Review: Boys of Blur

Boys of Blur
Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fast paced re-telling of Beowulf, Wilson conveys well some important themes:

1. Your father is important, whether he has hurt you or helped you.
2. Go fight the evil, don't just run away from it.
3. You have to resist thoughts of envy and hatred, from the evil one.

Many good thoughts conveyed, without being preachy, while telling a great story!

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Food for the Soul; Bread for the Journey

After Elijah calls down fire on Mt Carmel and kills the prophets of Baal, Jezebel threatens his life and he flees into the desert, despairing of his life. But God sustained him. God ordained this sacrament for us to remember Him, and to proclaim His death until He comes. But always remember this isn’t so much a religious exercise we are doing, a statement we are making. It’s more like food for us, God sustaining and strengthening our souls.

We have to eat and drink of Christ’s flesh and blood to have life in us, John 6 says, and that body is true food indeed. This isn’t meant in a physical sense, the flesh profits nothing He says a bit later. The Spirit gives life and feeds, but He uses the Word and this meal to do it. Feed on the Lord Jesus Christ now, in your thoughts, yes. But let your soul partake, desiring His riches, satisfied with His grace, longing to bear fruit for His name.


Epiphany in July!

Matthew 2:7-12
"Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way."

Today is the twelfth day of Christmas, and tomorrow is Epiphany. By this time we’re sick of hearing about Christmas. Santa has been in the stores since Halloween, our trees are on the curb, let’s get on with 2014.

But just a moment.

Epiphany is a great time to consider further the world’s response to the Incarnation, the revelation of the Son of God.
  • The nearby king Herod tried to kill Him.
  • Far away kings came to worship Him.
  • The Gentiles came streaming in to His light, over the centuries.
  • Empires were transformed, steeples and cathedrals raised to the glory of Christ, the world turned upside down.

The question was put to the wise men, what they would do about the star, about the son King to be born. The question is put to each of us. Would you rather be your own king and build your own kingdom, or bring your treasure to the true King?

Let us confess our reluctance to come and worship Jesus.



Receive the Riches

2 Corithians 8:9:
"you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”

The point of the sermon today was to faithfully receive the news of Christ’s birth, as Mary did. You are now seated at the King’s table, with the opportunity to practice what we are supposed to do. So believe these things. Jesus took on physical human nature to redeem it, not to surrender the physical world to the devil. Jesus was born to deliver His people from their sins in His body sacrificed at the cross. Christ has enriched you, obtaining the Father’s favor for you. Jesus took the eternal throne of His earthly ancestor David, in fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. This kingdom is no longer limited to ethnic Jews. He rules the world with truth and grace.

As you receive food into your body, you trust those who set it before you that it is good for you. So receive this news with faith and joy in your hearts. We need Jesus like we need food. So we eat and drink. He has given us far better than we deserved. Let us thank Him by communing with Him, proclaiming His death until He comes.


A Time Not To Accuse

Matthew 1:20-25
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.... 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS."

Consider here the purity and the mercy of Joseph. He maintains purity with Mary before their marriage. And instead of breaking off the marriage as he was planning, assuming her unfaithfulness, he listens to the angel and decides to marry her anyway. Decent neighbors in Nazareth would look down on him for this, not rejecting a brazen sinner. But he doesn’t put so much stake in being THOUGHT righteous, as in BEING righteous. There is one thing for us to confess today. Another comes from the key word “secretly.” You might wonder how anything could be kept “secret,” and it really means privately, as opposed to a public accusation and scandal. It was Joseph’s right at this point to accuse. Just like the Genesis Joseph found his brothers vulnerable to his accusation in Egypt, bowing before him. Both Josephs refrain from accusing, and instead show mercy. Do you find your heart accusing others ever? Often? Is there a certain person coming to your mind, even now?



Strolling the Links

Randy Booth takes away all your excuses to not extend hospitality by inviting people into your home for fellowship.

Tim Challies encourages Sunday evening worship services.
So do I!

This was one of the best articles I've read on tattoos, thus far.  I'll probably write more on this in the future.

The Purchase and the Prize

In this supper we remember the cost of redemption and the result of our redemption. Jesus gave us bread and wine to remember His body was torn and His blood shed at the cross. This was covenant curse carried out against the Christ. Jesus calls the cup the covenant. He links this supper with His cross. This way we always remember, the coming of the king led Him to a cross. Discern His body hung there. We are to take up our cross and follow Him. So as we lift the cup to our lips, we remember our calling – to lay down our life for others, as He did. This was the cost of redemption.

