Category Archives: Uncategorized


Ross Mackenzie calls us back to simple living:

Thanksgiving . . . is, perhaps fundamentally, the season of hope. In this season, maybe the current condition of the global economy will focus Americans on essentials: family, nature, eternal verities, a new frugality, a simpler life. With its focus on money and “things,” materialism diminishes our appreciation for what we have. It fosters frustration, exasperation, even anger at what we don’t, and a redefining of wants into necessities and have-to-haves.

He quotes historian Paul Johnson, who says the financial crisis is result of a moral one. “We are traveling along the high road to incompetence and poverty,” Johnson states, “led by a farcical coalition of fashionably liberal academics on the make, assorted eco-crackpots, and media wiseacres.”

And here’s a story of self-reliance.

In other news, a Wal-Mart stock clerk was trampled in New York by a crowd of early shoppers. A pregnant woman was also knocked down. The crowd took down the front doors too. I think the store should have been closed and all of the shoppers thrown out of their ears.

By the way, I’m thankful for you. I don’t think I’d still be here, if I were the only one in this room.

Sir Henry Taylor’s ‘The Hero’

This poem is a bit humanistic, but it strikes a resonate chord for today. The men we remember today were some of those good men we hear about often, the good men who did something in order to keep evil men from prevailing. This is “The Hero,” by Sir Henry Taylor.

What makes a hero?—not success, not fame,

Inebriate merchants, and the loud acclaim

Of glutted Avarice,—caps toss’d up in air,

Or pen of journalist with flourish fair;

Bells peal’d, stars, ribbons, and a titular name—

These, though his rightful tribute, he can spare;

His rightful tribute, not his end or aim,

Or true reward; for never yet did these

Refresh the soul, or set the heart at ease.

What makes a hero?—An heroic mind,

Express’d in action, in endurance prov’d.

And if there be preeminence of right,

Deriv’d through pain well suffer’d, to the height

Of rank heroic, ’t is to bear unmov’d,

Not toil, not risk, not rage of sea or wind,

Not the brute fury of barbarians blind,

But worse—ingratitude and poisonous darts,

Launch’d by the country he had serv’d and lov’d:

This, with a free, unclouded spirit pure,

This, in the strength of silence to endure,

A dignity to noble deeds imparts

Beyond the gauds and trappings of renown;

This is the hero’s complement and crown;

This miss’d, one struggle had been wanting still,

One glorious triumph of the heroic will,

One self-approval in his heart of hearts.

Tolkien Postcard Found While Razing Tolkien Home

The team taking apart one of Tolkien’s homes found a postcard in the fireplace. Reporter Mike Collett-White writes:

The postcard was addressed to Tolkien at the Miramar Hotel in Bournemouth, where he and his wife Edith often stayed. [It is dated 1968.]

It is from “Lin,” which Malton [the demolition man] believed could be fellow fantasy author Lin Carter who wrote Tolkien: A Look Behind ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ published in 1969.

Depicting a scene from Ireland, it reads: “I have been thinking of you a lot and hope everything has gone as well as could be expected in the most difficult circumstances.”

The circumstances in question are not described in this report.

Friday sweepings

Since we’ve been talking about Russell Crowe, I was delighted to see this story over at Dirty Harry’s Place, which reports that Crowe recently made the decision to be baptized. For all I know his theology is far off the mark (or not), but I’m a Lutheran and so believe that baptism in itself possesses efficacy by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Though the state of the Lutheran church today doesn’t provide a lot of evidence, I have to admit.)

And since all of you are passionately interested in the Vikings, I should note that this month’s Smithsonian Magazine includes a cover story about The Sea Stallion of Glendalough, the largest replica Viking ship ever built, which sailed from Denmark to Ireland a while back, and will soon be returning to Denmark.

(The Sea Stallion, by the way, is a copy of a shipwreck found in Denmark. To the amazement of archaeologists, they gradually came to realize that it was a) one big ship, rather than two smaller ones, and b) built in Ireland (this determined by analysis of the wood). There were lots of Vikings in Ireland during those centuries.

Good thinking

Something about this story pleases me greatly:

A nursing home in Germany built an exact replica of a bus stop in front of the facility. The only difference is that buses never stop there.

It’s a gentle, non-confrontational method for preventing Alzheimer’s patients from wandering off. Good thinking. Compassion. To a degree rarely seen in our day (or any other, probably).

(Hat tip: Evangelical Outpost.)

God as Three Fictitious Persons

Anyone here read The Shack? Walter Henegar criticizing the book is akin to complaining about your aunt’s macaroni casserole, because everyone seems to love it no matter how bad it is for them. But The Shack may be worse than bad family cooking.

More significant, when Mack mentions biblical events or concepts (often in gross caricature), “God” promptly brushes them off and glibly explains how it really is. Unlike the biblical Jesus, who constantly quoted the Old Testament and spent many post-resurrection hours “opening their minds to understand the scriptures,” The Shack’s Papa [God the Father], Jesus, and Sarayu [Holy Spirit] turn Mack’s attention away from Scripture, coaxing him to trust instead their simplistic lessons set in idyllic, Thomas Kinkade-like scenes and delivered in the familiar therapeutic language of our age.

