Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Review of: "Walking Through Twilight" by Douglas Groothuis.

As a reviewer of books it is a privilege to write reviews. This one is special. As I read this book I realized I was peeking into private personal space. (mine as well as the author’s) As Dr. Groothuis thinks deeply about his experience and recounts them to us vulnerable and honest. Sort of like reading someone else's mail. An older brother helping us clean up the mess we made.

I am barely acquainted with the author, just a face in the crowd. But for you dear reader I offer as my review this open letter so that you may get a glimmer of the same experience I had reading this work of faith.

Dear Dr. G,

I just finished your book, “Walking Through Twilight: A Wife's Illness--A Philosopher's Lament”. I have to tell you, while reading your book, I felt like I was walking in your shadow. Although a shadow it was reflective. Dark yet strangely shimmering. Like when I put my John Coletrane vinyl on my turntable and it reflects the light coming in the window and makes it dance on the ceiling as I listen to “A Love Supreme”.

The reflections off your shadow leave a trail to follow. You have become a trailblazer and a guide. It’s not that I have never had a dark night of the soul, it’s that I have just barely learned to navigate them. Yet you are encouraging me not to just navigate them but to navigate them well. I suppose it is your gift to put into words what others can only sense. Thank you.

I need to tell you what touched me most. You mentioned the eeriness of lament and how opaque our situations can be. This description helps, it orients me to normal, or at least the normal of the lament. Your reflections on Psalm 90 was like a flash of lightning at night, illuminating the surroundings for just a split second. As it did I could see my lament wrapped up inside God’s bigger world. It’s as if “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” is surrounded in the greater “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases”.

Thank you for this. I have already given a copy to a good friend and companion in lament. As our generation of baby boomers grow older lament will be more and more our new normal. I am grateful for this thoughtful and considerate guide.

Yours in lament,


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Road Rage

Road Rage

I have a saying I tell myself and others as the occasion warrants; “Driving a car is like looking at yourself in the mirror”.

Mirrors have a long history, ancients thought mirrors were portals to the supernatural so their use in divination became widespread around the globe. They were used throughout the ages by the wealthy to help them enhance their beauty. Today mirrors are a practical item in every home. They help us prepare ourselves to greet the world outside. Mirrors are many times placed on the inside of entrances not just for decoration but as reminders of how we appear to others. Most of us make use of mirrors in private. Men shave, women apply makeup all in the privacy of our own space. Most of us drive our cars alone, as it were, in private and it is in private that we usually see ourselves as we truly are.

This is what I mean when I say that, “Driving a car is like looking at yourself in the mirror”. Whenever I go driving I can’t believe how many idiots and jerks are on the road! It seems to me that wherever I go the road is full of jerks in front of me and idiots behind me. Why can’t they just drive the way they’re supposed to? Or in other words, why can’t they drive just like me? After all isn’t my level of driving the best? Do you see now why I say that driving a car is like looking in a mirror? Let me add this, all the licensed drivers on the road have just as much right to be there as I do.

James 1:22-25
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

When we look in a mirror it is usually for the purpose of making a correction, brushing our hair or straightening a tie. As I said, men shave and women apply make up. James is telling us that just hearing the word and not doing the word is like looking in the mirror, forgetting what you saw without making corrections. Applying this to my story about driving, when I see the driving of all those jerks and idiots I would have to say that I am passing judgment on their driving skills. Right? I am using my standard of driving to evaluate everyone else on the road. My reaction to others on the road is a reflection (like a mirror) of what is in my heart. As a Christian I am uncomfortable with that. First, I hate being angry at strangers on the highway. Second, Where does this rage come from? Third, What can I do about it? I would like to make corrections.

James 4:1-4
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?

Ouch! Is James really telling me that my driving behavior (judging everyone else on the road) is like being an enemy of God! My desires are at war within me. I want everyone on the road to drive according to my standard or at least according to my interpretation of the driving laws. I have set myself up as the standard and justify it by my condemnation of everyone else on the road. Ouch! I am upset with other people’s driving but I hardly notice the condemnation that is in my heart toward other people, people made in God’s image, people just like me.

Matt 7: 3-5
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

My condemnation of others and my unnoticed hypocrisy are the products of misplaced passions. I am in love with my own driving skill and my own judgment of others. James says that is enmity with God. I am opposing God when I should be embracing Him. Ouch!

