Picture the scene.  It is about noon, and I have successfully managed to find a parking spot along the street before hoofing it a short distance to a building off of Belmont St in a quirky Portland neighborhood.  Seated in a basement room in this building are a group of people, mostly male, and mostly somewhat odd in a friendly but mildly eccentric way.  In the end, there are roughly half a dozen people ranging from the late twenties to middle age.  There is conversation in at least two languages, the discussion of books and websites, plans made for communication and a larger community of interests, one that is not based on power and domination but one that is based on communication and more than a hint of nurturing and encouragement.  There are a lot of introductions, a lot of friendly discussion, and a reminder that communication does not occur in a vacuum but takes place within a context, and that languages themselves have a certain structure and architecture about them that we are often ignorant about except if we are students of other languages.

And, to be sure, it appears that many of us are students of other languages.  At least one of them has in his hands a book on conlang, the joy of creating imaginary languages and pondering over the choices that must be made in structure and grammar and vocabulary.  At least another couple of people there are students enough to recognize the similarity of aggulantive languages to each other.  One of the people makes a reference to another created language that he is familiar with and all participate in the thrill of decoding words based on their roots, affixes, and suffixes.  Speaking personally, this has been a thrill of my own since I was a child learning Greek and Roman roots and exploring the tangled definitions of words and their origins [1].  It is easy in such a group of people to recognize others of like kind, those who enjoy playing with a language, who enjoy the creative process of coming up with new words, or the thrill of being detectives unpacking the meaning of words through their various parts.

Besides chatting various other activities serve to pass the time.  A large collection of books and magazines about a staggering array of subjects ranging from magazines in Esperanto on China to books on systems theory and international institutions grace the walls.  I borrow a couple of them for reading throughout the course of the week, with the expectation that I will likely be reading more of them in the future as someone who reads books fairly quickly and returns them fairly quickly as well.  In contrast to many a reader, in other words, I do not like to increase my own holdings as a book thief stealing from the libraries of others.  At any rate, it simply adds to my own logistical concerns in separating out which particular collections my the books I am reading belong to so that I may return them.  At times that can be a daunting task, since it is not always easy to keep straight what belongs to whom and when they need to be returned.  That is the task of a reader, though, as keeping track of books is part of the price of reading many of them in the haphazard but voracious manner in which I do.

One other thing is worthy of comment.  While enjoying the company of some quirky new acquaintances, we decided that we would watch the first couple of entertaining videos called Pasaporto A La Tuto Mundo (Passport To The Whole World), which consisted of episodes of roughly half an hour featuring some gloriously funny dialogue.  As someone who enjoys watching silly dialogue, repeated inside jokes as well as gloriously funny cliffhangers to increase interest in the next episode, there was a lot to enjoy.  Perhaps, for me, the funniest bit in the two episodes we watched was the interaction between the Kiwi shepherd and the unmarried Helena, who makes it very clear she doesn’t have a ring on her fingers and that she is open to flirtatious conversation.  If only all young women were that forthright, as even an awkward person like myself when it comes to romantic matters can recognize signals that obvious.  Perhaps it is easier to read the interactions of others than it is to read one’s own interactions where hopes and fears get in the way of accurate signal detection and transmission.

[1] See, for example:

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Movie Review: The Resurrection Of Gavin Stone

As a cinephile who enjoys watching movies and subjecting them to the same sort of critical analysis I give to everything else that comes my way [1], I found this film to be full of ironies.  Here are some of them:  A film about a resurrection had the titular character performing a rule that included a representation of a resurrection as well as his own symbolic resurrection into Christian life, thus bringing the subtext to the text.  Additionally, a film that showed the strong appeal of Christianity and a rejection of the demented and corrupt Hollywood culture itself had solid production values and a pretty classic three act Hollywood film structure, with a reasonably compact 90 minute run time.  Also, this film was produced by WWE Entertainment, best known for its support of the redneck theater known as professional wrestling [2].  Even so, this was a very good film, and I am glad that the trailer I saw for the film while watching other movies this weekend caught my interest and that an e-mail reminder this weekend about receiving some extra Regal points gave me the encouragement I needed to watch it despite having a busy day overall.

