Sunday, December 19, 2010

Review: In Constant Prayer, Robert Benson

In Constant Prayer
Robert Benson
Thomas Nelson
2008

In Constant Prayer is one of a series, The Ancient Practices Series, released lately in paperback by Thomas Nelson and I am glad. I had not seen the original hardcover versions of any of this series before. This particular one addresses the daily office, a practice familiar to many and unknown by others. I fell into the latter group, so what the author had to say was all new for me. For those of you who are familiar with the office this book will offer a most gentle encouragement to continue in your practice. For the rest of us the author walks us through his journey with the daily office including a short history of the practice.
Robert Benson explains the daily office to those that are unfamiliar with it through stories from his experiences with it. Early in the book I did not appreciate his way of doing things. I kept waiting for the magic bullet that would catapult me into some saintly realm with the pray-ers of old. As I settled into his rhythm of story I began to learn. My favorite chapter and my least favorite chapter are the same, chapter 7. Benson explores the reasons he used as excuses for not following through on his practice of the office. Of course, the point of his admissions becomes crystal clear quickly without offense.
The author explains the practice, does not skip the hard parts of getting started and staying on task, encourages his readers knowing that there will be times that just don’t click, recommends other readings for those that are interested, and includes a sample morning office to read through. In addition, there is a study guide. I would recommend this book wholeheartedly.
This book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson for review on BookSneeze.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (with answers)

Review: The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (with answers)
Mark Mittelberg
Tyndale Hose Publishers
2010

What a title!  But, they are some of the questions Christians tend to duck when they come up in conversation--- even among friends.   Apologetics put forward in a user friendly way is my description of what Mark Mittelberg has done for us with his book.  It’s an easy read and covers the topics presented well in my opinion. 
What I liked especially were the summary statements at the end of each chapter.    A quick overview of the high points helps if time is an issue.   The “Tips for Talking  About This Issue” section was probably more important than the discussion itself for me.  Remembering humility, gentleness, love, honesty and respect goes out the window sometimes when the discussion becomes more of an argument.  One piece of advice that I found to be most heartfelt was taking the time to discern when a “why” is a cry for help and not an answer.   Such good counsel!
The author included a reading list for each chapter for those that would like to examine the question more closely.   One objection to the list might be that the opposing views works are not listed.  I have found that in reading the opposing views in their own words I can understand their point of view better.  Depending on someone else to tell you what the other view says is not the best way to learn.  That works for both points of view, by the way.
Overall I would recommend this book as a place to start with the questions Mittelberg covered.   The discussion questions are great!  They probe, require thought, and may even help those that use them to settle some of their own questions about The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rest, School, Politics and Pundits

Wow!  Another month come and gone. And now November is well under way.  Let he time slide passed me for sure. So what is new around here?  The biggest news is the seminary course I'm doing online.  Takes way more time than I ever anticipated, but that's OK since I've got more than money, as they say.  It is interesting and challenging as well.  I didn't know what to expect really.  To be honest I didn't think it would be at a true master's level educationally.  It is.  That is good.  There's so much out there that claims to be what this is and isn't.  I've tried several of them.  So that's the top of the news.

Next been on the road for almost three weeks and finally am settling in for the winter.  Did a conference in Virginia that was very well done.  That is saying a lot because I'm not a big fan of that sort of thing.  In fact I avoid them if possible, but I'm glad I attended this one.  Then the next trip was a week of "vacation" in a cabin.  Spent lots of time cooking, etc.  until I finally went off on the guys and then I got to be on vacation as well.  Number one offspring accompanied us which was nice.  He needed the time off to recharge after a no fun year.
  Very difficult with his personal life and he was a basket case.  Seems to be pulling out of it now.  

Then got to go to a convention.  And I really, really, really do not like those.  As it turned out one day was spent in the hotel minding a sick spouse.  Think his flu shot got him.  But all that's done and over with now happily.  Meanwhile Nano started and I decided at the last minute to give it a go again this year.  Now I'm only 5000 words behind. (Big sigh.)  See if it's possible to overcome a late start or not.  Put up 3000 words yesterday and will try for some more today later on.  See how it goes.

Any other stuff?  Oh, yeah.  The elections happened in the middle of all that.  Wonder what the results will mean?  More gridlock or business as usual which lately have been interchangeable terms.  My state replaced nearly every elected official this time around.  Don't  think I've seen anything like that happen before, but I wasn't watching as closely either. 

The reviews have slowed down too.  I've got one book I need to get done soon and that's it.  One of the houses has no offerings right now at all.  Hopefully they are rethinking some of what they do.  Given the state of the economy I wouldn't be surprised to hear they stop the reviews altogether.  But maybe they so get enough benefit form them to keep them going.  Not really sure.  I know I do read some reviews before I buy a book, but only the lower starred ratings.  The five star folks are too enthusiastic for me and the one star generally to fundamentalist.  Given the way I read the reviews I rarely if ever go five stars.  

Guess that has this blog got up now.  No punditry today.  Except to say that Keith messed up it seems.  Wonder who ratted him out?  Or is he pushing the envelope with this issue?  It is a strange policy, I think.  May even be too strange for legal issues to come from it.  But the networks have tons of lawyers, so who knows.  Anyway, it did cause a stir in the news cycle.  

There I did do some comments and not just newsy, boring stuff.  Time to post now, if I can remember to put a title on this.

 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Review:Homosexuality and the Christian

Homosexuality and the Christian

Mark A. Yarhouse, PsyD

Bethany House Publishers

2010

 

Finally, a reasonable look at this topic!  Long over due though, but finally here.  I guess that pretty well sums up how I feel about this book. It helps people like me who have not been able balance the admonitions against homosexual behavior in the Bible and the positions espoused from the different corners in this battle, particularly the churches responses. 

Dr. Yarhouse begins his discussion with God and what He has to say about homosexuality. In doing that he sets the tone for the rest of the book.  God says this, so how do the people of God respond?  Part of his argument is that the church leaves no place for the person who struggles with same sex attractions thereby forfeiting the individual to the opposing views.  This is a major point that he touches on several times, but does not slam the pulpit in stating his views.

Recent research on the causes of homosexual behavior is examined.  While many aren’t interested in that part of the debate this author’s treatment reveals some interesting facts.  Don’t skip over that part, it’s important.  The most valuable parts of the book for me, however, are the case studies he works through to illustrate how each of us can be more sensitive to not only our needs but those of the person struggling with same sex attraction.  Good discussions and advise here. 

He doesn’t pretend that it’s easy.  It is a struggle and a life long one at that for all of us, straight and gay.  The author discusses the possibility of changing one’s sexual orientation and includes responses from those that have participated in programs that attempt that change.    Related to that is the script, as he calls it, used in the mainstream conversations about this topic.  If someone has attractions for the same sex, the script progresses immediately to distinguishing that person as gay or lesbian.  Is that correct?  Or is there a progression from desire to action and then to adopting a label?  Does the individual define himself in terms of sexuality alone?

Please take the time to read this book.  Think about it, pray about it.  The topic isn’t going away and needs to be addressed more carefully by the church.

This book was provided to me by Bethany House Publishers for review.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review: The Gospel According to Jesus

The Gospel According to Jesus

Chris Seay

Thomas Nelson

2010

Surprised, pleasantly, and challenged.  That’s how I’d describe my review of this book.  I’d read others from his circle of friends and been disappointed, to be honest.  I expected more of the same from Chris Seay.  I was wrong.  There is more focus on the things of God and more depth here than I’d seen elsewhere.  The author defines righteousness, the gospel, justification and even takes on the imago dei.  He’s not putting out some fluff here.  Surprised?  The emerging/emergent elements are coming of age.  And in the process rediscovering some truth that the mainline had sidelined.  My hope is that this continues to affect their lives.  It’s like watching the fervor of the boomers in the 60’s again.  Let’s see if the new generation can pull it off and not be defined as an “unrealized” (Tom Brokaw) generation.

Chris Seay opens his book with a quote from Gandhi who says basically that he likes Jesus but wonders about His followers.  Most of us have heard that quote and winced at it’s truth.  The author sets out to discover why that is so and what to do about it.  Yes, there’s some criticism of the church and how it has conducted itself particularly in the USA.  Seay attributes some of the problem to ignorance, willful or otherwise.  His closing chapter lists “The Ten Commandments of a Shalom Life” which point the way to a truly meaningful life.  He is careful to say that all must be brought to God through prayer.   

