We are all feeling this right now

A little old, but it has been making the rounds. Pretty accurate for what I’ve been experiencing recently. Prior to a month ago, I don’t think I had done a video conference. I’ve done some video chats with some family members, but never multiple people or groups at once. I saw this a few weeks ago, but didn’t quite get all of it. Now, having done multiple conferences over the past week weeks, this only gets more funny.

 

Thoughts on Covid-19, Quarantine, and Community

I suppose it was inevitable that I would write something about all that is going on. I wanted to get back to posting my reviews and some other thoughts, but it seems impossible to get Covid-19 off your mind, especially after having remote church service again yesterday.

Providentially, perhaps, I was reading part of Psalm 42 yesterday. Psalm 42 & 43 were likely originally one but were broken up at some point for an unknown reason. The psalm is a pretty well-known one, it is where we get the song ‘as the deer pant(eth) for the water.’ It is not written by David, but by the Sons of Korah (or Korathites), yet it is often attributed to David as a prayer and during a when he is away from the temple, possibly when he was hiding from Absalom. Some modern critics, of course, give no attribution to David, but what is not in dispute is we have a man who is not in Jerusalem, and is longing to be back so that he can worship God.

Because of the work of Christ on the cross, we no longer need a temple or priest or anything else to worship God. We can go directly to God with our prayers, songs, praise and lemants. However, when we are seperated from our community of worship, as we have been the past few weeks, there is a sense of loss. The psalm is in three stanzas, each ending with –

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

It struck me how I do long to praise him again, in community, with other believers and friends at our church home. Again, we can all sing and praise God on our own, in our homes, as we have been doing. But I think it is important to remember that it is still lacking, something is missing, it just isn’t the same. Pastors can ask their congregants to post pictures of their families singing and taking communion together, and that helps, but we must acknowledge the longing. We miss some aspects of God that He reveals to us in and through community and taking communion together. So, I feel that deeply right now, that as a deer longs for streams of water, I long to worship again in community.

This time of longing should also remind us of future hope. That one day in the new Earth we will have perfect communion, all believers worship together, before God himself. We need to remember, always, that one day perfection will come and all the feelings of missing and lacking will be no more.

While it isn’t as enjoyable, please remember we are all ‘social distancing’ for the good of others. This is loving your neighbor. It is important to remember that no matter how inconvenient it is to be stuck in your house, it is far less of a pain than being hospitalized or seeing a loved one on a ventilator. It is a sacrifice for us, but Christians should not be scared to love others in this way. Another thing to remember is that while you may be able to work from home (which, again, is quite inconvenient) others may have no work at all.

Ask your pastors or community group leaders if they know of someone in your community in need, someone who has not received a paycheck in a week or who may not receive one in the next few weeks. I’d challenge everyone to personally decide if the need all (or any) of the stimulus money they are receiving in a few weeks. Maybe you need to shore up your own emergency fund first, but if you are still receiving your regular paycheck, consider giving most or all of it to your Church to be distributed to those who really need it. This wouldn’t be the first time Christians did this (see Acts, Galatians, etc. in the New Testament) and is unlikely it will be the last.

Also, keep in touch with your community and your actual neighbors. Maybe some are old or immunocompromised and cannot go out to the grocery store or to the pharmacy. This should be a time of Christians being once again known for charity in the community.

Remember, too, that while it is annoying, staying at home will help. In a month or so when rates are (hopefully) dropping, let’s remember not to look back and see it was all for nothing, that not that many people were impacted. It will be because of the actions we took to slow the spread, that the rates will decline. As a population, it is hard to see counterfactuals, something that cannot be proven. It is easy to see rates drop and be flippant, but it is because they are actually effective measures that are taken. It is a good reminder that the original vaccine was for Cow Pox (vaccine roughly means ‘no cow’ in Latin) and it took only a single generation before we have the original anti-vaxxers, people who questions the use of vaccines (and this was over 300 years ago). Of course, we still have these problem today, such as the measles outbreak last fall, a disease that was eradicated in the US 20 years ago.

Finally, look for the good where you can. Sure, maybe your babies are crying during communion, but maybe you also have the opportunity to talk with your other children about the significance of communion or what it means to be baptised. Our daughter is too young to attend service at our church regularly, but now she watches it with us. And she loves to sing, whether she knows the words or not. If she doesn’t, sometimes we laugh as she pretends she does. Or yesterday, there was a song she did know – It is Well – which is quite significant to us and so she sings and you wish you had closed the windows because no the pollen is getting to you and making your eyes water. Maybe like us, you have tried to keep your community group going by video conference. It isn’t always the best, and soon all men will have only two hairstyle – buzz cut and hat – but it is good to see everyone and at least check in on each other.