So what can I do about it?

Heb 10:24
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

I love this verse from Hebrews. It asks me to make use of a part of my mind that in today’s world we hardly notice anymore. It asks me to “consider”. I looked up the word consider in a thesaurus and here are some synonyms; contemplate, examine, study, meditate, ponder, ruminate. Scripture is asking me not to just think about this but to think hard and long. It asks me not only to consider but to “consider how”. I have found that when I ask questions of myself (like looking in a mirror) I usually ask questions like, “Why did you do that?”. My usual response to myself is, “Because you’re an idiot”. Not very helpful. I know that already, I’ve looked in the mirror remember? Hebrews asks us “how”, consider how. How can I change my experience on the road? How can I communicate to a stranger’s private space while driving down the road. Is there something I can do that will make a difference? How can I stir up others to love and good works?

Remember. (a word very similar to ‘consider’) Remember that everyone else on the road has just as much right to be there as you do. Remember that your anger won’t change the others drivers behavior. Remember you are in public. Driving in your car seems like you are in your private personal space but that is an illusion. You are actually on a public road that you must share it with others regardless of how they choose to drive. As a Christian this is an opportunity to display the love of God to those around you. What would that look like? Your travel time; give yourself extra time. You don’t want time constraints to bring frustration and anger into your drive. Give others preference. Let others go first. This is a basic Christian principle. 1 Corinthians 9:19 says, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them”. Servant of all, as you drive down the road remember you are a servant. Drive accordingly.

I would suggest that your drive can become for you a freedom and a blessing instead of a rat race. You have the power to look in this mirror and make the adjustments needed. This is where I hope you are “stirred up”. That you accept the challenge to drive with the love of Christ in your heart and demonstrate that by preferring others before yourself. Turn your commute into an act of worship instead of an act of hypocrisy.

Helpful references:
Romans 12:10
10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Philippians 2:4
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

1 John 4:20
20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

1 Corinthians 9:19
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.

Road rage in the news…

August 4 2017 Around 2 a.m., officials say Michael McCaskey, 64, of Kellyville, Okla., was driving westbound on the Turner Turnpike near Luther, when he swerved in front of a semi-truck.

An Oklahoma County jury chose to punish Samuel Max Powell, 45, with life in prison.
Police reported the shooting occurred about 7:45 p.m. Jan. 8, 2015, in south Oklahoma City.
“You messed with the wrong white guy, Mexican,” Assistant District Attorney Lori McConnell said, quoting a witness who testified during the trial.

May 26, 2017
Thirty-one-year-old Lawrence Finn of Pettigrew remained in jail Friday on a charge of second-degree murder. Arkansas State Police described the death Wednesday of 41-year-old Jason Miller of Alma as the result of a road-rage incident along Interstate 40 near the Oklahoma line.

OKLAHOMA CITY - The defendant in the road rage murder trial David Bloebaum has been found guilty of the first-degree murder and the jury has recommended he serve life in prison.
Bloebaum was accused of gunning down 29-year-old Jason Yousif after a road rage incident in the parking lot of a Super Target near Penn and Memorial back in September 2012.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Reordering the Trinity: Six Movements of God in the New Testament by Rodrick K. Durst

Rodrick K. Durst gives a marvelous gift to the Body of Christ, the Church. In his book he explores the triadic patterns of the Trinity in the New Testament. Dr. Durst took up the challenge to explore the meaning of the varieties of triadic orders presented in scripture. There are six possible combinations of Father Son and Spirit. Dr. Durst identifies seventy-five places in the New Testament where they are discernible and notes the context of each order and it’s implications.

In Part 1: Considering Four Key Questions, Durst discusses things like why does the Trinity matter? Where did the Trinity come from? Was the Trinity in the minds of the New Testament writers? As well as a very good chapter on the development of ideas about the Trinity throughout history.