We also see the result of redemption. As we lift the cup, we are feasting and taking our ease at table with the King, looking ahead to the marriage supper of the lamb. We look around and see those He has redeemed with us. Like everything else we do in worship, we do this together. Discern His body, the body of Christ, the Church, around you, and give thanks. From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride. This is covenant mercy and relationship extended to His people.


Free Hearts, Crowding Close

Heavenly Father, we praise You for calling us forth from dark dungeons and into Your marvelous light. Our chains have fallen off, our hearts are free. Give us grace now to worship and follow thee. Prepare the way, prepare our hearts. You give food and freedom, you open blind eyes, you lift up the discouraged, you will reign forever. Lord, let us enter into the joy of Your great deeds for us. Don’t let us hold back, remain at a distance. We crowd close to consider the Christ, His healing, His cross, His resurrection life, His sovereign rule now for our growth, His consummate joys in glory.

Gracious Father, we come to You in the Lord Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, who live and reign with You, 1 God without beginning or end - Amen.



The Point of Light

Jesus is the light of the world. As darkness more in this season, shining lights help us remember Him. The Psalmist sings, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” The point of lights isn’t so much to dazzle and wow, it is to see so we can walk rightly. When one burning candle touches another, it comes alight, too. This is communion, and the reason Jesus can tell us, “You are the light of the world.” We are to live in His light, shine it for others to see in our good works, and not go back to the darkness.

The light we have is not our own. We do not speak or live on our own authority. We cannot live on our own. God’s command for us is life, and that is what Jesus speaks over us and gives us. Here at this table we remember every week that we don’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God. HE sustains us. This is why I tell you to live when we eat and drink. God communicates life and forgiveness, peace and purity to us, as He unites us to the Lord Jesus Christ by His Holy Spirit.


From Disheartened to Bitter

Numbers 21:4-7
"Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” 6 So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people."

Discouraged souls can become embittered souls.

Circumstances discourage us sometimes. But the heart is active, not just passive. We decide whether to turn to God in faith, or to speak against Him or against others. We come to despise the very gifts God sustains us with.

God may send pain and difficulty to wake you up. Israel listened and repented. Now is the time to consider and come with contrite hearts.



Anything Can Happen

Douglas Wilson, on NT Wright's "Surprised by Scripture" chapter 3 on the resurrection:

"someone asked why we should even bother to read Wright. This chapter is why....
[Wright] is healthy in ways that the contemporary Reformed church is unhealthy. On this point, on this particular, there are many conservative believers who need to come to grips with the fact that Wright is way more orthodox than they are, meaning that he is more biblical than they are, and that he gets the ramifications of the gospel better than they do. Note, I do not say that he gets justification-by-faith better than John Piper does, because he doesn’t, but I am saying that he gets what the impact of justification by faith is supposed to be, and he gets it better than the faculties of every Reformed seminary in North America put together.

"The resurrection is the transformation of history, and not just a weird event contained within ordinary history, which ordinary history then continues on the way it always did, wandering aimlessly down an amillennial road. And this is something he gets from the Bible, and lots of conservatives don’t. And this, incidentally, is why these conservatives keep getting their hineys kicked in our culture wars. American Christians are to be commended for actually fighting the culture war, contra Wright, but they are to be admonished for not fighting with the kind of exuberant and necessary optimism that Scripture provides for us in the fact of a man coming back from the dead right in the middle of history."

Vacation memories, part three

We played the board game "Sorry" while on vacation.  It was a fun change of pace, but now that I'm back to work, here's some theological ruminations about it.

"Sorry" teaches counterfeit apology.  True repentance would involve undoing the wrong act.  But when you knock an opponent’s piece off the board, and say “Sorry,” you never take it back!  If you cut in line ahead of your brother, and say you're sorry, but you stay ahead of him, you make a mockery of your apology.

There are several elements to full repentance.  Going to everyone you wronged.  Describing the offense to the offended.  Asking for forgiveness.  Avoiding excuses.  Making it right as best you can shouldn't be forgotten.

