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From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: December 20, 2014

“Live always in the best company when you read.” ~Sydney Smith

SATURDAY December 27th, will be the annual special edition of the Saturday Review of Books especially for book lists. You can link to a list of your favorite books read in 2014, a list of all the books you read in 2014, a list of the books you plan to read in 2015, or any other end of the year or beginning of the year list of books. Whatever your list, it’s time for book lists. So come back on Saturday the 27th to link to yours.


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 Out of the Bloo
True Greatness

From today’s reading of Luke 22 and John 13

But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” – Luke 22:21-30 (ESV)

We now enter into the accounts of the last supper Jesus would have with his disciples prior to his passion. The urgency of his final teachings to them is heightened, and in response we see the somewhat understandable confusion and denial of these men who were closest to him.

I can almost hear the conversation following Jesus’ shocking revelation that one of them would betray him to the authorities. Does it seem strange that they move straight from questioning who it might be to arguing about which of them is the greatest? This no longer seems strange to me. I imagine the conversation went something like this:

Disciple 1: One of us will betray him? Could it be me? . . . . no, I don’t think so. I wonder if it’s you? I’ve always questioned your loyalty.

Disciple 2: Me? No, I would never betray him. I would go to prison and death for him!

Disciple 3: You? Neither one of you idiots knows what you’re talking about. No one worked harder on our mission trip through the towns of Israel than me. Did you see how many people I healed?

Disciple 2: Did you see how many demons I cast out? I think I made the greatest contribution.

Disciple 1: You are both delusional. I’m in his inner-circle. I’m certain to be given the greatest position of power next to him when he comes in his kingdom.

And so on. It’s not hard at all for us to move from wise self-inspection to unwise comparison of ourselves to those around us.

I admit it: I want to be great. I have dreams of greatness. I fantasize about being wiser, stronger, and braver than I am, of doing deeds that people will talk about after I’m gone. I’m no better than the disciples; In my best moments I know I’m capable of denying and betraying the Lord, but my best moments are few and far between.

In his amazing grace Jesus doesn’t kick them all (or me) out of the room. Instead he says this:

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”,

This is an absolutely amazing statement. “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials,” he says to those that he knows will very soon abandon him completely in the midst of his greatest trial. But this is the grace of our Lord. This is true greatness: Jesus. He is the God above all gods, the Man above all men, the one who not only saves us from all of our sins and foolishness but who will graciously fit us to reign with him in his glory. This is his last supper with them before his passion, but he promises them that they will eat and drink with him again in the kingdom.

In other words, they are all about to forsake him, but he will never forsake them. This is greatness. He is about to do everything, absolutely everything that can be done for their salvation, and he is going to restore every one of them but one to the true greatness that he has destined them for in a new mission, building the true kingdom in the power of his Spirit, each of them humbling themselves as the dregs of the earth so that the world could be turned right side up again through the good news of Jesus. This is greatness.

Glory Hallelujah!

From Semicolon
Christmas in Virginia, 1864

From Charlie Skedaddle by Patricia Beatty:

“Charley volunteered, ‘On Christmas Day at home we go to Mass and then give each other presents. After that we o visiting people we know, and we always have a real fine Christmas dinner when we can afford to have one, roast goose or roast beef.’

‘Do tell! All those goings-on in one day! Malindy wouldn’ like hearin’ that about the goose. We don’t fuss so much here in the hills, but we do eat a good supper, and we sing some, and outside a feedin’ the livestock we don’ do no work. I ain’t got no gift for ya, but I’ll feed ya fine today.’

Charley had to admit that the highlight of the day was the dinner the best he’s ever eaten here—a tender ham they’d salted down the previous summer and now soaked in water, then baked; and a lard crust pie from sun-dried apples.

After they finished eating Granny Jerusha sang a mountain carol to Charley in her harsh, deep, old woman’s voice.

In turn, Charley sang a carol in Latin which the sisters had taught him. At its end, Granny Bent said ‘Ya got a sweet voice.’ Then she went on to sing him another carol, ‘The Cherry Tree Carol,’ about the tree that at the request of the Baby Jesus let liquid flow off its bent branches to water the thirsty, kneeling animals at the manger.”

Charlie Skedaddle is a Civil War story about a twelve year old boy from New York’s Bowery section who lies about his age and joins the Union army. However, Charley’s first battle is more than he bargained for, and he “skedaddles”. Charley end up in the hills of Virginia, where he takes refuge with Granny Bent, an old mountain woman who trusts Charley about as much as he trusts her—not much. Will Charley always be a coward in hiding from both Yankees and Rebels, or will he grow into manhood in the hills of Appalachia?

Patricia Beatty’s books are all worth searching for and reading. She wrote ten books with her husband, John Beatty, and then after his death, she wrote more than thirty works of historical fiction by herself. Some of her other books that I have enjoyed are Bonanza Girl, That’s One Ornery Orphan, Behave Yourself Bethany Brant, Be Ever Hopeful Hannalee, Wait for Me Watch for Me Eula Bee, and Jayhawker.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

From internetmonk.com
My Ancestors’ (not so great) Interaction with the Church (Part 2 – Dress Code Excommunication)

Frey Family - Lois at center top

Frey Family – Lois at center top

My Grandmother, Lois Grace Frey, was an extraordinary women. Her parents were pioneering missionaries to Africa with the Brethren in Christ in 1905. The Brethren in Christ were a branch of the Mennonite tree, with Wesleyan influences. My Great-grandfather, Harvey Jacob Frey, founded Mtshabezi mission in what is now known as Zimbabwe where he established a school for girls. The family returned to the U.S. in 1924, in order to give the children a high school education. When her parents returned to Africa, Lois stayed behind. She was accepted into Taylor University in Indiana where she graduated with a B.A. in 1930. This was at a time when very few women attended university.

LeslieGeorgeBarhamShe returned to Africa soon after graduation, where she was soon put to work training teachers for Mtshabezi mission. Her father passed away in 1936. Lois was in charge of the School when my Grandfather, Leslie George Barham showed up, asking if he could show movies to the children. They soon became good friends. My Grandfather was interested in doing Christian work in much more primitive conditions in what is now Zambia. He asked Lois if she would marry him and join him in this work, and she agreed.

This was where things got difficult. Her mission organization was against the marriage. Among the items that were raised was that my Grandfather was worldly, as evidenced by the fact that he wore a tie! She decided to follow her heart, and resigned from the organization, at which point her friends were ordered to “shun” her, and to have nothing further to do with her. They were told to ignore her, even if she passed them in the street. She was very hurt by this decision. I wonder if it might have turned out differently had my Great-grandfather still been alive.

