Monday, November 09, 2009

The Wall

As the day wanes, this twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I came upon this set of pictures about the wall (HT: Mockingbird). When I got up this morning and the wall came up in some blogs and news articles, my interest was piqued and it caused reflection throughout the day.
While I don't remember the fall of the wall from personal experience, it elicits an odd emotion in me. German history always interests me in part because I was born in Germany. But the odd thing to me is that, though all my memories are from after the fall of Soviet East Germany, I was born in West Germany. These events happened in my lifetime, and are in some way involved in my life. I can't really explain more than this, but beyond my birth in West Germany, there is something about the wall itself that stirs my heart. This wall that separated families, friends, and others by geography and government, but not by culture and language was finally torn down. The wall that was an emblem of Soviet control in parts of Germany, that caused much heartache was destroyed.
I'm glad the wall is down. If that didn't make sense, it won't. But it makes sense to me.
And I started writing this on November 9. I really did.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Grace in unexpected places

This is a really disjointed post, stream of consciousness for me.
I find prisons and prisoners intriguing. I'm never sure why, but I often find myself watching the specials on prisons that come on TV.
Part of the interest I have is the combination of the depravity of man but also the hope for redemption. Faith in prison is often highlighted in the specials, but also the recognition of the Right comes across. Prisoners speak of the evils they have done without excuse, and while many wish they were free, many speak of the grace they have received by being put in prison (some because they are prevented from doing worse, some because of the psychiatric help they have received, others for their own reasons). Inmates speak of the atrocities they have committed with remorse, and many in the specials find it right that they are in prison. Prisons are not a place of hope, but hope shines through with certain prisoners. This video gives me hope. Men who are in prison for various reasons see what is right, and they do it. Men who have attempted murder came to the rescue of the guard. Watch the video, see the common grace of God in these men who saved the life another. Here is the story from the news.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

ZIBBCOT, Vol 5 Review

Zondervan recently released its new set, the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (ZIBBCOT), edited by John H. Walton. I recently received volume 5, “The Minor Prophets, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.” As soon as I took it out of the box, I was impressed. The cover is a pretty typical glossy hard cover, with sewn binding that allows the book to sit open on a table to just about any page. This is great for when reference books as it is often hard to hold the book open and type or write notes on it.

After I noticed how nicely it sits open, I noticed the pictures. There are a lot of pictures. I haven’t had a picture book in years, and this was pretty exciting. The pictures are useful too. For example, I was writing a paper on Zechariah 4 last year, the passage that mentions the lampstand with seven bowls, each with seven spouts for wicks. I couldn’t find a picture of these anywhere (in available books). Everyone described it but no one had a picture. This not only has a picture of a seven-spouted bowl, but it has a picture of a real one, not a recreation. This is immensely helpful in understanding what Zechariah is talking about. The book is full of helpful illustrations and descriptions that enlighten the background of the text.

There is one thing I noticed that annoys me, which is not unique in ZIBBCOT. When referencing Hebrew, it uses transliterations. Transliterations are generally (not always) unhelpful to those who don’t know the language, and are frustrating to those who know enough of it to use the Hebrew. This is not unique in tools for Bible study, but it is frustrating to look and see a transliteration and have to figure out what letters mean what in order to look it up.

Overall, this is a great resource, and even a great book for general enjoyment. I look forward to using ZIBBCOT for years to come

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Emily Dickinson - Last Four Stanzas of Poem 561

The Grieved – are many – I am told –
There is the various Cause –
Death – is but one – and comes but once –
And only nails the eyes –

There's Grief of Want – and grief of Cold –
A sort they call "Despair" –
There's Banishment from native Eyes –
In Sight of Native Air –

And though I may not guess the kind –
Correctly – yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary –

To note the fashions – of the Cross –
And how they're mostly worn –
Still fascinated to presume
That Some – are like My Own –

Monday, July 20, 2009

Review-It Happened in Italy

Thomas Nelson recently put out the book It Happened in Italy, by Elizabeth Bettina.  The book was a good read and the story flowed pretty well (though it became a little disjointed at times). 

