Terri Kraus

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Meditation:  Peter Abelard (France/1079-1142)

"The purpose and cause of the Incarnatiion ws that He might illuminate the world by His wisdom, and excite it to the love of Himself."

Nativity Prayer:  Augustine of Hippo (Algeria/354-430)

Let the just rejoice,
For their justifier is born.
Let the sick and infirm rejoice,
For the Saviour is born.
Let the captives rejoice,
For their Redeemer is born.
Let the slaves rejoice,
For their Master is born.
Let free men rejoice,
For their Liberator is born.
Let all Christians rejoice,
For Jesus Christ is born.

Reflection:  Thomas Aquinas

"Salvation, which was to be accomplished by Christ, concerns all sorts and conditions of men; because, as it is written, in Christ 'there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female'...and so forth (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11).  And, in order that this might be foreshadowed in Christ's birth, He was made known to men of all conditions.  Because, as Augustine says in a sermon on the Epiphany...'the shepherds were Israelites, the Magi were Gentiles.  The former were nigh to Him, the latter far from Him.  Both hastened to him, together as to the cornerstone.'  There was also another point of contrast:  for the Magi were wise and powerful; the shepherds simple and lowly.  He was made known both to men, and to women—namely, to Anna— so as to show no condition of men to be excluded from Christ's redemption." 

The Return of the King:  J.R.R.Tolkein (England/1892-1973)

"The night sky was still, dim and pale.  There, peeping among the cloudrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while.  The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him.  For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him, that in the end, the Shadow was only a small and passing thing; there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach."

Isaiah 60:1-3

Arise, Jerusalem!  Let your light shine for all to see.
For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.
Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth.
but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.
All nations will come to your light;
mighty kings will come to see your radiance.

Luke 2:30-32

I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people.  He is a light to reveal God to the nations; and he is the glory of your people Israel.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Best Words Blog

100 Best Words

#9  caliginous
Dark and misty.

#10  champagne
An effervescent wine.

Martin Luther (Germany/1483—1546):
God's love gives in such a way that it flows from a Father's heart; the well-spring of all good. The heart of the giver makes the gift dear and precious; as among ourselves we say of even a trifling gift, "It comes from a hand we love," and look not so much at the gift as at the heart.  

Augustine of Hippo (Algeria/354—430):
Since love grows within you, so beauty grows.  For love is the beauty of the soul.

O Lord, my God,
Grant us your peace; already, indeed,
you have made us rich in all things!
Give us that peace of being at rest,
that Sabbath peace,
the peace which knows no end.

Quotes:  Kallistos Ware

The church as a whole is an icon of God the Trinity, reproducing on earth the mystery of unity in diversity.  Human beings are called to reproduce on earth the mystery of mutual love that the Trinity lives in heaven.  
Quotes:  Mother Teresa

Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable.  Be honest and transparent anyway.

Passages:  A. W Tozer, from Knowledge of the Holy (a MUST READ for all Christians!)

...In spite of the tears and pain and death we believe that the God who made us is infinitely wise and good.  As Abraham staggered not at the promises of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving the glory to God, and was fully persuaded that what He had promised He was able to perform, so do we base our hope in God alone and hope against hope till the day breaks.  We rest in what God is.  I believe that this alone is true faith.  Any faith that must be supported by the evidence of the senses is not real faith...
     The testimony of faith is that, no matter how things look in this fallen world, all God's acts are wrought in perfect wisdom...
     It is vitally important that we hold the truth of God's infinite wisdom as a tenet of our creed, but this is not enough.  We must by the exercise of faith and by prayer bring it into the practical world of our day-by-day experience.
     To believe actively that our Heavenly Father constantly spreads around us providential circumstances that work for our present good and our everlasting well-being brings to the soul a veritable benediction.  Many of us go through life praying a little, planning a little, jockeying for position, hoping but never being quite certain of anything, and always secretly afraid that we will miss the way.  This is a tragic waste of truth and never gives rest to the heart.
     There is a better way.  It is to repudiate our own wisdom and take instead the infinite wisdom of God.  Our insistence upon seeing ahead is natural enough, but it is a real hindrance to our spiritual progress.  God has charged Himself with full responsibility for our eternal happiness and stands ready to take over the management of our lives the moment we turn in faith to Him.  Here is His promise:  'And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known; I will make darkness light before them. and crooked things straight.  These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.' 
     God constantly encourages us to trust Him in the dark.  'I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron; and I will gee thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.'
     In is heartening to learn how many of God's mighty deeds were done in secret, away from the prying eyes of men or angels .  When God created the heavens and the earth, darkness was upon the face of the deep.  When the Eternal Son became flesh, He was carried for a time in the darkness of the sweet virgin's womb.  When He died for the life of the world, it was in the darkness, seen by no one at the last.  When He arose from the dead, it was 'very early in the morning.'  No one saw Him rise.  It is as if God were saying, "What I am is all that need matter to you, for there lie your hope and your peace.  I will do what I will do, and it sill all come to light at last, but how I do it is My secret.  Trust Me, and be not afraid.'
     With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack?  Surely we are the most favored of all creatures."  

