Wordality

tolkienThere is no word to describe what I’m attempting to put into words. The concept of capturing extant reality in written words when no words are used—nor in the true reality, are they necessary—in order to communicate by text or mere oration (and auditory-only experience of that oratory) the experience in its entirety. It’s so difficult, and yet so masterfully accomplished by J. R. R. Tolkien in his stories of Middle-earth.

My two oldest boys and I have been making the journey through Tolkien’s adventures, starting with the Hobbit and subsequently through the Lord of the Rings trilogy for probably the past two years. (We’re taking them at a Sunday Driver’s pace…) The worlds that this man must have seen in his mind’s eye, and the incredible attention to detail that he conveys through description and dialogue are truly, utterly astounding. At times it even feels like too much; there are moments when after a few pages of reading poetry in Elven tongues you begin to wonder, “What is the deal with this guy?”

But then there are moments where you almost feel you are not simply present with the characters, in the magical places—rather you feel as though you are one of them.

Of course this is the goal of anyone who puts pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), but how many can so well achieve this as has Mr. Tolkien? When you have a society in your name, you’ve probably made a name for yourself.

We’ve nearly reached the end of the third book in the LoTR series, and tonight’s chapter was just such an enjoyable read. Tolkien is bringing together several long, arduous journeys for so many characters through whom he has helped us live this adventure; their joys are ours, all that they are experiencing can be felt by the reader.

When I read the following paragraph, I stopped and commented to my son Ian, the aspiring author, observing that what Tolkien is able to do is to put into words things which have no words. He assembles (even creates) just the right words to allow the reader to enter the entirety of the moment. Not only does he elaborately describe a lush environment in all its fullness, but he also so perfectly captures the emotions and even the reasons for the emotions without “spelling it out” … rather he brings it to life.

‘A great Shadow has departed’, said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then, as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.

If Artists did not exist who could master the words to somehow so beautifully capture the fullness of that moment, it might have gone something like this:

‘A great Shadow has departed’, said Gandalf, with a laugh, a sound which Sam had not heard for a long time, as their journey had been so full of sadness, toil, and hardship. The sound made him glad, but Sam began to cry. After a while, his tears ceased and he too began to laugh. Then he got out of bed.

One of these things is not like the other …

I remain awe-struck at the way Tolkien not only paints a vivid picture using words, he really creates a wordality. (A reality brought to life—as near as possible—with only words.) The way the emotions of the moment are described in that paragraph, to think to describe the depth of the joy as laughter “[falling] upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known”, is much more engaging and colorful and real than, “The sound made him glad”.

(It’s quite obvious that I am no J. R. R. Tolkien!)

While words can never capture the fullness of experience, there truly is power in words, and I am becoming a firm believer that J. R. R. was one of the finest word craftsmen/artists/story-tellers ever to have breathed our air.

I shall greatly miss Middle-earth when we finally complete our reading of The Return of The King. I may have to delve into one of the sundry other works of Tolkien that rest quietly on my shelves, anticipating their turn to share the worlds which they contain.

The wordalities I myself endeavor to create may not be as complete and vivid as Tolkien’s, but I will nonetheless continue with ardent fealty my quest to capture with words the thoughts that are stirred in my heart and mind, ruminate in my soul, crescendoing within the depths of my being from the simplest melodies to the most elaborate symphonies; becoming then all the more enjoyable when shared with a fellow Word Enthusiast and Lover of Locution, like you.

The Adventures of Zamboni® and Policeman

Zamboni® Ice Cleaning Machine

We love to read around here. There are books everywhere, and lots of hands, minds, and eyes to devour them. Mom and Dad both love books, love to read… more than we have time in our days to actually accomplish.

Ian, the oldest child, is a ravenous book reader. (And now, he’s becoming a writer of books as well.) Alex is more picky; the books he enjoys, though, are read multiple times—even in the same week. Kirstie is learning to love reading, but does love books (being read to), as do her three younger siblings. Julia is not a confident reader yet, but her four-year-old sister, Emma, was brashly sounding out each letter and word she could locate on the large pages of her over-sized book with Mom last night.