The book was a narrative telling of Bettina’s discovering the story of the survival of many Jews in the internment camps in Italy during World War II, in what were relatively good conditions compared to what was going on in the rest of Europe.  While, throughout the rest Europe, Jews were taken to concentration and death camps and treated as if they were inhuman, in Italy the Jews were treated with respect, and though they were moved into specific “internment” communities, were allowed to live relatively normal lives.  They carried on life as usual, including recreation, business, and even religion, as long as they checked in every day.  This story of hope in the midst of the horror of the Holocaust is relatively unknown in the world today, but Bettina brings it to light.

Overall, I found the book a good read, but was a little disappointed by it.  I received it expecting to read a historical narrative patched together from survivor stories and historical research, but what I read was a narrative about finding the stories of survival.  The book was not about the survival itself, but about Bettina’s discovery of the story and the way her life began to intertwine with the lives of the survivors.  While it was good, I hope to see a more historical work born of her efforts to find the story.

I would suggest this book to pique one’s interest in Holocaust history, but it by no means fulfills one’s wildest dreams.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Book Review--Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century

Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century is a pretty interesting new (old) book by Hank Hanegraaff. I say “new (old)” because it is an update of a book that came out quite a while back. The book is a critique of the “prosperity gospel” (or “health and wealth,” “name it claim it,” “blab it grab it,” “profess it possess it,” etc.). Most people’s experience with this theology is primarily through media such as televangelists and books, and many are turned off by their promises of great prosperity in this world of pain. Hanegraaff exposes the deceit of this theology and this false gospel that is preached. I think it is pretty good theologically, and it sticks to the basics of orthodoxy quite well. I will move on to practical thoughts.
The book is a pretty good read overall, and I especially enjoyed the first chapter which was a compilation of documented theological ideas from different false preachers compiled into a “biblical theology.” It brings out how ridiculous some of the ideas are. My biggest complaint is that there are too many acronyms (which means for some out there who love acronyms, this book is for you). I’m not huge on acronyms, and he had one for everything. Other than that I think it was a good book.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Free Drawing, oh yeah.

So, I went to a Pentecostal church the other day, which was interesting for someone who has been Southern Baptist all his life, but I will write about that later. I also went to a Synagogue Friday, which again was different, but again, another day.

For right now, I will advertise.
Abraham and Molly Piper are giving away up to $100 worth from Online Poster Printing. It is a pretty sweet deal. They also let you know how to get more chances to win.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Abortion: America's Not-so-secret sin

Owen Strachan passed on this news piece from the Florida Catholic. With all the theological, philosophical, and ethical arguments that are made, chilling stories like this are often ignored. Read this soberly, mourning America's greatest not-so-secret sin, and pass it on to others.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Review-This Is Your Brain on Joy

Dr. Earl Henslin’s book, This Is Your Brain on Joy, was a surprisingly good read. I must admit, when I got this book, I expected it to be a bunch of bad psychobabble. I also expected Henslin to minimize the reality of sin. I was surprised because he did not overload me with psychobabble and psychiatric analysis or minimize sin. He admitted multiple times that sin causes mental and emotional problems that need to be dealt with first. He also is not quick to say people need medicine. Henslin argues for many different things to help with mental issues, and suggests homeopathic solutions before medicinal ones. He also helps the average reader to understand how different parts of the brain work and different issues that come up with it. His heart is that people have joy in all circumstances, which is biblical. He has a chapter about the biblical basis for joy, which shows he is not an exegete, but is not bad. I rather enjoyed the book and learned more about brain health and different things I can do to help my brain function optimally, which should help in my studying, work, and even in my pursuit of biblical joy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Review: The American Patriot's Almanac

The American Patriot’s Almanac, by William Bennet and John Cribb, is a fun resource for personal and family reading. It is composed of daily readings for the whole year that tell of different people, or patriots, who have had a major impact on American history. Part of the joy of the book is that the readings don’t focus on patriots that are commonly known, but those whose names are generally unknown, but have had huge impacts on the country and our lives to this day. In addition to the daily readings, there are other articles that speak of different patriotic things and ideas, such as flag etiquette, which there is a growing lack of knowledge of in the United States today.
The book cover and binding are pretty good quality, with good cover design. It has a canvas spine, while most of the front and back covers are wrapped in glossy paper. The pages are pretty thick, which makes the book thick, but that is ok. It makes a good shelf-filler or coffee table book when you are not holding it to read it. Not that coffee table books are really in style that much, but who says they can’t be brought back.