Hope at the Table

Hope and purity go together. Those who long for Jesus to come, also long for purity in heart and in the world. Partaking of this supper is an expression of both. We are proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes again. When we eat and drink weekly here, we are saying the Savior sustains us until His second advent. We long to see Him, for we will be like Him.

And one thing Jesus is that we are not, is pure. We long for this. And Jesus is taking us there. our union with Him is the main way He does it, by the Spirit. And that is what is happening here in a special way. It isn’t called communion for nothing. Here you have a unique communication, a special union with Christ. 

Advent One

Are You Ready?

Mark 13:32-37
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. 34 It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. 35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—36 lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”

We considered last week the harvest at the end of the age, when Christ comes and gathers His elect to Himself. As the season of Advent begins, we stick with that theme, in a way. Advent means coming, or arrival. It doesn’t matter if the calendar is BC or AD, God’s people were and are awaiting the arrival of Jesus Christ. He has now come once and accomplished our redemption. But He left our complete sanctification and our glorification for His next advent. So still we wait and hope.

The thing is, as we wait, there is watching and waking. We aren’t waiting passively, but preparing. Let every heart prepare Him room. What preparation do you need to make? What changes? What part of your daily routine needs adjusting? Your thought habits? Entertainment choices?

Jesus is coming. This shouldn’t be a foreboding and gloomy thought. We aren’t headed for a funeral. But we should be sobered to be completely ready for the party.

Advent One


Thanksgiving and Future Victory

Revelation 19:6-9
"And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! 7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
9 Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”

On this last Sunday in the church year, at Thanksgiving time, we remember that harvests lead to laden tables. Our national story is one of hardship, Pilgrims trusting Providence, then prosperous harvests. This is a pale but true shadow of God’s big story of His church in the world. Revelation tells the story well: the serpent has it in for us, and gets helpers like the beast to help him. Historically this has been popular opinion hostile to Christianity and tyrannical governments trying to stamp us out. But every week, God invites us to look ahead to the end of the story, to the marriage supper of the lamb. We sit here acting out how it’s going to be. God’s enemies overthrown, His friends sitting in peace, triumph, and joy at a feast because the Lamb has conquered.

We often look back at the Lord’s Supper in solemn reminder of the cross and what Jesus did to atone for our sins before God. We ought also to look forward at the Lord’s Supper to the coming triumph, even to taste a bit of it now. As we sang earlier, he will bring the fruitful ear  to store in his garner evermore. Even so, Lord, quickly come, to thy final harvest home, gather your people in, free from sorrow, free from sin, there forever purified, in thy presence to abide.


Harvesting the Earth

Revelation 14:14-19

"Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

"17 Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
18 And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” 19 So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God."

Harvest is not always a positive image in Scripture. For those outside of Christ, it is a time of awakening to the horrific truth that they are guilty before God, subject and sent to His deserved judgment. He will separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. You are the harvest, gathered into God’s barns for the feast. Not to be eaten, but to feast Yourself on God’s goodness. The way to that feast is through repentance.



Review: Dryden's Aeneid: The English Virgil

Dryden's Aeneid: The English Virgil
Dryden's Aeneid: The English Virgil by Taylor Corse

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Virgil’s Aeneid viewed cynically is propaganda. He was legitimizing the government of Caesar Augustus, following the defeat of Marc Antony at Actium.

Virgil appeals to the gods whenever Aeneas or his men do something questionable, like kill a man on his homeland over an animal hunt, or attack and take over land that isn't theirs. Oh, the gods helped them? Then it must be okay. The irony is, this is a counterfeit of the time when this happened legitimately, when God gave Israel the promised land. I wonder where they got that idea from?

The big idea is also a counterfeit of the Gospel story - the founding of Rome after the fall of Troy is a death and resurrection story. The glory of Troy is reborn in Aeneas, the founding father of Rome, like the west is reborn in Pilgrims and founding fathers like George Washington, founding fathers of America; or like Israel is reborn in Jesus Christ as the Church.

Even with all the gory battle depicted, the Aeneid also presents too rosy a view of humanity. Aeneas and the Latins would have made peace, but the gods’ capricious infighting spoiled it.

Still, Virgil writes glorious literature. I recommend especially the Dryden translation (versified and rhymed throughout!).

