Monday, January 30, 2012

The Value of a Clean Heart

May I always know
that a clean heart full of goodness
                        is more beautiful than the lily,
that only a clean heart can sing by night and by day,
that such a heart is mine when I abide at Calvary.

--The Valley of Vision, ed. Arthur Bennett, p. 173

Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Eclectic Composition

A unique composition featuring a cello, "Lindbergh Palace Hotel Suite," composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, reminds me of some of my brother's compositions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Whole Different Perspective

I've been told that subscriptions for Alliance Weekly shot up dramatically during the time A. W. Tozer edited the publication.  The editorial by A. W. Tozer was the most popular column in the magazine.

That's the way I feel about Voice of the Martyrs' monthly publication.  I love Tom White's column at the beginning.  It's rich and deep and challenging.

Here's a sample from this month's column which offers a perspective we don't hear these days:

To present the persecution of Christians as "wrong" or "unjust" is half-baked theology.  Jesus prophesied that persecution can be a natural outcome of our witness.  It is right to cry out for justice for all who suffer violence or oppression.  However, it is wrong to believe that the unjust treatment of Christians cannot be part of God's plan.  The promotion of human rights is not a substitute for the message of cross-bearing as a universal rite of passage for believers.

I met a house church leader in *** who has been arrested seven times and spent years in jails, prisons and labor camps.  In his particular "house group," ... they use New Testament scriptures to teach that persecution can be a normal part of the Christian experience.  Today he teaches in caves, factories, fields and apartments, mostly leading seven-week courses broken up one week at a time to avoid detection....  Their sky is not falling.  I asked this house church leader how his imprisonments have affected his teaching sessions, and, as he ate a piece of melon ..., he replied, "Jesus loved me so much that he sent me to prison."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Answers to Prayer

A whole rash of answered prayers in the last few days has been a big encouragement.  (Some names below are intentionally blank.)

A---- has had a serious grudge against a family member, and has asked me and others to pray about her unforgiveness.  A week ago she said the Lord lifted that bitterness from her.

The Lord carried Suzanne through a dramatic pregnancy, and he brought Jacob safely into the world yesterday.

The Lord oversaw what could have been a difficult meeting with Andrew's coaches, and it went very well.

He cancelled my jury duty for today.

I've seen some hints of spiritual interest in one of mine.

Despite the fact that Sara was not able to take the kids to Winter Jam Sunday, the Lord provided decent seats for them at that concert.

Sara's back was dramatically healed on Sunday after she couldn't even sit up in bed earlier that morning.

A----, unemployed for a few months now and close to retirement age, got a job out of the blue a couple weeks ago.

A---- and B----'s relationship has improved a lot over the last several months.

Though she hasn't been able to be in the office much lately, a new client called Sara at home this evening to enlist her to help them buy a house.

Coming to an End?

My favorite bookstore was featured in Sunday's Journal Gazette.  The scariest statement in the whole article was this:

Sam takes the view that bookstores are coming to an end, ready to be replaced by digital books ...

I hope not.

The article highlighted the relationship between Sam and Joel Hyde and their eventual business parting.

It should be noted that Joel does not agree with his brother's opinion on the future of bookstores.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Matthew 6:34

Saturday night Sara was experiencing extreme discomfort in her back.  Early Sunday morning (4:45), she could not get out of bed, let alone sit up.  We eventually got her up and out into the rocking chair, and she was not comfortable.  Every position was "excruciating."

So from 4:45 on, as we experienced the seriousness of her situation, I was struggling with anxiety.  Distressed for my wife, remembering past issues with her back when life got really hairy for a while, I was praying--praying for healing, for wisdom, and to maintain confidence in the Lord's sovereignty. 

We were thinking, "Here we go again," and the word "surgery" was flitting around in our minds.  I was thinking about how we would get Sara anywhere since I couldn't get Sara in the van because of a door problem and the car was too low.  I was thinking about having jury duty this week.  I was thinking about the kids' home schooling for the week.  I was thinking about the extra work I have at the church this week.

