Valley Summers And Chicago Autumns

elizabeth kipps

MURPHYOnce upon a time, there was a girl named Lizzy, who loved two baseball teams very much. The first team was in her own humble home town, bringing joy to all who lived there year after year (especially to Lizzy). One summer, a young ballplayer named Daniel Murphy traveled far from his native land to play on the other-side-of-the-mountain for Lizzy’s teams fiercest rival. All season long, Daniel Murphy punished his opponents with bat and glove. Under the sinister charge of Coach Cabbage-Head, the rivals finished their regular season at the top of the standings, and Daniel Murphy was crowned king among all the league’s players.

Even though Lizzy’s team suffered at the hands of the rivals (and especially Daniel Murphy), they were not afraid when it became clear who they would face in the postseason’s second round. Thus followed a battle most bitterly fought. And lo! On the bats…

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Book Reviews for July

July isn’t quite over yet, I know. But I thought I’d get a jump on it. Here are my book reviews for the month!

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Through The Ashes (The Light #2) by Jacqueline Brown

Continues the story begun in the first book of The Light series with a broadened scope and increased depth. I motored through in less than 24-hours and did not wait to launch right into the third installment.

Though addicting and easy to read, these books are hardly substance-less fluff. Brown injects a myriad of serious, real-life issues into the lives of her characters in this dystopian world, and she handles them with remarkable wisdom and skill.

I couldn’t have asked for better summer vacation reading material.

From The Shadows (The Light #3) by Jacqueline Brown

There are too many trilogies in the world. How do I know? Because I assumed this book was the final installment of the series, just because there are… So… Many… Trilogies. Imagine my devastation as I reached the final chapters and realized there was no way Brown could wrap things up so quickly.

Sighs.

This series just gets stronger as it goes along. I don’t usually read in the dystopian genre, but I’ve enjoyed this one immensely. It is strongly character driven, which is so refreshing. If you’re looking for the usual, “WORLD IS IN TROUBLE! CHARACTER(S) MUST SAVE THE WORLD!!!1!! OVER-THE-TOP TEENAGE ANGST & DRAMA!!” Well… you won’t like The Light series. It is a much more intimate story, centered around one small group of survivors.

If you’re more interested in reading about catastrophic events and personal tragedies than in the individuals experiencing them… again, this one isn’t for you. See, it deals a lot more with the emotional consequences of these events and tragedies than the things themselves.

In the first book, I thought the faith element was a little clunky at times (better than a lot of books, but still just a tad heavy-handed). The author has developed her skill noticeably in this sense. She’s developed the spiritual journeys of her characters in a compelling and believable manner.

Did I mention how refreshing all this is?

Jacqueline Brown, you can count me a fan. Please don’t make me wait too long for book #4. The pangs of disappointment from the end of this one will not soon abate.

81hf3zyfeglThe Green Ember by S.D. Smith

This children’s fantasy tale of rabbits, wolves, danger, adventures, and secrets was published less than five years ago. It feels wrong to label something that recent a classic. And yet there is no doubt in my mind that a classic is just what The Green Ember is. Or will be.

Like The Chronicles of Narnia, there are strong Christian undertones. Also like Narnia, they are beautifully affected. This is no preachy, cringe-inducing allegory. It is a rich, exciting, and meaningful story. It’s a story for everyone.

Dear Mister Rogers, Does It Ever Rain In Your Neighborhood?: Letters to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers

If you read my last post, you know I’m pretty high on Mister Rogers. So, when I saw this title in the book section of my favorite second-hand store, you better know I snatched it up.

Despite being a little repetitive (understandably so), this collection of letters also manages to be as heartwarming as one might expect.

Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience by Shaun Usher

Yep! MORE letters. And an eclectic collection is right. This volume includes epistolary selections penned by everyone from Queen Elizabeth II to Jack the Ripper, to Elvis, to a 17th century samurai’s wife.

Some were of more interest to me than others. Flannery O’Connor’s letter to a professor of English, for instance. I’m not sure why there were so many letters featured from F. Scott Fitzgerald. Maybe the author is a fan? But others from the likes of Roald Dahl, Charles Dickens, and Alec Guiness more than made up for it.

Snail mail is basically my love language, so it’s no wonder I sniff out books like this. Even less that I enjoy them so.

