Weekend Reading: May 20, 2017

Welcome to the Weekend Reading.  Just thinking about all the news items that occurred this week was a bit overwhelming for me last night. Not only did a lot happen this week, but a lot of pretty crazy things happened – things that need thoughtful reading and time to digest.  Here’s what I found most interesting…

By far the biggest news item was that a special investigator was appointed by the Deputy Director of the FBI to explore any possible mischief between Trump Campaign operatives and the Russians.  The man they appointed was former long-time FBI head, Robert Mueller.  Mueller is universally respected on both sides of the aisle, and there seemed some sense of relief when the appointment was made. You’ve seen all this news, but I thought that the most helpful recap of the last two weeks was put together by the editors at the Weekly Standard.  Helpful excerpt:

Trump defenders are fond of saying there’s no hard evidence of collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government. Fair enough. But Trump’s first national security adviser resigned because of misleading claims he made in relation to his contacts with a Russian official. Trump’s campaign chairman resigned amid questions about his work for pro-Putin politicians and entities. And a foreign policy adviser quit after questions about his continuing contact with Russians. Justifiably or not, such a string of coincidences raises suspicions. The president himself will benefit enormously if an investigation widely seen as thorough, professional, impartial, and independent dispels them.

What are we to think of all of this?  As a Christian who is an American, I am always hopeful and desirous that the truth comes to light – and especially so at this stage of a potential scandal. As painful as truth can be, it often serves as a disinfectant in the political world, and a good reset. Remember, there are many important policy matters that are still being worked on, such as tax reform, and finishing the healthcare reform (the Senate is sitting on it at present).

The second thing to note is just how powerful words are in the life of our country. I was reading Hannah Arendt’s classic work ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ this week, and it struck me as incredible that the German high command had created an entirely new vocabulary to use in the case of any discussion of the Final Solution, or death camps etc. The reason being that they knew that over time their words would have a demoralizing, and even an unhinging effect on soldiers downstream in the chain of command. So they had to speak in their own version of newspeak in order to keep sanity in the ranks.  I’m not making a one-to-one comparison of the political situation, but pointing out that the power of words that come down from on high (so to speak) in the American government are often dispensed with too much ease and not enough thought by our leaders. Words matter, and even more so the words of very powerful people. Lives hang in the balance, wars are started, markets shift and fluctuate based on the words of leaders.

Perhaps the most caustic example from the last few weeks came in a story first written (I believe) in the New York Times entitled Trump Told Russians That Firing ‘Nut Job’ Comey Eased Pressure From Investigation’.  Growing up, my parents had a rule that you never said anything bad about your family to your friends. If you had an issue with your brother, that’s between you and him and you weren’t to slander him to your best friend. It was a big no-no in our home.  The family is sacred, and they come first.  They knew something of the power of words.  What Trump has allegedly done here is sold out his family, his fellow American, in order to score points with a “friend.”  This isn’t behavior fitting for any leader, much less our President, and I hope it doesn’t prove to be simply the tip of the iceberg.

Moving on…but not really: Dwayne Johnson Sounds Pretty Serious About Running for President.  That was probably one of the most discouraging headlines of the week. I literally got done reading all the stupid things going on in Washington, and then read this story and just about lost my lunch. America, please….please do not tell me that we’re going to make ‘The Rock’ our next President…

Did anyone see this???  Dutch King Reveals Secret Life As Part-Time Pilot On KLM Airline.  WHAT????  Like, when did he have TIME for that?  How did no one know of this (it’s been going on for a few decades)? What bank account were they sending those pilot checks to?  What did he put on the application as his current or last job “I am your lord and sovereign the king”?  This is Monty Python stuff. 

More of the ridiculous…Turkish leader comes to visit our cozy capital and his thugs beat down protestors (some of which are AMERICANS). I mean, think of this, if it was the middle ages that king wouldn’t have made it back to his horse – our king would have thrown him in the tower, raised and army, and slaughtered his people like chickens headed to a Chik-Fil-A staff retreat!  If it were just a hundred years ago, we would have had another world war on our hands. Incidents less crazy led to WWI for heaven’s sake. Today it just barely makes it into the Daily Show, because, alas, we’re a bit busy with other scandals at the moment, and key allies like the king of Denmark couldn’t be reached for advice due to the fact that it was time for the in-flight coffee service.

I saw this article, Who’s in Charge of Outer Space?and thought immediately of my friend Tyler, a bright young attorney who had already seen the article by the time I’d sent it to him, and had told me months ago about this way big corporations are tangling with the legal implications of who owns what in space…I hope the king of Denmark isn’t in charge because I’m told he’s really hard to get a hold of.

Hilarious: The Bee Explains: Calvinism Vs. Arminianism

This was pretty cool: This is an American Workday, By Occupation

Erickson must have been a bit depressed this week: Aesop’s Washington: Perhaps It is Time to Dissolve Our Union.  The sad thing is that he has a few good points but they don’t come until the very end. The reason I post stuff from Erick is because he’s an influential voice on the right in American politics, and when he starts sounding alarms, then you know that there will be a few ripples (maybe even felt by monarchs cruising the atmosphere).

This was a good reset…from David Mathis: Set the Soundtrack of Your Mind.  His first sentence is really one of the great takeaways, “Leave your mind on autopilot (like the king of Denmark?), and distractions will dictate your life. Set your mind above, and God will.”

