"People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy."

- G.K. Chesterton
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From Jared C. Wilson
The False Heaven of a Successful Ministry

falseheaven“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly”
- 1 Peter 5:2

Pastoral ministry is not the most lucrative of occupations, except when it is. On average, pastors are not paid enough. But very few of us have any grounds for complaint. In general, if it’s riches you’re after, ministry is likely not your first choice, unless you’re gunning for a time slot on TBN.

But there are times when we are not exercising our pastoral duties for any reason other than to pay our bills; this is pastoring for shameful gain, no matter the dollar amount.

Shameful gain doesn’t have to be about money, though. There are lots of things we can be shameful in our hopes to gain. It could be attendance numbers, pledge cards, altar call respondents, prestige, power, book sales, Twitter followers, blog subscribers, pats on the back . . . The list is endless.

Almost ten years ago some friends and I planted a church in Nashville, Tennessee. God did not give us tremendous numerical growth. We were faithful to his calling, best as we understood it, but his plan was not for our increase. As the pastor of this church, I often took this very personally. I come from the land of the Bible Belt, where megachurches are flowing with soy lattes and money. There is a Six Flags Over Jesus on nearly every corner, and here we were, a little missional church plant, commemorating many Sunday services with more people in our band than in the pews.

It was a struggle on a soul level for me each week as our music would begin. I would make my way out to the foyer to pray. I would beg God to send just two more people, just one more, before I had to get up to preach. It wasn’t the Bible Belt or megachurchianity that made me seek my validation in attendance; it was my own flesh. And there was the whisper of the devil, tickling my ear with his forked tongue, accusing me of my worthlessness, which only made me seek my worth in wisps and fog all the more.

Then I moved to a different place and pastored a different church. Ironically enough, though I left a town of nearly 1.6 million for a town of less than 1,000, my church was about eleven times the size of my previous church. In six years we about quadrupled in size. We kept growing the entire duration of my time there, and Lord willing, they will continue to grow. By the most common of church measurement standards, things are good. But the struggle never left.

The dirty little secret underneath the desire for shameful gain is this: there’s never enough.

One of the most helpful things I’ve ever heard on these matters comes from a pastor named Justin Anderson who realized the dream. “I’ve seen the “promised land,” he said, “and it’s just ok.”

Refreshing is what that word is. Anderson elaborated:

For the last couple years, I have been living the dream. Our church has seen explosive growth, people be saved, baptized, and join groups all the time. We have four campuses, thousands of people, and a great staff. Finally, all the toil of church planting has paid off and the prospect of megachurch stardom was a reality.

Most of us want some version of this in ministry. I finally reached the promised land, and I can report that it’s just OK. Don’t get me wrong: there were parts that I loved, but at the end of the day there is always more to do, always another idea, hill to climb or battle to fight—it never ends.

There is much wisdom here for all of us, big church or little church, succeeding or struggling. There is wisdom here for pastor and laity alike.

Too often we envision “successful ministry”—this vision may look different from person to person, church to church—and pour our energies and affections into seeing that vision become a reality, assuming that once we finally “arrive,” things will be better, easier, finally and ultimately fulfilling. This is, functionally, idolatry. It is a creation of a false heaven, not simply false in its falling short of the real Paradise but false in its inclusion of talent, acquired skills, and grit to reach.

Don’t settle for the false heaven of a “successful ministry.” Because real success is faithfulness. Big church or small church, growing church or declining church, well-known church or obscure church—all churches are epic successes full of the eternal, invincible quality of the kingdom of God when they treasure Jesus’ gospel and follow him. Jesus did not give the keys of the kingdom with the ability to bind and loose on both sides of the veil only to those who’d reached a certain attendance benchmark. So do well, pursue excellence, and stay faithful. God will give you what you ought to have according to his wisdom and riches.

The reality is, as Anderson is able to reveal from that fabled other side, there is no promised land until the promised land of the real heaven. We always think things will finally be . . . well, final when we get “there,” wherever “there” is for us. But there is no there. There’s only here. Because once you get there, there becomes here, and there’s a new there. On and on it will go until our discontentment with ourselves is shaped by the contentment found in Christ and our yearning for thisworldly “theres” is conquered by the vision of the everlasting “there.”

A vision of the everlasting riches of Christ is the antidote for pastoring for shameful gain.

From internetmonk.com
Civil Religion Series: Wealth, the Social Gospel, and Holy War


8.WoodrowWilson2

Civil Religion, part nine
Wealth, the Social Gospel, and Holy War

Presidential election years in the U.S. provide American Christians an opportunity to reflect upon our faith and how it applies to our lives as citizens and to the public issues that affect us all. We are taking many Tuesdays throughout 2016 to discuss matters like these.

At this point we are looking at the second book for this series: Was America Founded As a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction, by John Fea. Fea is Associate Professor of American History and Chair of the History Department at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. He blogs at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.

• • •

In the United States, after the Civil War and through the early decades of the twentieth century, Protestant Christianity found itself developing into three primary streams of belief and practice: evangelicals, fundamentalists, and liberals (or modernists). John Fea describes these basic groups and the sometimes surprising ways they sought to promote a more “Christian” America.

Evangelicals in those days, for example, often took the lead with regard to social concerns. It might surprise some today to learn that, in addition to such moral issues as temperance and Sabbath reform, evangelicals were leading advocates of labor reforms such as the eight-hour workday, arbitration to decide labor disputes, equitable apprenticeship laws, and settlers’ rights vs. corporations such as the railroads. They even backed establishing the bureau of labor statistics.

But it is Fea’s discussion of “liberal” Protestant Christianity in this period that I found most intriguing.

Evangelicals and fundamentalists were not the only Protestants in America between the Civil War and the 1920s. Liberal Protestants were much more open to adapting their faith to the spirit of the age. They would engage in “battle royal” with the fundamentalists for control of Protestant denominations, but in the process they never abandoned their ardent belief that the United States was a Christian nation and needed to be defended as such. Indeed, the rhetoric that liberal Protestants used to defend Christian America was considerably stronger than that employed by the fundamentalists. (p. 35)

Liberal Christianity was criticized as “modernist” theology for their approach in which they applied modern methods of reason and scientific inquiry to the Bible and theological matters. They saw the Bible more as a witness to God than the revealed Word of God. They used methods of historical criticism with regard to the biblical texts in order to develop theories about how the Bible came to be and to separate the historical background from scripture’s “myths.” A chief example of this was the Documentary Hypothesis, a theory about various sources behind the Pentateuch that led scholars to deny the Mosaic authorship of these books. Furthermore, liberals were enchanted with modern scientific progress and accepted evolution over the creations accounts in the Bible. They denied the Virgin Birth and doubted scriptural reports of the miraculous.

This type of faith fit well with the American notion of progress. As Fea puts it: “Ultimately, they tied their theological wagons to the train of progress. Society was advancing toward the kingdom of God and Christians needed to play a part in its coming.” The liberals were condemned by evangelicals and fundamentalists for their overly optimistic view of human nature, their dismissal of original sin, and their faith in the advancement of knowledge, reason, and human cooperation to bring about worldwide transformation of this world into God’s Kingdom.

Some of these liberals put their emphasis on the great economic blessings God had given to the people of the U.S. Preachers like Henry Ward Beecher and William Lawrence, for example, emphasized that the opportunities available to make and accumulate wealth in this land were favorable to the nation’s progress in virtue and morality. They encouraged the spirit of capitalist progress as a means to moral and spiritual revival. As Lawrence put it, prosperity would lead to a national character that would be “sweeter, more joyous, more unselfish, more Christlike.”

Another emphasis within liberal Christianity was on Jesus’ social teachings. Also called “the social gospel,” one of the strongest proponents of this teaching, Washington Gladden (who wrote “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”), described his vision of this gospel for transforming the nation:

Every department of human life—the families, the schools, amusements, art, business, politics, industry, national politics, international relations—will be governed by the Christian law and controlled by Christian influences. When we are bidden to seek first the kingdom of God, we are bidden to set our hearts on this great commission; to keep this always before us as the object of our endeavors; to be satisfied with nothing less than this. The complete Christianization of all life is what we pray and work for, when we work and pray for the coming of the kingdom of heaven. (p. 37)

Some accused Gladden of being a theocrat — something rarely said of “liberals” or “progressive” Christians today!

But perhaps the most surprising feature of liberal Christianity during this era was their support for the U.S. at war.

Though there were many pacifists in their ranks, the majority of liberal Protestants at the turn of the twentieth century saw war as a means of securing a peaceful world—the kind of world that would spread God-inspired democracy and precipitate the second coming of Christ.

Though there were many pacifists in their ranks, the majority of liberal Protestants at the turn of the twentieth century saw war as a means of securing a peaceful world—the kind of world that would spread God-inspired democracy and precipitate the second coming of Christ. For example, Lyman Abbott, Henry Ward Beecher’s successor at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn, believed churches in patriotic hymns such as “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” They described the war as “redemptive” and did not hesitate in portraying it as a holy war designed to usher in the kingdom of God on earth.

Historian Richard Gamble has described the liberal Protestant response to World War I as nothing short of messianic in nature. (p. 38-39)

The great spokesperson for this liberal Christian “messianic” vision was President Woodrow Wilson, an elder in his liberal Presbyterian church. John Fea describes Wilson’s combination of faith and country:

As president of the United States, Wilson blended Christianity and patriotism. Both taught people how to sacrifice their lives for something larger than themselves. There was little difference in Wilson’s mind between the United States of America and the kingdom of God. This kind of religious idealism naturally found its way into Wilson’s foreign policy. (p. 39)

Urged on by groups of liberal ministers and leaders, including Harry Emerson Fosdick, Wilson, who had originally campaigned on a peace platform, changed his mind and the U.S. went to war. For progressive Christians in the early 20th century, World War I was a holy war for the Christian faith.

From Brandywine Books
‘Death in Nostalgia City,’ by Mark S. Bacon

Death in Nostalgia City

I almost feel guilty writing this review. To an extent, it’s a minor exercise in vindictiveness.

But I’m pretty sure I disliked the book before I figured out I didn’t care much for the author, either. So bear that in mind when evaluating my evaluation.

Death in Nostalgia City is the story of Lyle Deming, a burned-out former policeman who’s found a much more pleasant niche for himself. He drives a vintage taxi cab in Nostalgia City, a theme park in Arizona designed to recreate the Baby Boomers’ childhoods. So he’s reluctant to get involved when the park’s tycoon owner asks him to investigate a series of acts of sabotage in the park. The owner is in a precarious financial situation, and if these incidents impact the business, the evil insurance company that holds his notes may foreclose on it.