So, keep connected, everyone, we will be together eventually. Admit that longing to be together again. Remember that we are in a fallen broken world, but will live on day perfectly, together. Hope in God.

2020 Reading Challenge

I didn’t not reach my goal last year, so I’m trying to be even more realistic this year. I was really torn on setting the goal at 12 or 15. Going with 12 really seems doable, but that isn’t very challenging is it? So, I’ll try to push myself and get the 15 I’d like to read. I have 10 laid out already, one more fiction that will be one or the other depending on which one is in stock at the Library this weekend. The other four will be some combination of the many books on my past few challenges that I have not gotten to yet, a book I want to borrow from a buddy, and ARC books (which, I really plan to ramp down this year).

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. I started it last year, and only went a few chapters in, it isn’t really the amazing book I had heard, but maybe it picks up. If not, it will be the first major book I’ve given up on. If I have time, 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

Biography/autobiographyA Full Life: Reflections at Ninety was on my list the last three years, but I didn’t make it to it, so I’ll stick it back on this list. Thankfully, Jimmy has hung on with me.

Fiction – At 864 pages, Anna Karenina, will be my biggest book this year and the third longest single volume fiction book I’ve ever read. This was on my list last year, but Mrs. MMT stole it; however, she did enjoy it. Next up for fiction is either Dune or The Gunslinger. I’ve heard good things about both, and I always like sci-fi, but even better, they are both intro’s to long series, which is nice because I don’t have to think about what to read next. Not sure which it will be, heading to the library with Sprout this weekend and I’ll grab which ever they have. Rounding out fiction for the year will be The World’s Great Short Stories, because I like short 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. Technically, I’ve already one (Jesus Skeptic). The other three are The Meaning of Marriage by Keller, which is supposed to be one of the best and one my community group may do. One we’ve already started is The Great Divorce. Another book I’ve had on my list for a few years is Speaking Truth in Love, so I fully intend to finally knock that out.

This category is also good for my unplanned mostly due to ARCs, but also my long list of books I’d like to read such as Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand, Basic Christianity, and Church History in Plain Language. I also have the idea of potentially read reading Prayer (Keller), which is something I rarely do.

Commentaries, Theology, and Language – No big commentary this year and Greek for the Rest of Us, will, unfortunately, remain on the backburner for now. The only goal I have this year is Foundations of the Christian Faith (Boice). I’ve read chapters of this at various time for different studies of Theology, but I’ve never sat down to read the whole thing cover to cover, despite it being the one I recommend to people. Boice was a pastor, so this volume is less technical than others, while still being thorough (740) pages. To that end, it is on the list because Mrs. MMT wants to study theology, so I am reading it with her.

Time permitting, I’ll finally knock out Five Views on Biblical Inearrency. This has also been on my list for about three years, and it has been awhile since I’ve been able to read one of the X Views on… type books, so maybe I will be able to get to it at some point.

Devotional – I read the Bible last year (ish), so I’m back to a true devotional. It must be the year of Keller for me, so I’m doing Songs of Jesus, which is a devotional based on the Psalms. I did a devotional/commentary on Psalms a few years ago and really enjoyed it.

That is it for this year, hopefully life will permit me to get to these.

 

2019 Reading Challenge Review

TL;DR – Fail.

I had 20 book on my 2019 Read Challenge, 16 that were specifically called out and four that were TBD’s, overall, I only hit 10 (depending on how you count) with only four that were on my specific list. Turns out that a twin pregnancy, and actually having two infants, is a bit more tiring and time consuming that I had originally thought. Who knew?

I didn’t get to many on my list, six of them I never opened, but two I started and didn’t finish. One was Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which I’m a few hundred pages into, and may actually give up on. It is well written, and kind of funny, but it is long and tedious and incredibly repetitive. I know people on the internet love this book, but I’m either too dump or too smart, so I guess I’ll never know. It sounds funny, but the other book I didn’t finish was the Bible. Specifically, the M’Cheyne reading plan, which I’ve written about before and generally liked. This year, however, I didn’t like it. So, there will be a forthcoming post about the pros/cons. I also didn’t have 30 minutes to read the Bible each morning as I had hoped. I feel good that I read all the parts that I wasn’t sure I’ve read before, so at least now I’m confident I’ve read the Bible in it’s entirety.

