If It Takes All Night

During the fighting of the Overland Campaign of 1864, Ulysses S. Grant is reported to have said to President Lincoln that he proposed to fight it out along that line all summer if necessary to defeat rebel armies led by Robert E. Lee.  Depending on how one views that statement, it could have been an understatement or an exaggeration.  It would take longer than the summer of 1864 to defeat Lee’s army and conquer Richmond.  A lengthy siege of the city of Petersburg was followed by a daring but ultimately futile attempt to escape, leading to the famous surrender at Appomattox [1].  Yet in one line of view, Grant did not fight it out along that line all summer.  Instead, after suffering a bloody reverse at Cold Harbor, he shifted his direction and sought to move on Petersburg rather than continuing to try to find some way of attacking Richmond directly.  He fought all summer, but not on the same line he had fought in the first four weeks of the war, in the eyes of many historians.

I have a great deal of empathy and compassion for people as awkward as I am.  Being a person of great awkwardness, shyness, and a deep native reserve and timidity, it is immensely difficult for me to set the stage for difficult conversations.  I may fret over what I want to say for weeks or months, lose large amounts of sleep, pray and fast and reflect, and often find that all of the concern has been for naught because the message I am trying to send simply does not get across.  At least in my observation, this does not appear to be an uncommon experience.  As I have been the initiator of many an awkward conversation or interaction, so too others have blindsided me with equal awkwardness, and likely they too have spent a great deal of time and effort and concern and care preparing and laying ground for a difficult conversation only to find it go awry because it triggered some kind of panic or alarm in me.

The timing of when one plans difficult conversations matters a great deal. One of the most crucial steps is ensuring that something is a good time for both parties.  It is easy for us, when we are concerned about something and want to get it off of our minds and release the burden on our hearts, to think about when it is most convenient for us to engage in these conversations at the time of our convenience.  Often this does not prove to be convenient for others–more than a few times I have found my own sleep harmed by people who felt it was absolutely necessary at 11:30PM to have a serious conversation I was entirely unprepared for, which is not conducive to having conversations that are enjoyed by all parties with mutual pleasure.  No doubt my own efforts at having difficult conversations have been equally inconvenient or unwelcome to those I was conversing with.  Before we have difficult conversations, then, we need to have a talk before the talk, one that sets the stage, finds some common ground, and makes the conversation less difficult.  We need an agenda, and some kind of mutual consent to agree on a conversation, because where there is coercion there will never be the sort of meeting of minds, much less hearts, which people desire from their communication with others.

Like Ulysses Grant, we may pride ourselves on or even be praised by others for having a bulldog-like tenacity.  Before we become carried away, though, by this sort of self-congratulatory attitude, we need to examine to what ends and by what means we are being tenacious.  Are stubborn for our own self-interest alone, or is our tenacity a strong sense of loyalty to our commitments?  If it is merely the first, then all of our stubbornness merely leads us to run over others and deny them their own freedom to make decisions.  If it is the second, we may well be unsuccessful, but there is at least nobility in what we are about.  It may take all night to resolve problems with someone, it may talk all summer, and sometimes, if we are wrestling with ourselves as we ought to do, it may take our entire lives to wrestle with and overcome the burdens that we have been given.  Be that as it may, much depends on how we wrestle with those issues, in the realization that other people are not simply the problem, but are people who even at their most frustrating and difficult are worthy of respect and honor and even love.

[1] See, for example:






Posted in American Civil War, American History, Book Reviews, Christianity, History, Musings | Tagged | Leave a comment

Book Review: A Study Of Open Hearth

A Study Of Open Hearth:  A Treatise On The Open Hearth Furnace And The Manufacture Of Open Hearth Steel by Harbison-Walker Refractories Company

I must admit that I have no particular idea that this is a practical book for either myself or a great many other people.  This book was published in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1909 and relates to the open hearth process of processing steel.  It has been some time since Pittsburgh was a world leader in steel production, and there are few people who work in that field in the United States at all, and no doubt there are many differences between contemporary steel manufacture and the work discussed here.  Even so, from time to time I greatly enjoy reading about old-fashioned and even obsolete matters [1] that nonetheless give context to a world that is now gone but that once was and once was state of the art.  So it is with this book, as the author proclaims the efficacy of using open hearth techniques to handle pig iron with a certain amount of phosphorus that would be impossible to use by other processes.  One does not need the specific information to be practical to gain some use from how the author thinks and drawing appropriate parallels.

