Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Top Posts - April

What They Like

So here are the posts that people read during the month of April. Below that is the all-time ranking for the life of the blog. Were you just like all the other people? Let me know about it in the comments section!


Jun 17, 2013, 2 comments

All-Time Posts

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Boring: Relationships & Social Media

"The trend [ease of communication and rise of Social Media] tells us that our human relationships are spreading wider as opposed to deeper." (Pg. 76)

Friends and Followers

This is a unique problem for this millenium. We have an incredible ability to connect, at a certain level, with hordes of people via social media as "friends" or "followers." But the problem with this ability has to do with that level of connection: it is superficial.

This is a well documented issue. Consider the problems highlighted in the following video:

Here were some of the main points that hit me in this video:
  • We're sacrificing conversation for connection.
  • We're expecting more from technology and less from each other.
  • We slip into thinking that always being connected is going to make us feel less alone.
  • If we are not able to be alone, we're only going to know how to be lonely.
Therefore, when a huge digital list of friends fails to prevent loneliness, we spiral into progressively deeper states of depression. And if you did not know, depression is a bit of a big deal...

Depression statistics infographic

Of course, Kelley's argument in the book is not that we need more friendships. He certainly is not railing against technology or social media. What he says is that we need to cultivate and cherish the friendships we currently have. We need to treat people with the respect we desire from them. Instead of heeding the call for a wider sphere of influence, we should be more concerned with a deeper sphere of influence.

This is something I personally struggle with as the author of a blog. (The one you are reading... I'm almost sure of it!) I want it to succeed, and I have seen an uptick in following. I want to see more engagement. I want to see my influence spread. But I should be more focused on content. I should create content that is sincere and honest and devoted to Christ. That will please him. If it pleases him, then it may please him to spread my influence. Yet, there is the possibility that it will not please him to spread my influence wider. I need to be OK with that.

We need to cherish our offline relationships a lot more than we do. Over the past few years I have made several friends on Twitter. It is very interesting to meet them offline. Everyone looks like a social butterfly online (except me, perhaps). But things change offline. Some people are the same online and offline, they are real. Others are clearly fakes and that is an awkward experience.

Let's buck the trend and focus more on our offline relationships than our online personas. Real connections are the only ones that matter anyway.
"Perhaps that lack of depth in relationships is why we treat our associations so casually. We trade relationships like baseball cards. When one isn't exciting or fulfilling enough to us, we cash it in and move on, whether that's in marriage, in membership to a church, or even in a run-of-the-mill friendship... Our relationships are meant for more. And the 'more' is meant to be found not in more exciting relationships, but right in the middle of the everyday ones we already have." (Pg. 77)
Michael Kelley
Boring: Finding an extraordinary God in an ordinary life

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Boring Quizzes [Give Away]

"What does it say to professors when their students flunk quizzes because they were so busy studying the Bible that they didn't have time to pick up their textbooks? Is God pleased by that kind of behavior?" (60-61)

Debate Class?

This is a nonsensical debate that occurs from time to time. What is the best way to be a light at the university? How 'bout you get to class on time, study and be one of the best students in class!

Michael Kelley describes his experience in college, where his father was a professor. Students used to have a big worship bonanza every Thursday night, which is a great positive thing. Since the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy, this type of development is usually viewed as a triumph for Jesus and the Church. They may take away formal prayer in schools, but we can get a grassroots movement together and stick it to The Man!

However, Kelley's dad didn't see things that way. He noticed that class attendance declined on Friday mornings. Further, these students who participated in late-night worship and missed class also performed poorly on quizzes and their grades suffered in class. Now, is that a good witness? Nope.