We were also thinking about the promises of the Lord, like Php 4:13, Php 4:19, and the encouragement of Ps 105:4.

This morning, reviewing some memory verses, I came across Mt 6:34:

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.
(NIV)

All that anxiety yesterday ...  When the girls and I came home from church, Sara was up and making lunch.  As the day progressed, her back seemed to get better.  This morning, she got up, got into her car, and drove to the mall for her regular morning walk. 

Ever since yesterday afternoon, I have been praising the Lord!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sad If True

Attributed to Al Mohler:

“Abortion is now one of America’s most common surgical procedures performed on adults. As many as one out of three women will have at least one abortion. In some American neighborhoods, the number of abortions far exceeds the number of live births.”

HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, January 16, 2012

Two Special People

Sara's Grandpa Goldsmith passed away last spring.  Today is his birthday.  Last February, a few months before he died, I typed up some memories of him and Grandma (who died in 2001).  What follows is some of what I wrote.

I have enjoyed Grandpa Goldsmith. When Grandma was still alive, Sara and I had some good times with them. They would come and visit us in Mundelein and in Fox Lake, and they would take us to eat, and we would play Rummy Cub, and they would go to church with us, and they would take Sara shopping.

And we would also go and visit them. I loved going to visit them in Wauseon, at their old farmhouse. We would stay upstairs in the first bedroom and have that big bathroom with only a bathtub (no shower) to ourselves. Of course, we would play Rummy Cub, and Sara would go with her Grandma on Saturdays when she got her hair done. They would buy sticky buns for breakfast. We would watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune in the evening. Grandma thought I should be on the show. (But Grandmas typically think those kinds of things.) They would take us out to eat. Grandpa would take me to the hardware or to visit one of his brothers. He would take me out in his enormous garage and show us his latest project or what stuff he was storing for other people. Sometimes we four would sit around the kitchen table and talk politics and religion and local news and family news.

Their humor and mannerisms were priceless. Grandma's pointing forefinger when she was making a point. Grandpa's motionless stare and his narrowly opened mouth when he was waiting for what humorous thing he had just said to register with Grandma. Grandma telling us a story with a gesturing hand and a focused expression. Grandpa telling us a story with a big smile and hands clasped behind his head. Good times.

Why did we love to be with these two people so much? They were not tall or especially noticeable. Easily overlooked in a crowd. Unless you knew them. But even more than knew them. Unless you were especially loved by them. We loved them because they loved us. Boy, did they love us! They enjoyed us, prayed for us, generously gave to us. There's no way we would overlook them in a crowd. These were two special people, whose lives, by God's providence, had intersected mine. And what a blessing for me. And what a blessing for Sara, their oldest grandchild. Sara has always had fond memories of her grandparents, even from when she was little. I've heard many stories (though I don't remember half of them).

Grandma died a few years ago. My memory is not good, but I can still picture her very well. Her image is with me. And now Grandpa may be leaving soon as well.

Death comes as the end. But because of Jesus, death is not really the end. It's the end of some things, but it's not the ultimate end it once was. For Grandma, and probably soon for Grandpa, it's no more than a doorway. He'll step through from this life into eternity, and what a step that will be. Into the presence of the Lord of all, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Then this downhill slide that he has endured the last several years will be dramatically arrested.

Inwardly he has been renewed day by day. Outwardly he has been wasting away. Soon the outward will be completely wasted away, and the inward will shine forth in great glory. The outward will be burned away and the life of Harley Goldsmith hidden with Christ won't be so hidden anymore, and he will be one step closer to realizing the full glory that will be his because of what Jesus has done; he will be one step closer to that grand resurrection body.

