one list to another, if necessary.
3. Head over to the Cybils website and make your nominations. You can nominate one book per category. However, you don’t have to nominate a book in every single category. If you have more than one favorite in a category, ask a friend to nominate your second favorite. If your first-pick book for a category has already been nominated, go ahead and nominate your second favorite. Do this TODAY, October 15th! Today is the deadline for nominations.
This sponsored post is adapted from The Ten Commandments: What They Mean, Why They Matter, and Why We Should Obey Them by Kevin DeYoung.
Taking Sin Seriously
What makes coveting such a serious sin? First, we covet when we want for ourselves what belongs to someone else. Coveting is more than thinking, “It’d be great to have a nice house,” or “I’d like to have a better job.” Coveting longs for someone else’s stuff to be your stuff. Coveting says, “I want their house. I want his job. If only I could have what they have, then I’d be happy.” One way of looking at things is to see the tenth commandment as the internalization of the eighth commandment. Just as adultery of the heart is lust, and murder of the heart is hatred, so theft is the heart of covetousness. When Achan stole some of the devoted things from Ai, he first “coveted them” and then “took them” (Josh. 7:21). Likewise, James says, “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:3). Those two sentences stand in parallel. Coveting is desiring something or someone that is not yours to have. Sex may be a good thing. Possessions may have their place.
But they’re both bad when the thoughts are illicit when you want what does not belong to you. Coveting is a violation of the second great commandment. Remember how Jesus summarized the two tables of the law: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself ” (Matt. 22:37–40). Coveting fails to love your neighbor as yourself. When we’re covetous, we think only (or, at least, supremely) of what is good for us: what we would like, what would make us happy, and what could make our lives better, regardless of how others are affected. It’s easy for us to see how selfish children can be. They are happy with their Christmas presents until they see a sibling or friend get something bigger and better. Suddenly their Super Awesome Barbie Action Playhouse isn’t so super awesome anymore. And you know what happens next? You’ll hear those immortal words: “It’s not fair!” This prompts one of the much-beloved mom or dad lectures about starving kids living in a crater on the moon. But as easily as we can see the selfishness of children, we can be blind to our own self-regard. We notice the camper down the street or the new addition with all the righteous indignation of kids on Christmas morning. Coveting is not just saying, “I would like something.” That can be fine. We all have wish lists. Coveting goes further and says, “Why did you get that? I wanted it! I am angry because you are happy, and I’d be happier if we could trade places.” Coveting wants what other people have.
What Our Coveting Reveals
Second, we covet when our desire leads to or is an expression of, discontentment. According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.”1 If the first point looked at coveting as a violation of the second table of the law, then the second point stresses how it also violates the first table of the law. When we covet, we don’t believe that God is big enough to help us or good enough to care. Our discontentment is an expression of how much more we think God owes us. There’s a reason that “do not covet” is the last of the ten commandments. It comes at the end because it is such a fitting summary of everything that has come before. It’s impossible to covet and love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. It can seem strange that the Ten Commandments starts with such lofty ideals—“I am the Lord your God. . . . You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:2)—and then ends with a prosaic whimper: “Stop looking at that donkey.” But do you see how the two are connected? God is saying, “I’m the only God you need. Don’t turn to Baal. Don’t turn to statues. And don’t turn to animals or friends or abilities either. Let nothing else capture your gaze and affections ahead of me!”
Coveting is idolatry (Col. 3:5). It says I can’t live without that person, place, or possession. It makes a god out of our desires. The tenth commandment is not an anticlimactic afterthought. “Don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. And try to be happy with what you have.” The command not to covet is actually the practical summation and heart-level culmination of the other nine commandments. Even though we understand from Jesus that the commandments all have an internal dimension, it would be easy to focus on mere external obedience if we didn’t have the tenth commandment. When you look at the first nine commandments, they almost seem possible, at least in a perfunctory sort of way. “Don’t kill people.” I can do that. “Don’t sleep around.” I’m good. “Don’t lie under oath.” Got it. But just when we might be tempted to check off one commandment after another, we land on the tenth commandment and realize that we can’t possibly keep this moral code to perfection. We can conceive of making it through life without a golden calf to worship, but no honest person can think of living out their days free from coveting.
There are parallels to many of the commandments in the ancient world. Other nations and people had commandments against murder. Other legal codes tried to protect marriage, truth-telling, and private property. But we’ve yet to find another law code from the ancient world that enshrines a prohibition against inordinate desires of the heart. The tenth commandment makes explicit what the other commandments imply: obedience is a matter of the heart.
- Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westminster Shorter Catechism, question and answer 81, in The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms with Proof Texts (Lawrenceville, GA: Christian Education & Publications Committee, 2007).
In his new book, The Ten Commandments: What They Mean, Why They Matter, and Why We Should Obey Them, pastor Kevin DeYoung highlights the timelessness and goodness of God’s commands as he makes clear what they are, why we should know them, and how to apply them.
To pass safely through a jungle, one must walk either with stealth or with confidence. ~A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge.
Change is necessary and, deny it as we may, in the end change is always inevitable. ~A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge.
Wants and wishes cannot erase choices. Sometimes a road forks, and both paths lead to pain. The Song of Glory and Ghost by N.D. Wilson.
A leader doesn’t lead by proving how great he is—he leads by making the people around him great. ~Mysteries of Cove: Embers of Destruction by J. Scott Savage.
The real purpose of life [is] to live—to find out about the world and have adventures. ~The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff.
Making others feel safe is a fine way to spend your days. ~Wishtree by Katherine Applegate.
Knowledge is a vessel deeper than the sea. A fool splashes in a pond and thinks he has the answers, but a wise man knows the only way to reach its depths is to ask questions. ~Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eager.
Once you’re up on a pedestal, you can’t take a step in any direction without falling. ~Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood.
Surely it is counterproductive to expect sense from someone you are beating senseless. ~Thick as Thieves by Meg Whalen Turner.
Everyone deserves dessert. ~Zinnia and the Bees by Danielle Davis.
Doubtful friends are worse than enemies, and fire ants are the worst of all. ~The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo by Stephen Bramucci.