Be faithful in whatever you are doing: it's not exactly a thrilling commission. But it is what we are called to do. For disciples, this is included in their name: discipline. The Lord says you are to die to yourself (and the things that please you) in order to be faithful to your daily routine as unto The Lord. Michael Kelley says it like this:
"For disciples, following Jesus is both an exit and an entrance; an ending as well as a beginning. They charge off, not knowing exactly what the future entails, but knowing that whatever it is they'll follow Jesus into it. That's how all of us started our life with Christ. And it's a commitment that we renew day after day, moment by moment." (Pg. 63)
Michael Kelley
Boring: Finding an extraordinary God in an ordinary life

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: Boring [GIVE AWAY]


Boring: Finding an extraordinary God in an ordinary life
Michael Kelley

As mentioned in last night's posts both here and on my Read Books blog, I was given two (2) copies of this book. One for my own reading and reviewing pleasure and one to give to anyone I want. So I have decided to read this book, review it, and give it away to one of my *cough* faithful readers.

So, suffer through yet another boring book review and you will find out how to maximize your chances of winning this great book. Or, skip my review and scroll down to the final section entitled "Get it Free" to, you know, get the book for free.

Technical Merit

This book is 207 pages long, divided into eleven (11) chapters with an introduction and notes. It was an easy, two-day read. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars for technical merit. The book is great, it delves into some fantastic principles and applications that are needed in the church today. However, some of the syntax is a bit wonky. In addition, I found a few typos in the text. I understand this is as much a critique of the editor as the author, but this is a review of the book and that comes into play.

However, in the midst of the mundane, Michael Kelley does come through with several memorable moments. He is very good at laying a foundation and them summarizing his points with a poignant phrase. If you get stuck on one paragraph, keep reading with the confidence that he will rephrase his point, perhaps in a way that resonates with you. I know it did with me.


The introduction and the first four (4) chapters lay out the theoretical principle that God's will is to do something extraordinary through you in your normal life, even if He does not choose to put you in an extraordinary circumstance. The daily routines that we are accustomed to are the vehicles for His influence in this world. As Kelley states in the introduction:
What if God actually doesn't want you to escape from the ordinary, but to find significance and meaning inside of it. (5)
All too often, we seek to escape our boring lives. Often, it is when we seek to escape boredom that we end up in trouble. God placed us in this life for a reason. We are to glorify Him in all things. We are living in His redeemed creation. We have renewed purpose. We are children of the kingdom and should seize every opportunity that life affords us!

It's a good thing Michael Kelley spends the rest of the book on applications. He allows the reader into his own home and explains how to find the extraordinary in the following areas of our boring lives:
  1. Friends
  2. Marriage
  3. Parenting
  4. Finances
  5. Employment
  6. Church
While not everything Kelley writes is novel, there may be a surprise or two in these chapters. I plan to write a few posts next week that expounds a little on some of these topics. But in each of these areas, this final quote serves as a nice summation:
We are so bent on the exciting, that we might miss the small choices of faithfulness right in front of our eyes. Those choices might not be easy, but neither are they complicated. (203)


This is a nice little book that I heartily recommend to all my Christian friends. Michael Kelley is theologically sound and gives great practical advice. I will probably refer to these individual chapters for topical studies in the upcoming weeks. What does this mean for you? More chances to win a free copy!

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Boring (Book) Giveaway

Free Stuff

A short while ago I was asked to read, review and give away a copy of Boring: Finding an extraordinary God in an ordinary life by Michael Kelley. I finally finished it and scheduled a review post for tomorrow. But I couldn't wait to get the giveaway party started!

So here's the deal

I want you to do all the things this Rafflecopter thing tells you to do and then you'll get entries into this sweepstakes. Make sure you tell your friends about it so you can get some competition and I get exposure for my blog. Keep coming back throughout the week for more entries!

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Running in the Shade: A Good Friday Meditation

English: Sunshine into shade
English: Sunshine into shade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a runner.

This is not a description I would have assigned to myself 3 short years ago. It's not that I was exercise averse, I just didn't feel motivated enough to buck up and pound the pavement. Now, I am disappointed in myself if I run less than 10 miles a week and am not impressed with myself unless I exceed 20 in my week.

But this blog is about Holy Things, not fitness. So what am I getting at?

