April 26th, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ruthie!

My cousins, Mark and Ruthie, and me
Happy birthday to my dear cousin!

She walks about with gentle step; in sight,
Her tresses flowing o’er her shoulder, streams.
The airy sound of joy, her laughter, light;
Reserv’d she is and quietly she speaks.
A servant true, a tender heart, she cares
For little children too: she sets aside
Her own desires and in their play she shares.
She labours hard and well, has not denied
Her work: while others sport and jest attends
She to those things which make a home go ’round.
She loves the Lord and in His Word she spends
Her time; though perfect she is not, I’ve found
     A humble spirit, sweet and kind—and this,
     A lady true, a lady through, she is.

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April 24th, 2012

Book Review: “Pride and Prejudice,” by Jane Austen

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
It is also a truth no less-universally acknowledged that this book is extremely famous, popular, admired, and acclaimed. Upon finishing the book, however, I am left with no palpable reason why. The book is entertaining enough; but not, to my mind, of such heights as to merit the degree of attention it has received far and above those which some of its contemporary novels have enjoyed. It certainly didn’t strike me as such (though perhaps the fact that I had to read it for schoolwork had something to do with it…). When I mentioned my opinion to a friend, she replied that its popularity is due to the wit and dramatic irony in the book. Perhaps this is the case.
The story chronicles the matrimonial endeavors and adventures of the Bennet family: Mrs. Bennet; Mr. Bennet; and their five daughters—Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia (oldest to youngest). Elizabeth, as we see through the twists and turns of the plot, develops rather quickly a stiff prejudice against one Mr. Darcy, who is so very proud and haughty and cold to everybody. In the end though, she realizes how her prejudice was unfounded, that Mr. Darcy has overcome his pride and really is a wonderful fellow after all; and they are married, and the story ends.
Mr. Darcy was not particularly memorable; not, at least, to me. I suspect from what a friend once told me that the Darcy-worship in culture today is a reaction to the screen presentations of that character—in other words, Colin Firth-worship—but I can’t say for certain one way or another. What I can say though, is that Darcy is a decent enough fellow once he overcomes his pride. (Honestly, though, I think there are other fictitious men who have stronger characters than Mr. Darcy: Colonel Brandon, for one, or perhaps Dickens’s Arthur Clennam.)
I think Pride and Prejudice is overrated. Like I said above, it’s an enjoyable enough story, but ultimately I thought it somewhat underwhelming (though interesting to be sure at times). Right now at least, while the book may indeed have its well-deserved merits, I don’t see them yet; and regardless, my children would at least need to have the necessary underlying grasp of emotional purity (and likewise the emotional maturity) for me to even consider letting them read it.
LANGUAGE: I think there are probably five or less examples of blasphemy sprinkled throughout.
AGE RANGE: The reader at least needs to have the maturity and discernment to have a good understanding of the principles of emotional purity. Whether or not the girl has this maturity or not is best known by her parents.

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April 20th, 2012

“Love Story Meets Viva La Vida,” by Steven Sharp Nelson & Jon Schmidt

Every once in a while we run across music that, for some reason, sends thrills down our spines.
More often than not, Jon Schmidt and Steven Sharp Nelson manage to do that to me—and this is one of those songs. I love the performance, the orchestration (if you can call it that), the mashing-up of the two songs. The staggered metallic percussion that starts around 4:28. The percussive piano. The pizzicato cello.
These guys are so creative. What’s next?

Note: Neither of these two songs are great, from a lyrical standpoint. For example: the only redeeming element of the first one, “Love Story,” is that the guy goes to the dad in the end before he asks the girl to marry him—but I’m not posting this song for the false ideas contained in the original lyrics. The point is this arrangement of the music.

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April 16th, 2012

Book Review: “What Would Jesus Drink?,” by Joel McDurmon

“Joel McDurmon is my kind of conservative believer. He is willing to go where the Bible says we may go, even if that is the wine aisle of the supermarket. He is willing to sit down with the apostles to share a meal, even if the establishment serving lunch has beer on tap. He is willing to drink what the Bible says we may drink. And in this book, he does a fine job of setting before us the scriptural reason for all of this. He begins where all our lessons in eating and drinking ought to begin, which is with the Lord’s Supper, and he moves on to discuss the words the Holy Spirit chose to reveal His will on the subject. He then turns to address some common objections, which you have probably heard before. This is a small book, but there is a lot here.” — from the foreword by Douglas Wilson