House at KalunduMy Grandmother and Grandfather moved up to Zambia where they built a thatched roof house at Kalundu. Their nearest English speaking neighbors were 80 miles away. They faced danger from wild animals on a regular basis. Lions killed their cattle, and their kitchen was even invaded by lions one night. One pot was punctured by a lion’s teeth. Their dog was killed by a leopard as they walked a lady home one evening. My mother and uncle were born into this environment and faced many of the same dangers. On a lighter note: The family transport was a motorcycle that could fit all four family members at once!
CrocodileMy Grandfather’s first claim to fame occurred in 1932. He was asked to shoot a crocodile that had just killed a child. He found it, and shot it, and was posing for a picture while sitting on its back, when everyone took off running. He had only stunned it! He quickly jumped up and shot it again. He is probably one of the only people in the world who has sat on the back of a live man eating crocodile!

BibleTranslationHow worldly was my Grandfather? Well, among other things, he decided to spend his life doing Bible Translation, and produced the first Bible in Bemba, the trade language of Zambia. With all the revisions that he did, he ended up typing through the Bible seven times on a manual typewriter.

My earliest memories are of them visiting Canada in the 1960s. We moved to Africa for four years in the 1970s, and I got to spend a lot of time with them over the holidays. Christmas charades were a yearly highlight.

After my Grandfather’s death, my Grandmother came to live with us in Canada. Shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with cancer. I came to realize how brilliant she was, that, even while she was dying, every day she would complete the New York Times cryptic crossword puzzle.

Today, whenever I hear a debate about dress codes in church, I nod and smile, and sometimes tell the story of a woman who got excommunicated because her husband-to-be wore a tie.

As usual, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
He Can't Make a Christian

In her regular Thursday column, Bethany Jenkins gives us Martin Luther on the nonexistence of a sacred/secular divide . Here's part of it.

The pope or bishop anoints, shaves heads, ordains, consecrates, and prescribes garb different from that of the laity, but he can never make a man into a Christian or into a spiritual man by so doing. He might well make a man into a hypocrite or a humbug and blockhead, but never a Christian or a spiritual man. As far as that goes, we are all consecrated priests through baptism, as St. Peter says in 1 Peter 2:9, "You are a royal priesthood and a priestly realm." The Apocalypse says, "Thou hast made us to be priests and kings by thy blood" (Rev. 5:9-10).

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Today: Through the Eyes of Spurgeon

Watch a new documentary on C. H. Spurgeon today for free. It's called Through the Eyes of Spurgeon. Get the details here.

From internetmonk.com
Lisa Dye: Parousia!

The Holy Eucharist, Kharlamov

The Holy Eucharist, Kharlamov, Church of the Savior on Spilt Blood, St. Petersburg

When my children were little, I diligently taught and enforced their close adherence to my side as we got in and out of the car, walked into stores, church or any other place. Looking back, I wasn’t strict or controlling in most respects. In fact, all my daughters voiced at one time or another that they wished I had been more demanding of them academically or musically or athletically. Rightly or wrongly, I opted not to nag.

Despite my deficiencies in many areas, I mastered this one aspect of parenting. Due to my compulsive anxiety over child predators and careless drivers in parking lots, I did a stellar job getting my little brood in and out of public places with no stragglers, no losses and no near misses. Yes, I drilled that into them so well, that I would frequently turn around in a panic not seeing my little four-year-old and quietly call out in barely contained hysteria. “Where are you?”

“I’m right here,” a little voice would chirp in reply.

“Oh!” There she was … so close I couldn’t see her when I turned around … like a shadow, right on my heels. Always. It happened so often you would think I’d have learned and stopped those panicky little spazz outs. Each of my little ones was always coming along with me, always right with me, never ever daring to defy me by running ahead or lagging behind. There was a short invisible string tied between me and them and it stayed that way until I eventually ceded it to the buddy system. When they were finally old enough, that invisible string kept them tied to each other shopping at malls, exploring the fields behind our house and finally on teenage driving ventures.

This remembrance came to me one night as I sat in my N.T. Greek class listening to my teacher discuss parousia. In a few concise, but loaded words, parousia, the Greek version of the Latin advent, means “coming,” “arrival” and also “presence.” How strange that this word can simultaneously refer to something that has happened, is yet to happen and already is. Jesus is has come. Jesus is coming. Jesus is always here.

This thought also led me to another thought … that of babies. I have had three of them. Walking through the events of my middle daughter’s pregnancy recently conjured vivid recollections of my own experiences. As each baby grew inside, I could feel its flutters and turnings under a hand on my belly, the shallow depth of stretched muscle, membrane and skin. There was a thin veil of separation between us, a bit of human flesh. But a baby was on its way. This child I’d never met was right there within me and not yet arrived. Maybe an ultrasound made the facial profile vivid or revealed its gender or showed it sucking its thumb in the womb. Maybe this baby had hiccups every afternoon at 3:00, but I never really knew my babies until they arrived.

Every parent knows the magic of first seeing a long awaited child. It is pure amazement, even if the baby bears striking resemblance to mother or father. There is familiarity, but in a previously unknown and unique package … a fresh and unexpected revelation. As the child grows and develops through its first months and into the years to come, there is more revelation … the full flowering of a person who is always present, but continually emerging in a deeper and richer way.

Last Supper, Negri

Last Supper, Negri

I’m not Catholic (though my husband has coined the term Protholic to describe me), but I was interested when I recently heard a priest talking about a part of the Mass called the epiclesis where he invokes Christ’s presence upon the Communion elements and rings bells to signify the moment. He said that when he was a little boy sitting in the pew, his mother would tell him, “Richard, when you hear the bells, Jesus is coming.” A day or two after I heard this, it dawned on me that epiclesis is a two-part Greek word. Epi, means “upon” or “on,” depending on the case. It indicates personal touching. Clesis is from ka-lei-o meaning “to call.” During the epiclesis, the priest calls for the real presence of Christ to come upon the bread and the wine … to touch it. The epiclesis happens in every Mass a million places around the world. It has been happening over and over for 2,000 years. Christ has come to us, but he is always still coming.

Like a baby whose arrival we await, Christ is in our midst and yet always about to arrive. “At present, we see indistinctly, as in a mirror …” (1 Corinthians 13:12). The veil of our human flesh prevents us from discerning the full revelation of him. And in his kindness, his own human flesh has veiled us from the burning brightness of His Majesty. Yet, as we call upon him in prayer, receive him in Communion, encounter him in Scripture, live in his Body, the Church, and are enlivened by the breath of his Spirit, we know him more … little by little. Christ is always coming to us until the day of his final coming when we will know him fully.

Luke’s gospel fascinates me for its account of the time just prior to Jesus’ coming. Whenever I read chapters 1 and 2, I get a distinct impression of an atmosphere of human longing and a mighty, unseen working of God about to manifest in time and space. I wish I could know what it felt like to live then. The angel prophesying to Zechariah and Elizabeth regarding their son, John, who would be known as The Baptizer, said, “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). Seven hundred years previously, the prophet Isaiah wrote of John, “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). The time for Christ’s coming was imminent. The earth must have groaned in eager anticipation of it.

ALTO 6The theme in these verses, tied together through the centuries, is preparation. Preparation is something we hear much about during the season of Advent. For many of us, the true sense of it is lost in the hustle and bustle of our other preparations … preparations that are visible and tangible. But getting ready for the coming of the Lord is not about wrapping gifts or hanging the decorations or sprucing up the guest bedroom. It is about preparing a highway in the dry deserts of our hearts. John’s mission, according to the angel, was to turn fathers to the loving care of their children, to smooth out hard stony paths to the center of souls, to elicit repentance that would call out in need of a Savior. Jesus was coming.

