Thursday, December 14, 2017

Merry Condescension

It's the most wonderful time of the year. I come down early every morning, light a fire, turn on the tree lights, and have my quiet time before all the children stir. I listen to John Piper's daily advent reading, listen to a song or two from Sovereign Grace's Christmas album (which is this year's best), and pray.

I also ponder our nativity set, the one we've had since early marriage. It's old and scratched and cute and looks a little like a child's first nativity. This year, I noticed there is one piece missing. You'd hope it would be something like one of the kings or a camel. But no. It's the baby. My nativity has an empty manger. Poor baby Jesus probably went out in all the wrapping paper last year.

I had my own grumpy George Bailey moment. Why do we have to have all these nativity characters anyway?  Why do we not set up only a manger with Jesus in it? I confess that my first reaction was to find a baby Jesus and pitch the rest of the figures so as not to detract from the scene. But then...

...that whole cast of characters lends perspective to the sheer magnitude of the event. That whole cast of characters demonstrates what I've been seeing this year as our pastors preach through the book of Luke: the condescension of God.

Condescension has negative overtones, as in "Don't be so condescending," which usually means that we are looking down from our lofty place on all the little people. But when God condescended, He wasn't looking down; He was coming down among us--to be one of us, to feel the weight of our weakness and redeem us from our own evil. When humans condescend, it is arrogance, but when God condescends, it is a gracious and glorious humility.

My scripture reading is currently taking me through the minor prophets and through Revelation. Reading these with my defective nativity in the background has brought the Incarnation into sharper focus. The message of the prophets is consistent. Israel was unfaithful and rebellious. And God came in the flesh anyway. Israel looked just like the neighboring reprobate nations. And God came in the flesh anyway. Israel wasn't even interested in being saved. And God came in the flesh anyway. That's condescension.

Back to my nativity, the shepherds lend context to God's condescension.
The kings lend context to God's condescension.
Even the stable animals lend context, since all of creation groans.

And Mary and Joseph lends context--if we can get it right.

But unfortunately, a weird mythology has grown up around Mary. Mary was just an ordinary sinner in need of a savior. Following the birth of Jesus, she and Joseph raised five other children, the fruit of their marital intimacy. Then she died. If we change Mary's story from the Biblical narrative, we miss God's condescension to her. And that has far reaching implication.

To miss God's condescension in Mary's story is to make Mary bigger than she is and God smaller than He is.  To make Mary bigger and God smaller is to call into question the reliability of the scriptures. To call into question the reliability of scripture is to call into question the reliability of the gospel.

Therefore, we need to be clear about God's condescension to Jesus' family. God condescended to Joseph in tasking this ordinary man to raise His Son. God condescended to Mary in tasking this ordinary woman to bear His Son.

Anyway, I was thinking about Mary this morning as I looking at my defective nativity scene and reading Revelation:  And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood, men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth." Revelation 5:9-10

And it just hit me. Mary birthed and Joseph raised Jesus to be both the final High Priest and the final Lamb of God so that we could be a kingdom and priests to our God. Wow! That's condescension to all of us!  Just as God condescended to Mary and Joseph, He condescends to all on whom His favor rests to raise us up to make us a Holy Family of saints and priests.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for He has looked upon the humble estate of His servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.
And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation. 
He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His offspring forever. Luke 1:46-55

Merry Condescension to all my fellow saints and priests!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Identity Crisis: I've Got News For You

A preliminary note: First, ***spoilers ahead***if you've never read The Wingfeather Saga or Harry Potter. Second, speaking of Harry Potter:
We are one of those families, the ones who do not let their children read Harry Potter until a certain age. But that is a recent development. Until I finished the series myself this past spring, we were one of the families who never let their children read Harry Potter. I have no regrets. And if you are one of those families, you have my deepest regard. If you are not one of those families, I respect your house rules, too. But may I ask you to wrestle with your children over what the scriptures say about witchcraft? The Bible takes it seriously, and we should, too.
I've got news for you.
This is not a game.
I've got news for you.
Are you listenin'?
I've got news for you.
We are all to blame.
And when that's understood, we can start to live again.*

We've got an identity crisis on our hands. And I'm not talking about the 'gender/sexuality' shenanigans, either. I'm talking about something much more subtle, much more pervasive, and, therefore, much more dangerous.

I'm almost fifty years old, and I am still impacted by a discussion I had in eighth grade. The headmaster and we students were sitting around a conference table discussing the Iran hostages, who had just been released after 444 days in captivity. Mr. Smith asked us one question.
Are they heroes?
We were incredulous. Of course they were heroes.
What heroic thing did they do? he pressed.
Uhhh... Splutter, splutter. Well, they, uh....
So are they heroes? repeated Mr. Smith.

He had us. There was no way around this. No, the Iran hostages were not heroes. They were victims, but they were not heroes. It was a lesson in both linguistic precision and labels that I have never forgotten.

In the many years since, I have observed that sloppiness in regard to linguistic precision and labels is so common, it's practically part of what it means to be human.
We're really good at filing the people we love, including ourselves, into either of the first two categories. And we're really good at piling the people who hurt us into the last one. Truly, our whole system would be laughable if eternity didn't hang in the balance.

Enter Harry Potter. I thoroughly enjoyed the Harry Potter series. It's a jolly good tale, full of great characters and plot twists. Granted, I wasn't all in until Book 5, which still remains my favorite of the set. And I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying that Harry Potter is the hero. But as a commentary on the human condition, I found it lacking. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he's the Christ Figure. He's the ideal Victim, a lucky escapee from an attempted murder, an orphan despised and rejected by his adoptive family, who also happens to be the chosen one to do the right thing at the right time.
Victim, victim, victim.
Turned hero, hero, hero.
He also doesn't have a particularly strong moral compass. Like I told my older kids after they read it (after I read it), there's lots of World in Harry Potter. There's lots of Devil, too. But there is no Flesh. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Oh, there was lots of evidence of Flesh. He's smart-alecky with authority; he lies; he's passive-aggressive. But there was no internal battle with the Flesh, no sanctification. Rowling gives him a pass, I guess because, poor thing, he's had such a tough go of it. I didn't particularly like the boy Harry Potter because I couldn't particularly relate to him.