The book itself is a short one, being under 100 pages and containing six chapters.  The first chapter looks at the definition of steel–by no means as simple a matter as one might think–and the design of furnaces that are used to forge steel from pig iron.  The second chapter examines the fuels used for heating the forge, praising natural gas where it may be found and oil with some caution about the heat of the flame it produces.  The third chapter focuses on the acid open hearth process and how impurities are removed thereby.  The fourth chapter, another brief one, looks at recarburation and how to test the ores for their suitability via various methods.  The fifth chapter discusses the basic open hearth process and how impurities are removed through the addition of lime and ore.  The sixth and final chapter looks at some special processes that are more complicated but that can provide great insights on the production of steel.  It is unlikely that many people at present will be asked to make steel, much less understand the processes, but this is a short and practical book even with that proviso in mind.

So, what worth can someone in the contemporary era gain from an understanding of the variety of different processes for the production of steel.  The author notes that the development of different processes allows different types of ores to be profitably used, indicating that in industrial processes as a whole it is worthwhile to have a variety of processes in one’s intellectual toolbox, as different processes will work best with different types of materials.  The author even comments on hybrid methods that also work well in certain circumstances.  This eclectic approach, and a realization that the best solution to the complexity of the world is having a complexity of thinking and processing in mind, is useful in other areas.  All too often businesses and institutions in general operate from a one-size fits all approach, and as a result they fail to examine and act sensitively with regards to those people and those situations that are outside of the boundaries where a given process works well.  Having an understanding that there are various processes that work well in different circumstances, some of which are more expensive or time-consuming and some of which are more robust, some which work best with certain types of ores, and so on, helps us to be more sensitive to the circumstances we face in our lives when dealing not only with pig iron but also with people.

[1] See, for example:





Posted in American History, Book Reviews, History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Colorado Cook Book

Colorado Cook Book, published by The Young Ladies’ Mission Band of the Central Presbyterian Church

Although I consider myself no particularly great cook, I am no stranger to reading and enjoying cookbooks [1].  Nor am I a stranger to church cookbooks, as they are not uncommon in my own background.  Among the more notable aspects of this book that stuck out to me, and even troubled me a little, was the fact that the cook book was so short (at only about 45 pages or so) but so full of advertisements.  Perhaps it is more common for religious works to be filled with advertising in other traditions, but in my own that is not the customary way of proceeding, and I was struck by how commercial the book was, to the point where it resembled some of the trade magazines I have read and reviewed previously.  I had expected this book to provide a focus of food that would relate to Colorado, but found that many of the dishes had followed the congregants from the South, of all places.  This was definitely a book that surprised me and confounded my own modest expectations, although whether or not that is a bad thing is difficult to say.

The contents of this short book are straightforward.  Much of the content is taken up of advertisements, as has been previously noted.  The remainder of the content is taken up with the expected recipes as well as an index at the end.  The book opens with a reminder that the ingredient of common sense is necessary to use this book profitably, and that is a wise precaution to take.  Included are recipes for bullion soups, entrees, bread (and even yeast), as well as various cakes and other sweets.  Some of the striking qualities include a simplicity of ingredients, although there is a marked fondness for lemon and New Orleans molasses.  There were quite a few meat dishes although there was a striking lack of vegetables other than starchy ones like potatoes.  Modern readers will find the fare discussed here to be hearty but lacking in many of the refinements and wide variety of foods that are available to contemporary cooks in local grocery stores.  Unsurprisingly, the fare here resembles the sort of fare a person would expect on the Oregon Trail rather than in a contemporary Trader Joe’s or similar establishment.

