Saturday, August 20, 2022

Book List 2022

 (Bold denotes highly recommended)

C. S. Lewis - The Horse and His Boy
Peter Grant - Rocky Mountain Retribution
David T. Good - Garden Heat
Lars Walker - The Year of the Warrior (Erling's Word)
Lars Walker - The Ghost of the God-Tree
Jack Carr - True Believer
Dashiell Hammett- The Maltese Falcon
Lars Walker - West Oversea
Scott McKenzie - The Boy with #ISND
JR White - A Hail of Brimstone
C. S. Lewis - Prince Caspian
Scott McKenzie: Red Cell
Dashiell Hammett - The Thin Man
John Taloni - Thunder god of Mars
T.J. Marquis - RawJack 
Milo James Fowler - Coyote Cal
John C Wright - Superluminary: Lords of Creation
John C Wright - Superluminary: The Space Vampires
John C Wright - Superluminary: The World Armada
Brent Weeks - The Way of Shadows
Will Jordan - The Dark Harvest
C. S. Lewis - The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
John Steinbeck - The Winter of Our Discontent
Jane Austen - Sense and Sensibility
Lars Walker - Hailstone Mountain


David Fischer - Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America
William J. Bennet - Tried by Fire: The Story of Christianity's First Thousand Years
Rickson Gracie - Breath: A Life in Flow 
Trey Garrison & Richard McClure - Opioids for the Masses: Big Pharma's War on Middle America and the White Working Class
Graham Hancock - The Magicians of the Gods
Thor Hanson - The Triumph of Seeds
Steve Solomon - Gardening When it Counts
Mary Roach - Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law
Joel Salatin - Folks, This Ain't Normal
John C. Wright - From Barsoom to Malacanda: Musings on Things Past and Things to Come
Matthew Lohmeier- Irresistible Revolution: Marxism's Goal of Conquest & the Unmaking of the American Military
Tom Mustill - How to Speak Whale: A Voyage in the Future of Animal Communication
Mark Miodownik - Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made World

Eli J. Finkel - All or Nothing Marriage
Craig Keener - Miracles Today: The Supernatural Work of God in the Modern World
John Middleton - Abraham's Silence: The Binding of Isaac, the Suffering of Job, and How to Talk Back to God
John Bergsma - Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Revealing the Jewish Roots of Christianity
Daniel Mendelsohn -  An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic
Chad Bird: The Christ Key: Unlocking the Centrality of Christ in the Old Testament
Neal Cole: Primal Fire: Reigniting the Church with the Five Gifts of Jesus 
Joel Salatin: Family Friendly Farming: A Multi-Generational Home-Based Business Testament

Monday, March 01, 2021

Book List 2021

(Bold denotes highly recommended)

J. R. White - A Shadow of Wolves
J.R.R. Tolkien - Tales From the Perilous Realm
Larry Correa - The Destroyer of Worlds (Saga of the Forgotten Warrior 3)
Orsen Scott Card - Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus
Susan Cooper - Greenwitch
J.R.R. Tolkien - Sir Gwain and the Green Knight
C. S. Lewis - That Hideous Strength
Michael S. Heiser - The Facade
Louis L'Amour - Law of the Desert
Susan Cooper - The Gray King
James Howard Kuntsler - A World Made by Hand
Michael S. Heiser - The Portent
Susan Cooper - Silver on the Tree
Larry Correia & John Brown - Gun Runner
George MacDonald-  The Princess and the Goblin 
Scott Mckenzie - The Boy with the Involuntary Social Network Disorder
Andrew Peterson - On the Edge of the Sea of Darkness
Scott Mckenzie - One Day in Gitmo Nation
Andrew Peterson - North! Or Be Eaten
John C. Wright - All Men Dream of Earthwomen and other Aeons
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
Andrew Peterson - The Monster of the Hollows
Jack Carr - The Terminal List
C. S. Lewis - The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
Andrew Peterson - The Warden and the Wolf-King
Andy Weir - The Hail Mary Project

Non Fiction 
Dan Carlin - The End is Always Near 
Joel Salatin - Pastured Poultry Profits
Neil Postman - Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology 
Edmund Morris - Ten Acres Enough: The Classic 1864 Guide to Independent Farming 
Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui- Unrestricted Warfare: China's Master Plan to Destroy America
Stephen Greer - Unacknowledged: An Exposé of the World’s Greatest Secret
Dana Thompson - Kunekune Pigs: The Ultimate Guide for Homesteaders 
Capt E.R.Walt - Halloway's Raiders: A History of Dallas Police Department's Deadly Shotgun Squads
Leigh Tate: 5 Acres & A Dream: The Sequel 
Dan Abrams & David Fisher - Lincoln's Last Trial
Allan Nation & Jim Gerrish - Quality Pasture: How to Create It, Manage It & Profit From It, 2nd
Thomas Cahill - The Mysteries of the Middle Ages
Neil Postman - The Disappearance of Childhood
Richard Lee - Modern Reloading
Isabella Tree - The Wilding
James Webb- Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America
Vivek Ramaswamy - Woke, Inc: Inside America's Social Justice Scam
Lazlo Tokes - The Fall of Tyrants 
Joseph Cotto - Runaway Masters
David the Good - Grocery Row Gardening
Joel Salatin - Polyface Micro
Michael Pollan - Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

Watchman Nee - The Latent Power of the Soul
John H. Hilber - Old Testament Cosmology & Divine Accommodation
S. Joshua Swamidass - The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry
Viktor E. Frankl - Man's Search for Meaning
Carmen Joy Imes-Bearing God's Name: Why Sinai Still Matters
Louis Markos- On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis
Seth Postell - Reading Moses, Seeing Jesus: How the Torah fulfills its goal in Yeshua
Rory Sutherland - Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life
Watchman Nee - Sit, Stand, Walk

