"And do you now begin to see why Christianity has always said that the devil is a fallen angel? That is not a mere story for the children. It is a real recognition of the fact that evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given it by goodness."

- C.S. Lewis
Posts From Our Blogroll
From internetmonk.com
Sundays with Michael Spencer: February 1, 2015

42_Hof_Gefaengnis_Tegel_1944

Note from CM: 2015 will mark five years since the death of Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk. Today, we continue our “Sundays with Michael” series with an excerpt from post that was originally published in January 2009.

• • •

Dietrich Bonhoeffer has been an influence on my life since high school. His Letters and Papers from Prison was the only theological book my parents ever bought for me: Christmas 1976. His provocative and elegant writing give a beautiful witness to a man who developed a wonderful theological mind, was not afraid to move forward to the unknown in his journey with God and taught all Christians of our time to be faithful to Jesus in the midst of the claims of the “powers” of this world, even unto death.

Toward the end of a lecture about Bonhoeffer that I recently heard by Earl Palmer, Palmer read a very brief paragraph about the sovereignty of God over evil.

I believe that God can and will bring good out of evil, even out of the greatest evil. For that purpose, he needs men who make the best use of everything.

I like that thought very much. It reminds me of the wonderful passage out of Jeremiah 29 where Jeremiah writes a letter to the exiled community of God’s people living in the midst of Babylon for 70 years:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

In other words, God can and will bring good out of evil, and for that purpose he needs people who make the best use of everything.

The encouragement of this passage can easily be overlooked. We may find ourselves in evil times and places, and our confidence is in a God who brings good out of evil. For Bonhoeffer, that was years of unfair incarceration in Nazi prisons preceding his execution a day before allied troops liberated the prison.

By all reports, Bonhoeffer made the best use of everything. He preached to the prisoners. He prayed with them. He composed poems and liturgy. He led music. He befriended the guards. He wrote theology. He wrote letters. He encouraged his parents, his friends and his fiancée.

He made the best use of everything.

The prosperity disease tells us to worship and seek to manipulate a God who will give us prosperity while others suffer. It promises protection and a way to have more.

Bonhoeffer and Jeremiah tell us to be useful to others. To live a normal, human life with God’s hope in the midst of it. To find reasons to do what we can wherever we are, rather than find reasons for all we cannot do because of those same circumstances.

I recall that in every prison camp, the Jewish people made orchestras, taught dance, held synagogue, created libraries. In Japanese prisons, allied prisoners organized universities. In tiny churches amidst Katrina rubble, Christians use their time to rebuild houses in the community, rather than concentrate all their efforts on themselves and their own worship centers.

God will bring good out of evil, and for that purpose he needs people who make the best use of everything.

From internetmonk.com
Saturday Ramblings – Jan 31, 2015 (Jim Cantore Edition)

1957 Rambler Custom Car in Snow

1957 Rambler Custom Car in Snow

Good morning iMonk community! Pastor Dan is away on a prayer retreat this weekend, so I’m filling in.

And I say, Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! We made it through Winter Storms Juno and Kari (reports below), now this weekend we’re facing WS Linus here in the Midwest. Where I live we’ll probably only get a few inches of snow, but anything measurable will far exceed the pitiful dustings we’ve had this winter. I am a four seasons kind of guy, and am hoping for something a little more significant. Plus, I’d really like to take my camera out for some winter wonderland shots.

But wherever you are, and whatever the weather, come on, let’s ramble!

• • •

snowflake-clipart-transparent-background-bcyE66qcLWe’ll get this first one out of the way . . . fast. Here is my vote for groan-worthy church sign of the week:

IMG_0738

And yes, I am sorry to report that some are making up their own versions of “Christian” songs from this lyric. ‘Cause nothing says “Jesus” better than taking a pop song about a woman’s naughty bits and changing it so that it’s about the Lord. Right? See for yourself . . .


snowflake-clipart-transparent-background-bcyE66qcLLet’s move on to something only slightly more ludicrous: CBS News reports that plastic surgery for pets is on the rise. That’s right, according to Petplan claims data, U.S. dog owners spent $62 million in 2011 on plastic surgery treatments. And according to the company that makes them, 500,000 male cats and dogs received a new set of “Neuticles” (testicular implants) after having been neutered. Because, you know, Fido and Garfield still want to be playas after the big snip.

To be fair, many of the procedures serve to correct real medical conditions that pet owners didn’t foresee when they purchased the particular breed of dog or cat they chose.

All I know, is that with a product like Neuticles available as a sponsor, there is sure to be a reality show based in Beverly Hills on the horizon.

photos-2015-jan-blizzard-whale-034snowflake-clipart-transparent-background-bcyE66qcLNext, here’s a report from one of our Northeast iMonks about the big storm this past week. I received the following from Ted who lives on an island off Downeast Maine:

Hmmm.   I won’t say it was a non-event because we did get a foot of snow (I think—there’s bare ground over here and drifts over there) but mostly it was just plain NOISY, cold and drafty, and the living room and dining room windows proved that they’re obsolete (snow between the inner and storm windows).  Gusts to hurricane force at times, and an unofficial report of more than 100 mph. We didn’t lose electricity (yet, and I’m optimistic that we won’t) but I had dug the portable generator out of the corner of my shop just in case, and have plenty of gasoline in Grand-Dad’s old outhouse.  There’s three feet of snow drifted in front of the outhouse door, but it’s the dry and fluffy stuff so even if Grand-Dad were still alive and had to go, or if I needed the gas, it wouldn’t slow us down much. All boats in the cove are OK because a northeast wind puts them in the lee here at Little Cranberry Island—but the day afterward becomes the real test, when the back side of the storm pulls air out of the Arctic and the boats are more exposed.  But, anything in the water in January will be on a pretty stout mooring (mine is 4400 pounds of granite, and I’m serious about having good chain) so it’s rare for anything to go ashore.  The last time a lobster boat went adrift was the Ground Hog Day storm of 1976, although summer boats do go adrift on a predictable basis because summer people don’t really know how to handle boats.  One little yacht went ashore during the 4th of July hurricane last year, but that was excusable—after all, a maple tree got dumped on my roof the same day. The big event of this storm is yet to be determined—whether Triomphe, the dead 36-foot humpback whale that washed ashore Christmas Day, is still down on the back beach in front of the old Coast Guard Station.

In an update, Ted reports the whale is still there, but the wind moved her down the beach a bit (see picture).

snowflake-clipart-transparent-background-bcyE66qcLsuper-bowl-parties-cheap-potluck-buffetFrom The Salt and other sources, here are a few food facts for Sunday’s big game:

  • Americans will consume 1.25 billion chicken wings while watching.
  • 1.25 billion wings weigh 5,955 times more than the combined weight of the Seahawks and Patriots players.
  • Americans will consume an estimated 325.5 million gallons of beer on the day.
  • With Sunday also being the day the most pizza and tortilla chips are consumed, the average person will consume more than 2,400 calories during the game.
  • This Sunday is the second-largest day for consumption of food and drink for Americans, behind Thanksgiving Day.

What are your plans? Is this national holiday one that you observe?

snowflake-clipart-transparent-background-bcyE66qcLSoviDAmOur friend Randy Thompson gives us another storm report now. Randy lives in Bradford, NH, and here’s how they saw Winter Storm Juno:

I really wish I had something dramatic and first-hand to tell you about the Big Snow Blow we had Tuesday in eastern New England, but unfortunately, this was just another snow storm here in central New Hampshire: Fourteen inches of snow on the driveway to dig and blow. Or, in other words, a two-visits-from-the-plow-guy storm. For the folks south of here, though, it was the weather equivalent of the Left Behind series and a Roland Emmerich movie come true. One of our Forest Haven Board members, Inter-Varsity’s Scott Brill, reported there was over 30 inches of snow in Worcester. Southern New Hampshire got pounded as well, especially around Nashua. Some place in Maine had wind gusting over 70 mph, my wife tells me. However, for you meteorology fans, the big weather news in New Hampshire is always Mount Washington, on top of which blizzard conditions are part of the normal routine. As I write this, the temperature up there is six degrees (F) with 62 mph winds, gusting to 72 mph, which means the wind chill temperature is minus forty-two degrees. For Mount Washington, this is no big deal.

snowflake-clipart-transparent-background-bcyE66qcL3d1c6c7abce5fbab02d06a085292b2d394 year old Siegfried Meinstein has a dilemma. NPR calls it “the plight of the living dead.” Nice.

You see, when Meinstein filed his federal taxes electronically last year, the system kicked out his submission immediately. Why? Because he’s dead. At least that what their records say. Einstein’s Social Security number appeared in their records showing just that. So he called Social Security. Not their problem, he was told, call the IRS. So he did. Not their problem, he was told, call Social Security.

On top of that runaround, he then received a notice from the IRS saying that they had $14,000 for him in refunds. Only problem is, said the IRS, we can’t locate your tax forms — you need to submit them.

