Monday, April 6, 2020

And we're back!

The last time we posted here, we lived in a different world. Now, there is only one news story, and that is the virus we are living among. It has been a head-spinning kind of change.

How is everyone doing, living with being shut in? Without work? With kids at home? Being forced to homeschool kids? Perhaps you're dealing with a case of COVID-19 yourself or among your family. Perhaps you're scared. Perhaps you haven't left your house in weeks. There seems so much that needs to be said, but I think I'm not alone in feeling like I don't have the words to say.

Becky, Persis, and I are all well. And we are all dealing with being quarantined, attending church online, and relying on God for daily grace and peace. If I was feeling challenged to have a better prayer life (I think I always feel that way), I certainly have a reason to focus even more now.

Many people are trying to find ways to occupy themselves in a time of being at home, and one way is reading. And anyone who has read our blog before knows we love to read. A friend decided she wanted to read Shakespeare. My favourite play is Macbeth.  I suggested she try it. A couple of days later, she texted me and said she found it hard reading. It wasn't the language, she said, it was the abrupt way the play began. And when I thought about it, it was a bit abrupt compared to a modern novel. A Shakespearean play is much different from other dramatic works, let alone literary genres. My friend confessed that she didn't think she was a good reader.

In a culture which is increasingly image-driven, hasty, and reliant upon concise, tweet-length communication, reading anything can be a challenge. If one has not been in the habit of reading, getting back into may be a bit of a challenge. But it's a worthwhile challenge. I'm still in school for the next couple of weeks, and I'm devoted to writing a term paper and studying for a Hebrew exam, but I read fiction before bed. Reading is somewhere to put my thoughts at the end of the day. I am also journalling regularly, but sometimes, I just want to be lost in something else. But if someone is not used to reading, what does she do?

I want to share today two books that deal with how to read; how to get the most from your reading. The first is a classic, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren's  book How to Read a Book. I read this book when I first began homeschooling. It outlines four levels of reading: elementary reading, inspectional reading, analytical reading, and syntopical reading. It also discusses how we read different kinds of books differently. For example, we wouldn't read a poem in the same way we would read a science textbook. There are different strategies as we approach the book. One of the things which is valuable about this book is that it discusses how to read science and mathematics. It includes a list at the end of the book of suggested works to read. I benefitted from the book, but I will warn you, it's not the most engaging read. It can be quite dry at times, but it's worth a look

The second book is Susan Wise Bauer's The Well-Educated Mind. The edition I have is the first one, and apparently, there is a newer one. This book draws on her homeschooling principles from her book The Well-Trained Mind. I really loved this book, and I preferred it over How to Read a Book. Bauer talks about the levels of reading with terms drawn from classical education: grammar stage reading, logic stage reading, and rhetorical stage reading. Grammar stage reading would be like Adler's elementary stage reading. Bauer suggests having notebooks for our reading, summarizing what we read and writing down our thoughts. I liked this idea a lot, and it's still something I do. Bauer does not cover ways to read science or mathematics as Adler has done, but she does have a chapter which focuses on drama. This is a book geared toward adults who want to improve how they read. She also gives suggested books to read, and also provides specific editions of the works she recommends.

With more time on our hands, reading is a great way to focus our minds. It can be an escape, yes, but it can also give our minds something constructive to do; to help us to process things better and evaluate things better. Reading a good book is certainly more edifying most days than a constant diet of virus news or listening to talking heads chew the events over and over. Be informed, of course, but do take some time to engage your mind in something else.

And speaking of books, I think in the days ahead, there may be some posts sharing some suggestions.

Everyone stay safe.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Five Star Links

Each Friday, we share links we found especially interesting or inspiring during the previous week. 


As human beings, we are body and soul, and our souls include thinking and emotion. However, it is easy to pit one against the other, and we become imbalanced. That's why I appreciated this article by Brian Borgman - "God Cares About How You Feel". Rather than elevating vs. suppressing our emotions, God is restoring them. 
Our emotions received the fatal infection of original sin and a fallen human nature. Like a few drops of dye into a pitcher of water, every molecule of our nature has been colored by the toxic dye of sin. Emotions, which were designed to be good and work in tandem with the mind and will, now either dominate or become dormant. On the one hand, they can dominate our thinking so that what controls us is how we feel, how we determine what is true is based on how we feel, and how we relate to others is based on how we feel about them. The chaos of such life can be painful. On the other hand, trying to ignore or repress our emotions (and be like a Star Trek Vulcan rather than a human) is also a recipe for disaster. Truth and beauty in God and in life become black and white, and we fail to be whole people. What we need in our mangled humanity is full restoration.


Lamentations is one book of the Bible that I haven't spent a lot of time in. But this piece made me want to change that: How to Read Lamentations Theologically. Or, to put it another way: What does Lamentations teach us about God?

As I was searching for this link, I found a similar piece from a few years ago: Can Your Theology Handle the Book of Lamentations?
If you can’t handle the themes and trajectories of Lamentations then you can’t handle the gospel. Every thread in this book is divinely stitched to Calvary. 
Therefore, take up and read Lamentations!
Now I really want to!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Review: Not Forsaken

Not Forsaken: A Story of Life After Abuse, Jennifer Michelle Greenberg, The Good Book Company, 2019, 232 pages.

Not Forsaken by Jennifer Michelle Greenberg began as series of letters to her husband to try to explain the trauma and emotional, mental, and physical aftermath of her child abuse. She also wrote for her own understanding of herself and to try to make sense of what she endured. Those letters became this book, and I am so glad she wrote it for the rest of us.

The book begins with memories from Jenn's childhood. Painful memories of fear and betrayal. But also memories of crying out to God to be the father she did not really have. These recollections, while written with discretion, are raw and a window into the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father who was a professing Christian.