Yet victims or heroes are how we tend to plot ourselves in our own stories, aren't they? We see ourselves as victims in the way we give a pass to sin, in us and in others. "Sure, what I (or s/he) did was bad," we practically shrug. "But I (or s/he) was lost and hurting and felt like life offered me (or him/her) no other choice." And we find a certain self-righteous smugness in our compassion (which is no compassion at all). We see ourselves as heroes when we get ourselves past our wounds or establish solidarity: hashtagmetoo. Sadly we even see it in really bad Christian songs:
No matter the bumps, no matter the bruises, no matter the scars, still the truth is the Cross has made you flawless. 
Where do the scriptures teach us that our flaws come from outside of us? What gospel is that?

Now step with me into Aerwiar, (because...'ere we are...) a place where the World and the Devil are as threatening as they are at Hogwarts.  But, unlike Hogwarts, in Aerwiar, our Flesh is our own worst enemy. Follow the heartbreaking/heartwarming story of the Wingfeather family (Artham might be my favorite literary character OF ALL TIME). Take an honest look at just how much harm your Flesh can do. (Hint: so much more than the World or the Devil can do)

Unlike Harry Potter, The Wingfeather Saga is profoundly gospel because it tells the truth about our condition, about consequences, about the Maker. There are no victims in Aerwiar. There are no heroes. There are monsters. And that is as it should be. That is the gospel.

I've got news for you. You may at some point have been someone's victim. You may at some point have been someone's hero. But your victimization is not your problem. And your heroism is not your salvation. As a friend once said, 'When we pray that the Lord will deliver us from evil, we should be thinking about the evil we do to others much more than the evil others do to us.'

So let's apply our own linguistic precision with labels.
Our identity is not Victim.
Our identity is not Hero.
Our identity is Monster.

When that's understood, our identity crisis is over.
And when that's understood, we can start to live again.
*I've Got News For You, Randy Stonehill, 1976

Please, I beg of you not to see the new Wingfeather movie. I adore the Saga, and I refuse to watch. Do you remember that awful animated version of The Lord of the Rings all those years ago? Did that do anything for the story? No. You simply must read The Wingfeather Saga, all four books, to understand the riches of this tale. It is profoundly gospel. But if Peter Jackson ever agreed to make the movie...

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

For My Savior Loves Me So

A while back, we got a frantic call from a very concerned friend. Someone we all knew and loved was thinking of converting to Catholicism, and could Brett and I intervene? Of course we would, I told the caller. But the following twenty-four hours were awful. First, I was in shock. Then anger. Then weeping. By nighttime, I fell into bed in a catatonic slump. In short, I went through all the stages of grief in one terrible day.

My faith in the Lord was not rocked. I was, and still am, confident of His absolute sovereignty over salvation. If this dear one was elect, then this dear one would be saved. But if this dear one chose Catholicism, make no mistake. We would have no choice but to regard this person as apostate.

The conversation got very intense before it ended. "You're not being very respectful," the person said to me.
I nearly shot vertically out of my chair. "I'm not here to respect you; I'm here to warn you!" I retorted.
I am happy to say that it was the Holy Spirit, not Brett and I, who intervened. But that was a close call. And I will never understand why someone would willingly choose the heavy torment of Catholicism for the light, easy yoke of Jesus.

I will also never understand gospel Christians who are grateful for their salvation but dismiss the Reformation as a minor quibble, a thing of the past, and shrug at the Christian gospel of grace and the Catholic gospel of terror as the same gospel.

How can the same gospel rest on:
faith alone and not faith alone
grace alone and not grace alone
Christ alone and not Christ alone?
I'll answer that. It can't.

Gospel Christian, your ecumenical kumbayah has got to stop. You're certainly not representing the gospel well with your mushy imprecision. And if you think you're doing anyone any favors, think again. Gospel Christian, this one's for you.
I love Reformation Day. I love it as much as I love Christmas. And if you were tormented for the first thirty years of your life before you understood the doctrines of grace brought back by the Reformation, you'd probably be the same Reformation geek as I am.

I am the collateral damage of Catholicism. My parents were saved when I was almost three and promptly left Catholicism. They shared the gospel with me and took me to church. We did family devotions, and both my parents model a vibrant, serious walk with the Lord. I stand on their faithful shoulders. Still, I walked in the shadow of Catholicism. My parents often spoke of the constant, pervasive guilt and were careful to guard against that in our home. But the horrific fact is that I was taught that, although I was saved, I could lose my salvation. And I was taught that because they were taught that. (You can take the Catholic out of Catholicism, but it is very difficult to take Catholicism out of the ex-Catholic.)

But mine is not the only story of torment. Here are three more examples. All of them are true; all of them are either friends of mine or of my children. They are merely representative of millions of other stories.

Example One:
An adult daughter of mine is speaking with a friend about how much she is looking forward to heaven. The friend, who is a serious, well-catechized Catholic, responds, "It must be nice to be sure where you are going." Imagine that terror. Imagine going to sleep every night without the confidence of heaven. You want to be there, but you aren't sure you've done enough to actually get there.

Example Two:
A Catholic young lady's father is abandoned by her mother after years of the mother's adulterous relationships. As an officially divorced man, her father is barred from Holy Communion. But according to Catholic doctrine, to remain in right standing with God, one must participate in the Mass. Add to that the additional horror and heartbreak when the young lady is married in a Catholic wedding, and he is not able to fully participate. Imagine the terror. Imagine your understanding is that you must jump through the Mass hoop, and now, through no fault of your own, you are prevented.

Example Three:
A Catholic friend asks for prayers of repose for a deceased loved one. What is a prayer of repose? It is offered in hopes of getting that person to heaven. Sometimes, says the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the prayer must be said many times. Well, which times must they be said many times? And how many times is many times? And when do we know that many times is enough? What does it mean that we do not grieve as others grieve if it does not mean that we have a great amount of assurance about that loved one's salvation? What kind of gospel doesn't take the sting out of death?

If you read these true stories and your heart doesn't hurt, check for a pulse. What ISIS is to the Middle East, Catholicism is to the human soul.  How dare we gospel Christians defend, legitimize, or validate this gospel of terror?

The gospel of Jesus tells me: We stand on Scripture alone, not man's wisdom.
The gospel of terror tells me: Scripture is not enough; I need a sanctioned interpreter.

The gospel of Jesus tells me: We stand through Faith alone, nothing we earn.
The gospel of terror tells me: Faith is not enough; I must add penance.

The gospel of Jesus tells me: We stand by Grace alone, nothing we accomplish.
The gospel of terror tells me: Grace is not enough; I must add my own merit.

