"It is easy to talk about the errors, theological and others, of Communism. It is dangerously easy to succumb to triumphalism as we peer into the casket at its wake. But one must ask how much of Western culture is generating new barbarisms as we, along different axes and with different forms of government, adopt not dissimilar and equally unbiblical perspectives in our own societies: that human beings are not individually all that important, and, above all, that we are not wicked, and not accountable to ourselves, scarcely to the state, and certainly not to God."

- D.A. Carson
Posts From Our Blogroll
From internetmonk.com
When is the time for love to be born?

Wintry. Photo by R. Crap Mariner

The Risk of Birth, Christmas 1973

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war and hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out and the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour and truth were trampled by scorn–
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by the comet the sky is torn–
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

• Madeleine L’Engle
The Weather of the Heart

From Brandywine Books
Unable to refuse Babette’s Feast

Luminously realistic and profoundly intricate, Dinesen’s stories all celebrate physicality as something deeply spiritual. “Babette’s Feast” does so in excelsis. In style it is stark but shining; in plot it is unpretentious—indeed nothing more than one long anecdote—but also a complex interweaving of characters and years. A simple story about a dinner, it is also an expansive story about the interplay of art, time, destiny, failure, and gratitude. What is more, it is a tiny masterpiece of grace.

Leta Sundet writes of the powerful grace in Isak Dinesen’s short story “Babette’s Feast.” 

From Tim Challies
Shepherding At Home

In this video, which was filmed at a nearby conference, I was asked about some of the concerns related to pastors and their families. I tried to briefly to remind church leaders of the temptations that draw us away from this primary calling.


Pastors always need to remember that you’re qualified to ministry through your family, not apart from your family. So being a pastor doesn’t make you a good dad, being a good dad may help you become a pastor. We tend to invert that and way too many pastors, this constant temptation is to set aside your family and focus on ministry. That’s where you’re more likely to get accolades, more likely to get praise, it’s a public ministry. All of that, it’s where your salary is drawn from, there’s so many reasons that we can turn our hearts away from our family and towards ministry. And yet the Bible is very, very clear that a man must shepherd his own family well before he can shepherd the family of God. I mean, how on earth can he shepherd the family of God well if he can’t manage his own little group there?

And so, to focus first on wife and family. To love and honor your wife, to be that one-woman man, to be committed to her, dedicated to her, and then to raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. You cannot be a pastor in good conscience, you should not be a pastor, if you’re not doing that really, really well. If you’re not setting an example for the rest of the church in your care for your family and your commitment to your children and your love for your wife.

So, never ever to lose sight of that, never to turn your back on your family despite the temptation, despite how easy it is to do that. I think pastors need again and again to affirm that in their mind and then to be willing to ask their family, do you believe that I really love you and care for you, am I giving too much of myself to the church, too little to you. To candidly ask your family, and then to let them speak and tell you whether they’re seeing that or not.

From Tim Challies
A La Carte (December 18)

Today’s Kindle deals include just a couple of titles, but they are pretty good ones.

(Yesterday on the blog: The Collected Best Christian Books of 2018)

Shelter in the Shame Storm

Samuel James: “At some point people like me who grew up with the internet are going to have to reckon with the spiritual powers that are embedded into the technology we put in our pocket. We’re going to have to determine to understand (a dangerous resolution!) how and why it is that the avatar-ization of our thoughts and names creates on-ramps in our hearts for delighting in the suffering of people whose only crime is disagreeing with us, or being friends with somebody who does. ”

Should Married Couples Separate?

In this one Steve Cornell navigates some real complexities. “The complexities and pain of troubled marriages can be overwhelming. A significant part of the problem is that most couples don’t look for help until things become seemingly unbearable. When a marriage is holding by thin threads, it’s unwise to wait too long before seeking help. The longer a couple a waits, the more challenging it becomes to restore a relationship.”

Do the Gospels Borrow from Pagan Myths?

Here’s a myth that needs to be dispelled. “When these claims are compared carefully with the New Testament Gospels, the distinction between Jesus and the supposed pagan parallels becomes quite distinct, for at least two reasons: (1) the pagan parallels aren’t as parallel as the proponents claims, and (2) many of the supposed parallels confuse later Christian practices with the actual affirmations in the New Testament Gospels.”

The Christmas Miracle of the Extra Calvinisticum

When we put our minds long to the idea of Jesus being one hundred percent God and simultaneously one hundred percent man, they naturally feel overwhelmed. The orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation is compelling, beautiful, biblically sensible, and salvifically necessary, but it is nevertheless utterly inscrutable. And that’s okay. In the end, the Incarnation is not for analysis but for worship.”

Dying Well This Christmas

We need to think about dying from time to time. “It was John Wesley who said, “Our people die well.” It is a privilege to be able to see the truth of that. Being with saints who are dying well is to see how true are the words of 1 Thessalonians 4:13. When those who are about to fall asleep confidently and joyfully recount the goodness of God throughout their lives and confidently and joyfully anticipate what is to come, those of us who are left behind are encouraged to be confident and joyful too. We do not grieve as others do, for we have hope!”

Two Reasons to Consider Video Preaching

“To wit: I, a Presbyterian—a pastor who subscribes to a Confession written in the 1600’s, whose favourite store is a fountain pen shop, whose church still uses bulletins to convey worship lyrics, and whose congregation only raises their hands once a year to approve a budget—would use video services. Here are two reasons why.” This is a good and balanced perspective from someone who wouldn’t come to the position naturally.

The Rise of 20 Hour-Long Flights (Video)

I spent a lot of time on planes this year and am glad that didn’t include any 20-hour monsters.

Flashback: The Gossip Rag of the Reformed World

As I have considered when I can or should speak, I have gone searching for help and have discovered five godly desires I should have when it comes to speaking about other people.

Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued. —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

From Tim Challies
One Life-Changing Week

This week the blog is sponsored by the Biblical Counseling Training Conference.

Would you like to improve the effectiveness of your ministry? Would you like to improve your ability to help a hurting person using your Bible?

This February 10-15, 2019 in Lafayette, Indiana we are hosting the annual Biblical Counseling Training Conference. Since 1985, we have been equipping ministry professionals and lay leaders to skillfully, confidently, and lovingly minister God’s Word to those looking for answers.

In 2018 almost 2,100 people from every state in the Union and a dozen foreign countries came to be equipped for more effective ministry. This week in Lafayette has often been called “one life-changing week” by those who attend. It is a time to listen to some of the leading churches and voices in the biblical counseling movement help you gain wisdom, skill, and confidence to minister to a hurting person. You’ll grow as a counselor. You’ll grow in Christ.

Many ask what would be so valuable about the conference that a person would come for an entire week? Here is a video to show you what your experience would be like and some of the testimonies of those who have attended.

We have six training tracks in English and three in Spanish:

  • Track 1 (both English and Spanish) is for everyone. It is a basic course in personal ministry. This track serves to equip small group leaders, pastors, missionaries, and other lay leaders in the basics of individual ministry. This track is required for ACBC certification.
  • Tracks 2 and 3 dd the structure to the foundation built in Track 1. Both tracks cover a wide range of subjects and concerns. Tracks 2 and 3 build on Track 1 to further develop the all-important counseling framework.
  • Track 4 changes every year and caters to our “long-termers.” There are some folks who have attended this conference 15 years in a row! We cover more advanced topics and training.
  • Track 5 helps attendees work toward completion of the certification exams. We ask that all guests in this track complete Track 1 from us or from another ACBC-approved center.
  • Track 6 is dedicated to helping women counsel women. This track could be renamed the “Titus 2 Track” and will focus on some of the common struggles that women face, including dealing with childhood abuse, challenges with their identity, eating disorders, marital struggles, parenting difficulties, and spiritual growth. Our week together will help you apply Titus 2 through equipping in Christ-centered biblical counseling.

We strongly encourage taking Track 1 first because it is the foundation for this system of personal ministry.


We’re excited to introduce this year’s speakers for the Biblical Counseling Training Conference! Each of our speakers has a wealth of expertise in a field related to biblical counseling, training, and ministry.

Prices are currently discounted. REGISTER TODAY!

You’ll grow as a counselor. You’ll grow in Christ. We hope to see you for a life-changing week in February.

PS: Don’t forget to follow Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries on social media:



From Tim Challies
The Collected Best Christian Books of 2018

For the past couple of weeks my RSS feeder has been humming with list after list of the best books of 2018 (or, if not the best, the favorite books of 2018). It seems that just about every avid reader I follow is eager to share his or her picks for the year that was. I love these lists and decided I’d compile them to look for patterns and repeats. Here, then, are the collected best Christian books of 2018. Each one of these is from a blog or web site I read regularly.

We will begin with the titles that found their way onto at least 3 best-0f lists:

  • Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been by Jackie Hill Perry (5 lists)
  • Apologetics at the Cross: An Introduction for Christian Witness by Joshua D. Chatraw and Mark D. Allen (4 lists)
  • The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home by Russell Moore (3 lists)

This year there was little overlap with the best-of lists, so I thought I would also give mention to some books that ended up onto 2 best-of lists:

  • All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment by Hannah Anderson
  • Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Paul Tripp
  • Evangelism in a Skeptical World by Sam Chan
  • Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition by Hans Boersma
  • Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality by Nancy R. Pearcey
  • Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear by Matthew Kaemingk
  • Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship by John Piper
  • The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt

If you are looking for something to read or something to buy for a gift, you probably can’t go wrong with any of them!

And now here are each of lists of the best Christian books of 2018. You can visit the sites to read the rationales or to purchase the books. Alternatively, I’ve supplied links to Amazon. Please note that I am simply listing these books without endorsing them. In the majority of cases I have not read them!

The Gospel Coalition (read their reviews)

  • All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment by Hannah Anderson
  • The Devil’s Redemption by Michael J. McClymond
  • Faith Among the Faithless: Learning from Esther How to Live in a World Gone Mad by Mike Cospe
  • Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church by John Onwuchekwa
  • Christianity at the Crossroads: How the Second Century Shaped the Future of the Church by Michael Kruger
  • Apologetics at the Cross: An Introduction for Christian Witness by Joshua D. Chatraw and Mark D. Allen
  • Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality by Nancy R. Pearcey
  • Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been by Jackie Hill Perry

Trevin Wax (read his reviews)

  • Witness by Whittaker Chambers
  • Platitudes in the Making Precepts and Advices for Gentlefolk by G. K. Chesterton
  • Reagan by Bob Spitz
  • Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight
  • Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich
  • The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
  • Praying for Sheetrock by Melissa Fay Greene
  • Apologetics at the Cross: An Introduction for Christian Witness by Joshua D. Chatraw and Mark D. Allen
  • Identity Theft: Reclaiming the Truth of our Identity in Christ by Melissa Kruger, Jen Wilkin and others. 
  • Evangelism in a Skeptical World by Sam Chan

Bob Kellemen (read his reviews)

(Bob focuses exclusively on books for counseling.)