What is remarkable about this book as well is the sort of assumed knowledge many of the recipes have.  Many contemporary cookbooks, aware of the lack of homemaking knowledge of their readers, spell out what equipment to use to make what dishes and also give detailed instructions on preparation of the items discussed.  On the contrary, these recipes assume a high degree of background knowledge, expecting someone to know what is needed to make an omelette, for example.  The simplicity of the ingredients and the laconic nature of the instructions means that most of the recipes included here are immensely short.  Whether or not this brevity is to the taste of the reader depends on the background knowledge they bring to this particular book.  This book is perhaps best read for background knowledge of the eating habits of people in the late 19th and early 20th century, especially for use by writers and historical reenactors looking to build authenticity in the portrayal of the eating habits of the time and place.  Other readers will likely find this book to be quaint and entertaining, but that is not necessarily a bad thing and this book is certainly easy enough to enjoy on its own modest merits.

[1] See, for example:













Posted in American History, Book Reviews, Christianity, History | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Madness Of Calculators

[Note:  As I was in the middle of writing this particular entry, I found out about the death, likely by suicide, of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington, at the age of 41.  While I had not intended on writing this entry on anything that was topical in the wider world, as someone who was fond of a great deal of Linkin Park’s music [*]

As a result of adding to my reading of the works of G.K. Chesterton [1], I came across a striking insight of his in his masterpiece Orthodoxy that I wished to share because it was something that hit home surprisingly heavily for me.  It is an example of a counterintuitive piece of wisdom that proves to be deeply insightful.  We are prone to look for madness among poets, but Chesterton comments that rationality is the place where people go insane and not imagination.  He posits that it is one’s capacity for imagination that allows people to maintain what sense of balance and sanity they often possess.  I wish to take that insight and follow the thread a little, and I hope that others may not find it a very boring or unprofitable sort of discussion.  Given my own complicated mental health history, I am somewhat cautious about engaging in such a discussion, but I trust that while I may be all too well understood, I am not likely to be viewed as less than competent to engage in such a discussion, seeing as I draw my own personal knowledge in the situation.

I have often mused about the problem of insanity or madness or severe mental distress on several occasions and from several perspectives [2].  From childhood, due to both my native high degree of sensitivity and to a traumatic youth, I have been afflicted with various troubles relating to mental health that I have dealt with as quietly and bravely as possible.  In my own experiences, those periods where I have been in the greatest distress and trouble felt like being caught in a black hole as it is described by scientists, where light cannot escape, where the gravity of one’s own concerns and obsessive rumination on oneself and one’s own issues collapses the whole universe of one’s cares and concerns into a gloomy event horizon from which one seeks desperately and often unsuccessfully for an escape.  Thankfully, such times are rare, but they are not unfamiliar to me.  Nor are they likely unfamiliar to many others who have suffered with such issues.  My own experiences have given me a great deal of compassion for those who struggle with feelings of despair and gloominess so intense that they fear it will never end so long as they draw breath.

My own experience, therefore, would tend to confirm what Chesterton is trying to get at about the aspect of ourselves from which madness springs.  Madness does not so much as afflict us through our imagination, for although a worried and anxious person can easily imagine potential problems and difficulties in life, many of which prove to be illusory, so too the imagination gives us such possibility of escape as we can have from problems.  Our imagination can give us resources through giving us possibilities which we can then work through, and working through possibilities saves us from despair by giving us something, anything, to think about other than ourselves and our own misery.  Sometimes, if we read speculative fiction, we may develop the resources to imagine other worlds that are more pleasant than our own and other versions of ourselves that are possessed of resources we cannot see within ourselves if we look through the dull and prosaic eyes with which we view ourselves critically.  And if we are particularly lucky, sometimes by imagining ourselves to be better, we may be able to see that our imagination tells us truths that we could not see any other way, and so we may in dreams or in focus on those things outside of ourselves or in the efforts of those who are outside of our own quantum singularity find ourselves to be free of that which we fear in the long dark nights of our often troubled souls.