Sermon Snips:  from the current series "The Gospel of Grace and  Peace" by Dr. Josh Moody, Sr. Pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL—September 27, 2009—Galatians 4: 17—20

…Instead, there is Christ and His servants.  They have agony at times.  They have a parental attitude, not so they can keep their disciples hanging onto their apron strings. Which is what the false teachers were doing.  But rather so that they can help them move on to mature independence in Christ, formed in them themselves.  I think of an unknown visit to a hospital; a prayer there, a word of witness.  It think of a sermon that feels like casting bread upon the waters, trusting that it will do its work.  I think of the foolishness of preaching Christ crucified at all.  I think of the failure of truly devoted lives to Christ, in the world’s eyes.  “Poor things, they give their money away, and no one even knows they do.  Poor things, they send their children to the mission fields—who’s going to care for them when they’re old?  Poor things, they are serving and caring and no one ever notices.”  They are like the glass in a greenhouse through whom the sun of Christ’s righteousness shines, and the plants grow under their care, but all they see is Christ, and they do not even notice the glass through which the light shines hotly.
…all the while the true engine of the church runs by people who write an anonymous card of encouragement, who sign a check, who pray a prayer, who preach a sermon, who visit a sick man or woman, who get on their knees in the quiet of the night when no one sees nor notices, and pray that Christ would truly be formed in them.  Their scars are unknown, their agonies are often unseen, and they seem to have nothing—that is, in the world’s eyes.  But to be cared for by such a one, to care ourselves for people in this way—well, my friends, that is the grand root to having Christ formed in us.  And I, for one, despite all that we leave behind, would rather have Christ than all that this world—even this religious world—with its baubles and temptations, affords.  

Fiction Book Review:  Those Who Save Us, Jenna Blum

The review from Publisher’s Weekly:

Blum, who worked for Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation, takes a direct, unsentimental look at the Holocaust in her first novel. The narrative alternates between the present-day story of Trudy, a history professor at a Minneapolis university collecting oral histories of WWII survivors (both German and Jewish), and that of her aged but once beautiful German mother, Anna, who left her country when she married an American soldier. Interspersed with Trudy's interviews with German immigrants, many of whom reveal unabashed anti-Semitism, Anna's story flashes back to her hometown of Weimar. As Nazi anti-Jewish edicts intensify in the 1930s, Anna hides her love affair with a Jewish doctor, Max Stern. When Max is interned at nearby Buchenwald and Anna's father dies, Anna, carrying Max's child, goes to live with a baker who smuggles bread to prisoners at the camp. Anna assists with the smuggling after Trudy's birth until the baker is caught and executed. Then Anna catches the eye of the Obersturmführer, a high-ranking Nazi officer at Buchenwald, who suspects her of also supplying the inmates with bread. He coerces her into a torrid, abusive affair, in which she remains complicit to ensure her survival and that of her baby daughter. Blum paints a subtle, nuanced portrait of the Obersturmführer, complicating his sordid cruelty with more delicate facets of his personality. Ultimately, present and past overlap with a shocking yet believable coincidence. Blum's spare imagery is nightmarish and intimate, imbuing familiar panoramas of Nazi atrocity with stark new power. This is a poised, hair-raising debut.

