Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December Reading List

100. Indelible Ink (hc), by Scott Larsen (ed)
101. Sepulchre (ua), by Kate Mosse
102. Heaven/Hell (ua), by Mur Lafferty
103. Babylon 5: Point of No Return (pb), by Jane Killick
104. Babylon 5: No Surrender, No Retreat (pb), by Jane Killick
105. Relentless (hc), by Robin Parrish
106. Brisingr (ua), by Christopher Paolini
107. Iron Man: Beneath the Armor (pb), by Andy Mangels
108. A Comedian's Guide to Theology (pb), by Thor Ramsey
109. The Holy Bible, various translations
110. Butler's Lives of the Saints

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dayspring from on High

As performed by Soul-Junk
From A Familyre Christmas, Vol. 1 (Sounds Familyre)

I see you now, dayspring from on high
I see you now, bright and morning star
Oh I see the son, son of righteousness
now rise with healing in his wings.

So rise, shine now for you light has come
Jehovah rises on you like the morning sun
So rise, shine now for you light has come
Jehovah rises on you like the morning sun

I see you now, dayspring from on high
I see you now, bright and morning star, O Jesus
Oh I see the son, son of righteousness
now rise with healing in his wings.

So rise, shine now for you light has come
Jehovah rises on you like the morning sun
So rise, shine now for you light has come
Jehovah rises on you like the morning sun

So lift up your head, lift up your eyes
For your redemption draws nigh
Oh lift up your eyes
See the dayspring from on high

I see you now, dayspring from on high
I see you now, bright and morning star
Oh I see the son, son of righteousness
now rise with healing in his wings.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

My favorite Christmas song

Just the chorus:

Like a stone on a surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

-- Bruce Cockburn

Sunday, December 07, 2008

utterly vulnerable, utterly powerful

From the introduction to Redeemed, by Heather King.
It hurts to participate, to keep hearts open when we're in anguish, but ... this is the means of our salvation. This is Christ nailed, arms open, to the cross, simultaneously utterly vulnerable and utterly powerful: the most radical, subversive, never-endingly surprising Savior I can imagine. Turning, in his own agony, to the thief beside him to say, "This day you shall be with me in Paradise," he's the Great Physician, the Great Priest, the Great Friend.

When I picture Christ, though, he's not only, or even mostly, on the cross. He's coming down off the cross, walking among us. He's saying, I know it hurts unbelievably most of the time, but look, here's how to make it better. He's saying, Don't worry, you won't see how for a while, but it's all gonna come together in the end. He's saying, It's all right already, right here, right now. He's here to help, he's here to help.

Not a pious image, but a pulsing heart. A warm body. Blood.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

November Reading List

93. Inkdeath (ua), by Cornelia Funke
94. The Ashes of Worlds (ua), by Kevin J. Anderson
95. A Cat on a Beach Blanket (ua), by Lydia Adamson
96. Freddy Goes to the North Pole (ua), by Walter R. Brooks
97. Watchmen (gn), by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
98. Babylon 5: Signs and Portents (pb), by Jane Killick
99. Babylon 5: The Coming of Shadows (pb), by Jane Killick

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful For .....

A wife who extends both grace and mercy.

A teenage daughter who seems to have her life together.

The best job possible, for me.

The best church I could possible be a part of.

A world where we get glimpses of the future Kingdom.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Remembering Mom

3 years ago this past weekend, my mother passed away. This is what I read at her memorial service.
My mother had the great misfortune of losing her mother twice. She first lost her to Alzheimer’s, and then after 10 years of her slowly slipping away, she lost her finally to death. Those ten years tore her heart apart, with her mother physically with her but not really "with her."

But I am here to tell you that right up to the end, Marilyn was, well, Marilyn.

I spoke to her on Saturday, and yes, she was tired and the conversation was not long, but we talked about what we always talked about, and we joked about what we always joked about. I let her know how our new home construction was going. We talked about whether Dana would ever get out of last place in the family football-picking competition.

She was all there, right to the end: her joy of living was there, her sense of humor, her love for friends and family. All of those things that she taught me, those things I hope I've learned from her, those character traits I want to manifest in my life. I hope to bring honor to her memory, for as long as I walk out my life, on this side of the veil.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Podcast Review

Spirit Blade Underground

This is a weekly 30-minute podcst focusing on geekiness from a Christian point of view, and Christianity from a geeky point of view. It is produced by Paeter Frandsen, who is both a geek and a Christian.

