Showing posts from 2010

book report: The Faiths of the Founding Fathers by Holmes (2006)

David Holmes contends in his book, The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, that our first few presidents of the United States were not orthodox Christians, but probably deists. I think he has done an excellent job of making his case but in a poorly organized fashion. All of his chapters are excellent, but I wish they were shifted around some. He starts the book by describing the religious trends in the american colonies, then focuses on the Anglican church and Deism. He launches off from the deism chapter and looks at the writings, speeches, letters, and actions of various revolutionary leaders: Franklin, Adams, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and their wives and daughters. After all this does he provide a "Layperson's guide to distinguishing a deist from an orthodox Christian." In this chapter he lists his method for evaluating an historical figures faith. This is an excellent chapter that should have been put before an evaluation of any figure.
First he distinguish…

25 free Xmas songs from Amazon

This promotion supposedly ended on the 25th, but tonight I downloaded these 25 free Christmas songs from Amazon.

book report: Fasting by Scot McKnight (2010)

I have read another book in The Ancient Practices Series edited by Phyllis Tickle, The Liturgical Year, which I liked but had frustrations with. Scot McKnight's contribution to this series on fasting did the same thing to me. No matter what complaint I have with this book, it did re-awaken my interest in the spiritual discipline of fasting. Scot contends that fasting is so foreign in our Christian culture because the church rejects the body's role in worship by elevating the soul or spirit. Each chapter is a description of how the body worships God in a fast as a response to an encounter with God, or repentance, or supplication, or mourning, or training, or liturgy, or social justice, or community, or eschatological hope.
When he quotes from the church's fathers, he let's them inspire his readers, as I certainly was. He also quotes from less ancient, and even contemporary writers who, likewise, make me look forward to finding a rhythm of fasting. I used to fast lunches…

great quote from the movie Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

I took the family to see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader before Christmas last week and we greatly enjoyed it. The movie had significant differences from the book, but I'm not a purist, so it was fine by me. One part at the end of the movie, which was not in the book, that I enjoyed is a quote from Prince Caspian on the shore of Aslan's country. He longs to cross over to be with his father, who might be in Aslan's country, something Aslan will neither confirm nor deny. But it's an irrevocable choice. The gallant mouse, Reepicheep, decides to go for it, but Caspian muses, and my quote is very loose, I have spent my life fighting for what I don't have instead of enjoying what I do have.
Caspian is speaking of finding his father, but it made me think of the older brother in Jesus' parable of the prodigal son, see Luke 15:11-32. When the prodigal son returned to his father, who celebrated, the older son complained, that he worked so hard for his dad and never got ev…

book report: Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill (2010)

This book convicts me of my sin. Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill, a celibate homosexual Christian, showed me how to discuss the issue with compassion unlike any way that I have ever done.
In my scientific mind, I want to deal with cold, hard data. But this is not a discussion over data but a discussion with people, my friends, my co-workers, my brothers and sisters. Hill does not ignore the data, but he speaks to the heart from his heart. His struggle in coming to terms with his homosexuality started in his childhood as someone raised in a fundamental church, which he kept secret until he started to open up at Wheaton College, a conservative Christian college in Illinois. He has read broadly while coming to a resolution regarding his attractions in the context of his faith. He has read the theological reflections from Catholics and the Orthodox as well as the Protestants, both from the United States, Boston, as well as Britain. He also introduced me to poets, like Gerard Manley Hopk…

win a Bible Give a Bible

Hey peeps, I know contests and free stuff drive traffic to blogs. I'm thinking of purging my library some, but, today, I can give away other people's stuff. Tyndale has a contest to give away their Bibles and help some other ministries. Details at their Facebook page.Merry Christmas!