My review:

This book is certainly a page-turner.  I tore through it in a couple of days.  I’ve read several books on the Holocaust, but what makes this one so compelling is that it is told from the perspective of ordinary Gernans.  It explores how they responded to the atrocious treatment of the Jews in their town—whether they chose to ignore what was happening or secretly become part of helping them, and how they survived themselves through this dark period.  It not only does a great job of conveying not only the historical events, but probes deeply into the personal themes of intergenerational damage caused by the actions taken when survival is at stake:  the moral/ethical questions, the loss of identity, self-respect and conscience, and keeping secrets of the past.  I found myself caring about the characters and wondering how I would have dealt with life in their circumstances.  This is not a book for the faint-hearted or those sensitive to a very raw and graphically descriptive telling of horrific situations, but it certainly brings home what it must have felt like to be a German unwillingly caught up in a change in their world over which there was little control and which made choices very difficult.  The writing is excellent, the plot grabs you and doesn’t let go, and it is crafted with intimate passion. 

Scripture:  Psalm 139

 O Lord, you have examined my heart
      and know everything about me.
 You know when I sit down or stand up.
      You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
 You see me when I travel
      and when I rest at home.
      You know everything I do.
 You know what I am going to say
      even before I say it, Lord.
 You go before me and follow me.
      You place your hand of blessing on my head.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
      too great for me to understand!
I can never escape from your Spirit!
      I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;      
if I go down to the grave,you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,     
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
      even there your hand will guide me,    
      and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
      and the light around me to become night
      but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
      and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
      as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
      before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
      they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
      you are still with me!
O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
Get out of my life, you murderers!
They blaspheme you;
      your enemies misuse your name.
O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
      for your enemies are my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;              
      test me and know my anxious thoughts
Point out anything in me that offends you,
      and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

(Are there any better words than these?)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

100 Most Beautiful Words

#7   blandiloquent
Beautiful and flattering.

#8   caliginous
Dark and misty.

Meditation:  Prayer When Words Don’t Come, George Matheson (Scotland/1842—1906)

O my Father, I have moments of deep unrest—moments when I know not what to ask by reason of the very excess of my wants.  I have in these hours no words for Thee, no conscious prayers for Thee.  My cry seems purely worldly; I want only the wings of a dove that I may flee away.  Yet all the time Thou hast accepted my unrest as a prayer.  Thou hast interpreted its cry for a dove’s wings as a cry for Thee.  Thou hast received the nameless longings of my heart as the intercessions of Thy Spirit.  They are not yet the intercessions of my spirit; I know not what to ask.  But Thou knowest what I ask, O my God.  Thou knowest the name of that need which lies beneath my speechless groan . . . Thou knowest that because I am made in Thine image I can find rest only in what gives rest to Thee; therefore Thou has counted my unrest unto me for righteousness, and has called my groaning Thy Spirit’s prayer.

Book Review:  The Help, by Kathleen Stockett

From the cover:
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken. 
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
 Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. 
My review:
With great humor and compassion, Stockett gives us a very intimate, compelling look at southern life in Jackson, Mississippi during the tumultuous 60’s, narrated by a privileged white woman and two black maids—“the help.”  From these two perspectives, we see the relationships between white people, between black people, and between white and black close-up, at a time in which smothering social/racial rules existed.  These rules are about to be broken, but not without cost, and we are caught up in the suspense as we anxiously anticipate what will happen when barriers are crossed and conventions challenged.  This book is heartbreaking, funny, eye-opening, and completely absorbing.  I could barely put it down.  The main characters are so endearing, we come to ache for their struggle, while we come to detest some of the characters around them as their hypocrisy, fear, racism and dishonesty are exposed, and at the same time we’re made to understand how they are products of their environment. The writing is superb, skillfully capturing the essence of the life, language and culture of both the white and black communities. You will find yourself completely engaged in the unique setting and swept up in the story.  I highly recommend this book.  Another great choice for book club discussion.

