Weekend Reading: January 5, 2019

Welcome to the new year and the weekend reading! With the new year upon us, I’ve had a hankering to write a little about all the books I read last year. Maybe some of these thoughts will help you pick out books to read in 2019!

So here’s the rundown (these aren’t all 135 or so of the books I read, just a sampling of the ones I wanted to mention) in the general order in which I read them from the start of the year through December 31:

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal – I’m always impressed by people who can write history as if its a novel, and that’s definitely the case with A Spy Among Friends. Though there isn’t a lot of suspense to this book (it takes a more analytical approach), its written well and its fascinating.

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life – Tish Warren is an ordained clergy woman, which in biblical terms is a contradiction. Yet despite this deep theological oddity, and despite a few oddities and errors in the theological composition of the book, this is a work that is hard to ignore. I found it fascinating and helpful. It is hard to get such an honest perspective – not because most authors aren’t honest, but because most humans aren’t – or simply aren’t able to explicate what it means to live out Christian doctrine in the throws of real life. It is for that reason this book triumphs and is worth consideration – disclaimers above apply and theological discernment is recommended.

A Night to Remember – this book about the night the Titanic sunk by Walter Lord was really fantastic. The narrative never lost steam, and the perspectives were first person and fascinating. It’s not overly long, and you will come away with a very good idea of what it really was like to be on the boat that night.

Distilled Knowledge: The Science Behind Drinking’s Greatest Myths, Legends and Unanswered Questions – It’s all here. Everything you want to know about drinking and your Uncle Al K Hall. My only warning is that Brian Hoefling is a smart dude…and sometimes his brains outpace his writing abilities (or my understanding, at least). Still, there’s a ton to learn from in this volume!

From a Certain Point of View – Ben Acker’s book draws you in with a novel idea for experiencing Star Wars from the perspectives of minor characters and folks normally outside the standard view port (so to speak). It fails miserably. What results is not only trite and unimportant, but at times it actually messes up the storyline and how you’ve come to view the characters that actually matter. It puts words in the mouths and minds of characters best left unsaid.

At the Back of the North Wind – Maybe I should just paste in what I wrote on Goodreads, “Tortuously written with overly flowery language, and 10 page poems with nothing to do with the story, I’m so glad to be done.” I continue to be drawn in to George MacDonald works, hoping that he will justify his place in the pantheon and I’m continually disappointed and annoyed by his writing.

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius proves that some works are enduring for a reason – their wisdom never grows old, because its part of the fabric of life. He also shows here that even an image-bearer of God who doesn’t acknowledge His deity, can stumble on self-evident truths about the way things work. Of course you’d be much better served to read Pascal, or better still, Solomon.

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No – For some people who struggle with priorities and social pressure, I think Cloud’s best seller will be helpful. For others it will seem trite and too simple to require so many pages. It certainly has a tendency to feel at times as though Cloud is pushing his theory too far – using Biblical passages to prop up proposals that don’t quite fit. A more theologically careful/thoughtful book would have been even more helpful.

Dune – So odd and so fascinating is the world that Frank Herbert drops you into in his classic work Dune, that you don’t know what to make of it half the time. But by the time I was half way through, I found myself amazed at his power of description and forcefulness of vision for these characters. It’s a book that, while strange, is a must read for any fan of fantasy literature.

Sojourner Songs: Poems – For several years running I’ve been reading and re-reading Ben Palpant’s poetry, and it never seems to grow old. I highly recommend it to any Christian.

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount – during my time studying the sermon this past year or so (2017 and 2018) I was able to re-read large swaths of this classic by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and was reminded of how gifted he was as a preacher, and how good it is to re-read his sermons from time to time. I really appreciate his passion and love for God.

Books that Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories – is it sad that I not only read books but I also read books about reading books??? This little volume is helpful and a good resource for those looking to shepherd their children through the large world of books. Not every recommendation is terrific, and some are obvious, but I have found it helpful as a resource.

A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour – No one said that being a professional athlete was easy, but many don’t realize just how difficult it is on the PGA Tour. This insiders look at the 1994 season on tour is fascinating and insightful. It was a little overly long, but it certainly humanizes the stars, and casts a sobering eye over what it takes to make and remain on the world’s greatest golf tour.