This is a movie that is not quite what I expected it to be, but in a way that made it a lot better.  The setup is fairly straightforward.  The movie begins with a “Where Are They Now” segment that gives the backstory in a way that serves two purposes.  First, the segment serves to efficiently introduce the backstory of Gavin Stone’s character, his child stardom, his difficulties in young adulthood, the fact that whatever he may think about his own stardom, he is only paid attention to when screwing up and is not really in the business anymore and is being ignored even by those who used to direct him.  In addition to this, the segment also serves to present one of the central conflicts of the movie, the star and his estranged father, with whom there was an acrimonious lawsuit after the death of Gavin’s mother.  Indeed, the film itself comes back to the relationship between parents and children several times:  Gavin is estranged from his father, who wants to see his son become a better man despite Gavin’s tendency to screw things up, the pastor of the church where Gavin is serving customer service wants to see his daughter happy and become less uptight and more gracious towards others, the performance Gavin is working on is that of Jesus Christ dealing with the reality of death and resurrection on behalf of humanity in service to the plans of His heavenly Father, and at one point Gavin does some volunteer service sight unseen for a single mother struggling with reliable transportation in order to preserve her job.  The movie is not heavy handed about this repetition of theme, but noticing it allows the film to have a lot more layers than one would expect.

There is a lot to admire about this film.  It has solid production values and a varied and enjoyable soundtrack that includes traditional Christian songs, contemporary Christian material, and even an enjoyable rap song I was humming along to in the theater.  The film has some excellent performances from a talented but largely unknown cast including the following main/supporting actors:  Brett Dalton, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Shawn Michaels, Neil Flynn, D.B. Sweeney, and Tim Frank.  The film’s director, Dallas Jenkins, has mostly done shorts but here shows himself a competent director, good at creating a welcoming atmosphere.  This is a film that can be watched in an easygoing fashion and that makes few demands on its viewers, and that takes advantage of more than a few tropes and cliches, but at the same time is a film that rewards those who are students of irony, particularly when the protagonist shows off a skill at communicating in ASL with a deaf girl and comments that he had learned it for a Hallmark movie, all the more ironic given the conventional structure of the film with its protagonist returning to his roots to realize that the good life he was missing had been there all along.

Although this is not a particularly groundbreaking film, it is an enjoyable one.  The film is to be particularly praised for its strong portrayal of Christians and for providing a group of people who are quirky and likable as being good examples for someone who clearly has struggled to get his life in order.  As is its consistent way in all of its elements, this is a film that presents on its surface level a reenactment of the Gospel story of Jesus’ life where grace is shown to the unworthy and where Jesus Christ humbles Himself to serve others, and it shows in its titular protagonist a slow and fumbling and imperfect but eventual progress to that same point where grace is extended and received, and where viewers get a sense that Christians struggle with the same sort of issues that other people do, from struggles with relationships and intimacy and human imperfection as well as the perceived need to keep up an image.  This is not a film that is likely to win any awards, but it is an enjoyable film that offers food for thought and is a worthwhile film for its own merits that can likely expect strong business in streaming/rentals and an appreciation from those who enjoy films about redemption and second chances with strong Christian messages but without heavy-handedness in its approach.  If that sounds like a good 90 minutes spent, and it is to me, consider this a warm recommendation.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

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Book Review: Return To The Margins

Return To The Margins:  Understanding And Adapting As A Church To Post-Christian America, by Terry Coy

There are a variety of ways that one can take the understanding that America’s superficial civic religion with a patina of Christian values over elements of nationalism and rationalism is crumbling in the face of cultural decadence [1].  Some people get angry about it, some people seek to formulate strategies against it or encourage others with the strength to resist a corrupt majority culture, and others like this author seek to make a virtue out of necessity.  As someone whose own religious worldview has always been at the margins of society because of an adherence to the biblical commandments regarding the Sabbaths and different beliefs about the nature of God, I find this book somewhat intriguing in the ways that the author points to the coping mechanisms of being on the margins and having religious beliefs that others tend to stigmatize and that may cause one to suffer in one’s life and even face persecution.  Without citing religious authorities like Barna, the author comes to many of the same conclusions about the political liability of holding to biblical beliefs about personal morality as well as the way that many Evangelicals except those of the far left social justice movement have refused to give biblical solutions to larger questions of social justice, which a movement to the political margins may help in so doing because of the fact that one need not pander to libertarians any longer for the sake of political alliance.

Like Gaul, this book is divided into three parts and should not present any challenges in terms of its reading difficulty as each of its chapters has its own thoughtfully cited and sometimes extensive endnotes.  After a foreword and introduction where the author discusses the contemporary sociopolitical climate, the author spends the first part of the book talking about the collapse of Christendom, the fading of American Civil Religion, and the triumph of secularization.  Both Christendom and American Civil Religion are the alliance between church and state where the church urges patriotism while the state grants a monopoly or legitimization to religious life.  This alliance has clearly broken down all across Western Civilization and the author makes the case that it was a bad deal for Christianity to begin with.  The second part of the book discusses ways that people cling to authority and how Evangelicals can learn from history, learn from Christians in other nations undergoing persecution from officialdom as well as from the history of black Christianity which has always lived on the margins, and how we can change our minds about the desirability of political power and influence at the cost of giving only a partially biblical message.  The third part and the shortest one gives a contrasting set of responses based on fear, trust, and joy and how Evangelicals can truly enjoy a place on the margins without adopting a siege or ghetto mentality or abandoning interest in the physical world by seeking comfort in eschatology.  Each of these parts is interlaced with a second layer of organization where the author presents three parts to a plan for action for evangelicals to deal with political and cultural realities.