The more people you care about, the more there is to scare you in the world. And yet, if you didn’t care about people, there would be nothing worth protecting. ~The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo by Stephen Bramucci.
He who endures will conquer. So will he who never gets stung by a blister beetle. ~The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo by Stephen Bramucci.
When your heart is beating too quick with nerves, there’s nothing like the rhythm of a poem to bring it right again. When you fill your mind with words—beautiful words, stirring words—those words drive away your other worries. ~Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller.
History doesn’t judge leaders on how many times they fall. It judges them on how many times they get up. ~Mysteries of Cove: Embers of Destruction by J. Scott Savage.
. . . some secrets don’t like to be kept. They grow feet and tiptoe away in the night. ~Skeleton Tree by Kim Ventrella.
I’m working on a list of favorite aphorisms from 2018’s crop of middle grade speculative fiction. Do you have any to add?
I hate to ask this, but apparently many are. Is Ann Voskamp a serial plagiarist?
World News Group’s Emily Belz writes, “The short answer is ‘No,’ but a couple of examples of minor plagiarism should give authors and publishers new determination to take great care in attributing stories and wordings to their creators.”
She notes that an anecdote in Voskamp’s The Broken Way reads almost exactly as it was written in social media by Cynthia Occelli, so all sides acknowledged the copying, but this passage did not throw a flag when run through the publishing industry’s plagiarism detector. That puts the responsibility for writing your own words back on the author.
Andy Stanley wants to make the church Irresistible again (maybe he should get ball caps printed). He explains the problems he sees in the American church in his new book, released last month, and according to Marvin Olasky, gets several things right.
Stanley notes rightly that “skinny jeans and moving lights” won’t keep many young people from abandoning Christianity. But he argues that the way to hold them, and win others who say they’re “spiritual,” is to abandon the hard things in the Bible and emphasize a smiling Jesus. C.S. Lewis brought us Mere Christianity. Pastor Stanley brings us Mere Sponge Cake.
Stanley says he knows “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” but seriously people, “the Ten Commandments have no authority over you.” I don’t think Jesus would sign off on that. The new covenant is the fulfillment of the old covenant. The law given to us by Moses still reveals the state of our sin and our need for salvation. When Jesus preached his Sermon on the Mount, he essentially told us if we thought we knew what the law required, we didn’t know the half of it.
I don’t doubt Stanley has a pretty good point somewhere at the beginning of his line of thought, but where he runs with that line is straight heresy. I love what Steven Graydanus said about Stanley’s solution, published in an interview this summer. Stanley said, “Without the OT, we can make a better case for Jesus,” to which Graydanus replies, “As *what*? Go into the Sistine Chapel and paint over everything except the figures of Yahweh on the central ceiling panel and Jesus on the west wall. At that point, what on earth are you looking *at*?”
A member of a Facebook group that I’m in asked people to comment about their favorite documentary films. From all the comments that were posted, I made a list of documentaries that I would like to watch. And I’ve been watching some of them this week. So far, I have watched four films, and I have definitely thought that all four were worth the time and worth recommending.
Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry. (2017, watched on Netflix)
This film was good, but misnamed, I think. It wasn’t about Wendell Berry, the author, as much as it was about farming and farm policy and the takeover of commercial methods and big business in agriculture, the death of the family farm. As I watched I felt I understood the problem better, but I didn’t see the solutions. Maybe there is no going back to the way agriculture was done in the past on small farms, on a small scale. Even though the film showed some farmers who were trying to scale back and form small local cooperatives, it was obvious that tobacco farming, at least, was never going to be profitable or even doable on a small scale again. And since that’s the kind of farming Wendell Berry is looking back to as his ideal, I’m not sure what to think about the film itself. I also wonder if tobacco farming itself is going to be a thing of the past, since the advent of vaping and e-cigarettes. Unless someone finds other uses for tobacco. Maybe someone needs to do for tobacco what George Washington Carver did for the peanut and for sweet potatoes. Anyway, watch this one to learn more about the farming crisis and to learn a little bit about Wendell Berry. The musical score for the film is fantastic.
13th. (2016, watched on Netflix)
I watched this film about the history of slavery and prisons and mass incarceration with one of my adult daughters, and it was quite provocative and thoughtful. The title is a reference to the thirteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It reminded me of the book Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, and sure enough, Mr. Stevenson was featured as one of the commentators on the film. Like I Am Not Your Negro, which I watched last year, this documentary helps explain some of the racial unrest in our nation and the Black Lives Matter movement in particular. I’m not at all sure I agree with all of the agenda that the film is trying push, but I do feel more informed and even empathetic. We do have a history of racism in this country, and that history does influence how black people and white people think about current events. It’s very difficult to think past one’s own presuppositions, especially when we don’t even realize that the underlying prejudices and presuppositions are there, in the first place.
Life, Animated. (2016, watched on Amazon Prime)
A 23 year old young man, Owen Suskind, uses his immersion in Disney films to make sense of the world and ameliorate and inform his understanding of himself and his place in the world as he deals with his autism. Of the four documentary films I’ve watched so far, this one was the best and most hopeful. I was delighted by this story of a boy who, at the age of three, suddenly became autistic and lost his ability to speak meaningfully or to communicate with family. Owen’s parents have a huge role in the film and in Owen’s life, but the film is really about Owen growing up and becoming independent as he deals with the knowledge that his parents won’t always be available and can’t live his life for him. It’s also about how the Disney movies helped and continue to help Owen to connect with other people and to understand the world he lives in. Again, I found this film fascinating.
AlphaGo. (2017, watched on Netflix)
The ancient Chinese game of “Go” is for some people, especially in Asia but really around the world, a metaphor for life and the struggle to live creatively and strategically. In this film, AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence neural network, competes against Lee Sedol, a top level world champion at the game of Go. Because, like chess, this game is for many people a life’s work, the competition between man and machine is particularly intense and consequential. Lee Se-dol, is a South Korean professional Go player of 9 dan rank. AlphaGo is a computer program that can adjust and “teach itself” to play Go and to win at Go, a very complicated game. Go is much more complicated than chess, for example. Anyway, the story of how Lee Sedol and AlphaGo played a three games out of five tournament and who won is a nail-biter. I’m not sure I understand all of the implications of this kind of “deep learning” network, but it feels significant and rather amazing.