Quotes:  Walter Wangerin, Jr.
O, Christ!  When you died, you broke the wall that divided us from God; you struck it, you cracked it; you tore it apart—you made a door of that which had been death before.
Quotes:  Wendell Berry
We clasp the hands for those that go before us,
And the hands of those who come after us.
We enter the little circle of each other's arms
And the larger circle of lovers,
Whose hands are joined in a dance,
And the larger circle of all creatures,
Passing in and out of life,
Who move also in a dance,
To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it
Except in fragments.

Sermon Snips:  The Manifold Wisdom of God—Matt Chandler, Sr. Pastor, The Village Church, Highland Village (Dallas), Texas

…So what we want to do here week in and week out is very, very simple. We want to teach the gospel. So what’s the gospel? I think sin, when all is said and done, although it’s viewed very negatively, is really a good thing. Let me you why. Sin gives you framework for why it’s not working. Let me give you some examples of sin that are kind of unorthodox. You’ve got, “Okay, killing someone is a sin,” or “I get the Ten Commandments. Those are sin,” but here’s what I would tell you. Sin is really you taking anything other than God and making it ultimate. If you make anything other than God ultimate in your life, you’re going to eventually be dashed on the rocks. Let me give you some examples.
Yesterday I was in my office working when my five year old daughter ran in. She was just beaming going, “Look! Look! Look!” She has her first loose tooth, so she’s showing it off. So I play with her little loose tooth in my office. And it would be so easy for me to take my daughter, take my son and make to make them ultimate in my life. But here’s what happens if they become ultimate. If they become ultimate then my identity is built on what happens with them. What happens if one day they just turn their back and walk away? I get dashed on the rocks.
…So what’s going to happen when they leave and they start their family? Well now I have no identity anymore. I love my wife. I way out-punted my coverage. I have a very, very beautiful wife who is fun and brilliant and one of my best friends. But women make horrible gods. They can’t fulfill, they can’t sustain, they can’t transform. Husbands make horrible, horrible gods. But here’s what I would tell you. If you’re tying to make your husband your god and he doesn’t fulfill you and he doesn’t satisfy you, the sin is yours, not his. He is not God. To find your fulfillment or even seek it in him is in the end preparing you to be dashed on the rocks.
So take money, take your career, take any good thing and make it ultimate. It’s just a matter of time before it betrays you. Not only that, but you’ve got to become very insecure and very manipulative and very greedy because you have to protect your god. So anytime somebody flirts with your spouse or anytime your kids look bad or anytime you get demoted or anytime somebody gets promoted above you, there are these things that happen, jealousy, anger, bitterness, rage. Why? Because your identity is in temporary things that will always fail you. That’s what’s gone wrong. That’s why it’s not working. And not only that, it’s a blatant offense to God on High, who has created you to worship and love Him, to make Him ultimate. And when that happens, it just works. Because now I’m not putting a weight on my wife that’s unbearable. Now I’m not putting a weight on my children that’s unbearable. Now I’m not making more of my job than what it is. Now money doesn’t define me anymore; I get to give it away. Power doesn’t define me; I get to use my power for good, for the glory and kingdom of God. This what happens, you just get free.
There’s a difference between religion and the gospel. Religion would say that God accepts me because I do; the gospel says God accepts me because of what Christ did. That’s why we celebrate the cross. It’s the wrath absorbing work of God that forgives us. That’s why it’s such a weird thing to watch Christians boast. They have nothing to boast in. I’ve heard people say that Christians are more moral. That has not been my experience. I have met many a pagan who are more moral and better people than some Christians, which makes sense because when you come to Jesus, you come all busted up and He starts sanctifying you over a period of time. This is the gospel.
…This is the gospel, it’s what we want to teach here. Week in, week out, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, the cross of Christ. What you’re about to see is men and women show this to you by being buried with Christ and resurrected. He’s making Him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteous, perfect life of Christ. What an exchange.