The New World (Volume 2 of A History of the English Speaking Peoples) – I’ve slowly been making my way through Winston Churchill’s 4 volume set in this series, and enjoyed it immensely. I enjoyed the first volume a tad more than this one, maybe because of the content being so new to me. Still, it is well worth noting that the writing style of Churchill is so good that anything you read by him is going to be enjoyable and easy to read.

The Loveliness of Christ – This is another annual read that I keep coming back to again and again. I can’t recommend this little volume enough. Buy one, and you’ll be encouraged with the extracts of Samuel Rutherford’s letters in a way only a devote and passionate (and well written) Christian can convey.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky – Riveting history (with maybe a few literary licenses) that was one of the best books I read all year long. It follows the story of a young Italian man who gets caught up in world events, as WWII comes to his doorstep.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos – I’ve written about this at length in other areas. Let it be enough to say that its much better to watch Peterson on YouTube than it is to read his writing.

Economics in One Lesson – It’s been since High School since I’d read Henry Hazlitt’s excellent book. In fact, I’d totally forgotten I’d read it until I began (at the recommendation of a friend) and the words were so familiar that it seemed almost eerie. Only once I’d finished it did my mom remind me of how she’d had all of us children read it before graduating high school! Still, I enjoyed it and want to make it a book I review every few years.

Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon – I think that one of the best ways to experience an era of history is through the lens of biography, and while this book does not set the context as well as some others, it DOES paint the man’s life in a unique and honest perspective. Highly recommend.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (book) – Loaned to me by a terrific friend at church, this is a compilation of the original script and some notes, along with parts of the script that didn’t make it into the film. It was hilarious all over again!

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany – my good friend Brian R. Has told me that he’ll have all his children read this book before they grow up, and now I can see why. To watch the purposeful design of an evil and mentally unstable man take control of a strong country led by feckless men was hard to read about. Knowing the outcome and how this menace grew to envelop the entire globe, makes each page to the lead up of the cataclysm and each subsequent description of its result, heavy with anticipation and wonder. There are so many lessons to be learned here. I can’t recommend it enough.

How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age – Jonathan Leeman’s attempt to get Christians thinking about politics in a way that is Biblical and doesn’t skirt the difficult issues and conversations we’re having every week in this country. I’m planning on re-reading this volume again soon, and referring back to it in the future. An excellent source of wisdom and guidance here.

The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing – So many gems in this one. This is really just a series of essays mashed together and edited by the great Leland Ryken. Anything Ryken touches is gold, and this is no exception. My only wish is that he’d do more writing and more commentaries on literature! If you love literature and thinking about art, then you need to pick this up and read some of the essays. This is worldview shaping stuff.

The Brothers Karamazov – I think that, much like Tolstoy, Dostoevsky must have written stories in order to preach a message. There are times when he enters into the sublime, with wisdom and character depths that you can’t not underline and discuss with your book club pals. But the story itself isn’t really all that compelling, and sometimes the way characters behave doesn’t really make much sense – they act or speak in ways that aren’t believable. I don’t think that its one of my favorites of all time, but it was good to slog through, and holds plenty of little sermonettes for those interested.

Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles that can Radically Change your Family – This is a Paul Tripp special, and it is very good. It’s better written than Fitzpatrick’s Give Them Grace, and more straightforward. Definitely helpful and a volume I’ll come back to again – maybe even this year.

The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot – Not terribly well written in the sense that it isn’t a page turner, but this classic work on conservatism by Russell Kirk was recommended to me by a fellow politico, and for that I’m very grateful. Not every conclusion is one I’d agree with, but there is a lot of very right and good thinking here – and especially in Burke, I found a lot of inspiration and reminders for why I believe what I believe.

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune – This was another recommendation from a friend (thanks Dave B!), and it was really fascinating. Not terribly well sewn together or compellingly written, but the story is very compelling. It’s a book detailing a piece of American history I’d never known about, and again, through the genre of biography that delivers perspective so well.