  • Biblical Counseling Basics: Roots, Beliefs, and Future by Jeremy Lelek
  • Caring for One Another: 8 Ways to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships by Edward T. Welch
  • Catching Foxes: A Gospel-Guided Journey to Marriage by John Henderson
  • Child Proof: Parenting by Faith, Not Formula by Julie Lowe
  • Debilitated and Diminished: Help for Christian Women in Emotionally Abusive Marriages, by Anne Dryburgh
  • Addictive Habits: Changing for Good by David Dunham
  • After an Affair: Pursuing Restoration by Michael Gembola
  • Contentment: Seeing God’s Goodness by Megan Hill
  • Doubt: Trusting God’s Promises by Elyse Fitzpatrick
  • Grief: Walking with Jesus by Bob Kellemen
  • Pornography: Fighting for Purity by Deepak Reju
  • Diehard Sins: How to Fight Wisely Against Destructive Daily Habits, by Rush Witt
  • Domestic Abuse: Help for the Sufferer by Darby Strickland
  • Domestic Abuse: Recognize, Respond, Rescue by Darby Strickland
  • God’s Grace in Your Suffering by David Powlison
  • Grace-Based Recovery: A Safe Place to Heal and Grow by Jonathan Daugherty
  • Graciousness: Tempering Truth with Love by John Crotts
  • Prodigal Children: Hope and Help for Parents by Robert Jones
  • Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World by Eliza Huie
  • Raising Kids in the Way of Grace by Bob Kellemen
  • Schizophrenia: A Compassionate Approach, by Todd Stryd
  • Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Paul Tripp
  • Treasure in the Ashes: Our Journey Home from the Ruins of Sexual Abuse Sue Nicewander and Maria Brookins
  • Why Worry?: Getting to the Heart of Your Anxiety by Robert Jones

Darryl Dash (read his reviews)

  • Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, wife of Charles H. Spurgeon  by Ray Rhodes
  • Even in Our Darkness: A Story of Beauty in a Broken Life by Jack Deere
  •  Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been by Jackie Hill Perry
  • With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani
  • Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
  • This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See by Seth Godin
  • Sell Your Book Like Wildfire: The Writer’s Guide to Marketing and Publicity by Rob Eagar
  • When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink
  • It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried
  • Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Apollo Moon Landings by Jay Barbree, Deke Slayton and Alan Shepard
  • Life at the Dakota: New York’s Most Unusual Address by Stephen Birmingham
  • A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa

Gentle Reformation (read their reviews)

  • Remembrance, Communion and Hope – Rediscovering the Gospel at the Lord’s Table by J. Todd Billings
  • Barracoon – The Story of the Last Black Cargo by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Reality Is Not What It Seems – The Journey To Quantum Gravity by Carlo Rovelli
  • J.C. Ryle – Prepared to Stand Alone by Iain H. Murray
  • Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear by Matthew Kaemingk
  • Made for Friendship, The Relationships that Halves Sorrows and Doubles Our Joy by Drew Hunter
  • Redeeming Money, How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts by Paul David Tripp
  • Hitting the Marks, Restoring the Essential Identity of the Church by Barry York
  • John Wesley, a Biography by Stephen Tomkins
  • The Life of Arthur W. Pink by Iain Murray

David Qaoud (read his reviews)

  • Apologetics and the Christian Imagination by Holly Ordway
  • Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan
  • Christ, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: Recovering the Sacraments for Evangelical Worship by Leonard Vander Zee
  • Letters to the Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles by Karen H. Jobes
  • A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology by J. Richard Middleton 
  • Acts (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (IVP Numbered)) by I. Howard Marshall
  • The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together by Jared C. Wilson
  • When Life Goes Dark: Finding Hope in the Midst of Depression by Richard Winter
  • On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
  • Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer: Spiritual Reality in the Personal Christian Life  by Francis Schaeffer

David Steele (read his reviews)

  • From Death to Life: How Salvation Works by Allen S. Nelson IV
  •  The Kremlin Conspiracy by Joel Rosenberg
  • Holy Sexuality and the Gospel by Christopher Yuan
  • Three Days in Moscow: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of the Soviet Empire by Brett Baier
  • Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards by Owen Strachan
  • Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning by Wayne Grudem
  • Reformed Preaching by Joel Beeke
  • Expository Exultation by John Piper
  • Suffering by Paul David Tripp
  • The Preacher’s Catechism by Lewis Allen

Andrew Bunt (read his reviews)

  • Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible by Stephen Dempster
  • Death and the Afterlife: Biblical Perspectives on Ultimate Questions by Paul Williamson
  • Interpreting the Pentateuch: An Exegetical Handbook by Peter Vogt
  • A Better Story: God, Sex & Human Flourishing by Glynn Harrison
  • People to be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue by Preston Sprinkle
  • A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus by David Bennett
  • When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment by Ryan Anderson
  • The Robots Are Coming: Us, Them & God by Nigel Cameron
  • 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke
  • God’s Lavish Grace by Terry Virgo
  • Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing by C.J. Mahaney

The Good Book Blog (read their reviews)

  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
  • None Like Him by Jen Wilkin
  • Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller
  • Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson
  • Hope When It Hurts by Sarah Walton and Kristen Wetherell
  • Salamis : The Greatest Naval Battle of the Ancient World by Barry Strauss
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Noah Yuval Hariri
  • I Married A Soldier by Brenda Hale and Rachel Farmer
  • How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs
  • The Ascent by Peter Grant

Jared Wilson (read his reviews)

  • Movie Nights with the Reagans: A Memoir by Mark Weinberg
  • Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock by Gregory Thornbury
  • Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump by John Fea
  • God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America by Larry Eskridge
  • Evangelical History in Australia: Spirit, Word, and World by Stuart Piggin
  • Apologetics at the Cross: An Introduction for Christian Witness by Joshua D. Chatraw and Mark D. Allen
  • Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
  • Black Preacher to White America: The Collected Writings of Lemuel Haynes, 1774-1833 by Lemuel Haynes
  • Dying Thoughts by Richard Baxter
  • Communion with the Triune God by John Owen

Tony Reinke (read his reviews)

  •  The Beauty of the Lord: Theology as Aesthetics by Jonathan King
  • Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship by John Piper
  • The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home by Russell Moore
  • Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been by Jackie Hill Perry
  • On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior
  • Lewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God by Joe Rigney
  • Finding Favour in the Sight of God: A Theology of Wisdom Literature by Richard P. Belcher Jr.
  • Paul: A Biography by N. T. Wright
  • The Gospel of Matthew Through New Eyes, Volume One: Jesus as Israel by Peter Leithart
  • Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition by Hans Boersma

Christine Hoover (read her reviews)

  • Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been by Jackie Hill Perry
  • The Passion of the King of Glory by Russ Ramsey
  • The Call by Os Guinness
  • God Counts by Irene Sun
  • If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey
  • Therefore I Have Hope by Cameron Cole
  • Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcy
  • Endurance by Alfred Lansing
  • Crossway Scripture Journal: New Testament
  • Love Big, Be Well by Winn Collier
  • Envy by Tilly Dillehay
  • All That’s Good by Hannah Anderson

Kevin DeYoung (read his reviews)

  • Help for the New Pastor: Practical Advice for Your First Year of Ministry by Charles Malcolm Wingard
  • Suicide of the West by Jonah Goldberg
  • The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
  • How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman
  • It’s Better than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear by Greg Easterbrook
  • Them: Why We Hate Each Other–and How to Heal by Ben Sasse
  • Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson
  • The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World by D. Bruce Hindmarsh
  • The Preacher’s Catechism by Lewis Allen
  • Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present by Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey (eds)

Christianity Today  (read their reviews)

  • Evangelism in a Skeptical World by Sam Chan
  • The Gospel Comes with a House Key byRosaria Butterfield
  • The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home by Russell Moore
  • Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness by Jeffrey D. Arthurs
  • The Forgotten Church: Why Rural Ministry Matters for Every Church in America by Glenn Daman
  • Perfectly Human: Nine Months with Cerian by Sarah C. Williams
  • White Picket Fences: Turning Toward Love in a World Divided by Privilege by Amy Julia Becker
  • Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World by A.J. Swoboda
  • Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear by Matthew Kaemingk
  • Scars Across Humanity: Understanding and Overcoming Violence Against Women by Elaine Storkey
  • The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World by Bruce Hindmarsh
  • The Kingdom of God Has No Borders: A Global History of American Evangelicals  by Melani McAlister
  • Christianity in the Twentieth Century: A World History by Brian Stanley
  • Megachurch Christianity Reconsidered: Millennials and Social Change in African Perspective by Wanjiru M. Gitau
  • Cultural Insights for Christian Leaders: New Directions for Organizations Serving God’s Mission by Douglas McConnell
  • Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition by Hans Boersma
  • Dying and the Virtues by Matthew Levering

For the Church (read their reviews)

  • Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts
  • Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth edited by Catherine McIlwaine
  • 40 Questions About Salvation by Matthew Barrett
  • Eschatological Discipleship: Leading Christians to Understand Their Historical and Cultural Context by Trevin Wax
  • The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home by Russell Moore
  • Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp
  • Apologetics at the Cross: An Introduction for Christian Witness by Joshua Chatraw and Mark Allen
  • That God May Be All in All: A Paterology Demonstrating That the Father is the Initiator of All Divine Activity by Ryan Rippee
  • Justification (2 Volumes) by Michael Horton
  • Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was and Who God Has Always Been by Jackie Hill Perry
  • Lewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God by Joe Rigney

WORLD magazine (read their reviews)

  • The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann
  • The Once and Future Worker by Oren Cass
  • No Turning Back by Rania Abouzeid
  • A Nation Forged by Crisis by Jay Sexton
  • Therefore I Have Hope by Cameron Cole
  • The Essential Jonathan Edwards by Owen Strachan & Douglas Sweeney
  • Remember Death by Matthew McCullough
  • The Rule of Love by Jonathan Leeman
  • Theodicy of Love by John C. Peckham

From Tim Challies
A La Carte (December 17)

Today’s Kindle deals include a long list of good deals from Crossway and Zondervan with a few others mixed in as well.

(Yesterday on the blog: A Pastoral Prayer from December)

What Happens When an Evangelical Pundit, Armed Only with 58K Twitter Followers and a Reference to the Bebbington Quadrilateral, Takes on a Historian

The title is a good description of what you’ll find in this article. I think this is important because it aptly shows how expertise is so often disregarded today. “On Thursday night a very interesting, revealing, and somewhat disturbing Twitter exchange took place between religion writer Jonathan Merritt and historian Thomas Kidd. Here is what happened…”

Reading The Jesus Storybook Bible in Iceland

This is a good read. “In the world’s most bookish country, evangelicals are taking up the ministry of translation.”

