Off to the beach

smelling of sunblock...

The Road to Camlann

Road to Camlann: The Death of King ArthurRoad to Camlann: The Death of King Arthur by Rosemary Sutcliff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This tragic tale is a classic, and Sutcliff does fairly well in the retelling. 3 stars for the retelling. 5 stars for the story itself.

Lancelot's illicit love for Guinivere brings the downfall of Camelot, dividing the knights of the round table against each other. The story asserts that Lancelot is the greatest knight in the kingdom, because of his superior fighting skills against all other knights, and also because he heals a wounded foreign knight by laying his hands on him, who had a dream that the best knight of Camelot would heal him.

What the story says less directly is the great treachery and disunity that is caused by the unconfessed sin of Lancelot in pursuing and thinking it right for him to have Guinevere. He returns to Arthur too late to save his kingdom, having destroyed it himself.

Much more could be said about Mordred's deceitful malice, Gawain's fierce but impulsive loyalty, and Guinevere's noble denial of Lancelot's later advances. Suffice it to say that this is a story to think about things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report (Phil 4:8), while taking warning from the downfall that comes from eschewing self-control, peace, goodness and faithfulness (Gal 5:22).

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First day of vacation...

Screwed deck boards down, canned strawberry jam, packed and cleaned house

Departure at 1pm for our first ever Outer Banks trip!

3:15 - brochures at the visitors center to scope out the place - yes, I'm nerdy that way.
4:00 - Wright brothers' national park for a 25 minute talk/story on their first flight, with working reproduction of their 18-foot wide plane. Pretty cool.
4:30 - hotel check in. We have a suite with TWO balconies, one facing the ocean. Awesome.
5:00 - swimming in the hotel pool
6:00 - pizza for dinner
7:00 - a walk on the beach - kids' first experience with ocean waves
8:00 - story time and bed time.

For all you OBX pros, is there anything we should make sure to see/do while down here?


Dandelion Fire

Dandelion Fire Dandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Suffers from the typical 2nd-book-of-a-trilogy piece, with a few too many rabbit trails and trying too hard to hold the audience with some weird stuff.

But overall a captivating follow-up that expands the plot-world of 100 Cupboards. Stick with it. A biblical worldview shines through. You're rooting for the good guy; the bad guys are really bad. But it isn't cookie-cutter or formulaic, but creative. It grips.

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Comrades : Brothers, Fathers, Heroes, Sons, PalsComrades : Brothers, Fathers, Heroes, Sons, Pals by Stephen E. Ambrose
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ambrose is a descriptive writer, and the theme of friendship was lovely. Friendship requires respect and esteem for others as people, genuine interest in their lives and a willingness to sacrifice yourself to be involved in helpful ways. Relationships described include the author's brothers and father, Dwight Eisenhower and his brother, George Custer and his brothers, Richard Nixon's LACK of friends, Lewis and Clark, various combat veterans, and others.

I like reading history, so this was good. But it was kind of a ramshackle hodge podge of bits of information.

The most compelling passage was the analysis of why Nixon had no friends:
"Another quality that he lacked was an ability to respect others....'The president went through a process of some kind that made him disrespect people. I don't know whom he respects, even now - really, really respects.'"

This is a quality sorely lacking in our post-modern world, where everyone is jaded and suspects everyone else. We must recover the lost art (a basic human behavior, really) of friendship.

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How to Train Your Dragon (How to Train Your Dragon, #1)How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this because my kids love the movie, and I thought it would be good for them to start comparing books to movies. The book wasn't all that great. Nothing objectionable, but relied heavily on the sensational - either the gross, or the dragon-cool, or the viking-tough.

Hiccup's smarts help fight the dragon as much as Viking brawn. This theme carries through to the movie, and some of the characters, but everything else changes.

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Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American DreamRadical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a mixed bag.
5 stars for gospel presentation and zeal to obey Jesus, and working against the materialism in our culture.
2 stars for a rather thoughtless "just go do it" approach.

Kevin DeYoung's analysis is the best I've seen. Check it out for more.

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Work of the Pastor, The (Tales from the Throne)Work of the Pastor, The by William Still
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good lecture series transcribed.
Pastor as preacher and counselor, contemporary but also scriptural.