The Culture: Americans Hold Record Liberal Views on Moral Issues.  Al Mohler featured this as part of a Briefing this week.  It’s worth digging that up for some commentary if you want more context. But the key takeaway is that, other than abortion, Americans are more liberal on every moral issue we face today.  My personal opinion is that Hollywood and the movie and TV show industries are the key culprits, though we are all responsible for what we put before our eyes. What you watch, read, listen to changes you as much as who you hang out with or admire. We were designed this way. We become what we behold.

What I didn’t get to but want to: How Pixar Lost Its Way (basically how Disney ruined Pixar…shocker, I know)

FYI, not a headline most probably saw: Sessions delivers on gang crackdown: Over 1,000 arrested.

Beautiful rendition of It Is Well with My Soul was sent my way this week (h/t Matt R.)

There was certainly some ridiculous stuff going on this week – some of it was so outlandish that I am unsure how to appropriately or helpfully comment on it. But one of the things that come to mind when I read about this nonsense is just how broken the world is, and how fallen we all are from grace. Sometimes it seems like the glimpses of heaven are few and far between – heck, just a glimpse of NORMAL boring life would be a nice change for a country (and world) wracked by drama, discord, and divers dilemmas (like the alliteration?!).  What is your reaction when you read these stories?  What do you think after the thought of “boy this world is messed”? My next thought is that yes, while it is messed up, and while people are estranged from any sense of normal sometimes, it was into this state of things that Jesus stepped 2000 years ago.  The world wasn’t any less messed up then as it is now (trust me, I’ve read the history books and it wasn’t pretty).  Yet into that mess, he stepped.

The thing about being a Christian is that your eyes are opened to how messy things really are – you start seeing not only the reality behind the mess, but you see your own evil as well.  I realized again this morning just how things stood in my life before God entered in. The Apostle Paul describes is well:

Romans 5:6-11 says this…

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—[8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. [10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [11] More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

God didn’t save people who were good and just on the brink of greatness. He didn’t come into a world that had political order, and justice and grace all figured out.  He entered a world of slavery, disease, and oppression. This was a world riddled with evil – evil people doing evil things.

Knowing my own state of things prior to Christ, and my proclivity to still do and say hurtful, messed up things, helps me to show mercy on those in the political space who we read about in these stories.  But for the grace of God, I would be on my way to hell and rightfully so.  Therefore my reaction to crazy news items and mismanaged leadership in the White House and Congress is to yes, first shake my head in incredulity, but to then show mercy and recall my own state.  Things need fixing in this world – politically and otherwise – but it starts at the individual level. Reconciliation with God begets social peace and reconciliation with our neighbors.  Pray for the eyes of leaders to be opened to these truths, and for wisdom to follow repentance.

Enjoy the weekend,

PJ

Weekend Reading: May 13, 2018

Welcome to the weekend!  It’s a beautiful day in Columbus, OH and I’m going to spend most of my day shuttling around kids from birthday parties to soccer games, but before I turn on the meter, I wanted to pass along some stories and books I found enjoyable this week.  Here we go…

The big News Item this morning: Dozens of countries hit by huge cyberextortion attack

The attack infected computers with what is known as “ransomware” — software that locks up the user’s data and flashes a message demanding payment to release it. In the U.S., FedEx reported that its Windows computers were “experiencing interference” from malware, but wouldn’t say if it had been hit by ransomware.

I’m not sure there are any words that do this justice, but here’s a story you need to be aware of: The Horror of Human Embryo Jewelry. There are many times when I read a story about IVF, or surrogacy, (or something in the field of fertilization for parents hoping to have kids) and I really hesitate to write anything at all. Sometimes I think science goes too far.  Other times I think parents go too far.  Still, many times I’m awed by the breakthroughs that have saved lives and helped improve pregnancies and opportunities. So much is left to discernment, and often I hesitate to hoist my opinion on anyone else who may have a more intimate understanding of things.  That said, this isn’t one of those stories where you’re left wondering if they’ve gone too far. It’s the most sinister thing I’ve read about all week – and that includes a pretty wide patch of content.

The biggest political story of the week was the firing of James Comey.  I try not to litter my these posts with news you already know. But the fallout and commentary have been interesting.  After the firing, the White House put together their defense, which pretty much made sense, even if the optics weren’t awesome.  BUT then, the President decided that he couldn’t let it go. I have to agree with Erick Erickson that it would have been better to simply not say anything:

He does himself and those around him absolutely no favors. He has done more harm than good. And the kicker is I think he is lying to boot. Donald Trump has an overwhelming need to make it all about himself. And if he fired Comey based on someone else’s advice, it would not be about him and his brilliant skills.

Then, President Trump decided to get on Twitter and threaten Comey:

So there is some critique from the left, from the right, and here’s one from the center-right: Trump Gets Himself in Hot Water‐‐Again (Fred Barnes).  Barnes isn’t as harsh in his commentary and reminds us the facts as they are available, and the rights and prerogatives of the President.

Now, add in this one that flew under the radar (no pun intended): Our Luddite-in-Chief Wants ‘G-D Steam’ Not Technology For The Navy.