At the end Aeneas is angry, just like Achilles was angry in the Iliad. We can assess this two different ways. Perhaps there has been no progress from Homer to Virgil. Both were angered by deaths or insults on the battlefield, and Rome has learned nothing from history. Or perhaps Aeneas’ rage is more judicial, paying back death to Turnus for his unnecessary killing of others. Do we see here the beginning of a better society of Roman justice and law, or the continuation of barbarism dressed up with piety, death-or-glory charges, and suffering founders?

Most interesting to me is the way God writes Aeneas into the Bible.
“And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately” (Acts 9:33–34).

I don’t think this could be a coincidence. The Aeneid was published 30-50 years before this incident with Peter. Glorious Rome was now “sick of the palsy,” paralyzed and desperately in need of a Savior. Even heroes, founding fathers, and great empires need the King of kings.

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Review: Music in the Bible, Music on the Radio, and Music in the Church

Music in the Bible, Music on the Radio, and Music in the Church
Music in the Bible, Music on the Radio, and Music in the Church by Gregg Strawbridge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Strawbridge urges Christians to engage with and transform all the music on the radio, rather than reject certain genres. Here is a summary of the 30 page booklet.

The Bible urges music and singing as a form of speaking and praise in a variety of contexts.

Contra Bill Gothard, including a certain beat in music does not make it immoral. Gothard says putting the element Copernicium in water yields poison, but he is begging the question whether a certain beat is analogous to poison. Strawbridge: “what is poison in large quantities, may be medicine in small quantities” (10).

The problem isn’t that hatred is present in rock music, by itself. If the hatred is directed at something God call us to hate, what is the problem? Of course there is rock music that glorifies hatred and calls us to hate what is good, but the problem isn’t the beat or music style itself.

When the music is so rhythmic it promotes a physical response Gothard and others see a problem. But this implies a physical response is bad – that sin is always involved when some physical aspect becomes prominent, which is untrue. Flesh in the Bible isn’t always sinful or negative (Romans 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:11). The Bible encourages the use of rhythmic instruments (Psalm 150:4). Music moves us, and it is meant to. This can be dangerous but is also a gift.

One particularly ugly line of reasoning here is that the origin of the demonic beat is African, and came over with the slaves. This is just untrue, “quite dubious and probably racist” (14). And even if true it would still commit the genetic fallacy, that a bad origin of something makes the thing itself bad.

We can’t take what we call good music in Western culture and say it’s the Biblical standard. Christ transforms cultures, and a new song will arise from every nation. This is preferred to imposing Western music as the superior style. Musical language of praise should be in the vernacular, like the Scriptures should. What we consider “the sacredness sounds is quite culturally conditioned” (21).

“Art without utility was ordained by God in worship” (24). Strawbridge cites Exodus 28; 35:30ff. Evangelicals don't like to admit this, but it is true. Every element of art doesn't have to teach something, everywhere. God wanted some things just "for glory and for beauty." He Himself is not only pure, but beautiful (Ps 50:2; 27:4).

Just because no musical style is inherently sinful, doesn’t mean they should all be used in worship. There is a time and place for everything. Some genres and instruments for praising God individually aren't conducive to corporate reverent worship.

Pop culture music has its roots in church music. Elvis Presley himself said he stole his music from the black gospel church he grew up in (30). This point may be overstated, but at the same time the truth of it is too much ignored today. Strawbridge encourages us to listen more to these roots of pop music, and listen less to the fruit coming out today.

This summarizes Strawbridges points. I have not proven or supported these much, but he does. So if this provokes you to disagree, or spurs you to persuade others of these truths, pick up a copy today at

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Go All In

Acts 2:38
"Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

True repentance involves being cut to the heart over our sin.
More than that, it calls for us to throw our lot all in with Jesus. This is the idea behind our baptism. We join with Jesus, and take him for our King and Lord. Trust him to remove the guilt of our sin.

So when we confess our sins, we admit who we have offended: the Lord Jesus.  We confess TO him because of that. And we look to him for relief and for cleansing.



Frogmarched to 1984

Al Mohler tells me the Colorado baker who was told he has to bake a cake for a homosexual couple, is now being ordered by the judge not only to do it but to go to sensitivity training as well.


The Soviet state has arrived.

