Weekend Reading: An Update

Welcome to Saturday, and the middle of a holiday weekend for my readers here in the U.S. 

I realize that its been an on again, off again posting/email of what used to be a weekly publication.  But with a new baby, an election, and an increasingly busy life of politics and ministry, I’ve not had the time I’d like to write about all I’m reading.  

I am hoping to continue to write, comment, and send along articles and book reviews/thoughts in the new year, but I am thinking over what arena/medium that will occur in.  I’ve used Twitter more and more as of late to convey thoughts, and I may use it in the future as a way to pass along the most relevant articles and books in a more timely manner.  But the decision to move from blogging to micro-blogging is still under consideration.

In the meantime, enjoy a few articles for now, and and updated book list (here – I’m way behind my goal!).  Hopefully in the new year I will have a more definite plan for how to steward my time on this front.

PJW

From my friend Adam J: Ben Sasse: By the Book – and whilst you’re at it, check this: Politics Can’t Solve Our Political Problems

From Ligonier: How Jesus Read the Scriptures

Where we are headed: Man, 69, sues to lower his age 20 years. He says it will help him on Tinder

Tech Review: Getting the iPad to Pro

Crazy story revisited: Mount Hood’s Deadliest Disaster

Why Are Antiques So Cheap? Because Everyone Lives in the Kitchen

Which one of these is real news?  …Harvard Adds Anti-Republican Course for Fall 2019…OR…Liberty University To Offer Course In Defending Trump At Holiday Gatherings

Fascinating stuff here: The End of Employees.

Only a slight update here, something to keep an eye on: Beijing to Judge Every Resident Based on Behavior by End of 2020

What I’m reading today: How Loneliness is Tearing America Apart

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Weekend Reading: October 6, 2018

Welcome to the weekend!  Its been a while since your inboxes have been graced by an email from me on this topic, but that’s likely been because, well its election season, a new baby, lots of kids sports, and so on.

I actually have some interesting articles for you to check out – some are a few weeks old, aging well in my saved folder (Pocket App), and waiting for just the right moment for you to enjoy!

But of course the question many of you are going to ask is “isn’t he going to say anything about the Kavanaugh stuff???”   Well what more is to be said?  The outrage on the left from feminists is predictable, the bluster on the right from partisans is expected, but I suppose its the thoughtful people of both parties (and of no party) that I find all over the map on this thing.

I watched Ford’s testimony with sympathy, but credulity.  Let me explain. Much of what she was saying didn’t line up with earlier statements, her body language was nervous to the point of odd, and it seemed that her was a lady not ready for the limelight.  As sympathetic as she was, I didn’t find her believable – just at a gut level. I believe that something happened to her at some point (maybe multiple points), but it just didn’t sit right. Aside from my “gut” though, there are so many issues here – none of her friends or “witnesses” corroborate her testimony!  Forget the committee not believing her – her own friends don’t believe her and in fact refute that this party even happened or that they were there at all. Also – she didn’t come out 12 years ago when Kavanaugh was set to become an important Judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals. She didn’t bring this up earlier in the #metoo movement – it wasn’t as though she was empowered by the movement and felt “moved” to come forward. What this means is that the optics are that she allowed herself to be used by Dems to bludgeon Kavanaugh as a last ditch effort to forestall his installation.

His testimony was very passionate – he was very emotional and worked up.  He should have been more calm – which he admits in an Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal.  I saw several liberals in the news media say that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He didn’t have judicial temperament.  He was too partisan.  He was too political.  On and on.  I don’t deny that he should have been more reserved and sympathetic.  But I think what we saw was honest, and human – from both of them (I hope) – and that’s not a bad thing.  This idea that judges are to be a-political and have no opinions about the partisan wrangling that has resulted in their getting publicly skewered (in this case), is nonsense, both historically and logically. He would be a dolt with no mind at all if he grew up in D.C. and had no inkling of the machinations involved in this process.  Further, his courage in calling it out was refreshingly honest – something we want in judges.

My conclusions are that if we (the Senate, that is) didn’t confirm this guy, it would make a mockery of our Republic, and the process for legislative advise and consent.  We have too much popularity-driven politics right now, and we don’t need more of it in the judiciary. Electing judges (which is the case in many states) is a terrible idea for just that reason. We must not allow our desire for political transparency to result in popular anarchy.  We must be careful and wise and thoughtful in our evaluation of these matters – but ultimately its not for us to decide – we hired people to do it!  And that’s a good thing, because its something the majority of Americans simply can’t do (because of the lack of time and full information), or refuse to do (because of the media-fed partisanship they’re engulfed in).  That’s why we elect people to sit on a committee and sort through all of this for us – it doesn’t mean our voices can’t be heard, but it does mean that civility must reign if we’re not to become 18th century France. We must give people the benefit of the doubt – including the ESSENTIAL principle of innocence until proven guilty.  In the same way we gave Ford the presumption of veracity, we must give Kavanaugh the presumption of innocence. Her case was laid out but found seriously wanting. The nation’s leaders should make decisions based on the facts as they know them, otherwise the result is going to be complete and total anarchy – which is not a place we want to be…

Now…for some links…

This was really neat: Ronald Reagan’s letter to his dying father-in-law, annotated

A few really good book reviews from blogger Tim Challies.  First was Francis Chan’s Letters to the Church, and second was Girl, Wash Your Face.

FYI: The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies

Really interesting perspective: What Is the Greatest of All Protestant “Heresies”?

Perspective: Trump’s new trade deal with Canada and Mexico fixes what he broke

A bad look: ‘I’m Doing My Workout,’ Mayor Tells Homeless Woman Seeking Help

I know most people on the right will simply dismiss this out of hand as “a liberal media drive by” but there are too many facts here to just ignore. It doesn’t mean much politically, but it does bear a part of how we evaluate our leaders. It’s a very long article, so you might want to have the Pocket App read it to you (as I did)!  Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father

For Fun: Monty Python’s Michael Palin on His Trip to North Korea and Fondness for Old Socks

Interesting: Those cute labradoodles mask a dark, disturbing truth

Good historical perspective: A history of Healthcare…and why Christians have done it different

TAKE NOTE: We Can’t Afford the Drugs That Could Cure Cancer

Great read from my buddy Jay…..Living The Stream: How did Ninja become gaming’s first crossover star? The “Fortnite” legend is relentless about one thing: He’s always on.