There is a lot that I find myself in agreement with in this book.  The author, looking through history, has found various groups in history that existed on the margins which he can relate to as an Evangelical.  He shows a willingness to get along and work with those who share fundamental similarities with regards to the authority of scripture as well as the need for believers to show outgoing concern for others, and unlike many authors he does not beat readers over the head with unbiblical Trinitarian speculations.  The author appears to be someone who has seen the long-term social trends, understood the result of demographics and the fact that cultural elites are spectacularly hostile to a biblical worldview and correctly, at least in my judgment, seen the implications of that corruption of our elites and the fraying of the social contract between Christianity and our civilization’s political order.  Moreover, the author sees an opportunity for believers to come to terms with a history where those who claimed to be Christian acted in a manner inconsistent with biblical law and precept, even pointing to the complicated example of Bonhoeffer as a model for contemporary believers [2].  Unlike many Evangelical writers, this is a man I can see myself having a friendly and serious and biblical conversation with over a meal, and that alone makes this book well worth appreciating by those who are concerned about social trends and the place of an authentic and whole Christianity within an increasingly corrupt society.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

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Book Review: The Seven Stories That Shape Your Life

The Seven Stories That Shape Your Life:  Discover Your God Given Purpose, by Gerard Kelly

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Kregel Book Tour.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

When I first heard this book I was greatly interested in reading.  I thought that maybe the book would have some sort of exciting stories to tell or literary references to stories and types of stories.  I was wrong.  Shortly after beginning this book it became clear that the book erred strongly on the side of heart rather than head, and was little concerned with matters of biblical truth or knowledge.  As soon as the author started pitting the loving intention of God’s creation against the intelligent design, and that was somewhere in the first 80 pages, I knew this book was going to be lacking something important.  From there, the book only got worse, as my initial impressions that the book had the right heart if not the right head became a growing conviction that not only was the book dangerously wrongheaded, but it was based on an entirely ungodly social gospel [1] worldview as opposed to merely being someone with muddled thoughts but a loving heart.  The result was that this book, while I opened it with a great deal of hope, ended up being immensely disappointing very quickly, and ended up being more of a testament to what not to do as a book as opposed to a book I would recommend to anyone.

In one sense, the book exhibits truth in advertising in that it talks about seven stories.  According to the author, the seven stories that shape our lives are:  creation, vocation, liberation, formation, limitation, incarnation, and restoration.  Nothing is wrong with those seven stories per se, and there are at least some biblical stories that the author uses in support of his ideas, although there are not as many biblical stories cited and quoted and a lot of his own personal commentary.  This would not be objectionable if the author’s comments were biblical or wise or thoughtful, but instead they were stereotypical white guilt, a desire to avoid facing up to the rigorous demands of biblical law on personal morality, and instead a near total focus on social issues and the belief that if one had a missional focus that one automatically had God’s pleasure and that the law was not necessary as a guide to moral perfection.  Before one gets too far into the book, the more one reads about the author’s inability to see the family of God apart from the nonbiblical Trinitarian construct, and the more one reads the author’s pandering to contemporary sociocultural mores and pluralism, the less one has confidence in anything the author says.

Indeed, a great deal of this author’s commentary makes it plain what sort of company he keeps.  He praises progressive socialists and their misguided political worldviews.  He shows a total disinterest in correct biblical understanding of law and morality, except for the social kind.  He praises liberation theology and false ragamuffin gospels and shows himself to be deeply interested in feminism and praising contemporary multiculturalism.  Over and over again the author quotes fellow Hellenistic theologians and shows himself more interested in a shallow fell-good ecumenical sort of Christianity than anything the Bible is about.  This is the sort of book that takes pride in all of the radicals and social justice warriors who support the author and his message, and not nearly enough attention to dealing with the demands of godliness outside of the author’s sight.  One of the unintentionally truest thing the author says is that God isn’t looking for us to point out the sins of others, but rather for us to confess our own–this is an author looking to peddle white guilt and encourage people to be social justice mission-minded people in their own areas, but the author is quick to point out social sins and not nearly quick enough to point out the lack of personal morality that plagues the social justice movement and its proponents.  Ultimately, this book would have been better off if it had remained a tree.