Cue Joni Mitchell . . .

And the seasons they go round and round 
And the painted ponies go up and down 
We’re captive on the carousel of time 
We can’t return we can only look 
Behind from where we came 
And go round and round and round 
In the circle game

snowflake-clipart-transparent-background-bcyE66qcLWinslow Homer A WINTER MORNING, SHOVELLING OUT 1871From her home in Maine, Joanie sent me this nice picture of a Winslow Homer work called, “A Winter Morning Shoveling Out.” However, folks in her neck of the woods apparently didn’t have to do as much of that as they feared:

Hi, Mike. Even though all State offices yesterday (1-27-15) were closed in Maine, where I live in the foothills of the mountains, we didn’t get a lot of snow. At 9 pm last night, it was 6 inches. We will measure it again this morning. We had a lot of wind, though. In Lewiston and Portland, places got 27 inches of snow.  All State offices are open today although some courts are still closed.  A lot of schools south of me are closed today.

[1-28] . . . So, total inches for us was 7 inches!  No photos taken today. I have coworkers further south in Maine still shoveling out at 4 pm today.

If you live where any of these storms has made life more interesting this past week, please let us know. It’s a proven fact that relationships are built through talking about the weather.

Finally, this is just way cool.snowflake-clipart-transparent-background-bcyE66qcL

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This week, Canadian ice climbers Will Gadd and Sarah Hueniken became the first to ascend a frozen Niagra Falls. They climbed a 30-foot-wide strip of spray ice that formed along the left edge of Horseshoe Falls, which rises up 150 feet as it straddles the border between the United States and Canada.

Red Bull sponsored the climb, and had intended to keep it secret until after the Super Bowl. But the news leaked out and so the company released the story. Horseshoe Falls is the largest section of Niagra Falls and is considered the most powerful waterfall in the world. As far as anyone knows, it has never completely frozen.

Gadd was one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year and is renowned as an extreme athlete. He said the most difficult challenge of this historic first ascent was not the climb itself, but the year of red tape he had to negotiate to get a permit for the climb.

Even this brief video of Gadd’s climb is breathtaking.

 

From Semicolon
Read Aloud Revival

I haven’t managed to post much here on Semicolon this week for two reasons:

1) I’m reading a really long and somewhat discouraging biography of Florence Harding, and I don’t really know what I’m going to say about it. The book itself and the writing are fine; it’s the people and events that the book chronicles that are discouraging and sad. I can’t believe that anyone could be as sexually promiscuous and dishonorable as President Harding and still live with himself, much less become president of the United States. No wonder the twenties were roaring.

2) On a more encouraging note, I have been gorging myself on a podcast, listening in the car and at home every available moment. I don’t do audio-books, and I haven’t done podcasts. I’m not an auditory learner, and I find that with audiobooks, my attention tends to wander off into some foreign pasture when I’m supposed to be grazing on a good book. But this podcast! Others have tried to tell me about it; Amy at Hope Is the Word has mentioned it several times, but I probably saw the word “podcast” and skimmed over with glazed eyes.

Anyway, the podcast is Read Aloud Revival, produced by Sarah MacKenzie at Amongst Lovely Things. I found it on iTunes and began by listening to the interview with Sarah Clarkson, On Living a Story-formed Life, because Ms. Clarkson’s website, Storyformed.com, is where I actually tuned in and the podcast registered in my brain. So, Sarah’s interview with Sarah was lovely, and quotable, and I went around thinking about living a story formed life and and creating a family culture of books and stories.

Then, I saw that Sarah MacKenzie had interviewed one of my favorite people, Melissa Wiley of Here in the Bonny Glen, so I had to listen to that episode of the podcast. Melissa made me remember all about how I love her philosophy of tidal homeschooling and how I want to just slow don and read more, but also more slowly, and quit worrying about getting all the subjects covered. And I thought about how I really want to meet Melissa someday (and now both Sarahs, too).

If you give a mouse a cookie . . . I just had to next go back and start at the beginning of Read Aloud Revival podcast and listen to every episode. So far there are eighteen episodes, and I’ve listened to numbers one through eight, plus number seventeen, the Sarah Clarkson interview. Thus far, I’ve been inspired to read aloud and read aloud some more by Andrew Pudewa of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, even though my youngest child is thirteen now and could read everything for herself, although she doesn’t want to read anything by herself (another story). And I’ve been drawn to a whole list of audiobooks and storytelling recordings that I would love to beg, borrow, steal or buy if absolutely necessary, not for me, but for my youngest and for my library. And I’m determined to make more time for Shakespeare in our days. And I want to have more in-depth and interesting conversations with my children about the books we’re reading.

Oh, flibbertigibbet, you don’t want to listen to me talking about this podcast any longer; go thou, and listen for yourself. I am inspired and replete with homeschooling read aloud goodness. Thank you, Ms. MacKenzie and Read Aloud Revival for the shot in the arm that my homeschool year needed.

Finally, after I listen to the other ten or so episodes of Read Aloud Revival, does anyone have any other podcast suggestions for me? They don’t have to be about reading or homeschooling, just any podcasts that I can subscribe to and listen to in the car that you think are insightful and engaging.

I think I’ll start a list to refer back to.

Sarah MacKenzie has her own list of podcasts and other listening stuff:

Quiddity: CIRCE Institute podcast.

Homeschooling IRL with Kendra Fletcher.

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: January 31, 2015

“When you reread a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than was there before.” ~Clifton Fadiman

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.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

From The Wilsonian Institute
Small Talk(ing)


If you're a fan of comedy you might enjoy watching comedians talk about the craft of comedy. I always find it interesting (and entertaining) to hear the thought processes that go into writing a joke or bit or even a set of jokes. In Jerry Seinfeld's web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, as the title implies, Seinfeld picks up a fellow comedian in some unique car and they simply go out for coffee. It's usually entertaining because comedians are typically funny and it's often fascinating because you get a behind-the-curtain look at how comedians think.

In a recent episode Jerry's guest was comedian/actor, Kevin Hart. During their discussion something stood out to me that I think has striking implications outside of comedy. Seinfeld began professing his disdain for the use of pyrotechnics, flash, lasers, stunts, etc. before a stand-up comedy routine. He mentioned it might work for some people (like guest Kevin Hart) but he preferred a much more yeoman-like approach, similar to Mike Tyson's approach to a boxing match. Tyson went against the grain of the flashy, bombastic performances that many prize fighters were known to embrace by coming out in a simple terry cloth "poncho" instead of a silky long, embellished robe. As Seinfeld remembered, "He would cut a hole in the hotel towel... no socks... so stool... he came ready to fight... It's a reduced essence."

Seinfeld's reasoning? Too much lead up to the actual stand-up routine "makes the talking seem small." I couldn't help but to transfer this assessment to modern church culture. A lot of churches with vast resources create fantastic events which help to raise attendance and interest. The danger, though, is what Seinfeld fears about his shows: that the talking (sermon) might be made to seem small. The message from God's Word is meant to be the centerpiece of a worship gathering. If there is more emphasis placed on creating an exciting environment or attractive event than on hearing from God, we've missed the mark. There is an adage in ministry that says "what you win them with is what you when them to." The idea here is that if people are "hooked" by hype then that is what they will desire and will often find themselves dissatisfied and unfulfilled.

A similar scenario unfolds in the Mark 8. After we read about Jesus miraculously feeding a multitude, some Pharisees demand a sign from Him as a test. But Jesus questions their desires, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation."
NOTE: I am not saying Jesus' miracle is empty hype. I am simply pointing out that people are often attracted to the fantastic and then err by letting it distract them from a richer truth.

If we are truly longing to know and follow Christ we will, like Paul, keep the Gospel as our top priority (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This was Jesus emphasis, too, when asked for a sign in Matthew 12. He replies, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." Knowing that the people were testing Jesus out of curiosity as a test and wanting to simply see something amazing, Jesus responded with a prophecy about His resurrection from the dead!

Stay alert, folks! Let's not be considered an evil generation that only longs for a fantastic event and dismisses the message of God's truth as it gets overshadowed. God talks to us through His Word. He talks to us through the Spirit. He talks to us through faithful preaching.

Let's avoid anything that makes "the talking seem small."

From internetmonk.com
Empathy

empathy_big

Note from CM: I received an email from Mike Bell yesterday asking for a leave from writing for IM for awhile. They have received some bad news about a family member whose cancer has returned, and Mike will have additional responsibilities in the days to come. He is also facing some increasing demands at work. Please keep Mike and his family in your prayers. We appreciate him so much around here. I’ll ask him to send regular updates so we can keep everyone informed.

• • •

empathy [em-puh-thee]
noun. 1. the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

Last night I read an interesting column by Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times on the subject of empathy. He reports some pertinent observations on the topic that give us an intriguing glimpse into human nature, especially as it is revealed in affluent cultures like ours.