Here are the books I did read:

The Rise of Endymion (reviewed) – Final book in the Hyperion Cantos series. Somewhat of a weak ending, but overall on of the great Sci-fi series I’ve ever read.
Just After Sunset – Collection of short stories from Stephen King, who might be favorite fiction writer of all time. The stories were hit or miss, but mostly good, with one story line making it into my nightmare, so that is a good sign.
Einstein Never Used Flashcards – I’ve had this book on the list of a bit, but thought it had more to do with that 3-5 range for children. Instead, it is more broadly about how small children learn, starting as young as six months. It has a lot of cool experiments you can run on your own children.
New International Greek Commentary on Mark – I’ll have a review of this later, but a different kind than usual with thoughts on the other two-three commentaries I skimmed.
Knowing God – Short study on the attributes of God, even better than I thought it would be. Still need to review it.
The Bible Tells Me So – I still need to get a review out for this, but I was little disappointed. In some ways, if you’ve followed Enns at all, there was knowing new, and the subtitle (how defending the Bible left us unable to read it) was less a part of the book, and therefore less challenge, than I anticipated.
12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (reviewed) – This was an interesting read after reading Irresistible. I wouldn’t say it is necessary a Christian take on it, but maybe how we should react as Christians. It is also specifically focused on smart phones.
Confronting Old Testament Controversies (reviewed) – Probably the best book I read this year, would recommend it over The Bible Tells Me So.
The Power of Christian Contentment (reviewed) – This was one of the few ARC titles I read this year, and providentially came at an important time in my life.
Narrative Apologetics (reviewed) – Another one of the ARC books I received this year.
A Christmas Carol – I’ll probably put of the review of this book until December, for obvious reasons. I know the story well, I watch two-four of the movie adaptations every year and have done so for decades. I’ve even seen this play (as an adult, I think it is the only one I’ve ever seen). It is one of my all time favorite stories, and now one of my favorite books.

So, that’s it for me this year. I’ll reload a few more on to the 2020 Challenge and see if I can do better this time.

Top Post’s of 2019

Doing a top post’s of a year is what all good, lazy bloggers do at the end of the year. This is actually only the second one I’ve done because I didn’t know until last year that WordPress gave me all these stats. Anyway, overall, this year was a little better than I thought. I had the least post since I started taking the blog a little more seriously back in 2016 (I had over 100 post that year), with only 16. I was happy to see that my views/visitors were actually higher than 2017, but dipped from last year (63 post and almost 50,000 words). I think this is due to finally have some legacy past, some that keep showing up in search engines. For instance, Sapiens led in 2017 and 2018, despite being posted in 2016; it dropped to 11 this year. This has led to an interesting impact, as no a single posts I actually wrote this year made it to my top 10 viewed post this year. So, here it is, my most viewed posts of 2019:

Book Review: We’re Pregnant
Book Review: Disciplines of a Godly Man
1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
Book Review: Imperfect Disciple
Book Review: Darkness is My Only Companion
Book Review: Five Marks of a Man
Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
1 Thessalonians 1-2:12
Cheat Sheet to the Minor Prophets
Book Review: Practicing the King’s Economy

Unsurprisingly, seven of the 10 were book reviews. For my review last year, I noted that these are the majority of what I did, and also the most popular, and that I should do more of them. Yet, my goal was to actually do less and focus on more original content, however that didn’t really happen this year. Of the seven book reviews, six were in the top ten last year (Five Marks of a Man being the outside), which I think must have more to do with the popularity of the book than with what I have to say about it. What was surprising, where two of my seven part Thessalonians, series were in the top 10, and my Cheat Sheet (which was my intro) to the Minor Prophets made its way up there, despite being written back in 2016. The Minor Prophets series (which I never finished) and the Thessalonians series are probably the two series/set of writings I’m most proud of, so it was cool to see them pop up. 

Of posts actually written this year, I’m Still Here was number one. I would think the page view would skew heavily towards things written in the January, but interestingly, while 2019 Reading Challenge was number 3 (and my second post written), my 2018 Reading Challenge review (first post written) was the least viewed of the year. Maybe bad timing.

I’ll post one prediction for 2020, I think the Review I did this year for Confronting Old Testament Controversies will be up there. It is a great book, and I hope it takes off. So, that is it for 2019. I appreciate everyone who has read or commented on my posts. Thanks for playing along, I’ll try to do better next year.

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.

Edit: One of the things I wanted to remember was how he had that supposedly bygone manliness of a past era, while (maybe ahead of this time, in that view) he still had a focus on relationships and gave them great value. Examples would include him pulling a stump out of the ground just a few weeks after having a stroke in his late 70’s, or re-shingling his roof, himself, in his early 80’s. All the while, he thought you should yell at your children or discipline them while angry and tried to impress upon me the importance of  putting work into your marriage, to listen and care for your wife.

Final Edit: The pastor, who had known him so many decades, said he exemplified Psalm 1, and I think that is a great summary of his life and really a goal of anyone who takes the Christian life seriously.

James Turner
May 11, 1925 – September 13, 2019

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.

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.