[1] See, for example:

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Just Say No To Appeasement?

It just so happens that after finishing an unexpected and impromptu lesson for Sabbath School on the death of David since neither of the other teachers for our age cohort were at services yesterday and I had gotten no notice on this and only a bit of notice on the subject matter of yesterday’s class, I was able to return to the normal church services and listen to a very thoughtful and reflective sermon by our retired pastor on the subject of appeasing God.  The speaker asked us to reflect upon how we view God and how he is to be pleased [1], and why, and what sort of outside influences have encouraged these views.  Given the fact that this is for me a genuinely complicated task and one that no doubt other people would have at least some interest in knowing, and it would be of some worth in sharing, I thought it would be appropriate for me to share these reflections as part of my customary blog posts written to reflect upon the material I hear in Sabbath Services.

I first heard the word appeasement thrown around as a young student of military history when hearing about the craven behavior of the Western democracies towards Hitler in the waning days of the interwar period as Hitler snatched up Austria and the Sudetenland and eventually all of the present territory of the Czech Republic.  In this context, appeasement was definitely a bad thing, and it was recognized at the time by those like Churchill who saw it as a cowardly betrayal of the ideals of Western civilization and in retrospect by nearly everyone else.  At the time, it allowed Hitler to unilaterally annex two neighboring countries and engage in the process of oppressing and harassing Jews and other groups in those countries, and increase his logistical base and consolidate his authority at home and abroad before engaging in larger attacks.  During this time the western nations stood by and did little or nothing, even after having declared war on Hitler over his attack on Poland.  Ever since then, at least in political circles, the word appeasement has taken on a particularly disastrous tone, and any time a leader proposes to deal with a dictator through graciousness and moderation, the word has been bandied about as a political slur to compare him to Neville Chamberlain.  If this is what people have in mind when it comes to appeasement, it would be easy to just say no.

Interestingly enough, in my impromptu Sabbath School lesson the issue of appeasement came up in a striking way.  The death of David is told in the first two chapters of 1 Kings, and they are generally pretty obscure chapters for young bible students, at least those who have no special reason to study that part of the Bible.  We begin by seeing David so unable to stay warm and so impotent and decrepit that they bring in a beautiful virgin to keep him warm and nothing else happens.  The children, incidentally enough, found my delicate description of this to be greatly entertaining for whatever reason.  While David is losing energy and dying in his bed, his son Adonijah makes a play for the throne by throwing his own premature inauguration party and pointedly refuses to invite a few important people:  Nathan the prophet, the king’s adviser Beneniah, or Solomon the son of David promised by God to reign after David.  Nathan, being a shrewd man, talks to Bathsheba about the issue and they graciously come before the king urging him to take the effort to crown Solomon publicly as king in order to make his own wishes plain while he still has the power to do so.  He does so, and Adonijah’s party quickly fades away and Adonijah asks and receives a tepid reply of mercy from his brother.  At this point, he should have stayed home and kept a low profile, but he was unable to do so, and his request for the lovely virgin Abishag from the hand of the king led to his rapid demise.  Here we see multiple attempts at appeasement, where the life of various people at different times depends on who is king and what kind of king they are and what kind of behaviors they exhibit as king.  Is it sometimes necessary to appease people in authority who are irrational and who may not have our best interests in heart and mind?  Yes, even if the consequences of guessing wrong can be very painful and unpleasant.

Long before I knew the word appeasement, though, I had plenty of experience with the concept of it.  One of the more tragic aspects of my life has been my complete inability to be invisible or have a low profile in times of trouble, which as one can imagine for someone like myself is fairly often.  Having a loud voice, a fairly big personality, and the tendency to write at length about subjects delicate and uncomfortable to others, I am not the sort of person who can easily hide and this has led to continual trouble from the time I was a crying baby and abused small child to my present adulthood.  Those of us who grew up in the sort of household I grew up in learned very early in life that the adults in authority over us did not have our best interests at heart, and often had a great deal of harm in mind to us, whether those authorities were more concerned about their own longings than the peril they were putting their children in, or whether they were abusive alcoholics, and so on.  I don’t want to dwell on the subject, but I want to make it plain that whatever personal tendencies I have towards appeasement in my own life, they do not come so much from the influences of a world focused on penance but rather from the tangled and unpleasant emotional terrain of my early life.