It is, in contrast, our reasoning that can lead us into deep despair.  We rely on our head to know better than our heart.  Most of us, unless our longings are particularly problematic or our track record when it comes to seeking relationships and intimacy particularly unfortunate, are willing to accept that our hearts are not always wise and not let it trouble us to any great extent.  In contrast, we rely on our head to be wise, at least wise enough to find us ways out of the troubles that we inevitably find ourselves in.  And yet our minds often fail us, they are lazy, they get into ruts, and all too often when times are particularly grim they often fail to show us ways outside of the various traps we have fallen into.  It is not so often the sadness of a gloomy heart, painful as that is, that leads us into despair, but the failure of the mind to see a way out of where we are that marks our descent into madness.  When our minds cannot handle the difficulties we place ourselves into by giving us a possible way out, many of us fail to take the sort of steps that would allow us to carry on or overcome.  It is failure of imagination that often proves decisive in our struggles.

And this ought not to be surprising.  Our minds are often focused on efforts of calculation, and we turn our minds to the solving of difficult but often terribly mundane tasks.  We pride ourselves on the acquisition of knowledge, not always very sensitive to what we are stuffing into our memory banks.  Not all of what we remember and “know” is helpful to us.  Not all of us realize the importance our mind has in helping us to get unstuck from ourselves.  Too often in difficult times we pull ourselves inward and look only within.  One of the great counterfeit pseudoinsights offered to our age is that the path to wisdom and enlightenment lies within, but that is exactly what is not true.  What is inside of us will often lead us into the darkest of despair if we let it run untrammeled on its dark course.  We need light and hope and insight from without, and unless our mind is focused on finding an escape for ourselves from what can seem like intolerable situations, then we will find ourselves worn down by the continual fight against the darkness within us, and ultimately unable to rise above the evils of our world and of ourselves.  As difficult as a time as artists in our time have with mental health, for the vast majority of us it is not the madness of poets that we should fear, but rather the madness of calculators that leads us into the abyss.

[*] See, for example:




[1] See, for example:






[2] See, for example:








Posted in Christianity, Musings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Cultivate

Cultivate:  A Grace-Filled Guide To Growing An Intentional Life, by Lara Casey

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson.]

In reading this book, I found that I share a great deal in common with its author.  I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it did allow me to relate to this book particularly well, because it placed one of my more unusual interests in gardening in a larger perspective [1].  Throughout this book, the reader gets a real sense of the author as a person, as someone who is more than a little bit on the perfectionist side, someone who struggles with the multitude of demands placed on her, and someone who ultimately values the process by which new life develops.  This is true whether we are talking about the new life of small children, or the new life of garden plants and animals, or the new spiritual life that God wishes to create within us, all of which are the subject of a great deal of reflection and mediation.  This is a far more layered book than I expected it to be, and a far more deeply personal one as well.

In terms of its contents, this is a well organized and structured book.  The author divides her work into three sections.  The first section encourages readers to dig in, the second part to cultivate their lives like gardens, and the third to prepare to gather in the fruit that results from the patient labor of God and man.  Each chapter includes a variety of discussion questions for the reader to ponder and reflect on, and a great deal of personal discussion from the author.  We hear the author discuss her somewhat hurried Vegas marriage, her struggles in overcoming a miscarriage, and her efforts at being supportive to her husband.  The author maintains that tricky balance between showing herself as a real person, warts and all, while also calling for reflection and personal change on the part of her readers to slow down and reject the acquisition-minded culture that is all around us.  In so doing the book ends up being a book both about practical Christianity as well as gardening and raising a family, and how all of these intersect with each other.

As is frequently the case with the books I read, this book is aimed at women, and while that can annoy me as a reader sometimes, in this case it was not irksome because what was said was generally applicable as well to male readers.  For whatever reason, female authors tend to assume that their readers will also be female, and on occasion this leads writers to miss the opportunity to reach out to a larger audience.  Fortunately, in this case the author manages to discuss gardening in such a way that it would be of use to men as well who enjoy cultivation, and who work to build the patience that results from working with the land and accepting the limitations of the environment even while hoping to encourage growth and life.  The author makes a compelling case for the way that the twists and turns of our lives can prepare us for noble God-given purposes and that gardening itself has a lot to offer as a spiritual discipline that is accessible to a great many people.  One gets the feeling upon reading this book that they know the author as a woman, and truth be told she is a pretty likable woman who one would indeed want to get to know a little better, whether through the pages of this book or in her busy life as a gardener, mother, and editor of a wedding magazine.