I fear that the main reason I actually read this book through to the end was so I could honestly tell you how much it annoyed me. I found the writing… slack. Not awful (though it does include infelicitous sentences like, “’Let’s see who our guests are,’ Lyle said, nodding toward the wallet he’d extracted from the wounded man.’” Extracted? With a surgical instrument, perhaps?), just not at all gripping. The dialogue has zero sparkle or wit. The characters are cardboard, and they all talk alike. The plot tension fails to ratchet up until the very end. And the villains are predictable (except for one surprise, which I’ll admit did fool me).

As icing on the cake, progressive political opinions find their way into the story in a couple places. Which will play well with some audiences, of course.

Anyway, I don’t recommend this book, but it doesn’t cost much, if you want to double-check my prejudiced verdict.

From Semicolon
Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr.

I read Anthony Doer’s Pulitzer prize winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See, last year, but I never did review it here at Semicolon because I just didn’t love it the way everyone else did. It was OK, but I probably went into it with my expectations raised too high. So it turned out to be just OK.

However, I did like Mr. Doerr’s writing enough that when Modern Mrs. Darcy recommended Four Seasons in Rome to one of the guests on her podcast, I thought I’d give it a try. And I thought it was quite a lovely book. It’s short, about 200 pages, and sweet, all about the year that Doerr and his wife spent in Rome with their twin baby boys. The day after the twins were born, Mr. Doerr got a letter inviting him to be a fellow in literature at the American Academy in Rome. He will have a year work on writing anything he wants. He doesn’t have to produce anything or prove anything to anybody, just write, expenses paid. It’s too good an offer to turn down, even though the birth, care and feeding of their twins has thrown both Doerr and his f=wife, Shauna, for a loop.

Everyone thinks Doerr and his wife are crazy to take six month old twins and move to Italy, to Rome. But what an adventure! The author spends approximately equal time on the difficulties and joys of caring for twin boys, the beauties and treasures of Rome, and the characteristics and dilemmas of the writer’s life. It’s a good combination. Just as I became a little tired of reading about teething and toddlerhood, the narrative would switch to the death and funeral of Pope John Paul II, and then to Mr. Doerr’s studio as he attempted to work on his novel, All the Light We Cannot See, but was only able to write a short story plus the journal entries that formed the spine of this book.

On twins: “There is a circle of understanding, an unspoken fellowship, between parents of multiple babies. Two days ago a Roman mother grappled her twins onto the tram at Largo Argentina, one baby clipped to her chest and other in her arms. She flipped her hair out of her face and her gaze took in Henry and Owen, the stroller, me, and for a half second our eyes met. Something in my heart flared. I thought, Hang in there. You’re not alone.”

On writing: “I x-ray sentences; I claw away at a paragraph and reshape it as carefully as I can, and test it again, and peer into the pages to see if things are any clearer, any more resolved. Often they are not. But to write a story is to inch backward and forward along a series of planks you are cantilevering out into the darkness, plank by plank, inch by inch, and the best you can hope is that each day you find yourself a little bit farther out over the abyss.”

On Rome: “Something about this city exacerbates contrasts, the incongruities and contradictions, a Levi’s billboard rippling on the facade of a four-hundred-year-old church, a drunk sleeping on the tram in $300 shoes. Four mornings ago I watched a man chat with the baker for five minutes while half a dozen of us waited behind him, then climb into a Mercedes and tear off at fifty miles hour. As if he had not a single second to spare.”

Recommended, especially if you’re planning a trip to Rome anytime soon—or if you want to make a journey there vicariously.

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: June 25, 2016

“A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.” ~Jo Godwin

SatReviewbutton

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.

From MzEllen – For the Life of Me
Penzey’s and Gay Mirage.

I got this email this morning and I'm about ready to boycott Penzey's. - update:  I sent an email letting them know that as soon as they stop shoving their politics down my throat, I'll start shopping with them again.

It reads like this

In our celebration of the one-year anniversary of Marriage Equality we've arrived at Garlic/Yellow and Parsley/Green recipes. If you missed our previous Cayenne/Red and Now Curry/Orange recipes click here:Guacamole, Butter Chicken and Cumin Rice with Saffron or Curried Potato Salad with Craisins. As part of our celebration, now through June 27th with any $5 purchase you can get a free half-cup jar of your choice of any of our featured Rainbow Spices (up to a $6.95 value).

And yes, Marriage Equality is totally about cooking. What separates humans from everything else that came before us here on earth is our million-year symbiotic relationship with cooking. Once we were animals. We could see the benefit in looking out for ourselves, and looking out for the herd, but that was about it. Through tens of thousands of generations of mealtimes spent together around the fire, we became something more. Those trillions of meals created a much larger circle around the fire, and in that process so much more was set in motion.

Without cooking, we would never have come to understand how much we all benefit when we take care of everyone, even those we do not even know. The gift of cooking is the gift of our humanity. Without cooking, there would be no religions teaching us that how we treat others is every bit as important as how we treat ourselves. Without cooking there would be no governments ensuring that even the least privileged among us also have a pathway to success.

Cooking is the best thing ever. And now, through cooking, we've arrived at this day where everyone has the right to be married, where everyone has the right to be a family!

Well, there you have it.  Every time you cook, keep in mind that you made gay mirage possible!  Through evolution.

From Brandywine Books
Read the Bible in Whole Books

When we change the Bible into a chapter and verse Bible, plus added all these other modern additives — cross references, section headings, footnotes, all the other stuff that we put in Bibles — we have really made it hard for people to just flat out read the Bible. And one of the things I contend in my book is we should be reading first and studying second and actually doing our study in the context of having read whole books, because that is really what authors intended. Their central unit is not a verse, is not a chapter, it is a book.

Tony Reinke of Desiring God talks to Glenn Paauw, the Executive Director of the Biblica Institute for Bible Reading, on how the Bible came to be designed the way it is today. Paauw says practical considerations simply built on each other so that while we’ve done much to help people reference the Bible, we’ve also hindered them from simply reading it.

From Brandywine Books
Who Once Destroyed Harold Bloom

Cynthia Ozick, who is now 88 (“piano keys,” as she sprightfully said when I [Giles Harvey] congratulated her on her recent birthday), has not ceased from the mental fight in the intervening years. She remains a crusader, a missionary or, as she recently put it to me, “a fanatic” in the cause of literature. With one hand she has written some of the strangest, most intellectually daring and morally intelligent fiction of recent times, including “The Shawl” (1989) and “The Puttermesser Papers” (1997); with the other she has produced a prose brick of lit crit, essay after essay on subjects ranging from the Book of Job and Gershom Scholem to Helen Keller and Susan Sontag. You could furnish a room with the prizes she has won, and yet the embrace of a wide readership and extraliterary fame has proved elusive; and no wonder. Public demand for the exacting insights of practitioner-critics, never high, has been in steady decline for a good while now.

Harvey begins his profile of Ozick with a remarkable story of how she punked critic Harold Bloom in a public discussion 30 years ago.  “She beat the crap out of him,” one editor said afterward. (via Prufrock News)

From Brandywine Books
Kirkus Interview with Ken Liu of ‘The Grace of Kings’

Kirkus Reviews did an interview with author Ken Liu earlier this year, in which he shares good thoughts about writing and his novel The Grace of Kings.

I wouldn’t consider myself a very fast writer. Almost every other writer I know can draft and revise faster. I have found, however, that the solution to almost any kind of temporary setback in a writing career is to write more, and keeping that in mind has allowed me to keep on writing even when I was not feeling “on.”

The Grace of Kings is your first novel. What are the main differences between writing short fiction vs. long fiction, either in how you envision the story or its construction? 

I think on the practical side, there’s a lot more bookkeeping that must be done with novels: dates, plot points, character traits, worldbuilding details, etc. And decisions you make early on can have consequences hundreds of pages and months or years later. Since I’m not a natural planner when it comes to writing, I’ve had to learn to use various technologies like wikis and timelines to keep all this stuff straight. I suppose in a sense, writing a novel is a lot more like architecture while short fiction feels more like sculpting.

He goes on to describe his use of “silkpunk,” which is “a blend of fantasy and technology inspired by prototypes from East Asian antiquity.”

From Brandywine Books
Sunday too

I forgot to mention I’ll be at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis on Sunday, too, for the annual Scandinavian Summer Fest.

I’d link to the web site, but there doesn’t seem to be one.

It will be an active weekend.

From Jared C. Wilson
Is Your Worship Service Upside Down?

upsidedown

Our church worship gatherings ought to be welcoming and comprehensible to unbelievers who are present, but many churches actually structure the entire worship service around them. There is no real biblical precedent for this, and furthermore, it’s not the most effective way for your church to reach lost people, anyway. If your church orients its weekend gathering around “reaching seekers,” it’s quite possible it has adopted some of the working assumptions outlined below, programmatic arrangements that I want to argue actually turn the biblical shape of evangelism and mission upside down.

How might your worship service be upside down?

1. Emphasizing feelings before and over doctrine.

I know, I know. Many of us come from hard church backgrounds where doctrine was all that mattered and people were cold or harsh or uncaring about their neighbors. That’s another way to be upside down. But in many evangelical communities today we see a downplaying of theology and doctrinal truth to make way for personal feelings and relational connecting. The problems with this approach are numerous, but the two main problems I’d cite are these:

– Feelings about God detached from knowledge of God tend to reveal more that we are worshipers of feelings, of ourselves.

– Just as serious, perhaps, is the problem of expecting lost people to sing songs about their feelings about a God they don’t believe in. Too many of our Sunday morning worship sets get the cart of affections before the horse of belief.

This is all besides the persistent problem of singing theologically shallow or doctrinally vacant songs to begin with. But just in terms of missional or evangelistic strategy, helping folks sing about how the God they don’t (yet) believe in makes them feel is wrongheaded. It’s upside down.

2. Giving lost people religious homework.

The dominant style of preaching in the so-called “attractional” or “seeker-targeted” worship service is of the “practical application” variety. In these sermons, teachers attempt to make the Bible more relevant (as if it’s somehow irrelevant without our help) but offering a weekly set of steps or tips to make Christianity more applicable to daily life. You will freqeuently see individual sermons or whole sermon series devoted to “Making Life Work” or “Succeeding at Home” or “Becoming a Better Whatever.”