For some empathy is no more than skin deep. Psychologists have found that people with cute faces generate more empathy from others — “which is why so many charities feature photos of children and why so many conservation organizations feature pandas.”

Kristoff notes that other studies suggest wealth may impede empathy. He reasons that this may be because wealth tends to insulate people from need. The face of my neighbor becomes more distant, and I can afford to become more theoretical about the disadvantaged and their concerns. Other studies indicate that wealth can turn us inward and we may not see our neighbor or her need at all.

In discussing lack of empathy, he stops here, but even these two brief observations say a lot about human nature and behavior.

The-Impact-of-Empathy(1) Our hearts go out to those we find attractive. This is a challenge to Christians and churches in many of our settings. For in Christ even the most unloveable and least attractive are worthy of our personal attention, heartfelt commitment, and unwavering support.

Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. (1Thess 5:14-15, MSG)

(2) Our hearts go out to those with whom we personally interact. As long as I live I will insist that we must fight against the separatist tendencies of religion every day of our lives. And the more I read the New Testament, the more I see that this has been at the heart of the church’s weakness in every generation. For Christianity, defined by Paul, is “faith working through love,” not “faith surrounding myself with the people I like and with whom I feel comfortable.” Anything, whether it’s wealth or something else, that keeps me from knowing my neighbor, listening to him, and caring for him, is insulation that turns my heart cold and distant.

The suggestions Nicholas Kristoff gives for increasing empathy in our lives are essentially about engaging life as it is, not standing apart from life and theorizing about it. He encourages thinking about real stories of suffering and reading good literary fiction that accurately depicts life and humanizes people in all walks of life. Taking time for reflection, meditation, and prayer. Going out into nature and exercising our “awe” muscles. Participating in service projects. Getting outside our comfort zones; ripping out the insulation that keeps us from feeling our neighbor’s pain and enjoying our neighbor’s happiness.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.

• Romans 12:13-18, MSG

Guess what?

There’s not one of us that’s going to do this perfectly.

Only Jesus ever empathized fully with the people around him, and met their needs with a perfect touch and just the right word.

But that’s no excuse to stay locked up in your own little world, wondering why the rest of the world can’t get it together.

Newness of life and the gift of the Spirit are yours for just this reason: to set you free from that prison.

To set you free to empathize. To love.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Carson: "Pray Until You Pray"

D.A. Carson has a revision to one of his older books now available with a complementary study guide and DVD. The new edition is called Praying With Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation. Here's an excerpt from that book.

His points in this post are moving. I particularly like this one on steering your heart into action.

8. Pray until you pray.

This is Puritan advice. It does not simply mean that persistence should mark much of our praying-though admittedly that is a point the Scriptures repeatedly make. Even though he was praying in line with God's promises, Elijah prayed for rain seven times before the first cloud appeared in the heavens. . . . That is not quite what the Puritans mean when they exhorted one another to "pray until you pray." What they mean is that Christians should pray long enough and honestly enough, at a single session, to get past the feeling of formalism and unreality that attends not a little praying. We are especially prone to such feelings when we pray for only a few minutes, rushing to be done with a mere duty. To enter the spirit of prayer, we must stick to it for a while. If we "pray until we pray," eventually we come to delight in God's presence, to rest in his love, to cherish his will. Even in dark or agonized praying, we somehow know we are doing business with God. In short, we discover a little of what Jude means when he exhorts his readers to pray "in the Holy Spirit" (Jude 20)-which presumably means it is treacherously possible to pray not in the Spirit.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Old Earth…Young Earth…

layers

I've read on this for a while (years) and I remain a creationist.  I believe that God created - not evolved.  I don't think that God-directed evolution is correct.  God created.

I'm just not sure that the "day" of Genesis 1 represents a literal 24-hour period.

Then Justin Taylor wrote "Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days Were 24-Hour Periods"

One of his points I've heard before.

Genesis 1:1

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Okay...are we reading a prelude, a heading title, or a summary of what follows?

Taylor writes:

Genesis 1:1 tells us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

This is not a title or a summary of the narrative that follows. Rather, it is a background statement that describes how the universe came to be.

In other words.

At some point in the past, God created the universe.

Then (starting in Genesis 1:2) He formed our planet into our place.

At some point, the universe came into existence, then some time later,

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:2-3)

In this case, even the six days of creation took place inside of a larger history.

 

From internetmonk.com
A More Grounded Gospel

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And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

• Ephesians 1:22-23

The good news is that the one true God has now taken charge of the world, in and through Jesus and his death and resurrection.

• N.T. Wright

• • •

I am in the midst of reading N.T. Wright’s recently published book, Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good, and I find that my perception of the gospel is becoming more grounded. Bear with me while I try to work out some of the seminal thoughts in my mind regarding how to explain that.

Wright’s big point is that the gospel is an announcement of a public event that has taken place, an event which has changed everything. It is not advice or instruction given to us, it is a proclamation that Jesus has become King, that God has taken charge of the world through the finished work of the Messiah. God has established his rule of justice and peace in the world. God’s enemies have been defeated and will not win the war. The resurrection, ascension, and outpouring of the Spirit means that the new era has begun. It’s a new day. The divine process of transforming the world has begun in earnest. The announcement of this gospel invites all who hear it to embrace the good news and become part of the transformation. “If anyone is in Christ — new creation!” (2Cor. 5:17, literal translation). The person herself becomes renewed, but even more than that, she becomes part of God’s new creation here and now, right in the midst of this present life. Through baptism she dies to the old creation and is “raised to walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

God has taken charge of the world. Everything has changed. The new world has begun in Christ, who has taken his throne.

That is heady language. And frankly, it causes me consternation. Here we are, two millennia later, and my eyes don’t see a new world. I observe a world that has progressed in many ways, become more civilized, technologically advanced, literate, and prosperous. But I don’t need to tell you about the unthinkable evil and suffering that continues to plague the inhabitants of earth. Every day I have a multitude of reasons to doubt that “God has now taken charge of the world.”

In many ways, this is my primary theodicy question. If the gospel is true, why hasn’t the world changed in such a long period of time?

Perhaps our understanding of the gospel is not grounded enough.

Perhaps we see the gospel as something spiritual, when in fact we should be thinking much more naturally — about becoming fully human in our lives and relationships.

Perhaps we see the gospel as something individual, when in fact we should be thinking much more about building bonds with others in Christ.

Perhaps we see the gospel as something which gains us life after death, when in fact we should be embracing life more fully right now.

Perhaps we see the gospel as something which separates us from the world, when in fact it calls us to participate more in the life of our neighbors, our community, our world.

Perhaps we see the gospel as something which is about faith alone, when in fact it is about faith working through love.

Perhaps we see the gospel as something which enables us to escape the world, when in fact it is about enabling us to more fully embrace and enjoy the world.

Perhaps we see the gospel as something which is primarily about forgiveness of the past, when in fact it is about making the present and future new.

Perhaps we see the gospel as something which is about my personal relationship with Jesus, when in fact it is about God creating the new people of God.

Perhaps we see the gospel as something which guarantees one’s enrichment and happiness, when in fact it plays out in all the varied seasons and circumstances of life.

Perhaps we see the gospel as something which God alone will work out from beginning to end, when in fact God will work it out at least in part through his renewed people.

14002560704_1971964b6f_zThis last point led me to think about the final verses of Ephesians 1, two of which are quoted above. God’s divine power was displayed when he raised Christ from the dead and established him as Lord over all the powers. But then note this: “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things TO THE CHURCH . . .”

Perhaps a main reason we have not seen the kind of change in the world one might expect after hearing the announcement of God’s good news is that we missed the memo: Christ has been exalted to take charge of the world through a church that is grounded in the gospel. Perhaps the church herself has missed the message too many times throughout church history. We have not had an adequately grounded gospel, and even when we have, Christians and churches have not cooperated with God and enacted the newness of life into which God has brought us. I don’t mean this to sound triumphalistic, as though the church is called to “take over the world” through power and might. Being grounded in the gospel will primarily mean that the church will produce change in the world in the same way God took control: through the sufferings of Christ in which we share.

Ephesians 2 goes on to say that God’s people have become God’s workmanship, created in Christ to walk in the good works he has planned beforehand for us. It may not be the whole reason for the world’s lack of transformation, but certainly the church has walked down alternate paths too often. Laying down our lives for the life of the world has not always been our priority — or even on our radar.

Not only do we need a fuller, more robust gospel. We need a more grounded one.

And then we need to let our feet hit the ground.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
George, Others Offer to Take Lashes for Badawi

Robert P. George, a Princeton professor and vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, has offered to be beaten on behalf of Saudi Arabian activist Raif Badawi. George is joined by six other professors and religious liberty advocates in offering to take 100 lashes each.

Raif Badawi has been accused of insulting Islam. His sentence is 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes of which he has received fifty.