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Book List 2020

(Bold denotes highly recommended)

Walter Mosley: The Devil in a Blue Dress
Umberto Ecco: The Name of the Rose
Larry Correia: #1 in Customer Service: The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Inter-Dimensional Insurance Agent
John C. Wright: Terrors of Pangaea (Lost on the Last Continent 1)
John C. Wright: Giants of Pangaea (Lost on the Last Continent 2)
John C. Wright: Gods of Pangaea (Lost on the Last Continent 3)
Larry Correia: House of Assassins: The Saga of the Forgotten Warrior, book 2
Tom Pendelton: The Iron Orchard
C.S. Lewis: Out of the Silent Planet 
Eric Dontigney: Midnight Ground
Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
C. S. Lewis: Perelandra
J. R. R. Tolkien: Letters from Father Christmas 

Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer
Graham Hancock: The Fingerprints of the Gods
Todd Zwillich: The Man Who Knew the Way to the Moon
Michael Pollan: In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
Eric Toensmeier: Paradise Lot
James Howard Kunstler: Living in the Long Emergency
Mark Twain: The Innocents Abroad
Gary Lachman: Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump
Neil Postman: Amusing Ourselves to Death
Malcolm X: The End of White World Supremacy 
William Strauss & Neil Howe: The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy - What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny

John Sailhammer: The Pentateuch as Narrative
Robert B. Cialdini: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Scott Adams: Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don't Matter
C. R. Wiley: Man of the House: A Handbook for Building a House in a World that is Falling Apart
David the Good: The Easy Way to Start a Home-Based Plant Nursery and Make Thousands in Your Spare Time
Grant Cunningham: Protecting Your Homestead: Using a rifle to defend life on your property
Leigh Tate: Prepper's Livestock Handbook: Lifesaving Strategies and Sustainable Methods for Keeping Chickens, Rabbits, Goats, Cows and other Farm Animals
Todd A. Wilson: Zealous for Good Works
Michael Heiser: The Unseen Realm
A. W. Tozer: The Pursuit of God
Joel Salatin: You Can Farm
Janet Vorwald Dohner: Livestock Guardians
Joel Salatin: Salad Bar Beef
Ben Witherington III: Who God Is: Meditations on the Character of God
Greg Ellifritz: Choose Adventure (Safe Travel in Dangerous Places)
Matthew Sleeth: Reforesting Faith: What trees teach us about the nature of God and His love for us
Randy Alcorn: Heaven
John H Walton: The Lost World of Genesis One
A. W. Pink: The Life of Elijah

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Book List 2019

(Bold Denotes Highly Recommended)

Jeff & Jean Sutton: First to the Moon
David T. Good: Turned Earth
Caleb Carr: The Alienst
Antonio Salmeron: The Object
Anthony Marchetta: God, Robot
Susan Cooper: Over Sea, Under Stone
Superversive Press: Planetary: Mercury 
Joshua P. Simon: Forever Soldiers
Susan Cooper: The Dark is Rising
Peter Grant: Brings the Lightning
Jane Austin: Emma
Superversive Press: Planetary: Earth
GK Chesterton: The Innocence of Father Brown

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Everyday Life
Anthony Everitt: Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician
Art Ludwig: Water Storage
Nathaniel Philbrick: Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution
David the Good: Push the Zone; The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants beyond the Tropics
Bryan Caplan: Selfish Reasons to have more kids: Why being a parent is less work and more fun then you think
Gary Taubes: Why We Get Fat and What to do about it 
Matthew Trewhella: The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates: A Proper Resistance to Tyranny and a Repudiation of Unlimited Obedience to Civil Government
Leigh Tate: 5 Acres & a Dream: The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient Homestead
Dan Kindlon & Michael Thompson: Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional life of boys
Erik Larson: Dead Wake; The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Michael Lewis: The Undoing Project
Frank J. Tipler: The Physics of Christianity
Milo Yiannopoulos: Middle Rages: Why the Battle for Medieval Studies Matters to America
David McCullough: The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
Audie Murphy: To Hell and Back
Mat Best: Thank You for My Service
David the Good: Free Plants for Everyone
Ron Paul: The School Revolution: A New Answer for our Broken Education System
Thomas Cahill: Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter

Francis Chan: Letters to the Church
Robert Alter: The Art of Biblical Narrative
William Bennet: The Book of Virtues
Michael S. Heiser: Angels
Jocko Willink & Leif Babin: Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs lead and win
Teri Page: Family Homesteading
Brennan Manning: Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God
Daniel Pink: To Sell is Human; The Surprising Truth About Moving Others
Johann Hari: Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions
Ryan Pitterson: The Judgment of the Nephilim
C. R. Wiley: The Household and the War for the Cosmos
George S. Clason: The Richest Man in Babylon
Stephan Molyneux: The Art of the Argument; The Last Stand of Western Civilization
G. K. Chesterton: The Uses of Diversity
Robert Alter: The Book of Moses: A Translation with Commentary 

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Book List 2018

(Bold denotes highly recommended)
John C Wright: Count to Infinity
Anthony Marchetta: Tales of the Once and Future King
Jerry Pournelle: There Will be War Volume X
John C Wright: Superluminary: Lords of Creation
John Steinbeck: Travels with Charley
T. H. White: The Once and Future King
John C Wright: Superluminary: The Space Vampires
Owen Stanley: The Missionaries
John C Wright: Superliminary: The World Armada
Greg Pak: Planet Hulk
John Stuart: Raise a Holler
Robert Heinlein: Farnham's Freehold
Joseph P. Simon: Resurrected Soldier
Walt Simonson: The Mighty Thor: Vol 1
Jane Austin: Pride & Prejudice
H. G. Wells: The Food of the Gods and How it Came to Earth