I found myself challenged by the content of this book.  His focus is much more toward engaging the world than forming a cozy club that hides from the world.  In doing so it can feel as if he is advocating for social justice alone, but please read him more carefully.  He does address more than that in this book.  Think about what he says.  Even if you don’t agree with all he has to say or what the interview responses at the end of each chapter say you will have to answer the why don’t I agree question.

I do recommend this book to you. 

This book was provided in exchange for this review by Thomas Nelson and BookSneeze.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Summer, Simmer, School

YikesThis month is nearer gone and I'm just now realizing that.  Seems like that is a recurring theme lately. 

Speaking of recurring themes---DADT just got put on the back burner in the Senate.  Not surprised.  I think it was expected and just in time for it to be an issue for the midterms.  That had to a coincident, of course.  So now, I guess they back up and try it again.  Except a bunch of them need to go campaign, so is there any time?  Did the GaGa rally help or hinder or just offer a side show? The Senators from that state certainly weren't moved by it.  Oh well, like so many things lately it'll just have to wait.  Wait for the Congress, but I wonder what the Executive Branch can do?


Summer is almost officially over.  Just a couple of more days now.  Where I live the pools are closed, the private ones, too, and the AC's have been pulled out of the windows.  Very few people here have central units.  Except for allergies and extended warm spells really don't need them.  So with us.  Nice to have those windows open for air and view again. 

Biggest news for me lately is that I'm a school girl again and liking it.  Online seminary courses are the way to go for me.  I do have to admit I thought they'd be less challenging than they really are.  Rude surprise for me!  OK.  Regroup and get after it.  Academic reads do require more focus.  So more is what they'll get henceforth.  Time to get serious with it.

So why am I here and not studying?  Um.  To limber up my fingers for some real typing?  Yeah.  Not procrastination.  Certainly not!  Just to prove it, I'm gong to end here and switch over to the study mode.  Actually, I discovered that letting things simmer a little helps, but simmer time is over.









Monday, September 13, 2010

Review: the Mocking Bird Parables

 

the Mocking Bird Parables

Transforming Lives through the Power of Story

Matt Litton

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

2010

 

The Mocking Bird Parables lives up to the endorsements on its back cover as few books have.  It is insightful and enchanting.  As the title hints, it is based on Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird,  which just celebrated its fortieth anniversary.  So Litton’s book is timely and a good follow up to the novel.  Reading groups could easily use it for a great discussion guide.  It does have a short set of reflection questions at the end for that purpose.

Each of its ten chapters reflects on either a major character or scene from the novel.  The reader finds relevant issues like building relationships, role of women, ecology, finances, parenting and several other topics presented by the author.  His discussions are personable and pointed.  Gently most of the time, happily.  I liked his discussions of how his own perceptions have changed over time.  That’s a good reminder that some issues aren’t static or settled by the time you graduate from college, or whatever milestone affects your life at a given age.  It is a book that you should not devour, but one that should be savored slowly.  

I tried the devour style first.  Don’t do that.  It will feel like a paper for a literature class.  While the idea isn’t unheard of in that setting, a quality implementation of it is rare.  So slow down and enjoy this author’s book.  I guarantee that you will find yourself in agreement or dispute with him.  You will feel pain in some discussions as well.  You may even want to reread the now classic novel to check if all the author has seen is really there.  I think it is.  Decide for yourself.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Review: OutLive Your Life

OutLive Your Life

Max Lucado

Thomas Nelson

2010

 

Max Lucado has produced another of his gentle reads that pack a punch.  This one challenges the reader on numerous levels while tracking through parts of the book of Acts.  So for those of you who yearn for the first century church, your time has arrived.  Beware though, for what you wish.  The first century church did not sit quietly in a pew once a week.  Lucado skillfully shows how 21st century life fits into first century church.

This author is probably the best at finding anecdotes to illustrate his points that I have read.  Like many of his other books this strikes a balance between the illustrations and the text.  Each chapter draws you in and then challenges.  If you don’t like challenges this may not the right book for you or your small group.  At the end of the book is a set of discussion questions geared to each chapter for those readers that what to think more about the topic.  In addition, this book offers some activity suggestions that allow opportunities to practice the aspect covered in the chapter.  David Drury prepared this section and is credited on its first page and in the acknowledgements.

My only objection to this book lies in its sameness to several of his books as far as presentation and organization.  Each chapter is a stand alone.  Each chapter has a nice illustration, a Biblical text and application.  Should we call this book part a series designed for groups?    Looks like it to me. 

One other thing I should mention is that the jacket states that “100% of the author’s royalties from Outlive Your Life products will benefit children and families through World Vision and other ministries of faith based compassion.”  There are or will be soon other products associated with this book. 

This book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson in return for this review.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Carina Nebula and Hope

CARINA-NEBULA-PHOTO
Thought I’d try out a new program.  It’s the direct result of my trying to lobotomize my computer yesterday.  No details here, much too embarrassing.  The picture depicts where I sent it to though.  And the state it was in when it arrived.  Pretty amazing that I can type this today actually.  Recovery discs are very, very good things.  If you don’t have one…  Nah, not going to go there.  The picture is the Carina Nebula from the NASA site.
It’s a shame we can’t fund them as well as we probably should or that some people think the whole idea is a giant waste.  For me, seeing this sort of picture reminds me that big events are a matter of perspective.  Not to diminish either the triumph or defeat, the joy or sorrow we know on this planet, but that there is more out there.  We need that sort of hope.  Or I do.  Romanticized?  Absolutely and why not?
Hope.  A noun or a verb?  Both or neither.  Whatever it is I know when it’s around and when it isn’t.  I’m just now getting to a place where it isn’t so scarce.  And I’m liking it.  Some might say it is a matter of perspective.  Others think it’s focus.  Others have decided it’s the neurotransmitters coming back into balance.  I think it just might be a giant dose of Cheezits.  Well, maybe not. 
What I have noticed is that the less I watch some of the TV political rantings, the better I sleep and feel.  Seems like we as a people have gone into the navel gazing, woe is me mode in double over time.  Yes, the economy isn’t as robust as we remember it and money is tight.  Is that the end of the world?  We refuse jobs that pay less than we want and keep drawing unemployment.  I understand the why’s of that, but not totally.  If things really were as bad as some would have us believe, how can that be happening.  Just some thoughts. 
Just tried the preview and this program is nice.  I suspect that if my blog were fancier this would even better appreciated.  Let’s see if it’ll post now.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hot Weather, White Man's Burden, and Hurricanes

Oh my!  I'd better hurry if I want to get another post up for August.  Even though it's one of the long months on my calendar, it has slipped by rather quickly.  Don't know what I've been doing that was so much fun but it kept me occupied.  

Summer has returned for a last gasp.  I hope so anyway.  Warm is good; hot is not.  And it's hot here when the temperature (Do thermometers have mercury any more?) gets up around ninety.  

Speaking of weather, the weathermen are so excited that they have a real hurricane to predict doom from now.  Only thing better for them I suppose would be for it to end up in the Gulf of Mexico.  Yeah, I think the news cyclers or recyclers love doom.  If there isn't any, dredge up an old story and respin it.  These are the same guys that point at certain political persons and accuse them of fear mongering.  Kind of odd, don't you think?  I guess that only applies to the other guy.  

School has started here now.  The seniors are all tucked in at the college of their choice now.  Or those that chose the military have graduated from basic and gone to their next assignments.  The next generation of leaders are being formed.  Wonder what it'll look like when they are in a place to do the leading? Or will they opt out like so many of my generation did, leaving the leadership to those that are purchased by whoever the highest bidder might be then?  

We keep hearing about the need to do the hard thing, the right thing but no one steps up to do it.  Has it always been that way and I'm just catching on now?  What little history I have read says yes to that question.  Even down to the arguments used to justify a position.  Update the language, change a few names and there you are.  Seems like Solomon was right about nothing new under the sun after all.  


But, even at that there's still no reason no let things drift without at least making a few course corrections.  I think so anyway.  And the time for that is yesterday in reality, but since that's gone, today will have to do.  Tomorrow may not be soon enough.  And since most politicians value their jobs and those are threatened by current events something will be done eventually.  And especially when the newer bunch realizes what is at stake.  Yes, I still hold a hope that we aren't done yet.