To the extent that I would view God as being like my physical father, I would feel appeasement and a certain sense of terror as being highly appropriate responses.  Fortunately, although a certain amount of terror, more than a little, has become a permanent facet of my feelings about authority in general, I do not find God to be a particularly terrifying authority.  From my vantage point, at least, I view Him to be a being who is incomprehensibly intelligent and has far reaching plans and goals so as to be deeply mysterious, but yet someone who enjoys sitting next to and talking to and being friendly with the little people around him, someone who would be viewed as kindly but more than a little bit odd and impossible to truly understand and fathom.  As such, I would not view him as someone to be appeased, but someone whose ways were puzzling and odd and yet interesting at the same time.  Perhaps it is a bit embarrassing to say so, but I would think that my own dealings with amusing little people is not so different from the way God views me as His own small child.  I do not consider myself to be a person who must be appeased, but I am a person who desires love and respect from those around me.  It should not be so hard to find as it is, either, for either myself or for God, but things are not as they should be.

[1] See, for example:

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Book Review: Genesis Revisited

Genesis Revisited – The Creation, by Donald Arlo Jennings


[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/WestBow Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

This book is more than a bit of a puzzle, with so many unanswered questions it is difficult to know how to view the book.  On the one hand, this book is written about a familiar subject, namely the book of Genesis [1], but this merely seems to be the taking off point for the author’s random tangents and speculations.  Likewise, the author’s bio describes him as having written a chapter of a technical book as well as numerous articles, showing him to be familiar with how books are formed and structured and how sources are to be cited and other technical matters, and yet this book shows all of the rambling digressions and incoherence of someone who decided to write a book without ever having seen one [2].  What saves this book from being a total waste is the fact that the author’s rambling style is punctuated by moments of self-awareness, where he realizes he is rambling and digressing and yet seems unable to stop himself from doing so over and over again.  This is the work of someone who is self-aware, but seems to lack the skill to edit a work so that it is polished and has flow and continuity, so that its chapters make some kind of sense and are not there just to have the biblically significant number of twelve. for its divisions.  This is a baffling book, to be sure, and one wonders exactly what the author was trying for other than to write out what had been filling up his troubled mind.

Describing the contents of this book is not as straightforward a task as it usually is.  Most books have some sort of order and structure behind them that organizes their thought.  This book, in contrast, is more than 200 pages of an author hopefully out of sorts with his material, jumping forward and backward within Genesis, returning to the same subjects over and over again, setting up a discussion only to pivot away from it by saying it is too controversial and numerous times showing the author’s admission that he is out of his depth or saying something that is outrageous and yet he cannot help himself.  One wonders whether this book is the result of the author’s attempt to commit the paper his thoughts and speculations about Creation or whether it is a cry for some sort of help in order to help the author regain some shred of sanity.  Be that as it may, the author should be aware that the author spends a lot of time discussing the idea that the earth was a penal colony for criminals from other purportedly inhabited planets and showing an unwise degree of credulity in various tales of the paranormal regarding UFO sightings and alien abductions and the like.  At times in reading this book it feels like the author spends more time talking about alien abductions and related matters than he does about the Bible, and when he does talk about the Bible he shows an appalling ignorance about population dynamics and rates of population growth in pristine environments.  Without a doubt, this is a book that did not need to be written.

It is unclear exactly to whom this book is aimed.  Those who like their books to have sensible and logical divisions and a coherent flow are not going to like this book very much.  Those who want books that are the result of sound research and exegesis are going to find this book’s casual and informal style and lack of citations to be off-putting.  Those who are willing to entertain speculations about aliens will find better books to read (some of them cited in the bibliography of this book) about the subject.  What this book reads like is the written and unedited ramblings of a crazy old relative who would corner you at a family gathering and talk your ear off for a couple of hours while you are desperately and unsuccessfully trying to escape the conversation to get a second helping of fried chicken.  If that sounds appealing to you, by all means pick up this book to read.  If that does not sound appealing, skip this.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

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Bible: Two Proofs And Two Mis-Translations

Bible:  Two Proofs And Two Mis-Translations:  Why Some Christians Reject Science, by Jesse Clopton James

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/WestBow Press.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

This book is a hard one to review and to appreciate.  There is  lot to like about this book, and it is clear that the author is both knowledgeable about science and passionate about the need for biblical translations to have sufficient nuance to capture multiple layers or possibilities in terms of their meaning, both of which are occasional subjects of discussion by this reviewer as well [1].  This passion and knowledge comes through in the book, which is a demanding read unless one comes to it with some sort of knowledge or interest in contemporary science and cosmology.  Yet at the same time, this book is frustrating to read because the author sounds like a crotchety old man telling kids to get off his lawn while he waves a shotgun around menacingly, while at the same time talking about how scientists and believers need to stop fighting and learn to get along.  Physician, heal thyself.  Few readers, even those who have old-earth creationist views like myself, are going to find very much about the author’s unrecognized tension between his frustration at evolutionary atheists and their biblically illiterate backers and tradition-minded religious leaders who are scientifically illiterate, and he is not inclined to be particularly charitable with either camp regardless of his occasional platitudes to the contrary.