The podcast follows a 3-part structure. Paeter begins by updating listeners on the progress he has made in producing audio dramas, which he defines as "Christian Sci Fi and Fantasy that is unsafe, unsterilized ... and unleashed upon your ears and imaginations." His first effort, the 3-hour Spirit Blade, is available free in the podcast archives. His latest project, "Dark Ritual," is available for purchase on, the first 40 minutes of which are available free as a preview. Note that these are not for the faint of heart, but if you find that prairie romances are not your cup of tree, check it out.

The second part of the podcast is Paeter's take on geek culture -- TVs, movies, games, books, and comics. Every now and then an interview with a Christian in the geeky arts is included. Paeter's reviews are interesting in that they rate works on both "quality" and "veracity," allowing him to separate out the spiritual aspects of a work from its artistic merit.

The third part of the podcast is a Bible Study, ususally following a chapter-by-chapter format. I find these studies well-researched and well-reasoned, and after listening to more than 60 podcasts, I could not guess where he fits into the theological or denominational spectrum. And that's a good thing.

I enjoy the Spirit Blade Underground podcast and recommend it to culture-savvy, modern Christians. It is one of the best-produced podcsats I've run across, and I personally find the content enjoyable.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Book Review

Leaper, by Geoffrey Wood.

This is a surprising read coming from a CBA publisher. Well, technically, WaterBrook Press is a division of Random House, so maybe that gives them a little more freedom. Hmmmm.

Anyway, Leaper tells the story of James, a recently-divorced slacker who finds one day that he has the ability to teleport himself. Or as James views it, the ability to leap from one place to another. But to paraphrase Spider-Man, with great power comes great pressure, great stress, and great disappointment. And in James' case, it also comes with great soul-searching, seeking out of God's will, and the occasional run-in with the police.

I enjoyed the light tone of the novel, the sense of humor that Wood brings to James and his predicament. As a writer, I know that ideas are a dime-a-dozen, execution is a little tougher, and ending a novel well is quite difficult. Ienjoyed the ending, as it actually wrapped up the story -- there is a temptation in super-hero stories to set up the character situation for ongoing adventures. Wood avoids this temptation, which I appreciated.

There are two distinct ways that this novel does not fit into the CBA model -- again, as a writer, I appreciate this, and it gives me hope for some of my more unusual ideas. First, there is not a salvation scene anywhere in the story. And second, James is a (moderately faithful) Catholic, and gains much wisdom from his priest. Both of these traits I found refreshing.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

the great cloud of witnesses ...

Yesterday was for remembering the great heroes of the faith. Today is for remembering the nameless, the anonymous, the unknown.

All Souls Day is to recall all of those that have gone on before us, the body of Christ across space and time, who led the way in faith and practice, in holiness and forgiveness, in prayer and service, in life and death.

They are rightly called The Church Triumphant.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

To those who've gone before ....

November 1 has been the day historically that the church specifically remembers those giants of the faith who have gone to their eternal reward. Thay serve as examples for us in their faith, their holiness, their service, their teachings, and for some their martyrdom.

Among those officially designated by the organized church as "Saints" whose lives and works have particularly impacted me this last year include Jerome, Thomas More, Father Damien of Molokai, and Maximilian Kolbe.

"Unofficial" saints whose lives and works touch me are Dietrich Bonhoeffer, C.S. Lewis, and John Wimber.

Lord, thank you for including us in such a large and diverse body, and for giving us so many examples of so many different ways to live out a relationship with You.

Friday, October 31, 2008

October Reading List

84. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
85. Dawn's Light, by Terri Blackstock
86. Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War, by Geoff Johns, et. al.
87. The Prodigal Comes Home, by Michael English
88. Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox, by Eoin Colfer
89. Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay
90. A Cat under the Mistletoe, by Lydia Adamson
91. The Elves of Cintra, by Terry Brooks
92. The Tide is Turning, by David J. Hartline

Saturday, October 25, 2008

From St. Bonaventure

From his The Journey of the Mind to God. The theological writings of this 13th Century saint were so sound and influential that he is one of only 33 men and women in church history to be named a Doctor of the Church.


Seek the answer in God's grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research ... Look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries to soul to God with intense fervor and glowing love. The fire is God, and the furnace is Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardor of his loving passion. Only he understood this who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones chose death.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Book Review

The Prodigal Comes Home, by Michael English with Lynn Vincent.

First, let me say that I never liked his music -- I doubt that I have ever heard a single song of his all the way through. That being said, I was interested in reading his book -- I am a sucker for redemption stories.

In the introduction, he states that this is not an "I'm sorry I had an affair; now please buy my records" book. True enough. But it does at times read like an "I'm sorry I was addicted to prescription painkillers much of my life; now please buy my records" book. He actually covers the affair only briefly. I actually wanted to know more. He spent much more time on his family upbringing, drug addictions, rehabs, arrests, etc ...