What do we get when we put all this together? Comey probably needed sacking (see this: Comey called Trump ‘crazy’ after Obama wiretapping claims: report) – even the Democrats wanted him gone. But our President, in speaking quickly and with such bravado, has shown himself amazingly adept in stepping in it. I don’t question the heart of the man, or that his intentions are good – we all want him to succeed!  But his mouth and his ego have continually gotten him in trouble. If I were advising the President, I would have him read Proverbs every day before signing into Twitter or giving interviews. Proverbs tells us that “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly” (15:2), that “A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul” (18:7), and of course (and perhaps most famous), “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (17:28).

Why do I even bring this to your attention? Not really for policy reasons, which we might agree with the President on, but for the purposes of increasing discernment.  There have been some who have asked, “Do you think that Dobson was right and that Trump is really a Christian?”  No one can judge a man’s soul but God, but I do know that the words of our Savior, “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16).  Zero fruit here, only nasty tweets…errr…thorns.  Here’s the point:  It’s crucial to be praying for the President, and it’s wonderful to politically engage your mind and support, defend etc good policies he promotes.  Yet don’t be fooled and don’t think he is something he is not. If indeed he were a Christian, my words would be even harsher, for then I could judge him as a brother in Christ, and chastisement would be more appropriate. Yet, I see him for what he likely is and provide him the grace of knowing his motives, his mind, and his words will not look like our Lord’s.

Here’s a good example of some policies the President ought to be praised for: China to allow US beef exports after deal on trade issues with US

The latest in the sexual revolution: Knox County judge grants woman rights of ‘husband’ in Tennessee’s first same-sex divorce

And since controversy seems to be the order of the day here in this post, why not continue? ha!  Here’s a thoughtful blog re: Jen Hatmaker.  She and her allies have been decrying all the “character assassination” taking place out there due to her taking an un-biblcal stand on gay marriage.  Good summary here:

The church has failed to love those who identify as gay and lesbian and transgender in a great many ways. As Rosaria Butterfield said, the Gospel is on a collision course with these issues. More and more, those who claim Christ and have large platforms, like Hatmaker, are falling in step with our culture’s failing moral compass and are willing to compromise the truth of the Gospel on the Altar of Nice. I can see how it may be tempting to do the easy thing, but lying is sinful. Lying about the Law of God is shameful. To encourage those in their sin is abhorrent. It is the opposite of love.

For you golf fanatics out there, Phil Mickleson’s caddy “bones” has 10 tips for us for reading greens (h/t Alex W.)

Crazy Video: Cabin Swept Away in Rain (by the way…what is the deal with the Weather Channel and all their videos? It’s like they have nothing else going on, so why not just post up a bunch of videos…or what?)

This was helpful this week: You Can Defeat Distraction

Talk about a controversy, this is one that has wracked the church for eons: If God is good, how could he command a holy war? 

TECH: The Future of Trucking When Machines Take the Wheel (from Wired) 

Foreign Policy…from the Economist: Emmanuel Macron has a history buff’s view of Islam and religious strife

Books: This week I read Sinclair Ferguson’s short profile on John Owen, which was really enjoyable and helpful. He summarized the theology and the focus of Owen, and give a snapshot of the man himself – a man I didn’t know much about.  Owen was politically connected and was a spiritual advisor to Oliver Cromwell. A fascinating time in England’s history to play a prominent role in public life!  Owen, so it seems, was a very good-natured man, and his theology was intensely focused on the Trinity.  I also downed J. Gresham Machin’s classic ‘Christianity and Liberalism‘ – amazing how prescient he was…scary.  Additionally, I’ve been working through the complete Sherlock Holmes collection, which means that I’ve been going through 5-7 short stories and novels of his a week.  My favorite from this week was ‘The Valley of Fear’, which is a two-part story spanning several continents, and is very creative!   I’m slowly nibbling my way through Roger Christian’s ‘Cinema Alchemist’.  It’s really insightful and holds all manner of little-known information about set dressing for movies, and how the original Start Wars movie got made. That said, it’s one of the most poorly written books I’ve ever read!  It’s like the guy didn’t bother to do any editing…at all. Yet for the Star Wars junkie, it’s a must-read.

That’s it!  Enjoy your weekend.

Weekend Reading: May 6, 2017

Welcome to the weekend!  It’s been an active news week, and I have several interesting articles, books, and videos etc for you to consider…here we go…

The big news of the week was the healthcare bill passage in the House of Reps. Still, a lot of politics left here – the bill moves to the Senate, where things are sure to change a bit.  Aside from the coverage debate, I hadn’t noticed the pro-life aspects of the bill until I saw a release from Susan B. Anthony List, which pointed out the following:

First, the legislation stops the Obamacare abortion expansion by preventing taxpayer funding of health care plans that cover abortion on-demand. Second, the bill redirects taxpayer dollars away from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion business, to health care centers that provide comprehensive primary and preventative care to women and girls.

ALSO…The President signed an order on religious liberty this week. But as Joe Carter sums up, it’s not like it will change a whole heck of a lot...excerpt:

The scope of the order is so limited that even opposition groups are shrugging at the news. For example, earlier today the ACLU said they would be suing the Trump administration over the order. But after they read the text of the order they announced on Twitter: “We thought we’d have to sue Trump today. But it turned out the order signing was an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome.”

On the religious liberty front, you might have missed this story: A Court-Martial for a Bible Verse. This is an opinion piece from WSJ, and sets the scene pretty well.

Continuing on that theme…Fox Headline: Bible reading not allowed before class, professor tells student (h/t Rod K.). In my own experience, this isn’t surprising whatsoever. Many of my profs in undergrad were so anti-Christian that they didn’t even bother hiding it – and that was 15 years ago.

