Friday, February 29, 2008

William F. Buckley

A brilliant man was lost to this world, and one hopes, finds rest in the next. Of all the recent tributes I have read about the amazing accomplishments and brilliant mind of Buckley, I like this quote, which I have stolen from Ben at HouseBlog, courtesy of GG:

I am asked most frequently by members of the lecture audience, 'What is conservatism?' Sometimes the questioner, guarding against a windy evasiveness one comes to expect from lecturers, will add, 'preferably in one sentence.' On which I have replied, 'I could not give you a definition of Christianity in one sentence, but that does not mean Christianity is undefinable...

Yet I feel I know, if not what conservatism is, at least who a conservative is. I confess that I know who is a conservative less surely than I know who is a liberal. Blindfold me, spin me about like a top, and I will walk up to the single liberal in the room without zig or zag and find him even if he is hiding behind the flower pot. I am tempted to try to develop an equally sure nose for the conservative, but I am deterred by the knowledge that conservatives, under the stress of our times, have had to invite all kinds of people into their ranks to help with the job at hand, and the natural courtesy of the conservative causes him to treat such people not as janissaries, but as equals; and so empirically, it becomes difficult to see behind the khaki, to know surely whether that is a conservative over there doing what needs to be done, or a radical, or merely a noisemaker, or pyrotechnician, since our ragtag army sometimes moves together in surprising uniformity, and there are exhilarating moments when everyone's eye is Right...
~W. F. Buckley, Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?
If you missed the Charlie Rose show from Wednesday night (February 27), you can watch much of it here. It was both elucidating and moving. The ending section is below:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


At left is a stack of books recently donated to my worldviews library. (Thanks, MAL!) These will be well used when I return to teaching worldviews next fall, D.V. {And D. V. stands for Deo volente in Latin, or Lord willing; it is an acknowledgment that the best laid plans are subject to the will of God...}

I ran across a rather horrifying story and some interesting commentary on the subject here today. This confirms the uneasiness I have felt for some time regarding transplant issues (which came to a head a few months ago when a friend lost her daughter in an automobile accident. This also confirms the need for Christians to think carefully about a biblical response to issues, not just theological, but medical, ethical, economic, etc. And it thus confirms my plan to teach another young group of students how to think from a Biblical perspective, stand up for their faith, and be wise citizens and clear witnesses in this broken world. May the Lord be pleased to bring fruit from such labor, and may He raise up an army of young adults ready to confront the culture for Christ!

And lastly, now for something completely different... Thanks to DesertMom for alerting me to the following hysterical video from YouTube. Any of you who have been subjected to children practicing violin will appreciate this....

Wednesday Without Words

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Final Winter Reading Challenge Update

Well, it's almost the end of February, and time for my final Winter Reading Challenge update.

I finished Ender's Shadow, by Orson Scott Card last night. What a fun story. Card writes sparsely, but weaves an interesting tale. This book follows the first book, Ender's Game, and tells the same story from the viewpoint of a different character (Bean), thus accomplishing a fleshing out of the story that couldn't be done in one novel from one viewpoint, but still is full of twists and turns and plain old fun. I believe Card is a Mormon, but his spiritual sensibilities are a welcome addition to the story, where a person of faith is not treated as either ignorant or a manipulator, and where the big questions in life are not the butt of jokes. This was just fun!

Still in the "slogging through" pile are Helprin's Soldier of the Great War (about half-way through this almost 800-pager) and just into the first section of Roper's The Writer's Workshop. More on this one as I get a little bit more into it...

Left untouched is Bonfire of the Humanities alone. I'll set that aside for another day.

You can see my full list (and all the rest are completed!) in the side bar, with links to my reviews of them. As I glance through the list, Life at the Bottom was probably the best of the list. Dalrymple is an amazing writer. The one I enjoyed the least was Blue Like Jazz. Many thanks to Kathleen for getting me reading this winter!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sovereign Grace Music

Living as I do, in the high plains desert of the Southwest, isolated and out of touch with things, I have only recently become aware of Sovereign Grace Ministries' wonderful music for worship. They are currently having a great sale: each CD is just $6, and shipping is FREE. But it's only good for the rest of February, so waste no time in picking up some of these wonderful resources.