Highest hit posts in 2010

I'm disappointed that none of my posts in 2010 made the top 10 in popularity for this year's hits. I am surprised how many people come here to read about bicycles. Only a few posts in 2010 cracked the 100 hits ceiling.My cinema review of the Book of Eli got the most. My post on the Binishell, generated a cluster of hits recently, that pushed it over the century mark. None of my Haiti posts exceeded the 100 level, but collectively, the ones in February, generated many hits, including my trip report from February.
Here are the top 10 hits overall for 2010. 10. Yummy Land Shrimp 9. Picture of the Electra Royal 8i and my bike crush on it 8. my personally positive experience at Family Life's marriage retreat, A Weekend to Remember 7. Someone else's negative review of the Cruzbike, which I pointed to (but I still want one) 6. the announcement of my new bike 5. a review of my Actionbent recumbent, which is still for sale, email me to buy it 4. a picture of the Gabion house, I still thi…

book report: Commentary on James by Blomberg and Kamell (2010)

The good, the goofy and the egregious, a review of a new commentary on the epistle of James by Blomberg and Kamell in Zondervan's Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.
I received this copy for free on the condition of a review from me. I was very excited to receive a commentary for review. I was even more excited that it was on James which I had been studying with my church's young adult group this autumn. There were questions from the group we couldn't answer, and I hoped some of them could be answered in this commentary. I have a bad habit when it comes to perusing new books and magazines. I tend to start at the end and work towards the front. At the end, I encountered a goofy statement, which I will specify later, that put a bad taste in my mouth. So I realized I need to start at the front of the book. I know that it's hard to write at the end with the same passion and clarity that one started with in the beginning, and that I had to let them show me their bes…

December cycling

December biking is the best month for winter biking. When I leave in the morning it's really cold, but I only need to add layers. Doubled socks, long johns on the legs, then a t-shirt, flannel shirt, thick fleece, and an anorak for a wind breaker, head sock, ear muffs, and ski goggles under my helmet, and winter gloves are enough for me to break into a sweat in temperatures under 30 F.Image via Wikipedia The bike traffic over the narrow bridge path is light, which is very different from the summer. The worst part of winter cycling is ice and snow on the road, but there is hardly any of that in December. The road is dry and clear. The only draw back in December is short day. I either bike in early in the dark to ride home in the twilight or I bike in morning light to bike home in the dark. So in addition to blinking lights I also have a reflective vest and reflective bands on my ankles. Yes I am a little crazy to continue biking, but I'm not as crazy as some of the other guys I…

Thankful for our Thanksgiving mythology

It is no myth that the Wampanoag tribe had a feast with the Pilgrims. They could have wiped them out. Instead they broke bread with them at the Pilgrim's tables. The hosts were the guests. After that, the relationship got complicated. Eventually, the guests became invaders and land thieves and the hosts hit back violently and almost drove the guests all out during King Philip's War, see my previous report here. It's not our proudest moment. But what I like about this holiday of Thanksgiving is that we remember our neighborly time and not our victory. For all the accusations of belligerence made toward our country, the veracity of which I am not commenting on, one of our national, non-religious holidays is in honor of peace. It's non-religious in that even the non-religious can celebrate it without some counter expression and it is not derived from a feast on any religious calendar. Certainly, it's religious for me, and many other Americans. I'm thankful to God …

self-control is maturity

Tonight I started reading Blomberg and Kamell's commentary on James for a future book report. It's really good so far. But one part really stood out at me for what they said so succintly, something I tried to say over threeblogposts last year about self-control as a marker of Christian growth. As part of the commentary on James 1:4, And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, they write, James describes this work as "perfect" or "complete"...This expression can denote not only perfection but maturity, as frequently in the OT with the Hebrew equivalent tamim. Both meanings seem intended here: we can aspire to maturity in this lifetime, but we will ultimately attain perfection in the eschaton. As believers, we must constantly strive for perfection, even while knowing that we will never fully reach it until our resurrection and glorification. p. 50 Previously they wrote about endurance or steadfastness …

