Remembering Granddaddy

This is a few months late, but after Thanksgiving and heading into the Holidays, it is as good a time as any. Coincidentally, he died on the previous Friday the 13th. My Granddaddy, James George Turner, died three months ago today, and it is hard to express the impact he had on my life. As I mentioned when writing about my Grandmother, I lived next to my grandparents from about eight years old until I left for college, and when school was out of the summer, my brother and I spent our days with them. They lived on a little more than 30 acres and Mrs. MMT actually lived with them for a few months before we was married (she has a unique name and with his accent, he never quite pronounced her name correctly). He had a huge vegetable garden in which he grew corn, butter beans, black-eyed peas, tomatoes, peppers, okra, etc. Actually, the last day I saw him, on Labor Day, he was telling me about the first time he grew watermelons. He didn’t expect them to grow so easily and he had a truck full, so many he couldn’t even give them away.

He was born on land that would become the airport (there is actually a grave site surrounded by the runways, where his [maybe great] granddad is buried). He served in the Navy during WW2 in the South Pacific. When he returned, he married my Grandmother, to whom he was married almost 73 years before she died. He got a job as a firefighter and eventually worked his way up to Deputy Chief, before retiring in the early 70’s. He also helped build and then manage an apartment building, and in his other spare time worked as a contractor and painted grocery stores; going as far away as ‘May-retta’ (this is only a 30 minute drive now, with interstates). With the sale of the apartments and his pension, he was able to retire around the age of 50. He was actually the oldest living pensioner at the time he died (he drew his pension for 45 years).

When he moved ‘out’ to their house, it was on a dirt road with a little Baptist church down the street that had just hired a new young pastor. They became friends and my granddad devoted most of the rest of his life to this church (then one in which I would eventually be baptized). The pastor is still alive and was able to do the funeral, which was the best one I’ve ever attended. Not only he spoke, but so did the pastor who replaced him. They could not say enough. He had chaired four building committees (to the older pastor, this was the biggest accomplishment), he taught Sunday School for 40 something years, and served one and off as a deacon. Apparently, people used to drive out to Granddaddy’s house just to talk with him and gain insight and wisdom. I was surprised as the pastor spoke, saying that my granddad had impacted 10’s of thousands and 100’s of thousands. My first thought was, well, that is probably a bit exaggerated, but he continued and said it could have even been millions. It was wild to find out that he was an even greater man than I already thought.

He either had a 9th or 10th grade education, I don’t remember which, but that was all there was then, and he self described as a ‘C’ student who bared finished. Despite that, he loved to read, and bought multiple commentaries on various books of the Bible (some of which were the same that I would buy 40-50 years later, we also had some of the same devotionals) and many well worn study Bibles. He took studying the Word seriously, and in one of the commentaries, I found a correspondence course he was taking on the Old Testament.

He loved to read, and along with his study, he read all the John Grisham books he could. I also remember staying with them over the summers and watching Matlock together. He wold often encourage me to go to school to be a lawyer (which was my plan, until it wasn’t). He also loved to fish, something else he and I had in common and a few years ago, when he realized he wouldn’t fish again, he game me some of his on stuff, including an original (1947) Mitchell 300 (the first ever open face spin-reel).

This is a story I only heard about recently, but he was so intent on leading his family and my Grandmother as a man of God, that back in the 70’s, I guess when they used to take more family vacations with my dad and sister, he bought a percolator that could be plugged into a cigarette lighter. In the mornings, he and my Grandmother would go out to the car, have some coffee and he would lead her in a devotional. I own this percolator now and was showing my men’s group this Sunday, as a challenge to them (and me) on how we should be leading out families/wives.

The stories I could write are innumerable, but I suppose I’ll wrap up here. Almost everything I learned about being a man (especially a Christian man), I learned form him. I was also named after him (though I go by another name), which seems to have given me at least some other level of connect (I also named one of my sons after him, with whom he is playing in the last photo we have of Granddaddy alive).