So, those are the four documentaries I’ve watched so far. I’ll be back with more mini-reviews soon.
By the way, if you have any favorite documentaries to recommend, I’ll add them to my list. What are your favorite nonfiction films and documentaries?
I’ll read pretty much anything Dean Koontz writes these days, and the Jane Hawk series definitely has an intriguing concept. But frankly, I think The Forbidden Door is an unnecessary book.
We continue the saga of Jane Hawk, former FBI agent who is all that stands between civilization and The Arcadians, a high-level conspiracy of elites who are gradually taking the country over through implanting nanomachines in people’s brains, turning them into slaves without free will. The Arcadians have already murdered her husband, and now they’ve turned Jane into the FBI’s most wanted criminal. Legal and extralegal resources are being marshaled to capture her. She hid her son Travis with friends, but now that hiding place has been discovered, and Travis is now staying with the most unlikely protector in the world – a brilliant agoraphobe who lives in a hidden bunker. If the Arcadians capture him, they’ll use him to bring Jane in.
I was interested to read The Forbidden Door, but I found it hard to read. Jane actually doesn’t do much in this story. Most of our time is spent either with her vile enemies, or with their victims or potential victims. The level of unease is high, and it’s not relieved as often as I would have liked.
I have a suspicion (probably wrong) that Koontz sketched this series out as a trilogy, and the publishers persuaded him to pad the story with one extra volume, to increase revenue. This book mostly represents that padding.
So I don’t recommend it highly, except in the sense that if you’re reading the whole series – which is worthwhile – you’ll probably need to read this one.
Cautions for language, violence, and disturbing themes.
“Farther than arrows, higher than wings fly poet’s song and prophet’s words.” ~Inscription on the Brooklyn Public Library
Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.
Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.
After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.
The Stone Girl’s Story is such a good exploration of story-making and moral free agency and growth and change. I am blown away by the depth of thought embedded in the story and the simple, understandable way in which the story unfolds.
Mayka, a living girl carved of stone, and her stone family of rabbits and birds and other creatures, live on the mountain where they were first created by the stonemason whom they called Father. They are animated and given their own stories by the marks the stonemason carved into their bodies when he made them. But Father eventually died and left the stone creatures he made behind. And now their marks are eroding and becoming faded and smooth. As their marks fade, the stone creatures will slowly wind down and come to a stop—unless they can find a new stonemason to re-carve their features and their stories.
To save herself and her friends, Mayka goes on a journey to find a stonemason. Like all fantasy journeys Mayka’s quest to save her family brings growth and change to Mayka herself, even if she is made of unyielding stone. Her companions on the journey are the stone birds, Risa and Jacklo, and along the way they meet Siannasi Yondolada Quilasa, Si-si for short, a tiny dragon with a big heart. With these friends and supporters, Mayka travels to the big city where she hopes to find another ally, a stonemason.
C.S. Lewis said of his Narnia stories that they were not allegories but rather “suppositions.”
“I did not say to myself ‘Let us represent Jesus as He really is in our world by a Lion in Narnia’; I said, ‘Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as he became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen.'”
The Stone Girl’s Story also reads like a supposition: “Let us suppose world in which stone creatures can come to life, and someone wants to enslave and control the stone creatures. Then imagine what might happen.” And it’s a very good supposition. Recommended.
Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book also may be nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.
I never was one of those horse-loving girls when I was a kid of a girl growing up in West Texas. Most of my friends loved horses, wanted to ride horses, longed to own their own horse(s), aspired to become veterinarians or barrel racers when they grew up. Not me. I went horseback riding once or twice, but it wasn’t my thing. I didn’t read horse books or study horse breeds or talk about horses with my friends. I was just not horse-crazy.
And I’m not sure The Rose Legacy, a new book by Jessica Day George, would have appealed to me back then. Ms. George, author of The Castle series about a magical castle and its inhabitants, has crafted a lovely fantasy set in a world where the horses are supposed to be extinct and forbidden and dangerous. But they’re not any of those things, really.
Anthea Cross-Thornley has no parents and has been shunted about from one uncaring relative to another for all of her life as far as she can remember. But now she is being sent to the home of an uncle she never knew she had, her father’s brother, and what’s worse, her uncle’s home, called The Last Farm, is outside The Wall in the Exiled Lands where only outlaws and wild animals live. How can Anthea become a Rose Maiden to the queen of Coronam when she is being sent to hinterlands, and will she even survive if it’s true that diseases were spread by the exiles and the horses that used to live in the Exiled Lands?
So, of course, the Exiled Lands turn out to be much different from what Anthea has been led to believe, and The Rose Legacy turns out to be a book about magical horses and about magical communication between horses and humans and about bonding with animals and as most good fantasy is, about a quest to save the kingdom. If you like horses or quests or magical worlds, you should give this one a try. Even an old horse-indifferent reader like me enjoyed the story. It had some good, tense moments, an unexpected villain, and a nice resolution, although I read hints that The Rose Legacy may be the first book in a new series. If so, horse lovers everywhere will be delighted.
Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book also may be nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.
Ghost Boys is the story of Jerome, a 12 year old black child in Chicago, who is shot and killed by a white policeman. For most of the story Jerome is a ghost who wanders around Chicago trying to figure out why he can’t move on to wherever he is supposed to go after death. The message is good: no black children (or adults) should die because someone with power and a weapon “made a mistake” or was racist in his or her judgments.
But the story was confusing, and many questions were unresolved. Are all of the “ghost boys” doomed to walk the earth for eternity, or until complete and perfect justice is achieved? If the ghost of Emmett Till was returned to earth to inspire Thurgood Marshall, then why is he still around after Thurgood Marshall has already passed on? Was the murder of Emmett Till really responsible for starting the entire civil rights movement? Are the “hundreds and hundreds” of black boys the only people who have been killed unjustly in the history of the world, or in the United States, or are they just the only ones who are doomed to wander seeking justice forever? If they are supposed to share their stories, why doesn’t Jerome tell Sarah his story instead of having her watch a video and ask her librarian questions?