A Conversation with David Powlison

This is an encouraging conversation between Ed Welch and David Powlison. They discuss Powlison’s recent diagnosis of cancer.

What’s the Shortest International Border in the World?

The Canada-US border is the longest in the world. What’s the shortest?

Stop Saying 81 Percent of White Evangelicals Vote for Trump (It Was Probably Less Than Half)

Justin Taylor: “I know I’m fighting a losing battle with this post. It won’t go viral. It probably won’t change many minds. But I’ll give it a shot anyway. No matter how many times people make the claim, it is simply wrong to say that 81 percent of white evangelicals in the United States voted for Donald Trump to become president.”

Who Decides What Words Mean

I found this a fascinating one. “Decades before the rise of social media, polarisation plagued discussions about language. By and large, it still does. Everyone who cares about the topic is officially required to take one of two stances. Either you smugly preen about the mistakes you find abhorrent – this makes you a so-called prescriptivist – or you show off your knowledge of language change, and poke holes in the prescriptivists’ facts – this makes you a descriptivist. Group membership is mandatory, and the two are mutually exclusive.”

Travel Photographer of the Year Awards

There are some stunning photos on display here.

Flashback: One Man’s Honor Is Another Man’s Shame

As Christians we need to think carefully and biblically rather than simply accepting what the culture dictates. It is possible that Western children will have to make efforts to convince their parents they ought to be honored while people from other cultures may need to refuse to conform to some of the expectations placed upon them.

A true and faithful Christian does not make holy living an accidental thing. It is his great concern. As the business of the soldier is to fight, so the business of the Christian is to be like Christ. —Jonathan Edwards

From Tim Challies
A Pastoral Prayer from December

Last week I shared a sample pastoral prayer–one I prayed during one of our worship services at Grace Fellowship Church. In the coming weeks and months I will be sharing some more of these, some prayed by me and some by others. I am doing this primarily as a resource that may help inspire or kick-start others as they prepare to lead God’s people in prayer.

Father, you are kind and good, while we are sinful and bad. Father, you are gracious and patient, while we are harsh and so short-tempered. Father, you are merciful and forgiving, while we are cutthroat and hold onto grudges. We need your mercy. We need your forgiveness. We’d be utterly lost without it. We confess our sins before you and ask that you would forgive us.

You say, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” So please forgive our lawless deeds. Cover our sins. Do not count our sins against us. Lord, you also say, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We have confessed so we pray that you would cleanse. We are going to choose to believe that promise, that even though our sins are so many, your mercy is more. We are choosing to claim your promise and to believe it and to trust that our sin has been taken away, that your regard us as pure, not because of anything we’ve done or anything we are, but simply because of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Thank, God, for being who you are. Thank you for being kind and good and gracious and patient and merciful and forgiving. You are all that and so much more. We could spend all morning pondering all you are and all you’ve done. We could spend all week recounting it and we wouldn’t come close to reaching the end. So we thank and praise you. No wonder we love to gather here to praise you. No wonder we love to sing praises to your name. No wonder we love to open your Word and hear you speak. No wonder we love to pour out our hearts to you in prayer. No wonder. What a God you are! You alone are worthy of our worship. You alone.

Father, we thank you for all the ways you’ve expressed your goodness to us this week. You’ve forgiven us for our every sin. You’ve provided for our every need. You’ve given us a place to live where we enjoy law and safety and freedom. You’ve given us a church family where we enjoy Christian brotherhood and sisterhood. You’ve given us the ability to begin this new week joining together in worship to you. Best of all, you’ve given us yourself. Without you we lack all good things, but with you we lack no good thing. If we only have you, we are rich beyond measure. The greatest treasures of this world are nothing if we have you.

Father, we long for this to be a church that welcomes all people—all those who are weary and need rest, all who mourn and long to be comforted, all who are lost and feel worthless, all who understand that they have sinned before you, all who wonder if you even care about them. We pray that this morning all of us here would be aware of our deep need for you. And help us to be aware that you are big enough and strong enough and powerful enough to meet our every need. I pray that we as a church would exemplify caring for one another, loving one another, fellowshipping as brothers and sisters brought together in this great family with God himself as our father. I pray that those who are mourning would be comforted by you through us. I pray that we would speak your truths, that we would minister in your name, that we would extend your grace. Let us love one another with your love.

Now please be with us as we continue to worship. Be with Steve as he prepares to preach your Word. Be with us that we can listen attentively, that we can understand clearly, that we can apply carefully, that we can become more and more like our Savior. And it’s in his name that we pray, Amen.

From Tim Challies
Weekend A La Carte (December 15)

There are a few Kindle deals you may like to take a peek at today. Also, Amazon has select family board games on sale today.

(Yesterday on the blog: Kirk Cameron Wants You To Connect)

Hard times at Harvest

WORLD magazine has a long report on the hard times at Harvest Bible Chapel. “Former elders, pastors, and staffers from Chicago’s Harvest Bible Chapel accuse the church of financial mismanagement and a culture of deception and intimidation.” Christianity Today picked up the story as well.

The Death of Clear Thinking

Carl Trueman comments on a concerning article in the Times. “The entire article is of the quintessence of the age, instructive not so much for its positive contribution to the transgender case but for the insights it gives to our cultural moment. For such tendentious and flawed argumentation to be considered compelling, it needs to support a cause where the conclusions already enjoy such cachet that no significant exertion of intellectual effort is really needed to justify them in the public square.”

Misguided Proposal From Christian Leaders and LGBT Activists Is Anything but ‘Fairness for All’

In a somewhat similar vein, Ryan T. Anderson writes about “a proposal among some Christian leaders to strike a compromise with some LGBT activists to balance ‘LGBT rights’ with religious liberty. The proposal would elevate ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ (SOGI) to protected classes in federal law in exchange for certain exemptions for religious colleges and institutions. They call this approach ‘Fairness for All’.”

Inside the Killer Whale Matriarchy (Video)

This little video tells how killer whales maintain an important matriarchy.

Child Marriage: Cultural Norm or Distortion of God’s Purposes?

I’m thoroughly enjoying TGC Africa where its writers are explaining and analyzing some of the issues that pertain to their part of the world. In this case, it’s the practice of child marriage.

Amazing iPhone Review (Video)

This is a very different and rather humorous (but also insightful) review of the iPhone.

Not Everything Needs a Gospel Talk

I co-sign this: “I am a firm believer that, at some point, you actually have to share the gospel and that if all you’re doing is mercy ministry, or acts of service without words, you are not doing gospel ministry. But that doesn’t mean those sorts of things have absolutely no evangelistic value whatsoever.”

Flashback: The Visionary Worrywart

Worriers are always looking to the future—a future that is tragic and brutal.

5 Audiobooks that Speak to Suffering

I’m thankful to Christian Audio for sponsoring the blog this week!

There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me. —J.I. Packer

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: The End of an Era

I’ve been posting a link-up for what I called The Saturday Review of Books since July, 2006. When I first started, I asked the question: “I’m feeling vulnerable. What if I throw a Saturday Review party and no one comes?” But, guess what? You all did come, and I’m deeply grateful for all of the many, many bloggers and book reviewers who have shared links to their bookish thoughts over the past twelve years. You have given me and the others who visited here many good ideas for books to read, and we have been able to share thoughts about those books we were reading, had read, and wanted to read. It’s been good, folks.

However, all good things . . . I’m finding myself with less time to blog, more prone to forgetfulness, and just ready to try some new things. So, I’ll be posting a Saturday Review post tonight, and then the Saturday Review of Books will be posted one final time on Friday evening, December 28, 2018. SATURDAY December 29th, is the annual special edition of the Saturday Review of Books especially for book lists. You can link to a list of your favorite books read in 2018, a list of all the books you read in 2018, a list of the books you plan to read in 2018, or any other end of the year or beginning of the year list of books. Whatever your list, it’s time for book lists. (Links to regular reviews are also welcome, and you can certainly link to more than one review or more than one list.)

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

From Brandywine Books
‘Buried Lies,’ by Chris Collett

Continuing the DI Tom Mariner police procedural series by Chris Collett. This story takes Mariner out of his usual haunts in Birmingham, to a more rustic setting.

At the end of the previous novel in the series, Married Lies, Tom Mariner suffered a shocking personal loss. When Buried Lies begins, he has decided to take a holiday – a walking tour in the Welsh mountains. Back in his teens, he spent a summer in a village there, and he thinks he’ll revisit some old scenes.

At the same time, an ex-prisoner begins a series of revenge killings, repaying old “wrongs.” Everyone thinks he’s headed for Ireland, but in fact he’s on his way to Wales.

Driving to Wales, Mariner picks up a hitchhiker, a personable elderly academic who doesn’t seem to know much about walking tours. By chance they reconnect in Mariner’s destination village, where they share a room in a former youth hostel, owned by a woman who was Mariner’s girlfriend on that long-ago summer.

Meanwhile, Mariner comes across a murdered body on one of his hikes. And he grows curious about a local estate owned by a mysterious Russian, as well as a neighboring farm which claims to be growing organic vegetables(though Mariner can’t figure out how they’re paying the bills). When Mariner discovers yet another murder victim, the local police have no choice but to arrest him on suspicion.

I enjoyed Buried Lies, though I thought it tried to juggle too many balls at once. The final dramatic climax seemed a little contrived.

Still, Mariner is an interesting and admirable investigator, and the characters were interesting. Recommended with only minor cautions.

From Tim Challies
Free Stuff Fridays (Christian Audio)

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Christian Audio.

They are giving away five prizes this week, each of which will be a $50 gift card that you can use to purchase anything from their site. It’s a great opportunity to load up. As it happens, Christian Audio is in the midst of their twice-annual sale during which many of their digital downloads are marked down to just $7.49. That $50 will go a long way! You can begin to browse those 7,500 titles right here.

How to Read 20 Books a Year Effortlessly

Enter Here

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

From Tim Challies
Kirk Cameron Wants You To Connect

ConnectThere’s no doubt the world has changed rapidly over the past 10 or 20 years. There’s no doubt that children are being raised in a very different world than their parents were. There’s no doubt that our children’s children will be raised in yet another world. The pace of technological advance has accelerated to such a speed that none of us can keep us. I don’t think there’s a parent out there who isn’t confused and concerned about what their children are experiencing. I don’t think there’s a parent out there who feels confidently equipped to raise their kids to live in this strange, new world.

Kirk Cameron has six children and feels that same sense of disquiet. He decided to spend some time exploring both those feelings of confusion and some possible solutions, then documented his journey in a film titled Connect. Through his presentation he offers “Real Help for Parenting Kids in a Social Media World,” (according to the subtitle). And he does a pretty good job of it.