This is not to say, of course, that the Bible is impractical or that there aren’t lots of things to do in the Bible. The Bible has lots of commands! It is imminently practical and applicable to daily life. The problem we face, however, is that the practicality of Christianity is aimed solely at, you know, Christians. What I mean is, the expectation of obeying and pleasing God is placed on those who have both a heart changed to desire obedience and the Spiritual power to carry it out.

In the seeker-oriented teaching, however, we direct a steady diet of how-to at people who have yet to receive a heart of want-to. Unbelievers should hear the commands and applications of God’s designs, sure. But the primary thrust this application of the law has on unbelievers is one of conviction, not empowerment. In fact, the commands of the Bible—whether they are of the “don’t commit adultery” variety or the “love your neighbor” variety—have no power in themselves to help us. They can only tell us what to do (or not to do); they can’t help us do them.

The only thing the Bible calls power (to save us, to transform us, to motivate us) is the gospel of Jesus Christ. So it’s a little strange to make sure the dominant thing lost people hear in our church service is a list of things to do rather than the thing that’s done!

If your weekend teaching is heavy on how-to’s for the lost, you’re giving religious homework to a bunch of spiritual corpses. You might even be increasing the sin in your church with such a practice. Regardless, it is philosophically and theologically upside down.

3. Offering a gospel invitation after a legal message.

This is probably one of the primary ways the attractional church goes about the weekend preaching upside down. The pastor has spent 30 to 45 minutes encouraging a lost person to do a bunch of things that please God, and then afterward adds on an invitation to receive Jesus.

This kind of heavy law/added gospel message creates a kind of spiritual whiplash, as a teacher now invites someone to believe something the teacher has not spent much time communicating and in fact has spent most of his time operating as if it’s unnecessary. As I said above, the Bible assumes the kind of obedience to God that pleases God comes after our heart has been changed by grace. Simple religious behavior modification doesn’t glorify God; it glorifies self. If we preach a sermon on behavior modification and then try to invite people to receive grace, it seems disjointed, strange. It’s like you’ve suddenly changed the subject.

I remember hearing a well-known attractional pastor preach a sermon directed at women in which he said over and over again that God finds them captivating. (The tone of the message sounded like God worships women.) Then at the end, in his invitation to receive Jesus, he said God would cover their ugliness and shame. It was a strange message tacked-on to a sermon in which he belabored how much God found women beautiful and captivating only to now learn he thinks they’re ugly and need him.

This is an extreme example, but I think it is a fitting one, given how much evangelical preaching these days treats hearers like they are “good enough, smart enough, and, doggone it, people like them,” like they’re beautiful unique snowflakes with endless potential, and then wants to somehow segue into the utter emptiness and need we have apart from God. Wait a minute, we think, You just went on and on about how awesome I am. Now you say I’m not? It’s upside down.

This kind of sermon arrangement is also out of proportion to biblical teaching. In Paul’s letters, for instance, he always begins with some kind of gospel proclamation. In length, it is scaled to the proportion of the letter itself. So, for instance, in Romans, the gospel story takes more chapters than it does in Colossians or Philippians. Then, he moves on to the practical matters, because the practical matters flow from the grounding of our justification. Doing flows from being. But in so much attractional teaching, the tacked-on invitation seems to make being an afterthought to doing.

It’s upside down.

From Brandywine Books
Gone a-Viking, again

Midwest Viking Festival

I refuse to say I’ll be “out of pocket” for the rest of the week. I dislike that turn of speech; it makes no sense to me. “Out of pocket” is a term having to do with spending money.

Anyway, I’ll be away for the next few days. I’ll be participating in the Midwest Viking Festival at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, Minnesota. The Hjemkomst Center is a museum devoted to preserving a replica Viking ship which was built beginning in the 1970s and sailed to Norway in the early ‘80s. Its chief builder was a regular guy named Bob Asp, who sadly died before the launch. There’s also a lovely replica stave church.

I’ve been to the Hjemkomst Center before, but this will be my first time at this particular event. It will probably be the largest Viking event I’ve ever attended. There’ll be a few friends and acquaintances there, so I won’t be wholly on my own in a sea of strangers, though. I’ll have some books to sell. Drop in if you’re in the neighborhood.

I just finished loading my car, and was amazed at how easy it was without hip pain. It’s like growing ten years younger all of a sudden. It occurs to me that I must be kind of tough. I’ve been playing hurt for more than two years.

From Brandywine Books
Developing a Writing Mindset

Here are two posts with some good thoughts on developing a writing mind.

Shannon Stewart explores the wisdom behind her friend’s recommendation, “If you want to write fantasy, you’re going to have to stop reading only fantasy.”

Anne Janzer describes a couple binary mindsets, fixed vs. growth and abundance vs. scarcity, and how they restrict or encourage a would-be writer.

From Brandywine Books
‘A Mint Condition Corpse,’ by Duncan MacMaster

A Mint Condition Corpse

I’ll confess I picked this book up because I like the author’s blog. Duncan MacMaster is the proprietor of The Furious D Show, an excellent movie blog. In spite of the handicap of being Canadian, MacMaster writes with authority and wit on the business of Hollywood (though, like so many blogmeisters, he’s been posting less and less lately). But the more I read A Mint Condition Corpse, the more I liked it for its own sake, and the more fun I had.

MacMaster’s knowledge of Hollywood provides a great background for this story, which deals with comics fandom and movie making. His hero is Kirby Baxter, a famous comic book artist who has been out of circulation for a couple years. On the same day he was fired from his job, he won the lottery. After collecting his riches, he fled to Europe. There he got involved in a couple criminal investigations, employing his expertise in reading people’s faces, which he learned from a magician uncle who did a mind reading act. His contributions to police operations earned him honorary status as an Interpol consultant, and the loyalty of a giant Czech former policeman, who became his constant, protective shadow.

Now he’s decided to reconnect with his old friends and fans. He flies to Toronto to attend Omnicon, a huge comics convention. He runs into Mitch, his diminutive, dirty-minded old buddy, and Molly, a fellow artist whom he helped get started in the business. He also meets a supermodel turned actress who has been cast in an upcoming superhero movie and is at the convention to promote it. She turns out to be every geek’s dream – she’s a fan of his work, and sends out clear signals that she’s interested in him personally.

And then there’s a murder. Employing his people reading skills, Kirby assists the police in cutting through a tangle of personal and business motives (here the author’s knowledge of the movie industry adds a lot to verisimilitude), putting his own life in danger.

In description, the plot sounds like fanboy wish-fulfillment fantasy. But what makes A Mint Condition Corpse work is the way the author brings the characters to life and laughs (in an affectionate way) at the quaint customs and mores of the subcultures represented in the story. I really liked these characters, and cared about them. The book worked for me very well.

The dialogue can get a little raunchy, especially when Mitch is talking, but it’s not bad by the standards of thriller literature. I recommend A Mint Condition Corpse, and I hope we see more of Kirby Baxter.

From Jared C. Wilson
3 Ways the Gospel Might Divide a Church

divide

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” — Matthew 10:34-36

A curious thing happens when a church and its shepherds are committed to this radical notion of gospel-centrality. If we will focus on the biblical Jesus, we will tend to be motivated to reach and primed to attract the same kind of people the biblical Jesus did. And while most church folks like the ideas of mission and church growth, when the rubber meets the road in your proclamational engagement, you will find quite a few of those same agreeable souls eager to pump the brakes.

Why does this happen?

Well, the same gospel that by its nature unifies also tends to divide. We don’t usually expect this kind of division in a local church —we are typically otherwise fearful about conflict arising from music styles, programming choices, and personality types—but the gospel can divide a church just as easily as it might a family. But actually there’s nothing more prone to stirring up mess than the grace of God that has arrived to create order.

Whenever the gospel is faithfully preached, people get poked in the idols. And people don’t like that.

How does this happen?

Here are three common ways the gospel might cause division:

1. The gospel critiques the self-righteous.

The very news of the good news is that we are saved not by our works but by Christ’s work. Our righteousness merits us nothing. In fact, our righteousness can often “get in the way” of our believing in and enjoying the finished work of Christ. People who are preoccupied with their own performance, how they come across religiously, or their position in the church as based on their gifts, intellect, tenure, or social standing often find the regular and copious teaching of grace discombobulating.

I once followed up with a long-time church lady on a sustained absence from worship, and was surprised to hear her say she had stopped coming because we had a certain man serving as a Sunday morning greeter. I asked her if he had hurt her in some way or if she knew of some ongoing sin in his life we ought to know. She couldn’t really speak to either of those concerns but instead said many people in our small town remembered what he was like (before his salvation), so it was not good for our image to have him be the first face somebody saw.

Before he came to Christ, he was sort of an “angry cuss” and given to drunkenness too. He was, by God’s grace, not like that any more—in fact, many of us who only knew him post-conversion only knew how incredibly friendly and joyful and generous and helpful and eager-to-serve this guy was. But she could not forget his past. He was not the “right sort.”

She said to me, “I just like things black and white. This is too much gray.”

Really, it was the opposite. The gospel had washed him white as snow, but in her mind the “math” of the gospel didn’t add up. It messed with her sense of propriety and religious decency. She was suffering from what Dane Ortlund calls the “moral vertigo” of the gospel.

You will see this response happen quite often among the self-righteous and the religiously proud, and in fact, if you preach grace hard enough, you will begin to expose over time self-righteousness and religious pride in people (maybe even yourself) where you didn’t even know it existed.

2. The gospel frustrates the hobby horse riders.

It’s not just those who love the Law too much who get aggravated by gospel-centrality, it’s also those who love anything else too much! Pastor long enough and you will meet a variety of interesting and relationally taxing hobby horse riders. A brief survey of the kinds of people you will meet in your church neighborhood:

The culture warrior who’s frustrated you’re not patriotic or political enough.

The end-times junkie who’s frustrated you’re not eschatological enough.

The self-styled academic who’s frustrated you don’t really “dig into the meat” of the Greek participles or whatever.

The activist who’s frustrated you don’t give people enough social justice for homework.

That is a small sampling. Really, there can be as many frustrated people as there are hobby horses, but those are some of the more common ones. I’ve been hounded by theology nerds, accused by culture warriors, and worn out by the activists. You cannot expect the preaching of grace to always be met with grace in return. You should in fact expect that being single-minded about the gospel to frustrate those whose minds are set on something else.

