Friday, December 26

St. George and St. Michael by George MacDonald

I'm writing this post because there really should be a Wikipedia page for this book, but I don't want to go to the trouble of creating one.

St. George and St. Michael is a historical novel by George MacDonald and I wish he had written more like this. It includes prominent people from the English civil war in a story of a pretty typical MacDonald-ian hero and heroine. If you like MacDonald, I recommend it.

Here's a link to the free Kindle edition.

Some pertinent Wikipedia links:,_1st_Marquess_of_Worcester,_2nd_Marquess_of_Worcester

Sunday, November 30

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down

Advent devotional thoughts


Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains might quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
    and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
    and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
    you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From of old no one has heard
    or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
    who acts for those who wait for him.
You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
    those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
    in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
We have all become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
    and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls upon your name,
    who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
    and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
Be not so terribly angry, O Lord,
    and remember not iniquity forever.
    Behold, please look, we are all your people.

As I read these words, the first thing I think of is the situation in Ferguson, Missouri after the recent grand jury decision and subsequent unrest. Our world is broken, badly broken. It makes perfect sense to wish that God would tear open our space and time Himself. Who are the Lord’s adversaries that we think He should make His name known to? Think back to Isaiah’s time when Israel faced enemies all around. They longed for God to show Himself. Think, too, of the time of Jesus’ birth. God seemed far away. The Romans and their gods were seeming conquerors over Israel and its God. Throughout the Gospels we meet people who are waiting, both patiently and impatiently, for God to show Himself.

Through the next few verses, we might disagree with Isaiah. I’m inclined to disagree when I think of the injustice in the world through the thousands of years since then. Many times it seems like God does not act for those who wait for Him, that He does not meet those who joyfully work righteousness. Then again, how many are there of those? How many remember God in their ways?

Isaiah brings his message home in the second half of verse 5. We are the problem. We have sinned. We have been in our sins a long time, as individuals and even longer as societies. Shall we still be saved?

Here, at the beginning of Advent, let’s take a good look at ourselves. Let’s confess our sins before God as Isaiah does, not only for himself, but for his whole people and nation.

The problems we see in Ferguson, Missouri are incredibly complex. Simplistic opinions posted on Facebook will not help us understand the problems, much less begin to address them. There was a tragic precipitating event that we cannot know the details of. There are significant issues around what it’s like to be black and what it’s like to be white in this country. When is power abused? Do those of us with comparative privilege really understand those without? Some people complicate matters by looting. Can we really untangle this thing? Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down.

Don’t jump to conclusions and fixes. We all need to think about our part in sin. We need to stop and consider the log in our own eye before we try to help others get the specks out of their eyes.

To complicate matters, in the case of the first Advent, God did not rend the heavens and show Himself. He came as a poor little baby far away from any center of wealth or power. However, the life of the man that child grew into began to open people’s eyes to what God was doing. God was indeed making His name known.

It has still been in a way that people could discount or utterly reject. Those who call themselves Christians have often misrepresented Jesus and given people more reason to turn from God.

Part of the good news is that in the Second Advent, when Jesus comes again, there will be no more ignoring God or hurting our neighbor. Justice will finally come in perfection. As we read in Revelation and other places in the New Testament, it will be very like God rending the heavens and showing Himself once and for all.

We should look for that day with hope and humility. We want to be God’s people then and now. We know that God does not remember our iniquity forever thanks to Jesus’ redeeming work. Let’s take account of our sins in confession and receive God’s forgiveness. And then let’s join Him in His Kingdom work now.

Saturday, August 2

Recent Tolkienalia

I read two Tolkien books this week, coincidentally in their original editions: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl and Sir Orfeo (from USC's Thomas Cooper Library) and The Road Goes Ever On (from the Lexington County Public Library).

Sir Gawain... was printed in 11pt Garamond type, which looks to me like the typeface I first read The Lord of the Rings in back around 1980. I should try to use it more often ;-)

I'm back into Tolkien these days after reading his translation of Beowulf and thinking I should go back and read some of the stuff I haven't read before and maybe reviewing some things.