This book is a bit of a mess when it comes to its structure and order.  To be sure, it is coherent on the level of sentences and paragraphs and within chapters themselves, generally.  The author is clearly knowledgeable about contemporary scientific developments that can shine light on origin disputes.  Likewise, the author has clearly devoted a great deal of time to the nuance and complexity of ancient Hebrew, a task few people have undertaken.  Many of the author’s frequent criticisms about the lack of Bible knowledge among scientists or among knowledge of ancient Hebrew and science among preachers and Bible translators also appear to be spot on.  That said, the appendices of this book are a bit of a grab bag of material that take up a large proportion of the book’s total size, and the chapters themselves range from extremely short to somewhat long and rambling rants.  The author does at least get to the point in talking about the mis-translations of yom (day, age, etc.) as well as the reference to the sun, moon, and stars in the fourth day of creation in the perfect as opposed to the present tense.  Likewise, the author does spend a great deal of time and makes some very excellent arguments concerning his two proofs about the validity of the Bible because of its accuracy in prophecies about Christ and the essential agreement between the Bible and science when both are properly understood, both of which I (and no doubt many others) are in agreement.  Ultimately, though, this is a book far easier to respect than it is to like, largely because the author is so personally unpleasant in his rhetoric.

One wonders, in fact, whether the author has taken to heart the insight that one catches more flies with honey than vinegar, an insight this reviewer experimentally confirmed as a child for an elementary school science project.  The author appears to want to be recognized as a scientific expert as well as an expert on ancient Hebrew, but he does not go about this task in the right way.  Instead of winning over enemies to his side through graciousness and tact, he alienates potential friends by his constant insults and ridicule, and his general attitude of contempt and disrespect for those who do not understand what he understands.  This is the sort of book that by virtue of its scholarly excellence and value as a personal memoir of a life spent as a student of both science and the Bible ought to be published and have a wide and appreciative audience, but is so unlikable that it will likely alienate most readers.  Ultimately, it is hard to avoid deeply mixed feelings about the work and the wish that the author or some editor were able to remove traces of resentment and bitterness and hostility from this book before it had been inflicted upon the innocent reading public.

[1] See, for example:

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Reading For My Supper

Recently I have done a fair amount of reading that cased me to reflect on my childhood and on the development of my habits of being an avid reader [1].  It is admittedly a bit mysterious where my extreme avidity to books came from.  Both of my parents, and quite a few more distant relatives, have been somewhat fond of books, but not of the same kind that I read so much of nor to the same extent.  My family in general has tended to stock a good deal of books related to the Bible, and reference materials are fairly common as well, but aside from this my father’s book collection was mainly focused on photography and self-help, and my mother’s fondness for romance novels as well as textbook collecting from her lengthy efforts at getting a bachelor’s degree are pretty notable.  My own collection includes some striking and odd materials, including a lot of military history and more than a little bit of mediocre to great modern Christian nonfiction about a wide variety of subjects.  I don’t remember being under any particular external pressure from family members to collect books to the degree that I have [2], nor do I know anyone who reads to the extent that I do, a task admittedly helped by my somewhat solitary existence.

How did this come to be, then?  In mulling over how it was that I got to be such a prolific reader, I pondered that this habit went back a long way.  In the 8th grade, for example, I won a trophy for having read more books as counted by quizzes on those books for reading comprehension than anyone else at my junior high school.  Even as a thirteen year old I was recognized among my peers as being in a class of my own as a reader.  The distinction may not have been celebrated by my peers, but it was definitely noticed by someone.  Even before this, though, the sheer pace of my reading had drawn attention, and when I think about the beginnings of my reading books at a rapid pace, I tend to place its beginning somewhere in elementary school, and I can say with at least some confidence that my reading pace was prompted at least in part by a program sponsored by Pizza Hut, Book It.  For those who do not remember this particular program, reading a certain amount of books (I think it was five) earned someone a free personal pan pizza (my choice was cheese) from Pizza Hut.  I read a lot of books as an elementary school student and ended up eating a lot of cheese personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut.  Given my pace of reading, I am pretty sure that I am managed to collect somewhere in the neighborhood of a free pizza every week or two at least.  At my reading pace now I could conceivably fill two or three days a week with Pizza Hut pizzas were I still eligible for the program.  That may be too much pizza for one person to safely or enjoyably eat, but the association of reading with eating has been an enduring one for me.