3. The gospel irritates those who don’t want to change.

The gospel announces that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, but this faith, as the Reformers say, isn’t alone. Sanctified works flow from the sanctified heart. The gospel actually changes us. The Holy Spirit actually changes the hearts of sinners who now want to please God and grow in the likeness of Christ. That’s just one way change is effected by the gospel of Jesus.

But a church that embraces the gospel as its one thing begins to change too. Its preaching and teaching changes, and thus its discipleship and its counseling. Its interests change, its emphases change, its reason for being changes. And it will grow—if not numerically, at least Spiritually.

It has become a ministry truism—because it’s true—that church folks want to change until they actually do. And every church says it wants to grow. But actually growing will show whether that’s true or not. Most people don’t like change. People who are not set on the gospel especially don’t like change. So when the gospel begins to change a church, and as the gospel grows a church, it cannot help but change—you can’t grow and not change!—this really freaks people out.

I asked for a meeting once with a couple whose complaints and criticism (against me and against the ministry in general) were beginning to concern me. Most of these complaints were carried out behind my back and only later revealed by third parties or heard through the grapevine. So I began by asking if I had offended them in some way or hurt them, if maybe their complaint was driven by something I had done that I didn’t know. They could not put their finger on anything specific I had done to deserve their complaints. Instead, the husband offered this: “The church has changed. It’s not the same as it used to be.”

He only elaborated briefly, but apparently the church had grown enough numerically that it didn’t feel the same as it did “in the good old days.” He didn’t know everybody like he used to. This obviously made him uncomfortable. It made him uncomfortable enough to seek to subvert the ministry and the growth of the church.

These are not uncommon divisions. And they can prove subtly problematic and increasingly toxic in a church, especially when people disturbed by the gospel begin to gather likeminded grumblers and gossipers. It doesn’t take a majority of people to split a church, in fact. It only takes a determined minority working against an unguarded, unprepared leadership. If you are committed to gospel-centrality, in fact, don’t ever assume this couldn’t happen to you. In fact, you should prepare for the powerful gospel to do its glorious sorting of belief from unbelief.

And you should use these challenges to further encourage your resolute centrality on the gospel! Another concerned church member who once hijacked a church meeting with some out-of-the-blue concerns that were new to me said to me when I followed up with her privately: “Jared, we know your thing is the gospel. And you do that really well. But sometimes we just need to hear other things.”

Whenever your church, your fellow leaders, or you yourself get tired of the gospel’s meddlin’, that’s when you know to bring a double dose.

“Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” — Galatians 4:16

From Brandywine Books
What Americans Claim to Read

Last week, the Library of Congress opened a new exhibit called “America Reads” to “celebrate the public’s choice of 65 books by American authors that had a profound effect on American life.”

It’s a follow-up to the 2012 exhibit “Books That Shaped America.” At that time, “the Library of Congress urged members of the public to name other books that shaped America and to tell the Library which of the 88 books on the list were most important to them. Thousands of readers responded.”

We, the people of these United States, chose books such as Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, both Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and Anthem, The Book of Mormon, Stephen King’s The Stand, Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, The Cat in the Hat, AA’s Big Book, The Feminine Mystique, and Spock’s Baby and Child Care.

The LOC reminds us, “The volumes featured in the ‘America Reads’ exhibition do not necessarily represent the best in American letters, nor do they speak to the diversity of our nation and the books it produces.” No, but it does speak to the type of people who visit the Library of Congress and respond to reading surveys with what amounts to Boaty McBoatface without the priceless publicity.

The Big Book? Baby and Child Care? How many actual people who put on pants in the morning responded to this survey? It couldn’t be thousands, unless almost everyone picked a unique title, making the three votes for Baby and Child Care a standout choice.

The exhibit will run through the end of the year.

From Brandywine Books
Film review: ‘The Last King’

I posted the trailer for the Norwegian film The Last King a little while back. You might be able to see it in a theater (I did) but if not, it’s available (I believe) on Netflix. Or will be soon.

In the 13th Century, Norway is torn by civil wars. The opposing forces are the Birkebeiners (birchlegs), devoted to the current dynasty, and the Baglers (crosiers), loyal to the church, which has placed Norway under papal ban.

The young king, Haakon Sverreson, is poisoned to death by his wicked stepmother, the queen mother. When the news gets out, loyal Birkebeiners, Skjervald and Torstein, receive Haakon’s infant son, Haakon Haakonsson, from his mother in order to carry him by ski from Lillehammer to Trondheim, to keep him out of the hands of the Baglers. Their journey becomes a perilous one, as ruthless Bagler warriors pursue them over the mountains. Meanwhile intrigue in the palace in Trondheim leads to betrayal, false imprisonment, and murder.

The Last King is a competent historical action movie. It’s not as great as it wants to be, but the fight scenes and the music are pretty good (especially the music).

Historically, the film is about at the level of Braveheart, which is to say any resemblance to actual events is mostly coincidental. The Baglers (as is the practice in most historical epics) are painted as evil incarnate, capable of any atrocity in their ruthless devotion to the pope. The actual ski journey (assuming it actually happened; historians aren’t sure) was strenuous but not nearly this dangerous. The Game of Thrones-style intrigue and betrayal at the palace is almost entirely fictional. The evil Duke Gisli of this film actually never existed – he’s a place holder for a real Duke Haakon (that name might have confused the audience), who wasn’t particularly evil at all.

Worth seeing. Netflix stuff; probably not worth driving to a theater for. Subtitled.

From Semicolon
The Lark and the Laurel by Barbara Willard

The first in Ms. Willard’s series, The Mantlemass Chronicles, this romance novel is beautifully written. I compared it in my mind to another romance novel I read earlier this month (because it was set in Scotland; I don’t usually read romances), and this one by Willard is much more pleasing to the ear and to the imagination. The plot’s advancement depends on coincidence and on several fortuitous events that are almost unbelievable when threaded together to make a story. However, I didn’t care.

I just wanted Cecily and her fine, upstanding country friend, Lewis Mallory, to be able to get together in spite of all of the obstacles put before and between them. The blurb on the back of the book says that Christian Science Monitor called the book “an entrancing tale of cruel fathers, arranged marriages, sensible aunts, and a true love.” Library Journal named it “tender, solemn romance and a well-sustained mystery.” I agree. This book, published in 1970, holds up well as YA or even adult historical fiction, and the writing and the historical background require something of the reader that modern-day historical romances don’t usually—close and careful reading.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what a marriage truly is or isn’t. This book adds something to my rumination on that subject. Set in England in 1485, just as Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond came to the throne, ending the Wars of the Roses between the Lancastrians and the Yorks, the story features several characters, each with his or her own attitude about what marriage is meant to be. Cecily’s father sees marriage as a contract, a way to advance his own interests in terms of power and money. Cecily’s aunt, having lived through a bad marriage to a cruel husband, is interested in maintaining her own independence and in helping Cecily to become strong and independent, too. However, Aunt Elizabeth FitzEdmund is not opposed to Cecily’s marriage—to the right person and at the right time and for love, not to further Cecily’s father’s ambitions. Cecily herself is not sure what she thinks, not having been allowed to think for herself nor to have any philosophies about marriage or anything else.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the Mantlemass Chronicles:

The Sprig of Broom (1485)
The Eldest Son (1534)
A cold Wind Blowing (1536)
The Iron Lily (1557)
A Flight of Swans (1588)
Harrow and Harvest (1642)

These books take us through English history from the Battle of Bosworth, to the reign of the Tudor kings, to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, to the Spanish Armada, to another English civil war between Cromwell’s Roundheads and the king’s men, Cavaliers. During all these great events the families in and around the manor house Mantlemass—Mallorys, Medleys, Plashets, and Hollands–pursue their own ends and keep their own secrets. From reading the synopses of these other novels in the series, I can see that marriage and romance and family secrets and loyalty and independence continue to be themes that Ms. Willard explores in her books. I’m going to enjoy exploring with her and her characters.

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: June 18, 2016

“In 1946 in the Village our feelings about books . . . went beyond love. It was as if we didn’t know where we ended and books began. We didn’t simply read books; we became them. We took them into ourselves and made them into our histories. While it would be easy to say that we escaped into books, it might be truer to say that books escaped into us. They showed us what was possible.” ~When Kafka Was the Rage by Anatole Broyard

SatReviewbutton

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.

From Semicolon
The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

I am reading this book because Modern Mrs. Darcy recommended it to someone on her podcast. The premise is interesting: Peter is going to the planet Oasis as a missionary to the people who inhabit the planet. He is sent by a corporation called USIC to take the gospel to the Oasans.

I’m about halfway through the book. Maybe all of the following issues are resolved and explained in the second half, but right now I have some burning questions about our protagonist missionary and his mission. Some things just do not compute.

1. Peter’s mission. How does Peter even know that the Oasans need the gospel? Are they sinful creatures, in rebellion against the Creator? Do they need forgiveness and redemption? Maybe they already know God and walk in perfect fellowship with Him. Maybe not.

2. Which brings me to the second problem, Peter’s ignorance. Our missionary, Peter, is remarkably naive and unquestioning. He knows nothing or almost nothing about the people/creatures he is planning to evangelize. He knows next to nothing about the planet Oasis. He doesn’t even know what the initials OSIC stand for. When he does ask a few tentative questions, he is stonewalled. And still he allows this corporation that he knows nothing about to send him millions of miles away to a planet he knows nothing about to minister to a people he knows nothing about.

3. Problem #3: Peter’s and Bea’s marriage, which is supposed to be the central theme of the novel. They are said and shown to be very close, in a very loving and inter-dependent marriage. Yet, not only does Peter leave Bea to go to a planet far, far, away for an indeterminate length of time, but when he has the opportunity to email her, to answer her plea for details about his mission, to reassure her that he is there and that he still cares for her, Peter can’t manage to write much more than a few sentences at a time, every two or three weeks. This ostensibly strong marriage falls apart in short order. Maybe the point is to remind us of our bodies, that we are embodied creatures, very dependent on physical intimacy to maintain emotional and spiritual intimacy?

4. There’s a mystery about the Oasans and their relationship to OSIC and their relationship to Jesus. I get that there’s a mystery. And that part will probably get resolved. But what in the world is going on with OSIC supplying these non-human creatures with pharmaceuticals? They haven’t examined these “Oasans” and don’t even know how they look on the outside, much less their body chemistry and physiology, but they’re giving them antibiotics, analgesics, and other medicines that have been tested on humans but never on Oasans? Wouldn’t that be unethical and highly dangerous—or else maybe ineffective? And no one is questioning the ethics or the efficacy of this “drug drop”?