Cameron, not being one content to be left out, and possessing as vivid an imagination as a three year old person could hope to have, decided to “read” his own book. (He picked up a blank date book, showing me the “words” on the empty pages before he began reading.)

The following is, nearly verbatim, the story that he “read” on those pages…

zamboni-and-policeman-01

The Adventures of Zamboni® & Policeman

by Cameron J. Campbell

Zamboni® was cleaning the ice.
But then he ran out of water!
He had lots of water, but just didn’t know it.
Then he had a dream about having enough water and cleaning the ice.
Policeman shot Zamboni®.
Zamboni® ate policeman.
The End!

That was too fantastic not to share! I sure hope there will be more “Adventures of Zamboni® and Policeman!”

zamboni-and-policeman-02


Note: Cam adores Zamboni® ice cleaning machines. We go early and stay late for Ian’s hockey games, just so Cam can watch the entire ice cleaning process by the Zamboni®. I’m pretty sure he knows most of the drivers at each rink, and someday aspires to attain to their lofty position. 🙂 He also often fancies himself a police man, so the subjects of his book were certainly no surprise to his family.

Conditional Libertarianism

I have been enjoying Ron Paul’s book, Liberty Defined. Enjoying, and finding myself becoming frustrated by it.

See, there’s no doubt in my mind that I am mostly a libertarian. Mostly. I’m not completely one because I understand that people—you, and me—are sinful. We have a natural bent towards doing the wrong thing. (Or, not doing the right thing.) The Bible tells us so, and, well, so do our eyes and our reasoning. So a completely free society, with little to no rules/laws to govern our actions towards others… well, it just can’t work.

And the whole book that thought keeps returning. I keep thinking, You know, he’s so right on! We should have the freedom to choose what we want to do, not be made to conform to some behavior through some law or system of laws and regulations… But quickly on the heels of that thought are the reminders that the hearts of men are selfish and self-serving and devious. (I believe the word is “sinful”.)

George Washington mentioned the importance of morality and religion to society. (Basically, they can’t exist without those foundations.) Many others from the Generation of 1776 expressed similar sentiments. They knew that you can’t divorce liberty from responsibility, and they knew that our natural condition was fallen, sinful. (All of the restrictions built into our system of government are for precisely this reason!)

Does that mean Ron Paul is wrong? No, I still think he’s right, but since we can’t do away with sin, it’s mostly just a utopian view of life together as a nation, that can’t ever be fully realized.

I believe Mr. Paul realizes this, too, and he’s not truly advocating a completely lawless society. (I know he’s not wanting anarchy.)

And he does make some good points.

I recently read his thoughts on Marriage. (Each chapter of the book is essentially a short essay on issues that affect our freedom, and one of them tackled marriage.) I can’t quote the whole chapter, but I do wish you could/would read the whole chapter. (Just click the book cover at the top of this post to purchase a copy of the book, or check it out from your local library!)

This paragraph stuck out to me:

The supercharged emotions are on both extremes of the issue, because neither extreme accepts the principles of a free society. One side is all too willing to use the law to force a narrow definition of marriage on everyone without a hint of tolerance. The other side—a minority opinion—wants the law to help them gain social acceptance even though this is impossible for law to achieve. Those who seek social acceptance of gay marriage are also motivated by the desire to force government and private entities to provide spousal benefits. When dealing with government benefits, this becomes an economic redistribution issue—a problem that would not be found in a truly free society.1

“Neither extreme accepts the principles of a free society.” Wow is that true. We just can’t leave each other alone. We all have our various agendas, and we fight hard to make sure that the state—the law—makes everyone else think and act like we do. I said in yesterday’s post that this definitely won’t work.

So in a free society, each person should be allowed do as their conscience allows or instructs them to, unless it is somehow (actually) injurious to another. Instead, we must fight to be right, or to be accepted.

