"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Disguised Blessings...

... are the best blessings.
        I must confess; Only this morning, while my mind wasn't occupied with dressing for the day(which idling condition was my mental state while getting dressed), I realized one of the great blessings in my life. My bride Nancy had just bruised my feelings by expressing a relatively innocuous sentiment with excessive vehemence. So there I was, donning my socks and shoes while licking my wounded pride, when a surprising thought donned upon me as well: Through her chronic impatience, my Father refines the love He has given me for her. My prayer, in fact, has for the past ten years been for His love to flow through me to Nancy, and that I might express that pure love through demonstrating the fruit of His Spirit in greater portions.         Now don't judge Nancy at all harshly for her occasional harshness toward me. With all the issues heaped on her plate, it's a wonder she can be civil at all. Losing her sight, her hearing and her mobility, all at about the same rate, her life is filled with frustration. And my occasional, extreme maleness(translated, thoughtless, self-centered) exacerbates that not a little. The truth is, she is a most delightful person to be around.
"Thanks, God, I needed that."
        My natural temperament makes me overly sensitive to perceived sleights and confrontations. When I say "overly," I mean positively phobic. That weakness has cost me a number of jobs that could have become careers, and a marriage that should have been for life. My typical reaction to any perceived confrontational threat is to retreat into my comfortable, passive-aggressive mode. Passive-aggression is a nuclear torpedo, destined to not explode, not sink, but to vaporize relationships—whether professional, personal, or otherwise.
        By God's providential act of mating me with women who tend to be confrontational, He has demonstrated to me the degree of His love, and his desire that I should be conformed to the image of His Son. Yeshua was, after all, anything but passive-aggressive.
        To paraphrase a Scripture verse, "Greater love hath no man than this; that he lay down his temperamental glitches for his wife." The first time I failed miserably, to change for a lovely woman who just happened to rub me the wrong way(that is, God's right way). Now I hope and pray to do better, by allowing God to use another lovely woman to make me more like His Son.
        So, God has ripped the disguise from my greatest blessings and shown them for what they are; His infinite love, and His work in my life to make me better ... infinitely better ... eventually.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Sword by Bryan M. Litfin

