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Showing posts from 2013

Book review -- Messiah: Origin

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Messiah: Origin, a graphic novel by Matt Dorff and Mark Arey and illustrated by Kai Carpenter, tells the story of Jesus through pictures, with minimal words. The words that are used are all Scripture, taken from all 4 Gospels. In this, the earthly life and ministry of Jesus is depicted in pictures and words in a way I've never seen before, and I like it.

This is not the first  graphic novel depicting bible stories, and this is not the first narrative to combine the Gospels into one story. But as far as I know, this is the first time those two techniques have been used to tell this story.  And it's a compelling read.

I must confess, I didn't go into this book with high expectations. And when I hear the phrase "graphic novel", my first thought is that it's a nice way of saying "comic book for adults".  But I was way off. Being able to read the words of the Bible, accompanied by the illustrations, added a dimension to the experience which brought more …

My Problem With Ted Cruz and the Government Shutdown

I've been mostly avoiding politics in this blog, but will jump in: I'm not happy with the efforts of Republican congresshumans to refuse to pass a budget unless Obamacare is defunded.

Obamacare is an awful piece of legislation, and will do more harm to our nation than its proponents can fathom. But it is the law, and it was passed fair and square. Republicans are wrong to use the budget approval process to try to strike it down.  Democrats have tried similar tactics in the past. It's wrong no matter who does it.

Obamacare passed. It's the law. They got more votes than we did. Them's the rules. When we start saying "I don't care what the majority voted for, I'm going to hold my breath till I get my way", we are no better than 3rd-world countries.

If you don't like a law, vote it out. That's how democracy works. Don't try an end-around.

Book review: NIV College Devotional Bible

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As part of Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program, I recently received a copy of Zondervan's NIV College Devotional Bible for review purposes.

I'm not a fan of the NIV translation, but I really like the way this bible is put together. The 200+ devotionals are well written, and applicable to anyone, not just college students. The devotionals often use extra-biblical stories to illustrate the point. For example, next to the story about Jesus overturning the tables of the moneychangers outside the temple, there is a devotional about righteous anger. As an illustration, it refers to Florence Nightingale and her observations at the appalling conditions for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, and how her anger at the situation led to her personal life mission to care for the sick and injured.

This parable-based approach is like to work for anyone, but particularly those at this age, an age that most people are learning the importance of making their life count for something. …

Ranking Batman

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Before Miley Cyrus stole the spotlight Sunday night, approximately 75% of the nation's Internet's bandwidth was being consumed by comments about the selection of Ben Affleck as Batman in the upcoming "Batman vs Superman" movie.  Most of the talk was negative, some supportive, and some was just funny. (The best line: "I've just seen Christian Bale going to Affleck's apartment with some Huey Lewis records and an axe.")

The protests kept coming, drowning out admonitions from level-headed people like myself to just. calm. down. We're talking about a fictional character, people.

As one of the few who refused to contribute to the vitriol, I could step back and notice some things about the way these discussions were going. Besides the Bennifer and Daredevil references, the bulk of the protests (and even some of the pro-Affleck comments) focused on comparisons:

"Ben Affleck will be the worst Batman since that fat guy in the ill-fitting suit.&quo…

Does Anyone Still Listen to Entire Albums In Order?

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In a recent tweet, Rosanne Cash said that she is obsessing over the order of songs for her new album:

Resequencing my record for 94th time even tho only 5 people in the universe listen to a record in sequence now. Don't care, obsessing anyway
— rosanne cash (@rosannecash) August 23, 2013 Within a minute, she received over 100 replies from fans (including myself) who still find value in listening to whole albums, in order.

I don't do it all the time, of course. Listening to various songs by different artists is how music fans have listened to the radio for longer than I have been alive. Clearly, there's no harm is doing the same with our personal music collections.

But some albums are so well put together, and have a common theme running throughout, that they actually have a stronger impact when heard in their entirety, in the intended sequence.

It's a matter of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.


My favorite CD's to listen to in order (ironically,…

Here is What's Doing the Most Damage to Christiantiy These Days

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If you were asked to name the single biggest threat to American Christianity these days, what would it be?

Some will argue that laws curtailing free speech are doing the most damage to Christians today.

Some will argue that changing marriage laws and acceptance of various sexual sins are a bigger threat.

Some Christians seem to think that it's those Target employees who say "Happy Holidays" and find other ways to secularize Christmas.

From where I stand, none of the items listed above, which all originate from sources outside the Church, has as much potential to do the most damage to the cause of Christ and the work of the Church in America as this one thing, and it's coming from within:

Christians refusing to see God as He is, and replacing the real God with one which makes them most comfortable. 

The most uncomfortable, difficult thing to accept about God is His anger, and the most difficult thing for 21st-Century American believers to accept is that we are to fea…

My Burnside Writers Essays

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Toward the end of Donald Miller's "Blue Like Jazz", the author mentions Burnside Writers Collective, a website he created with friends, in order to create a web presence for aspiring young Christian writers who tend to be a little Left of Center.

While I am neither young nor left of center, I have been privileged to have some of my writing published at BWC. Here's a list:

How God Will Use Unimpressive People

The Tenth Anniversary of 9/11

Book Review: Billy Coffey's "When Mockingbirds Sing"

God Expresses His Love For Me and Offers to Heal the Wounds of Fatherlessness

Why I Voted For Mitt Romney

The Value Of the Hurts In Our Lives

My Disagreement with Springsteen's "Glory Days"

A Lesson I Learned From Little League


In addition to those, I have participated in Cross Talk, a series of  discussions in which Emily Timbol (Reaves) and I have talked out our disagreements on important theological/political topics:

When Is It OK To Use the Word "Homop…

When Mockingbirds Sing, by Billy Coffey: A Review

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Through Thomas Nelson Publishing's Booksneeze program, I obtained a free copy of Billy Coffey's "When Mockingbirds Sing" for review purposes. I'm free to give my honest take on this book. This paragraph is here to make the IRS happy.