In a letter to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the group wrote, "If your government will not remit the punishment of Raif Badawi, we respectfully ask that you permit each of us to take 100 of the lashes that would be given to him. We would rather share in his victimization than stand by and watch him being cruelly tortured."

George told PRI that it was "hypocritical" for Saudi leaders "to march in solidarity with the victims of terrorism and persecution for speaking their minds in Europe and then to practice that same abuse on people for speaking their minds ... in their own country."

While it's unthinkable the Saudis would accept this offer, George said they didn't make it half-heartedly.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
And Now For Something From the Past . . . Maybe



SUFFRAJITSU, the tactics of the women who fought for their rights in Victorian and Edwardian England. Now in comic book form. More on the story of these Amazons here.

From internetmonk.com
Jonathan Aigner: But contemporary worship brings people to Jesus! Right…?

PR2

Reposted with permission from Jonathan Aigner, Ponder Anew

• • •

Consider this comment I received on the “Modernized Hymns” post.

I have tried to avoid God my whole life. I wouldn’t know a traditional hymn from a modernized hymn. I’ve never even stepped foot into a church…until this past Sunday. The people on stage sang a song by David Crowder, and I began to feel the very presence of God. It was like nothing I ever felt before. Tears streamed down my eyes and right then, I bowed down and made a decision to surrender my life to Jesus. I ask you a simple question…wasn’t David Crowder’s song – guitars, modernized lyrics, and all – worth being written and sang that way?

• The person next to you in the pew

This type of appeal is quite common, both on this blog and elsewhere. I’ve heard it as long as I can remember. “We don’t worship like we used to because it doesn’t bring people to Jesus. You want people to come to Jesus, right? RIGHT?!? YOU BETTER WANT PEOPLE TO COME TO JESUS!!”

I heard one pastor say it this way: “When we aren’t willing to change how we worship so that our culture understands it, we’re telling the world it can go to hell.”

Yikes.

To make sure I don’t come across as mean or callous, especially to my evangelical friends and readers, I should explain something.

I do want people to come to Jesus.

But my answer to this commenter is, “No.”

For one thing, music doesn’t bring people to Jesus. Jesus does that work admirably enough through the Holy Spirit, certainly better than a brush with David Crowder’s beard.

But there’s an even deeper flaw in our thinking.

Worship is not an evangelistic tool.

We don’t worship together to attract unbelievers.

We worship together because God is worthy. 

We worship together because this gracious God has called us into his story and grafted us together as covenant people. 

We worship together because we desperately need to tell and retell and hear and rehear that story. 

We worship together to be refocused, reshaped, renewed by God’s gifts. We need liturgy. We need Word and Sacrament.

unnamedHomily on Homage

Did you know that we’re supposed to do work in corporate worship?

I didn’t for the longest time either, having grown up in the middle of the church growth movement. As far as I could tell, the point of “worship” was to get as many butts in the seats as possible, mesmerize them with a theatrical production of bright lights and shiny objects. You know, the latest and greatest in Jesusy entertainment. And then, we bait-and-switch them with the gospel at the end.

At some point, we decided that the worship service was the best venue for evangelism. After all, if we can just make things interesting enough, funny enough, dynamic enough, and entertaining enough, we can really pack ‘em in. So, put together a mini-concert, followed by a speaker who knows how to get the crowd energized, mix in a few things about Jesus, and you’re set.

Even our language has changed dramatically, as we’ve learned to borrow more from our entertainment culture. Instead of a Sanctuary, a place of refuge, we have an auditorium. Instead of chancels and platforms, we have stages. We have performers and an audience. Churches are now hiring worship “producers.” Our music is entirely current and commercial.

We couldn’t possibly do anything else. We’d lose too many people.

To make matters worse, we’ve grown to like it ourselves. It’s nice to come to church and be entertained. Throw that liturgy out the window. I don’t want to to work, I want to sit here and get fat off the spiritual carbs they put in front of me. And if the production value slips, I can always go down the road and find another fast-food church that fits me just right.

No longer are there opportunities for congregants to participate, other than singing along if they feel like it, as if they were singing “Roll Out the Barrel” at a Milwaukee Brewers’ seventh-inning stretch. We’ve lost the idea that we are gathered there for a sacred task, not in search of a good time.

And it’s cost us dearly. We don’t have the opportunity to be the people of God together anymore, reshaped by God’s gifts and molded by the Christian story.

And in case anyone is wondering, it hasn’t really helped the evangelistic cause in the long run, anyway. It’s still shrinking. See, when you compete with all other forms of entertainment – TV, movies, music, sports – you will lose. Those things are always more entertaining, at least to those who are looking to be entertained.

That doesn’t mean we lock our doors on Sunday morning. To the contrary, and this is the tricky part. Evangelism is always a byproduct of true Christian worship. The problem is that we thought we needed to be marketable to begin with. Along the way, we got caught up in illusions of grandeur, judging our evangelistic worth by the number of people we could squeeze in our buildings.

Cancel the Vaseline and shoehorn.

But the moment we turn from our task at hand to try and capitalize, we fall short again. Stanley Hauerwas says it well: “The difficulty with worship especially shaped to entertain those who are ‘new’ is not that it is entertaining but that the god who is entertained in such worship cannot be the Trinity.”

So back to David Crowder. Whether doing his songs or his hymn arrangements is a good thing, well, that’s up for discussion I suppose. But I don’t think answer can be, “It’s okay, because it brings people to Jesus.”

acupofcoldwater1Hymn of Invitation

So what happens, then, if we don’t craft our worship services to attract unbelievers?

We’ll have to get serious again about Sunday. All of us. And then as the clock strikes noon, we’ll have to go.

Go out and feed the hungry. 

Go out and clothe the naked. 

Go out and associate with people who don’t look like us, don’t think like us, don’t act like us, don’t vote like us, and don’t usually like us.

Go out and fight for justice. 

Go out and end oppression.

Go out and proclaim anew the old, old story.

Go out and reach out to those who are running from God and God’s church.

Go out and stop deflecting tough questions with our usual, tired cliches.

And do all of this in the name of the one who sent us.

And then open the doors wide again on Sunday morning.

A Redeemed Benediction

I can’t help by think of Fred Pratt Green’s haunting, convicting hymn.

When the church of Jesus shuts its outer door,
lest the roar of traffic drown the voice of prayer,
may our prayers, Lord, make us ten times more aware
that the world we banish is our Christian care.

If our hearts are lifted where devotion soars
high above this hungry, suffering world of ours,
lest our hymns should drug us to forget its needs,
forge our Christian worship into Christian deeds.

Lest the gifts we offer, money, talents, time,
serve to salve our conscience, to our secret shame,
Lord, reprove, inspire us by the way you give;
teach us, dying Savior, how true Christians live.

Forge our Christian worship into Christian deeds. Wow. Let it be so.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Transcendence

We visited The Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo  on Saturday.  The lasting and plain beauty of the exterior spoke of the quest for beauty in a difficult place.   Inside, the Roman Catholic eye for transcendence shone all around, yet the building reflected the area it sits in.

IMG_2752

Rough textured walls, meeting fine painting and sculptures.

Modern playground equipment adjoining tile patios.

Last year's monument overlooking last century's garden.

Phil and I walked on through the hall, looking at over two centuries of vestments that priests have worn here.

We saw a place of beauty, steeped in tradition, salted with education, but also with the bitterness of a history that we sometimes wish never happened.

 

IMG_2755 We also saw the oldest library in California.

Imagine the care it would have taken to get these books to this remote place!

To me, this seems to say that reading, education, knowledge, learning, played an important role here.

 

Even now, the mission has a school on the grounds.

I believe that Rome has a lot of things wrong. But they worship God with majesty and a seriousness that we have lost.

We reject liturgy, we reject tradition, we reject transcendence.

My soul longs for a serious, adult, deep and wide worship that lifts my heart and my hands to the sky.

Just sayin'

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Doctor approved

Took half a day off today, because I had an afternoon appointment with my surgeon. Almost one year from the date of my hip replacement, time to zap my groin area with carcinogenic radiation.

But first, stopped at Fat Nat's Eggs, a small local chain that serves only breakfast and lunch, to try their hot beef sandwich. I've become kind of obsessed with hot beef sandwiches since the great one I had in Minot, ND a couple years ago. My review: It was good, especially the mashed potatoes. But I still give the edge to Keys Restaurant, another local chain but a longer drive from my home. Neither is quite up to that Minot place (whose name escapes me for a moment, but it starts with a "K"), though.

Then off to see the sawbones. We both agreed that my new hip and I are getting along fine. She asked me when I want the other one done, and I told her certainly not before my graduate work is done. I don't care to repeat last year's catch-up effort, which in memory is worse than the operation. She's OK with that, knowing that she'll probably get me sooner or later. Though she admitted that the X-rays showed some changes in the "manufacturer's original parts" hip, and not negative ones.