About Books:
While readers are stampeding to buy Dan Brown’s latest novel, The Lost Symbol, the critics of his writing are no less harsh than they’ve been about his last two books.  I think you will enjoy the humor in the following from an article in the British publication, The Telegraph by Tom Chivers:

The Lost Symbol and The DaVinci Code author Dan Brown’s 20 worst sentences
…Edinburgh professor of linguistics Geoffrey Pullum says, “Brown's writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad.” He picks out some excerpts for special criticism. The female lead in Angels and Demons learns of the death of her scientist father: “Genius, she thought. My father . . . Dad. Dead.” A member of the Vatican Guard in the same book becomes annoyed by something, and we learn that "his eyes went white, like a shark about to attack."
Below we have selected 20 phrases that may grate on the ear. It’s not a definitive list. It couldn’t be: he has published five novels, each around 500 pages long, and the arguments over which are the worst bits will go on for a while. But it’s our list. Add your own in the comment box below.

20. Angels and Demons, chapter 1: Although not overly handsome in a classical sense, the forty-year-old Langdon had what his female colleagues referred to as an ‘erudite’ appeal — wisp of gray in his thick brown hair, probing blue eyes, an arrestingly deep voice, and the strong, carefree smile of a collegiate athlete.
They say the first rule of fiction is “show, don’t tell”. This fails that rule.

19. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 83: "The Knights Templar were warriors," Teabing reminded, the sound of his aluminum crutches echoing in this reverberant space.
“Remind” is a transitive verb – you need to remind someone of something. You can’t just remind. And if the crutches echo, we know the space is reverberant.

18. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: He could taste the familiar tang of museum air - an arid, deionized essence that carried a faint hint of carbon - the product of industrial, coal-filter dehumidifiers that ran around the clock to counteract the corrosive carbon dioxide exhaled by visitors.
Ah, that familiar tang of deionised essence.

17. Deception Point, chapter 8: Overhanging her precarious body was a jaundiced face whose skin resembled a sheet of parchment paper punctured by two emotionless eyes.
It’s not clear what Brown thinks ‘precarious’ means here.

16. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: A voice spoke, chillingly close. "Do not move." On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly. Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.
A silhouette with white hair and pink irises stood chillingly close but 15 feet away. What’s wrong with this picture?

15. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: As a boy, Langdon had fallen down an abandoned well shaft and almost died treading water in the narrow space for hours before being rescued. Since then, he'd suffered a haunting phobia of enclosed spaces - elevators, subways, squash courts.
Other enclosed spaces include toilet cubicles, phone boxes and dog kennels.

14. Angels and Demons, chapter 100: Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers glorified the four major rivers of the Old World - The Nile, Ganges, Danube, and Rio Plata.
The Rio de la Plata. Between Argentina and Uruguay. One of the major rivers of the Old World. Apparently.

The Da Vinci Code, chapter 5: Only those with a keen eye would notice his 14-karat gold bishop's ring with purple amethyst, large diamonds, and hand-tooled mitre-crozier appliqué.
A keen eye indeed.

13 and 12. The Lost Symbol, chapter 1: He was sitting all alone in the enormous cabin of a Falcon 2000EX corporate jet as it bounced its way through turbulence. In the background, the dual Pratt & Whitney engines hummed evenly.

The Da Vinci Code, chapter 17: Yanking his Manurhin MR-93 revolver from his shoulder holster, the captain dashed out of the office.
Oh – the Falcon 2000EX with the Pratt & Whitneys? And the Manurhin MR-93? Not the MR-92? You’re sure? Thanks.

11. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: Captain Bezu Fache carried himself like an angry ox, with his wide shoulders thrown back and his chin tucked hard into his chest. His dark hair was slicked back with oil, accentuating an arrow-like widow's peak that divided his jutting brow and preceded him like the prow of a battleship. As he advanced, his dark eyes seemed to scorch the earth before him, radiating a fiery clarity that forecast his reputation for unblinking severity in all matters.
Do angry oxen throw their shoulders back and tuck their chins into their chest? What precisely is a fiery clarity and how does it forecast anything? Once again, it is not clear whether Brown knows what ‘forecast’ means.

10. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: Five months ago, the kaleidoscope of power had been shaken, and Aringarosa was still reeling from the blow.
Did they hit him with the kaleidoscope?

9. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 32: The vehicle was easily the smallest car Langdon had ever seen. "SmartCar," she said. "A hundred kilometers to the liter."
Pro tip: when fleeing from the police, take a moment to boast about your getaway vehicle’s fuel efficiency. And get it wrong by a factor of five. SmartCars do about 20km (12 miles) to the litre.

8. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 3: My French stinks, Langdon thought, but my zodiac iconography is pretty good.
And they say the schools are dumbing down.

7 and 6. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 33: Pulling back the sleeve of his jacket, he checked his watch - a vintage, collector's-edition Mickey Mouse wristwatch that had been a gift from his parents on his tenth birthday.

The Da Vinci Code, chapter 6: His last correspondence from Vittoria had been in December - a postcard saying she was headed to the Java Sea to continue her research in entanglement physics... something about using satellites to track manta ray migrations.
In the words of Professor Pullum: “It has the ring of utter ineptitude. The details have no relevance to what is being narrated.”

5. Angels and Demons, chapter 4: learning the ropes in the trenches
Learning the ropes (of a naval ship) while in the trenches (with the army in the First World War). It’s a military education, certainly.

4, 3, and 2. The Da Vinci Code, opening sentence: Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery.

Angels and Demons, opening sentence: Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own.

Deception Point, opening sentences: Death, in this forsaken place, could come in countless forms. Geologist Charles Brophy had endured the savage splendor of this terrain for years, and yet nothing could prepare him for a fate as barbarous and unnatural as the one about to befall him.
Professor Pullum: "Renowned author Dan Brown staggered through his formulaic opening sentence".

1. The Da Vinci Code: Title. The Da Vinci Code.
Leonardo’s surname was not Da Vinci. He was from Vinci, or of Vinci. As many critics have pointed out, calling it The Da Vinci Code is like saying Mr Of Arabia or asking What Would Of Nazareth Do?

Psalm 13:5-6

But I trust in your unfailing love.  
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.

Psalm 107:33-35

He changes rivers into deserts,
and springs of water into dry, thirsty land.
He turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands,
because of the wickedness of those who live there.
But he also turns deserts into pools of water,
the dry land into springs of water.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

100 Most Beautiful Words

#5  beautific
Befitting an angel or saint.

#6  bealeaguer
To exhaust with attacks.

Meditation: Thomas Watson (England)

A true christian grows in beauty. Grace is the best complexion of the soul; it is at the first plantation, like Rachel. fair to look upon; but still the more it lives, the more it sends forth its rays of beauty. Abraham's faith was at first beautiful; but at last it did shine in its orient colours, and grew so illustrious, that God himself was in love with it; and makes his faith a pattern to all believers.
     A true Christian grows in sweetness. A poisonous weed may grow as much as the hyssop or rosemary, the poppy in the field as the corn, the crab as the pearmain; but the one hath a harsh sour taste, the other mellows as it grows: an hypocrite may grown in outward dimensions, as much as a child of God—he may pray as much, profess as much—but he grows only in magnitude, he brings forth only sour grapes, his duties are leavened with pride; the other ripens as he grows: he grows in love, humility, faith, which do mellow and sweeten his duties, and make them come off with a better relish. The believer grows as the flower; he casts a fragrance and perfume.

Sermon Snips: John MacArthur—'How to Get in the Game"

When I played college football, my coaches constantly drilled our team with the admonition: "Play your position!" They had to repeat it often because when we saw the play develop toward another place on the field, we were tempted to dash over and try to tackle the guy with the ball. About that time the play would reverse direction to the spot we had just left.

One of our best players was very aggressive and often strayed far from his position. He was all over the field tackling people, and invariably the wrong ones. Finally, he was benched. Though he was a good athlete, he proved worthless to the team because he wouldn't stick to his position.

Since we all tended to make the same mistake, the coach would take us back to the locker room to draw the plays on a chalkboard. He would first make everyone's position plain to see, and then he'd explain how the plays were supposed to run. There's a parallel to that in Christian experience. God has put you on His team and given you both the resources and the obligation to "play" your position in the Body of Christ. He has given you spiritual gifts for carrying out your assignment.