There is something so comforting having no doubt where he is, and knowing that he is with my Grandmother again. It is also challenging, as his example is something I aspire to (I have one building under my belt). Both he and her’s impact on their church is something we hope we will be known/remembered for many years down the road. As I wrote above, he impact on my life can’t be measured, not the impact on my kids, as I will always remember him as an example of how to act in life, as a man, as a father and husband, and as follower of Christ. I think he was aware of his role as the patriarch of the family and wanted to instill that sense of hard work and devotion on us. It is hard to be too sad when someone leads as long (he was 94) and active and fulfilling life as he did, but he will be missed.

James Turner
May 11, 1925 – September 13, 2019

Book Review: Narrative Apologetics

Narrative Apologetics

My Rating – Probably not worth your time

Level – Short book, but difficult read with academic style and assumed advanced knowledge of apologetics

Summary
Narrative apologetics as a concept is essentially using stories as an apologetic and even evangelistic tool. Not the ‘major conversion’ testimony style, but more of fiction stories that show longing and comparing that to God’s story or something like the exile to explain how we live in the world today.

The book is broken into seven chapters – Introducing Narrative Apologetics, The Theological Foundations of Narrative Apologetics, The Practical Application of Narrative Apologetics, Biblical Narratives: Opening Windows of Perception, Strategies and Criteria for Narrative Apologetcs, The Christian Story and the Meaning of Life, Handing Over: Developing Narrative Approaches to Apologetics. Additionally, there are roughly 20 pages of notes to end the book.

My Thoughts
I’ll start by saying the content of the book isn’t as bad as my rating may suggest. Where it fails is being related to a popular audience. I could be wrong, that might not be the target audience for this book, however, when you write a book that is under 150 pages, I have to think your goal was to reach a wide array. I’ll start with the good, though. The content is solid, and the strength of the book is the Biblical Narrative and The Christian Story chapters. I think these are the best in explaining what narrative apologetics is and what to do with it.

However, the book just feels off. It doesn’t feel like a stand alone book. I seems more like an intro chapter in a large tome of apologetics. If you have ever read one of those 900-1,300 page academic systematcs, you’ll know that ‘theology proper’ intro is usually around 100 pages (which this book would probably shift two with large page size).

As you can tell by the chapter titles, the book is also written in a very academic style. There are numerous citations on every page, a good bit of the in this chapter we will..and we have seen… to begin and end the chapters, and of course the typical academic repetitiveness. The chapters don’t necessarily stand on their own, but still make references to other chapters yet still summarize. So, even as short as it was, it could have been edited even shorter.

Again, the content is pretty good, and could be worth reading if you know what you are getting into. If you buy the book to get an academic intro to a larger concept, I think it could be alright, but as an attempt to reach a popular audience, I really think it missed. If you are interested, I’d just search around and see if there is a shorter academic paper or a popular talk/interview he has done on the topic and maybe go from there. As it is, though, the book just probably isn’t worth your time.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Remembering Papaw

This is a few months late, but after Thanksgiving and heading into the Holidays, it is as good a time as any. For those outside the South (or Appalachian Mid-West apparently), Papaw (or some variant) is a name for a granddad. My Papaw was Jeffie Cleveland (J.C.) Hunt, Jr. He died back in July, a few months after turning 94.

My last memory of him comes from the Saturday before he died. I loaded up my month old twin boys, one of which has the initials J.C., after him, and Sprout to head down to my parents for everyone to meet them (and give Mrs. MMT some rest). Papaw was mostly in a wheelchair at this point, and with them being so small and he being old, he was scared to hold them. He had thick white hair (my mom tells me it all turned white in his 40’s, a trait I fear I may have inherited) and these intensely bright blue eyes; it sets up quite a contrast. I bring the boys over so he can seem them closely, he reaches up and grabs their feet with a smile and a little bit of a tear in those bright eyes. He died less than a week later.

Born in rural south Alabama, he was number seven of 13 children. His dad, J.C., Sr., was a Church of Christ pastor and a farmer. I inherited dozens of his books, some more than 100 years old, including a Bible he bought in 1920 for $20, which according to the US Inflation Calculator is $257.35 in 2019 dollars. Papaw joined the Navy when he was 17 and left of the Pacific Theater of WW2, where he learned to be a machinist. When he cam back, a family friend and lawyer thought that he’d be a good lawyer and was able to get him into Auburn, but formal school was not for him and shortly after someone offered him a job at a machine shop and he took it so that he could get married.