I just don’t think this book is a great introduction to the subject of racial injustice, but maybe I’m wrong. I’d really like to hear the opinions of young people, black, brown or white, who have read the book. Maybe they would get more out of the reading than I did. I think I would have preferred a straightforward telling of Jerome’s story without all the confusing ghostly stuff, but maybe the ghost story aspect makes it more accessible and interesting to at least some middle grade readers.
Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book may be nominated for a Cybils Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.
Winterhouse is just the sort of fantasy mystery adventure story that I like. The setting is a luxurious hotel with lots of long, twisty halls and secret, locked rooms and exciting amenities, including, of course, a huge library full of old books. The plot is filled with coded messages and puzzles and late night adventures and unusual friendships. The protagonist is an orphan girl, Elizabeth Sommers, who loves to read, so lots of literary allusions. The cast of supporting characters includes the hotel proprietor, the mysterious Norbridge Falls, a friendly librarian named Leona Springer, Elizabeth’s new friend, Freddy Knox, and various other assorted villains, friends, and eccentric minor cast members.
In the story, the poor orphan girl, who lives with her unkind and neglectful aunt Purdy and Uncle Burlap, is unexpectedly whisked away by unknown benefactors to Winterhouse Hotel for the Christmas holidays. While Elizabeth is enjoying the hotel and all its charms—the library, ski slopes, an over-sized jigsaw puzzle, concerts, lectures, and more—she becomes aware that there is mystery and even danger lurking behind the happy facade of Winterhouse. With the reluctant help of the unadventurous but inventive Freddy, Elizabeth sets out to uncover the secrets of Winterhouse before those secrets overcome the goodness and cheer of the old hotel and its guests.
Yes, it’s a perfect set-up. But the execution wasn’t quite up to par. The dialogue and the actions of the main characters, Elizabeth and Freddy, were strained and sometimes unnatural. Norbridge Falls’s actions and particularly his speech patterns are mysterious and unpredictable, too, and I never understood why he was acting so secretive, eccentric, and strange. The author left a lot of loose ends and unanswered questions hanging, perhaps in view of a possible sequel to this debut novel, but it felt like a violation of the Chekov’s gun adage: “if in Act I you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act.” Why were the two jigsaw puzzlers, Mr. Wellington and Mr. Rajput (and their wives), included in the story? What was the significance of introducing them and their huge Himalayan temple puzzle into the plot? Who is Riley Sweth Granger, and where did The Book come from? What really happened to Elizabeth’s parents? Why are Freddy’s allegedly distant and hateful parents suddenly interested in spending time with him at Winterhouse? What is the significance of the Flurschen candy? Why do most of the women of the Falls family live to be exactly 100 years old?
Although some mysteries are resolved by the end of the book, these and many other questions that I had are left unanswered. I think the author may eventually hit his stride and give us some delightful middle grade fiction in the vein of The Westing Game and The Mysterious Benedict Society, but Winterhouse does read like a first attempt. It’s worth reading, though, if only for the allusions to Anne-with-an-e and Narnia and Westing Game and other similar classics. And the library. The library in Winterhouse is to swoon for!
Oh, and the illustrations in the book by Chloe Bristol are pitch-perfect, or pen-perfect. Enjoy the pictures and the puzzles and the bookishness. I’d say give it a chance, and perhaps look forward to the next book in a projected trilogy, The Secrets of Winterhouse, to be published in 2019. Perhaps I’ll get answers to some of my questions then.
Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book may be nominated for a Cybils Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.
Here’s a list of some middle grade speculative fiction books of 2018 that have yet to be nominated for a Cybils Award. Anyone can nominate, and it’s a simple process. If you’ve read any of the following and want to nominate your favorite or if you’ve read books from this year in other categories, go ye forth to the Cybils website and nominate. Nominations close after October 15th.
The Rose Legacy by Jessica Day George. The orphaned Anthea Thornley is sent north to her uncle’s farm where she meets horses, a breed of animal she has been taught were dangerous and are now extinct. But Anthea has much to learn about her own family history and the history of her country and about horses. NOMINATED.
The Griffin’s Feather by Cornelia Funke. Sequel to Dragon Rider.
A Perilous Journey of Danger and Mayhem: A Dastardly Plot by Christopher Healy. The first book in a new alternate history adventure by the author of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. NOMINATED The Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd. “When the Problim children’s ramshackle bungalow in the Swampy Woods goes kaboom, the seven siblings—each born on a different day of the week—have to move into their grandpa’s bizarre old mansion in Lost Cove.” NOMINATED The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast by Samantha Clark. “A boy washes up on a mysterious, seemingly uninhabited beach. Who is he? How did he get there? The boy can’t remember.” NOMINATED Outlaws of Time: The Last of the Lost Boys by N.D. Wilson. This third book in the series introduces Sam Miracle’s son and heir. NOMINATED The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings by Sarah Prineas.“The powerful Lost Books at the palace library are infecting the rest with an evil magic, and two unlikely friends must figure out who, or what, is controlling the books and their power. If they can’t, the entire kingdom could be at risk.” NOMINATED
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book VI: the Long-Lost Home by Maryrose Wood. The final book in the Ashton Place series?
Voyage of the Dogs by Greg van Eekhout. Dogs in space—called Barkonauts? NOMINATED
The Phantom Tower by Keir Graff. “Twin brothers discover their new home is also a portal–for an hour a day–to a parallel dimension.”
The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr. A dragon freed from a teapot meets a very special friend. NOMINATED
Pages and Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James.
The Road to Ever After by Moira Young. In this Christmas tale, orphan Davy Davidson meets the eccentric Miss Flint, and as they travel together, Miss Flint begins to age backwards.
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin. “An anarchic, outlandish, and deeply political saga of warring elf and goblin kingdoms.” Long-Listed for the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. NOMINATED A Fever, a Flight, and a Fight for the World: The Rwendigo Tales Book Four by Jennifer Myhre. May be young adult. Set in East Africa. NOMINATED in YA.
Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret by Trudy Trueit. From National Geographic, kids train to become the next generation of scientists to explore the galaxy.
Bravelands #3: Blood and Bone by Erin Hunter.
The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris. NOMINATED
2018 Cybils Nominations Categories:
Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books
Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction
Fiction Picture Books/Board Books
Junior/Senior High Nonfiction
Young Adult Fiction
Young Adult Speculative Fiction
This week: 13 things you do for self-care.
- Get counseling when I need it
- Vitamin D supplement, probiotic, OTC allergy meds, fish oil
- I’m trying to get better about consistent exercise…
- Also trying to get better about eating well.
- Starting to get better about wearing sunscreen.
- I paint my own toenails because I’m one of those people that hates pedicures.
- Once a year I’ll do a foot peel–you soak your feet in this liquid for an hour and then over the next few days your dead skin all peels off. It is mildly horrifying, but your feet feel and look amazing afterwards.
- I’m not totally consistent about this, but I use the Headspace app to do some deep breathing in the morning or to help me fall asleep and it’s great.
- Also trying to hang out with my people more, because community is necessary and good.
- Can we count church here? I suppose that is not so much self-care as it is being open to God’s care for me, yes?
- Every once in a while I’ll do a brain dump in my notebook–just make myself write anything that comes to mind for 10-15 minutes and fill up a couple of pages. Surprisingly helpful.
- Need to schedule it for this year, but yearly checkup at the doctor.
- Creative endeavors–knitting, guitar, etc.
This week: Books you’ve read in the past 12 months.
- Tom Hanks, Uncommon Type (yes, that Tom Hanks)
- Rachel Khong, Goodbye Vitamin
- Gregory Cole, Single, Gay, Christian
- Sue Grafton, X
- Min Jin Lee, Pachinko
- Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You
- Joy Beth Smith, Party of One
- Daniel Coyle, The Culture Code
- Nnedi Okorafor, Binti
- Edward Lee, Buttermilk Graffiti
- Suzanne Stabile, The Path Between Us
- Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here
- W.B. Sprague, Lectures On Revivals
- Line I thought of but haven’t had the time to sit down and write a whole poem around yet: “I was born in the shadow of the valley of death.” (I was born in a Korean county that’s home to a valley called the Punch Bowl, where hundreds of Korean and American soldiers met their fates during a Korean War battle; this feels like a rather poetic if somewhat grim detail.)
- Speaking of Koreanness, I have come across a YouTube channel called Korean Englishman that is pretty much what it says: It’s a young English guy who grew up in a city in China where there are a lot of Korean people, and he fell in love with Korean culture and language. So he’s basically acting as a one-man Korean tourism board, introducing his English friends to Korean food and stuff, and he has quite a following of Korean people, which sort of surprised me. But as someone said in the comments on one of his videos, Koreans are very curious about what other cultures think of theirs, so this guy’s appreciation of Koreanness is really affirming to them.
- This does, however, have me thinking about a lot of stuff–there’s part of me that’s bothered by it centering on the experiences of a white British guy instead of on the stories of actual Korean people, but on the other hand actual Korean people don’t really seem to mind and are in fact really stoked about it? Maybe it’s an American attitude toward race and culture that people in Korea don’t have?
- And it also has me thinking about the fact that I have not intentionally sought a whole lot of Korean experiences in America, which is nuts when I live in a city that has loads of Korean people in it, and I think it’s at least in part because I’m nervous about whether or not I’d be perceived as not being Korean enough, or whether or not I’d be looked down on for not knowing certain things, or not knowing more than a handful of Korean words. (I mean, all my experiences with first- and second-generation Korean-Americans have never indicated that this would be the case; to be honest, it’s been well-intentioned but misguided white people that have made me feel less than for not knowing my own culture.) I feel like I need someone to hold my hand through the experience, and to be honest I don’t really move in spaces where there are a lot of other Korean people, so…now I’m kind of reevaluating all that. So watch this space, I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on this later!
- Anyway! I have thus far spent this weekend eating BLTs with farmers market tomatoes and jalapeño bacon from HEB (SO GOOD) and nursing a sinus headache that is probably related to this rain we’re getting. I’ve noticed that since Harvey last year I’m a little more skittish whenever it rains a lot, which I’m sure is the case for a lot of people in southeast Texas.
- I’m just going to leave you with this after all of this Korean angst:
The adjustments in my life have been many as well. At Groveton I didn't make cheerleading! I wasn't asked to the senior prom. (Now with the sexual revolution happening that was a good thing!) I was chosen for several parts in Tiger Theatre productions. I was made business manager of the Tiger Rag. Mrs. Lindberg chose me as her assistant and told me that I should major in PE in college. I received a BA from EWU and taught school ( 3 years.) I married and had 2 children. Now I have 3 grandchildren. I've lost my older brother (accidental death) and younger sister (cancer), both GHS grads. I came down with fibromyalgia. I've traveled all over the world by plane, train, car, bus, cruise ship, le truck, and sailboat. Through it all, by God's grace, I've learned to be content.
My family's move to Virginia, my experiences at Groveton High School, and the people who have kept in touch through reunions, have been a blessing. I could name names (you know who you are) but I may leave somebody out. I will just post the pictures. I was a lost Groveton High School classmate from 1961 until 1991 and then again in 1996. Maybe you were a lost classmate also.
GHS band alums and Mrs. Tabor 2001
Jamie white and Barry Mates 2001
We have lost many of our Groveton classmates along the way. I pray that they have all made peace with God through Jesus so that we can have a big reunion in Heaven.
My son is a drummer/ percussionist. I was interested to hear the review of this 2013 documentary about a small town where some of the worlds best music was born. This is from a Christian perspective. Click here to listen or read the review.
Below is an interview of Muscle Shoal's "Swampers"-- the percussion section. Those of us of a certain age will know where "sock it to me" came from:
Last year, I put my freshman college student on the plane from post, gave him a hug, and he was off to college. As an “international” student, he had someone meet him at the airport and the international student group made newcomer’s beds with sheets (so sweet.)