My favorite part of Beowulf was the commentary, which was essentially Tolkien's lecture notes on Beowulf. In the same way, his notes on Sir Gawain... were my favorite part of that work.

Having read through The Road Goes Ever On I wondered if it was on YouTube. Of course:

I enjoyed listening with the score in hand.

Tuesday, January 21

Willard Notes: Commencement 2011: May 7, 2011

YouTube video: Commencement 2011: Dr. Dallas Willard, May 7, 2011
Duration: 19:07

eternal life is eternal living. replace in Scripture, if helpful
our lives are caught up in God's life, what God is doing where we are
we can make our lives and moments eternal by making sure we are acting in the presence, character and power of God
we acknowledge His presence where we are and expect Him to be involved
Paul: Phil 3: foundation on Christ and then building with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble
very few of us end up where we expected to be
the three little pigs made it to brick, but we have an opportunity to go far beyond that
fire will test qualities of each man's work
I believe the fire is God Himself
morning discipline (and throughout day): God is here
the great danger is not knowing we are building eternal structures and we will only build in the visible world
we're likely to be overwhelmed by sufferings and disappointments, by what others do. you may give up and build with wood, hay and stubble
Jacob wound up in a ditch. he turned to the visible. his mother helped him. built with a lot of wood, hay and stubble
surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it
Heidegger. geworfenheit: thrown-ness
life can be unexpected
but God is still with us
as you go into the world, people will say your faith is baloney, and you will be challenged to say i have spiritual knowledge
I know Whom I have believed
not just faith, but faith with knowledge
God will be with you and will manifest Himself in ways that cannot be denied by those who are willing to know
knowledge just not jump down people's throats. you have to want it and seek it.
expect God's presence and action
have to keep and guard heart
Prov 4.23: keep your heart with all diligence. what your life amounts to comes out of your heart
heart is direct connection with God and His kingdom. you must learn to keep your heart present to God
He is the way. not a map. a person.
have to seek Him, call upon Him, lean upon Him, cling to Him
that's the secret of the spiritual life
hope may be some time coming
watch and wait in knowledge of future to which present sufferings are not worth being compared, the glory that is to be revealed
patiently put into practice right where you are the things that Jesus teaches us to do
the key is to do it, even if you don't know what's going to happen
you will fail some, but you will learn and gradually your life will be one with the life of Christ
you know the truth and the reality of the life that sets us free by putting into practice the words of Jesus and the companionship with Jesus
you become assured of who you are as God's creature, child and co-laborer. nearly everything you meet will try to turn you away from that knowledge
being with Him and Him with us becomes a tangible fact as our life progresses
I am an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God's great universe.

Saturday, January 4

My 2013 in Review

Thanks to the teaching of Dallas Willard, this was my best year of following Jesus. I have a ton to learn and a long way to go. I won't stop needing to learn and grow. But I've been able to often keep a different mindset and experience more peace of mind. More on this topic: I have decided to follow Jesus.

I lost 30 pounds this year. Last year at this time, losing 30 pounds would have seemed like a miracle, so I am giving credit to God for helping me, for changing my mind, for guiding me into the right change of habits for me.

Christine and I celebrated our 20th anniversary and, in my opinion, our marriage is as good as ever.

One sign of growth was my approach to Christmas and my birthday. I did not have a long or expensive wishlist. This made gift-getting a little harder, especially for Christine, but it was a good sign. I got and enjoyed a number of things I absolutely would not have wanted last year. (Annual gift post to come later). And I didn't want my actual birthday to be as focused on me as I sometimes have in the past. (It was still pretty focused on me ;-)

Finally, without getting into specifics, work went well this year, from my perspective.

I wrote a lot more in my journal that is private and doesn't come into this writeup, so this is a little shorter than I imagined.

I don't really do resolutions, but if I had one, it would be to seek God's Kingdom more this year. And I would like to lose about 10 more pounds, but maybe not until the spring. :-)