Paul concludes:

This issue hardly justifies an amendment to the Constitution; passage or even a heated debate only serves to divide us and achieves nothing. It is typical of how government intervention in social issues serves no useful purpose. With a bit more tolerance and a lot less government involvement in our lives, this needless problem and emotionally charged debate could be easily avoided.

His recommendation is to make marriage a private matter. “Though there may be a traditional dictionary definition of marriage, the First Amendment should include allowing people to use whatever definition they’d like.”

I concur. And I concur with much that Ron Paul has to say. (Remember? I am conditionally libertarian.)

If you are looking for a good, thought-provoking, conversation-starting read, I recommend, “Liberty Defined”.

And, in the end, I will continue to agree with people like Ron Paul, who believe in allowing for the maximum amount of freedom possible in a society. Just remember that there must be limits—a conditional libertarianism, thanks to the “condition” of sin.

(Good thing Jesus took care of that in the long run!)


1 – Liberty Defined, Ron Paul, ©2011 Grand Central Publishing, p. 184

The Story My Bookshelf Tells

Stack of BooksAs I sat in my reading chair, enjoying a quiet moment to read one of the dozen or so books in which I currently have a bookmark (reminding me again that I really wish I would find more occasion to enjoy sitting down to read…) I noticed the interesting tale that my book choices tell.

Looking at me from the front covers of their two books are the faces of Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback, Jim Kelly, and the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson. Now, you might not think those two well-known men should be on the same shelf—let alone right next to each other!—but this is what I’m trying to say… they tell my story.

I am of course a big fan of the Buffalo Bills. From 1988 to the present I have cheered heartily and without wavering for the team from western New York state. Sometimes are more fun than others to do so “heartily”, nonetheless it is no surprise to find a book by a Buffalo Bill sitting on my Current Reads shelf.

(Of note regarding Mr. Kelly’s book: 1 – he signed it, 2 – it came as a gift from Jim’s wife (via a contest at her website) along with a signed copy of her book, 3 – and that book—Jill’s—is waiting to be read because it was already read and recommended by my wife. Did you follow all that? I think I did…)

The Jefferson book is just great because it follows on the heels of another book I recently finished by David Barton called The Jefferson Lies, which I just loved. (Well, while I loved it, I also found it infuriating. The book covers seven popular beliefs regarding Jefferson, and then logically and with a great deal of original source documentation eliminates nearly all plausibility in “what we’ve always known” about TJ. Very good read!)

We also got to visit Monticello just over a month ago. It is so interesting to experience history as close to the source as possible!

Also on my shelf are a few more autobiographies: Mark Twain (volume 1), Tim Tebow, and a work by Martin Luther King, Jr, which serves a bit as an autobiography. I really enjoy reading history in the first person.

Add to those a book on current government/political issues by Ron Paul, recommended to me by a friend who is also interested in such things, another book about American government that Jen and Ian and I are all reading copies of simultaneously. (The 5,000 Year Leap by Cleon Skousen, which I really feel should be “required reading” for every American citizen.)

I also just finished (this week!) the Eye Of Darkness by my friend Michael (Mike) J. Scott. Written in the fantasy genre, not usually something I’d read, but I definitely enjoy Mike’s books, and this one was no exception.

Funny that I say I don’t enjoy the fantasy genre, because also on my shelf is a lovely copy of The Two Towers by Tolkien. The oldest two boys and I are making our way through The Lord of the Rings trilogy. (Just about halfway through!)

Rounding out the collection I call my “current reads” are an assortment of styles and genres: a Brad Thor thriller (The Athena Project), a book on “spiritual warfare” (The Adversary), a book about current events (The Singularity is Near), and a couple biographies, both inspired by the two historical homes we just visited: Sacred Fire (George Washington) and The Fool of God (Alexander Campbell).

(Note: The interesting thing is, the last book there is one from my Bible college days, that I would be interested to read again. My interest was piqued again as it seems the Restoration Movement (in which Campbell played a major role) also apparently had a major impact on Thomas Jefferson… there’s the tie-in to our recent historical homes visits!)