This year, I’m in a FB group for this college for parents. So many questions… Ones I didn’t even think about… About the dorms, transportation, lots of details.
It’s triggered a little mommy-guilt in me… Was I not supportive enough? Should I have gone with him to settle in? Should I have bought him a dorm minifridge? Did he have everything he needed? (Thank goodness for those international student-sheets!)
But the story I’m telling myself if that he is a capable young man.
And he is. Well-traveled and able to handle unexpected bumps in the road. His faith is strong (and weak, and strong. . .)
Our relationship is honest and he knows he can always text me. He’s handling his independence well.
In the late 90's Chris and I were in Paris during one of his business trips. Being the anti-litter bug person that I am, I looked for a garbage can somewhere on the street to throw away wrappers from sandwiches we had eaten. There were garbage cans on the street but the lids were fastened down. We thought that there must have been bomb threats which were dealt with by stopping the use of garbage cans.
I’m visiting my mom (retired Navy wife) in her two bedroom condo. She’s been open-handed with letting things go through the years.
What she has now is a carefully curated collection of eclectic loveliness. Seriously. I love it. It is eclectic. It is only the most beautiful and sentimental of 40+ years of moving. Well, mixed with some whimsical pieces that currently catch her fancy.
Nothing seems cluttered, but everywhere I look is a treasure. Many I recognize from my childhood, but others are items she’s added since I left home.
I know so often in the Foreign Service we share the simulataneous struggles and adventures of being given an odd space and items to combine to make “home.” My mom has done it, has modeled it for me.
And now, here in the other side, she’s made a peaceful home with the beauty and memories she’s collected along the way.
Yesterday we dropped Blake (our fourth) off at College.
The nest is empty.
Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. – Genesis 20:6 NASB
There is something astounding about this statement of the Lord to Abimilech: “I also kept you from sinning against Me.”
When I look back on my life, I can recount a lot of instances when I sinned. Heck, when I look back on today I can recount a lot of instances, and I haven’t even had my morning coffee yet.
But what takes my breath away is the remembrance of all the instances in the past when I had opportunity to sin and somehow God made the way of escape. This includes times even before I came to Christ.
It wasn’t me not wanting to sin. It was God keeping me from tremendous future trouble and regret.
He didn’t have to do that. I would have deserved the consequences of my actions. But he loves me and he knows my name and he cares for the glory and honor of his Name.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Jude 1:24-25 ESV
I drove a little purple Honda Civic hatchback when I was in my 30s. It was a great car, but it was low to the road and I could hear the tires on the road and every noisy bump. When all four boys were in the car with me, it was super noisy. I’d hear them chatter in the back seat. (Okay, sometimes fuss at each other in the back seat.)
Then I got hearing aids.
And I realized for the first time that they weren’t just being noisy in the back seat — but they were also trying to talk to me.
Hearing aids changed my life in a way that makes me both sad and happy. They made me a much better mom, because I realized that my kids in the back seat actually wanted to talk to me — and weren’t just making noise! Sad, because I realized that for so many years I was tuning them out because I couldn’t really hear and understand them.
My hearing loss is in the speech banana. Part of the reason why it took so long to have my hearing loss diagnosed was because I could hear — just there were sounds that I couldn’t pick up.
Our brains are so amazingly adaptive. The actual phonemes that my ears couldn’t hear were “filled in” by my brain.
Li_e when you _ead th_s _ente__e — you ca_ u_dersta_d wha_ I’m writi_ by the lette_s and patte_ns you ca_ _ead, an_ you_ b_ain fi__s in the b_a_ks.
That’s how I hear conversations without my hearing aids. My brain is working overtime, not only filling in the missing sounds but also taking cues from the patterns of speech. It is easier for me to understand people with whom I spend a lot of time, because I’m familiar with their speech rhythms. (That’s one of the reasons I understand Hubby’s Russian more easily than the average Ivan on the street.)
Because my hearing loss requires so much extra decoding of language, it is no wonder that now that I have hearing aids my brain is less tired at the end of the day!
Many people don’t realize they have hearing loss because they can still hear quite a bit, and their brain is working hard to help them understand what others are saying. Often hearing loss comes on gradually, and we adapt. Or the loss begins outside of the speech banana, at higher pitches, and so the loss of hearing isn’t initially impacting conversation.
In addition to not realizing the onset of hearing loss, many people are resistant because it is associate with getting older and many have a resistance to acknowledging that. I was in my mid-30s when I was diagnosed with moderate bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. I felt validated — it wasn’t all in my head! But also I was young enough that I didn’t feel like it was a sign of getting older.
Have you wondered whether you may have the beginning of hearing loss?
Is it harder to understand the speech of little girls than other people? Do you prefer to talk in person rather than over the phone? Do you avoid noisy restaurants because it’s hard to have a conversation with people? Can other people hear the music playing at a store, but you can’t? These may be hints that your hearing needs to be evaluated.
I had no clue what the first step was when I wanted to get my hearing checked. There are three primary paths you can take to have your hearing evaluated.
I was referred to an ENT who had an audiologist on staff, and scheduled an evaluation with an audiologist. This is often covered by insurance, billed through the ENT.
An audiologist may also have an independent office, not affiliated with an ENT. After my first hearing test, my follow up appointments have been with the audiologist in her office.
You may also be able to get a screening, but not full audiology exam, through a local hearing aid business. My local hearing aid specialist at Lifestyle Hearing is a great guy and provides screenings. This is often a good low cost option. (Ye, some hearing aid businesses do try to oversell higher end hearing aids, and so I recommend this with caution.)
I’ve been wearing hearing aids over a decade. I’m so thankful for the impact they have had on my mothering and the ability I have to really listen to my children.
I’ve been away for a while; went on a cruise with the family and extended family. It was great!
While on the cruise I read a new treasure I recently bought: The Hobbit facimile first edition. This is the original 1937 version with the original Riddles in the Dark and Tolkien artwork. I forgot how good that book is.