The gospel of Jesus tells me: We stand in Christ alone, no other mediator.
The gospel of terror tells me: Christ's righteousness is not enough; I must add my own infused righteousness.

The gospel of Jesus tells me: We stand for God's glory alone, not for our praise.*
The gospel of terror is accessorized with pride. Well, yeah. After I'm done adding my penance, my merit, and my infused righteousness, what do I need a savior for?

The Reformation demonstrates that God is still writing the history of His people, long after the canon of scripture closed.

The Reformation demonstrates Remnant. God has always had and will always have a Remnant of gospel Christians. And He is in the business of preserving us. The Reformation demonstrates Return. When we are faithless, He is faithful. He will always return His covenant people to His Truth. And--my favorite--the Reformation means Rest. He did the work of salvation, and then He pursued me and brought me to repentance. I rest in the finished work of Christ.

When I fear my faith will fail...
When the tempter would prevail...
I could never keep my hold...
For my love is often cold...
Those He saves are His delight...
Precious in His holy sight...
He'll not let my soul be lost...
Bought by Him at such a cost...
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast,
For my Savior loves me so.
He will hold me fast.**

Why will Jesus keep me when my love is cold, when I give in to tempation, when I am faithless?
Because He loves me. And He will finish what He started.

If you are living under a heavy yoke and are terrorized about your standing with God, if you keep asking, how much merit is enough merit? or how can I rest in my salvation? let's talk.
If you are resting in the Truths of the Reformation and the glorious gospel of grace, then on this 500th anniversary, may you have a wonderful, joyous Reformation Day!

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21
For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

*Thanks to Together for the Gospel, 2016 for the 'alone' wording.
**He Will Hold Me Fast, Ada Habershon, Matthew Merker, 2013.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Rock On With Your Bad Self

We had a day this past month.
A day when the Accused (progeny) were brought up before the Tribunal (parents) for Crimes Against Humanity (sibling).
"Rock on with your bad self."

True story. Ten years ago. I got into it with a friend. Admittedly, I didn't open the discussion with the best wisdom. Flinging accusation, even when you are sure you are right, is never a good strategy. Badly done, Noel; badly done. But when I wanted to meet and reconcile, that was the response. Rock on with your bad self. I read it the first thirty-seven times with my chin on my desk. I guess if an offended brother is harder to scale than a city wall...this is what it looks like. Eventually, the shock wore off, and I resumed life sadly without my old friend. Today, almost a decade later, Brett and I are able to see the humor. We treat it like a farewell. As in, "Hey," (point your finger, wink your eye, and click your tongue) "Rock on with your bad self." Or as in the other night when we were drifting off to sleep, and Brett whispered, 'Hey. Rock on with your bad self.' I snorted. 'If she only knew the mileage we've gotten out of that.'

But the experience begged a question. How do you get to be old enough to produce little critters in your own image, and yet you're not able to have functional adult relationships???????

Back to the the day...
Brett and I sat there on the day this past month talking with Progeny A and Progeny B about how they had demolished Progeny C, and I was mad as a hornet. But here was the kicker. When I explained how hurt Progeny C was, Progeny B said, 'Well, that's not what I meant.'
'Well, that's what Progeny C heard,' I said.
'Well, that's not what I meant,' was the repeated reply.

Me: Position noted. But now that you know how it was received, it would be a good idea to go back and have a conversation and clarify that.
B: No.
Me, barely keeping a lid on it: Why would you NOT seek to clarify, especially since this relationship is now damaged?
B: Because C won't listen.
Me, wobbly, wobbly lid: How do you know that?
B, responding with the sagely wisdom of all progeny: 'Cuz.
Me: Your relationship hangs in the balance here. Progeny C is worth the conversation.

My point is this. As I sat there listening to Progeny B rationalize, I had the 'aha!' moment. This was it. This is the place where some people get stunted in their growth, and their ability to have relationships never progress beyond this. This is the moment when they learn to quit. And no parent is telling them to persevere. Well, my progeny, that's not going to happen in my house. Get back in the game, and have this relationship. This is how you adult.

What's more, in a weird little coincidence--or was it Providence?--Brett told them after we were done talking that he had to leave to handle a relationship where there had been offense.
Practicing what he preaches.
Heading into (not running away from) the breaches.
Adulting in relationships. Like a boss.

Ten years ago, I got this follow-up email after the now infamous 'Rock On' one: We've decided this relationship is no longer worth pursuing, but I want to take communion, so I forgive you.
Ah, she was always refreshingly honest, that one.
Me: Why don't you want to get this right?
Her: 'Cuz.

It's like we are genuinely surprised by misunderstandings or conflict, and we think not reconciling is a valid Christian option. And yet...given the fact that God tells us to be ministers of reconciliation, to go to the brother who has offended us, to forgive one another, I rather doubt He is of the same mind. It's almost like God knew that reconciliation would be part and parcel of the Christian life. Hmm.

I am reminded of what a home schooling mentor told me twenty years ago about teaching a child to read. 'Relax. Is it more important for your child to read when they are 4 years old or when they are 24 years old?'

When it comes to relationships, I think the same reasoning applies. We must teach our children the art of reconciliation now, not so much because we want them to have healthy relationships at age 4, but because we want them to have healthy adult relationships when they are 24. And 34. And 44.

Back to the Tribunal. The discussion continued for about an hour. It was not a fun day. But reconciliation is happening. It still smarts a little bit, and it is requiring an investment of time and effort and heart-attitude checks, but the sting is going away. And my Mom-heart is so proud of my kiddos.

Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations. And you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell. Isaiah 58:12

Repair the breaches.
Either that or (point, click, wink) rock on with your bad self.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Are you thinking correctly about your statement of faith?

It's that time of year when not only is school starting but also all the extra-curriculars. Some of them will be purely secular, like city leagues and music lessons. Some of them will be explicitly Christian, either for community outreach or for the equipping of young saints. More specifically, those that are intended to equip the saints will generally require a statement of faith for the purpose of demonstrating a unity among its members and for holding them generally accountable to the same standard.

And this is where things, in recent years, have gone very wrong. I've been involved in enough activities through the years to notice a disturbing trend which has abandoned a traditional statement of faith in favor of a creed. And other parents are starting to get concerned, as well.