Later in Luke’s gospel, some Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming. He answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:20,21), reiterating that the most important aspect of advent takes place deep within us. The coming of the kingdom is shrouded in mystery, carried in Christ incarnate. It bypasses the overt and observable and takes up residence in those prepared to receive him. The kingdom was among them, within them and around them. It had arrived because Jesus had brought it. He was standing there in their midst, true God from true God, the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. The kingdom was in a person … Jesus. Jesus was here.

If Jesus was here and his kingdom was here, why did he then instruct us to pray to the Father, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)? He told us in Luke 17 that God’s kingdom had arrived, but here he seems to be saying, “Pray that it continues to arrive.” It is through continual preparation, the relentless dislodging of boulders of bitterness, the diligent straightening of the highways to our hearts. Never stop. Jesus would always be coming.

We celebrate Advent or parousia, like the epiclesis, over and over, throughout the earth It is a vivid picture of an invisible reality. The preparation for Christ’s coming is a continuous action because he is always on his way to us, until we receive him completely. Every boulder we dig from our depths, every prayer of submission we whisper, every turning of our hearts to our people brings the revelation of Christ in human flesh, a fresh advent of the mystery of Emmanuel … God with us.

Father, help us not despise or diminish these days of rites and rituals. They are divine dramas, given to us by you and acted on our human stage until the advent, the parousia, the coming of Christ is perceived entirely, the veil that darkens our spirits is lifted and we see him face to face.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
"Valkin' in my vinter undervear"

Back for a reprise: A ghost from my Christmas past. This guy is the late Roger Awsumb. In the '60s he used to play Casey Jones on the "Lunch With Casey" program on a Twin Cities TV station. This is probably the most popular thing he ever did.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Ayn Rand Didn't Understand Capitalism

Joe Carter breaks down the egoism of Ayn Rand.

"Reason, applied consistently, doesn't lead us down a straight path to egoism, much less to capitalism. Examined closely, we would find that her entire Objectivist philosophy is founded on this simple question begging premise. . . .

"Ultimately, Rand's egoism is irreconcilable with both Christianity and capitalism. In fact, since the system fails to have any true explanatory value, it's difficult to find any reason to adopt Objectivism at all. Fortunately, we don't have to buy into Rand's philosophical errors in order to appreciate her fiction. We just have to keep in mind that instead of reading a "novel of ideas", we are reading a work of fantasy."

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Hunter Baker on the Ruin of Christian Higher Ed

Dr. Hunter Baker observes, "All universities, and certainly Christian ones, face a landscape in which students have been largely replaced by consumers." He says in his latest book, if Christian colleges try to be like their secular counterparts, they will fail on almost every level, particularly in their stated mission. On the other hand, if they integrate the worship of the Most High with every academic discipline, they will distinguish themselves and accomplish their mission. "Christian colleges can successfully argue that the best education connects with the mind, the body, and the soul."

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
This Is Abusive

"All abuse, whether laser-tipped irony or bare-knuckle fisticuffs, is best delivered coolly, without huffing and puffing. The best abuse looks effortless, the work of a ninja not a WWF wrestler." Patrick Kurp talks about An Anthology of Invective and Abuse from 1929.

From Semicolon
Christmas in France, c. 1930

From Noël for Jeanne-Marie by Françoise Seignobosc:

“Listen, Patapon,” says Jeanne-Marie. “Noël is the birthday of the little Jesus.”

“And there is something more about Noël. If you are very good, Father Noël brings you presents. He comes in the night. No one sees him, no one at all. I put my wooden shoes near the chimney and Father Noël fills them with presents. You will see, Patapon, you will see . . .”

Unfortunately, Patapon is Jeanne-Marie’s pet sheep, and sheep have no wooden shoes to place beside the chimney for Father Noël to fill with presents.

I love both the illustrations and the story in this simple picture book about a little French girl and her pet sheep. Ms. Seignobosc, a French-American author and illustrator who used the pen name of simply “Françoise”, wrote and illustrated over 40 picture books between the years of 1930 and 1960. I would suggest that if you find any of her books about Jeanne-Marie or any of her other lovely picture books that you snap them up. They are not only collector’s items, but they are also delightful, simple stories for reading with preschoolers and for the young at heart.

Take a look at this one about Biquette, the white goat with a lovely special-made coat.
Or Springtime for Jeanne-Marie, one of my favorites.
More from Springtime for Jeanne-Marie.
And here’s some information about another Francoise book, The Thank You Book.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

From internetmonk.com
iMonk Classic: The Mood of Advent: We All Need A Savior


I have several friends who are doing Advent in their Baptist churches for the first time, and they have lots of questions about candles and logistics. I wish there were more questions about Advent itself.

For example, the mood of Advent is dark and serious. It’s not the mood of Lent, which is a particular kind of seriousness as the shadow of the cross extends over our path. It’s the mood of darkness that comes because the world is in darkness.

We need a savior.

This is the time that we stop and see that the powers of evil are entrenched in the world. Evil authorities and and evil persons are having their way. A good creation is being ruined. Hearts made for love and light are imprisoned, crying out and empty.

There is war, terror, the loss of innocence and the curses of ignorance, poverty and death. The wise men of this age are propagating nonsense. Men and women made in God’s image are addicted to the worst the darkness has to offer. They think backwards and cannot find their way out of the dungeon. They have lost their will to live and love, and have settled for the cheapest and palest of imitations.

Advent’s darkness includes the failure of religion to bring any light to this fallen and dying world. Religion has become as empty as fool’s errand as can be imagined. The religious take themselves seriously, but the world hears the hollowness of it all.

In the Christian family itself, the prosperity gospel makes a mockery of the very savior it claims to proclaim. Western Christians plunge into the pagan celebration, spending thousands on themselves and their children. We spend enough on our lights to save thousands upon thousands of lives. But those lives are in the darkness of Advent’s waiting. Our “lights” are nothing more than an extension of that darkness. They have nothing to do with the true light that comes to the world.

big_thumb_0af6fbecfb4fad87efd588d3789a483dThe real center of Advent’s dark mood is that we need a savior. We who sing and go to church for musicals and eat too much and buy too much and justify the season by our strange measurements of suffering.

We light candles and wait because, after looking around and taking stock, there should be no doubt that we need a savior.

Ironically, after 2,000 years of offering our Savior to others, we- Christians- need one more than ever. When we mark ourselves has “having” Christ more than “needing” Christ, we miss the Spirit of the Advent season.

Despite the fact that the world needs a savior, those offering him and his story to the world look no more “saved” than anyone else. In fact, with an extra facade of religion or two, we seem to be in every bit as bad a shape as the world we call “lost.”

The mood of Advent is that we are all lost. Advent isn’t about the “saved” telling the “lost” to “get saved.” Advent is a light that dawns in all of our darknesses. Advent is bread for all of our hungers. Advent is the promise kept for all of us promise-breakers, betrayers and failures.