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation – This was my first read by Joseph Ellis, and it definitely won’t be my last. Ellis’ prose are elevated and a joy to read. He describes the relationships between founding members of the early American political class in an informative and enjoyable way. Excited to read more from Ellis in the future.

The Scarlet Pimpernel – Talk about putting together a heat pounding narrative into a short space! This is a fantastic story, and would likely make a great movie as well. It details the adventures of a man of the aristocracy and his quest to rescue fellow aristocrats from guillotine dominated France during the revolution. He is a sort of masked vigilante ducking into small towns in France, before returning to England. Who is he? The Scarlet Pimpernel, of course.

The Art of Divine Contentment – as only a member of the Puritan movement can do, Thomas Watson logically explains the many reasons Christians have for resting in Christ. This is not a long volume (comparatively speaking), but its very rich, and I highly recommend it!

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You – Tony Reinke is an excellent writer, and this is well worth the read. This book joins a growing chorus of literature exploring the consequences of all this technology is having on us. I like Reinke’s perspective because he’s not writing from an ivory tower – he’s a lover of tech himself. But he’s also honest, and I think we all need to be sober and honest as well, as we seek to live lives of joy in the years to come. We need to evaluate how technology interacts with living a live that is WORTH living – one that is lived well.

Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage – I’ve been wanting to read this book for 5 years! Finally got to it! Before reading this book I had a more idealized perspective on Eisenhower, but when you read this account, you can’t help but feel like the guy was a bit of a tool. Fascinating stuff in here about Nixon – the guy was definitely insecure and neurotic, but how much of that was reinforced by the way Eisenhower and others treated him? Judge for yourself…

The Great Train Robbery – This is the first Michael Crichton book I’ve ever read, and maybe it wasn’t a great sampling. The level of detail was astonishing – it you want to understand 19th century England, this is the book for you. If you want to hear about a great heist and enjoy a great story, then I suggest you enter in with great patience as well. Still, I think that while I found this book annoying to sort through, I may come back to it later and give it another shot to win me over. Certainly the way the story wraps up is very interesting.

A Study in Scarlet – I maintain that this is one of Conan Doyle’s best! I think that perhaps I’ve mentioned this before somewhere, but the illustrious author spent more of his time writing shorter stories of the adventures of Holmes, but its my opinion that the longer the man wrote, the better the story got! This one was fun because I listened to it with my daughter Chloe, who enjoyed it immensely – it was neat to introduce her into the world of Sherlock Holmes.

The War of the Worlds – Most of you will be familiar with this title, and may have seen some silver screen iteration of the novel. But what struck me about actually reading the thing was just how well written it was! Detailed finely, and worth the enjoyment of just listening or reading the way Wells describes each situation. Well worth checking out.

Painting as a Pastime – I wasn’t expecting such a tour de force for someone thinking of what it means to take up the brush. Churchill’s little book is one of the best books I read all year, without a doubt! I was spellbound by the prose, I was inspired by the subject, and I was encouraged by the perspective. I read portions aloud to Kate after I was finished, and I can’t wait to read it again.

A Simple Way to Pray – This is more of a pamphlet than a book, but it was very impactful for me this year. In this short work, Martin Luther gives Christians a way to think through prayer, and also gives a lot of examples which prove very helpful. Highly recommend.

The Character of the Church: The Marks of God’s Obedience People – This was a fantastic book – one of three, actually, that are all very good (well, I haven’t finished volume three yet, but I’m sure I’d say the same thing). I am going to be recommending these tidy little volumes to Christians seeking to understand the church, their faith, and the way to live it out. It’s not easy to write in such a lucid and succinct way. Anyone can drone on, but Joe Thorn has done some remarkable service for the church here.

Fifty Famous Stories Retold – This is a compilation by James Baldwin that I both read and listened to. It was very helpful to me, even as a matter of literary understanding, to know some of these famous stories and myths. Of course they are told for children, but maybe that’s what I needed – I mean who needs a dissertation on the sword of Damocles?

The Testament – I really enjoy a good Grisham, but often find myself frustrated by the same reworked plot line and the unsatisfying endings. Not so with The Testament. This is very creative and totally out of the norm for him in terms of the story line. Very good little read!