[1] See, for example:















Posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, Love & Marriage | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Reveling Through Revelation: Part II

Reveling Through Revelation:  Part II, Chapters 12-22 and Appendix, by J. Vernon McGee

Being the sort of person who will happily read those books I encounter around me, especially when they are short–this book is only about 180 pages or so–I must admit I found this particular little book to be greatly amusing to read.  Having been somewhat familiar with the author’s work before from reading one of his commentaries more than a decade ago, I found this to be a surprisingly good commentary on the second half of Revelation.  Revelation, it should be recognized, is not an area where many people shine in their interpretive skills, and many would-be commentators struggle grasp the material and avoid foisting upon it their own mistaken interpretations to a fatal degree [1].  This is not a perfect book, but to the extent that this book is a worthwhile and even enjoyable commentary on Revelation, it is so because of the humility of the author and his willingness to stick to conservative sources.  Although it would likely have pained the author to hear this, the commentator the author most resembles in this book within my own experience and familiarity is the late Herbert W. Armstrong, a man the author heartily despised.  Life is full of ironies, though.

The contents of this book are pretty straightforward.  After a brief introduction, the book jumps to page 150 and provides the second part to a commentary of Revelation that could have easily been one book of a bit more than 300 pages rather than two very small books.  I wonder why the book was divided at all.  Be that as it may, the author includes a thoughtful exegesis of the verses, strongly defends a premillennialist view of Revelation 20, and only occasionally mars his comments with unbiblical comments about the afterlife and the rapture.  In general, the author admits where there is disagreement about the interpretation of a given verse or passage and includes copious cross-references that put Revelation into its larger biblical context, all of which is very much appreciated by this reader and something all too often lacking in contemporary commentaries on Revelation.  It may be unclear what the author means by reveling through Revelation, aside from wanting to make a pun, but the book is a quick read and a worthwhile one, especially to those who wish to speak and write on Revelation and do so thoughtfully and with proper respect for the whole biblical context of prophecy.

It should not be surprising from the foregoing that I am fond of this book, far more fond of it than I thought I would be.  I do not mean to imply that this is a perfect book, but as a short volume (or even a short two volumes if one has its companion volume) it makes an excellent resource for those wishing to speak and write cogently about Revelation from a conservative mainstream position.  The fact that this book stands up well compared to more contemporary commentaries on Revelation suggests that the biblical knowledge of mainstream writers like the author was far greater than is the case in the contemporary period, and bodes ill for the quality of a great deal of material in my future reading queue.  Be that as it may, this is a book that will not take long to read, contains a great many lists and useful notes for messages, and will likely be a treasured resource for those who wish to speak and write about prophecy, and despite the fact that I find fault with some of its material, given what it is, I do not think I could have expected to be able to give it the warm recommendation I do.

[1] See, for example:








Posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, Church of God, History | Tagged | 5 Comments

Everything In Threes

It is said that there is a pattern that famous stars tend to die in threes.  Whether or not this pattern is a genuine one or not, it has long been recognized that groups of threes are soothing and form memorable triads.  The ancient Celts, for example, included a great deal of information organized in triads, as part of their own educational system for bards and druids.  One of the most famous misremembered quotes of Sir Winston Churchill was remade into a more memorable triad from his original formulation of blood, sweat, toil, and tears.  And on it goes.  Even the popularity of the five paragraph essay [1] depends in large part on the comfort of the pattern of organizing in threes.  While I do not hold dogmatically to this structure, it is one that I do adopt from time to time and find worthwhile and interesting to record.  I would like to use this pattern today in examining some of the more humorous events of my workday, as is my habit from time to time [2].