Eric Metaxas: Martin Luther: The Man who Rediscovered God and Changed the World
Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
G. K. Chesterton: What I learned in America
Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder
Sir William Ramsey: Was Christ Born at Bethlehem?
David Cressy: Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England
J. B. Bury: A History of Freedom of Thought
Maxi'diwiac & Gilbert Livingstone Wilson: Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden
Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Fooled By Randomness
Steve Hughes: The Homebuilt Winery
Jeff Cox: From Vines to Wines
Thomas Cahill: The Gifts of the Jews
N. T. Wright: Paul: A Biography
Ralph Korngold: Thaddeus Stevens: A Being Darkly Wise and Rudely Great
Thomas Cahill: The Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus
J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien: Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary
Martha Stout: The Sociopath Next Door
Douglas Preston: The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story

Plan B Writers Alliance: Locusts on the Horizon
Timothy Keller: Romans 1-7 For You
Michael Heiser: Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ
Jordan B Peterson: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
Timothy Keller: Prayer
Bob Clagett: Making Time
Steven Corbett & Brian Fikkert: When Helping Hurts
C. R. Hallpike: Do We Need God to Be Good?
Timothy Keller: Romans 8-16 For You
Grant Cunningham: Prepping for Life: A Balanced Approach to Personal Security

Monday, October 09, 2017

Book List 2017

(Bold denotes Highly Recommended)
John C. Wright: The Judge of Ages
John C. Wright: The Architect of Aeons
John C. Wright: The Vindication of Man
John Bunyan: The Pilgrims Progress
Jerry Pournelle: There Will Be War Vol 1
Jerry Pournelle: There Will Be War Vol II
Douglas Adams: So Long and Thank's for All the Fish

Non Fiction
David the Good: Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening
Carl Sandburg: Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years
Carl Sandburg: Abraham Lincoln: The War Years
Timoty Egan: The Immortal Irishman: The Irish revolutionary who became an American hero
G K Chesterton: The Everlasting Man
LawDog: The LawDog Files
David Grossman: On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society
Dr. Joseph Alton: The Survival Medicine Handbook: THE essential guide for when medical help is NOT on the way
Paul Tough: How Children Succeed: Grit, curiosity and the hidden power of character
Steven Kotler & James Wheal: Stealing Fire: How silicon valley, the Navy SEALS, and maverick scientists are revolutionizing the way we think
Samuel L. Bray & John F. Hobbins: Genesis 1-11: A New Old Translation for Readers, Scholars, and Translators

Charles Swindoll: A Life Well Lived
Dallas Willard: The Divine Conspiracy
Timothy Keller: Every Good Endeavor: Connecting your work to God’s work
Timothy Keller: King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the life of Jesus
Kevin Lehman: Sheet Music: Uncovering the secrets of sexual intimacy in marriage
Roger Connors: The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability
Dr. Michael S. Heiser:  Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches About the Unseen World - and Why It Matters
Todd Wagner: Come & See
Phillip Keller: A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Shadow of the Greater Yet to Come

In the hound, God has gifted man a mighty gift, noble in concept and execution. When He charged Adam to take dominion over the earth and all that lies within, there must have been a special place of pride and love in the Almighty as he placed the hidden joys of the coming domesticated canine within man’s grasp. Dogs kept as pets bring hope and heartache, joy and sorrow, and a shadow of the greater joy yet to come for the Christian.

Give no platitudes; maturity and strength do not stem from falsehood. I find no evidence or support in the scriptures for a soul within a dog. Hunter is gone now. This crafty and cheerful and stubborn and loyal Golden Retriever I married into will not be standing in the new kingdom awaiting our arrival. To have a spirit is the breath of life God has given exclusively to man, and all of creation and the angels look upon us with wonder. Yet Hunter is a great gift of God. He is a picture of God’s love; integral to my wife’s coming of age, a testimony of the living God, and a marker of the curse of sin.

The bible is clear that the new kingdom to come is free of death and sorrow. The New Heaven and the New Earth will be rife with the creatures of creation. Those found within the Book of Life will live for eternity in the fully realized reality of Jesus, and even the nature of our pets will change. ‘Pet’ is scarce a word to describe what will be. All of creation groans under the weight of sin and longs of Christ to return. The dog we keep as a pet now is a pale yet delightful shadow of the age to come, groaning and longing himself. Creation, and canines within, will be fully realized. My relationship will be fully realized. I propose that the barriers of communication and understanding will be razed. The glimpses of understanding that we see now are only snatches of the song to come. Maybe in the City of God I will have a buffalo and an echidna with my Anatolian Shepherd dog, while my neighbor sips tea upon his caribou.

Hunter, like most pups, had two eyes. At the ripe age of ten, he developed a wart centered on one pupil. Knowing our budget limit of $400, Jenny looked at the +$1200 appraisal with dismay. Physically, the rest of his body was good, the body of a dog three years his junior. Yet every time Hunter looked at you tail a-wagging, the malignant cornea capper would look right back, growing in scope and magnitude as the days turned into weeks. Cost effective remedies unavailable, we discussed euthanasia to cut off the painful process. One day I noticed a reduction in the growth as I was getting ready for work, and I texted Jenny about it later, and she agreed it was improving. She had prayed to Jesus over his eye for healing, and within two days it was completely healed without any medical attention beyond the initial diagnosis. This afternoon, as the life within a now thirteen-year-old Hunter faded by injection and old age, those eyes looked at me from the table. The eyes conveyed pain from kidney failure, but also a reminder that my God is alive, the Spirit is active, and Jesus does know us as individuals. God reveals His glory in the 10,000 small joys in the days of a dog’s life, and the healing that secures hope.