We will be sad. We have to wait before we can see him again. We will miss him. But we will have good memories. And, even more significant, we will have bright hope, the sure knowledge that, if we persevere in clinging to Christ, we will see him and Grandma again--redeemed, restored, alive, laughing and smiling.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Heaven Far Weightier Than Hell

I suppose in some way Hell is the complete Heaven, but in other ways, it is not, according to C. S. Lewis. 

All Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World [Heaven].  Look at yon butterfly.  If it swallowed all Hell, Hell would not be big enough to do it any harm or to have any taste….  [A]ll loneliness, angers, hatreds, envies and itchings that it contains, if rolled into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of the joy that is felt by the least in Heaven, would have no weight that could be registered at all.  Bad cannot succeed even in being bad as truly as good is good. 

 --The Great Divorce 122-123

Friday, January 13, 2012

Eternity Will Color Our Memories of This Life

From C. S. Lewis's ingenious novel, The Great Divorce:

Earth, I think, will not be found by anyone to be in the end a very distinct place.  I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.  (7)

That is what mortals misunderstand.  They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.  And of some sinful pleasure they say, ‘Let me but have this and I’ll take the consequences’: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of their sin.  Both processes begin even before death.  The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness.  And that is why, at the end of all things, … the Blessed will say, ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,’ and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’  And both will speak truly.  (67-68)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Humility of a Dead Man

Emperor Maximilian I of Germany died on this date in 1519. 

He left instructions for his body to be scourged, his hair shorn, and his teeth broken out.  He wanted to appear before God as penitent. 

--Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man between God and the Devil

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Reading the Same Book Over and Over

According to Justin Taylor, John Piper has only read two books more than twice, the Bible and G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy.  What's especially interesting is that Chesterton was not a Calvinist (some would argue God isn't, either).

But what intrigued me was the notion that Piper has only read two books more than twice. 

Many times have I finished a book and thought to myself, "I've got to read that one again sometime."  Very rarely do I do it.  Why?  The thirst to read books I haven't read yet.  That list is always big.  The advantage that the "haven't read yet" list has over the "should read again" list is that I've at least read the books on the "should read again" list once.

So what books have I read more than twice?  Let me narrow my answer by leaving out children's books.  Some of my kids favorite books I have literally read dozens of times.
  • The Bible
  • The Valley of Vision (a compilation of Puritan prayers)
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Prince Caspian (C. S. Lewis; part of the Narnia series)  (This one because I read it to Anna recently in addition to my other 2 read-throughs)
  • The Great Divorce (also by C. S. Lewis)
Probably no one will respond to this, but I'll just throw it out there anyways.  What books have you read more than twice?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Great Date with My Sara

This past Thursday evening Sara and I went on our first date of the new year.  (Eleven more to come, hopefully.)

First, dinner at Lone Star.  She got chicken, I got beef.  She got a sweet potato, I got mashed potatoes.  Chips and spinach artichoke dip on the front end and chocolate cake for dessert rounded things out.  The best restaurant meal I've had in quite a while.  Everything was packed with flavor!

In the booth across from us sat a family with a loud, crying 2-year-old.  Eventually, the dad took her out to the car and just sat out there with her.  Later the grandma apologized to us.  We waved it off with, "Been there, done that."  It didn't bother us.  In fact it brought a small measure of joy just to know that we're past that (I think).

Next, a little leisure shopping at Family Christian Store and at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

After that, we went to Panera, where Sara got a drink and we sat and talked, trying to coordinate our crazy calendars and hammer out some issues. 

I used to make fun of the Ungame.  Who wants to play a game with no winner?  But before our date I grabbed a stack of question cards, and at Panera I set them on the table.  We drew cards and answered the questions.  It drew our conversation out of familiar paths, stirred up memories, ignited unused synapses, and dusted off topics which had sat a while in storage.  How blessed I am with my Sara!  What a joy and a privilege to have walked 20+ years with her now!

Rounded off our date browsing the racks at Barnes and Noble.