When I arrived at work this morning, it was quickly apparent that one of my coworkers was not there.  That would not normally be a big issue, except that today I ended up being asked to do something that she would have done, and she was unable to do what she was supposed to do today.  It does seem that there are a great many tasks whose cadence depends on a smooth hand-off between one person and another, and when one person is gone that smoothness is replaced by a more general scrambling to get done what would have been easier to do so if everyone was there.  So it was today.  This has happened before in the past, and sometimes it has been my own absence that has made things more difficult for other people.  So it has been, so it was today, and so it will be in the future.  I do not comment on this expecting the problem to be solved, but rather instead to note on the fact that much of what we do depends far more on very limited factors of staffing than we might realize at first.  When companies are lean and mean, any sort of absence becomes a serious problem.

The issues of today were made more irritating by the fact that at some point yesterday all of the automatic reports I have broke down for one reason or another.  I was first aware that something in the reports was amiss when there was an e-mail chain in my inbox at my first arrival at work that stated that one of our campaigns had a new phone number, meaning some of my reports had to be changed.  Along with this request came an interest in two people in being added to that particular report chain.  While working on that problem I found that the person responsible for maintaining our automatic reports was gone today and would be gone for the rest of the week, making another irritating absence to deal with, forcing me to do other reports that had broken for other people on a day in which my own department was already somewhat understaffed.  In addition to that I was informed that people needed to be added to another report that was broken that would be unlikely to be fixed for the rest of the week, which will likely make the rest of my week a bit more irritating than usual.

It is unclear whether my irritations amount to a rule of things happening in threes or simply represents a perfect storm of sickness and vacation, a business change that was not communicated ahead of time, and some sort of technical glitch that happened to hit when the relevant people were not there to do something about it in a timely fashion.  Such events do not tend to happen in isolation.  It is likely that there are a great many glitches that are stopped before anyone else notices them simply because people are being aware and at least a little bit proactive in the normal exercise of their job duties.  It is also likely that a day which would have been relaxing or maybe even boring with everyone there was made stressful only because all of those things happened simultaneously.  Maybe if only one or two of them had happened rather than all of them, it would have been a less annoying day.  And if it were less annoying, it might not have brought to mind just how delicate matters are, and how easy it is for relatively small events to cause something to go deeply wrong.  Perhaps the insight gained requires there to be sufficient frustration for it to reach the point where it is worth subjecting to critique and over-analysis.  If so, then let no frustration or annoyance be wasted.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/03/31/giving-credit-where-credit-is-dueon-the-five-paragraph-essay/

[2] See, for example:





Posted in Musings | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: A Fierce Love

A Fierce Love:  One Woman’s Courageous Journey To Save Her Marriage, by Shauna Shanks

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

I found this book a lot more relevant than I thought I would at the outset.  I am no stranger to reading about books concerning marriage written by men and women [1] that I consider to be of limited immediate personal relevance, but the more I read this book the more I realized that this book had a deep personal relevance to me and I was not very fond of it.  Indeed, I could see myself as being extremely similar to the author’s husband, and that realization was not necessarily a pleasant one for me, although it does not detract at all from the honesty the author has about this book about about her struggle to save her marriage in the face of her husband’s expressed desire for a divorce.  Having a great deal to identify with in the save childhood and generally estranged emotional affect of the author’s husband, I found the author’s approach towards reconciliation both immensely hopeful and more than a little bit troubling at the same time.

In somewhat more than 200 pages the author gives a memoir of her attempts to save the marriage, filled as they are with flashbacks as well as comments about the marriages of others.  In framing her story as she does, the author examines her own flaws and failures in the marriage and also comments that not every marriage can or even should be saved in the face of a partner’s abusive behavior or infidelity.  This framing is important because the story the author tells is rather chilling.  The author discusses the long-distance relationship the marriage came from and its difficulty in early years and the surprise at which the author was struck by the divorce when she thought everything was going alright.  A great deal of time is spent with the author discussing her discretion in not causing news or gossip of the split to be widely voiced and in her use of relatives of her husband as a spiritual resource in trying to keep the marriage together.  Particularly chilling and relevant, though, is the way that the author’s husband is portrayed as being rather emotionally timid and restrained as a result of his survival from a horrific childhood in a broken family, and that is something I could easily identify with myself.  The author’s fierce desire to save the marriage and her refusal to give up on her troubled husband are admirable if rare qualities.