Now let's talk about creeds. Let's talk about the Nicene Creed. The Council of Nicea met in 325 to combat the Arian heresy that erroneously taught that Jesus was a created being, rather than an eternal, co-equal member of the Trinity. And the Nicene Creed is good; it is very, very good.

But what it is not is a statement of faith.

Elevating the Nicene Creed to a statement of faith, which it was never intended to be, dilutes and reduces the gospel that unifies all true Christians. An organization which unifies only on the Nicene Creed tells its member families, "Welcome. We have all agreed here that we are not Arians."

Well, yippee.

Standing on a creed as the sum unifying total of our faith is like standing on air. We are not to unify on nothing; we are to unify on the Truth.

What about the nature of God? What about the nature of man? salvation? the authority of the Bible? These are the non-negotiables of the gospel. These define which gospel we believe. The gospel is simple. But the gospel is precise. And if you and I can't agree on these non-negotiables, it's safe to say that at least one of us is not a true believer.

Leaders, you need to decide what kind of group you are leading.
If you are leading a group whose goal is to equip young saints, be that with sports skills, speaking skills, artistic skills, etc...or...
If you are leading a group that has "Christian" in its title or subtitle...
you better have a statement of faith which reflects the Christian gospel and all of its non-negotiables. Gospel parents will expect that of you.

Parents, you need to decide what kind of group you want to join. If your expectation is that you will be with like-minded parents who are also raising gospel kids, you need to spend more than a nanosecond reading that group's statement of faith. It will help you avoid unpleasant discoveries among the membership after you've already invested money and time--and your children.

And if the group you lead or join can't come up with anything better than the Nicene Creed, don't be surprised when your membership isn't anything more than non-Arians.

Hold the line, saints. Hold the line.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


He (the ungodly) does not despise evil. Psalm 36:4

It finally hit me about a year ago. We are a 'better late than early' family. When I compare what we set before our children when, whether that be facts or books or entertainment, we expose our children much later than most of our peers. We're rather cautious about foundations.

It's why we don't talk about mythology until we've first hammered Old-Testament-as-history (not allegory).
Because in the beginning, God.
In the beginning, Greece.

It's why Brett intervened when someone tried to hand our twelve year old a Michael Crichton book.
'But Mr. A, it's a good book.'
'No, Eddie.'
'But Mr. A...'
'No, Eddie.'
It's why we don't let them read (insert blockbuster youth fiction of your choice here) until we see a certain level of spiritual maturity.
It's why certain shows we only watch the two of us, some with the older kids, and some shows we don't watch at all.

In short, there are topics/books/entertainment they aren't equipped to handle until we see them cultivate a distaste, an enmity, for things that set themselves up in opposition to God.

About a week ago, I was enjoying a quiet time in my back yard. But I did a vertical jump when a snake slithered onto the scene. Admittedly, I had a momentary, 'Oh maybe I should just let it pass.' But it was quickly countered. 'Hey, this is my yard. I am lord and master of this plot of land; you are a usurper. And at over five feet long, you are taller than two of the imago dei's who play out here.'  Add to that the fact that one of my children was actually bitten by a snake in my own yard, and I have an unapologetic malice toward snakes. Ciao, baby.

That's what a good, old fashioned Garden of Eden enmity does: You've brought harm here before. There will be no second chances.

And that's what I was thinking about when a conversation arose about entertainment. We don't seem to be cultivating enough enmity in our homes. We seem to do pretty well at seeking to love what God loves. But I don't think we are doing quite as well at hating what God hates.

I was a huge fan of 24. But I remember the episode in which hero Jack Bauer is instructed to kill one of his superiors to prevent the bad guy from doing much greater harm. I remember watching in amazement as Jack hauled this guy to an abandoned rail yard and shot him point blank in the back of the head. And I remember sitting there thinking, "This better not be what it appears. This hero better not have just taken life in cold blood for the greater good. There better be a twist in this story." There wasn't. But here's the greater issue. God hates utilitarianism. God hates murder. Do I hate it with the same hatred? The bad news: I didn't stop watching immediately. The good news: I stopped seeing Jack as good, and I eventually stopped watching.

Let's face it. We can get pretty good at waxing intellectual about our entertainment choices. Dr. Michael Wittmer, writing for last month's edition of Table Talk, scoffs at the notion that Christians
may view movies filled with violence, profanity, and sexual immorality as long as they watch 'with discernment'--which is often code for 'watch whatever you want as long as you spot the Christ figure or the tortured soul yearning for redemption.'
I laughed out loud. Wittmer nailed it! File it under 'literary criticism,' and anything goes.

I know I'm in dangerous territory here, talking about Christians and entertainment. I have an acquaintance whose default, when two Christians disagree, is:
Hey, they're both Christians. Therefore, this must be an issue of liberty.
Contrast that with my own default when two Christians disagree:
Hey, they disagree. Therefore, this must be an issue of sin.

I'm not writing a new law. I happily acknowledge that our rules are house rules, and that other houses have other rules. Both my acquaintance and I need to rely less on our own defaults and more on our daily, hourly need for wisdom. Sometimes entertainment is an issue of liberty. But if there's a Snake in your home, you need to cut off its head.

The ungodly does not despise evil. He has not cultivated any enmity for evil. He does not hate what God hates. Unfortunately, similar statements can too often be made of the godly. The godly often treats entertainment the way I was momentarily tempted to treat the snake. 'Oh, maybe I'll just let it be.' So I will leave us all with a question to ponder.

Should I, who have been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus, I, the slave of righteousness, have an appetite for entertainment that is substantially different from the appetite of the reprobate?
Yes or no?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I've Finally Decided My Future Lies...

I realize that some of my readers, like some of my loved ones, are concrete and prefer that I spell things out. So...

I will not be devoting another jot of space on this blog to politics. And that is because I will not be devoting another moment of my life to it, either.

I am done with politics. When I say I'm done, I mean that in the way an addict is done with heroine. It's not that I don't care; it's that I care way too much. I am done with it dominating my life. I realize that government was God's idea and that makes government inherently good. But politics was man's idea. It is at once above me and beneath me. It is at once wonderful and terrible.

In the immortal words of Elton John:
Maybe you'll get a replacement.
There's plenty like me to be found.

Like a heroine addict,  I will be filling the void with better things. Rather than work for temporal things that pass away--like nations--I will be working for eternal things.

But I've finally decided my future lies here: wife, mom, friend, sheologian, member of my church and The Church, reader of books, observer of culture.