"You and You Alone" is a newly released CD by father/son duo Pat and Joel Sczebel. One of the great features of the CD is that it is enhanced, you can print off the lead sheets and chord charts right from the CD. And these songs have characteristically strong lyrics that make them great for worship, either with a group or in your homes. I know several of these will make their way into our Sunday evening worship times!

"Upward" is a set of lovely hymn arrangements and rewritten tunes for wonderful old words from the pen of Bob Kauflin. I have a been a fan of his fine musical gifts since his wonderful arrangements for the group, Glad. And I am thrilled to find his work carrying on here in beauty.

"Valley of Vision" is subtitled, "Songs for worship inspired by the classic book of Puritan prayers". the songs are lovely, and the performances beautiful.

Sovereign Grace Ministries has a searchable song database where you can download free lead sheets and chord charts, buy Mp3 downloads, etc., here. And they have many more titles available. So waste no time in scooping up some of these delightful CDs to enhance your worship times.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sabbath Sentiments

Lord Jesus,
If I love thee my soul shall seek thee, but can I seek thee unless my love to thee is kept alive to this end?
Do I Love thee because thou art good, and canst alone do me good?
It is fitting thou shouldst not regard me, for I am vile and selfish; yet I seek thee, and when I find thee there is no wrath to devour me, but only sweet love.
Thou dost stand as a rock between the scorching sun and my soul, and I live under the cool lee-side as one elect.
When my mind acts without thee it spins nothing but deceit and delusion; when my affections act without thee nothing is seen but dead works.
O how I need thee to abide in me, for I have no natural eyes to see thee, but I live by faith in one whose face to me is brighter than a thousand suns!
When I see that all sin is in me, all shame belongs to me; let me know that all good is in thee, all glory is thine.
Keep me from the error of thinking thou dost appear gloriously when some strange light fills my heart, as if that were the glorious activity of grace, but let me see that the truest revelation of thyself is when thou dost eclipse all my personal glory and all the honor, pleasure and good of this world.
The Son breaks out in glory when he shows himself as one who outshines all creation, makes men poor in spirit, and helps them to find their good in him.
Grant that I may distrust myself, to see my all in thee.

~Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, A. Bennet, ed.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Well, it is a cloudy Saturday in lovely Northern New Mexico. A night of light snow has given way to a morning of thunder and rain threats. There are cookies cooling on my stove, filling the house with delicious smells, a cup of strong black tea beside me, Simon and Garfunkle's Greatest Hits are on the CD player, and my dh (dear husband) in the next room on his computer, sharing little laughs and interesting web sites with me over IM. And youngest ds (dear son) resides across the country, but is cyber-visiting through another IM window, preparing to send me photos of last night's race. How good God is to give me such a life! On my dresser (at right) are the current quilting projects: some of the fabric for a new quilt, two completed double-sized tops with backing waiting to be pinned (at least one should be done today), and on top of the stack in the middle is my Block of the Month for Quilter's Guild.

I am personally so tired of presidential campaign analysis that it makes me feel nauseated. However, this week I ran across an interesting piece by Victor Davis Hanson that was insightful, I thought, and dead on the money.

Through my friend Renee I am now subscribing to a delightful feed from Daily Writing Tips. I think I will be using some of these with next year's composition students!

Also from Renee came this fun link to an amazing shopping excursion from Holland. Tunr on your speakers, and scroll over the page to get things started.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Amazing Ignorance

Along with the many depressing articles and books I've read lately comes this amazing little piece from NPR. My first surprise was that I have never thought of Mike Huckabee as a Biblical scholar and eloquent Biblical alluder. But secondly, what strikes me in this rather Jay-Leno-like article is that most of these folks claimed to be church-goers who attended Sunday School as children. Their ignorance of even obvious Biblical allusions is both astounding and sad. What were those Sunday Schools doing, anyway? Oh yes-- crafts and snacks, I guess. How horrifying that the church today in the West has forgotten its call, and totally confused its priorities. And let's forget the church for the moment and ask what ever happened to being culturally and academically literate?