5. The people who work for OSIC come across as very amateurish and untrained. Oh, they have engineering degrees or mining expertise, but they don’t seem to know much about Oasis or the overall mission of OSIC or anything besides their own narrow job skills. And that mission, whatever it may be, looks as if it’s thrown together by a bunch of amateur NASA wannabes. No astronaut or cross-cultural missions training for Peter, no details or background education for any of the other OSIC workers. The Oasans want drugs? OK, give them whatever we have left over. The Oasans want to hear more about Jesus? OK, hire a missionary. There’s this flower that grows here and is good for food? OK, let’s eat it. It rains a lot on this planet? OK, drink up.

I just finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir before I started this book, and no doubt the previous book colored my reading of another space travel science fiction book, The Book of Strange New Things. Peter the Missionary and his cohorts just are so very amateur and unprepared compared to the protagonist in The Martian. Mark Watney, the astronaut who is stranded alone on Mars, knows how to fix almost anything, and he has been trained to the nth degree. By comparison, Peter the Missionary looks like a child wandering in the dark. Maybe The Book of Strange New Things is meant to make Christians look like credulous fools, except that Peter comes across as really intelligent, but also gullible and unquestioning. I won’t really know until I finish the book.

So, have any of you read either The Martian or The Book of Strange New Things? What did you think? Are you frustrated, as I am, at Peter’s lack of curiosity and his credulous nature? And on the other book, does anyone believe that even a NASA-trained engineer could survive what Mark Watney survives in The Martian? I wouldn’t have have made it five minutes–even if I had all the NASA training that Mark Watney had.

From home is behind, the world ahead
Prayer

I haven't known what to pray for many years. I sit near my bed each night and stare at a wall. I conjure up a couple of words that I don't usually mean. But, today, I start to understand what they mean by the groaning of the Holy Spirit. My prayers are without many words. Just an aching of the heart. A leaning in toward God. Whispering the names of those I love. Begging for relief. Because, I need prayer more than ever right now. I need to believe that God is real. That He is here. And that He is working. That's what prayer is. It's a desperation for God. An acknowledgement of some sort of faith. I have no idea what you're doing, God. But if I don't trust you are doing something all I have is despair. And so I pray. Because I have not much left.

From Jared C. Wilson
“The Prodigal Church” Wins A World Magazine Book of the Year Award

I discovered last week by clicking on Marvin Olasky’s Twitter link to the 2016 Books of the Year Award announcements from World Magazine that one of my own titles had made their grade. Thanks very much to the team at World for selecting my book The Prodigal Church as their Book of the Year in the category of “Accessible Theology.” As Jason Allen, the president of the seminary where I’m employed, quipped, “Infinitely better than winning the Inaccessible Theology Award!”

Here’s an excerpt from Olasky and Sophia Lee’s breakdown:

Jared C. Wilson’s The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo (Crossway) articulately points out problems in many “seeker” or “attractional” churches that emphasize self-improvement or life-enhancement rather than God-enhancement: “If the purpose of worship is to feel good, we stop worshiping God.” He’s concerned when a church seems more like a concert and when Bible study leaders ask not, “What does this text mean?” but, “What does this text mean to you?” He notes, “Preaching even a ‘positive’ practical message with no gospel-centrality amounts to preaching the law. … Don’t treat the Bible as an instruction manual. Treat it as a life preserver.”

When Wilson scrutinizes worship, he asks, “Does this element exalt God or man?” He notes that “both irreligion and religion are fundamentally self-salvation projects. They are equally self-righteous, even though the former is predicated on being automatically righteous and the latter aims to earn righteousness.” Here’s his summary of Christian exceptionalism: “Grace is what makes Christianity unique among all world religions and philosophies. … None of us would have come up with the concept of divine unmerited favor. None of us would have invented the notion that we cannot be good enough or smart enough, that we could not somehow become gods ourselves.”

The Prodigal Church is our “accessible theology” book of the year because every church, no matter the denomination, struggles in our age of entertainment with how to attract people to church without distracting them from the gospel. An important understanding for both youth ministries and adult evangelism is: “What you win them with is what you win them to.” Instead of adding on programs, churches should win attenders to an understanding of the gospel’s astounding message: The work is already done.

Also, congrats to the other finalists in this category, including a fellow Baker Books author, Caleb Kaltenbach.

More on The Prodigal Church:
Review from Tim Challies
Essence of the theological conviction in a post at Desiring God
An excerpt from the book at World Magazine

From Semicolon
Semicolon Comments on the News

Because I can and because I want to.

1. Fifty people died violently in Orlando, Florida, and I only want to read about those fifty people and their families and the loss and how much they will be missed and mourned. I don’t want to hear about gun control or Islamic extremism or immigration or the shooter or what made him do it or LGBT issues or anything else. I just want to mourn fifty lives lost to the violence and hatred of a sinful, depraved man.

2. Brock Turner should be in jail for a long time. He needs time to learn that what he did to an unconscious young woman is completely, totally unacceptable and wrong. And drunkenness is no excuse. He needs to repent, and true repentance takes time and acceptance of responsibility. Because I am commanded in Scripture to pray for even enemies, I am praying for him and for the lady he assaulted. They are both going to need the Lord’s grace and mercy and healing.
If you haven’t read this letter from Brock Turner’s victim to him and to the court, you should.

3. He-who-shall-not-be-named but whose initials are DT and She-who-thinks-she-must-be-obeyed in spite of her dishonesty and incompetence are still both unacceptable as candidates for dog catcher the highest political office in the United States of America. I still cannot, will not, shall not vote for either one of them. I will pray for them, too.

Thank you, and we will now return you to our regularly scheduled programming of book talk.

From home is behind, the world ahead
Trying to Do Something With My Thoughts

The number of days
in between these brutal frays
grow too few
we can't get some relief
it threatens our belief
that hope is here
that God is real
that love can heal

I am crippled by my sadness
I am paralyzed by the madness
I've forgotten the face of gladness

It eats at me
like a disease
my eyes glued to a screen
is darkness our new reality?
I can't get some relief
my joy stolen by a thief

Joy
What a mystery
Surely not just my history?
Can it be my present and future
can it close these wounds as a suture

I should number my days
but I am numb in my ways
I should stand and fight
but that demands some might

I am so fragile
with shaken faith for quite awhile
All I can do is keep breathing
Lacking in motivation
to do anything of meaning
Just being
Sleeping through the light
Blinded by the night

I hate this state that I relate to
sedated by my own fears
I admit I'm hiding, I'm not
crying for change
or justice for the slain
but I can't take the berating
and hating and fighting

Sad for the lives I never knew
that left this earth too soon
Sad for the meaningless arguments
That lead us not a step toward agreements
but push us farther into isolation
so much for a united nation
Sad for my personal enemies
Oh me of selfish tendencies
the demons that are stored inside
that I keep alive
because it's easier than to try

No easy way out
But surely there is something
we can do about
these evil acts
lay off the facts
the statistics, the data
look in the faces
they are not nameless
and weep, that's a
brother, a mother, a friend
ask for this to end

And Lord, help my unbelief
You are my only relief

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: June 11, 2016

“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.” ~Carlos Ruiz Zafron

SatReviewbutton

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.

From Semicolon
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

I tried to become absorbed in this rather self-centered and pretentious novel because the cast of characters who inhabit the novel are my age mates. The six friends who make up the group who call themselves “the Interestings” are teenagers in the mid-seventies, college students in the late seventies and early eighties, get married (or at least co-habit) in the eighties, really marry and have children in the nineties, and find themselves midddle-aged and evaluating the consequences of their life decisions in the twenty first century. That’s me, except for the co-habitation part, and except for the fact that these are artsy people. Or artsy wannabes. And rich, mostly. And New Yorkers, insufferably proud and parochial New Yorkers. If it weren’t for all those differences, I could have been any one of the characters in this novel.

So, other than age, I don’t really have much in common with Jules and Ethan and Ash and Goodman and Jonah and Cathy. Honestly, I’m glad not to have much affinity with these characters because they are not very likable people, except for Ethan who is a teddy bear. Jules, the main viewpoint character, is the outsider who meets the other teens at Spirit-in-the-Woods summer camp for “talented” teens and becomes a part of their oh-so-interesting in-group. But Jules always feels a little outside and a little envious because she’s from suburbia and middle class and not really all that interesting. Ash and Goodman, brother and sister, are rich, not terribly talented or interesting on their own, but backed by lots of money and influence, they can appear to be both. Cathy is a dancer with the wrong kind of body for professional success in dancing. Jonah is a musician, but emotionally damaged, the son of a sixties folk music star. And Ethan is an artist and animator, the real talent in the the group.

In 468 pages, Ms. Wolitzer tells the story of these six people, their friendships, their professional lives, their coupling and uncoupling, their families, and their sexual misadventures. The book could have been about 200 pages shorter and lot better had Ms. Wolitzer left out the long and tedious descriptions of the various characters’ sexual encounters, both within and outside marriage. I get it. Sex is really important to these people. Jules rejects Ethan because she’s not sexually attracted to him, even though he is her best friend. She buys sex toys on a shopping trip with her best girlfriend, Ash. She fantasizes sex with Goodman. She has lots of sex with her live-in boyfriend, then husband, Dennis.

Jonah Bay is gay, so we must have lots of descriptions of homosex, including answers to the questions we all have about how to have sex when one partner is HIV-positive. Then, there’s attempted rape, sex with a clinically depressed person (not much there), sex in marriage, sex in the college dorm, sex while high, unfulfilled sexual attraction, sex with vibrator, no sex, maybe sex, wild sex. Every few pages the author throws in a sex scene, some of which attempt to be titillating but only succeed at being boring. I skimmed a lot.

And, although I read the whole thing, skimming aside, I would say that’s an apt description for the entire book: it tries but fails to be interesting. The characters try but fail to grow to be interesting. Jules tries to be wry and sardonic but only manages to be jealous and lazy, trapped in some ideal past when she “came alive” at camp. Jonah tries to overcome his past as an abused kid, but he never connects with anyone much. Ethan tries to be a good rich and powerful man, but he has to have a major failure, so the author sticks one in, even though it doesn’t seem to be in character. Ash tries to be a feminist and an artist but turns into a a rich housewife like her mom. Goodman doesn’t try ever, and he reaps what he sows. Cathy sort of drops out of the story after providing a convenient plot device. I kept hoping for character development, but all I got was more sex scenes and detailed physical descriptions of how ugly or pretty each character was at any given point in his or her life. These descriptions (and the sex scenes) may have been supposed to stand in for character development.