And those are the kinds of things you will see on this blog. Actually, I've already had requests from people in different places for specific topics.

Now. Where was I?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Fear Not, Little Flock (or Galadriel's Choice, Pt. 2)

But Christianity has never depended on the success or failure of the empires that wax and wane. The 'crisis of Western civilization' is not the same as the 'crisis of Christianity.' Reformed theology, as we have seen, has long been a critic of the idolatries of the former and can continue to guide our response to the current situation. ( Michael Horton, Revelation and Reason, 148)
Sometimes, I wish I lived in Middle Earth.
I want to be a hobbit. I want my chair by the fire, my elevensies, and my books.
I want to be a dwarf. I want to be unbudging, fierce, and loyal.
I want to be an ent. I want to live quietly, speak slowly, and act consciously.

But if I can't live in Middle Earth, I at least want to bring as much of it here as I can. Tolkien, writing after his experience in the Great War, fairly explodes with wisdom about good and evil. How could he not after what he witnessed in World War I? We are still in a war--and his wisdom is still explosive.

It would be silly for me to base any belief, no matter how sincerely held, on a work of fiction--and a fantasy work, moreover.  But all things work together, including unrelated books, it seems, for our good.(I know; that was bad. But let's go with it, for now.) And just as I was coming to the end of my adventure in Middle Earth, I was beginning my adventure in Covenantal (or 'presuppositional') Apologetics.

Enter Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics, edited by K. Scott Oliphint and Lane G. Tipton, which turned out to be one amazing, mind-blowing ride.

Netted out, covenantal apologetics correctly explains that every human is in covenant with God (Genesis 1-2). Then the Fall happened, which meant a total fall in heart-mind-soul-strength (Genesis 3). The result, then, is that all humans are now knowing-but-suppressing (Romans 1), unless and until there is such a time when they are saved and restored to a right covenant relationship with God.

Bottom line: there are exactly two kinds of humans on this earth, covenant-breakers and covenant-keepers. There is no such thing as a middle category of people who are 'seekers.' There is no such thing as a man whose will and affections are fallen, but whose reason is intact. All men--ALL OF US--are either covenant-keepers who love God or covenant-breakers who hate God. That would not just include the terrorist or the criminal. That would also include the dear little old lady down the street, the milkman, and the guy running for political office.

Covenant-keepers are friends of God.
Covenant-breakers are weapons of the Enemy.
Yes, Virginia, it really is that simple.

Therefore, what justification can a covenant-keeper possibly offer for using a weapon of the Enemy? Michael Horton offers some wisdom here:
"Fear not, little flock, for it your Father's good will to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32) They had less trouble believing they were a little flock than we do. We're still fairly invested in the vanishing legacy of Christendom. Many of us can remember when the Church had considerable cultural and political clout. Now our solemn political pronouncements and moral sentiments are largely ignored. Yet once we are convicted that Jesus Christ has already secured our victory over Satan, death, and hell, we can take a deep breath and be the little flock that He has already redeemed, doing what He has called us to do. It is marvelously liberating no longer to imagine that we have to build or preserve a kingdom that Christ is not building in the first place. (Horton, Ordinary, 120)
We in the West can be deceived into thinking that the survival God's Kingdom and God's people is directly tied to the survival of civilization. That is a big, fat lie. And that is to forget the history of our people. Civilization has not preserved the Remnant; God has. He has preserved His people under Pharaohs, Emperors, Kings, and Czars. He has preserved us from popes and imams and ideological despots. And when every last civilization (and cult and ideology and philosophy and pretension and argument) crumbles into oblivion, the Bride will still be standing. Why? Because it is our Father's good will to give us the kingdom.

Decades before Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, verbalized it, Galadriel, Elf-Lady of Lothlorien, Middle Earth and Keeper of One of the Three Elven Rings, already knew it: it is marvelously liberating no longer to imagine that we have to build or preserve a kingdom that Christ is not building in the first place.

And because she knew it, she acted on it. She refused to use the Weapon of the Enemy.
And suddenly, she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken and a slender elf-woman clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad. "I pass the test," she said. "I will diminish and go into the West and remain Galadriel."

So, yeah, I want to be Bilbo or Gimli or Treebeard.
But I would really love to be Galadriel.

Here ends the tale of Galadriel and covenantal apologetics.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Galadriel's Choice

It is virtually impossible for me to read literature divorced from the culture in which I live. So it was culture I kept thinking about during my most recent reading of JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. And, in fact, there was so much there, I finally started making sure I had a pencil on hand every time I picked it up to mark the pivotal parts. (Mom! Are you writing in a book?!?!) For surely, LOTR stuck prophetic tones this time around.

For those unfamiliar with this epic tale, this is a story of the inhabitants of Middle earth--men, elves, dwarves, hobbits, wizards--who are forced into a power struggles with evil forces, a struggle that will decide the fate of their world.  The main character is The One Ring, forged by evil, which grants ultimate power to its bearer. But it is the Weapon of the Enemy. At no time, not even in the hands of good people, does it ever stop being the Weapon of the Enemy.