Much of Cameron’s journey is guided by Dr. Kathy Koch, author of Screens and Teens. She helps him understand how new technologies in general and social media in particular have shaped the way our children see and understand the world. Neurologist Dr. Ian Armstrong helps him understand some of the neurological implications of living an always-on life while counselor Mark Gregston provides insight on new challenges to parenting. Several young people tell how their lives were impacted by growing up around all these new technologies.

Through these experts, Cameron assembles a brief but helpful and thoughtful look at some of the challenges parents today are grappling with. Those who watch the film will have a better sense of how their children are being raised not only alongside these new technologies, but actually through them. They’ll know danger signs to look for and receive a challenge about having meaningful conversations with their kids.

By way of critique, there may be a little too much longing for the good old days, as if our childhoods were the ideal. And sure, we tend to look back fondly on long summer days spent wandering the great outdoors. The reality is, though, that we wasted endless amounts of time and found all sorts of ways to get into trouble. The good old days were not quite as good as we remember them. Not only that, but they aren’t ever coming back. So we need to look deeper than that and learn what it means for our children to live good and meaningful lives in a world like this one. Thankfully, Cameron does that. Through his interviews with these experts he comes to the key understanding that we can’t throw away or wish away our technologies. To the contrary, we need to embrace them as a fact of life in this world and teach our children to use them well. A crucial component of parenting our children in this world is discipling them in their use of mobile phones, internet connections, and social media.

There is one aspect of the film I appreciated a lot and it was the conversation in which he was challenged to allow his children to make mistakes. The temptation for parents is to be so full of fear that we shelter our children from anything that could harm them to even the least degree. Cameron is challenged to give his children appropriate levels of freedom, then to allow them to make mistakes. The task of parents is then to help their children interpret the situation and to pick up the pieces. That’s not to say, of course, that we’ll allow our children to be irreparably harmed, but that we’ll allow them to experience the same kinds of bumps and bruises they got when they learned to crawl and walk and run. Just like we didn’t force them never to stand up, we shouldn’t force our children never to have a cell phone or never to get an Instagram account. This is a key insight many parents today miss. We’ve got to raise our kids to live in this world, not the last one.

Family and technology is an area I’ve put a lot of thought into, and I half expected to be disappointed by Connect. I’m glad to say though, that I was both helped and challenged by it. I think any parent will benefit from seeing it, considering it, and talking to their kids about it.

From Tim Challies
A La Carte (December 14)

There isn’t much to tell you about by way of Kindle deals today. We’ll hope for better things over the weekend.

(Yesterday on the blog:  Reader Feedback: Should We Make a Priority of Diversity in Church Leadership?)

Will John Chau Help or Harm Missions in India?

Two Indian missiologists shared their perspectives with CT on the young American’s failed attempt to evangelize the Sentinelese and how the story of his death may impact future efforts to reach tribal groups in the islands.” We’ve heard lots about this story from outside of India so I’m glad to hear from people within.

My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience

Pray for believers in China. “Over 100 members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, were arrested beginning Sunday, December 9. At the time of publication of this translation, arrests are still being made. Among those taken away were Pastor Wang Yi, senior pastor of Early Rain, and his wife, Jiang Rong, who have not been heard from since Sunday. Foreseeing this circumstance, Pastor Wang Yi wrote the declaration below to be published by his church should he be detained for more than 48 hours. In it he explains the meaning and necessity of faithful disobedience, how it is distinct from political activism or civil disobedience, and how Christians should carry it out. ”

“Does God See Me?” An Advent Devotional

You may appreciate this little devotional. “To be seen is to be known. It is to be understood. It is to have our circumstances measured, our burdens weighed, our situations assessed and appreciated. But motherhood is often hidden. Our days are spent inside kitchen and playroom walls. We go days, weeks, and years alone with our kids, navigating terrain that others never see.  And we wonder if God sees us in our secret settings. Does he know? Does he understand what we’re walking through?”

America Is Intolerably Intolerant 

David French reflects on America, though it goes far beyond that. “Human beings need forgiveness like we need oxygen. The thing that is so shattering about the shame storm is that it is usually grounded in something a person did wrong — even if it’s a minor transgression. Even if it’s just momentary thoughtlessness. Even if it’s just a tweet. ”

Virtual Reality Church (Video)

Unfortunately, this isn’t too far from reality, which is what makes it good satire.

There is No Such Thing as Worldly Security

When I look at all God has provided for me, I ought to give him thanks and credit… but I should not expect it as my due. When I am lacking something, be it food or peace or health, I must take the approach that the world sees as foolish—to refuse to lay up treasure for myself, but instead marvel at and await my beautiful future with Christ, who has made me rich in him (2 Cor 8:9).

Focus on What God Has Revealed, Not Concealed

It’s pastoral wisdom, this. “One of the hidden gems of pastoral ministry is watching God turn the lights on in a Christian’s mind. And, when he turns the lights on, he also turns on the heat. God is kind to open minds to understand the Word of God, and as he does, he enflames hearts to rejoice in the God of the Word. Like Mary, I treasure these things up in my heart.”

Flashback: Jesus Isn’t Threatened by Your Christmas Gifts

We don’t threaten the wonder of the incarnation when we give nice gifts to the ones we love and when we look forward to receiving them. We don’t need to spiritualize these gifts by assuring ourselves that Jesus is the greatest gift of all.

We live and die; Christ died and lived! —John Stott

From Semicolon
Lists for your Christmas Book Joy

Use these lists for ideas of books to read for Christmas and books to give for Christmas.

Reshelving Alexandria: 15 Books to Read Aloud.

Reshelving Alexandria: 25 Picture Books to Read This Christmas. While you’re there, check out their trial membership offer. This website is, and will be for years to come, a great resource for bibliophiles everywhere.

Read-Aloud Revival: Our Favorite Christmas Picture Books. Includes a link to a free printable list.

Read-Aloud Revival: Christmas Short Stories and Novels to Read Aloud with the Whole Family. Listen to the podcast for more information on these suggested read-aloud stories for Christmas.

Read-Aloud Revival: Christmas Audiobooks for the Whole Family.

Redeemed Reader: Christmas Books for All Ages.

25 Christ-centered Christmas Books at Joyfully Thriving.

Top 20 Christmas Chapter Books at Well-Read Kid.

The Holiday Book Box at A Charlotte Mason Home.

From Semicolon
Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh

Fourteen year old Ahmed Nasser, a Syrian refugee, is stranded in Brussels, Belgium, separated from his family, no papers, no money, and no plan. Thirteen year old Max Howard, an American diplomat’s son, is stranded, too, in a way. His parents have transported him to Brussels and enrolled him in a French-speaking school, all because they want to give him a “new start” after an unfortunate sixth grade school year back in Washington, D.C. Now, Max feels like a failure and a stranger, and his parents just want him to repeat sixth grade and learn French and get his act together.

It’s an unlikely story of how two misfit boys meet and find a way to help each other. The story itself is very pro-refugee and sympathetic to the plight of Syrian refugees in particular. And the boys do break the law in their attempts to safeguard and legitimize Ahmed. The lone spokesperson for law and order, Police Inspector Fontaine, is not very effective in his argument that “the law is important. Society cannot function without it.” (He reminds one a bit of Inspector Javert.)

Although it’s quite obvious where the author’s sympathies lie, I would not say that the book is didactic. The story is exciting and intriguing enough to keep the pages flipping, and the characters, even the ones who disagree with what Max and Ahmed are trying to do, are well-drawn and interesting, experiencing growth and development to some extent. Max’s parents seem a bit oblivious to the obvious, but they are likable and present and engaged in Max’s life.

Near the end of the book, in a clear reference to our current American president, someone tells Ahmed, “America is only accepting ten thousand Syrians. There is even a candidate for president who wants to ban all Muslim immigrants.” In the first ten months of 2018, the United States admitted only fifty-six Syrian refugees.

From Alexandra K. Bush
Charles Hodge and Parenting

Charles Hodge on Romans 6 The other night I was skimming Charles Hodge’s commentary on Romans (aff) and was just struck by how God relates to us as His children, and how I can follow that example with my children. This is from the Crossway Books Classic Commentaries, page 189 commenting on Romans 6:12-23: “As […]

From Semicolon
Strange Star by Emma Carroll

This book features the Shelleys, Percy Byshe and Mary Godwin, and Mary’s half-sister Claire, and Lord Byron, and as soon as I realized that little fact, I knew that I would be somewhat ambivalent about the book. The Shelleys and their coterie, especially Percy and Byron, but really all of them, were not very good people. In fact, Percy Shelley was a predator who took advantage of at least two teenage girls and drove one of them to suicide. And Byron was even worse in the womanizing department. The tale of these two poets and their harem/community/obsessive fanbase is a sordid one.

And yet . . . The story, especially the famous story of the Villa Diodati and how the group challenged each other to write a ghost or horror story, and how Mary Godwin Shelley produced the tale of Frankenstein’s monster as a result of that challenge, has a particular and peculiar fascination. Just as the book Frankenstein is repellant and yet strangely fascinating at the same time, its origin story has inspired many an author to embroider and fill in the gaps in the Shelleys’ journey to Romantic fame.

“Yet I’ve also tried to make my story echo Mary Shelley’s in certain ways. Felix, Agatha, Elizabeth (Lizzie), Mr. Walton, and Moritz are all names taken from Frankenstein. Strange Star is about scientific ambition: Miss Stine experiments with electricity regardless of the consequences, just as Victor Frankenstein does in Shelley’s original. There is a blind character in Frankenstein who doesn’t judge people by their appearance. Many of the characters in Strange Star face prejudice because of how they look or who they are.
For me, Frankenstein is a great story, and Mary Shelley an inspirational woman. I really hope reading Strange Star will make you want to discover more about both for yourself.”

Well, not really. I think I know enough already. However, I did find that Strange Star, while rather a strange story itself, neither appeals to prurient interest by emphasizing the nasty details of the Shelleys lives not does it whitewash them and make them into kind, honorable people. The Shelleys, Claire Clairmont, and Lord Byron in this book are portrayed as just the selfish, careless people that they most likely were without the author’s giving too much information for a middle grade or young adult audience.

Strange Star itself is a little dark, but it ends on a good note. As another author with a bad reputation once wrote, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” I daresay I like my Romantic poets fictionalized to some extent to take away the rough edges.

From Semicolon
A Dastardly Plot by Christopher Healy

A Perilous Journey of Danger and Mayhem: A Dastardly Plot by Christopher Healy.

A new series beginner by the author of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is something to look forward to with anticipation, and A Dastardly Plot lives up to my expectations. The book is set in 1883, the Age of Invention, and features appearances by great inventors such as Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla, and George Eastman, to name a few of the many men who made the age of invention, inventive.