Since there is some talk among the liber elites about Mark Zuckerberg possibly running for President, I thought it a good idea to revisit an article on his worldview – specifically as it relates to Facebook‘s role in human history.  It’s hard to glean much unless you pay close attention, but the key is his worldview is formulated by the idea that history sees men as continually striving for unity – of course, he wants to provide that unity online. That hasn’t worked out quite how he’s hoped (and he knows this). Normally, this would be when you would check your worldview assumptions, but not so here, I’m afraid. Pay close attention to him in the coming year…

Along similar (and more recent) lines: Facebook Hiring 3,000 People to Monitor Live Video for Violence

Interesting history: The Nazi Who Infiltrated National Geographic

PRIVACY ALERT: NSA collected Americans’ phone records despite law change: report.  I mean…are you kidding me?

Some interesting photography here: Get a Skewed View of the American West Through These Bent-Horizon Photos

For Parents of tweens and teens: Educators and school psychologists raise alarms about ‘13 Reasons Why’

THE FUTURE: You’ve likely been hearing about Elon Musk’s tunneling project in California, but this week one of his companies released a vision for what this tunneling actually ought to lead to (at least in his mind).  There’s an interesting video as you scroll down in the piece that is really all you need to watch to get the idea…anyway…there’s a highway expert that is quoted in the article as well to balance out the fawning.

In Case you Missed it: The Tiffany Way: CBS, John Dickerson Silent on Stephen Colbert’s Profane, Gay-Baiting Attack on Trump

And – in the “I’m sure you missed it” category: Feds in Florida: Burlington College Probe Goes the Distance. This is about the wife of Bernie “Socialist” Sanders.

From the Weekly Standard: Oh, the Irony of the Backlash Against Bret Stephens.  Their subtitle helps explain everything and reads “All he did was warn liberal elites against the danger of hubris. What could possibly go wrong?”  If you read through this, you’ll quickly understand why I found it interesting, and why the writers at the Standard did as well. We all have to take a lesson here from the knee-jerk reaction of the liberal elites and ask ourselves this question: when someone questions my theory of things or my opinions, how do I react? Do I have enough humility to explore their critique honestly? Where are they coming from? What sorts of things might be influencing their writing or their opinion of my writing?

TRUMP: One of the difficult stories to read about (at least for me) this week was this situation where the President mistakenly spoke of Andrew Jackson as being upset about the Civil War (Jackson was dead before the Civil War took place). Trump subsequently talked about the Civil War as if it was something that could have been easily avoided had Jackson been in charge. The hubris of the statement is found in the fact that Trump sees his Presidency as analogous to that of Jackson’s. In his mind, he Jackson reincarnated.  Now, I often find that arrogance and ignorance, when combined, make for a very nauseous combination. Interestingly, and unfortunately, it’s been my experience that they often go together. Such is the case here, it would seem. Of course, many Presidents make mistakes, often because they are having to talk about such a variety of things, and people, and situations that it’s impossible to be right 100% of the time. You really have to rely on your staff to help inform you of a great deal. However, in this (and other) instance I think we’re dealing with a man who simply doesn’t know his history very well. So woefully ignorant of history is this President, and so confident in his pronouncements, that I doubt we’ve seen the last of these types of remarks. As a student of history, I know that there is so much I don’t know, that to speak confidently about something or someone in history that I haven’t really read much on, is tantamount to factual suicide.

So how do we react to this kind of thing? George Will (old guard conservative) was aghast, The NYTimes (liberal elites) was baffled.  My reaction was (initially) to just shake my head. I guess I’m not surprised.  But it’s my hope and prayer that the advisors surrounding the President are able to fill in the knowledge gaps, and provide him with the historical picture he needs to make the proper decisions.  I think Will has overreacted here. The first thing that intellectual elites (on both sides) run to is “oh no! this man has the nuclear codes!”  But, in truth, those war decisions (ESPECIALLY) are made with a room full of bright counselors, and it has been Trump’s modus operendi to listen to folks like that carefully. So I’m not as concerned about those decisions as others. A good leader surrounds him/herself with smart people and then makes decisions based on what they say. It’s the inability to make decisions or making decisions in cowardly and craven ways, that has been the hallmark of Presidents like Obama and Carter. I don’t think we have that kind of situation here.

FYI – for you anglophiles: Buckingham Palace Says Prince Philip Will Stop Carrying Out Engagements

TECH: Keep an eye on this! Should be really interesting development in the coming months…Hulu Just Launched Its Live TV Streaming Service

The Politics of Abortion: Dems face abortion divide in debate over party’s futureKeep an eye on this.  There is a battle brewing in the Democratic Party over how focused they should be on abortion, and whether or not being “pro-choice” ought to be a litmus test for Dems in primary contests. Perez, the new DNC chair, says “ya” that’s how it ought to be – he thinks that any Dem who is pro-life ought not to be included in the party.  Perez is a dolt., and Nancy Pelosi, the queen of abortion rights, even realizes this. That’s what prompted the story I posted above. She knows that Dems rely on African-Americans, Hispanics, and Catholics as major components of their political coalition, and many people in these groups are pro-life. Some have estimated that Perez would essentially be telling 1/3 of Democratic voters “we don’t want you.”   On a very similar front, Hillary Clinton won a big award from Planned Parenthood this week, and during her speech, she had some thoughts on the Handmaid’s Tale (from Vanity Fair, so read with a grain of heavily seasoned salt).  I have never seen or read this show/book, but I know it’s a dystopia about the future and the government’s control of reproductive rights. How is it that the left doesn’t see the irony in all of this?  Have they never read Huxley or Orwell?  Have they no sense in which the culture is actually heading? Of course they have and do! They aren’t living in another reality (I don’t think), but Clinton and Planned Parenthood are using bad dystopian fiction as a crop to beat their opponents. Women’s rights and reproductive rights aren’t the same things, even if they are being used analogously. This is why: “rights” only extend to a certain point. No one, woman or man, has the “right” to kill another person simply out of convenience. What about the “rights” of that baby?