Lake Georgetown, 2013
Death comes to both man and beast. It is a gift of God that our life spans several rounds of our pets. In young life, a puppy is joy in discovery and the hope that proper training will bring out the full potential. Youthful energy and a desire to go on walks keep the responsible owner young. Their vigilance over the bumps that come in the night brings us rest. The slow and methodical elder age and the resurgence of ‘independent thinking’ are themselves a reminder of what comes upon man in the twilight years. The death itself is a consequence of man’s rebellion against providence, the wages of our sin. Redemption has come for Man by the Christ on the cross. Salvation and new life are there for those who follow Jesus, but while he waits for the wheat and the tares to choose and bear fruit, creation suffers. Until judgment and all is made new creation will continue to suffer. God is sacrificing his good creation to give us more time to come to Him. One day, perhaps soon, this will end and man can rejoice fully with creator and creation once again and for all time.

Greater days are yet to come.
Today, Hunter has passed.
Today, I will value Harmon and Sullivan a bit more.
Today, I know God loves us, each as a person and not only in the collective.
Hunter’s time has come.

May the time of His return come soon.  

Monday, August 01, 2016

Book List 2016

(Bold denotes highly recommended)
Richards/O'Brian: Misreading Scriptures with Western Eyes
C.S. Lewis: The Abolition of Man
Martin Goodman: Rome and Jerusalem
Clarence Thomas: My Grandfather's Son
Timothy & Kathy Keller: The Meaning of Marriage
James C. Dobson: Bringing Up Boys
Larry P. Arnn: Churchill's Trial;Winston Churchill and the Salvation of Free Government
Donald J. Trump & Tony Schwartz: The Art of the Deal
Angela Hanscom: Balanced and Barefoot

John C. Wright: A Book of Feast and Seasons
John C. Wright: One Bright Star to Guide Them
Virgil: The Aeneid
Larry Correia - Son of the Black Sword: The Saga of the Forgotten Warrior, Book 1
Conn Iggulden - Ghengis: Birth of an Empire
Conn Iggulden - Ghengis: Lords of the Bow
Michael Crichton: Pirate Latitudes
Ernest Hemingway: A Farewell to Arms
John C. Wright: Count to a Trillion
Rudyard Kipling: The Jungle Books

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Book List 2015

(Bold denotes highly recommended)
- Homer: The Odyssey
- Michael Crichton: Jurassic Park: The Lost World
- C. S. Lewis: The Great Divorce
- J. R. R. Tolkien: The Fellowship of the Ring
- J. R. R. Tolkien: The Two Towers
- J. R. R. Tolkien: The Return of the King
- Joseph P. Simon: Forgotten Soldiers
- Joseph P. Simon: Wayward Soldiers
- John C. Wright: The Golden Age
- John C. Wright: Phoenix Exultant
- John C. Wright: The Golden Transcendence
- Aurthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Bohemia, The Adventure of the Red-Headed League, A Case of Identity, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Five Orange Pips, The Man With the Twisted Lips, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, The Adventure of the Speckled Band
- Andy Weir: The Martian
- Paulo Cohelo: The Alchemist
- Frank Peretti: This Present Darkness

- Martin Pistorus: Ghost Boy
- Frederick Douglass: A Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglas
- Jack Weatherfront: Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
- Malcomb Gladwell: The Tipping Point
- John C. Waugh: Re-electing Lincoln: The Battle for the 1864 Presidency
- Emily Oster: Expecting Better
- Jerry Trousdale: Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims are falling in love with Jesus
- David the Good: Compost Everything
- Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America
- Caesar Millan's short guide to a happy dog
- David Watson: Contagious Disciple Making
- Sharon Moalem: Inheritance: How genes change our lives- and our lives change our genes
- Rodney Stark: Why the West Won
- David the Good: Survival Gardening

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Brave is a Plastic Fork

There is a movement that I have taken note of within the Christian church. I say within the church because all churches are members of the body of Christ, and the lines between different bodies is more blurred then it has been in generations, even to human faculties. I say movement because many people have adopted its phrases, precepts, and persuasions across numerous church bodies. This is the Brave movement. The Brave movement holds bravery of Christians as a cardinal virtue, and embraces Jesus as one who makes believers brave.

Real people write worship and their writing follows teaching and understanding. Worship songs can become anthems of the faith, constant reminders of seasons we walk in now and seasons that have been in the past. At different times, Amazing Grace[i] can be the cry of our hearts or a faint reminder of Christians from days past. Oceans[ii] by Hillsong may be the anthem of the body for the past two years, a fresh sound of David echoed across the world. Movements have their songs as well, because music penetrates and reflects the soul of the artist and receiver. If there was a Brave movement ten years ago, it probably would have been headlined by Nicole Nordeman with Brave[iii] (“…you make me want to be brave”). 
Today, You Make Me Brave[iv] from Bethel Music is a contemporary worship song that is the anthem of the Brave movement, an ideological rallying cry staking a claim in the hearts of believers engaging in worship. You Make Me Brave has a great sound, uplifting chords and a catchy hook. It opens with a noble message of humility before Jesus (“King of Heaven, in humility I bow”), a declaration of victory (“Champion of Heaven you made a way for all to enter in”) and proclamation of our calling (“So I will let you draw me out beyond the shore into the waves”). The back half of this worship song is a repeated declaration of “You make me brave” and rebuke of nameless fears. There is much truth in this. Humility is righteous. Jesus is King. Jesus is salvation. We stand called. Jesus makes you brave?