Can we find a way to celebrate Advent as those who NEED to be saved? As those who NEED a savior? Not as those who know for certain that someone else does?

Scripture says that we who had not received mercy have now received mercy. Those who were nobodies are now the people of God.

The key to Advent is not living as if we are the people of God and always have been. The key is to live as if we need a Savior, and he has come to us, found us, saved us and is there for everyone in the world.

The mood of Advent isn’t “come be religious like us.” It is “We are all waiting for our Savior to be born. Let us wait together. And when he comes, let us recognize him, together.”

When the day dawns, let us all receive him. We go to the manger and worship. We give to him our gifts. We take his light to the poor.

Until then, we are the poor, the weak, the blind, the lonely, the guilty and the desperate. We light candles because we who are in darkness are in need of a great light. We need a savior.

So we wait amidst the ruins, we protect the lights we hold in hope. We sing to one who is coming. We look and wonder. We pray for his star to take us, once again, to the miracle.


Originally posted December 2007

From Gospel Driven Church
A Hymn

The LORD our God is Lord of Hosts.
He holds all time within his hand.
The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
From all eternity will stand.

From deepest deep, before the start
God has declared the sweetest end
He’s loved and purposed in his heart
The brokenness of man to mend.

Brother Jesus his siblings saves
And conquers sin upon the cross
The death-proof king then slips the grave
And brings redemption to the lost.

Should we alight to heavens’ heights
Or seek the dark of deepest grave,
Each space is filled with splendid light.
Christ meets us there with pow’r to save.

The deadest heart is summoned forth,
And granted grace in second birth.
And as in us it conquers more,
His kingdom comes upon the earth

Exalted Son we wait to see,
Christ’s fame a banner soon unfurled.
As raging waters fill the seas,
His glory then will fill the world.

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Just down the road from me

Some folks decided to put up a satanic holiday display.

I have so many thoughts running through my head about this. Perhaps the main one being how annoying this is. I’m not one who thinks the fight for the commandments on the courthouse wall is worthwhile. I’d rather have churches display nativities than the capital building. But this is just annoying. Satanism is such a lecherous non-entity that this whole instance feels like the kid in gradeschool who was really annoying and you had to just ignore in order for them to leave you and go bug someone else.

From Semicolon
12 Book Lists from 2014

I will round up the bloggers’ book lists at my Saturday Review of Books on December 27th, the day after Christmas, giving everyone plenty of time to post their lists. Also, on the day after Christmas I’ll start posting my several lists of favorites and books I’m looking forward to reading in 2015.

In the meantime, the other end of the year book lists are already starting to multiply. I have a love/hate relationship with lists of “best books” or “favorites”, mostly love. But it is frustrating to see how many books there are that I would love to read and how little time I have to read them all.

On the other hand, what a blessing to have so many books to choose from! What an embarrassment of riches!

14 Best Books of 2014 (with runners-up) by Tony Reinke at Desiring God. These are Christian nonfiction, and there are at least a couple that I want to read, including John Piper’s book on authors George Herbert, George Whitfield, and C.S. Lewis and Karen Swallow Prior’s biography Fierce Convictions, about poet and reformer Hannah More.

Christian Science Monitor’s 10 best fiction books of 2014. Almost all ten of these sound intriguing, and I added most of them to my TBR list at Goodreads.

Speaking of Goodreads, Goodreads Selects Best Books of 2014. Some of these were already on my radar; others are new to me.

Mary DeMuth’s Best Ever Gift Guide for Book Lovers. I added four books to my TBR list from Mary’s gift guide, and I could have added more:
Rush of Heaven by Ema McKinley and Cheryl Ricker.
The Invisibile Girls by Sarah Thebarge.
Living Without Jim by Sue Keddy.
Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler.

The Best Books of 2014, according to Slate staff. Some of these are a bit too risqué or my tastes, but others sound intriguing:
Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Harris.
Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade by Walter Kirn.
Lock In by John Scalzi.
Without You, There Is No Us: My Time With the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim.

And another Slate list: 27 Books you shouldn’t have overlooked in 2014. I think I’ll not overlook at least one of these:
Like No Other by Una LaMarche. YA fiction, “featuring Jaxon, who is black, and Devorah, a Hasidic girl who isn’t even allowed a phone.”(!) They meet in a stranded hospital elevator during an electrical outage. Color me curious.

Newsweek: Our Favorite Books of 2014. Not my favorites, but maybe you will find something here?

Washington Post: The Top 50 Fiction Books for 2014. Many interesting pick here:
All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu. About an Ethiopian emigrant, this one fits into my interest in all things African.
The Children Act by Ian McEwan. Mr. McEwan is always provocative–and evocative.
Lila by Marilynne Robinson. I already had this one on my list before it was even published.
An Unecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine.

Washington Post: 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction.
Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos. National Book Award winner.
Congo: The Epic History of a People by David van Reybrouck, translated by Sam Garrett. If it’s readable.
Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon by Kim Zetter.
John Quincy Adams: American Visionary by Fred Kaplan. For my U.S. presidents project.
A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben MacIntyre.

Hornbook presents its Fanfare! The best books of 2014. I’ll need to read the following, all of which I’ve seen recommended on numerous lists and in numerous reviews:
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming.
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. National Book Award winner.

Entertainment Weekly: 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2014. The usual suspects, plus a few more.
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison is starting to sound interesting. Also, maybe I’ll buy What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe as a gift for Engineer Husband.

NPR’s Book Concierge: Our Guide to 2014’s Great Reads.

As she does every year, Susan Thomsen at Chicken Spaghetti has lots more 2014 book lists, specifically those that include children’s and YA books.

From Semicolon
Christmas in Alaska, 1948

From The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill:

“When it was Christmastime, we had a tree in the school. . . We put popcorn strings on it and little chains made of green and red paper. That tree looked just beautiful.

It was supposed to have candles on it, but Miss Agnes said that spruce was too dry, the needles just falling off with a little sprinkling sound when you walked by it. We might set it on fire if we put candles on it.

Miss Agnes showed us some Christmas pictures from other countries, and those Christmas trees were just fat. Different from our skinny little trees. Our little skinny tree branches couldn’t even hold a candle, I don’t think.

Miss Agnes taught us a whole bunch of Christmas songs. Some we knew from the radio already. And we put on a play.”

Miss Agnes is the new teacher in a small Athabascan village in Alaska, and the narrator of the story is ten year old Fred, one of her pupils in the one-room schoolhouse. This 113 page book would make a good read aloud story for younger children or a good independent reading book for those who are confident enough to start reading chapter books by themselves. It’s a lovely story about a very special teacher, and the Christmas celebration that Miss Agnes has with her pupils and their parents is especially fun to read about.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.


From internetmonk.com
For my wife on our 36th wedding anniversary

Scan 1

A poem by Wendell Berry . . .