Movie Review: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”
-Fred Rogers

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There are certain sorts of people in the world who attract others. Not in a physical sense. I mean the sort of soul whom we cannot resist being drawn to. The sort we don’t quite understand, but want to emulate. A pure and utterly authentic sliver of humanity.

Such slivers are few and far between, I’ll grant you. But they do exist, and you know one when you meet one. Whether all of us are willing to admit it or not, I am convinced that we are captivated by such men and women because of their resemblance to Christ. People who give of themselves, who put others first. People who love others wholly and without question.

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis’s demonic narrator alludes to such saintly examples having a smell about them. They reek of goodness.

Well, ladies and gents, Fred Rogers (or as he is affectionately known to the world, “Mister Rogers”) was one such a man. I was thrilled to discover that the new documentary about the impact of his life and work, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” was playing in my area, and yesterday I took myself on over to see it.

The film is a lovingly crafted demonstration of how and why Mister Rogers came to be so popular and beloved. As I sat in the darkened auditorium with a handful of other misty-eyed film-goers, and drove home later, I came to a conclusion. We love Mister Rogers because he loved us. His quiet, puzzling, humble, caring character is irresistible because it is reminiscent of Jesus. He was a hint of light, of hope, in a dark and scary world.

I hope this doesn’t sound blasphemous. My intent is not to deify Mister Rogers, who would have been first to admit that he was human, and an imperfect sinner, just like we all are. But the purpose of life is to have a relationship with Christ, and to become more like him. Some of us have gotten on a little better at that than others, and I don’t believe it’s sinful to acknowledge such individuals. Especially not when they’ve helped us along our own way.

Some years ago, I read a book called “I’m Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers”, by Tim Madigan. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” only served to confirm what I had already learned within those pages. Consider the following anecdote:

“… the Esquire passage I found most poignant and revealing was this one: Mister Rogers’ visit to a teenage boy severely afflicted with cerebral palsy and terrible anger. One of the boys’ few consolations in life, Junod wrote, was watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood.

At first, the boy was made very nervous by the thought that Mister Rogers was visiting him. He was so nervous, in fact, that when Mister Rogers did visit, he got mad at himself and began hating himself and hitting himself, and his mother had to take him to another room and talk to him. Mister Rogers didn’t leave, though. He wanted something from the boy, and Mister Rogers never leaves when he wants something from somebody. He just waited patiently, and when the boy came back, Mister Rogers talked to him, and then he made his request. He said, ‘I would like you to do something for me. Would you do something for me?’ On his computer, the boy answered yes, of course, he would do anything for Mister Rogers, so then Mister Rogers said: I would like you to pray for me. Will you pray for me? And now the boy didn’t know how to respond. He was thunderstruck… because nobody had ever asked him for something like that, ever. The boy had always been prayed for. The boy had always been the object of prayer, and now he was being asked to pray for Mister Rogers, and although at first he didn’t know how to do it, he said he would, he said he’d try, and ever since then he keeps Mister Rogers in his prayers and doesn’t talk about wanting to die anymore, because he figures if Mister Rogers likes him, that must mean that God likes him, too.

As for Mister Rogers himself… he doesn’t look at the story the same way the boy did or I did. In fact, when Mister Rogers first told me the story, I complimented him on being smart – for knowing that asking the boy for his prayers would make the boy feel better about himself – and Mister Rogers responded by looking at me first with puzzlement and then with surprise. ‘Oh heavens no, Tom! I didn’t ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.”

With the exception of one episode recorded on VHS, I did not watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood regularly as a child. I don’t have a heart-warming personal story about how he influenced me growing up. But that hasn’t stopped his messages from inspiring and encouraging me, now that I am an adult.

He offers me a glimpse, fleeting but clear, of the answer to the question: how then shall we love?

With pure hearts and no selfish, two-faced motives. By choosing action over apathy. By looking past the superficial details of a person, and rejoicing in their individuality as a brother or sister, made in the image of God.

Perhaps one of the greatest common fears among people is that we cannot be loved… that if people really knew us, we would find only disgust and rejection. One of the most beautiful gifts we can give another person is to acknowledge their insecurities, to look past their imperfections, and to love them wholeheartedly anyway. That is grace. That is loving the way our Lord did.