So, it’s quite an assortment, I think. One thing that means more to me than to anyone of you who might be reading this is that many of the books were recommended by a friend here and there, so as I see and/or read the book, I am reminded of my friendship with that person. Bonus!

I hope your reading shelf is well-stocked currently. Take a moment and notice the story that it tells of you and the life you’ve lived so far. It really is quite interesting!

(PS, you can see many of the covers of these titles rotating in the right sidebar… for the full list of books I’m reading, planning to read, and have recently finished, stop by my library page.)

Mortimer The Frog

Several years ago, I thought I’d try my hand at writing a few children’s tales. I had some ideas and just went for it. Some were your typical light and fluffy kid fare, others were more moral-of-the-story kind of tales, and also a bit lengthy.

Then there was Mortimer The Frog.

I just remembered these stories this week, and then read it to our two youngest tonight before bed. They actually really enjoyed it (though they wished there were pictures to go along with it). It kept their attention, and I loved hearing their thoughts after it was over 🙂

So, making its public debut here at GregsHead.net … Mortimer The Frog:


Mortimer The Frog

On a day like this, the bog is the best place to be. Everything is so quiet and still, all that you hear are the tiny bugs flying lazily from place to place before they land right in a hungry frog’s belly. Yes, the life of a frog is really quite good.

But sometimes, even the best frogs make mistakes. And sometimes those mistakes hurt! That’s what happened to Mortimer. We’ll call him Mort, for short.

Mortimer was the oldest of three little froglets. He had a younger Brother Frog and a younger Sister Frog. They all lived in the bog together, enjoying the quiet and eating as many bugs as they could catch with their nice long tongues.

But Mort felt like he wanted to do more. He liked his life with his Mom Frog and his Dad Frog, and his Brother and Sister Frogs, but sometimes he wished his Mom Frog or his Dad Frog wouldn’t always tell him what not to do. They always had something to say to him like, “Mort, don’t jump on those flowers!” or, “Mort, don’t go too far from the bog!” or, “Watch out, Mort! That is a slippery log!”

Mort got tired of always listening to his Mom Frog and his Dad Frog. He was tired of being a good example for his baby Brother and Sister Frogs. So one day, he decided to see what would happen if he didn’t listen to what his Mom Frog had said.

“Don’t go past that log over there, Mort. You need to stay on this side of the log in the bog.”

All Mort could think about after his Mom Frog said that was what might be on the other side of that log? What could it be that worried his Mom Frog so? It couldn’t be that bad, now could it?

When Mom Frog was tending to the other froglets, Mort took a chance and hopped as quietly as he could over to the log.

Flop-Plop. Flop-Plop.

It was a big log. It was covered with slippery moss. It was even hollow to explore on the end. It looked like a lot of fun to Mort! What could be so dangerous?

So Mort poked his head in the log and found some delicious looking bugs crawling around. With a few swift shots of his tongue, he found himself a nice afternoon snack! This was the life! Out on his own, doing what he wanted, eating bugs no one else knew about… what more could a young frog want?

After he had explored every nook and cranny of that hollowed out log, he hopped outside again and thought, “I wonder what is on the other side of this log? It couldn’t be the bad now, could it?”

Once again, he decided that his Mom Frog must be thinking about something else. This all seems so good and so fun! He knew she loved him, so she would want him to have fun. “She just didn’t know that the log was perfectly fine!” Mort thought, “There’s no danger here! I’ll hop around the other side and tell her all about it when I get back! She’ll be so happy for all the fun that I have had!”

So on he hopped. Past the corner of the hollowed out log. Past the confines of their quaint little bog. No one there, just Mortimer Frog.

Just then he heard a strange voice say, “Hellooo there! What a surprise to see such a nice young frog on this side of the log outside of the bog!”

When Mort turned around, he saw a big friendly snake, wearing a grin.

“My Mom Frog told me I shouldn’t go out here, but it seemed to me to be not only safe, but great fun as well! And I know my Mom Frog wants me to have fun…” Mort said it almost as though he was convincing himself that he was right.