I found the book maddening at points. Two specifc times, he uses a one-sentence explanation where I was wanting much more detail. But other parts were terrific, giving insight as to how the christian music industry could make a superstar out of someone whose faith was (by his admission) so shallow.

I don't know what to make of English himself, either. I appreciate the candor he put into parts of the book, but didn't find it candid straight through. And he spends as much time whining about being cut out of the gospel music world as he does admtting to not living right while trying to make various comebacks in that world. Hypocrite? Naive? Maybe just the addictions and insecurities talking? Hard to tell.

The book was frustrating, and the story itself was frustrating. Then again, living the story was more frustrating for English than reading it was for me.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


This one popped up today on my i-Pod. Had forgotten what a terrific song it is.

Restore My Soul
by Steve Hindalong
as performed by The Choir

I call to you with one lung exploded
From breathing the dust of the earth
With my tongue eroded
From licking the crust of the earth
A tear away from reconciled
A prayer away from whole
Restore my soul

I cry to you with two eardrums blistered
From laughing with preachers of night
With my vertebrae twisted
From dancing with creatures of night
A day away from sanctified
A breath away from whole
Restore my soul

I crawl to you with ten fingers smoking
From turning the pages of sin
With my spirit choking
From earning the wages of sin
A bridge away from justified
A step away from whole
Restore my soul

Saturday, October 04, 2008

St. Francis of Assisi

782 years ago today, St. Francis of Assisi passed away. Known mostly for his practice of charity/poverty and love of God's natural world (he is the patron saint of animals and the environment), I appreciate this quote of his on holy living.

"While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart. Nobody should ever be roused to wrath or insult on your account. Everyone should rather be moved to peace, goodwill, and mercy because of your restraint. For we have been called to the purpose of healing the wounded, binding up those who are bruised, and reclaming the erring."

Lord, let it be so in me.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September Reading List

77. Never Enough, by Joe McGinniss
78. If I am Missing or Dead, by Janine Latus
79. The Front, by Patricia Cornwell
80. Redeemed, by Heather King
81. Leaper, by Geoffrey Wood
82. The Whole Truth, by David Baldacci
83. Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?, by Peter Walsh

Friday, September 26, 2008

Book Review

Redeemed, by Heather King.

King's first memoir, Parched, focused on her years of addicition (drugs and alcohol) and treatment, and ended with her entering sobriety. That memoir had little if any spiritual content, apart from the general God-stuff of AA.

But this is a total spiritual memoir, as King explains how she found God in the most unlikeliest place she could imagine: the Catholic Church. Her expressions of love for Mary and the Eucharist may make some uncomfortable, but whoever can get past that will find a delightful and extremely well-written book. The sections describing her newfound love for the church's teachings on sex and abortion, for example, are worth finding.

I am personally a sucker for conversion stories of all types, and this one is written by someone with a humbling transparency and real ability to spin a compelling tale. I was hooked from the first page and enjoyed it all the way to the end.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Censorship @ Lifeway?

It seems to me this is a conversation worth having, not supressing. But whoever owns the stores has the right to decide what they will and won't display, I suppose.
Magazine Featuring Female Pastors Pulled From Shelves, 'Treated Like Pornography'
Friday, September 19, 2008
Associated Press

ATLANTA — The five women on the cover are dressed in black and smiling — not an uncommon strategy for selling magazines.

But these cover girls are women of the cloth, featured in Gospel Today magazine's latest issue, which Lifeway Christian Bookstores (affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention) has pulled from the shelves at its bookstores, though the magazine is available for sale upon request.

The group says women pastors go against its beliefs, according to its interpretation of the New Testament. The magazine was taken off stands in more than 100 Lifeway stores across the country, including six in metro Atlanta.

Published for nearly 20 years, Gospel Today is the largest and most widely distributed urban Christian publication in the country, with a circulation of 240,000. The magazine's publisher, Teresa Hairston, said she was just reporting on a trend, not trying to promote women pastors.
"They basically treated it like pornography and put it behind the counter," she said. "Unless a person goes into the store and asks for it, they won't see it displayed."

Nationally, the Southern Baptists have adopted statements discouraging women from being pastors, but their 42,000 U.S. churches are independent and a few have selected women to lead their congregations. The faith was organized in 1845 in Augusta, Ga.

Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, said the cover was not the reason the magazine was pulled from Lifeway's shelves.

"The buyers said the statements that were in it took positions that were contrary to what we would say," Turner said. "It wasn't so much that there were women on the cover."