And that is what Mister Rogers reminds me. I am grateful to have seen this documentary, and even more grateful for the real-life example that its subject provided. It is the kind of encouragement (along with healthy doses of scripture) that we all need, yet rarely receive.

This has been more a jumble of ponderings than a proper review. But if it wasn’t obvious, all two of my thumbs are up. If you get a chance to see “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, don’t let it pass you by.

Hope For Susan: Reflections On Narnia’s Lost Sheep

“Sire,” said Tirian … “if I have read the chronicles aright, there should be another. Has not your Majesty two sisters? Where is Queen Susan?”
“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”
“Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says ‘What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.’”
“Oh, Susan!” said Jill. “She’s interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up.”
“Grown-up, indeed,” said the Lady Polly. “I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”

The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis

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Not long ago, it came to my attention that the passage quoted above has inspired a fair amount of controversy over the years. If it’s been a while since you’ve read The Chronicles of Narnia, or if you’ve been living under a rock and never read them all, let me summarize the situation briefly, for context. (Then you need to go read— or reread— these beautiful classics).

In the first few books of the Chronicles, we are introduced to the four Pevensie children: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. They share a variety of adventures in a magical land called Narnia, and meet the lion Aslan (whom probably even the under-a-rock people will know is a representation of Christ). As happens in any good story, we grow interested in all these characters and come to feel affection for them. In the seventh and last volume, it is therefore a shock and disappointment to learn that Susan has scorned Narnia, and is not among the others who go on to reach “Aslan’s country” (basically, Heaven).

I always looked upon this as a sad excerpt. I had grown attached to Susan, like all the other characters, and grieved to learn she became a lost sheep. Ultimately, however, the grief for Susan is overwhelmed by the joy I feel as I read of the others entering into Eternal life. The concluding chapters of The Last Battle are among the most meaningful passages in all of fiction to me. They fill my heart with an abundance of joy and hope— even for Susan.

What I never realized until recently was that Susan’s exclusion here has been the cause, not just for sadness, but for out-and-out ire among a great many readers. You’ve probably heard of some of them, too.

J.K. Rowling, for instance, had this to say:

“There comes a point where Susan, who was the older girl, is lost to Narnia because she becomes interested in lipstick. She’s become irreligious basically because she found sex. I have a big problem with that”.

Then there’s Philip Pullman. Given his very open hatred for Narnia, I am not inclined to credit his opinions (on Susan or anything else). I’m including his words here merely to further demonstrate this rather popular viewpoint.

“Susan, like Cinderella, is undergoing a transition from one phase of her life to another. Lewis didn’t approve of that. He didn’t like women in general, or sexuality at all, at least at the stage in his life when he wrote the Narnia books. He was frightened and appalled at the notion of wanting to grow up.”

But wait, he’s not done!:

“I just don’t like the conclusions Lewis comes to, after all that analysis, the way he shuts children out from heaven, or whatever it is, on the grounds that the one girl is interested in boys. She’s a teenager! Ah, it’s terrible: Sex — can’t have that.”

Renowned fantasy author Neil Gaiman was so disturbed by Lewis’s treatment of the second eldest Pevensie that he actually wrote a whole short story about it. I was so disturbed by an excerpt of said short-story that I plan to never-ever read the whole thing, and caution my readers against even looking it up. Doubtless, Gaiman has some interesting and thought-provoking points to make, but I’m not going to sift through them if it means having to digest such fantastically offensive imagery, as well. Though I have enjoyed certain of Gaiman’s work in the past, this made me feel like I need to soak my imagination in bleach.

The point is, a lot of people are upset— really upset— by Susan’s fate. I will concede that it is worth being upset about. It is sad. Very sad. But I also hold that the three examples above misunderstand what Lewis had to say about Susan in the end. Probably because they misunderstand Christianity.

God is love. Anyone can tell you that, whether they believe it or not. Less universal is the concept that God is also holy and just. Susan’s exclusion from Aslan’s Country in The Last Battle is not, as some would have it, a punishment. To bring her to a place she had no desire to be, on the other hand, would have been just that. God gives us free will. He does not force us into relationship with Him.

Susan isn’t barred from Aslan’s Country because Aslan is mean, cruel, or unjust. It is for precisely the opposite reasons. It is because she does not want to go there, and because He has honored that desire.