He was a quite man with a uniquely bright mind, he liked working with his hands. He completely built an entire house, the one in which my mom grew up, in the 50’s, and then built the cabin to which they retired in the 80’s. He turn an old VW into a dunbuggy when my mom was in high school. When the moved from the rural cabin to be closer to my mom in the 90’s, he turned the garage of that house in to a beauty shop (my memaw cut hair) then built a new garage (with a ramp to help the cats get over the fence), then built a workshop/barn out back where he experimented with different varietals of peas and beans (a decent one I remember was a black-eyed pea crossed with a lima bean). He had an interest in learning/keeping his mind going and taught himself guitar/dulcimer, attempted to teach himself Spanish (despite never having Mexican food until he was in his 80’s a referring to tortilla chips as Mexican Crackers), and he was my only grandparent who learned how to use a computer, internet, and even Facebook.

Another thing I’ll also remember about him was how much he liked ice cream. I can easily picture him younger, from the days we’d spend over there, wearing coveralls with no shoes hold that big tub of Neapolitan ice cream. I don’t think he ever had any until joining the Navy, and he told me while others spent their money on booze and women, he spent what he had on ice cream. When he was 85 he had a heart attach and had to be lifeflighted (the first/last time he ever flew) to a hospital in Atlanta. When I went to visit him he was eating ice cream. He told me it took him 85 years to go through the first heart, so he didn’t have to worry about wearing this one out (he didn’t have a transplant, just a quadruple bye-pass, but he liked to say he had a new heart, eyes (cataract surgery), and knees (reconstruction).

There are other stories, and we shared those with each other at the funeral, especially the wild stories about growing up in the South in the 20′ and 30’s, but this is already longer than he’d ever want written about him. He loved his ever-growing family (my boys make 18-20 great grandchildren, depending on how you count some) and especially liked Sprout (whom he said was a spitfire and a pistol) and some of the toddlers because they were so loud. He was near deaf for probably the last five years, but he could hear those screaming/giggling little girls. At holidays and lunches, he’d just sit and watch them run around, with a little tear in those bright blue eyes.

Edit: One more story, when he knew I was bringing the boys down, he had my mom get two 50 dollar bills, couldn’t be a single $100 to split, one for each of them for their college fund.

J.C. Hunt, Jr.
May 18, 1925 – July 12, 2019

It is Well – Follow-up

Almost two years ago, I wrote a post (It is Well) about our recent miscarriage. I have a quick note at the top about how I didn’t like any of the songs I found on YouTube.  This lead to a discussion with Mrs. MMT about lack of song option. As some of you may know, Mrs. MMT writes songs (she has released two albums, and won a few awards), and she decided to record her own version of the song, with an additional, original verse.

You can go on over to her site if you want to listen to the song. The post also has a great write-up about where we’ve been and what has been happening since my original post. I’d really encourage everyone to go read it. I had plans to write a much longer version, but have only started a few different parts and could never fully bring myself to finish it. Hopefully, I’ll have some for y’all in the new year.

Coincidentally, today is the 146 anniversary of the Vill du Havre sinking, causing the loss of Spafford’s daughters, which lead him to write the song. This was not intentionally and we actually just noticed the date right now as I was finalizing this post.

Hope you enjoy.

Book Review: Confronting Old Testament Controversies

Cover Art

Confronting Old Testament Controversies

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Moderate difficulty (good knowledge of OT and history, but written for popular audience), medium length (about 300 pages)

Summary
The content of the book is straight from the title, reviewing controversial passages from the Old Testament. Longman is an Old Testament scholar, so there is much of his own research and writing on his view, but he interacts with at least 2-3 opposing views/books on each subject.

The lay out of the book is the introduction (un-paginated, but y’all need to read it) then the four controversies (Creation & Evolution, History, Divine Violence, Sexuality) and then an epilogue (he titles ‘Final Word’). Each chapter is broken into three or four subsections with a conclusion at the end and an excurses or two along the way. The other chapters are probably clear, but ‘History’ refers to the Exodus and the Conquests.