Featured on the cover are Pastor Sheryl Brady of The River in Durham, N.C.; Pastor Tamara Bennett of This Is Pentecost Ministries in Sacramento, Calif.; Bishop Millicent Hunter of The Baptist Worship Center in Philadelphia, Pa.; Pastor Claudette Copeland of New Creation Christian Fellowship in San Antonio, Texas; and Pastor Kimberly Ray of Church on the Rock in Matteson, Ill.

Bennett said the issue of women in the ministry is not one that should be shelved.
"It's a story that needs to be told," she said in a telephone interview Friday. "Sometimes we forget that ministry is God's business. It's not a man's business. God gives gifts to whomever he sees fit."

Bennett said she is encouraging people to ask for the magazine.

"All Dr. Hairston did was tell a story, she didn't preach a doctrine," Bennett said of the article. "It's just sharing news."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Abandon Yourself To It

This is from Abandonment to Divine Providence, from Jean Pierre de Caussade, a Jesuit priest from the 18th Century:

"For those who abandon themselves to it, God's love contains every good thing and if you long for it with all your heart and soul it will be yours. All God asks for is love, and if you search for this kingdom where God alone rules, you can be quite sure you will find it. For if your heart is completely devoted to God, your heart itself is this treasure, this very kingdom which you desire so ardently."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Book Review

The Dead Whisper On, by T.L. Hines.

This is Hines' second novel. Though not a sequel to Waking Lazarus, it plows similar material: creepy events, eerie spirituality, and an interesting Christian take on the ghost story.

Canada MacHugh, a hard-working woman in Montana, hears the voice of her father, dead for 11 years. And Dad has a mission for her: helping him and other (supposedly) dead folk go about and perform missions of mercy and goodness. What could be wrong with that?

Well, of course, plenty can go wrong with that. And it does go wrong for Canada, and she is thrown into a variety of dangerous situations, all the while trying to figure out exactly what the ghosts are.

Hines' books have a dry sense of humor that counteract the suspense/horror aspects well. No book is everyone's cup of tea, but this one is a solid example of the spiritual thriller genre.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

August Reading

65. The Dark Knight novelization, by Dennis O'Neal
66. Left Behind: The Kids #10, by Jerry B. Jenkins & Tim LaHaye
67. Left Behind: The Kids #11, by Jerry B. Jenkins & Tim LaHaye
68. Left Behind: The Kids #12, by Jerry B. Jenkins & Tim LaHaye
69. Left Behind: The Kids #13, by Jerry B. Jenkins & Tim LaHaye
70. Queen of Sorcery, by David Eddings
71. Invincible Ultimate Collection, vol. 1 & 2, Robert Kirkman et. al.
72. Playing for Keeps, by Mur Lafferty
73. Beverly Hills Dead, by Stuary Woods
74. A Cat in a Chorus Line, by Lydia Adamson
75. The Star Scroll, by Melanie Rawn
76. Tom Clancy's Op-Center #3: Games of State, by Jeff Rovin

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Thoughts of God and the Word of God

I have thought long and hard about the issues of reading and translating the Bible, much less interpreting it. My conclusion is not very heart-warming to those who want to apply the Bible directly and distinctly to this plane in which we dwell. It is the best that we have, but we have to understand that it is not perfect -- I say this because that human language is an imperfect construct. God's Thoughts are prefect, but we do not have them. What we have is a poor substitute, God's Thoughts in the language of humankind. Human language, post-Babel, I have to point out. God's thoughts are not just a little bit above ours, they are as high above our thoughts as are the heavens above the earth. The best we can catch is a glimpse. These are worthwhile, valuable, and critically important glimpses, but let's keep in mind the fact that they are just glimpses.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

67 years ago

On this day in 1941, Father Maximilian Mary Kolbe died at Auschwitz. You may know his story, but it certainly bears repeating.

During World War II, the Polish priest sheltered refugees from his home nation, including 2,000 Jews, whom he hid from Nazi persecution. In February 1941 he was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in Pawiak, and was later transferred to Auschwitz.

In July 1941 a man from Kolbe's barracks vanished, prompting the camp commander to pick 10 men from his barracks to be starved to death in the infamous Block 13. One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, lamenting that he had a family.

Kolbe stepped forward and offered to take his place. 'I wish to die for this man.' The surprised commander asked him to identify himself. He simply answered, 'I am a Catholic priest.' He was allowed to take Gajowniczek’s place.

During the time in the cell he led the men in songs and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe and three others were still alive. Finally he was murdered with an injection of carbolic acid and cremated in the ovens.

Father Kolbe was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982. Franciszek Gajowniczek attended the ceremony.