Interestingly, the argument extends beyond abortion to the rights of all people as well.  And this Vanity Fair article is helpful in examining what the left really thinks.  Here they all were – the leftist elites celebrating the culture of death at a Planned Parenthood gala, where their views were not all couched in political jargon.  Here’s an example we need to examine:

The night’s other honoree was Shonda Rhimes, one-woman television hit maker, who had Meryl Streep on hand for an introduction. (Rhimes also directed Clinton’s Democratic National Convention video.) Streep praised Rhimes’s indefatigable work ethic at ABC and with Planned Parenthood, and highlighted how Rhimes handled the backlash to an abortion plot line in Scandal:

In Rhimes’s speech, which followed, she laid out some guiding principles of Shondaland, the shorthand for her television empire. “Some people say that’s not reality, the world doesn’t run that way, and I say it’s Shondaland. It’s my world. I run it how I want to.” she said. “And maybe that’s my goal. It’s not to reflect the world, it’s to show you how a world works when a woman runs things. Women really should be running things. But we aren’t, not yet. But there’s so much work to be done and not a lot of time to do it.”

The militancy of the feminist left is almost on par with the militancy of the LBGT community.  This calls for discernment. In the workplace, people should be valued for the contributions they make on the job, and not simply for their skin color or their gender.  That women were held back for a long time had to do with many giant social factors (war, manufacturing booms, personal prejudices, less time for the workforce, less education), some of which were very ugly and sinful- no doubt. But as we seek a way forward in this country, we ought to be treating people as valuable for what they do and respecting them for who they are. If who they are and what they do is disgusting, unproductive, and harmful (or if they simply don’t add value), then they don’t deserve elevation or promotion.  We can’t pull others down simply to elevate people for the sake of their skin, or gender, or who they are sleeping with. That’s reverse discrimination, and it’s not going to help build a stronger society.

Uh Oh….Uber Under Criminal Investigation For Avoiding Regulators

Speaking of legal issuesComey: Huma Abedin regularly sent classified info to Anthony Weiner

Foreign Policy FYI: Russian bombers, fighter jets fly near Alaska, prompting Air Force escort. Looks like the Russians are testing our response times…

Sign of the Times: Report finds skyrocketing rate of babies going through opiate withdrawal. This is a sad read.

Books

This week I finished the well-known Sherlock Holmes book ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ and really enjoyed it. Many of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock stories are quite a bit shorter, and I enjoyed this one a great deal, and I think the length had something to do with it. He kept the narrative going, and it was enjoyable to focus on just one plot for a longer period of time than is usual with his stories. Normally it seems like just when you’re beginning to get into the plot, things wrap up super fast.

I also finished ‘The Sampson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy’ There are some absolutely fascinating insights here. I especially enjoyed learning about the different ways in which American Presidents interacted with Israel’s leadership.

Additionally, I finished Phil Knight’s biography, ‘Shoe Dog’.  This was one of the best business-bios I’ve read. As a native of Portland, I was interested to read this but was pretty sure at the outset that it would detail the relationships with superstar athletes and Phil Knight’s glorious star-studded life. It was nothing of the sort, which made it wonderful. Not only was this one of the most engagingly written books of my year thus far, but it was absolutely fascinating. There’s a lot about his supply chain issues, his travels, his thinking, his failures, and his family. All of it interesting. Highly recommend.

I’m currently reading ‘The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World’, and ‘The Titanic’s Last Hero: A Startling True Story That Can Change Your Life Forever’ among other things (my book list is here). Both of these are interesting, though the former is quickly rising to a top 10 of the year type of book. It details the Guinness family and some of the history surrounding beer as well. Absolutely fascinating stuff so far.

That’s it!  Have a great weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: April 29, 2017

Good morning and welcome to the weekend!  Let’s get right to it…

First off, there was a major story that many might have missed this week about the way in which Obama administration officials (read John Kerry) dealt our country a serious blow during the Iranian nuclear negotiations.  Namely, they released many folks back to Iran that we were detaining for terrorism-related reasons. Apparently, over the last 15 months, the release of these people has had further reverberations inside the intelligence community.  Politico’s in-depth investigation can be found here, and I’ll warn you that it is LONG.  So you might want to grab another cup of coffee before you pull that one up…

Continuing on with the foreign policy theme, there’s a story by Bloomberg out there that details how the fleet we’re sending into the Korean theater isn’t equipped with the capability to shoot down their missiles.  This seems…odd. But we DO have such firepower sitting pretty close to Japan, which can be mobilized pretty quickly I’d imagine. The reason I link to this is not to highlight some policy blunder (I’m not pretending to question a strategic military decision), but because the story has a lot of useful information about what kinds of weaponry we have in the region, and what our capabilities are.