This brings us to the point of conflict about what Susan’s desires actually are. Rowling and Pullman feel she has been condemned based on her interest in lipstick and sex. But I am confident that this is not what Lewis meant.

Wearing lipstick is not a damnable sin. I don’t believe it is a sin at all. I wear lipstick and enjoy getting gussied up every now and again. Lewis himself did not condemn girlish interests, as this extract from The Horse And His Boy demonstrates:

“They [Lucy and Aravis] liked each other at once and soon went away together to talk about Aravis’s bedroom and Aravis’s boudoir and about getting clothes for her, and all the sort of things girls do talk about on such an occasion.”

Clearly nothing sinister or evil is inherently present in such doings. Not from my point of view, or Lewis’s, or any reasonable Christian.

The trouble comes when those things are given a larger role in our lives than they were meant to occupy. It’s the same with anything. Food, drink, sex, careers, hobbies. All these are good things, but they were all created to be enjoyed in a certain context. They were not created to be the driving purpose of our lives. Only Christ should hold that all-important position.

Even someone coming from a secular point of view ought to be willing to acknowledge the silliness of Susan’s making boys and lipstick the center of her existence.

Susan has chosen temporary gratification over eternal joy. But it does not follow that all hope must be lost for Susan. Even in the temporal world we live in, the frivolities to which she has given herself will not last. Her beauty and popularity will fade. She will grow old. I like to believe she will grow wise, as well. With the worthless things she valued stripped away, perhaps Susan’s memory will take her back to Narnia, to the family she’s lost, and above all to Aslan. You can be sure that Aslan will be waiting joyfully to welcome her home, if and when it does.

Lewis himself had this to say:

“The books don’t tell us what happened to Susan. She is left alive in this world at the end, having by then turned into a rather silly, conceited young woman. But there’s plenty of time for her to mend and perhaps she will get to Aslan’s country in the end… in her own way.”

It’s worth noting that, when young readers wrote to Lewis, hoping he meant to write more books about Narnia, he would respond by encouraging them to continue the stories on their own. I take that as a license to hold out hope for Susan, and to imagine an ending for her as perfect as that her brothers and sister were given. The kind of ending that isn’t really an ending at all.

 

I Am Weak, But Thou Art Strong

“When I try,
I fail.
When I trust,
He succeeds.”
-Corrie Ten Boom

I often feel overwhelmed by my own shortcomings. They crop up at every turn of life like stumbling blocks. Then I fall flat on my face and wonder why God doesn’t answer my prayers to make me a better person already. Usually, He will gently direct my attention to Philippians 1v6, reminding me that I am a work in progress. But another answer to my pouting and impatience is revealed in this passage from 2 Corinthians:

“…but He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
-2 Corinthians 12v9-10

I am doing wrong to both myself and my Creator when I look at every personal weakness like a stumbling block. The Message translation of the beginning of this passage (the bit about Paul’s thorn), reads:

I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations.

The gift of a handicap. Think about that. Our insufficiencies are not meant to be considered insurmountable forces that hold us back from an otherwise meaningful existence. They are gifts, bestowed by a kind and gracious heavenly Father to remind us of our dependence on Him. They are opportunities for God’s grace and power to be demonstrated in our lives.

We do have to be honest about our weaknesses in order for this to work. This is not a popular attitude in the self-centered culture we live in. We are told to believe in ourselves, be true to ourselves, follow our hearts. One catchphrase that I see everywhere is the buoying “You Are Enough“. The only reason I hesitate to savage that slogan is that it is typically used by those ministering to victimized women. Any soul coming from a situation of violence and abuse truly needs to be encouraged and uplifted. But a sneakily perilous message of self-sufficiency and self-reliance is not the best way to do it.

The sad truth is, I am not enough. You are not enough. We aren’t going to get anywhere until we are able to admit this, to acknowledge our weaknesses. We must be willing to sacrifice our notions of self-reliance, and instead rely on the Father of heavenly lights (who does not change like shifting shadows). Only when we accept His unfailing strength can we truly be strong, worthy, enough. God cannot give us what we won’t take.