There are three problems with this line of reasoning. The first is a category error, the second is a priority error, and the third is the boy who cried wolf. Brave[v] is an adjective, noun, or a verb describing someone or something ready to face danger without showing fear. Brave is a choice, a manner of action, a method of behavior. One is not ‘made brave’. A firefighter running into his hostile work environment is brave by choice, not by manufacture. Someone did not come and make Rosa Parks brave; she chose to act bravely. No one made the David Livingstone, the ‘Brave Scotchman’, penetrate the African continent for Jesus, he chose his actions and they were brave. 
It is a categorical error to claim ‘you make me brave’ as a truth of Jesus to your heart. This error abdicates the responsibility of the Christian to act brave and fraudulently imposes it upon Jesus, who purposefully does not make our decisions.

Priorities matter. Do not consider all things as of great importance and suffer the opportunity costs of neglecting the important at the expense of the lesser things. Penny-wise, Pound-foolish[vi] is a nuanced example of this false focus. Paul tells us about the fruits of the spirit[vii] and examples of righteousness[viii]. Brave is not among them. Maybe this is for two reasons. First, it should be natural in our new state that we live with courage, conviction, and righteousness.[ix] Second, because of our relationship with Jesus we explicitly make the choices of life, he does not make choices for us. This is free will and it is fundamental to Christian faith. Bravery is less then critical for most of choices, and God calls us into much greater than mere bravery.  

Bravery is the failure to appear daunted, unlike boldness, which is not hesitating in the face of actual or possible danger. I think this is what people mean when they say brave, but words shape our mindsets more than intent and therefore matter greatly. To place ‘bravery’ as virtue above Godly humility or righteous living or liberty from the flesh is a waste of great gifts. This is coming into the feast of the marriage of the Bride and Jesus, equipped with our own plastic cutlery and rejecting all the finest forks and knives of heaven. “No thank you” says the diner, “I want to use these instead. You keep those; I have found something much better.” It should frustrate us to see pearls freely offered cast aside so petty rhinestones can continue to adorn this faith. David celebrated the victories of God over his enemies[x] and he rejoiced in the strength God gave him to conquer[xi]. It is notable that he found comfort in the tools and abilities[xii] and deliverance[xiii] God gave him, not in their rejection.  Importantly, David did not expect nor demand that God make his choices for him, he did not praise God for making him brave.  David was brave and it was his choice to be, and he worshiped the Lord for who the Lord is and what he has really done.

As David was once a shepherd, so let me tell you of another. Once there was as shepherd boy on the hills. In the midst of a summer doldrums, he prepared a plan for excitement and attention. Dashing down the hill with the sheep ruminating behind, he exclaims to all who listen that he saw a wolf! Reacting with due haste his neighbors dash up the hill seek the destroyer, only they cannot find him there. Days go by and the boy becomes dulled with the tedium of his walk, and he prepares his plan for excitement and attention. Dashing down the hill with the sheep of his master ruminating on his departure, he exclaims again to his neighbors that he saw a wolf! Many of townspeople dash up the hill to spy out the wolf, reacting with perhaps less haste then before. The destroyer is not here! This immature shepherd has misled others and wasted time again. The neighbors admonish the boy for his foolishness and leave him again to tend the master’s flock. Days pass on, and the boy prepares his plan for excitement and attention. It has succeeded without fail in the old days! (In summer, the days grow old with undue speed)
He stands, ready to dash once again, when he counts his master’s sheep. The flock is smaller than it was. Counting out, he realizes there are indeed sheep missing. In the near distance, howling breaks forth, and the rustles and hustles and bustles reveal a number of destroyers greater then he can handle. Dashing down the hill with the diminishing sheep bleating confusion, scattering behind him; the boy seeks his neighbors and exclaims the news to his town. Now none listens. He has shown complete disrespect for his neighbors, wasted their time with running hither and yon, and destroyed their trust with falsehoods. He has failed to present truth to them, and so when he does come to the truth, no one will accept. It is critical to present the truth always to our neighbors. When we fail at this, there is disrespect and time lost irreparably. If we cry out falsely, or intentionally misdirect our neighbors, we condemn our efforts to failure.

The Brave movement does this, foregoing the hard truth of personal responsibility and salvation offered and misdirecting to the plastic forks and knives, saying Jesus makes me brave. This is an easy out with only transient victory. It feels good for a while to claim, “It is not me, Jesus makes me brave!” Yet when the grist is ground in life, there is no foundation prepared to act with righteousness. This is a weak foundation, one built on sand of emotions and temporary expediency. The Brave movement sacrifices the truth of making choices on the altar of a strong female vocal, catchy lyrics and comforting half-truths. Church, we are better than this. Do not offer fake answers to a world demanding reality. Rather hold fast to what is true and proclaim the good news in grace and in truth[xiv]
To be brave is your choice; it is the choice to do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons, regardless of the consequences of this world. The song Brave by Nicole Nordeman retained this reality, and emphasized the choice of Christian. If our faith is true, we should experience boldness in our walk that is inwardly experienced and outwardly visible. Boldness to disciple, boldness for grace, boldness for truth, boldness for Jesus as he really is and not merely though song. Daniel in Babylon chose to be righteous and the Lord honored his boldness. Peter chose to walk on the water towards Jesus, and in his faith walked with boldness. Paul worshiped in prison, and from his relationship with Jesus came boldness, boldness we have not seen the end of. Make the choice, and do not feast upon half-truths and falsehoods for your life, wherever they come from. Love rejoices with the truth.