The best part of what's going on now, is that our country is transitioning into a new era.  One where we aren't the world fixers or cops.  One where it isn't the white man's destiny to enlighten the heathen savages.  Yes, I do believe that's the root of where we come from politically.  We inherited it from our ancestors across the pond.  And for a long while believed that idea.  


Now, is a new era.  More of everybody on the globe knows more about everybody on the globe.  And guess what?  Most of those heathen savages have a way of living that predates our great idea and aren't ready just yet to give that up.  Isolationist?  Not exactly, but no longer an interventionist just because they choose to live in a way I don't like.  Or because they have all the oil on the planet.  Or under it.  So buy it from them.  Too expensive? Then innovate and find another idea that works and is cheaper.  What's the old saying?  Necessity is .....  You know it.


So much for my political musings.  See what hot weather does to me.  Feels good to spout an opinion of my own too.  Catharsis.  Even the word feels good to say.  Must be time to end this.  The cat just walked across the keyboard.  


See you in September.  Wasn't there a song about that?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Review: 1,2, & 3 John, Life Application Bible Study

1, 2 & 3 John
Life Application Bible Studies
Linda Chaffee Taylor et al
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
2010

This book is one of a series of studies available from Tyndale House Publishers that includes the full text of the book to be studied from the New Living Translation of the Life Application Bible. When I received this study guide the first thing I noticed was the very attractive presentation. You will want to pick it up and thumb through it. Inside, the pages have enough room to record your responses without having to resort to abbreviations or microprint. I like that. It also means the responses are likely to require more than one word.
The first few pages contain an explanation of how the translators worked through the some common language issues to arrive at the NLB translation. Interesting reading but not necessary for the study itself. The text of John 1, 2 & 3 and notes from the Life Application Bible follow. I think it is reprinted directly from the NLT Life Application Bible so that you get to test read that version while doing your study. I didn’t find any questions that rely on this particular version like I have in some other studies. That is very thoughtful for the class member that prefers another Bible version will still find that this study available for them.
To the study itself now. I have not done the entire study so this will be based on a preliminary impression. As with most studies this one starts with something easy and familiar but pertinent to the content to allow the student to wade a little deeper into the material. The whole point of this study is to do more than study the content. It is application. Learn it and live it might be the short version of the authors’ purpose.
Conversation is stimulated by the way the questions are asked. How, when, why, what, or describe start nearly every line. Can’t get away with those “yep” or “nope” responses any more. Another nice thing is the student is encouraged to think more deeply, more thoroughly so the learning is more apt to become action. For students or leaders looking for more depth and more interaction during their meeting times, this study may be what you are looking for. Give it a try.
Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Marriage, Prop 8, and Other Stuff

Need to put up a post.  Need to!  Just gotta do it!  Why?  Don't know. Just want to express myself I guess.  Why does anyone do this?  

Celebrated another wedding anniversary last week.  A whole bunch of years.  Had no idea when I got married I'd see this many years go by.  The young can't think in those terms.  Not sure the old can either.  I'll let you know when I get there.  Took the day and visited a Renoir exhibit and ate a cheesesteak sans the cheese.  Enjoyed it.  Even decided to renew the contract for another year.  That's the way we've done since the beginning so why not continue the tradition?  Was it easy staying married?  Most of the time.  Yeah, there were times that one more day seemed impossible, but I guess it was possible since I'm still here.  Maybe that's how it works.  

Speaking of marriage---Prop 8 in California is history now.  Unless the Supreme Court does something unexpected.  The idea was lame to begin with and the court proceedings even more so from the media reports.  So many questions attached to this issue that I don't know how to reconcile it all in my head.  Assuming that's even possible. Are some things so disparate that they cannot be reconciled?  I suspect so, but not sure if that applies to this issue for me.  Still pondering and still realizing that what I think doesn't matter to anyone else.  I just need to figure it out for my own peace of mind.


So now that the oil isn't gushing into the gulf what will become of all the calls for real regulation and inspection?  Or the R&D to find faster, better, safer ways to minimize the damage from the next leaking well?  Umm, probably the same as before.  Nada.  The news coverage has already died off and soon it'll be like other disasters like Haiti or Iraq.  Forgotten in the need for ratings.  And Congress?  Oh, that's right.  It's an election year.  No time to do the right thing, must get re-elected.  Promises and more promises and little or no action.  Can't wait for November.  Guess that makes me an anti-incumbent voter.  Keep voting them out until I get one that will do his job.  Can't screw it any more than it already is IMO.


So much for the opinions.  They are mine though, so I guess I still have the right to say so in a public area.  If not I suppose the thought police will banish me to somewhere lovely.


Haven't mentioned my cat lately.  He's settled in nicely now.  Still plays a little and loves to snoop.  Open door = invitation to enter.  Closed door = opportunity to practice opening said door.  Related to the open door he thinks the outdoors is just another area to explore and tries to do so any chance he gets.  Not a good idea though, so with some help form a spray bottle he doesn't bolt through as frequently any more.  Another cat maxim is water = bad.  That one supercedes the open door maxim.  Works quite well as a deterrent.  Glad somebody suggested it to us.


This has gotten longer than I anticipated so it must be time to quit.  So I will.















 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review: What in the World Is Going On?

What in the World is Going On?
10 Prophetic Clues You Cannot Afford to Ignore
Dr. David Jeremiah
Thomas Nelson
2008

Originally produced as a series of sermons, Dr. Jeremiah compiles them into this book which has now been released or re-released in paperback. Many followers of interpreting the signs of the times will find explanations of how Dr. Jeremiah sees currents events insightful. Although the events mentioned in this book are now several years old some of the repercussions persist into the present. He presents his case clearly and with endnotes to credit his sources.
The book ends with an alliterative list of activities the believer needs to be about while they are waiting for the prophecies to fulfill. Those few pages are probably the best in the book, I think. I found much of the rest speculative and of little value. The old discussions about who Gog and Magog might be have been around for quite a while. The discussion of Islam could lead to less than charitable acts against the people who profess that particular religion. And yes, I am well aware of their stated goals concerning the non-Islam world. The final diagnosis of how to counter the Islamic world was to “make Christians out of Muslims” (pg 94). Sounds pretty familiar. Since when do we “make” Christians of people?
Overall I cannot recommend this book as it does not serve to edify the saints, but to incite them, to produce a focus on events and interpretations of the future and not on Christ Himself.
This book was provided by BookSneeze in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: The Lord's Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer
Insight and Inspiration to Draw You Closer to Him
Dr. R.T. Kendall
Chosen Books
2010

When I received this book the number of pages devoted to the foreword and special recommendations irked me to be honest; however, now that I have read the book they were all well deserved. Dr. Kendall presents a Rock solid exposition of the Lord’s Prayer. Several other authors have done the same and I’ve read a few of them. This one is far and away is the best that I’ve read.

What makes this one the best in my opinion is the author’s depth of understanding and application. He writes from experience, study and time spent meditating on this prayer. His comments and explanations, in many cases, are drawn directly from Scripture, and appropriate to the discussion. He has written from the heart and it shows through on every page. There’s no hint of academic showmanship here. He wants his reader to be impressed with the Lord and the His prayer not the author’s handling of the text.

Besides being a well done book about the Lord’s Prayer, it would make wonderful devotion reading to accompany anyone’s times of prayer. The final chapter is entitled Jesus’ P.S. to the Lord’s Prayer and it closes the book powerfully reinforcing all that had gone before it by visiting forgiveness one last time.

The author has earned the respect and gratitude of many. He freely gives credit to those that have helped him on his way and is not afraid to admit to his failings if they are pertinent to the discussion. I highly recommend this book. Your understanding of the Lord’s Prayer and its power cannot help but be deepened. Don’t miss this little gem. It’s a keeper, for sure.

This book was provided by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Meandering Through the Fields

Decided stop reading and do a little posting just so this is used for more than reviews.  That wasn't my initial reason to start blogging anyway.  Still isn't.  So why did I start this?

Initially a long time ago I wanted to write, like books and stuff.  Still do, but have discovered it's a wee bit more complicated especially if you want to be published.  I took a short course that required a blog so I signed up.  Later I abandoned it.  Disillusioned.  Alas.  Then for whatever reason I decided to reactivate it and returned to the blogosphere.  This time with no intent except to just do it.  Much better for me that way.