But where were all the women? Well, according to this fantastical version of history, the women were shut out of the Inventor’s Guild and out of the World’s Fair, disregarded, patronized, and ignored. It’s definitely a feminist take on madcap inventors who are out to save the world, but it never gets didactic or overbearing. Molly Pepper, daughter of the not-so-famous inventor, Cassandra Pepper, lives with her mother behind their pickle shop and helps with the inventing. However, Molly doesn’t really have the inventing bug, not does she want to be an inventor when she grows up. And right now, at age twelve, Molly is too busy trying to keep her mother alive, solvent, and following her dream of exhibiting her inventions at the World’s Fair, to worry too much about growing up or about what she will do if and when she does. It’s Molly’s new friend Emmett Lee who has the gift for new ideas and inventions, but it’s Molly who must save the day with her practicality and persistence when villains want to destroy the Worlds Fair and take over the government of the entire country.

A Dastardly Plot is a detective adventure fantasy with lots of chases and explosions and hairbreadth escapes and and mysterious disguises and twists and turns as well as a growing friendship between Molly Pepper and Emmett Lee and a mother/daughter relationship that is characterized by dysfunction and growth, too. Readers of all ages can enjoy this story with its humor and heart, and I predict that most of those readers will be looking forward to the next installment in the story of the Peppers and Emmett Lee and the inventors of New York.

By the way, there is an afterword in which Mr. Healy tells his readers “what’s real and what’s not in A Dastardly Plot.” Such information is definitely needed, since most of the book falls in the “not” category. Still it may inspire young readers to research for themselves and find out more about Edison, Bell, Tesla, Eastman, Nellie Bly, Sarah Goode, Hertha Marks, Josephine Cochrane, Margaret Knight, Mary Walton, and other inventors and luminaries of the late nineteenth century. Also featured in the story are the Brooklyn Bridge, President Chester Arthur, Ulysses S. Grant, Menlo Park, and the National Geographic Society. Lots of jumping-off places for more learning and adventure. (I want to read more about all those female inventors for myself.)

From Alexandra K. Bush
St. Nicholas Day Fun

From Semicolon
The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss

Bicycle, a foundling who has grown up at the Mostly Silent monastery in Washington, D.C., is now twelve years old, a lover of cycling, and in need of a good friend. But she’s not likely to find a real friend either at the monastery where the monks are limited in their speech to only eight sacred words, used infrequently and only when necessary, or at the Friendship Factory, a camp where she is guaranteed to make three friends or else. So, Bicycle sets off on her own, with her trusty bicycle, to make her own friends in her own way.

This story of a girl and her cross-country bicycle trip from Washington, D.C. to California is enlivened by the appearance of unexpected characters along the way: a Civil War ghost who decides to haunt Bicycle’s bicycle (named Clunk), a bike-loving horse named Cannibal, a frustrated restauranteur, Estrella and her bike-crushing herd of pigs, The Cookie Lady, and Jeremiah, the Fried Pie seller—and that’s just in the first half of the trip before Bicycle reaches the Continental Divide. Bicycle is a determined and honest girl with a mission: she wants to make friends with her cycling hero, Zbigniew Sienkiewicz, aka Zbig (for obvious “pronouncibility” reasons), who is coming to San Francisco for The Blessing of the Bicycles. The only way she can get to meet Zbig is be there for the event, and Bicycle is going to make it by bicycling all the way across the United States.

The story does require some suspension of disbelief, and a certain appreciation or at least tolerance for the quirky and off-beat. However, the author, Christina Uss, “has ridden her own beloved bicycle across the United States, once widthwise and once lengthwise.” That familiarity with cross-country bicycling and U.S. geography shows up in the details of the story as Bicycle pedals through miles and miles of Kansas sunflowers or through more miles and miles of Nevada desert. Just as Bicycle has people and events that cross her path and help get her through those long miles, the book never slows down too much without a new place to see a friend to meet, or without something happening to enliven Bicycle’s journey and keep the pages/pedals turning.

The book could be classified in the “magical realism” genre, with a bit of science fiction thrown in. However, it’s mostly a story about a girl who learns to persevere and make friends, who has a little luck and a lot of pluck, and who loves bicycling. If any of those themes and ideas pique your interest, you should check it out.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book may be nominated for a Cybils Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.

From Alexandra K. Bush
Holidays in Temp Housing

From such small hands

If anyone even visits this blog any more, they would notice the design change immediately. I've let the blog go idle for so long, I didn't realize that TypePad had changed its policies and is now selling domains to blog...

From Semicolon
Christmas in South Africa, c. 2001

Niki Daly’s series of picture books about a little girl named Jamela are a perfect introduction to South African culture, and they are just good stories.

What’s Cooking, Jamela? deals with the advent of Christmas, South African style as Jamela helps Mama fatten up a chicken for Christmas dinner.

“When Gogo left, Mama said, ‘Come, Jamela, let’s go to Mrs. Zibi and buy one of her young chickens. If we feed it well, it will be nice and fat for Christmas.’

Mama let Jamela choose the chicken–a beautiful red one. Mrs. Zibi gave them a bag of mielies.

‘We can call her Christmas,’ said Jamela. Mama laughed. ‘That’s a good name for a Christmas chicken, Jamela.'”

Other Jamela books:

Jamela’s Dress
Happy Birthday, Jamela!
Where’s Jamela?
A Song for Jamela

Several of these are also available in Spanish.

From Semicolon
Christmas in Philadelphia, PA, c.1962

Carolyn Haywood’s Betsy books and her other books about Little Eddie and other children growing up in mid-twentieth century America are a breath of fresh air and a lovely look at the kind of childhood that I actually experienced back in the 1960’s.

In this excerpt from Snowbound with Betsy, Betsy and her friends decide to make a Christmas tree for feeding the birds:

“This is a good place for it,’ said Susan, “because we’ll be able to see it from the window.”

“Yes,” said Betsy. “We’ll be able to see the birds eating the peanut butter.”

“Lucky birds!” said Neddie. “They all get the peanut butter.”

“I love peanut butter,” said Star, longingly.

Susan and Betsy hung the orange cups on the branches of the tree. Neddie helped to hang the apple parings. Finally Betsy and Susan draped several garlands of popcorn from branch to branch, all the way from the top to the bottom of the tree.When they were finished, the children were pleased with the birds’ Christmas tree. They stood and admired it. The bright orange cups against the dark green branches made the tree very gay.

“It looks like a real Christmas tree,” said Susan.

From Semicolon
Christmas at Notre Dame, France, c.1300

The Little Juggler, adapted from an old French Legend and illustrated by Barbara Cooney.

From the same source story as yesterday’s selection, The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola, The Little Juggler is a bit longer and more detailed, set in France this time, and with a different, somewhat happier, ending. The juggler in this story is named Barnaby, and he is said in the end to “continue to ply his craft for the Christ Child and His Mother. Cheerfully did he tumble and cheerfully did he serve.”

I love Barbara Cooney’s three color illustrations–red, white, and black. And the story in the introduction to her version of this tale of how she named her son after the little juggler and then later dedicated her book to “Barnaby and his son” adds an extra fillip of joy to the telling. Ms. Cooney says that this book, published in 1961, is her “contribution to the Christmas season.”

“The next night, on Christmas Eve, the monks came to the little chapel with the beautiful gifts for the Christ Child and His Mother. Barnaby, with a sad heart, watched as each of the brothers laid his offering at the feet of the statue.

‘Ah, sweet Lady,’ he sighed, ‘if only I could match the splendor of their gifts. Alas, I cannot.'”

Compare Ms. Cooney’s version of the story with Mr. dePaola’s retelling, and then, perhaps look up the short story by French author Anatole France, Our Lady’s Juggler.

From The Living Room
first sunday of advent (2018)

He comes back home from Jerusalem, smelling like
Smoke and incense and blood, preoccupied in thought.
He is not usually this quiet.

A few times he looks at me, breathes in as if to speak,
Then sighs, some frustration around the edges of his exhale.
Something happened to him, it seems.

Finally, he stands up, gestures: Look, please.
And his hands spell out the story–
The angel, the promise, his question, his voice.

And he stops, sits down beside me:
Am I crazy? Is this all true?
I feel him ask me, rather than hear.

And something in his helplessness, and in his
Echo of my own doubts and spark of faith
Makes me love him even more than I did as a girl.

Maybe we are crazy and it’s true, I tell him.
What’s the harm in taking a chance?

From The Living Room
thursday 13

This week: 13 things you want to buy or otherwise obtain.

  1. Dutch oven.
  2. Camping gear.
  3. A Jokers and Marbles board.
  4. A coffee grinder.
  5. Cowboy boots.
  6. Pie pans.
  7. New dishes.
  8. A really good chef’s knife
  9. A pocketknife.
  10. A stock pot (for making big batches of soup).
  11. New sunglasses.
  12. I don’t really know why I want this, but the extended edition DVD sets for the Lord of the Rings movies.
  13. There’s this dress on Modcloth I’ve had my eye on for a while; I think I might just go ahead and get it soon…


From The Living Room
thursday 13

This week: 13 things you want to cook.

  1. These meatballs.
  2. This Korean dish, called andong jjimdak, which looks amazing.
  3. These muffins.
  4. Pho!
  5. Hotdish!
  6. More hotdish!
  7. Chile relleno casserole, omg.
  8. There’s a recipe in this month’s Bon Appetit that’s not online yet, but it’s coconut-apple dal, which sounds really autumnal and delicious and I want it now.
  9. Hasselback butternut squash.
  10. This will probably not ever happen, but something to aspire to is cassoulet.
  11. Upside-down cherry cake.
  12. Chocolate-peppermint cake roll.
  13. This pumpkin pie.

From The Living Room
right now: october 2018.

Making: I’m in between projects right now–I just started a new job and I’m still kind of reconfiguring my daily rhythms and such. I did start my annual music top 50 list, so that’s something I guess.

Cooking: I made this the other night and it was tasty; I had some sauce leftover and I’m planning on trying it mixed with some rice to see how that goes. I also have my eye on this black bean soup now that it’s no longer blaring hot outside.

Drinking: I’m at my local coffee place drinking a soy milk latte right now and it’s delicious. (It’s also my third cup of coffee today and I am never sleeping tonight.) I’ve also started drinking a mix of hot chai (from the Tazo tea bags) and french vanilla creamer and it is awesome (and way cheaper and less sugary than Starbucks).

Reading: Just started Little Fires Everywhere. Casting about for a nonfiction book to read; might start Dorothy Sayers’ The Mind of the Maker.

Wanting: A jacket that’s about hoodie-weight but isn’t actually a hoodie (maybe in denim or twill, I haven’t decided yet).

Looking: At armchairs–working on building a reading corner in my living room.

Playing: Lots of nertz on my phone, especially when I’m vegging out listening to podcasts and not doing anything else.

Deciding: Which streaming service to get for Doctor Who and college sports.

Wishing: That I knew what I was going to give people for Christmas…time to start figuring that out.