HA!  9 Things We’re Looking Forward To In Heaven

USA Today with two obvious but interesting articles.  First is on screen time, and second is on violence and video games.

That’s all I got!  Enjoy the weekend!

PJW

 

Weekend Reading: September 8, 2018

Welcome to what promises to be a rainy weekend. There will be football, there will be Trump tweets, there will be some sort of outrage from political quarters, so pretty much a standard weekend from all appearances.

What it appears there won’t be, at least not yet, is a satisfactory response from the Pope about these recent allegations that have been roiling the Catholic church for about a month.

As a protestant, and a man who loves my friends within the Catholic church, I was very interested in how this would turn out, and if it would cause some more theological/ecclesiological soul searching.  I hadn’t seen that until Marc Thiessen’s column titled, Suddenly I understand how the Reformation happened.  It’s worth reading.  Though he (and presumably others of the Catholic faith) might now see how internal struggles of the church could have led to a reformation – because they were ignored 500 years ago – what he didn’t mention is that not only were issues ignored, the church actually doubled down on their mistakes by reiterating their mistaken doctrines at Trent.

I’m concerned that this new revelation is only superficial. For instance, the papers frame this as an issue of “conservative wing of the church” vs. “liberal wing of the church”, but that’s only who the players are. The real issue is theological/doctrinal. It is the practical consequences of ideas that are deeply embedded in the Catholic faith – in the traditions. An enemy’s weapon deeply embedded festers and corrupts the body, and is extremely painful to remove.

I find that very often I write about the Catholic church, because its in the news a great deal, and because Francis has been such a decisive figure. The truth is that it breaks my heart to see such obvious neglect of the clear teaching of the Bible and how it impacts those I know and so many others around the world.  There is such comfort in tradition and great community spirit as well.  Knowing that all around the world others are speaking the same words and worshiping in the same way.  But their is also mortal danger when traditions of men become more sacred than the words of our Creator.  It breaks the heart of our God as well.  We know that from Scripture. In Ezekiel 34 we have a similar example. The priests had been taking advantage of and abusing their flock. The shepherds on earth were inwardly ravenous wolves. God did not turn a blind eye. Here is what He said:

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? [3] You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. [4] The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. [5] So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; [6] they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.

[7] “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: [8] As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, [9] therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: [10] Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves… (Ezekiel 34:2–10a ESV)

What about today?  Admittedly, I don’t live within the literary ecosystem of the Catholic faith, but I haven’t seen a single article discussing how maybe its not a good idea to forbid men in the ministry from marrying. That perhaps there was a reason for many of the great church fathers and apostles to have had wives. That it is possible that God designed men to have a companion, and that this truth extended to those in church leadership. Indeed, the “Rock” Peter was most likely married. If the Bible is to be our guide and the antiseptic to our self-inflicted wounds, then we must read what it has to say with wisdom – even if it means reluctantly chucking our comfortable traditions – even if it means leaving the church establishment where we feel so at home. Paul calls us to wisdom in this area, and addresses the issue at length in 1 Corinthians 7.  Though even in 1 Timothy 3, where the qualifications for church eldership are given, not only is marriage not forbidden, but there is an assumption that many of the elders of the church will be married! 

Being in ministry and being single is a calling as much as being married and being in ministry.  But those who are single must have an extra measure of self-control – a measure that has been assumed and imposed by tradition and Catholic law for many years now, but ought to be closely discerned by those serving and the community of elders around these men (I won’t even go into the natural arguments for having a plurality of elders/church leaders to keep each other accountable here, though it does get the wheels turning…). The question is this: When will the church learn to bow before the Scripture and not simply their own traditions?  How many more young people will suffer before they take a step back and look with more weight upon God’s revealed word instead of their own traditions? 

Let me close this topic by returning to Ezekiel. Along with a word of rebuke, the Lord had a word of comfort for those who have experienced distress and abuse at the hands of the leaders of the church in Ezekiel’s day – a word of comfort that many desperately need today:

Ezekiel 34:10–11 says…

[10] Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.

[11] “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.

Then He says there is a future hope for His people, even while caught in the darkness of this world – even when the darkness extends into the church, yet he will rescue those in distress in the end:

I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. [26] And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. [27] And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. [28] They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. [29] And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. [30] And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. [31] And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 34:25–31 ESV)

The ultimate comfort then, is that even in the midst of the wilderness of this world, God reaches down to place His sheep within a context of peaceful relationship with Him. The first thing He does is not take us out of the world or the dangers from abusive church leaders. The first thing He does is rescue us from ourselves and our sinfulness.  He says to His sheep: I know you want peace, and I am going to take the initiative beginning with You and me.  But He does not leave us here. God is not ignorant of our distress, He knows that we are in need of rescue. He not only brings us into a covenant with Himself, but He will one day ultimately rescue us from every oppression, every evil leader who oppresses us, and feed us forevermore on His pasture (verse 31).

I’m praying that many of the flock are protected from the abuses of the Catholic priests, and that the Catholic organization is roiled enough to chuck many of its traditions, submitting them to the scrutiny of the Word of God.

On to other stuff and other articles

Here are some other interesting articles you might enjoy on this rainy day!

Dueling Op-Eds: Op-Ed: Things In The White House Are Going Tremendously! and I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration

The most ironic speech of our time?