Friday, January 6, 2012

President Garfield

Here's a link for you history lovers.  I found this post about the new book on James Garfield to be quite interesting, so interesting that I read the entire post.

Favorite Reads Last Year


In two previous posts (here and here) I listed and commented on the 29 books I completed in 2011.  What was the best?

In non-fiction, a cop-out: a 3-way tie, all of them dealing with theology:
The God Who Is There (D. A. Carson)

Best fiction?  That Hideous Strength (C. S. Lewis)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

MLK, Jr., Christianity, and Christ

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Bible
Growing up in a fundamentalist Baptist church, the son of a strong fiery preacher, Martin Luther King, Jr. began to to doubt orthodox Christianity at a young age.  At Morehouse College, one of his professors pulled him back toward orthodoxy, though without shackling him with fundamentalism (Stephen Oates, Sound the Trumpet 19).  I do not know exactly what that looked like in his belief system, but I do know he believed in God and Christ, and in Christ as the Savior of men.  That's one reason why he rejected Communism, for it was "cold atheism."  King's biographer, Stephen Oates, writes that King believed man "could never save himself because man was not the measure of all things.  He needed God.  He needed a Savior.  Communism was egregiously wrong in denying man's spiritual necessities" (27).

When the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama was a month old, King marvelled at what was happening, at how the participation in the boycott was practically 100%.  Rosa Parks was the precipitating factor in the protest, and 50,000 blacks readily got involved.  "Yet," writes Oates, "there was a 'divine dimension' at work here, too."  King believed God was at work in selecting Montgomery for the struggle for freedom, and he believed God had chosen him as an instrument to do His will.  He could not otherwise explain the effect of his oratory to inspire (73).  Bayard Rustin also believed MLK divinely chosen, but he pointed out to him the negative side of being such an instrument: "I have the feeling the Lord has laid his hands on you, and that is a dangerous, dangerous thing" (95).

As the boycott progressed, King was receiving many obscene and threatening calls (as many as 25 a day).  A spirit of fear crept over him, fear for his life and for the lives of his wife and daughter.  He began looking for a way out without hurting the cause.  Receiving a call late on Jan. 27, 1956, King got up and paced down to the kitchen where he put on some coffee.  Wracked with fear and indecision, he "put his head in his hands and bowed over the table.  'Oh, Lord,' he prayed aloud, 'I'm down here trying to do what is right.  But, Lord, I must confess that I'm weak now.  I'm afraid.  The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter.  I am at the end of my powers.  I have nothing left.  I can't face it alone."  As he prayed, he felt Jesus speaking to him, telling him, "Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness.  Stand up for justice.  Stand up for truth.  And, lo, I will be with you, even unto the end of the world."  It was a transformative moment for him.  The Lord meant him to fight on.  "And for the first time God was profoundly real and personal to him."  (88-89)

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Scholar; Non-Violent Resistance

I only have a cursory knowledge of Martin Luther King, Jr.  To rectify that, I am reading Let the Trumpet Sound: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Stephen B. Oates.

MLK was a scholar.  He seemed to advance to each level of education earlier than most, and as a young man he devoured various philosophers, examining them, comparing them, weighing them.  He had a capacious mind and investigated the various philosophies and theologies of the likes of Niebuhr, Tillich, Marx, Hegel, and Nietzsche.  One of his professors "rated him one of the best five or six graduate students he had taught in his thirty-one years at Boston University" (47).  He received from Jesus the ethic of love.  Thoreau gave him the way of passive resistance.  Gandhi showed him the power of love as a social force.  Niebuhr, with his emphasis on the reality of sin and evil, checked his initial belief in the inherent goodness of man.  Hegel helped him not to over-emphasize man's corruption.

MLK's method was not passivity.  It was passive resistance.  It was nonviolent, but it was resistance.  As the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama continued, MLK taught that their method was not a "do-nothing" method.  "It is not passive nonresistance to evil, it is active nonviolent resistance to evil" (78).  He recognized the cost, that violence would come into play; he just wanted to make sure that violence was not on the resistors side of the equation.  "Rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood" (79).