I also congratulated her, having perceived, through my extraordinary writer's powers of observation, that she was about 8 1/2 months pregnant.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
What Do Professional Writers Earn Per Year?

Digital Book World's new survey of just under 1,900 authors found fairly low annual earnings. Dana Beth Weinberg tells the Guardian, "We see for the third year in a row - even though we made a strong effort to get representation in the survey from successful indie authors - that most authors aren't making much money and most books sell very few copies. We also find that traditionally published authors and authors who combine traditional and indie publishing have higher annual incomes on average than indie-only authors. Last year, we took a lot of heat for these unpopular findings, especially from the indie community."

Authors publishing through both traditional and independent methods earned $7,500-$9,999 per year, thousands more than authors who published with either method exclusively.

From internetmonk.com
Death Letter, part three: A caged animal in an invisible cage

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We continue our reflections on David W. Peters’ memoir of his experiences as a military and hospital chaplain called, Death Letter: God, Sex, and War. Peters served as a battalion chaplain in Fort Hood, Texas from 2004-2007, which included a deployment to Iraq in 2006. After Iraq he also served as a chaplain clinician in the amputee, orthopedic, neuroscience, and psychological wards at Walter Reed Hospital.

After his deployment and subsequent divorce, David Peters entered a season of drinking, promiscuity, depression, and loss of faith. I am finding these chapters hard to read because they scare me. This is genuine existential wilderness. Peters lost virtually all landmarks and took paths that were not only dead ends, he knew they were dead ends and took them anyway. I don’t need to recount the details. The downhill slide covers territory that is well-traveled and familiar. It is the thoughts he records as he tumbles down the hill that most interest me. I simply quote some of them today.

. . . I am a man obsessed with my ex, and I still hope for the day when she will call and say that she wants to be married to me again. I am a man on a mission to hurt someone as bad as I have been hurt. I am doing everything in my power to protect my fragile psyche and it is working. It’s like I am immune to heartache. But I am enjoying this immunity too much. No one can hurt me like my wife hurt me . This is one thing I can be sure of in this uncertain world. I have paradise in my reach, but it is a feckless heaven. It is empty without her.

. . . Even though I’ve been back from Iraq for over two years, I am still there. I am alive there. I am depressed there. I am myself there. I am scared there. There is always a golden day before me when I will see my family again . Now there is nothing hopeful on the horizon. There is no magic day where all manner of things will be well. It is just an endless succession of seconds that will one day stop.

. . . We are all staying at a kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee. I am told it is a freshwater lake that sits atop another layer of saltwater, way down deep. This fascinates me, the salt below the fresh. The pressure of the massive amount of fresh water pushing down on the saltwater, holding it in its place. There are things I cannot know. All I know is that deep down , there is a salty darkness inside of me that is starting to mix with the fresh water on the surface. I have kept it down all my life and now the war has taken too much of the fresh and left me with too much of the bitter. I keep it down with my jokes, my smiles, and “I was only there for a year.” But I can feel it coming up. I have touched the rage that lies beneath the thin veneer of what we call civilization . I know what is down below, so I turn from the lake and go to bed.

. . . I remember when I had been divorced for only a few weeks and I went with my girlfriend to her church. It was a new conservative Presbyterian church in a hip neighborhood in Wilmington. No one owns cars here. It is time for the confession of sin, and I cannot say it. I cannot tell God that I have sinned against him in thought, word, and deed. I cannot be sorry and truly repentant. I can only think, I have nothing to confess. But you, Oh God, you have a few things to confess to me.

. . . This is the only way to protect my frail psyche. This is all I can do. I was hurt so bad that I am now immune from feeling any hurt. I am angry at women. How could my ex-wife have left me for that motherfucker? My anger doesn’t make sense anymore and I am afraid. I am afraid of being angry forever.

. . . I know I have problems. I know I weep uncontrollably sometimes. I have a restlessness inside me that all the running and sit-ups in the world cannot quell. I am a caged animal in an invisible cage. Every morning in the Psych Ward at Walter Reed the Charge Nurse goes around the room and asks everyone to state their name and their mood. Staff members, the sane ones, are supposed to state their name and their occupational specialty. The patients say, “Hi, I’m Jon and I’m feeling . . . mixed emotions today.” It helps that they have a laminated paper with a list of emotions on it. Above each word is a little round face that seeks to artistically capture the feeling. Some are better than others. Each staff member says, “Hi, I’m Dr. Smith, and I’m your attending physician.” I say, “Hi, I’m David, your chaplain , and I’m feeling anxiety and hope today.” Most days I feel like there is a thin line between the patients and me. I know that the feelings that I feel, if voiced, could land me in this place. I would stay for a few weeks and be medically retired from the Army. I wouldn’t have to worry about financial matters anymore. I could just be “troubled” and “dark.” I turn my head away from this bittersweet cup every time it presents itself. I want to be whole. I want to be okay. I want to be normal, even though I know I never will.

This is the voice in the wilderness.

Listen. It is all around us.

And how can the one who speaks thus find hope?

For my soul is full of troubles,
    and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
    I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
    like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
    for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
    in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
    and you overwhelm me with all your waves.

• Psalm 88:3-7

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
How Often Should the Indie Author Publish?

Author Mike Duran takes on conventional wisdom for indie publishing success: "write faster and publish often." He says writers should consider the quality of their craft and how fewer, better books will make a stronger career than many adequate books.

In another post, Mike suggests we not discount near-death experiences entirely, but take a cautious approach to them, believing the jury is still out on their validity.

From internetmonk.com
Adam McHugh: When Someone is in a Storm

IMG_8374

Nothing shuts down a person in pain like quoting the Bible at them. As I write that, I can hear the sirens of the Heresy Police surrounding my building. Yes, the Bible contains the words of life, the promises of God-with-us that have comforted saints and resurrected sinners. But the Bible can also be the ultimate conversation killer. It can be used as a tool for silencing people and for short-circuiting grief, hurt, and depression. Sometimes people use the Bible in a way that makes a hurting person feel like God is telling them to shut up.

I don’t like saying this, but it has been my experience that Christians are often worse at dealing with people in pain than others with different beliefs. Truth be told, I have chosen on many occasions to share my painful moments and emotions with non-Christians rather than Christians, because I knew I would be better heard. This saddens me. It seems to me that no one should run into the fire like Christians, because we follow a Savior who descended into hell. But we all know it is far less messy to stand over people in pain than it is to enter their worlds and risk feeling pain ourselves.

I once heard a ministry colleague say: “I’m going to be with a person in the hospital tonight. Time to speak some truth.” This idea prevails in many Christian circles, that preaching is the healing balm for suffering. Whether it’s sickness or divorce or job loss, a crisis calls for some sound Biblical exhortation. I have a number of issues with this. First, it assumes that the hurting person does not believe the right things or believe with enough fervency. They may end up receiving the message that their faith is not strong enough for them to see their situation rightly, or that something is wrong with them because they are struggling. Second, preaching to people in pain preys on the vulnerable. It’s stabbing the sword of truth into their wound, or doing surgery without anesthesia. Unwelcome truth is never healing. Third, “speaking truth” into situations of pain is distancing. You get to stand behind your pulpit, or your intercessory prayer that sounds strangely like a sermon, and the other person is a captive audience, trapped in the pew of your anxious truth. Suffering inevitably makes a person feel small and isolated, and preaching to them only makes them feel smaller and more alone.

Dr. Seuss wrote some classic stories, but he also gave some classically bad advice: “Don’t cry that it’s over. Smile that it happened.” Your role as a listener is, by all means, to let them cry that it’s over. Don’t be the Grinch who stole grief. Be a witness to their tears. Each falling tear carries pain and it’s the only way to get it out.

A hurting person is in a storm. They are cold, wet, shivering, and scared. Preaching, platitudes, and advice will not get them out of the storm. Don’t tell a person in a storm that it’s a sunny day. There will likely come a day when the clouds part, but it is not today. It’s not your job to pull them out of the storm. It’s your job to get wet with them.

• • •

This is an excerpt from Adam’s forthcoming book, The Listening Life (IVP, October 2015)

Note: the link will take you to Adam’s blog, and to a post in which he talks about the book.

From Semicolon
Briefly Noted, Fiction

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett. The main character’s attitude toward casual sex (“bliss because she didn’t care what it meant”) was sad and made the entire book feel tawdry and cheap, in contrast to Jane Austen’s more elevated, intellectual, and thoughtful prose and her insightful approach to even flawed characters. Also some dropped plot points and discontinuities marred the otherwise serviceable story.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014. Everyone and their dog recommends it. I found it fascinating, but mostly because I kept hoping that the protagonist, Theo, would learn something, or grow up, over the course of the novel. He sort of did? But not really. The book should come with a warning label: lots of drugs, lots of illicit (and boring) sex, and then lots more drugs and violence. Theo actually finds “somewhere safe with somebody good” after a traumatic and neglected childhood, but he’s too traumatized to enjoy and appreciate the one person who actually loves and cares for him, Hobie, the antique dealer and friend to the friendless. Theo is a mess, and the “happy ending” seems forced in light of Theo’s choices throughout the novel. I was reading Careless People about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing of The Great Gatsby after this one, and Gatsby and Fitzgerald both ended up about the way I would imagine someone who made the choices they did would end up. Theo, in contrast, gets to travel the world and make restitution on his own timetable. Lucky for him.

Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon. Father Tim Kavanagh and his lovely wife Cynthia, not to mention Dooley and Sammy and Lace Turner and all the other inhabitants of Mitford, return in a safe but enjoyable novel that reads just like cozy, warm cup of tea with the reader curled up in a homey old quilt on a cold winter day. The questions in the novel—Will Father Tim come out of retirement in an emergency? Does Mitford still take care of its own? Will Sammy grow up and forgive and overcome his past?—were intriguing enough to keep me reading and comfortable enough make me smile as I did. It’s well worth your time if you’re a Mitford fan, and if you’re not, you should be. Start with At Home in Mitford, and you’ll be hooked.

I’ve been focusing on nonfiction this month, and I plan to continue to do so. However, I can’t resist slipping in a few novels, now and then. I’m especially interested in reading a really good historical fiction book set in the “roaring twenties” since I just finished the book about Scott and Zelda and the Great Gatsby, and I’m now reading a biography of Florence Harding aka “the Duchess”, wife of Warren G. Harding, who became president in 1920 and presided over the beginning at least of the Jazz Age. Suggestions, anyone?

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
How long is a year?

My spring classes began today. I actually started my assigned reading yesterday. The Christmas break (which I'm sure the school calls Winter Break) was nice, though I spent it mostly working at this and that. I think of myself as a lazy man, but I do manage to keep busy.

Before me stretches a year of academics. If I keep on schedule, I'll be done with classes in December, and then there'll only be the final testing (or whatever) to convince them I deserve my degree (a Master's degree, I've learned, entitles you to put the suffix Esq. behind your name. I don't think I'll avail myself of that).

So it's a matter of doing my time, like a convict. Each day I do the designated work, and I'll tick the days off one by one until I come out into the light at the end.

On an unconnected note, I bought my first pair of loafer shoes on Saturday. I suppose you'd call them loafers, though they don't look quite like what I was taught to think of as loafers back in the '50s. They look a little dorky to my eye, but not as dorky as walking around with my shoes untied (I have complained about modern Teflon shoelaces in this space before), and way less dorky than stopping to kneel down on my old man's limbs to re-tie them. These are the small indignities God gives us, in His mercy, so that the Angel of Death, when he appears at last, won't look like such an unwelcome guest after all.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
24 Things No One Tells You About Book Publishing

Industry insiders could probably make several lists of twenty-four secrets or misunderstood facts or contentious minutiae about publishing, but here's a good list on the writing life from Curtis Sittenfeld. I like this one most:

10. The goal is not to be a media darling; the goal is to have a career.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
lunes linkage – 1/26/2014

"Just Getting a Drink"

Beyond the basic rules of the game, the blue shirts had only two requirements. The first was that they needed to be allowed to ref the game as well as play it, and the second requirement was that if anybody on the red team questioned any call, it was an automatic technical, and they had to go sit on the racist bench, or on the misogynist bench, depending on which eyebrow they had raised in protest.

~~~

"The Heresy of Worshiptainment"

(this is wonderful!)

HALLOWEDNESS, NOT SHALLOWNESS

Like Tozer, we should be concerned that so many people in our churches want to be entertained while they worship. We should be concerned when we no longer recognize the difference between the two. And we should be concerned by the growing belief that adding more entertainment value to worship is necessary for the church to accomplish its mission.

I may stand alone, but it grieves me when I see worship services characterized more by props, performances, and pep rally atmospheres than by any sense of divine sacredness; and hallowedness giving way to shallowness.

This is not about worship styles. The issue is not traditional versus contemporary versus blended worship. It’s not about organ versus worship band. That discussion misses the point completely. This is about the heart and focus and intent of worship. The real issues, for me, are these:

~~~

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
More on What Tyndale House Knew About Malarkey Book

The publisher of the book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven is saying it knew nothing of Beth and Alex Malarkey's complaints about the book until recently when Alex finally got through to the world that the book didn't tell his story.

Tyndale says they tried to meet with the family and the agent who largely wrote the book, but Beth would not agree. Phil Johnson interprets the situation as being less than supportive.

"The thread that runs through all their correspondence with Beth is that they wanted to corner her before they would be willing to investigate her concerns," [Johnson] wrote to the Guardian. "They kept pressing her to agree to a meeting where she and Alex would have to face Kevin and a phalanx of editors who were determined to press ahead with the project, no matter what objections Alex and she might have."

We saw the same thing in Beth's account from her blog. Company men had their own ideas, like journalists with a template, and kept pressing Alex to give them the details they wanted.

Warren Throckmorton notes Tyndale doubled down on this book last year when they released a pocket edition. These are not the marks of a Christian ministry. These are the marks of a purely market-driven organization.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
How the Storytelling on CSI Has Changed

"CBS is in the fear business. Terror is one of their most reliable profit centers." (via Mark Bertrand)

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Psalm 45…a wedding song

My heart overflows with a pleasing theme;
I address my verses to the king;
my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.
You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
grace is poured upon your lips;
therefore God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,
in your splendor and majesty!
In your majesty ride out victoriously
for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
Your arrows are sharp
in the heart of the king's enemies;
the peoples fall under you.
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;
your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor;
at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
forget your people and your father's house,
and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him.
The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
the richest of the people.
All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
In many-colored robes she is led to the king,
with her virgin companions following behind her.
With joy and gladness they are led along
as they enter the palace of the king.
In place of your fathers shall be your sons;
you will make them princes in all the earth.
I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations;
therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Grousing about a TV show

I think I told you that my classes resumed last Monday. I wrote that in good faith, but in fact they start tomorrow. I got another week of freedom I hadn't planned on.

I've used my winter break for a number of different purposes. There was the ordinary Christmas stuff. I did another revision on my translation of a book on Norway in the Viking Age, because the text I delivered to the publisher was a rough draft, and it's been nagging at me. To my surprise, after I delivered the revision, the publisher told me they're probably going to go ahead with it. Most gratifying.

And then there were Christmas cards. And then there was taxes.

But I've loafed a little. Last night I watched a new TV show called "Backstrom." Wikipedia tells me that it's an Americanized adaptation of a series of Swedish detective novels. It stars Rainn Wilson, best known from "The Office."

It was horrible. Or so it seemed to me. I kind of tuned it out after the first 15 minutes or so. Possibly it picked up while I wasn't paying attention.

Comparisons to "House" come to mind. House was a rude and irascible genius. Backstrom is supposed to be the same.

But House had one thing this show lacked -- wit. You couldn't help liking House a little, most of the time. He was funny. He was obviously in physical pain, which made most of us cut him a little slack. And he had people around him -- notably Dr. Wilson -- who put up with his act because they had a history with him and had reasons (often opaque to us) for valuing him.

Backstrom has none of that. He's just a jerk.

Memo to Hollywood: Being a jerk in itself is not the same as being interesting.

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: January 24, 2015

“A third choir-avoidance technique was to read. A kid with his or her nose in a book is a kid who is not fighting, yelling, throwing, breaking things, bleeding, whining, or otherwise creating a Mom-size headache. Reading a book was almost like being invisible – a good thing for all concerned.” ~Pete Hautman, Libraries of Minnesota

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.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Fit Friday

Two nice walks this week, found this on one of themIMG_2713

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Looking at a History of Brilliance

Chris Yokel talks about visiting an art museum. "I was in the Art of the Americas wing, looking at some of my favorite paintings by the early Americans, Gilbert Stuart and John Singleton Copley. Leaning in close, I could see the brushstrokes, still visible after several hundred years. I noticed the cracks seaming the canvas, sometimes even enhancing it."

His creative spirit is wonderfully refreshed.

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Speaking of edgy…

This is what one of the leaders of a national board in Matthew’s denomination does for fun.

mefford

So stinking edgy.

Matthew’s denomination.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Photos of Unique Bookstores Around the World

The Guardian has these photos of bookstores described by that fun, book culture author, Jen Campbell, in her book, Books Are My Bag. From that collection: "Fjaerland is one of Norway's Book Towns near Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier in mainland Europe. Old sheds, houses and even a hotel have been converted into bookshops. "During the winter, the bookshop owners have to transport the books from place to place, over the snow, on kick-sleds," says Campbell."

They also share a photo of this remarkable pile of rare and otherwise books in Detroit. It's Michigan's largest used bookstore.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
I review 'Saint Odd' at The American Culture



I've got a review of Saint Odd, the final Odd Thomas book, over at Liberty 21's The American Culture blog today.

