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.

2019 Reading Challenge

As I recently posted, I beat my goal for 2018 in terms of number, but didn’t really read all the books I wanted to read. So much so, that I am going to straight up cute and past a good bit from last year’s goal. Once again this year, I plan to lower the number of books I plan to read, this is partly so I can make sure I get to the books I really want, and because some are fairly long, but also, and I may post about this a bit later, but I plan to interact more with each book. With that taken into account, my goal this year is 20 books this year.

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I currently have 14 of them on the mantel in my living room to remind me to focus on actually getting these books done. You can check out my Goodreads 2019 Challenge page if you like list form, it actually shows 16, because I added three commentaries, but I may not read word for word, two of them, and am only counting one towards the challenge. After these 14, I have three other books (stretch goals I guess) that I’d like to get to, time permitting and somewhat depending on what review books seem incredibly interesting and what the library has available that I have requested, more on those below. The books are as follows:

Non-fictionGödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, at 822 pages, this is the second biggest book on my list for this year and one of my top five life goal, big book, non-fiction books to pick up. As Sprout just turned four, I’ve added Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less

Biography/autobiographyA Full Life: Reflections at Ninety was on my list the last two years, but I didn’t make it to it, so I’ll stick it back on this list.

Fiction – After reading The Fall of Hyperion and Endymion (Hyperion), the sequels to one of my favorite books from 2017, Hyperion, I plan to end the series this year with the final book in the Cantos, The Rise of Endymion (Hyperion) At 864 pages, Anna Karenina, will be my biggest book this year and the third longest single volume fiction book I’ve ever read. Rounding out the fiction section will be a collection of stories from one of my favorite authors, Stephen King, Just After Sunset: Stories.

Christian-y type books – Only four books are planned in this category this year, though this categories tends to be the largest due to ARC books and loans from friends. Knowing God is a classic at this point, but I haven’t yet read it.

Commentaries, Theology, and Language – Because two 800 page books won’t take me long enough, I’m also picking up two more 600+ page books. First, I want to get back into finishing Bavnick so I have Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, on the list with the ridiculous hope that I will actually make it to the even longer (912 pages) Volume Four. Second, my church is a doing a 40+ week study on Mark, so I’ve picked up The Gospel of Mark (The New International Greek Testament Commentary, and will likely skim the Tyndale and Bible Speaks today commentaries as well, but I don’t think I will count them towards the challenge.

Finally, for something different in this new category I just made up, I’m attempting to gain an understanding of Biblical Greek. For that I’ve chosen Greek for the Rest of Us: Using Greek Tools Without Mastering Biblical Languages.

None of the books in this category will be read all at once, but studied or read-through, throughout the year. I’ll use the commentary as we move through the sermons and go in and out of Reformed Dogmatics, probably after each major subject. I’m not entirely sure yet how to study the Greek, but likely either a few days a week for the year, or every day for a few weeks/months. Maybe there will be some guidance in the book itself.

Devotional – I’ve typically read a whole year devotional, such as My Utmost for His Highest (my review), but this year I’m going back to the whole Bible with the M’Cheyne reading plan, which I’ve written about before. The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It  looks like another great and challenging book from Peter Enns. Both Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (Resources for Changing Lives and Speaking Truth In Love are pretty well known in Christian Counseling circles, so I’d like to check them off the list.

Stretch Goals – So, I have 14 books on the list, which leaves six others unplanned. These will most likely come from review request, a book someone lends me, or if one of the books on my long library list becomes available. However, if that doesn’t come through, and I finish the previous 13, I have a few other plans. One is to read another book on church history. I’m torn on what I’ve heard is the best in Christian history – Church History in Plain Language or I may start another 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power Vol. 1: The Age of the Early Church Fathers (Grace Publications), which is the first in a four volume series (I’d love to hear from anyone who has read either or has a suggestion as to which would be better).

I’ve also had Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy on my list from 2017 and 2018, but also didn’t get to it. This book and the history one are obviously somewhat long, and can be dense, so another book I think I want to get to is The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, which is a book I bought for Mrs. MMT a few years ago on the advice of MxPx front man Mike Herrera. Finally, as a pair, I was given a book that reviews a Christmas Carol from a Christian perspective, and as that is one of my favorite all time stories, I’ll read the story then the review together and then respond to both.