ScanTo tell a girl you loved her — my God! —
that was a leap off a cliff, requiring little
sense, sweet as it was. And I have loved

many girls, women too, who by various fancies
of my mind have seemed loveable. But only
with you have I actually tried it: the long labor,

the selfishness, the self-denial, the children
and grandchildren, the garden rows planted and gathered,
the births and deaths of many years.

We boys, when we were young and romantic
and ignorant, new to the mystery and the power,
would wonder late into the night on the cliff’s edge:

Was this love real? Was it true? And how
would you know? Well, it was time would tell,
if you were patient and could spare the time,

a long time, a lot of trouble, a lot of joy.
This one begins to look — would you say? — real?

by Wendell Berry
from Leavings: Poems

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Update: Still alive

I'm half way through.

I've finished the fall semester in my graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. I've completed 18 of the 36 credits I'll need for graduation, and should have them all this time next year, the Lord willing. It's all as time-consuming as I expected (no, more - I didn't anticipate how intensive the work would be), but if I want to qualify for World Domination, sacrifices must be made.

I'll try to post more often in the free time I'm about to have - the rest of December and most of January. But there are a lot of projects I've been putting off, and I find them clamoring for my evening time.

Anyway, thanks for your faithful readership.

Personally, I'm making physical progress. My new, android hip is working fine. The Original Manufacturer Equipment hip (the left one) still gives me some pain, but I've joined a health club and exercise it on a stationary bike three times a week. The improvement has been palpable, so I hope that with time I'll be all better again.

And now, in keeping with the season, a Swedish Christmas song by Sissel:

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Starbucks Opens the Coffee Temple

"These days, Starbucks stores function more like gas stations: They're everywhere, and frequented for fuel," writes Margaret Rhodes for WIRED. But to compete with third wave coffee roasters for high-end coffee, Starbucks has restored a one-hundred-year-old building to host its Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle. See the article for lots of pictures.

I'm thinking they keep the golden bulls in the back.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
How (Not) to Be Secular by J.K.A. Smith Wins CT's 2015 Book Awards

Many titles are recommended in today's list of Christianity Today's 2015 Book Awards, among them is James K.A. Smith's work on Charles Taylor's How to Be Secular. Smith makes Taylor's work accessible to a broader audience and adds a good bit of commentary himself.

In the fiction category, CT picks Lila by Marilynne Robinson and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

"Robinson slowly unfolds the story of Lila, a woman not quite defeated by a brutal, hardscrabble life, who discovers hope and security as the wife of an elderly pastor. Together, they wrestle with questions of the meaning of existence and the ultimate fate of humanity. Readers who loved Robinson's earlier novel, Gilead, will discover the same breathtaking writing, beautifully painted scenes, and strong working knowledge of theology." -Cindy Crosby, author of By Willoway Brook

And on The Invention of Wings:

"Based on the life of abolitionist Sarah Grimke and a fictional slave girl, Handful, the novel skillfully joins fiction and history, African American resilience and Southern white hypocrisy, Charlestonian exuberance and Quaker idealism. Kidd reminds us that the foundation of social injustice is ordinary human selfishness." -Betty Smartt Carter, author of Home Is Always the Place You Just Left

From TulipGirl
Was Honked At Today And Am Glad

Was honked at on the drive home today. When I looked over, the Ukrainian man smiled and gave me the thumbs up. Was trying to figure out why... Continue reading 

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
'Manual of Mockery,' by Ori Pomerantz

Our friend Ori Pomerantz has published another little e-book (I got mine free, for the record). This one is called Manual of Mockery, and its ostensible purpose is to instruct people in how to create good Internet memes.

In fact, it's an accessible short course in basic logical argument.


From TulipGirl
Looking for an “Angel Donor”

I wrote about my visit to Logos Center last week. The heating system is still not fully funded, and the winter is getting colder. There are rolling blackouts in parts of Ukraine, including Kyiv. This is to conserve the state’s … Continue reading 

From The Boar's Head Tavern

What happened since the 1990s is that most of us white dudes are totally exhausted. Apparently all right-thinking people now believe that it is quite wrong and untoward to say that a man has the ability to choose not to rob a store and then assault a police officer.

Since we’re at that point now where we all deny that anyone who isn’t a straight, white male could possibly have any agency whatsoever, you know what? I’m out. I don’t really care anymore. If you really, truly have absolutely zero control over your own life, well, I guess that’s too bad. Sorry.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

I’ve always thought that “Let it Go” was a pretty confused self-empowerment anthem. She sings about finding new freedom, but builds a little world where she can’t hurt anyone and no one can hurt her, says the cold doesn’t bother her, and slams to door to everyone else. Depression, anyone?

But hey, a Christian version of the song is already out there and is getting play on CCM Radio. Enjoy?

From The Boar's Head Tavern

Having 2 little girls myself, I appreciated that, Chris.

And I still can’t get over how amazingly horrible the storyline is for that movie. You can watch it a million times and it is still horrible. And sing the song over and over and over and it still doesn’t change. I guess I need to just let it go.

So, any of you who work in the church – do any of you ever get random cult like or borderline cult mailings? This was not something I expected when I became a pastor, and it does not happen often, but I have received some of the strangest pieces of mail as a pastor. Today I got one asking me to pray to ‘stem cell Jesus.’

From The Boar's Head Tavern
A year later, my girls are still listening to this soundtrack daily…

Let’s see if I can beat Matthew over here to post this. (Courtesy of @AJWTheology)


From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
VIDEO: "Our Stories of Faith and Film"

Here's a video of the panel discussion held October 24 during the 2014 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, Faith and Film. It was called "The Lives of (Three) Others: Our Stories of Faith and Film."

• John Wilson, Editor of Books and Culture and Editor-at-Large for Christianity Today
• William Romanowski, Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences, Calvin College
• Alissa Wilkinson, Assistant Professor of English and Humanities, The King's College and Film Critic for Christianity Today Movies

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Are We Witnessing a Writing Resurgence in Evangelicalism?

Owen Strachan thinks so. "Be of good cheer, evangelical-arts-aficionados. Good things are afoot."

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Yep, I forgot that one.

What about Charles Wesley and his Advent Hymn, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”? You could add one more, right?

Ah, that’s right. So call it three Advent hymns. I bet we only sing one of ‘em this December.

But I’m in an apostate, liberal mainline, so just the fact that Jesus comes up is a plus.

Almost thou persuadest me to become an apostate liberal mainliner!

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
"You'll have to find somewhere else to sleep"

Chicken coop, Coupeville, Island County, WA. Photo by Anne E. Kidd. Library of Congress

Today I was reminded of a man I wrote about here some years back. He's gone now, and one of his relatives came to the library today to donate several cartons of books from his personal collection.

I think it's all right to give his full name now. It was Marvin Rodvik, and he lived in Franklin, Minnesota. I met him a couple times in my life. The last time he gave us another gift of books. He also told me a story, which I passed along in this blog. I'll tell it again now, because it is, in my opinion, one of the best stories I ever heard for the Christmas season.

Marvin was a pastor's kid. The story happened when he was a teenager, probably (by my calculations) around the time of World War II.