Come to think of it, I still associate reading with eating.  This is no doubt a strange habit to other people, who do not tend to bring books to the dinner table as I do on a regular basis, nor do they tend to find it enjoyable to sit around and camp in restaurants while finishing books.  Yet the fact that from childhood I have associated reading with food largely accounts for a great deal of my own connection of these matters.  After all, knowing early on as I did that my brain was going to be the only way I was going to avoid grinding poverty or labor I was entirely unsuited for and uninterested in, intellectual development early on acquired a degree of importance that it had for few if any of my rural Central Florida neighbors.  In addition to that, as someone who tended to feel as if food was scarce much of the time as a child, the fact that I could materially reduce that scarcity through my reading prowess was probably all the inducement I needed to develop what has been a lifelong habit of voracious reading.  I do not know if many people have had their intellectual hunger tied to tightly to the meeting of their own physical appetites.

I have known at least a few other people who read for their supper in other ways not too dissimilar to my own.  One friend of mine, for example, worked for a time at a job where he had to read through slush piles of unsolicited manuscripts.  As someone who has read far more than my fair share of mediocre to outright terrible self published works, along with the occasional gem that makes me wonder why no one has published it yet, this is the sort of reading for one’s supper that would probably make someone feel a lot worse about the state of books and literature in general.  As a reasonably prolific writer, I am aware of the fact that I write far more each day than many people are willing to read.  In one book I recently read, the statistic was quoted that half of all fifth graders read four minutes a day or less for fun, and that the rate of reading for teens is even lower.  No one who reads four minutes a day or less is going to get much of anything out of my writing, or anyone else’s for that matter.   In our age there is a lot of writing going on, but most of what is being written is aimed at other people who happen to write themselves, because everyone has something to say and is looking for an audience.  That is certainly true of me.  I do not know if one ever stops reading for one’s supper, whether one’s eating is in the metaphorical sense of devouring books like Sara Crewe or whether in the literal sense of eating dinner because of one’s reading prowess.  However one does it, hopefully one digests that which is healthy and nourishing on a variety of levels, for the habits one establishes when one is young can carry on for a long time afterward.  So it was with me.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

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Book Review: Some Of My Best Friends Are Books

Some Of My Best Friends Are Books:  Guiding Gifted Readers From Preschool To High School:  A Guide For Parents, Teachers, Librarians, And Counselors, by Judith Wynn Halsted

Admittedly, I am not a parent, teacher, librarian, or counselor, except that I have my own library of some considerable size [1].  On the other hand, I was clearly a gifted child and an avid reader from my youth, and in many ways this book gives me mixed emotions.  For example, on the one hand this book reminds me of my own youth, in commenting on the sensitivity of gifted children, on their asynchronous maturity in intellectual, emotional, and physical spheres, in the fact that such people are often far more intense than their peers and are sensitive to the rejection that their quirkiness often brings, and on the way that such people may not be easily understood by peers, teachers, or family members.  On the other hand, the book is itself an encouragement to do what I can to provide encouragement to the gifted children around me so that they may learn young what I accidentally discovered over the course of life.  Over and over again this book points out both the emotional and intellectual needs of gifted children and the way that the issues and solutions found in childhood often continue long into adulthood, as indeed they have for me and no doubt for many others.  This is the sort of book that could have been influential in my own life had I or an adult close to me came across it during the course of my own turbulent childhood.  Alas, that was not the case.  Even so, there is a lot of value to be found here.

The contents of this book, like my feelings about them, are somewhat mixed.  The first seven chapters of this book take up a bit more than 250 pages, and the eighth chapter takes up about 230 pages, followed by various supplementary material in indices, bibliographies, and the like.  The book, as a whole, seeks to balance a concern with the emotional and intellectual development of gifted young people.  The first chapter, for example, examines the heart of the gifted child and how books can help with emotional matters.  The second chapter looks at the mind of the gifted child, commenting on the importance of parents and the obstacles to intellectual development.  These two chapters, combined, make up the first part of the book, which focuses on the children.  The second part of the book, focused on the process of development through books, contains three chapters.  The third chapter of the book gives reading guidance, including the special characteristics of gifted children and a discussion of avid and resistant readers.  In the fourth chapter of the book the author looks at emotional development through books and discusses in great detail the use of bibliotherapy to help with developmental and therapeutic problems that gifted children often face as a result of adversity and high degrees of native sensitivity.  The fifth chapter of the book looks at intellectual development through books, giving a primer for parents, a an examination of how books are to be discussed at school and in books, and how children can be encouraged in using the library.  The third part of the book, containing the last three chapters of the book, focuses on the books.  The sixth chapter of the book discusses the need of gifted children to find books that challenge them, which can be a difficult task for some readers young and old.  The seventh chapter examines different genres of children’s literature and gives special encouragement for parents and other adults to give gifted children familiarity with myths, poetry, and plays, which are often not included by schools but which can be profitable for young readers to read.  Chapter eight consists of the author’s admittedly biased recommendations for about 300 or so books that should be read by gifted children ranging from Pre-K to senior high school.  Some of these books are ones I read and enjoyed while young, and some are books that are far more morally problematic and worthy of criticism and skepticism.