“Oh yessss,” came the happy snake’s reply. “Mom Frogs sometimes just don’t know what’s on the other side of the log outside the bog. If they knew, they would definitely want their young frogs to be out here having fun! That’s what we do on this side of the log!”

“I can see! I have had so many delicious bugs, and explored places I never knew were there! What a great day!”

“And all because you decided for yourself, and went your own way, instead of listening to your Mom Frog, and what she had to say,” offered the sly snake.

“Why don’t you come over here and let me show you some more fun things on this side of the log?” invited the still grinning snake.

“Sure!” said Mort. He was so excited about his adventures on his own, he wasn’t even thinking at all about what his Mom Frog had warned about going past the log outside the bog.

The snake went down the hill a bit, past another log, “It’s not far now,” he said, and stopped at the edge of a big rock.

“Come over here, there’s something I want to show you.” said the snake, with his wide, scaly grin.

Mort happily hopped to the edge of the rock. He was so free! His choices were his own! His Mom Frog and Dad Frog would be so proud when he got home!

But as Mort reached the edge of that rock past the log that was outside the bog, he learned the reason his Mom Frog had said, “Don’t go past that log over there, Mort. You need to stay on this side of the log in the bog.”

Mort did not know what his Mom Frog had known. Outside the bog, on the other side of the log, are the snakes. Snakes who eat frogs.

The snake still wore his grin, as he slithered away. He had a belly full of Frog that day. That sly snake was mighty happy the day that Mortimer Frog decided to do things his way!

Pure, (Truly) Awesome Creativity

We use the word “awesome” far too often in our culture. That sounds like something you’ve heard your grandpa say, or your great-grandpa. (Or his grandpa…) We assign it to anything and everything: sporting events or just a moment in said event, a movie, a meal, and pretty much anything that may happen in the course of a normal day.

But today, as I was reading Genesis chapter one, the first word that came to mind was “awesome”.

Jen and I are going to try to read through the Bible together in 90 days (using YouVersion.com‘s Bible in 90 Days plan). We just wanted to ingest Scripture again, not in small chunks, but in its entirety. Might be aggressive with all the other reading we enjoy doing (have you seen my “currently reading” list in the right sidebar of this website??), as well as the daily to-dos with work and family…

But it seems it will worth the extra effort. And there already has been a “wow” (“awesome”) moment.

(Not that there will be those every time, nor that such moments are the reason for such an undertaking. But… it was kinda neat, so I am sharing.)

Two things struck me about Genesis 1. First, in the New Living Translation, the phrase they used for “and it was so” was, “And that is what happened.” It made me chuckle out loud the third time I read it. So matter-of-fact: And that is what happened. Period. I love that the reality is, God spoke it, and that is what happened. Certainly something I’ve seen, noticed, considered before… but somehow I was struck this time with the simplicity of it.

Which led me to the second point: the account is incredibly simple, but the actual result is so complex what we have learned about the processes behind the operation of the universe in the subsequent millennia completely blows us away.

And I thought, God merely spoke a simple command, like, “Let there be lights in the sky” and “that is what happened.” The enormous complexity down to the quantum level and the vastness of the “lights in the sky”… all from a couple sentences.

The sheer power of this Creative Being created that vastness, that complexity, by only speaking a few words.

We would take years and years of planning and testing and building (and failing) until we had something pretty close to good. God spoke our entire universe—reality itself—into its intricately complex and ridiculously vast existence in six days.

We can argue about what a “day” is, or if God used “evolution” to create everything… or if he made things and let the process work itself to what we know in modern/recorded history. Certainly he placed adaptive capabilities into all that we know as life (and even other processes) on our planet and beyond.

But evident to me today was the unfathomable power of creativity that couldn’t help but produce greatness… seemingly without any effort whatsoever.

Awesome.

Amazing. Beyond words.

And that is what happened.

[RCS] Amazon Prime

Welcome to another edition of RCS:

Really Cool Stuff!