That’s it. Hopefully I’ll tighten down and actually get to the ones I wanted this year. Feel free to share goals or insights on any of the books in the comments.

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2018 Reading Challenge Review

I met my goal of 30 books this year. Actually, I surpassed it with 37 (that is 11,167 pages according to Goodreads, if you like that kind of thing). That being said, reading over what I wrote I wanted to read, I feel like I’ve failed. I had 13 book specifically listed, but only read six of them. I guess I’ll try to carry on those attempts next year. You can see my Goodreads 2018 Challenge page here, if you want them in list form.

I said I was going to do less review books in 2018, but instead ended up doing 16, 13 of which were Baker, one was Crossway, and there were two new publishers I that had never sent me books before. That is probably the main reason I didn’t get to the actual books I wanted. It is interesting to ‘challenge’ yourself, when really it was supposed to be a list of books I wanted to read. Instead, it turned into a goal of reading X number of books. Also, I enjoy getting free books, but the more I requested, the less I enjoyed. I’ll have my 2019 Challenge up in a bit, but this year I want to focus on specific books, and will likely due far fewer review books, especially from Baker.

My longest book, and an unexpected addition was The Stand. I added it because of the PBS Great American Novel contest. I also started taking Sprout the library every other Saturday, so I grabbed a few random books that I didn’t have on my shelf, all of which were non-fiction. I only read a few other novels and was short on fiction this year. I read three devotionals, where were all decent, but I really didn’t read any theologically intense books, something I plan to change in 2019. I also had a few commentaries on the list, which is something I’m unsure should count towards the challenge.

Overall, the 2018 Challenge was a mixed-bag, I met my goal as far as numbers go, but didn’t really hit all the books I wanted. Oh well, as always, I’ll try to do better next time.

Top Posts of 2018

The end of the year is always a good time to look back over the past 365 calendar days of your life in general, but is even better for a lowly blogger, because it gives you fairly quick and easy post. So, with that, my top most read posts in 2018:

  1. Book Review: Sapiens
  2. Biblical Studies Carnival 150
  3. Book Review: The Imperfect Disciple
  4. Book Review: Disciplines of a Godly Man
  5. Book Review: We’re Pregnant
  6. Book Review: Believe Me
  7. Book Review: Practicing the King’s Economy
  8. Book Review: Darkness is My Only Companion
  9. Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines for a Godly Life
  10. Book Review: Four Views on Hell

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see Sapiens once again leading the pack (despite being published over two years ago), as it is led last year and is my all time viewed post since I discovered that WordPress gives me stats. As I’ve said since then, I’ll write a follow up soon.

My second and final Biblical Studies Carnival was the only non book review post in the top 10 (one of only three in my top 25, my post on Trump and the Supreme Court was 17th this year, and the picture from my 10th Anniversary was 21st).

Only four of the book review posts were actually written this year – We’re Pregnant, Believe Me, Practicing the King’s Economy, and Darkness is my Only Companion – inexplicably all coming in a row. So, that’s half of my top read being actually written in the year, I have no idea if that is common or not, but it sounds about right.

The next five most popular actually written this year included the above two non book review posts and three book reviews – Fall of Hyperion, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, and On Pills and Needles.

By all reasonable logic, if I want this blog to grow (which I do), I should do more book reviews, however, as I’ll discuss in a few weeks with my reading goals, I will have less book review coming this year and plan to write on a few more random topics. One of my writings on Thessalonians came in at 34, while my Money in Marriage ranked 37. I’ll have more on this in a later post, but I plan to do more writing and less reading in 2019.

So, that is it for 2018. I appreciate everyone who has read or commented on my posts. Thanks for playing along, I’ll try to do better next year.

 

Excruses 9/21/2018

A few thoughts from this article about the Pledge of Allegiance:
Manual of Patriotism sounds like something from the propaganda arm of the bad guys in a dystopian novel.
The guy who pushed for the pledge, Francis Bellamy, was a socialist and Baptist minister; something you probably wouldn’t hear of much today. Also, with the NFL starting we are back to talk about kneeling during the Anthem and disrespecting the flag, it’s good to remember that if you weren’t doing the Bellamy Salute, you were also disrespecting the flag. In case you are curious, here is that salute:

Also your reminder that ‘under God’ was not added until 1954.
Of course the Pledge was challenged at some point –

In 1926 the American Civil Liberties Union aided a case in Denver of a Jehovite child who was suspended from school for refusing to salute the flag on the grounds that doing so would be “idol worship.”
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor reiterated that “under God” was not a religious claim, just ceremonial deism.