Have I given up on writing?  Not entirely, but have gotten more real about it.  I would like to give it another try in the publishing arena but have no illusions about my chances of being noticed.  That's OK.  Not ready for prime time anyway.  And the actual writing is the easy part for me.  The idea of book tours and conferences deter me more than a deadline.  So obscurity is a nice place.


I have learned a few things lately though.  I do have some good ideas.  That is a giant step forward for me.  I've had other impressions of my work as you may have guessed.  I'd do something and put it aside to discover later that it was something timely, not necessarily timeless though.  I expected the latter from the first feeble attempts.  I know, growth takes time but I had decided that meant someone else.   

What I'd like to do soon is be part of a writers group, but not sure I could handle the criticism yet.  And I don't know of any close by.  Probably looking for next door.  It's an excuse but one that works for now.  On to another topic. 

New kitty is acclimating well.  He's still exploring every nook and cranny.  Problem with that is that he thinks the outdoors is next on his list.  Not happening!  If I can prevent it, anyway. He's also discovered what fun live targets can be, meaning bugs.  Most of the bugs like to hang out towards the ceiling, so kitty tries to climb to the highest point near the bug.  Needless to say there have been several crashes that needed investigation recently.  Nothing severely damaged so far.


Speaking of damage and critters, I saw a black bear for the first time today.  There's been plenty of evidence of their activity from time to time, but not the bear itself.  No more.  Spotted him (her?) wandering through the neighbor's yard, which means he had just come through ours.  That's the wildlife track around here.  Surprisingly he didn't bother the trash that was waiting for pickup.  Maybe he had already foraged all he wanted elsewhere.  The thing that surprised me was seeing him during the early afternoon.  For some reason I had them out and about late at night or early in the morning.  Forget that myth now.  So now I can join the ranks of those that have seen a bear.  There's been several spotted just lately all over this area, or one that really gets around.  Don't know if that's unusual or I'm just hearing the reports more.


Not going to rant on the news.  Today, at least.  I will say I'm pleased that BP's cap is holding.  Hope it continues.  The clean up will probably end up done by some weather system.  Only thing that's big enough to do it in a real world scenario.  The legal wrangling will go on for years so no point in getting too excited about that.  Yes, the little guy will lose in the end but that's the way of the world it seems.  For now.  There will be a time when that isn't the case.


This looks long enough.  Too long and it's just too much bother if anyone did want to read it.  So back to the reading again.  I've got one more review outstanding right now.  Get it done and then I relax for a while.  It is summer and that's what it's about.  Right?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Review: Beyond Opinion

Beyond Opinion
Living the Faith We Defend
Ravi Zacharias, Author and General Editor
Thomas Nelson
2007

Apologetics. Sounds imposing and I nearly missed this one because of that. Don’t make the same mistake. This book has been out in hardbound for a while, but just released in soft cover and I think that may help get it into more hands. It’s a compilation of articles that cover a wide range of topics including the “why bother with apologetics” lead piece. Further into the work the reader finds discussions related to atheism, Islam, Eastern religions and even science, all thoughtfully written and a great place to get an idea of the challenges to Christianity that are out there. As a general review or just a first look, this book offers a lot to the reader in its 350 or so pages.

But, wait there’s more. (Sorry, had to throw that out there.) Seriously though, I found the second section of the book, especially Cross Cultural Challenges by I’Ching Thomas, much more helpful in my current situation. Other readers may find a particularly helpful bit somewhere else along the way. I doubt that anyone will come away from this book empty handed.

Yes, this is a more difficult read than most. No, it’s not an academic read, but you will have to slow down and think about what is written if you intend to receive what they have to say. Personally, I think that is wonderful. Engaging with minds that have thought through what they believe and can articulate their views rationally is a find for those of us that want more. Content end notes are included and add depth to some of the discussions. Don’t skip them totally.

My only nit with this book is the smallish font size. I’m for saving all the trees we can, but in this case I’d sacrifice one more for the cause. I say scale down some of the short fiction pieces this publisher offers and use that paper for this book please.

Overall please take the time to read this book and share it among your friends. Better yet, talk about it with them over coffee or tea.

This book was furnished to me in exchange for this review by BookSneeze.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Review: Unburdened

Unburdened: the secret of letting God carry the things that weigh you down
Chris Tiegreen
SaltRiver, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers
2010

Chris Tiegreen has written a wonderful book. I hadn’t read any of his work before and this one proved to be a great way to get acquainted. His style is so personable and unpretentious in Unburdened that the reader may forget he isn’t sitting across the table engaging the author in quiet conversation. Early on Tiegreen states he’s no expert, however, someone who has been somewhere and comes back to tell me about it comes closer to the person I want to talk with than some of the experts I’ve read. That’s the strongest point for me in this book. He’s lived what he’s writing about and knows how to be unburdened.
The main point Tiegreen makes is so simple it’s hard to accept. I kept expecting something more. You know---the list of hoop jumps I need to add so my life would become less burdened. I mean, after all my burdens surely must require more than the simple truth this author covers so well. As it turns out I have made something simple very difficult. Please notice, as the author so aptly pointed out, simple and easy are not the same at all. But, for people like me he does discuss briefly some of things he found helpful for himself as an idea generator for the reader.
This short review just cannot do justice to the truth Chris Tiegreen has written. Please do yourself a favor and read this book. It’ll help you and you will have met a new friend.
Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

July, Summer and Tigger

July and summer!  All kinds of fond memories.  Hot, hot weather.  Cold Kool-Aid, yeah the kind with all the sugar.  Riding all day and going no where in particular.  Watching my grandfather sitting under that little tiny maple in the side yard listening to Red's baseball and sipping a beer.  He'd let me taste it once in a while.  On a hot day it is really good. 

Some of the not so fond memories had to do with sunburns.  No such thing as SPF anything back then.  You were supposed to have enough common sense to come in before you burned.  Or at least get in the shade.  But every once in a while I didn't judge the tingle you get from a mild burn and blister myself.  That was July when I was a kid.  

July now?  Well, still like the warmth of the sun on my shoulders when I'm outside.  Don't spend as much time out as before.  Just don't and not because of concern about overexposure.  Speaking of lack of sun, I heard or read something the other day that now kids aren't getting enough vitamin D even with all the enriched stuff on the market.  Seems as if it's the lack of sun exposure.  Sheesh.  Something that easy and now it's a medical concern.  Have we forgotten how to live entirely now since so many warning labels have been plastered on every conceivable product and product ingredient?  Don't know and not going to get crazy over it either.  Instead, I'll see if it I can sit on my deck and soak up a few rays later on.

Have gotten another couple of books to review now.  One's ready to go in a day or two and the other is still in progress.  Sort of took a mini vacation from that mostly because they didn't have any titles I wanted to read.  Not doing fiction at all and children's books are out of my league.  I know not what it takes to make a decent kid's book.  There's something about the number of words and number of different words and grade level, etc.  Too much for someone who isn't around kids at all anymore.  That's a good thing too, for all concerned BTW.

Back when I said never again to having a pet.  And I meant it at the time. You already know what I'm going to say.  Yep, new pet.  I did make it about a year or so since the last one though.  New cat, adopted from the local shelter, of course.  About a year old and so far a really good animal.  Besides just missing not having a pet around, the mouse population has exploded.  So, having the little beast around will discourage the mice.  His scent is good enough for that.  Hope they take the hint before he figures out how to hunt.  So meet Tigger.  I didn't pick the name but that's who he is officially at the shelter.  So OK, Tigger will do. 

Have you ever adopted a pet from the shelter?  Neither had I.  The paper work is amazing.  You have to sign a zillion forms promising all kinds of stuff and have some character references.  For a cat!  I'm a cat lover, but it was easier becoming a parent.  The hospitals send you home with a brand new human person without all that paperwork and no little pamphlet on what to do if they act a certain way.  Maybe we should include that sort of thing for all parents.  Anyway here's my new cat.



 Tigger
from my 'Berry

Enough for now.  Maybe get another post up before too long.  

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lazy Summer Days Happening Now

Almost July.  Better get another post in for the fun of it.  Just had some real summer weather here and glad for the AC.  Oh yes.  I enhanced my carbon footprint significantly.  But I could also breathe.  Gotten accustomed to that habit.  Supposed to be cooler outside but it hasn't happened yet.  Try it later on.


So what have I done of any import lately.  Nothing.  Just lazing around.  Haven't written a review lately even.  I do have one sort of done but don't like it.  If I don't like it I suspect the author wouldn't either.  They can take criticism pretty well but what I've got now doesn't do that or praise him for his efforts.  Give it another try later.  