Enjoying: The cool, rainy weather, which means that I am wearing a 3/4-sleeve shirt and not dying. Also, my parish/small group/whatever your church calls those is doing a thing called fight clubs, which is smaller groups for people to meet in for life stuff, accountability, and prayer and such. (I actually am still in one of these from Kaleo, even though we’re at different churches now.) Anyway, mine’s met twice and I’m very much enjoying getting to know those women and opening up to them more. I’m still very new to our church and I feel like there’s still a lot I’m getting to know about people (and vice versa), so this is a nice format to do it in.

Waiting: For the concert I’m going to tonight–Sandra McCracken’s playing a free show at a local church and I’m pretty excited.

Liking: The fact that the guy who took my coffee order recognized me and was like “hey, haven’t seen you in forever!”

Wondering: What I’m going to do to celebrate Advent this year.

Loving: My calendar is full for the next few months and it’s very good for me and my ambivert self to get out and be with people.

Pondering: What to eat for dinner tonight (thinking about getting curry fried rice from a local place that does it excellently).

Considering: Future plans–I’ve got the bones of a plan to finally start a second master’s degree in the fall of 2020, which isn’t as far off as it seems. I need to work out details (especially the financial ones), but yeah, I have concrete plans to make it happen now, which is exciting.

Buying: Finally bought a couch–it’s a dark gray with some bluish undertones to it, and it’s long enough for me to take a nap on and it’s great.

Watching: Not really anything at the moment. Heard great things about Salt Fat Acid Heat and I need to catch up on Doctor Who. I do want to see A Star Is Born and The Hate U Give (although I might wait on that one until I’ve read the book).

Hoping: That the cool weather sticks around for a while and that we actually get some cold weather soon.

Marveling: I recently found out that my mom has never seen a dinosaur skeleton in person and am now wondering how the heck that happened.

Needing: To figure out what I’m going to wear to my friends’ wedding in December, but I’ve got a while, thankfully. I think I know, but it’ll depend on weather.

Questioning: Whether or not I can pull off wearing a jumpsuit–I’ve tried on rompers and they make me look absurd, but I don’t know about jumpsuits. I kind of love this one (and it looks good on their plus-size model, which is important for me).

Smelling: Lavender, thanks to my leave-in conditioner.

Wearing: Coral-pink 3/4-sleeve shirt, jeans, gray TOMS.

Admiring: This poem by Robert Pinsky.

Giggling: At this fantastic review of Pacific Rim Uprising.

Snacking: It’s apple season, which means that I have been buying them by the bag and devouring them in my car on the way home from work. I also recently discovered moondrop grapes, which are very grapey and sweet and juicy and were to be had for a ridiculously good price at HEB last week.

Hearing: Directly in my ears, Jars of Clay’s album Who We Are Instead, which is one of my favorites. Underneath, all the sounds of this coffee place: The Shins on the radio, conversations at other tables, the espresso machine hissing.

From The Living Room
thursday 13

(more substantial post coming soon!)

This week: 13 songs from contemporary musicals (i.e., from the past 20 years) that aren’t Hamilton.

    1. A double-header: “Before and After You” and “One Second and a Million Miles” from The Bridges of Madison County.
    2. “96,000” from In the Heights.
    3. “Omar Sharif” from The Band’s Visit.
    4. “Wish I Were Here” from Next to Normal.
    5. “Touch Me” from Spring Awakening.
    6. “Gold” from Once.
    7. “Chant II” from Hadestown.
    8. “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen.
    9. “Michael In the Bathroom” from Be More Chill.
    10. “I’m Here” from The Color Purple.
    11. “She Used to Be Mine” from Waitress.
    12. “Balaga” from Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.
    13. “I Can Do Better Than That” from The Last 5 Years.

From The Living Room
thursday 13

This week: 13 things you do for self-care.

  1. Get counseling when I need it
  2. Vitamin D supplement, probiotic, OTC allergy meds, fish oil
  3. I’m trying to get better about consistent exercise…
  4. Also trying to get better about eating well.
  5. Starting to get better about wearing sunscreen.
  6. I paint my own toenails because I’m one of those people that hates pedicures.
  7. Once a year I’ll do a foot peel–you soak your feet in this liquid for an hour and then over the next few days your dead skin all peels off. It is mildly horrifying, but your feet feel and look amazing afterwards.
  8. I’m not totally consistent about this, but I use the Headspace app to do some deep breathing in the morning or to help me fall asleep and it’s great.
  9. Also trying to hang out with my people more, because community is necessary and good.
  10. Can we count church here? I suppose that is not so much self-care as it is being open to God’s care for me, yes?
  11. Every once in a while I’ll do a brain dump in my notebook–just make myself write anything that comes to mind for 10-15 minutes and fill up a couple of pages. Surprisingly helpful.
  12. Need to schedule it for this year, but yearly checkup at the doctor.
  13. Creative endeavors–knitting, guitar, etc.

From The Living Room
thursday 13

This week: Books you’ve read in the past 12 months.

  1. Tom Hanks, Uncommon Type (yes, that Tom Hanks)
  2. Rachel Khong, Goodbye Vitamin
  3. Gregory Cole, Single, Gay, Christian
  4. Sue Grafton, X
  5. Min Jin Lee, Pachinko
  6. Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You
  7. Joy Beth Smith, Party of One
  8. Daniel Coyle, The Culture Code
  9. Nnedi Okorafor, Binti
  10. Edward Lee, Buttermilk Graffiti
  11. Suzanne Stabile, The Path Between Us
  12. Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here
  13. W.B. Sprague, Lectures On Revivals

From The Living Room
Random thoughts on a Saturday night

  1. Line I thought of but haven’t had the time to sit down and write a whole poem around yet: “I was born in the shadow of the valley of death.” (I was born in a Korean county that’s home to a valley called the Punch Bowl, where hundreds of Korean and American soldiers met their fates during a Korean War battle; this feels like a rather poetic if somewhat grim detail.)
  2. Speaking of Koreanness, I have come across a YouTube channel called Korean Englishman that is pretty much what it says: It’s a young English guy who grew up in a city in China where there are a lot of Korean people, and he fell in love with Korean culture and language. So he’s basically acting as a one-man Korean tourism board, introducing his English friends to Korean food and stuff, and he has quite a following of Korean people, which sort of surprised me. But as someone said in the comments on one of his videos, Koreans are very curious about what other cultures think of theirs, so this guy’s appreciation of Koreanness is really affirming to them.
  3. This does, however, have me thinking about a lot of stuff–there’s part of me that’s bothered by it centering on the experiences of a white British guy instead of on the stories of actual Korean people, but on the other hand actual Korean people don’t really seem to mind and are in fact really stoked about it? Maybe it’s an American attitude toward race and culture that people in Korea don’t have?
  4. And it also has me thinking about the fact that I have not intentionally sought a whole lot of Korean experiences in America, which is nuts when I live in a city that has loads of Korean people in it, and I think it’s at least in part because I’m nervous about whether or not I’d be perceived as not being Korean enough, or whether or not I’d be looked down on for not knowing certain things, or not knowing more than a handful of Korean words. (I mean, all my experiences with first- and second-generation Korean-Americans have never indicated that this would be the case; to be honest, it’s been well-intentioned but misguided white people that have made me feel less than for not knowing my own culture.) I feel like I need someone to hold my hand through the experience, and to be honest I don’t really move in spaces where there are a lot of other Korean people, so…now I’m kind of reevaluating all that. So watch this space, I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on this later!
  5. Anyway! I have thus far spent this weekend eating BLTs with farmers market tomatoes and jalapeño bacon from HEB (SO GOOD) and nursing a sinus headache that is probably related to this rain we’re getting. I’ve noticed that since Harvey last year I’m a little more skittish whenever it rains a lot, which I’m sure is the case for a lot of people in southeast Texas.
  6. I’m just going to leave you with this after all of this Korean angst:


From Overcoming Our Genes

I think Wandra posted this at the picnic in 2011

As I sit next to my open office window with the gentle breeze caressing me, I contemplate my life. I marvel that I've made it this far-- 3/4's of a century.  There have been many changes during this time. People of our age had more cars with stick shifts than automatic transmissions.  And now we are facing the age of the self driving car.  We had our radios and black and white movies; then came black and white TV followed closely by both in color.  Computers have gone from room size to the smallest that will fit in a pocket.  Now we have computers in phones, watches, refrigerators, and just about everything, including humans.  We've seen a man walk on the moon and plant an American flag.  (I think the U. S. could colonize the moon and Mars.  My brothers always hoped that we would.)   

The adjustments in my life have been many as well.  At Groveton I didn't make cheerleading! I wasn't asked to the senior prom. (Now with the sexual revolution happening that was a good thing!) I was chosen for several parts in Tiger Theatre productions.  I was made business manager of the Tiger Rag.  Mrs. Lindberg chose me as her assistant and told me that I should major in PE in college. I received a BA from EWU and taught school ( 3 years.) I married and had 2 children. Now I have 3 grandchildren. I've lost my older brother (accidental death) and younger sister (cancer), both GHS grads.  I came down with fibromyalgia.  I've traveled all over the world by plane, train, car, bus, cruise ship, le truck, and sailboat.  Through it all, by God's grace, I've learned to be content.  

My family's move to Virginia,  my experiences at Groveton High School, and the people who have kept in touch through reunions, have been a blessing.  I could name names (you know who you are)  but I may leave somebody out.  I will just post the pictures.  I was a lost Groveton High School classmate from 1961 until 1991 and then again in 1996.  Maybe you were a lost classmate also.   
 GHS class of 1961 graduation

 GHS 1961

GHS 1961

 GHS '61 Reunion 1991

GHS Class of 1961 Reunion 1991


2001 Mt. Eagle Elementary reunion

1958 , '59, '60, '61 reunion 2001

GHS band alums and Mrs. Tabor 2001

Jamie white and Barry Mates 2001



 GHS '61 2005























2011 Classmates who attended Belleview Elementary

We have lost many of our Groveton classmates along the way.  I pray that they have all made peace with God through Jesus so that we can have a big reunion in Heaven. 