Lord, grant me St. Maximilian’s courage.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

In, But Not Of

The earliest organized apologetic for the Christian faith may be the Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus (100-180 AD). What follows is from Chapter 5 of Lightfoot's translation, giving a very early-church view of how we are (or should be) different from those around us:
For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind either in locality or speech or customs. For they dwell not in cities of their own, neither do they use some different language.

Nor again do they possess any invention discovered by any intelligence or study of ingenious men, nor are they masters of any human dogma as some are.

But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and barbarians, and follow the native customs in dress and food and the other arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvellous, and contradicts expectation.

They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign.

They marry like all other men and they beget children; but they do not cast away their offspring.

They have their meals in common, but not their wives.

They find themselves in the flesh, and yet they live not after the flesh.

Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.

They obey the established laws, and they surpass the laws in their own lives.

They love all men, and they are persecuted by all.

They are ignored, and yet they are condemned. They are put to death, and yet they are endued with life.

They are in beggary, and yet they make many rich. They are in want of all things, and yet they abound in all things.

They are dishonoured, and yet they are glorified in their dishonour. They are evil spoken of, and yet they are vindicated.

They are reviled, and they bless; they are insulted, and they respect.

Doing good they are punished as evil-doers; being punished they rejoice, as if they were thereby quickened by life.

War is waged against them as aliens, and persecution is carried on against them, and yet those that hate them cannot tell the reason of their hostility.

Friday, August 01, 2008

July Reading List

54. Murder on K Street, by Margaret Truman
55. LOTR: ROTK, by J.R.R. Tolkien
56. Big Deal, by Anthony Holden
57. Bigger Deal, by Anthony Holden
58. Infinite Crisis, by Greg Cox
59. Hard Row, by Margaret Maron
60. The Top Ten, by J. Peder Zane (ed)
61. The Purrfect Murder, by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown
62. Metal Swarm, by Kevin J. Anderson
63. Worship Evangelism Justice, by Mike Pilavachi, with Liza Hoeksma
64. Deja Dead, by Kathy Reichs

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Worship Evangelism Justice

From the introduction to Worship Evangelism Justice, by Mike Pilavachi, with Liza Hoeksma. Pilavachi is the founder and leader of Soul Survivor, in the UK. The book is an good read, and the perspective of what God is doing across the pond always interests me.
"Jesus told us that loving God and loving our neighbor should go hand in hand. We've often separated out our spiritual activities from our secular ones; we go to a home group, that's spiritual; we buy a pair of sneakers, that's secular. Or is it? If we do our part to ensure that the person who is making our sneakers gets a fair wage and works in reasonable conditions, isn't that an act of loving our neighbor and therefore a spiritual activity? God is interested in the whole of our lives and He wants access to everything so that we can make choices that reflect Him better.

I believe that worship, evangelism and justice are close to God's heart and that they belong together. If we continue to ignore them, or even separate them, we will continue to see the numbers of people following God decline and te church's voice grow weaker. If we bring them back together, could it be that the church will again be right at the heart of the community and God will again be worshipped as He deserves?"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Devotion to Christ

This is what we learn from Mary Magdalene, whose feast the church has historically celebrated on July 22.

Much of her story is shrouded in mystery and misidentification, as well as recent ficitional (highly fictional) attempts to further change her story. What we know about her speaks to her wholehearted devotion to Jesus. She accompanied Him on His final trip to Jerusalem, stood at the cross, and then went to the tomb. And her reweard, of course, was that she was the first person our risen Lord spoke to.

Lord, give me the devotion of our sister, St. Mary of Magdala.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Even in the Darkness

A terrific song from an alternative folk duo, based out of Chicago, but touring the EU during the through November.
Even in the Darkness
by Rue Royale (Brooklyn and Ruth Dekker)

Oh, I will follow you
Even in the darkness know your truth
Oh I will follow you
Walking in the light you’ve called me to

‘Cause I love your name, it is like honey on my mouth
I love your name
I love your ways, they are so beautiful to me
I love your ways

Oh, I will trust in you
Offer up my life to be made new
Oh, I will trust in you
I will cast my every care on you

Oh, I believe in you
I believe your every word is true
Oh, I believe in you
I will give my life, my love, to you

‘Cause I love your name, it is like honey on my mouth
I love your name
I love your ways, they are so beautiful to me
I love your ways

Even in the darkness, know your truth
Even in the darkness, know your truth

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Book Review

The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, by Timothy Keller.

The Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, Keller walks the reader through an accessible apologetic for basic Christian beliefs, such as sin, the crucifixion, and resurrection. He also takes on criticisms of the church and God, such as the problem of evil and the Church's historic role in causing/promoting injustice. Keller takes his experiences pastoring in "godless" Manhattan to balance an academic approach to the topic with modern (and post-modern) language and examples to reach 21st century skeptics.