The problem I'm having is that I'm too close to the material this time.  Not sure why and that's probably what the writer was hoping for but I can't back off enough to be objective or at least not as subjective.  Give it some more time to ferment and see what happens. 


The oilspill is beginning to be old news.  At least, the talking heads aren't ranting as long about it.  That's a sign it's losing its ratings appeal.  A bit passed sixty days is about as far as the public outrage can last.  Drive thru food and microwave cooking have taken its toll.  OK, maybe it's more than that but I don't feel like chasing that rabbit today.  Like I said--just lazing around.


In fact, I'm reading some of Hitchhiker's Guide.  You know Douglas Adams work, right?  Read nearly all of his stuff I can find.  So much fun.  If you haven't ever read his stuff, get a copy and do it now.  Too good to miss out on.  The copies I have are old, old paperbacks that I bought old.  Even better for the effect.  I think so anyway.  One day I may get that fake leather compilation someone put out a while back.  But only after the paper ones have disintegrated.  In fact I think I'll try the great outdoors ago and read some more now.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

BP, Ranting, and Checking Out

Might have a new look. Check it out after I'm done here. If it worked it was really easy to do. Like easy. Most of us do, I guess.

Tired of all the BP bashing, ranting, dodging yet? I am quite sure I am. What is all that posturing about. Will it fix anything? Bring back those that were killed on the rig? Restore the Gulf to its pre-spill condition? Nope. The question is whether the folks in power and those in the know will do anything that really matters to fix both the spill and whatever caused it to happen in the first place. And will any of them look for better methods to clean up when it happens again.

Yeah, it'll happen again. No sets of rules or pieces of equipment are fail proof. And accidents will still occur. And since no one seems ready to give up oil and petroleum products, like plastics, we really need to get serious about this. I think so anyway. And now.

Remember everyone laughing at a movie line that said something like, "Greed is good." Well, not so funny any more. Greed drives the bottom line and doing whatever it takes to make that line more impressive. Profits are a must, but at what cost? This isn't exclusive to BP. It's the mind set of business. The same business that funds politicians who also aren't opposed to lots of dollars around them and their bank accounts. So while these same politicians act so outraged with all this mess let's not forget who is going to accept the generous campaign contributions that keep them in office.

As for the "little people" comment made, most of us are the little people. We are the ones who have no say in all of this. Sure we can vote, but will the next guy be any different? It takes enormous sums of money to make it to Washington and even more to stay. We are the ignorant masses, hoping that someone will look around and see what we see. Promises are nice, change comes slowly and believing what we're told or can glean from our government and other sources has gotten to be a farce.

OK, OK. I'm ranting at the ranters. So what. It's the only thing I can do for now. Besides wait and watch.

Last time around, I mentioned I had signed on to Twitter. Well, after a few days I dumped the account. Talking to the universe and no one at the same time seemed futile. I tried it, didn't like it, and left. Maybe some other time. In another life.

I feel so much better now. Think I'll publish this and go have a cookie or something.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Testing New Stuff

Test flying my new computer. So far so good. The old one decided to have a melt down almost literally. Don't know about that sort of thing or why they decide to do that, just that they do. RIP the old and move on with the new. And move is what the mouse does now until I get used to the pad being a little left of where the other one was. Sort of a game---find the mouse.

Must talk about the weather. It is positively the best right now. Sun, breeze, cool. Just the opposite of a few days ago. Feel like a different person when the weather is good. Got to find a way to keep that going. oh, yeah.

Decided to try Twitter. Not sure about it yet. Bunches of odd little quips that don't seem to relate to anything around them. Just odd blurps. Sort of IM to the universe. Then some big brother program somewhere sorts them for references relating to a particular word. No one seems to care about that, I guess. Makes you wonder if other communications are as easily monitored. Have to think they are. But if whoever wants to wade through all that looking for some "subversive" stuff, have at it.

Apparently, I chose a screen name that got a couple of folk's attention and I now have a couple of followers of unknown sorts. But I must say it makes me feel powerful to say I tweeted the President. Like he actually reads any of that. This is still new to me and I hope it begins to make more sense soon. Otherwise I'll just unjoin. If that's possible. This is social? Networking? Give it some time and see what happens.

Speaking of the President, is it OK for him to be looking for some ass to kick? Not sure that's a presidential function. Officially. Pretty sure it happens, but that's what staffers are for. Right? Bet the Chief of Staff is experienced. Just had to get that out of my system. I liked the cool, calm guy better actually. A nice smile someone's direction and their career is over. Histrionics are for the divas. Or the guys on the bottom of the ballot.

So far I have nearly located with some accuracy the back space key and the delete key, going back to the new keyboard. Since that is the case it must be time to close this for a while. Need to collect a few more UVA/B/Gamma rays now. You'll notice I avoided all things oilspill.

Well, almost. My thought on that is if more folks spent more time working on the fix and less on accusing any one except themselves it'd be a good thing.

There now. Time to go.




Monday, May 31, 2010

Review: Jesus Manifesto

Jesus Manifesto
Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ
Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola
Thomas Nelson 2010


A manifesto? Yikes! Some of us may remember a few other manifestos from the past and the idea of another one doesn’t sound very friendly at all. So right from the start I’ve got a problem. But, the title did get my attention, so the authors and publishers succeeded in their effort. Then the vast array of praise within in the first few pages makes me wonder why bother with a review. I discovered that there is a website connected to the book as well that may shock or offend some who dare to visit it. Check it out for yourself sometime. Now all the pieces are in place for a really scathing review, as some might say.

That’s not to be the case though. Not scathing, at least. The basic idea of returning to Jesus in His fullness is a great idea. Sweet and Viola make the point that somewhere the church has become sidetracked is right on target. “Youniverse” is one term that they used to describe where some live these days. How else do you get the me generation and their offspring to notice?

There are some really good quotes within this book. Sweet’s researchers, and I suppose those of Viola since I have not read any of his work before, do a great work in locating them in the vast amount of material available in media land. They make you want to search out the end notes to mark some of them for further attention. That’s one of the reasons I like to read Sweet. Another is his ability to cause me to stop and think about what he has just presented. His word play though can get annoying and he manages to go there frequently in this book.

My advice for readers is to start about half way through this book. Otherwise they’ll put it down and not return. The back half is worth the read and where I finally began to like this book. From chapter seven forward would make a great work on its own. T

What about those opening chapters? How anyone could take such a magnificent topic and make it so tedious to read is mind boggling especially in light of the last few chapters. It felt like trying to connect the dots or reading Pascal’s Pensees like a novel. Sorry, I couldn’t follow the thoughts better, might be me not truly understanding where they were coming from or trying to go with the discussion.

This book was provided by Nelson Publishing’s BookSneeze in return for a review.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Books, Bucks, and Giraffes

Just put up another review. The last couple of books have been amazing I think. Edifying, challenging, disturbing. All at once it seems. I would really like to be able to discuss the last two with someone else, but right now I know of no one that would be interested. Alas.

Meant to write something here before the last review but that didn't happen. So after will do. Do you suppose that oil leak in the Gulf is quasi-controlled now? Not seeing much from the media on the net about it. In fact one of the sites I saw had already moved on to conjecture about whether California is due for the "big one" soon. Sort of like, what became of Haiti in the news? Guess there's no news merit after a couple of weeks.

Just remembered, tomorrow is primary day here. The weather is supposed to be rainy too. Don't know who that favors. Be interesting to see how the incumbents from either party do. I'm saving my final wrath for November. Can't vote in the other party primary and they have the currently sitting senator. With the summer recess coming it's going to get interesting especially for the Senate.

Speaking of interesting. How's this for a thought. China supposedly holds the mortgage for the world now and it looks like it's got a worthless piece of paper. How does that giant, enormous amount of money get paid? If they turn off the cash their markets dry up. If they continue they join the rest of the world in the crisis eventually. Looks pretty dire for the emerging economies. Guess everyone will have to suck it up and move on declaring some piece of paper valuable and fit for use as a trading medium. Weird.