His were bigger goals than just rights for blacks; he sought to build brotherhood between blacks and whites.  "Our use of passive resistance in Montgomery is not based on resistance to get rights for ourselves, but to achieve friendship with the men who are denying us our rights, and change them through friendship and a bond of Christian understanding before God" (115-6).  This ethos surely flows from the NT, as well as from Gandhi, for MLK saw that "Gandhi's goal was not to defeat the British in India, but to redeem them through love, so as to avoid a legacy of bitterness" (32).

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Comments on My 2011 Reading, Part II

The Road is an autobiographical memoir of Jack London's year as a hobo.  He was around 18.  In this lively and often-humorous account, London shares the ins and outs of telling just the right story to get a meal, riding the rail and keeping away from "John Law," what jail was like when he wasn't able to escape, and being a part of a gang of hobos that threatened the livelihood of small towns.  London's a good writer, and this tale is fascinating.

Book 2 of C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy is Perelandra.  It is the temptation of Eve retold and re-set on Venus.  More accurately, the temptation of the first lady of Venus parallels the temptation of Eve, but it is chronologically subsequent to Eve.  Indeed, it occurs in Earth's 20th century.  Professor Ransom of the first book is on-hand to help, though he feels wholly inadequate.  Fascinating insights into God and man.

A few years ago I read the second volume of Bruce Catton's study of Ulysses S. Grant's actions during the Civil War (Grant Takes Command).  So I decided to read the first volume this year: Grant Moves South.  Catton continues to argue that Grant's alleged tendency to drunkenness was a myth and rumor spread by grumblers.  Grant's rise to prominence and his development as a leader are some of the themes dealt with.  Catton reveals that Grant was a great man, and definitely the man for the hour, even as Lincoln was.

Spencer Quinn's Dog on It is a mystery tale told by private investigator's Bernie Little's German Shepherd, Chet.  This is not a dog talking as if he were a human; this is a dog's take on the unfolding events, with all of what we perceive dog psychology to be thrown in.  The mystery is of average quality, but it takes on hilarious qualities to hear Chet tell it.

In Our Man in Havana (Graham Greene), a meek and mild vacuum cleaner salesman in pre-Communist Havana is unwittingly recruited by his native Britain to act as a spy in Havana.  There is a certain amount of humor as he innocently dupes his own employer.  (I've not read anything by Greene yet that I haven't liked.)

I read The Art of Pastoring by David Hansen a second time.  It's my favorite book on the subject.

J. I. Packer's A Quest for Godliness unpacks and explains Puritan theology.  What a gold mine this book is, and spiritually enriching.

The Martian Chronicles reveals Ray Bradbury's mastery of the writing craft.  The movie doesn't do the book justice.  Earth's colonizing of Mars parallels in some ways the advances and setbacks of the Pilgrims and Pioneers here in America.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, by Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is conservative and readable.  It is also a tad bit depressing, because it's focus is negative--debunking all the myths we learned in school.  Didn't my teachers get anything right?  (Of course, they did; but the focus of the book has nothing to do with affirming the truth they taught.  It highlights everything we got wrong.)

In The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, Alan Jacobs says that reading books for the sheer joy of it is a good criteria in selecting books.

Watching Pride and Prejudice with Caty prompted me to re-read the book.  There is a lot of humor in this book.  It's a well-written book.

Ellery Queen's Ten Days' Wonder was a fun mystery to read to Sara, though it is near-steeped in Freud and other early theories of psychology.

