Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Keller on Lewis on Humility

This is a pretty good piece from Tim Keller in Christianity Today, even without the frequent Lewis quotes. An excerpt:

We are on slippery ground because humility cannot be attained directly. Once we become aware of the poison of pride, we begin to notice it all around us. We hear it in the sarcastic, snarky voices in newspaper columns and weblogs. We see it in civic, cultural, and business leaders who never admit weakness or failure. We see it in our neighbors and some friends with their jealousy, self-pity, and boasting.

And so we vow not to talk or act like that. If we then notice "a humble turn of mind" in ourselves, we immediately become smug—but that is pride in our humility. If we catch ourselves doing that we will be particularly impressed with how nuanced and subtle we have become. Humility is so shy. If you begin talking about it, it leaves. To even ask the question, "Am I humble?" is to not be so. Examining your own heart, even for pride, often leads to being proud about your diligence and circumspection.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas a Pagan Holiday? Bah, Humbug!
Justin Taylor links to this good and common sense from R.C. Sproul. Here's a taste:
Sure, Christmas is a time of commerce. The department stores are decorated to the hilt, the ad pages of the newspapers swell in size, and we tick off the number of shopping days left until Christmas. But why all the commerce? The high degree of commerce at Christmas is driven by one thing: the buying of gifts for others. To present our friends and families with gifts is not an ugly, ignoble vice. It incarnates the amorphous "spirit of Christmas." The tradition rests ultimately on the supreme gift God has given the world. God so loved the world, the Bible says, that He gave His only begotten Son. The giving of gifts is a marvelous response to the receiving of such a gift. For one day a year at least, we taste the sweetness inherent in the truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Fun With Facebook Ads
Yeah, me too. I'm so sick of all those Latin Christmas albums out there performed by fake clergymen.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

That Sound of Rustling Pages
you hear all across America is some of us thumbing through our newer Tim LaHaye prophecy library and even our old dusty Hal Lindsey Late-Great books. Read this.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Old Books and New Ideas

I've added a new label representing a theme I'm fond of, "Old Books." It seems that at almost any given time I've got at least one in the stack by the fireplace that I'm working my way through. Sometimes I buy new editions of old books, but the real prize is always the old edition, as close to the 1st Edition as possible.

My most recent finds in the second category happened at a local library book sale a couple of weeks ago. Big room full of old books, grocery bag full: $5.00. What a deal. So I loaded up an over-sized 1880's 3-volume set of Washington Irving (haven't read anything in them yet, just enjoy looking at them with their beautiful embossing and engraved illustrations), and among a half-dozen others, a copy of E. Stanley Jones The Christ of the Indian Road c. 1925. That one is fascinating in the Theological category and will merit a later post.

A lot of the old books around me right now are, predictably, Chesterton books. Now an official member of the American Chesterton Society, I find my self prepping for the monthly discussion group with whatever piece of his work is on the agenda.

Today's first old book is one of them, and one that led me straight to the second, a truly old classic by Henry James—picked up at some long-forgotten garage or book sale and languishing on my shelf until recently.

1. Tremendous Trifles by G.K. Chesterton 1909

GKC inquirers, start here! This excellent collection (download here) of short articles from the London Illustrated News captures the essence of Chesterton. On the idea of Seeing, particularly the smaller things of the world :
...the object of my school is to show how many extraordinary things even a lazy and ordinary man may see if he can spur himself to the single activity of seeing.
Everything is in an attitude of mind; and at this moment I am in a comfortable attitude. I will sit still and let the marvels and the adventures settle on me like flies. There are plenty of them, I assure you. The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.
The 39 essays that follow are funny, poignant and off the wall.

One not to miss: The Twelve Men—on how some things are just too important to leave to the experts.

Another: The Red Angel, in wonderful support of reading fairy tales and scary stories to kids. His one exception? My next old book...

2. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James 1898

James was a contemporary of GKC and brother of the "father of pragmatism," philosopher William James, a quirky fellow in his own right. Chesterton summarized Henry's effort:
It describes two innocent children gradually growing at once omniscient and half-witted under the influence of the foul ghosts of a groom and a governess. As I say, I doubt whether Mr. Henry James ought to have published it (no, it is not indecent, do not buy it; it is a spiritual matter)...
So, of course I had to read it. It's terrible. Not all old books are good books. My complaint is not about ghostliness, or preternatural terror, but that the author lead me on only to abandon me at the end. The reader feels the evil atmosphere but is left wondering: Were the horrors real or only in the mind of the narrator? Was the evil in the perceiving or that which was perceived? That may have been James' intent, and perhaps even his genius, I don't know. Like so much modern story-telling and unlike good fairy tales and good stories of terror, it ends without resolution or moral point of view. That's the reason, I suppose, for Chesterton's warning that it was a "spiritual matter."

On the plus side, my old-old copy is mint condition from the Everyman Library with dust jacket still intact!

Next old book: The Christ of the Indian Road by E. Stanley Jones, and old book with ideas that will appeal to some modern Christians and appall others. It did a little of both to me.

Monday, December 01, 2008

One of the Dumber Things I've Done
The first picture is what a standard trash bin looks like at my house.
The second shows what it looks like after somebody (me) puts ashes from the outdoor fire pit in it under the mistaken impression that there were no live coals remaining.
The third shows what happens to a cedar fence where a conflagration of this type takes place.
Not pictured, the three Dugan children at home while the arsonist was away, each playing a key role in averting greater disaster. Beth, who noticed the unusual glow above the fence gate and alerted Katie, who called us immediately while alerting Tim (the only Boy Scout in the house) who raced to the scene with an extinguisher and put it out.
Also not pictured, the wife exercising heroic restraint as she puts the best construction on it all and speaks to me with kindness and respect (refusing to ask the appropriate "what were you thinking" series of questions) gently suggesting possible venues where the purchase of a metal ash can might be accomplished. We're thinking Home Depot.