Science…(sort of)…lots this week about Bill Nye. He’s (again) saying controversial things.  I suppose to just get attention? Well, just an FYI, I think it’s helpful to keep an eye on these kinds of popular debates over science.  I saw that Justin Taylor over at Gospel Coalition also wrote up something on the nature of arguments and how to disentangle them – and he used the global warming argument (that Nye has highlighted again) as an example.  It’s not interesting enough to link to, just know that Nye is creating enough waves that it’s sparking a wider dialogue out there…

Oh NO!  Jaws Of Life Needed To Remove Worship Leader’s Skinny Jeans

TECH: Is this creepy, or is it just reality? (h/t Lisa W.)

Tech/Science that was buzzing around social media this week: This Fluid-Filled Bag Lets Lambs Develop Outside the Womb. Humans Are Next. (h/t Katie W.) I’m unsure what to think of things like this without extensive thought. We should obviously be excited about any opportunities to save the lives of babies. Yet on the other hand, the more we dig into stuff like this, the more we are challenged by tough ethical questions. What amazes me the most is how many Christians simply skip over the latter assume that the ends justify the means.  And, maybe they do in this case. I’m still noodling this. But we need to be thinking carefully about how we approach these kinds of issues – not only for ethical concerns but because many of us have had situations where this tech could have saved a lost child.  I believe we can be both thoughtful, and sensitive at the same time, so long as we are committed to the fundamental principles of loving our neighbor, and not working to displace God from His sovereign creative work.

And then there’s this: 911 call: Man wants police dog to search for stolen heroin…oh man…

Politics….from the New York Times:  At a ‘Unity’ Stop in Nebraska, Democrats Find Anything But.  This is an interesting look inside the Democratic Party right now. There are a ton of lessons to be gleaned from this, not only if you’re a Republican, but also if you’re a Christian considering worldview implications.

History: Ten Common Misconceptions About George Washington

MORE History: Why Did People Stick One Hand in Their Jackets in Old Photographs?

Good Stuff: God Plans for the Unexpected and Inconvenient.  Tasty excerpt:

I don’t have resident in me the resources to meet the needs around me. Our lack tempts us to avoid others’ needs rather than expose our insufficiency.

Theology: Implications of Definitive Atonement.   This is from Jonathan Gibson, who has already compiled a massive book on this topic (which I have enjoyed for a few years now).  It’s more of an anthology than a book you’d read straight through. Nonetheless, it’s really thought-provoking, and for you theology nerds it’s probably worth getting.

Books…In case you hadn’t noticed, I may have spent more time on reading books this year than reading articles. At least that’s the way it feels to me. This week I’ve been continuing to work through Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’, and finished David McCullough’s ‘Mornings on Horseback’, which is a biography of the first half/part of Teddy Roosevelt’s life. It doesn’t get into his Presidency, but it does give a good sense for his family, who he was, what he was all about. It is especially helpful in understanding what were the major shaping forces in his life. Very fascinating and well worth it.

I’m also probably 40% into Phil Knight’s autobiography ‘Shoe Dog’ and am really enjoying it thus far. He really started this shoe business from scratch. His exploits are the kinds of things entrepreneurs will eat up. I finished another time through Rutherford’s ‘The Loveliness of Christ’, which is a small book, and is essentially a compilation of quotes from his letters, and is highly worthwhile.  I don’t recall mentioning before that I read The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It’.  It was well worth the read (h/t Nick N.)! These two young guys spend a lot of time interviewing older, wiser men and women who describe their journey in ministry – they are essentially exploring what J.I. Packer terms ‘Weakness is the Way’ (and they interview him about this book in the first chapter!) It’s really good. 

That’s it!  I hope you enjoy your weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: April 22, 2017

Welcome to the weekend!  I took the week off for Easter, and as a consequence, some stories I’m sharing have an older publish date.  Which is fine. It’s fine because one of the things I’m learning is that, yes, the news cycle is constant these days, BUT…many of the ideas being debated and discussed are continual and ongoing. 

On that note, I want to draw attention to an article from the New York Times’ David Brooks called ‘The Strange Persistence of Guilt’.  If you read one thing this weekend online, let this be it.  Here’s an excerpt:

American life has secularized and grand political ideologies have fallen away, but moral conflict has only grown. In fact, it’s the people who go to church least — like the members of the alt-right — who seem the most fervent moral crusaders.

In politics there are two things that interested me this past week or two. First, was the evolution of President Trump on many of the key issues he campaigned on.  I hate to give the Washington Post any credit for real journalism these days, but I found this catalogue of policy changes from the President very insightful

SIDEBAR: But at least he did do something good on the planned parenthood front….

The second thing I found interesting and important politically was the North Korean menace.  First, and foundationally, there’s a story from WaPo that explains the mindset of the North Korean people (and how they worship their dictator as god).   Second, the powers that be over on the northern end of that Asian peninsula are really puffing out their proverbial chests. One Fox News headline read ‘North Korea: ‘Super-mighty pre-emptive strike’ will reduce US to ashes’.   

I remember when I was in college 15 years ago and Kim J.I. was rattling the saber. The talk was strong, yet nothing came of it. Still, there’s many reasons to take these guys seriously.  They’ve had time to build their rocket program, and the state has become increasingly unstable, with Dear Leader Un offing political opponents and dissidents left and right.  This is one to keep an eye on, and to pray simmers down.  Pressure from the Chinese has always kept a lid on these rogues, but they are increasingly out of control. 