This is not like a restaurant refusing to serve a person of African descent.  I can understand laws that disallow refusal of service on the basis of race.  But we are dealing with a lifestyle and a behavior, not an ethnicity.  It's more like being required as a marketing consultant to take on as a client an adult video store and to produce an ad for it.  I have freedom of conscience to refuse such work/service based on a behavior I oppose morally.

At least I used to.

I will show a great deal of compassion to the homosexually attracted person who is fighting the urge to act on it, knowing it is a sin.  I will not endorse the behavior by offering a service to them like officiating, baking or photographing at their mirage - what they want to call a marriage.

Our government has called abortion a legitimate choice for 40 years, though it’s murder in God’s eyes.  Now our government wants to celebrate homosexual perversion, though it’s an abomination in God’s eyes.

Not only that, but they will frog-march to the propaganda room any citizen who refuses to burn incense to the emperor, who refuses to celebrate a homosexual mirage with his work, and who says things like I just said.

He's Got Us Covered

God points us to the cross, ever and always. Paul resolved to know nothing but Christ, and Him crucified, to boast only in the cross. All 4 gospels climax at the cross. It is the crux of history, where God kept His covenant to be faithful to His people. 

From the very beginning of history, God was pointing to the cross. Clothing Adam and Eve with the skins of animals that had to die for their covering. Adam and Eve had to leave God’s presence, but they left covered. 

We do not know God’s presence like Adam and Eve did before they sinned. Even now, after Jesus has paid it all, there is still separation. But we are covered, like they were, not just with animal skins, but with the blood of Jesus. 

We have this saying, “I’ve got you covered.” It works quite well for this. Look to this bread, this wine, to remember to see again Jesus at the cross. Look to the cross to see Jesus telling you, “I’ve got you covered.”



Review: How to Answer the Fool: A Pressupositional Defense of the Faith

How to Answer the Fool: A Pressupositional Defense of the Faith
How to Answer the Fool: A Pressupositional Defense of the Faith by Sye Ten Bruggencate

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I actually watched a DVD, didn't read this book.

Sye has a knack for taking an abstract philosophical apologetic point and bringing it down to street level for believers and unbelievers alike to understand. He merges Collision, the video documenting debates between atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian pastor Douglas Wilson, with Ray Comfort’s street interview format.

One of his better stories to get the point across is to suppose your neighbor has stolen a police car and uniform and pulled you over for speeding. They have no right to play judge over the facts if they are not submitting to the Bible.

He’s pretty "in your face," which is perfect for street preaching on the college campus. You can see kids with closed minds arguing back and sometimes starting to really think, three questions into the argument. In his argument with the atheist on stage, he goes too far, though, and just repetitively dismisses him. This actually gets him booted from the stage by the people who put on the event. But they wind up having a fascinating discussion back stage for the last 15 minutes of the hour long session. Published by American Vision.

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Strolling the Links

1. Sexual Abuse
An excellent 25 minutes on how to understand and respond to sexual abuse as church leaders.  I found this very relevant to my ministry.  The speaker has 40 years experience counseling these cases.
1. Lean toward believing the allegations.
2. Protecting the flock by supervising past offenders isn't the same as withholding forgiveness from them.

2. Sloth and Porn
What's the connection between pornography, sloth and spiritual apathy?  Read about it here.
It's quite academic, but the prayer toward the end is especially useful.

3. What church members need from pastors
I’ve begun following the Aquila Report.  It’s a mixture of Reformed world news and opinion.   The news is good to know; some of the opinion is good, some of it’s not.
This was helpful to me as a pastor – 9 things church members probably want to say to me.

4. Grudges and Counsel
Randy Booth tells us to stop hanging on to that grudge and to seek out wisdom from our elders.

The Tree of Life and Table of Faith

God calls us to trust Him, while Satan still tempts us to doubt God’s Word. To take what He has forbidden, to hide from Him when we sin, in our shame. Faith should have moved Adam and Eve to the tree of life, not the tree of knowledge. Faith in God’s Word moves us to this table of life, where we see life in His Son given, God’s salvation portrayed. Here we practice what Adam and Eve should have done, what we need to do every day: coming to Jesus in faith, out of humility and worship to God. Seeing that He gives us good things to sustain us.



Review: Hannah Coulter

Hannah Coulter
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A gifted writer, Berry tells the story of Hannah, a displaced woman twice widowed who finds a home with family and farm in Port William.