Good fiction has the potential to illuminate biblical truth, but not when it effectively supplants it. We need the Bible, not The Shack. The true Word takes more work to understand, and it won’t always tell us what we want to hear, but we can trust it to reveal a greater, wiser, more loving, and more gloriously Triune God than any novelist could conceive.

I heard tonight Haven Ministries’ radio show on this book. They have a comment blog about it, and announce at the top of the page that they intend not to endorse or bash the book, but to engage it. This they say while offering the book to all donors who request it. Isn’t that an endorsement? Haven links to John Stackhouse’s blog for weightier comments like this: “It seems to me important that authors of fiction defend art as needing no justification on some other grounds. From a Christian point of view, a well-rendered novel—or short story, or poem, or song lyric—needs only to be good in and of itself.”

Also: “The Shack skims briefly over the surface of theology of religions, raising the question particularly of whether God reveals himself to and saves people of other religions. . . . I am strongly inclined myself to a theological conviction that God’s salvation is extended beyond the range of those who have heard the Gospel, understood it, and accepted it as true.”

Stuff Christians don’t like so much

The Civil War continues to take its toll. A man in Virginia, working on refurbishing a civil war cannonball, accidentally detonated it, and was killed.

I could say something about how a historical buff would choose to go, but that’s probably inappropriate. So I’ll just say that, as a reenactor myself, I understand his passion, and I salute him. I probably would have liked him.

The good folks at First Things put me on to this blog: Stuff Christians Like. And I do like it. There’s lots of truth there.

And yet it troubles me too.

Because all these jokes about how Christians make dorks of themselves just reinforce me in my habit of never saying or doing anything about my faith, for fear of looking dorky.

I wish it were possible to list the right things to do as easily as we’re able to list dumb things.

But of course that’s unnecessary.

Because the right thing to do isn’t usually a mystery. All you have to do is choose the most embarrassing, frightening, humiliating choice you’ve got, and that’s probably the right one.

And the real kicker is that two out of three times you’ll still be wrong, and you’ll still look like a dork.

Which, I guess, explains that “fools for Christ” thing.

A Child of the Snows

Once again I share a Chesterton poem for Christmas. Unfortunately, this year it’s the same poem as last year. This is because of something I learned last night.

I have DVDs of three of the movie versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I have the Sim version (of course), the George C. Scott version, and the musical “Scrooge” with Albert Finney (a little silly, but that’s the function of musicals). It’s my practice to view all three during the Christmas season.

Last night I watched the Scott version, and because it’s relatively faithful to the text, I followed along with my copy of The Annotated Christmas Carol, edited by Michael Patrick Hearn. In Stave Three, there’s a passage that goes, “All this time the chesnuts (sic) and the jug went round and round; and by and bye they had a song, about a lost child travelling in the snow, from Tiny Tim….” Hearn says in a footnote here, “Apparently Dickens had no specific carol in mind; no such song has been found in Sandys’ or any other collection. G. K. Chesterton apparently realized this omission; in his Poems (1926) he included a verse, ‘A Child of the Snows,’ which might stand for Tiny Tim’s song until another might be found.”

It goes like this:

A Child of the Snows

There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,

And never before or again,

When the nights are strong with a darkness long,

And the dark is alive with rain.

Never we know but in sleet and in snow,

The place where the great fires are,

That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth

And the heart of the earth a star.

And at night we win to the ancient inn

Where the child in the frost is furled,

We follow the feet where all souls meet

At the inn at the end of the world.

The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,

For the flame of the sun is flown,

The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,

And a Child comes forth alone.

Merry Christmas. Glade Jul.

Thanksgiving day semi-comatose blog

I’ve spent the day alternating between stretching out on the sofa with a book and cleaning the house (or vice versa) in preparation for Saturday’s invasion. I took time this evening to do my bill paying, which I usually do on Thursdays. Since I’ll be able to put them in the mail again tomorrow, I thought I might as well keep up my usual routine.

I have a cheap pocket knife that I’ve been using as a letter opener ever since the old pewter letter opener that belonged to my dad disappeared unaccountably.

I was in the midst of bill paying when I got up to do something (I went to the bathroom, actually, but you don’t want to know that).

When I got back to the desk, the pocket knife was missing. I retraced my steps on the very short trip, and checked all around the desk, and I can’t find the bloody thing anywhere.

I know whom to blame, of course. It’s the elves (or nisser, in Norwegian). It’s always the elves (or nisser, in Norwegian).

What troubles me is that it appears they’re arming themselves…

Thanksgiving Day Live Blog

Happy Thanksgiving.

Yesterday, I thought I might live blog my early Thanksgiving morning, which isn’t the right use of the term “live blog” because no one was awake, I had nothing to do, and I doubt you were here wondering when the lit news is coming. The coffee wasn’t even made. I could update you on what’s coming over an antique radio I have behind me. It’s a Japanese made Viscount “Stereo Solid State” with volume control for both left and right speakers and something called “MPX” on the AM/FM switch which seems to enhance the sound for FM radio. I didn’t catch the name of the composer whose music is playing now, but it’s a work about war and peace in Switzerland.