Being readers, it makes sense that we are big fans of Amazon.com. (Remember when they just sold books?)

Over the years Amazon has kept improving their amazing collection of books (both sold from their warehouses, and links to seemingly thousands upon thousands of booksellers around the world) and along the way added so many other items. It’s really the first place we look for just about anything we plan to purchase: books, appliances, food, diapers, computer hardware and software, music, videos… really, nearly everything.

About a year ago, Jen discovered Amazon Mom, where she found so many great deals on the things we need for our youngest ones (like diapers, wipes, pull-ups, and more). She then discovered that you could save even more over the already better-than-most-places Amazon price by setting up a Subscription to these items. Since we already purchase these anyway, it was a no-brainer. We subscribed!

As a bonus last year (not sure if they still do it), Subscriptions to these Amazon Mom store products you’d receive one free month of Amazon Prime service. If you haven’t heard of it—and you’re an Amazon user—then you’re missing out! (Plus, you’re either an infrequent user of Amazon, or you really don’t pay attention to anything on their site…) 😉

Well, Jen figured out a way to get that monthly service extended to the maximum 12-month offer. So, we had free shipping on every order for a year! That definitely spoils you!

Once that year expired, we debated whether or not to spend the $79/year to reinstate our Prime membership. We decided to let it slide, and save the $79.

It didn’t take us long to decide we wanted to go back!

We love the free shipping option. It’s 2-day shipping, too, not just a super economy shipping option. Also, Prime members can get next-day shipping for $3.99/item. We purchased a fairly large, heavy item when we reinstated our Prime membership and it was shipped to us for free!

Neat! 🙂

Amazon almost sold me on purchasing an Amazon Prime membership and a Kindle when they announced this: the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.

At first glance, I really thought this was the idea I’ve had for a while: a library system with the catalog of (someone like) Amazon.com. Nearly every book, available for purchase or to borrow.

We love our library system. It’s dozens of libraries offering their catalog of books as one joint collection that we can easily browse and borrow—and all from our “home” library! So great! But even with the number of libraries involved, there are frequently books (or videos, audiobooks, and other media) that they do not have. (There are SO many books!)

So what if they had more resources? What if the pool of books and lenders was larger.

What if the books were delivered electronically!??!

Kinda like Netflix meets Amazon, for books.

I really thought they had it, but the fine print convinced me to hold off on my Kindle purchase for a while longer. Unfortunately, for your $79/year you can only borrow one book per month. Bummer. The way I read, I’m usually reading about 10 books in any given month!

That slight disappointment aside, we can still wholeheartedly recommend Amazon Prime membership. We love it! Jen loves the speedy FREE shipping. I’ve been using the free streaming video service. They have quite a large selection of streaming video that is free for Prime members. (We even found Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood! You might find it odd to place an exclamation point at the end of that previous sentence, but we’ve been looking for that everywhere for a long time, and it’s harder to find than you’d think!!)

So if you’ve really not looked into it, we do highly recommend that you do.


Full disclosure: Because I am an Amazon Associate, links to Amazon (with my user ID in them) will generate a commission for me, if you make a purchase at Amazon after clicking the link. (That’s true of any link on this site to Amazon.) BUT, Amazon is in no (other) way compensating me for this glowing review of their awesome Prime membership program. 🙂

Always Be Thankful

“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

I have recently been reminded of the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I read the first half or so, and then it got buried under many other reads over the past months, nearing a year.

Jen loves her blog, and last year (maybe even more than a year?) purchased Ann’s book and connected deeply with the themes developed within its pages. She quoted much of the book to me in small snippets as she read it. Then she suggested I read it—or, maybe I even just wanted to on my own, both on her somewhat “unspoken” recommendation and because since Jen so identified with it, I knew I’d find some more of my wife’s heart in those pages.

And I did. And the book was saying what we needed to hear—probably what we all always need to hear.

Be thankful. Always.

The scripture quoted above is from Colossians 3:15. Definitely one of the books of the Bible that most resonates with me. I quote often from it. I have several songs that are based on truths Paul shared in his letter to the Colossian Christians. So much great truth found in those few pages.

