December 02, 2020

Review: The Superstition of Divorce by G.K. Chesterton


The Superstition of DivorceThe Superstition of Divorce by G.K. Chesterton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The original articles toward the front are typically brilliant Chesterton. The chapters he adds in addition to the original articles are good, though perhaps a bit tedious in comparison.

The thing I found primarily fascinating was less his arguments, and more the fact that he saw this as a problem 100 years ago, at a time which many of a conservative bent today look back upon as some sort of golden age. But modernity and its individualism at the expense of the family was already doing the destructive work which we now see in fuller fruition.

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November 25, 2020

Review: The Meateater Fish and Game Cookbook by Steven Rinella


The Meateater Fish and Game Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques for Every Hunter and AnglerThe Meateater Fish and Game Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques for Every Hunter and Angler by Steven Rinella
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The recipes are good, the introductions to different varieties of game and how to properly butcher are educational, and the photography is beautiful. Worthy of a place on your coffee table, if you weren't busy using it in the kitchen.

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November 18, 2020

Review: The Coaching Habit by Michal Bungay Stanier


The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead ForeverThe Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a thin, very broken up book. It reads a little like a coaching seminar. So if you're looking for a long book with lots of careful argumentation and footnotes, this isn't for you.

However, if you're looking for a quick and easy read with some solid takeaways, then Stanier has written a helpful little manual for you. I personally struggle in conversation, due largely to what he calls the Advice Monster. I want to jump in and speak, rather than asking follow up questions and drilling down where the other person is coming from, in pursuit of helping them come to their own conclusions. He offers helpful tools to combat that tendency.

Also, as a tool tip, all 7 questions are listed on page 200. Might want to dog-ear that page for future reference.

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November 11, 2020

Review: Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor by D.A. Carson


Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom CarsonMemoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson by D.A. Carson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a bivocational, small-town church planter, this was hugely encouraging. Tom Carson, and many men like him over the centuries, labored in relative obscurity. Often having little observable success. But God sees their labors, and as the writer to the Hebrews says, he is not so unjust as to forget them. So keep reading your Bible, ministering to people with that Bible, and trust that the Lord who sent you will work. Be faithful to the end. May the Lord raise up more men like this in our day.

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Speak No Evil

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. Titus 3:1-2

The World We're In

We're coming, as a nation, out of the most contentious election cycle in a number of years. While negative ads and trying to make it seem like voting for the other side would be an awful idea are nothing new, this year did seem to elevate the level of rancor that we've seen, at least compared to elections that I've observed (which reaches back to Clinton/Dole, 24 years ago).

But while this tactics are certainly nothing new, it seemed the volume was pushed up to eleven this year. Part of that, undoubtedly, was that fact that this is 2020. The year of coronavirus, the year of shutdowns and a massive economic downturn, the year of rising deaths and the burden of facing all this trauma disconnected from so many we know and love. If you voted for Trump, you were for his horrible COVID response and you may as well be a murderer. If you voted for Biden, you were trying to shut down small businesses and starve the small business owner and his family. Or so the narratives went (and continue to go). 

And of course, it wasn't just at the top of the ballot. Here in Iowa we had what was expected to be a close Senate race (though it turned out to not to be). So we were bombarded in every way, TV, radio, Youtube, traditional mailed flyers. All proclaiming the various virtues and horrors of Theresa Greenfield and Joni Ernst. But do you know what my 7 year old was able to identify, that I fear many adults miss? That all this advertisement is so much smoke, no actual information is being conveyed, and so it's useless to listen to any of it if you want to know the truth. That wasn't quite her wording. I believe the exact statement she made to her little brothers was, "don't listen boys, they're saying opposite things so we can't tell which is telling the truth." 

And she's exactly right. Of course the unhidden secret in all political advertising is that it depends on lies, half-truths, and painting things in such a way as to make your opponent seem as awful as possible. There is no sense in which politicians are out there seeking to uphold what Jesus calls the second greatest commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.