Just ceremonial, we even acknowledge that it is pointless (that quote broke a little funny and I can’t fix it, obviously O’Connor was speaking much later about the 1926 case). I do find it an interesting question, should we as Christians pledge our allegiance to an inanimate object, and one that is entirely unrelated to Christ?  I’ve written about flags before, will probably have to again, but you can check it out if you want to know more.

It is always interesting to see articles like these. I read a good bit about personal finance and even subscribe to a few Financial Independence podcast, but I don’t really see it catching on or becoming mainstream.

But then there are articles like this. Sure, debt for a phone, everyone will be retire soon.

Why not go into debt for a phone, especially when half the calls will be spam by next year anyway?

Back to money, before I wrap up, why are people like this even married? The Biblical concept of marriage is that you become one flesh, things are now ours, not mine. If I didn’t have this view, I just don’t think I’d get married. How do you justify keeping property and retirement in separate accounts but say you want to live your life together?

I think I’m going to do a whole post about this next week, but a survey recently showed that religious Trump voters tend to be moderate compared to the hard rightness of non-religious Trump voters. Among the findings, religious tend to be more accepting of all religious and racial minorities, support more immigration and trade, and see ‘whiteness’ as less important. At least for the first and last ones, I hope that is because we see each other and ourselves as made in God’s image and belonging to Christ. More on that later.

As a city planner, this is something I’ve been aware of for some time – the problem with roundabouts is you. There is some interesting history there as to why some people might be scared, but I think it has more to do with fear of change. I remember when the first one was built in the city in which I work, about 10 years ago, we were told people would die and their blood was on our hands. Of course, accidents went down and average traffic speeds increased.

 

 

Excurses

Articles
Koinonia was the winning word in the spelling bee.

Trump as George Costanza.

Trevin Wax on Fahrenheit 451’s recent screen adaptation. I think the book is one of the more frightening and accurate of the mid century dystopian future novels, check out my review for more.

Speaking of dystopian. Here’s another another article about the misuse of additional verses. Also, if you are just interested in hearing more of the depressing, shameful, and embarrassing situation, check out this short article from the AP. These actions are far worse, but previously in the week, Sessions used Romans 13 to tell people to submit to the authorities. This is fine, he is correct, this is the meaning of this verse, but where was this verse under the last President?

Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds

Books
Relatedly, I finally received a review copy of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, which you can pre-order now and will be available next Thursday. I hope to have my review up the day before.

I’m about 600 pages into The Stand, and the first 250ish are all about the disease spreading, all during June. Well, it is June right now, and the past week or so, almost everyone in my office has been sick, all with similar symptoms and honestly it started to freak me out a little.

Podcast
Whitehorse Inn discusses Christianity in North and South Korea.

It may sound strange to recommend listening to a podcast where someone is being given a tour, but I enjoyed it. If you like bourbon/whiskey or visiting distilleries/breweries, you will too. Also, if anyone from Wild Turkey happens to be reading, I am open to sponsorship’s (I know how much brands like to be involved with religion and politics, especially with from a site with seven readers).

Excursus 6/8/18

Reading
Probably the biggest news this week came from the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Jack Phillip, a Colorado baker who refused to make a specialty cake for a gay couple’s wedding. This is an interesting case with a unique ruling, and I’m not sure what to think about all of it. There is a lot going on here, but a few points from the beginning: he apparently didn’t refuse to sell them any cakes, he refused to make a cake specifically for their wedding (or, really for their reception that was held a little over a year later), and offered them names of other bakers who would make them a cake. So, part of the argument his attorneys made was free expression based on cake decorating being an art (what a time to be alive). I wonder if the fact that he didn’t refuse any service to the couple, just the decorating, and that they insisted he be their baker, not any of the others, factored into the Court’s decision.

The biggest factor seemed to be that the court found inconsistencies from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, from the article –

Kennedy noted that the commission had ruled the opposite way in three cases brought against bakers in which the business owners refused to bake cakes containing messages that demeaned gay people or same-sex marriage.

Also that Phillips himself faced discrimination from the Commission, noting –

The Commissioner called baker Jack Phillip’s faith “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use.”  He compared Phillip’s “sincerely held religious beliefs” to slavery and the Holocaust.  As a result, Justice Kennedy argued in his majority opinion: “the Court cannot avoid the conclusion that these statements cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case.”