My Thoughts
The only real critique I have is probably an issue for the publisher, the subtitle list Evolution, Sexuality, History, and Violence which neither matches the order of the chapters, nor is it in alphabetical order. Not sure why they chose they order they did, and maybe it doesn’t bother anyone else, but here we are.

I think books like this will only become more important as we move further in our post-Christian world (at least in the West). The subtitle of Enns’ The Bible Tells Me So… really explains our situation: ‘Why defending Scripture has left us unable to read it’. This was the way I learned about the Bible in high school, and I hear much of this way of thinking form people today. This is especially true for the first two chapters (Creation & Evolution, and History). People want to rush to defend it in a modern way against modern critiques and ignore what the point was (and still is) from a theological perspective when it was written thousands of years ago. I should note if you like Enns, Longman was his professor at one point and interacts with his book in this book.

I believe strongly that everyone should have this book for the first two chapters alone. I fear one reason we argue the way we do about Genesis and early books is it is just simpler. We don’t want to reason, or read, or understand something beyond the basics, most ‘literal’ understanding. This book would do well to challenge both people ‘for & against’ some of the readings of the early books of the Bible.

The Divine Violence section was maybe the weakest, but I think it is still an important one. Some of the most basic attacks from New Atheists are based on things like the so called genocide and cosmic child abuse. While this isn’t as strong as other sections, it is well worth interacting with, if for no other reason than learning more of the other side. Similarly, there probably isn’t much new for most people about Sexuality. The Bible is pretty clear, and most arguments against this perspective come down to personal preference (E.g. I think it is fine if they love each other, who cares?, etc.) However, this section does give some good verses as well as the whole picture throughout the Bible. Maybe more interesting than that, it also puts the spotlight back on us and challenge the fact of polygamy in the Bible, which was fairly challenging.

As I mentioned above, this really is a must read for anyone who wants to take the Bible seriously. If we care about the Bible and want to understand it (and views against it), we need to interact more with controversies and other hard aspects that challenge our understanding or reading of the Bible.

 

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Power of Christian Contentment

The Power of Christian Contentment: Finding Deeper, Richer Christ-Centered Joy by [Davis, Andrew M.]

The Power of Christian Contentment: Finding Deeper, Richer Christ-Centered Joy

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Quick, Easy

Summary
The book is broken into four parts – The Secret of Contentment, How to Find Contentment, The Value of Contentment, and Keeping Content. Each section is contains two to four chapters, for a total of 12. The two chapters of part one, set out the foundation of the book. He refers to The Rare Jewel of  Christian Contentment, a collection of sermons by Puritan pastor Jeremiah Burroughs. In the second chapter, he points to Paul and all he suffered, and to the well known verses in Philippians 4, where Paul states that he has learned to be content in all situations. Davis refers back to The Rare Jewel and Paul’s writings throughout the rest of his book.

My Thoughts
I think overall this is a pretty good book. I’m always hesitant to recommend a book that seems to just expand on another book (other than the Bible). The cynical side of me would say skip this book read Rare Jewels instead, especially because you can find it for free online. That said it is written by a Puritan and (at least the copy I found) isn’t updated English. In addition, Burroughs could not have imagined the power, let alone prosperity Christians find themselves in today, so an update is needed.

The strength of the book, and probably worth the read on it’s own, is Chapter 10, Contentment in Prosperity. This is the main issue with the American Church today, and he has a good bit of stats and convicting challenges in this chapter. I’m not big into marking up my books, but I had to make notes on a few pages on this chapter.  I think he makes an important call to Christians. Usually, the call to contentment is in a time of less, but he points out the ‘abundance’ we currently have, and yet we are still not content (on the whole), so we seem to be doing something wrong.

This chapter, along with the commentary on a Paul and the distillation of the classic, Rare Jewels, this is a book to put on your list. If you are specifically interested/concerned with contentment, this is probably (outside of Paul) you best bet to get started. Davis is a strong writer that goes deep, but keeps it accessible to a wider audience.

* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

I’m still here

The last time I posed on this site was back on Good Friday, which was actually a pre-made post, so not sure that even counts. I’ve taken an official hiatus for quite some time, for a number of reasons. One has to do with the pointlessness of this blog, and my struggles as to whether I want to keep trying to have content. It cost money to run this site, not much, but I often wonder if it is worth it. In pure numbers, it probably has been, as the number of free books I’ve received, taken at full price, is more than the costs of hosting. However, either the novelty has worn off or the quality of what is offered has declined/I’ve become more discerning.

That said, my book reviews are by far and away my most popular posts (with the exception of the times I’ve hosted the Biblical Studies Carnival). I would like to posts more original content. I’ve dabbled in politics (my least popular), some counseling thoughts (as I enrolled and subsequently dropped out of a master’s program through Westminster), and some Bible Study/Theological writings.

It is the later category that I would like to have more of, but is also the most time intensive. My life has become a little busier recently, with my new(ish) job and  a greater involvement with my church. This summer has been pretty booked, I witnessed the birth of my two sons, and recently have gone through the loss of both my granddads.

Anyway, all that to say, I should have a book review post up next Monday, with two others in the hopper. I’ll also have a few more thoughts on commentaries and Study Bibles, as well as some notes on Mark. Finally, I will likely, though it has been difficult, have some thoughts/stories regarding my sons and granddads.

I was unexpectedly encouraged the other day as I hit and then went over the 100 follower mark, though how few I actually have that still actively follow is unknown. So, I will attempt to keep going for at least another year. Thanks for playing along.

Good Metal Friday 2019

I post the guys all the time, but only because they have the best content of any Christian Metal out there. This song is taken/based on a quote from the puritan John Flavel. See the quote below, watch the video, listen to the song, and think (maybe even ponder) and the bargain that Christ made for us. He took on our debts, our sins, and trespasses, and paid them all, paid them in full; with his blood. He drank the cup of God’s wrath, that we would have everlasting life.

Today, on Good Friday, we commemorate His death, His propitiation of our sins, that we me be seen as blameless before God. His death was the substitutionary atonement for our sins. He took our place, so that we can have a place with Him, as adopted sons and daughters of God. Reflect on this tomorrow, as we await the commemoration of the resurrection and think of the hope we have.

“Here you may suppose the Father to say when driving His bargain with Christ for you.The Father speaks. “My Son, here is a company of poor, miserable souls that have utterly undone themselves and now lay open to my justice. Justice demands satisfaction for them, or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them.” The Son responds. “Oh my Father. Such is my love to and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally I will be responsible for them as their guarantee. Bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee. Bring them all in, that there be no after-reckonings with them. At my hands shall thou require it. I would rather choose to suffer the wrath that is theirs then they should suffer it. Upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.” The Father responds. “But my Son, if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite. Expect no abatement. Son, if I spare them… I will not spare you.” The Son responds. “Content Father. Let it be so. Charge it all upon me. I am able to discharge it. And though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures… I am content to take it.”

  • The Works of John Flavel, Vol.1, “A Display of Christ in His Essential and Mediatorial Glory”, 42 Sermons, Sermon Number 3, “The Covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Redeemer”, Use 6.

 

Book Review: The Rise of Endymion

The Rise of Endymion (Hyperion)

This is the final book in the series, check out my review of the other three – Hyperion, Fall of Hyperion, Endymion.

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Easy, Long (just over 700)

Summary
This is a nearly seamless continuation of the story from Endymion. Raul, after having separated from Aenea, continues on his own journey with the end goal of meeting back with her as planned. Captain de Soya is brought out of exile and commanded to continue his pursuit of Aenea as the Pax, the Church, and the Core all seek to capture her. As the final story in the Cantos, this is where they all come together and finally meet, and the story concludes with two big twists, one is you didn’t see coming, and the other, which was underwhelming, see below if you don’t mind spoilers (if a book published over 20 years ago fall under spoiler protection).

My Thoughts
The beginning of this book is so smoothly integrated to the prior in the series that they must have been written together. That being said, he may have intended this book to be two. For one, it was over 700 pages, but striking, it seems rushed at the end. By the last quarter of the book, he has over 2,000 pages of story written, and the story-line endings are wrapped up much too quickly. This is particularly true with the Shrike and the final scenes of Aenea.