The Second World War: Milestones to Disaster – This is the audio title for what is also a volume of Churchill’s WWII narrative. Anyone interested in WWII history has to read this and his other volumes. His is a unique perspective, and his writing is superb. Highly recommend.

American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson – Another great work of literature from Joseph Ellis. Now, the book starts in a bit of a bizarre fashion, so hang in there! Ultimately, this is less a typical biography than it is an exploration into exactly who Jefferson was, and his thinking process (if you could call it that). The more you read about the founders, or any other figure in history, the more you want to understand their thinking and how it evolved. This volume does that with excellence.

Genghis: Birth of an Empire – My good friend Rod recommended I read this piece of historical fiction, and I’m glad he did. This is a book that once started will not be easy to stop – probably the very definition of a page turner. The writing isn’t at a level of, say, Joseph Ellis, but it doesn’t have to be. Iggulden will make history come alive for you, but more than that, he will help you really get inside the heads of men and women you would normally have absolutely zero in common with.

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery – This is very interesting. Lots of great history here, though Metaxes is overly fawning at times, and you’d be surprised how much that gets on the nerves after a few hundred pages. Still, I learned a great deal not only about Wilberforce, but about the men and women he surrounded himself with. Worth the read, as long as you can get over the unquestionably bias approach.

Tools of Titans – Another giant book by ego maniac Timothy Ferriss. Another opportunity for quick fire starter this coming summer.

And Then There Were None – This was my third Christie book of the year, and probably my favorite. Eerie and well written, it keeps you on the edge until the end, and then (and this was really fascinating) it explains the whole thing from the point of view of the villain! Very interesting stuff. Worth putting on the list!

The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin – As one might expect, this is not a rosy picture of a great world leader. Putin comes across as cold, calculating, and even inept at times. If Meyers could have gotten more access, he could likely have written a story with more connectivity – or maybe he just didn’t want to draw the kinds of conclusions that seemed too obvious to anyone paying attention. Without this perspective, you’re sort of left to sketch the man on your own from the facts as they’re given…and the sketch is not pretty.

Catch-22 – My second attempt at reading this, I decided to give it a listen. It’s just as nonsensical to listen to as to read. Many people who read this consider it one of their favorites. What in the world am I missing here? To me this seemed like the most inane book of all time…

Churchill: A Life – This is the condensed official biography of Winston Churchill by Martin Gilbert. It’s about 1000 pages, and goes along at a pretty good rate. There’s definitely some interesting items here or there that you might not get from The Last Lion (Manchester), but you don’t get the agony of the wilderness years, that’s certain. And you don’t get a neutral perspective. It’s not fawning, so to speak, but its told with a positive assumption/outlook. I’ve just received in the mail the original 8 volumes (maybe 8000 or so pages?) from which this shorter volume is drawn, and am looking forward to reading those for reference in the years to come. I think that if you’re going to read one biography of Churchill, this is probably near the top of the list, though its hard to recapture what Manchester did in his epic three volume set – the man just brought it all together in a way that only someone who fought and lived through those times could do.

A.J. Liebling: World War II Writings – these are fascinating articles by Liebling, many from the front lines, or just behind them, originally published during the war in the New Yorker. For 15-20 page glimpses into what life was like during that period from a journalist’s perspective.

The Last of the Mohicans – In the mode of the very worst of Walter Scott and George MacDonald, Cooper combines needlessly flowery language with a ridiculous level of detail. His prose is horrid to the point that his story is lost in an archaic jumble of speech that wasn’t even commonplace in his day. I have zero clue as to why this is a classic other than my suspicion that his stories’ influence upon the English mind was vast in his day – so vast that it inspired a great deal of emigration.

Them: Why We Hate Each Other – and How to Heal – Other than my complaint that Sasse is short of the latter portion of his title, I think this is a splendid book, and a very good effort at explaining what’s going on in America right now. It’s not a screed, but an honest evaluation from his perspective. Worth reading and contemplating as Sasse becomes an increasingly important player in our culture and political arena.