Monday, June 30, 2008

June Reading List

48. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
49. Book of the Dead, by Patricia Cornwell
50. Snakehead, by Anthony Horowitz
51. The Third Secret, by Steve Berry
52. The Dragon Prince, by Melanie Rawn
53. Restored, by Neil T. Anderson

Currently Reading: The Star Scroll (30% done), Murder on K Streeet (25%), LOTR:Return of the King (10%).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Book Review

How to be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job, by Brother Benet Tvedten

Tvedten is a monk at a Benedectine monastery in South Dakota, so he knows what it is to be monastic. In this book, he describes the life of an oblate – a “lay monastic,” if you will. An oblate takes vows of spiritual commitment to a particular monastery, but has a regular job and family. Although I am not going to make this particular life choice, the life of balance that monastics exemplify I find attractive. I found the book on the "Monk Rock" website ( ... folks whose motto is "You don't have to be a monk to live like one."

I must say I learned a lot from this little book.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

May Reading List

38. The Two Towers, By J.R.R. Tolkien
39. The Reason For God), by Timothy Keller
40. The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield
41. Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, by Anne Rice
42. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, by Meg Meeker, M.D.
43. It's All Too Much, by Peter Walsh
44. Santa Fe Dead, by Stuart Woods
45. Before I Wake, by Dee Henderson
46. The Catholic Church: A Short History, by Hans Kung (transalted by John Bowden)
47. Breaker's Reef, by Terri Blackstock

Currently reading: Restored by Neil Anderson, and Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I Shared the Gospel in Class Yesterday

Well, sort of. I mean, as close as you can at a public university.

I was teaching about target marketing, and I used as an example the first Narnia movie from the Christmas season, a year ago. I talked about the general ads that were on TV for the movie, presenting it as a fun, adventure fantasy movie with great special effects and exciting battles. Then I explained that C.S. Lewis was a Christian who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia to explore various religious themes, and therefore churches and Christian bookstores were also heavy promoters of the film.

With a picture of Aslan on the screen behind me, I talked about how Edmund's poor choices led him to be condemned to die at the White Witch's hands, but that Aslan stepped in as a substitute and died in his place, so Edmund could go free. Then Aslan rose from the dead, and led the armies of Good in warfare to defeat the White Witch once and for all.

I said, "You don't have to have spent a lot of time in Sunday School to know what that story is really about."

I can drop biblical references and Chirstian principles in lectures every now and then, but this was the first time I actually explained an allegory for the Good News.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Movie Review

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (PG)

If "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" is the gospel story, consider Prince Caspian a story of the church in the Dark Ages. More than a millenia has passed in Narnia since Aslan's sacrifice, and the land has been overrun by Goths and Vikings (oops, I mean the Telmarines), led by King Miraz. Aslan, the talking animals, and the 4 kings and queens have all become legend, and their historical reality is considered dubious.

The four Pevsesies return to Narnia after a year has passed in their time. They soon meet the young Prince Caspian, Narnia’s rightful heir to the throne. He flees as Miraz (his uncle) plots to kill him so he can place his newborn son on the throne. With the help the courageous talking mouse Reepicheep (an all-time favorite Lewis creation, portrayed wonderfully in the film) and a range of other formerly-hidden creatures, the Narnians, led by Peter and Caspian (who don't always work weel together, to put it mildly) seek to find Aslan, destroy Miraz, and restore magic and wonder to the land.

Often considered on of the weaker Narnia novels in terms of plot and action, the movie includes an extra battle scene and introduces a mild romance between Susan and Caspian. But movies and books are idfferent media, and I am more than willing to forgive deviance from the book to make a good movie.

And this is a very good movie, no doubt. Not as clearly a story of the gospel as the first movie, but if you want lessons and messages and references are important to you, they are there, if you look and listen.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The College Search

We recently took my (11th grade) daughter on her 5th college visit. We have taken her to 2 Christian colleges, and 3 traditional liberal arts colleges. As a professional academic myself, I steered her away from the crazier mainstream colleges, and towards the more academically rigorous Christian colleges.

I have been interested in her thinking, and have learned some things about her throughout the process. She has realized that wherever she goes, she won't exactly fit in. At a mainstream school, she'll be an outsider for her Christian worldview. At the Christian school, she'll be an outsider for her engagement with modern culture and post-evangelical leanings.

Her decision is in what context she wants to be "outside the box" -- and what box she wants to be outside of.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Book Review

Mosaic: Pieces of my Life So Far, by Amy Grant.