I don’t know to whom to recommend this book. If you are self-absorbed enough to identify with these characters, then you are self-absorbed and won’t find them to be very interesting. Maybe New Yorkers who are not self centered and pretentious could see by reading The Interestings why the rest of us tend to think that they are. Books like this one don’t help to dispel the stereotype.

From Semicolon
Remembrance by Theresa Breslin

I read Remembrance for my journey to Scotland last month because it was the only book by Theresa Breslin, Carnegie medal winning Scottish author, that my library system had. And it was set during World War I, a favorite time period. There were definitely echoes of Downton Abbey in the book.

Seventeen year old John Malcolm Dundas, son of a Scottish shopkeeper, can’t wait to enlist and fight the Huns. His sister Maggie is eager to do her part, too, or at least to do something more exciting than working her father’s store, and she goes to work in a munitions factory. Little brother Alex Dundas is only fourteen, but he longs to get into the fighting before the war ends. Then, there’s the other family in the book, the Armstrong-Barneses, consisting of mother, son Francis, and daughter Charlotte. Charlotte trains to become a nurse so that she can contribute to the war effort, even though her mother does not approve of girls in her “station of life” (the upper class) working in hospitals, particularly not her teenaged daughter. Francis, old enough to be a soldier, tries to avoid the war, reads lots of newspapers, and draws. He’s the sensitive, artistic type, and he’s opposed to the war and the way it’s being fought.

The book follows the histories of these five teens as World War I impacts them, fills their lives, and changes them and their families and their village. It would be a good fictional introduction to World War I for high school age readers and for adults. The details of life in the trenches and in the hospitals are harrowing and gritty, but I would much prefer this book as an accompaniment to the study of World War I over the one that’s often assigned, All Quiet on the Western Front. I found the plot of All Quiet on the Western Front very nearly as confusing as the battles of the war itself must have been. Remembrance with its more straightforward plot leaves out none of the horror of the war, but it tells the story of World War I in a much more approachable and understandable manner.

From fingerpost



I will pour water upon the thirsty one.
- Isaiah 44: 3

From Overcoming Our Genes
A Spokane Wedding



From left to right my dad, Dave Stowell, 2 gentlemen I don't know, Uncle Jack, Aunt Ruth, my mom Grace Stowell,2 ladies I don't know.  In front -- me on the left and my brother Jay on the right.

These are my memories of my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jack's wedding--  fictionalized a little for dramatic effect:

The sun beat on the roof of the old bluestone church.  Inside it was dark and cool.   I waited for my Aunt Ruth’s wedding rehearsal to start.  I was seven, and Evy, my three-year-old sister, were to be flower girls for it.  We were nervous but excited. We would spread out the brides train when she got up to the front of the church. Evy and I would carry little white baskets with rose pedals inside, and were to wear long yellow dresses, with ruffles along the neck line, and around the hem.  
Grandma, Mama’s Mom, sat in the front pew and fanned herself with a discarded church bulletin from Sunday.  She looked hot and tired.  Grandma and Grandpa had unloaded the decorations for the wedding from the car, and then everybody helped to decorate the church.
 I reached out and took Evy’s hand.  I felt secure when my sister was with me.  I always knew that two heads are better than one!  My brother, Jay, was to be a candle lighter.  I hoped he wouldn’t burn up the church.  I had no control over him as he was two years older and had ideas of his own.  The church was St. Paul’s Methodist in Spokane, WA.  It was my grandma and grandpa Edson’s church.  My mom had grown up in the church and told us stories about the Epworth League, which was the youth group she attended as a teen.
I had been in many dance recitals so I knew what a rehearsal was.  When we were told to walk down the aisle of the church we pretended to drop rose petals on the floor as we walked to the front of the church.  Uncle Jack was at the front of the church with his friends.  Aunt Ruth walked down the aisle following mom and the two other ladies who were her bridesmaids.  It was too bad that my mom’s older sister, Aunt Evelyn, and her family, my uncle and my two cousins, would not be able to attend the wedding. They had moved to Alaska and it was too far to come for the wedding.   Dad was one of the men who stood up with Uncle Jack.
“We’ll see everyone back here tomorrow,” the pastor announced. 
          The next day everybody got dressed in what they were going to wear for the wedding except Aunt Ruth.  She would wear the wedding dress that my mom had worn, and then my Aunt Evelyn wore it for her wedding.  But she would get dressed at the church so that the dress wouldn’t get wrinkled.  Finally everyone was ready. 
Evy, my mom, me.
On the way to the church Evy fell asleep.  Mom put her in a crib in the nursery and Grandma arranged for a neighbor girl to sit with her until she woke. The organist played and guests arrived.  Still Evy slept. 
It was close to the time to start the wedding.  I was worried.  I went to mom.  “Shouldn’t we wake Evy?” I asked.
         “If we wake her she’ll be cranky and she won’t help the way you want her to.  You may have to be the only flower girl.” 
         “Mom, I can’t do it by myself.  I need Evy.  I get too scared.” 
         “I know you’ll feel uncomfortable without Evy, but you can do it.  Just imagine yourself whistling a happy tune.  Think about how much everybody loves you,” Mom said.  “God is always with you.  He’ll give you the strength.  Now twirl around so I can see how pretty you look.  
         I took a deep breath and said to herself, I don’t have to be afraid and twirled. 

         Soon it was time to walk down the aisle and Evy still wasn’t awake.  I gritted my teeth and tried to whistle a happy tune in my mind.  Maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as I imagined either.  I walked slowly down the aisle, stood where we had practiced that I would stand, and watched Aunt Ruth come down the aisle with Grandpa.  She looked beautiful.  Finally the bride and groom were together.  The train floated like a pond of milk covering every square inch of space between the rows of pews and down the aisle. 

         After the ceremony we had pictures taken.  Evy was still not awake so I gritted my teeth again.  I looked sad in every picture, as I wasn’t happy about being a flower girl alone. During the reception everyone told me what a good job I had done.   I was glad I had made it through the wedding and now I felt happy but it was too late to smile in any of the pictures!
Aunt Ruth's and Uncle Jack's daughter Diana wearing the wedding dress at my parents 50th wedding anniversary party.  My cousin Dorothy's daughter, Cindy, has the dress now.

From fingerpost


Til sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.

- Thomas Watson

From Overcoming Our Genes
No Rudder No Sail



New ark park to open in July 2016

Ravi Zacharias points out that when God told Noah to build an ark He gave detailed instructions.  The design did not include a rudder or a sail though.  Those inside the ark were to put their complete trust in God. They had no control over their lives. God would guide them to their final resting spot.  We know the end of the story—dry ground appeared and they began their life on land all over again.   

Speaking of not having any control in life, and with all the wild things going on in the world, including outrageous weather, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, countries sinking under socialism and communism, Islamic jihadists, the sexual revolution, stealing, lying, killing, and add to that presidential candidates conspiracy theories, see here, life doesn’t look too promising at this time.

But after I attended a memorial service for a long time member of Cascade church, Timothy, I began to see the hope in Jesus again.  Pastor Jan read I Corinthians 15:35-39 from The Message.  He reassured us that we are just seeds now, but when those who believe in Jesus are resurrected, we will bloom into our real bodies. I felt enveloped in God’s love as Pastor Scott played, and as Pastor Nate did the welcome,  prayer, and message on Romans 1:20.  There is hope after all if we will just put our trust in Jesus.   

From The Living Room
Songs in ordinary time: Trinity Sunday.

All along the watchtowers of the walls around
The city of man, the jokers and thieves shout
The songs of their sacred temples
And we all muse that there must be some way out of here

And the Dancer still dances His threefold dance
While we are only specks in the eye of the universe
That He forms into one new Man and fills with His breath
Paradox, mystery, unexplainable ineffable light

One and one and one make one
While the rebels shatter and scatter like Babel


From Overcoming Our Genes
Todd Starnes Got Blocked By Facebook

Click on the arrow to see the 3 minute you tube of Todd being interviewed.

We have to laugh or else we will cry.  Here is what happened to Todd Starnes in 2013.  Facebook

From The Living Room
Songs in ordinary time: Pentecost.

If I still have any readers after not posting for almost six months, I’m going to try something and write a poem every Sunday from now until the Sunday before Advent, the space the church calls ordinary time. Let’s see how this goes.

“Take a deep breath,” he said,

“and think the phrase ‘Jesus is Lord’

while you do it.

 

“Inhale on ‘Jesus,’

pause on ‘is,’ and breathe out ‘Lord.’

And repeat that for five minutes,

every day, when you wake up

and before you go to sleep.”

 

This, offered as, if not a cure,

Then at least a brief reprieve from

The fear that took over my body–

 

And I breathe in Jesus

And I breathe out his kingdom

And in between I pause in the present tenseness

Of him

 

And somewhere in the breathing

The cry turns to song

Even if sometimes it’s still lament


From Overcoming Our Genes
Names of Jesus In The Gospel of John

The Word (John 1:1),
The TRUE LIGHT (1:9)
THE ONE AND ONLY, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH (1:14)
THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD (1:29)
 THE SON OF GOD (1:34)
 RABBI (WHICH MEANS TEACHER) (1:38)
MESSIAH (THAT IS, THE CHRIST) (1:41)
 JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE SON OF JOSEPH (1:45)
SON OF MAN (1:51) GOD’S ONE AND ONLY SON (3:16)
THE BRIDEGROOM (3:29)
THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD (4:42)
THE JUST JUDGE (5:30)
THE BREAD OF LIFE (6:35)
THE LIVING BREAD (6:51) 
THE HOLY ONE OF GOD (6:69)
 THE LIVING WATER (7:38)
THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD (8:12)
I AM (JOHN 8:58) 
LORD (9:38)
THE GATE FOR THE SHEEP (10:7)
THE GOOD SHEPHERD (10:11)
 GOD’S SON (10:36)
THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE (11:25)
THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD (11:27)
TEACHER AND LORD (13:13)
THE WAY AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE (14:6)
THE TRUE VINE (15:1)
JESUS CHRIST (17:3)
JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS (19:19)
RABBONI (TEACHER) 20:16
MY LORD AND MY GOD (20:28)
JESUS IS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD (20:31)


From Overcoming Our Genes
Prophecy Update News in Review for 5/11/16

Click on the arrow to see the video. If you want to go to full screen click on the lower right icon after video starts to play.