[vi] Prov. thrifty with small sums and foolish with large sums. (Describes someone who will go to a lot of trouble to save a little money,but overlooks large expenses to save a little money. Even in the United States, the reference is to British pounds sterling.) Sam: If we drive to six different grocery stores, we'll get the best bargains on everything we buy. Alan: But with gasoline so expensive, that's penny-wise and pound-foolish.
[vii] Galatians 5:22-23
[viii] Romans 12:9-21, Colossians 3:12-17
[ix] Galatians 5:24, 25. Ephesians 4:17-32
[x] Psalm 23:5
[xi] Psalm 27:6
[xii] Psalm 18:30-36
[xiii] [xiii] 1 Samuel 17:36
[xiv] John 1:14, 17

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Book List

> Jon Meacham: American Lion; Andrew Jackson in the White House (It is fortunate for us that the man who could have been our Caesar was so dedicated to popular liberty and bank busting. The personal turmoil throughout this administration is astonishing and may have helped limit the already expansive increase in executive power. Long, long read.)
> G. J. Myers: A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918 (Truly a masterpiece representation of the the first World War. Extensive provision of context, welcome portraits of the men who changed the war, and an unyielding sense of the weight of the subject)
> Peter L. Bernstein: The Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation (Having an even greater impact then even the transcontinental railroad, the project that made New York an economic triumph. Delightful work on an oft neglected subject matter.)
> Alexander Rose: American Rifle: A Biography (Rifles. Industrial Development. Personal machinations of inventors, soldiers, acquisition officers. generals. industrialists. Recommended for anyone with an interest in firearms or military development. 
> Paul M. Barrett: Glock (Lightweight, benevolent history of a pistol that changed the face of the worldwide firearms industry)
> Amity Shlaes: Coolidge (I learned an enormous amount of US history through the eyes of one of my favored presidents, a hand of character attempting to stay the progressive tide. Long but worthy read for minds interested in what it takes to reduce a federal budget)
> Susan Cain: Quiet The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking (This TED Talk has all of the book)
> Jim Powell: FDR's Folly (Good documentation of the mess that was the New Deal. Hard to get through, but each chapter is an essay worthy of completion in its own right)
>John C. Wright: Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth (Highlights include a keen review of the Hobbit movies, strong female characters, and the warping of the modern man by a worldview excluding the Creator. Recommended for scifi and apologetic types).
> Nathaniel Philbrick: The Last Stand: (Custer, Sitting Bull, Little Big Horn, a battle that is full of characters richly canvassed. If you like history told with notes on the footnotes and lively personal drama, this is it. )
> C. S. Lewis: Mere Christianity: (Exemplary apologetic, rarely shows it's age as Lewis discourses through timeless truths)
> Steven Dubner & Steven Levitt: Think like a Freak (Thin and repeats a lot of the podcast material. Did not care, they bring an A game to the table and it's worth the short time investment. I will be telling more stories as a result of this book.)
>Thomas Cahill: How the Irish Saved Civilization (intriguing survey of the classical world's collapse and the effect of Patrick's conversion of Ireland on Ireland and continental Europe)
>Maury Klien: The Power Makers: Steam, Electricity, and the Men who invented Modern America (Workman like prose, takes a lot of pages to describe the evolution of electricity
 in the US. Not for idle reading but I found it informative)
> Danny Silk: Keep Your Love On! (Could have been condensed to 24 pages, not compelling or revelatory or terribly helpful)
> Michael Pollan: The Omnivore's Dilemma  (Food Inc sourced a lot of material from Pollan's writings, but even after viewing Food Inc I still found fresh and engaging content throughout,. It did accomplish it's unstated goal, to have this reader review my food choices)
> Cityview Church: Perseverance; True Stories from Mineral Wells
>Margaret MacMillian: Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World
>Mark Kurlansky: The Big Oyster; History on the Half Shell
>Michael Lewis: Boomerang

> Isaac Asimov: The Currents of Space (Asimov brings a sci-fi who-dun-it. Fun and engaging)
> Douglas Adams: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Hilarious and unrelenting in surprise)
> Douglas Adams: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Funny and continues the humor)
> Douglas Adams: Life, the Universe, Everything (moments of hilarity, too oft a story lost)
> Neal Stephenson: Snowcrash (Clever conceits, a collapsed world run by 'franchise city-states', skateboarding delivery teens, enormous virtual reality engagement, Sumerian myth, the Holy Spirit as an information virus transmittable from humans to virtual reality, a world spanning monopoly on the internet run by a renegade Pentecostal, an Aleut man with a hydrogen bomb... fun concepts which require enormous suspensions of disbelief to overcome chronic biblical mis-information. Audio version was dull. may be better in paper. Tremendous tongue-in-cheek humor. Frustrating characters due to thin thought processes. Unbelievably contemporary for being 22 years old, worth a looksee for sci-fi readers)
Arthur Conan Doyle: A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes)
> Larry Correia: Hard MagicBook 1 of the Grimnoir Chronicles (Story. Plot. Characters. Historical context. Magic. Steampunk. So. Good.)
> Larry Correia: SpellboundBook I1 of the Grimnoir Chronicles (An equal to the excellence that is Hard Magic)
> Edgar Rice Burroughs: Princess of Mars (classic interplanetary romance adventure science fiction, for boys young and old)
David Liss: Whiskey Rebels: (Mediocre historical fiction in the period following the war for independence. Yawn.)
>Larry Correia: Warbound Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles. (Corriea manages the Everest of multi-part fiction, a conclusion worthy of its mighty predecessors. I listened to the audio versions all and they were tremendous, I will be seeking out paper copies to keep on the shelf.) 
>John C. Wright: City Beyond Time (Short stories of time travel and the people who live at the end of time and have to deal with the obnoxious consequences of those who travel in time. Thought provoking in the way good science fiction ought to be)
> Edgar Rice Burroughs: At the Earth's Core: (Fun and fanciful Sci-Fi/Fantasy of a long time ago. Felt like a compilation of a magazine serial feature)
>Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sign of the Four
>Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles
>Victor Davis Hanson: The End of Sparta (I didn't think it was this way when I read it, but this book has a great stick-to-the-ribs-of-the-mind quality about it, and that is a good thing)
> Homer: The Illiad
> John Stienbeck: The Pearl (Deserving of the term 'classic' for its treatment of the heart of man)