Ah, Copeland’s Rodeo is on the radio now—Classical 90.5 out of Collegedale, TN. Rodeo makes you think of beef, doesn’t it?

Did you see the story reporting the claims of a Floridian historian who says the first American Thanksgiving was in St. Augustine. Spanish Explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed in St. Augustine on September 8, 1565. He claimed “Florida for the Spanish crown and participat[ed] in a special Mass of Thanksgiving given by Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales. After being declared governor of the new land, Menendez invited the Timucua natives to join the Spanish in a Thanksgiving feast.”

Susan Brandenburg reports, “A flurry of national attention followed the reporter’s article about Gannon’s book, with a number of irate New Englanders dubbing Gannon ‘the grinch who stole Thanksgiving.’ In fact, Gannon poured literary salt in their wounds by remarking, with a chuckle in his voice, “’In the year 1621, when the Pilgrims were having their first Thanksgiving, St. Augustine was up for urban renewal.’”

I don’t see why this should ruffle anyone’s feathers, but then I don’t understand why so many will argue for their dog in a fight when they have no personal investment and winning an argument will mean nothing at the end of the day. That’s why I don’t favor one sport team over another.

Anyway Lars said yesterday, we have much to be thankful for. Today, I’m thankful for the rain that fell yesterday evening. The southeast needs a lot of it, and I see rain south of us in middle and south Georgia. That’s a blessing. Perhaps the Lord will not take us through a very dry valley into next summer, but even if he does, I know he will leave us. He will not leave his people, that is, because He works all things together for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose—those whom he foreknew and predestined to be conformed to his image. All things, like droughts and freakish jellyfish attacks on Irish salmon farms.

That’s a huge thing to give thanks for. Bryan Chapell preached a great sermon on prayer which touches on this idea (MP3 link).

What else might an American Christian thank the Lord for today? Good coffee comes to mind, but I’ve drunken all I brewed this morning. Other things? Good roads, stable houses, reliable heating and air conditioning, reliable transportation in various forms. Plenty of food of all kinds. Computers and networks for writing and talking to each other regardless the distances. These are blessings from the Lord of heaven and earth. Because people in our have respected the Lord’s commands, generally speaking, we expect people to keep their commitments, to do a job properly, to deal with us honestly. I know we have become more cynical of these things, and buyer beware is still a good principle, but I wonder if our justifiable cynicism comes to us as our countrymen drift toward a secular mindset and liberal doctrines.

Maybe if we “undertake for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country” our lives in this country, as the Mayflower pilgrims did, we would see more hope for the future of this life as well as hope in the life to come.

I think I’m hearing the foreshadowing toll of the dinner bell. I must go.

Your annual Thanksgiving guilt trip

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Faithful Reader. I don’t have any particular plans for the day, but pity me not. My brothers and their families will be gathering here at Blithering Heights for a feast on Saturday. Once again I shall test myself against the wily domestic turkey, to learn which of us is the better man.

I may post over the long weekend. Or I may not.

I have several things to say about Thanksgiving, and they don’t all hang together terribly well. But when has that ever stopped me?

For some reason I’ve been thinking today about the old people of my childhood. Not merely my parents. Not even my grandparents (who are much missed, one and all). I’m thinking of the really old people I met in church as a child, incredibly tall people (from my perspective) who dressed in a formal manner, moved slowly, spoke with accents, and seemed possessed of the wisdom of the ages.

And in a way they were.

Those were people who grew up in a world full of Civil War veterans. They clearly remembered the Spanish-American War, and high buttoned shoes, and gentlemen in derbies and handlebar mustaches. They remembered a time when you measured distance (to loosely quote C.S. Lewis) by the time it took to walk from one place to another (or at least the time it took to go in a wagon or buggy).

Some of them were immigrants. They remembered what it meant to come to a country where it didn’t matter what class you were born in, or what your father had done for a living. In America, you could be anything you wanted to be!

They remembered times of being genuinely uncertain whether the summer’s food would get you through the winter. They remembered prairie fires, and locust clouds, and diphtheria epidemics.

They remembered times when things to read were hard to come by. When you got your hands on a book, or a magazine or a newspaper, you read it front to back and then read it again. And then thought about it. Because it might be a while before you got anything more to read.

They were probably all racists, by our contemporary standards. They thought going to theaters and dancing were mortal sins. They thought America started going downhill when we ended Prohibition.

But all in all, I think they were better people than we are. They’d experienced life in a skin-to-skin, scratchy, smelly, painful manner from which we’re far removed today. They knew how to be thankful, because they’d lived with genuine want.

I miss them. I wish they were here to celebrate Thanksgiving with us; to influence us to be quieter, more reverent, more grateful.

Unfortunately, they’re gone.

All you’ve got to bring you down today is me.

And if that’s not something to be thankful for, I don’t know what is.