This book serves many purposes simultaneously and thus proves to be an admirable and deeply interesting work.  In large part, this book is a memoir of the author’s marriage at a dangerous point, showing how in some cases loyalty and devotion and love can win over the heart of an estranged spouse.  The book also, though, has a great deal to do with the simultaneous wooing of the author by God as she realizes her own spiritual shortcomings and commits herself to a renewed relationship with God even as she seeks to save her marriage.  If this narrative was not complicated enough, the author then adds to this story elements of spiritual warfare as she seeks to help her husband overcome his own emotional difficulties as a result of his abusive childhood so that he may better love his wife and children.  The end result is a book that was far more relevant than I had any reason to believe it, and the sort of book to encourage those who struggle in their own marriages with the effects of destructive childhood and the problems of prolonged spiritual warfare.

[1] See, for example:







Posted in Book Reviews, Christianity, Love & Marriage | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: As Southern As It Gets

As Southern As It Gets:  1,071 Reasons To Never Leave The South, by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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

Although I grew up in rural West Central Florida around people who considered themselves and would have been considered by others as Southerners, my relationship with the South has always been one that is deeply ambivalent [1].  This book somehow manages to be inclusive and exclusive at the same time, seeking to appeal to blacks and whites and to people who are from both the traditional deep south and also some of its border areas (like Kentucky, Missouri, and Oklahoma, who all get a few shout outs for southern institutions like Carrie Underwood, although Texas is completely ignored), while also cattily reminding readers that just because one is from the south that one is not necessarily Southern, just like a cat having kittens in an oven does not make those kittens biscuits.  The book is evidence of a desire to inflame Southern pride, and those sorts of displays are generally of the sort that makes me feel deeply uncomfortable as someone whose experiences in the South were less than pleasant.

This book has an immensely straightforward structure and despite being a bit over 200 pages may be read by someone in twenty or thirty minutes without too much trouble if they are not carried into a reverie by the reasons that the author gives for never leaving the South.  After a short introduction where the author gives his bona fides as to why he should be considered as a suitably Southern person to write this book, the author gives alphabetical reasons why someone should never leave the South.  Some of the reasons are given their own page with hand-drawn drawings, and the reasons themselves tend to fall into a few categories:  food, places, people, phrases, and Southern behavior.  There is no doubt that the author considers himself an expert on what to appreciate on the South, and his tastes are pretty reasonable–he loves Daytona Beach, Elvis, the Civil War, the rituals of small town and youth Southern life, country music, NASCAR racing, and so on.  He’s the sort of Southerner whose bumptious attitude towards the South may be more than a little irritating but who is basically viewed as more of a friendly character than someone who is an active annoyance, and this book shares the same prickly nationalism of the South without crossing the line into real offense.

Obviously, as someone who has left the South and whose thoughts of it are deeply mixed, and whose thoughts about Confederate nationalism are deeply negative, I am not the ideal target audience for this book.  Even so, the reasons that the author gives for loving the South are generally innocuous and could apply equally well for proud white as well as many black Southerners, although one gets at least some feeling that this book is aimed at Southern whites.  Why does this book exist?  Do Southerners still find it necessary to prove to others why their region is so great?  I’m not sure, but that gnawing lack of self-confidence when one is dealing with the complaints and insults directed towards the South appears to have motivated this book.  This is not a book that seeks to start or participate in debates about education, politics, or history, but in defending what it views as laudatory elements of Southern culture and geography, this is a book that will likely make plenty of Southerners feel better about themselves, and at a price of under $20 is a lot cheaper than going to a therapist.