The subsequent chapters work through the questions that she had to come to terms with. Was she really abused? Does Jesus understand? Jenn also deals with the issues of trauma, which she describes as a "concussion of the heart," self harm, guilt, and more. The misunderstanding that victims endure regarding reporting, the fear of not being believed, and pain of being doubted are eye-opening especially for readers who haven't suffered abuse. Also basic concepts like being made in God's image, the fatherhood of God, and love itself have been so distorted that they needed to be learned perhaps for the first time. Jenn's chapter on forgiveness is one of the best that I have ever read. She upholds the grace of God for sinners in balance with the need for repentance, God's justice, and care for the victims.

I had a hard time putting the book down once I started reading it, although there were times I had to pause and cry. Jenn's writing is candid, powerful, and full of hope in the God who did not forsake her. In her reflections, she sometimes incorporates the stories of other survivors but always draws her conclusions from the Word of God. While Not Forsaken isn't meant to be prescriptive or a clinical manual, it provides spiritual and practical insight on how to support and not add to the hurt through ignorance or misunderstanding.

I strongly recommend Not Forsaken. If you are a victim/survivor, you will find a compassionate friend who has walked a similar path. If you are a church leader or anyone who cares about the suffering of others, this book is for you, too. It will help you to better love and support the child abuse victim/survivor who may be in your family, next door, or in the next pew.

I received a copy of this book from The Good Book Company. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, August 30, 2019

Five Star Links

Each Friday, we share links we found especially interesting or inspiring during the previous week. 


I really enjoyed (and identified with) this video clip by Shona Murray, who is the wife of David Murray. David is a professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary as well as a pastor and author. He writes a lot about mental health issues. Shona went through a very difficult time with mental illness. Her honesty and wisdom are wonderful. A very helpful video clip.

I Never Understood Burnout and Depression -- Until It Happened to Me.


This is an encouraging reflection from Scott Schultz on the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism: Rest Well, Christian.
You, Christian, are not your own. You belong to Jesus. If you have called out to Jesus for mercy and trust in him alone to save you, then you belong to him. You are his. He loves you perfectly and will always love you perfectly... Rest well, Christian, knowing that Jesus loves you and always will. 


The legacy of Susannah Spurgeon:
Yes, Susie was the wife of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, but she was more than just his wife; she was his earthly support, and she is the reason that we have Charles Spurgeon as we have him today. Charles was prophetic when he said during their engagement that Susie was necessary to him.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Two Views on Women in Ministry - Book Reflection

Writing about the issue of women in ministry is something I have been reluctant to do. And my reluctance is because of something said by the editor of the book Two Views on Women in Ministry. James R. Beck says at the conclusion of this book:
Deciding this one issue responsibly requires vast knowledge of a great many subjects. As we have seen in this volume, one needs to know a great deal about both Testaments and about sound principles of interpreting the Scriptures. It is helpful to know about the cultures surrounding ancient Israel and the church. Since so many of the questions that emerge while deciding this issue revolve around grammar and the meaning of words, we need linguistic experts to help us make good, balanced decisions. And the list of helpful skills goes on and on.
This is a complicated issue. Despite notions to the contrary, this isn't a "what verse tells me the answer?" question. I recognize my lack of expertise in these areas, and I realize that to understand it fully, I need to invest some time reading and thinking. The only reason I'm doing this now is because I  have chosen this topic for term paper I am writing for a class this semester.  This is the first volume I have read as I begin my research.

In this Counterpoints Series volume, four scholars present their views: two from the egalitarian view and two from the complementarian side. After each essay, each scholar submits his/her evaluation of that argument. The contributors are all well-educated in their fields, and have proven their scholarship. They aren't the only voices to hear, but they are a good place to start.

Linda Belleville and Craig Keener write from the egalitarian perspective. I appreciated both of their contributions. They both take a great interest in the cultural background of the Scripture passages involved. In the past, when I have read complementarian articles this has not always been the case. Keener, especially is great with this; it is his area of specialty.

Craig Blomberg and Tom Schreiner bring the complementarian views. I was especially appreciative of Craig Blomberg's essay because he was very good about acknowledging areas where he agreed with the other scholars. He was willing to acknowledge when 100% certainty was not possible. Schreiner is a great New Testament scholar, and I have benefitted from his writing in other venues, but I did not find his essay as convincing as Blomberg's, and there were times when came across as simply dismissing something without explanation or serious thought.

This book was a learning experience, and I took away some very helpful things:
  1. There is more agreement between the two sides than you may think.
  2. Egalitarians do take Scripture seriously. And they do take the Gospel seriously. It simply isn't true that every egalitarian lacks respect for Scripture.
  3. Complementarian men are not all harsh and overbearing. Craig Blomberg wrote very sensitively, and while I didn't always agree with Schreiner, he did express a concern to support the equality of gifting between men and women.
  4. Sometimes complementarians downplay the cultural setting of Pauline letters. 
  5. Sometimes, egalitarians make too much of the cultural setting.
  6. Sometimes, both sides extrapolate too much on what the text doesn't say.
  7. We must resist the temptation to hinge our views on one specific verse. In our contemporary culture, we look for easy, explicit answers, and that simply may not be possible.
  8. This is a complex issue. Because it is complex, those with influence who would speak publicly on the matter should do their homework.
A number of months ago, a friend on Facebook had a graphic posted on her timeline. It showed a piece of paper with a phrase across the top: "Verses in the Bible That Say a Woman Can be  Pastor." The joke was of course that the paper was blank. At the time, when I saw it, I thought, "I think it's more complicated than that." And it is. But it's a serious issue, and one worth pondering.

I highly recommend anyone who is interested in this issue pick up a copy of this book. If all you get out of it is the ability to see scholars debate with grace and civility, it's worth the price.