This is a nice collection of essays, song lyrics, as well as bits and pieces of biography of Grant's life. Organized thematically instead of chronologically, it bounces around from her early singing days to her current life with Vince Gill, growing up with lots of sisters to approaching middle age to raising kids and step-kids. She writes about her struggles with depression, touches on her divorce from Gary Chapman, and explains where many of her song ideas came from.

Some of the stories interested me more than others, but I found it overall an enjoyable read.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Podcast Update

As I reported earlier, I got an iPod for Christmas, and was looking for good podcasts to listen/subscribe to. Well, I have now found a bunch of them, ranging from church history to modern culture to music to bible teaching, covering a range of perspectives: orthodox, catholic, reform, evangelical, post-evangelical.

Good ones I've found include: Coffee Cup Apologetics, Converse with Scholars, Daily Audio Bible, Ears to Hear, Generally Speaking About the Church, In the Studio w/ Michael Card, Internet Monk, Kingdom Rain, St. Irenaeus Ministries, SaintCast, Simply Othodox, and Theology Unplugged. I don't recommend to people I don't know well, but I enjoy all of these, and encourage anyone looking for some podcasts to at least check some of these out.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

April Reading List

I am going to start poistng my reading lists here, every month. Books read are something I have kept track of for the last few years. {note: books 1-29 were Jan, Feb, & March}

30. Why We Read What We Read, by Lisa Adams & John Heath
31. A Case of Crooked Letters, by Lori Copeland
32. Never Think, Always Know by Walker R. Filbert
33. Now & Then by Robert B. Parker
34. Fantasyland, by Sam Walker
35. Revenge of Innocents, by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg
36. The Appeal, by John Grisham
37. America Alone, by Mark Steyn

Currently reading: The 13th Tale (about 60% done), Before I Wake (60%), The Reason For God (< 20%), and Two Towers (just started)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Celtic prayer

The will of God be done by us;
The law of God be kept us;
Our evil will controlled by us;
Our sharp tongue checked by us;
Our sharp tongue checked by us;
Quick forgiveness offered by us;
Speedy repentance made by us;
Temptation sternly shunned by us;
Blessed death welcomed by us;
Angels' music heard by us;
God's highest praises sung by us.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

From Anselm

God of truth,
I ask that I may receive
so that my joy may be full.

Meanwhile let my mind meditate on it,
let my tongue speak of it,
let my heart love it,
let my mouth preach it,
let my soul hunger for it,
my flesh thirst for it,
and my whole being desire it,
until I enter into the joy of my Lord,
who is God one and triune, blessed for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

From the 7th Century (Latin)

I love this, because it manages to honor Mary in appropriate measure. I feel that the pendulum landed in the right spot with this one.


Hymn of the Virgin

The Word whom earth and sea and sky
Aadore and laud and magnify,
Whose might they show, whose praise they tell,
In Mary's body designed to dwell.

Blessed is the message Gabriel brought,
Blessed is the work the Spirit wrought,
Most blessed to bring to human birth
The long-desired of all the earth.

Lord Jesus, Virgin born, to thee
Eternal praise and glory be,
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Spirit evermore.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

TV Review

Reaper, on the CW. New, post-strike episodes are on Thursday evenings.

Sam holds a dead-end job at the local mega-home impovement store, and is surprised to learn when he turns 21 that his parents had sold his soul to the devil before he was born. On that fateful birthday, Satan himself drops by to personally explain that Sam must now serve as his bounty hunter, tracking down evil souls that have escaped and returning them to Hell. Sam's responsibilities to the Devil form the basis of the weekly episodes.

The key to the show is Ray Wise's portrayal of Satan. This is the not the "red PJs and pitchfork" stereotype of cartoons. The actor who killed his daughter Laura Palmer 15+ years ago on "Twin Peaks" is pitch-perfect as the embodiment of 21st Century evil. He dresses like a CEO, is a flatterer and charmer, lies skillfully and easily, and is a natural seducer. He hides his power and temper behind this corporate facade, but occassionally reminds Sam what the consequences of disobeying Satan are.

I am not necessarily recommending the show for all -- the escaped souls are violent, the 20-something characters are crude, etc ... but the portrayal of the Devil is intriguing, and I would say accurate.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Page 123 Meme

Dale tagged me for this meme:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages), or whatever book you are currently reading
2. Open the book to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Post the next three sentences
5. Tag five people (I am not a tagger, so ... I didn't do this.)

From The Jesus of Suburbia, by Mike Erre

"This has always been the temptation of the people of God: to tame him. He increases mystery; we desire to remove it. He introduces paradox; we seek to solve it."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Podcast Help?