I believe in inspiration. I believe God speaks to us in mysterious ways. I especially believe that inspiration when least expected is most exquisite. Recently, while running, I encountered the following inspirational meditation.

What is shade?

I set out for a run one recent, hot Miami morning. I normally run in the evenings due to my schedule and inability to peel myself out of bed in the mornings, but this morning was different. I set out as the sun began to rise and it was already almost 80 degrees outside.

Being a native, I felt comfortable in the heat. However, there is no getting used to the brutal Miami sunshine.

As I continued my run, I felt myself melt. With each plodding step I groaned under the angry eye of Apollo, daring me to complete my goal. I brought no water with me, which magnified my intense desire for a sip. This was one epic training run!

By and by I crossed beneath a set of oak trees and noticed how cool it was there. Not only that, but I noticed a cool breeze that refreshed me and gave me the strength to press on. Yes, that short period of relief gave me the strength to continue training. At least, it gave me hope that I could continue running and find more shady groves.

I reflected on this phenomenon and asked myself this question: What is shade?

Think about it, What is shade anyways? Shade is nothing more than relief from the fiery heat of the sun. The flames are absorbed by leaves held aloft on branches and those who are under the canopy enjoy the coolness. Do you think I have exaggerated this definition? Ask yourself this question: What is the difference between shade and shadow?

Both shade and shadow are created by the same means. The sun, or some other light source, illuminates an object and the area surrounding it. The object in the foreground leaves a dark impression on the background which we refer to as either shadow or shade. However, there's a real difference in the way we feel about shade versus shadow.

Shade brings relief, comfort and pleasure. Shadow implies ambiguity, darkness and distortion. While these connotations may or may not reflect reality, these are the things that are typically associated with these terms.

As I considered the physical reality of the comforts of shade, my thoughts turned more celestial. Spiritually, we can find comfort in the person of our Lord. Listen to the Psalmist's words:
You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
—Psalm 63:7 NASB
As we conclude Easter week, let us move forward in remembrance of the significance of the historical events of last weekend. Good Friday, Silent Saturday and Easter Sunday—a cohesive series of events—came together like a massive campaign to overthrow the gates of hell and bring relief.

When it comes to shadow, and my meditation, I focused on the first wave of this campaign: Good Friday. You see, the fiery wrath of God also came down on a tree. A tree that as the song describes: Was the emblem of suffering and shame. A tree which bore his only begotten son. You may refer to this tree as the cross.

There, the crossbeams held up the hands of Jesus of Nazareth. Hands that healed the sick and lame. Hands that restored sight and hearing. Hands that fed the hungry and cared for the widow. Hands that directed the weather and turned tables over. These hands, like leaves on a branch, absorbed holy wrath intended for filthy sinners.

And so we escape his wrath while we are found under that tree. We are then under grace.

Let us never forget it.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Killing Tree (Music Post)

Good Friday

When meditating on Good Friday, my thoughts turned to this song. I feel that it does a superb job of expressing the sacrifice of Christ artistically. There is no way to find life but through death. The death of Christ and our death in the shadow of his cross. Please enjoy this song and contemplate it's message. I have included lyrics for your convenience.

The Killing Tree Lyrics

All alone in an evil dream I see myself up high
And it's me over you with my arms spread open wide
I try to run from the place I know that I can be set free
Come away come away there's a sweet voice calling me
To the killing tree

I look around at all the faces who are passing me
And I run try to run with nails in my feet
All the time I was building castles on a sandy beach
Leading you, leading you to a place I'd never been
To the killing tree
Come on

I know what you're asking me and I don't wanna give
'Cause it's safe and I know 'cause I've been here all these years
All the precious pain I hold without it there is fear
And I'm afraid when you say that you'll get me outta here
To the killing tree
Come on

Come away to a place of healing

So now I run to you and I move from night to day
For to live I must die and there's still no other way
I was alone in an evil dream but you took my place up high
Now it's you over me with your arms spread open wide
On the killing tree
Come on

© Paul Colman Trio (PC3)
New Map of the World

Thursday, April 17, 2014

God's Will for College

You had better not go to college unless you are absolutely sure that it is God's will.