Just added giraffes to the title. No reason, just didn't want more alliteration. We don't have any in this area at all. Maybe the zoo a couple hours from here? What we do have are invisible turkey. They have been nesting for a while, but generally a couple will wander through the yard. Not lately. Guess everyone is sticking close to home trying to stay warm. The cold snap we had lately supposedly did that to them. I don't know for sure, but they aren't moving now. The chicks should be about small chicken size by now. If you've not seen a turkey chick, they are the poster child for a face only a mother could love. Down covered ugly with a beak.

How do you end this sort of conglomeration of topics? Add one more and just leave. Seems right. I've got an orchid that has finished blooming and a short set of instructions what to do with it now. One stalk finished earlier and I did what the instructions said do and you know that nothing happened? Now that the other stalks are done, do I try to keep it going or not? Have to consider it's fate later. The drier awaits now.






Review: A Hole in Our Gospel

The Hole in Our Gospel
Richard Stearns
Thomas Nelson
2010

Disturbing is the best word I know of for this book. There are already hundreds of reviews for this book in its hardbound version and now the soft cover release invites more. The paperback added color photos and a study guide to the text. So for my money that is a plus.

Why did I decide to call the book disturbing? I could have called it challenging just as easily but challenging is easier to dismiss. Disturbing gets into your soul and is much harder to root out. If that’s what you want to do after you read this book. Mr. Stearns tells his story to the reader while motivating that person to consider what action the reader could take to join in the world wide efforts of World Vision or another similar organization.

For those that believe there’s more to Christianity than staring at the back of someone’s head for an hour on Sunday morning this is a great place to start a quest for whatever that something more might be. Only the most callous could resist or disagree. Mr. Stearns balances the social justice aspects and the love of God well throughout this book. That is no easy task since our propensity is to jump into a good deed and do it without considering more than getting it done and looking good ourselves, leaving the recipient as a spectator in the end. That is the other disturbing thing about this book---the possibility of the reader doing just that with it. Consider your actions carefully or more harm than good may come of them.

One really important point the author makes is that poverty is more than the lack of food, water, shelter, health, protection and a myriad of other ills. It is the toll those ills take on the spirit of the person himself. Powerlessness, hopelessness, helplessness is the larger issue that must be addressed simultaneously with all the physical lack the person experiences. Holistic care, however, requires more of us. Do we have the desire to give that much?

Read this for yourself and decide for yourself. Do you have a hole in the gospel you profess to believe?

Thomas Nelson Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my written review.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Anatomy of the Soul

Anatomy of the Soul
Curt Thompson. M.D.
Salt River, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
2010

This is the most helpful,insightful book I’ve read in a long time. There’s advice, guidance, explanations and examples to illustrate discussion offered by the author. Best of all, for me anyway, it explains some of what I had suspected about how things work all along. Dr. Thompson links human anatomy and physiology to the spiritual part of our being throughout the text. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. And God uses His creation of the physical body in amazing ways. The author does a great job showing God’s wisdom found in research and the discoveries that science has made recently in neuroscience. Whether science wants to or not, it is describing the wonders of creation.

Read this book. The text will require thought, evaluation, and time to go through. The author’s writing style is quite readable and he covers the material well. While this isn’t a how to or self help book, there are several examples of exercises he recommends to his patients. Most are very simple, but do achieve their goal if they are practiced as prescribed.

If you work with people (who doesn’t?) this book should help you immensely. What makes us tick and why is good to know especially in stressful situations. If you are in the midst of raising children or caring for them, there is some helpful discussion about their way of processing life at different ages. Wish I’d known some of that when mine were younger. I’m sure they would say the same.

The final chapters tie it all together and in a way that makes so much sense you want to cheer. Maybe one of these days the author will develop that material into a longer work. It deserves the attention.

The only thing I didn’t like is that it felt like the first chapter or so kept repeating the same thing, almost as if he was trying to get his footing before he started in earnest. Or maybe I’m just impatient. That could be too.

I’d recommend this book and intend to reread it to glean more from it before I loan it out to friends. A book that merits another read these days is rare. Take advantage of this one.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my written review.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Buntings and Books

Time to blog says the calendar. So OK let's blog. What about? Oil spills? Court nominees? Euro problems? Weather?

The last one is the easiest to go with it looks like. Cold and windy again. What is this about? Not more than a week ago it looked like summer. Even needed fans to cool the place. Well, the fans are off now. Nature has provided some pre-cooled forced air for a few days now, complete with humidity adjustments ie rain. Keeps the ground cold and the urge to garden at bay. Protection for those of us who aren't in the best physical condition.

The weather has the birds on the feeder more often and that included a new one in the area. We've decided to call it an indigo bunting. Matches the picture in the book so that's got to be who he is. Pretty little guy, all decked out in his breeding plumage. Haven't seen those colors since the last peacock came around. Just read that cowbirds like to use them to raise their chicks. Yet another reason to dislike cowbirds. But the little bunting is pretty and the females look like any one of several in that family group. May have seen her and not known it.

The other topics I mentioned before will have to wait. Not in the mood for that today. Let the talking heads do their thing with them. Right now, I'm watching the shadows play on the window. Restful and visually stimulating. Breathe deeply, exhale now. Like this.

Another thing I like is a book I just finished earlier today. I'll post a review later but that book is probably the best I've read for a while. Nice to challenge the little brain cells a bit. It was a learning experience, too. Except for the Greek study, learning new stuff is rare anymore. Not because there isn't anything new, I just am not where it's happening anymore. (Big sad sigh)

Oh and speaking of books...I checked a sight that I read for early in the year to see the finalists in my reading category and discovered none of the ones I thought were so great were in the running. Haven't missed that far in a long time. My tastes in fiction writing must have changed. The ones chosen I thought were all well padded to give them the length needed for novel. Oh well. May be time to move on to another genre for a while.

Moving on. Yeah, that's what I ought to do about now. Other big events in my life will have to wait until later for mention. Still too fresh to talk about without getting over wrought. Try them later maybe.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Review: Plan B

Plan B
Pete Wilson
2010
Thomas Nelson


Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would? is the full title of this work and gives you a big hint at the way the author approaches the topic. We do have certain expectations of God that He doesn’t meet either on time or in our preferred manner.

This work is an easy read and it eventually gets into the heart of the issue. The first couple of chapters lay a foundation that Pete Wilson will continue to build on, so persevere through them. Yes, I am saying the first chapters were enough to put off many readers. And yes, I am saying that if you stay with it the work does improve and enough for me to say that there is merit to what he says.

Another author started his book with where this one ends up, and in many ways Plan B might reach where the other didn’t by walking the reader to the point when the “It’s all about God, not you.” moment arrives it’s received more easily.

This author’s candid admission that he did not have all the answers was refreshing in that it is the real answer to his title question. He does offer advice and examples from his life, friends and Biblical characters to help us find our way through the Plan B times though. His tone is authentic and friendly.

In the end the book offers more comfort than advice and, for me, that is what some of the other books like this lack. I’d recommend this book to anyone working in the Plan B or further on in the alphabet times of life.

This was book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson in return for a review, positive or otherwise, on their BookSneeze site.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Groundhogs, Bankers, and Tea

Wow! It's almost May already. Don't know where the time has gone. Rested up now after vacation. Isn't that how it goes? Guess some icky weather forced that issue for me. Rain and cooler than I like. It's the magnolia's fault, you know. Whenever they bloom it's a signal for the weather to change and try to freeze the blossoms. Or so it seems. They are nearly done so maybe, it's time to think garden seriously.

We limed the soil several weeks ago. The weeds didn't seem to mind at all. They are looking very happy right now. Need to turn them under and do all that ground prep like tilling, raking, moving a few of the rocks that have surfaced now. The ground here grows them, according to the locals. I believe them and also believe that if the rocks were removed there'd be no dirt at all. But that's probably not entirely true. Just mostly so.

The groundhog family has moved to a quieter neighborhood now. We mowed this past weekend and all the noise didn't please them. Especially driving the tractor back into the shed which they lived below. They were cute and grew amazingly quickly. The "pups" (Don't know what groundhog offspring are really called.) doubled in size after about ten days. And learned to duck when a hawk cruised by. That was good. If they learn to stay off the roads they may even make adulthood. Haven't seen the fox lately and he's about the only predator that remains that's large enough to get them, ignoring some person with a gun that is.