I Invented the iPhone’s Autocorrect. Sorry About That, and You’re Welcome

Long summer holidays are bad for children, especially the poor

Dueling perspectives here.  First the crazies:  Bible prophecy FULFILLED as first ‘red heifer born in 2,000 YEARS’ signalling END OF DAYS…versus a more grounded approach: Living in These Last Days. (interesting that the latter would have arrived in my inbox just days before the former).

Can the Escape Room Craze Reach Escape Velocity?

Yes, Rush, It Matters Whether the President Paid Off His Booty Calls (Even If There’s No Russia Connection)

Creepy: China Assigns Every Citizen A ‘Social Credit Score’ To Identify Who Is And Isn’t Trustworthy

Refreshing: Doing it Wrong: Steve Martin and Martin Short Think it’s Best Not to Insult Half Their Audience with Trump Jokes

Insightful: God’s Sovereign Plans Behind Your Most Unproductive Days

Embrace Life’s Repetitiveness – by David Gibson for Crossway

That’s it!  I hope you enjoy this soggy weekend!

PJW

 

Weekend Reading: August 18, 2018

Welcome to the weekend!  I actually had a dozen or so stories saved to share with you, but in the intervening time I received a request from a friend who wanted me to pass along good reading recommendations for her teenagers.  The question got me thinking, and typing, and I thought I might post my reply to her question here for your benefit as well (and for mine as I look back on these things from time to time).
I hope this is helpful and edifying to you – even if you don’t have teens or any children at all. Happy reading!
Dear friend,
I think your question is so good and so important, that I’m going to write below all my thoughts and then publish them in the weekend reading as suggestions for others with the same question.  Here are the books I’m having Chloe (my eldest) read, or going to have her and our kids read based on my own preferences, and many other recommendations.  This isn’t exhaustive, but it ought to set you on the right path.
The Bible and Their Spiritual Life
I know this may go without saying, but a constant and steady study of Scripture is vital for all young (and indeed old) minds as they prepare to go into the world. My parents did two things in this area which I especially appreciate now. First, we memorized large chunks of Scripture as a family – Romans 6 was one of our big ones.  And second, we spent my senior year (I believe) in the Proverbs. This study of Proverbs helped me see how the world worked – that there are certain principles that govern the world, and that all of these governing principles are set in motion, and indeed daily directed, by God.  Let the words of Deuteronomy 6 be your watchwords: these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
When I in high school, my mom made me read an essay by Henry Drummond called The Greatest Thing in the World’ (you can find it free online also) – its an exposition of 1 Corinthians 13, and I still go back and read it again from time to time. Drummond, by the way, was one of the men in the trenches fighting off the rising tide of Darwinism in Darwin’s day. He had a scientific mind, and some of this writings have deeply impacted me. Some have odd Latin titles like Pax Vobiscum, and they are often just brainstorms and thoughts of his own, so not all of them are theological or theologically stellar. But that essay on 1 Cor. 13 is very good indeed and one they ought to read.
This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years by Jaquelle Crowe.  I have only lightly read this thus far, but it gets rave reviews from people I really respect, and I bought it for Chloe for when she’s a little older. I think its going to be fantastic because it helps them understand just how the gospel colors their world and their (current) priorities.
Similarly, to have spent some time in Rutherford is very helpful. I think I might have given you all his Loveliness of Christ. This is a book I wish I had discovered earlier in my life along with the prayers in Valley of Vision.
I did start my devotional life decently, spending a good deal of my teen years in Chambers’ famous My Utmost for His Highest.  I also read excerpts from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which left an impression on me.
Lastly in this category, I would have them meditate upon and deeply explore Jonathan Edwards’ little essay/book The End for Which God Created the World. You can listen to this, read this, or even get John Piper’s book about it. But the reason why I like it for teens is that kids are always wondering from the earliest age “why.” And when they get to be of this age, they are starting to logically assimilate reasons and arguments that answer their “why” questions. Edwards makes sense of our purposes here on earth in a way that only he can do. This is a grounding, well written, mercifully short book that they should consider.
History
In the teen years, a child’s sense of history begins to take shape – both in terms of curiosity, and in terms of a deeper grasp of the progression of the human story as it begins to make more sense to them. There are a few books they ought to read and others that they could stretch to.  As a Sophomore they could likely read The 5000 Year Leap.  This outlines all that makes America great, and is subtitled “A Miracle that Changed the World” and details our constitution and the genius behind it.  Very good one to have them read.  There are several excellent books that run through the timeline of different periods of history (with Susan Wise Bauer’s books for kids and for adults ranking near the top), but I would actually focus on stand alone biographies of men and women like John Adams, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Elisabeth Eliot, Corrie Ten Boom, and George Washington.  Some of the best works on these men are, unfortunately, very long. But they could be listened to.  For shorter recommendations…Borris Johnson’s The Churchill Factor: How one man made history was very engaging.  When they grown up they can stretch to the 3000 page The Last Lion!  Chernow’s Washington is amazing (so is his Grant) and David McCullough’s Adams is also terrific (I read his 1776 as a young man) – all of these are long though and might be just as well listened to and followed along on the audio.  Just about anything by McCullough, Chernow, Ellis and Paul Johnson will be very good.  Joseph Ellis is also a master storyteller and writer – his writing though is very grand and you must have a serious vocabulary.  His short book ‘Founding Brothers was fantastic and might be a good stretch for a 17 or 18 year old.  They’ll get lots of Lincoln and the rest along the way I’m sure. I grew to appreciate Lincoln through watching Ken Burns’ documentary on the Civil War.  If they go back further they should read about Elizabeth I and certainly Augstine. I think she’s covered in Paul Johnson’s Heroes book, which is an excellent little primer on a bunch of amazing people.  I recently read Genghis Khan and the making of the modern world by Jack Weatherford and really enjoyed it. It’s crucial to get some understanding of the importance of the east, and how that empire came into being.  I recently read a book on John Newton that reminded me of how crucial it is to read about great Christian men and women. The Hiding Place enthralled me when I was younger, and when I re-read it as an adult it captured my mind for totally different reasons, but was well worth reading.
Great Literature