A little context

The speaker—an inspirational and encouraging man—was making the point that we should be very careful when we make plans during this life. We should always have room for God's will when considering our future. I completely agree. Not only should we have room for God, we should give him the proverbial best room in the house! In fact, he has dibs on every room in the house and should be welcome to roost anywhere he pleases.

That being said, I have a few grave concerns about the implications of this statement if taken wholesale with no discernment. I do not like some of the things that may be inferred about a Christian's mentality, a Christian's activity and how God's will is manifested. Let it be known that I am not saying that the speaker came out and said this, he most likely would never have intended for these three inferences to be made. However, I have seen this mentality in Christendom and statements like the quote above seem to reinforce it...

Christians are anti-intellectual

I have covered this topic before. There is a huge backlash within Christendom against The University. Granted, this quote does not stop at You'd better not go to college, and it does not say that it is never God's will for a Christian to go to college. Remember, I'm reacting to potential outcomes of this statement. And this statement could provide fodder for anti-intellectual sentiments.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Christianity was the only light in the Dark Ages. Christians are behind many technological marvels and brilliant pieces of literature. There are many intellectuals who provide lucid apologetic literature for the faith. In fact, a mark of Christianity is excellence in all fields of study and employment because we are to do all things as unto the Lord. The sign of a good Christian is not incessant preaching, the sign of a good Christian is superb service—even in the classroom. They say that God can use the cart that's in motion, but not the one that's stagnant. While that statement begs to be qualified, it illustrates that the last thing a Christian should do is nothing...

Let's do nothing

Again, I know for a fact that the speaker did not want young people to get discouraged and do nothing. However, I know that sometimes believers contract a disease known as Paralysis-by-Analysis; classically, the patient over-analyzes their situation and ends up doing nothing because the uncertainty overwhelms them. Listen, most kids who are considering college are 17 or 18 years old. This is a time of growth, maturation and uncertainty. Heck, college took me 5 years to complete (the first time) and I went in as a biology major (certain to get go on for a PhD in Marine Biology) and left with a degree in English (certain to return for more education). If we were going to only do those things that we were absolutely sure are God's will, we'd do nothing but preach the gospel all day.

Not that preaching the gospel is a bad thing, but we would only do so literally. We would not preach the gospel figuratively—through every day living because we would have no life. There is a reason why faith is often associated with leaping, which is why it is not wrong be unsure of God's will...

It's wrong to not know God's will

Too often, when preachers broach the topic of God's will, they make the listener feel like every Christian should know the exact will of God for their lives—physically: the Lord has made me a plumber, so I will plumb for the Lord. But is that really how God's will works? Further, are we supposed to walk by certainty in everything we do?

We have discussed ad nauseum the fact that God's will is for the Christian to glorify him in every situation. We can glorify him in good times and bad, positive situations and negative ones, rain and shine, high and low. Might I say that we can bring glory to his name even when we make mistakes? So maybe college wasn't the best decision, but did you learn from it? Perhaps what you consider a mistake might have actually been a training ground for your soul.

Mostly, my objection to the idea that we need to be absolutely certain is that it is contrary to the idea of faith; a cornerstone of Christianity. Faith implies doubt. It is trust in action and the trust is not in the perfect pathway but the builder of the path. If faith is a leap the trust is in the one who will catch you, not in your perfect landing. If these descriptions of faith are accurate (and I believe they are), then we can be certain that God's will is not concerned with your academic career, but with maintaining a healthy relationship with The Almighty. We don't need to know every answer, we must know the Creator of the test.


This is mostly a meditation that seeks to expand on a good thought. We need to stop and think about the will of God more often than we do. However, we need not be so concerned with the minutiae of what we are doing day-to-day and become more invested in the God who loves us and wants to provide the best for us.

What do you think about God's will?
How do you know that you are pleasing him?