We must open our hands to accept the gift. We must open our eyes to see them for what they truly are. The purpose of my life is not to live it for myself and my own glory. It is for Him, and His. My detriments (whether physical, psychological, or spiritual) are not detriments at all, unless I reduce them to such. They are foundations upon which He is waiting to build, just like any other gift.

“Have you never heard? Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding.
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
-Is. 40v28-31

Book Reviews for June

I don’t know, you guys. I’m starting to run out of clever/cutesy intros for my book review posts. Just how important is an intro? ‘Cause if I can get away with it, I might start launching straight into the reviews. That’s what we’re here for, anyway, right?

Allons-y!

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Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

Strange to say of a 600+ page book, but I wanted there to be more. The settings and historical context are vividly portrayed. The character backgrounds are more sparse. The animosity between Judah Ben-Hur and his sworn enemy Messala would feel more poignant if we had actually been shown their childhood friendship, instead of just told about it.

Of course, this is the perspective of a 21st century reader who values character development above everything.

This IS great story. Not always told in the greatest way. But a great story.

Side note: The chariot race is cooler in the movie. Given that the chariot race is one of the most exhilarating segments in the history of cinema, however, I hardly count this an insult to Wallace’s depiction.

…And here that scene is, because I couldn’t help myself.

 

Mark of Four by Tamara Shoemaker

“Mark of Four” is an exciting, futuristic YA yarn that struck me as familiar and unique in all the best ways. Shoemaker incorporates a heroine who faces struggles any girl can relate with into a captivating fantasy world. Not to mention a mysterious plot that kept me guessing to the end, and an ending that left me itching to find out what’s coming next.

Lovers of the genre need look no further for the perfect summer read. “Mark of Four” has all the elements* we crave.

*Pun retroactively intended.

P.S. I don’t know if it’s a thing, but if it is, I’m 200% on Team Daymon.

*Here’s a link, for anyone who’d like to click their way over to Amazon and check this one out.*

The Lost World by Michael Crichton

I know, I know. This is hardly high literature. What can I say? Sometimes a girl just need some dinosaurs in her life.

If you enjoyed the movie version (I did), this is even better. Unsurprisingly, the t-rex unleashed on San Diego bit was pure Hollywood. So was the big-game hunter invasion of dinosaur island. The female lead is 100% less screaming and running, 100% more hard-core heroine. The kids and secondary characters are more interesting, too.

The scientific claptrap isn’t my cup of tea, but that’s hardly the draw of the book. If we’re being honest, nobody is reading the Jurassic Park series as a scholarly pursuit. I came for the velociraptors, and velociraptors (in all their ravenous glory) are just what I got.

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Vivir El Dream by Allison K. Garcia

Having passed my whole life in a small town with a significant Latino population, I was not a complete stranger to the challenges undocumented immigrants face when coming to the US. In Vivir El Dream, a story about one undocumented college student and her community, this struggle is depicted through a passionate and humanizing lens.

Garcia does a wonderful job, not only of shedding light on important issues, but of making them personal. She tackles a divisive subject with a light touch, making for an easy read that also fully invests you in the lives of her characters.

The ending lacks resolve, which I usually loathe. In this case, though, it was perfect. There’s a lot of injustice going on here, folks, but there’s also hope. And that’s the lifeblood of Vivir El Dream.

Recommended for anyone who cares about immigration, and/or those who want to learn more about the real faces of the controversy.

*Find a copy here!*

 

Retro Pop & Me: A Love/Hate Relationship

“We could argue about what constitutes the creepiest line in pop music, but for me it’s early Beatles- John Lennon, actually- singing ‘I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.” -Stephen King

You know what I love best sometimes? Flipping on an oldies station and letting the sweet, sweet sounds of Buddy Holly or The Chordettes or The Temptations transport me back to a simpler time.

You know what I also really don’t love at all sometime? Flipping on an oldies station and realizing that those sweet, sweet sounds are often just coatings on a nonsensical, chauvinistic (or even creepy) pill.

Retro pop and me… we have a love/hate relationship.

What follows is a list of 10 songs, mostly (if not all) from the 1960’s, with a lyrical selection and a brief commentary. I’ve found this musical era a goldmine for both cheerful observation AND righteous indignation. Please feel free to add your own thoughts to mine.

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Tell Him (The Exciters)

Ever since the world began, it’s been that way for man
And women were created
To make love their destiny
Then why should true love be so complicated, oh yeah?