From a literature perspective – particularly the greats – I will start with Austen.  I know you can’t read all of these or may struggle with them as a teenager.  But, to begin with,  I would make sure they watched the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I’d make sure they saw or listened to at least four of her six books. The ones I rate most highly are Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion.  Like Shakespeare (which I will address momentarily), having a familiarity with these is really important. As an aside, to help grasp what’s going on here from a Christian perspective, I enjoyed Peter Leithart’s Miniatures and Morals. Leithart has a bunch of good writing on different literary types and is worth exploring more.  The same goes with Dickens. Dickens is one of my favorite authors to read now as an adult, but having some familiarity with his stories early on is important. Early teens can grasp Copperfield and Oliver Twist and The Christmas Carol, but when you get to senior year, you’ll want to make sure that A Tale of Two Cities is on the list.  It almost goes without saying that both C.S. Lewis and Tolkien ought to be explored in-depth.  Read The Hobbit together aloud as a family, and the same with the Narnian tales. These are stories which will last forever, and will light up the imagination – though you ought not to wait until they are teenagers to start on this project.  As they get older, they’ll want/need to read Lord of the Rings. This can be intimidating, but is worth enjoying the ride.  In a separate, and I must say lower class, are the Harry Potter books.  Chloe loves them, and there are certainly some good things here story-wise, but they aren’t in the same class of literature as the Narnian stories and LOTR – yet I don’t condemn them, and if they enliven the imagination, that is the key!   Another great piece of literature that they should read and read again and again in their lifetimes is The Pilgrim’s Progress. They should know the story early on as a kiddo, and should put more meat on the bones as an adult.  I have particularly enjoyed this translation into modern English!  One book I recently read and can’t believe I didn’t read earlier is Frank Herbert’s Dune. Now, I will admit this is just an odd book at times, and its set in another world with other spirituality and customs, but it is very well written, is a very interesting story, and thrills the imagination. I think if I had read it when I was 17 I would have loved it!  There are many others that could be named – Watership Down is a favorite among many, Moby Dick some say is without equal (though I don’t agree) etc.
SIDE NOTE: I will also just say that to allow them to watch some of the great stories of literature in movie form is a good thing if its well done. Treasure Island can easily be read, but maybe you can’t read the entire Count of Monte Cristo or all of Kidnapped and The Swiss Family Robinson – they are wonderful stories, but you won’t be able to read them all.  And if they can’t read them, then by golly at least get them to watch the movie – or even better, listen to the book.  I haven’t read every single Austen, but I know from watching or listening to dramatic productions, all the stories.
Another Side Note…Let me talk a little about reading aloud.  I can still remember my mom reading to us as teens. The Old Man and the Sea, and the Silver Chair, as well as The Hobbit all remain in my mind. We read At the Back of the North Wind (which I do not recommend because it is annoying), and many others together. We often think as parents that reading aloud to our kids is something we do when they are little, but this is only the beginning of the experience. Reading to them as they get older is even more important because of the intellectual stimulation they get from listening, and from taking part in the reading – not to mention the discussions that you can now have that you’d never have had when they were little. Recently we all sat and listened to an audiobook version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, and Chloe was absolutely enthralled. This is, admittedly, a battle.  A battle with the TV, a battle with your energy levels, a battle with your kids to sit still and just listen in the living room for an hour. But it is a battle worth fighting and winning because it will shape them more than they know right now.
Back to literature…One of my biggest weak points educationally was Shakespeare and also some of the Greek stories.  I do not blame my parents for this.  My mom did a great job introducing us to these areas, but I just didn’t connect with them mentally as some smarter people do from an early age. So when I read them in College, they seemed wholly new to me, though they shouldn’t have.  Therefore I’ve given some thought as to how to enjoy them now, and to get my kids to enjoy them as well.  If you can help them enjoy these areas of literature – especially Shakespeare – from an early age, I think it would prove beneficial to them in the long run.  One really fun way to get into Shakespearean language and the whole feel for what he’s doing, is to read or listen to Shakespeare Star Wars by Ian Doescher.  I kid you not, these are amazing! They are hilarious and extremely well written by someone who loves Shakespeare and Star Wars.  At the very least, I think that one of the key things that must be done in this realm is to be familiar with the stories and characters of Shakespeare.  I know this will sound beneath your teens, and they might complain, but I just read this whole box set of children’s editions, following along in his real adult editions of Hamlet and King Lear and Othello and others.  I know that is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but there it is.
Senior Year-type books:
When a child begins to mature in their thinking, and in their reading, I think it especially important to help them understand the consequences of worldview. Most of the crazy things we see happening in society today can be traced to a secularized worldview. When we fought the communists for 50 years, at the heart of the matter that was a fight of worldview. Here are some books I would recommend before setting off for college.
Everything Good Endeavor by Tim Keller especially for boys and especially for their senior year.  I say “especially” for boys because boys are somewhat obsessed with their own big plans at this point in time, and I think that bringing those ideas and objectives in line with what God sees as foundational to all manner of “work” is helpful.  This frames what the purposes of work are, and how to go about it well. It’s one they will come back to again and again.
Defending your Faith by R.C. Sproul This is going to give them some great grounding on how to answer some of what they’ll find at college.  I didn’t read this until I was in my mid-20’s and wish I had known about it before.  The same could be said for Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth.
They may not need to read all of Pearcey, but like her mentor Francis Schaeffer, she shows pretty decently how we came to be thinking in the way we do as a society. As Schaeffer says, there is a flow to the thought of history. Tracking that flow is helpful to understanding why people think and behave today the way they do.  On a similar theme, I think everyone should read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. It’s a classic, its easy to read, and its amazing. This is a worldview shaping, logical case for Christianity and for thinking logically in general – the same might be said for famous Catholic thinker G.K. Chesterton’s little book Orthodoxy.
Finally, a few books about economics and politics from a worldview perspective.  I think if there’s one book I wish I would have had before I went to college it would have been Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky.  Johnson exposes these people and their thoughts to the light of logic and intellectual scrutiny that many of their professors in college will refuse to do. Something to note about this book though, is that because these “great thinkers” were so disgusting in their personal habits, that I would not have them read until they’re 17 or 18. On a positive note, my mother had me read Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt, and I found it very helpful indeed. I know that not all of my friends agree with Hazlitt’s economics worldview, but I think it pretty essential reading for a young man trying to understand the world at large and how economics affects that world.  Lastly, but not least, is Orwell.  Now, I didn’t read his Animal Farm until later, and find it much more tame than what I read in high school (1984). This is a senior level book with mature themes of violence and sex.  But it is crucial for understanding what happens when governments control our lives.  Depending on the maturity level, you could explore Huxley’s Brave New World as well, but it is so focused on the perversion of sex that I found it hard to read even as an adult.
Well that is all I can think of for the moment.  I know that I am leaving off some important things.  I didn’t speak much here about poetry, though its important, and I didn’t even cover all the classics of literature etc.  But this might be a good start/outline, and I hope it is helpful!
PJW