This is a great book on the subject of alcohol. Is prohibitionism biblical? Is it sinful to consume alcohol? Or is it not only allowed, but also sanctioned in Scripture? Joel McDurmon argues, that yes, it is sanctioned and even blessed as a gift of God.
In this book, McDurmon takes the reader through Scripture and covers many topics relating to alcohol. Did Jesus drink wine? Did He approve its use? What does Scripture say about drunkenness? If it’s at least allowable to physically consume wine, beer, etc., is it alright to enjoy it? What about the weaker brother? The author answers these questions and many more (as well as prohibitionist arguments) in these small 128 pages.
This book is not so much a negative defense against prohibitionism, as much as it is a case for the biblical, moderate enjoyment of one of God’s gifts to us—a gift that also has spiritual symbolism. What Would Jesus Drink? is a brief but thorough treatment of the subject and is highly recommended—even if you’re already in favor of partaking of fermented drinks.
INDECENCY: Chapter 4, “Wine, Women, and Song,” specifically deals with the connections made in the Song of Solomon between wine, marital relations, and pleasure; and while what he says is entirely biblical and sound, McDurmon is no prude and certainly doesn’t shy away from the graphic depictions of marital love found in Song of Solomon. (If reading aloud, a father may elect to significantly abbreviate this chapter if he has young children present.) In another section of the book the author mentions the damage drunkenness will do to a man’s reproductive system.
AGE RANGE: Older young adults; but as in all cases, parental discernment is required when letting a son or daughter read this book. A parent especially needs to take into consideration the chapter on “Wine, Women, and Song” and the potential reader’s maturity in that area.

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April 8th, 2012

“In Christ Alone,” by Keith and Kristyn Getty


In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied—
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
Words and music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

He is risen! (He is risen indeed!)

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April 5th, 2012

Psalm 22

To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, a psalm of David.

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season and am not silent.

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.

They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.

But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.

All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,

He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.

I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.

Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.

They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.

They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.

Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.

Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.

For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.

The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.

All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.

For the kingdom is the LORD’s: and he is the governor among the nations.

All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.

A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.

They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

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April 2nd, 2012

Book Review: “Rise to Rebellion,” by Jeff Shaara

“In 1770, the fuse of revolution is lit by a fateful command—“Fire!”—as England’s peacekeeping mission ignites into the Boston Massacre. The senseless killing of civilians leads to a tumultuous trial in which lawyer John Adams must defend the very enemy who has assaulted and abused the laws he holds sacred.
The taut courtroom drama soon broadens into a stunning epic of war as King George III leads a reckless and corrupt government in London toward the escalating abuse of his colonies. Outraged by the increasing loss of their liberties, an extraordinary gathering of America’s most inspiring characters confronts the British presence with the ideals that will change history….
More than a powerful portrait of the people and purpose of the Revolution, Rise to Rebellion is a vivid account of history’s most pivotal events. The Boston Tea Party, the battles of Concord and Bunker Hill—all are re-created with the kind of breathtaking detail only a master like Jeff Shaara can muster. His most impressive achievement, Rise to Rebellion reveals with new immediacy how philosophers became fighters, ideas their ammunition, and how a scattered group of colonies became the United States of America.” — from the inside flaps

Jeff Shaara writes historical fiction, and he’s good at it, too. Not only that, but his books are actually appropriate to read—and what’s more, he has an honest appreciation of history, and dislikes it when the revisionists try to throw mud on the truly great men of the past. For those reasons, he is, in my opinion, one of the best historical fiction writers alive today.
His main characters are real people: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Gage. As such, he realizes he has an enormous duty to be very careful with the words he puts in their mouths and the way he portrays them, and he accordingly spends a tremendous amount of time researching each character. I’m thankful for that. Mr. Shaara is a breath of fresh air in a world where the historical must be made the sensational, the salacious, the sacrilegious. Mr. Shaara has respect for the great characters in our history; and for that, I respect him.
As it’s the first book of two on the War for Independence, I prefer to think of Rise to Rebellion as an Act 1 rather than as a stand-alone book; for while very little major, explosive action happens here, the stage is set, the characters are introduced, and the conflict emerges. A good deal of the book is taken up in showing the rumblings of war, culminating in the historic events on July 2, 1776.
While we certainly see action in battle, discussion plays a key role in the book—just as discussion was key in the development of the conflict in real life. Nevertheless, Mr. Shaara has a peculiar ability, I think, to make such conversation interesting. While the great discussions of the Continental Congress develop the conflict, the small talk between great men develop their characters. I believe he does an excellent job of humanizing the giants of history.
Mr. Shaara writes for adults; and because of this, his books are on a bit more of a mature level, written for more mature readers, than G.A. Henty’s or Douglas Bond’s are. Regardless, even though he doesn’t write for young people, per se, this is a great book that I can comfortably recommend to that audience.
INDECENCY: Almost none. There are a couple of scenes in which Franklin is unclothed in his room with the window open, as this is a peculiar aspect of his philosophy of health; fortunately, his nudity is not the emphasis of either scene—it just happens to be the case, and is handled tactfully. (Again, I believe it’s the author’s attempts to be honest with the men of history—warts and all—that is responsible for it being in the book.)
LANGUAGE: In my opinion, it’s comparatively mild. Thankfully, Mr. Shaara uses discretion with the language, and it often depends on how profane any given character was in real life. That said, the Lord’s name is taken in vain from time to time; probably more common, however, are d*mn, hell, and, to a lesser degree, bl**dy. On a rare occasion some other word will show up; but overall, for having been written in modern times, the book is pretty good about language. NOTE: Washington takes the Lord’s name in vain twice (maybe three times) and uses the d-word. I highly doubt he would have done so in real life.
AGE RANGE: It always depends on the parent’s evaluation of the child’s maturity. I would say Mr. Shaara is a step above G. A. Henty; and with that in mind, I’d probably let my thirteen- or fourteen-year-old read it.

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