After being the focal point, in some ways, of the first two books, the Shrike might as well not exist in this story. He plays a few roles in the early and middle parts of the book, but this is essentially written out. This might have been by design, but it is left up to the imagination exactly who/what he is. We know he is from the future, and seems to switch sides, but it never become clear who actually sent him. His ending doesn’t necessarily feel rushed as much as it does that the whole of the story and Simmons himself, just moved on.

The other issue I had, and this was certainly due to rushing, was the ending with Aenea. At this point, we are four books in, thousands of pages, and we are clearing reaching the apex of the story arc, and then, it is just…over. The attack, they fail (as she states throughout the book, so not a spoiler) and she dies. It is maybe a few pages and very much anti-climatic.

That’s not to say the book isn’t worth reading, it is a great book, I enjoyed a good 500-600 pages of it, but it is just a bit rushed at the end. On its own, I might rate it at three (maybe a four, as there are some trippy sci-fi thoughts in here, such as falling in a gas giant planet, and how long you can fall and still be in the atmosphere), if you are looking for something, but if you’ve read the other three, you have to finish it. It really become a must read.

Spoilers
There are two twist/surprise endings as I mentioned above. I’ll start with the bad, the future time that Aenea and Raul spend on Earth. It was just kind of dumb. You start to see it coming, especially the more they talk about her child and how she can’t talk about it. The bigger issue is, it doesn’t work with time travel. That doesn’t need to be so many months, it can appear as a second, because it doesn’t actually exist in regular time. The other twist was incredible, did not see it coming at all and is maybe worth these two books on their own. Simmons could have developed the idea of Watchers a bit more, or gone into some more, like I said, he seemed a little rushed, but having A. Bettik be one, was just brilliant writing.

Book Review: Endymion

Endymion (Hyperion)

This is the the third book in the series, check out my reviews for the first two books – Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion.

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Easy, long (just over 500 pages)

Summary
Almost 300 years after the Fall of  Hyperion, we do not know the fate of the Pilgrims, and apparently never will. This story focuses in a young man, Rual Endymion, who, after being convicted of murder, is sent on a quest to rescue a young girl from the Time Tombs, destroy the Pax, stop the TechnoCore, find Earth, and then reunite the old man with the girl to see Earth again.

The story is written from the perspective of Rual, who has already been caught, tried, and sentenced by the Pax. He recounts the story from his imprisonment. The memoir style adventure includes rescuing the girl, escaping Hyperion, and running from the Pax by sailing down the old Hegemony river through multiple worlds, before the book ends half way through their journey.

My Thoughts
The opening page starts with the statement of reasons why not to read this book. Included among them was to find out what happened to the Pilgrims, that is to say, if you want to read a sequel to Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion. My first thought was, what the hell? that is exactly why I bought this book, and its sequel. In many ways, this is not really a sequel to those previous books. It is more a completely new story, but that is built in the same world as the prior, but only relates in that the world(galaxy) has changed and it was all due to what happened in the prior books. So, in that way, it is a little frustrating.

However, it is still a great story, once you sift your mind away from the previous books in the Cantos. Like the previous books, it is written with quick, engaging action and solid, relatable characters. While the prior books were an ensemble cast, this one is mostly on Endymion, especially as he serves as the narrator, but there are several other characters on which the book focuses, that are not directly in his orbit. Again, Simmons uses varies story threads, one chapter focusing on Endymion, then the next one of their pursuers, then the next yet another antagonist, then back to him in the next.

Overall, if you like sci-fi you are going to enjoy this book. If you have read the previous two, you could probably pick it up. Simmons writes the book with references to the prior books, but has Endymion or other characters explain bits (or expand and create new aspects that didn’t exist), almost as if they are trying to remember. Even without reading the Cantos so far, this book is one to put on your list, but if you’ve already read them and are familiar with the universe, it is a must read. This particular book leaves too much hanging, leaving feeling a little wanting, but the final book in the series ties (to some extent) it all back together. So, read this one, then finish the Cantos and you’ll have gone through one of the great, especially for how little known, works of far future science fiction out there.