Weekend Reading: August 11, 2018

Welcome to the weekend!  I’ve taken a few weeks off since welcoming the birth of our baby girl, Penny.  I haven’t stopped reading, however, and have a few recommendations for you.  I mainly want to focus on books today, since its been a while since I wrote about what I’ve been reading.

I just finished Healthy Plurality = Durable Church which is a book by my friend Dave Harvey.  It is a short, but helpful dive into the a subject that is pretty specialized, and likely not something a wide audience has given much consideration. Thoughtfulness and circumspection are the watchwords of this latest book by Dave. Largely based on a combination of decades of personal experience, and faithful biblical interpretation, this short volume will cause you to think about how a church is ought to be managed, and the difference between poor management and godly management. If you’re a Christian, and especially if you’re in church leadership, this would be a very handy and thought-provoking book to get a hold of.

The War of the Worlds. This was a fascinating, well written, and finely detailed story. Wells’ classic sci-fi thriller is worth the read for anyone interested in good literature, and a classic well-told story. Humanity is under attack by invaders from Mars. The sudden attack has mankind reeling, and their reactions are predictable, yet wide ranging. My one complaint about the book has nothing to do with Wells, but rather with Amazon’s Audible recording of the book, which was muffled at times, and really not great quality. This is unfortunate because the man reading the book was obviously talented, and had a very interesting voice. After several different speakers and headphones, I gave up on any clarity. In fact, I had to “rewind” the book several times to catch what the narrator said.

It took me a little while, but I finally finished Clowney’s The Unfolding Mystery, which is a very rich book full of Old Testament links to the coming of Jesus Christ. If you’ve never explored this kind of book, it would be a great way to begin. Clowney is a well-regarded pillar of the 20th century evangelical theological community, and knows how to write. The book isn’t extremely long – probably only 260 or so pages – but its very powerful.  The kindle edition includes many very thought-provoking study questions at the end of each chapter that I found one of the great gems of the book. This isn’t a book you whiz through and lay aside in forgetfulness. It’s a book you read, re-read, and then pickup again and again for those beautiful turns of phrases and insights that only skilled authors bring to the table.

My family just finished listening to one of the first Sherlock Holmes narratives, A Study in Scarlet.  It is one my my favorites because of how vast and wide-ranging the scenery and characters are.  It is, perhaps, atypical for a Holmes story because of this, but also it is one of his longer narratives, and it makes one wonder why Conan Doyle didn’t write many more of this (or greater) length because this is where his powers of story telling can really be seen and enjoyed. If you’ve never read a Sherlock Holmes mystery, this would be a good one to try.

Last week I finished Michael Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery.  This one I listened to (the Michael Kitchen performance) rather than reading the hard copy or kindle edition. This was my first time experiencing a Crichton book, and I have really mixed feelings about how it was put together. Crichton is basing his novel off a true historical event, and spend a great deal of time explaining the historical nuances of Victorian England throughout the book. This is so much the case that I’d wager fully 40% of the narrative is clogged with little historical factoids. And this is just where I have mixed emotions. I really enjoyed the history lessons, and I could even see how the criminal slang would have needed deciphering, but the result was a narrative that move awfully slow. SOOO SLOW.  At the end of the book, I had to recompile the sequence of events in my mind, trying to sift through all the added fluff, and when I did so I realized that it was a very interesting story – if only it had been told in a way that illuminated this fact. Lastly, as much as I enjoy the somewhat choppy meter of Kitchen’s line reading in Foyle’s War, he is highly irritating to listen to during the course of such an extensive narrative. His intonation is such that one things that a matter of fact conclusion is being reached at the end of every statement. Essentially, you felt as though, as long as the book is, it became even longer with the choppy way in which he intoned every graph.

If you’re in for something out of the ordinary, you might want to skim through Blockchain Revolution. This is a 370 page book that needs to be 220 pages.  You only really need to read through half of the book to get the idea of what the authors are getting at, and you only need to read through about 1/4th of the book to be filled in on how the technology works and might affect other aspects of life. If you’re into technology and enjoy futurism-type stuff, this would be an interesting read for you. The authors are a little over-enthusiastic (as the title betrays) – many times I found myself wanting to say “okay guys, settle down.”  They literally think blockchain technology is the best thing since sliced bread.  That said, it could be a very important part of how many industries protect data and privacy.

For several years now I’ve wanted to read Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage, and it did not disappoint. If you’ve read about Nixon or Eisenhower individually, then you know a little about how different they were. They came from different generations, they grew up in different circumstances, and they were just wired differently. Yet these two men were thrown together in a way that forced them to rely on each other politically and career-wise for decades. The most interesting thing from this book is how it soured me on Eisenhower’s personal relational and leadership abilities. He had his own style, to be sure, but its a style that had I had to serve under him, I would likely have despised. Nixon, in turn, seems like the battered wife, unwilling to leave the relationship at first out of political necessity and admiration, but feeling more and more stifled and frustrated by the slights and passive-aggressive comments to the press.  It’s a strange thing to read about, but very interesting and insightful because it tells a part of each man that may not be very familiar to most people.