I loved, loved, loved Iain Murray's first volume of his Martyn Lloyd-Jones bio when I read it a couple years ago.  But vol. 2 was twice as long (800 pages).  So it took me a while to muster the courage to tackle it.  But tackle it I did in 2011.  Entitled D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith 1939-1981, it details Lloyd-Jones's 30-year ministry at Westminster Chapel, his unique voice in the ecumenism that was sweeping the continent in the 50s and 60s, as well as his several theological emphases.  I was especially interested to read of his friendship and disagreements with other such luminaries as John Stott and J. I. Packer.

A Case for Historic Premillennialism, edited by Craig Blomberg and Sung Wook Chung, is a collection of essays that argues for the pre-millennial, post-tribulational rapture view.  Some articles were good; at least one was boring.

R. T. Kendall followed Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel and pastored there for 25 years.  Since his autobiography was already on my shelf--my parents gave it to me a year or so ago--I could not resist reading it after having completed a read of Lloyd-Jones's ministry.  Initial comment?  How different these two guys were!  Kendall's open embracing of some questionable Charismatic tenets and individuals caused me to read his book with a certain wariness, though on the whole In Pursuit of HIS Glory was quite enjoyable.

Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair is the first in the Thursday Next series.  Not near as good as I had hoped.

Harry Kemelman's Friday the Rabbi Slept Late is a better mystery than Dog on It (but it's not told by a dog!).  This is my second Rabbi Small mystery, and it did not disappoint.  I read this one to Sara.  I can gauge how much Sara likes a book by how often she "demands" me to read to her while she's fixing supper.  I got a lot of "demands" on this one.

I read 100 Cupboards to Anna, and she was hooked.  We're now reading through the second book in the trilogy.  100 Cupboards is a fantasy that reminds me some of The Chronicles of Narnia, and indeed, the author, N. D. Wilson, is a fan of Lewis.  In a nutshell, a boy named Henry goes to stay with his aunt and uncle and cousins in Kansas, and up in their attic he discovers behind the chipping plaster 99 cupboards of varying shapes, sizes, and woods, each of which opens up to different worlds.

On a dare I read Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (C. S. Forester).  Okay, not really a dare; more a suggestion.  Set during the same time (Napoleonic era) and in the same seas as Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey series, Forester's work reads easier because it is far less technical.  But the stories--for each chapter is an individual event in the career-climbing life of young Hornblower--are just as entertaining as O'Brian's.

My first entrance into the world of Agatha Christie many moons ago was A Caribbean Mystery.  Out of nostalgia I re-read it.  Good, but not her best. 

What got me reading Peter Lovenheim's In the Neighborhood was the subtitle: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time.  Here's a guy who spent one night at each of his neighbor's house in order to get to know them better.  What a concept!  (And something I would not want to do.)  Truth be told, many of his neighbors did not agree, though they did agree to meet with him.  And truth be told, he was seeking to do more than just to get to know his neighbors; he was seeking to foster community among his neighbors. 

Decision Points, by George W. Bush, was helpful in getting an inside perspective on some of the big issues of President Bush's presidency, like Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, the war on terror, and the stem cell debate.

Concluded the year with the concluding book in C. S. Lewis's trilogy, That Hideous Strength.  All 3 books are good, but the last is the best.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Comments on my 2011 Reading

I keep track of what books I complete on note cards.  I don't know what that says about me, probably something positive to someone and something negative to someone else. 

I started doing this in 1996 when I realized I wasn't reading as much as I probably should as a Christian or as a pastor.  Nor was I reading as much as I should as a person who ostensibly likes to read.  So I started keeping track of the books I read (that is, actually completed) as a motivation for me to read more.  I completed 8 books in 1996.  Since then I've always had a goal of 20 a year, and I've exceeded that most years.

What follows are the books I completed in 2011, in the order I read them, with comments.

D. A. Carson's The God Who Is There is a masterful overview and summary of the Bible.  For me the words "overview" and "summary" often connote "dry" and "scholarly."  This book is far from that.  Practically every chapter is engaging and helpful.  This book makes you want to read the Bible.  This book can help new Christians understand their faith, and it can help mature Christians see their faith in a new light.