In Process:
Homer: The Odyssey
John Piper: What Jesus Demands from the World

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

"That, Detective, is the Right Question"

“How did it come to this?”

-King Théoden, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (movie) 

History is stories. History is facts. History is events. History is thematic. History is legend. History is truth. History is written by the victors. History is a weapon. History is an argument without end. History is the hand of the Almighty. History is people. History is interesting. History is context.

Yet if you ask the average American, I suspect the most common refrain will be ‘History is boring’. Why is that? What takes the natural curiosity of a child looking for answers and turns it aside with ruthless efficiency?

It is in no small part an absence of a need for understanding. People learn best when there is a definitive and useful application. You look both ways to cross the street to avoid a jarring life event. People brush their teeth to retain molars and smell pleasant. Many children even develop the skill of walking because there is a perceived use. Humans like to see immediate application of what we are learning. The common refrain of students learning algebra is “Why does this matter to me?” In the case of algebra, the material must be known for the future despite its minimal application in the present. It can be taught effectively through rigorous exercises and rote coursework. There is undeniably a correct answer, a solution without dispute. Where math can be effectively compelled, history becomes more obtuse and ephemeral with regimented pressure. It is far from obvious to the reluctant student that history has applications or benefits today or tomorrow. Humans live and learn in the present, often inconsiderate of future needs or utility. In history education, this barrier must be overcome.

The separation of a great teacher from a merely competent teacher is the ability to offer value to the pupil. History will not endure as a litany of dates and facts. It is and must be taught as greater than the sum of its parts. One robust way is through stories[i]. We like stories; our western minds intuitively seek the beginning, the middle and the end. Our empathic side can transport us into the story, riveting us in the search for detail and meaning and purpose. When the application and benefits of learning history escape notice this backdoor of stories can endow appetite. In the absence of this, history education frequently fails the ‘Why does it matter to me?’ question. We want and need the answer to ‘How does it matter to me?’ to prompt the Théoden question, ‘How did it come to this?’

Our standard narration of history begins with our first evidence of the written word in ancient Sumer, where we learn of clay tablets and many things we don’t actually know. Then Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Here Be Dark Ages, Vikings, Leonardo Da Vinci, 1492, The Mayflower, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, light bulb, trenches in Europe, Nazis, Atom Bomb, and JFK. None of these things matter in the daily life of most adults, less so in the daily life of a K-12 student. This only begins to matter when people look and ask our Théoden question. When asking this question, people are seeking context; now history matters a great deal. To understand History and its context a personal desire is required.

The challenge for history education is to encourage and enable a student to ask our Théoden question. I propose we work backwards from our present position. Trace out present context in reverse by noting the turning points along the way. Ask “Why are all Americans treated as equal under the law?” We want to trace this idea to its genesis. Tell of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. Share the story of Ricky Branch and Jackie Robinson. Let Susan B. Anthony be known. Tell the story of Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. Skip not Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears and the Great Compromise of Clay. Remind us of the Dred Scott decision. Tell of John Quincy Adams and the Amistad. Honor our bedrock of the US constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Tell of the elder Adams and his defense of the law and impartial justice, of Jefferson and his defense of man, of Madison and the separation of powers, of Monroe and his pen, and of Washington and his integrity with power. Teach of those binary stars Burke and Paine. Recall Locke and Hobbes, Cromwell and John Cooke, and the still earlier Magna Carta. Know that Hammurabi of Babylon did codify laws and that the Medes and the Persians held their monarchs bound. Let us never forget that all men are created equal, each created in the image of his creator. The vast sweep of history and context require understanding, yet the knowledge must find rest in the fertile soil asking the why and the how.

Will that fertile soil come into being? Not all students will muse as Théoden, nor should we force them to. It is imperative to understand that force-fed history is worse than no history at all. It provides the veneer of knowledge through possession of paperwork certifying completion. It fosters distaste for the subject of the past. No one eagerly anticipates the next glass of milk if the previous one was curdled when consumed. Let us not behave foolishly and ruin the minds which may become agreeable to this study in the future by souring the mind in the present. Let those who wish to ignore history do so as their choice, and leave the minds that will choose to concern themselves with the context of history unsullied with milk miserably curdled.  

[i] Practical Note for grades K-6th: Look at the Landmark series of history books published by Random House. These are a vast collection of narrative histories and biographies written by prolific children’s authors from the 1950’s-60s, and do an extraordinary job of embedding the story of people’s lives into the factual narrative of history. 

[ii] Here are some thoughts on why history matters to civilization and public policy choices of the electorate from 2012. 