From Overcoming Our Genes

4th Grade Mt. Eagle Elementary, Alexandria, VA

 5th grade Mt. Eagle Elementary Alexandria, VA

My fictionalized story about our move to Virginia when I was in 4th grade:
       Jo held down her skirt so the wind wouldn’t whip it up as she pounded down the cement sidewalk on her way home from school.  The heavy schoolbooks bounced in her backpack and long dark braids swung and wisps fell out around her freckled face.  Dust rose in clouds off the blacktopped street as cars sped past.  While she waited for a break in traffic she kicked the “Welcome to Fairfax County” sign post.  Virginia was such a bummer. 
       Jo yelled as she shoved open the front door of the brick duplex in Jefferson Manor where she lived with her family.  “Hi mom I’m home.  I gotta get out of this dumb skirt.” She kicked the door shut.  Up the stairs to her bedroom she bounded.  Ugh!  She hated this house with nothing but bare grass around it.  In Alaska they had a river boat they cruised on the Chena River.  She didn’t have to worry about cars speeding by.  There was a lot less traffic.  And that smelly cow farm down the road made her sick to her stomach.
Into her room she ran, dropped her books onto the rollaway bed she shared with her sister, and slammed her room door.  She yanked off her blouse, skirt, and slip and slid into her comfortable blue jeans and T-shirt.  Whew!  That’s better, she said to herself.   I’m glad it’s Friday.  I don’t have to wear that stupid skirt again until Monday.
       Skipping down the stairs she found her mom in the family room changing her brother Sam’s diaper. “Mom, I can’t stand wearing skirts to school.  My bare legs stick out like tooth picks.  Why can’t I wear pants like the boys?” 
       “It’s the school’s dress code, Jo.”
       “Well I hate it!  I wish we were back in Alaska.”                                                  Mom sighed.  “When your dad got transferred from Alaska to Virginia I didn’t realize there would be so many adjustments and changes.  You could wear pants to school in Alaska because it was so cold.  But here it doesn’t get as cold.” 
       “People are too uptight here,” Jo said.  “Nothing is the same in my life. I think I’ll pack my suitcase and move back to Alaska.” 
       Mom smoothed vaseline on baby Sam’s bottom and didn’t say anything.  
       “What’s wrong with these people?  I can’t play kickball in a dress at recess.  I end up staying inside and playing computer games.  I don’t get enough fresh air because I have to wear a dress all the time.  I hate the weather here too.  It’s so hot and muggy.  In Fairbanks it never got muggy.”
       Mom shrugged and left the room, calling as she headed for the basement stairs, “Watch Sam for me, please, the laundry’s done.”
       “Okay—can we have blueberry cobbler for dinner though?”
       “Blueberries are too expensive here,” Mom said.  She disappeared down the stairs.
       “Oh no,” said Jo disappointed.
       She lifted Sam and plunked him down in his high chair in the kitchenette. Then she washed her hands with dish soap, pulled the built in bread board out from the slot over the silverware drawer, snatched the peanut butter out of the refrigerator, and grabbed two slices of bread.
       “You understand, don’t you Sam?  You’re an Alaskan baby!”  Sam grinned up at her.  His nickname was Sourdough Sam after the sourdough starter everyone had in their refrigerators on the last frontier.  Jo made her sandwich and talked to Sam.
“Remember those giant blueberries we used to pick when we camped on Mt. McKinley.  Yum!  And sleeping in our white Eskimo tent with warm down bags. I remember waking up with frost on our eyelashes.  Sam watched her intently as he chewed on his teething biscuit. 
“Can’t you just smell the campfire?  When the sun melted the frost off the berries we picked buckets full.  Oh and those Alaskan king crab legs.  Smoked squaw candy, I’m drooling.”  She tickled Sam’s cheek.  “You’re drooling too Sam!”
Sam laughed and watched Jo carefully; his big blue eyes staring, and his mouth open as if he were anticipating a bite of the sandwich.
       Jo continued on her rant. “In Fairbanks we could stay up all night and play softball if we wanted to because it was light all night.  Everything’s different here in the south.  None of my favorite foods.  And skirts, skirts, skirts for school.  Well, no one said I had to wear skirts places anywhere besides school.  I know, I’ll wear my new blue and pink striped sweater and new jeans to church on Sunday.”   This idea cheered her and she happily munched her sandwich and fed a bite to Sam.
       On Sunday morning Jo appeared downstairs ready for church dressed in her favorite jeans and sweater.  “Are you sure you want to wear that to church, Jo?”  Mom asked.
       “Yes, I’m absolutely sure,” said Jo.
       “Well, okay then.”
         The family arrived a bit late for Sunday school and slipped into the back pew of the sanctuary for the opening exercises.  Soon it was time for their individual classes.  The boys and girls went to separate classes and the adults went to their class.
         When Jo joined the circle of girls her age she stared at them and tried not to giggle.  They all wore a-line dresses with shiny glitter or velvet trim, clunky sandals, and nylons, like they were dressed for a wedding, or something.   Jo felt very uncomfortable and self-conscious.  I bet they LIKE to wear dresses, she thought as she glared at them.  I must be the only girl who likes to wear pants.  Even my sister likes dresses.
       Mrs. Smith began the lesson.  “The scripture for today is Philippians 2:14 — “Do everything without complaining or arguing.  What does this mean?” asked the teacher.
       Jo thought about how she had complained since the move.  She picked at her cuticles so she could keep her head down and avoid eye contact with anyone.
       “I think it means I should feed my pet goat and not complain when he butts me in the rear when I turn my back,” said a girl named Sandy.  Everyone chuckled including the teacher.
       Kimberly said, “I think it has something to do with getting along with other Christians.”
       “Those are good answers,” said the teacher.  “It also means if we complain about changes and hardships in our lives we are complaining about God’s will for us.” 
“You mean we shouldn’t complain about where we live or our families?” said Amy.
“That’s a wonderful way to put it,” said Mrs. Smith.  “And it’s hard to do, isn’t it?”  All the girls nodded in agreement.  Mrs. Smith continued, “I catch myself complaining and being impatient when my children don’t take care of their clothes.  Then I remember God is patient with me when I don’t do what is good.”
       Jo didn’t say anything because she realized she was complaining about EVERYTHING. She thought about Philippians 2:14 and the teacher’s words.  Did they apply to all the changes in her life she complained about? She prayed silently, “Dear Lord, please forgive me for complaining.  Help me to be able to wear a skirt happily, and to accept all the changes in my life.  In Jesus name, Amen.” 
       After church everyone stayed for a potluck fellowship.  Men and women bustled and set up tables.  The food was placed in bowls and platters and wonderful smells came from the kitchen as casseroles were warmed.  The girl named Sandy walked up to Jo when the table was spread with all the food.
“Jo want to sit with us?” Jo looked at Sandy’s velvet trimmed dress and the tiny flowers in her pierced ears.  She hesitated.  Then she looked at Sandy’s friendly face. 
  “Oh, sure,” she said.  “Is it all right Mom and Dad?”
“Go ahead, find us afterward,” said Mom, and Dad nodded.
Sandy and Jo slid plates off the pile and stood in the food line.  There were some foods she recognized like fried chicken and potato salad but there were strange looking foods too.
“What’s that?” Jo asked Sandy pointing to a bowl of beans with black dots on them. 
“Black-eyed peas.”
Jo swallowed hard.  “And what about that?”  She pointed to a bowl of slimy looking green stuff.
“That’s okra.”
Ugh!  Oh how she missed all the good food in Alaska, especially the hot sourdough rolls.  “In Alaska, we…”  Sandy was watching her face and Jo stopped.  Okay, maybe now was a good time for her to practice that scripture and not complain so much.
“What were you going to say?” Sandy asked.
“In Alaska we don’t have such yummy looking fried chicken and potato salad.”
Sandy grinned.  “My mom made the potato salad.  Try some it’s really good.”
Jo walked behind Sandy and put tasty looking food on her plate while she talked to Sandy.  Inside she felt warm and happy—the best she’d felt since she’d moved here.  Giving up complaining felt great—maybe she’d keep it up.
She looked at Sandy and grinned.  “I might even try the okra.”

From Overcoming Our Genes

My son is a drummer/ percussionist.  I was interested to hear the review of this 2013 documentary about a small town where some of the worlds best music was born.  This is from a Christian perspective.  Click here to listen or read the review.

Below is an interview of Muscle Shoal's "Swampers"--  the percussion section.  Those of us of a certain age will know where "sock it to me" came from:

From Overcoming Our Genes

Chris, Roberta, and friends in front of L'Opera Paris

In the late 90's Chris and I were in Paris during one of his business trips.  Being the anti-litter bug person that I am, I looked for a garbage can somewhere on the street to throw away wrappers from sandwiches we had eaten. There were garbage cans on the street but the lids were fastened down.  We thought that there must have been bomb threats which were dealt with by stopping the use of garbage cans.  

Napoleon's Tomb

We saw soldiers in the airport in Rome carrying automatic weapons.  It dawned on us that this world is now a more dangerous place. 

Thus the U.S. Congress deadlock on our immigration policies.  Many would like to immigrate to the U.S. as our country is safer from threats than many.  The problem is that we are fearful of illegal immigration.  In my opinion the solution would be to have more legal entries and more judges to vet the people wishing to come in.  How difficult would it be to build the wall, open Ellis Island, or in some other way increase entry points and hire judges?  

Eiffel Tower
Here is a 23 minute speech by Steve Russell, Congressman from Oklahoma.  He explains what our Founders intended for our immigration policy.  Click on the link to watch the video.


From the morning bus ride
Empty nesting

Yesterday we dropped Blake (our fourth) off at College.

The nest is empty.

From the morning bus ride
Kept from stumbling

Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. – Genesis 20:6 NASB

There is something astounding about this statement of the Lord to Abimilech: “I also kept you from sinning against Me.”

When I look back on my life, I can recount a lot of instances when I sinned. Heck, when I look back on today I can recount a lot of instances, and I haven’t even had my morning coffee yet.

But what takes my breath away is the remembrance of all the instances in the past when I had opportunity to sin and somehow God made the way of escape. This includes times even before I came to Christ.

It wasn’t me not wanting to sin. It was God keeping me from tremendous future trouble and regret.

He didn’t have to do that. I would have deserved the consequences of my actions. But he loves me and he knows my name and he cares for the glory and honor of his Name.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Jude 1:24‭-‬25 ESV

From Overcoming Our Genes

1982-- no people on the beach with us in Biloxi.  We found out later that the locals did not swim in the Gulf as it is polluted.  Both kids broke out in a rash from contact dermatitus. We stuck to the swimming pool at our apartment complex after that.

We left Seattle in June of 1982 for Mississippi.  Chris would attend a 5 month school after he reenlisted in the Air National Guard.  On our way through Hornbrook we dropped off our dog and cat for Grandma and Grandpa to care for while we were gone.

Wayne came through Biloxi on his way either to or from Africa.  He helped Jes with his swimming lessons. Heather took this one.

Chris took this one.

We did some sightseeing.  Here is one of the mansions we visited.

My high school classmate and her family came to visit us all the way from Florida.

The kids played on the playground equipment at Keesler.

We visited New Orleans.

I tried a mint julep.  I was surprised that it wasn't green.

Chris was NCO class leader.  He was in charge of having the room cleaned.

Chris was an honor graduate.

As a direct descendant of veterans who fought on the side of the north, in the Civil War, I was a militant yankee.  The war was over-- the south lost--get over it, was my thinking.  But when we moved to Biloxi, (pronounced biluxi), in 1982, I began to feel some suspicion from some neighbors who were not in the military. (One neighbor caught herself saying that "he swears just like a Yankee.")  Apparently Yankees were not very good people in the minds of these southerners.  How could this have been carried down through the generations?  Oh right, I was the same way.  (Grandpa said we were Scotch, Irish, Dutch, and Yankee, and mostly Yankee.)