An entertainment event of some kind (he didn't say what) was planned in their small town. Marvin announced at supper that he was going.

"You're not going," said his father. They belonged to a strict church, a congregation of the forerunner to my own church body.

"Yes I am," said Marvin. "You can't stop me."

His father paused a moment. Then he said, "You're right. I can't stop you. But know this. If you go to that event, you'll be locked out of this house when you come home tonight. You'll have to find somewhere else to sleep."

Marvin was stubborn. He went to the event.

("I don't even remember whether I had a good time," he told me. "But I'll always remember what I found when I got home.")

When he returned home, the front door was locked. He tried the back door. Locked.

He went to that cellar window that they'd always been able to crawl into in a pinch. Apparently his dad knew about that window, because it was sealed tight.

It was autumn. The night was getting cold. What could he do?

He thought of the chicken house (many pastors kept chickens in those days, to stretch their grocery money). There was a loft in the chicken house, where they used to play as kids. They'd had an old quilt up there.

He went into the chicken house and climbed the ladder to the loft. The quilt was gone. Unable to think of any other options, Marvin curled up on the boards and tried to sleep.

Time seemed to crawl. The ammonia smell of chicken droppings assaulted his nose. He got colder and colder, and began to shiver. He could not sleep.

After a time, he heard the chicken house door open. Steps crossed the floor, and he heard someone climbing the ladder.

A quilt was wrapped around him. He felt his father's strong arms embrace him as he lay down close to him.

"When I told you you had to sleep outside tonight," his father told him, "I didn't mean that I would sleep inside."

Happy Advent.

From The Boar's Head Tavern
What about Charles Wesley…

and his Advent Hymn, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”? You could add one more, right?

Since this is my first year in a new appointment, I again get to try to lovingly and slowly encourage observation of Advent. So, we’ve done a pretty good job holding off really Christmassy stuff so far. Also, I do have a few people who are really buying in to the season as far as building up to Christmas and anticipating. So there are a few visual things we are doing, slowly adding straw to the manger to prepare for the baby, our Advent graphic is building on itself, moving from out of focus to ‘in focus’ week by week, and singing “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” every week. For the most part, I’ve found laity to be pretty open to this sort of move if you teach with it. But I’m in an apostate, liberal mainline, so just the fact that Jesus comes up is a plus.

Jaredd wrote:
Sounds to me like you just measured it.

That’s what she said.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

That said, with very few exceptions, our churches are still largely organized under the homogeneous unit principle. They’re still segregated. Both within and outside churches, our Black neighbors still feel weighed down by our culture.

Sounds to me like you just measured it.

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Random thoughts from last Sunday

In bullet point format, since I would’ve posted this on my own blog but it’s got some back-end problems and I’m about half-way to moving it to a different hosting provider…

  • I’m really not ready for Christmas music yet in church. I’m getting liturgical in my advancing age, I guess, but I’m really ready to sing some advent hymns and ache a little bit singing ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ before we jump right in to all the ‘woohoo Jesus is born’ songs.
  • I recognize some difficulty here though: the traditional evangelical church hymnal that pretty much every church I’ve ever attended uses only has about two advent hymns in it: ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ and ‘Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence’. There’s gotta be more than that. *Cue snarky response from John H*.
  • It’s kinda like when we learned a new song for Easter and sang it every Sunday for four weeks before Easter. When you’ve sung ‘Christ is risen from the dead’ for all of Lent, somehow the drama of Easter loses a little of its punch.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

Jaredd, I gave a Twitter-length answer on our Twitter thread, but this may be a better format.

There’s no need to wrap your mind around how I’d measure the effect, because I have no intention to do so. I do find immense value in asking questions, though, even if they are uncomfortable. In this case, I ask it having spent time being discipled in the evangelical culture of that time, and attending two Promise Keeper events. I still have the books, and might still have the T-shirts. The big vision was to transform churches, America, even the world, to one where Black and White Christians modeled for everyone how racial reconciliation worked under Christ. It’s a good vision. I still hope for it. That said, with very few exceptions, our churches are still largely organized under the homogeneous unit principle. They’re still segregated. Both within and outside churches, our Black neighbors still feel weighed down by our culture. Whatever justifications one wishes to give for it, the problem is there.

With all that in mind, that’s the question I offer. It’s largely self-reflective, but is also offered that others might engage in self-reflection. Does it sound accusatory? Perhaps. Is that bad? Not necessarily.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Remaking TNR in Their Own Image

Chris Hughes, the owner of The New Republic, and new CEO Guy Vidra apparently don't care nothing for the history and style of their magazine or the people who have worked for it most recently. Both men are relatively new to the organization. Last Friday, the two arrived at the Washington office, having previously announced its closure and moving to New York, and were greeted by the mice and a few orphans.

I'm joking only a little. Ten contributing editors resigned over the firing of leading editors Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier. Foer had been given repeated assurance that his job was secure until the day he read in Gawker.com that he had been replaced.

According to multiple sources, Hughes came to think of his writers and editors as "spoiled brats," and especially disliked the flamboyant, feud-prone, white-maned Wieseltier, who was more than twice his age. Much of Hughes's distaste was telegraphed in his body language; he strikes many TNR staffers as passive-aggressive and averse to confrontation.

The friction escalated with the arrival of Vidra, who is said to have complained to Foer that the magazine was boring and that he couldn't bring himself to read past the first 500 words of an article. According to witnesses, Vidra did little to hide his disrespect for TNR's tradition of long-form storytelling and rigorous, if occasionally dense, intellectual and political analysis-to say nothing of his lack of interest in the magazine's distinguished history-at an all-hands meeting in early October.
Vidra said to someone in the room, "Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage." To which that someone replied, "There's no more faith in thee than in a stewed prune." They saw the writing on the wall at that point but did not leave until last week.

Hughes has been described as "a most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no one good quality." I didn't get any sources for these quotations. In fact, you could say I made them up, but let's keep it nice, thou cream-faced loon.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
N.D. Wilson on Adapting 'The Hound of Heaven' for Film

Author N.D. Wilson has directed a short film of the Francis Thompson poem, "The Hound of Heaven." Shadowlocked.com has part of an interview with Wilson on how everything came together.

So what's it like adapting somebody else's work as opposed to your own?

Well, honestly I'm far more comfortable adapting other people's stuff than my own. And actually, in some ways, because I can be a stickler. I can be a stickler to try to stay true as I possibly can to their vision, when I'm adapting their stuff. But when I'm adapting my stuff, I don't feel any loyalty at all to it. I feel complete and total authority to change whatever I want, whenever I want.

And so when I'm adapting C.S. Lewis or even trying to serve Francis Thompson, I felt like I could write an intro, like I could write an opening monologue for Propaganda, but I couldn't bring myself to edit the poem. No matter how many people told me, "Well, surely you're not going to do the whole poem", it was like, "No, I'm gonna do the whole poem. I'm doing all of it." Because I really wanted it to come through.