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Little WomenLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Never had read this.
Good depiction of girls maturing.
The esteem and sensitivity given to relationships possibly leading to marriage, and the discretion and boundaries such relationships need, was wonderful.

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Anatomy of Peace

Anatomy of Peace by Arbinger Institute: Book Cover
If you are in a relationship of long-term conflict, read "The Anatomy of Peace." The main purpose of this book is to get the reader who is in conflict to reflect upon his own contributions to the conflict. Since our natural tendency is to blame the one we're fighting, we need to reconsider that our posture toward the situation and our "enemy" is a major factor. The longer we are in conflict, the more strongly we deny this, but it remains true.

We tend to objectify people instead of be at peace with them as people in relationship. We see ourselves as better (or worse) than them, or we have to be seen by them a certain way, or think we deserve better.

Instead, we need to apologize for what we can, sacrifice for our enemy out of empathy with them, give them space to thrive, and continue considering them from a perspective of peace.

The book does an especially good job dealing with skeptics, in the character of Lou, who assume this approach means compromising the truth or capitulating an important position. Being at peace with a person is different than giving them whatever they want. We don't have to be at war with people to maintain the truth or accomplish our goals.


How to forgive, in conflict

This one is on marriage, but applies well to any conflict.
Read anything Paul David Tripp writes!
Think about your conflicts while you listen closely.

Alternative Medicine

A shameless repost

"What are your thoughts on alternative medicine?
The medical profession suffers from undue honor, and unwarranted suspicion. There are those, both patients and some medical professionals themselves, that mistake their great training with omniscience, their great skills with omnipotence.  Much of this is driven by modernist presumption, the dual silly notions that man is a simple machine and that simple men can operate the machine well. The human body is knit together by God and is grand and mysterious. If technology is the god who limps, such proud doctors are just broken crutches.

"On the other hand, doctors, as a profession, are not all evil conspirators or ignorant rubes who just are just too blind to see the magic healing power of: insert-home-remedy-here. Because homeschooling families as a general rule tend toward self-sufficiency and away from dependence on experts, many of them think a good root cellar and the chapters on medicine in the Foxfire books are all we really need. We think we can defeat the willful pride of some in the medical profession with our own willful pride. That’s bad medicine.

"Doctors who think too highly of themselves will tend to look for technological, typically pharmacological solutions to what ails us. Alternative medicine, on the other hand, will tend toward a greater faith in the body’s own healing powers, and seek to tap into those powers.  I’m sympathetic to thinking in that direction. Whether it is a nagging cough, a dripping pipe under the sink, or a sputtering exhaust in my truck, my first, natural response is always, “Leave it alone and eventually it will take care of itself.”  It drives my dear wife crazy. Trouble is, sometimes a nagging cough is lung cancer, a dripping pipe is eating away at the house’s foundation, and the exhaust is leaking carbon monoxide into the cab.  That’s when you want a doctor, a plumber, and a mechanic, not someone who learned their craft from their up-line in their herbal network marketing program.

"I never want to discount the experiences others have had with alternative medicine. I am happy to hear about how people are made better, and to believe that there are many good men and women outside the establishment that want to help and are able to do so.  Yay and amen to people getting better without the blessing of the AMA. All I ask of those in the alternative medicine cage stage is that they afford me the same honor.  I’ve had my own experience as well. The traditional doctor who has cared for my family for the past fifteen years is literally one of the finest men I know. He is caring, thoughtful, gifted, humble, and the loving homeschooling father of eight.  He’s far too aware of his own limitations to buy into modernist notions of the doctor as god.  He knows the best thing he can do for any of his patients is what we can all do, pray to the Great Physician.  We trust him, not because he is a doctor, but because he trusts Him.  Moderation then is what is called for. It’s good for what ails us."


Beck and Jesus

There is a great article by Marvin Olasky in a recent World Magazine about his encounter with Glenn Beck on Beck's show. You have to subscribe to get the whole article, but the gist was telling: Beck and Olasky (and all Christians) have a fundamentally different worldview. For Christians, Jesus is the answer to personal and political problems. Beck denied this when Olasky stated it baldly on the show (it probably got cut). For Beck, self-rule is the answer. We have to educate ourselves, work, create. That's the answer.