I am, by turns, amazed or aghast by how the characters thought about The Ring. What follows are my musings, as they were helpful to me in framing one of today's current debates. Please be patient with all the quotes. They add a potency that I could not duplicate.
For few, I deem, know of our deeds, and therefore guess little of their peril, if we should fail at last. Believe not that in the land of Gondor the blood of Numenor is spent, nor all its pride and dignity forgotten. By our valour the wild folk of the East are still restrained, and the terror of Morgul kept at bay; and thus alone are peace and freedom maintained in the lands behind us, bulwark of the West. (Boromir, Fellowship of the Ring, 295)
The last free place in Middle Earth on the borders of Morgul, stronghold of evil, Gondor has served as a buffer between the evil lord Sauron and the free peoples of Middle Earth. Their men are valiant; they have spilled their blood in defense of freedom; they have kept the world safe for...well, whatever the free peoples of Middle Earth wanted to be kept safe for. So perhaps understandably, Gondor in general, and Boromir specifically, takes a rather utilitarian view of The Ring.
Why do you speak ever of hiding and destroying? Why should we not think that the Great Ring has come into our hands to serve us in the very hour of need? Wielding it the Free Lords of the free may surely defeat the Enemy. That is what he most fears, I deem. The men of Gondor are valiant, and they will never submit; but they may be beaten down. Valour needs first strength, and then a weapon. Let the Ring be your weapon, if it has such power as you say. Take it and go forth to victory! (Fellowship, 299)
See Borormir's assertion here? The Ring doesn't have to be evil--even though it's always only ever been evil. In the hands of good men, the Weapon of the Enemy can be used for good. Ladies and gentlemen, his logic is lost on me. Boromir is a good and valiant man. But he is myopic. The question is...why?
For you seem ever to think of its power only in the hands of the enemy: of its evil uses, not of its good. The world is changing, you say. Minas Tirith will fall, if the Ring lasts. But why? Certainly if the Ring were with the Enemy. But why, if it were with us?
He continues, True hearted men will not be corrupted. We of Minas Tirith have been staunch through long years of trial. We do not desire the power of Wizard-lords, only strength to defend ourselves, strength in a just cause and Behold! in our need, chance brings to light the Ring of Power. It is a gift, I say, a gift to the foes of Mordor. It is mad not to use it, to use the power of the Enemy against him. The fearless, the ruthless, those alone will achieve the victory. (Fellowship, 468-69)
And there it is, Boromir's strategy boiled down to one awful principle:
(This is important. Pay attention.) Since, first, true-hearted men cannot be corrupted (a position I find unteneble in the strongest terms) and, second, since said true-hearted men have possession of said weapon, it must therefore be a gift. (A 'gift' logically implies a 'giver.' What can we infer, then, about a Giver who gifts a Weapon of the Enemy?). And if it is a gift, then:
It is mad not to use it, to use the power of the Enemy against him. 

Contrast Boromir with Aragorn:
If Gondor, Boromir, has been a stalwart tower, we have played another part. Many evil things there are that your strong walls and bright swords do not stay. You know little of the lands beyond your bounds. Peace and freedom,do you say? The North would have known them little but for us. Fear would have destroyed them. But when dark things come from the houseless hills, or creep from sunless woods, they fly from us. What roads would any dare to tread, what safety would there be in quiet lands or in the homes of simple men at night, if the Dunedain were asleep,or were all gone into the grave? (Fellowship, 299)
The real battle is not where Boromir thinks it is, and it is not what Boromir thinks it is. The reason Boromir is myopic--and Aragorn is not--is because Boromir's whole world is limited to Gondor, while Aragorn has the broader concern of Middle Earth at heart. Making Gondor great again has made Boromir short-sighted. In the end, that lack of discernment will distract Boromir from responsible alertness. And he will die for it.

But put aside simple Boromir and noble Aragorn, and we still have much to observe in the other characters. In fact, I saw for the first time a common thread running through each of these.

'Verily,' said Gandalf, now in a loud voice, keen and clear, 'that way lies our hope, where sits our greatest fear.' (Two Towers, 143) What could Gandalf possibly mean? It means that 'that way' where the Ring-bearer is headed, not to make use of the Ring but to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom, that is where all the hope of Middle Earth lies, not in the using of the Weapon of the Enemy, but in the destruction of it.  Further on, he says,
'I do not counsel prudence. I said victory could not be achieved by arms. I still hope for victory, but not by arms. For into the midst of all these policies comes the Ring of Power, the foundation of Barad-dur, and the hope of Sauron. This then, is my counsel. We have not the Ring. In wisdom or in great folly, it has been sent away to be destroyed  lest it destroy us. Without it, we cannot by force defeat his force. But we must at all costs keep  his Eye from his true peril. We cannot achieve victory by arms, but by arms, we can give the Ring-bearer his only chance, frail though it may be. (Towers, 171-72)
Gandalf knows that the weapon of the Enemy must be destroyed. He knows that, by not using the Weapon of the Enemy, free peoples have no hope to defeat the Enemy by force. And he knows that something will inevitably be destroyed: either the Ring or the free people of Middle Earth. Knowing these things, Gandalf gives incredibly sagely counsel:  Distract the Enemy from his true peril, and make sure the Ring-bearer has every opportunity to destroy the Ring. He does not counsel prudence, seizing opportunity, playing it safe, or going for the low-hanging fruit.

What a difference in wisdom between Boromir and Gandalf! But other characters wage private battles with the Ring. Sam, who finds himself in rather awkward possession of the Ring for a brief time feels thus:
No sooner had he come in sight of Mount Doom burning far away, than he was aware of a change in his burden. As it drew near the great furnace where, in the deeps of time, it had been shaped and forged, the Ring's power grew, and it became more fell, untameable save by some mighty will. As Sam stood there, even though the Ring was not on him but hanging by its chain about his neck, he felt himself enlarged, as if he were robed in a huge distorted shadow of himself, a vast and ominous threat halted upon the walls of Mordor. He felt that he had from now on only two choices: to forbear the Ring, though it would torment him, or to claim it, and challenge the Power that sat in its dark hold beyond the valley of shadows. Already the Ring tempted him, gnawing at his will and reason. Wild fantasies arose in his mind: and he saw Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age, striding with  flaming Sword across the darkened land, and armies flocking to his call as he marched to the overthrow of Barad-dur. And then all the clouds rolled away, and the white sun shone and at his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit. He had only to put on the Ring and claim it for his own, and all this could be. (Return of the King, 195)
Dear, guileless Sam. All by himself in the shadow of Mt. Doom, he felt the temptation of the Ring. Why, with the Ring, this little halfling gardener from the Shire could make a real difference! He could do something heroic! He could put on the Ring and overthrow Barad-dur!!! And yet

In that hour of trial, it was the love of his master that helped him most to hold firm. (Return, 196) Can anything be more beautiful than that?

Even regal and wise Galadriel, keeper of one of three Elven Rings, must stand down temptation.
'You will give me the Ring freely. In place of a Dark Lord you shall set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the sea and the sun and the snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth! All shall love me and despair!' She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illumined her alone and left all else dark. She stood now before Frodo and seemed now tall beyond measurement and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded and suddenly she laughed again and lo! she was shrunken, a slender elf-woman clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad. 'I pass the test,' she said. 'I will diminish and go into the West and remain Galadriel.' (Fellowship, 432)
I will diminish and go into the West and remain Galadriel. Here is one of the most incredible lines in the epic of the Ring. Surely, we cannot charge Galadriel with apathy. But she doesn't want any victory that comes via the Ring--for that would be no victory at all. In short, she chooses to fade; she chooses to die. Dying is a superior choice to dallying with the Enemy.