It seems the court looked at the results of the commission as discriminatory (or handled very poorly/illegally), that he didn’t refuse all services, and that decorating the cake falls under ‘expression as an artists’.

To me, the most important thing is the Court recognizing the inconsistencies. The commission was fine with a few other cases who refused to make a cake when they weren’t Christians. There have also been a case of a Muslim baker refusing service (entirely) to a gay couple, that hasn’t (not to sound too Foxnewsish) been covered much in the news. Personally, I wonder if there is a case to be made for extra protections for extremely minority religions like Islam, however I doubt there are any legit legal ones. However, there seems to be the bigger issue of what level of non-service is allowed? An incident last year where a coffee shop owner who was gay kicked a pro-life group out because they were Christians (I’m not linking anything because the only articles I found were rightwing sites or far-left site that celebrated the incident); it is unclear whether the group was causing a disturbance. When you compare that to the Starbucks case recently, it would seem you can’t even kick someone out for not being a paid customer.

While I fully support churches and and pastors from not preforming ceremonies for certain people, purveyors of other goods and services make me nervous. Maybe it is because I’m from the South, and the concept of ‘no X allowed’ whether X is Muslim, gay, or Christian, just really hits me the wrong way. I do see the slippery slop argument on both sides. Can you ban gay people from your restaurant, can you force a Muslim to draw a picture of Muhammad? It is a strange, delicate balancing act and I wish people would recognize the nuance in their discussions instead of just attacking each other as seems to be the go to in these cases.

That was longer than I anticipated so, on to other things I’ve been reading or listening to.

In the ‘not understanding the Bible, but a huge fan of Christian Nationalism’ category this week we have Franklin Graham holding rallies, with this brilliant quote –
“Progressive? That’s just another word for godless,” Graham told a group of supporters, according to the Times.

Word

Rethink Now has a list of the Seven Books Every Christian should read. I’ve only read on (Mere Christianity) and really only plan on reading two others on the list, I hadn’t even heard of some of them. Thoughts?

I finished reading Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give, so look for the review next week.
I also started reading The Stand a few days ago, and while I’m over 300 pages in, that just means I still have almost 800 to go.

Finally, have you ever looked at a clock (especially an analog) and it seems like the at which you looked last longer than the other movements? That is because your mind didn’t register what you saw at first, then interpolated it back as the time you first registered in a phenomena known as Chronostasis. Not really related to anything, but interesting nonetheless.

Podcasts
Whitehorse Inn has some thoughts on Finding Jesus in the Psalms. I didn’t start reading the Psalms until about a year, year and half ago. They are incredible, especially for understanding emotions for yourself and your expression to God. It is also a massive book, the longest in the Bible. Psalm 119 itself is longer than James, but somehow in many churches (baptist and non-denom) we miss them almost entirely.

The Gospel Coalition has a talk from Don Carson, What is an Evangelical. Among others, he points out the sociological, political, and linguistic issues with the word. It will be interesting to see what Christians (at least American Protestants) call themselves in the next generation, or the following one, especially after the damage Trump has done, but also due to the word expanding to mean so much, that it basically no long means anything.

Top post of the first half of 2018

I noticed many other bloggers do something like top post/most read of X year or the more prolific ones do a top of the month, or even week. I always kind of wondered how they knew, and that’s when I discovered the depth of the stats pages blogging platforms provide. I brought this up to Mrs. MMT and she thought it was stupid…that I didn’t know this was a thing. To be fair, she is an accredited PR professional, and my desire in life is to be a monk, but with sex, and fishing, and college football. Wait, where was I?

So I dug into my stats, and up until a few months ago, my most viewed overall (and winning by far and away for most views the day it was posted) was the time almost two years ago that I hosted the 2016 August Biblical Studies Carnival. That has since been passed by what is also my most read post of 2018 so far. My top five most read of 2018:

  1. Book Review: Sapiens
  2. Book Review: The Imperfect Disciple
  3. Book Review: Disciplines of a Godly Man
  4. Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life
  5. Tie – 10 Year Anniversary; Book Review: Four Views on Hell; Book Review: Darkness is My Only Companion

Why these posts? I have a few ideas, we’ll start from the bottom. Interestingly, Darkness is the only book review to make the list that I actually posted this year, so it’s probably there just due to recency. Similarly, Anniversary was post two weeks ago, and probably brought more of my Twits than book reviews due to the pictures of me and the Monday Morning Wife. Not sure about Four Views, other than Hell is weird and people have questions about it. Feels pretty cool that people found me from that.