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Sword
Crossway Books (April 30, 2010)
Bryan M. Litfin
BUT FIRST, A WORD FROM OUR BLOGGER: What would a post-Christian, pagan world do with God's word, if found with no prior conditioning, tradition or dogma as preparation? The fictional kingdom of Chiveis is about to demonstrate one possible scenario.
Bryan Litfin takes a fresh approach to God's word, "The Sword," of this so titled novel. And he does it with an admirable detachment from the Judeo-Christian cultural immersion we take for granted. He presents snippets from the Bible, but in a refreshing translation of his own crafting, free of the religious coloration that imbues today's popular Scripture translations. Litfin presents the simple, God-breathed faith as the natural outgrowth of unprejudiced exposure to the God-breathed Scripture. As the Bible Teofil and Ana discovered contained only the Old Covenant, they and a small community of "Deu" worshipers somehow leap to a Messianic-style understanding of and love for the "All-Creator" revealed there. As for Litfin's writing style and the characters' voice, this blogger found relatively little to nit-pick about. His prose flows naturally, drawing the reader along with none of the fatigue that plagues readers of less worthy historical narrative. My only criticism is the persistent, contemporary idiomatic English the characters use, where I would expect their dialog to reflect the more formal style characteristic of a translation from a Germanic tongue into English. But that "fault" might truly be considered a benefit for those readers more comfortable with contemporary-style dialog. In contrast to that minor stylistic issue, the author presented the protagonists' growth in faith authentically and with great sensitivity. Even their lapses into doubt smack of the cruel reality of human weakness. And don't expect the author to soft-pedal Chiveis' pagan cruelty and lust. Litfin succeeded in presenting the ugliness of debased humanity with an inoffensive sensitivity and tact, without trivializing its evil.
Compared to the garden-variety fantasy we've come to expect from such epoch, other-worldly fiction, The Sword steadfastly refuses to exploit magic and sorcery for its supernatural appeal. Instead, it presents the wonder and majesty of the Eternal One's work through fallible human beings' simple faith.
I highly recommend Litfin's Chiveis Trilogy as a faith-challenging, spirit-uplifting journey into a world that, should the Lord tarry, might just be. ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bryan Litfin was born in Dallas, but lived in Memphis, Tennessee and Oxford, England, where he discovered that the house of his favorite author, J.R.R. Tolkien, was only five doors down from his own. Bryan still enjoys epic adventure stories, as well as historical fiction. However, most of his reading these days is taken up by academia. After marrying his high school sweetheart, Carolyn (a true Southern belle), he went on to study for a master’s degree in historical theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. From there he went to the University of Virginia, taking a PhD in the field of ancient church history. He is the author of Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction (Brazos, 2007), as well as several scholarly articles and essays. In 2002, Bryan took a position on the faculty at Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago, where he is a professor in the Theology Department. He teaches courses in theology, church history, and Western civilization from the ancient and medieval periods. On the morning of January 6, 2007, Bryan woke up with an epiphany. Having finished writing his primer on the ancient church, he had the idea of trying his hand at fiction. The thought occurred to him that the writer of speculative fiction typically has two options. He can create an imaginary land like Middle Earth (which offers great creative freedom but is unrealistic), or he can delve into genuine history (which is realistic, yet limted to what ‘actually occurred.’) However, if a writer were to create a future world as in the Chiveis trilogy, it could be both realistic and creatively unlimited. This little dream stayed in Bryan’s mind while he researched how to write fiction, and also researched the European landscape where the novel would be set. He planned a trip to the story locations, then went there in the summer with a buddy from grad school. Bryan and Jeff rented a Beemer and drove all over Europe from the Alps to the Black Forest with a video camera in hand. With that epic setting fresh in his mind, Bryan returned home and began to write. Today Bryan lives in downtown Wheaton in a Victorian house built in 1887. He is blessed by God to be married to Carolyn, and to be the father of two amazing children, William, 11, and Anna, 9. For recreation Bryan enjoys basketball, traveling, and hiking anywhere there are mountains (which means getting far away from the Midwest – preferably to his beloved Smokies). ABOUT THE BOOK
This novel of page-turning action and adventure poses the question, "If a society had no knowledge of Christianity, and then a Bible were discovered, what would happen?" Four hundred years after a deadly virus and nuclear war destroyed the modern world, a new and noble civilization emerges. In this kingdom, called Chiveis, snowcapped mountains provide protection, and fields and livestock provide food. The people live medieval-style lives, with almost no knowledge of the "ancient" world. Safe in their natural stronghold, the Chiveisi have everything they need, even their own religion. Christianity has been forgotten—until a young army scout comes across a strange book. With that discovery, this work of speculative fiction takes readers on a journey that encompasses adventure, romance, and the revelation of the one true God. Through compelling narrative and powerful character development, The Sword speaks to God's goodness, his refusal to tolerate sin, man's need to bow before him, and the eternality and power of his Word. Fantasy and adventure readers will be hooked by this first book in a forthcoming trilogy. Visit the book website at The Sword to see amazing videos and a wealth of information about the trilogy! If you would like to read the first chapter of The Sword, go to HERE