inexpensive construction materials mash-up

Renaissance Ronin guest posts and combines two really great low construction methods at Can you REALLY live inside a steel shipping container? | Green-Trust.Org As a shipping container guy, he starts with the container. But then talks about giving it wings using roofing and earthen walls, specifically earth bags, but why not compressed earth blocks or rammed earth? Alex gives his "elevator speech" below. His $10 e-book is worth every penny too.
Basic ISBU rules;* You CANNOT bury a container!You cannot just pile dirt on top of it, either. If you do, it’s called a coffin. That corrugated steel is just to keep weather and bugs out. It doesn’t have the strength required to take that kind of load.* The insulation goes on the OUTSIDE of the container, unless you’re nuts.That’s right, I said it. Think about it. WHY make a small place even smaller? Even if you connect ISBUs together to form larger rooms, why rob yourself of living space?* Use SPF (Spray Foam Insulatio…

software review: Logos 4 Bible software

Software review: Logos 4Back in the early 00's I bought a lot of Bible software from many providers but most of it came from Logos. I have great resources that run on their 2.0 and 3.0 software. But then I returned to the cult of the mac, and all those CD's sat neglected in a cardboard box for years. I considered buying Accordance, but I could not afford to buy the same digitized information formatted for another OS. The internet has narrowed the gap on many of these resources, I really like the NET Bible's site, but most of the material I have on these CD's is still copy write protected and not legally available for free. I did buy VMWare Fusion to emulate windows on my Macs, but it never really worked well, almost like dial up internet (slow as molasses), so I never really used all that good stuff except when I was desperate. Logos 4 is the newest version of their software and it works on Macs and Windows. Logos promises to always provide free software upgrades. So I…


Compressed earth blocks diminish deforestation and energy intensive housing material (kiln fired bricks and cement). They are not a new concept but a group called Faith Tech Connect have come up with a machine that can crank out these bricks real quick. An important difference between these houses and the concrete block houses that fell down in Haiti is the addition of chicken wire on the inside and outside that provides tension to prevent shearing and a base for the stucco. Also the block in Haiti can break in your hand. It is very cheap.
HT: Green Building Elements

mini-reviews and thoughts on this and that

Foreign movie we really liked, John Rabe (2009). A dramatic presentation of the leadership of Nazi party member and Siemens power plant manager John Rabe who helped save 200,000 Chinese lives during the Japanese "Rape of Nanking." Life is certainly complicated when the hero of the story is a Nazi party member, who does the right thing on such a large scale. We had previously enjoyed the acting of Ulrich Tuker in Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace (2000). The second movie is in English but John Rabe is primarily a German movie with English, French, Japanese, and Chinese dialog as well. My interest in the Japanese atrocity came from Iris Chang's book on the subject (my review) and a documentary made in her honor (my review).
In anticipation of the forthcoming movie, I spent this weekend re-reading the last Harry Potter book, The Deathly Hallows. It's my 3rd or 4th time through. I don't think it was her best work. It reads too much like an Inspector Gadget cartoon, when any …


***Special message at the end for all conservative Christians reading this post. Don't freak out.***
In light of my recent reading on homosexuality, I, as a non-military person, do not see what good purpose the "don't ask, don't tell" policy accomplishes. Military policy already penalizes hetero sex within a unit (see interesting law article here). So I don't see how someone who is public about their homosexual desires, but adheres to military policy, like the heterosexuals, which prohibits intimate relations with fellow soldiers while deployed or on duty, should be drummed out of the military.
I don't see it.
I do see an issue with the potential of bullying. And I am not smart enough to solve that one, other than prohibiting teasing based on sexual desires.
****Special message here for religious conservatives like me**** This does not mean that I think homosexual expression is not a sinful act, just like I don't think any sexual act outside of marriage (h…

physics, love and the soul

There are many good blog posts that come to my mind during my daily bicycle commutes, but most are lost by the time I change out of my bike clothes. On today's ride, I was admiring the beauty of the changing leaves. I know, to a certain degree, the physics and chemistry involved in the changing colors. I know, a little bit, about sight, and the biochemical reaction that turns photons striking the back of my eyeballs into a coherent sensory perception. But there is no physical explanation of why I deem a sight pleasant, or good, or nice. Those are words and feelings that do not belong to science, because there is no measurable quantity to them. Those words belong to something apart from the material world.
Love is another of those non-physical concepts. Love is a commitment and not just mushy feelings. Commitment is another, non-physical, unmeasurable concept. There is not a "love" receptor in the brain. There might be a complex, biochemical cascade in the brain that corre…