If I'm doing my own things, like I'm doing 100 Cupboards, I'm thinking, like, "Oh, wow, I can throw this part away, and do this other thing that I was going to have in the novel, and I needed to cut it for space, but now I can put it in. I can take things that ended up on the cutting room floor of my novel, and put them into the film." And I feel completely at liberty to do that. And that's dangerous.
Read more about the movie here.

"I fled him . . . in the mist of tears . . .
'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.'"

From Gospel Driven Church
The Gospel, Fathoms Deep

Ever felt Ephesians 2:1-10? You’ve probably read it, maybe multiple times. But ever felt it? Ever drunk it? Steeped in it? Had it knock you over?

Ephesians 2:1-3 is just brutal. Paul pulls no punches. How bad are we? Really, really, really, ridiculously bad. According to those three short verses we are, apart from Christ, dead. Dead, Paul says. Like, you know, dead-dead.

“But wait,” we think, “I sure didn’t feel dead. I could do stuff.” Oh, you mean like obeying your appetites (v.3), following the way of the world (v.2), and worshiping Satan (v.2)? Good job there.

It doesn’t get worse than this. We are dead, belly-ruled, world-following, devil worshipers. The curse we both suffer and embrace has us hemmed in on all sides. There is no escaping. We are much, much worse than we think we are.

Oh! But verse 4! Two sweet words start the reversal of our will and fate. Two words. Not “be still” but with the same effect — the ten-hutting of a storm. Two words that part the sea, roll back the darkness with violent force, like the jolting, snapping up of window shades. Two little words like wings of a seraph, breaking through our tomb with a bright ray of light and lifting us up and through the spiritual aether, seating us in the heavenlies (v.6).

“But God.”

Two words: the crash cart, the smelling salts, the sweet manna, the dagger in the devil’s neckbone.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ . . .

You feel that? Not if you didn’t feel verses one through three, you didn’t. “Til sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet,” Thomas Watson tells us.

The curse is four fathoms deep and un-swim-uppable. But “but God” signals the divine retrieval, our Spiritual surfacing, our deliverance. “But God” barrels in, carrying us out in two strong arms. “But God” heralds the arrival of God’s glory, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and in its wake trails the train of all the blessings Christ has purchased for us with himself.

If you understand those two words — “but God” — they will save your soul.
James Montgomery Boice

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
SALE: The System Has a Soul by Hunter Baker

"What relevance does Christianity have in our societal system? What place does the church have in a system that so often seems to be ordered only by the ultra-complex machinery of state power and corporate strategy?"

Hunter Baker answers these questions and more in his collection of essays, The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life. Get it today for almost half-price.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Admiration for Islam (and Godwin's Law)

Godwin's Law of Usenet discussions states that the longer a discussion of anything goes, the more likely someone will compare someone else to the Nazis. In other words, if you talk about My Little Pony in a discussion forum long enough, someone will call you a disciple of Hitler. So lets start this history post with our best foot forward.

Hilter admired Islam. "Both Hitler and Himmler had a soft spot for Islam. Hitler several times fantasized that, if the Saracens had not been stopped at the Battle of Tours, Islam would have spread through the European continent-and that would have been a good thing, since 'Jewish Christianity' wouldn't have gone on to poison Europe."

But Muslims did not return the admiration in full. "Few Muslims believed Nazi claims that Hitler was the protector of Islam, much less the Twelfth Imam, as one Reich pamphlet suggested. The Nazis' anti-Jewish propaganda no doubt attracted many Muslims, as historian Jeffrey Herf has documented, but they balked at believing that Hitler would be their savior or liberator. . . . In the end, more Muslims wound up fighting for the Allies than for the Axis." (via Prufrock)

From TulipGirl
Logos Center – Holistic Help in Ukraine

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting Logos Center, a holistic community health center which has been pressed into service to house over 200 people fleeing the war in eastern Ukraine. Founded and in large part supported by Ukrainians, Logos … Continue reading 

From The Wilsonian Institute
Deacon: 11 Month Update

Around 20 lbs

Around 29 in

Clothing Size:
He's still in 12 month clothes for the most part. There are a couple of 9 month items I'm still squeezing him into as well, but those days are coming to an end!

Bubba and buster seem to be the two he gets the most often.

Right now he's sleeping 11-12 hours a night and getting two 2ish hour naps a day. He's still waking up for at least one feeding at night though, so I plan to do some kind of sleep training this month to get him sleeping all the way through before his first birthday... say a prayer for us!

He's still a pretty good eater! He really likes his veggies and his snacks (Plum Organic Teething Crackers are a gift from the Lord!) He's not a fan of bananas or any berry. So unfortunate! I keep trying to sneak him blueberries or strawberries and he keeps spitting them right back out! Ha. He loves feeding himself too, so any small item that he can pick up is usually an easy sell.

Crawling, standing, eating, being tickled, playing with Dada, "catching and throwing" a ball and playing with his socks/shoes.

Having his face wiped. If it were up to him he'd be crusty all day, everyday!

He's currently cutting his two front teeth, bringing the grand total to 5! He's also starting to imitate us, play more independently and he tries to catch and throw the ball (usually).

Best Moment:
This month has been full of sweet, everyday moments. I don't know if I'd be able to pick just one, but I'm savoring all of the big smiles, belly laughs and mama-cuddles. He is quite possibly one of the happiest, most fun babies in existence.

Worst Moment:
We've still had a couple of hard nights since he's teething, but overall it hasn't been too bad.

Other Tidbits:
- I know this probably won't last forever, but I really love grocery shopping with Deacon. He generally just sits there and talks to me, tries to "get" me and smiles at the other people we pass. I usually have at least one person stop me and tell me how sweet/cute/good he is when we're out and about :-)
- He has started to show a little more of his mischievous side this month. It's funny for now, but it's a reminder that the days of discipline aren't far away either!
- He is ticklish EVERYWHERE. Some favorites are his ribs, collarbones, belly, thighs and feet.
- Right now he thinks I am HILARIOUS. Like, all I have to do is look at him and say "BOO!" and he starts cracking up. And if I decide to pop out from behind a doorway or the couch, forgettaboutit. Dada gets plenty of laughs too, but at the moment Mama seems to be the funniest/silliest one in this house :wink:

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Send Global Study Bibles to India, Africa, and Asia

Crossway Books is preparing "to distribute 250,000 free copies of the ESV Global Study Bible, to strategic leaders in strategic places, where the need is greatest." They have large matching grants in place and ask for our help to get these Bibles printed and distributed. They are praying to receive the needed funds by December 31.

The ESV Global Study Bible has 12,000 study notes adapted from the popular ESV Study Bible, plus a global application of each book, fourteen articles written by global Christian leaders, introductions and timelines for each Bible book, nearly 900 highlighted Bible facts, and more.

From The Living Room
advent: day one

“I always say Advent is my favorite season of the church year, and then Lent comes around…”

“Yeah, I think they’re good seasons for melancholy people.”

“Mmm. Yes.”

* * *
The world as it is now is broken and messy and lost, y’all. Creation laments. The martyrs ask “How long?” Even now in the country where I live, there are people who have no knowledge of God who know things are wrong and are meant to be different. They’re crying out for justice. And they’re crying out for mercy.