Literacy levels have always been spurred onward in cultures where the Word of God was being brought into the vulgar language, and the necessity of reading God's Word drove fervor for learning. Perhaps there is a connection between our plummeting literacy levels and the failure of the Church...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More on Milton

I am zipping along in my listening to Paradise Lost, and have enjoyed some discussion of Milton from a previous post. This put me in mind of how I use some other poetry by Milton in my composition class.

One of the things I do is teach through the progymnasmata in about three semesters, including the exercise of comparison. In comparison, of course, we pit two people or things against each other, discussing their similarities and differences, comparing their strengths and weaknesses, praising them for virtue (encomium) or blaming then for vice (invective). I use Milton's companion pieces (which may have, indeed, been formed by this experience of writing comparisons), L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, and we do a variety of things with them: first, we endeavor to understand the meaning behind the beauty of the language and the richness of the allusions, then we write essays that present the same ideas in prose, and finally write a comparison between the life of sociability and the life of contemplation. What fun!

If you like the idea of comparison, you can see the text and examples from the medieval grand-daddy of all rhetorical teachers, Aphthonius, here, and read his comparison of Achilles and Hector, along with his examples of the other progym exercises. Don't miss his invective on Phillip of Macedon: there is definitely no love lost there!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sabbath Sentiments: Jeremiah Burroughs

"To be skilled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory and excellence of the Christian. It is an art which must be learned. Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition."
~ Jeremiah Burroughs,

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hicks on Teacher/Student Relationship

"Classical education challenges both teacher and pupil: the one to justify his superior wisdom and intellectual skill; the other to win his teacher's praise by matching his performance. The personal element in their learning compensates for the lack of educational psychology, teaching aids, and learning paraphernalia. The pupil becomes a part of his teacher's own studies, his intimate relationship with the school teacher making him, perforce, even more than an observer—an assistant and participant in the ongoing inquiry. A lively dialectic arises, educating both. In truth, such mutual learning is the unavoidable, happy consequence of a profound and intimate relationship between the teacher and his pupil." (D. Hicks, Norms and Nobility, pg. 42)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Paradise Lost

Today as I took my walk, I began listening to an audio version of John Milton's "Paradise Lost". I have a new Mp3 player, and this is my first time to try it out. it made for a very enjoyable journey on this sunny, warm February morning!

Listening to the audio version while walking has the disadvantage of keeping me from running to my reference books to mine the treasure trove of Milton's allusions. I am pretty good at identifying the biblical allusions, but the myriad of classical ones leave me feeling pretty ignorant. The advantage to this is being forced to enjoy the language and the "big picture" of the themes orally. And while I don't think (after just Book 1) that I will be turning to Milton for theology, what language! I need to read more Milton, just for his beautiful and masterful use of language.

On of the quotes that really struck me for its clever wording and it's truth was this:
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.
(lines 254-255)

Isn't that the truth? I can manage quite completely to make a hell of this very blessed time or place in my life, despite the blessing. Or, I can take a miserable time and lift it to the Lord and sense his care even in the midst of struggling. What truth packed in two small lines!

And I like Gustav Dore's illustrations, btw.