The talking heads should have a great time this evening reviewing the congress' conversation with the bankers. I did pick up one tidbit related to that somewhere yesterday that I thought was revealing. Someone, and I didn't fact check this, said that the percentage of the GDP related to banking is now somewhere around 60%. I guess that gives them the clout to speak about things they think are important. I'd like to follow that back a few years and see if that sort of trend was true of other sectors like the defense industry or auto manufacturing. Or is this a totally new phenomenon? Just wondering. When someone throws some numbers around it would seem like a good idea to check something like that. Maybe I'll go see what I can find later on.

Got a chance to hear Greg Mortenson speak a couple of evenings ago. He's the Three Cups of Tea author or coauthor. I'd read the book quite a while ago so his talk was a nice review. He's dedicated to the idea of education, especially for girls, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's good, but the main thing that he's really done is open the door for looking at another way of life and validating the people who live that life. Until someone can see that there may be more than one way to approach life their way is always the best only way. That's true in the US as will as the countries he's involved with. Education is only a tool in my opinion to bridge that gap, especially when religion and money block the way.

His method included the local leaders first. They own the idea by the time the school is built and will guard it for that reason. Education helps in many areas but eventually, like all goods things, it can be overdone. The "ivory towers" of learning become detached from the real world and can no longer offer anything that is useful. But, before then, the health and well being of the people is improved. Let's hope that is what happens eventually among the people he is working, even though recent news seems otherwise. Patient slow forward motion is one thing that particular people understand and use in a variety of ways. Maybe they could come here and teach us some of that. Or have they started already?







Monday, April 19, 2010

Review: Rechurch

Rechurch
Stephen Mansfield
2010
BarnaBooks, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers

If you have been burned or otherwise suffered a church hurt and if you like the pain and suffering you’ve been experiencing don’t bother with this particular book.

If on the other hand you want to be whole again and able to rejoin the people of God without looking over your shoulder all the time this book can help you immensely. The author is firm in his approach. Sometimes he comes across a bit more strongly than most of us are used to hearing. Keep going, though. He uses examples from his own experience, which could not have been easy for him, and people from history, some of whom surprised me. Even the “super saints” dealt with the church hurt issues.

Throughout the book the author provides various exercises to work through that pave the way to the following steps and eventually to healing and finally wholeness. I especially appreciated some of the discussion related to forgiveness. I thought he offered some very helpful insights in that area.

The final chapter is one I wished I read a long, long time ago; lots of just plain commonsense information that goes out the window so often when people choose a new church home, me included. Maybe it could be a set of discussion points for a new member’s class.

This isn’t a book that you can read and set aside. It is one that you can share, though. Please do when you have finished with it.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Review: The Sacred Journey

The Sacred Journey
Charles Foster
2010
Thomas Nelson

Here is a thought provoking, well written book. I couldn't say that at first. The author’s style is bold, and in some ways quite blunt. No sugar coating some of the difficulties of travel here! I soon discovered however, that I did yearn for a sacred journey of my own just a few more pages into his book.

Foster shows the similarities between cultures in our basic search for God, a name he’d very much like changed in the English language. Shocked, but I had to agree with him that it isn’t exactly a very pleasant sounding word. Okay, just one of his asides that can get your dander up if you let it. Another of his opinions has to do with the urbanization of society and the ills that it breeds. Again, after some thought, he is right about that as well. But, when he starts on the farmers and ranchers I couldn’t go there with him. Maybe he hasn’t met enough of them yet.

So what has all that to do with the sacred journey? Besides taking a mini-pilgrimage thinking through whether I agreed with him or not, he builds a case for how settled life styles deaden our senses. We cannot know God, ourselves, or anyone else when we are focused on he day to day grind. Layers of sediment that need scrubbing accumulate and a sacred journey can be helpful to restore our proper function. For most who are seeking that result, anyway. Best yet, he brings it full circle with a section on the return to everyday life after the journey.

This well woven tale of the author’s experiences alongside those from other times and places makes for an absorbing read.

Reviewed for BookSneeze. Thomas Nelson has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Eagles, Canoes, and Other Stuff

Back after a short vacation. Rustic cabin as it is described with detached bath house. You know, like a detached garage is supposed to sell you on a house listing. Nice time really. Quiet, scent of pine whenever the breeze meandered through the area. Went to a place named Promised Land State Park in eastern PA. Cabins were built by CCC workers in the 1930's. That government program made sense. Young men joined, got paid for the work and if they needed to learn the 3R's they got that as well. Most of the paycheck was sent home, but they got enough to have some fun in town. Can't see today's young people doing that at all though. I guess back then times were tougher and so was the resolve of the people. Anyway, the cabin was solid and we learned that even the furniture was made back then as well. Simple but served the purpose.

Walking is a major activity at the park. We walked. Found a pretty spot with a nice little water fall. So relaxing. Better than the environmental tapes I used to listen to since the visual kept rolling right in front of me. Wanted to just stay there. (Attempted to load a short video below that's about 20 seconds from my digital camera. Not pro shots but you can get the idea. No sound regrettably.) The trail is tougher than it looks with rocks to climb around, over or whatever. Small boggy spots had us searching for alternate paths, too.

The park has a couple of small lakes for water type sports and no power boats allowed. After paddling around the larger lake in our canoe power boats would last about one minute. Tree stumps abound just below the surface and so do a few large rocks. Good fishing spot probably but I saw no one giving it a try. It was a bit breezy and the water was still cold. Besides, the trout season was about to open. Imagine there's a few guys out now for that.

The big attraction for me was watching the eagles. A pair nests above the smaller lake and is a major attraction. For folks like me, anyway. The eagles are quite attentive parents right now and share the nesting duties. Watched shift change at the aerie several times. The one relieved circles a few times and then soars off into a freedom glide. At least, that's the way it looks. Might be anthropomorphizing them though, but I like that interpretation. The Canada geese ignore the eagles, but go beserk when the osprey comes around. And the ducks don't seem to worry with either of them. Odd. I'd thought their chicks would make nice morsels for eagle dinners. Guess not.






The best part of being away was the lack of news. No drama over whatever some politician said or didn't made for a time of mental relaxation. The world continued to turn whether I followed the latest reports or not. Had no clue who won the golf tournament and still don't. No idea who acquired a nuke or didn't or which starlet is "hooking up" with which sports dude. So nice.

One last note. A sad one. My father-in-law passed away after a short battle with cancer. He was 93 and survived by two children, four grandchildren, and four great grandchildren. A good man that lived a good life. He will be missed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Olio

Time to pay a visit to blogland again. It's been calling to me for several days and I finally decided to listen. Got through the latest holiday relatively unscathed. Didn't even see a chocolate egg or one of those little peep things. I have tried to like them but they make much better decorations than candy whether they're yellow, pink, white or some other pastelish shade. I guess someone out there does like them since they are still available.

March Madness which carries over into April is over as well. And we promise not to nuke you unless you meet a stringent criteria. We'll see how that plays out on down the road. What has that got to do with basketball? Nothing except it's another winner take all idea, I guess. Can't wait to hear the talking heads later on. The conservative news site I check every now and then has it's spin on the armageddon side already. The bad guys will get us. And they might, but what will they have? It'll take a while to figure out what's left that usable. Maybe the Aztecs or whoever were right with their calendar. Just saying...

Summer time temps out there today and tomorrow from the forecast. Feels pretty good. Don't have a hammock and that may have to change. Lazing around isn't complete without one. Too early for the garden, but won't be long for the cool weather crops time to grow. Always look forward to putting in the garden and checking the ground for signs of the first little shoot popping up. The tough part is weeding it later on, like in July. But then there's the vine ripe tomatoes, fresh zucchini, corn. Yeah, the July bout with weeds is worth it after all.

DST still has me confused. Just checked the clock and realized I need to be elsewhere real soon. So maybe I can finish this later.



Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review: The Red Letters Project

The Red Letters Project
Book of Matthew
Tyndale House Publishers


The Red Letters Project Book of Matthew provides a unique, musical approach the Gospel of Matthew. Original music paired with the red letters straight from the New Living Translation Bible combine to form a fresh, new way of hearing the Gospel presented. I have to admit I didn’t know what to expect before I started listening, but after the first few tracks I was able to put aside some pretty traditional ideas I thought I’d left long ago and enjoy the presentation. The younger listeners should find this even more exciting. The sound quality was as good as any I’ve heard. So crank it up, if you like your music that way, that is.

Did a little homework and discovered that the producer of this project, Russ Regan, has an impressive resume. Tyndale has not skimped on this recording and Mr. Regan’s expertise shows in the quality of the product. I hope that it is well received by the public. I also hope it will be made available in mp3 format as well.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or ARC in exchange for this review.