For dallying with the Weapon of the Enemy is the moral equivalent of dallying with the Enemy Himself.

And the rest echo her choice. (Are you still paying attention? This is still important.) Feel Frodo's nobility as he encourages Sam near the end: 'I do not think we need to give thought to what comes after that. To do the job as you put it--what hope is there that we ever shall? And if we do, who knows what will come of that? If the One goes into the Fire, and we are at hand? I ask you, Sam, are we ever likely to need bread again? I think not. If we can nurse our limbs to bring us to Mount Doom, that is all we can do. (Towers, 273)

And Gandalf, too. 'We must walk open-eyed into that trap with courage but small hope for ourselves. For, my lords, it may well prove that we ourselves shall perish utterly in a black battle far from the living lands; so that even if Barad-dur be thrown down, we shall not live to see a new age. But this, I deem, is our duty.' (Return, 172)

Of course, I am going somewhere with this...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

An Inauguration Postscript

Human agency and God's sovereignty have always existed in tension. This I know because the Bible tells me so. Remembering that, of the two, God's sovereignty is the superior value leads to great peace.

Years ago, a dear friend got married. I was part of the inner circle and possessor of information. When she announced her engagement, and her other friends were doing high fives and happy dances, there I was, looking for all the world like a sour little thundercloud. "Don't do it, don't do it, don't do it," I thought. Then, "Ohhhh, you did it." Suddenly, all that information became irrelevant. He was God's man now, and I offered my warmest support. How could I do less? This was God's covenant.

I think I felt the same way on Inauguration Day. There I was, hoping against hope that God would, in His mercy, stay His hand. "Don't do it, don't do it, don't do it! Ohhhh, You did it!" And Donald Trump is God's man now. Some of us think he's a mercy, like King David; some of us think he's a judgment like Sennacherib. But that's largely irrelevant now. President Trump is God's man. I am throwing my support behind him because I am throwing my support behind God. How can I do less?

Sometime during the night on Inauguration Day, I awoke. And while I lay there, I thought about the prospect of this new administration being like an exile, a judgment, for God's people. And I wondered if God had any words of comfort for a people heading into exile. Jeremiah was the prophet of the exile. What did he say to the people on God's behalf? Here's what dropped into my mind:

Build houses. Plant vineyards. Have children.

The next morning, I looked up the verse in context. Well, lo and behold, it was Jeremiah 29:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare, you will find welfare. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord. For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed fro Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and pray to me and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jeremiah 29:4-14)

IF this is an exile, THEN here are my marching orders:
1. This is God's doing. If I oppose this administration, I am opposing God. (I am rebuked by this.)
2. Join in what God is doing: build houses, plant vineyards, have children. In other words: Flourish; we're going to be here for a while. 
3. Seek the welfare of the city. I'm not sure what this looks like. Attend city council meetings? Find a literacy group and teach someone to read? Drive the speed limit? Keep my lawn manicured? March for life? But at the very least, it means what God says it means: pray to the Lord on its behalf.

God is the God of The Exile. And what was He doing during The Exile?
He was uprooting, and He was planting.
He was tearing down, and He was building.
He was bringing judgment on and planning good things for His elect.
I have one job: to bend my will to His and to do it joyfully.

So I prayed for President Trump yesterday. And it wasn't the stingy prayer wrapped in chicken liver that I thought it would be back on Inauguration Day. It was a privilege.

Whether you agree with me or think that I've lost my mind, please join me in praying for this man, God's man for this hour. Pray for President Trump. He is now arguably the most powerful man in the world. Pray for him to assemble a team of wise counselors who give godly advice. Pray for him to bear the burden and the pressure of leading this country. Pray for him to respect the Constitution and the rule of law. (This is a serious concern, as no one tells Mr. Trump what to do.) And, most importantly, pray for salvation to come to him and to his household.

I have not said that "God told me" any of this. And I will not say that now. There is nothing that shuts down meaningful debate among believers quite like, "God told me..." or "God is calling me..." I freely admit that I could be wrong. I freely admit that I might one day find out that a Trump Presidency was a boon from the Lord to this country.

Either way, he is God's man, and this is God's plan.
And I'm all in. And

Thursday, January 19, 2017

To Speak Plainly On Inauguration Day

Few friends have told me that they voted for Donald Trump. Lots have weighed in with general distaste, but few have shown their hands. This is definitely one of those occasions where ignorance is bliss. I am free to blog with impunity without blogging at anyone in particular. So. Here we go.
Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O my soul, Jehovah praise.
I will sing the glorious praises of my God for all my days.
Put no confidence in Princes, nor for help on man depend,
He shall die, to dust returning, and his purposes shall end.*

Meanwhile, back at the White House...
we are getting ready to install the Wicked Fool as Commander in Chief. Yesterday, I referred to the man as a gasbag. Some of my friends took issue with that. I admit that with barely 48 hours to go before the Presidential Oath was taken, I was walking right up to the edge of the cliff of sin, but I was still on the cliff. My conscience is clear on that point.

Still...I like my friends. So this is my olive branch. It's not much, but it's the best I can do. If I read the Word of God with Donald Trump in mind and evaluate him by Biblical standards, I find that God would have this to say about him: He is wicked, and he is a fool. So to look at a man like Donald Trump with Biblical eyes is to see him as a wicked fool. If Donald Trump were listed in the book of Two Chronicles, it would say this: Donald Trump did evil in the sight of the Lord. 
We all good?
Okay. Good. On to my next point.

He's certainly not the first wicked fool who has taken up residence in the Oval Office. That would generate nothing more from me than a shrug. But he's easily the first wicked fool to be installed largely by the hand of the Bride.  A jubilant Bride. That makes me shudder. A timid Bride who was afraid of an evil little woman from Arkansas. As if God needed Donald Trump to ward off Hillary Clinton and the pro-abortionists.

Happy is the man who chooses Israel's God to be his aid
He is blest whose hope of blessing on the Lord His God is stayed
Heav'n and earth the Lord created, seas and all that they contain
He delivers from oppression, righteousness He will maintain.*

Anywho, the deed is done. And this damned spot now stains the fabric of our national history and worse, our resume as American Christians. So what's a God-fearing girl like me to do?

Rest in God's providence. For good or ill, this is now God's man for this time. Personally, I think he's God's man like Sennacherib, not God's man like David.
And pray.
Pray for President Trump.
My president.