[1] See, for example:








Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mysteries Of The Bible: Why Does The Bible Talk So Much About Genealogy

Among the more common complaints from those who attempt to read the Bible all the way through is that there are so many boring passages of genealogy that most people find to be tedious and without enjoyment.  Now, it should go without saying that I am immensely fond of genealogy and have found a lot of worth in some of the obscure passages of 1 Chronicles [1].  Now, although I enjoy genealogy for its own sake, I am aware that many do not.  There are writers as well, such as the author of the Prayer Of Jabez, who have mined the obscure passages of 1 Chronicles for their own writing, although this may not be a good example of a proper use of that particular area of scripture.  The mystery people often wrestle with, though, is what is the purpose of large sections of the Bible being devoted to genealogy, even though this presents a barrier to many readers.

It is first worthwhile to note just how much genealogical information is recorded in scripture.  A brief survey will suffice for our purposes today.  Jesus Christ has two genealogies given, one in Matthew 1 that gives his legal genealogy through his stepfather and the other in Luke 3 that gives his physical genealogy, showing that he was descended from David through both lines and was therefore properly the Son of David.  The first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles are genealogies that show some notable descendants of the twelve tribes of Israel and give some stories as to what happened to some of the tribes (like Reuben) after the initial settling of the land that helps to explain some historical mysteries, which will perhaps be covered in a future installment of this series.  Likewise, there are large sections of genealogy running through Genesis giving the origin of nations and families, as well as a few other scattered genealogies through the rest of scripture and genealogical information in 1 and 2 Kings about all of the rulers of Israel and Judah–the information for Judah’s kings including the mother of most of the kings of Judah, a remarkable level of detail in an age when most women were very anonymous.

What is the worth of this genealogical information?  For those who enjoy the material on its own terms, they present a wide variety of stories as well as information that places important people of the Bible in a larger context extending across many generations.  To give one example not at random, the genealogy of Heman included in 1 Chronicles 6:33-38 informs the reader that the otherwise obscure author of Psalm 88 was the grandson of Samuel and a descendant of Korah.  This places an otherwise unknown person in a larger story of faith going back to the time of the wilderness, and indeed shows him to have been a close relative of the priests, which explains Samuel’s own adoption of a great deal of priestly behavior and the ease in which he was accepted as an adopted son of the high priest.  Even for those who do not enjoy genealogy on its own terms, though, can understand at least some value of the Bible giving so much information about the descent of people from other people through people most people have never heard of.

Part of the value consists of promises.  A surprisingly large amount of the Bible’s promises relate to physical lines of descent.  For example, the faithfulness of the Rechabites to the commands of their forefather Jonadab in Jeremiah 35 earned that group of people a promise that their forefather would never lack a man–in short, the line would continue and not be destroyed or daughtered out.  Likewise, Isaac received a promise in Genesis 26 that he and his seed would be blessed because of the faithfulness and obedience of his father Abraham.  And so it goes, with even somewhat obscure people in the Bible like Jehu being promised that their line would continue for several generations because of at least partial faithfulness.  If the specific promises to various people concerning their own family lines and their continuance or elimination was not enough, the Bible gives some general promises as well that are worth considering.

It is especially worth considering these examples because some of them occur at the foundational moment of the establishment of the congregation of Israel as well as the New Testament church.  Exodus 20:4-6 tells us:  “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”  This commandment is a reminder to Israel that those who disobey God will face generational curses and those who obey God will have generational blessings, although the blessing will outweigh the curse.  Many families, like my own, have both.  A similar promise is given in Acts 2:39:  “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”  In both of these verses obedience on the part of people is connected to a promise by God that there will be blessings that cascade down to following generations due to that faithfulness, apart from the worthiness of those descendants themselves.  Sometimes the blessings we have in our lives are not due to any great righteousness of our own, but rather are due to the faithfulness of God in fulfilling His promises made to our ancestors.

Why does this matter?  In large part, it matters because God has a family plan.  The promises that God makes to human families about continuing on and His continuing favor towards them are reminders that we too are God’s future children if we enter into His Kingdom and eternal life.  The frequent references of the Bible to families and to the family origin of the people of the Bible, the commands God makes for the family to be honored and respected, and the promises God makes to people due to their family ancestry are reminders to us that God too is a being who cares a lot about family.  And that which God cares about, we should care about as well.

[1] See, for example:








Posted in Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, Church of God, History | Tagged | Leave a comment