My guess is that Imperfect, and the two disciplines books were popular searches due to Lent. I’ve already stated, I don’t know how to do Lent, but I do have two thoughts to help. First, you are probably looking up Lent because of fasting. I’ve heard nothing better than this Theocast podcast on fasting. Their idea that it isn’t necessarily about giving up food (Protestant view), but more about reclaiming time is fascinating. Second, if you are deciding which book to read, I can help. Imperfect is not about spiritual disciplines, but is still awesome and you should read it, and I’ve already written a post about why you should read Godly Man over Christian Life (though, if you are a woman, it’s still a better book).

So, this brings us to Sapiens. Why? Well, my stats pages tell me the terms searched that led people here, and basically, it was people searching for a ‘Christian review’ of the book. I was shocked/proud to find out that if you google this, I’ll be one of the top 5 or so (it changes) links shown. That’s really cool, but people were probably disappointed in what they found. I didn’t write a ‘Christian’ review in the sense people were probably searching. I mean, I am a Christian and I did review the book, but I think what people were look for was a Christian response. So, as a man of the people, I plan to write a Christian response to this book based solely on my guess what people were actually questioning (off the top of my head, it’s evolution).

Two final thoughts – I do Advanced Review Copy book reviews for a few publishers, but of the six book reviews that have brought the most readers this year, only one (Imperfect, from Baker Books), was one of these. Second, the May 2018 Biblical Studies Carnival is up over at 5 Minute Bible.

That’s it, those are my top five as of June 1, 2018. I plan to do an end of the year post for the most read of 2018, so stay tuned I guess. Thanks everyone who reads or follows me and I apologize in advance to anyone who found my by accident. I’ll try to do better next time.

Remembering My Grandmother

No book review today, as I am heading to a funeral. Louise Dueree “Dee” Turner, my grandmother, died on Monday morning. She would have turned 90 this August, but even more amazingly, in less than two weeks, she and my granddad would have been celebrating their 73 anniversary.

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 she had numerous gardens in which she grew Day Lilies. For decades she sold the flowers, but mostly the bulbs for others to plan in their gardens. Later in life, I’d come across people from surrounding cities and all they knew about my area was an old lady that sold bulbs to their garden clubs. One lady actually remember there being two little boys running around the gardens.

Along with selling flowers she was in charge of the church kitchen that made the Wednesday night meals every week. She was an incredible cook and well known for her abilities. One of my favorite memories about her is the pancake breakfasts she would cook every Christmas morning. They also hosted massive Easter and Labor Day celebrations at their house that would have dozens and dozens of people attending, including her sisters and my dad’s cousins and all their children. She loved the beach and for years they and all her sisters and their husbands spent October in New Smyrna Beach. All this despite have had three hip replacements, she was so active she wore out her first one and needed a replacement.

Mrs. MMT actually lived with them for a little over two months while I was away at grad school and right before we were married. They watched old movies with Clarke Gable together and my grandmother enjoyed having her there so much, she would often try to convince me to have us live there for a while after we were married.

She first started showing signs of Alzheimer’s about eight years ago, and unfortunately it only become worse. She hasn’t recognized me or Mrs. MMT in a few years and while she always loved seeing Sprout, she was never entirely sure who she was. Maybe a year or so ago, she starting not knowing my parents and this past January we moved them to an assisted living facility with memory care from the house they built more than 40 years ago.

My granddad woke up around 5:30 on Monday and my grandmother told him she was cold, he got her a blanket and told her he loved her and went out to watch TV. When he checked back in on her a little bit later, she was dead. In some ways, it is comforting to know that she went quickly, and that if she suffered, it didn’t last long. However, for him, it happened too quick. He told me yesterday that he wished that he had been able to hold her just one more time.

As we talked about her yesterday, he said that she was a great wife and mother, that they had a long happy life, and that he could not have asked for anything more. Best of all, and the most comforting, is that I know we will all see her again. She’ll have no more hip pain, and she will remember everyone when we all meet again.

Dee Turner
August 31, 1928 – May 28, 2018