How Ought Christians Speak?

Into this reality busts a passage like Titus 3:1-2. Paul there tells believers to speak evil of no one. Did he just mean the people who look like you or vote like you? If so, would he really have needed to make a point of saying this? No, Paul says to speak evil of no one, because he knows we are often out to make ourselves look better by putting others down. It gives us a feeling of moral superiority. And that is a dangerous feeling in political discourse, because it moves the conversation from "I disagree with you, and here's why" to "you are a bad person, because of your evil intentions. You monster." 

I wish how I described that was exaggerative. But I feel I may have muted how vile our discourse has become. 

As a Christian, of course, this sort of thing should never surprise me. A youth pastor friend of mine called it "the world being the world." And this is apt. But what does disturb me is when the world is setting the tone and agenda for those inside the church. Brothers and sisters, it should not be so.

Speak evil of no one. That doesn't mean we fail to call evil ideas evil. It doesn't mean that we don't speak out against injustice. Far from it, if someone if walking in sin the role of the Christian is often to clearly speak the truth in love. In love. Because both truth and love find their source in God, you can't actually have a truthless love or a loveless truth. The absence of one diminishes the other. And so when we are told to speak evil of no one we are being called to treat others as if they are what they are: image bearers of God. Those who have been made in God's likeness (James 3:9). Even if we have profound disagreements with a person we are never given license to speak in a way that is derisive, that mars to truth to our advantage, or seeks to unfairly score points. Speak evil, speak falsehood, speak unfounded accusations of no one.

November 04, 2020

Review: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger


Peace Like a RiverPeace Like a River by Leif Enger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book I had picked up for dirt cheap when a book store I shopped was going out of business and the owner was begging me to fill bags with books. It then say on my shelf neglected and always perilously close to becoming the victim of one of my occasional book purges, until I ran across a few reviews that led me to think I ought to give it a read.

Very glad I did.

The story had me gripped, and Enger's prose moves between good and very good. My heart was often tugged, and I felt every jarring blow to the back that Reuben Land takes. We'll worth your time.

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October 28, 2020

Review: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain


The Adventures of Tom SawyerThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The obvious issues that a 21st century reader will have with Twain: racism, sexist stereotypes, etc. But, man, that dude was funny. With an uncanny knack for capturing human nature, especially the nature of boyhood. It moves a little slow at points, but if you like to laugh this is worth your while.

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October 21, 2020

Review: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass


Narrative of the Life of Frederick DouglassNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Douglass was a compelling writer with a powerful story. The temptation for our day is to look backwards and to say, how could do many people have acted in such an evil way. But to quote a recent George Will column, it wasn't hard. Human nature is bent toward such evil, and the evil if today simply takes a different form. But we should be genuinely thankful that the forms of Douglass' day are seen for the genuine hellishness that was present.

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October 14, 2020

Review: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain


A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's CourtA Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's Twain, so there is plenty of humor, some of it side splitting. The satiric treatment of slavery deftly brings forth the folly not only of the institution, but of the underlying racism.

It is also a somewhat tedious book. The lists (which Twain can use to great humor, as in Roughing It) got a little out of hand at times.

A good audiobook option to laugh away a commute or job where listening to books is an option.

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October 07, 2020

Review: On All Sides Nowhere by William Gruber


On All Sides Nowhere: Building a Life in Rural IdahoOn All Sides Nowhere: Building a Life in Rural Idaho by William Gruber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is part memoir, part American History, part anthropology, and part philosophy. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As someone who grew up driving and hiking around Alder Creek and living at the foot of the Benewah in the early 2000s, I found this a fascinating glimpse into life in 1970s Idaho.

Gruber, as an outsider, has the perspective to notice the peculiarities of life up Alder. But he doesn’t write them up sarcastically or condescendingly. He writes from a perspective of love for the place and its people.

Well worth the time.


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About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (remsenbible.com).