Thursday, April 08, 2010

She Walks In Beauty by Siri Mitchell

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
She Walks in Beauty
Bethany House (April 2010)
Siri Mitchell
FIRST, A WORD FROM OUR BLOGGER: Sarah Carter, a doctor's daughter, shouldn't have even come close to contending for New York's Most Eligible Bachelor. But Sara's debut on the High Society scene created an unprecedented social splash. That is, until she began asking herself, "Why?"
Siri Mitchell's fluid writing style, delightful voice and authentic characterizations captured this blogger's interest in the most unlikely subject ever to do such: High Society's high stakes, big game hunt through Fifth Avenue's most elite residences, concert halls, restaurants and ballrooms. Her subtle humor, insight, and ingenious story-telling made what might have been just another tedious, High Society romance novel into the compelling exploration into humanity that it is. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Siri Mitchell graduated from the University of Washington with a business degree and worked in various levels of government. As a military spouse, she has lived all over the world, including in Paris and Tokyo. Siri enjoys observing and learning from different cultures. She is fluent in French and loves sushi. But she is also a member of a strange breed of people called novelists. When they’re listening to a sermon and taking notes, chances are, they’ve just had a great idea for a plot or a dialogue. If they nod in response to a really profound statement, they’re probably thinking, “Yes. Right. That’s exactly what my character needs to hear.” When they edit their manuscripts, they laugh at the funny parts. And cry at the sad parts. Sometimes they even talk to their characters. Siri wrote 4 books and accumulated 153 rejections before signing with a publisher. In the process, she saw the bottoms of more pints of Ben & Jerry’s than she cares to admit. At various times she has vowed never to write another word again. Ever. She has gone on writing strikes and even stooped to threatening her manuscripts with the shredder.
For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor. Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling. Yet Clara soon wonders if this is the life she really wants. Especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries. When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her marriage at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game. If you would like to read the first chapter of She Walks in Beauty, go HERE.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Good Friday

        Yes, the time of year for bunnies and eggs—chocolate bunnies and candy eggs—has arrived. Yet, regardless how "good" this Friday is in our eyes, think of what it was like for Yeshua the Nazarene.         Yes, he goaded the Jewish religious authorities into having him crucified to fulfill prophesy. Yes, he voluntarily forsook his eternal, divine prerogative, exchanging all that for the disgrace of the cross. Yes, he defeated death and the grave, providing the model for our eternal salvation.         But no, I will not dishonor his infinite sacrifice by worshiping him before a crucifix. How could I? Yeshua only hung on the cross for six hours—six of the longest, most excruciating hours anyone ever endured—but his physical agony was but a mosqueto-bite compared to the painful load of sin-guilt he bore in our place.         Then, after he finally died, his friends removed the iron spikes affixing him to the cross, gently lowered him to the blood-soaked earth, and entombed him in a borrowed sepulchre. Was that the end of Yeshua the Nazarene? Of course not; Sonday is coming!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Holding it Together

Most folks find holding themselves together hard enough: their lives, their circumstances, even their emotions. What must it be like to literally hold stuff together? Take a glob of mercury. Drop it on a flat surface and it seems to take off in every direction at once. Just try to gather it all up!

Science tells us of an unknown force that holds all matter together. “It must be there,” scientists say. They've even proposed a few arcane theories to explain why neutrons fail to escape unstable atoms without some help from a Superconducting Super Collider. An article at Discovering the Quantum Universe presents a conundrum theoretical physicists are facing due to a new generation of instrumentation:

Unification, extra dimensions and string theory all imply the existence of new forces of nature. The detection at the LHC(Large Hadron Collider) of a new heavy particle called a Z-prime would mean the discovery of just such a new force. This would raise compelling questions: What kind of force is this? Why is it there? Does the new force unify with the other known forces at ultrahigh energies? Is the Z-prime particle a traveler in one or more extra spatial dimensions?

They've discovered a “new force?” So it didn't exist just a few short years ago. Yeah, right. All that science stuff sounds impressive, but it's Greek to laymen. Fact is, science doesn't really know what questions to ask and what direction to go in its research. Ironic, isn't it, that as science's big brains claim to have answers to al the fundamental questions of Natureeffectively eliminating any need to explain existence in terms of the supernaturaluntil the most basic question of all finally grabbed their attention: What holds it all together?

Colossians 1:16-17 (ESV) tells us, For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. (17) And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Mystery solved! The Answer was there all the time, but will “natural” scientists admit it? The saying goes, “The Truth will set you free.” The source of that wisdom is the Bible, So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."(John 8:31-32 ESV) Tragically, that Truth applies only to those few who admit the eternal, self-existent God's supremacy over the universe, and themselves. All others will never find the only true freedom: the freedom to think outside the box of naturalism, the freedom to enjoy the fruit of holy living, the freedom to live without the specter of perdition held over our heads by a single heartbeat.

The God who created the universe and holds it together is waiting to take former skeptics into the palm of His hand.