I started reading Coffey's blog about 2 years ago, and along the way, I read his first two novels, "Snow Day" and "Paper Angels". The former is a nice first effort, while the 2nd is not only an improvement, but with it, he demonstrated an ability to walk the fine line between saying something profound and not trying to sound like he's trying to be profound.

"When Mockingbirds Sing" continues in that direction, but the result goes from being merely good to remarkable. The author manages to tell a compelling story that contains important truths without the reader feeling he's being preached to.

I've never written a novel, but it seems to me that the difficulty of writing fiction for the Ch…

Book review--7 Men, by Eric Metaxas

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Eric Metaxas' new book, Seven Men, and the Secret of their Greatness, is designed for the audience of his two best-known books, biographies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce. "Seven Men" contains 7 mini-biographies of those two, plus George Washington, Chuck Colson, Jackie Robinson, Eric Liddell, and Pope John Paul II.  The length of each subject's story (20-36 pages) will make this book appeal  to many of those readers who want to know about someone's life without going into the kind of details found in full-length biographies which typically only are appreciated by enthusiastic fans and historians.

Although this book is intended for adults, the brevity of each bio makes it perfect for teens and preteens. My 11-yr-old son enjoyed it as much as I did. More important than the stories themselves, especially when it's being read by a boy about to become a man, is the theme which binds the 7 stories together: that the world needs courageous men, wil…

I Am Legend: Someone Please Help Me Understand

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I recently watched "I Am Legend" for the first time in a couple of years, and the 2nd time ever. I'm not a big zombie-movie guy, but this one is different. My first time watching this film left me satisfied with the notion that I had seen a well-thought-out, intelligent movie, not afraid to pull punches nor to explore important topics that go way beyond typical zombie/apocalyptic movie fare.

The second go-round, though, was disappointing. I noticed plot holes so blaring, so huge, they could not be ignored. I was left with an uneasy feeling that I had been duped the first time around, tricked into thinking I was watching something thought-provoking and cleverly put-together.

I'm holding out hope that the incongruencies I observed were based on some misunderstanding on my part. That's why I am inviting you, the reader, to help explain to me those items which are troubling me, and to assure me that the "I Am Legend" plot is not as full of holes as it appe…

Grammatically Correct Song Titles

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Here we are: the moment you've all been waiting for. The unveiling of my Top Ten list of song titles (or well-known lyrics), corrected to reflect proper grammar:

10. There isn't any sunshine when she's gone.

9. I'm traveling along a highway, simultaneously thinking about seven different women, four of whom are possessive, two who are insincere and one who is a friend.

8.  I can't get any satisfaction.

7. We don’t need any education.

6. Your mother doesn't dance, nor does your father rock and/or roll.

5. There isn't anything that is going to stop us now.

4. Lie Down Sally.

3. I Still Haven't Found That for Which I Am Looking

2. Whip It Well.



and the Number One grammatically correct song title of all time:

(drum roll)

1. You're nothing, if not a hound dog.

The Problem I'm Having Regarding the Gun Control Debate

I like Facebook. While its usefulness may be debatable, there's no doubt that it can be enjoyable for those of us who like to engage in dialog. Whether it's a silly joke or a more serious topic, if there's a discussion going on regarding something I'm even mildly interested in, I want to jump in.

The last few months, countless discussions have come up regarding gun control, and how much our laws should be changed. Thing is, I have many friends who take both sides of the issue. All of them truly believe that if people will see things their way, more lives will be saved, and if their views are ignored, then more lives will be lost. And that's fine.  Passion about something you care about is a good thing.

That said, I saw something on Facebook last week that, several days later, is still very troubling to me. Before I tell you what it is, I want to be clear that I agree with those who say that:
(1) our Constitution gives citizens the right to protect themselves with …

Book Review: Things Not To Say To Someone Who Has Cancer, by Jo Hilder

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Jo Hilder, a cancer survivor who lives in Australia, has written  something we all should read. I say all of us because, statistically, just about everyone reading this will know someone who faces cancer. I know I have a tendency to say insensitive things from time to time in all situations, but cancer is a situation which especially requires sensitivity.  Judging by the fact that Jon Acuff's "Stuff Christians Like" blog post about the same topic received hundreds of comments last June, this is a subject which needs addressing.

Hilder's experience as a cancer patient gave her an insight that we all can learn from, of course. But I have to say that when I read the title, I was afraid the book would be taking on a lecturing tone and would shine a light on all the buffoonish things I have said over the years. I am glad to say I was wrong.  "Things Not to Say to Someone Who Has Cancer" never condescends, never lectures, and never makes the reader feel discour…

Book Review: Everything, by Mary DeMuth

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Although I was unfamiliar with Mary DeMuth prior to reading the free review copy of "Everything", I'm now a big fan of her work. I quoted from it in this post when I was part of the way into the book.

The main point of the book is simply to make Jesus your everything. That sounds so easy, so cliche, and certainly sounds like something that has been said before. It begs the question:  Why write a book like that? It can't possibly contain any original thoughts, right?

Wrong.  I've been a Christian for a long time, and heard thousands of sermons and read more books than I can count, but I've never heard anyone put it like DeMuth does. The purpose of this book isn't to pretend to come up with new ideas about how to live life. It's more like a compass: coupled with a map, it helps the reader re-orient and get back to a place where he can find True North and then find his way back to where he should be.

"Everything" is a breath of fresh air. At t…