Now before you jump up and down and clap your hands in victory, let me explain some things. I wrote for the last Inauguration Day that it is our gospel duty both to vote and to pray, that God took evil men like Manasseh and Nebuchadnezzar and made them His own, that it's never okay to hate the president.

It was my privilege to pray for Barack Obama. He was hostile to everything I believed in and said so. I warmed to the challenge of praying for him. It doesn't seem that, to date, God has answered my pleas, on behalf of Mr. Obama for his salvation, but it really was an honor to pray for the guy. I'll miss that.

Not so with Donald Trump. I dread it.
Praying for President Trump will be like eating sardines dipped in castor oil and wrapped in a chicken liver. I'm darn near nauseous at the thought
And why? Because he's hostile to everything I believe in but says he's not. Do I look like I was born yesterday?

Food He daily gives the hungry, sets the mourning pris'ner free,
Raises those bowed down with anguish, makes the sightless eye to see.
Well Jehovah loves the righteous and the stranger He befriends
Helps the fatherless and widow, judgment on the wicked sends.*

I realize this is the part where I'm supposed to write the gut-wrenching twist where God brought me to my knees and softened my heart towards Donald Trump. I also realize that that would earn me friend points.

Alas no.
I am many things, but I am neither pandering nor dishonest. I'd love to win the "Oh Noel, your blog post just moved my heart; wish I could like it a thousand times; I'm so sharing this" award. But not by lying.
My heart is not moved. Not a smidge. The only thing that makes me pray for this bloviating bully is the fear of God and of displeasing Him.

Who can know the mind of God? But for what it's worth, I think He shares my view.

Hallelujah, praise Jehovah, o set my soul, Jehovah praise;
I will sing the glorious praises of my God for all my days.
Over all God reigns forever, through all ages He is king.
Unto Him, your God, O Zion, joyful hallelujahs sing.*

*Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, Scottish Psalter

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Poof! My 2016 Reading List

In terms of people, 2016 brought a new grandson and a new son-in-law; that's the good news. It also brought a new president; that's the bad news. In terms of books, I have sixty-eight reads to document.

In school, my high schoolers hit their government year--which is always fun when it coincides with an election. We read God and Politics: Four Reformation Views on Civil Government, which I was really looking forward to and which I was colossally disappointed by. The Anti-Federalist Papers, on the other hand, was nigh on prophetic.

Secrets of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield and Same Sex Attraction and the Church by Ed Shaw offer compassionate gospel answers without compromise to same sex issues. I haven't given either of them to my kids, but I think any upper high schooler could (should?) handle both. And if the kids are moving away to college, then these would be required reading.

I ventured back into sci-fi for the first time in years. While Ender's Game was a dud,  The Book of Strange New Things was...interesting. I don't think I need to read it again, but at least I cared about the characters. Enchantress from the Stars was a page-turner. CS Lewis's Perelandra improved upon closer acquaintance. I didn't like it in high school, but I really enjoyed it this past fall. In fact, I liked it well enough to pick up Out of the Silent Planet, too. Unfortunately, that one dragged a bit.

Spiritually, the wolves were real, and the cubs were threatened. After many tears and much teeth gnashing and fist clenching, I finally did what I should have been doing anyway. I hit my knees, and I hit the books. Let's call it Mama Grizzly Goes to the Library. Several of the books come as a result of that crisis. Just when I was wondering if I was dying on a mountain or a molehill, the books I read by trusted authors convinced me that this was a hill worth taking. And that's all I am free to say about that.

The real gems, though, were across genres. Once and Future King by TH White has been one of my favorites since junior high. I read it a fourth time (at least--I've lost count) this year, and I saw themes in there I hadn't picked up on before. Delighting in the Trinity was just...delightful. Kris Lundgaard's The Enemy Within should be read by every Christian at least once a decade. And Fidelity, a collection of short stories by Wendell Berry, was nothing short of breath-taking.

You may notice that two of the listed books have asterisks*. That's because they are really booklets. In terms of pages or word count, both Word Made Flesh and No Adam, No Gospel were tiny. But in terms of content and ideas, they each easily rival any other book on my list. So I counted them.

Here they are, my 2016 books, all 68 of them.
(You may be wondering why stuff like Winnie the Pooh is on my list. Hey, you're too old for AA Milne or E. Nesbit only when you're dead.)

Radical by David Platt
The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber
The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Debates
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves
Duncan's War by Douglas Bond
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey
The Westminster Catechism by GI Williamson

Rejoicing in Christ by Michael Reeves
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
Ink on His Fingers by Louise Vernon
Becoming Conversant With the Emerging Church by DA Carson
Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl
Jack's Life by Douglas Gresham
The Incredulity of Father Brown by GK Chesterton
In My Place Condemned He Stood by JI Packer, Mark Dever
The Hawk That Dared Not Hunt by Day by Scott O'Dell
Are We Together? by RC Sproul

Praying With Paul by DA Carson
Going Solo by Roald Dahl
White Stallion of Lippizza by Marguerite Henry
Children and the Lord's Supper edited by Ligon Duncan and Guy Waters
The Game by Ken Dryden
Holy Ground by Chris Costaldo
The Painter's Daughter by Julia Klassen
The Ever-Loving Truth by Voddie Baucham
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Family Baggage by Monica McInerny
Thunder and Rain by Charles Martin
And So To Bed by Adrian Reynolds
Perelandra by CS Lewis
The Invisible Heart by Russell Roberts
Covenantal Apologetics by K. Scott Oliphant
The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill
Words from the Fire by R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Out of the Silent Planet by CS Lewis

Worship by the Book by DA Carson
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
My Antonia by Willa Cather
God and Politics: Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government edited by Gary Scott Smith
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Fidelity by Wendell Berry
How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler
One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Policy by Mei Fong
Church in Hard Places by Mez McConnell

The Life of Christopher Columbus by Josephine Pollard
The Secret of Father Brown by GK Chesterton
Our Town by Thornton Wilder
The Black Church by Thabiti Anyabwile
Kings Arrow by Douglas Bond
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater and Florence Atwater
Same Sex Attraction and the Church by Ed Shaw
Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O'Brien
Faith Alone by RC Sproul

The Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit
The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard
The Word Made Flesh: the Ligonier Statement on Christology*
Once and Future King by TH White
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
No Adam, No Gospel by Richard Gaffin*
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling
Songs of Jesus by Timothy Keller