A fast paced highlight and review of the major news stories and headlines that relate to Bible Prophecy and the End Times…Keep watching to the end to read about the good news!

From Overcoming Our Genes
This and That


Here is a blog about mysteries God gives us:


Here is my comment:
Finding a Sasquatch is difficult but if God allows it we will find one or two or more.

Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal things,
 but the glory of kings is to search things out.

Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.



Here is a blog from a pastor who was diagnosed with celiac disease:



Here is my comment:
God uses many bad things for our good. When I was a teen and my youngest brother was 3, he wouldn’t eat his peas. I told him that he should be thankful for peas, as there are children in Africa starving. He cried and left the table. Now as an adult he went to Africa as a missionary and taught Jr. High kids how to grow vegetables.






From Overcoming Our Genes
Good morning, Amerika

Here are my  thoughts exactly as expressed in Ray Ortlund's blog.  Click here to read.  But much to my surprise and dismay many in the Church do not believe what the Bible says about those who will not inherit the kingdom of God.  I pray and pray but they continue to believe what the world tells them.  All I can do is set an example with love and hope and pray that God will stir their hearts to believe the truth!  It's all about perseverance until He comes.  My heart leaps with joy when I think of the long awaited one--Jesus !

From Overcoming Our Genes
Is America Fundamentally Being Transformed into China?




My brother, Jay, was correct.  One of his favorite Bible verses was Genesis 1:28 when God said to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”  He believed that it was God’s command to married couples to have lots of children. God has not changed His mind as far as I know.

But here is the problem.   I grew up in a time when we were warned that overpopulation was going to destroy the earth and we were all going to starve to death.  Well, it has turned out that we haven’t starved. Scientists are coming up with new ways to grow more food. But this myth persists. 

Could the same thing happen in the United States that has happened in China?  The policy of one child per family has turned out badly.  China no longer has enough women to marry the overpopulation of men.  This could happen in the United States I fear.

Now there is another theme that the U.S. government wants to push on it’s citizens-- the government wants to force Common Core on all students whether in Public, Private, or Home schools.  All data about students will be collected by the states. The federal government will receive all of this information in exchange for federal money.  If a child frowns when they are asked about homosexuality the computer camera will record this and the child will be subject to reprogramming.

What is the solution?  First of all prayer then Bible reading.  The more we pray and read and study the Bible the more we will learn about God and how He thinks.  My granddaughter reads her Bible in school for her choice during free reading time.  I believe that every Christian should take a Bible with them wherever they go. We should read it whenever we get a chance so that we are not brainwashed by propaganda that our government is spewing out.  Above is a video of a Chinese woman who came to the United States to have freedom. She is afraid we will end up like China. 

God is winnowing out His people.  We are to be in the world but not of the world.  Prayer and Bible study will help us to remain free.  Here is a website for 5 different Bible Reading plans.




From Overcoming Our Genes
Savor The Moments

Grace Belle Slightam Edson about 1950

Grandma Edson was a small woman.  She could walk beneath the low branches of her apple trees and barely tap her head.  Her hair was as white as the farm house she lived in, and her eyes blue bell blue, like the wildflowers sprinkled over the fields around her fifteen-acre wheat farm in eastern Washington.  She could eat a piece of toast with her coffee at breakfast and smack her lips to convey to us her enjoyment.  Because of her delight everybody else would want a piece of toast too.  She gathered up corn, beets, carrots, and maybe some tomatoes, peas, or green beans every day from the acre truck farm, for our dinner.  The garden was just down the hill from the house and down the hill from the covered well that Grandpa had dug.

Grandma was an organic farmer before it was popular.  She’d plant marigolds around the garden to keep bugs away.  She’d spear stakes into the ground and place empty tin cans upside down on each one.  Early in the morning, she would take a boiling teakettle of water out, take the cans off one at a time, and pour boiling water on the unsuspecting earwigs underneath.

On days when we would drive into Spokane for a picnic with other relatives, or shopping, we drove west, into the sun, on the way back home to the farm each evening.   From the back seat, we would hear Grandma sing in her mellow, comforting voice,

“See, the sun is sinking in the golden west.
Birds and bees and children, all have gone to rest,
And the merry streamlet, as it runs along,
With a voice of sweetness
Sings its evening song.

Cowslips, daises, violets hang their tiny heads,
All among the grasses, flowers are in their beds.
Mothers of little children, as the stars go by,
Hush them by gently singing this little lullaby.”

Grandma’s soft skin wrinkled early and she had developed a hump on her back, which was always there as far back as I could remember.  She wore round steel rim glasses.  On town days, she would don her blue dress and blue hat.  Her purse was large and black and she would always hang on to it as if she might misplace it if she put it down. 

From the time I was thirteen, when I begged my parents to let me go to the farm for the summer, even though they weren’t going that year, Grandma wasn’t afraid to tell me good things about myself.  She told me that I was pretty and she appreciated my politeness.  My mother tried to tell me nice things about myself but she was so busy with five kids she didn’t always have time to think.  So Grandma was the first person who really noticed me-- other than my Aunt Ruth who helped me put on a “show” for the wire tape recorder when I was just five.  (At seven my Aunt Evelyn complimented me for keeping my pants dry when I was playing “raft” in the
nearby gravel pit.  My Aunt Jeanne was amazed at me when I was 7 or 8 and I wouldn’t throw a rock when the boys were treating me poorly. She said my cousin Janet would have thrown a rock.)


EWU mother daughter tea 1961
From left to right Roberta,Grandma Stowell,Grandma Edson, Dorothy, Janet

My cousin, Dorothy, and I, the summer of our 15th year, walked along the hot dry dusty farm road the wind gently blowing the threads on my unhemmed cut off jeans.  Dorothy, as usual, had on smart shorts, which coordinated, with her matching top.  Our tanned legs and feet caused puffs of dirt to float toward Grandma’s house, which by that time of year was surrounded by stubble wheat fields.

“I love being at the farm in the summer,” I said.  “No school, no chores, nothing to do but relax.”  (We did help snap the beans or shuck the corn, wash dishes, and clean up after dinner, but they didn’t seem like chores to us because we were on the farm.)

“I can’t wait to get my drivers license next year,” said Dorothy.  Maybe I can borrow my folk’s car and we can drive around the back farm roads and even go to the drive in.”  (We didn’t know that our parents would make sure we didn’t have a car available, but that my older brother, Jay, would drive us to the drive-in in a VW Microbus.  We’d take cots, set up our row in front of the car, and stretch out while we watched the movie.)

“I’m not getting my license.  I took the written test at the urging of the valedictorian of our class, and failed it.  If I had known I was going to take the test I would have read the book!” (I got my license after I got married.)

To reach the farm each summer Dorothy had come from Fairbanks, Alaska and me from Alexandria, Virginia.  Dorothy was as blond as I was brunette, we were the same height and weight, that summer.  (The summer we were 13 Dorothy was a little taller than I was.)  Even though we were first cousins, we were as close as twin sisters would be.  I had always admired people with blond hair and blue eyes.  Maybe it was because I had two blond aunts, five blond cousins, and two blond uncles.  Everybody in my family had blue eyes, except my mother and me, we had green eyes. We all had brown hair of different shades, except the next to the youngest brother who was a strawberry blond.

We passed the locust tree where we had spent many hours when we were younger.    Uncle Beanie, Grandma’s older brother, had installed a swing hanging from the sturdy branch of this huge locust tree in the side yard. A wooden seat on a heavy rope, which he had tied way up about ten or twenty feet, on a sturdy branch,  hung down almost to the ground.  We took turns swinging as high as we could in the cool shade from the time we were small, until we were teenagers, and the swing no longer appealed to us. 
We spotted Grandma in the garden, “Hey Grandma, is it okay if we pick one tomato each?”
“You girls go ahead,” she smiled, waved, and went back to her gardening.
We each picked a giant tomato, washed them under the cool well water from the hose, and took a bite.
“This is the best tomato I will ever eat!”  I said. 
“Me too,” agreed Dorothy, as she jumped back so as not to get tomato juice on her clean shorts.

After I grew up and got married, my husband and I would pick Grandma up during the Christmas holidays, and take her for a tour of the Christmas lights in Spokane.  She would oo and ahhh and we would appreciate the lights even more just because she was with us.  I want to be just like her.

Now it is your turn.  What are some of your happy childhood memories?

Click here to see the Grace Belle Slightam Edson page on findagrave.com



From The Milly Times
The pain of being an outspoken women in a C of C world.

Life as a woman in a C of C isn’t easy. Life as a woman with opinions and the ability to speak her mind is painful.

I’ve been struggling with the “new church” it’s the old church with a new name.  Not too much has changed, a guitar, a drum of some sort, and a new meeting place.  If I change the paint on my house and hang new drapes nothing is really that different. I have the same opinions in my house. Right?  So why am I so sad I’m old enough to know this truth?  I was excited about the changes! A new name! The one that I submitted that God put on my heart years before! I stood up for leaving church of Christ on it! I thought that we needed to stand boldly about who we are! I was happy to have a change in music. The new worship minister slowed the music down and added more of the old stuff. I even told him that I thought that it was a good idea so that the changes weren’t so drastic.
 But it’s not better, not at all.

The minister has a token woman that he pulls out to show us he is progressive, look at me I let a woman preach.  He talks like he believes that woman are equal but when a woman who isn’t a “You’re the greatest minister” BLANK kisser speaks up he is floored. He can’t take it at all.
I’ve been told where to stand and who to talk to. I’ve been told to stay quiet about how I feel.
I apologized for speaking up; he brought it up several times. 

How can you stand up on a stage and preach forgiveness when you can’t forgive?
I’m not a perfect person but I forgive. Okay so I’m still working on the baby daddy and that woman he married, they hurt my kids and the mamma bear comes out. I’m working on it. I’ve spoken in confidence to him only to have those words repeated from the pulpit. He has yelled at me when I simply asked if one of the men was in the building because the guest speaker, the one standing next to him, wanted to use some equipment. That man cussed me out in front of my child and my minister set that up by talking behind my back and working it up. The man and I are fine, I forgave, he forgave, and we are fine.  

My children and I were asked to his home for dinner and I agreed to come, when I went to confirm and get the address I was told he would be out of town.  Okay, life happens.