In other news, I’m going to seminary. I start my first class in a couple of weeks.
And, as always, I’m a sinner saved by grace.
I was recently invited to discuss parenting teens on the Theology Gals podcast. It was so encouraging to me and I feel even more committed to praying for my teens after talking with Coleen and Angela
I invite you to listen in as we discuss topics such as…
- How can we build stronger connections with our teens?
- How do we help our teens with mood swings?
- How do we encourage our teens spiritually?
- How do we handle our teens questioning the faith?
This week: 13 things that you have been obsessed with at some point in your life.
- The musical Godspell–I was in it when I was in high school and I went pretty deep down the internet rabbit hole doing research. (There was a pretty epic production of it in the ’70s in Toronto that had Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Eugene Levy, Paul Shaffer, Victor Garber, and Andrea Martin in it, which I wish I had a time machine to go back and watch.)
- I freely admit that I know way too much about Hamilton.
- Thanks to my having watched the behind-the-scenes features on the extended edition DVDs, I know more about the props, costumes, and scenery in the Lord of the Rings movies than I do about American history, and that is a fact.
- For a Korean-American Protestant, I know a surprising amount about Jewish spiritual practices.
- I was super into Homestar Runner in high school and college, just like we all were.
- I definitely went through a serious U2 phase while I was in grad school. (Like, I own Boy and October kind of serious.)
- When I was a kid, I was super into Adventures In Odyssey (I still listened to it in high school, not even kidding).
- In early elementary school for some reason I got super into presidential trivia–to this day, I can name all of the presidents in order and can name off some super random facts about all of them. (Can I tell you about most of their policies? No, of course not.)
- I read all of the Little House on the Prairie books as a kid, multiple times. (I went back and read a couple as an adult a few years ago, and it is amazing just to think about all the stuff they had to do just to live. And yes, there are some super problematic racial things in there, so read with a grain of salt.)
- American Girl. (I grew up in the late ’80s and ’90s in a middle-class household in the United States; of course I was into American Girl.) I have read all of those books multiple times, too. And I had Kirsten, for the record.
- I binge-watched all of Lost during my second year of grad school and I am one of those weirdos that liked the ending.
- Still a pretty serious Whovian, although not the kind that goes super deep down the rabbit hole. (I haven’t seen any of the 1st-8th Doctors’ episodes, for example.)
- And of course Harry Potter, because I am a true millennial. I read Goblet of Fire instead of studying for my finals my sophomore year of college (and my grades kind of showed that…oops).
(kept forgetting to do these; it’s back now)
This week: 13 things you’re really into right now.
- My parish (*that’s my church’s parlance for small groups/home groups/community groups/whatever your church calls that) introduced me to a board game called Jokers and Marbles and I’m obsessed enough that I’m thinking about getting my own board so we can have tournaments. It’s pretty much just Sorry!, but…better somehow?
- I deleted all social media except for Instagram from my phone, and turned off access to Safari, and it’s GREAT. (It’s slightly annoying when someone texts me a link and I can’t open it, but other than that it’s been really good for my brain.)
- The Daily Liturgy Podcast–as a very audio-oriented person, I have found it really helpful.
- So we got new vending machines at work and they have Topo Chico in the plastic bottles in them, and I’ve been getting the Touch of Grapefruit flavor pretty much every day–I think I may be the only person buying them, but I’m so glad that they’re there. (We also have plastic bottle recycling at work, so I feel less bad about my habit.)
- A new podcast called No Chill Enneagram and it’s fantastic, y’all. Maybe not the place to go if you want to learn about the Enneagram–that’s what The Road Back to You is for–but if you’re deep down the rabbit hole and you want to stop weirding out the people around you, this pod is for you.
- I went to sleep before 9 o’clock the other night and it was GREAT.
- So Lin-Manuel Miranda (plus a couple of other folks from the Hamilton creative team) are doing a limited series about Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon and I am HERE FOR IT.
- LMM is also going to direct a movie of the musical Tick, Tick…BOOM. My friend Hannah and I were musing that either Jonathan Groff or Jeremy Jordan is probably going to end up playing the lead, but maybe Santino Fontana from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend might? Or it’ll probably get cast with some upstart unknown guy? Either way, I really hope it’ll be good.
- The trivia quiz website Sporcle now has a showdown mode that lets you play against another person live, which is like crack for me. (There is a reason I went on Jeopardy and that is because it combines trivia with competition.)
- I switched a while back from the Apple Podcasts app (which is straight garbage, don’t @ me) to an app called Overcast, which is wonderful and free and I recommend it to you all.
- Another good thing for my brain: I don’t let my phone in my room (I charge it in my bathroom), and I’ve started using a little battery-operated alarm clock from Ikea. It’s actually really nice and easier for me to turn off my thoughts at night.
- Linda Holmes, who is a culture writer for NPR and host of the excellent podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, recently got a dog named Brian. I love this because a) I love dogs with people names and b) Linda started an Instagram account for pics of Brian called primodogcontent, and I adore it. This is a particularly good recent post.
- Finally: This weekend the Revoice conference is happening and I’m really grateful for its presence and the witness of its organizers; they’ve received a great deal of criticism from both the right and the left, as is unfortunately to be expected, but they’re holding to their convictions and are carrying on. I have some friends who are there and I’m so stoked for them; I’m also looking forward to any audio that gets posted from it.
And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Mark 2:4-5 ESV
I love this passage of Scripture.
Did you notice this? “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'”
Does it seem a little incongruous? It seems that Jesus saw the faith of the friends and so rewarded the paralytic with forgiveness and healing. How did “their” faith benefit the paralytic? Is faith transferable?
I think their are a few answers. In one way, yes, it is (stick with me here). But before I get into that, I think it’s likely that “their” refers to all five of the guys, including the four vertical guys and the one horizontal guy.
But the sense in the passage is that the faith of the friends was marvelous to Jesus. They had lifted their buddy up to the top of the roof and broke through to get him in front of the Lord. Forget the property damage, I think it’s clear Jesus absolutely loved seeing faith in action.