Indeed, when I finished the seventh chapter of this book I thought that this was one of the finest books among many that I have read encouraging parents or other adults about the reading of bright young children [2].  And then the eighth chapter demonstrated some unpleasant ulterior motives and biases on the part of the author that cast her efforts to guide the reading of gifted children in a decidedly immoral light.  On the one hand, the author recommends readings on perfectionism as well as a focus on smart girls and guiding gifted children that are also published by the same publisher, showing a certain corporate agenda.  On the other hand, the author focuses on books that encourage multiculturalism, show a disdain for Christians as well as godly morality, and that show a fairly typical leftist social agenda with regards to environmentalism.  These biased book recommendations demonstrate that the guidance the author wishes to give to readers is in large part a malign one, and this considerably dims the enthusiasm many readers will have for this book.  Even so, if one takes out the last chapter, there is a lot to enjoy, and so this book remains worthy of a partial and cautious recommendation largely for its insight into the development and struggles of gifted children.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:


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Book Review: Childhood Disrupted

Childhood Disrupted:  How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, And How You Can Heal, by Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Like a few previous books I have read, this book was read for the CASA book of the month club, and I can certainly understand why [1].  Admittedly, I had a strong feeling going into this book that I would certainly be the sort of person spoken of by this author, and that ended up being the case more than I had thought.  At the beginning of this book the author invites the reader to take the Adverse Childhood Experience inventory, which should be fairly self explanatory and is scored from 0 to 10.  I scored an 8 on the test, which I figured was pretty bad.  Reading the book, though, I had no idea just how bad it was until I saw that the author looked at scores of 4 as very high, and scores of 6 as extremely high.  Scoring an 8, therefore, must put me as having a particularly unpleasant childhood, which was something I knew intellectually, but not something I particularly relished seeing when this book went into its full discourse on the lengthy damages of a bad childhood.  By the time the author got to the part of the book where she said that having an ACE score around 6 or above usually shortened someone’s life by 20 years, I knew that this book was going to have some very unpleasant things to say about my life, and indeed it did.  If you read this book, you are likely to either be or to know and care for someone whose childhood was particularly disastrous, and you’re trying to figure out what to do about it.  Obviously, that is the case for me as well.

In terms of its contents, this book is slightly mismatched in meeting its objectives.  Out of about 240 pages of core material, 140 of those pages are spent talking about how it is that our biography gets hard-wired into our biology through epigenetic factors, something that is rather terrifying for some of us.  Before these materials begin there are about 20 pages taken up by the introduction and the Adverse Childhood Experiences survey, which it is worthwhile to take so that you can be aware of where you compare to the people talked about in the book.  Within the first part of the book there are chapters on childhood and the growing understanding that trauma and serious adversity do not usually lead to resilience, how different adversities lead to similar problems, why some people suffer more than others because of their sensitivity, some specific effects of trauma on the female brain, and the good enough family to avoid serious adversity.  The second part of the book looks at some ways that the author thinks that readers can overcome difficult childhoods, including chapters on beginning one’s healing journey, seeking professional help, and parenting well when one hasn’t been well parented, before a conclusion and an invitation to continue the conversation about adverse childhood experiences, along with some acknowledgements, notes, and resources for the reader.

My thoughts and feelings about this book are somewhat mixed.  Undoubtedly, I am someone that this book describes rather well, someone whose immensely troubled childhood has caused a lot of long-lasting harm.  A lifetime of living in high ambient anxiety has led to fairly serious inflammation (including le gout) along with several mental illnesses (PTSD, chronic depression, and generalized anxiety disorder among them), along with some serious relational difficulties.  I read this book knowing that the prognosis would be somewhat grim, and hoping that the book had something worthwhile to offer.  Unfortunately, this book was far better at showing the dangers and the damage and pointing out a lot of what I already knew about generational patterns and the struggles of those with difficult childhood without providing a lot of useful help.  A lot of the suggestions provided here follow a common trend among mental health professionals to advocate heathen eastern religious practices, especially from Buddhism [2].  This book would have been a lot better if it had promoted a godly response to healing rather than ignoring Christianity and seeking to promote a hidden agenda of encouraging the spread of Eastern religion in our schools.  The end result is that this book is somewhat disappointing in its approach to healing.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

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