If you've read the novels (and for heaven's sake, if you haven't read them, don't start with this one. Start with Odd Thomas, and read them in order), you know what I mean. We all knew it was coming. There is no surprise in it.

But be comforted. All is well. All will be well.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Outrageous Grace.

On thinking that God only has one begotten son – the rest of us are children by adoption – and that Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers…This is pretty long, and it’s worth the read.

Our church is doing "Adoption month."  Yes, an entire month on the topic of adoption - and I had the following story a few months ago...it's great.

 PROOF” by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones - is a reworking of TULIP - I like the book.

“Because I’m Yours”

I never dreamed that taking a child to Disney World could be so difficult – or that such a trip could teach me so much about God’s outrageous grace.


Our middle daughter had been previously adopted by another family.  I [Timothy] am sure this couple had the best of intentions, but they never quite integrated the adopted child into their family of biological children.  After a couple of rough years, they dissolved the adoption and we ended up welcoming an eight-year-old daughter into our home.

For one reason or another, whenever our daughter’s previous family vacationed at Disney World, they took their biological children with them, but they left their adopted daughter behind with a family friend. Usually – at least in the child’s mind, this happened because she did something wrong that precluded her presence on the trip.

And so, by the time we adopted our daughter, she had seen many pictures of Disney World and she had heard about the rides and the characters and the parades.  But when it came to passing through the gates of the Magic Kingdom, she had always been the one left on the outside.  Once I found out about this history, I made plans to take her to Disney World the next time a speaking engagement took our family to the south-eastern United States.

I thought I had mastered the Disney World drill.  I knew from previous experiences that the prospect of seeing cast members in freakishly oversized mouse and duck costumes somehow turns children into squirming bundles of emotional insecurity.  What I didn’t expect was that the prospect of visiting this dreamworld would produce a stream of downright devilish behavior in our newest daughter.  In the month leading up to our trip to the Magic Kingdom, she stole food when a simple request would have gained her  a snack.  She lied when it would have been easier to tell the truth. She whispered insults that were carefully crafted to hurt her older sister as deeply as possible — and as the days on the calendar moved closer to the trip, her mutinies multiplied.

A couple of days before our family headed to Florida, I pulled our daughter into my lap to talk about her latest escapade. :I know what you’re going to do," she stated flatly.  “You’re not going to take me to Disney World, are you?”  The thought actually hadn’t crossed my mind, but her downward spiral suddenly started to make some sense.  She knew she couldn’t earn her way into the Magic Kingdom — she had tried and failed that test several times before — so she was living in a way that placed her as far as possible from the most magical place on earth.

In retrospect, I’m embarrassed to admit that, in that moment, I was tempted to turn her fear to my own advantage.  The easiest response would have been “If you don’t start behaving better, you’re right, we won’t take you”  But by God’s grace, I didn’t.  Instead I asked her, “Is this trip something we’re doing as a family?”

She nodded, brown eyes wide and tear-rimmed.

“Are you part of this family?”

She nodded again.

“Then you’re going with us.  Sure, there may be some consequences to help you remember what’s right and what’s wrong — but you’re part of our family and we’re not leaving you behind.

I’d like to say that her behaviors grew better after that moment.  They didn’t.  Her choices pretty much spiraled out of control at every hotel and every rest stop all the way to Lake Buena Vista.  Still, we headed to Disney World on the day we promised, and it was a typical Disney day.  Overpriced tickets, overpriced meals, and lots of lines, mingled with just enough manufactured magic to consider maybe going again someday.

In our hotel room that evening, a very different child emerged.  She was exhausted, pensive, and a little weepy at times, but her month-long facade of rebellion had faded.  When bedtime rolled around, I prayed with her, held her, and asked, “So, how was your first day at Disney World?”

She closed her eyes and snuggled down into her stuffed unicorn.  After a few moments, she opened her eyes every so slightly.  “Daddy,” she said, “I finally got to go to Disney World.  But it wasn’t because I was good.  It’s because I’m yours.”

It wasn’t because I was good…it’s because I’m yours.

That’s the message of outrageous grace.

Outrageous grace isn’t a favor your can achieve by being good; it’s the gift your receive by being God’s.

From The Boar's Head Tavern
le edgy heretic

From conservative egalitarians to mainline women pastors

Mainliners pretending to be edgy heretics because they’re feminists are cute the same way secular liberals pretending to be the rebellious underdogs because they’re against racism are.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Auction on Remarkable Bookplates

Many bookplates from a collection formed by the late Brian and Stephanie Schofield are up for bid through the Bookplate Society of England. See the plates and how to participate on their website. The auction dates have yet to be set.

From Semicolon
Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior


Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior.

I was captivated by “extraordinary life” of this woman of God, “best-selling poet, novelist, and playwright, friend of the famous, practical philanthropist, and moral conscience of a nation.” Hannah More may be a forgotten woman nowadays, but she was far from unknown in late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in England and even throughout Europe and America. She was a protege of the eminent Dr. Samuel Johnson, close friends with the famous actor David Garrick and his wife, a co-laborer with the abolitionist William Wilberforce, and acquainted with almost all of the eminent writers and evangelical gentle women and men of her day. She wrote multiple volumes of letters, essays, tracts, stories, plays, and one best-selling novel. She influenced the abolitionist movement to end the British slave trade, the animal welfare movement, the Sunday School movement, and the efforts of anti-poverty reformers and literacy activists.

In fact, she would be something of a patron saint, if Protestants had such saints, for those interested in the promotion of literacy and reading. She opened Sunday Schools in many poverty-stricken communities and villages where no school of any kind was to be found. These Sunday Schools were not just pretty little Bible story times, but rather full-fledged schools for the poor and illiterate which met on Sundays because that was the only day when poor children and adults did not have to work all day long. She also wrote books and tracts and story papers for the poor and for the burgeoning middle class. Her stories and poems were generally pleas for morality with a neat a little lesson or message embedded therein, a style of writing that’s somewhat out of fashion now but was very much in vogue in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Hannah More was a witty woman with a ready tongue, but tamed somewhat by her allegiance to the Lord Jesus. Here are a few Hannah More quotations that I found delightful:

On the poet Alexander Pope, who is buried, according to his wishes, at St. Mary’s Church in Twickenham instead of at Westminster Abbey: “You will easily believe, madam, that I could not leave Twickenham without paying a visit to the hallowed tomb of my beloved bard. For this purpose I went to the church, and easily found the monument of one who would not be buried in Westminster Abbey. . . . Pope,I suppose, would rather be the first ghost at Twickenham than an inferior one at Westminster Abbey.”

On Edward Gibbon, author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: “. . . he is an entertaining and philosophic historian, yet, as Ganganelli said to Count Algarotti, ‘I wish these shining wits, in spite of all their philosophy, would manage matters so that one might hope to meet them in heaven; for one is very sorry to be deprived of such agreeable company to all eternity.’ It requires an infinite degree of credulity to be an infidel.”

On Dr. Samuel Johnson: “In Dr. Johnson some contrarieties very harmoniously meet; if he has too little charity for the opinions of others, and too little patience with their faults, he has the greatest tenderness for their persons. He told me the other day he hated to hear people whine about metaphysical distresses, when there was so much want and hunger in the world.”

On reading and writing: “I read four or five hours every day, and wrote ten hours yesterday.”

On Sir Joshua Reynolds’ painting of Samuel from the Old Testament: “I love this great genius for not being ashamed to take his subjects from the most unfashionable of all books.”

Hannah More is most associated with the literary, artistic, and political community that established itself at a place called Clapham and became known as the Clapham Sect, although they were not a sect and not all of the members actually lived at Clapham. They were a group of evangelical Christians with in the Church of England who worked together to bring about the abolition of the slave trade and the reform of what they called “manners”, what we now would call culture or worldview in action.

The greatest value of this little book, aside from reviving the memory of a forgotten saint, is to give a sort of generalized pattern for Christian community that can begin to change the world, as the often trite phrase is. These people—Wilberforce, his cousin Henry Thornton, preacher John Newton, Hannah More, publisher Zachary Macaulay, abolitionist James Stephen, poet William Cowper, and other perhaps less famous—worked together as a community, each using his or her own special gifts, to promote various causes and reforms that they saw as advancing benevolence and the cause of Christ. They fought against the slave trade by preaching, writing poetry and essays, publishing tracts and pamphlets, promoting the boycott of East Indian slave-produced sugar, producing art and decoration that illustrated the plight of the slaves, making speeches, and introducing legislation to abolish slavery and the slave trade into Parliament again and again and yet again. They took up other causes at the same time, and they endeavored to live out their Christian commitment in relation to one another and to the world at large. They truly “spurred one another on to good works.”