Here are some of my other posts discussing God's will.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Review: C. S. Lewis A Life

The Book

C. S. Lewis - A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet
Alister McGrath

All of my readers should have a grasp of my fondness for C. S. Lewis and his works. I have written several posts dedicated to either his works, his quotes or works about him. When one clicks on the tag entitled "CSLewis", 12 posts are returned (13 actually, counting this one) which are related to Lewis in one way or another. A few of these include:
Therefore, I was naturally drawn to this biographical account of Clive Staples Lewis, written by Alister McGrath (an individual on whom I have also dedicated some space for on this blog.) I was afforded the opportunity to borrow this ebook from the Miami-Dade Public Library system and did not hesitate to put my name on the queue.

Technical Merit

This book is very well written. For technical merit, I give it 4 out of five stars. It is difficult to compose a biographical narrative that captivates in the way a novel does, but McGrath does a fine job of piecing together details. In order to do this, he subdivides the biography in 5 parts:
  1. Prelude: Early life up to Lewis's involvement in the war
  2. Oxford: Lewis's rise in academia culminating with the international fame of Mere Christianity
  3. Narnia: Section devoted to Lewis's most popular works
  4. Cambridge: Lewis's move to Cambridge and end-of-life
  5. Afterlife: The decline and subsequent rise of Lewis's popularity
Also included in this 471 page biography is a timeline, list of works consulted, end-notes and an index. As can be assumed from both the integrity of the author and the extensive contents, this is a well researched piece.

The Review

Alister McGrath sets out to write a biography of C. S. Lewis that is informed, not from a personal relationship with the man, but from an intimate relationship with the man's works. As he leans on Lewis's correspondence and diaries for dates, he also discusses Lewis's publications in their appropriate place in the Lewis timeline. This approach emphasizes the impact that literary pursuits had on Lewis's development. This is stated outright in McGrath's description of Lewis's conversion:
Lewis fits into a broader pattern at (his) time--the conversion of literary scholars and writers through and because of their literary interests. Lewis' love of literature is not a backdrop to his conversion; it is integral to his discovery of the rational and imaginative appeal of Christianity

Alister McGrath, C. S. Lewis: A Life, Page 132
One of the bolder distinctions made in this book is a correction to the generally accepted timeline of C. S. Lewis's conversion to Christianity from Atheism. In fact, this correction is made with careful attention to detail that borders on trepidation.


  1. 28 April--22 June 1929: Lewis comes to believe in God
  2. 19 September 1931: A conversation with Tolkien leads Lewis to realise that Christianity is a "true myth"
  3. 28 September 1931: Lewis comes to believe in the divinity of Christ while being driven to Whipsnade Zoo
  4. 1 October 1931: Lewis tells Arthur Greeves that he has "passed over" from belief in God to belief in Christ.
  5. 15--29 August 1932: Lewis describes his intellectual journey to God in The Pilgrim's Regress, written at this time in Belfast.


  1. March--June 1930: Lewis comes to believe in God.
  2. 19 September 1931: A conversation with Tolkien leads Lewis to realise that Christianity is a "true myth"
  3. 1 October 1931: Lewis tells Arthur Greeves that he has "passed over" from belief in God to belief in Christ.
  4. 7(?) June 1932: Lewis comes to believe in the divinity of Christ while being driven to Whipsnade Zoo in a car by Edward Foord-Kelcey.
  5. 15--29 August 1932: Lewis describes his intellectual journey to God in The Pilgrim's Regress, written at this time in Belfast.

Alister McGrath, C. S. Lewis: A life, Page 142
I have not provided the reasoning for the changes in this review, just know that it is fascinating. These are the small details that have no real bearing on the over-arching significance of Lewis's conversion. However, they are the interesting minutiae that academics are concerned with.