Of course these are serious and concerning events. I look at Kim Jong Un and his idolatrous regime and shake my head. Why can’t he just lead a peaceful society? Why bother the US?  Etc etc.  but I take comfort in the Lord’s sovereignty. Those who mock his authority and terrorize the earth are held in derision. When Kim Jong Un continues a policy of king-worship (to himself), he sets themselves up not against America or South Korea, but against the Lord’s Annointed.  And that’s a “terrifying” place to be. As Psalm 2 makes clear:

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us uburst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have yset my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

In other words, the Lord takes his sovereignty seriously. And those who seek to supplant him will find themselves the focus of his terrifying wrath.  Our prayer ought to be for peace and the safety of our two countries, and for the utter destruction of this satanic quasi-communistic ideology which sets itself up against the Lord Jesus’ authority. 

Also on the foreign policy front…..Writing for ForeignPolicy mag, Marc Ambinder (who at least used to write for the Atlantic, right?) has a cool piece called ‘The American Government’s Secret Plan for Surviving the End of the World’
Click bait: Trump’s first White House Easter Egg Roll, in photos

A great message of encouragement this week from Sinclair Ferguson might be worth checking out: the Spirit of Sonship.

Hilarious:  Answer These 3 Simple Questions And We’ll Assign You A PERFECT Life Verse

Books….

For the radar – one I might buy in the near future: 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

Enjoyed McMaster’s ‘Dereliction of Duty’. Very helpful perspective on the lead up to the Vietnam war. 

400+ pages in and I’ve pretty much given up on ‘Truman’ by McCullough.  Not McCullough’s fault, but Truman is one of the most uninspiring go-along-to-get-along nincompoops I’ve ever read about. The more I read the more my respect meter for this guy goes down.  Not only was he the product of a corrupt political machine (which he remained loyal to even in the White House), not only did he seem to make thoughtless decisions that adversely affected those around him, but he was continually being played by those smarter and bolder than he was. Only a few times did he stand up for what was right in these first 400 or so pages, and those times were anomalies.  

Also got to enjoy Barry Goldwater’s classic ‘Conscience of a Conservative’. I’d never read this (surprise my college profs didn’t have it on the reading list) but found it surprisingly relevant. 

Perhaps the Goldwater book was all the more relevant because I’d also just finished Arthur C. Brooks’ ‘The Conservative Heart’.  This book was excellent!  I’d like to buy a box and give it to everyone of my political colleagues, so helpful was it in articulating the classic conservative perspectives in moral (and not simply economic) terms. 

That’s it for now!  I’ve been typing this out on my phone, so I’m sorry it’s not as extensive as it might otherwise be. But I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: April 8, 2017

Welcome to the weekend!  Here’s what I read, watched, and listened to this week that you might find informative or enjoyable.

It’s Masters week at Augusta, and Jason Gay at the Wall Street Journal has a very tongue-in-cheek article you might enjoy, highlighting 15 “well-kept secrets of the Masters.” They also have a neat story called, ‘Green Jacket Winners Include Every Masters Champion and This 55-Year-Old Attorney’

Additionally, the editor in chief over at Convivium (which is a Canadian think-tank/magazine/ministry) Father Raymond J. De Souza wrote ‘Tiger’s Twisting Moral Tale’.  It’s not every day you see a theologian or pastor/father write this kind of piece, which is part of what makes it unique.

On a more serious note, the U.S. Senate approved Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In an historic move, Republican leadership decided to make the long-discussed rules change that allowed a confirmation based on a simple majority vote.  From everything I can tell, Gorsuch is going to be a fantastic judge, so hopefully this was the right thing to do. Certainly there was no reason (other than politics) for Democrats to block his nomination.

Flashback from Joe Carter: 9 Things You Should Know About Neil Gorsuch and Supreme Court Confirmations

The other big story of the week is that American ships launched 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria, effectively knocking out the airbase used just days prior by President Bashir al-Assad to gas his own people.  This was not the first time Assad had gassed his own people, it was simply the first time it happened under the watch of President Trump.  Here’s a link to Al Mohler’s briefing about this, the Gorsuch vote, and a highly interesting remembrance of the anniversary of U.S. entrance into WWI. 

Writing for WSJ, Yaroslav Trofimov does a good job of dissecting how this strike on Syria differs contextually from what President Obama was facing during his reign…errrr….presidency.

I read/examined a sobering photo-essay this week about the starvation going on in the Horn of Africa that you might want to take a moment and see.

TECH: over at Gizmodo they’re looking at the effects of the new law President Trump signed allowing ISP’s to sell browsing history: Want to Stop Your Internet Provider From Selling Your Browsing Data? It Ain’t Easy

Crazy Story….Over at the New Yorker: DOOMSDAY PREP FOR THE SUPER-RICH.  I didn’t get to read the whole thing, but its the second such story that I’ve seen about this topic in as many weeks – here’t the one I saw a week ago. (h/t Ben F.)

Interesting: The Surprising Role of Guardian Angels

More Tech: This Video Made $4,215 at Auction. How Ads Work on YouTube.

What is stirring out there on the interwebs: Top Obama Adviser Sought Names of Trump Associates in Intel

Hilarious: Comedian Ed Wiley standup ‘If Trump were on staff at your church…‘ (h/t Alex W.)