The heart of the book is Part 2: The Contextual Question and the Trinitarian Matrix. Divided into six chapters each addressing one of the possible triadic orders. Those chapters are as follows:

Chapter 5: The Sending Triad: Father Son Spirit as the Missional Order
Chapter 6: The Saving Triad: Son Spirit Father as the Regenerative Order
Chapter 7: The Indwelling Triad: Son Father Spirit as the Christological Witness Order
Chapter 8: The Standing Triad: Spirit Father Son as the Sanctifying Order
Chapter 9: The Shaping Triad: Father Spirit Son as the Spiritual Formation Order
Chapter 10: The Uniting Triad: Spirit Son Father as the Ecclesial Order

This book will help anyone who desires to better understand the Trinity doctrinally as well as practical applications for living a fuller Trinitarian experience as a Christian believer. The book is scholarly but not written in a way that would keep non-specialists from gaining much benefit. The ample footnotes, very useful appendices, and bibliography are welcome resources. Each chapter has discussion questions and Part 2 in addition has what Dr. Durst calls sermon starters. To me they seem to be meditative synopsis with practical applications. Excellent work in my opinion.  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


1. The Parable of the Sower or The Parable of the Soil

In this series I am writing about two parables. I don’t mean to infer from my title that this parable is actually two, just that it is known by two names. First I will discuss the parable of the sower, then in future posts I will discuss this parable in relation to the parable of the hidden treasure.

The parable of the sower is told in three gospels, commonly called the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The parable of the hidden treasure is found only in Matthew. As we look at the parables I would like to demonstrate a principle of biblical interpretation (hermeneutics) that I call Scripture Best Interprets Scripture. “Use the Bible to help interpret itself. Interpret difficult passages with clear ones. This is sometimes called the law of non-contradiction. Because the Bible is God’s word, and God is true, the Bible will not contradict itself.” i

So let us begin. For sake of space I will leave you to read the parable for yourself. I suggest you read it from all three of the gospels. It is the same parable but each gospel author tells it with some slight differences. It is my thinking that these differences clarify rather than confuse, more views give us a wider perspective. I will highlight some of these along the way.

All three gospels begin “a sower went out to sow”.

The first condition is that the seeds fell along the path and then the birds devoured them. Not unusual; birds like seed. I remember feeding pigeons as a young boy. I was fascinated by the power I held in my hand. These birds would normally never come near me but as I began to scatter seed they came from everywhere and some were even so bold as to land on my head and arm. So is the intended meaning that a farmer should take care not to waste the seed or is it to show how to attract birds? Hmmmm? Lets keep reading.

The second condition we are told is rocky ground without much soil. Luke tells us that the soil “had no moisture” So what happens to seeds under these conditions? They spring up but have no depth so when the sun is hot they wither away. Again as a young boy at my school’s science fair, I had to present a science project. Mine was radish seeds/sprouts, my experiment was something like this. I learned the basics of germination. In order for seeds to grow, they need moisture and light (but not too much). The moral? A lack of moisture plus a hot sun kills the seedlings. So wouldn't a farmer avoid this situation? You bet, farmers clear the rocks from their fields.

Third condition is some seeds fell among thorns and “the thorns grew up and choked them.” Have you noticed anything yet? Perhaps a progression? First birds eat the seeds, this is rapid they don’t even get to germinate. Then the rocky ground prevents the seedlings from developing after germination but at least they sprouted. Here the thorns are choking the plants. This takes a little more time. I planted strawberries about five years ago. Overall they are doing good. I made one small mistake though. I thought I was doing the right thing. I used my lawnmower clippings as mulch. It worked great the first couple of years. I thought I was keeping the weeds down and it did for a time. But slowly the Bermuda grass clippings I was placing in my strawberries for mulch took root. Now it is a yearly battle to pull the Bermuda grass out. The grass is choking my strawberries! I am not a very good farmer.

The fourth condition is what every farmer wants, the seeds fell on good soil and produced crops. So what does all this mean? Jesus’ disciples had the same question. Mark’s version of the disciples asking Jesus about this is informative for interpreting parables “How then will you understand all the parables?” Luke and Matthew record for us that Jesus intends for the disciples “know the secrets of the Kingdom” so shouldn't we pay attention to what Jesus is about to tell them?

i Lesson 6: Principles of Biblical Interpretation,, last accessed 4/26/2017

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: REFLECT, Becoming Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History by Thaddeus J. Williams

How would I describe this book? Is it theology, spiritual-formation, Christian living? Yes, yes and yes. I once read that the fruit of the Spirit is singular in Galatians 5:22 because they are not fruits but fruit; one fruit with multiple facets. To have one is to have them all. REFLECT, Becoming Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History by Thaddeus J. Williams is very helpful towards that end. Integrating the characteristics of Christ in an authentic way to bring Him glory, the author shows, is God’s design for our lives and God’s means to bring it about.