If you have a slow Saturday or Sunday in the near future, and feel anxious and on edge about your life or things swirling around in your life, then I would highly recommend Thomas Watson’s classic The Art of Divine Contentment. I read this entire book on a recent Saturday, and felt it was a fantastic reset to my thinking about priorities, life, work, and others. Watson’s style is a like many puritans, didactic and inquisitive – with every question preceding a thoughtful answer. But the probing nature of the questions he asks almost don’t require an answer because at their comprehension there is recognition of how far out of line our perspectives can wander if not checked. Watson wants to have us realign our perspectives according to Biblical principles, and a reality that isn’t so self-centered. This isn’t a guilt trip, or a fiery sermonizing, but a lovingly strong and often cutting series of points and questions designed to bring us back to reality in a way that causes us to enjoy and be thankful for what we have.

Speaking of classics, I got to read The Scarlet Pimpernel for the first time recently, and really enjoyed it. Honestly I didn’t know what I was getting into here. I had purchased the book with a bunch of others, knowing it was a classic and that I ought to read it. What a pleasant surprise! This is simply a great story, and were it not for the unfortunate name of the book, I’d think it would have been made into a more modern movie. The plot is set during the French Revolution, and several plot twists, along with good literary tension, make this book worth checking out.

I have enjoyed the writing of Tony Reinke in years past, and so I had planned on reading 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You for quite some time. He certainly had some good insights and questions to ask ourselves. Some of his insights were historical and interesting, and worth contemplating. I think Reinke is a good one to write a book like this because he’s not a technophobe by any means, and yet he has a perspective that is very grounded in Christian principle and Biblical theology. His approach was certainly humble, and it was good enough that my first listen through the book might need to be accompanied by a second listen along with the hardcover and a highlighter.

Is it worth even mentioning the latest Grisham I’ve read?  Grisham novels are sort of like chocolate at the end of a day, they aren’t necessary, but they’re nice anyway. I read his 2011 book The Litigators, and definitely laughed a lot more than I would usually laugh at a Grisham. It was probably one of his better attempts at writing and wit, and yet it wasn’t terribly interesting from a plot perspective. Not one I’d recommend to someone aching for a great story, but one I’d recommend to someone looking for an enjoyable page turner with no value other than to relax the mind and bring out a chuckle or two.

Finally, I wanted to write about Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis. This book was really phenomenal.  I’ve been made aware of some snarky comments online by reviewers who say Ellis’ writing style is way too highbrow and hard to comprehend. But I beg to differ.  In fact, I mentioned to my mom that writing in any lesser style with a smaller vocabulary would be too blunt of an instrument for the topic.  One of the things that makes Ellis so good is his suspicion of veneration.  He is able to get at the interactions between these men in a way that I’ve only seen from Ron Chernow to date. And he’s the first person who made me think that perhaps Hamilton wasn’t the spawn of Satan (a magnificent literary feat). Most importantly, he has some wonderful insights into Jefferson, which has led to me put his larger work on that man (American Sphinx) on my list of to-read.

That’s it for now!  I hope you took some good ideas away from this recently list of completed books, and that if you read any of these that you’ll please send along your thoughts!

PS – if you have never read The Religious Affections, you should jump on over to ChristianAudio.com and download the free audio version performed by Simon Vance.  This book by American theologian Jonathan Edwards is one of the most important books I’ve ever read.

Have a great weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: July 21, 2018

Good (rainy) morning from Columbus Ohio. Congratulations to Pastor Brad and Courtney Snyder on the birth of baby Deacon.  Both Courtney and my wife Kate were due on the same day (the 31st), but apparently Deacon is more competitive than our baby girl, because we’re still just waiting here for her to arrive! Well played Deacon, well played. Now on to a few notable stories from the last week or two.

First, I’m wrapping up the book ‘Empty Mansions’ which is about the family and money and – you guessed it – mansions, of W.A. Clark.  Recommended to me by our friend Dave Becksvoort, I congratulate him on the recommendation.  Honestly, I don’t know what to make of the story, which mostly revolves around Huguette Clark, the daughter of W.A.  She was a recluse and many of the homes and things she purchased she never saw in person or stepped foot in.  Very strange story, but fascinating because W.A. Clark was on par with Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Vanderbilt when it came to fortune and influence in his day – yet many have never heard of this man. I think the biggest reason for this might be due to the family’s (read Huguette) lack of charitable giving.  Lot’s of questions about legacy and stewardship arise in this book.

One of the beautiful things Huguette Clark owned was a Stradivarius violin. Reading more about them led me to this short video you might find enjoyable.

Recently, my friend Aaron employed an hilarious theological litmus test by asking me “what do you think about Andy Stanley?” The audible “humph” I gave set him to laughing and admitting to his secret test.  So its no surprise, though with sadness, that I continue to keep an eye on the once very helpful teacher of the Bible whose sense of orthodoxy has long since faded into the background of his own bright personality. Here’s a recap/response to Stanley’s latest concerning teaching issues.

This falls into the category of “did I post this before???”  Thomas Brewer over at Ligonier has written up a rather concise (and, I must say rather accurate) book review of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules book.  Even if I posted this already, its worth posting again.

I know you’re all wondering if I will post anything on the Trump/Putin summit (because I’ve gotten your texts).  But you’ve likely read enough about it to know the situation and the details for yourself without me posting a million articles discussing it.  I took my time on really evaluating the situation here and wasn’t quick to condemn the President because it was such an unusual situation, and because I have grown tired of the constant polemic stream against him. Not everything the man does is horrid and evil – nor is everything deft and brilliant – as apologists from both sides would have us believe. Sometimes I think though, that his own actions do swing back and forth between brilliant and completely obtuse.