In the gospels Jesus always honors faith. In this one sense, their faith was transferable to their friend: think about what it was that these four guys wanted? More than anything they wanted their friend to be physically healed. They wanted it so bad and they also believed so thoroughly that Jesus would provide that healing that they ripped open a roof and caused a spectacle. Jesus saw their faith, honored it, and went further even than they expected. He healed their friend spiritually first. Then physically.
Too often when I think of “faith” my mind’s eye pictures a person who is stationary, but who internally, devotionals believes in the Lord. But faith is something that is not stationary. It moves, it breathes, it lugs a fellow up onto a roof and digs a hole to lower him down (and the implication is these four guys didn’t expect to have to lift him back up because that brother was going to walk out).
People shouldn’t have to have mind-reading capabilities to see our faith.
Jesus saw their faith.
I tend towards depression and anxiety, naturally. Not clinical levels of it, but enough to keep me awake at night sometimes. I’m not proud of this – I know with surety that it is a time-waster and a joy-stealer. And it doesn’t do a thing to help a person resolve the issue that is causing the depression and anxiety.
I’ve recently been hit with multiple circumstances that involve me waiting on other people to do what they need to do. This has stretched me and I’ve failed those tests of kindness multiple times.
So many people deal with so much more than I do in my relatively easy, comfortable life. But this is weighing on me today.
I don’t know how to end this post.
In June of 1961 I was graduated from Groveton High School in Alexandria, VA. In the fall of 1961 Groveton admitted the first black student, Rayfield Barber. He was interviewed at the 1996 GHS reunion. He had a good experience at Groveton. Click on the You Tube above to hear the 5 minute interview.
My parents set the example for our family--we treated everyone with respect. When my youngest brother, Wayne, wanted his black friend to join his Cub Scout troop at Calvary Presbyterian his friend was not permitted to join. I believe my dad quit that troop and joined another one where Wayne's friend was accepted. Today Calvary is integrated. See the picture below.
Below is a link to a video of a talk by Peter Hubbard, pastor of North Hills Church in Greenville, SC. I thought he explained racism and a Christian approach very well. My parents would agree with him. The talk is about 40 minutes long. Click on the link to view.
“Mom, C17 just taught me how to make coffee!” exclaimed A6.
My work here is done.
But now thus says the Lord , he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” – Isaiah 43:1-7 ESV
We are not accidents. We were created and formed. Because of this, we can know and be known by our Creator. And it is a very good kind of knowing; redeemed and called by name, a precious possession of the Creator.
Not called to a life of ease, but called to a life of intimacy, of knowing and being known as we walk through floods and flame with the One who promises never to leave or forsake.
The One who calls us precious and honored and loved. Us!
He promises to restore, to bring it all back, to make all things new and as they were meant to be at first, for his glory and for those who call his name and are called by his name.
Praise be to God.
This is a good story of someone discovering what really matters: Why Jake Locker Walked Away From Football
With a nudge from his mentor, Locker started to explore his relationship with Jesus. Hasselbeck could sense Locker’s angst over his hero status, and he told the rookie that trusting in Jesus could help him cope. Locker still drank at that point, but not as heavily as in college. Alcohol wasn’t his problem; it was a symptom of his problem, how he masked his problem.
Hasselbeck invited Locker—who had attended Catholic services growing up but who didn’t yet consider himself religious—to team chapel. Eventually the two men came to play a game that Hasselbeck called the Daily Bread, in which they competed to compliment at least one person each day. Later that first winter, after Locker appeared in five games, Titans players were packing up for the offseason when Hasselbeck invited Jake to fly to Orlando with him for a Pro Athletes Outreach conference—“just a weekend retreat looking at God’s design for your life,” Hasselbeck explains.
Locker had no preconceptions as he listened at one symposium to hip-hop artist Lecrae, but instantly the QB felt connected to this rapper who grew up surrounded by drugs and gang violence. After becoming successful, Lecrae explained, the pressure to “keep it real” overwhelmed him, until finally he chose to end the double life. He’d prioritize Jesus and his family above all else. The internal conflicts that Lecrae described seemed to mirror Locker’s inner turbulence.
Lauren had joined him on the trip, and she was pregnant with Colbie. Their life appeared to be perfect—millions in the bank, daughter on the way—but that’s not how Locker felt. “I was pretending with everybody,” he says, “because I wasn’t authentic with anybody.” (Says Lecrae of the notion that his Orlando talk in any way led to Locker’s retirement: “I hope his fans aren’t mad at me.”)
As the conference wound down, Jake and Lauren decided to be baptized, and with Hasselbeck standing in the water beside them, they dedicated their lives to Jesus. That moment, Locker says, is why “I can sit here today and say that I’m an extremely happy man.” It marked the first day of Locker’s new life—and the first time he asked himself, Do I want to play football anymore?
I have to include this as well, from earlier in the article:
He talks for most of the next two hours, answering every question. And yet when he departs that afternoon with a bro hug, he says he’s still not sure he wants to fully cooperate. I worry that he might have just bared his soul to an audience of one. If he’s to participate in any story, he says, he wants Jesus to be the main character.
“At the one-lane bridge I leave the giants stranded at the riverside. Race back to the farm . . .” – Rush, Red Barchetta
I’ve loved that song since the first time I heard it. Heck, my tagline is a lyric from that song.
I love it because it tracks very well with a constant struggle in me; the quest for simplicity and for the solidity of tangible, non-digital life. Odd and ironic that I’m blogging about this, no?
I feel like God has put that longing in me; a longing for single mindedness and focus, to understand priorities from His point of view. It’s a longing to work toward what’s truly important. That way lies joy.
I’m miles away. “I spin around with screeching tires…”
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:31-33 ESV
I e-mailed all of our friends and relatives to meet us at R-Ranch for one last time.
I'm glad we were able to spend one last time there. I will add more pictures as I find them.
Free fishing for kids
Jennifer at the Cottonwood Lodge wading pool
Jay toted the "New Moon" from the east coast to Spokane and then to R Ranch. It lives there now.
Davy, Pudgy, Grandma
Cousins Jes, Aurora, Laurie in Yreka 1988