Each chapter; Reason, Emote (passion), Flip (holiness), Love, Elevate (grace), Create, Transform could stand on their own. The author provides many notes and challenged my thinking and preconceptions in an engaging and stimulating manner. Like a good friend speaking to my doubts and intimidations he leads me to the place where I can see for myself. There is much food for thought in each progressive chapter.

There are many quotes that I could give but my favorite came from the last chapter Transform, “Jesus is not a sum; he is a fully integrated Person. Every one of his attributes can be used as an adjective or adverb to describe any other attribute.” The author also kindly provides a REFLECT log you can copy from his book or download from his webpage. It is a suggested tool that he has used for 10 years and it is sort of a check list or inventory to help you to reflect on the status of your journey.

If purchase this book I would recommend buying two. You will get part way through and think of others you would love to share this journey with. If you lead a small study or prayer group this would make an excellent addition to your times together.

I love to meditate on scripture; this book would, in my mind, fall under Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”

I am very grateful to The Weaver Book Company for providing me a copy of the book for an unbiased review. I am hopeful for the books success and looking forward to a study guide. I will be using this in my small group.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Meditation for Easter

Meditation for Easter

Psalm 2 verse 6

✠I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill. ✠

Psalm 3 verse 2

✠Many are saying of my soul, 
‘There is no salvation for him in God.’ (cf. Mk 15:26-32)

Psalm 3 verse 4

✠I cried aloud to the LORD, 
and he answered me from his holy hill. (cf. Mk 15:34)
Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani

Psalm 3 verse 5

✠I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. (cf. Mk 16:6)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Spirituality of Paul by Leslie T. Hardin

The author starts with good background on the meaning of the term spirituality. He then asks a series of questions about how it relates to Paul. How does Paul imitate Jesus? What spiritual disciplines did he make use of? Then each following chapter focuses on one of the attributes of Paul’s spirituality.

In speaking of Paul’s use of the Old Testament the author says, “There’s hardly a chapter that doesn't contain a quote, an allusion, or a rhetorical wink in the direction of something from the Old Testament.” (p. 28)  The author takes some time to translate (my word) Paul’s oft used phrase, “works of the law” and refers to E. P. Sanders work. I found that very helpful.  He sums up Paul’s devotion to scripture as a progression; from learning about scripture, through thinking with scripture, to thinking from scripture.

This little book (182 pages) is not given to a swift read. I made that mistake and had to start again. This book in spite of it’s size is best read slowly. Not because it is difficult but rather because it is compressed. Each paragraph holds much to chew and digest. So don’t make my mistake, read it slowly and allow the author to show you something worth waiting for. For example as I was reading I was a bit irritated that there were so many scriptural references strung into the paragraph. I thought why  didn't the author just quote one or two examples? Then I took the time to look them up. Wow, I am glad I did.

Chapter 1 starts the journey of Paul’s spirituality with “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”. Chapter 2 explores Paul’s devotion to scripture. Chapter 3 explores Paul’s prayers. This chapter is rich and where I needed look up all the references the author gives. The most mentioned theme in Paul’s prayers is for others to have “continued growth in the faith” (p. 49)  One point which I found odd or perhaps misplaced, was the author’s treatment of Abba. (Rom 8:15, Gal 4:6) He points out that Abba should not be equated with Daddy (he provides footnotes) but he neglects to discuss why Paul would use that term.

The other themes dealt with in the following chapters are Disciple-Making, Proclaiming Christ, Worship, Holiness, Spiritual Gifts, Encouraging Others, Chapter 10 is on Suffering and Hardin definitely saved the best for last. The idea discussed is Paul’s Suffering through the lens of the “Suffering Servant” from Isaiah 42-56. This idea is rich and hopefully the author will develop it further.

One very helpful thought given is about the tension we feel about the origin of suffering. Does God cause it or allow it? Hardin very wisely (IMHO) offers “Sometimes the question of my response to suffering is of more concern to the Father and to my own spiritual development than is the question of its origin. (p. 166)

The 11th and final chapter is sort of an epilogue. Each chapter is densely packed and this one helped to unpack and give pause to meditate and digest. This work deserves careful attention and there are treasures to be gleaned, but as I said before, don’t hurry through this one.  The author also includes 8 pages of bibliography. Well done.