Democracy in America – Another volume I hadn’t read since my school days, and another volume I wished I had read sooner. De Tocqueville was eerily prescient in his analysis of the weaknesses and strengths of the new nation of America. As soon as you dive in, you need to break out the highlighter, because you’ll be using it…a lot.

The Thrawn Trilogy (Star Wars, 3 volumes) – This was absolutely fantastic. I agree with my friend Tim that these stories were as good as the original trilogy, and at times they’re better. Can’t believe I hadn’t read these before, but all three were interesting, and well written. Timothy Zahn is a very creative guy, and if you choose to listen to them, be sure to listen to the Marc Thompson editions, and bypass the shortened versions that Anthony Daniels did years ago. Thompson is a master at his craft, and you won’t be disappointed by the audio.

Moby Dick – I’ve written about this elsewhere, but I just felt so frustrated by this book. Melville is a fantastic writer, and at times he can have you rolling with laughter. In fact, the entire book seems to have a strain of ironic goofiness to it that you’d not expect going in. But the waste..oh the waste! There is something to be said (a lot to be said) for knowing what to write and what NOT to write, and Melville fails in epic ways in this arena. This is a 600+ page book that at page 500 I resigned in protest. I was sick to death of his detours into the 5 ways to skin a way, and the 7 ways you could use wale fat, and the 3 interesting items (detailed over 5 pages) of the nose of the wale. Awful, awful writing. I know many will be afraid to say that, or aghast to read this analysis, but this is the truth. The man needed an editor, and he needed one badly. This should be one of the best stories from a skilled writer in the history of the English language, instead it sinks down to what amounts to a sad disaster and a squandering of the readers’ time and attention. Pride, and bad editing.

James Madison: A Life Reconsidered – This was interesting and helpful in that I needed to learn more about Madison. But its also overly friendly and mostly an argument for the greatness of Madison than a fair and unbiased accounting of his work. It also lacks somewhat from time to time, and I can’t quite put a finger on why…almost as if the writing style or the personal look at Madison vanishes, and in its place come perfunctory 9th grade history lessons. Still, I learned a lot about Madison, and found him interesting and important for the founding of our nation.

Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution – Very interesting book. Interesting historical detours, good research, and pretty good writing as well. It really is a screed though! Not overly obnoxious though, considering its a diatribe. And I like that it is not simply a GOP pamphlet in disguise. Everyone gets roasted. His suggestions for change are woefully lacking and where they appear they’re not very impression. Still, I found myself agreeing with much of what he has to say.

God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs – I can’t recommend this strong enough. I really enjoyed the book, and found in Keller’s writing a great deal of helpful explanation and teaching. Winsome and thoughtful, this is some of the best writing on the Proverbs that I’ve taken in.

The Case Against Sugar – This one really educated me, and I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. It’s pretty well written, and not what I thought it would be – I was expecting some complex argument or some soapbox screed, but it was neither. It was more of a history and a journalistic deep dive than anything. Taubes allows you to draw your own conclusions, but he definitely is making a case against ingesting any sugar! And…by the time you finish the book, its hard not to agree with his assessments.

The Riches of Divine Wisdom – There is a great deal of help and good that is done in this volume. It’s approachable and pretty well written. I think you could read this without having a ton of theological training or even a ton of Biblical training. My main complaint amongst all the helpfulness of this book, is that the classification of the Abramatic Covenant as unconditional, and how that plays out in the rest of his assumptions, isn’t very helpful. The unconditional/conditional nomenclature is in need to revision, I think, because it can lead you away from the correct conclusions that God did have expectations of a faithful covenant partner (Abraham) and that when Abraham failed, God took upon himself the penalty for that failure. Thus it was conditional – and God fulfilled the conditions. It seems unconditional in that we receive the benefits based on conditions God has met for us as we place faith in him. So the nomenclature needs reworked. I also didn’t agree that Gen. 15 and 17 represent two separate covenants, but I won’t go into that here! Despite these things, Gooding is very helpful and interesting and provides many great reasons for Christians to study the Old Testament, and many helpful tools to use in that study.

That’s it! There were many others that I just couldn’t take the time time mention here. And, I mean frankly if you’ve read this far you deserve a medal anyway!

Have a great weekend – and happy reading in 2019!

PJW

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

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