My thoughts on the matter are that his NATO dealings and his trip through Europe was carried off well. NATO nations can’t expect us to foot the bill for protecting them against aggressors they’re making pipeline deals with!  As for Russia, Trump’s comments were distasteful, and reminiscent of the stomach turning apology tour that Obama conducted during the 2008 campaign. The difference between Obama’s anti-Americanism on that trip and what Trump did in Finland was that Obama’s comments came from ideological/worldview musings and deeply held beliefs – nothing he had experienced first-hand, per se. It was merely his liberal worldview shining through in apologetic prose. Trump, however, threw his own government under the bus, criticizing the man appointed to investigate the 2016 campaign who had JUST indicted 12 Russians for clear meddling in said campaign.  In so doing, he not only made himself look petty, small and weak, but he basically sided with Russia and its dictator over the justice system of the United States.

Why is this so revolting?  Because he was siding with a man (Putin) who kills dissidents and political opponents, over the officials of the United States judicial system.  Despite what you think about the Mueller probe (and I think its way too long in the tooth at this point), the officials involved have enough evidence to clearly show that Russians were working to influence our elections. They hacked into the computer systems of the national Democratic party organization. How is that not considered an act of war?  In past centuries the country who interfered in this way would have seen their cities burning by now.  One of the things that sets apart America is our system of justice. This is  a system that is the envy of the world, and has been for over 200 years – especially for those living under tyranny of the Russian fist. In Russia there is no due process, there are no inalienable rights, there is no transparency.  You’re starting to see why this is so upsetting, right? To have our President side with a Russian dictator (who is a former KGB agent) in this matter is atrocious. His denials and claims to misspeaking are ludicrous and laughable, and his attempts to do so and not clearly apologize or set the record straight expose a major character flaw.

I’m not sure if I’m more disgusted by Trump’s statements, or the 5 emails I got from failed political opportunist John Kasich trying to raise money off Trump’s misstep.  I wonder how much money consultant John Weaver is going to make off Kasich before he leaches off someone else. He has completely ruined the Kasich brand, and scuttled any chance the man had for a political future.

One final aside/article on this matter that you need to read: Trump on Putin: The U.S. President’s Views, In His Own Words

In other news…CBS Reporter Accidentally Witnesses Illegal Border Crossing, Gets Threatened.  Sort of fascinating to see this.

From Bloomberg: How Goldman Sachs Lost the World Cup

I thought this was sort of written tongue-in-cheek, so what does it say about me that I thought it was a really cool concept? Maybe that I’ve done several cross-country road trips and see some real value here! From the WSJ: The Great American Road Trip Goes Luxe—For Better or Worse

This really concerns me…from Jason Riley: Let’s Talk About the Black Abortion Rate. Excerpt:

When you combine the amount of black violent behavior directed at other blacks with the number of pregnancies terminated by black women, the rate at which blacks willingly end the lives of one another is chilling and far surpasses what goes on within other racial and ethnic groups. Racial disparities in abortion rates are no less disturbing than racial disparities in income, crime, poverty and school suspensions. Why are the people who want to lecture the rest of us about the value of black lives pretending otherwise?

And finally, this week Babylon Bee hilariously mocked the often trotted out liberal trope about “being on the wrong side of history” with this gem: Eternal God Concerned He Might Be On Wrong Side Of History. 

I’m working through De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America still, and the book Blockchain Revolution as well as Clowney’s Unfolding Mystery.  I think that very soon I’ll be piling on a bunch of others, but this is where things stand.

Have a great weekend!

PJ

Weekend Reading: June 30, 2018

So here we are at another 4th of July weekend!  This one is odd because the actual holiday is right in the middle of the week. I hear some friends saying they’re taking the whole week off, and others saying they’ll do Mon-Wednesday or some other combination.  Whatever your plans are, I hope you enjoy them and appreciate the blessings of living in America!

I have a lot of stories and books for you to enjoy as you kick back and enjoy some down time…

In the past week or two, the Supreme Court has ruled in a conservative way on multiple items – including a major victory against public sector unions.  The ruling means that workers won’t have to contribute the the political agenda of the union bosses in DC if they don’t want to. In an argument that has gotten more than stale, one Democrat Congressman said, The Supreme Court ‘just came down on the wrong side of history.’”  That is an invalid and extremely arrogant argument based upon an assumption that events ought to unfold according to a progression leftists (or anyone else using that phrase) envision.  If you put it another way, its like saying “hey this isn’t fair, this isn’t how its supposed to go in 2018!”  Says who?

Of course the real concern is always money.  Unions form a major part of the financial foundation of the left’s election and issue campaigning. For an example check this out: Unions give $1.3 billion to Democrats, liberal groups since 2010

Despite these major decisions (I didn’t even get into the big one on religious liberty), the biggest impact on both the news cycle and history, was the announcement by Justice Kennedy that he’ll be retiring.   David French over at National Review gives some insight on what we might expect from future court decisions based on a more originalist bent.

Staying on politics here for a bit, the New York Times had a story that was really interesting this week titled ‘As Critics Assail Trump, His Supporters Dig in Deeper’ – this is worth taking a peak at.

Keep an eye on this developing problem: The Army Took Over the Spigots, Forcing Thirsty Venezuelans to Pay.  The reason I post this is that I want to draw people’s attention to the humanitarian problem, but also the philosophical problem here and how it became this bad. I’ve heard from leaders in Venezuela recently, and spoken to people from the country, and I can tell you that these problems don’t simply happen randomly.  They happen as a result of a failed political philosophy – that philosophy is socialism.  Socialism leads to economic tyranny. We have seen this again and again over the last 100 years, and what bothers me now is just how ignorant the younger generation of Americans are about the evils (and I mean that) of socialism. The disconnect was never more apparent than this past Tuesday when Democrats voted for a young socialist for Congress, unseating one of the most powerful Democrat Congressmen in the country. This is hardly surprising, given the dangerously naive way in which we’ve allowed our children to be educated under the modern rubric of “liberal arts”, a term and philosophy now completely hijacked.  What will be the wake up call for Americans in the United States? It’s evident that they aren’t paying attention to their South American brothers and sisters, because if they were, they’d run from socialism like a Russian political prisoner fleeing the gulags.