I’ve put in years of service. I’m honestly am not sure how many. I’ve worked long hours; I did so because I believe in what I do. I believe that I made a difference. The men have cut down my work, oh they don’t think so at all.

Now we have more women doing what I do and that makes me happy I can take a break. The issue is that one woman has done a lot of taking and the men have listened and they have talked. They claimed that they didn’t but I do know better. I was called into a meeting that was an attack on me. They had no real reason to attack when it was all said and done.

The minister does know that he started treating me differently when I was going through a divorce.  What? You say. Yes, a worship minister did the same. Perhaps I made them feel uncomfortable or they thought I was wrong. I don’t know. I’m sure that I have changed, I know I have. I was raised to speak up; I stopped because an abusive man hates that in a woman. Now I speak up.

I also loved the minister who came before him; he’s great at challenging me. He and I had a relationship. He has just the right amount of sarcasm. My dad once talked to me about a sermon and a couple of things he had said. He made a joke about eating donuts and drinking diet soda then threw in a democrat joke. I laughed and explained that it was all aimed at me. I miss him a lot.

Why stay so long? After all I have choices, this is Oklahoma we love our churches and banks. You’d laugh if you were from these parts.

I’ve stayed for my son. I’ve stayed for the people that I love. I’ve now made new friends and I hate the idea of not spending time with them. My heart hurts from the pull but I know that I need to seek Jesus somewhere else.


‘cause Bill didn’t raise his daughter to keep her mouth shut. His response was “I should hope not!”

From Overcoming Our Genes
Collaborating With The Enemy



Christians are at war.  We are at war with satan, evil people, and ourselves.  I know how to combat my own sin by prayer and repentance.  With evil people we pray, have government to protect us, and preach the gospel.  But how are we to combat the world's main occupier-- the prince of the power of the air, Ephesians 2:1-3?

While thinking about this, I recalled a PBS mini-series that I enjoyed watching, “Foyles War,” click here. The enemy activity-- such as a bomb or a spy-- does not happen on occupied turf but in British territory.  So this did not help to show how to deal with an occupying enemy.

Another mini-series called “Island at War” shows a British Island being taken over peacefully by the enemy, click here. The romance between a German soldier and an islander girl that portrayed favorably the German military commander of the occupation further inflamed the debate about the depiction of collaboration in the film.  For more details go to here.

Another instance of collaborating with the enemy was the Vichy government in France. It is one of the best-known and most significant examples of collaboration between former enemies of Germany and Germany itself. For more details go here.

So here is the problem.  The Church is divided.  Some support the view of the occupier of the  “world”--  satan. Some support Scripture.  Here is what Ross Douthat said:

“MODERNITY has left nearly every religious tradition in the Western world divided.
The specific issues vary with the faith, but there is an essential sameness to what separates Reform Judaism from Orthodox Judaism, evangelical churches from mainline Protestantism, the liberal Episcopal Church from the conservative Anglican Church in North America.

In each case, disagreements about the authority of tradition, the reliability of Scripture, and eventually the proper response to the Sexual Revolution have made it impossible for liberal and conservative believers to remain in community or communion.”

So what is a Christian to do?  What am I to do?  To me it looks like the churches that take the view of the “world” are collaborating with the enemy.  They approve of killing innocent unborn babies, approve of gay marriage, and approve of unmarried couples living together in housing that some churches support.  They say they have to do so because the secular population doesn’t understand our religion and can’t be expected to live according to God’s laws.  But what is actually happening here?  The Christians who support these things endorse what "the deceiver" is doing by not standing for morality.   They are worthy of death—Romans 1:32.  I pray that those in The Church who have been working with the enemy, will wake up, and turn away from sin before it is too late.  Meanwhile, those in The Church, including myself,  who refuse to collaborate with the adversary, will need to seek God through prayer and Scripture.  We will need God’s protection and wisdom in dealing with our foe.
















From fingerpost


In peace I will both lie down and sleep; 
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4: 8

From fingerpost




Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

- Jesus of Nazareth

From Overcoming Our Genes
My Take On Revelation 20:1-10


Yesterday was wonderful.  My Dart bus driver got me to my Bible Study class early.  The luncheon afterward was delicious and the fellowship fun.  My faithful husband picked me up after the luncheon and gave me a ride home.  And on top of that I decided that, for now, I’m a premillennialist. 

You may wonder what a premillennialist is.  Premillennialists believe Jesus will return to the earth before the millennium.  (The millennium is the 1000 years that Jesus will reign on earth with His saints.  This is before the destruction of the current heaven and earth and the replacement with a new heaven and a new earth.) During this 1000 years satan is bound and kept  imprisoned.  But everything isn’t perfect yet, even though the believers will be like Jesus. There are still evil people on the earth who do bad things.  Jesus and His saints will judge these people and keep the peace. 

After the 1000 years satan is released and proceeds to deceive the nations once again.  He will organize the people who have hardened their hearts toward God to fight against God.  These nations are given the names Gog and Magog.  Of course satan is defeated and thrown into the lake of burning sulfur.  Evil is destroyed and God exalts Jesus. 

To me it is incomprehensible that satan and the wicked don’t understand that God has given them every chance to turn to Him.  They must block out all thoughts that God is loving and kind yet just.  He is a holy God who will not look on sin.  Sin will be destroyed. 


My conclusion is that this thinking is similar to the twisted confused thinking of the Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the Philippians who held Gracia and Martin Burnham hostage for 376 days. Gracia relates in her book, “In the Presence of My Enemies,” how one of their captors was asked why they were holding hostages and extorting money.  He said it was because the government had taken away some land.  He was asked what would you do if your land was given back to you?  He said we would take more land.  Muslims will take over the world he said.  That is the plan he said. 

The thinking of the terrorists is the exact thinking of satan.  The same thing will happen to the terrorists as it will to satan. Some day satan will be thrown into the lake of fire.  The end!

From fingerpost


God subdued me.

(John Calvin's entire account of his conversion)

From home is behind, the world ahead
A Slower Pace

I went to India in 2012. While there, I was invited into the home of a family that I, and the people I was traveling with, had met. The second time we were invited and came over, the father of the family said he had a message from God for each of us.

I don't remember what he said about the others. But I remember what he said to me. And I have thought about it thousands of times since.

He told me that many people would move faster than me. That I would see others zoom through life in front of me. And my pace would be slower. But, that I would have the faith to see me through. I would make it to the end.

I didn't know what to do with this message at first. It wasn't what I wanted to hear honestly. But, even though I try hard to not let these words inform the world around me, I can't help but see truth in this message.

I have always felt a little behind. A little slow. I've felt like the world was slipping out of my fingers. I'm a late bloomer. It takes people a little more time to get to know me. I don't impress people the first time I meet them. I'm terrible in auditions and interviews. I don't make friends very easily. When I feel low, I might equate these facts to being less than. Then I remember what he said. And hope springs.

So, I give it time. I keep going. I give myself grace to go at my own pace. I carry the hope of finishing. I keep showing up. I move forward one step at a time. I tell myself that it will be okay. I will make it to the end. I will get to the finish line. I will see things through. I will find what I've been looking for. What I've wanted. I will find life. I will find hope and grace and love. People will see. I will see.

I may be a slower pace but I am not less than.

From Overcoming Our Genes
Rita Lorraine And Her Magic Violin

We think this was taken when Rita was a teen.

She slumped, weeping, in the azure armchair amidst dozens of vases of roses placed on the dressing table, end tables, and on the floor of her dressing room.  They surrounded her like cascades of water.  Breathing the air was like taking a breath of heavy rose perfume.  Her red taffeta dress crawled over her legs and feet, covering the red velvet pumps.  She was drained, but she had done it.  She had performed the Tchaikovsky. 

Stop!  I confess. This is a fictionalized version as I imagine it could have taken place when my mother-in-law performed with the Spokane Symphony playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major. The performance was probably right after WW II in 1946 or 1947.   She had practiced for an entire year.  She vowed she would never play it again.

Flash back—Rita was 16 in 1933 when she kept a 1-year diary.  At that time her only class was French.  She most likely had a private tutor.  The tutor’s name is never mentioned in the diary.  She relates how she went home to Potlatch after a trip around Idaho and Washington State playing in concerts, attending concerts, plays, and eating with many in the music industry.  She mentions friends--   Billy Norse (her first boyfriend who lived in a big house next to the apartment in Lewiston.  He would sit on the lawn and listen to her practice.She attended Jr. High there and played basketball in school. She was very excited when she was the only one in the class who made a basket.) Maxine, and Claribel were two other friends.  They showed up periodically to play anagrams and to hang out.  In the spring of that year she traveled with her mother to Portland, Oregon and attended a Yehudi Menuhin concert.  He played The Beethoven D Major concerto and the Bach No. 2 in E Major and Mozart, No. 7 in D Major.  Major Alfred Hertz conducted the orchestra.  She went back stage with Mr. Wallin and Mr. Gershkovitch to shake hands with Yehudi. 

 Then in the summer she took the bus to San Francisco and was met by Mrs. Havlicek.  She was invited to various homes for meals and attended more concerts and played at several events. 

In September she went to Mr. Peterson’s house with the Havliceks to try out a “Strad” and a Guadagnini violin.  Mr. Havlicek decided to stay in California and resigned his position at Washington State College.  Rita wrote to her Mother and she came down and they rented an apartment together. She attended the Northbrae Church with her mother. Havliceks rented an auditorium and invited potential students to watch Rita perform.  This is how he acquired new students.

We have no other record of what she did between 1933 and 1940.  We think she traveled to Los Angeles. We think she then met Jes Brown who we think accompanied her on the piano.  They were married in Las Vegas in 1940.   Chris was born in 1942.  Because of WW II Jes enlisted in the Coast Guard we think in 1943.  Rita and Chris moved to Spokane where Rita played for a radio show called “Rita Lorraine and Her Magic Violin.” My Grandmother Stowell was one of her fans and listened every week.  We think Rita was offered a job with the Hormel Girls traveling around the country. Because of Chris she turned them down.  By that time she owned a Gagliano violin.

If I find another diary I will continue the tale in another blog.  Click here if you would like to see her findagrave.com page.

From Overcoming Our Genes
That's My King



That's My King-- Dr. S.M. Lockridge -- Powerful!

From Out of the blue
Unbelievable

I keep thinking we’ve hit bottom. Then I realize there is no bottom.