Good News for Valentine's Day

As I posted the e e cummings poem below, I was listening to today's new testament reading from Matthew 27: the crucifixion of Christ. What an interesting juxtaposition! To be copying words that talk of carrying one in the heart, and then hearing words of how that carrying was played out on the cross by my Lord! I reread the cummings poem as if I were speaking to Christ, and then it occurred to me, it would be more like Christ speaking to me...He carried ME in his heart on that cross: he bore MY sins, paid MY penalty, and bore MY shame. And yet He does call me his dear, his darling, his beautiful. And that lead me to sing in my heart a real song for Valentine's Day:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself, so great his love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

~ Charles Wesley

Happy Valentine's Day

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

~e e cummings

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Sobering Movie

Last night we viewed the movie, "Hotel Rwanda". I have not studied the historical facts that this movie portrays, but know enough of the history of Africa to hear the truth is offers. It is a heart-breaking truth. I was reminded again of the former Zambian pastor Derek Carlson, who spoke at our church of the atrocities of the Mugabe government, or the more current situation in Kenya. I am reminded of the way Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, when he said, "How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!" (Matthew 23:37) I feel that sense of lamentation, and I wonder at how much God's heart must ache for His people in Africa.

This movie also reminded me of the older movie, "Tears of the Sun", also moving and difficult to watch, but perhaps a worthwhile reminder of what sinful men do to each other. And perhaps, by contrast, a reminder of the gratitude we owe to our Heavenly Father for his restraining influence in our world...without which we would all live in the tragic circumstances of a Rwanda, or a Zimbabwe, or a Kenya.

Wednesday Without Words

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On Godly Friends

I just ran across a post here that has me thinking hard this morning. It lists tough questions godly friends should ask each other. I promptly thought of the friends I most count on to function in this way and e-mailed it to them. While vulnerability in our lives is often uncomfortable, the type of community where these types of questions can be honestly asked and appreciated is vital to our growth as believers! May we each have such friends who will love enough to inflict what the book of proverbs calls the "wounds of a friend". I am certainly blessed by my friends!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Union University

We have several friends among the faculty, students, and community members in Jackson, TN, where last week a devastating tornado destroyed much of campus. Below is an eloquent statement of purpose and faith by Union's President, Dr. Dockery. Pray for the folks at Union.

The disturbing question of fetal pain

Here is an interesting article in the New York Times from yesterday, regarding the question of when, developmentally speaking, a fetus feels pain. There is much disturbing information in this article, and it raises many important questions. It reveals, for instance, that doctors used to perform open heart surgery (and other surgeries) on newborns without anesthetic based on their "medical" opinion that the nervous system of the newborn was not developed enough for them to "feel" pain. It also shows, I think, the motivation by the pro-choice movement to suppress the facts, as well as the investment in the medical community to maintain the status quo.

Any mother knows that newborns experience pain. It is a frightening world...

(Thanks to for mentioning this article...)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Song

Before the Throne of God Above
Music by Vikki Cook
Original lyrics by Charitie Less Bancroft

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there! The risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless, Righteousness
The Great unchangeable I AM
The King of Glory and of Grace
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God

© 1997 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP).

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


I thought that from time to time, I might post some of the fun or interesting or convicting things I am reading or running across on the information highway. As I thought about entitling such posts "miscellany", I thought it might be fun to picture some actual corner of my abode, and give you a feel for the miscellany I live with. Yes, I am actually working in this space: the computer desk in my bedroom. If you think this is a mess, you should be glad you can't see inside my mind...

Anyway, a few interesting, if unrelated, things:
So much to read, and so little time...especially when you read as slowly as I do!

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Wonderful Calvin Quote

I just ran across this quote, and HAD to share it...

“I consider looseness with words no less of a defect than looseness of the bowels”
~John Calvin

The Death of Pan

Here is one of my favorite short poems written by my ds Ben. Perhaps this shows a little of his Hopkins stage...

The Death of Pan

In a stunning stroke
executed with flawless form
the child fell
lifeless at the feet of experience.
Maturity, at the last,
triumphs, though less cruel than innocence,
and the brief brutality
of growing up
shapes shattered children
(with skilled, if cruel,
hands and immaculately
manicured, sharp nails)
into new knowledge.
Youth crucified redeems
the life of a man (provided
he still duels pirates
and can fly).