A master of moralizing through story without coming across preachy, Berry holds forth certain values for us to recover. We usually think of moralizers in the sexual or political arena, but Berry takes on other areas like work and neighborly relations. Nathan is a much better step-parent to Hannah’s daughter Margaret than Ivy was to Hannah (don’t be a selfish Ivy - care for others). Nathan rails on his lazier son for acting like a “damned employee” (don’t be an indifferent hireling - work eagerly). We were made to tend, keep and farm the soil, not leave it for a better life. Too many are indifferent to the land now (don’t leave the farm - love it). War is a horrible monster that takes good people away from their people and mangles them inside if not outside. Not much moralism on this one – just observing its carnage in a community.

Hannah Coulter is about a person finding her place in life. People get their identity from the place they live. Leaving it usually has catastrophic consequences. Hannah needed a different place when her stepmother came, then again when Virgil didn’t return. But after tending a homestead and farm with Nathan for many years, she had her place. Broken families and sexual unfaithfulness cannot displace years of tending people and a place. Nathan went to “the Rosebud girls” before courting Hannah. Burley never married Kate, nor officially claimed his “might-as-well-be-daughter.” These offenses are downplayed and redeemed by a life of loyalty to people and place. In this way Berry vests place and land with a bit too much importance, even though it is certain most people undervalue them. I found myself lamenting Kate's daughter, who is not even in the story beyond a mention, not having a father in Burley, while Berry lionizes Burley's story-telling and loyalty to clan.

Berry can turn a phrase now and then. When Hannah’s daughter hints that she has found the man she is going to marry Hannah says “the lightning flew through my heart.” It’s something everyone can identify from experience. His writing connects in a homely yet sophisticated way.

The story, with spoilers...
As a girl Hannah learns from her grandmother how to work and run a home, after her mother dies young. Her father remarries a woman who favors her own boys, and grandmother protects Hannah from a lot of possible cruelty. She sends Hannah to live with a friend in town when she turns 18. Her work as secretary is a needed job, but it doesn’t give her the sense of place so important to Berry. That takes marriage and membership. (I doubt Berry intended this, but it does assert a very impolitic thing today, that a woman finds her identity and place largely through the men in her life.)

Virgil comes courting Hannah, old school. He is careful not to try anything he wouldn’t in front of “Grandmam.” Instead he opens his heart to her by speaking to her of what is important to him: his work on the farm, his vision of a life together with her. This is what wins a woman. Describing a future where she is loved and has a place.

But Virgil goes to the war (WWII) and doesn’t return. Hannah spends 6-7 years in grief, only knowing he is “missing.” She raises little Margaret, but Nathan’s interest over time becomes obvious. At first Hannah resists, but she is drawn to his directness and his work ethic. She can see a life and a place with Nathan. They resurrect an abandoned farmstead and thrive as part of the “membership.” This is a community of family and neighbors that is vested in the enterprise of tending the land. It usually runs along family lines, though the morals of a nuclear family are bendable for it.

Grief comes in another form when their children grow up and move away, never to return. They look for a better place than the farm, just when Nathan and Hannah have made a place for them to inherit and live on.

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Genesis 2:21-22
"And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman..."

John 19:34
"one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out."

God rips Adam’s flesh, then rejoins man and woman as one flesh.
God rips Jesus’ flesh, then reconciles God and man.
We rip bread, then eating it, it becomes part of us.

Adam sleeps and God opens up his side, and builds Eve out of the rib.
At the cross, Jesus dies, His side is pierced, and God builds the church out of the blood and water that flow.

The redemption price of the church is the blood of Jesus Christ, it ratifies the covenant of grace, the basis of our relationship our union with Christ. This blood is symbolized by the water of baptism, the wine of communion.

The blood shed, poured out, is rejoined to us. There is a dismembering separation from God caused by sin. And God’s own Son is dismembered to fix it, to re-member, rejoin, us to Him. Thank God for this re-grafting. Enjoy being a member of the body of Christ, a family member at His table.


Strolling the Links

David Murray sorts out godly authority and sinful authoritarianism.
The comments under the post are unusually helpful, both in marriage and church realms.

The Church of Scotland’s bigwigs recently rebuked those who would oppose women in the pulpit.
Here is a brilliant response by a young woman asking why any woman would want to support women in the pulpit.
HT: Carl Trueman