Your first obligation as a Christian is to learn about your position in the Body of Christ. You've got to study the chalkboard, so to speak, and see where you stand; see who's on either side of you, who's behind you, who's in front of you. Unfortunately, many Christians don't know how to live, partly because they don't know their position. I want to draw your position on the spiritual chalkboard so you can be an effective player in the game.

Basically, God's gift of salvation in Christ brings a believer into a position of righteousness. God imputes the perfect righteousness of His Son to the believer, and thereby declares him righteous positionally. But as you know full well, believers still have sin in their lives--Christians are not practically righteous, 100 percent of the time. However, it is on the basis of our positional righteousness, that we are exhorted to strive for practical righteousness in our daily lives.

If you can set your personal struggle with sin aside for a moment, I want you to consider what the Bible says about your position in Christ. As a Christian you are: spiritually alive unto God, dead to sin, forgiven, declared righteous, a child of God, God's possession, an heir of God, blessed with all spiritual blessings, a citizen of heaven, a servant of God, free from the Law, crucified to the world, a light in the world, victorious over Satan, cleansed from sin, declared holy and blameless, set free in Christ from the power of sin, secure in Christ, granted peace and rest, and led by the Holy Spirit.

You're probably thinking, "The Bible may say all that, but I sure don't always live up to those descriptions." That's why in the New Testament, for every one of those statements about your position, there is a corresponding practice you're to follow. For example, the New Testament tells you:

- Since you are spiritually alive to God, live according to that new life.
- Since you are dead to sin, don't give sin any place in your life.
- Since you're forgiven, count on that and don't go through life feeling guilty.
- Since you've been declared righteous, live righteously.
- Since you're a child of God, act like one of God's children.
- Since you are God's possession, yield to Him in humble submission.

I'm convinced that if you will honestly study your position in Christ, your life will change. You'll understand that failure in some aspect of Christian living doesn't mean you lose your position. The position of a true Christian is settled forever--it's unchanging and permanent. And on the other hand, just as stumbling won't change your standing for the worse, growth won't add to it for the better either. God's favor doesn't depend on your works. God "has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity" (2 Timothy 1:9).

Positionally, you cannot increase or decrease in the favor of God. As a genuine Christian, nothing you do, or fail to do, can change to the slightest degree your perfect standing before God--for "in Him you have been made complete" (Colossians 2:10).

Thankfully, that completeness does not mean that when you understand your position you will remain as you are--no, you will see changes in your life. The New Testament continually emphasizes your identity as a believer and urges you understand and apply your spiritual resources. As you continue to mature in Christ, you will not only come to a greater understanding of who you are, but you'll also rely more consistently on your resources--those granted to you as a result of your position in Christ--to handle the practical aspects of Christian living. That's the thrust of Paul's appeal in Ephesians 4:1: "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called."

So what about you, Christian--do you know your position? If not, go back to the locker room and study the chalkboard--your Bible--and you'll discover afresh the joy of who you are in Christ. If so, get in the game, play your position, and become in practice what you already are in position.

Passages:  From Cold Tangerines:  Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life, by Shauna Niequist