I was the last person in my family (and probably the developed world) to get an iPod -- though I still occassionally sneak some quality time with Old Faithful, my Sony Walkman, which is literally held together by rubber bands.

I have found a few top-notch podcasts, including the Daily Audio Bible, which will take me through the Bible in one year. This one runs about 20-25 minutes a day, with daily readings in the OT, NT, Psalms, and Proverbs.

I know that the Podcasting world is vast, and I will never "stumble on" to all of the good ones. I'm not looking for sermons or church services, but rather Christians discussing theology, culture, church history, stuff like that.

Any suggestions?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Book Review

A Pagan's Nightmare, by Roy Blackston. Blackston is one of the few funny fiction writers in the Christian marketplace. This one is a funny, bizarre, post-modern read. The story revolves around a literary agent and his client's latest manuscript, and the novel bounces back and forth between the manuscript and people's reactions to the manuscript. There is a lot of poking fun at aspects of modern evangelical culture, so if you can't laugh at yourself, this one's not for you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Brigid’s Feast

I should like a lake of finest ale
For the King of kings.
I should like a table of the choicest food
For the family of heaven.
Let the ale be made from the fruits of faith.
And the food be forgiving love.

I should welcome the poor at my feast,
For they are God’s children.
I should welcome the sick at my feast,
For they are God’s joy.
Let the poor sit with Jesus at the highest place,
And the sick dance with the angels.

God bless the poor,
God bless the sick,
And bless our human race.

God bless our food,
God bless our drink,
All homes, O god, embrace.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Nice Little Prayer

Sarum Primer, 1527:
God be in my head and in my understanding.
God be in mine eyes and in my looking.
God be in my mouth and in my speaking.
God be in my heart and in my thinking.
God be at mine end and my departing.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Book Review

Saving God's Green Earth, by Tri Robinson.

Robinson is a pastor of a Vineyard church in Idaho, and is at the forefront of the “creation care” movement in evangelical circles. This book has some how-to information on being a good steward to the earth, but mostly focuses on Robinson’s own journey towards becoming seeing care for nature as not only the province of the extreme left.

There is a generational shift on this issue happening in the evangelical world, and younger leadership emerges in the movement. There is interesting stuff behind this shift in theology, from sociology to life experiences to politics, some of which Robinson touches on.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Just God

From the diary of Vincent Pallotti, a 19th Century theologian and pastor, a praryer I'd like to make my own:

Not the intellect, but God.
Not the will, but God.
Not the soul, but God.
Not the goods of the world, but God.
Not riches, but God.
Not honors, but God.
Not distinction, but God.
Not dignities, but God.
Not advancement, but God.
God always and in everything.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Why I Read the Church Fathers

Scott Cairns wrote the following in an introduction to Athanasius' Life of Antony. He says more effectively than I could ever do how I have come to feel about the leaders of the early church and the writings they've left behind:
... C.S. Lewis makes the claim that our continued attention to the "old books" is absolutely necessary if we are to avoid the hubris of thinking that our contemporary views are without error. It is not so much that the old authors didn't also make mistakes, Lewis notes, as it is that their mistakes are not our mistakes; without having recourse to "the old books," we become blind to our own disabling premises.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

To the Father of Monks

Today is the feast day of St. Anthony of Egypt, one of the "Desert Fathers" of the church. In 271, at the age of 20, Anthony took seriously Jesus' words regarding the selling of possessions. Anthony gave all his wealth to the poor and moved to the desert to live the ascetic life of a monk, but was continually sought out by pilgrims for spiritual direction and advice.

In the early 300s, Anthony created a loosely-organized group of cells, which can be considered the world's first monastery. The story of Anthony's life (compiled by St. Athanasius in about 370) greatly influenced St. Augustine, who was only 2 when Anthony died. Augustine went on to serve the church greatly and leave many of his own writings behind, including his "Rule" for monastic life, written in 400, which led to great growth and vitality of the monastic vocation within the church over the next thousand years.

In 311, in a renewed time of persecution, Anthony moved about ALexandria preaching and teaching, willing to accept the grace of martyrdom should it come his way. His life was spared, and he continued as a church leader, active in the fight against the Arian heresy, which denied the deity of Christ and thus the Trinity. At this point, Anthony was nearly 90. He died at 105.

Monday, January 07, 2008

from the venerable Bede

A hymn of glory let us sing,
new hymns throughout the world shall ring;
by a new way none ever trod
Christ takes his place: the throne of God!

You are a present joy, O Lord;
you will be ever our reward;
and great the light in you we see
to guide us to eternity.

O risen Christ, ascended Lord,
all praise to you let earth accord,
who are, while endless ages run,
with Father and with Spirit, One.