I used to like this one. It was actually the movie 10 Cloverfield Lane that ruined it for me, but the lyrics are pretty bad, too.

Apparently the number-one purpose of female-kind on this earth is to pursue romantic love. Who knew?

Today I Met The Boy I’m Gonna Marry (Darlene Love)

Today I met the boy I’m gonna marry
He’s just what I’ve been waiting for, oh yeah
With every kiss, “Ooh, this is it” my heart keeps saying
Today I met the boy I’m gonna marry

Love at first sight is one thing. Lifetime commitment at first sight? A bit much.

Also, you’ve JUST met and you’re already kissing repeatedly? Girrrl! You’d best be taking a step back and reevaluating your whole life and maybe undergoing some kind of psychological evaluation before jumping into a relationship (much less marriage).

Good Mornin’ Life (Dean Martin)

Last night she said she loved me
What a pity to part
I slept with both eyes open waiting for today to start

No snarky comments. I really enjoy this song. It’s peppy. It’s cheerful. It’s not quite delusional…

Dean Martin, guys. Dig it.

A Teenager In Love (Dion & The Belmonts)

One day I feel so happy, next day I feel so sad.
I guess I’ll learn to take the good with the bad.
Each night I ask the stars up above,
Why must I be a teenager in love?

The lyrics might be maudlin, but hey… at least they’re honest. I don’t recommend conversations with stars, though. Not for love-sick adolescents or anyone else. Talk to someone who can talk back, kids. It’ll make the emotional roller coaster a lot less nauseating.

Wonderful World (Sam Cooke)

Now, I don’t claim to be an “A” student,
But I’m tryin’ to be
For maybe by being an “A” student, baby,
I can win your love for me

This probably isn’t going to work, Sam. But there are way worse ways to woo a girl. At least this way you’ll wind up with a quality education, even if it doesn’t work out, right?

I actually like this one a lot, too. And not just because it makes me think of Harrison Ford dancing in Amish country.

You Don’t Own Me (Leslie Gore)

Don’t tell me what to do
Don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display, ’cause
You don’t own me

All well and good for a 60’s feminist anthem, but how much does it really mean coming from someone who cries at her own party?

 

Dream Lover (Johnny Burnette)

Every night I hope and pray
A dream lover will come my way
A girl to hold in my arms
And know the magic of her charms
‘Cause I want
A girl
To call
My own
I want a dream lover
So I don’t have to dream alone

This is the most puzzling song on the list. Because the context of the song makes it sound like you’re talking about sleepy-time dreaming, Johnny. And even if you find the perfect girl, your sleepy-time dreams are still going to be a solo thing. That’s how sleepy-time dreams work. You don’t get to share those.

Sorry, Johnny.

Take Good Care Of My Baby (Bobby Vee)

Once upon a time that little girl was mine
If I’d been true, I know she’d never be with you
So, take good care of my baby
Be just as kind as you can be
And if you should discover
That you don’t really love her
Just send my baby back home to me

I don’t often go into protective friend-girl mode, but daggone if you don’t push me over the edge, Bobby.

SHE’S NOT YOUR BABY, CHEATER. YOU WILL NEVER GET HER BACK. YOU HAVE NO SAY IN HER LIFE NOW. GO AWAY AND LEAVE HER ALONE FOREVER, PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

If You Wanna Be Happy (Jimmy Soul)

If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty woman your wife
So for my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you

A really happy, fun song. If you don’t pay attention to the lyrics.
Let me sum them up for my readers:

Attractive women can’t cook, and they will cheat on you. Ugly girls are great cooks and will be so grateful for your attention that you will have their unswerving devotion for all eternity. Jimmy Soul and his backup gang then remind you over and over about fifty times which of these female people will make you a perfect wife.

Yep.

This is easily the peppiest, poppiest dose of sexism you’ll find in any era.

Why Do Fools Fall in Love? (Frankie Lyman & The Teenagers)

Why does the rain fall from above?
Why do fools fall in love?
Why do they fall in love?

To answer your first question, because that’s where the clouds are, and that’s how gravity works, sir.

Second question, because they’re fools. Obviously.

Third question, I said, BECAUSE THEY’RE FOOLS. Pay attention.