For those watching the evolution of the Amazon business model: ‘I Went to Amazon’s Physical Bookstore And…’

Best books I read this week: Sherpherding a Child’s Heart (Tedd Tripp) and Inventing Russia (Arkady Ostrovsky)

Worst book I read this week: Truman (David McCullough) – I will probably write more about this at a later date.  It’s not entirely the writing or the author, I like David M.  It’s that 250 pages in I absolutely have zero respect for his subject.

I know that’s short, right?  But that’s what I have!  I hope you enjoy the weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: April 1, 2017

Welcome to the weekend – I hope its a good few days for rejuvenating reading and renewing your mind before Monday comes for you!  I’ve been traveling all week, only getting back last night at 1am. So I’m personally looking forward to some rest.

I have just a few stories for you today, but before I get to those, I want to take a moment up front and ask for your prayer for the family of Nelson Penn, who suddenly lost his wonderful wife Robyn this week to cancer. They were a part of our last church family here in Ohio, and have young kids who are undoubtedly going to be hurting.  Though you may not know them, please take a moment and lift them up before continuing.

On to a few stories I found thought-provoking…

Often we have discussions politically about China, and sometimes the nature of its horrid civil rights record pops up. As much as China wants to be like the west economically, the freedom we currently have in America to educate our children how we think is best is not afforded to parents over there – as a new story out of China details (h/t Kate W.).

The Chinese education story is interesting if you consider that in Russia, it was largely the press that was used to either prop up communism, or promote glasnost.  This is something detailed in a new(er) book by Arkady Ostrovsky called ‘The Invention of Russia’ that I’ve found pretty interesting thus far.

The New York Post, often sensational in its headlines and news coverage, has an interesting opinion piece this week from John Crudele bashing rival NY Times, ‘The New York Times’ ongoing dishonesty only helps Trump‘. Though we have to take all of this with a grain of salt, considering the source, Crudele makes some good points in his documentation of the Times’ dishonestly.  Personally, I find it fascinating how much mainstream media outlets are struggling to do their work in the world of a President Trump. Perhaps if they’d been more pure in their journalistic principles, and stuck to a truly non-partisan form of reporting in the first place, they’d not have even had to wrangle with this President…perhaps…

Speaking of the media, and how it intersects with the Trump administration, this week Fox restored Judge Andrew Napolitano to his role of on-air commentator. Napolitano, you might recall, had stated on air that he had three sources who informed him that President Trump’s claim of being surveilled by the Obama Administration was true, and that it was done by the British at the behest of the American President (Obama) through a sort of wink and nod agreement. This type of agreement is apparently used from time to time to get around the legal issues of spying on one’s own citizens without a warrant.  During the last two weeks, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes made a trip to the White House to say he had seen evidence to support Trump’s claim. This caused all manner of outrage, most of which took the form of accusations that Nunes didn’t share this information with the ranking Democrat(s) on the committee (eye roll).

Of course all of this controversy and political correctness misses the point. In a world where we all generate countless points of data throughout our day, how that data is collected, sold, and utilized by companies and governments is more and more important – and concerning. The supreme irony of this is that for all the Democratic bluster over President Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, it is looking as though President Obama’s actions more closely mirrored what Vladimir Putin would do to a political opponent. He did stop shy of the Putin style of treatment; Trump lived to see Election Day, after all.

Can you imagine Hillary Clinton having had this kind of power? 

Speaking of power and its abuses, Ivanka Trump has (rightly) decided to take an official role in the White House. I think this is good because, as I commented last week, if you’re going to have an official cell phone, office, security clearance, and get to sit in on all the important meetings, then you should be saddled with the responsibility of being an official employee. It’s only right – whether you think this is nepotism or not.  For me, that’s not the issue. It’s a matter of operating within the chain of command and under the responsibilities of the laws associated with positions of power of this kind.  She has graciously declined any salary for her position – which makes the move to rectify her earlier course, much more palatable to anyone examining the situation (at least from a political perspective).

What is the Roman Catholic view of justification, and how does that differ from the Protestant view?  I appreciated R.C. Sproul’s short discussion on this topic this week.  He takes some time to tear down a few straw men arguments that Protestants often use, and gives some background as to why and how Catholics view of salvation came to be what it is today.  Being that this is the 500th anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation, I’m going to continue to come back to some of these themes throughout the year, in an effort to discuss why the Reformation took place, and why its important even in our day.

Making the rounds on social media this week: Children who eat too much sugar are developing diseases that only alcoholics used to get

Some satire: Stone-Hearted Man Scrolls Past Jesus Meme Without Sharing It

Not Satire…though perhaps it should be: Alone in the Wild for a Year, TV Contestants Learn Their Show Was Canceled

Interesting Take…from WaPo: How Trump’s presidency is succeeding

Foreign Affairs: Erdogan’s International Network of Muslim Cleric Spies

More….From the New York Times (ironically): The Jihadi Who Turned to Jesus

Tech:  Uber to Suspend Autonomous Tests After Arizona Accident

Off the beaten path….The Broomway: A perilous medieval road leading right into the sea. 

That’s all I have for now!  There are probably 10 more stories and books (including items some of you sent me) that I still have yet to digest. Hopefully I’ll have more time next week for that!  Until then, have a wonderful weekend!

PJW