As usual with Satan's schemes, that is a half-truth that is deadly when taken as the whole truth.


Receive, then Give

2 Cor 9:6-10

"But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 9 As it is written:
          “He has dispersed abroad, 
          He has given to the poor; 
          His righteousness endures forever.” 
10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness."

Sara got her seed catalog in the mail about a week ago. Time to plant seeds already. It felt way too early for that, with all the snow around. There is a time to plant and a time to harvest. The way we pass the trays for communion shows this to you. Right now you are receiving bread and wine from someone else. And right after you receive, you give it to the next person. That’s a great picture of how it is with us. There are times to receive help. And with that help we are to give in return to others. Give generously. Plant seeds everywhere, all the time. Preach the word in season and out of season. But all your serving must come from having first received here, from Christ Himself. If you are not fed by his life, your service will not bear fruit in the end. As you abide in Christ, plant peace patiently, rest and trust in God’s control, and He will provide for you.


Pride of Place

3 John 5-10
"Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, 6 who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, 7 because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth. 9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church."

3 John gives us a stark contrast. John commends Gaius for hosting the saints. John John condemns Diotrophes, who does the opposite – he does not receive some believers in friendship, and he tries to get others to reject them, too. He does this because he loves to be first, or to have the preeminence. Seeking pride of place always shows itself in rejecting some whom God has not rejected. Seeking pride of place always shows itself in speaking malicious words against the rejected. Satan fell from heaven seeking the first place – God’s place. The Sadducees fell from power because they clung to their first place when the rightful king came along. And we will fall whenever we vaunt ourselves over others. If you want to be first, go last. If you want to lead, serve. It is the most natural thing in the world for a group of people like us after we are together for a few years like we have been, to start fighting over position and place. But the Holy Spirit equips us by God’s grace to conquer that sinful tendency. Let us confess it now, and resolve to help each other fight it in the future.



Household membership

Question: Does the Bible require voting by household?

No. The Bible speaks very little about voting in the church, and does not require a certain method. But this doesn't mean any method is as good as the next. Household membership and voting is a helpful way to operate as a church.

The elders are generally to rule in the church. But when decisions need to be made by the whole church, who should vote? If you let any professing believer vote, you may have 6-10 year olds voting on budget or calling a pastor. Hm. Same problem if you let any baptized person vote. Some churches set an arbitrary age. If you have husbands and wives vote, then if they vote alike you just double the vote count, and if they vote against each other they cancel that family out. Also, we should take the marital union into account, and not just reckon every adult as an atomized individual.

I think it is greater wisdom to deal with families on important issues. On lesser issues it can be helpful to have every individual participate, but the church should also put the household head in the position of gathering input from his family, making a decision, and conveying that to his/her family and the church. In other words, this isn't a "men get to vote; women don't" thing. Some women are heads of households. The rest are represented by their husbands. There are times to work with individuals and times to work with households.

Spiritual Gifts

Q: What is your view of spiritual gifts today?

A. I lean to the view that gifts invested in specific people were limited to times when God revealed a new word for His people. He then confirmed that new revelation by giving the prophet miracles, too. So no, people don't have gifts to do miracles today, but God Himself does miracles whenever He wants. So cancer is suddenly gone, or other wonderful things, but these aren't people exercising supernatural gifts. God may answer prayers in amazing ways, say prayers for exorcism, to glorify Himself. But people don't have a gift of faith that gets their prayers answered more than others.

2 Cor 12:12 speaks of signs that mark an apostle. Signs and wonders were done in the NT church to confirm the new revelation in them of Christ. Hebrews 2:3-4 talks about it this way, too. 1 Cor 12 is saying that the Spirit gave the whole church (not just the Corinthians) a wide variety of gifts (not just tongues). It isn't saying every Christian has one of the gifts listed in 1 Cor 12:8-10 or Rom 12:6-8. These are a sampling of the gifts, not a specific and exhaustive catalog from which we have to find which one we have. Some of these have passed away, as supernatural gifts that confirmed NT revelation.

This doesn't lessen our need to discern how we are gifted and use our abilities to serve Christ and His body.