on heretics and the Bible

Back to a book I am not reading for review but for my own education, Jaroslav Pelikan's The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, book 1 in his series The Christian Tradition. The first chapter discusses the interaction of Greek philosophy and Christian theology. But I enjoyed this quote he used from Tertullian. In this manner heretics either wrest plain and simple words to any sense they choose by their conjectures, or else they violently resolve by a literal interpretation words which imply a conditional sense and are incapable of a simple solution,as in this passage. Against Marcion 4.19.6b.

book report: Homosexuality and the Christian (2010) by Mark Yarhouse

Is there another way for conservative Christians to respond to fellow believers who are homosexually oriented, other than insist they change into heterosexuals through prayer and counseling? Can we tell our gay brothers and sisters to do something other than "pray the gay away"? Do we have to reject the church's historical and traditional understanding of homosexuality to exhibit grace to our gay brothers and sisters? I found Mark Yarhouse's book Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends a breath of fresh air on the conversation, blowing the smoke and stink away for a moment.
Bethany House offered me a selection of books for review, and this one was exactly what I've been looking for. I think I have practiced this approach, but was insecure, because I felt it was right without a defense for it. It just felt right. I can be open with my gay friends without affirming their expression. Yarhouse's research and experience as a psych…

Shed home

This past weekend, our family went to one of those large greenhouse and shrubbery places and looked at pumpkins and such. But what really got our attention were those neglected big sheds for sale for several thousand dollars each. Somehow, my influence over my kids about tiny houses has filtered down and they realized they would like to have their own sheds to live in. This sounds like a set up for some Series of Unfortunate Events book, where the cruel parent builds small prisons for the children. But that is not the case. I think it inspiration.
My son even drew up a site plan for the new Umland compound which resembled the camp my daughter went to this summer. A semi-circle of sheds with a dining room/shower house/school room at the center of the arc. The parents either end up with their own shed or live in the conference center, perhaps in a loft over the communal part. The sheds only get electricity, but no running water, which complicates things both with zoning and with skills b…

book report: Stuff Christians Like (2010) by Jon Acuff

Between the heavy duty books I read, it's nice to cleanse my brain's palate with something light and salty, like when I went to a team building exercise from work where we tasted wines and ate saltines between each swallow. Stuff Christians Like is that saltine, but shaped like a Jesus fish, and likely to induce a spray of crumbs out of your mouth every few pages.
I started reading Acuff's blog early into it's history, not because I'm some sort of trend spotter, but because a few other blogs recommended him, and he's funny. Where Lark News was the Christian type of The Onion, sarcasm turned to 11 but presented as fact which leads some Christians new to the internet to forward the latest "unbelievable church news," Acuff is like a Christian version of Bill Simmons's at ESPN, when he used to write columns instead of podcasting and writing intermittently. Although not long winded like Simmons, or me in that previous sentence. I only regret Acuff has …

book report: The Heresy of Orthodoxy (29010)

When my family needs something from Amazon that doesn't qualify for free shipping, I'm always willing to help them out by adding something from my wish list to reach that 25 buck threshold. This time I happily added to our cart, The Heresy of Orthodoxy by A. J. Kostenberger and M. J. Kruger. This book is for you if you are someone daunted by Bart Ehrman's books which explain why he has such little confidence in orthodox Christianity, doubt which he hopes to ensnare his readers with as well. But even if you haven't even read Ehrman, our post-modern American churchianity, christian-lite, is a product of historical speculation by Walter Bauer, Koine Greek linguist extraordinaire. His weak speculations were that what we now call orthodox, was just one option among many, that eventually prevailed in the Constantinian world that produced the Nicene and Chalcedonian creeds. These speculations were confined to the academic theologians who could read German until Bauer's wo…