Roper on recognizing talented writers...

...We thought of the friends who had been the best young writers we knew: one could tell what they had been reading because their letters suddenly started sounding like Faulkner or Austen or even Beckett. They went on to have their own voices, but at some crucial stage after first fluency and before a fully developed prose, they imitated their way to good writing, strong writing with a supple, complex, alive voice. in other words, they had read carefully and deeply, apprenticing themselves to the marvelous writers they were encountering.
Could I teach this?...

So asks Gregory Roper in The Writer's Workshop: Imitating Your Way to Better Writing". And I say amen and amen! I'm just reading the introduction so far, and I am already tracking seriously with Dr. Roper, and hoping the rest will make good on his purpose.

I have observed this with students, and particularly with my man of letters son. He had distinct "periods", and as a young graduate student, still does to some extent: we had a Dickensian stage, then Conrad, then Dostoevsky, then T. S. Eliot, and e. e. cummings. And I recognize that this is what he was doing. And in my students, it is the ones who sound like Washington Irving when we are imitating him, and sound like L. M. Montgomery when you find out they have been reading about Anne, that are the most natural, effective writers. The ancients, after all, chose imitation not because they pulled it out of their imaginative hats and decided it was so (like so much that surrounds us in progressive education), but because they observed that it worked. Like ancient rhetorical theory, their observations made the basis of their "rules", and for hundreds of years these methods succeeded in teaching writers their craft. What arrogance for educators in the early twentieth century, armed with Darwinian theories of progress and goals to remake schools into factories, to discard such wisdom!

I'll post more from this book as I continue reading!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

A Sunday Song

My favorite hymn is one with beautiful words, written by Isaac Watts. It makes for excellent meditation any day of the week.

How Sweet and Awful Is the Place

1. How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

2. While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
"Lord, why was I a guest?"

3. "Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there's room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?"

4. 'Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

5. Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

6. We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Sabbath Sentiments

"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors."
--Romans 8:12

As God's creatures, we are all debtors to Him: to obey Him with all our body, and soul, and strength. Having broken His commandments, as we all have, we are debtors to His justice, and we owe to Him a vast amount which we are not able to pay. But of the Christian it can be said that he does not owe God's justice anything, for Christ has paid the debt His people owed; for this reason the believer owes the more to love. I am a debtor to God's grace and forgiving mercy; but I am no debtor to His justice, for He will never accuse me of a debt already paid. Christ said, "It is finished!" and by that He meant, that whatever His people owed was wiped away for ever from the book of remembrance. Christ, to the uttermost, has satisfied divine justice; the account is settled; the handwriting is nailed to the cross; the receipt is given, and we are debtors to God's justice no longer. But then, because we are not debtors to our Lord in that sense, we become ten times more debtors to God than we should have been otherwise. Christian, pause and ponder for a moment. What a debtor thou art to divine sovereignty! How much thou owest to His disinterested love, for He gave His own Son that He might die for thee. Consider how much you owe to His forgiving grace, that after ten thousand affronts He loves you as infinitely as ever. Consider what you owe to His power; how He has raised you from your death in sin; how He has preserved your spiritual life; how He has kept you from falling; and how, though a thousand enemies have beset your path, you have been able to hold on your way. Consider what you owe to His immutability. Though you have changed a thousand times, He has not changed once. Thou art as deep in debt as thou canst be to every attribute of God. To God thou owest thyself, and all thou hast--yield thyself as a living sacrifice, it is but thy reasonable service.

~Morning and Evening by C. H. Spurgeon, "Morning, February 3"

Lewis and the Planets

Michael Ward has just published an new book on Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, entitled Planet Narnia:The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis. Ward gave a presentation on these ideas a few years ago at Hillsdale College, where eldest ds Ben had the pleasure of dining with him, showing him around campus, and introducing him for the lecture he gave. Ben's assessment is that the gentleman is personable, brilliant, and dead-on in regards to his analysis of Lewis in the Chronicles. And apparently Philip Ryken agrees. It sounds like an interesting premise. Now to wait for Oxford University Press to run some kind of special....