More Spring Time Stuff

Been enjoying spring lately and haven't bothered to stop by here. Not when there's sun to be had. Long winter and I'm making up for lost time in the sun. Rain on the horizon now so I'll come inside for this. Did I mention the crocus outdid themselves this year? Or that the daffodils are up now? Or that the birch (?) have started to bloom?

Need some rain to water in the lime we put on the garden. Played science project and tested the soil several different ways and discovered that it needs nearly everything. Not surprised. More than amazed that we got any produce at all from it in the past after seeing those test results.

Already planning this years garden even thought it's still a couple of months until it can be planted safely. Yes, the plan calls for corn and beans and peas. The broccoli did pretty well last year so maybe try that again. Bought some lettuce seed just to see if that's doable here. Some folks have pretty good luck with it so why not try. The lettuce, peas, and broccoli should yield the early crop and then the tomatoes et al next and finally the butternut squash. Those squash store forever. Had some last season that sat for a couple of months before I got around to them and they were still great. Lots better than the store bought ones I used after they were gone. No, haven't given any thought to the root or tuber type plants at all. Just don't have that much space.

On to the news of the day. Healthcare bill was signed today. Not sure where I come down on that whole scene. There is a need to address the healthcare issues of the uninsured which generally translates the poor or working poor. We as a people can't leave them on the side of the road to suffer and die, but the costs of providing something for them is enormous. So do we all say no to them or get together and help? That's pretty much the long and short of it. Right or privilege is not the issue, I don't think, but what is the decent, proper thing to do. This concern shouldn't just be for our own citizens but expand to a global vision. No I'm not saying we should pay for six billion or so people, but strive to encourage their governments and institutions to care for their people too. All of them. We share this planet and eventually what causes suffering elsewhere will affect us here at home. So just out of selfishness, if nothing else works, we need to think larger than me and mine. All of us.

Back to the home scene though, some of what I hear about the bill sounds good, some not so much so. Being unwilling to wade through a couple of thousand pages of legalese for myself, I choose to trust the talking heads and their interpretations of it. That's dumb, I know, but what else can the ordinary person do? And now the states are contesting it with court proceedings. That should be interesting if the Supreme Court gets involved eventually. Apparently the mandate clause is creating a stink. By the time this gets sorted out I'll be eligible for Medicare or pushing daisies. More talking points for all the politicos and pundits I suppose.

That about does it for now, I guess. Oh, one last item. Script Frenzy is just around the corner so I thought I ought to read a script or two. First one I picked up was Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. Don't know where I've been, but I had never seen this or read it before. It is powerful and complex. More than I expected and some of the sites I checked that discussed it missed more than they covered. Have to wonder when an author sits down to write does he consider all the angles or does the depth grow from the subject or theme? Still pondering that one. Let you know if I figure it out.







Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Review: Winston Churchill by John Perry

Winston Churchill by John Perry
Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2010

What a delightful surprise this little book turned out to be! I picked it from among several other titles in the Christian Encounter Series. Wonder if the others in the series as well written?

As the title suggests this is a biography of Winston Churchill. When I received this book from Nelson in exchange for this review I mistook it for a grade school publication. Even if it is intended for a fifth or sixth grade reader, the adult reader will enjoy it too. It is brief but covers Churchill’s life thoroughly, and as they say, not exhaustively which means it doesn’t get boring at all. There is a bibliography included if a reader wants to learn more and endnote citations as well.

What I discovered about Winston Churchill’s life was his ability to persevere and prosper in some very trying situations. For instance, his childhood, while apparently the norm at the time, was difficult at best. Boarding schools, headmasters that were less than kind, the whole Charles Dickens scene that created Scrooge. Churchill’s character and personality dealt with life differently, though. He is an example true grit and determination, and some very human foibles that are not glossed over in the text.

The only negative thing I have to say about this book is that the cover and size do make it look too schoolish for most shoppers to slow down long enough to read a bit of it.

Reviewed for BookSneeze.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Almost Here!!

Had to stop by for a quick entry. The sun is out and it's warm enough to sit out. At last! The crocus are blooming and more wonderful flowers I haven't seen in a long time. Yes, spring is almost here. Even hung a few pieces of wash on the line to dry. Live is good. Today, anyway. Take what I can get.

Why am I here and not outside right now? Trying not to over do the sun. Burned myself the last time it came by where I live. Don't want to repeat that too often. But this will be short. Like really short "cuz I'm headed back out there now.

More to follow at some later time.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tough Stuff with the Fluff

Didn't realize it'd been so long since the last post. New month, even a bit of sun now and then. Soaked up a few rays this morning, but finally had to come in when the breeze across the ice pack, formerly known as snow, began to get too cool. Sure felt good for a while. Beginning to feel the winter blahs lifting lately. Sure hope it continues.

Just realized that April 1 is just around the corner. Yeah, and...? I signed up for Script Frenzy and it starts then. Of course, I have no clue what I'm doing. Not only for an idea but how to do it. Looked at a few sites on the web and the basic thrust is the same as a novel. Except, no rambling descriptions. The scene has to happen through dialogue and whatever is on the stage. OK. Relax, we can do this. It's just different. And the formatting is new. That will be the toughest thing to get used to. Yes, there are programs out there that do that and I have downloaded a couple to try them. Not working like the I'd hoped.

So what to do. How about just write it and do the format part later? Seems reasonable to me. Of course, the purists probably would just hang their heads in disbelief. Let them. So that's settled. Just need an idea that can go for more than three lines. Maybe a conversation inside someone's head with different masks to let the folks know who is speaking. Could work, I guess. Minimalist set, black drape, a few spots. So retro. May have to give that more thought.

What else is happening? Will healthcare really get done? Wonder what the bookies say about that? My feeling is that it's still a long shot. A very long shot. Keeps the talking heads busy though. Rachel is doing a number on one of the congressmen from Michigan. Straight up questions but why not before now? Because now he's blocking or trying to block the final healthcare deal related to the abortion issue. Hmm. Is it his position on that or his affiliation with a religious interest group? Or both? Be interested in seeing where this goes.

On to the big deal going on now. How to help someone face the impending death of a loved one. Especially if that someone is generally a very closed person in those kind of issues. Or is there any thing to be done except stand by quietly? From my experiences with this that was the best for me. But someone else isn't me. Ask them? A direct approach might be the best after I see this person later on. Tough stuff, and part of existence in this world. Sort of a gird up thy loins time. Don't know. Play it by ear and listen for the clues.



Thursday, February 25, 2010

Snooze and Lose

It's late and I should be snoozing right now, but I'm not. Think I'm sitting up waiting for the snow to start or something equally as important. Weird. Do this every so often.

So what is there to talk about. Toyota? Nah. Too much ink and air on that one already. The Summit? Possibilities there but it hasn't happened yet. Sort of a non story at this point in time except that it's still supposed to happen. No one has back out yet. I'm with the pundits in thinking it's a show. One that isn't going to flatter anyone by the time it's over.


One good thing coming from this gridlock in Washington is that the electorate is more attentive to the proceedings. Or it seems so to me. That is a change in attitude. The question is will that translate to anything in November. Or, will all this have blown over by then? It's been my observation that the public generally forgets within about sixty days or less. Some other shiny object grabs our attention and off we go on that crusade. The politicians know that too.


One example using this principle has already appeared in the local paper. The Senator has "vowed to push" for some federal funds for the city. So by the time November arrives we should not remember any recent history he has of switching party affiliation when the winds of change blow in a new direction. We aren't supposed to remember how he voted in the healthcare debacle, er debate. Nope. Just that he fought for some money for the city. That has worked in the past and will probably be sufficient to get him re-elected later this year.

Looking for some sign of spring and not having much success. The junco's are still here, but I did see our groundhog out of his(?) burrow today. Bet he was surprised to find snow instead of tender new dandelion shots. He looks pretty sleek so there must be some nutritional value in frozen grass for him. Those little beasts can tunnel. He's been living under the storage shed for a couple of years and has it totally undermined. There's at least three different entrances around it now. Watched the local cat go in one of the holes once. Now he just sniffs at it. Wonder how that visit went for the cat? Not well would be my guess.

Must be time to wrap this up for today. Actually, it's now tomorrow. My all nighter is progressing well. Still no snow or sleep happening yet. Maybe check for some old old movie on the tube.