*Shakes head* *Walks away*

Book Reviews For May

Another month is gone, and springtime is almost over. Actually, I’m not sure what happened to Spring this year. Winter went long, and summer temperatures came early. Spring kinda went MIA.

Fortunately for the world at large, I am not at leisure to complain about the weather today. There are more important things to do. Like book reviews.

Let’s do it.

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The Intolerance of Tolerance, by D.A. Carson

The dictionary definition of tolerance is as follows:

to recognize and respect (others’ beliefs, practices, etc.) without necessarily agreeing or sympathizing.

In this book, Carson aims to expose how, over the course of the past few decades, that definition has evolved into something very different. It is no longer acceptable to simply respect the rights of others to believe differently from us. The world now demands that all beliefs be treated as equally valid, pooh-poohing such antiquated notions as truth and reason.

What the author has to say is relevant. Despite the veracity of his arguments, however, this is not a book I would recommend to just anyone. Don’t read it unless you are prepared to do so with humility and discernment.

Because the exclusivity of Christian beliefs is not popular in today’s culture, it is very tempting for us to adopt an air of offense, to imagine ourselves a wounded minority. Carson includes dozens of real-life examples of the decline of true tolerance in favor of the new tolerance. One such example:

In 2005, the Co-operative Bank, based in Manchester, England, asked a Christian organization, Christian Voice, to close its accounts at the Bank because its views were “incompatible” with the position of the Bank. The public statement of the Bank reads as follows: “It has come to the bank’s attention that Christian Voice is engaged in discriminatory pronouncements based on the grounds of sexual orientation… This public stance is incompatible with the position of the Co-operative Bank, which publicly supports diversity and dignity in all forms for our staff, customers, and other stakeholders.” Thus, in the name of supporting diversity, the Bank eliminates one of its diverse customers! Even here it cannot be consistent: the Bank doubtless has Muslim customers who are no less willing than Christian Voice to condemn homosexual practice.

Almost any Christian who reads this excerpt (myself included) will probably want to give in to a sense righteous indignation. How dare the world discriminate against us? It is illogical! It is unjust! Let us stomp our feet and growl as loud as we can!

The real problem is, we aren’t called to do any of these things. Scripture does not tell us that our lives in this world will be fair. It does not say that following Christ is supposed to make us popular. It doesn’t recommend responding with heated words and hurt feelings when we are treated less than respectfully. What the Bible DOES say is pretty much the opposite of all those things. For instance:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
1 Peter 4v12-14

Or:

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12v17-22

There are lots, lots more. Look it up.

It’s kind of a joke to even think of ourselves as persecuted. I don’t think Christians in our culture have a concept of what the word really means. We worry about people not liking us, when our brothers and sisters around the world (and throughout history) have had to think about slightly more inconvenient things, like being tortured, imprisoned, and/or killed for their faith.

Read this book if you will. Carson has many worthwhile points to make. I only suggest that you do so with caution.

The Scent of Water: Grace For Every Kind of Broken, by Naomi Zacharias

To continue a bit in the same strain as above, if you’re looking for some prime examples as to how the average Westernized citizen doesn’t know the true meaning of suffering, there are plenty of good examples in The Scent of Water.

Naomi Zacharias, daughter of renowned Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, weaves her own story together with those of multiple other women from around the world. She takes us around the world, to the brothels of Mumbai, to a South African prison, to Amsterdam’s red-light district, to post-tsunami Sumatra. Each woman we are introduced to has endured unimaginable horrors, yet their stories are not ultimately defined by suffering. Each is tied together by the threads of hope and grace.

There isn’t much in the way of cohesive narrative or organization in this book, which may deter some readers. I also saw a review or two lamenting that Zacharias gives no forthright proclamation of the gospel message. I still recommend the book to those who aren’t overly fussy about such things, and who take an interest in the lives and struggles of our sisters around the world.

The Soul of the Lion Witch, & the Wardrobe, by Gene Edward Veith Jr.

The first half of this book is basically just an analysis of The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe, explaining how it mirrors the gospel message. Though not poorly done, it isn’t exactly groundbreaking, either. Veith’s tone is somewhat exclusive, leading me to believe this was not written for the benefit of those outside the Christian faith. As most Christians are already familiar with the allegorical themes in the Chronicles of Narnia, I’m not entirely sure what the point was.