“There is a way of living, a way of harmonizing and hitting a balance point, a converging of a thousand balance points and voices, layering together, twisting together, and there are moments when it all clicks into place just for a split second— God and marriage and forgiveness and something deep inside that feels like peace—and that’s the place I’m trying to get to.
I have glimpses every once in a while of this achingly beautiful way of living that comes when the plates stop spinning and the masks fall off and the apologies come from the deepest places and so do the prayers, and I am fighting, elbowing to make more of my life that life.  I want that spirit or force of happiness that is so much deeper than happy—peace that comes from your toes, that makes you want to live forever, that makes you gulp back sobs because you remember so many moments of un-peace. I search for those moments the way I search for beach glass, bits of glitter along a desolate expanse of sand, and I want those moments to stretch into hours, into days.
            The word I use for it is shalom, It is the physical, sense-oriented, relational, communal, personal, ideological posture that arches God-ward.  That’s the best way I can describe it.  It’s an equilibrium and free-fall, balance and shake.  It’s a new dance, and new taste, the feeling of falling in love, the knowledge of being set free.  It’s that split-second cross between a d fact and a feeling, something you would swear on in a court of law but couldn’t find words for if you tried. 
To get there, I’m finding, is the hardest work and the most worthwhile fight. Shalom requires so much, so much more than I though I would have to sacrifice, and it scrapes so deeply through the lowest parts of me, divulging and demonstrating so many dark corners.  It’s something you can’t fake, so you have to lay yourself open to it, wide open and vulnerable to what it might ask of you, what it might require you to give up, get over, get outside of, get free from.  I feels sometimes like running farther than you thought you could run, legs shaking and lungs burning, feeling proud and surprised at what little old you can do…
Shalom is about God, and about the voice and spirit of God blowing through and permeating all the dark corners that we’ve chopped, locked down.  It’s about believing, and letting belief move you to forgive.  It’s about the whole of our lives becoming woven through with the sacred spirit of God, through friendship and confession, through rest and motion, through marriage and silence.
            Shalom is the act of life lifting up and becoming an act of worship and celebration, a sacrament, an offering….
            I have been surprised to find that I am given more life, more hope, more moments of buoyancy and redemption, the more I give up.  The more I let go, do without, reduce, the more I feel rich.  The more I let people be who they are, instead of cramming them into what I need from them, the more surprised I am by their beauty and depth.
            When we can manage to live this way of shalom, even for a moment, we pull each other up toward something bigger, wider, more beautiful, because left to my own devices, chances are, I will spiral down until life is nothing more than the mildew smell on my kitchen towels and the guilt I feel about all the things I thought I’d be.
            The truest thing, it seems, is the biggest:  the big idea of making a life with God, with honor, with honesty and community and beauty and the fragile delicate recipe of those, searching for the place where they all come together, where hope and struggle and beauty and tears swirl together into the best, brightest moments of life.  That’s wheat I believe about God. 

Quotes:  A. W. Tozer

Many ordinary treasures may be denied the man who has God, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness.  Or if he must see them go, one after one, her will scarcely feel a sense of loss.

A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals.  We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God.  We read our chapter, have our short devotions, and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar.  The tragic results of this spirit are all about us.  Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit; these and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul. 

Book Review:  A Thread of Grace, Maria Doria Russell

This extraordinary historical novel is the kind of book that I found myself thinking about long after finishing the last page. It is the little-known story of a group of Italian citizens that sheltered more than 40,000 Jews from the horrors of the work camps and executions during the Italian resistance to the Germans in the last two years of WWII. Three cultures mingle uneasily in Porto Sant'Andrea on the Ligurian coast of northwest Italy—the Italian Jews of the village, the Italian Catholics, and the occupying Germans invited by Mussolini. While there are several narrative threads, the book moves swiftly, and we come to know a cast of vibrant characters, set against meticulously researched historical detail. The intensity and intimacy of Russell's storytelling, her sharp character writing and fierce sense of humor bring fresh immediacy to this riveting wartime saga.
     The book is extraordinary in that, unlike other dark novels about this era that leave one with a feeling of hopelessness, it reminds us that even in the worst of times, there are good people who willingly sacrifice themselves when they see the suffering around them.  We witness with the characters both the heartbreaking journey they will make in their struggle for survival, and the grace extended to them by the Italian people, which crosses the boundaries of faith and ethnicity.  An incredibly compelling read.  I highly recommend it!  P.S.  Let's hear it for the Italians!!!

Song Lyrics:  I Know My Redeemer Lives, Nicole C. Mullens

Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning
Who told the ocean you can only come this far?
Who showed the moon where to hide 'til evening
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?

Well I know my Redeemer lives 
I know my Redeemer lives
All of creation testify
This life within me cries
I know my Redeemer lives

The very same God that spins things in orbit
He runs to the weary, the worn and the weak
And the same gently hands that hold me when I'm broken
They conquered death to bring me victory

Now I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I know my Redeemer, He lives

To take away my shame
And He lives forever I'll proclaim
That the payment for my sin
Was the precious life He gave
But now He's alive
And there's an empty grave
And I know my Redeemer, He lives

I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
This life within me cries
I know my Redeemer lives

Watch the video of this song:

Scripture:  Psalm 19:1—4 (NLT)

The heavens declare the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth.
and their words to all the world.