So what are our rights?  Is it the right of the Union to force the southern states to give up slavery?  Is it the right of the southern states to build monuments of Confederate War heros?  We are told in Mark 8:34 "And (Jesus) calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it."

So, as Christians we must ask this question--Is this spreading the gospel and making disciples?  Well, with slavery abolished there was more freedom to teach the gospel to all.  Confederate statues are just a reminder of what not to do.  One city council member in Richmond, VA said that plaques could be placed by each confederate statue explaining what happened so that we will not repeat the bloodshed.  

Are you still fighting the Civil War?

From the morning bus ride

I’ve been away for a while; went on a cruise with the family and extended family. It was great!

While on the cruise I read a new treasure I recently bought: The Hobbit facimile first edition. This is the original 1937 version with the original Riddles in the Dark and Tolkien artwork. I forgot how good that book is.

In other news, I’m going to seminary. I start my first class in a couple of weeks.

And, as always, I’m a sinner saved by grace.

From The Living Room
thursday 13

This week: 13 things that you have been obsessed with at some point in your life.

  1. The musical Godspell–I was in it when I was in high school and I went pretty deep down the internet rabbit hole doing research. (There was a pretty epic production of it in the ’70s in Toronto that had Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Eugene Levy, Paul Shaffer, Victor Garber, and Andrea Martin in it, which I wish I had a time machine to go back and watch.)
  2. I freely admit that I know way too much about Hamilton.
  3. Thanks to my having watched the behind-the-scenes features on the extended edition DVDs, I know more about the props, costumes, and scenery in the Lord of the Rings movies than I do about American history, and that is a fact.
  4. For a Korean-American Protestant, I know a surprising amount about Jewish spiritual practices.
  5. I was super into Homestar Runner in high school and college, just like we all were.
  6. I definitely went through a serious U2 phase while I was in grad school. (Like, I own Boy and October kind of serious.)
  7. When I was a kid, I was super into Adventures In Odyssey (I still listened to it in high school, not even kidding).
  8. In early elementary school for some reason I got super into presidential trivia–to this day, I can name all of the presidents in order and can name off some super random facts about all of them. (Can I tell you about most of their policies? No, of course not.)
  9. I read all of the Little House on the Prairie books as a kid, multiple times. (I went back and read a couple as an adult a few years ago, and it is amazing just to think about all the stuff they had to do just to live. And yes, there are some super problematic racial things in there, so read with a grain of salt.)
  10. American Girl. (I grew up in the late ’80s and ’90s in a middle-class household in the United States; of course I was into American Girl.) I have read all of those books multiple times, too. And I had Kirsten, for the record.
  11. I binge-watched all of Lost during my second year of grad school and I am one of those weirdos that liked the ending.
  12. Still a pretty serious Whovian, although not the kind that goes super deep down the rabbit hole. (I haven’t seen any of the 1st-8th Doctors’ episodes, for example.)
  13. And of course Harry Potter, because I am a true millennial. I read Goblet of Fire instead of studying for my finals my sophomore year of college (and my grades kind of showed that…oops).

From Overcoming Our Genes

Burbank, California 1948.  Turning five.

I don't feel a day over 102 having arrived at the three fourths of a century mark yesterday.  Some do not like to even mention that they have a birthday.  Others may even call a birthday party a "reunion." I have always loved to celebrate my birthday.  I don't know why. It may be genetic.  I was born in July so I was never privileged to have a party at school.  Many times all my friends would be out of town on my birthday or our family would be traveling cross country.  But in my later years I have had several friends and relatives to make an effort to remember me with a card or a party! 

 My favorite cake from my folks.  I love to dance.

1995 turning 52
1997 Moms in Touch 
2004 Moms in Touch
Moms in Touch
2008 Moms in Touch
Moms in touch party
Cousins turning 65
Chris, Heather, and Jes organized a "surprise" birthday party for me at MBYC

Getting older
2013 Chris arranged a pizza party for my 70th at church
Cake by Jessica

Cake by Sammy

For this birthday my family put together a picnic.  It is great to have a birthday in July because most likely the weather will be nice!

Proverbs 16:31 Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.

From The Living Room
thursday 13

(kept forgetting to do these; it’s back now)

This week: 13 things you’re really into right now.

  1. My parish (*that’s my church’s parlance for small groups/home groups/community groups/whatever your church calls that) introduced me to a board game called Jokers and Marbles and I’m obsessed enough that I’m thinking about getting my own board so we can have tournaments. It’s pretty much just Sorry!, but…better somehow?
  2. I deleted all social media except for Instagram from my phone, and turned off access to Safari, and it’s GREAT. (It’s slightly annoying when someone texts me a link and I can’t open it, but other than that it’s been really good for my brain.)
  3. The Daily Liturgy Podcast–as a very audio-oriented person, I have found it really helpful.
  4. So we got new vending machines at work and they have Topo Chico in the plastic bottles in them, and I’ve been getting the Touch of Grapefruit flavor pretty much every day–I think I may be the only person buying them, but I’m so glad that they’re there. (We also have plastic bottle recycling at work, so I feel less bad about my habit.)
  5. A new podcast called No Chill Enneagram and it’s fantastic, y’all. Maybe not the place to go if you want to learn about the Enneagram–that’s what The Road Back to You is for–but if you’re deep down the rabbit hole and you want to stop weirding out the people around you, this pod is for you.
  6. I went to sleep before 9 o’clock the other night and it was GREAT.
  7. So Lin-Manuel Miranda (plus a couple of other folks from the Hamilton creative team) are doing a limited series about Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon and I am HERE FOR IT.
  8. LMM is also going to direct a movie of the musical Tick, Tick…BOOM. My friend Hannah and I were musing that either Jonathan Groff or Jeremy Jordan is probably going to end up playing the lead, but maybe Santino Fontana from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend might? Or it’ll probably get cast with some upstart unknown guy? Either way, I really hope it’ll be good.
  9. The trivia quiz website Sporcle now has a showdown mode that lets you play against another person live, which is like crack for me. (There is a reason I went on Jeopardy and that is because it combines trivia with competition.)
  10. I switched a while back from the Apple Podcasts app (which is straight garbage, don’t @ me) to an app called Overcast, which is wonderful and free and I recommend it to you all.
  11. Another good thing for my brain: I don’t let my phone in my room (I charge it in my bathroom), and I’ve started using a little battery-operated alarm clock from Ikea. It’s actually really nice and easier for me to turn off my thoughts at night.
  12. Linda Holmes, who is a culture writer for NPR and host of the excellent podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, recently got a dog named Brian. I love this because a) I love dogs with people names and b) Linda started an Instagram account for pics of Brian called primodogcontent, and I adore it. This is a particularly good recent post.
  13. Finally: This weekend the Revoice conference is happening and I’m really grateful for its presence and the witness of its organizers; they’ve received a great deal of criticism from both the right and the left, as is unfortunately to be expected, but they’re holding to their convictions and are carrying on. I have some friends who are there and I’m so stoked for them; I’m also looking forward to any audio that gets posted from it.

From the morning bus ride
Jesus saw their faith

And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Mark 2:4‭-‬5 ESV

I love this passage of Scripture.

Did you notice this? “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'”

Does it seem a little incongruous? It seems that Jesus saw the faith of the friends and so rewarded the paralytic with forgiveness and healing. How did “their” faith benefit the paralytic? Is faith transferable?

I think their are a few answers. In one way, yes, it is (stick with me here). But before I get into that, I think it’s likely that “their” refers to all five of the guys, including the four vertical guys and the one horizontal guy.

But the sense in the passage is that the faith of the friends was marvelous to Jesus. They had lifted their buddy up to the top of the roof and broke through to get him in front of the Lord. Forget the property damage, I think it’s clear Jesus absolutely loved seeing faith in action.

In the gospels Jesus always honors faith. In this one sense, their faith was transferable to their friend: think about what it was that these four guys wanted? More than anything they wanted their friend to be physically healed. They wanted it so bad and they also believed so thoroughly that Jesus would provide that healing that they ripped open a roof and caused a spectacle. Jesus saw their faith, honored it, and went further even than they expected. He healed their friend spiritually first. Then physically.

Too often when I think of “faith” my mind’s eye pictures a person who is stationary, but who internally, devotionals believes in the Lord. But faith is something that is not stationary.  It moves, it breathes, it lugs a fellow up onto a roof and digs a hole to lower him down (and the implication is these four guys didn’t expect to have to lift him back up because that brother was going to walk out).

People shouldn’t have to have mind-reading capabilities to see our faith.

Jesus saw their faith.

From the morning bus ride

I tend towards depression and anxiety, naturally. Not clinical levels of it, but enough to keep me awake at night sometimes. I’m not proud of this – I know with surety that it is a time-waster and a joy-stealer. And it doesn’t do a thing to help a person resolve the issue that is causing the depression and anxiety.

I’ve recently been hit with multiple circumstances that involve me waiting on other people to do what they need to do. This has stretched me and I’ve failed those tests of kindness multiple times.

So many people deal with so much more than I do in my relatively easy, comfortable life. But this is weighing on me today.

I don’t know how to end this post.

From Overcoming Our Genes

In June of 1961 I was graduated from Groveton High School in Alexandria, VA.  In the fall of 1961 Groveton admitted the first black student, Rayfield Barber.  He was interviewed at the 1996 GHS reunion.  He had a good experience at Groveton. Click on the You Tube above to hear the 5 minute interview.

My parents set the example for our family--we treated everyone with respect.  When my youngest brother, Wayne, wanted his black friend to join his Cub Scout troop at Calvary Presbyterian his friend was not permitted to join.  I believe my dad quit that troop and joined another one where Wayne's friend was accepted.  Today Calvary is integrated.  See the picture below.

Below is a link to a video of a talk by Peter Hubbard, pastor of North Hills Church in Greenville, SC.  I thought he explained racism and a Christian approach very well.  My parents would agree with him.  The talk is about 40 minutes long. Click on the link to view.


From Overcoming Our Genes
JULY 20, 1969

Photo by Chris Brown

Where were you on July 20, 1969?  It was on a Sunday.  Many of you had not been born.  But if you are old enough to remember that day maybe you will remember Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.  

From the morning bus ride
Knowing and being known

But now thus says the Lord , he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” – Isaiah 43:1‭-‬7 ESV

We are not accidents. We were created and formed. Because of this, we can know and be known by our Creator. And it is a very good kind of knowing; redeemed and called by name, a precious possession of the Creator.

Not called to a life of ease, but called to a life of intimacy, of knowing and being known as we walk through floods and flame with the One who promises never to leave or forsake.

The One who calls us precious and honored and loved. Us!

He promises to restore, to bring it all back, to make all things new and as they were meant to be at first, for his glory and for those who call his name and are called by his name.

Praise be to God.