I have often been critical of Jordan Peterson because of just how dangerous his influence can be upon those seeking answers to life’s ultimate questions.  But…there are some very good things that Peterson has done, and one example came this week when he was asked to comment on the Justin Trudeau.  It’s worth watching for a few reasons, the content of his answer being uppermost, but for me the thing to watch here is his thoughtfulness. Look at how long he takes to get his thoughts right, and how careful he is with his answer.  If our politicians were more cautious and gracious in their speaking, they would be less misunderstood, and have a greater impact. Here is a sterling example of how to respond to a loaded question in a thoughtful and respectful way.  Of course the irony is that its posted on The Daily Wire whose headline is ‘Jordan Peterson Takes on Justin Trudeau’ – they do their dead level best to sensationalize what is really a very thoughtful response.

Interesting insight here for politicos: Billionaire vs. Billionaire: A Tug
of War Between 2 Rogue Donors

One last political article…with all that is going on at the border, I was confused at what the reality of the situation really was.  As a Christian I want people who are made in the image of God to be treated with respect and decency, while also maintaining a respect for the rule of law that keeps societies in order.  My friend Aaron B. sent me this article from Rich Lowry over at National Review that I found helpful in sorting out what is really going on at the border.

This is unsurprising, but worth taking seriously: Deleting Your Online DNA Data Is Brutally Difficult

Quartz had an interesting article breaking down how Overnight Shipping works. Here’s a quick breakdown of the timeline:

5 pm: You drop off a package, which is transported to the nearest cargo-shipping airport.

10 pm: The majority of domestic cargo planes begin taking flight. In the case of FedEx and UPS, the majority of planes fly to a central “superhub” in Tennessee or Kentucky.

1 am: Approximately 150 airplanes have landed at the superhub. Packages are removed and placed in an automated sorting system.

2 am: Packages are sorted, placed into shipping containers, and packed onto a new airplane. The second flight takes off.

6 am: Items arrive at the target airport and are packed onto trucks for delivery. For deliveries to more rural areas, the items are often packed onto prop planes and take a third and final flight.

9 am: Most prop planes arrive at regional airports. Items are shipped via truck.

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting story titled ‘These Stocks Have Left Amazon Behind this Year.  And basically its talking about how Macy’s and Dillard’s have rallied from their very low points after being decimated by Amazon.  Points of discussion here: Will there always be a place for the in-person shopping experience?  How much will Amazon be able to chip away at the brick and mortars once they get their in-person stores setup?

One of my favorite preachers to listen to before he left America was Voddie Baucham.  A few weeks ago blogger Tim Challies posted an interview he did with Baucham from Zambia.

Helpful article from Paul Tripp titled, ‘4 Things Dads Should Teach Their Kids about Money’. I think I may have mentioned before that Tripp’s book ‘Parenting’ was very helpful to me, and that I’d highly recommend it to any parent at any stage of that journey.

Two important stories you need to heed this morning: Man On Deathbed Deeply Regrets Not Spending More Time Arguing On Facebook….and Couple Arrested For Selling “Golden Tickets To Heaven”.  Now that you are armed with that information, you’re sure to have a great Saturday!

This was great, Save the Great American Family Road Trip: These journeys help kids develop critical-thinking skills. Excerpt:

Dad would drive, always. He approached the car only after everything was ready, striding like Mariano Rivera across the outfield at Yankee Stadium. I’d say he got behind the wheel only after everyone was seat-belted, but seat belts back then were like flossing: great if you did it, but nobody checked.

This was really interesting ‘How Much Money Do You Save by Cooking at Home?’  I’m going to spoil it a bit with an excerpt:

We found on average, it is almost five times more expensive to order delivery from a restaurant  than it is to cook at home. And if you’re using a meal kit service as a shortcut to a home cooked meal, it’s a bit more affordable, but still almost three times as expensive as cooking from scratch.

Books…what’s up next…

I’ve been working through Ray Dalio’s ‘Principles’ book as well as ‘Empty Mansions’ – a story about the family of W.A. Clark – and I’m very close to finishing Kirk’s ‘The Conservative Mind’.

I’m just starting De Tocqueville’s ‘Democracy in America” and working my way through Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’.  With the kids I’m reading ‘Snow Treasure’, which is a neat story.

NOTE: Thomas Brewer over at Ligonier did a book review of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules that’s pretty good thus far (I am only half-way through it but want to make sure you get a chance to look it over).

Here’s what’s on-deck:

  • Russell Kirk – Bradley Birzer
  • Get a Grip on Physics – John Gribbin
  • Theistic Evolution – Meyer, Moreland, Shaw, Grudem, Gauger
  • The Case Against Sugar – Gary Taubes
  • The Closing of the American Mind – Allan Bloom
  • Dreamland – Sam Quinones
  • Washington’s Monument – John Steele Gordon
  • China 1945 – Richard Bernstein
  • Llyod-Jones on the Christian Life – Jason Meyer
  • Napoleon – Paul Johnson
  • Is God Anti-Gay? – Sam Allberry
  • The Unfolding Mystery – Edmund Clowney
  • The Miracle of the Kurds – Stephen Mansfield
  • Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman

Of course I might add to that and do stuff in-between.  In the midst of what I mentioned above, I stopped and read ‘In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin’ by Erik Larson (which was very interesting, although not exactly superb prose).  Sometimes its good to stop and read something less informative and more exciting or adventurous. So the list above is more likely a roadmap than a checklist, with speed bumps and detours likely to be interspersed along the way.

That’s it for now – I hope you enjoy your weekend and the upcoming holiday!  If you have book or article recommendations, please send them along!

PJW