Friday, February 01, 2008

Winter Reading Challenge Update #3

Well, I am moving slowly along in my reading titles, with three more completed and ready for report.

The Mother in Law Dance: Can Two Women Love the Same Man and Still Get Along by Annie Chapman is a quick read with lots of good information. It is not in artful prose or novel ideas that Mrs. Chapman hits her mark, but in lots of useful reminders and ideas given in a short, straight-forward way in a few pages. It brought many things to the conscious-level that I know from my experience as a daughter-in-law, but may not have thought about in my new and expanding role as mother-in-law. Many real-life stories and advice are given. I laughed at some stories, felt anguish at others, and picked up lots of good tips. I particularly liked the advice that the automatic response to anything the son and his wife say should be one of three words: "Wow." "Really?" or "Interesting..." That is useful! I recommend this to anyone entering the mother-in-law stage, and hoping to do so with some modicum of grace...

Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass by
Theodore Dalrymple is a fascinating collections of essays by a practicing
psychiatrist from inner-city London. He covers the horrifying realities
of life in a large urban environment among the "lower" classes, the intellectual
ideas that hold them captive there, and the causes of crime and moral
disintegration. He divides his book into two parts: Grim Reality, and
Grimmer Theory. In a writing style that is lively, engaging and clear,
Dalrymple communicates and convinces the reader (at least THIS reader)
of his grasp of the follies of human philosophies that trivialize reality and
are created by those who cannot be affected by their ideas. Dalrymple is simply brilliant, and though these true-life stories are harder to take than the Jerry Springer Show at times, I highly recommend this book, and intend to read more by him in the future.

The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge was an interesting novel. I can't say I really liked it, but I found it interesting, and I had no trouble finishing it. Like the only other book I've read by the author, The Dean's Watch, Goudge represents a charming picture of common folk in the England of her time period: here, the English Civil War. Not knowing much about this time period (sorry to acknowledge my own ignorance here), I found her obvious siding with the Royalists and hatred for the Puritans a bit irritating, particularly because she feigned an author's unprejudiced stance. But being ignorant of the time period, perhaps the Puritans of that time were truly arrogant, ungodly and harsh. I am predisposed to question this, based on my own reading of the Puritans from this time period (the second half of the 1600's). So, while the story and the characters were interesting and well-drawn, I remained a bit aloof and ambivalent to the end. It did whet my appetite to do some historical reading about that time period. Any one have some good suggestions for me?

The fallacy of "Stained-Glass saints"

This morning I ran across this excellent little meditation by John Mac Arthur at Pulpit Magazine. It hit home for me, and encouraged me. How about you? Here is just a sampling for you:

Do you ever become discouraged and disheartened when your spiritual life and witness suffer because of personal sin or failure? We tend to think we’re worthless nobodies—and left to ourselves, that would be true! But be encouraged—worthless nobodies are just the kind of people God uses. If you think about it, that’s all He has to work with!

But have you ever stopped to consider why that’s true? Listen to this: God chooses the humble, the lowly, the meek, and the weak so that there’s never any question about the source of power when their lives change the world. It’s not the man; it’s the truth of God and the power of God in the man. Next time you’re reading through the gospels or the book of Acts, take a few minutes to consider the work of God in the apostles. They were slow to believe, slow to understand, and had horrendous memories! Sound familiar?

Don’t worry—that is perfectly consistent with the way the Lord always works. 1 Corinthians 1:20-21 says, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” That is the very reason there were no philosophers, no brilliant writers, no famous debaters, no distinguished teachers, and no men who had ever distinguished themselves as great orators among the twelve Christ chose. They became great spiritual leaders and great preachers under the power of the Holy Spirit, but it was not because of any innate oratorical skill, leadership abilities, or academic qualifications they had. Their influence is owing to one thing and one thing only: the power of the message they preached.