Another interesting portion of this biography is found in the Narnia section of this book. In this third part, Alister McGrath emphasizes C. S. Lewis's fascination with the Middle Ages and explains a hint from Michael Ward (2008) that seeks to answer why there are seven books in the Narnia series. The pre-Copernican worldview of the Heptarchy is used as a model which explains some element of each of the books in the series:
  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - Jupiter
  2. Prince Caspian - Mars
  3. The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" - the Sun
  4. The Silver Chair - the Moon
  5. The Horse and His Boy - Mercury
  6. The Magician's Nephew - Venus
  7. The Last Battle - Saturn
Finally, McGrath spends time unraveling the Lewis/Davidman relationship. He contends that it began as a purely mercenary arrangement that developed into true love only after Joy Davidman fell ill. Again, the significance of this relationship is manifested in literature, as McGrath credits Davidman as a midwife to three of his late books: Till We Have Faces, Reflections on the Psalms, and The Four Loves. It is in the pain of bereavement at the loss his wife that Lewis wrote A Grief Observed.


This is a good, if dense, read that I recommend to all who have an interest in both C. S. Lewis as an academic and as a Christian apologist. McGrath, being an apologist himself, focuses a lot on the way these two main themes manifest themselves throughout Clive Staples Lewis's life.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Friday, April 4, 2014

Orthodoxy: Book Review

The Book

G. K. Chesterton

Barnes and Noble contacted me with the settlement of a class-action lawsuit that entailed a $3 award. So, naturally, I went hunting for the cheapest versions I could find of the ebooks I have been dying to read. Chesterton's Orthodoxy is a clear example of a bucket-list book of theology that I have been meaning to get my eyes on. It has been an embarrassment for a while that I have never read it. That is, I had not read it until now.

As a big fan of C. S. Lewis' works, I was excited to read this piece. I have heard it compared to Mere Christianity as a more robust version of the piece. At first reading, I believe the two to be compatible, though written for different purposes. Remember, Mere Christianity was originally a radio talk about Christianity to be aired during the war, Orthodoxy is an account of G. K. Chesterton's journey to faith. These pieces are concerned with the same topics, but approach them from different perspectives.

Technical Merit

This title is beautifully written. Chesterton is a poet who decided to write a piece of prose. His phrasing is thought provoking and rich. At times, his diction can be a bit gaudy. For this reason, I plan to revisit this piece to ensure that I digested the material properly. It is a short book (my copy was only 155 pages) and was easily read in a week. It should not be too difficult to read again. However, for technical merit I certainly give Orthodoxy five of five stars.


As mentioned in my introduction, Chesterton's Orthodoxy is an attempt to explain how he came to believe that Christian Orthodoxy is the only reasonable faith that explains the human experience. Over and over he reminds the reader how he came to a certain conclusion on his own, thought it was a uniquely enlightened position, and then turned to find the host of Orthodox Christendom standing on the same ground of truth. In other words, he used his reason to come to some conclusion about humanity and then found that Christianity had always affirmed that truth. The following quote comes to mind:
"I am the man who with the utmost daring discovered what had been discovered before." (pg. 9)
This rehashes the adage (taken from Ecclesiastes) that there is nothing new under the sun. Everything has been seen before. Of the many arguments that Chesterton makes, they can be boiled down to one simple arument: the importance of paradox to Christianity.
"Christianity is the superhuman paradox whereby two opposite passions may blaze beside each other." (pg. 141)
Chesterton gives example after example of how Christianity takes two opposing stances and reconciles them under one banner. Two examples of this are:
  1. The glorification of martyrdom while denouncing suicide.
  2. How Christianity can appear to be both a nightmare and a utopia at the same time.
This complexity proves the reality of a Christian paradigm since it matches the complexity of the human experience. With these apparent contradictions, Christianity is able to find it's equilibrium. This is illustrated by charges against Christianity that will say that it is too far to the left and then the critic will turn around and claim it is too far to the right. One final quote to illustrate this:
"What again could this astonishing thing be like which people were so anxious to contradict, that in doing so they did not mind contradicting themselves?" (pg. 85)


I heartily recommend this title if only for the reason that it causes one to really think. The conclusions reached in Orthodoxy are common enough, but Chesterton casts them in his own unique light.

Have you read Chesterton's Orthodoxy? 

What are your opinions?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

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