[iii] Title From I, Robot,

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Why Guardians of the Galaxy Matters and Will Not Matter

(Spoilers are limited to names and places of characters and generalizations of story conclusions.)

James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy is quick. It moves with deft speed through characters, scenes, story pieces, combat sequences, moral conundrums and always present humor. I found it to be fun, humorous, and complex. It is a pinnacle of the great American art form, the blockbuster summer movie. Great tie-ins to the other Marvel movies, edge of the seat adventure and subtle actions by off-focus characters that fill in the world as real and not a mere set piece on camera. A tree powerfully voiced by Vin Diesel. A cybernetic being resembling a raccoon with a wicked sense of humor and affinity for large weapons. We see Titans, empires, and galaxy spanning political machinations. Flashing lights and witty dialogue and eye candy coalescing into one enormous mound of cotton candy. It passes time enjoyably, but departs from the superhero movie norm by failing to nourish.

Guardians is a pinnacle and a new standard of what a blockbuster summer movie can, and maybe should be visually At no time is there an animation awry, no sound emits out of place, no character is poorly shown. The suspension of disbelief is complete, and one is transported into a world far beyond our own. It’s magic, and it is what a good movie ought to do. But I cannot imagine what the next frontier is. In my lifetime, we have moved beyond the mantra that ‘the graphics are so much better’ for the next big movie and the next big game console. Today, the ‘graphics’ are so reliably superb (Pacific Rim, The Avengers, Super 8) that there is no room for significant improvement. A simultaneous trend in storytelling has been to pace faster, to tighten up the sequences, to accelerate the story for an audience with failing attention spans. The pace Gunn sets in Guardians is warp 9; comprehensive stories cannot develop faster in the future.  Americans, we treasure our witty dialogue and want ‘take-home’ lines to pepper our conversations on and off Facebook. From Guardians, there will be no shortage of one-liners, not the least of which starts (I am…spoiler).

I suspect that human nature has always facilitated at least two manners of storytelling. There are stories we tell to amuse, and stories we tell to expand ourselves. Stories for amusement pass the time, offer escape from the mundane, tell us about whom people are, and provide glimpses of worlds and times beyond our own. Stories that expand us inspire, instill morality, illustrate good versus evil, pass the time, offer escape from the mundane, tell us whom people can be, draw us into worlds and times beyond our own, and have the capacity to endure. This endurance springs from being at least partly rooted in the character of the divine. It is the character of God to love, to protect, to give life, to prosper, to be victorious, and to sacrifice. The latter stories possess some measure of this.

Compare two movies in the same universe: The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.  Both are successful movies at the peak of their craft with enormous pop culture resonance. Guardians’ is a story told only to amuse. Part of the entertainment offer is mockery of the story, intentionally destroying the atmosphere of nobility that may incidentally creep up on the characters. The sole moral direction appears to be ‘I don’t have friends, we’re totally doing stuff together, let’s be friends because friends are the most important part of life. Also I mostly don’t trust you.Guardians is a mirror to this cultural moment. It is loud and brash and self-depreciating and in constant search for the next diversion. It borrows weight and gravity by using words of which the audience will have a passing but incomplete understanding. Eastern myth is found in the vile Ronan (pronounced Ronin); the Greeks are not forgotten so long as Thanos and the Titans exist; the God of Abraham still resonates so long as the foul Ronan is called The Accuser and Gamora (pronounced: Gomorrah) walks among us. It reflects today because our affections lie with the outlaws and those on the fringe, but there is somehow a powerful yet benevolent government at the end of the day to offer us solutions (Nova Prime).  The religious are the troublemakers (Ronan and his Kree-ness). Our heroes are a band of misfits who claim no identity beyond individual selfish greed or revenge (except the tree (of life?)). Only vaguely does the team form through a collective self-interest (for money, pronounced Units) that is treated with featherweight gravity within the film and finds little resonance in my heart. There is no moment where the characters must strive to be greater beings then they have been before.

The Avengers is something different. The Avengers are a team formed to accomplish something greater than the sum of the parts; it requires sacrifice of the team members to be part of the whole. It represents a morality that says ‘Other people are more important than me, and I have the ability to make a change for the better. I am and will be the shield of protection and the sword of justice’. As in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Lucas’ Star Wars, Whedon’s Avengers show heroes becoming something greater then themselves. Guardians lacks in this essential, and I expect it will be largely irrelevant within a decade.

For the sake of my children to come, I find this irrelevance a desirable conclusion. The stories I want the children of my clan surrounded by should build up, edify, and offer a life giving view of the world. Classically, Homer’s Odysseus endures the foul play of beings beyond humanity to return to Ithaca, not for the land and treasure alone but to reunite with Penelope and restore justice. In literature, we find Tolkien’s Eowyn, shieldmaiden of Rohan, following her conviction and entering battle with Merry the hobbit at her side, which led to her circumventing the witchcraft, striking down the foul undead lieutenant of Sauron and changing the course of battle. More recently, Spiderman’s Uncle Ben cautions us “With great power comes great responsibility”. Del Toro in Hellboy ponders: “What makes a man a man? A friend of mine once wondered. Is it his origins? The way he comes to life? I don't think so. It’s the choices he makes. Not how he starts things, but how he decides to end them.”

Guardians of the Galaxy, for its fine craft and stupendous storytelling, does not build up, edify or nourish the parched places. There is no call to the heights of greatness, only an approbation of the false bravado and persistent mockery of all subjects within reach. Here lies the empty humor of sarcasm and bitterness, which does not give life. Watch and be amused, for Guardians does amuse. But man was not meant to subsist on cotton candy alone, be sure to feast well elsewhere.