The second half of the book draws comparisons between Narnia and the more recent fantasy worlds created by J.K. Rowling and Phillip Pullman. The former struck me as equal parts ridiculous and unnecessary. Veith’s summary of the Harry Potter books was so off base, I question whether he has read them at all. In his own words, HP is ultimately about “the struggle for popularity”, and readers have fallen in love with Rowling’s wizarding world because it facilitates their “fantasizing about being popular and successful”. Those are exact quotes. Whether you like HP or not, that anyone could really read the books and come away with that conclusion is absolutely, well…

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Having never cared to visit the His Dark Materials series, I can’t really comment on that bit. It did at least contain actual quotes from Pullman and passages from the books (more than can be said of the HP section).

Bottom line: This one’s skippable, folks. There are better books on similar subjects out there. Read one of those instead.

Note: If it looks like I’m slacking by having only read three books in the month of May, please be aware that I embarked on the 600+ page epic Ben-Hur a week or so ago.

5 Words That Aren’t Words (But Should Be)

According to Google, the 2nd Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary contains entries for 171,476 different words in current use. Add to that number 41,156 words categorized as “obsolete”, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 9,500 derivative sub-entries.

My first point is this: That’s a lot of words.

And my second point is this: It’s still not enough.

The fact is, my love of words is such that the Dictionary simply cannot contain it. Sometimes, there are no existing words that mean just what you wish to say. In such cases, what can one do but make them up?

Roald Dahl, a great friend to me in childhood, was a master at this. In fact, some of his invented words and phrases have even been added to the Oxford English Dictionary (including my personal favorite, scrumdiddlyumptious). I would also advocate for the additions of kiddles, vermicious, dreadly, frumpet, gollup, lickswishy, sickable, and squishous.

My own imagination is not nearly as prodigious as Mr. Dahl’s, of course. But I have come up with 5 words that aren’t in the Dictionary, but should be.

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#1. Coughter (noun)
The action of coughing. Laughter is a recognized word. Coughter should be, as well.

#2. Groany (adjective)
When you’re in a grouchy state, and feel like moaning and groaning? Then you’re groany. When you neglect to fill your stomach and it lets you know its displeasure? It’s groany. When a great big old tree creaks in the wind, or a rusty-hinged door is forced open? Groany!

#3. Sensical (adjective)
The opposite of nonsensical. Similar to sensible, but not as stuffy. When one has sense, but also whimsy, one is sensical. I know I’m not alone on this one.

#4. Flutterby (noun)
Superior name for a butterfly. Think about it. What does butterfly even mean? What does butter have to do with colorful winged insects? Flutterby is by far more appropriate, given that fluttering by is 98% of what butterflies actually do.

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#5. Papercut (verb)
I know what you’re thinking. Papercut IS a word. Oddly enough, according to Dictionary.com, it is not. I mean, not even as a noun. Something is amiss! And yet what I’m actually suggesting here is the use of papercut as a verb. As in, “Oh, rats. I just papercut myself.” It’s more succinct than, “Oh, rats. I just sliced my finger open on this paper product.” When one has been papercut, one rarely feels verbose.

The tragedy of this omission is almost as painful as a papercut itself…

Miracle Max knows what I’m talking about.

So that’s my list. If you have any of your own, I’d love to hear ’em!

P.S. Yes, I realize there is an apostrophe missing in the graphic above. I am usually better than this. But it’s too much trouble to fix it now.

Flame of God

Know what subject I haven’t glanced on yet?

Poetry.

I’ve also been putting off continuing my 5 Resolutions series for months. Resolution #3 is Pray. An overwhelming and intimidating topic, it turns out. Hopefully I’ll get around to tackling it eventually, but I can’t promise it’ll be soon.

Consider today’s post a starting point on both poetry and prayer.

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I love poems (and song lyrics… and scripture) that double as prayers. Old hymns are great for this. George MacDonald’s Diary of an Old Soul is indispensable. The following verse, composed by missionary Amy Carmichael, is one of my favorites. I am delighted to share it with you, my lovely readers, today.

Flame of God

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified)
From all that dims Thy Calvary
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire;
Let me not sink to be a clod;
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God

 

P.S. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and moms-at-heart out there!

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