These couple of verses have been meaningful recently as we have really needed peace. And he has given it. Deep peace. But it’s meaningful beyond the more difficult times of life, even in the ordinary. Especially for a large family with many youngsters like ours. “You are called to live in peace.” Yes, children… you are. And sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. But the source of peace—inner and outer—is obvious from the first sentence. It’s Jesus. When his peace rules in our hearts, then it overflows to the people in our family—whether by blood or by spiritual family connection.

But one of the shortest sentences from the whole letter might be most meaningful to our lives.

And always be thankful.

Sounds like an afterthought. “Oh yeah… don’t forget…” But it’s somehow the foundation of our joy, our happiness, our Life. So much junk in life: our own, our family members’, junk from other people around us, and just the junk that is beyond anyone’s control. But somehow—when we can transcend the hurt, often by a simple trust in the person most worthy of trust—we can even be grateful for the junk.

Jen read a story for us recently from another book she just finished (The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom) which was also about “always be[ing] thankful”. In summary, while detained by German soldiers in a flea-infested and otherwise nearly uninhabitable room, Corrie’s sister discovered the key to the Life God wanted for them was to be thankful—for everything. That meant even the fleas. Corrie reluctantly agreed to be thankful for all things, even the ones that seemed to have absolutely no value at all.

Much later, looking back on everything, they realized (or learned?) that the guards had left them almost entirely to themselves because of the fleas! They were able to pray, have and read from their Bible, and have many freedoms they might not have otherwise had… because of the fleas. And they lived life a bit more fully because they were thankful for something that seemed only awful, even without knowing how it could be used for good.

Now several days later, at bedtime, after a day with some hard things in it, I decided to ask the girls to share some things they liked about the day, and some things that were hard or sad from the day. They came up with both fairly easily, with only slightly more thought put into choosing the one thing they found most difficult from the day just lived. Once we all had shared our favorite and maybe least favorite moments from the day I said, “OK, now let’s tell God how we are thankful for those things.”

I started out with the good, and then repeated back the things that each of us had highlighted as our difficult or bad thing from the day. When I got to Julia’s she was surprised that I strung together “thank you” and her bad part of the day. I smiled at her and asked if she remembered the flea story that Mom told earlier. A light of recognition flashed in her eyes and she said, “Oh yeah! Like the fleas! They were bad, but then they kept the soldiers away so they could pray!”

Yes! Like the fleas!

And so we continued, thankful even for the harder parts of the day. And sleep came quickly, and peacefully.

They are not magic words, that somehow make us cheery and unnaturally full of joy despite current circumstances. But it is a somewhat magic truth. When we can implement them, like the Ten Booms, we can know peace. And even joy.

And thankfulness.

Ann Voskamp uses the refrain Eucharisteo in her book. The Greek “give thanks”. The words, the idea–but even more, the action—have power. A power to give us life, from the One who is Life.

It comes from our perspective. Thankfulness gets the focus off of us, and onto him. He is the source of our Life, and hope, and every good thing. (Even when we can’t yet see goodness.)

That’s not to say there isn’t still junk. Or that some junk is just plain bad.

But always be thankful. That’s the succinct afterthought from Paul’s email to new believers that can still bring us much more of the life Jesus wants for us to live. One where we see goodness in the craziest places. Even where it doesn’t seem good, or isn’t good. We have hope, and we trust his goodness.

And we can always be thankful.

The Reading Chair Beckons

All day I have been thinking, I would like to sit down and write this article, or that one; things I have had knocking around in my brain and at least partly begun as drafts. But somehow almost immediately after I’ve had that thought another quickly replaces it: It’s really time to read!

I have found that sometimes it’s necessary to either read more or write more, rather than attempt to find a balance between the two. Sometimes one begets the other. (Especially perhaps writing flowing from reading.) Either way, I’ve found today that my spirit is definitely leaning toward importing rather than exporting.