My son gave me Bill Watterson's It's a Magical World for Christmas a year ago.  He and I share a love for Calvin and Hobbes, the comic strip.  This book of those comic strips reminded me again why Calvin and Hobbes is my all-time favorite comic strip.  Watterson has a marvelous way of capturing the idiosyncrasies of children and adults as they relate to the world around them.  If I had a way of indexing the strips, they would populate many a sermon or Bible lesson as illustrations.

I waded into the waters of comparative religions with Stephen Prothero's God Is Not One.  Not exactly my favorite subject of study.  But Prothero's book was fascinating, especially his politically incorrect premise that religions aren't all about the same elephant; the world's religions aren't different roads up the same mountain.  Each chapter devoted to a different religion, the book was interesting, and called for us to listen to one another in order to move toward peace.  But I don't think peace is necessarily an agenda item for some of the religions.

P. G. Wodehouse's My Man Jeeves is a collection of short stories, most of them about the wealthy playboy Wooster and his man-servant Jeeves.  Wodehouse is a master of having Wooster tell the story in such a way that Wooster seems to be the only who doesn't realize that he is the fool and idiot in each story.  It is virtually impossible not to laugh aloud at least once during the course of a Wodehouse short story.

Since it had probably been at least 20 years since I first read C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy, I decided to revisit it.  Out of the Silent Planet marks Professor Ransom's forced trip to Mars, or Malacandra, kidnapped by Prof. Weston and a colleague.  I enjoyed it more this second time through.

John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 1.  The overall impact of this significant theological tome upon me was to revere God more, be aware of my own sinfulness and inadequacies more, and love Christ, the One who reconciles me to God, more.  This was far more readable than I anticipated, though I confess there were some sections that remained confusing even after 3 readings.  But the readable sections make up a far greater percentage of the book.  Calvin showed me many theological insights along the way.

It's late.  The remaining books await future posts.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Our New Year's Party

We didn't celebrate New Year's Eve this year since it was on a Saturday and we all had to be up for church the next day.  Instead, we moved our annual party back a day to New Year's Day. 

Grandparents, siblings and in-laws, nephews and nieces all started arriving in the early afternoon, and the rest of the day was filled with food, the wild energy and creativity of children, games, and conversation.  And what an array of desserts there were!

I won most of the games.  I say that with a tinge of humility, but only a tinge. 
  • We started with Apples to Apples.  I lost. 
  • On to Bible Outburst, guys vs. gals.  The guys won. 
  • After that, Scattergories Bible Edition.  Let's just say I didn't lose. 
  • Two massive games of Taboo, like a dozen people playing.  My team won both games. 
  • Then Balderdash.  Apparently I'm even good at tricking people about the truth. 
  • We closed with another game of Apples to Apples.  As I lost the opening game, so I lost the closing one.
I should probably strike the last paragraph.  Oh well.

As I type, it's 11:38 p.m.  Almost time to welcome in Jan 2nd. 
Caty and Audrey left with my parents about 20 minutes ago to spend the night there. 
Callie just recently fell asleep in our bed. 
Calvin and Andrew just finished watching the Giants-Cowboys game, and I think Calvin's heading home shortly.  Andrew has basketball practice at 10 a.m. 
And Reagan is spending the night here with Anna tonight; they have prepared their sleep stations in the basement.

It's been a good day.  The party's been fun.  Who knows what 2012 holds?  The Lord does.  I told Sara this morning, if the Lord comes back this year, I will not be disappointed.  But who knows?  May it be a year of serving Him more faithfully and loving Him more passionately and loving others, uh, just better.

Last Pics of 2011

With less than 2 to go of 2011's 8760 hours, I took a photo with each of my 5 beloved.

Anna was already in bed but still awake.  Sara wasn't fond of being photographed, so I settled for her hand.  Callie was already asleep.  Andrew and Caty were cool with it.