It seems to me that such a group could be an inspiration to those of us today who want to work together to do our own small part in advancing the kingdom of God. The Clapham sect were not a commune. They did not live monastically. They were not exclusive. They worked with others, such as Horace Walpole and Sir William Pitt, who did not share all of their beliefs. And yet they were a force to be reckoned with in merry old Georgian England. If the Inklings are a model of Christian literary community, Hannah More and the Clapham sect are another example to which we can look and from which we can learn. I would love to hear from others who have read the book and who see ways that we in our day and time could use what they did to revitalize our culture and nation.

Ideas anyone?

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 MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Wordless Wednesday

IMG_2342

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
'The Name of the Wind,' by Patrick Rothfuss



Over Christmas someone suggested I read Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind, first installment in the Kingkiller Chronicles, saying that all the young fantasy fans are talking about it these days.

They could be talking of worse things.

The Name of the Wind is a fantasy, of a refreshingly original sort. It's similar to the Harry Potter books, but more mature in orientation.

The hero is Kvothe, literally a legend in his own time. World famous as a musician, a warrior, and a magician, he has retired from the world when we meet him in this book, keeping an inn in a remote town. When the character called the Chronicler encounters him, he doesn't recognize him at first. But when he does, he manages to persuade Kvothe to tell him his life's story so that he can write it down. Three days are reserved for the project, and each day's narrative forms the text of one book in the series.

Kvothe tells us of his childhood as a traveling player, the tragedy that takes his family away, his years as a beggar, and at last his acceptance at the University, the greatest learning institution in a world where magic and technology are just poles on a single continuum.

There he makes friends and enemies, reconnects with the love of his life, breaks many rules, and begins to acquire the reputation that will make him the greatest figure of his time.

Fascinating, well written, and well-charactered, The Name of the Wind is very good reading. The author may take the story in ways I don't like in the future, but for now I liked what I read.

Generally suitable for teens and up.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Lunes linkage (on Tuesday this week)

GetReligion.com on "Kellerism" - once i trained myself to look for these things, they become obvious.

~~~

on gay "marriage"

Now, slowly yet undeniably, evangelicals are changing their minds.

Well, sure.  All you have to do is broaden the term "evangelical" until it's meaningless, then everything changes.

~~~

Books to read since...forever.

I'll put them on my list...because...classics.

And (these are "new" fiction...I'll add these because...brain candy.

and another list...

~~~

Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church

Wonderful!
~~~

'“Islamophobia,” which, like “homophobia,” is a way to pathologize those who disagree with a dominant narrative'

From The Boar's Head Tavern

Yup. Its spiritual equivalent is one who assumes their Donald Miller collection and David Bazan albums puts them on the edge of Christianity.

As for the latest melodrama on the Twitters, I stopped taking most of the defendants seriously long ago, but it’s still a little interesting to watch the roles reversed. You live by the outrage…

From The Living Room
in the name of love.

I haven’t seen Selma yet (although I fully plan to), but I have read this interview with its lead actor, David Oyelowo, and he says this in response to the question “Why should American Christians see this movie?”:

Because you see someone who doesn’t just talk about their faith; you see someone who walks it out, with sacrifical love. The Bible says, Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.

That is not only what Dr. King did ultimately (in being assassinated); it’s what he did for those 13 years that he led the civil rights movement. Every day he sacrificed seeing his kids. He had to endure death threats. He had to endure ill health. He often went into the hospital for exhaustion, because he was constantly putting himself on the line for others. That’s what the Bible tells us to do.

It’s very easy to hold someone like Dr. King out at arms’ length, make him into an untouchable icon instead of a flawed, sinful, regular guy who got thrust into a particular time and place in history. (I’m not the only one thinking about this; I’ve seen similar sentiments all over Twitter today.) But that’s what he was, which is a comforting thought–if a normal, flawed guy can make a difference, that means I can, too. But it’s also convicting–if a normal, flawed guy can be called to that kind of difficulty and sacrifice, that means I can, too.

* * *
I just started work in a public library branch in what used to be the largest unincorporated African-American community in the South, what’s now a largeish neighborhood in northwest Houston. It’s unfortunately known for its high crime rates, something I was warned about repeatedly when I let people know I was going to work there.

I drive past a sign every day marking a street that’s called Ferguson, and wonder if that name feels weightier now in light of the events of last summer and fall. Likely not. But it reminds me.

And I’ve always been keenly aware of race, as a daughter of both the Korean forests and hills and of the American South and Midwest. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been aware of the history of minorities in this country. But now I find myself working with and for a neighborhood I’m not familiar with, and I occasionally catch myself thinking horrifying things.

This is now the opportunity for me to put into practice all the things I said during Ferguson–I am there to serve and not be served, to listen and to learn and to love my neighbor as myself, but also just to do my job well and treat people as people instead of obstacles, business as usual. Race, so far, hasn’t really been a big deal, but I still look around and think, let justice roll like a river here, too.

I’m just one woman. And I’m not a prophetess, nor the daughter of a prophetess, but if all my thoughts on the gospel and race and culture aren’t relevant in Acres Homes, I don’t know what use they are.


From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Overheard on…The Gospel Coalition (The Measure You Use – response 1)

The Measure You Use

Most of the article I agree with.  The way that it's put into action is (at this point) one-sided.  Thus, a couple of different posts.

First:

“Don’t assume the worst about me because I don’t look like you. Don’t size me up based on how I dress, where I live, who my parents were, or if I ever knew my parents. Don’t speak before you listen. Don’t rush to judgment before you’ve heard from all sides.” Isn’t that what we all want?

Here's the thing.  Or "things" - I call them "uniforms" and whether we like it or not, we are likely to wear a "uniform" that portrays who we are.

We believe this person is a ________________________ because of ____________________

This person is likely to be _______________________ because of _________________.

This person looks like a ___________________________ because of ________________.

This person might be a _______________________ because of _______________________________.

 

Which person would you cross the street to avoid meeting on a narrow side walk?  Why?

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Justin, do you mean something like this…

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Pelagiuz4Life

[curmudgeon]

I noticed the subversive thing to do on Facebook/Twitter amongst anyone to the left of James Dobson is to call yourself a heretic in your description. From conservative egalitarians to mainline women pastors, It seems to be a trend.

To me it comes off like suburban kids at the end of the cul-de-sac with their hats on backwards making up fake gang signs while listening to Snoop. At some point the real thing is going to cross your path and they’ll just laugh at you.

[/curmudgeon]

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Curves and trust

Sitting behind Phil on his big motorcycle on Highway 17 (mountains and curves) requires trust.

Hit me...through all the curves in life...who am I sitting behind?

From Transforming Sermons
So long, and thanks for all the fish

The title of this posting is flippant, but the sentiments are heartfelt. Ten years ago today I began blogging here at TS. Today I'm really and finally calling it quits.

I'm deeply grateful for you who visited, commented, and supported me through the years. This blog allowed me to enjoy virtual fellowship during times when I sometimes felt very alone in my face-to-face ministry. I'm especially grateful for the handful of you with whom I developed more than virtual relationships--either by postal mail, phone, or in person.

I won't be deleting the site, but I almost certainly won't be posting here again, either (although I haven't ruled out updating this post). Right now I want to unplug a little bit, regroup, get some rest and do some thinking. I may start writing online again one day, but it won't be here.

It's been a wonderful ride. Thanks for the encouragement and especially the prayers.

From The Boar's Head Tavern
What he did to skip out of work will AMAZE You!!!

Well, not really. But I’m like 76% through the final book according to my kindle and I just want to take time off to finish the story. You know how you get to that point in a book?
Chris, I love the Potter books and look forward to reading them to my kids. And I’ll do terrible British accents for the voices. One thing I’m surprised that more conservative Christians didn’t get up in arms about in regards to the Potter series was Hagrid. I mean, think about how Hagrid came to be. Hagrid’s dad was human. Was he really drunk one night?

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Better than Narnia

Andy, thanks. I’ll have to keep at it. We read the first book aloud with the family and I think there’s sufficient interest there to continue it, but probably not until we finish up Harry Potter. (Currently half-way through book 6!) At least they all provide opportunities to do fun voices. (My favorite part of reading aloud is getting to do voices.)

From The Boar's Head Tavern

Chris, I’ve enjoyed each book a bit more than the one that preceded it. In the third book I began seeing some threads that really captured my imagination in regards to my faith. It wasn’t until I was well into the 4th book that I began to think that this might be a better story over a series than Narnia. So it’s funny that your friend said that, because I was just wondering if I thought that myself. And I love Lewis’ stuff.

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Wingfeather

I’ve read the first two Wingfeather books and have the next two on my shelf ready to read. I’ve enjoyed them and yet I’m afraid I’m not giving Peterson the credit he deserves somehow. Yeah, they’re good. Are they “better than Narnia”, as one friend recently raved on Facebook? I’m not sure about that. But I may have difficulty being objective, since Narnia (and LOTR) are the books of my childhood, that Peterson also grew up with and is now following. Time will tell, I guess.