So today’s post will be short—in fact, it’s nearly over—since my reading chair beckons.

Current reads are always showing in the far right sidebar, but what has particularly captured my interest lately are The Original Argument (a modern translation of the Federalist Papers by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay) and related, Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism by Ronald J. Pestritto, as well as a thriller by Brad Thor, The First Commandment. On top of that we’re reading together as a family an inspirational little book titled The Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright, and the boys and I are working our way through Fellowship of the Ring by Tolkien as well as Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band by Louis Rhead (for a book club with Ian).

As I’ve mentioned before, if you’d like to read along, please stop by the Library page to see what’s currently being read and what’s in the queue (and what’s recently finished). Feel free to add your thoughts and/or recommendations!

For now… my reading chair awaits.

My Vice?

Everyone has a vice. Something they just can’t say “No” to, no matter how hard they try. If it’s a true vice, not only can we not say “No”, often we don’t even want to refuse to indulge ourselves in this pleasure that holds such sway over our will.

Mine… is books.

I just can’t get enough books. In the past year I’ve re-discovered two sources to feed my vice: Goodwill1 and library book sales.

(Throw in Amazon2 and our library system, and I’m either in heaven… or I’m “toast”… depending on your point of view?)

If you’ve ever visited this website, then you know of my penchant for books. I feature the ones I am currently reading with a nice little rotating display in the far right sidebar, and if you scroll down you’ll see ones I plan to read, and ones recently completed (or you can just go to the full library to see them all). I also am often referencing a book I’ve read, or hope to read.

I really like books.

I was telling Jen the other day that they just make me happy. Sometimes they make me sad—like, when I see a book I’d really like to read but any number of other things is keeping me from it… that makes me sad. But usually, most often, the sight of these hardbound, softbound, and sometimes poorly-bound books of all shapes and sizes and genres brings a smile to my face and these words to my lips: “Oh yeah! I can’t wait to read that one!”

I enjoy many different genres. It’s funny… when I was a young boy, I think I read mostly fiction. Ones I can recall include The Cricket in Times Square, The Sign of the Beaver, Stuart Little, The Black Stallion and many more.

But as I got a bit older, I began to shun works of fiction for the more noble non-fiction. I enjoyed books about science most (particularly astronomy, but anything in nature) and some history as well.

It really did become a “thing” with me, to where I considered any fiction a waste of time—even into my adult years. At that point I was reading books on life with Jesus, Christian history, and other theological books as well. Fiction was OK… but… it was not what I wanted to spend my time on.

I’m not entirely sure what swung me back around. It could be audiobooks (specifically Audible.com!), or maybe the Frank Peretti novel(s) that Jen and I read together when we were first married3, or perhaps just a really meaningful work of fiction (two that were connected to Wayne Jacobsen, an author/speaker we’d met and connected with: So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore?, and The Shack come to mind)…

I’m really quite unsure. But it happened. Then, over the past couple years I have really been exploring that genre. Reading historical fiction and fantasy books with my boys (Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia! Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and a new series by Ted Bell, The Nick MacIver Series) and then thrillers by Brads Thor and Meltzer, as well as classics like Dune, and Catch-22. (The latter I’ve yet to finish as it made my head swim a bit… but was highly recommended by a good friend.) 🙂

BOOKS! Oh man, I love them!

I am frequently paying library fines (usually just a few cents, maybe dollars) because I have way too many checked out, and I’m always in-progress on at least ten different books! Ha!

If there’s one thing I can’t say no to, it’s definitely books.

I guess I don’t even want to try!


1 I can’t remember—or even imagine—a post with more outbound links than this one! If you click them all… you win! 🙂

2 And now, with Amazon Prime ($79/year), you get free 2-day shipping on any order, no minimums, and next-day shipping for $3.99/item. Neat!

3 On our honeymoon, we drove down to South Carolina from New York, and for the entire trip, Jen rode shotgun and read aloud the book The Oath by Frank Peretti. It was a fun experience; definitely a great memory from a great two weeks. Started our marriage off right: reading! 🙂