And more than that, much of my heart is still broken and messy and lost. There are too many shrines to dark deities set up in a house that should be wholly dedicated to the true God. My voice gets added to the chorus crying out for things to be fixed–for me to be fixed.

The waiting doesn’t only feel like ages; it has been ages. Immanuel has come and ransomed us, but we’re still looking down the road waiting to see Him come walking back to tell us that the place He’s preparing is finally ready.

Even still, we get called to straighten up and raise up our heads, because our redemption is drawing near–not just in some distant future, but it keeps getting nearer and nearer. “The word itself is very near you,” writes Paul–“it is in your heart and in your mouth.” And the Word repairs us from the inside out. And one day He’ll show us what He did. In the meantime, we keep looking up at Him. And we wait, and we rejoice.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Minder, by Duncan MacMaster

A while back, I reviewed Joe Average, a satiric superhero story written by Duncan MacMaster, of the Furious D Show blog. I liked the book quite a bit.

I liked his recent novella, Minder, even better.

This is a dark and gritty story, suitable for a movie starring Liam Neeson. A crime boss in an unnamed city learns that a contract has been put out on a local woman cop. He doesn't want a cop killing in his town. It's bad for business. So he hires "Fitz," a professional killer and IRA veteran, to protect her.

The story is well-written, the characters believable, the dialogue excellent. It's simply a workmanlike hard-boiled story, entirely satisfying to the fan of the genre. The sort of thing Jack Higgins would have written before he ran out of steam. I wished it longer.


From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
It Isn't Writing, It's Coding the Computer to Write

With NaNoWriMo coming to a close, let's look at November again as National Novel Generation Month. It's the month in which you write code that will spew forth a 50,000 word composition when you're done and work out the bugs. "Reading an entire generated novel is more a feat of endurance than a testament to the quality of the story, which tends to be choppy, flat, or incoherent by the standards of human writing," remarks the guy who came up with NaNoGenMo last year. You might read a few pages here and there, but really, this isn't Raymond Chandler. It's not even on the same city block.

From The Wilsonian Institute
Cough Drop Christianity

I was recently under the weather (like many others) and in frequent use of cough drops. I noticed the particular brand that I was using offered "a pep talk in every drop." The cough drop wrappers have inspirational phrases printed on them to, I guess, lift your spirits.
Phrases actually found on these wrappers include (but are not limited to): "Keep your chin up," "Conquer today," "Elicit a few 'wows,' and "Don't give up on yourself."

I've always struggled with the idea of pep talks that aren't grounded in any sort of truth. Blame it on the cynic in me or my lack of emotion, but if there's no reasoning behind "keep your chin up," I have a really hard time being convinced to keep my chin up.

I've heard motivational speakers tell crowds of high school students that the only thing keeping them from having a great day is the decision to just "be awesome." That's such a cotton candy approach. It might get you out the door, but sooner or later reality of a broken, fallen world will set in. A pep talk might lift your spirits when you realize someone at the last donut. But if your mind is overcome by the real tragedies and disasters that affect this world, let alone the discouragement we can muster in our own minds, positive thinking won't cut it.

Sadly, most people outside of Christianity never hear about victory that is grounded in the eternal hope of Christ. It's also important to recognize that many Christians don't either. A lot of Christians are settling for motivational speaking rather than the transforming truth of God's word. It's concerning that some sermon points could double as cough drop wrapper pep talks. The ideas that "all that you need is found in yourself" or that fulfillment is found in "eliciting wows" are contrary to the gospel message of Jesus.

We can't handle everything that comes our way on our own. We don't have everything we need within ourselves to conquer the world or even the day. These deficiencies and weaknesses highlight our need for a Savior. We may want to believe that we can do anything if we just believe in ourselves, but we are saved by faith in Christ, not faith in ourselves.

Self-sufficiency is a really dangerous mindset to adopt. Self-sufficient people don't know their need for a savior, so they won't surrender to a savior. They also won't point others to the Savior. That's the ugly flipside of "cough drop Christianity."

I'm not condoning self-loathing, either. Please don't get me wrong. I believe we should all walk in confidence, freedom and victory. And I believe we all have worth. I just believe that confidence, freedom, victory, and worth are all found in Christ.

I often find that the music of modern hymn writers, Keith and Kristyn Getty really ministers to me. Their song, "My Worth Is Not In What I Own" really reiterates the truer, better pep talk that comes in claiming and celebrating the gospel of Christ and the worth that we find in Him alone. May it minister to you, as well, and serve as a reminder of the antidote to Cough Drop Christianity that we have in the gospel of Christ!

From Gospel Driven Church
OFI Conference, January 15-17

Join Daniel Montgomery, Dave Harvey, and myself in Tallahassee, Florida January 15-17 for the Of First Importance Conference.

(OFI) Conference exists to help pastors and ministry leaders consider what it really looks like to prioritize the good news of Jesus in life and ministry.

More info and registration at link above.


From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Creationism – How Old is the World?

from Aish.com by Dr. Gerald Schroeder

How did I get to this site?  My thought process was something like

  1. How old is the world?
  2. How old is the world according to Scripture?
  3. How can we best understand what Scripture means (answer: find out what the people who wrote it and originally read it thought it meant.)
  4. Who would know better what the ancient Jews thought…than ancient Jews?
  5. What is the closest we can get to that?

A lot of this made my head hurt.

Dr. Gerald Schroeder earned his BSc, MSc and double-Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics and Earth and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology…

So…he’s a smart guy  ;-)

Now…add to that, the Bible commentary he uses is all pre-1300 (so, no modern science has affected the reading of Scripture.)

In 1959, a survey was taken of leading American scientists. (…)Two-thirds of the scientists gave the same answer: “Beginning? There was no beginning. Aristotle and Plato taught us 2400 years ago that the universe is eternal. Oh, we know the Bible says ‘In the beginning.’ That’s a nice story, but we sophisticates know better. There was no beginning.”

That was 1959. In 1965, Penzias and Wilson discovered the echo of the Big Bang in the black of the sky at night, and the world paradigm changed from a universe that was eternal to a universe that had a beginning. After 3000 years of arguing, science has come to agree with the Torah.

Okay – when do the Jews say the universe began?  They start with Rosh Hoshana – the Jewish New Year.

Hayom Harat Olam ― today is the birthday of the world.”

Does it mean that (about)5,700 years ago, the universe came into existence?  According to this article, the “birthday of the world” celebrates, not the cosmos, but rather the creation of the human soul.

So (to use the article’s wording) the Bible has two clocks.  The first “clock” is the time leading up to Adam, the second clock begins with the soul of Adam.

One of the reasons for seeing this concept is the language.  Is there anywhere else in the Bible where a “day” is described as “morning and evening?”  This bizarre word usage is used until Adam; after Adam “normal” human time is always used.

Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations;(Deut 32:7 ESV)

Nachmanides (died 1270 AD) saw this verse as “split time” – “days of old” = pre-Adam; “many generations” = post Adam.